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Baroness Byford: I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in this debate. It is an important issue and I want to pick up on one or two points. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, knows that I do not agree with him on this issue—and indeed on some others. He holds clear views on the matter and one cannot argue with someone who holds clear views. The matter is important to him. However, as he has heard me say previously, I believe that he is misguided in the belief that in some way people who hunt can be converted to drag hunting. It does not work in the way he thinks it can. We will agree to disagree.

The Burns report is most important and I want to refer to it again. The regulatory impact assessment refers to Burns as stating that hunting, as an economic activity, is so small as to be almost invisible in terms of national aggregates. That is a blatantly selective use of Burns, because it went on to say:

In those areas, the impact of a ban or someone failing to qualify would be much, much more severe than in terms of employment and, from the point of view of the upland farmers, in relation to the viability of their businesses.

There are therefore other parts of the Burns report that I have not debated in depth, although I could have done so. However, as this was a probing amendment, I wanted to gain the Minister's reaction, but I want to return to the matter at a later stage.

My noble friend Lord Eden spoke about drag hunting and the important issue of the rehoming of hounds. The All-Party Group on Animal Welfare, of which I am a member, produced a report about six weeks ago in which it stated that it would be possible to rehome a lot of hounds. I must say that I totally disagree with that and I support my noble friend. Hounds are brought up to be pack animals; they are not individual, cosy little animals which can—

Lord Hoyle: Can the noble Baroness explain what happens to the hounds when they reach the end of their useful life with the hunt, which is at about four to five years?

Baroness Byford: I thank the noble Lord for that question. Like all of us, they ultimately come to an end. Usually a hound would expect to have a seven or eight-year working life—fortunately, not for us—after
 
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which they are humanely put down. That is quite right. On the question whether they could be re-homed, my noble friend was right to point out that there would be in excess of 20,000 hounds were a ban to be imposed.

I am grateful for the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld. Although the Minister argued that it is a different issue, I do not believe that it is. We are talking about people whose employment is based on the continuation of hunting or, in this case, on obtaining the qualification to be registered. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, rightly pointed out, those people are under contract with the hunts and live in accommodation connected with the hunts. I believe they are in the exact position that the Minister said they were not in and therefore, on that issue, I have to agree with the noble Lord and disagree with the Minister.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, rightly said that my amendment is drawn very widely. Indeed, it is. I thought it important that it should be drawn fairly widely at this stage so that we could discover the feelings of the Committee and, far more importantly, the feelings of the Minister. That is why, at this stage, I do not wish to press the amendment to a vote. I want to consider what has been said and return to it at a later stage.

My noble friend Lord Ullswater raised the very important question of what will happen to point-to-points and the knock-on effect on race hunts. I could add many other examples to that.

My noble friend Lord Jopling gave the example of gun clubs. Probably one reason that compensation was paid on that occasion was that it was possible for gun clubs to operate in a different way, although they were not using handguns. That situation occurred a little before my time, but I think that it is an important issue which has a bearing on our current debates.

When replying to the amendment, the Minister suggested that no human rights issue was attached to this matter. I beg leave to differ with him. I hope that between now and Report he will ask the government lawyers to check that situation because it has been suggested to me that there is still a human rights implication in respect of this amendment.

The noble Lord said that the position in relation to fur farming was based on deprivation. However, if the Bill is passed with a ban on hunting, as opposed to regulated hunting, I believe that those who fail to qualify will be deprived. They will lose the use of their homes. Some are in rented accommodation and they will have nowhere to go. Some Members of the Committee have said that that is tough and that there are hard cases out there. But I do not think that, just because things are tough, we should not address the issue, and that is what I have tried to do tonight.

It is not only a question of the hounds, or the hunt servants for whom the human issue is particularly important. A total ban, which may well be the situation when the Bill is returned to another place, will result in spin-off effects on farriers and those who supply equipment for horses, as well as hoteliers and bed and breakfast establishments. Often people who
 
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partake in a hunt do not live in the area. In the winter months, hunting brings people to Exmoor and other areas of the country which they would not normally visit. Therefore, my amendment is not based only on a narrow issue.

I am grateful to each and every noble Lord who has spoken in the debate. I have been tempted to move the matter to a vote, but I hope that noble Lords will bear with me. It is an important issue but, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Campbell-Savours moved Amendment No. 47A:


"DEFENCE: PROTECTION OF SHEEP IN SHEEP GRAZING AREA IN DESIGNATED NATIONAL PARK
(1) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 1 to prove that the conduct to which the charge relates consisted of using dogs for the control of foxes for the purpose of protecting sheep on a fell or moorland within a sheep grazing area in a designated National Park.
(2) In this section "designated" means designated in an order made by the Secretary of State.
(3) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument and shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by each House of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 47A, I shall speak also to the associated amendment, Amendment No. 81. I apologise to the Committee for appearing a little fragile and wobbly on my feet. I am going through a period of some difficulty at present, but I was determined to attend this debate today.

