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Lord Marsh: My Lords, in his very interesting speech, the noble Lord said that what he proposed could be acceptable to both sides. Is that just a comment in passing, or does he think that there is any reason to believe that?
Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, my reason for making that comment is that it seems, from my mid-position, that the amendments would take us as close as possible to the positionon recordat which the House of Commons was, when it was working with consensus. I will test whether this House is willing to accept that position as a consensus. I beg to move.
If foxes looked like rats we would never have been put in the ridiculous position that we are in now. I submit that it is not we who are in favour of hunting
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who are the cruel ones; it is the people who are in favour of this Bill who are the cruel ones. If this Bill goes through, they will deprive many people of their way of life, their income and their future.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, the noble Lord moved his amendments with such moderation, good humour and personal charm that he has disguised with great skill the fact that he is inviting this House to overturn decisions which it made a fortnight ago. He is of course in order in doing so, except in relation to Amendment No. 4, which he has candidly and commendably withdrawn.
But if we take just some of the amendments that he is moving, we can see how much he seeks to invite the House to defy the decisions that it made a fortnight ago. He rightly said that Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 are very important. First, Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 would leave out of Clause 7 the criterion for registration of the management of wildlife and, secondly, they would leave out of subsection (2) the balance of cruelty. Those issues were the entire substance of the debate when inserting Clause 7 into the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who opened the debate, explained with total clarity and great force that the purpose of the amendment was to allow and require a consideration of the management of wildlife and a straight balance of cruelty rather than a totally loaded presumption against hunting. The House voted in favour of that by no less a margin than 194 votes to 57. That is precisely what the noble Lord is inviting the House now to overturn.
Perhaps I may give just one further example of the extent to which the noble Lord is inviting us to change our minds and to reverse previous decisions. Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 were passed by the House unanimously, without a single voice of dissent. It is a curiosity of the rules of the House that when there is a vote, if only one person votes against or if the vote is split 51/49, the matter cannot be reopened.
Apparently, under the rules of the House, if the House is unanimously in favour of the matter, it can be reopened. Very curiously, unanimity is less useful than a 51/49 split, which may mean that in future, even on unanimous matters, one supporter of the Bill is encouraged to dissent just so that there can be a vote in order to render it written in stone for all time. But, on that matter, againit goes through the whole of the noble Lord's amendmenthe is actually and totally, with respect, improperly inviting the House to reverse that which it has already done by its previous votes and decision.
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, there are a large number of amendments in this group. Some of them are purely technical, and others were either introduced in Committee in another place or are thought by the Minister to be improvements to the Bill. I have no objection to any of those.
However, I oppose in the strongest possible terms that I can, Amendments Nos. 1 to 8 and 27 and 28, which the noble Lord has just moved. Both noble Lords whose
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names are on those amendments voted against a ban and for regulation in this House in Committee. I accept that their motivation is to try to secure the survival of some hunting from what they see as an otherwise impossible blanket ban. But their approach is fundamentally wrong. If these amendments are passed and are accepted by another place, the result would be the very opposite of what I believe that this House wishes to achieve; namely, a just framework of a registration system based on principle and evidence that will stand the test of time.
The amendments tabledI agree with my noble friend Lord Grahamwould produce a scheme that was regulation in name only. It would be a backdoor ban. Those amendments reflect the difficulties in which Mr Alun Michael found himself and were designed to be sold to the Back-Benchers of my party as being as good as a ban.
If we agree to those amendments, not just the hunting community and wider rural Britain, but all who look to this House for common sense, fairness and protection for our freedoms, will feel betrayed, and rightly so. They will have been sacrificed by reason of political expediency. I know that there will be those in this House who will say, "Take this or lose everything", which I feel is the equivalent of being told, "Commit suicide or they will shoot you". It is not an attractive choice. For my part, I would prefer to deal with the effects of an honest banthe sort that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, and those who agree with him supportrather than one that is dressed up as regulation.
"The future of hunting with dogs should not be decided on personal taste, but on evidence on the principles of whether or not it is serving an effective purpose in managing wildlife and whether it is more or less cruel than the alternative methods currently available".
Sadly, Mr Michael found himself unable to stick to those principles. When it became clear that he would have difficulty in selling a regulation system to members of his own party, Mr Michael sought to restrict those who would qualify by removing the main plank of the registrar's consideration; in other words, the contribution to wildlife management.
In his inquiries, which were, in tribute to him, extensive, Mr Michael saw the role played by many hunts and different types of hunting in wildlife management and he was anxious to sell his scheme as one under which very few would qualify. That was his first breach of principle: he confined to pest control the test for registration. He excluded wildlife management, which is, in essence, what hunting is about. We must not follow the seductive words of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and go down that route. Our job in this House should be to restore the Bill to those principles.
The test that Alun Michael included in his Bill on least suffering was a tough one. It was the one that we voted for in this House in Committee. Amendment
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No. 8, which is now being proposed, reflects what the Standing Committee in another place did to that test. That Committee was by a substantial majority composed of people in favour of a ban. I sat and listened to some of those proceedings; some of those people made it plain that when the Bill returned to the Floor of the House they would seek to overturn the work of that committee and turn the Bill into a ban. That, in fact, was what they did.
