§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in page 1, line 13, leave out subsection (2).
1208 We come now to what is probably one of the most important and significant amendments proposed to the Bill. Unfortunately, I did not serve on the Standing Committee which considered the Bill. But, looking through the Official Report of its proceedings, I find it strange that there was at no time any discussion about whether the Bill should apply to Northern Ireland. It is with that in mind that I move this amendment.
I have an open mind about whether the so-called benefits of the Bill should apply to Northern Ireland, but I think that it is quite improper for this House to pass legislation of this nature without considering the very special rôle of the whole of Ireland in coursing. I tabled this amendment because I felt that it would provide an opportunity for a short debate on some aspects of coursing as they apply to Northern Ireland and whether it would be right not to include Northern Ireland in the benefits of this Bill.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I am sure that my hon. Friend will admit that nothing that we do in this House can have any effect on the laws of Southern Ireland. We cannot pass legislation to control hare coursing in Eire. Then again, if this is a matter of such great importance to Northern Ireland, it is extraordinary that the only hon. Member present representing a Northern Ireland constituency is the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), whom we are all glad to see.
§ Mr. Farr
I am grateful for that intervention. However, I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) to look again at the Notice Paper, where he will see that this amendment proposes to leave out subsection (2), which refers to Northern Ireland alone. There is no question of including the whole of Ireland in the amendment.
I thought that it would be helpful, therefore, to those of us interested in the passage of the Bill to look at some of the legislation passed through this House in recent years to see what has been the practice in relation to Northern Ireland since we took over responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Province and abolished the Stormont Government.
I find that there are quite a number of Acts of Parliament passed in recent 1209 years in which reference is made to Northern Ireland where the full extent of the legislation applies to the Province. However, most of the Acts of Parliament passed in the last two or three years do not apply to Northern Ireland. I have in mind, for example, the Lotteries Act. That is an eight-section Act which went through this House this year. That does not apply to Northern Ireland. The Child Benefit Act 1975 does not apply to Northern Ireland, whereas the Social Security Benefits Act 1975, a beneficial Act, does, in Section 66, Section 67(4), Section 89 and Schedule 17. The Coal Industry Act does not apply, nor does the Safety of Sports Grounds Act. Strangely, the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act does not apply. But the Criminal Jurisdiction Act, a much more significant Act, which for the first time created extraterritorial offences, does. The Referendum Act and the Oil Taxation Act, both of 1975, apply to Northern Ireland, but two Private Members' Acts—the Guard Dogs Act and the Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Protection Act—do not.
Several significant Acts passed in 1974 apply, including the Control of Pollution Act. The Independent Broadcasting (No. 2) Act, which, like the Bill, had only two clauses, applies to Northern Ireland. The Parks Regulation (Amendment) Act did not specify whether it applied or not. The year 1974 was a half-and-half year—half good government and half bad.
In 1973, we saw going on the statute book the sort of legislation which the House respects, when the last Conservative administration was in office. Four significant Acts come to mind. Obviously, the Ulster Defence Regiment Act applies to Northern Ireland; equally obviously, the Maplin Development Act and the London Cabs Act did not. But, surprisingly again, the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act does not. The Dentists (Amendment) Act was silent on whether it did or not.
I will not trouble the House with long quotations from these Acts, but one can find a pattern in the application of what I might call post-Stormont legislation by the House so far as it applies to Northern Ireland. By and large, four out of five Acts that we have passed have had no application to Northern Ireland and mention has been made therein to that effect.
1210 This Bill, which is being pushed forward so misguidedly by the Government, makes it clear that it does not refer to Northern Ireland, and I think that this is a grave mistake. It may be that the hon. Lady, despite what she listened to with such patience and grace in Standing Committee, is not fully aware of the significant part that Northern Ireland has played in British coursing over many years.
I know that in Committee mention was made of that famous dog Master McGrath, and I shall refer to that at some length in a moment. What I should like to do, and I am sure this will interest the House, is to give hon. Members some idea of the attitude of people in Northern and Southern Ireland towards coursing. I think that one can get a good idea of this by reading an extract or two from a recently published book by Alan Fitzpatrick called "Ireland by the Irish".
I shall not read the whole of the extract, which extends to a couple of pages, but it makes it clear that people on both sides of the border in Ireland—and let us remember that in terms of Irish history this border is of recent and passing significance because the country has been united for most of the time—were as united then as they are today in their love for the sport of coursing.
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the common interest in hare coursing between the North and the South is such as to unite the country? If it is, why has it not done so already?
§ Mr. Farr
I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the facts will be clearer to him if he waits for another 20 minutes, by which time I shall have finished the introduction to my speech.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is alarming the Chair. I understood that he would make a brief reference to the pedigree of a dog and that would be the end of it, but he has evidently changed his mind.
§ Mr. Farr
I am pleased to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you are listening so carefully to what I am saying. I was proposing to read one or two brief extracts from this important and significant work by Mr. Alan Fitzpatrick called 1211 "Ireland by the Irish". In the section relating to greyhounds it says thatwe Irish are only slightly less proud of our greyhounds than we are of our bloodstock,and it goes on to refer to the fact thatThe Waterloo Cup, the blue riband of the coursing fields, has always held a particular attraction for Irish contenders ever since the immortal black, Lord Lurgan's Dungarvan-bred Master McGrath, won the trophy three times in four seasons nearly 100 years ago.The extract, which I shall not read in full, goes on to deal with the wonderful performances by Master McGrath, this Irish-bred dog, and then refers to another famous greyhound bred in Northern Ireland, Mick the Miller, which won 19 races in succession and whose body stands in the Natural History Museum in London. Mick won the English Derby in two successive years and nearly won a third, as well as taking the Cesarewitch, the St. Leger, the Spring Cup and the Welsh Derby. He won more than £9,000 in prize money and even starred in a film.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am beginning to wonder if this is not filibustering. The hon. Member is a Member of the British House of Commons and not a racing tipster.
§ Mr. Farr
I respect what you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Master McGrath was a famous dog. He came over from Northern Ireland, having been bred there, and eventually returned to Northern Ireland, where he died. He was successful because the sport in Northern Ireland is so widely and generally supported that the standard of coursing there is particularly high; hence, the calibre of the dogs that are bred there is extremely high.
I raised this amendment because I did not think it right or proper that the House should accept this subsection without having an opportunity to discuss it. I am convinced that some Labour MPs who have Irish constituencies will wish to comment on whether it is applicable to Northern Ireland, and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) may wish to speak. It is a matter of great significance.
Even in these difficult times when Ireland is divided by a border, we find that sport is more of a unifying pastime than a divisive one. In rugby football, 1212 association football, cricket and many other sports Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland are united. Although it is a good idea to have a discussion on this amendment, there may be another side to it. I am sure that some Labour and possibly Conservative Members will wish to comment on this amendment later. There is no doubt that as a nation the Irish have a deep love of coursing. No Government, of whatever political complexion, of Southern Ireland would be so stupid as to introduce a Bill such as this because they would not last five minutes. They have more sense. It would not be right for the House to accept the Bill as it stands without discussion. I hope that further discussion will be fruitful and that both sides will learn a lot from it.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you propose the Question?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am very sorry. The Question is, That the amendment be made.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not like to be called unless he is called absolutely legitimately, with everything done in the proper order. I thank him for calling my attention to this.
§ Mr. Powell
An important matter of both principle and constitution has been raised by this amendment. The House is not wasting time by considering it carefully.
The principle enunciated by the Government repeatedly, and in particular in a recent White Paper which they submitted to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention, is that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. From that it should follow that, unless there are specific reasons to the contrary or unless there are reasons of clear local difference, that which is thought proper to be the law of the land in Great Britain should also be made the law of the land in Northern Ireland.
This view seems to me to be equally cogent whether or not we happen to approve or object to the particular legislation, for it would surely be contrary to the view of a united kingdom that we 1213 should wish the law, so far as we agree with it, to apply to the whole of the kingdom but when we disagree with it it should be a sort of patchwork applicable in some parts but not applicable in others.
I therefore put before the House my support for this amendment, undeterred by the fact that I detest the Bill and regard it as misconceived and shall vote against it on Third Reading as I did on Second Reading. Nevertheless, if this is going to be part of the law of the land, I believe it ought to be part of the law of the United Kingdom and not only of Great Britain.
The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) illustrated to the House that there has, in the last three years since this House has been the sole legislature for Northern Ireland, been great variation of practice. He drew attention to some real anomalies in the course of the examples which he gave. Certainly there are matters on which there exists today a body of law built up over the years by the legislation of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Where such a body of legislation exists it is clearly impracticable for this House simply to pass an Act applying to the United Kingdom as a whole, since the application clause to apply it to Northern Ireland would require to be so complicated.
§ Sir David Renton
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There seems to be a sedentary debate taking place on the Government benches within the proper and general debate which we are having upon the Floor of the House. That sedentary debate is taking place in such loud tones that, although I am sitting immediately in front of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), it is becoming difficult for me to follow his very interesting argument.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
Order. Interruptions from a sedentary position or even loud conversations are unfair to anyone who is addressing the House.
