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Lord Roper: My Lords, I also do not wish to introduce a wide-ranging debate. I have a certain degree of sympathy with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. We were very concerned when we had to deal with the problems of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill earlier this year and were very pleased when we received in July the reports of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Clerk of the House of Commons. They tried to show us the way forward so that we did not fall into these problems again.

As noble Lords will know because of our recent considerations, the Procedure Committee has had to consider our working practices. Therefore, it is perfectly understandable that Procedure Committee consideration of this issue has not yet occurred. It is none the less unfortunate because we are again, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, faced with a considerable difficulty. We have great sympathy for the position of the Clerk of the Parliaments who is having to deal with an extraordinarily difficult situation before the House has clarified it.

Therefore, while I think it would be a great mistake and would be totally misunderstood outside the House if we were not to proceed with the consideration of these amendments on this occasion, it is most important that we consider very urgently a report to the Clerk of the Parliaments so that we do not get ourselves into this situation again.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for his contribution and for giving us notice of it. Slightly surprisingly, this is probably the high point of consensus in the whole consideration of the Bill. We should not be in this situation and the Procedure Committee should look at the position again, and rapidly. However, we are advised that this procedure is in order, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has acknowledged. It may not be the most satisfactory procedure in the world, but we are where we are. There are certain procedures which the Clerk clearly advised would not have been in order. This, however, is in order. I thank the Clerk for so advising, and suggest that we get on with the debate. If the House does not object, I will move my first Motion.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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COMMONS AMENDMENT

[The page and line references are to HL Bill 112 as first printed for the Lords.]

Lord Whitty rose to move that the House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44, 46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54, to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C in lieu:


54C Leave out Clause 15 and insert the following new Clause— "Commencement (1) The following provisions of this Act shall come into force on 31st July 2006—
(a) sections 1 to 4,
(b) Part 2 in so far as it relates to sections 1 to 4,
(c) sections 11 to 14 in so far as they relate to sections 1 to 4,
(d) Schedule 1, and
(e) Schedules 2 and 3, except in so far as they change the law in relation to an activity to which section 5 applies.
(2) The following provisions of this Act shall come into force at the end of the period of three months beginning with the date on which it is passed—
(a) section 5,
(b) Part 2 in so far as it relates to section 5,
(c) sections 11 to 13 in so far as they relate to section 5, and
(d) Schedules 2 and 3 in so far as they change the law in relation to an activity to which section 5 applies."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we are at a very late stage in the proceedings on the Bill. This House has made its view known to the Commons; the Commons have made their view known to the Lords. The only outstanding issue, in reality, is the date of the Bill's commencement. If your Lordships insist on the amendment of my noble friend Lady Mallalieu to my Motion, the Bill will go back to the Commons again, there will be a further insistence, and there will be no further stage at which we can consider it again. Therefore, this is the last chance to consider commencement.

The Commons did what I urged your Lordships to do last night—to take a middle way on the commencement date and move away from the virtual immediate commencement of this legislation and move to 30 July 2006. I elaborated on the advantages of so doing last night and shall repeat them briefly. It would give some time for adjustment and to see how the animals were dealt with, at least in part. It would also allow time for the will of the nation to be known because July 2006 is after the last possible date that the next general election can be held.

This approach therefore meets the criteria that have been advanced by the opposition—in its widest sense—to the Bill. We need not destroy immediately the lives of people before they have had time to adjust and the lives of animals before those options have been considered. It also meets the democratic arguments

18 Nov 2004 : Column 1648

that the people of this country need to have a say in this before the Act, which is likely to be subject to the Parliament Act, is imposed on the hunting fraternity.

For all those reasons, it is very important that we take a positive decision in favour of a July 2006 commencement date. The amendment of my noble friend Lady Mallalieu is a package amendment which explicitly rejects that date. It is a single Motion rejecting all the proposals of the Commons, including the July 2006 date.

The issue before us now is therefore not registration against ban. It is not even Lords versus Commons. It is the date, because we know what will happen to those arguments and the will of the Commons will prevail. The only argument before us and the only thing that this House can really determine tonight is the commencement date. If noble Lords vote for my Motion they will be starting the commencement of this Act in July 2006. If noble Lords vote for my noble friend's Motion, hunting will come to an end in February 2005. That is the stark choice. Any other elements are actually passed. We have dealt with them and they are in procedure and moving towards, regrettably, a Parliament Act conclusion. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44,46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54, to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C in lieu.—(Lord Whitty.)

Baroness Mallalieu rose to move as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44, 46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54 to which the Commons have disagreed and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C.

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Motion B as an amendment to Motion A. If this Motion is agreed to, the House will insist on its amendments and disagree with the Commons amendment in lieu.

The conduct of this Bill is an object lesson in how not to achieve good legislation. I very much doubt whether the amendments before us should be before us in this form. My amendments seek to restore the compromise registration Bill for which this House voted so decisively. I correct the position that has just been expressed to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty: to vote against my amendment is to vote for the banning Bill, which I hope no noble Lord who voted before for registration will do now.

The other place has put us in an invidious position by returning the banning Bill parcelled together with the identical 18-month commencement date amendment that this House has already firmly rejected. The other place has not moved one inch at any point in this saga. The Lords have moved again and again from status quo to self-regulation to statutory regulation. The 18-month commencement is designed to assist the Government and avoid the consequences of bringing this Bill back now. It is not supported by the hunting community. If the Government want this Bill, they must surely have it via the Parliament Act in the form in which they sent it to us.

18 Nov 2004 : Column 1649

This House has taken a principled stand. I hope that we will not abandon our principles now. I repeat: a vote against my amendment is a vote in favour of a ban. In the past few weeks, this House has done the countryside proud. It has also done liberty proud. Let those who despise both use the Parliament Act on this miserable Bill if they can, but let us not help them to avoid the consequences of what they are doing.

Moved, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44, 46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C.—(Baroness Mallalieu.)


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