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Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I am broadly sympathetic to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and my noble friend Lord Inglewood. They are absolutely right, of course. Upland hill packs perform an extremely important task in controlling predation by foxes, as we heard in Committee from the noble Lords, Lord Livsey and Lord Carlile. Those who cannot accept that should perhaps get out a little more and talk to the hill farmers who are involved and whose livelihood is diminished by predation by foxes.
However, there are three reasons why I find the amendment difficult to support. First, the definitions of upland or less favoured areasthey seem to cross over a littleare based on a whole string of EU directives referred to in the amendment. What will happen if the foxes or hounds have not read the directives and move away from the less favoured areas or away from the uplandsif that is what is in the directive? It is difficult to decide what is meant in the definition in the directive. If, in the course of a hunt, the quarry and the hounds move away from the less favoured area boundary and into the valley, the people following the hunt and the masters would commit a criminal act.
I do not know the detail, but it is likely that many farmers will have land some of which is in a less favoured area and some outside such an area. It is very difficult to frame a sensible amendment with those apparent difficulties.
As I say, there is a list of various places, most of which are contained in the annex, but I could not get it on the Internet. One or two are there but they do not seem to be in uplands. For instance, my noble friendhe is not in the Chamber may be disappointed or pleased to hear that Castle Hill is part of a less favoured areaFilleigh, which is a recent addition.
The second reason I have difficulty with these amendments is that we have criticised the Alun Michael Bill and the Banks' Bill as based neither on principle nor evidence. The Bill we are now considering is based on principle and evidence. The whole purpose of the registration scheme, which has received your Lordship's support, both in Committee and in an earlier vote today, is that all hunts should be able to apply for registration. Some will succeed; no doubt some will fail. I do not believe it is right therefore to make an exception for a particular form of huntingvalid though it ison the curious basis of "two feet good, four feet bad". I do not see that that can be right. What about those sheep farmers and poultry farmers who, for whatever reason, are not in the less favoured areas but who suffer exactly the same level of predation by foxes and financial loss?
The third reason is that I agree with the validity of the case the proposer of the amendment makes for hunting in the uplands and LFAs. However, under the Bill your Lordships have approved, and are now still considering, hunting in less favoured areaswhether uplands or simply less favoured areas as in the
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amendmentwould surely receive approval anyway. The hunts would not have any difficulty in getting approval from the registrar on the basis put forward by the noble Lord moving the amendment.
I think that we should keep our eye on the ball here. We should remind ourselves that we are framing a Bill based on evidence and principle. I do not believe that this amendment is consistent with evidence and principle. We must keep in mind the whole system that this House has repeatedly voted for. Therefore, I do not think that I shall be able to support the amendment.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, perhaps I may give my views on Amendments Nos. 2 and 23. I say at the outset that I am strongly in favour of registered hunting, both inside and outside the less favoured areas. However, this amendment is specific to foot packs in the uplands in the less favoured areas. I understand that in the event of a ban, they would be exempted from that ban.
I prefer Amendment No. 23 to Amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 23 lays the matter out in some considerable detail, and in fact names the fox as the culprit which is to be hunted. I am sure that efforts will be made over the next week or so to secure a compromise. That may emerge but, sadly, I believe it to be a faint hope. As yet we do not know what the components of a compromise might be. What I do know is that there will be opportunities at Third Reading in this House and on what we call ping-pongwhen legislation goes back and forwards between the House of Lords and the House of Commonsperhaps to achieve a final compromise.
The protection of lambs in particular is very important. As I have said beforeand I shall not repeat it at length todaysheep populations are very dense and there are many lambs in most of the uplands. Monoculture conifers harbour huge numbers of foxes which predate on lambs and cause severe economic damage to the farmers concerned. Only the foot packs provide a vital control. It is a frequent occurrence, especially during the lambing season, for farmers to call in those hunts to control particularly the foxes that get a taste for lamb in the spring.
So I believe that these amendments are very worthy, but they are a backstop in a worst case situation. We will just have to wait to see what emerges at Third Reading and in the ping-pong phase of the Bill.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, one question. His amendment has the merit of making the hunting he envisages registered hunting. But I notice that there is nothing in
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the amendment about foot packs. So, can I presume that if I was able to ride my horse up the hills he proposes in these less favoured areas that would be allowed under his amendment? I am interested whether that would be the case because the amendment does not refer to foot packs but to hunting in upland areas. Therefore, how does he consider that point?
I was concerned when my noble friend Lord Inglewood previously moved his amendmentas indeed is my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Brokethat it introduced the element of unregistered hunting. As far as I can see from his amendment, it still introduces the element of unregistered hunting. In the many debates we have had on hunting in this House, I think that we have all agreed that in the past some unacceptable practices took place and that hunting needs to be controlled and managed. That is impossible without registered hunting because nobody has to belong to a foot pack association. In Wales there are many gun packs. On some days they go out mounted, some days they go out on foot and some days they go out on motorbikes with a pack of hounds. Most are not part of any organised hunting association. Under my noble friend's amendment they would be able to continue, and to continue in a way that I believe would not be acceptable.
I also note that the Central Committee of Fell Packs does not want to be singled out for special treatment. Indeed, it is concerned that if it was the only hunting left in England the pressure on it would be so great that it would have to give up hunting. However, if my noble friend were to come back at Third Reading with an amendment that solves those problems in terms of registration and control I would certainly be more sympathetic.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I intervene very briefly to say that I support both of these amendments, for two very different reasons. I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, because I believe in its content and that it will deliver what we need to deliver in Cumbria. But I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Sewel for another reason. That is, it is a very good way, if the issue is pushed to a vote, to tease the House of Commons out of its corner. In some ways it is a minimalist amendment. If we could establish that at this stage in our proceedings, I think that it would open the door perhaps to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood.
Earl Peel: My Lords, I start by saying that I entirely support the arguments both of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and my noble friend Lord Inglewood. Anybody with any knowledge and experience of hill country knows perfectly well that these packs are the only effective way of controlling foxes, particularly where lamping is not an alternative, and of dealing with a very real problem, as my noble friend has said.
I arguedstrongly I hopewhen we were discussing the previous amendment, that it would be quite wrong for the House to pre-empt what a registrar may decide.
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We have taken the line consistently in your Lordships' House that the licensing system is the route that we should pursue. In the same way that I argued that we should not take stag hunting out of the registration system, I do not believe that it is right for us to have hill packs outside the registration system, and for all intents and purposes make them exempt hunting.
The less favoured areas cover Exmoor and Dartmoor. To the best of my knowledge, there is no traditional hunting of the type my noble friend refers to in those parts of the country. So, in the absence of hunting as we know it, and if those areas were looking to substitute hunting on horseback with hunting with hill packs, then his amendment would preclude the ability of foot packs to be able to take the place of hunts carried out on horses.
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