My amendment would include in the Bill a new clause providing a defence for a person charged under Section 1. Some Members may recall that exactly this amendment—unamended—was tabled for the debate that took place in Committee in October last year. For ease of reference—particularly with regard to the Commons in the event that this amendment is successful this evening—it was moved at col. 159; it was approved at col. 181 after almost a two-hour debate with a majority of 36; and it was supported during the debate by the noble Lords, Lord Carlile of Berriew, Lord Kimball, Lord King of Bridgwater, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, and the noble Lords, Lord Palmer and Lord Renton of Mount Harry. I think that I have that correct. I mention that because the people to whom I refer specifically are those who, I am sure, today would prefer a system of registration and licensing, but at that stage they saw it as a compromise.

My amendment sets three tests for permissible hunting: first, that it be for the purposes of protecting sheep; secondly, that hunting be on a fell or moorland within a sheep-grazing area; and, thirdly, that the hunting take place in a designated national park approved under our statutory instrument procedures by both Houses of Parliament.
 
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I do not know the detailed tactics of the pro-hunting lobby on the question of a compromise, which was dealt with yesterday in some detail. I can say only that, of all the amendments before us, it is my view that it is only a very narrow amendment and that it would gather a sympathetic hearing in the House of Commons on the question of a compromise. That is why Amendment No. 47A was tabled and it is why, I believe, Amendment No. 81 was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling.

We need to have clearly in our minds the process that will take place if the House of Commons is driven into using the Parliament Act. Under the provisions of that Act as they have been explained to me, the Bill to be approved must be the original Bill as sent by the Commons to the Lords for consideration. Therefore, if we want to try to avoid the use of the Parliament Act and yet maximise the concessions that we seek, we should insist on only those amendments which we realistically believe the Commons will accept. However, I am afraid that an amendment covering licensing and registration is not one of those amendments.

It is not as though, in my view, the Government could intervene to influence this debate. As my noble friend said from the Dispatch Box yesterday, this is now a Bill driven by the Back-Benchers in the House of Commons. In my view, they have total control of the Bill, and there is very little that the Government can do apart from listen to what Back-Benchers in the other place have to say and keep their fingers crossed. As I said, in my view, Back-Benchers have total control. While it is true that, as I understand it, the Government could block the use of the Parliament Act in the other place, I suspect that that would lead to a major row in the House of Commons and I do not believe that that will happen.

My amendment has been drawn up specifically to appeal to the Labour Back-Benchers in the House of Commons in the belief that they will determine events on this Bill. Why have I tabled it? I shall be absolutely frank. I have always voted against hunting. That is why I believe that this amendment, coming from the stable that it does, has some credibility in the other place.

The amendment stems from my experience as a constituency Member of Parliament for 22 years in the Lake District, where I still live, surrounded by a number of fell packs and with a huge mail bag—not only during general election periods but also outside general elections in the general cut and thrust of the argument that takes place about hunting in the Lake District National Park. I was for ever being approached by people demanding that some concession be made in this particular area. They were not arguments that I could simply ignore; they had to be addressed. They were primarily about the problems in the lambing season in the Lake District and the major problem of an invasion of guns into the Lake District National Park—an area of intense tourist interest and where many people are wary about the possible intrusion of guns on the scale that some have suggested.
 
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I must refer to statements to which I referred on a previous occasion. I want to draw to the attention of the Committee a letter from John Hayton of Thackthwaite, near Cockermouth, in which he said:

Another chap, Paul Renison of Troutbeck, near Windermere, wrote to me saying:

I would now like to draw attention to the origins of the amendment. It was drawn up 17 years ago by me in preparation for a manifesto meeting of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party when I was concerned about what was going on in the national park and, at a meeting of the NEC, I sought to secure an undertaking for inclusion of the matter in the 1987 Labour Party manifesto. I was successful.

I have now trailed this same amendment through the corridors of Westminster over the past 17 years. It has been the subject of much informal debate over all those years in all kinds of places. I accept that my amendment is tighter and narrower than Amendment No. 81, to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, which I also support. The reason for that is that my amendment was designed to appeal to Labour Back-Benchers, as I have already said, who were anti-hunting. I was trying to find a way of drawing them into an understanding of problems in the Lake District and the need for the use of foot and fell packs. It is only with the use of a narrow amendment that we have any chance of a sympathetic hearing in the Commons. I hope that the Committee agrees with me. I beg to move.


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