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Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, it has been very strongly trailed that unless we return the Bill in the original Alun Michael form, unaltered and unamended by this House, the other place is likely to vote for a total ban and the Parliament Act will be invoked. But there is absolutely no guarantee that if the Alun Michael Bill, as such, were to be returned to the other place, it would be accepted by the other place. There is the possibility that there would still be a ban.
In those circumstances, it must be right for this House to do what it believes to be right and to amend the Bill as it believes it is necessary to be amended. One of the amendments to the Bill which strikes me as being of the greatest possible significancethe inclusion of wildlife management as a test for registrationwould be removed by the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe.
I am sure that all noble Lords in this House understand the importance of wildlife management. We live in an overcrowded island; the population is increasing; the spread of our towns across the rural land continues apace. In those circumstances, for wildlife to survive at all it must be managed. That is well understood; it is well understood even by those who live in towns and cities. It is well understood that if you have too many grey squirrels in the park, they cause mischief and damage, and they need to be controlled for their own good. Even the Mayor of London, with his well publicised interest in newts, knows a lot about the need to control the pigeon population in Trafalgar Square. They can become excessive unless there is some form of wildlife management. That happens in our towns and it happens in the country. It is for the good of the survival of the species. For those reasons, it is necessary to retain those words in the Bill that we send back to the Commons, so that Members there may have a chance to give full and proper consideration to these matters.
I find it curious that those noble Lordssome of them sitting on the Benches oppositewho make powerful and emotional speeches about protecting wild animals against any form of cruelty and who want to see the animals survive are none the less afraid of including wildlife management as a test for registration before the tribunal. Why? Because they fear that that test would be upheld and approved by the tribunal, and that hunting in those circumstances would be allowed. What sort of animal lovers are they? What sort of animal lovers can they be if they fail to understand the need for proper management of our wildlife?
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Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long. I am expressing my own views in relation to the amendment moved by noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe. He moved it in a very courteous and gracious way and I shall come on to my views in relation to it. I am always interested in the different moods of this House. When we debated the Bill in Committee, I remember the praises that were being heaped by many noble Lords on Alun Michael. They now appear to have gone against him. That is a change of mood.
I cannot support my noble friend today, because I am opposed to the licensing of hunting. It would amount to a patchwork quilt because it would vary across the country and it would still leave certain cases in which foxes would be hunted by hounds. As I believe that that is cruel and that, as the Burns report stated, the welfare of the animal that is hunted is affected, I cannot support the amendment that my noble friend has put forward.
I listened very carefully to my noble friend Lord Carter. As always, he was extremely persuasive. However, with my knowledge of the other place, I think that the position of compromise has long passed. I think that the House of Commons will vote for a complete ban, which is my position.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I understand my noble friend's point of view. As I said to him, I cannot support that for the reason that I have outlined; namely, I am against the hunting of animals with hounds. At the end of the day, the decision will rest with the elected House of this country. As I have said before, the people who take that decision, unlike this House, will have to face the consequences when they face the electorate.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, this House must see these amendments for what they are. They are a clever and, I have to say, somewhat cynical ploy to ban hunting. That is what they represent; it is nothing else.
When the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, introduced the amendment, he said that he knew nothing about hunting. I have to say that that is one issue on which I can agree with him. He has not spoken at any stage of the Bill; neither at Second Reading nor in Committee. So I am afraid that we have to examine his motives in bringing the amendments forward. He is quite right to say that the amendments return the Bill to how it was when it came out of Standing Committee. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, pointed out, when the Bill came out of Standing Committee, which had a Labour majority of anti-hunt members, it contained, as it were, the wrecking amendment, Amendment A, which would mean that registration would become almost impossible. The work that we
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did in Committee in this House was directed to making a workable system. All those noble Lords who have spoken so far have agreed with that.
Earl Peel: My Lords, as other noble Lords have said, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, put forward a very persuasive argument to try to give the impression to your Lordships that if the amendments were accepted, a sensible system of registration would be put in place and decisions could be made accordingly. But as my noble friend Lord Astor has quite rightly pointed out, there is no question of doubt that if the amendments are accepted, they would lead to a ban in everything but name.
I was very interested in the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, whom we all respect, particularly on matters to do with the rural environment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, the noble Lord suggested to your Lordships that if we were to reject the amendments, we would, for all intents and purposes, be saying goodbye to a possible registrative Bill. However, he put an interesting question to us: if the Alun Michael proposals, which were amended in Standing Committee, would, in effect, have allowed hunting to continue, why did the House of Commons reject it? Why did we end up with the Banks/Kaufman Bill?
It is a pretty well known secret that the Minister, Alun Michael, was distressed, to say the least, by the outcome. He tried to persuade his colleagues in another place not to pursue an outright ban, because, in effect, that is what they had anyway. I think that we all know that. So I urge your Lordships to reject these amendments because, as I have said, they amount to a ban in everything but name.
I want to make two points. The first is on the question of wildlife management, which we debated in Committee. That debate was led by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, who put forward the arguments in a highly persuasive fashion. As somebody who is involved in the management of the countryside, I find it quite incomprehensible that we could not embrace the concept of the management of wild mammal populations. That is the cornerstone of the inter-relationship between predators and prey, between wildlife and the countryside. It is absolutely basic to the very principles of what we are trying to do. As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, pointed out, the Minister, Alun Michael, recognised that in the early part of the discussions on the Bill. He said:
"I plan to set out proposals for Parliament which can form good and robust law and can take us forward into the 21st century, able to reflect evolving views on animal welfare and wildlife management".
Among other points, the noble Baroness raised the whole question of principle and evidence on which the Minister has been basing his approach to the Bill. If we accept the amendment, principle and evidence go out of the window.
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I shall say a few words about stag hunting. I do not hunt. I have been down to Exmoor only once, out of interest and curiosity, to see for myself how that form of hunting operated. I was convinced beyond any question of doubt, as the noble Baroness said, that it is by far and away the most effective way of managing that deer population. Where is the evidence to suggest that we should pre-empt what a registrar may decide by taking stag hunting out of the registration system? That would be quite wrong. I have always been immensely impressed by some of the comments that have been made by the Exmoor National Park Authority. It has stated that a ban might adversely affect the future sustainability of the herd. It has referred to cultural heritage. It has stated that a ban could put the national park authority's own statutory purposes and duties at risk. They are very powerful arguments.
In the absence of evidence against stag hunting, who are we to pre-determine the outcome of any deliberations or decisions by the registrar? Who are we to impose in such an arbitrary fashion a restriction on those who have managed these herds so effectively and for so long? To bend to prejudice in this way would be wholly contrary to the democratic process.
The Bill as it stands produces a framework by which stag hunting can be judged along with all other forms of hunting. I believe that to be the responsible approach and it would be highly responsible for your Lordships today to be acting as judge and jury.
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