§ Order for Second Reading read
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the promoter of the Bill, I must announce that, in view of the many right hon. and hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate, I propose to put a 10-minute limit on speeches between 11.30 and 1 pm. I hope that those who are called before and after that time will bear that limit in mind in fairness to their colleagues.
§ Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for delaying the start of the Bill, but I wish to draw your attention to a printed lobbying card supplied and printed by the League Against Cruel Sports sent to me and many other hon. Members by constituents—a copy of which I have here. I received one such card which purported to come from my constituent, Mr. D. A. Marriot of 25 Hart street, Cleethorpes. The card asked me to be present today to support the Bill. I replied by letter to Mr. Marriot, advising him that although I would be present, I would be voting against the Bill.
Mr. Marriot has written to me to say:I am somewhat puzzled as to the circular you refer to. I have no knowledge of the said Bill and no recollection of placing my name on any circular, petition or form of any kind … I believe my name has been used without my consent, something I object to very strongly. I request a full explanation.I also want an explanation. It is clear that the card purporting to come from my constituent is a forgery of his name.
It may be that other cards that I have received must also be forgeries. I think that hon. Members who have been persuaded by the number of cards they have received to support the Bill have also received forgeries. Is not it an outrageous and disgraceful abuse that the relationship between hon. Members and their constituents should be subject to such forgery and intimidation by the League Against Cruel Sports? Can something be done to get rid of such outrageous forgeries?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that all hon. Members, and even Mr. Speaker, receive many circulars, but we put less emphasis on them than on personal letters written by our constituents.
§ Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With respect, it is worth while drawing attention to the abuses that have gone on in the name of the League Against Cruel Sports. In addition to the incident mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), I have received an envelope containing 15 of those cards, all in the same handwriting, which purport to come from a number of different addresses in my constituency. Is there not some way that you, Mr. Speaker, can draw to the attention of the league, which claims, with every justification, to be a reputable organisation, what some of its organisers appear to have done?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a matter for me, but it can be raised during the debate. I am sure that the hon. Member's remarks will be noted by the league.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
On the matter just raised by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown, I make one observation. If anybody is forging other people's names in the name of the League Against Cruel Sports, of which I am proud to be a vice-president, I urge the hon. Gentleman to take the matter directly to the police. That is a proper way in which to deal with the forgeries. The hon. Gentleman has the same police force as my own—the excellent Humberside police force—and I am sure that it will pursue any complaint about our constituents' names being wrongly used.
At the outset, I thank my colleagues of all parties who have sponsored the Bill and have agreed, at considerable inconvenience, to make themselves available to vote on this important issue even though we are approaching a general election. I also apologise to the secretaries of hon. Members who do and who do not support the Bill for the amount of work that they have done in the past few weeks. One way to avoid more work in the future would be for the secretaries to persuade their Members to vote for the Bill.
I thank the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA for their continued support on this issue and for the help that they have given me and many of my hon. Friends in preparing for this important debate. I also thank the British public as a whole for their wholehearted support for the principles contained in the Bill.
I wish at the outset to explain what the Bill does not do. There is behind the measure no domino theory. Angling is not included. I have no intention whatever of interfering with anglers. J. R. Hartley can to to a second edition and Izaak Walton can rest safely in his grave; there is no need for him to toss or turn.
The Bill does not concern shooting, but in case people feel that it might, I propose in Committee to move a new clause which will read:A person shall not be guilty of an offence under section 1 if he shows that he was using an authorised firearm with the authority of the owner or occupier of the land, unless it is shown that he caused unnecessary suffering by using an inappropriate weapon which he knew was likely to cause such suffering.
§ Mr. McNamara
The hon. Gentleman will understand if I do not give way at this stage, because I am explaining what is not in the Bill. I shall be happy to give way later, when explaining what is in it.
The Bill contains provisions for licensing by authorities of necessary measures for pest control. I shall be happy once the Bill is in Committee to enter negotiations with the national conservancy bodies, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and authorities in Scotland on an approved method for dealing with particular animals and dealing with the general problem of pest control.
§ Mr. Budgen
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why he is prepared to use legislation to outlaw hunting for sport while at the time saying that he is in favour of the continuance of shooting for sport?
§ Mr. McNamara
I shall deal with that as I go through the various provisions of the measure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—and I assure the hon. Gentleman that his 1216 question will be answered. [Interruption.] I trust that hon. Members who are fortunate to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, will make their own speeches in their own way. I shall make mine in my own way.
§ Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)
I believe that the hon. Gentleman has been closely associated with a Mr. John Bryant of the League Against Cruel Sports. I know that to be so, because a letter sent to the hon. Gentleman by a member of the public was passed to Mr. Bryant for reply. That seems a somewhat questionable practice.
Apart from that, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that it is sensible that he and his Bill should be associated with someone who, writing in a book entitled "Fettered Kingdom", published in 1982, made it clear that he opposed not only hunting but shooting, fishing, eating meat, riding horses and even people keeping pets? Is it not clear—[Interruption.]
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd
Order. We are beginning the debate in the way that I intend it to continue. Interventions will be relevant, and they will be interventions and not speeches.
§ Mr. Riddick
Is it not clear from what I have said that that gentleman is a fanatic and that the Bill is simply the thin end of the wedge?
§ Mr. McNamara
If we are talking about fanatics, I refer hon. Members to the front page of The Times this morning, which shows a picture of a child of three holding a placard proclaiming, "Hunting is my future". If a child of three is to spend his time pulling foxes to pieces, using a hare as a rope for a tug of war between greyhounds and chasing pregnant hinds over cliffs, then, if people want to be associated with that, that is for them.
§ Mr. McNamara
I have yet to come to the detail of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I will give way to one more hon. Member, and that will be it. I regret that that must be the case, but I would rather be questioned about the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)
The hon. Gentleman made an accusation about fanatics chasing pregnant hinds over cliffs. I assume that he is referring to a case that received widespread press coverage a few weeks ago. Is he aware that that hind was not driven over a cliff by hounds, as was suggested by the press? It was a steep slope and when the hunt had left, the hind was perfectly safe and able to find her own way out. The only time she fell was when she was frightened by the lights of the television cameras and the RSPCA.
§ Mr. McNamara
It must have been the first case in recorded history of a hind deliberately committing suicide.
My Bill has a very simple purpose. It seeks to correct the anomaly in the law that permits people wilfully to inflict on a wild mammal an act of cruelty which would be criminal if it were inflicted on a domestic animal. That is the broad principle of the Bill.
The RSPCA has circulated details of gross cruelty inflicted on wild mammals such as foxes, deer and hedgehogs. They have involved sadistic and deliberately inflicted torture, but, regrettably, in the eyes of the law at present, they have been a perfectly legal—or innocent, in a legal sense—activity.
1217 For example, a gang of youths in Canterbury repeatedly shot a hedgehog with an air rifle, then played football with it and finally threw the animal, still alive, on to a bonfire. They admitted that the animal was still alive and screaming after their game had ended. The RSPCA attempted to prosecute, but the case failed, because the hedgehog could not be defined as a domestic or captive animal.
Another case involved friends of hon. Members who oppose the Bill. Four terrier men attached a rope to a fox which they forced into a waterpipe. They then entered a terrier which attacked the fox for five minutes. When approached by a witness, they pulled out the fox, which was screeching in pain. It ran off, dragging its injured leg behind it.
Similar abuses involving foxes, hedgehogs and squirrels have been dealt with by the RSPCA, but their efforts to prosecute have been frustrated because of the situation under the law. Parliament has failed to take the logical step of making cruelty to wild mammals a criminal offence.
The idea of providing such protection is nothing new. In 1948, the Attlee Government set up a committee to inquire into cruelty to wild animals. The committee, otherwise known as the Scott Henderson Committee, reported in 1951. The first of its 63 recommendations said:All wild animals should be brought within the provisions of the protection of animals Acts. This will make it possible for action to be taken against any person who causes or permits unnecessary suffering to a wild animal.Unfortunately, the majority of the committee was pro-hunting, including a master of foxhounds, a vet to two packs of hounds and others known to be field sports enthusiasts. There was not one animal welfare representative on that committee of inquiry. No doubt for that reason, the committee, having called for all wild animals to be protected from cruelty, went on to recommend that all field sports should be exempted from prosecution.
That is old history and out of date. Parliament has already made some progress in the matter. Otter hunting and badger digging, both of which were protected by the Scott Henderson report, are now illegal. I do not believe that any reasonable person could vote against clause 1 of my Bill. Who but a sadist could argue in favour of people having the right wilfully to inflict unnecessary suffering on an animal? Clause 1 therefore says:If, save as permitted by this Act, a person wilfully inflicts unnecessary suffering on, or cruelly ill-treats a wild mammal, he shall be guilty of an offence.Opponents of the Bill have created much mischief by talking about its effects on shooting. I have already shown how I intend to deal with that. Nevertheless, most shooting for sport involves the shooting of birds or clay pigeons, neither of which can be described as mammals, so they are not covered by the Bill. No reasonable shooter raises his gun to shoot a rabbit, a deer or any other mammal with the intention of inflicting unnecessary suffering upon that animal.
To obtain a conviction under clause 1, a court would have to accept, first, that there was proof of suffering, which would normally but not necessarily require veterinary evidence; secondly, that there was evidence that the suffering was unnecessary; and, finally, that the unnecessary suffering was wilfully inflicted. For a prosecution to succeed under clause 1, therefore, the case would need to be similar to the gruesome cases that I described earlier.
1218 I am prepared to make the necessary arrangements in Committee to deal with shooting. The Bill provides for licensing arrrangements to permit. if considered necessary, methods of taking or killing wild mammals that, without a licence, may lead to a prosecution.
Clause 2 is causing the greatest controversy. It prohibits the use of dogs to take, kill, injure, pursue or attack wild mammals. I remind the House that the wilful use of dogs to attack other domestic animals is already an offence under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and that my Bill seeks to elevate wild animals to the same status as domestic animals in respect of protection from cruelty.
According to a Gallup poll taken last November, 80 per cent. of the public oppose fox hunting. At recent press conferences arranged by the Campaign for Hunting it was suggested that the figure had been obtained by the use of a loaded question. The quesion was very loaded—it said:Do you approve or disapprove of foxhunting?Far more important, the poll showed that that public disapproval is not merely some irrelevant, hypothetical objection to hunting. Gallup also asked:Would you approve or disapprove if Parliament passed a law to ban foxhunting?The result was that 79 per cent. would approve of such a ban. The poll showed that that view is held by the vast majority of the country, regardless of their political allegiance, geographical location, sex, age or demography.
The opposition to the hunting of wild animals to death is also reflected in the votes to ban hunting by 130 local authorities, including 28 councils. The council of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) and my county council of Humberside, and the New Forest district council are among those. Those are councils of all political persuasions.
It is said that the hunting of foxes by hounds is necessary to control the fox population. However, according to a study carried out by Bristol university, fox hunting with hounds kills 12,000 to 13,000 foxes a year—a figure which was recently confirmed by the Government. The author of the Bristol university report, Dr. Stephen Harris, calculates that that represents about 2.5 per cent. of the fox population. He states:It is clear that hunts play no significant role in the control of fox populations.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
May I refer my hon. Friend to a letter that I received from a gentleman in Lincolnshire who say that the Blankney hunt'imports' its foxes from a centre which breeds foxes for hunting".That runs contrary to the vermin argument. It makes no sense to import foxes—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is illegal."] If it is illegal, clearly that needs to be dealt with.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. Some hunts deliberately create a situation in which foxes can breed so that they have foxes to hunt. It cannot be argued that fox hunting controls pests when hunts are producing those pests.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware—I do not think that he is—that, because one of the effects of clause 2 would be to ban hunting, within a month of the clause becoming law, up to 1 million horses will be put down? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, come on."] Up to 1 million horses will be slaughtered because there will be no further practical use for them.
§ Mr. McNamara
That is interesting. That is the sort of figure that comes out of the Michael Howard school of accounting. There are only 800,000 horses in this country anyway, and fewer than 10 per cent. of those are used in hunting. In any event, there is no reason why people should not drive horses.
That is the last intervention that I intend to allow, because I have timed my speech to take 25 minutes, and it is now 5 minutes to 10.
It is well established that the density of fox populations is governed by the availability of food in a defended territory, as with all animals at the top of their food chain that do not suffer from natural predation. The fact that an animal does not have any natural predators does not mean that man has to cull its numbers. Badgers have no natural predators, yet the House has spent many long days providing for their total protection—not only from cruelty but from interference.
Overseas studies in rabies control programmes demonstrate that, to reduce a fox population, a cull of about 70 per cent. would be necessary to overcome the effects of the rapid migration of other foxes into the vacant territories and increased reproduction among the survivors.
Fox hunting with hounds is not fox control and was never designed to be. It was designed as a human entertainment and that is what it remains—a sport which not only kills foxes, but results in pet cats and dogs being killed by hounds, livestock being stampeded and killed, crops being damaged, fences and hedges damaged, and road and rail users being endangered.
