HC Deb 10 May 1991 vol 190 cc907-36 9.37 am
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 11, at end insert 'or'.

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, leave out line 12.

No. 3, in line 14, at beginning insert 'in a manner which causes harm, or would be likely to cause harm, to a badger,'. No. 4, in line 16, at end insert— (4) An accused shall not be permitted to rebut a presumption of guilt established under sections 1(1A) or 2(2) by evidence that he was engaged in any other activity save where he can show that he was authorised to be engaged in that activity by the occupier of the land on which the alleged offence occurred. (5) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under section 2(3)(e) (disturbing a badger) by reason of entering a terrier into a badger sett provided that his action would otherwise have been lawful.'. No. 5, in clause 2, line 25, leave out '(a), (c) or (e)'.

No. 16, in clause 4, page 2, leave out lines 47 and 48.

No. 18, in clause 5, page 3, line 13, at end insert "'harm" means bodily harm.'.

Mr. Colvin

This group of amendments is crucial to the Bill. Those Conservative Members who had reservations about the previous Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) are pleased to have the opportunity to support this Bill. The House will agree that there has been a different atmosphere surrounding this Bill from the start, largely to the credit of the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), who has been only too ready to have discussions with those of us who expressed genuine concerns and reservations about the Bill that the House considered during the last Session. There has been much consultation and compromise.

As the House will know, it is the nature of private Member's Bills that, unless such an atmosphere prevails, the chances are that a Bill will not make the progress that its promoter would like. I am afraid that that is what befell the previous Bill on the subject. Unfortunately, almost with the same breath as he proposed his Badger Protection Bill, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West proposed another Bill to ban fox hunting. That led one or two of us with an interest in field sports, who support the legitimate interests of those who go about their business in the countryside, whether they be field sportsmen, farmers, Iandowners or foresters, to be slightly suspicious about the hon. Gentleman's real objectives.

There is no doubt about the objectives of the hon. Member for Newport, East. All of us in the House and the many constituents who have written to us on the subject have no doubt that his objective is to see the end of the obnoxious practice of badger digging and baiting. We are in total agreement about that. Any other side effect of this measure can be hotly debated, but the principal objective must remain.

I shall concentrate first on amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 4. As several hon. Members attending this debate have not been present at earlier debates on badgers, either in this Session or the previous one, I shall begin with a few general remarks about the problem as it is seen inside and outside Parliament. The Bill creates a new offence of recklessly or intentionally causing a dog to enter a badger sett and is designed to make it easier to prosecute badger diggers—something we all want to stop.

At present, it is an offence under section 1(1) of the Badgers Act 1973 to attempt to kill, injure or take a badger. Since 1985, when the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 was amended, the burden of proof has been reversed, so that a person who enters a terrier into a badger sett is presumed to have been attempting to kill, injure or take a badger, unless he shows to the contrary—unless he shows that he is digging for foxes.

It is argued that, despite the tightening of the law in 1985, badger diggers are still evading conviction by taking fox carcases with them, so that they can claim that they were after foxes, not badgers. On the other side, it is argued that there are many legitimate terrier men who are truly after foxes and who have fallen foul of the law because they have been unable to prove their innocence—that happens a great deal in Wales.

There is general agreement that the law is unsatisfactory and results in lengthy proceedings, with expert witnesses called on both sides. However, although a simple offence of causing a dog to enter a badger sett would make it easier to prosecute badger diggers, it would also put an end to the control of foxes by using terriers in setts. Foxes frequently run into, or occupy, badger setts. Therefore, the new offence would be unacceptable to the sheep farming community.

The legitimate use of terriers by packs of fox hounds and others to control foxes does not harm badgers. If farmers were denied that method of control, alternative methods such as snaring and night shooting are likely to cause far more trouble for the badger, which is essentially a nocturnal animal. At present, packs of fox hounds and other above-board fox control operations do not fall foul of the law when using terriers in setts, as they are plainly not attempting to kill, injure or take badgers.

The offence, as drafted, makes no allowance for someone who genuinely wishes to take foxes out of badger setts. That is of particular concern, as the Bill presently defines "sett" to include disused setts. However, a simple defence allowing the use of terriers for fox control would not be acceptable, as it would open the loophole for badger diggers to claim that they were after foxes. Therefore, we must find a means of distinguishing between legitimate terrier men and badger diggers.

A licensing system has been suggested, but that would be unnecessarily bureaucratic. A large number of licences would be needed—the figure would run into thousands—and it would be hard for the licensing authority, whatever it might be, to determine whether an application was genuine. A licensing system is likely to be resisted by the Government—perhaps the Minister will comment on that later.

Amendment Nos. 1, 2 and 4 provide a more simple means of permitting legitimate terrier work. It is accepted that almost all badger diggers are trespassers, but farmers or huntsmen who genuinely wish to control foxes are not. The amendments remove the right of defendants charged under sections 1 or 2 of the Badgers Act 1973 to claim that they were after foxes or engaged in any other activity, unless they can show that they were authorised to be engaged in that activity by the occupier of the land in question.

A person caught entering a terrier into a sett would face near certain conviction if he were trespassing, so it is far easier to prosecute someone for that offence. Even if authorised to be there by the occupier, the person would still, as at present, have to prove that he was after foxes, not badgers. Therefore, the amendments delete the simple offence of causing a dog to enter a badger sett.

9.45 am
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

My hon. Friend talks about the difficulty of licensing. However, clause 3 extends the exceptions so that a person will not be found guilty if he is carrying out work on land with the consent of the landowner and is authorised by a Hunt recognised by the Masters of Fox Hounds Association". Is that not likely to give rise to some difficulties, because the Masters of Fox Hounds Association is, on the whole, regarded as the establishment organisation? There is nothing wrong with that, but there are quite a large number of perfectly legitimate Welsh packs of fox hounds which, for various reasons, are not authorised—some of them do not like to belong to an establishment organisation. It seems that perfectly legitimate organisations might be excluded by the creation of what I suppose is a closed shop organised by the Masters of Fox Hounds Association.

Mr. Colvin

I am interested to hear my hon. Friend's intervention, but a later amendment addresses that issue in some detail.

There is no doubt that a licensing system would be unnecessarily bureaucratic to administer. We should have reservations about the possibility of the wrong organisation being asked to carry out the licensing. If it were to be the Ministry of Agriculture, perhaps that would be all right, but a local authority might well be given the job. When we consider the political complexion of local government in some districts, we can see that, if a local authority were to issue licences, that might cause difficulties.

Mr. Budgen

I agree that it seems that there will be difficulties, no matter which organisation is given the duty of issuing licences. My hon. Friend spoke of the possibility of local authorities having a particular political view about a lawful activity. There is also a risk that a private organisation might carry out its licensing duties negligently or idly, which would create all sorts of difficulties. The Masters of Fox Hounds Association carries out its duties very well, but a significant minority of legitimate hunts do not belong to that association, and difficulties could arise.

Mr. Colvin

I absolutely understand my hon. Friend's point, but if he is still in the Chamber later, he will find that that issue is addressed in more detail in other amendments.

Amendment Nos. 1, 2 and 4 delete the simple offence of causing a dog to enter a badger sett. They also qualify the offence of disturbing a badger in a sett so that a disturbance is permitted if it occurs as a result of the otherwise lawful use of terriers in setts. That is necessary as, otherwise, someone could be prosecuted for disturbing a badger, however minimall—ythe level of disturbance is not quantified—by entering a terrier into a sett, even where that action was part of a legitimate fox control operation.

Amendment No. 5 involves the defence provided in clause 2(2), which was amended in Committee. It permits certain interferences with setts where the action is the intentional result of a lawful operation and could not reasonably have been avoided. In essence, that would allow unavoidable acts that interfered with setts; but the defence recognises only incidental damage, obstruction or disturbance of a badger in a sett. For some reason, the unavoidable entry of a dog into a sett or the unavoidable destruction of a sett will in no circumstances be permitted. Obviously, those behind this Bill regard the offences of entering a terrier into a sett or of the destruction of a sett as so heinous that no defence may be permitted. That is unfair, and also probably wrong in law. [Interruption.]

The Bill creates serious offences with heavy penalties. For the sake of equity, proper and even-handed defences must be allowed—I am sure that the promoter of the Bill agrees with that. Amendment No. 5 alters the defence in clause 2(2) so that it is available for all offences of interfering with a sett—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I am finding it difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman's remarks with so many conversations going on.

