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Lord Inglewood: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 81 which stands in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Jopling and the noble Lords, Lord Bragg and Lord Hooson. It is intended to exempt fell hunting from the ban proposed in the Bill as drafted and to echo the generality of the case made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in his speech in support of his Amendment No. 47A, which I too support.

Amendment No. 81 covers both Welsh fell hunting and Cumbrian fell hunting. While I know nothing about Welsh fell hunting—although I understand there may be some slight differences between them—it seems to me that the Committee has heard about the circumstances in Wales and will no doubt do so again
 
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in a moment. The only thought that occurs to me on that is that Wales must be a very big place as we appear to have many Welshmen here to speak for it.

I shall confine my remarks to Cumbria, which is the only place that I can talk about with first-hand knowledge. Again, I must begin my remarks in Committee stage as I did at Second Reading, by explaining that I was born in Cumbria; I live in Cumbria; I have farmed an upland farm in the Lake District for just over 25 years; I have represented the area in the European Parliament for 10 years; and I was a member of the Lake District National Park Authority for, I believe, eight years.

As has been said in this long debate, sheep are the main harvest of the hills. They, of all farm animals, are probably more vulnerable to foxes, with the possible exception of poultry which, of course, is kept cooped up at night, than any other animal. While it is a great misfortune that the whole debate about hunting has in some ways been anthropomorphised by Disney and perhaps Beatrix Potter, from the perspective of a sheep or a lamb, every fox is a potential psychopath and a rogue fox is a serial killer. If I remember correctly the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, said, when speaking of his farming career, that one particular rogue fox had killed about 10 per cent of his farm's output by itself.

As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said, in the Second Reading debate, foxes have to be managed and that involves culling. We all have to recognise that death is grisly in whatever form it comes, whether for the fox or for the sheep or lamb and whether it is part of a cull or whether it is to provide English lamb cutlets on the menu in the Peers Dining Room this evening. The crucial point before us is to try to find the most benign and appropriate way of doing it.

It has been argued that hunting in the Cumbrian uplands could be replaced by shooting. It is probably true that in certain places and under certain circumstances that may work moderately satisfactorily on the periphery of the park. But it will simply not be effective in the high fells and crags where the ground is more vertical than horizontal and where rocks and boulders are strewn all over on tens, if not hundreds of acres—some quite small, some bigger, some the size of the golden Throne at the end of the Chamber and some a great deal bigger than that. In those conditions, shooting simply is not feasible.

Of course, that is the part of the Lake District where the foxes have their lairs; they are the reservoirs from which they flood out and fan across the grazing areas. This is an area where there has been de facto and in certain parts de jure general public access for decades and it is the area where there is about to be a statutory right to roam. The very idea of ricocheting rifle bullets swirling around the rocks and the ears of the hikers and walkers only has to be proposed to be seen to be completely absurd.

It seems to me absolutely clear that as far as the mountain areas are concerned, the best interests of sheep, foxes and walkers are best served by dealing with the fox problem via the fell packs. I believe the case for fell hunting is made on its intrinsic merits. But
 
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there is one additional point that I would like to make. It is very widely known that traditional fell communities are under great pressure. It is our Government's policy, the European Union's policy, the Northwest Regional Development Agency's policy, the national park authority's policy, the county council's policy and the district council's policy to support them.

In those areas, the fell packs play a very central role in the fabric of that rural society. Those organisations are run by rural people for rural people and their social activities, intended to support the packs, are absolutely crucial to the social life of the communities in the dales. The organisations are not hierarchical and the breadth of support that they command can be seen from looking at their long subscription lists, often with hundreds of names. The vast majority of the subscriptions are less than £5 and very many of them are under £1.

To ban fell hunting will severely damage the social fabric of those communities, which are already under threat. Do we really propose to make unlawful something that is not only the most efficacious means of managing foxes in those areas, but also one that is crucial to the underpinning of the communities that it is almost universally agreed should be supported? Surely it should not be a matter of banning the fell packs; it should be a matter of encouraging them.