§ Mr. Powell
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was pointing out that there is a certain type of legislation which it is proper should not be directly applied to Northern Ireland because it relates to subjects on which a body of separate legislation for Northern Ireland 1214 already exists, either derived from the period before 1920 or built up by the Parliament of Northern Ireland during the 50 years of its life. In those cases it is proper that the House should use the powers available under the 1973 and 1974 Acts to engage in a sort of summary legislation, undesirable in itself but unavoidable in the present interim circumstances, in order to apply to Northern Ireland the principle of legislation which is introduced for Great Britain. But that cannot be applicable to the Bill which we are considering. There is no Northern Ireland law which would be differently affected by this Bill from the law in the rest of the United Kingdom. Therefore, prima facie we ought not to be contemplating a Great Britain Bill but ought to be debating whether this a change in the law proper to be made for the United Kingdom as a whole.
It may be that by a sort of collusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, between your immediate predecessor in the Chair and myself we anticipated the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary rising to accept the amendment, for she has provided the House at an earlier stage of the proceedings on Report with the most cogent reason why, if the Bill is right at all, it should apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. Last Friday she said:The justification for the Bill is that hare coursing is a barbaric sport wherever and whenever it occurs.In other words, the words "wherever it occurs" imply that in any part of the United Kingdom it will be regarded as equally objectionable by those who are supporters of the Bill.
The hon. Lady continued:It is the Government's view that hare coursing is cruel per se and should be made illegal irrespective of whether in particular areas some people take a different view.Once again, even if a different view were to be put forward on the part of the people of Northern Ireland, the hon. Lady would still be committed to the view that this should be a United Kingdom Bill.
The hon. Lady said finally:It would be indefensible to have a situation in which, because of local feeling, hare coursing was permitted to take place in some areas but not in others."—[Official Report, 24th October 1975; Vol. 898, c. 918.]1215 In short, the hon. Lady, by the whole purport of her argument, has committed herself to support of the amendment which is before the House and to the proposition that, if justified at all, this should be a United Kingdom Bill.
Those of us who represent Northern Ireland in the House, and particularly those who are not entirely in sympathy with some expressions which fell from the hon. Member for Harborough, regard Northern Ireland not only as being at present what it undeniably is—an integral part of the United Kingdom—but as destined so to remain for the benefit of all and not merely for the benefit of a section of its inhabitants, attach particular importance to legislation covering Northern Ireland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom in any case where there is no special reason to the contrary.
The debate is taking place without the assistance, if that is what it be, of the Scottish National Party and, indeed, the Welsh nationalists. Anyone who took the view that the destiny of Wales or of Scotland lay as part of the United Kingdom would object strongly to legislation applying to England only, except in cases where there was a separate body of Scottish law. In those cases, Scottish law being specifically preserved by the Act of Union, it has been necessary, though procedurally very inconvenient and laborious, that this House should legislate separately for the different parts of the Kingdom.
I repeat that this is not a case of that kind. Therefore, leaving aside the arguments for or against the purport of the Bill, I insist upon the proposition that, as the reasons for or against must be equally valid in all parts of the United Kingdom, and as Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland should not be excluded from the benefit or the curse of the Bill by the subsection which the hon. Member for Harborough proposes to leave out.
Before I resume my seat I repeat, though I shall probably have a later opportunity of making this clear, that I regard the Bill as wholly misconceived and I believe that it should not find place on the statute book of the United Kingdom. But that, as I say, is immaterial to the question whether legislation which we pass in this House should be wherever 1216 possible United Kingdom legislation. I hope that the amendment will be accepted.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
This is not the time to engage in grandiose constitutional arguments for or against the total integration of Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has done.
I have supported this Bill on its passage through the House, and I shall continue to support it, because I despise and detest the barbaric practice of hare coursing. Many thousands of people in Northern Ireland do the same. Northern Ireland is not known for its progressive attitudes in many respects, but in the last Stormont Parliament Members representing various shades of political opinion voted for a Bill such as this to abolish hare coursing in Northern Ireland. Therefore, we have some knowledge of what the people of Northern Ireland feel about hare coursing.
That Bill went to the Senate. This Bill will undoubtedly go to the House of Lords. The people in the Senate are like the people in the House of Lords, and they refused to accept the Bill as it had come from the House of Commons at Stormont. Eventually the Bill returned to the House of Commons, and before further action could be taken Stormont was abolished, for political and other reasons, by the Conservative Government. But we had a clear indication that the majority of the elected representatives at the Stormont Parliament were in favour of the abolition of hare coursing.
I support the amendment. I do not think it is a joke. It is not funny, as the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) seemed to think, telling us about Master McGrath and the love of the Irish for greyhound racing. He was trying to make a farce of the debate. Unlike the right hon. Member for Down, South, I support the amendment; but I shall also support the Bill in all its stages. One should be consistent. I do not understand how the right hon. Gentleman can advance the argument that he wants the amendment to apply the Bill to Northern Ireland to be carried and then vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. Powell
Surely the hon. Gentleman understands that those who believe in the 1217 unity of the kingdom wish legislation—wise or foolish, ill conceived or well conceived—to be passed for the kingdom as a whole and to apply until there is a change in the law or a change of policy. Surely that is implicit in being one nation.
§ Mr. Fitt
The Bill is concerned with eradicating the barbaric practice of hare coursing. This is not the time or place to engage in constitutional arguments as they affect Northern Ireland. I shall support the amendment in the Lobby but for sincere reasons, because I want the Bill to apply to Northern Ireland.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House did not stay to the end of the debate on Friday, but I did stay, at some inconvenience to myself and my constituents, to vote for the Bill. That is why I am here tonight, and I shall stay to the end of the debate to prove my sincerity in my belief that hare coursing is wrong and that the Bill should apply to Northern Ireland.
The Government may say that there is some constitutional reason why the Bill should not apply to Northern Ireland. I do not know what it is. I have heard it said that it would be better to leave the matter until we have a new local administration or new devolved Government in Northern Ireland and then they can deal with it. But can anyone say with accuracy that there will be a new Parliament in Northern Ireland? Will there be a devolved Parliament. What new Government structure will be agreed or arranged? Looking at the Convention reports which will shortly be debated here, one cannot have any great confidence that in the foreseeable future we shall have a new government structure in Northern Ireland.
This legislation should apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, As the Minister said, if coursing is cruel in Birmingham it is cruel in Belfast or in the rest of the world, and should be abolished. Northern Ireland Members should give a clear indication of their attitude on the application of this Bill to Northern Ireland. I do not think that they will do so. They hope that there will be a new Government in Northern Ireland and that the matter can be left to them. Perhaps that is all that the Stormont Parliament will be capable of discussing. I believe that the Bill should 1218 apply to Northern Ireland, although I am not certain how my hon. Friends feel. I am prepared to go into the Lobby on this issue.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
As we are discussing Northern Ireland it would be appropriate for a Northern Ireland Minister to be present to answer the questions raised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) argued that the measure should apply to Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend is a countryman, a farmer, who has close connections with the North and the South.
I question the wisdom of this amendment and the wisdom of the hon. Lady's Second Reading speech, when she said:…if there is still no early prospect of a legislative assembly operating in Northern Ireland, I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will have it in mind to publish straightaway for public discussion proposals for an Order in Council along exactly similar lines to the Bill."—[Official Report, 13th June 1975; Vol. 893, c. 911.]We are discussing park coursing. That is not the same as the coursing which takes place in this country, in which the quarry has a fair chance. Park coursing in Northern Ireland is different. It consists of coursing a captive animal in an enclosed space. Coursing in this country is run under National Coursing Club rules and consists of coursing a wild animal in an open space. Park coursing had only a short life in this country.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
Park coursing is illegal in this country under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, as it consists of the pursuit of an animal which has already been captured.
§ Mr. Mather
My hon. Friend is right. Park coursing is illegal under the 1911 legislation. The hunting of captive animals is now taboo. However, more hares survive in park coursing. With park coursing 85 per cent. to 90 per cent. of hares survive, but with open coursing about 75 per cent. of hares survive. That point should be borne in mind. Moreover, I understand that the Irish Coursing Club pays a bonus of £4 for each hare which, having been coursed, is thereafter released into the wilds. Therefore, we 1219 must consider on what critera park coursing in Northern Ireland should be ended. Is it more cruel or is it less cruel? Does it result in the death of more or fewer hares?
The hon. Lady will no doubt argue that the whole sport is abhorrent. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) quoted an extract from the right hon. Lady's speech on Second Reading to that effect. However, the criteria on which she bases her argument will be of interest to those of us who must take a view on this matter.
What is apparent from our discussions so far is the surprising ignorance of the supporters of the Bill and the weakness of their arguments concerning cruelty. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and my hon Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen) last Friday well and truly exploded the arguments about cruelty. I cannot believe that Labour Members are proud of their ignorance. During the proceedings they have been made to look very ignorant, ill-informed and silly.
However, according to the authors, the Bill is supposed to be about a cruel sport, or, if one prefers—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Meyer Galpern)
Order. I am always reluctant to interrupt, but at present we are considering not the broad issue of the Bill, but the issue of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Mather
I take your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall try to keep to the issue.
I draw the attention of the House to the extraordinary fact that the Minister responsible for sport, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), confessed to me in this Chamber during the Report stage of the Wild Creatures and Wild Plants Protection Bill his support for this miserable Hare Coursing Bill, based on the belief that in Britain we coursed captive hares released from a box. He mentioned this matter just before we adjourned for the Summer Recess. Of course the Minister was confusing coursing in Northern Ireland and coursing in this country, and in many ways it is not surprising that he was doing so. However, he said: 1220Nevertheless, the truth of the matter is that the hares have to be captured. They have to be maintained".—[Official Report, 11th July 1975; Vol. 895, c. 958.]He believed that that was the situation in this country, but it is totally untrue.