Mr. Colvin

I should like to raise one other point with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. So many amendments are grouped in this first group that it will be difficult for those who want to comment on them and question them to be given answers on each amendment in turn, either by me or by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor). Would it therefore be for the convenience of the House if I concluded my remarks now and spoke later on amendments Nos. 3 and 15?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

On Report, the rules of order allow hon. Members to speak once only unless they move the amendment in question.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)


Mr. Colvin

I give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hardy

My anxiety about amendments Nos. 4 and 5 arises because of the following problem. I recognise that dogs cannot read law and that, if a dog illegally chases a rabbit, it is no good reading out the statute to it. On the other hand, if this amendment is inserted in the Bill, there is a danger that the badger digger will say that he was walking lawfully in the countryside when his dog inadvertently entered a badger sett. He could use that loophole to excuse badger digging every weekend for another 20 years, while a succession of his dogs sometimes got lost down badger setts.

No one wants to persecute an innocent citizen whose little dog inadvertently enters a badger sett, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a real difference between that innocent citizen and the thugs who perpetrate an activity which I hope the hon. Gentleman deplores as much as I do? He should not try to amend the Bill so as to provide such a wide loophole that would give the villains a field day.

Mr. Colvin

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's concern is shared by myself and by the House. The whole object of the Bill is to close loopholes, but in doing that we must not make the legislation so onerous as to prevent perfectly legitimate activities. If the hon. Gentleman was listening carefully to me, he will know that the permission of the occupier or the owner of the land is necessary in cases of so-called interference with setts. The example that the hon. Gentleman offers, of an ordinary walker whose dog goes down a sett, could not work as a defence for badger diggers in a court.

For a start, if the digger had no legitimate right to be on the land, he would be trespassing, because he would be doing damage and would therefore be liable to the laws of trespass. Once the Bill, if amended as I would like A to be, is in force we—should remember that badger diggers are probably mainly townspeople who have no respect for country life—the defences and how the law stands will eventually become generally known.

The purpose of amendments Nos. 3 and 18 is to ensure that interference with setts which is not harmful to badgers does not become a criminal offence. The prosecution would have to prove that the interference was likely to cause bodily harm to a badger. The protection that the Bill gives badger setts would be unlimited, in the sense that any reckless or intentional interference, however slight. would be an offence—for instance, any disturbance to a badger when occupying a sett, however trivial, would be an offence.

The National Federation of Badger Groups has suggested that this provision could be used to prevent people from playing war games in a wood in a way that disturbed badgers, or that it could prevent the leaving of sacks in the proximity of setts. The Bill does not specify that any disturbance must be serious or harmful to badgers. While we may disapprove of playing war games or the leaving of sacks near setts, those are hardly matters that should become serious criminal offences. It is extremely worrying to learn that there are people who would be prepared to use the wide provisions of the Bill to prosecute others engaged in such harmless activities.

No harmful interference with setts occurs in farming operations or during hunting when setts are temporarily stopped or blocked or when hounds temporarily mark—which means indicating the present of a fox at an entrance. The amendments would permit such activities provided that they were not likely to harm badgers.

Although the amendments would allow the destruction of setts if no harm was likely to be caused to badgers as a result, it must be remembered that only setts showing signs of likely occupation and use are protected in any case. A person who destroyed an occupied sett would find it difficult to claim that there was no likelihood of harm to badgers.

The amendments would allow farming activities that disturbed badgers or slightly damaged setts, provided there was no likelihood of harm to badgers. The National Federation of Badger Groups has drawn attention to the impact of the Bill on non-harmful farming operations. It says of farmers who annually plough over the entrances of sett tunnels near the edges of fields neither intending nor causing harm to the badgers, which probably reopen the holes: this is known to several of our member groups who have contacted us to ask to ensure that such farmers, who are badger-friendly, are not placed at risk by the new provision. As it stands, the Bill would lead to badger-friendly farmers committing criminal offences—damaging setts and disturbing badgers. The defence provided in clause 2(2) would be of no help because, unless a farmer was unaware of the presence of the setts, he could have avoided ploughing over them. It is precisely that sort of innocent activity that should be protected. I believe that the promoter of the Bill accepts that. The amendment ensures that harmful farming operations such as the wholesale flattening of occupied setts would not be permitted. I end with the hope that other hon. Members will take part in the debate and support some of my propositions.

Sir Charles Morrison (Devizes)

I entirely concur with what my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) has just said, but I want to refer to amendment No. 16, to clause 4. It concerns the use of dogs, especially terriers, but in a different context from that dealt with by the amendments to clause 1.

Clause 4 is about the granting of licences and the type of licence that may be made available for the removal of badgers in certain circumstances. For example, they can be removed for agricultural operations, for town and country planning or for the maintenance or improvement of a water course. However, lines 47 and 48 on page 2 refer specifically to the fact that dogs may not be used, even under a licensing system, for entry into a badger sett. That appears to be a natural corollary to clause 1, but in clause 4 the lack of the ability to grant a licence allowing a dog to enter a badger sett is a disadvantage to farmers and possibly to badgers, hence my amendment No. 16.

10 am

The National Farmers Union is anxious that fox destruction societies should be able to continue to enter dogs into badger setts where authorised to do so by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I suspect that the issue of such licences would be fairly rare, but the control of foxes by organised clearances involving dogs in certain parts of the country, and especially in Wales, is very necessary.

I understand that it is quite common in Wales for small groups of perhaps three or four farmers between them to own three or four foxhounds which are used in the open countryside to raise foxes and chase them, so that they go to ground in a foxhole or badger sett. No doubt Welsh Members with more experience of that matter will speak about it. Such foxhounds are not used in any sporting sense but purely to control foxes.

Having chased the fox into the earth, or perhaps into a badger sett, it is necessary for farmers to continue to have the ability to control it. Without the authority to use dogs, specifically terriers, under licence, the objectives of such minifox hunts cannot be achieved. That is why I tabled amendment No. 16.

Secondly, before I received the representation from the NFU, it occurred to me that when a licence is granted for the removal or destruction of a badger sett, it is essential to ensure that no badger or any other animal remains in the sett. In the case of a large sett, I am not sure how one would determine that except by putting in terriers to push out the badger or other animal that may be there. As hon. Members know, some badger setts have existed for centuries and are gigantic. I hope that the House will accept amendment No. 16, or that it will be possible to vote on it separately if need be.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I support amendment No. 16 to which the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) has just spoken. In my constituency, it is clear that farmers hate badger baiters. There is no curse on the farm worse than the trespasser and no greater curse than the trespasser who is a badger baiter. I have been told about a recent incident in Montgomeryshire, in which a farmer who caught some badger baiters was petrified with fear: he would not go to the police, because the badger baiters threatened harm to himself and his family, and threatened him with firearms. Those badger baiters were not from Montgomeryshire; such people are never country people. I regret to say that they had clear Merseyside accents and had started to dig for badgers in order to pursue their vile sport when they had transported the badgers to wherever they were taking them.

Those of us who care for badgers, such as the farmers of Montgomeryshire, think that it is extremely important for a proper balance to be preserved between badgers, foxes, dogs which roam the countryside, and people. It is crucial to remember the people.

Farmers are keen to preserve and look after badger setts. I know many farmers who are proud to take me to badger setts on their farms. They must also be allowed to carry out their legitimate activities in the countryside, and the most legitimate of those activities is sheep farming. Whatever industries have been brought to my constituency, it still depends on the major industry of Wales, which is sheep farming. If there were no sheep in the hills, there would be no people there either. Farming is already in enough financial trouble for one reason or another, without creating more problems.

It is somewhat difficult to obtain accurate figures about what is happening to foxes in rural Wales. However, I suggest that the threat posed to lambs by foxes is as great as that posed by uncontrolled dogs. I have obtained figures from the huntsman of the David Davies hunt in Llandinam in mid Wales. As some hon. Members know, that hunt is extremely well respected, and Mr. David Jones, the huntsman, is given the regard that such experienced huntsmen receive in the countryside.

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carlile

I shall give way when I have concluded this point.

In the lambing season, which recently ended, Mr. Jones was called out many times. For example, he was called three times to the farm of Mr. Newey at Tynymaen, Llandinam, where 22 lambs were lost to foxes. He was called four times to the farm of Mr. Williams at Dolhafren, Caersws, where 27 lambs were lost to foxes.

He was called out twice to the farm of Mr. Higgs at Cefnllydan, Tregynon. Mr. Higgs is the chairman of the Llanidloes branch of the National Farmers Union and a moderate and highly intelligent farmer. Twenty-five lambs were lost to foxes there. He was called out four times to Mr. Trow at Llandinam hall, Llandinam, where 27 lambs were lost to foxes. Mr. Jones was called out often and took 46 foxes during the season, of which 28 were removed from badger setts. This is all clear evidence of the problem.

Mr. Jones and others like him control the problem of foxes with minimal damage to the badgers. Mr. Jones does not want to hurt badgers. Control of foxes in the way that it has been done in the countryside of Montgomeryshire for a long time is done humanely—the foxes are shot when they are caught—and with rigour and accuracy.

