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Baroness Mallalieu: I very much regret that I cannot accept either of these amendments. I live in a national park. I keep sheep and I rely on the local hunt—in my case the Exmoor—to hunt foxes on the farm. The amendment introduced by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours would exempt that pack.

I have also enjoyed visits to the Lake District and I would endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has just said about the way the fell packs operate and their importance in that community, not just to animals and livestock but also to the people of that area.

The reason I cannot support either of the amendments is that the Committee has, as I understand it, taken a course which means that it intends to return a registration scheme to the other House. Neither of those exceptions fit into that scheme. If there is to be registered hunting, it must apply across the board, however much one would want to see excluded people for whom one has a particular interest or affection.

The House undertook to try to return the Alun Michael Bill with as few amendments as possible. The Committee already has had to make some. Although I think that my noble friend Lord Whitty has not been generous in describing the two amendments that have so far been passed as coach and horses provisions, I do think that both amendments would breach the registration system that the Committee has now set up.

The provision is inconsistent essentially with registration. It is also inconsistent with the principle of evidence, which is the basis on which noble Lords are, I hope, trying to return a sensible, workable Bill. What has been said in relation to these two areas applies to many others as well. Under a fair registration system, the fell packs and national park packs would be able to gain registration because they would pass the two tests which we have this afternoon approved.
 
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I am further influenced by the fact that I have had a communication today which I have passed to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, from Edmund Porter, the leader of the Central Committee of Fell Packs, who hopes that the amendment will not be pressed today. I ask that neither noble Lord presses their amendment to a vote today. I understand totally what they are trying to do and I have the greatest sympathy, but at this stage, when we are trying to see the shape of the Bill that might go back to the Commons and command the support of reasonable and open-minded Members of the other place, we should not spoil the registration system in this way.

Viscount Bledisloe: With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and to the other distinguished noble Lords who appear to have supported this amendment in the past, I find it impossible to detect its logic. The noble Lord may recognise that and think that it is all right for it to be illogical if he has a chance of getting the House of Commons to accept it.

As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, says that he has always voted against hunting. That presumably means that he considers that using dogs to chase foxes and kill them is cruel. Will he explain to me why it suddenly ceases to be cruel because those foxes are operating within the boundaries of a national park? As a corollary, and if he were to say that it is very important to defend the sheep, will he explain to the unfortunate sheep why, if their farmer moves them somewhere outside the boundaries of that national park, it suddenly becomes impossible to use the dogs to protect them from the foxes? I really do not see how geography and morality can possibly run together in the amendment.

Viscount Astor: I support the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. The problem with both amendments is that they would introduce unregistered hunting. If we go back to the original debates we had in this House when the Government first introduced the hunting Bill, one of the reasons that concerns were expressed about hunting was the lack of control. As we know, some packs are members of the MFH Association, and some are not. Many of the packs which might go over very rural areas are not. Under the amendment, they could do anything they wanted; they could do what we regard as unacceptable now with respect to hunting. That is the effect of the amendment.

I hope that we have established the principle that hunting should be done in a fair way, with the least suffering, which is what registration does. Both amendments drive a coach and horses through that principle.

I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has moved this amendment many times over many years. As he admitted in his Second Reading speech on this Bill and a previous Bill, he regards it as what we might call the last ditch—if there is a ban, he hopes his amendment might be accepted. However, we
 
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are not at that stage—the Bill introduces registered hunting, and we should accept that. Therefore, I do not think that the noble Lord's amendment is suitable for this stage of the Bill.

I have problems with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Inglewood. I have to tell him that all rural communities are under threat. It does not matter whether they are at the top of the hill or the bottom, there is absolutely no difference. I do not know what the definition of an upland area is. Does it include the downs, where I live? Does it include Exmoor? Does it include the valleys next to Exmoor? It does not make any sense. I understand my noble friend's concerns about his particular area, but as we have made the case for registered hunting, I believe that we should stick to it.

Lord Monson: The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, described his amendment as tighter and narrower than Amendment No. 81. In fact, in one respect, that is not the case. Unlike Amendment No. 81, Amendment No. 47A does not discriminate between hunting on foot and hunting on horseback. I can see no logical reason why mounted hunters should be discriminated against. It certainly makes no difference as far as the fox is concerned. So although I have some sympathy with the reasoning behind both amendments, I think it anomalous that Amendment No. 81 confines itself to foot packs. As for Amendment No. 47A, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, may be a little over-optimistic in imagining that the Labour Party in the other place, as at present constituted, would back this amendment merely because it has been proposed by somebody of such distinction as himself.

Finally, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, has given a most conclusive argument as to why we should not support these two amendments, well intentioned though they undoubtedly are.

Lord Jopling: I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that the difference between packs that hunt the hounds on foot and others is that they do so in an area where hunting is essential for agriculture if sheep farming is to continue. I can give an illustration of the situation; I shall not repeat it at length. I gave the example on Second Reading a year ago and referred to it again on Second Reading a week or two ago.

A clear case of the essential need for fox hunting in upland areas where sheep breeding is the main pursuit was picked up in west Wales during the last world war. It was well documented in Picture Post at the time—if any noble Lord wishes to see it, I have it upstairs. A huntsman was called up into the Army, and within a year or two, because the hounds had been disbanded and were no longer hunting, the growth of the fox population so threatened the food effort during the war that the huntsman had to be released in the hunting season to resume hunting and to control the foxes. That seems a very clear example of what could
 
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happen in these areas. These areas are different, as my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, explained.

Lord Crickhowell: I hate to find myself in disagreement with my noble friend—it does not happen very often. I think that in my speech I was pretty sympathetic to what the amendment attempted. But it is not really true that these areas are entirely different. Where I live, the sheep are just as important to the economy—they are absolutely fundamental and crucial to it. But the area is not hunted traditionally by foot packs. In fact, the local hunts come in to the Black Mountains and hunt the valleys and—well, I was going to say the lower slopes, but it is quite high ground. But we are to be excluded in an area where it is just as essential. Therefore, I find it very difficult to accept an amendment which again draws a distinction when, as the noble Baroness pointed out, we are going down a path of registration and trying to treat every individual and community with the same justice.

Lord Jopling: I understand that, but perhaps I can explain why I think it is very important that these two amendments are put in the Bill at this stage. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that the two amendments do not fit in with licensing. Maybe they do not. If we introduce a licensing system—although it does not sometimes seem very likely—the two amendments become unnecessary.

The noble Baroness went on to say that the leader of the Central Committee of Fell Packs had said that he did not want the amendment pressed. I think that he is making a grave mistake in giving that advice. I do not know why he sent such a message about 10 minutes before I got to my feet, when the amendment has been tabled for 10 days or two weeks—I cannot remember exactly how long. I shall explain why I believe he is totally wrong in asking for the amendment to be withdrawn.

Let me explain three separate scenarios. Let us suppose that the clauses proposed in these two amendments, or something like them, are not in the Bill when it leaves your Lordships' House. If the Commons decides that it wants to use the Parliament Act, there will be no hope of the fell packs being able exceptionally to continue. That is the first scenario. The second is that, if noble Lords agree to include in the Bill the clauses proposed in the two amendments, or something like them, and if the Parliament Act is used, there is a chance of a compromise to allow the continuation of the fell packs. That is a possibility; nobody knows which way it will go. If we agree to the amendments and then the Commons uses the heavy hand, we have a chance of saving something from it. The third scenario is that, if the two amendments are in the Bill, and if licensing is approved by the other place, they will become unnecessary.


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