If the Minister responsible for sport does not understand what the Bill is about, how many Labour Members understand what it is about?
Park coursing—the coursing carried out in Northern Ireland—was introduced after the Ground Game Act 1880. It followed the disastrous harvest of 1879. It gave every occupier of land the right to kill ground game—that is, hares and rabbits. Of course, there was the famous election after that in which the so-called hares and rabbits Act played a large part. Following that, with the economics of the countryside prevailing, the hare population was decimated. Twelve years later the first conservation Act was brought into effect and that was the Hares Preservation Act 1892, which provided a closed breeding season. Between March and July it was an offence in Great Britain to kill a hare or a leveret. The hare population began to drop to such an extent that the Ground Game (Amendment) Act 1906 was introduced providing a completely closed season for the killing of hares. That was the second conservation measure in this country, and that led to the practice of park or paddock coursing as practised in Northern Ireland.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's flow, but I was not sure for how long he was proposing to go on. I hope that he will not mind if at this point I say that I have carefully considered all the arguments in favour of the amendment and that, in view of the apparent difference of opinion in the House, I should like to have further discussions with my colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office on this matter. I assure the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) that we will consider this matter very carefully before it goes to the Lords. In view of the firm undertaking which I now give to consider this matter carefully, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman feels that he need press the amendment?
§ Mr. Mather
I take it that the hon. Lady has said her piece on this amendment and will not wish to speak further. 1221 I am grateful for what she said about giving the matter further consideration. That is really the point of the amendment and of the remarks that I am making on it.
We do not want to defend park coursing as practised in Northern Ireland. We are defending the coursing of wild hares in their natural state under National Coursing Club rules in this country. When the hon. Lady is carrying out her consultations, will she ascertain whether the Government of the Republic of Ireland propose to bring in similar legislation? It would be unfortunate if the two halves of Ireland were different in this respect.
Will the hon. Lady also bear in mind the political relationship between central Government in Westminster and Northern Ireland in view of the delicate situation which now exists? I believe that legislation on a domestic affair such as this—it is a national sport, whatever the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) may say about it—should be left to a devolved Assembly and Government.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Mellish rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Queston put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. Tom Pendry and Mr. Donald Coleman were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to Act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Amendment accordingly negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Dr. Summerskill.]
§ 1.2 a.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
The words we have just heard you utter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, suggesting that the Bill be read the Third time have been the nightmare of the members of the society of which I have the honour to be chairman [Interruption]—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
Order. We must give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to be heard.
§ Mr. Kimball
For the past ten years, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I and other members 1222 of the National Coursing Club have dreaded your standing up, holding the Bill in your right hand and suggesting that it should be read the Third time. It will be appropriate on this occasion for me to dwell on what would happen if the House were to give the Bill a Third Reading.
I am glad to see the Home Secretary present. I think that he will agree that no reference to the Bill is contained in the Labour Party's election manifesto. The only mention of the Bill that I can find in any official Labour Party policy document is in the big policy statement of 1968, on page 14, under the main heading of "The Environment". Although the Bill was referred to in that early policy document, it is not referred to in the manifesto.
It is significant that the coursing correspondent of The Sporting Life should have been carrying on over the years a correspondence with Mr. Terry J. Pitt, who has a fairly important position in the Labour Party's research department. Prior to the February 1974 election, Mr. Pitt, on official Labour Party notepaper, wrote to the coursing correspondent of The Sporting Life stating categorically:If elected, the Labour Party does not intend to introduce a Bill to ban coursing. We believe that we have far more urgent priorities which will take a full five years of parliamentary work at the absolute minimum.He went on to explain that if a Private Member's Bill were introduced it was possible that some parliamentary time would be made available.
The correspondence was carried on to 4th October 1974. On that date Mr. Pitt wrote to confirm that the Labour Party's position on coursing was basically unchanged, but he added a reference to the Private Member's Bill that had been before Parliament at the time that Parliament was prorogued. The Labour Party, having said that there would be no time for a Government Bill during the five years of this Parliament, has suddenly decided to give the Bill Government time and to bring it forward as a Government Bill.
§ Mr. Burden
I hold no brief for the Government, but is my hon. Friend right in saying that when a research worker of the Labour Party at Transport House puts 1223 forward a view it should become Government policy? That seems to be an extraordinary argument.
§ Mr. Kimball
My hon. Friend seems to keep extraordinary company on this subject. I should have thought that if the correspondent of a national sporting paper writes to the official Labour Party and asks for the Labour Party's programme the party should stand by the advice that is given. Either Mr. Hayward represents the views of the Labour Party or he does not. This is a relevant argument given the position in which we find ourselves on the whole of the Bill. It is important that the House and another place should realise that the Bill was not in the Labour Party's manifesto. During the election the Labour Party denied that it would bring forward such a Bill.
It is significant that we are having this debate on an historic coursing occasion. Today happens to be the bicentenary of the oldest coursing meeting in Britain. In 1776 none other than the grandson of Britain's first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, founded the club. Cheered on by the fact that on Friday the Government showed that they had no real stomach for proceeding with the Bill, a large gathering has been at Swaffham today to celebrate 200 years of coursing at the club. I can assure the House that it has had an extremely successful and enjoyable day. It had over 30 courses, and hon. Members may be interested in the conditions that prevailed. I understand that only four hares have been killed today.
§ Mr. Kimball
The hon. Gentleman may care to wonder what will happen if the Bill is enacted. What will happen to all the hares in the Swaffham area? I admit that they are kept there for the coursing club, but the hon. Gentleman must know that people will not be able to drive through that area of Norfolk and see the number of hares that are now to be seen once official coursing has been banned by the Bill.
What about unemployment? There are over 100 people directly employed in coursing. They draw their livelihood 1224 from coursing. There are the trainers, people who work in the kennels, the slippers and many others.
The hon. Lady was courteous and charming throughout the proceedings in Committee, but she has been totally unbending on the issue of postponing the date on which the Bill comes into operation.
Those who work in coursing have had long warning of the Government's intention, but that does not mean anything. If they had taken any notice of the Government's intentions, they would have given notice years ago. This is not the first Government Bill on this subject, and it will not be the last. We have seen the failure of two Government Bills and I predict that in present circumstances, in view of the present timetable, we shall be coursing next season and the Bill will not reach the statute book.
The consequences of the Bill will be bad for people who work in coursing, for the coursing areas, and for the breed of dog. In Committee we had a long and lengthy argument about the effect of the Bill on the breeding of greyhounds and coursing-type dogs in this country. We shall probably see all our more sporting breeds brought down to the state in which we now find the cocker spaniel in this country. It is a charming dog, but it is no longer a working dog.
I should be pleased to show my hon. Friend such a cocker spaniel any weekend he cares to visit me.
§ Mr. Kimball
My hon. Friend may be one of those fortunate people who still have a working strain of cocker spaniel. But one has only to look at the Kennel Club Register to see that it is one of a breed that are pet dogs and no longer working dogs.
Let us look at the position of the Scottish deerhound. When the Deer Act 1963 made it illegal to use those dogs on red deer, the owners of those dogs still wanted to test them to enable them to display their qualities, and they now test them by coursing for hares. Competitive coursing for hares will be made illegal by this Bill. Therefore, owners of those dogs will not be able to test their dogs, in their normal and natural surroundings, for the purposes for which they were bred.
1225 I believe that this occasion is a sad one. It is a warning to all countrymen and to all who enjoy country sports as we know them. Once coursing goes—and it will not go this year and will probably not go next year, but if eventually it ever does go—we shall see the same pattern applied to the other sports. It is a thoroughly familiar pattern consisting of propaganda and parliamentary legislation. It requires a Private Member's Bill on which to hang that propaganda, and a move to a Private Member's Bill for which the Government give Government time. One obtains more funds for the organisation that is campaigning and goes in for a fairly extensive advertising campaign. But despite all the money spent by the spoilsports on advertising, in their campaign against us they have been given extremely poor editorial comment. I am cynical enough to believe that editorial comment tends to follow the advertising manager's advice. However, it is significant that despite the expenditure of £50,000 on advertising, there was not one favourable leading article on the day of the Second Reading debate.
It is important that the House of Commons should not just pick on a particular sport or activity because few people happen to know about it or enjoy it. The House of Commons should support anybody who carries on a lawful occupation—and that is what the National Coursing Club has been doing. The Government have acted in a very irresponsible manner. One expects Governments not to be swayed by emotions, not to lead prejudices. Above all, one expects the Home Office, as a great Department of State, to take a really responsible view of any particular lawful activity before deciding to legislate against it.
I do not think for a moment that the Home Office has decided to legislate against coursing. There is no single instance of a letter from any member of the Home Office or the hon. Lady's staff to the National Coursing Club complaining about the conduct of meetings. There is no record of the Home Office expressing concern about coursing.
What has happened is that a deliberate political decision has been taken by certain elements in the Labour Party. Other elements in the Labour Party have decided to throw the sport of coursing as a bone to the dogs on this particular 1226 occasion. The Home Office has been drawn into this struggle in the most shameful and undignified manner, and quite uncharacteristic of that great Department of State.