Mr. Colvin

What the hon. and learned Member has been saying is important, because it proves that fox hunting is a legitimate business carried out to control foxes. He has described a working hunt, as most are. They are not a collection of toffs in top hats out to enjoy themselves spoiling the countryside.

Mr. Carlile

I cannot contradict what the hon. Gentleman says, although I have never been fox hunting. I speak as someone who has no desire to go fox hunting, but I know that most of the hunting of foxes in my constituency is not done by toffs in top hats. Not many people there could afford the top hat, let alone the rest of the uniform or the horse. It is done to control foxes. It is generally done by—I hope that they will forgive me for saying so—ordinary farmers with a small number of terriers, over a restricted area.

We do the badger no service by preventing such hunts from continuing. I have to say, with much regret but realism, that there is a real danger of such fox hunting being driven underground and farmers feeling driven to disobey the law because the law does not meet their legitimate needs and aspirations. I shall now give way to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies)—I apologise for taking so long to do so.

Mr. Ron Davies

I understand the difficulty for the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I am grateful to him for giving way. I should like to understand the totality of his argument, so perhaps he could clarify an apparent inconsistency in his position. He spoke glowingly of the David Davies hunt at Llandinam. However, I understand that it is official Liberal party policy to ban fox hunting. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman's endorsement of the Llandinam hunt extend to Liberal party policy generally?

Mr. Carlile

If the hon. Gentleman had read what he ought to have read, he would know that it has always been the policy of the parliamentary Liberal party, the parliamentary alliance and the parliamentary Liberal Democrats that this is an issue of conscience. This is a private Members' day, on which hon. Members express their own views. I am expressing my view, conscientiously. The hon. Member is right to say that my party has passed a motion calling for the banning of fox hunting, but he should bear in mind the fact that my party has always recognised, and endorsed, the parliamentary party's view that this is a matter of conscience. Perhaps we can get back to the merits of the issue.

Mr. Ron Davies

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carlile

No, I will not give way again. I do not want to turn the debate into a political one. It is disgraceful to try to do so. I am trying to help to strike a balance between the needs of the farmers in my constituency, whose interests I have described, and the important needs to protect the badger. If amendment No. 16 is not carried, the Bill will be detrimental to the interests of the badger. It would be nonsense to suggest that any farmer would deliberately flout the law, but when his livelihood is under threat and his lambs are being killed by foxes, and the law has removed from him the instrument of protection, he will find it difficult to understand what else he can do.

I strongly applaud the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) for promoting the Bill. It is desirable that we should do whatever we can to protect badgers Further. However, we must do so in a way that balances the interests of the badgers, the danger from the foxes and the needs of the people who live in rural areas such as I represent. For that reason, I support amendment No. 16.

10.15 am
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

The purpose of the Bill is to correct an omission from the Badgers Act 1973 so as to give protection to the home of a badger as well as to the badger itself. The clear duty of those of us here this morning who support the Bill—I am certainly one of them—is to resist any amendment that would weaken the shape of the Bill so much that it would become ineffective, and to support responsible amendments that improve the Bill and reflect, and protect, the genuine interests of farmers where they are not in conflict with the aims of the Bill.

The amendments in this group fall into two categories. The first are those moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) and the second is that tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison). The second, spoken to so articulately by my hon. Friend, reflects the clear view of the NFU that, without such amendment, the work of the farming community would be seriously hampered and the control of foxes as a pest would be made difficult, if not impossible. For that reason alone, I hope that the House will accept amendment No. 16. I believe that it would not have a detrimental effect on the prime purpose of the Bill.

However, I cannot accept the first group of amendments, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside. These, and other amendments that we shall discuss later, would have a detrimental effect on the shape of the Bill to the point where it would become virtually worthless. That would be a great opportunity lost for the House to set right an omission from an earlier Act.

I hope that, when he responds to the debate, my hon. Friend will clarify the sentiment behind one of his amendments. The League Against Cruel Sports, in a brief sent to Members of Parliament, says—wholly incorrectly—that one of the amendments would create a criminal offence ONLY if it could be shown that the interference was 'likely to cause bodily harm' to a badger. That is not what the amendment says, and we must be clear about that and deal with fact rather than emotion.The amendment says that an offence would be created if an incident were conducted in a manner which causes harm, or would be likely to cause harm, to a badger. If I disagree with the inaccuracy in the brief from the League Against Cruel Sports, I still concur with the sentiment that it is expressing. The badger is a nocturnal animal and therefore leaves its sett to hunt at night. If the amendments were passed, the unscrupulous would be able to block a badger's sett while it was out hunting, and it would therefore be unable to return to its lawful home. Does my hon. Friend regard the deprival of the lawful home of the badger as being harmful? It seems that the amendments present us with a series of quibbles and that they are designed to create a loophole in the Bill. I should find it impossible to support any amendment that would weaken the Bill and I hope, therefore, that the House will reject the amendments that would have that effect.

Mr. Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

I shall speak to amendment No. 16 and take up the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). I accept the seriousness of the anecdotal evidence of the killing of lambs by foxes.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

The evidence is not anecdotal.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

It is. Where is the hard evidence?

Mr. O'Hara

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery presented a series of anecdotes—I accept the seriousness of his anecdotal evidence—concerning the killing of lambs by foxes. The source of that evidence could not be regarded as impartial.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that my figures are inaccurate? If he is, I challenge him to make that statement outside the House. It is my view that the figures are accurate. Irrespective of whether the hon. Gentleman agrees with the conclusions which I drew from them, it is disgraceful to suggest that there is some dishonesty behind the figures. They are the figures of the person who went and took the foxes. That man spoke to the farmers and took the dead lambs. What more accurate evidence does the hon. Gentleman expect than that?

Mr. O'Hara

I was not casting any doubt on the accuracy of the statistics, nor was I casting any aspersion on the honesty of the providers of the statistics. I was simply saying—it is a matter of fact—that the statistics were anecdotal. I wish to set against that anecdotal evidence—I accept that the statistics that the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted are serious for the individual farmers who provided them—some evidence that is more scientific.

There have been studies of the activities of foxes, including the killing of lambs, in areas such as those to which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery referred. I start with a publication that was produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It was produced, I accept, in 1979 but I have more up-to-date evidence. The MAFF survey of farmers' estimates of lamb losses in three predominantly sheep-rearing counties in mid-Wales yielded the figure of 0.5 per cent. loss to foxes. More recently, in 1985, the MAFF reference book 255(83)—"Research and Development Report on Mammal and Bird Pests'—stated: In a study carried out in an upland hill area of Powys stocked with 3,500 lambing ewes, Lamb losses were found to be unaffected by foxes present in the area. More recent MAFF studies in Northern Ireland and Scotland have produced the similar conclusion that, although lamb mortality may reach more than 20 per cent. in upland areas, most of that is due to stillbirths, malnutrition and hypothermia. All studies show that fox predation accounts for only between 0.5 and 2 per cent. of the mortality.

Mr. Hardy

The information that my hon. Friend is giving to the House is sufficiently serious and sufficiently soundly based and in sufficient conflict with the scale of the evidence quoted by the hon and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) that it may be that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that my hon. Friend is doing the House a service, and that following his comments it would probably be useful if hon. Members who are now in the Chamber and who are members of the Select Committee on Agriculture were to embark on a study to establish the facts, given the enormous discrepancy between the evidence produced by the hon. and learned Gentleman and that which has been presented by my hon. Friend. I have formed the view that the hon. and learned Gentleman may have eaten far more sheep than the foxes have done in his constituency.

Mr. O'Hara

My hon. Friend has made a most useful suggestion.

I have one more piece of scientific evidence to present. The report is very recent—October 1990—and it emanated from Aberdeen university. It suggests that the persecution and killing of foxes has no impact on either fox numbers or lamb numbers. Given the discrepancy between the evidence produced by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and that which I have put before the House, I commend the useful suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy).

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

Is the hon. Gentleman referring to the work that has been done on the Eriboll estate in Sutherland in taking up the findings of the survey that was undertaken by Aberdeen university?

Mr. O'Hara

I believe so.

Mr. Soames

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is familiar with that research in any depth. Is he aware that the Eriboll estate is a unique part of the United Kingdom in terms of its landscape and the way in which the wildlife would be distributed on it? The author of the research has made it plain that it is impossible to extrapolate from the survey that was undertaken at the Eriboll estate any further conclusions for anywhere else within the United Kingdom. It is one of the great wild areas left in the United Kingdom. The key finding of the survey—this comes as no great pleasure to any of us—is that foxes do take and kill viable lambs.