Fox hunting is a contrived sport. To ensure a long gallop for the riders and followers, the hunt employs people to go out into the countryside the night before a hunt to block up fox earths, drains and badger setts, to deny the fox a refuge from the hounds. Many hon. Members will recall our debates last year to overcome the problems caused to badgers due to fox hunters blocking setts with sacks of rubble, oil drums and other immovable objects.
On the day of the hunt, when the hounds find a fox, it runs from blocked hole to blocked hole in an attempt to utilise its natural defence mechanism of hiding underground from danger. The hounds, of course, are bred for stamina rather than speed. The fox is a sprinter and is eventually beaten by the hounds' superior stamina. Finally, the fox is caught and bitten to death by the hounds. If the fox does find an underground refuge which the hunt's earth-stoppers have missed, terriers are usually sent in to either bolt the fox to suffer further hunting or engage it in battle until it can be dug out and killed, or released for further torment. We saw recently how the Quorn behaves.
The underground battles between fox and terrier can go on for hours, with both combatants suffering terrible injuries. Sometimes the dogs are lost for days or even permanently. That brings me to another form of fox hunting which my Bill will abolish.
While terrier work is a part of every hunt, separate gangs of men also go out for the gruesome sport of digging out foxes with the aid of terriers. Not for those people the pageantry of hunting with hounds. They have no interest in horses, the so-called thrill of the chase and watching hounds at work. Their fun comes from witnessing the life-and-death struggle of fox and terrier. A fox can often put up a stout defence against a single terrier, but 1220 eventually it is overcome by sheer weight of numbers or a blow from a spade. Many of those terrier men move on to badger digging.
Every person ever convicted of badger-digging has been a self-confessed foxhunting terrier man. Therefore, the ending of terrier work will not only protect foxes from cruelty but serve to prevent the suffering of badgers and terriers.
The fox remains the main sufferer at the hands of those who enjoy setting dogs on to wild animals, not for pest control but for the chase or the kill. There is no real evidence to suggest that foxes in general are a problem for farmers. In fact, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food describes fox predation as insignificant.
Some farmers may dispute that, but I suggest that, even if there were evidence that the fox was a significant pest, the use of dogs would still be intolerable and inefficient because of the terror, suffering and pain that it inflicts. My Bill does not prohibit the killing of foxes; it seeks to outlaw the infliction of unnecessary suffering. Cage traps and shooting are available. If for some reason it is not possible to deal with a problem using such methods, anyone with a genuine need to kill foxes, hares or any other mammal will have the facility to seek a licence to use methods which otherwise might be unlawful.
The disgusting sport of hare coursing, which even its proponents do not claim is a method of pest control, will be banned under my Bill, as will the hunting of deer with dogs. The use of dogs against deer is already unlawful in Scotland—the main stronghold of red deer—where shooting with a rifle is the general rule. The killing of deer in England and Wales for necessary culling is carried out mostly with the rifle. My Bill will stop only the barbarism of those few people who insist on chasing a deer with hounds for hours, until the terrified animal is too exhausted to continue to provide a chase for the riders. At the end of the chase, the deer should be shot, but eye witnesses and overwhelming photographic evidence— including videos—show that sometimes the hounds savage the deer before a gunman can catch up.
The removal of that savagery is long overdue. The incident last month when the Quantock stag hounds chased a pregnant hind to its death over a quarry cliff has severed only to illustrate that such cruelty can no longer be permitted in a civilised society.
My Bill provides sensible exemptions. A farmer whose dog chases rabbits or rodents will be exempt from prosecution. The weight ratio of a dog to a rabbit or rodent usually ensures that in the event of the dog's catching such animals, they are quickly dispatched, whereas larger mammals are likely to suffer significantly. Indeed, the use of ferrets and other similar creatures for rabbiting will also be permitted. Bill Owen may rest content.
Using dogs to track animals which are wounded or suffering from disease will also be permitted and I shall favour a later amendment that will permit dogs on leashes to track wild animals that are known to have caused damage to livestock or may have escaped from a zoo or circus. Using dogs in such a way will enable full advantage to be taken of the dog's scenting abilities, without allowing it full rein to attack and injure or kill.
Clause 3 outlaws the use of snares—except, of course, under special licence. Those wicked devices are designed to throttle an animal and hold it until the trapper—within 24 hours, it is to be hoped—returns to kill the animal. It is an 1221 offence of cruelty to set a snare for a domestic animal. If it is cruel to snare a cat or dog, it must be cruel to snare a fox. In 1981, we abolished the self-locking snare because it is a vicious instrument which inflicts injuries and death.
It was the hunting lobby which thwarted our attempts to outlaw all snares, including the free-running snare. To be caught by any form of snare must be a terrifying experience for any free-living wild animal. To be held by the neck or body for up to twenty four hours—or longer, if the trapper cannot be bothered to check—must inflict great pain as the animal writhes and struggles to free itself. What is more, snares are unselective. The RSPCA reports that many domestic animals and livestock, as well as protected animals such as badgers, are caught in snares set for foxes and rabbits. That, then, is the purpose of my Bill —to outlaw forms of cruelty which, if inflicted on domestic animals, would be a criminal offence for which the perpetrators could be fined or even eventually sent to prison.
One could argue that only clause 1 is necessary to establish the principle of legal protection for wild mammals. However, the Protection of Animals Act 1911 recognises that, as well as general protection, Parliament has the right to specify individual acts that it considers to be unnacceptable cruelty. For instance, under the 1911 Act, which applied only to domestic animals, beating, kicking, overriding, baiting and poisoning are all specific offences, as well as the general provision prohibiting the infliction of unnecessary suffering.
One of the arguments put up by the hunting fraternity is that if hunting is banned, all hounds and horses will have to be destroyed and people will be thrown out of work. The Campaign for Hunting claims that 16,000 jobs will be lost—although recent newspaper reports of rallies have increased that estimate to 30,000. It is interesting that in 1983 the pro-hunting umbrella group the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports, published a report produced by independent resource consultants. The report stated that only 750 people were employed in hunting and that even when ancilliary trades were taken into account, only the equivalent of 2,300 full-time jobs depended on hunting. During the past decade—we are in a period of recession, with 2.5 million people unemployed—employment associated with hunts has been the only area of employment expansion. Perhaps I should be grateful for that.
Richard Matson, a former master of hounds and chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, wrote an article in "Horse and Hound" on 19 December, in which he stated that less than 7 per cent. of the nation's 600,000 horses are used in hunting. He said that most of those would find other occupations if hunting was banned.
However, there is nothing in the Bill that makes even one hound, one horse or one huntsman redundant. There is nothing to prevent those who hunt with hounds from switching to drag hunting, as already practised by about a dozen packs in Britain and by many more overseas. Drag hunting involves the laying of an artificial trail for the hounds and riders to follow. The hunt can be made as fast or as slow as the riders wish and it avoids many of the appalling incidents where hounds have followed their desperate quarry over roads and railway lines and through growing crops, terrifying livestock, raiding gardens and killing pets.
If the hunters wish to preserve their traditions, their hounds and their horses, drag hunting is available. We are 1222 told by the Campaign for Hunting that farmers would not tolerate hunts if they were not killing foxes. In fact, some of the existing drag hunts are run by farmers—including the Mid-Surrey Farmers Drag Hounds, and the Farmers Bloodhounds, which operate in the midlands. Of course, foxes are not a threat to dairy and arable farmers, who constitute the vast majority.
Even if one believes the unsubstantiated argument that foxes are a continual serious threat to lambs, the last thing that a sheep farmer wants is a pack of hounds tearing around among his ewes and lambs at lambing time. That, no doubt is why the magazine Big Farm Weekly—"Big" as in large, not "Pig" as in porker—reported last year in its survey of farmers' hobbies and recreations, that hunting was 33rd in popularity, well behind that well-known country sport of snooker.
Some hunters have declared that if the hunting of animals is banned they will not switch to drag hunting, which they say does not provide the same thrill as chasing an unpredictable wild animal and being present at the kill. That is up to them. If they would rather put their hounds to death and put the staff out of work than accept an alternative which would allow them to retain all the aspects of hunting except the kill, any job losses will be self-inflicted.
In common with the vast majority of people today, I believe that human entertainment is not a sufficient justification for hounding an animal to exhaustion and death. Public opinion and pure logic demand that there is no longer any reason why the House should delay implementing the first recommendation of the Scott Henderson committee of 40 years ago and introduce legislation to outlaw the wilful infliction of unnecessary suffering on our persecuted mammals. Animals are there for the use of man, not the abuse of man.
§ 10.8 am
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I first spoke in the House almost exactly 32 years ago. A Bill on wildlife may provide an adequate opportunity for my swan song. I do not hunt. I never liked riding horses. When I was first asked to mount a pony I was told that after I had fallen off four times I would be a skilled horseman and that I had to persevere until then. I managed to fall off four times in the first hour and I have not been back on a horse since.
Although I do not hunt, I defend the right of others to do as they wish for their sports and pastimes, subject to its being not without the public interest. We must look at the Bill in the light of what is in the public interest. Clearly, it is not the protection of human beings. We allow people to hunt, although it is a dangerous sport. We allow people to engage in motor cycle racing, hang gliding and many other dangerous sports. Therefore, the Bill does not seek to protect the human race; nor does it seek to look after the interests of neighbours, because it is in the public interest that what people do should not be offensive to others or to their neighbours and should not damage their interests.
There is no way in which a hunt can cross land unless it is allowed to, and no one who does not want to hunt has to do so. In no sense is hunting damaging to the interests of those who do not do it. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) was quite clear that his case was based on cruelty to animals.
1223 I spent my entire childhood in the countryside and I remember once coming round a corner and hearing the most appalling screaming. It chilled me to listen to that suffering of a rabbit. When I got up to it, a stoat was dancing round it in circles. It was enjoying the agony of the rabbit and several minutes passed before it jumped on the rabbit's back and bit its neck to kill it. On another occasion, I watched a curlew's nest with the intention of ringing the chicks when they hatched. I knew which morning they were likely to hatch and I went there. As I approached the nest, I heard the most appalling, pitiful screaming of the curlew parents. There were no chicks or eggs in the nest, but a big fox jumped down and ran away. In terms of cruelty to animals, those are two of the many examples of what happens in the wild in nature's own way.
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)
I am listening carefully to my right hon. Friend. I cannot understand how he equates natural life and existence in the countryside, where animals are under pressure and where there is cruelty, with human cruelty against defenceless animals.
§ Mr. Ridley
That is exactly the point to which I am coming. I have first established that we are seeking to abolish not the cruelty of animals but cruelty by mankind. [Interruption.]
Let us look at what man does to animals. I do not know why we tolerate the poisoning of rats, which are among the most intelligent of mammals and suffer most if poisoned or gassed. Clauses 5, 6 and 8 allow, with a licence or under exceptions, the very practices that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North says are cruel. If they are cruel in absolute terms, there should be no exemptions or exceptions or licences to permit practices that the Bill seeks to outlaw. It is not right for the Bill gaily to make exceptions for other forms of sporting activity which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has gone to some lengths to assure us do not apply in the Bill. I accept that.
At the last election the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) proposed on behalf of the Labour party a ban on fox hunting if Labour won the election. It was discovered that that would not be popular in the Lake district where one or two Labour seats were at risk, and the hon. Gentleman made an exception for hunting in national parks. In the hon. Gentleman's terms, one could be cruel in a national park but not outside it. As my constituency is only an area of outstanding natural beauty and not a national park, I felt that we were severely disadvantaged by that selective approach.
The Bill is about man enjoying killing animals, hunting with dogs, coursing and ferreting—what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North called "human entertainment". It is not cruelty of animals or cruelty by man to animals but human entertainment that the hon. Gentleman seeks to ban.
The Bill recognises the need to control foxes. The hon. Gentleman repeated that when he said that it was perfectly all right to shoot a fox with the appropriate weapon. There is no question but that he would like to see the number of predators, the foxes, kept at a reasonable level, and there are only four methods by which that can be achieved. Foxes can be shot, hunted to death, trapped or poisoned 1224 or gassed. In my subjective judgment, the least cruel of those methods is to hunt foxes and the most cruel is to shoot and wound but not kill them.
§ Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West)
My right hon. Friend speaks about the shooting of foxes. Does he agree that, sadly, many shooters are very poor shots and may badly injure a fox so that it creeps away to the bushes and dies an agonising death that is far worse than anything envisaged in hunting?
§ Mr. Ridley
My hon. Friend can speak for himself about his prowess as a shot. I plead guilty to not being at all certain that I could guarantee to kill a fox. As I say, shooting is probably the most cruel way of seeking to control the fox population.
§ Mr. Stern
I am inclined to support many of the Bill's aims, but I find the matter about which my right hon. Friend speaks most difficult. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) was very unclear on the point. The logical way to dispose of foxes, if hunting is not permitted, is by shooting. The last thing that my urban constituents want is an increase in the number of gun licences issued to ordinary members of the public, and that would be an inevitable result of the Bill.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to respond to one intervention before allowing another.