I hope that, even if the Bill gets a Third Reading, we shall still be able to continue to course for a few more years. Those of us who enjoy the sport, who realise what it is about and know a little about it, will do everything we can to ensure that this piece of legislation, and others which are ill-founded, ill-thought-out and quite unjustified, do not reach the statute book.
I trust that that will be the case this evening.
§ 1.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I want to ask the indulgence of hon. Members for three minutes. This matter came before the House in 1966, when I introduced a Bill to abolish hare coursing. That was the first time for 20 years. Since then, many of my hon. Friends, supported by some hon. Members on the other side of the House, have every year brought forward a Bill to abolish hare coursing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw), my right hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett) my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyme (Mr. Sheldon), and many other hon. Members, have consistently fought in this House the battle to abolish hare coursing.
I understand that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), who has consistently opposed such legislation, must feel that this is a sad occasion. I think it is a joyous occasion that we have now reached the Third Reading of the Bill.
I hope that the Lords will have sufficient intelligence not to oppose this legislation. The argument about Press freedom, the argument about the Industry Bill, and even the argument about the Community Land Bill, will shrink into insignificance when compared with the much greater anger that will be developed in the country if the Lords are stupid enough to oppose this Bill. In fact, the amazing thing is that it could be the death-knell of the Lords if they oppose the hare coursing Bill. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh but they will find that 1227 if this Bill is opposed and thrown out by the Lords it will be no laughing matter.
If there are spoilsports who have opposed this so-called sport, then they are spoilsports of long standing. I draw attention to Sir Thomas More's "Utopia", in which there is a whole section categorising hare coursing as a most barbarous sport which ought not to take place in any civilised society. Civilised people throughout the ages have opposed hare coursing from the very day that it began during the time of the Roman Empire. It will be a magnificent day for us in this country and in Northern Ireland—I agree absolutely with those who say the Bill should apply to all parts of the United Kingdom—when we see the abolition of this cruel so-called sport.
§ 1.20 a.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
After a number of attempts, I am grateful now to have this opportunity to take part for the first time in the debates on this Bill. I have not been in the House for as long as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), whose sincerity in this matter I respect, but in my short time here I have had the opportunity to see that this issue was coming up and to try to look at it with as much care and in as much detail as I could. I felt that I was called upon to decide whether a Bill to abolish hare coursing should be given, on this occasion, a Third Reading, on as rational a basis as possible, and I did so from a relatively uncommitted standpoint.
If anything, I was inclined to accept the claims of the supporters of the Bill. As I understood them, they said that hare coursing involved an exceptional degree of cruelty and, therefore, that it should be singled out from other activities involving the killing of animals and banned. They said that it should be singled out, because of the exceptional degree of cruelty, from other activities involving the killing of animals in sports such as beagling, fox hunting and fishing. They said that it should be singled out from other occasions in which animals were killed, and the Minister herself referred to matters not affected by the Bill such as two farmers walking with their dogs in a field, the dogs putting up a hare, and killing it. They also said that it should be singled out from the killing of animals for control 1228 purposes, and that it should be singled out from the killing of animals for the purpose of obtaining food.
The case of the supporters of the Bill is that the degree of cruelty involved in hare coursing puts it in a different category. When the Bill's opponents have said that this is a simple wedge and that the intention was to take field sports one by one and eventually to ban the lot, the supporters of the Bill have denied this and said that they were taking hare coursing because it was considered particularly barbaric. Although that is not the view of all the Bill's supporters, I assume that it is the view of the Minister and that it is the basis on which the Home Office is dealing with the Bill; in other words, that for some reason based on exceptional cruelty this sport must be singled out.
Influenced by those arguments, I looked in more detail at the basis of the allegation of exceptional cruelty, and a number of features form part of that claim. I was told, for example, that in hare coursing as practised in England, hares are captured, taken to a place in which they are set free, and then chased by dogs set upon them. I was told that dogs are deliberately given the advantage of hares in an enclosed field from which the hares cannot readily escape. I was told that hares are usually killed by being torn apart. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) rested his case on the frequency with which hares are torn apart alive and that that is the manner of their death in many cases. It has been suggested that nearly all hares are killed in this activity and that their condition after death makes it clear that circumstances of this kind attended their deaths. Indeed, it is said that the object of the sport is to kill the hare.
Closer examination of the rules of the sport and of the way in which it is carried out at the meeting which I attended indicated to me that this is not the case. The rules specifically exclude the releasing of captive hares. There is no evidence that these rules are flouted, and opportunities have been offered to the Government, if they wished to tolerate coursing, to include means in the Bill to make sure that the rules are not flouted.
It is clear that an enclosed field from which hares cannot escape is not accommodated by the rules, and certainly that 1229 was not the practice at the coursing meeting which I attended. The hares were able to escape, and the majority did. However, those which were killed were in the majority of cases killed very quickly, and not by the process of being torn apart, which has formed such a crucial part of the discussions of those who support the Bill.
Dogs moving at great speed normally do not have to kill smaller animals than themselves by tearing them apart. Normally a dog delivers a bite at the back of the neck, which is a far more expeditious way of killing its quarry. It was disturbing to me to hear claims advanced by people whose views and sincerity I respect which were far from the truth as I witnessed it.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that those hon. Members who have consistently opposed hare coursing have never advanced any of the claims he says they have advanced? We have never talked about enclosed hare coursing. We have never said that hares did not get away or any of the things he attributes to us. He is advancing, in order to knock it down, an argument that we have never used.
§ Mr. Beith
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will find that I am trying to dismiss his argument lightly, but nothing he says can refute the number of people who have put precisely these arguments, some in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who?"] I ask hon. Members to look in Hansard at the speech of the hon. Member for St. Helens—
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) is here and can speak for himself. He does not need the hon. Member to tell him what he said last Friday. I repeat that when two specially trained animals such as the hounds we are talking about are running at full speed in competition to catch a hare, one often grabs a part of the hare and within a fraction of a second the second hound is snapping at another part of the hare's body. It is at that point, I say, that the hare is literally torn apart in competition between two hounds. That is the cruelty of the case.
§ Mr. Beith
I do not wish to detract from the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, which I listened to on Friday. He said:…I deeply regret that there are still those who enjoy watching dogs chase a hare until it is caught and who stand watching with relish the tearing to pieces of a living animal."—[Official Report, 24th October 1975; Vol. 889, c. 912.]I do not think he would want to deny that. He rests his case heavily on that aspect. As I observed it, most hares were not killed in this way—
§ Mr. Spriggs
§ Mr. Beith
Most of those hares which are killed in coursing, which are themselves the minority, are not killed in this way.
§ Mr. Spriggs
Let me make this clear. I do not say that all hares are killed in this way. The hon. Gentleman implies that, because all hares are not torn apart, he will support the Opposition. My case still stands if only one hare in a thousand is torn to pieces while it is still alive. To me that means that an organised sport of this kind is barbaric and cruel.
§ Mr. Beith
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen to my argument and find it in himself to explain to me, perhaps at a later date, how he can rest his argument on the abolition of a sport in which the hare is likely to be killed by the first dog which reaches it, but for some curious reason does not wish to extend his argument to the chasing of a hare by a pack of dogs, as in other sports. I suggest that he has moved his ground from the fact that he has a genuine revulsion to something which he supposes to be a more frequent occurrence in hare coursing than I have found it to be. The inconsistency will come out if I am allowed to develop my argument a little further.
Hare coursing, on any index of relative cruelty—or, to put it another way, of pain and discomfort at death; one looks for some attempt to define cruelty—can be compared favourably with other sports like beagling, fox hunting and fishing. It does not seem to me to be manifestly more cruel for a hare to be killed by the relatively painless methods of coursing than for a fish to be played on a hook.
1231 Nor does it seem to compare unfavourably with the other methods of killing hares, which are primarily snaring and shooting. I do not see how the House can accept that it is more cruel that a hare should be killed by the generally quicker process of being run down by a dog at speed than to be shot and left wounded—as I have seen several times in my own county of Northumberland—or that it should be left in a snare, which I have not seen. However, I know enough about snares to realise how they work.
Having been unconvinced by those principles, on what principle can I vote or ask others to vote for the Third Reading of the Bill if I cannot single this out as exceptional or distinctive cruelty over and above other sporting activities or other animal control activities or animal killing activities? I considered the possibilities. One is the possibility, which some hon. Member may advance, that it is unacceptable that animals should be killed by any means. Those who would advance that proposition and carry it to the point of being vegetarians—and we respect their views—would be a small minority. They would be rather smaller in number than those who are prepared to support the Bill, and they do not include the hon. Member for Walton, so I presume it is not on that principle that the Bill rests.
The second possibility is that it is unnecessary that hares should be killed. It might be easier to advance the argument that no hares should be killed, but that would be betraying some lack of knowledge of the real situation in the countryside. Anyone who knows agricultural areas recognises that in recent years there has been a substantial increase in the rabbit and hare population, and a couple of mild winters have made the increase more marked. There must be, and will continue to be, a considerable element of control, and that is likely to be exercised by means other than coursing, as it is now where coursing does not take place. I presume that few amongst those who support the Bill reject the principle of the control of the level of population of animals which, however attractive or desirable, in large numbers represent a threat to production in agriculture or forestry. The Forestry Commission has to recognise this principle in controlling 1232 the number of deer in its forests. Deer are attractive, but the Forestry Commission has to control the numbers.