Mr. O'Hara

Whatever the merits of the evidence, it is one example of the scientific studies to which I have referred. It reinforces the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth that there is room for a close investigation of the matter to be carried out by a Committee of this place.

If there are pockets of serious predation by foxes upon lambs as described by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, I suggest that the provisions in clause 2 provide adequate means for coping with such instances as they arise. If the Welsh fox hunters are as concerned as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests to play their part in coping with the problem, the provisions for the temporary stopping of setts will provide an adequate remedy.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

Unfortunately, I was unable to remain in the Chamber for the whole of the debate on Second Reading, but I listened to the opening speeches. I take this opportunity to say that, along with all other hon. Members, I abhor the evil practices of badger digging and badger baiting.

In reading the report of the Second Reading debate, my attention focused on comments made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office. She reminded the House that the Protection of Animals Act 1911 forbids the fighting or baiting of any animal, and said that the maximum penalty for that offence has recently been increased to £5,000. She then referred to the Badgers Act 1973, which similarly provides for a maximum fine of £5,000. Thirdly, she referred to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which provides for a level 5 fine. My right hon. Friend said that the badger is an unendangered species and therefore it already enjoys unique protection in the countryside.

I understand that the purpose of the Bill is to make it easier to prosecute those evil people who engage in badger baiting. That is a most eminent purpose, and one which strongly support. However, the number of instances where it appears likely that the Bill, when enacted, will be used for successful prosecution is very small indeed. The reality of the countryside is such that the majority of farmers know what is happening on their land. I support the view of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) that farmers, who understand the countryside and love the animals with which they work and the wildlife that surrounds them, will do everything in their power to prohibit badger digging on their land.

10.30 am

My interest in the Bill is confined to agriculture. The farmers have no option but to use their land as their factories; it is where they earn their living. This is not a unique Bill, because other legislation already affects the right of a man to do what he will with his land. However, it would impose a new and serious burden on farmers in the use of their land. I tabled an amendment, which unfortunately did not attract Mr. Speaker's attention, to make it possible for farmers who, in their agricultural operations, destroyed a badger sett not to be prosecuted under the Bill. I realise that clause 2 provides that a person shall not be guilty if it happens in the process of lawful acts, but I wanted to draw attention to the legitimate rights of farmers and foresters as they go about their duties.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) said on Second Reading: Accidents happen in the countryside, particularly involving farmers and forestry staff. It is easy to drive a truck or heavy vehicle carrying trees over a sett and damage it. I should not wish such an accident to result in people being sent to court.—[Official Report, 15 February 1991; Vol. 185, c. 1159.]

I hope that the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) will mention that aspect. I do not doubt that the majority of farmers will not be too concerned, as they know the location of the badger setts. Nevertheless, there will be accidents—one was reported only the other day—and there must be some defence when such accidents occur.

I am interested in amendment No. 16, because the National Farmers Union has made a particular plea about it. I say to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, as I have said to him previously, that I have fought two general elections in his constituency, where unquestionably the sheep substantially outnumber the voters. The livelihood of many of the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituents depends on a successful lambing season. Whatever the arguments about the figures, the fact is that farmers go to considerable trouble to maintain a fox population that does not endanger newly-born lambs.

The activities of the David Davies hunt and the addresses recalled by the hon. and learned Gentleman revived memories of happy canvassing in the early 1960s. He was right to say that the David Davies hunt is a working hunt. I met many of those involved in it, although I never had any other direct contact with them.

The NFU has written a sensible letter. I hope that the House will forgive me if I quote from it at some length, because it makes my point for me. The parliamentary adviser to the NFU, Mr. Holbeche, wrote: However, as awareness of the issues raised by the Bill has grown in the countryside, it has become clear that farmers in sheep farming areas in particular are worried that as it stands the Bill could jeopardise legitimate fox control. For example, in parts of Wales and south-west England, sheep farmers report significant losses during the lambing season from predatory foxes. Accurate figures are hard to come by though it would appear that at the present time the threat from foxes is exceeded by that posed by uncontrolled dogs. Although what surveys have been done to date suggest that foxes account for a relatively small percentage of lamb losses, there is much concern that the threat is increasing on the edge of urban areas, and in parts of Wales where the Forestry Commission has cut back its pest control operations for budgetary reasons. Preventive action to control foxes would be seriously hampered by the Bill's total prohibition on the digging of foxes where they run to earth in a badger sett, including abandoned entrances to active setts which would be protected by the Bill…For these reasons we would support an amendment to the Bill to leave out lines 47 and 48 on page 2. This change to clause 4 would remove the proposed prohibition on the granting of licences permitting dogs to be entered into badger setts. The principle of licensing to allow for anything done in relation to protected wildlife that would otherwise be unlawful is well established, notably in section 16 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The letter then goes on to promote the general case.

I have a large badger sett next to the first field on the farm where I have lived for many years. There is no physical way of getting a fox out of a badger sett other than by using a terrier or other dogs. We must accept that most hill farmers think that this is a serious matter and that they must take steps to keep down the fox population, and the only way to do that is to use dogs to get the foxes out of the badger setts.

I share the view of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that amendment No. 16 would be more likely to protect badgers than not. I am concerned about the reasons why the clause is even in the Bill, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Newport, East will say something about that. I congratulate both him and the hon. Members who took a critical view of the Bill on Second Reading on the way in which they have sought to reach a sensible compromise. At one time, the issues appeared virtually irreconcilable. I am glad that common sense has prevailed, as I hope it will on this amendment.

Mr. Ron Davies

I am in some difficulty, because I want to speak against amendments Nos. 3 and 4. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), but I am not sure whether he intends to press the amendments. The hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), whose name also appears on the amendments, has listened carefully to the debate. If either hon. Member could say whether he was prepared to withdraw the amendments, that would help our deliberations.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to ask your advice. I think that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) is in fact referring to amendments Nos. 4 and 5.

Mr. Davies

No, I am referring to Nos. 3 and 4.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

There are three distinct cases to be put within this group of amendments. I had intended at a later stage to ask your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on how to split the group for voting purposes. I intend to request a vote on amendments Nos. 4 and 5. I have not yet made a decision on amendment No. 3.

Mr. Gale

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If you are to consider splitting the group of amendments for voting purposes, I hope that you will also consider separating amendments Nos. 3 and 18. Amendment No. 18 refers to bodily harm, and it makes a great deal of difference to amendment No. 3.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Obviously, much will depend on what happens to amendment No. 1 when it is put to the House. In the appropriate circumstances, I would sympathetically consider the possibility of a separate Division on amendment No. 5. If amendment No. 1 fell, it would be difficult to vote on amendment No. 4. It might be sensible if I reflect on the points that have been raised before I put the Question. That might be the most helpful course.

Mr. Davies

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Upminster for giving us some idea about his intentions. I want to speak briefly against amendment No. 4. We have had a wide debate about the problems of Welsh upland sheep farmers. I note with interest the comments by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) about Liberal Democrat policy. I am delighted to know that in that regard, it fully complies with Labour party policy. I was also struck by the intense concern that the fox-hunting lobby now shows for the interests of Welsh sheep farmers. I have no doubt that tabling the amendments is a clear attempt by the fox-hunting lobby in the House to weaken the Bill so that foxhunters can continue to enjoy their sport, as they see it, without further interference. That is the purpose of the amendments, and that is why I want to speak against amendment No. 4. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) will also oppose that amendment.

We have heard the argument about the damage done to sheep farming interests and especially to lambs as a result of predation by foxes. From my own experience, I have no doubt that a problem is caused in upland farms by the predation of foxes on sheep. However, we must get the matter in perspective. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the National Farmers Union have made it clear—and all the evidence is available—that, as a national problem, such predation is of minimal significance. However, I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that predation could be a problem locally. I know that some farmers suffer considerable losses and are understandably anxious to find out about all the methods that can be used to control foxes, in the hope that it will minimise losses of lambs.

Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will note that, on my farm in mid-Wales in the mid-1980s, I lost 34 lambs one spring, certainly because of foxes. I had a badger sett on my farm, about which I told no one. The hon. Gentleman should not underestimate the problem. Foxes kill many lambs in spring and that can cause substantial financial disbenefit to the farmers concerned. We must be careful on this issue.

Mr. Davies

I do not know when the hon. Gentleman came in. He has made precisely the point that I was making. I do not underestimate the problem, and I acknowledge that it can be a severe problem locally. I have spent more cold March and April nights than I care to recall on the mountains in my constituency at lambing time shooting foxes. I understand the problem, and I understand its severe impact on some farmers.

The question that we must ask is why some Conservative Members seek grievously to weaken a Bill to protect badger setts on the basis of a small and localised problem. It is an inappropriate response to the problems of fox predation on lambs in upland Wales to seek to weaken a Bill that should extend protection to badger setts throughout the United Kingdom.