§ Mr. Ridley
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern). It is undesirable to pay such a price for killing in another way the foxes that are now killed by hunting. If I have a complaint against hunting, it is that it does not kill enough foxes.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? It is not legal to gas or poison foxes. He said that the Bill was about ending entertainment, and I suppose that it is for those who think that hunting foxes and deer and ripping hares to pieces is entertainment. It seems a peculiar form of entertainment, but, of course, it was entertainment to engage in bear baiting, cock fighting and dog fighting. They were banned. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would suggest that they were entertainments which should not have been banned.
§ Mr. Ridley
I merely canvassed the four possible ways in which to destroy foxes. As the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that gassing and poisoning are out, we are left with shooting, hunting and trapping.
§ Mr. Ridley
I will not give way because I want to be quick. It is probably right to say that of the three remaining methods, hunting is the least cruel. I do not know how the Bill squares with that. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West said that the Bill concerned "entertainment".
§ Mr. Ridley
I quoted the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, who said that hunting was "human 1225 entertainment". If the motive of those who want to stop hunting is to do nothing other than to prevent a form of human entertainment, what sort of slippery slope is that? I know many forms of human entertainment of which I personally do not approve and in which I should not like to take part. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us."] I will tell the House. I do not like boxing or football crowds. I can think of many entertainments that are not attractive to other people, but I defend to the utmost the right of people to engage in those sports. Although I have an antipathy to some forms of human entertainment, I should never for a moment want to prevent others from enjoying them. The intrusion of people such as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North into other people's lives to an extent that is far greater than is necessary for the public interest is one of the worst features of the modern Labour party and of those who support the Bill.
A certain understanding, patience and tolerance are necessary if the life and freedom that we have cherished in this country for so long are not to be taken away by those who wish to impose their prejudices on others.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
If that is the last speech made in the House by the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), I can say only that it was a very appropriate one. Having advocated jungle economics for the past 31 years in the House, he now disposes of the matter by revealing his belief that cruelty to animals is a proper form of entertainment.
I have been here for 41 years and I have never had more letters on a subject than the number that I have received on animal rights. Although Conservative Members may find one or two postcards that did not come from their constituencies, I am sure that they will confirm that there is enormous support for the Bill. That support does not come from those who wish to prevent farmers from enjoying themselves. The support comes from people young and old—it is not confined to the young, although it is very strong among them—who believe that cruelty to entertain is wrong, and I share that view.
I remember a woman in her 50s with a bun and horn-rimmed spectacles coming to my surgery many years ago. She had worked all her life in a wool shop until her uncle left her some money. She told me that she had joined the hunt saboteurs. She had reflected when she had a little bit of freedom that her real wish was to stop the brutality against animals in the hunt. As a vegetarian and someone who has always supported animal rights, I feel that we have a duty in a representative assembly to reflect properly the feeling that exists.
If I had any doubts about the matter, the interventions by Conservative Members would resolve them. When the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) said that a million horses would be put down, that was a case for crime to avoid redundancy in the police force. If crime were abolished, the police would become redundant, so the House should endorse the continuation of crime—I have never heard such an absurd argument in my life and it carries no weight.
The House would be very unwise to disregard the pressure that lies behind the Bill because it is part of a wider and growing concern that the human race has a duty 1226 to protect the planet and the other species that live on it. Whether one goes back to the book of Genesis where it describes the creation of the earth and howGod saw that it was good",whether one looks to the Levellers of the 17th century who said that the earth wasa Common Treasury, to preserve Beasts, Birds, Fishes, and Manor whether one goes to the modern statements, one discovers that young people realise that the human race cannot survive unless it is concerned about the rain forest, whales, elephants, badgers, foxes and everything else. I strongly share that feeling.
I have read, as others may have done, a marvellous book written 40 years ago by a man called E. S. Turner which is entitled "Roads to Ruin". He went through all the reforms that had been advocated in the House and listed the arguments against them. A book was issued in favour of torture and was dedicated by permission to the Chief of the General Staff. Some argued for hanging, drawing and quartering. Some argued for chimney boys to prevent fires in stately homes. Samuel Plimsoll, who advocated a safety line to protect seamen, was described in the shipping gazette as a terrorist.
The history of reform is simple. First, an argument for reform is brought forward, as in the Bill, and it is ignored. It is then denounced as mad and, after a pause, it is dangerous. There is then another pause after which one cannot find anyone who does not claim to have thought of it in the first place. When the Bill is on the statute book—as it will be before the end of the century, if not before the general election—people will look back and read the speech by the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury and the other speeches made by those who favour hunting. They will not be able to persuade their children that such arguments were put forward by civilised men and women. They will be right not to do so.
§ Dame Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)
It will not surprise hon. Members to know that, as a long-standing member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and of its council, I support the Bill and am a sponsor of it. I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull. North (Mr. McNamara) on the breadth of his speech.
I will deal with one or two general points of principle before I consider the Bill in more detail. One argument produced this morning is that, as we cannot prevent cruelty or suffering within the natural animal kingdom to some extent, we ourselves should not intervene to prevent cruelty by man against animals. I take the view that, although we may not be able to deal with all those things, there is a duty on us to ensure that there is no unnecessary cruelty or suffering. The word "unecessary" is very important. There may be occasions on which suffering is necessary in the greater good, but we should do our utmost to limit it as far as possible.
It shocks me that, although there is the Protection of Animals Act 1911 for England, and similar legislation a year later for Scotland, which protect domestic or captive animals, there is no general body of law that does the same for wild animals. That loophole should long since have been dealt with and I am grateful that we have a Bill that 1227 goes some way towards dealing with that, although hon. Members will recognise that the Bill applies only to mammals.
I turn now to the issue of the hunting of animals with hounds and coursing. We hear lurid stories about the death of the animals, although those who hunt insist that the death is instantaneous and reasonably painless. I suggest that the real cruelty comes from the exhaustion of the chase and from the extreme stress that that places on the animal concerned It is known that there is a condition that can caused deer, for example, to die from shock even if they are not caught. We have no right to inflict that sort of suffering.
I am not interested in the entertainment issue. I am concerned only with the plight of the animals. If it is awful to hunt and to course, it is extremely cruel to snare animals. We know that under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 certain types of snare are forbidden, and I believe that all snares should be forbidden. In this regard I would part slightly from the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North. I would not allow any exemptions to snaring such as are permitted in his Bill under licensing laws. That, however, is a matter which will be properly resolved in Committee. It is in a sense a minor point of difference but I want to set it on the record.
§ Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)
Would my hon. Friend say that her principles, which she obviously holds sincerely, apply equally to shooting and fishing?
§ Dame Janet Fookes
Although my hon. Friend's question does not apply to the Bill, it is a fair one to ask. I believe that there is what I would call a scale of cruelty. It is—[Interruption.] Some people may laugh, but there are some forms of cruelty that are much worse than others. I would place hunting, snaring or torture of an animal much higher on the scale than shooting. As for my personal views, I would not seek to place on the statute book any legislation that dealt with either shooting or fishing, but one would certainly expect there to be a code of good practice for those who engage in those activities. Those are my views on the subject.
I hope that I am realistic. I believe that there is general agreement on matters such as hunting, snaring and coursing, but I recognise that different views are held on the shooting of animals.
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
My hon. Friend has introduced an interesting element into the debate by referring to a scale of cruelty to wildlife. I appreciate that a deer or even a fox might be under considerable stress during a chase, but would not those same considerations apply to a salmon or a trout that is fighting desperately to avoid being caught by a fisherman?
§ Dame Janet Fookes
I shall not go down that road, which is a diversion. It does not come within the contents of the Bill. I sought to help my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) by describing my general views, but we are debating a Bill on which we shall have to make up our minds at the end of the debate. I do not wish 1228 to be sidetracked. There is sufficient in the Bill to occupy us and to give us reason to fight for what is set out within it. Nothing else should intervene.
It is becoming increasingly clear that it is suggested that hunting foxes is a form of pest control. That argument has already been dealt with effectively. During a year, about 12,500 foxes out of a population of 250,000 to 500,000 are killed in hunts. That cannot be regarded as efficient. Lest anyone dispute the figures, they are not mine; they were given by a Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
I believe that hunting is extraordinarily inefficient as well as cruel. If it is necessary to deal with foxes, my preference would be for shooting in controlled circumstances, and I shall explain what I mean. I believe that such shooting should in the hands of those who are skilled and that they should use a proper weapon. I know that there is the question of licences, but shooting with a rifle by a skilled and responsible person is the most effective practice. It is possible to put out bait for a fox so that it will come to the person with a rifle. That offers a very good chance of getting a clean kill. There is one other method, about which I read with interest. It was described in an article that appeared in the Shooting Times and Country Magazine, I think. It was written by a gamekeeper, who suggested that it was better to "lamp" foxes. At night they can be made still by a powerful glare of light and then shot humanely, if it is necessary so to do.
There is considerable evidence—not produced by animal welfare groups or extremists—from scientists of repute that suggests that much of the ill fame of the fox is extremely nebulous. In many instances, when it is believed that foxes have taken a live lamb, it transpires that they have taken a dead or dying lamb. I am not suggesting that that is always the case, but considerable evidence suggests that most is carrion rather than live. Where there is the problem of a rogue fox or foxes, I believe that it is proper to shoot it or them in the way that I described.
There are other small wild mammals that have been treated cruelly. I shall not rehearse the examples that have been given, because I am aware of the pressure of time. It seems appalling that no organisation such as the inspectorate of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the police is able to bring a case against somebody who tortures an animal for no reason other than to get some sadistic pleasure from doing so. Such a person cannot be caught by the law. We must close that atrocious loophole.
I am aware that some of the opposition to the Bill is based less on what it contains than on the belief that it is the thin end of the wedge. I heard that expression used earlier. I do not believe that it is the thin end of the wedge. If the Bill is enacted, I believe that we shall do a great deal to end cruelty to animals and unnecessary suffering, and I stress the word "unnecessary".
I hope that there will be good support for the Bill and that it will at least move into Committee, which will show the House and the public that these matters can no longer be left on one side but must be tackled quickly.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
Like many people outside the House, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, (Mr. 1229 McNamara) for taking the opportunity, which comes rarely to any of us, to propose such an important piece of legislation. I am also grateful that he had the wisdom to ensure that people outside saw that the Bill had cross-party support and that he asked me to be a sponsor. I am very happy to be a sponsor of the Bill. For the record, the Bill has support from Members of four parties in the House representing many parts of Great Britain. It is an indisputable fact that it has also been shown to have overwhelming support among the public according to all records of British public opinion.
The point made by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) in his point of order deserves to be dealt with quickly. There may be one or two people who have acted improperly in lobbying for or against the Bill. I know not. But I can tell the House that even in areas such as mine, where one might think that such issues do not exercise the minds of people as strongly as they do in the rural communities of Great Britain, subjects such as fox hunting are more important issues. I have checked on the electoral register everyone who has written to me. The overwhelming majority of a considerable correspondence in cards and letters from my constituents expresses support for the Bill. Only three letters from my constituents, which I have recorded specifically, expressed opposition to it. They represented a total of 14 people, 13 of whom opposed the Bill because they misunderstood its application to shooting. That left one constituent who opposed the Bill because he thought that the hunting of foxes with hounds was acceptable and that the Bill threatened things which he regarded as important.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
The hon. Gentleman is right to stress the all-party support for the Bill. Will all his colleagues in his party vote in the same Lobby as him when it comes to a vote?
§ Mr. Hughes
I suppose that it says something about the sequence in which I intended to make my points that the hon. Gentleman's point was the next one with which I intended to deal. My view is clear: I support the Bill and will vote for it. Like the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes), I hope that the Bill goes into Committee and proceeds as far as possible. We all recognise that it may not complete its stages because of the imminence of the general election. However, giving the Bill a Second Reading today will give a clear signal to the country. I shall come to the point about my colleagues in a moment.
One reason why I support the Bill is that, although I represent an urban seat, I was brought up in the country and, after watching a hunt, I asked myself whether hunting was appropriate. When I was a teenager, the hunt met a mile from my home in south Wales on Boxing day and other days of the year. It had a superficial attraction. The hunt was entertainment and a spectacle. But one had to ask what were the implications of what was happening. It was from that time on that I formed a clear view that hunting was not an appropriate activity for civilised human beings.
When I became a barrister, I prosecuted for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and was happy to do so. Coincidentally, I am now the Member of Parliament for the League Against Cruel Sports and I am very happy to be the Member for the constituency in which the league's headquarters is based.
