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Lord Sanderson of Bowden: I cannot stay quiet any longer on this matter and I wish to support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld. Those of us who live north of the Border know only too well what has happened regarding hunting. In my part of the border country there has been much trouble as a result of there being no compensation. What I have heard from the Labour Benches tonight is something that I never thought that I would hear—noble Lords voluntarily ensuring that people lose their jobs. To my mind that is not the tenet of the Labour Party as I used to know it. I am surprised to have heard it from there.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has raised an extremely important issue, for which I am grateful. I cannot support this amendment because it is too widely drawn. That is because when we looked, for example, at the results of foot and mouth in the West Country, we found businesses that had been affected that we never believed would have been.

I shall give noble Lords the example of an underwear shop whose takings fell. One would not have thought that foot and mouth could have possibly affected that business. Why did that happen? Because they sold white brassieres to waitresses who had to wear them under their white shirts, and, of course, the tea shops' incomes had fallen so much that the waitresses were not being employed that season. That is one example of a knock-on, unexpected effect.

As I read it, the amendment is not drawn tightly enough for those who lose their incomes and whose prime incomes are from employment with the hunt. If that were the case then it would be most surprising if the Government were not to support it. When we debated the fur farming Bill, I understood from the
 
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noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who took that Bill through the House for the Government, that because a moral decision was taken by a government to end a particular activity—in that case, fur farming, but in this case, hunting—then those whose prime incomes came from that activity should be entitled to compensation. I cannot believe that this case would be any different. So I urge the noble Baroness very much to tighten up those to whom this important amendment applies. I could then support it at Report stage.

Viscount Ullswater: The amendment deals with those people who are refused registration, but the Minister has given us an indication that that will ensure that it is not accepted by the other place. Therefore, the wider concept of compensation should perhaps be addressed as well. I hope that the Minister will address that.

The discrete area that I wish to bring to the Minister's attention is that of point-to-pointing, because if there is a hunting ban, the British Horseracing Board, in its evidence to the Burns inquiry, estimated that a minimum of a quarter of point-to-point venues would close as a consequence. About 25 per cent of the horses participating in that sport would be affected. From memory, approximately 4,000 horses take part in point-to-points; thus 1,000 horses would be affected. In small areas that would be the knock-on effect and there would be no alternative for those horses. They have been used for hunting, which would be banned, but generally they are not kept for riding around the countryside. They are kept for racing or hunting. Many of them are held in livery stables, which will suffer a considerable drop in income if great areas of the country are deprived of point-to-pointing. Could the Minister turn his mind to that?

Lord Jopling: I wish to cast my mind back some years, when I was in another place. Legislation was passing through that House following the tragic shootings in Dunblane. As a consequence, the previous government in the 1990s—my government—decided that they would introduce stringent new laws concerning gun clubs. On that occasion I remember that the government said that they were not prepared to give compensation. A number of us felt that that was quite outrageous. People were being put out of business; I know that in my old constituency there were people in that position. A number of us voted against our government on that occasion. It would be totally inconsistent of me if, on this occasion, I did not follow exactly the same line and follow my noble friend into the Lobby, as I hope she will divide the House on this matter. It would be outrageous if compensation was not given in this case.

Lord Whitty: This has been an interesting debate on an important issue and some clarification is required. There are two basic streams of argument regarding compensation. The first is whether we are obliged to pay compensation under the legislation relating to the European Convention on Human Rights and the other is whether there is a precedent for the Government to pay compensation in any case.
 
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I shall deal with the human rights issue first. The position of the Joint Committee on Human Rights—and the comment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and my exchange with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe—was on the basis of its view of the Bill imposing an outright ban. The committee's view was that the Bill did not raise the issue of human rights, except in one limited area relating to compensation where contracts were broken. I responded to the noble Viscounts in the context of a Bill which, at that point was proposing a ban. The JCHR also considered the Bill as it was originally put to the House of Commons—what we are all calling the "Alun Michael Bill". At that point the JCHR did not raise any concerns of any sort in relation to human rights—primarily, I guess, because a due process of assessment was being made and the committee concluded that there was no issue of human rights arising from a Bill that required a due process of registration. Therefore, the Bill that is now before us, as a result of earlier amendments, falls into the same category as that on which the JCHR commented at first.