Foxes can be controlled if they are a problem, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said, possibly by the use of hounds driving to guns. I am not satisfied that, if there are localised problems and if foxes occasionally take refuge in badger setts, it is an appropriate response for the House to weaken a measure that seeks to protect badger setts and to allow interference with badger setts.

After listening to the debate, I have come to the conclusion that there is a deliberate attempt by fox-hunting interests to weaken the Bill. Some hon. Members will use any argument. They call in aid the economic interests of sheep farmers, because they will not argue truthfully that they enjoy what they regard as a sport and that they want to continue to enjoy it without interference. They are willing to weaken legislation to protect badger setts to allow them to continue enjoying their sport. It is cynical for them to attempt to torpedo such a Bill. That approach illustrates the arrogant and selfish attitude that is represented by the Tory fox-hunting interests in the House this morning.

10.45 am
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

The last remarks of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) were—

Mr. Wiggin

They were disgraceful.

Mr. Paice

As my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) has said, they were disgraceful. The end of the speech was typical of the bombastic way in which the hon. Member for Caerphilly often assaults Conservative Members. He makes many aspersions against our characters, our habits and our motives, which are wholly without justification.

I have not hunted foxes for 25 years. At that time, I was a member of a pony club, but I hunted only once or twice. I am not a regular foxhunter, I do not go to hunts and I give no particular support to fox hunting, although I support the right of the individual to have the freedom to do what he wants. It is despicable to suggest that those of us who are genuinely concerned about aspects of the Bill have some ulterior motive connected with fox hunting. That is nonsense.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly and his hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) are both Opposition spokesmen on agricultural matters. I suspect that many farmers will look carefully at what they have said about the problem of attacks on lambs.

Mr. Morley

As an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, I have listened carefully to what the National Farmers Union and my local farmers have said about the problem of predation. We have made it clear that there can be localised problems and that they can often be dealt with efficiently and effectively by contractors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Contractors?"] Yes, by contractors. Can the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) give me one example of an independent report that demonstrates that there is a major problem of predation by foxes? Many reports do not show that. Many farmers tell me that often more disturbance is caused by hounds chasing foxes across fields than by the foxes themselves.

Mr. Paice

I am fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's use of the word "contractors". There are contractors in a range of agricultural activities. I have never heard of contractors who would get foxes out of their hiding places.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Paice

Of course. We are here to be enlightened.

Mr. Home Robertson

The hon. Gentleman has given way to a farmer who farms in an area in which we have had problems with foxes. In my part of the world, there is an excellent rabbit clearance society that employs a trapper who is by far the most efficient person to control foxes and who uses a gun. He knows where the foxes will be at any time of day, and he can kill them quickly and humanely without needing to dig them out. My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has made a serious point.

Mr. Paice

The obvious retort is that one way of controlling rabbits is to allow foxes to do it. The other problem is that trapping is one of the cruellest ways in which to control foxes. It often means a drawn-out—

Mr. Morley

They shoot the foxes.

Mr. Paice

The foxes have to be trapped before they are shot unless they are drawn to a bait. I know what I am talking about.

The most important aspect is the question of predation, to which Labour Members have referred. One can, of course, say that only 0.5 or 1 per cent. of lambs are lost through predation and that one can, therefore, disregard the problem. It is true that there are greater losses from other causes, such as nutritional problems and stillbirths. There are other reasons why lambs do not survive. All farmers are anxious to reduce lamb mortality. It is the key criterion for profitability in sheep farming. Through a range of measures, such as training courses, farmers are able to set about reducing lamb mortality. They do it by learning about and providing better nutrition and in many other ways. Labour Members have said that that is all very well, but that there is one form of predation that they should not be able to do anything about. That is unjust and unfair on those producers.

Just as some Labour Members have cast aspersions on the motives of some Conservative Members, there are others outside the House who see the Bill as a means of getting at foxhunters. That is not what the Bill should he about. I share the view of many hon. Members that badger baiting is an abhorrent sport which must be stamped out. I shall support the Bill to the end in its efforts to do that, but we should not confuse a debate about the merits and demerits of fox hunting with the Bill. If hon. Members wish to debate that, I know that many hon. Members from both sides of the House would like to participate, but the Bill should not be used as a vehicle to take a side swipe at fox hunting.

Many people hold the belief—I fear that this came through in the speech of the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara)—that nature is benign, and consists only of lambs gambolling and birds singing. The reality is different. Those of us who have lived and grown up in the countryside know that nature is extremely cruel and vicious—often more cruel and vicious than man, who has lowered himself to some pretty despicable acts.

We have to control foxes. They take lambs. Although doubts have been cast about some of the evidence and it has been suggested that some of it is anecdotal, I have witnessed that happening and I am sure that other hon. Members have done so. It is all very well to say that foxes take only sick or weak lambs. That is true if one defines a weak lamb as one that is only a few minutes old. Many lambs are taken almost immediately after they are born. If the ewe is tired after a difficult lambing and is unable to get back to her feet, that is an ideal opportunity for a fox to rush in and take a lamb. To dismiss the problem by saying that it involves only sick and weakly lambs fails to recognise reality.

None of the amendments, if accepted, would diminish the Bill's ability to deal with what it sets out to do, which is to end the despicable way in which a tiny minority seek to extract badgers from their setts to carry out their vile sport of badger baiting. It is an important Bill which should not be jeopardised or lost because some people wish to use it for ulterior motives, whatever they may be. So that we can do something about badger baiting, I hope that the House will recognise the merits of the amendments and accept them so that the Bill can become law.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

This has been an extremely good debate on the amendments that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) have tabled. It has been spoiled only by the obvious prejudice shown by the hon. Members for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) and for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley). Until then I thought that the debate had been balanced and fair, but I am afraid that it was not once the hon. Member for Caerphilly gave his views.

Among other things, it has been alleged that foxes do not do any significant damage to lambs. I am a farmer and I must advise the House that two lambs have been taken from my farm by foxes this spring.

Mr. Ron Davies

I hope that the hon. Gentleman listened carefully to my speech. I did not suggest for one moment that there was not a problem. I said that there was a limited problem nationally, but I acknowledged that the problem can be severe locally.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has clarified his remarks, but I do not acknowledge that a problem that is limited can be severe locally, and this problem is severe locally. The hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) produced statistics showing that only 0.5 per cent. of lambs were taken. That is no consolation to farmers in areas with a large sheep population of, say, several thousand sheep and where five sheep out of every thousand might be taken.

Mr. O'Hara

I reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) has said. I do not underestimate the scale of the problem either locally or nationally. I merely suggested that there should be a more scientific assessment of the problem nationally and that appropriate and not unnecessary measures should be available to deal with severe local problems.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I am glad that the problems faced by sheep farmers, both locally and nationally, in the depredation of their sheep flocks by foxes are recognised by Labour Members. That is an advance on the previous position as I understood it.

Mr. Colvin

I am sure that my hon. Friend will acknowledge that the figures produced on damage to sheep by fox hunting—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—by foxes illustrate that fox hunting with terriers is effective. If the Bill ended that perfectly legitimate activity, sheep losses would be very much higher.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

My hon. Friend is right. Despite his slip of the tongue, I do not think that even the Labour Members with the most extreme views would suggest that fox hunting damages sheep.

In opening the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside covered most of the issues comprehensively and well and I shall not repeat his arguments. The amendments can be divided into four groups—amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3; Nos. 4 and 5; No. 16; and No. 18—each of which has a different merit and argument. I shall return to that when it comes to a vote.

I shall not cover amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3 because my hon. Friends have done that extremely well. I shall examine more closely amendments Nos. 4 and 5 in the light of the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), who unfortunately is not in his place, because his views showed a deep prejudice about why the amendments had been tabled and an unfortunate misunderstanding of their consequences. I hope that all hon. Members who have open minds will accept that the amendments are not designed to weaken the protection of badgers. I and all my hon. Friends who have been involved with this Bill this year and with a similar Bill last year have sought to reach, and to a large extent succeeded in reaching, a compromise that will allow a continuation of countryside activities, especially hunting, with the substantial protection of the badger that is offered by the Bill in addition to the great protection afforded by the Badgers Act 1973.

Clause I adds the following five offences to that Act: (3) If any person shall interfere with a badger sett by doing any of the following things, that is to say,

  1. (a) damaging a badger sett or any part thereof;
  2. (b) destroying a badger sett;
  3. (c) obstructing access to or any entrance of a badger sett;
  4. (d) causing a dog to enter a badger sett; or
  5. (e) disturbing a badger when it is occupying a badger sett
intending to do any of those things or being reckless as to whether his actions will have any of those consequences, he shall be guilty of an offence. Provided that proper defences are given against the charge of having perpetrated such actions, I agree that they should be criminal offences. The question is whether adequate defences are afforded by the Act. I contend that adequate defences for innocent acts are not provided. Therefore, I have tabled amendments to deal with my concerns and those of many others, especially the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), whose speech I greatly welcomed. He underlined the danger to the Welsh hill farmer that the Bill would pose if sensible amendments were not agreed.

