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Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, perhaps I might give the Minister a further opportunity to tell us whether he supports the view expressed by the Home Office that minimum prices should be established in clubs and pubs. The reason is very clear; it is all to do with binge drinking. I think that the noble Lord is aware of the issue.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, until 1979 the predecessor government had a Department of Prices and Consumer Protection. My noble friend Lord Hattersley, if he were present, would no doubt give a robust defence of it. In the 21st century, the idea that we should intervene to raise prices other than by taxation in individual establishments is a little remote from the ethos of the time.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, is the Minister therefore content that in our universities there are offers of all you can drink for £9 or £10? That is where
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a lot of binge drinking starts. Are the Government consulting those universities where that drinking culture is encouraged?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have been guilty of answering questions that stray from the original Question on the Order Paper but consultation with universities is a long way from the Question on the Order Paper.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 5 to 18, 21, 22, 27 and 30. I shall not move Amendment No. 4. My objective will be to create the Alun Michael Bill as it left Commons Standing Committee F in 2003, printed on 28 February 2003. I shall fail that test with respect to hare coursing and hunting, as I shall explain. As amended, the Bill would contain additional consensual clauses in the schedules that are retained in your Lordships' Bill.
Why am I doing this? Noble Lords may reasonably ask that question; certainly, I asked it at 5.30 a.m. today, when I started to write this speech. I joined this House on 21 June, went through the ritual of my maiden speech, enjoyed splendid praise for it, which I always show my friendsthe praise not my speechand settled down to the life of a working Labour Peer, turning up when my Whips told me to and, when the bell rang, going through the "Not-Content" Lobby. I even survived the confusion of the rare occasions on which we went through the "Content" Lobby.
As I was settling into this life along came a Hunting Bill. I was told that I was to think for myself, which, given the happy state into which I had settled, was something of a shock. As I knew nothing about hunting, I had the option of not attending the debates, doing more of my wife's chores, and abstaining. I felt, though, that my duty was to try to take a point of view, and the only way in which I could sensibly do that would be to listen to the debate. The effect of listening to the debate was the somewhat confusing emotion of increasing in respect for all points of view. The only area where the whole House and I were upset was the manifestation of violent protests to which we were exposed, and which we universally condemned.
I recognised as I listened that a total ban would create trauma in communities; that enforcement, while not impossible, would be difficult; that the use of the Parliament Act left, at a minimum, unease in many quarters. This, I felt, called for a compromise; therefore, as the debate went on I tried to search one out. I thought that I had found it in the Alun Michael Bill. Sadly, I did not realise that that term was not very
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precise: there was the Alun Michael Bill that went into Commons Standing Committee F and there was the one that came out on 27 February 2003 after 27 sittings. Only when I had understood that distinction did I realise that the Alun Michael Bill that I wanted to support was the one that came out of the Standing Committee.
That was the compromise that I favoured, but I was to have no opportunity to vote for it. Something had to be done. I could but pause a little before realising that, if I wanted something to be done, I had to do it. Therefore I have tabled these amendments with the objective of creating the Alun Michael Bill as amended by Standing Committee F, with the subsequent consensual additions. I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Donoughue, Lady Golding and Lady Mallalieu for their endorsement of my efforts. They sent a letter to some noble Lords saying that my amendments put the Bill back into the state that it was in as it left Standing Committee F. For simplicity, in the rest of my speech I shall call this the Alun Michael Bill.
Noble Lords present in this House are possibly in two groups. There are those who have been engaged in this debate for many years and understand it in great depth. They will understand the impact of every one of my amendments and I can add nothing to their understanding. There will be some like me, however, who come to the debate almost for the first time. If the House will bear with me, I shall go through the amendments very briefly so that those new to the debate will understand their impact.
Amendment No. 1 makes clear that hunting is to be for pest control; it is a cosmetic amendment, but it makes that clear. Amendment No. 3 bans deer hunting. Amendment No. 4 will not be moved, for reasons which I shall outline. Amendment No. 5 bans the use of dogs below ground. The crucial amendments are Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8. Amendment No. 6 makes clear that the utility is pest control, which it then closely defines; Amendment No. 7 deletes "the management of wildlife" as a utility; Amendment No. 8 tightens the cruelty test to,
Amendments Nos. 9 to 13 would change from six to 12 months the delay in renewal applications. Amendments Nos. 14 to 16 would clarify intent. Amendment No. 15 would complete a cross-referencing. Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 would flesh out the word "specified" in the duration clauses. All the above amendments were added in Standing Committee F in the House of Commons in January and February 2003.
Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 cover commencement and transition arrangements, as specified in the original Bill. Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 would delete the orphaned cubs amendments. That was considered in Standing Committee F and rejected. Amendments Nos. 29 and 30 would introduce the balance of the tribunal provisions added in Standing Committee.
The original Bill banned hare coursing. I would have tabled an amendment to that effect, had not the House authorities advised me that it would have offended
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against Standing Orders. Therefore, I have not tabled such an amendment. However, if these amendments are made and the Bill, as amended, goes back to the other place, we must reasonably expect that there will be a ban on hare coursing when it re-emerges.
I believed that I could table an amendment that was made to the Bill in Standing Committee F to ban hare hunting. That was the opinion of the House authorities, when they were first asked. They later changed their advice, so, in order not to create any problems, I shall not move Amendment No. 4. Nevertheless, if this Bill, amended, goes back to the other place and comes out largely intact, one must reasonably expect that there will be a ban on hare hunting.
There are other provisions in Schedule 1 that my amendments do not touch. They were introduced as a result of government promises in Standing Committee F. They remain in the Bill and are consensual. For completeness, they relate, in addition to stalking and flushing out, to participation in field trials; the use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting; the rescue of wild animals; and research and observation.
I make a general proposition to the House. I would not presume to debate the merits of each clause. Your Lordships have debated them on many occasions, and I suggest that they have been debated exhaustively. As a whole, the series of amendments would return the Bill to the Alun Michael Bill, as far as is reasonably practical. Such a Bill may be acceptable to the other place, and it may be an acceptable compromise for all parties.
In seeking the support of the House, I shall address three groups. As if to encourage confusion, I must admit to being a member of two of them. The first group that I shall address are the intuitive banners. I am intuitively a fox hunting banner. I disapprove of an activity carried out for the gratification of individuals that results in the death of an animal. However, as somebody cleverly noted about me as an individual many years ago, I am a woolly-minded liberal. When I come to a view, a voice will frequently say to me, "Hypocrite". I love lamb, and I eat red meatmore than I need for nutritional purposes. I would not dream of buying my wife a fur coat, but I wear leather shoes. I recognise that I pay people to kill animals for my needs and for my gratification. I accept that my disapproval of fox hunting is, inevitably, a disapproval of degree.
Our role today, as intuitive banners, is that not of citizens but of law makers. As law makers, we must recognise the crucial distance between what we disapprove of as individuals and what we have a right to make criminal. Law is a dilemma and a paradox. At its best, the law seeks to balance the restraint of individuals with the rights of others. In this case, we also have the complex issue of the rights of animals. The test of such a law should be more than our personal prejudices.
The Alun Michael Bill does not ban hunting. It restrains those who would hunt through the twin tests of utility and cruelty. To the intuitive banners, I say
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that we have no right to insist on more than the restraint that we should reasonably ask under those tests.
The second group to whom I shall speak are the compromisers. We compromisers are a somewhat derided group. For most of my quite successful and well rewarded career, I have been a compromiser. We are never seen as heroic; we are always seen as being slightly iffy. We nudge round the corners of problems and end up with answers that nobody really likes but to which they agree. However, we don't half get things done. Much would not happen in the world if there were no derided, shabby compromisers such as myself in it.
We compromisers are uncomfortable with conflict and trauma. We think that, when there is conflict and trauma, things are wrong. We are proud to be members of a society that, on balancewhen I say "on balance", I accept that we have executed one king and, I think, seven Speakershas got where it is through consensus and incremental change. We compromisers are uncomfortable with extremes, and we are even more uncomfortable with disengagement. We naturally seek compromise, and we seek, as a first step, engagement between the parties. We compromisers recognise that propositions that achieve engagement and eventual agreement are frequently looked upon by the parties as propositions of equal difficulty. The Alun Michael Bill is the basis for engagement. It is a proposition that can become acceptable to all points of view.
Finally, I address the pro-hunters. The Alun Michael Bill is not a ban. In industry, we would call it a "permissioning regime". The Bill says, "You may hunt, but only if you meet the tests that society reasonably requires". For pro-hunters, the Alun Michael Bill is the only reasonable chance for hunting with dogs in the future.
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