The same is manifestly true of hares. I do not think that anyone who supports the Bill has sought to rest his case on the principle that hares will not have to be killed, and therefore all those in favour of the Bill have been prepared to accept the alternative possibility of hares being killed by other means.
There is another possibility, and that is that dogs should not be used to kill hares, but the Bill will allow hares to be hunted by a pack of dogs or to be chased by one dog. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the strange activity that it might seem, the coursing of a hare by one dog. There is nothing in the Bill to preclude unorganised coursing in which hares are chased by two dogs, so long as it is not an organised competition. In any case, anyone who seeks to raise the general principle that dogs should not be used for killing hares ought to recognise that dogs are probably better at killing hares than is a man who is not a good shot aiming at a small and rapidly moving animal from a considerable distance.
The last of the principles which seems to provide some possible basis for sup porting the Bill—and I think that this is one which the hon. Member for Walton would support—
§ Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)
The hon. Gentleman has left out one essential principle, and that is the killing of animals by man for pleasure. That degrades the human being concerned.
§ Mr. Beith
That is precisely the point to which I was coming. Just before the hon. Gentleman intervened I was about to say that the point on which the hon. Member for Walton would rest his case is that it is unacceptable that man should kill animals for or in the course of sport. I am sure that I can put those words into his mouth without misrepresenting him.
If that is the basis of the Bill, I ask the supporters of it to come clean and say so. They should also realise that that is their view and that it ought not necessarily to be imposed upon others. What the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) thinks is morally degrading may 1233 not be what I think is morally degrading. This House has argued for long about how far one can go in determining what is morally acceptable conduct in others. If this view is to be imposed on others, it must not be imposed selectively or arbitrarily, in the way the Bill proposes, to the exclusion—
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
I ask my hon. Friend to make it clear that he speaks for himself and not for his colleagues, because I shall support the Government on this matter tonight. Will my hon. Friend agree that in this matter, as in most other matters, half a loaf is better than none and that if this abolishes one cruel sport, it is a step along the right road?
§ Mr. Beith
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right. I speak as an individual. In previous debates on this matter most of us have spoken as individuals. However, this is now a Government Bill. Opposition Members will be voting with the Government and there may be Labour Members who are not even present because they are not entirely in sympathy with the Bill.
If supporters of the Bill hold the view that no sport involving the killing of animals should be tolerated, let them say so as my hon. Friend has done and not try to rest on a case—which has proved incapable of bearing the weight—that this sport is exceptionally cruel and in quite a different category from other sports. The case for a total ban on field sports is not the one that has been advanced so far. We are bound to ask why hare coursing has been chosen. If the principle is that half a loaf is better than no bread, why has this particular portion been chosen? I am bound to wonder whether it is because a small number of people are involved whose position in the community is quite unimportant in conventionally accepted terms. If it is because it is the sport of miners and milkmen rather than the sport of more highly placed people in society, it would be a curious argument for Labour Members to find convincing. However, there is a more important point.
§ Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)
What is more important than a miner or a milkman?
§ Mr. Beith
The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) should know from his interest in agricultural matters that neither of those categories should be passed off as lightly as some of his hon. Friends seem to think on occasions.
There is a more important, fundamental and crucial argument. The argument that has been advanced by the hon. Member for Cannock and the hon. Member for Walton has more to do with their personal values than it has with the welfare of animals. I ask them to make that important distinction. I do not object to either of them saying that there is a great moral issue here about whether man kills animals in the course of sport, but they must realise that there is a difference between saying that and saying that they propose to do what is best for the welfare of the animal concerned. The two may coincide in some instances, but there is no guarantee that they will do so in all instances.
That statement precludes the question: what would be the fate of the animal in question if it were not killed in the course of sport? It is a question which some hon. Members do not seem willing to ask. Would its death be more or less cruel? If they were to say that its death would be substantially less cruel or not necessary, their moral case about what they should do would coincide happily with their case about the welfare of animals.
§ Mr. Burden
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that it is better for a person to die young, quickly and suddenly rather than to live to a ripe old age and die more slowly?
§ Mr. Beith
No. I am asking the question whether it is better that an animal should die in the course of a sport in which it is killed fairly quickly, or that it should be killed in some other way more slowly. The distinction that I draw relates to coursing, snaring and shooting. If the argument is whether the animal is killed or not killed, we enter a different area. However, the basis for the Bill is not the assertion that no hare should be killed.
§ Mr. Arnold Shaw (Ilford, South)
Is the argument that the hon. Gentleman advances that the Bill provides for the slaughter of animals by shooting or any 1235 other means rather than by coursing, because there is nothing in the Bill that suggests that anyone who does not course must necessarily go out to shoot? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should go into the countryside and discuss with the hares in the field how they would like to die. During the whole of this debate, as far as the Opposition are concerned, there have been no suggestions at all about the welfare of the particular animal. All we are told is that if they are not slaughtered in this barbaric fashion someone else will come along with a shotgun or some other method of killing them. We have not subscribed to that. All that we are saying, in effect, is that this sport is barbaric, and for that reason we oppose it.
§ Mr. Beith
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has put his finger on the issue. He cannot simply sit back and say "I have passed a Bill which has prevented hares from being coursed. From now on they will live to a ripe old age." The facts of the matter are far from the case. The hon. Gentleman ought to know—if he does not know now, what were all the debates for?—that the number of hares is being and is always likely to be controlled. If it is not controlled by coursing, as it is in a small number of areas, it will be controlled, as it is in other areas, by snares and primarily by shooting. But shooting is not a very good way of dealing with hares. In many cases it leads to a slow and painful death.
Hon. Members must distinguish between saying that they dislike a particular sport and do not think, as a moral issue, that human beings should be involved in the course of sport in the killing of animals, and saying "I want to see the best for this animal". The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we should consider the welfare of the animal. But if that is the issue we cannot preclude it, in any given sport, by saying that no animal should be killed for sport. One has to ask the question, in each case, whether it can be killed in a better way. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the hare will live to a ripe old age, he is mistaken.
§ Mr. Burden
With great respect, the hon. Gentleman is getting too involved. It is he who says that it is better for the hare to be killed quickly by dogs as a young animal rather than for it to live 1236 longer in normal conditions. I think that is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Beith
No, the alternative I pose is simple. What most people who know the countryside would argue is that the real alternative is apparent now. One can see both possibilities now. In some areas no coursing takes place and if agriculture takes place hares are controlled. They do not live undisturbed for long. A significant number must be shot. In coursing areas many hares live an undisturbed life. Those living in coursing areas which are killed are killed by dogs. Those living in other areas are normally killed by the gun.
The basic question is very difficult to answer. I would find it very hard to accept the apparent argument of Labour Members that death from a dog in coursing is more cruel than death from shooting. In many cases the latter is too slow and painful a death. It is certainly not normal practice in coursing for hares to escape injured and to suffer the consequences of that. Some Labour Members have failed to draw the distinction between the moral conclusion that people should not be involved in any sport in which animals are killed, and the welfare of the animals. It may be that in some instances those two conditions should be identical, but hon. Members cannot preclude the argument by supposing that it is automatically to the benefit of the animal concerned—I am not talking about otters and protected animals—and that its death by some other means will be better than the death it will have in this way.
In the absence of any clear principle to support the singling out of a sport which is well regulated and the rules of which—to a surprising extent to anyone not previously familiar with them—seek to avoid and reduce unnecessary injury and remove cruelty, it seems to me that in no way is the case made by the supporters of the Bill.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
It had been my intention merely to rise to thank the Government for keeping the undertaking that they gave me in the last Session of Parliament that they would introduce this Measure as a Government Bill and facilitate its progress through the House.
1237 I am grateful to the Government for doing what I regarded as being their job, anyway, because the Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) introduced whilst in Opposition was the Government's own Bill from 1970 which they had "whipped" from my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) and before him from another of my hon. Friends.
The Government had been responding not only to a clamour from their back benchers but to a general feeing of revulsion throughout the country at what was termed a sport. Had the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) done my hon. Friends and myself the courtesy of reading the speeches we made on Ten-Minute Bills in the past, when no Tory Member stood up to oppose us, when nobody had the courage of his gaming or sporting convictions to run a course with us through the Lobby, so that we had to put in our own Tellers, he would have found therein none of the skittles which he set up to knock down for his own amusement.
The speeches which my hon. Friends and I made were simple and direct. First and foremost, we made the important point that people who object to sports of this nature do not have any fanciful or idealistic picture of the life of an animal or of its place in creation. We regard animals as being there to be used by man and for man's benefit, but not to be abused by man.
Therefore, we accept that there may be times when animals may be painfully controlled or exterminated in the interests of mankind, but at no time—this is the important point at issue—should the life of an animal be put at risk merely to indulge the selfish pleasure of a superior being. That is all that the argument is about. It is simple and straightforward.
Points about controlling animals and about much harsher deaths have no merit in this argument. We do not wish those deaths upon animals, but nature is cruel, and that is the way that nature has created them. Even if animals have those deaths, they will not be deaths which have been deliberately contrived simply and purely so that men can sport one dog against another and see which can get the most points by its agility, its ability to turn fast.
1238 We have said consistently in these debates that we know that the object of coursing is not to kill the hare. Unfortunately, this point is not always made clear to hares in the course of the event, and some of them never live long enough to realise it. Indeed, the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed may be interested to hear that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South and I attended a coursing meeting. At a distance no greater than that of the hon. Gentleman from me we saw a hare caught by its head and hindquarters and torn apart, screaming literally like a baby. At this same coursing we saw a hare tossed up into the air by one dog and caught by another. After that we saw beaters rushing through to try to give the hare a painless death, if that is possible, with hobnail boots on some occasions and by trying to break its neck on others.