11 am

Amendment No. 4 would insert the following subsection: An accused shall not be permitted to rebut a presumption of guilt established under sections 1(1A) or 2(2) by evidence that he was engaged in any other activity save where he can show that he was authorised to be engaged in that activity by the occupier of the land on which the alleged offence occurred. That provides a substantial and significant safeguard. No one could argue legitimately—or even illegitimately—that that provision would weaken the existing legislation. It provides yet another layer of proof that anyone out with terriers or other dogs would have to establish to avoid prosecution. I suspect that the only reason why Opposition Members are unable to agree with that contention was summarised neatly by the hon. Member for Caerphilly when he expressed his attitude to those who hunt. He is clearly prejudiced against landowners, farmers and those who live in the countryside and carry on their sports on it. He does not want those people to be involved in the way in which these matters are progressed. He is roaring with laughter and rolling from side to side, but that is the inevitable conclusion of anyone who reads his speeches.

Mr. Gale

I am sure that my hon. Friend accepts that I am not anti-landowner. I represent many farmers. I do not share some of the sentiments of Opposition Members, but there is genuine opposition to some of the amendments simply because they would weaken the Bill.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I am glad that my hon. Friend has come back into the Chamber. I hoped that he would. I hope that, when he hears my arguments, he will accept that the amendments would not weaken the Bill and make it harder to catch and prosecute badger baiters, against whom we all feel strongly. The amendments are necessary to safeguard the legitimate and proper interests of others who are not badger baiting, but who could be wrongfully prosecuted under the legislation while carrying out more harmless pursuits unless proper safeguards are put in the Bill.

My hon. Friend did not deal with amendment No. 4, which would provide an additional safeguard. Badger baiters would be caught, even if they advanced any of the existing defences, unless they could establish that the owner or occupier of the land had given them permission to use that land. Unless my hon. Friend thinks that the owners or occupiers of land are accessories to badger baiting—which is virtually never the case—he should not feel that the amendment does anything other than include another safeguard against the badger baiting that we all wish to prevent.

The second part of amendment No. 4 provides: A person shall not be guilty of an offence under section 2(3)(e) (disturbing a badger) by reason of entering a terrier into a badger sett provided that his action would otherwise have been lawful. That is intended specifically to help the Welsh farmer, and those who hunt foxes with terriers, who face difficulties when foxes enter an earth or a sett where badgers have been. Those who live in the country know that it is not always easy to know whether a fox or a badger is present. I fear that people in perfectly legitimate pursuit of a fox will be caught by the Bill unless the amendment is included.

Mr. Morley

I have followed the hon. Gentleman's arguments carefully. He wants the Bill to be changed to allow terriers to be put down badger setts to get foxes out of them in order to destroy the foxes. Why is it that in Northern Ireland no such protection of badger setts exists, nor are they allowed to be stopped, yet fox hunters pursue their sport adequately? In Northern Ireland, sheep flocks have increased substantially without any detrimental effect on the sheep farmers. Therefore, why do we need the amendment?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I do not believe that fox control is needed in Northern Ireland to the same extent as it is in the areas to which I am referring. The primary purpose of most of the hunts in Northern Ireland is sport. The Bill covers the whole of the United Kingdom, and it would make it almost impossible to hunt in the Welsh hills unless the amendments were accepted.

Amendment No. 5 does not amend the Bill substantially. It deals with clause 2, which provides the defence against the offences in clause 1. Clause 2 states:

(1) In section 8(1A) of the Badgers Act 1973

  1. (a) after the words 'under section 1(1)' there shall be inserted 'or 2(3)'; and
  2. (b) after paragraph (b) there shall be inserted—
  3. (c) the interfering with any badger sett;'

(2) At the end of section 8 of the Badgers Act 1973 there shall be added— '(4) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under section (3) (a),(c) or (e) of this Act if he shows that his action was the incidental result of a lawful operation and could not have been reasonably avoided.'. The consequence of that defence is that those who are pursuing the activities defined in clause 1 will not be defended against actions in paragraphs (b) and (d) in that clause. The defences provided in the Bill cover those who damage and obstruct access to a badger sett and those who disturb a badger, but they do not cover those who destroy a badger sett and those who cause a dog to enter a badger sett. There is no reason to make that distinction. Although it would be unfortunate if someone, in the course of a lawful action,destroyed a badger sett and his action could not reasonably have been avoided, I cannot see why he should be brought within the scope of the Bill for that reason when, if he damaged the badger sett, he would not be. I hope that the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) will deal with that when he replies.

Where should the line be drawn? Should a distinction be made between severely damaging and destroying a badger sett by driving a tractor over it by mistake? It is a dangerous line to try to draw. In either case it is not suggested that the badger is harmed by the activity. The amendment covers the destruction of the badger sett.

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North that no one wishes to weaken the Bill. The amendment will not affect a badger baiter, who is most unlikely to want to destroy the badger sett, or to need to do so during his baiting. Catching the badger to bait is more likely to damage the sett, yet it is for damaging it that he has a possible defence under the Bill and may be able to wriggle out of it. If he destroys it, he has no such defence. That distinction is not needed to strengthen the protection of the badger.

The same applies to the action of causing a dog to enter a badger sett. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery was rightly concerned about the consequences for those who hunt with terriers in Wales. The amendment would assist them and is essential if they are to continue their activities.

Amendment No. 18 changes the wording from "harm" to "bodily harm". The reason is that "harm" is an extremely wide-ranging word. There are those who, given the slightest excuse, would take people to court in order to pursue a vendetta against them. The definition of "harm" is so wide that it is almost impossible to know what it means. That would certainly apply to the badger who was the victim of any such action. A badger baiter does bodily harm to a badger; there can be no question about that. In what way would the amendment weaken the Bill if its purpose is to protect the badger and has not spread into the wider issue of fox hunting? A number of Opposition Members have made it clear that they would welcome that, even if that is not their specific intention. The proposed amendment would not weaken the Bill's supposed purpose. I am reliably informed by the legal advice that I have taken that bodily harm includes stress-related harm. If a badger shows signs of physical distress arising from the stress caused to it, that would be included in the definition of bodily harm. I cannot see that the Bill's objective would be weakened if "bodily harm" were substituted for "harm".

Mr. Hardy

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his reference to the stress-related aspect of the matter. One of my anxieties is that the diggers in the east midlands and South Yorkshire are frequently at their busiest when cubs have just been born and the sow is lactating. Would the hon. Gentleman's amendment include harm caused to badger cubs because the sow had been removed or disturbed? The defence may be that the digger did not know that there were cubs below the ground. Would that exclusion provide the digger with an excuse under the terms of the Bill as amended? Apart from that, I am grateful for his reassurance.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

And I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I appreciate his great expertise in these matters, as I have said in previous debates. I should not like to give him a categorical assurance that that would he the case, but it is certainly my understanding that it would. Bodily harm suffered by a cub would be bodily harm suffered by a badger, as a direct consequence of the act of the badger baiter. It is most unlikely that he would get away with the kind of activity to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Gale

I referred to that point when I spoke briefly earlier in the debate. The reason I raised it and the reason I highlighted the comment made by the League Against Cruel Sports, which in the sense of clause 1 is incorrect but which in the sense of clause 5 is correct, is that my hon. Friend must answer the same question as I put to my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin): would he regard harm done to a badger that had been blocked out of its home while absent hunting at night as bodily harm? There is a considerable difference. Many of us feel strongly that the proposed amendment would create an opportunity for the unscrupulous to block up a badger sett while the badger was out hunting, thus depriving it of its sett. It is a moot point whether that would be bodily harm or harm.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I suppose that it is a moot point whether it would be harm at all if the badger managed to find another unoccupied sett close by and went into that instead. If the badger suffered any demonstrable bodily harm as a result of being shut out of the sett, that would indeed be bodily harm. If, however, it could be said that the badger was mightily upset and inconvenienced but not damaged by the action, it would not be bodily harm. We have to keep a sense of proportion. My hon. Friend understands the countryside well. Therefore, he knows that badgers are capable of occupying any hole in the ground. Near most of the main setts there are ancillary setts. That is one reason why there have been so many problems over the question of what is and what is not an occupied sett.