1230 The Liberal Democrats have a party view that is opposed to hunting. That has been made clear at two conferences since the Liberal Democrats were formed by the merger of the Liberal party and the Social Democratic party in 1988—one in March 1989 and the other last September. The party policy was remitted to an animal protection working group which is currently working on further detail. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has beaten us to it. I went to the last seminar of that working group. It will produce a full policy paper which will go into more detail on animal protection issues than our present policy. Unfortunately, that will not now be before the election. [Laughter.] I am being straightforward. We have a policy and I have said what it is. I have made it clear. However, further work will be done.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) asked how my colleagues would vote. Our position is the same as that of the Labour party and, as I understand it, that of the Conservative party—there is no party line on the way in which Liberal Democrat Members should vote on the Bill. My party has a free vote in every vote in the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] No. All my hon. Friends will confirm that. Although there is a procedure for establishing a party line—[Laughter.]—every vote is a free vote. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may ask any of my colleagues. For us, every vote is a free vote. But, of course, on some issues there is a party line [Laughter.] It is an important point about the conscience of Members of Parliament which hon. Members might understand if they looked into political history. I should have thought that they understood anyway. The answer to the question of the hon. Member for Erdington is that for Liberal Democrats today there will be a free vote. If we introduced legislation, as I would wish us to do, there would be also a free vote on that. I understand that that is what the Conservative party and the Prime Minister have conceded should happen today and that the Labour party is also committed to a free vote.
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden
The hon. Gentleman has told the House something of great importance and use to us—that every vote is a free vote in his party. Does he accept that, in the previous Session, on more than 70 per cent. of occasions his party voted with the Labour party? Therefore, there will be no difference between voting Labour and voting Liberal in the next election.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. This is very interesting, but it does not help us to make progress on the Bill.
§ Mr. Hughes
If I were allowed, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would more fully answer that point. For now, I simply observe that Opposition parties normally vote against any Government more often than not.
§ Mr. Hughes
No. Let me get on.
I should add for the record that the most substantive legislation on preventing cruelty to animals—the Protection of Animals Act 1911—was enacted by a Liberal Government. The only reason why that Act did not contain the full panoply of powers to protect wild animals was that this issue was also controversial at that time. There was opposition to the Bill within our party as well 1231 as in other parties, so wild animals were not included. That Act is part of the Liberal party's record of which we are justly proud.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made the substantive and key principled point—that human beings have a duty the world over to be responsible towards and to look after those creatures that have no votes and are not human beings. That is why in Parliament we are rightly exercised about creatures abroad such as whales and the African elephant or, at home, badgers and otters. That is why increasingly over the years we have legislated to protect various creatures in Britain. The hon. Member for Drake made the valid point that we have generally failed to protect creatures in Britain, other than domestic animals, from cruelty in many forms because they were not included in the 1911 Act.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman raises another equally valid point. If there were general legislation against cruelty, many forms of cruelty such as inhumane conditions during the transmit of animals and factory farming would rightly also be outlawed.
The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) made a poor point about the principle behind the Bill. The principle governing cruelty to wild mammals is different from that relating to boxing and attending football matches. Human beings rightly have the choice whether to box or hunt. But in hunting the other party—the fox—has no choice. That is the fundamental difference between hunting and boxing and other forms of sport or entertainment that involve only human beings.
The fundamental issue is cruelty against other creatures in our animal kingdom. It is the right to have a debate about what activities should or should not be permitted. Of course, we could have a debate about whether shooting or fishing should be acceptable. However, two fundamental points made this a different debate. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) made one of those obvious points from a sedentary position. One factor which makes shooting and fishing for most purposes a different issue is that we often shoot and fish to eat; we do not hunt foxes to eat. The second factor is that the balance of the arguments on cruelty and conservation is substantially different in each of these activities.
Let me make it abundantly clear for example, that I believe that, in certain circumstances, it is perfectly appropriate to shoot to conserve stock or to protect other creatures. The arguments for that are valid. I have met representatives of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and have been out with them, and I understand the issues. There are different arguments which justify fishing.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
The hon. Gentleman has just said that we do not kill foxes to eat. We do, however, kill foxes to enable people to eat. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to an incident that occurred a couple of weeks ago in Ratby in my constituency, where an entire chicken coop was wiped out by a fox. In Leicestershire, the natural recourse is to turn to the fox hunt, which has always controlled foxes.
§ Mr. Hughes
That is a perfectly proper argument, but one has to decide the best way of dealing with the minority of foxes and other animals which are predators and destroy chickens and other animals which may also be potential food. I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at the statistics, which show overwhelmingly that, for all sorts of obvious practical reasons—not least that one cannot ride a horse to hounds and hounds through a chicken farm—hunting is not the best way to deal with foxes. If something needs to be done—the Bill accepts that principle—controlled shooting is preferable. The other argument against the hon. Gentleman's assertion is that the relationship between the number of foxes caught and killed by a hunt and such incidents is minimal.
Most people go hunting for entertainment and exercise, and the House must ask itself whether in 1992, in a civilised country, it is appropriate to allow people to hunt and injure or kill foxes principally for entertainment and exercise. I believe that the answer to that is a resounding no.
What are the arguments against the Bill? First, it is argued that it would produce 14,000 to 16,000 redundancies in the rural community. I do not accept that by preventing horses and hounds from being used for hunting, one prevents them from being used. That is not logical. Many people ride and keep hounds, and farriers and people who work in stables will continue to be needed. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) made an absolutely outlandish claim which I hope has already been rubbished by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield. There is no logic in the argument that if one prevents hunting, people will suddenly kill horses. If people are concerned about animals—particularly horses— they will not kill them just because they cannot ride them to hounds. People who ride say that they do it because they love horses; they are hardly likely to turn on them and put them all to death. Moreover, there are all sorts of ways in which we could make up for any minimal reduction in work in the rural communities. I am happy to send the hon. Member for Harborough a copy of a cutting from the Hull Daily Mail—the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North will have seen it; it is from his own area—in which local farrier Baz Brashill, dealing with the question, "Would I lose my job?" was reported as saying:They are saying my business will suffer if fox hunting is banned, but that is absolute rubbish. It would only affect me a tiny bit, if at all.That reflects the balance of work for nearly all our farriers.
The second argument against the Bill is that hunting preserves much of Britain's rural heritage—hedges, fields, trees and so on. Again, all the evidence, including that from the Government, makes it clear that hunting and the other activities dealt with in the Bill make a minimal contribution to the preservation of the countryside.
The third argument against the Bill is that it would destroy the best traditions and ways of the countryside. But many traditions either are no longer valid or never have been valid. Personally, I think that the unelected House of Lords is an invalid tradition. Moreover, one does not have to support something just because it is a tradition. One must ask oneself whether it is logical, principled and justifiable. Over the years, the case has been well demonstrated in Southwark. Southwark used to be the centre for bear baiting and cock fighting; they were traditions. People spent their free time engaged in such activities. Thank God, we are now a more civilised country 1233 and those activities are now banned. Many local authorities of all political parties have now banned hunting on their land.
The fourth argument against the Bill is that it would prevent any shooting of predators—that it is the thin edge of the wedge. First, an examination of the Bill does not support that assertion and, secondly, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and the sponsors of the Bill have made it clear that we are prepared to make it even more explicit in the Bill that shooting, as sport and for conservation purposes, would be perfectly permissible. The Bill is about the prevention of cruelty—to prevent cruelty to mammals, many of which are left maimed as opposed to dead—and unnecessary cruelty at that.
Penultimately, it is argued that we must oppose the Bill if we are to protect mammals. That is a contradictory, argument. I ask those who really want to listen to the arguments for and against the Bill to examine those advanced by the hunting lobby. The first is that foxes are a pest and need to be culled and controlled. The second, contradictory, argument is that, without hunting, the foxes' habitats would disappear, leading to the decimation of the fox population. One cannot have it both ways. Either the fox is a menace poised to overrun rural areas or it is a species in danger. It cannot be both at the same time.
One is left with the final argument as to whether hunting is a necessary alternative to shooting; other alternatives are not legal. The RSPCA has made it clear that of the 1,448 foxes collected by the inspectorate in 1981, none of the 983 sick and wounded foxes were suffering from gangrene as a result of shotgun wounds. They were suffering from injuries as a result of being hunted but not killed.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, but not shotgun wounds.
All things considered, it seems to me that the arguments are overwhelming and conclusive. The Bill is a matter of principle for the House to decide. The Bill permits exceptions but they do not invalidate the principle. There are also qualifications, which show that the promoter of the Bill and its sponsors are neither illogical nor unreasonable human beings. We have clearly said that the Bill is not about fishing or shooting. It is about the further protection of living creatures which we have not so far taken steps to protect. Civilised legislatures vote in favour of protecting those who have no voice. We ought to protect them tinder the present Bill and I hope that it will receive overwhelming support.
§ Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
I have listened to the arguments advancesd advanced by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). The most ludicrous part of his speech was his attempt to differentiate between fox hunting on the one hand and shooting and fishing on the other by saying that, to use Oscar Wilde's term, foxes were the uneatable. The hon. Gentleman should remember that the largest group of people who indulge in such activities are the coarse fishermen, who catch fish that is, by definition, uneatable, so the hon. Gentleman's argument falls immediately.
I begin by declaring my interest. The House knows that I am a farmer and, like the vast majority of farmers in Britain, I am happy for hounds to hunt over my farm— 1234 principally because I like to see them. I do not indulge in fox hunting and I am not connected with a hunt. I have never seen a coursing match or a stag hunt in my life, but I am most concerned about the Bill.
I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said at the start of his speech. He said that he is prepared to enter negotiations in Committee with regard to pest control. I am not prepared to support a Bill that is as vague as this, on the undertaking that there will be some sort of negotiations at a later stage. I have serious anxieties about the ability of farmers in particular and of a number of other people in general, especially householders, to control pests. I understand that, as a result of the way that the Bill is framed, lawyers have questioned the future of rabbit shooting, because of the danger of those animals being wounded. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Many farmers in the eastern part of the—
§ Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In view of the serious allegations of mismanagement of the insurance market at Lloyd's, allegations substantiated by Conservative Members, and in view of the importance of Lloyd's to our invisible balance of payments and the importance of London as a financial centre, can you clarify whether a Minister has considered the matter important enough to come to the House this morning to make a statement.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
I have to tell the hon. Lady that Mr. Speaker has not been informed that a Government Minister is seeking to make a statement.
§ Sir Gerrard Neale (Cornwall, North)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether Mr. Speaker has received any intimation from the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) that he wishes to make a statement regarding the details that have been published relating to a former research assistant. It is an important matter and it seems conceivable that he would be able to explain fully to the House exactly what happened. Given the incidence of political advisers being appointed by members of all parties—[Interruption.]—and the fact that—
§ Sir Gerrard Neale
The incidence now of political advisers being appointed by all political parties seems potentially to give rise to the question of a conflict of loyalty and interest regarding the subsequent appointment of these people to civil service positions.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
The point of order for me is whether Mr. Speaker has received a request from an hon. Member to make a statement. The answer is no, Mr. Speaker has not received any such request.
§ Mr. Jopling
I was questioning the effect of the Bill as it stands on the ability of people to control pests. I think in particular of hares—a well-known scourge of sugar beet in the eastern counties of this country. That has nothing whatever to do with coursing. As for rats, the Bill as it stands leaves what is permissible very much open to doubt—whether it be shooting, poisoning or trapping.
One suggestion has been made which, to begin with, I thought was absurd. However, as I read the Bill, I began to see that there was something in it. A lawyer had 1235 suggested that, as the Bill stands, it might be illegal to put a cat into a granary that had a plague of mice. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Anyone who has seen a cat playing with a mouse will agree that that involves a good deal more cruelty than fox hunting. However, I shall deal with that point later.
The Bill has serious shortcomings. Clause 8 provides for registration and for licences to carry out pest control in different ways. When agriculture is experiencing great difficulties, this is not the time to saddle farmers with new restrictions of this kind. It is no good to say that, under clause 8, farmers will be able to obtain licences to become self-employed destroyers of vermin.
§ Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)
My right hon. Friend has made an extremely valid point. Another point that has not been made thus far in the debate is that most of the hunting on the North Yorkshire moors is done on foot. Were we not to control the fox population by that method, since no other method is viable, the farmers in that part of the country would suffer serious consequences.
§ Mr. Jopling
My hon. Friend must be a thought reader. That was precisely the point to which I was about to turn. I am most concerned about the effects of the Bill on fox hunting.
One point that has already been made in part, but which needs to be emphasised, is that the death of a fox by fox hunting—I refer to its death, not to the stress—is quicker and more certain if it is killed by hounds than if it is poisoned, wounded by shooting, or trapped. We start from that point of view.
To come to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), the Labour party included in its manifesto at the last election the promise that it would ban fox hunting, but there was the exception to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) referred about national parks. My right hon. Friend made a cynical comment: that that may have been because the hon. Members for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), whose constituencies adjoin mine in Cumbria, have a large number of constituents who hunt on foot on the fells.
I do not believe that it was due to political pressure on their part. I believe that the Labour party did that for perfectly good agricultural reasons: because it recognised that it was impossible to control foxes in upland areas without the use of hounds.
The Bill is different from the Labour party's proposal in its last election manifesto, since that exception is not included. The Bill would ban fell fox hunting—foot hunting—which the Labour party would have exempted. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North was kind enough to say that, in future, it will be possible for hounds to hunt foxes, provided the hounds are on leashes. I am sure that that will bring great comfort to the fell packs in the Lake district. The thought of those hounds hunting up and down the mountains on the end of leashes is just too ludicrous for words.