This amendment was put into the Bill by that majority as a fallback in case they failed later. It was done to provide a back door ban in the event that what happened did not happen. It requires the applicant to do the impossible. All the evidence, both to the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and to Mr Alun Michael at the Portcullis House hearings, said that there was insufficient research to make an assessment of the degree of suffering between alternative methods. Here the onus is placed on the applicant to prove something which everyone agrees there is currently no evidence available to prove. If we agree to these amendments and return to the tests in this form, the House of Lords will have capitulated to and endorsed the prejudices of the House of Commons. Those outside this House who look to us for protection will feel betrayed, and rightly so.
In Committee in this House we took a logical, consistent and principled approach to registration. The process must apply to all. Whether a particular hunt or a particular form of hunting passes the twin tests must be a matter for the judgment of the registrar when he has considered the case on the evidence. We must not allow the regulation system to be perverted by applying either our personal dislikes or our personal preferences and excluding people from the totality of that scheme. To do so is to abandon the principle that was set out by Mr Alun Michael in his clear statement in the press release to which I referred earlier.
It may well be that coursing, beagling, deer hunting, some forms of terrier work or, indeed, some hunts will not succeed in obtaining registration. But if the scheme is to be seen to be fair, all those activities must be given an opportunity to put their case to the independent registrar. That is because nothing is more likely to generate a lasting sense of injustice than a refusal to allow the arguments to be made.
I am conscious that I have taken a considerable amount of the time of the House, but there is one matter that I must mention, in particular in the light of what was said by my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe about his concern for rural communities. I declare an interest. For many years I have supported the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and I live down on Exmoor. His proposal within the bundle of amendments that he has put forwardvery fairly admitting that he does not have the knowledge to deal with the detailwould
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devastate the community of which I count myself fortunate to be a part. Everyone in the conservation and local government world on Exmoor, the Exmoor National Park Authority, the Exmoor Society, the British Deer Society, the Countryside Agency and 750 different landowners who make up the Exmoor and District Deer Management Society agree that deer hunting should not be banned until a viable alternative deer management scheme is in place. All agree that an immediate ban would mean a massive increase in shooting.
"Because of the widespread support which [deer hunting] enjoys, and the consequent tolerance by farmers of deer, hunting at present makes a substantial contribution to the management of the deer population [in Devon and Somerset]".
The only casualty service for deer in those areas of the West Country is provided by the hunts. I happen to know that both yesterday and the day before a representative of the hunt went out and, on each occasion, put out of its suffering a stagin both cases with a broken leg, perhaps as the result of a car collision. There is no one else who can do that, and the amendments of my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe would bring into effect a ban on the hunts which provide that 24-hour service every day of the year a month after the Bill comes into force.
When he came down to Exmoor, Mr Alun Michael said that it was a "special case". Defra itself put money into a study undertaken by the national park and others into the economic consequences of a ban just on deer hunting. This was done at the time when Mr Michael had published his Bill, but before the Commons turned it into a total ban. The study was partly funded by Defra and was conducted according to the criteria set by the department. Its results showed that £9.5 million a year would be lost to that small and fragile economy as the result of such a ban.
There are those who say that deer hunting is cruel. All I can say is that a great deal of scientific work has been done and is still being done. The position has changed greatly since the first report of Professor Bateson for the National Trust. Subsequently there was the joint university study, after which both Professor Bateson and the scientist who had conducted that study did work for the Burns inquiry in Contract 7. Those of us who were able to attend a presentation by the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting and Professor Websterone of Professor Bateson's original scrutineerslearnt that changes have been made in the way hunting is conducted to reduce the duration of the hunt. At the end of a hunt, the death of a deer is instantaneous because it involves a shot to the head. That is only rarely possible with stalking, which is the alternative.
Further work has been done in Scotland since Professor Bateson's study. From that work, which has taken two years to complete and which looked at 900 deer, we know that some 20 per cent took two shots to kill. We know also from Vets for Wildlife
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Management, a group of 500 members of the Royal Veterinary College, that in their view stalking does not provide a humane alternative.
The evidence is incredibly complex and is precisely the sort of evidencelooking at the science, the effect on wildlife and the impact on deer themselves in the areawhich should be the job of an independent registrar. He could look at the most up-to-date picture and review it when licences come to be renewed. But a ban would be a disaster for the people of Exmoor, most particularlyas one noble Lord pointed out on the last occasiongiven that we should be taking as our guidance animal welfare. From the point of view of everyone on Exmoor, it would be a disaster for the deer.
I therefore urge the House to endorse a fair and comprehensive registration scheme byI make my apologies to my noble friend Lord Tunniclifferejecting the amendments dealing with the tests and additional bans. My noble friend said that he thought the proposals would command support from all sides. I see my noble friend Lord Graham violently shaking his head, and I am afraid that I must do the same. But I suspect that if my noble friend Lord Graham were to study these proposals with care, he might take a different view, because they would achieve precisely what he is seeking to achieve head-on.
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