The answer to my hon. Friend is that, if it really harmed the badger, the badger baiter would be caught under bodily harm. If, however, my hon. Friend is talking about inconvenience and upset to the badger, the badger baiter would not be caught. I do not believe that the criminal law should be used against those who inconvenience and upset badgers. I am afraid that there would be no end to it, in terms of the inconvenience and the upsetting of budgerigars when kept in cages, as well as all the other inconveniences caused to animals by man. Therefore, I beg my hon. Friend to keep a sense of proportion. If the badger is seriously and genuinely harmed, that should be a criminal offence. The Bill, as I propose it should be amended, would cover that eventuality.

I believe that the clauses fall happily into groups. I hope to have the opportunity to vote on the amendments to clauses 4 and 5 and also on amendments Nos. 16 and 18 separately, if necessary. I hope that sufficient hon. Members who have listened to the debate are now persuaded that at least some of the amendments are acceptable, although they may not be prepared to accept all of them.

11.15 am
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

I do not believe that the interests of badgers are best served by the scoring of party points across the Floor of the House or between hon. Members on the same side of the Chamber. Moreover, I do not believe that the interests of badgers are best served by turning this debate into a debate on the future of hunting. We should be profoundly uninterested in the debate about the future of hunting today, since today's debate is about the protection, preservation and the continuation of the badger's life style. If, as is estimated, 9,000 badgers are losing their lives illegally each year, those are 9,000 reasons why we should aim at getting this measure on to the statute book as fast as is humanly possible.

Mr. Ron Davies

The hon. Gentleman may like to think that that is the case and that it is possible to proceed on the basis of consensus. However, he must recognise that amendments have been tabled by people who are directly and publicly associated with fox hunting. Those amendments would grievously weaken the Bill. The purpose of the amendments is to allow fox hunting to continue. The hon. Gentleman cannot get away from that conflict of interest.

Mr. Bowis

I entirely accept that amendments have been tabled that are designed to protect the interests of fox hunting, and that a balance must be struck between the interests of fox hunting and the interests of sheep and all those who live in the countryside. We are seeking to bring together all those broad interests when considering the protection of the badger, as the Bill seeks to do.

We went to great lengths in Committee to meet the genuine and reasonable arguments by the hunting community. Clause 3 was added in response to those demands. That is a tribute to the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), the promoter of the Bill, who was willing to seek a compromise and a balance between all the interests in the countryside to which I have referred. I have listened carefully to the arguments on amendment No. 16. I am also prepared to listen to the arguments on the amendment relating to marking. We must be careful, however, not to amend the Bill in such a way that it becomes impossible to enforce in the courts.

I intend to refer to four of the amendments, about three of which I have strong doubts; on the fourth, I am open to persuasion. I have the strongest doubts about amendment No. 2, which seeks to delete the offence of causing a dog to enter a badger sett. If that is deleted, it is deleted not only for the well-intentioned huntsman or farmer but for any immoral or evil person. The amendment is far too wide, and it would be wrong to accept it.

I hope that my hon. Friends will correct me if I am wrong, but as I understand amendment No. 4, it provides the acting-under-orders defence. I am not a lawyer, but I find the language used a little puzzling: An accused shall not be permitted to rebut a presumption of guilt". I always understood that, under British law, the presumption was innocent until proven guilty and that guilt cannot be presumed until the courts have so decided.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

My hon. Friend is wrong about the law in this instance. Under British law, there is a presumption of innocence except where statute provides that there should be a presumption of guilt, and the Badgers Act 1973 is such an Act. Therefore, there is a presumption of guilt unless innocence is established. That is why the amendment is so phrased.

Amendment No. 4 has nothing to do with acting under orders. Somebody who uses someone else's land for badger baiting and legitimate terrier hunting, and interferes with a badger sett, would have no defence unless the landowner or occupier had given permission. It would make it impossible for somebody to say that he was acting lawfully for the hunt when he was not, unless the landowner or occupier was prepared to back his story, which he would not be.

Mr. Bowis

I accept my hon. Friend's interpretation of the law, as I think that he is a lawyer. However, the amendment establishes an offence, and the Bill allows certain defences to be considered in court. I still think that it is odd that we should include in the Bill the inability to rebut guilt. Surely we all have a right to prove our innocence in court.

I am more concerned about the exemption where someone can show that they have authorisation from the occupier of land. That is simply unnecessary; either it is an offence or not. It does not matter whether it is committed by the occupier or by somebody acting on his behalf. It is no defence in law to say, "I did it only because he said I could do it, guy." If the law says, "Thou shall not do it," thou shall not do it, and it is not good enough for someone to say, "The owner gave me permission."

Mr. Colvin

I thought that, in moving the amendment, I had explained fairly fully how it would work. It is unthinkable that the owner or occupier of land would authorise somebody to dig for badgers on his land, because in doing so he would be committing an offence. In practice, badger diggers dig on land without permission and are therefore guilty of trespass, which is already an offence. That is why the amendment would not give rise to the fears that my hon. Friend expresses.

Mr. Bowis

I am simply saying that the amendment is unnecessary because, if it is a legal activity, it is a legal activity. My hon. Friend's point about trespass is different. If it is illegal, the fact that a landowner gave permission should not be a defence for the perpetrator. That is all I am seeking to suggest.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I do not follow my hon. Friend's logic. The amendment does not establish that somebody who is on land for an illegal purpose will be acting lawfully because a landowner gave permission. It makes it harder for somebody who is on land for an illegal purpose to pretend that his purpose is legal, because a landowner will say, "I never gave permission."

Mr. Bowis

No doubt we could discuss that legal argument.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) referred to amendment No. 18. The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) questioned the definition of "bodily harm", about which my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) admitted there is a difficulty. He singled out the word "harm", but equally one can question the phrase "bodily harm". I am concerned about badger cubs being blocked out of their setts. Evidence shows that they have perished during harsh weather because they lost their shelter and habitat. A court of law would not necessarily regard that as bodily harm.

My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster used the word "demonstrable". It is better to use the word "harm" than to limit it to "bodily harm", as "harm" covers a variety of causes of a badger's death.

What will result from amendment No. 16, because we are in the world of double negatives? If we accept the amendment, does it mean that the licence would permit such action, or does it mean that the licence would not not permit it? The amendment needs clarifying before we accept it.

The Bill is just about right. I am prepared to listen to hon. Members' views on amendment No. 16 and on later amendments, but we should remember that protection is available to law abiding people. I hasten to suggest that there could not be anything but a law-abiding farmer, as I am married to a farmer's daughter—all farmers are law abiding, honest and wish to protect badgers—but we must ensure that the law protects the badger from the actions of people who do not fall into that category. The Bill mentions someone being reckless as to whether his actions will have any of those consequences, he shall be guilty. There must be intent and recklessness. That is the defence that the law-abiding user of the countryside needs to protect his genuine activities.

Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)

I shall be extremely brief, but as I represent Exmoor and the Brendon hills, which are substantial sheep farming areas in the west country, I want to reinforce the points that were put so powerfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) and by the hon and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). The hon. and learned Member was a little ambiguous about the Liberal party's position on fox hunting, but I shall let that pass. His speech contrasted with those of the hon. Members for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) and for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), which reinforced a point that Conservative Members have made before in the House—that the Labour party is abdicating all interest in the countryside and the farming community and is restricting itself to its heartlands.

Farmers in my constituency, which is a substantial sheep farming area, are suffering considerable financial difficulty. They would want me to support amendment No. 16 and the other amendments as explained by my hon. Friends. The National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association have written to hon. Members.

Various hon. Members have referred to the role of predators. It is ironic that, at the other end of my constituency, on the Somerset levels, nature conservation societies are concerned about the decline in the population of wading birds. It has been suggested that badgers may be responsible for that, and, although badgers are attractive animals, they may have played a role in it.

I do not however, wish to resile from the commitment that I expressed in Committee, which the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) will remember, to see the Bill progress satisfactorily to the statute book. The National Farmers Union has made it clear that it wants the law to be tightened up on badger baiters, who are usually trespassing on farmland. Occasionally, there are reports of farmers being intimidated or physically threatened by badger baiters. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will be successful and that the hon. Member for Newport, East will listen to the powerful representations from both sides of the House, particularly from those of us with substantial sheep farming interests in England and Wales, and will concede the amendments.

11.30 am
Mr. Roy Hughes

All hon. Members have expressed their concern about the continuing ill treatment of badgers. I have spoken to many people and organisations to try to reach a consensus so that the Bill may become law and thus do much to close the loopholes in existing legislation. I have approached the matter in a spirit of reasonableness and have tried to make it clear from the outset that the Bill is not about outlawing fox hunting, and nor is it intended to interfere with farmers' legitimate interests. Yesterday the findings of a Gallup poll showed that 93 per cent. of those interviewed supported the Bill, which is pretty formidable backing.