Lord Crickhowell: I listened with great respect and interest to the case advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. He will recall that although some of my noble friends supported him when he put forward the amendment on a previous occasion, I was not among them. I am going to criticise his amendment today for the same reasons as I did on that previous occasion. I shall turn later to the amendment of my noble friend, with which I have a good deal more sympathy, but I should like to deal first with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.

Of course I understand why the noble Lord has advanced the amendment. He made it very clear that he advanced it primarily because of his personal involvement and interest in the Lake District. But I, too, know something about national parks. As a Secretary of State, I was responsible for the three parks in Wales. One of them was entirely within my own constituency. I live in another of them today. The amendment before us contains so many flaws and inconsistencies that I would find it almost impossible to support it.

My first difficulty is that I am not clear why the Committee should limit the provision solely to national parks in general or to one particular national park. In Wales, it would provide some protection—if the park was designated—to the Brecon Beacons National Park, to part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park—I think to the Preceli Hills but not to the coastal strip which comprises most of that national park—and to the Snowdonia National Park, or again to part of it. But it would provide no protection at all
 
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for the whole of mid Wales about which the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, spoke so eloquently yesterday. It will also not protect the Berwins in north east Wales.

As noble Lords heard from the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, yesterday, this area of mid Wales is an area full of sheep under threat. Therefore, I have difficulty with supporting an amendment that seems to breach one of the fundamental principles that was addressed yesterday—that we ought to have legislation that applies equally and fairly both to individuals and to particular animals. You get into considerable difficulty if you say, "But we are going to make an exception here and there", because you start raising all sorts of questions.

I also have a difficulty with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, because it seems to me that without a great deal of elaboration it will raise more questions than it answers. It says that we are to protect sheep within a sheep grazing area. I am not entirely clear what a sheep grazing area is. It might well include most of the industrial valleys of south Wales where the sheep roam uncontrolled down into the very heart of the former mining communities. But I think I know what the noble Lord intends. The amendment then says,

I am not entirely clear where the fell or moorland in the national park begins or ends. In my national park the sheep roam and graze on the open hill, but they are also housed, at least for part of the year, below the mountain wall. They are just as vulnerable in the fields below the mountain wall, particularly because they will be there probably when they are lambing and in the cold parts of the year, as when they are on the open hill. I am not at all clear from the amendment whether they can be protected under this clause.

So, it seems to me that we have a clause that is difficult to interpret, identifies only specific areas and gives no general definitions so that we can have an equitable approach to the whole issue.

I have a great deal more sympathy for the amendment of my noble friend Lord Inglewood. It goes broader and does not raise some of the questions of definition. He himself kindly said—perhaps he was looking around at the number of Welshmen that he identified in the Chamber—that it would cover the areas of mid Wales and north east Wales which would be excluded under the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Campbell-Savours. I am not quite clear whether it would apply to those upland areas of England which fall outside the Lake District and the area he was particularly identifying. But that is another problem that we need to address.

It is clear that if we go ahead with a Bill based on registration the noble Lord's amendment will not be required because we can go forward on the basis that we leave the matter for the registrar and get through the definitions we have already included in the Bill. So, we are dealing with a fallback clause; a clause that might be accepted in a situation where the other place says that it wants its Bill but perhaps would accept a
 
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minor modification of this kind. At the moment I would be prepared to say that it may be worth having such a fallback position, although I think we have a particular difficulty. This clause does not sit well in the Bill as we have amended it with the whole system of registration, but it may be that the two can be brought together. I should like to consider more carefully whether there is a particular conflict before we reach a later stage of the Bill.

My position is that while I have some sympathy for the wider clause advanced by my noble friend, I would find it not just impossible to support the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, but I would have to vote against his amendment. The provision is so hard to defend and so full of anomalies and inconsistencies that it would not go well into a piece of legislation. So I am listening still with an open mind and some sympathy to my noble friend's amendment, but I have to indicate that the opposition I had last October to the same amendment advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has been strengthened rather than weakened in the interval.


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