|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I very much sympathise with the arguments advanced by both my noble friend Lord Sewel and the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. However, I cannot see how either of them fit the principle that this House has, so far, at any rate, adopted. We have determined that all hunting should be registered and, I think, that registration should be determined by tests, not by geography. The arguments that have been advanced are excellent and, to the best of my knowledge, totally valid. They should properly be addressed to the registrar.
I thinkother noble Lords have previously expressed this viewthat it would be wrong to approach the Bill at this stage by considering what might be the consequences of steps we take here when the Bill goes to another place. My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours will remember that he promoted an amendment of this sort in another place. It did not find favour, even with the benefit of his advocacy there. Without ruling out the possibility that there may have been a change of heart, here and now, at this stage, it would be unfortunate if either noble Lord were to press his amendment to a Division. For my part, I would feel bound, in honouring the principles that we have adopted, to oppose them.
Lord Jopling: My Lords, these two amendments have been received by your Lordships in our discussion this afternoon in a much more friendly way than was the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours,
11 Nov 2004 : Column 1054
and my noble friend in Committee. I very much welcome that. I am sorry that my name does not appear attached to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Inglewood, but that is purely because I forgot to add it. I hope that your Lordships will remember that I have spoken on the issue of fell hunting at every stage of the Billin Committee and on Second Readingas I did on the previous Bill in the previous Session. If we are moving towards restrictions on hunting, fell hunting is the one area that we must do everything that we can to save because of its essential nature to farming in those parts of the world.
Reference has been made to further discussion on these lines at Third Reading. I must tell your Lordships that I shall not be able to be here next week for Third Reading, because I shall be attending a NATO meeting as a representative of your Lordships' House. Of course I understand why there is a feeling of great unity among all hunting people, whether they hunt foxes or other mammals and whether they hunt in the lowlands on horses or on foot in the uplands. I understand that unity.
I am sorry about some of the arguments that have been advancedin a much more friendly way, as I said especially by my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke. With regard to his three points, the issue of whether a run should take place over the border of a less favoured area could easily be got over if we defined hunting by the place where the hunt met on a certain day. Provided that it met in a less favoured area, it would not matter at all if it happened to run over the border. We could easily get over that. My noble friend also said that he did not see why there should be an exception for the fells. Others have made that point: why should there be an exception for fell hunting?
The answer is simple. Hunting foxes in the fells is essential for sheep farming in those areas, whereas in the lowlandsI speak as a farmer with a hunt that runs over my farmit is nowhere near as important. As my noble friend Lord Inglewood said, it is important in some cases, but it is nowhere near as important for economic farming practices as it is in the fells.
On my noble friend's third point, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that if we were to get licensing and the registrar, the amendment would be unnecessary. That is exactly the point that my noble friend Lord Inglewood made. As I see it, this proposal is a long stop in the event that another place decides that it is not interested and rejects the concept of a registrar and controlled hunting.
Sooner or later, noble Lords must face up to the possibility that realpolitik will come in to this issue. There are Members of another place who have been fighting this battle for a very long time. I cannot believe that when they are within a week or so of attaining their goal, they will buy some of the solutions proposed by your Lordships. I have voted for all of them gladly. I hope to heaven that they do accept some of them.
11 Nov 2004 : Column 1055
However, given my many years of experience as one who tried to control voting habits in another place as a Government Chief Whip, if the Government want a compromise in another place and set on the Whips to try to attain a compromise on the lines of some of the proposals of my noble friends, and if they achieve that, it will be the greatest whipping achievement. I should be immensely surprised if the Whips were to succeed in getting the majority in another place to agree to some of these proposals.
The time is coming. We will have to decide. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, talked earlier about whether we should be prepared to let the babies out with the bathwater or whether we should all sink or swim together. As I said, I understand that there is a great unity of feeling and purpose among people who are hunters of one sort or another. But I can just imagine the fury in the Lake District, which I know best, if it were seen that a compromise to save fell hunting had been passed by and that fell hunting had gone down the sink with the rest of the bathwater. I have not met those who run the Central Committee of Fell Packs; they have not approached me. But if they were seen to have been a party to allowing fell hunting to be banned with everything else when there was a chance of saving it, the fury of followers of fell hounds would be such that, I believe, they would never be forgiven.