The amendments rehash the Bill that was presented by the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), which failed to receive a Second Reading. I am sorry that those old arguments have been resurrected because I thought that they had been settled after Second Reading, and especially after the amicable Committee stage.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to mislead the House. The reason that my Bill failed to receive a Second Reading was technical: I could not ask for my Bill to be given a Second Reading once the hon. Gentleman's Bill had received one. Therefore, any implication that my Bill did not receive a Second Reading on grounds of merit is misleading.

Mr. Hughes

I accept the hon. Gentleman's explanation.

I have taken advice from all the animal welfare organisations, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the National Federation of Badger Groups and the League Against Cruel Sports. All those organisations feel that the amendments, with the exception of amendment No. 16, are dangerous and could even undermine the Badgers Act 1973. The hon. Members for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) and for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) appear to support that contention. The amendments would make interference—destruction, damage or blockage—a criminal offence only if it could be shown that the interference was likely to cause bodily harm to a badger. At night, badgers go out foraging for food. If the relevant amendment were successful, an unscrupulous developer could bulldoze a badger sett at night—there was one such incident recently in Petersfield. Alternatively, a farmer could block the entrance of a badger sett with slurry, or a hunter could block it with oil drums or rocks. Because badgers are not in their setts at night, they would be unlikely to suffer bodily harm as a result of such actions.

There is also the issue of putting a dog into a sett. The amendment seeks to take it out of the category of sett interference, making it a separate offence. At present any person accused of such an offence must prove that he was not digging for badgers. There is now a reversal of the onus of proof. The amendment will permit the use of the defence of digging for foxes if permission has been received from the owner of the land. Again, that could lead to intimidation of farmers by badger diggers. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) referred to one such incident.

Welsh hill farmers are going through a difficult period and are finding it hard to earn a living. I would be the first to defend their interests. Accurate figures on the threat to their land are hard to come by, but, from my research, it appears that the threat from foxes is exceeded by that posed by uncontrolled dogs. That is the answer to some of the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara).

The amendment would allow a terrier to enter a sett if it was claimed that the person responsible was hunting for foxes or rabbits. Such a provision is wide open to abuse. Under amendment No. 5 someone could completely destroy a badger sett or put dogs into it if he could prove that it was incidental action of a lawful operation. The Bill provides only for the defence of damage, obstruction or disturbance—for example, damage caused by a fallen tree. To extend the provision to total destruction or to allow dogs to enter opens more loopholes and would certainly be exploited by unscrupulous people. Provided that the operation was lawful, a sett would have no protection against destruction or interference.

As I want the Bill to progress to Third Reading, I shall make a considerable concession. I have discussed the matter at length with the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison), and I am prepared to accept amendment No. 16. As a result of that gesture, I hope that the other amendments will be withdrawn.

Mr. Colvin

With the permission of the House, I hope that I may respond to one or two issues raised by hon. Members during the debate, which was constructive and thoughtful, and based on considerable knowledge of the subject. As is inevitable with an emotive subject, some of the old prejudices bubbled to the surface. Why fox hunting per se should always be associated with badger digging, I do not know. The Bill might stop many perfectly lawful activities because it affects all countryside pursuits, including fox hunting and farming, and relates to landowners.

The hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) made a major concession in accepting the arguments that were expressed extremely well during the debate by my hon. Friends the Members for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) and for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson), and by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). I am pleased that the spirit of compromise and discussion that prevailed during the Bill's passage, particularly in Committee, has prevailed this morning. I hope that when I make clear what I wish to do about dividing the House on some of the amendments, the same spirit of co-operation and discussion will prevail so that the Bill can wend its way from this place to the other place, as I hope it will. There are many hurdles for the Bill yet to overcome.

The hon. Member for Newport, East referred to a Gallup poll showing that 93 per cent. of the people questioned supported the Bill. I am sure that they did not. I am sure that what they supported, as all hon. Members do, was the Bill's objective—there is a fundamental difference. If most people questioned were subjected to the detailed provisions of the Bill, many of them would express the sort of reservations voiced by hon. Members this morning. Nevertheless, I gladly accept the concession made by the hon. Member for Newport, East, and I am pleased that amendment No. 16 will, with the leave of the House, be accepted.

I support the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) about his Bill, which was well drafted and would have worked. It was only as a result of a procedural technicality, and the fact that the Bill of the hon. Member for Newport, East, which was so like the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster, had already begun its passage through the House that my hon. Friend's Bill was not allowed to proceed. It is not permitted for two almost identical Bills to proceed through the House. So my hon. Friend's Bill had to be withdrawn. Should the Bill of the hon. Member for Newport, East fail, my hon. Friend's Bill is ready to be resurrected—perhaps in the next Session. But let us hope that this Bill succeeds.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), who I am sorry to say is not in the Chamber now, spoke with some passion on amendment No. 4. He suggested that the object of that amendment was to torpedo the Bill. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are legitimate interests to defend, and if we can amend the Bill properly, we should do so.

The issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) has been adequately answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster. I shall try to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North that the object of the amendments is not to provide loopholes through which those who genuinely dig for badgers and perpetrate the crimes that we want to stop will be able to escape.

Nobody has yet mentioned that the amendments would enlist the support of country people. Any legislation is only as good as its enforcement. If people are not "on side" with the law, it is sometimes difficult to obtain their co-operation to ensure that those committing the crimes are reported to the police, the evidence is gathered and the law works in practice. If the amendments were approved en bloc, the Bill would have the wholehearted support of country people and would be much more effective. I believe that hon. Members should consider how far they are prepared to go in rejecting the amendments and possibly prejudicing and damaging the legislation's enforceability.

11.45 am

The hon. Member for Newport, East has said that he accepts amendment No. 16. I intend to divide the House on amendment No. 4. How should we proceed, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Should we take the amendments in numerical order or as a group? Will we take them one by one?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I shall seek to help the hon. Gentleman and the House. We shall follow the normal practice. We do not, except with the leave of the House, put amendments formally as a group. I shall put the Question that has already been proposed on amendment No. 1. Should amendment No. 1 be rejected, I doubt whether I can put to the House any of the amendments that come before amendment No. 5, because they would not be available for proposal. However, if the House rejects amendment No. 1, I should be prepared to consider allowing a Division on amendment No. 5, should the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) seek to press for one. I hope that I have given some guidance.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to ask the House to divide on amendment Nos. 18 and 5. I shall not seek to divide the House on amendment No. 4.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am advised that the House could divide on amendment No 18 only if amendment No. 3 were carried, which is dependent on the House approving amendment No. 1—[Interruption.] I apologise. I am advised that amendment No. 3 can be put separately, irrespective of what the House decides on amendment No. 1. Therefore, we had better wait and see what the House decides on amendment No. 1. I shall then give further guidance.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have been advised that the security doors affecting access to the building from the Norman Shaw building are locked. We have made arrangements to have them opened, but I am exercising the discretion that I understand I have to extend the period before calling for the doors to be locked.

The House having divided: Ayes 19, Noes 100.

Division No. 139] [11 48 am
Arbuthnot, James Morrison, Sir Charles
Benyon, W. Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Paice, James
Budgen, Nicholas Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Tredinnick, David
Carr, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann
Colvin, Michael
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Tellers for the Ayes:
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Mr. Nicholas Soames and Mr. Jerry Wiggin.
Howells, Geraint
Livsey, Richard
Amess, David Franks, Cecil
Aspinwall, Jack Fraser, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fry, Peter
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Gale, Roger
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Battle, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bell, Stuart Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Hampson, Dr Keith
Bowis, John Hardy, Peter
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Burns, Simon Haynes, Frank
Burt, Alistair Hinchliffe, David
Carrington, Matthew Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Cash, William Home Robertson, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cohen, Harry Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Corbett, Robin Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Corbyn, Jeremy Kirkwood, Archy
Cryer, Bob Knowles, Michael
Dicks, Terry Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dixon, Don Livingstone, Ken
Dobson, Frank Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dover, Den McKelvey, William
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Maclean, David
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Mans, Keith
Flannery, Martin Marek, Dr John
Flynn, Paul Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Meale, Alan
Fox, Sir Marcus Miscampbell, Norman
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Nellist, Dave Soley, Clive
Neubert, Sir Michael Spearing, Nigel
Norris, Steve Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
O'Hara, Edward Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Primarolo, Dawn Turner, Dennis
Rhodes James, Robert Waller, Gary
Richardson, Jo Walley, Joan
Rogers, Allan Ward, John
Rowlands, Ted Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Sedgemore, Brian Watts, John
Shaw, David (Dover) Wheeler, Sir John
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Short, Clare Winnick, David
Sims, Roger Wood, Timothy
Skeet, Sir Trevor
Skinner, Dennis Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Mr. Elliot Morley and Mr. Ron Davies.
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)

Question accordingly negatived.

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