My strong view is that sheep farming in our upland and mountainous areas would become impossible if there were no hunting by hounds. Last year, I had discussions with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) 1236 about the Badgers Bill. I made that point to him, and he sought to argue it with me. Therefore, I invited him to John Peel country, where my constituency is, to talk to the farmers so that they could explain to him how important hunting is if foxes are to be kept down in such areas.
Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman, who kindly accepted the invitation, could not come at the last minute. It was a great disappointment. I do not blame him at all. I perfectly understand why he was unable to come. It was just a pity that he could not come. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I was not going to rise, but from a sedentary position I heard somebody say that I was frit. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Sir M. Jopling) knows that that is not true. I do not know who said that, but the fact is that I am certainly not frit. My reasons were connected with the fact that my wife, who was coming with me, was too busy working in the hospital. Therefore, I had to pull out. I deeply regretted it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman might even contemplate renewing his invitation. I shall damn well make sure that I am there this time, and I shall take whoever said that with me.
§ Mr. Jopling
The hon. Gentleman knows that I did not criticise him for being unable to come. I merely expressed my disappointment. If he would like to come this year to the Lake district sheepdog trials, of which I hope I shall continue to be president, he will be most welcome.
The basic argument is whether hunting by hounds is essential for sheep farming in these upland areas. Some people say that one cannot prove that it is essential. I believe that I can prove this morning that it is essential, and that I can give chapter and verse to demonstrate my point.
§ Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman was formerly a Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Is he aware that studies into fox predation of sheep have shown that in Northern Ireland, where hunting is not so important, 95 per cent. of hill sheep farmers reported no loss of sheep? In addition, the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology has shown that fox hunting is an ineffective way to control foxes in the upland areas. When all those independent reports state that fox hunting is not effective, why does the right hon. Gentleman think that it is?
§ Mr. Jopling
I was about to show, from a case history, that fox hunting is essential. If the hon. Gentleman visits the fell packs in the Lake district and on the North Yorkshire moors and talks to those who run the hounds, he will discover that farmers frequently contact the hunt and say, "I am losing lambs; please bring the hounds to control the foxes." The case law that demonstrates my point can be found in Hansard, at column 1522 on 16 October 1941.
At the beginning of the war, a Mr. Harry Roberts was huntsman for the Plas Machynlleth hounds in west Wales. He was called up to the Army. Within two years, the foxes were so hopelessly out of control in that part of west Wales that large numbers of lambs and chickens were being taken. In the end, the War Agricultural Executive Committee petitioned the Government for the release of Mr. Roberts from the Army.
The then Ministry of Agriculture, together with the local Members of Parliament—which included Mr. 1237 Clement Davies—who may or may not have been leader of the Liberal party at the time—pressed for the release of Mr. Roberts in the interest of the war effort. He was released from the Army, and questions about that were asked in the House. The issue was taken up by "Picture Post", which made a feature out of the return of Mr. Roberts to keep the foxes under control. That is the most compelling evidence to prove that hunting is absolutely essential in the upland areas.
§ Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that Mr. Roberts was not the only huntsman released for that purpose?
§ Mr. Jopling
I was unaware of that, so I am grateful to my hon. Friend for doubling the strength of the evidence.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, to this day in north-east Scotland, there is an itinerant pack of hounds that is called up by the farmers? It moves from place to place in a part of the country that has many keepers and others involved in the control and conservation of game. They need a pack of hounds to do the necessary work for them, because there is no other way to control the foxes.
§ Mr. Ron Davies
I have listened with great interest and amusement to the right hon. Gentleman's half-century-old anecdote. The thrust of his argument is that, in the uplands, especially at lambing time, hounds are necessary to control the fox population. Presumably he is referring to the lambing period of late March, April and early May, when the problem of foxes is most acute. Can he explain why, at the very time that he claims that his evidence shows that there is a problem with foxes because the ewes are lambing, the hunts stop hunting and declare their close season?
§ Mr. Jopling
The ewes are brought off the fells to have their lambs in the lowlands. After they have spent a few weeks there, they go back to the fells. That is when the foxes take the young lambs. It is perfectly simple.
§ Mr. Davies
The right hon. Gentleman did not take my point. At the very time that he asserts economic damage is done, the hunts declare their close season. They stop killing the foxes. Why is that?
§ Mr. Jopling
The hunts operate at a time when there are lambs, and they deal with the foxes.
If fox hunting is banned, I suspect that there will be a massive increase in the fox population in the upland areas, and that will cause even more damage to the sheep population. However, I think that the opposite will be true in the lowlands, where I suspect there will be fewer foxes.
§ Mr. Jopling
No, I have given way more than anybody else.
From our discussions this morning, I have the impression that some of the Bill's supporters—not all—are motivated as much by revulsion at the supporters and the followers of hunts as they are at any cruelty that might 1238 occur. There was an extraordinary article in "Horse and Hound" on 30 January. Mr. Richard Course, formerly a chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, wrote:The plain fact is that the abolition of foxhunting, or any other form of hunting with hounds, will not make a hap'orth of difference to animal welfare.That is a fundamental point, made by someone with great experience.
Like other hon. Members, I have had letters from my constituents asking me to support the Bill. Some of those letters refer to those people who follow hounds—whether on foot, on horse or even by car—as bloodthirsty, sadistic monsters. I hope that the House will understand that nothing could be further from the truth about those thousands of country people who like to follow the hounds, although not necessarily on a horse. Indeed, as I have said, in many areas such as the Lake district there is little hunting. Those people are doing what their forbears have done for centuries and they are perplexed about why those activities should be in danger of becoming a criminal offence. I, too, do not understand why they should become a criminal offence. The Bill is a serious mistake and I oppose it.
§ Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)
There is a spread of opinion in any constituency. I represent a significant rural area. One of the arguments against those who oppose cruel sports is that they all come from urban parts. That does not apply to me or, indeed, many other hon. Members who support the Bill.
Some of my local farmers support hunting. They do not try to justify the cruelty of fox hunting, but they have an attachment to the tradition of field sports. The letters have received and discussions that I have had with my constituent farmers have been conducted in a perfectly reasonable, logical and courteous way. I appreciate the points that they have made to me. When I say to them that the bottom line of all the arguments is how they can justify inflicting prolonged pain and stress on an animal for no reason other than the enjoyment of the human tormentors, even they accept that that is hard to do.
I shall put to rest once and for all one or two of the issues raised in the debate. There is the question of cruelty. Some hon. Members who have spoken against the Bill have not taken into account, in considering various sports that involve killing animals, that here we are talking about the deliberate infliction of cruelty. That does not apply to sports such as shooting. Although it may be true that some birds could be winged and may not be killed outright, people who shoot do not go out with the purpose of inflicting deliberate cruelty. Therefore, the argument is not the same. Nor, indeed, is the argument the same for fishing. Fishermen do not set out to inflict deliberate cruelty. One or two hon. Members need biology lessons on the physiology and nervous system of fish compared with that of a medium-sized mammal such as a fox.
We have debated the legal definition of cruelty. Not one hon. Member would dispute that if a bunch of yobbos set a pack of dogs on a cat, they would go to gaol. That is legally defined as cruelty. Yet the principle of setting dogs on a fox is no different from that of setting dogs on a cat or a sheep. The only difference is that cats and sheep are covered under the legal definition of cruelty and foxes are not. That is the very point which the Bill sets out to rectify.
1239 I certainly endorse what has been said about hedgehogs and other mammals. Naturally, cruel sports dominate the debate, but I know of cases of youths in my constituency who deliberately ride their motorbikes over hedgehogs and of people kicking hedgehogs around deliberately. Those serious issues need to be addressed.
We heard the argument about jobs. The hon. Member who talked about a million horses being slaughtered completely discredited the argument about the impact on jobs. Indeed, the cruel sports lobby has exaggerated the impact. I would not deny that some jobs are directly associated with hunts, but they amount to hundreds rather than thousands.
If people want to continue fox hunting as a sport, a tradition or a cultural, visual image, there is no reason why hunts cannot switch to drag hunting. It is not only better for the animals, but it is better for the horses as it is possible to ensure that a drag hunt goes over fences which constitute a reasonable jump for the horses. There is the further benefit that it is possible to keep the hounds away from houses. Many domestic pets and farm animals have been killed and many people's rights have been interfered with by hounds that have run amok.
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
This morning, several hon. Members have raised the possibility of drag hunts. A drag hunt and a real hunt are not the same. A drag hunt is much more like a race. It is more akin to a point-to-point. It involves chasing round the countryside after a scented bag—so far, nobody has indicated who the scented bag is. Neverthless, a scented bag is drawn round the countryside first. I have been looking for an analogy to a drag hunt. Someone I know likened it to kissing one's sister, and he should know. [HON. MEMBERS" Oh."] There is no resemblance between drag hunting and proper hunting, and the hon. Gentleman should realise that.
§ Mr. Morley
I cannot comment on the hon. Gentleman's sexual habits. Of course, a drag hunt and a fox hunt are different. One of the differences is the lack of cruelty. Many keen horse riders would not dream of joining a fox hunt, because of their objection to the cruelty involved, but they would be happy to join a drag hunt. If people are concerned about rural employment, the introduction of drag hunts could increase employment. That is a better argument than saying that drag hunts would undermine the pleasure of the hunt.
§ Mr. Colvin
If that were so, there would be more drag hunts than there are. There are 10 drag hunts and many hundreds of proper hunts.
§ Mr. Morley
In fact, there are 12 drag hunts—and there are quite a few on the continent.
Is the only concern of those who follow fox hunts the blood, the cruelty and the killing? What sort of people are they if that is what is so important to them? We should look at the wider issue. I am concerned about the hon. Gentleman's point. If people want to keep fox hunts together, they can switch to drag hunting.
Before I was Member of Parliament, I was involved in nature reserve management. On odd occasions, foxes cause a problem. The Bill would not eliminate the right of individuals to take action against foxes by killing them 1240 humanely, either by shooting or by humane trapping. Both the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Scottish Office Agriculture Department have commissioned studies into the scale of the problem. The studies found that there was no significant predation problem from foxes. Studies by Aberdeen university, Bristol university and the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology have all confirmed that organised fox hunting does not contribute to fox control in any way. Therefore, the argument that fox hunts serve a useful purpose in fox control is not true. It is not backed up by independent scientific evidence.
The habitat question has not featured much in our debate. Some of my farming constituents have made the valid point to me that many habitat features have been retained for the purpose of fox hunting. I think that that argument is somewhat exaggerated. Many copses are maintained more for shooting than for hunting. Moreover, when one considers the level of destruction of hedgerows, trees and so on, fox hunting does not seem to have done a good job in protecting them.
All hon. Members know of the major changes and reforms of the common agricultural policy. The kind of agricultural support in future will undoubtedly be for habitat protection and retention. Indeed, it will be for improving the habitat by planting hedgerows and trees. It is not true to say that a ban on fox hunting would affect the habitat.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
May I point out that the Quorn hunt in Leicestershire was given many coverts and woods specifically to save them from extinction? The Quorn meets and discusses how to protect that habitat. I think that there is a sub-committee specifically devoted to environmental protection of the woods in its hunt country.
§ Mr. Morley
I do not think that the Quorn hunt is a good example to include in this debate. I am sure that people involved in cruel sports have a love for the countryside and a respect for its habitat and visual image. I do not believe that if hunting were banned they would suddenly go out and start chopping down trees and woods, and ripping up hedgerows. I just do not believe that that would happen. What kind of people would do that? There are financial advantages for farming not only in maintaining but in improving the existing habitat. Therefore, that argument need not be taken into account.
I do not want to go on, as many hon. Members wish to speak. There is not one intellectual argument in favour of cruel sports such as fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing which can stand up to critical, independent and scientific examination. The bottom line is: can we justify the infliction of prolonged deliberate pain and stress on wild animals for fun—for the enjoyment of human tormentors?
Fox hunting and other cruel sports belong to a different age—one of barbarity. We live in a modern society and many so-called traditional sports such as bear baiting, bull baiting and dog fights have been banned. There is no difference between those sports and that of fox hunting—except, perhaps, that they happened in Southwark rather than in the rolling shires. The Bill is long overdue and it is welcome to the vast majority of the country. I hope that the House will support it.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. The Standing Order limiting speeches to 10 minutes now comes into operation until 1 o'clock.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
I shall endeavour to contain my speech to less than 10 minutes. I agree with virtually everything that the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said, and I shall extend some of his arguments.
I am saddened that the Bill is seen as an anti-fox hunting one. In common with many of my hon. Friends, I see it for what it is—the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill. However, it is abundantly clear that some have sought to turn this debate into one for and against fox hunting. For that reason, I shall address that specific issue.