To complicate the issue—that may have been my fault earlier—even with a ban, the chair of the human rights committee said that its concerns would be alleviated if the delay suggested by the Commons was built in.

The Government had already concluded that issues of human rights do not arise in this respect, but if a delay were adopted by both Houses, that would clearly reduce even further any concerns about human rights. However, as I indicated in my exchange with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, the other day, the Government reach that conclusion in any case.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, who said that we are talking about deprivation. We are not talking about deprivation. The European Convention on Human Rights treats deprivation of goods differently from restrictions on use of goods. In this respect, we are talking about a restriction on the use of goods—premises, land, dogs and so forth. Therefore, that is not automatically a European Convention on Human Rights issue.

If the registration scheme is reinstated, the Joint Committee on Human Rights states that there is no issue of human rights at all. Indeed, even if one were to accept that there might be some precedent for payment of compensation on human rights grounds—I shall come to that in a moment—the proposed new clause is written extremely widely, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has indicated. It covers anybody who is refused registration, which could include somebody who had never hunted or organised a hunt before; it covers somebody who flagrantly broke both the criteria for being registered; it would affect too those who are indirectly affected, such as the underwear shop to which the noble Baroness referred. As the proposed new clause stands, compensation could be payable even to somebody who, because of previous convictions for cruelty, had been refused registration.
 
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The breadth of the proposed new clause is therefore an issue, but there is a more fundamental issue which goes back to the way in which the European Convention on Human Rights operates. A number of noble Lords referred to fur farming. Compensation was paid to fur farmers, although issues relating to that are still not entirely clear. It was paid on the basis of deprivation of the animals which were confiscated at the insistence of the Government to prevent fur farming taking place. That is a different issue from the restriction of the use of assets. It is the equivalent of paying compensation to those farmers whose stock was destroyed as a disease control measure during the foot and mouth outbreak. It is they who were compensated because of that deprivation, not people who were indirectly affected in terms of their livelihood, their businesses or their ability to use their assets as a result of such measures.

The issue is a little more complicated in relation to guns legislation. The previous government stated that they were not—in line with my argument—prepared to pay compensation, except in the limited cases where they were depriving people of the guns, which was a limited part of that Bill. They did not therefore pay compensation to gun clubs which could no longer operate or to anybody except those from whom they took the weapons and equipment. Although the amount of compensation was significant, it was because of the first part of the European Convention on Human Rights and not the second, which deals with restrictions on use.

There is therefore neither a requirement under the convention or the Human Rights Act to pay compensation nor a precedent for paying compensation. My noble friend Lord Graham said that there will undoubtedly be hard cases. They will not be as many in number as is often claimed by those who advance pro-hunting arguments, but there will be some hard cases. However, governments regulate year in and year out and introduce other forms of legislation in ways which directly and indirectly affect businesses and livelihoods, some of which suffer detriment as a result of that government intervention. It is not normal for the Government to pay compensation in those circumstances.

The example to which my noble friend Lord Hogg referred presents an entirely different circumstance. As a trade union official, he would be approaching the employer for compensation for deprivation or reduction of terms and conditions or loss of employment or pension. That is a different issue because it is a contractual arrangement under the terms and conditions of employment between the worker and the employer. Whatever the form of regulations and government intervention, it is not a circumstance where the Government, in previous situations, have seen it as a requirement that they would pay compensation.

As a result of the interpretation of the convention and the Human Rights Act or on the basis of precedent that has been presented here, I cannot accept the principle of the amendment of the noble Baroness and I certainly could not accept its wording, because it is extremely wide. I am not advising the Committee, but that would be
 
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likely to be the position of the Government in this respect. The proposed new clause affects a more direct party than the two Houses because it would be a cost to the Government, but I do not believe that the Government would wish to advise the Committee to accept any such compensation scheme. That is also likely to be the position of the majority in the House of Commons. Although Tony Banks and others are saying something different, neither the law nor precedent would support that position.


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