The point at issue is not what other types of death there may be, but whether mankind should deliberately, for the purpose of indulging a selfish pleasure—the satisfaction of watching two dogs gaming against each other—put other animals at risk. We regard it as degrading of our own species. For that reason, we wish the Bill to have its Third Reading.
§ 1.50 a.m.
§ Mr. Powell
The extremely comprehensive speech of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and the brief rejoinder of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) have illustrated how difficult and complex is the reasoning which lies behind legislation upon cruelty to animals which is by way of creating new crimes; for that is essentially what we do by such legislation. I was not brought up in the country, nor, as a young man, did I have any acquaintance with field sports. I came to them only in middle life, and so perhaps I have applied my mind to this subject from a somewhat different point of view from that of many hon. Members with whom I agree that this legislation is ill conceived.
There is one direction from which I am sure we cannot successfully approach this question, and that is what I might call the anthropomorphic approach—the identification of the animal and its experiences with supposed analogies in human life. There was an exchange between the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed and the 1239 hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) which illustrated the almost impossible difficulty into which we get in terms of talking about a death in youth, a death in ripe old age, from the point of view of a human being, as applied and cast upon the screen of what we imagine as animal life.
There is an impassable gulf which separates our comprehension of our life and the universe around us from that of the animal creation. Indeed, many of the anthropomorphic arguments clearly break down. For example, they are so much more vivid when applied to an animal like a hare—warm-blooded, with some analogy to a human being—than they are when applied to a cold-blooded creature like a fish. I am very much struck by the fact that if we were to be strict in our anthropomorphic argument we would find much more horror and disgust in the death inflicted upon fish—not merely in fishing for sport, but in the course of fishery—than we would find in many field sports. Therefore, the anthropomorphic approach is barred.
Nor do I believe that we can merely proceed from the general attitude of society. True it is that the attitude of society to cruelty to animals alters, and that that which I believe by common agreement is criminal today could not have been made criminal two or three centuries ago, simply because to make it criminal would not have corresponded to the common outlook in society at that time. Certainly it is a condition of making good law that what the law outlaws should be rejected by the majority of society. But that in itself will not provide us with the simple justification for making criminal an act which has not hitherto been criminal.
There are two, and only two, criteria which will bear examination and will sustain the weight of legislation. The first is that we are justified in rendering unlawful that which causes reasonable offence to those who involuntarily are brought within the knowledge and context of it. The second is that we should outlaw that which depraves not only those who engage in it but those who encourage them in it and are aware that they are engaging in it. Therefore, the tendency to deprave expressed by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) 1240 in his use of the words "with relish" attached to the killing of an animal, as he believed in the course of a sport, and the offence reasonably caused to other members of society, seem to me to be the two bases upon which, if it is to be justified, the creation of criminal offences by such legislation should rest. I do not believe that the case has been made out on those counts either in respect of hare coursing or other sports. I am not talking about fishing. I refer to sports in which animals are chased and killed by other animals.
From direct knowledge and experience I do not believe that the supposed relish of seeing the animal killed plays any part in that which fascinates those who engage in these sports and which makes for their enjoyment. It is contrary to anything which I have observed to suppose that those who take part in these sports do so because they are motivated by a sadistic delight in contemplating the death of an animal. The death of the animal in all these sports is incidental not merely in the mechanics of the sport but in the motivation of those who take part in it. It is much more incidental than is the death of the fish in the pursuit of angling, for example.
As to the justifiable offence and disgust which might be caused to the observer, I accept that there are those with preconceived views who deliberately expose themselves to the experience of seeing these sports carried on. We are not justified in taking that social offence into account in making a new law. We must be satisfied that disgust and indignation are widely felt by those who, in the course of their lives and going about their callings, are brought into contact with these field sports. I do not believe that that case has been made out. Nor do I believe that this or kindred field sports inspire aversion and rejection in the bulk of those members of the public who are aware that they are carried on, and especially that part of the public amongst whom these sports are pursued. Presumably, it is to that social forum that we should look to see whether there is the social rejection and the social offence which would justify legislation.
That is my conclusion. That is the reason why I have always resisted this type of legislation. On neither of the two criteria which seem to justify legislation—the tendency to deprave those who 1241 pursue these sports, and the offence caused to society—is the case made out.
This is a case which we must make from man to man. It is true that the subject is the animal kingdom. But we are concerned with men in society, from which the true arguments should be drawn. In my opinion, which is based on what knowledge I have to offer, that case fails.
§ 2.0 a.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has brought the great power of his logic to bear on this argument, as he has on so many other arguments. He has made a contribution of enormous importance to this debate. I was especially impressed by the argument he adduced in his comparison between coursing and other field sports. He said that, from his observation, the death of the quarry was incidental—certainly, in my fairly long experience of field sports that has always been the case—but that if we were to consider the death of the quarry the field sport which stands out as one in which the sportsman takes pleasure in the end of the quarry is fishing.
I do not know how many fishermen are present in the House this evening, but I dare say there are one or two. I am a fisherman and I enjoy the sport. I openly admit that in certain types of game fishing to get a fish on the line marks the beginning of a fascinating and exciting struggle.
Why has there been no word about fishing from those who are opposed to field sports? Why has this particular field sport been singled out for attention? It would be worth while for the House to consider those questions as a sequel to the matters raised by the right hon. Member for Down, South. I go so far as to suggest that one reason may be that there are a great many fishermen in this country, but not so many people who follow hare coursing. That is nothing for the supporters of the Bill to be proud of, but it happens to be a fact.
Earlier this evening it fell to my lot, for no particular reason, to entertain a number of young people for a drink in my flat. They were of the same age as my children. They were of voting age. During the course of conversation one 1242 of them asked what I would be doing this evening. I said that I was going to the House of Commons. I was then asked what was going on there and I said that among other things we were to discuss, probably until fairly late, the matter of hare coursing. Hon. Members should have seen the faces of those young people. They said to me, "Is that really what you ought to be discussing at this juncture in our affairs? Is it really the most important thing that you should be engaged on?" They asked who was responsible for introducing it, and I said that the Government were behind it.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) insisted, earlier, in his short intervention, that he had introduced the Bill in 1960, and that since then many of this other hon. Friends had supported it. However, he did not deny that the Government were involved in this matter. The young people, whether for or against the legislation, were shattered that we were so engaged.
No doubt it will be made clear in the Press tomorrow morning—the country will be interested to know—that during these proceedings the Secretary of State for Employment was present. With the present level of unemployment the right hon. Gentleman has much on his plate. Moreover, a short time ago the Secretary of State for Social Services, who is responsible for the health service, which is collapsing around us, was also present.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is going a little wide of the subject of hare coursing.
§ Mr. Hastings
I stand corrected. Nevertheless, it seems to me to be a matter of some note that those right hon. Members should be here at this state of our country's fortunes—when most of us are deeply concerned about the economic crisis, apart from the other matters which I have mentioned—to talk about this matter. Why are they here?
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the human condition in this country was much more serious at the time when cock fighting and bear baiting were prohibited than it is now?
§ Mr. Hastings
That may or may not be so, but I do not think that it bears in any degree on this matter.
I submit that those right hon. Members are here tonight because this Bill is not only a party matter, but a matter of a section of the Labour Party. It was introduced by the hon. Member for Walton, as the hon. Gentleman proudly told us this evening. Indeed, he told us that many of his hon. Friends had supported it since. We are all sufficiently familiar with the activities of the hon. Member for Walton and his group of friends on the Marxist side of the Labour Party to know quite well where the political parentage of the Bill lies. I mention this at the beginning of my remarks because I do not want anybody in the country, and certainly not in this House, to be under any illusion about the matter.
I turn now to the Bill itself. [Interruption.] I have a good deal to say. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will contain themselves it will be easier for me to proceed a little faster.
One comparison has been made a number of times in the course of the debates to which I have listened both in Committee and in the House. The view has been expressed that there was no need for hon. Gentlemen to go and pay any attention to a hare coursing meeting. I instantly pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), who did see a hare coursing meeting. However, most hon. Gentlemen opposite have not bothered to attend such a meeting at all.
The argument adduced has been that rape is unpleasant but that there is no need to witness it to condemn it. Other unattractive activities have also been mentioned in the same way. I do not regard that argument as relevant. After all, in the earliest times of recorded history, alas, rape existed, and so did hare coursing. If this debate had taken place in the days of Assyria or ancient Rome—for all that I or any of us know, it did take place—the arguments might have been roughly the same as those which were adduced today. I do not think that argument can possibly be advanced, and I hope that we shall not hear it advanced any more.
The first question which we should ask ourselves in approaching the conclusion of our debates on the Bill is whether hare 1244 coursing is fair. I readily admit that for those who hold the view that any field sport is unfair, this argument could not apply, but for those who are prepared to look at it in a dispassionate way and to compare it with any other field sport, it seems reasonable to pay some attention to the studies of Stable and Stuttard, who, to my satisfaction, show that the hare matched against greyhounds provides, in every sense of the word, a fair sport.