Those who are in favour of fox hunting argue that the Bill would damage conservation efforts. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe referred to that argument; I believe that he was the first hon. Member to do so. The hunt is held up as a shining example of conservation. However, according to the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council, since the war, 97 per cent. of traditional hay meadows have been destroyed as well as 99 per cent. of lowland heaths, 80 per cent. of chalk downlands, 80 per cent. of limestone grasslands, 80 per cent. of fens and mires, 90 per cent. of lowland ponds, 50 per cent. of ancient lowland woods and 150,000 miles of hedgerows. Many of those features existed on land owned or covered by hunts.
The Standing Conference on Countyside Sports has said that of all the reasons why landowners retain or plant woodland, creating fox coverts was the least significant. The chief motivating force was found to be the beauty of the landscape—
§ Mr. Gale
As my hon. Friend says, there are now other compelling set-aside reasons. People's concern about conservation has nothing to do with the hunt, but is a genuine desire to conserve the beauty of the land, which is loved by many.
It has been said that shooting is not an alternative form of controlling the fox population. My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) argued that foxes represent a major threat to farming. However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, over which my right hon. Friend presided with great distinction for a number of years, has estimated that the loss of lambs to foxes does not constitute an economically significant loss to the national farming community.
There has been much reference today to what are euphemistically regarded as the sporting connotations of fox hunting. The debate has been seen as one between town and country. I was brought up in rural Dorset and my family comes from Axminster in Devon. I have followed hounds on foot and many of my family have hunted in the past; some, I believe, still do. I do not believe that I am regarded by any of the farming community in my constituency as being either anti-farm or anti-countryside. I have come to the view—it is a considered one—that the time has come when the hunt must end. I studied the article that appeared in Big Farm Weekly, to which 1242 reference has been made, and I discovered that the farming community put hunting low down its list of entertainment and sporting priorities.
I have discussed the Bill with farmers in my constituency. Some of them are keen rural sportsmen and, not surprisingly, they were concerned that I might lend my support to a Bill that they believed would signal the end to their favourite sports of shooting and fishing. I can see nothing in the Bill that takes a step towards such a ban. To advance that argument is about as sensible as saying that the 70 mph speed limit on the motorway is tantamount to declaring that there will be a ban on motor cars next. Neither is true—it is a question of degree.
I am not opposed to shooting or fishing as long as they are subject to proper controls and conventions. I am, of course, opposed to bad shooting and bad fishing.
§ Mr. Gale
Bad fishing was practised by those fishermen against whom the House legislated. They used to use lead shot, which poisoned the water and swans. They also used to leave their line across the water, which strangled wild fowl. That is bad fishing. There is such a thing and I am rather surprised that my hon. Friend does not recognise that.
§ Mr. John Townend
My hon. Friend is worried about cruelty to animals. Does he agree that to put a hook in the mouth of a fish, to play with it and then remove that hook and throw the fish back, so that the torture can recommence, is just as cruel as hunting?
§ Mr. Gale
I know that many people believe that. It would be naive not to suggest that some people who support the Bill also want to extend protection to fish and want an end to shooting and fishing. In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes), I do not want to see that happen. I do not believe that such a ban is envisaged in the Bill.
§ Sir Charles Morrison (Devizes)
Has my hon. Friend considered the implications for commercial fishing?
§ Sir Charles Morrison
It is relevant to what my hon. Friend said about cruelty. In commercial fishing, the fish are dumped on a deck where they die slowly, out of their element. How does he justify that?
§ Mr. Gale
I know that my hon. Friend takes a keen interest in such matters and I should be happy to debate it with him either in the Tea Room or when we debate a Bill to control fishing.
The Bill relates to cruelty to wild animals. Earlier this morning I heard Enoch Powell on the radio. I read with great interest his erudite article that appeared in Countryweek in which he said:Nor do I wish to see the courts and the police mobilised to prevent pursuits which from my own experience I know can be the source of the greatest pleasure and the best friendship I have been blessed with.There are limits, of course. We have to restrain those who might otherwise present their neighbours with spectacles that revolt them.
Imagine if two members of the National Union of Mineworkers, to be emotive, took a whippet and a Jack 1243 Russell and allowed them to chase a domestic cat down a sewer pipe. Imagine if they put the Jack Russell in that pipe to pull the cat out by its tail and they then threw the cat down the street so that a whippet could chase and kill it. That might just be the cause of revulsion to Conservative Members, as well as to others. I watched the video of the Quorn hunt and apart from the fact that the animal was a fox, not a cat, what I have just described was almost precisely what happened. I can only say to the House that having seen the video of the entire hunt I had just one word for those who practice such activities: contempt.
It has been suggested that the film of that hunt, which was shown on television, was somehow strangely edited. The video runs for about an hour and a half with pictures of the Quorn so-called hunting. I did not see any acts of equestrian courage: I saw a great deal of brutality and sequences of infinite boredom. If any of my hon. Friends has not had the opportunity to see that entire video, I have it in my office and I shall make it available.
There is an alternative to hunting, which has already been mentioned many times. I do not believe that it is necessary to end rural sports simply because we want to give protection to wild mammals. Nor do I believe that the Bill necessarily spells the end of riding and its associated industries—saddle making, the manufacture of riding clothes and so on. My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) referred to drag hunting and said that it was not the same as fox hunting. I agree; it is not. But there is at least one distinguished hon. Friend who has been a master of drag hounds and who, while he does not entirely share my view that fox hunting should now end, believes that drag hunting is a worthwhile sport which should, and could, be promoted instead.
I have one minute left in which to speak and I have not even touched on the thrust of the Bill. The time has come when wild mammals must be given the same protection as the Protection of Animals Act 1911 gave domestic animals. We have extended that to cover otters and dormice as endangered species and some cover has been given in legislation to badgers. The time has come for us to go forward into the 21st century and recognise that fox hunting and associated so-called pleasures must end. I shall support the Bill and I hope that many of my hon. Friends will do likewise.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
It is a pleasure to speak following the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). I agreed with every word of his speech, which proved that this issue does not divide the parties.
From my point of view, the Bill is providing a good day's sport. Here we are gathered in our traditional hunting fashion—drab grey with accompanying gravy stains—apart from the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes) who struck a brilliant colour and made an equally brilliant speech.
It is encouraging to note the way in which the argument is uniting hon. Members in all parts of the House. At a time of high political tension, it is refreshing to note that there are issues that unite us and cut across the party 1244 divide. The Bill has all-party support. As a sponsor of it, I thank Conservative Members who have sponsored or pledged support for it.
Though unusual for me, I commend the article written by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark), the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, in The Guardian on Thursday, and I am glad to see him in his place. It was unfortunately entitled, "Closing in for the Kill," but I suppose that the hunters are realising what it is like to be hunted, and they do not like it. They are being hunted inside and outside the House and they can see that the opposition ranged against them is equally as formidable as a large pack of hounds, except that we do not intend to rip them to pieces at the end of the hunt.
This is not an issue of unity within the Labour party even. I have received two letters, one of which has been referred to, the first having come from Councillor Richard Course, a Labour councillor, who I assume has written to all hon. Members. He describes himself as the Labour leader of the environment committee and leader of the planning sub-committee locally. I hope that he discussed the matter with his colleagues on those committees before sending out the letter, and I hope that Councillor Course has not used Enfield ratepayers' money for the purpose. I have no doubt that the matter will be taken up with the leader of the Labour group.
I have also received a letter from Baroness Mallalieu, a Labour peer who has been telling my hon. Friends and I that she isvery concerned that we should be working together to win the election, not alienating the support that we have in rural areas, which we shall need in order to secure a good working majority.I am not impressed by that, particularly as it comes from someone who failed to convince the electorate that she was worthy to be elected to this place. In the circumstances, I do not have much time for the Baroness Mallalieu.
The Bill is not just about fox hunting. It has been hijacked by a well-organised lobby outside working on behalf of the Field Sports Association, ably supported by some hon. Members. The Bill is about animal welfare and having respect for life forms other than our own. I suppose that in the end it is about morality, giving protection to wild animals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said, it is about giving the protection that domestic animals currently enjoy. It is a matter of principle and it is wrong that the present loophole should exist. We must now plug that loophole.
We are concerned with much more than just the activities of red-coated fools on horseback. The Bill is about the cruelty that other mammals have to suffer in the wild. I have before me some horrible evidence that has come to many hon. Members, though some has been sent specifically to me. One from Yorkshire is about hedgehogs being tortured to death. That involved schoolboys at Woldgate school in Yorkshire. It is disgusting what nasty little sadists can do. They should not be allowed to act in that way. So the Bill is not just about fox hunting.
Another case appeared in the Daily Mail, not a paper I am often heard quoting with respect in this place. It is about a man who battered a hedgehog to death and who was cleared in the court—I will name him because I want him to be famous—because, the article said:Mr. Campbell, of High Street, Herne Bay…said, 'This has been a nightmare. I couldn't believe anyone would be serious about charges."'1245 It may have been a nightmare for Mr. Campbell in court. It was nothing compared with the nightmare experienced by the hedgehog when he was beating it to death with a stick, which is what he didafter a heavy drinking night … I realised what it was but to me a hedgehog is vermin.I must tell Mr. Campbell of Herne Bay that he is the vermin. I hope that one day somebody gives him a good thrashing with a stick, and we will see whether he enjoys it.
Plenty of evidence is coming to us to show that the Bill will protect wildlife, and that is how and why we should be discussing it, rather than parts of the measure that would affect rural activities. The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) said that it was about banning entertainment. I suppose it is—the point I tried to make in an intervention—if one considers hunting an animal to death to be entertainment. It is not the sort of entertainment in which civilised people should indulge. No doubt it was entertainment to watch bears being baited or to watch cocks or dogs fighting. We banned those and we should put this so-called sport in the same category. Or is the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury suggesting that we should not have banned bear baiting, cock fighting and the like? I do not think that even he would suggest that.
It is suggested, as part of the argument for the need to control vermin, that foxes are vermin. I have given my definition of vermin, and it does not include foxes. Foxes are the largest predators of rats and rabbits, and certainly rats are considered to be vermin. In any event, if the argument is about controlling vermin, why are many hunts bringing foxes into their territories? I gather that there were no foxes on the Isle of Wight until they were introduced for hunting purposes. There were none in Australia, where they are now something of a menace, until they were introduced because people wanted to hunt them.
I have with me a list of hunts that are bringing foxes into their areas. They are the Beaufort, the Heythrop, the Cheshire, the Puckeridge and Thurlow, the Essex, the Cumberland Farmers, the Isle of Wight and the Bicester with Whaldon Chase. How can it be argued that we are talking about controlling vermin and that foxes are vermin when foxes are being bought in to provide a day's sport? It makes no sense.
In a land beset with unemployment, nobody would cheerfully commend anybody to the dole queue, but the numbers that have been thrown about, like the arguments of the hunting lobby, have been plucked out of the air. They do not bear examination and the idea that many thousands of people would be out of jobs is ridiculous, even in the light of the surveys carried out by the huntsmen.
The 1983 standing conference representing country sports showed, after that organisation had commissioned an inquiry, that there were only about 750 full-time jobs involved. Drag hunting will become far more popular after the Bill becomes law. Whatever is said about the number of drag hunts, there will be many more, and that is the way in which people will be able to indulge in the good sport of riding to hounds, on a horse, through the countryside.
I should like to do that—I do not get much chance to do it through the streets of Newham. I appreciate the attraction of that, and drag hunting will provide all of it. It will also provide the jobs, and the future for the million 1246 horses said to be involved. I do not know whether we have a million horses in this country, but either way, the horses that we have can be employed in drag hunting.
All the arguments are on the side of those who support the Bill and I am delighted that they are coming from my political opponents on the Government Benches, for this issue unites the House and the country. I believe that there is a vast majority in the nation in favour of the Bill.
The Bill will not get through the House because we shall have an election on 9 April—I pluck a date out of the air, perhaps with more accuracy than some of the arguments that Tory Members have plucked out of the air but whoever wins the election, a Bill will be introduced to do precisely the same as this Bill and I shall be in the Lobby to support it then, as I shall be today.
§ Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)
I do not shoot, fish or hunt, but I strongly oppose the Bill. My principal reason is that I passionately believe in individual freedom. If someone does not want to do something, that is his right, but he should not try to stop everyone else doing it. The House and society have had an unfortunate tendency, in recent years, to be busybodies, looking into people's lives.
I see the Bill in a wider context—as part of an orchestrated campaign to victimise a minority. I refer to the rural minority. Even in rural areas, most of the population are now from urban areas, commuters or retired. Hunting and other country sports are part of our traditional heritage and history. One has only to look at the wonderful paintings and etchings of the chase. The fact that those are minority pastimes is no argument for banning them.
Over the centuries, this country has developed a justified reputation for tolerance. The Bill will inevitably reduce tolerance of the views of others. I cannot help feeling that a certain amount of good, old-fashioned left-wing class prejudice is coming to the surface— [Interruption.] If the hunting scene were part of the culture of an ethnic minority, anyone who tried to stop it would be strongly attacked by the Labour party.
