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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I support these amendments. The noble Lord has clearly stated the reasons for tabling them. In addition, if there is a delay in implementation, it would give a longer time for hounds to conclude their natural life. Anything that helps animal welfare is an additional bonus, which is something that the noble Lord did not mention. A normal working hound's life would be seven or eight years. If the Government and other noble Lords are keen on animal welfare, that is an additional reason for us to consider the amendments. The noble Lord has clearly defined what is before us. As I said, I support the amendments.
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, before the noble Lord decides whether he will press the amendment, and before the Minister has a chance to reply, I should like to say that in Committee I mentioned hare shooting. Because this Bill makes hare shooting an exempt form of hunting, I drew the Committee's attention to the amount of wounding that goes on at hare shoots. Many hares are shot in my part of the world, which is Norfolk.
No one would suggest that a rifle is the right weapon to control the hare population. Therefore, the shotgun is the favoured weapon. However, because of concern for the wounding rate, I, too, support this amendment,
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which calls for the concept of a report from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Therefore, I give it my blessing.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I, too, support this amendment, which is eminently sensible in respect of research. It was quite clear from what the noble Lord, Lord Burns, said at Second Reading that currently the evidence does not exist. We need time to determine that through the correct channels, which the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons seems to be, in order to establish relative pain, suffering or distress.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I would counsel the House against passing this amendment. In the context of a ban and the Bill that came to us from the House of Commons, your Lordships will be aware that the House of Commons is suggesting that we consider an amendment to delay until July 2006. We have not brought that before the House at this stage; we want to know the shape of the Bill that we will ultimately be considering. But to extend the time-frame to 2007 would be seen as a yet further move by this House away rather than towards any spirit of compromise.
As to the allocation of responsibility for deciding that to research emanating from the Royal College, noble Lords should hesitate in doing that. Effectively, that suggests that a general rule may be established, arising from research carried out by the Royal College, which would put it in the position of having a veto or otherwise on going ahead. However, if we go for registration the issue of least suffering would be decidedrightly in my view if we are discriminating between different forms of huntingon a case-by-case basis. Linking a general assessment of least suffering to the timing of the implementation of legislation does not seem sensible. However, the first point is probably the political point that noble Lords should bear in mind if they are tempted to vote for this resolution.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to interrupt his closing remarks. Does he agree that the commissioning of a report from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, contrary to what the Minister said, does not give the college a veto? It merely provides for a report to be obtained, which can be considered. It imposes no obligation on the Minister either to accept or to reject the report.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention. It was the only point that I was going to make in relation to what the Minister said. But the noble Lord expressed it better than me. It just falls into a list of comments from the Front Bench, to which one
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sometimes finds it difficult to respond. In this situation, I am happy to seek the will of the House unless there is no opposition.
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