The hare has on her side speed and immense manoeuvrability. The dog has speed and sight. The hare actually watches the dogs approaching, calculates when to turn, and when she does flings the dogs yards away; two turns and she is already gaining. She does not even accelerate until two turns away. The proportion of hares that escape has been made clear during the debate. By any standard that is a fair sport, particularly with the rules of the Coursing Club to support it.
The second question we should ask ourselves is whether the sport is cruel, and to what extent it is cruel compared with other sports. The Scott Henderson Report should be a guide to this. So many quotations have been produced from that report in Committee and on the Floor of the House that it should not be necessary to return to it, but in the light of what we have heard this evening I think we should. The terms of reference of the committee were:to enquire into practices or activities which may involve cruelty to British wild mammals".The committee produced a mass of complex material and several recommendations which have since been more or less ignored in legislation.
The main component factor in any consideration of cruelty must be pain. How much do we understand about the question of pain in wild animals, and does it differ from pain as we understand it?
This passage from the report is relevant:Pain is of the utmost biological value to animals because, in general, what is painful is also harmful and consequently animals tend to avoid anything which gives them the sensation of pain. Pain is the 'conditioning' stimulus which teaches an animal to avoid what is physically harmful to it and this end could hardly be achieved unless the pain felt by animals were painful in the ordinary sense. 1245 Pain is therefore a sensation of clear-cut biological usefulness.That may seem callous, but it is a very different matter from pain as we conceive it. The report goes on:Very detailed and confident statements about the degree of pain which animals suffer as a result of one sort of inquiry or another are therefore only too likely to be misleading.That bears closely on the charge of cruelty. The committee was satisfied that animals do suffer from acute fear and terror, but the report goes on:We are not, however, satisfied that wild animals suffer from apprehension or the after-effects of fear to the same extent as human beings…or that a frightening experience has the same serious or lasting effect upon them as it may have upon us.Anyone who has seen wild game in Africa or in this country pursued and subsequently feeding quietly, after one has been killed, will confirm that it is a different matter from pain as we understand it, and cruelty must surely be part of the same argument.
Without apology, I shall quote one other section from the report. If we are seriously concerned with what is behind the Bill we must surely be concerned with cruelty. Is it cruel, and if so, to what extent is it cruel? If we come to the conclusion that Labour Members do not understand about cruelty to animals in these circumstances, or are not concerned primarily with cruelty, I see no purpose in the Bill.
I quote another section of the Scott Henderson Report which bears upon the matter which I seek to explain. The report reads:It will be convenient to mention here another common misconception which, as in other cases, is due to a lack of knowledge about animals and an inadequate understanding of the way in which they live. Many people are under the impression that a wild animal which is not hunted or otherwise pursued by man continues to live in peace and security until it reaches old age and eventually dies a 'natural' death, which is assumed to be a relatively painless one. We agree that it may die a 'natural' death, but we are convinced that such a death is by no means usually painless and peaceful or that the animal necessarily lives very much longer than it would have done if it had not been killed by man. The ravages of predators and parasites and of acute or chronic infections entail deaths that must often be as painful as, and are frequently more prolonged than, any with which the animal may meet as the quarry in a field sport. Any animals which have natural enemies are more likely to be preyed upon as they grow older 1246 and more vulnerable…We are satisfied that animals that are not killed by man seldom reach old age and frequently meet a death as painful as that involved in a field sport, and while we do not accept this as a defence of field sports and other activities we think it is an important consideration which should always be borne in mind.To what extent are Labour hon. Members prepared to bear that in mind? I could continue in this vein, and if Labour hon. Members still do not seize the point I shall do so. However, to sum up this section of my remarks, I return to the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and to other similar speeches, in which have been explained ad nauseam the alternatives to coursing as a method of controlling the hare—namely, killing by snaring or shooting. I tried to explain on Friday that that was inevitable.
Control of the hare is reaching serious and even dangerous proportions in certain areas where the hare is particularly prevalent—namely, East Anglia and Lincolnshire—because of the damage it does to various crops, including sugar beet and cereals. There is no question but that that will continue.
In some areas where, four or five years ago—I quote the evidence gathered by the Stable and Stuttard Report—150 to 200 hares were shot in an afternoon or a day, nowadays only 20 or 30 are shot. If hare coursing is done away with, is it seriously suggested that shooting will in some way be carried out less often? On the contrary, it will increase. There is direct evidence that coursing tends to conserve, because wherever there is co-operation between farmers or shooting syndicates and hare coursing clubs the population of hares in the area concerned remains stable. As I have tried to point out, that is not the case where coursing clubs are not active.
Those who support the Bill will ensure that the tendency for the hare population to decline will become a certainty. The next thing they will ensure is that control, particularly in farming districts where the brown hare is plentiful, will increase. That means snaring or shooting. Overwhelmingly, shooting is the most important alternative. Do the supporters of the Bill seriously say that that is not as cruel as hare coursing?
How many Labour Members have ever seen a hare or any other mammal shot, or 1247 caught in a snare? The snare is the nastiest of the lot. All the talk of screaming hares being torn to pieces in hare coursing is a monstrous and idiotic exaggeration, as any of us who have seen the sport know well. If one shoots hares, one certainly hears them scream. How many are such good shots and so careful that they always kill a hare as it speeds by? It is not an easy target, as some of my hon. Friends know well. It is a large beast, but because of variations in its speed it is often missed and, even more often, wounded. The screams are a factor in those circumstances.
Every Labour Member who supports this Bill is, without question, increasing the possibility of cruelty occurring. Cruelty is increased by the Bill and not reduced by it. If any hon. Gentleman denies that, let him rise to his feet and give logical arguments to support his view. We believe that if the Bill goes through its effects will be more rather than less cruel to the species concerned. If Labour Members are not concerned about cruelty, what are they concerned about? [An HON. MEMBER: "Unnecessary cruelty."] That comment is typical of the confusion among Labour Members who support the Bill. Do they wish to stop hare coursing, in the certain knowledge that shooting and snaring will increase? Are they content that suffering will increase?
I believe that the Bill has nothing to do with cruelty. It has to do, first, with politics and secondly with people. The Bill's supporters wish to regulate morals according to their own concepts because they, from their own prejudice and ignorance, believe that people should behave in a certain way over hare coursing and everything else and must be made to behave in that way. Here in the Bill is Socialism par excellence. That is what is behind the Bill; it has nothing to do with cruelty. I hope that those who are members of the League Against Cruel Sports will reflect on this.
The best summing up of the Bill I have read anywhere was contained in an article in the Gazette and Guardian on 25th March this year. Its correspondent said:Alas, the kind of analysis I have sketched out above has been sadly lacking in discussions on the subject which has taken place in Parliament and elsewhere. The opponents of coursing are organised and 1248 vociferous, heedless of truth or rational argument in their campaign against followers of this ancient sport. Set against all our national problems the question whether the coursing of the hare is to be made yet another criminal offence is not of great import. But I do say that if the Government lends its weight and aid to the proposal it will be a bad day for liberty. New laws should not grow from clamour but should be framed after fair discussion and in the general interest. Unless necessity dictates, new crimes should not be made of what have hitherto been innocent pursuits.That is as succinct and accurate a summing-up of what we are about this evening as any I have read.
As to whether any sensible ground for conviction could ever be found, that is another matter which my hon. Friends and I have tried to pursue and delve into, from the beginning of our proceedings in Committee, right up to now. It seems to me to be a ludicrous picture. How on earth are the police, supposing that they wish to proceed with this—I should think they would be very strange if they were on the side of this Bill—to identify people engaged in coursing matches in the countryside?
All too few Labour Members spend enough time in the countryside even to present a case about this, in my view. I should say that it is very unlikely that the police would be able to prove anything. It would give rise to all manner of unpleasant cases and to friction with the police in country districts.
How can a Government justify legislation which makes it legal for a farmer to set one dog against a hare—to course a hare—but illegal to set two? How can they justify such a thing, particularly since they admit that control is necessary? If the man who looses two greyhounds simply says that he is doing it because of his sugar beet, how are the police to prove that this is a match? I cannot see any possible means of bringing a successful case.
How can the Government justify legislation which disregards the considered advice of every authority—Scott Henderson and others—appointed to look into this question? All of them make plain that cruelty is a secondary factor, if, indeed, it is a factor at all.
The only thing we are concerned with here is a synthetic morality. Everyone must conform to this prejudice because those who support the Bill think that 1249 it is right. The hon. Lady, for all the courtesy and patience she has shown, has spoiled her record as far as I am concerned.
We had a three-minutes' speech from the hon. Member for Walton, mostly comprised of threats to the House of Lords. I am glad that he has returned to his seat. I am sure that we were all very grateful for his speech, which ended with an open threat to the House of Lords over the Hare Coursing Bill. I am sure that any Member of the House of Lords who bothers to read what the hon. Member said will find his resolution strengthened, rather than the other way round.
We have drinking, gambling, smoking, homosexuality and pornography. None of us likes these things, but they are all tolerated. Why do the Government pick on this ancient pursuit? The Bill is an insult to Parliament. It is a mean-minded, miserable little Bill, born of prejudice, ignorance and expediency in the Labour Party. It demeans the Labour Party, just as it demeans Parliament itself, and I hope it gets its deserts tonight.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
Mr. Carol Mather.
§ Mr. Mather rose—
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Are we to assume, your having called the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, that the debate is being wound up? I have been present throughout these proceedings, hoping to make a brief contribution. I understood that it was the prerogative of the Chair to call a back bencher who indicated his desire to take part in a debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
If a Front Bench spokesman rises, it is also the custom of the Chair to call him.
