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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I have put my name to these amendmentsand I must say that I have not done so in any spirit of cynicism. Indeed, all the time since I joined your Lordships' House in 1998, the work that I have done here has been to promote wildlife management. That started with the CROW Act, which, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, we successfully amendedvery strongly, in the case of Part 3. I have promoted wildlife management through numerous other debates and questions, which have included TB in badgers, the need to tag deer carcasses, slug pellets and farmland birdsbut I shall not take up your Lordships' time with a list. I must assure noble Lords that I have not attached my name to the amendments in any spirit of cynicism.
I do not believe that we are now looking at a situation in which all hunting can continue under a registrar in any case. That moment has long passed. We are looking at either a total ban or at regulated fox huntingand, as other noble Lords have said, even that is not a given. I am anxious that regulated fox hunting should continue, and I believe that these amendments give it the best chance that it has of doing just that.
Perhaps the most difficult issue for me throughout these debates has been the situation involving Exmoor. I have lived near Exmoor and had a long attachment to Exmoor, and I must declare some interest as my husband chaired the national park authority for some nine years. Exmoor is very special and it is very different, and the social and economic case that can be
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made for deer hunting can be made much more strongly there than anywhere else. But it is not the exception that proves the ruleit is the exception.
The Government should recognise that difference, treat the park area and the deer herd accordingly, and give some serious and immediate replies on what will happen to the deer herd if hunting is banned on Exmoor. I should like the Minister to comment on that in his reply. There is one big advantagethat the National Park Authority does have the geographical area responsibility for wildlife management and employs officers to take care of the biodiversity issue. It is better placed than many parts of Britain to address those issues.
In considering the amendments today, I have some regrets that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has not retabled her excellent amendment on compensation that she introduced in Committee, when I said to her that I would support it if she narrowed its scope. I believe that if people's main livelihoods have been involved in hunting, it is fair that they should be compensated when we take a moral judgment to end the activity.
My noble friend Lord Carlile and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, have always made very powerful speeches on this subject. The fact that they make such powerful speeches and are both such eminent barristers has in some ways put us in the position in which we find ourselves today. The House has beenI would not like to use the word "seduced", although I believe that the noble Baroness used that word
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Okay, my Lords, the House has been seduced by their arguments. That has meant that instead of accepting regulated hunting when we should have done, we did not, because we were not as powerful in arguing the case as they were, with their years of experience of arguing cases. They are used to a win-win or win-lose situation; that is the nature of barristers. But in this House, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, rightly said, we should aim to create a political way forwardwhich in this case noble Lords may call a compromise. If noble Lords choose to vote for these amendments today, there is a chance that fox hunting will be able to continue. But if noble Lords vote against these amendments, they will seal the fate of all hunting.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I do not believe that the proposals represent a compromise. I remind the House of the words used by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, earlier this morning: that if the amendments are accepted they will overturn the decision of this House, which was taken in Committee after great deliberation. There were three days of Committee stage, and we had a majority of about 250 votes in favour of a sensible regulated hunting system. I remind noble Lords of the size of that vote.
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On two matters of detail, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, will not be able to speak on this matter again, but he did make a speech in favour of regulated hunting in 2001, in relation to the Middle Way. So it is not correct to say that this House has been in any way seduced by him now into supporting that system. He has always been in favour of regulated hunting.
I am astonished that management of wildlife has been left out of the amendment and taken out of the Bill, as it has always been a matter of principleif we want to use that wordfor Mr Alun Michael, that it should be included in any test of utility. It was only in the end removed by the Committee and not put in the Bill because Mr Michael, who is a convinced banner, realised that if he put it in the Bill, most hunts would pass that test and therefore be able to continue hunting. So it was nothing more than political expediency to leave out the wildlife management provision.
Again, it is damaging for hunts to have to prove that they are causing least suffering. There are no tests. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, keeps quoting the words about damaging the welfare of the fox. He was here at Second Reading, so did he not hear the noble Lord, Lord Burns, explain very clearly that there was no evidence for that? The chairman of the committee that was set up by the Government to inform the country at large, the House of Commons and your Lordships about all aspects of hunting, including suffering, took the trouble to come here himself. He said:
"The committee did not have sufficient evidence to reach a clear conclusion on whether hunting involves significantly worse welfare effects than other legal methods of control".[Official Report, 12/10/04; col. 144.]
I have reminded your Lordships that this House came to an overwhelming conclusion that registered hunting should be allowed. I believe that these amendments do not meet that end, as they are asking the House to reverse its decision, which it took by a huge majority two weeks ago.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I shall speak very briefly because everything has been said that needs to be said. We spent three days on this matter in Committee and came to a big conclusion, so I hope that I can urge noble Lords to be resolved and reject the amendments. In that rejection, I would include Amendments Nos. 1 to 8, and Amendments Nos. 27 and 28the technical amendments we shall come to later on.
The whole question whether a compromise can be reached is unrealistic. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, suggested that it was possible, but I do not believe that it is. Even if it were possible, in supporting this amendment we would be letting down in a most dreadful way so many people who up to now we have spoken up for and fought for. It would be giving ground before coming to any sort of compromise, which I am sure that this House would not want to support.
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The question of removing wildlife management from the Bill is a major problem. Certainly, there are aspects of this Bill that we discussed at great length. At the end of the debate that we had over three days of Committee, we said that everything should be judged in the same way, and that if hunting did not qualify under utility or least suffering, it would not be registered. That has not altered at all.
With due respect to the noble Lord who tabled the amendments and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, I do not believe that they have won their case at all. We have no guarantee whatever that Members in another place will consider the matter in any different way. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, is nodding his headhe is quite right. There are people there who wish to have a ban and will continue to vote for a ban. This compromise is no compromise, as far as they are concerned. I believe that we should stand up for the minorities we have supported before. We have judged the matter fairly on the ground that those who want to hunt have to qualify. We should resolve to reject these amendments.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, as during Committee stage I have to point out to the House in these slightly unusual circumstances that the role of government Minister on this Bill has been to guide the House on the effects of the amendments proposed, on the situation reached in the House of Commons and to comment on the prospect of any changes being acceptable to the majority in the House of Commons. I will continue in that role. Noble Lords are familiar with my personal opinion but I put that to one side.
I congratulate my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe on a number of matters. Fist, I congratulate him on listening to the arguments. While there has always been good attendance on this Bill I am not entirely sure that he is not part of a relatively small subset of noble Lords who have actually listened to the arguments. Secondly, I congratulate my noble friend on a very good opening speech. It has been described as disarming, persuasive, courteous and even clever. These appear to be terms of criticism in this House. I thought that it was a very good and persuasive speech.
I congratulate my noble friend on producing a set of amendments that gives this House a coherent alternative to present, if it should so wish, to the House of Commons. It also has the very great benefit of smoking out the difference between the Alun Michael Bill, as amended in Committee, and the Bill which this House adopted in Committee two weeks ago, which was claimed by no less an authority than my noble friend Lord Donoughue to be a reversion to the Alun Michael Bill when in fact it was nothing of the kind. That claim has subsequently been made externally and in the media.
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