The Bill stinks of hypocrisy. If its supporters are so concerned about the sufferings of animals, why have they never brought in a Bill to ban ritual killings like halal, as practised in this country by some minorities? It involves suspending live animals by the legs and slaughtering them alive. The Opposition do not ban that, because they are petrified of losing votes. It is strange that left wingers oppose the complete integration of ethnic communities and call for the freedom to keep their traditions and cultures, yet try to prevent the countrymen of England from pursuing traditional country sports that have been followed by our forefathers for centuries.
The Bill is only the first stage in a concerted effort by the so-called animal rights lobby to ban all field sports. We have already heard the League Against Cruel Sports and the anti-hunting lobby say that when hunting is banned, they will move on to campaign against shooting and fishing. The Labour party will not admit that that will happen, because several million people who fish vote Labour. Once we start to ban, where will it end? The antis have said that they will go on to campaigning against shooting and fishing. How long will it be before they move on to boxing and wrestling? This country will become like it was in the puritan age under Oliver Cromwell.
1247 Whatever Labour Members say, the Bill will have a significant effect on economic prosperity in the countryside. That is particularly dangerous when all our farmers are under pressure. Although the amount of employment lost through the banning of hunting may not be great, if shooting and fishing are also banned, the tourist industry will be enormously affected. To introduce such measures now is economic madness.
The Bill is illogical. I do not know how anyone could support it on the ground of cruelty to animals and not answer the question why it does not include shooting and fishing. Why are mammals any different from birds or fish? It is surely more cruel to hook a fish, play with it, throw it back and repeat the torture than it is to hunt.
Labour Members seek to raise the rights of animals to the level of the rights of human beings. They say that fox hunting must be banned because it is entertainment, but one of the greatest entertainments in life is enjoyed by the majority of the country and by many Opposition Front-Bench Members, including the deputy leader of the Labour party, and that is eating. If one believes in animal rights, what is more cruel than to breed animals and eat them for enjoyment? The only logical stance of the Bill's supporters is to oppose all those sports and, eventually, to oppose the rearing of animals for meat.
I have no arguments with vegetarians, as their position is logical. The Bill, however, is illogical and hypocritical and, if it is passed, it will be another blow to individual freedoms. I hope that it is defeated.
§ Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)
It ill becomes Conservative Members to call the Labour party hypocritical. One of the arguments of the blood sports lobby is unemployment. Harking back to the memories of the great struggles of the past 15 years against unemployment in my constituency—the closures in the steel industry and the rundown of the mining industry—I cannot remember either of the two local hunts appearing on demonstrations or taking any part in the arguments against unemployment.
A key issue in the debate has been the odd contribution by the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who talked about the difference between the two forms of hunting. That is what this debate is all about. There is the alternative of drag hunting, which preserves all the lovely, attractive pageantry of the hunt; the social occasion; and the great joy that young people experience from the healthy exercise of riding horses through the countryside. Those can be preserved in a way that does not upset the majority of people in the country. Drag hunting is also safer, as many accidents occur when foxes are hunted in a live quarry, because of the uncertain route that is followed. They can be avoided if human intelligence has had a hand in plotting the route.
The hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside said that the difference between following a trail and following a live quarry is like kissing your sister. I have heard it expressed rather more graphically—that it is like making love without a climax. That is significant, because it points to what is behind the entertainment referred to by the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). The whole purpose of hunting a live quarry is for 1248 people to get twisted and sordid pleasure out of killing an animal. That is the difference between the two sides in this debate. It is the only difference between those two methods of hunting.
I received a letter from a constituent opposed to the Bill. She is involved in the hunting business. She invited me to watch, if the Bill is enacted, the destruction of the hounds. I have seen the kennels where the hounds are kept, but the hounds will not be destroyed. A plea must be made for the plight of the hounds, because they suffer over a long period. Their lives are now very brief and are ended after a short period. They do not enjoy the normal lifespan of a dog, which can be 10 or 12 years. They live for a maximum of four years if they are lucky, and their reward for years of service is a bullet in the head. Perhaps the worst aspect of the hunting ritual is cubbing, in which the hounds are trained to kill. They do not do it naturally; they have to be trained by using the young cubs to bring the instinct out.
The nature of the foxhound is important—it is a creature bred to run more slowly than the fox. If it was as quick as the lurchers that are used for hare coursing, the hunt would be over in seconds. That might be a more efficient way of destroying the animal, but there would not be the fun and entertainment of the chase and the twisted —I would use the word "sadistic"—pleasure.
There is a great difference between the groups of people in hunting and the groups of people who love horses and horse riding. One of the most touching aspects of the matter has been the floods of letters that I have had from children and young people. I have not had one letter from anyone whom I could identify as a schoolchild which opposed the Bill. The sensitivity of the children in Clytha school, who sent me lovely pictures, and the children in Bassaleg comprehensive school in my constituency shows that they understand the issue. All the decent, compassionate instincts come welling out when they see what is happening. There is a generation divide in the country between those who understand the brutality of hunting and those who over many years have become blind to it.
The right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) attempted to justify the continuation of hunting because of the destruction of lambs. That was a sad example of how desperate the threadbare argument is. He had to go back to Picture Post—back to the war. Even then, the story had other possible interpretations. In the war, many people, for understandable reasons, did not want to be at the front line. Many found pretexts for not going there, and excuses for coming back home.
The argument of the opponents of the Bill must be threadbare when they offer a single anecdote from the war to counter-balance the studies that have been made. Detailed studies were made in Scotland over five years, and they found that 24 per cent. of lambs in the highlands would be lost through stillbirth, malnutrition and hypothermia. Only 1 per cent., if that, are lost to foxes. The fox's traditional function in the countryside is that of a scavenger. Foxes take lambs that have no chance of continued life and those that are already dead, such as those that have been aborted.
A further three-year study of fox predation on lambs in Scotland found that leaving foxes in peace did not result in an increase in the number of lambs taken. We know that, in parts of the country where no fox hunting takes place, the number of foxes does not increase or decrease. The 1249 hunt is not a factor. There are whole countries in which fox hunting does not take place, and the number of foxes there are determined by the availability of the food supply.
All the arguments against the Bill are false and threadbare. They will convince nobody. We have heard welling up from the country a huge demand from people saying, "Let us take this small step forward in the progress of our civilisation." The past has always been brutal and cruel and progress has been faltering and slow. Today we are recognising and seeing with a new clarity the sordid, gratuitous cruelty of hunting, which has been tolerated for far too long. We shall take a step forward by giving this Bill a Second Reading today—a step forward in our civilisation.
§ 12.3 pm
§ Sir Charles Morrison (Devizes)
What strikes me as extraordinary about the debate is that, even if those who support the Bill have read it, they are not prepared to face its implications. None the less, I agree strongly with the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) that the human race has a responsibility to look after wildlife.
Indeed, the second remarkable aspect of the debate is the paradox that there is a great deal of common ground between those who support the Bill and those who are against it. Both sides are concerned with the well-being of wild mammals; the division between us concerns how best to achieve that end. The Bill's supporters believe that it can be done by more and more protection, whereas its opponents believe that it can be achieved only by management of wildlife.
There is nothing new about the attitude of the opponents of the Bill. The British countryside is not a pristine environment. Its appearance, and the birds and wildlife within it, stem from the fact that man has intervened for the past 5,000 to 10,000 years. For the past two centuries, much of that intervention has been undertaken by people who have enjoyed field sports. If the ecosystem that we now have is to be maintained, man's active and positive participation will continue to be a necessity.
That amounts to what the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has called conservation through wise use—a concept first promoted as a conservation tool by the world conservation strategy of 1980.
I wonder whether, before the Bill was published, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) attempted to consult the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Joint Nature Conservancy Council, English Heritage or Scottish National Heritage, or organisations such as the British Trust for Ornithology or the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.
We have heard about the Bill's implications for employment. There are now about 5 million participants in field sports and they support no fewer than 14,400 trade and service organisations. That represents a considerable amount of employment. Direct expenditure on countryside sports is about £1.4 billion. Indirect expenditure is about £1.2 billion. Much of that goes into the rural economy, which is quite impoverished enough without our taking any more out of it. Such is the extent of the participation, expenditure and employment that the sponsors of the Bill wish to destroy. That would be their achievement if it, or any similar successor, were ever to become law.
1250 We know that the Bill would ban hunting, but it would also be a disaster for shooting—whatever its supporters may say—and it will threaten fishing. Worst of all, it will have a devastating effect on conservation.
It is a pity that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North did not pay full attention to the Scott Henderson report, which said, among other things:fox hunting makes an important contribution to the control of foxes, and involves less cruelty than most other methods of controlling them. It should therefore be allowed to continue.The hon. Gentleman poured scorn on that report, but I remind him that, since 1948, there have been several other Labour Governments. It would have been within their power to have another inquiry—although I have no doubt that such an inquiry would have come to a similar conclusion.
It is a pity, too, that the sponsors did not attempt to pay attention to Richard Course, who has already been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling). In Horse and Hound of 30 January, Mr. Course wrote:When I became fully and objectively appraised of all the facts, and conversant with all related arguments, it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that the 'prosecution'—or the anti-Hunt case—would not advance 'fox welfare', and consequently it could not be justified.
It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman did not consider the hypocrisy of saying that it is unacceptable to hunt foxes with hounds, which ultimately leads to the fox's sudden death or escape, while continuing to support the slow death of rats from warfarin, as mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley).
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North said that he wanted to elevate the position of wild animals to that of domestic animals. In reality, far from being the cuddly animal depicted by some people, the fox, although attractive, is a barbarous and opportunistic murderer.
Hon. Members have spoken about hill farmers. One of my constituents, a farmer, wrote:I have had many bad experiences with foxes at lambing … I had to go out every night at lambing with a high powered rifle. One night I saw seven foxes stalking lambs in the field.That shows the level of damage done by foxes.
The Bill is a direct threat, albeit small, to fishing, because it sets out to protect mink. It is also an indirect threat, because if the Bill is enacted there is no doubt that before long we shall see anti-shooting and anti-fishing Bills.
§ Sir Charles Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman says no. He and some other hon. Members will not be here. It is naive to pretend that the League Against Cruel Sports will give up its battle against other field sports if the Bill becomes law.
§ Mr. Howell
The hon. Gentleman has been following sport with me for many years and I have never seen him make such an agitated speech. Whether I am here is immaterial. The Labour party in successive manifestos has made it plain not only that it will support angling but that it will take positive steps to clean up waters and give anglers much greater access to the countryside than they have been given by this Government.
§ Sir Charles Morrison
Labour policy has often changed; on this occasion, it would be change for the 1251 worse. I have no doubt that Labour's attitude to field sports would change as a result of pressure from organisations thatsimply do not know the realities of conservation.
The Bill would have a devastating effect on conservation. Foxes have a disastrous effect on wild birds. For example, research on Salisbury plain showed that up to 51 per cent. of hen partridges were killed every year. But the birds killed, a major loss to the partridge population, would not have formed even 1 per cent. of the annual diet of the foxes, which live mostly on rabbits and other such species.
The same is true of a wide range of bird species. Salisbury plain is one of the last resorts of the rare stone curlew in southern England. Nationwide, there are only about 160 pairs of that species. Where a handful of breeding birds desperately hang on, they are under constant threat from foxes. The Red Data Bird Book states:Foxes appear to cause heavy egg and chick losses, particularly on semi-natural grassland. The recent increase in fox numbers in southern Britain, particularly in East Anglia where gamekeepers formerly kept the population at a low level, may seriously reduce stone curlew productivity.The same is true of sea birds, and in a number of reserves, such as Scott head, Gibraltar point and the Ouse washes, foxes are controlled by wardens.
The avocet is the emblem of the RSPB, as the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who is a member of the council of that society, knows. The society reports on the effects of fox control measures on the production of young avocets at Minsmere. Where foxes were controlled, each pair of avocets fledged four times as many young as where foxes were not controlled. Therefore, foxes must be controlled and short-sighted legislation would prevent the effective control of such predators.
§ Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on his success. I wholeheartedly support clause 1 of the Bill and agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about that. He and other hon. Members have sought to lift us to the peaks of the moral high grounds. Perhaps we should also come down to the foothills of practicality. I shall speak about drag hunting, because I think that I am the only Member present who has been a master of drag hounds that hunted human quarry.
What I have heard in the debate about drag hunting amounts almost to nonsense.
§ Sir Richard Body
Thank you—that is the word.
It is difficult to persuade 30 or 40 farmers to allow a drag hunt over their land. I can vouch for that, because I spent many days trying to persuade my fellow farmers to allow our hounds to hunt over their land. I understand the difficulty. Hounds go over my land, and it can be a nuisance when 100 horses gallop over turf after rainfall and cattle need to graze on the land.
Several hon. Members will remember the late Reggie Paget who represented Northampton for many years. He 1252 had one simple test for any proposal on animal welfare: whether the proposal would cause the total amount of animal suffering to be more or less than at present. If it caused less suffering, he supported it, and if more he opposed it. He emphasised that one must have regard to the total amount of animal suffering and not just that inflicted on one species. That test enabled him to come down against shooting but to approve of hunting.