§ Mr. Ridley
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assume that this means that the debate will continue. I, too, would like to intervene briefly after my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) has spoken.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is never customary for the Chair to say how long a debate 1250 shall last. I simply called the Opposition Front Bench spokesman. Mr. Mather.
§ 2.31 a.m.
§ Mr. Mather
It is very much to be regretted that my hon. Friends have not had the chance to intervene briefly, and I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will use your discretion to ensure that they have an opportunity to make their contributions.
In this Chamber today, on both sides, we are acting out a charade. It is widely reported in the Press that this Bill will get no further. I do not know the source of those reports, but, if they be true, what are we doing at this hour, being forced to discuss a Bill which the Government know will not become law and which they failed to get on Friday because there was not enough enthusiasm on their side of the House? They have shown that they cannot control their troops. The country will ask why the time of Parliament is being wasted in this way when we are likely to see the Bill die in any event.
It is appropriate to recall how the Bill was introduced, and how it has reached its present stage. Propertly speaking, it was a Private Member's Bill, and it was then taken over by the Government. It was properly a Private Member's Bill because it is about animals and about personal liberty. As such, as it is highly contentious.
Being a Private Member's Bill originally, it had none of the preparatory work which is expected in the case of a Government Bill. There were no consultations. There was no consultation, for example, with the National Coursing Club or with the British Field Sports Society. There was not even a letter of warning to either body that the Government were dissatisfied with the way in which the sport was conducted. The Government say that everyone was aware of what was happening, but there was no official intimation of their intentions, and there were no consultations. There was no committee of inquiry. The Minister said that committees of inquiry were unsatisfactory because their reports were sometimes too neutral, as was the Scott Henderson Report. There was no White Paper.
The Bill was introduced late in the Session, which is not the usual time to bring in controversial legislation. It has 1251 absorbed a great deal of the time of Home Office officials. Six of them devoted to it many hours of their time for four weeks during the summer months when they should have been doing more useful work concerned with such matters as the maintenance of public order. Certainly they should not have been wasting their time on this peccadillo of a Bill.
The manner in which the Second Reading debate was conducted, on a so-called free vote, was laughable. A high-level meeting at Chequers was broken up, and Cabinet Ministers were drafted here to vote. One Minister was even brought from Northern Ireland by air. It was a pathetic performance, and it attracted ridicule.
All this was done simply to deprive about 1,000 people of their favourite sport, which consists of killing fewer than 600 hares in one year, bearing in mind that in a single hare shoot about 1,000 are killed. All this was done at a time of acute economic crisis, when we had massive unemployment and when inflation was hitting the roof. Earlier today, we discussed the present chaos in the National Health Service, and there was a large lobby of nurses. Where was the anti-field sports lobby today? At a time when the House of Commons administration is breaking down through being overloaded, this Bill is given preference.
Our use of time in the debates on the Bill has been criticised. We expected that. But that is the prerogative of the Opposition. One of our jobs is to protect the interests of minorities. With a Government-backed Bill, the democratic process is at its weakest, because we have to admit that we have no strong second Chamber. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said that if the Lords opposed the Bill, that would be the end of them, but I hope he realises that if the Lords were abolished, some other second Chamber would have to be put in its place, which would probably be far stronger. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That reaction proves my point. No wonder there is a call for a Bill of Rights and a written constitution and electoral reform and even for primaries, so as to prevent the country from being dominated by unrepresentative minorities. As a minority Government they have to 1252 face the fact that they are unrepresentative.
To continue with the effects of the Bill—more hares will be shot and wounded and there will be more hunting for the pot with coursing dogs, but with no judges or officials, and no Coursing Club rules. Several thousand dogs will have to be destroyed because there will be no work and no market for them. [Interruption.] Can hon. Members say how many dogs will be destroyed? I suggest that it will be a large number. It will mean the extinction of several breeds as we know them, except as pets. It will upset the balance of the countryside and there will be no restraints on the extermination of hares.
The Scott Henderson Report pointed out—21 years ago, of course—that the abolition of hare coursing would alienate the food producers. That may not be so fanciful as hon. Members believe. In terms of food production we are now in a similar situation to that which existed when that report was written. The Government should have taken note of that recommendation.
The Bill will also create a new criminal offence, the effects of which are uncertain but which is bound to bring the law into disrepute.
I should like to quote three passages which summarise the latest authentic information about this sport. The Scott Henderson Report on hare coursing itself—[An HON. MEMBER: "The latest?"] Yes, because there has been no inquiry or report by the Government since. This is the only authentic Home Office report there is. It said:The degree of cruelty involved in coursing is not sufficient to justify its prohibition.On field sports as a whole, it said:Any field sport which has a reasonable measure of support and is a traditional activity of the countryside and which has some utilitarian value should not be interfered with except for some very good reason. Interference on the ground of cruelty would be justified only if it were shown that the amount of suffering involved was excessive or unreasonable.Let me quote the Minister's own statement about Bills of this kind and the criteria that one should adopt when considering them. During the Second Reading on the Farriers Bill the hon. Lady said:It is the duty of the proponents of a Bill to satisfy the House unequivocally on a number of issues. They must show that there is a 1253 situation which is causing problems, and that legislation is required to solve the situation, because only legislation will solve it. They must establish that the legislation they are presenting will also resolve any doubts that it will have unintentional or undesirable consequences. The sponsor's case should be decided against these criteria, and if it does not meet them the Bill should not be given a Second Reading."—[Official Report, 24th January 1975; Vol. 884, c. 2176.]In our case it is a Third Reading. I suggest that in the case of this Bill none of those criteria is met.
I know that hon. Members are getting tired of staying here at a late hour, but we have to face the fact that the Government have, unfortunately, made fools of themselves over the Bill. They have taken over a Private Member's Bill. They have burned their fingers not once, not twice, but three times. They burned them in Committee, where the fate of the Bill was sealed. They burned them again last Friday, when they could not marshal enough enthusiasm among their own supporters to carry the Bill through. They have burned their fingers again, if Press
§ reports are correct that the Bill will get no further in another place in the current Session.
§ If the Bill is going to die, it has carried its own death warrant in every word, every line, every clause, every marginal note in the Bill. I take as the epitaph to its sponsors the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), that "they lacked humility". This is an ill-conceived, ill-thought-out and ill-fated Bill, and the sooner it is forgotten and confined to the dustbin of history the better.
§ Mr. Mellish rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 183, Noes 82.1255
|Division No. 367.]||AYES||[2.44 a.m.|
|Archer, Peter||Dunnett, Jack||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Edge, Geoff||Kerr, Russell|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||English, Michael||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bates, Alf||Ennals, David||Lamond, James|
|Bean, R. E.||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Evans, John (Newton)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Litterick, Tom|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Bishop, E. S.||Flannery, Martin||Luard, Evan|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Boardman, H.||Fookes, Miss Janet||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Booth, Albert||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Forrester, John||Maclennan, Robert|
|Buchan, Norman||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Burden, F. A.||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Madden, Max|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Freeson, Reginald||Magee, Bryan|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mahon, Simon|
|Campbell, Ian||George, Bruce||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Canavan, Dennis||Gilbert, Dr John||Marquand, David|
|Cant, R. B.||Gould, Bryan||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Graham, Ted||Meacher, Michael|
|Cartwright, John||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Grocott, Bruce||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Harper, Joseph||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Corbett, Robin||Heffer, Eric S.||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hooley, Frank||Newens, Stanley|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Noble, Mike|
|Cryer, Bob||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Ogden, Eric|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hunt, John||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten)||Hunter, Adam||Orbach, Maurice|
|Dalyell, Tam||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Ovenden, John|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Park, George|
|Davis Clinton (Hackney C)||Janner, Greville||Pendry, Tom|
|Deakins, Eric||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Penhaligon, David|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Prescott, John|
|Dempsey, James||John, Brynmor||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Radice, Giles|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Spriggs, Leslie||Wellbeloved, James|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Stallard, A. W.||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Roderick, Caerwyn||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Stoddart, David||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Rooker, J. W.||Stott, Roger||Whitlock, William|
|Roper, John||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Swain, Thomas||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Sandelson, Neville||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Tierney, Sydney||Woodall, Alec|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Tomlinson, John||Woof, Robert|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Torney, Tom||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Townsend, Cyril D.||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Sillars, James||Urwin, T. W.||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Ward, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Watkins, David||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Snape, Peter||Weetch, Ken||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Alison, Michael||Goodlad, Alastair||Nelson, Anthony|
|Arnold, Tom||Grylls, Michael||Osborn, John|
|Banks, Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Beith, A. J.||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hastings, Stephen||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Body, Richard||Hawkins, Paul||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Brittan, Leon||Hurd, Douglas||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Brotherton, Michael||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||James, David||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Buck, Antony||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Shepherd, Colin|
|Budgen, Nick||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Kershaw, Anthony||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Kimball, Marcus||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Cockcroft, John||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Stradling Thomas J|
|Costain, A. P.||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Viggers, Peter|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Le Marchant, Spencer||Wakeham, John|
|Drays on. Burnaby||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Wall, Patrick|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Mates, Michael||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Mather, Carol||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Emery, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Younger, Hon George|
|Farr, John||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Fell, Anthony||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Freud, Clement||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Mr. John Cope and|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time and passed.