We have here a much better compromise, in the name of my noble friend Lord Inglewood, than we had previously. As noble Lords have said, it could be improved again before Third Reading. I, too, very much hope that this debate can be used as a method of perfecting an amendment for Third Reading on these lines, so that when the Bill goes back to another place, if they are minded to find a compromise, they will have a ready-made one to parachute into the Bill, even if it has not been put in by noble Lords at Third Reading. Alternatively, perhaps noble Lords can put it back in the Bill if ping-pong takes place next week. That, I hope, will be the outcome of the debate at this stage in trying to perfect an amendment for which support is growing and which, by the end of next week, will, I hope, have the full support of your Lordships' House.
Baroness Golding: My Lords, I, too, have much sympathy with the arguments in support of these two amendments. I understand that my noble friend Lord Sewel has tabled Amendment No. 2 as a compromise, but I do not think that it can work. The countryside must be managed. As we live in it we change it, and that change must be managed. We should not divide it up into areas that we manage, such as less-favoured areas, and areas that we will not manage, such as those outside less-favoured areas, as my noble friend suggests.
Part of the Government's recognition of our responsibilities is that they have signed up to the European Convention on Biological Diversity, which
11 Nov 2004 : Column 1056
commits them and us to control and eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or native species. Having signed up to the convention, the Government cannot then say, "We will allow hunts to protect wildlife only in areas deemed less favoured by another European directive, and the remainder of our countryside will not be protected, even though it may need to be". We must take into account that we need to hunt and eradicate other mammals besides foxes. Of course I should mention mink. Mammals know no boundaries and neither should this Government's Bill. I am sorry to say that we should reject the amendments.
Lord Mancroft: My Lords, like every speaker so far, I, too, have sympathy with the direction of these amendments. I listened very carefully to my noble friend Lord Inglewood; practically everything that he said about fell huntingthe practice of it, the reasons for it and the manner of itwas entirely correct.
Of course fell hunting should be saved, but so should all hunting. If we have learnt one thing after these interminable debates it is that there is no case for banning any hunting. Where I have difficulty with my noble friend's remarks is his strong suggestion that he supported what noble Lords had already decided: that registered hunting is the way forward. Although this may be a technicality and I may have got it wrong, he seemed to suggest in his amendment that fell hunting should be exempted. That would be an inconsistency in the technicalities of the case.
Over the past few weeks the House has been attempting to put together principled and coherent legislation based on the principles that the Government identified in their wide consultation and stemming from all the evidence as we were originally promised it would. We have attempted to move the legislation back, where it has been changed for politically expedient reasons, into such a coherent format. What worries me is that what my noble friend is suggesting in his amendment is his insurance policy. Although I understand it entirely, that insurance policy moves away from the coherence of the legislation; as such, it weakens the proposal that we send back to another place.
My noble friend Lord Jopling in his very useful and wide-ranging remarks about what may be happening made clear his belief that the chances of our reaching any compromise are remote. He may well be right. But we have a duty to try to reach that compromise in a coherent, principled way that flows. My noble friend also said that this was the one area that could be saved. I cannot accept that; other important areas must be saved, too. The wording of my noble friend's amendment makes clear that hunting must be traditional and must continue on foot. I immediately think, what about packs that hunt on foot on some days and on horses on others? What about packs in less-favoured areas such as Exmoor and Dartmoor, where they principally hunt on horseback and then, at the request of farmers, come out on foot in the early morning to do lamb calls? Where do they fit?
In all those respects there are areas of difficulty in the drafting of the amendment that make it impossible for noble Lords to accept it today. We should keep this
11 Nov 2004 : Column 1057
concept up our sleeves. If the House of Commons reject our proposalI dread to thinkperhaps we should look at it then. But, on Report, when we are 80 per cent or 90 per cent towards creating the coherent, principled legislation towards which we all have worked over the past few weeks, it would be unwise to abandon it. We should perhaps come back to it.
The last point is, for me, the overwhelming one. My noble friend Lord Jopling talked about the possibility of fury among those who hunt in the fells, if we were to let the possibility of their salvation slip away from us. In the past week I have spoken to the representative of the Central Committee of Fell Packs. We asked him what would be the reaction of other fell hunters, not just the masters of fell hounds but all the farmers who hunt with fell hounds and, as my noble friend rightly said, depend on them in their farming lives. His answer was perfectly clear: at the end of this Bill, if it goes in that direction, there will be fury, but it will be directed neither at noble Lords nor at those of us who have tried to save all forms of hunting. The fury of the fell hunters, like that of the whole rural community, will be focused very firmly and directly on the bigotry in another place, not on us.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|