Some hon. Members have criticised colleagues for speaking about the war years. About half a century ago, I took part in my one and only fox shoot and the memory of that event is still vivid. During the war, fox hunting was curtailed and the hounds went out on two days a week instead of three. In those days, every farm in our area had a flock of free-range poultry, and many others had a few laying hens. The destruction caused by the increase in the fox population was great, and a party went out one morning on an organised fox shoot. At that time, a lad of 12 or 13 could lawfully have a shotgun, which is not the case now, and I was a member of that party. The guns blazed away all day and the shoot was well organised. We shot two foxes, and they were the lucky ones.
I was allowed by the farmers in the area to shoot rabbits over their land, and I was at liberty to roam over this large area of the fox shoot. Over the following two or three weeks, I saw six foxes that had died, unquestionably from gangrene. I regret to say that the fox is not a clean animal. If anyone is misguided enough to shoot a cat, the cat, being a clean animal, will lick its wounds and prevent the onset of gangrene. But a fox is not like that.
I wish that the Bill's supporters who believe that shooting a fox is desirable could see what I saw—emaciated, wretched animals that had died five, six or more days after the fox shoot. They had suffered a lingering death, which must have been most painful. As a boy 50 years ago—I am sorry to go back 50 years, because I know that Labour Members do not like it—I resolved that, if I ever had control over land, I would never permit the shooting of foxes. I have held to that resolve.
A few years ago, it was my turn to shut the chicken hut. Unfortunately, the Whips had changed the business of the House, and we had a vote at 7 pm. I got back late, and found a trail of feathers from the chicken house leading across the fields to a cover which told its own tale. I was rather angry, but when it was suggested the following morning that the fox should be shot, I composed myself sufficiently to say, "No, I think that the Whips should be shot."
The other predator is the mink, about which hardly a word has been said. The River Pang, a tributary of the Thames, goes through my land, and alongside it there has always been a good deal of wildlife. About 30 years ago, I set aside an area to be left undisturbed to see what would happen. I discouraged anyone from going in, so that it was left alone. Some 15 years ago—I am sorry to go back again, but it is important on this occasion—we had a mink. It was a few days before we realised that a pair of mink had come into what my neighbours kindly call—I am not pretentious enough to call it this—a wildlife sanctuary.
Once we realised that the mink were there, I got my son who was then aged 15 and a friend of his to shoot the two mink. It was three weeks before they were able to shoot one of them. There was a great deal of cover in the summer months, and it was difficult to get a shot at the mink. By the time the mink was shot—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may find that funny, but I do not. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] 1253 I wish that they could understand what I am saying. By the end of three weeks, all the wildlife had gone. The fish had gone from the river, the kingfisher had been killed and the water voles—I call them water rats, which is often misunderstood; which are delightful animals and no relation to ordinary rats—had all gone. The mallard had gone, and that little area of land was dead. It took eight years for the wildlife to return.
I ask those who support the Bill what advice they would give me if the mink returned. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shoot them.") Where at my age am I to find another 15-year-old son who can stand waiting for three weeks in the summer holiday? That is ridiculous. That would not work anyway, because after three weeks, all the wildlife would have gone. It is an absurd suggestion.
Apart from the cruelty of trapping, there is only one practical method, towards which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is edging his way. The only practical and humane way is to use hounds. The hunt for a mink is not long. The longest period is when the hounds work along the line of a mink for a mile or two. When the hounds get fairly close, the mink may try to escape down an earth and may have to be dug out, which is not a pleasant business, although it is done only when the owners of the land ask for it to be done. The mink is more likely to climb a tree and then, with a bit of luck, one can shoot it. That is a very humane end.
If the Bill proceeds further in this Parliament or in the next, I hope that mink hunting will be removed from it. The case for mink hunting is overwhelming. I do not blame the mink, and I believe that it was a wretched. rotten individual who first brought the mink—
§ Sir Richard Body
I simply apply the test of the late Reggie Paget. I believe that the total amount of suffering in the animal kingdom will be not less but more if the Bill goes through in its present form.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) spoke with great sincerity which showed that this has been a civilised debate. We are all aware that there are strong pressures and feelings outside. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) said earlier that he had received an anonymous postcard and I am sorry about that. I have received a few strong letters. I received one telling me that I was consorting with communists in supporting the Bill and another saying that I was supporting socialist crackpots. Another said that I was "a repulsive creep", whatever that is, and another said—the most serious charge of all—that I was a disgrace to the Monday club.
Fox hunting is not an issue in which I had any real interest for many years. I took the view, shared with my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, that if one had to control foxes, there was no harm in having that done by the hunt. It appeared to be an effective method which added some glamour and colour to the countryside. However, having visited a number of incidents involved with hunting and having studied the issue, I find that the 1254 case for fox hunting seems to fade away whenever it is exposed to any logical examination. There also seemed to be no doubt that the amount of cruelty involved, which is deliberate cruelty, is grotesque.
One of the great arguments against the Bill is that it is a means by which the townies seek to impose their way on country folk and that the country folk are upset about that because they are united in supporting hunting. The evidence shows the contrary. In many of my visits to the countryside, I have found that the vast majority of the population regard the whole hunting business as basically offensive and wrong. If hon. Members doubt that, they should look at all the opinion polls, including a recent opinion poll in Exmoor which is a great centre of hunting. The poll showed that fewer than one fifth of the population there considered that hunting was acceptable.
It has been said that some people see the Bill as a class business in which the upper class is being attacked by left-wing elements. Again, the opinion polls tell us clearly that more than two thirds of all Conservative voters are opposed to fox hunting and want it to be banned.
The misleading impression is given that hunting makes a significant contribution to the control of foxes. Again, the figures are clear. The contribution made by fox hunting is so insignificant that if it disappeared tomorrow no one would notice. Only about 2.5 per cent. of foxes killed in a season are killed by fox hunting, which shows how insignificant hunting is.
The most worrying group are those who suggest that hunting is part of the natural world of the countryside. We know that that is nonsense. The hounds have to be specially trained to go on the hunt because it is not part of their natural instincts. It has to be done through the appalling and grotesque procedure that is called cubbing, which I have observed. A group of young hounds are brought to a small group of trees where it is known that there is a family of young foxes. The hounds are then set to work, to try to encourage them to become involved in the business of fox hunting. In other words, it is not natural for hounds in any way.
The idea that there is a quick kill and that there is no question of any cruelty is absolute rubbish. I think that most hon. Members appreciate that. The principle of hunting— especially in Exmoor, where deer are hunted as well as foxes—involves a situation in which there is the choice to extend the length of the hunt for the ponderous, slow hounds. It is not a matter of setting off a greyhound, when the hunt is over quickly—in a flash—and the fox is killed. Instead, there is a deliberate extension of the hunt, obviously for the purposes of entertainment and relaxation. Why should we say that it is not cruel when the principle of the hunt is deliberate and specific cruelty as a result of extending it? The hunt for a deer can be as long as 20 miles.
We know that a fox tends to run extremely quickly but will be overtaken by the hounds over a long period. The hunt is deliberately prolonged and there is deliberate cruelty. There is the idea that the hounds come along and simply go pop, as it were, and that is the end of the fox. That is nonsensical. We know that almost every organisation that is committed to hunting in Britain has a group of terrier men. If, as often happens, the fox goes underground, they get to work their little terriers. For more than an hour there can be the most grotesque cruelty. The fox is eventually dug up and it is often shot or hit with a stave. In some instances—I am sure that this is not with 1255 the approval of the master of the foxhounds—the fox is thrown alive to the dogs. I say in all sincerity that I have received some appalling hate mail over this issue. The one person whom I exempt is the splendid Captain Wallace, who is the head of the master of foxhounds organisation. He has replied to my letters with great courtesy and respect, although he disagrees with me strongly.
We must ask ourselves what the Bill is about. Basically, it is nothing to do with the control of foxes. The argument used to be advanced that poor chickens were torn to bits by ghastly foxes. That argument is now irrelevant because most poor chickens are now contained in ghastly cages as part of factory farming. The chickens can hardly turn round in the cages. Then there are the little lambs. All the scientific evidence and all the studies by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Scottish Office and the universitites have shown that where lambs are taken they are usually dead or particularly weak ones which are about to die in any event. Even if I were wrong and the Ministry and the universities were wrong, the hunts do not constitute an attempt to wipe out the foxes who go for dear little lambs. Indeed, the hunts say that they want to keep a balanced population of foxes, so they do not have the protection that could be provided.
My feeling is that there is no point in denying that fox hunting is a deliberately cruel sport. It is designed to involve great cruelty by extending the long period of a hunt. There is no point in trying to argue that there is a social purpose in fox hunting. The contribution made by fox hunters to the control of the fox population is so insigificant that it does not really matter at all.
What about the slippery slope argument? Is there a danger that if fox hunting is made unlawful we shall move on to make everything else unlawful? I am sure that there are many who want to do lots of new things. For example, I should like to go much further in controlling factory farming, which in my view is the most cruel activity that one could have. Other Members may want to do many other things. Whether we want to go further or to stay where we are, we cannot run away from the fact that we are faced with a specific proposition that we must consider. I suggest that on the basis of logic and real arguments there is no case for fox hunting. We have the continuation of a practice of deliberate and grotesque cruelty. It should be banned and I hope that we shall start on that process today.
§ Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)
I very much hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) does not lose his membership of the Monday club. The club would be the poorer without him.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on bringing forward the measure, and on having the courage to do so. He has given the House an opportunity to debate an issue that may well feature in the Labour party's general election manifesto, unless it is prepared to have second thoughts about that. I refer to its commitment to end hunting.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North did well in moving the Bill's Second Reading. I think that his performance—he is a Labour Front-Bench spokesman— 1256 will have been heard with great interest by the 5 million or so active field sportsmen in the country. On average, there are 7,000 per constituency. I have no doubt that they will be redoubling their efforts to ensure that a Labour Government are not elected.
The hon. Gentleman could not have timed this measure better. He spent a great deal of his speech explaining what was not in the Bill. Perhaps I could address my remarks to some of the remarks that he made. I declare an interest not only as a countryman and a field sportsman but as chairman of the Council for Country Sports, which is the umbrella beneath which some 52 organisations representing field sportsmen and women unite to defend their freedom to participate in field sports. They range from horsemen to falconers and from coarse fishermen to pigeon shooters. They campaign together and their slogan, like that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is that an attack on one is perceived as an attack on all. All field sports seem to be under attack by the provisions of the Bill, which is no more than a trailblazer for the legislation that we might see from a Labour Government.
Therefore, if Labour Members want to improve their chances of winning the general election, they have the time, with their manifesto not yet off to the printers, to remove any commitment to attack field sports. I hope and believe that many of them will have second thoughts and take the party politics out of field sports.
The Bill's long title says that it makesprovision for the protection of wild mammals from cruelty; and for connected purposes.The Bill's aims are not based on compassion or conservation. Its main intention is simply to end hunting with hounds. The Bill is disguised as an animal welfare measure, but, if enacted, it would give protection to pests and do incalculable damage to other wildlife and to the countryside.
Hon. Members cannot claim—although many have attempted to do so—that shooting is unaffected by the Bill. Certainly, the new clause that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North mentioned would not be worth much more than the paper that it is not yet written on, to judge by what he said about it.
The Shooting Times and Country Magazine described as "baloney" the claim that the Bill is an animal welfare measure. The editor said that the Bill revealed the Labour party as the enemy of hunting, shooting and honesty. That is strong stuff, but perhaps it has some consistency with the survey of the views of Members of Parliament on country sports, which was carried out by The Field magazine last December. It showed that almost 50 per cent. of Labour Members who gave their view said that they would support a ban on shooting.
I am sure that hon. Members will also have seen reports in this month's newspapers that the Hunt Saboteurs Association has said that it would target fishing and shooting next if hunting with hounds was banned. Mr. Ponton, its national spokesman, said that the progression was inevitable. He said:We are starting a fundamental shift in orientation to take in shooting and fishing, particularly shooting.
His views were echoed by Mr. Eric Staples, the national fund raising co-ordinator of the HSA, who said thatonce hunting was banned it would move on to shooting and fishing.
It is clear that not only hunting and shooting but angling is threatened by the Bill. The League Against Cruel Sports has said that it, too, would campaign against 1257 angling. It has said that, although as yet it has no policy on angling, the league will look at it in the near future. It believes that fish feel pain and, therefore, that fishing for entertainment inflicts unnecessary suffering on other living creatures. That exposes the hypocrisy of the Bill.
The Campaign for the Abolition of Angling has already promoted direct action against anglers with its national anti-angling day. There have been physical attacks on anglers and angling shops. We do not want to see such action. It is the action of people who have lost the argument on hunting being extended to other field sports.
There is even a political threat to angling. I give one example. Labour-controlled Plymouth city council has attempted to adopt an animal rights charter to include a ban on angling on council land. Yet the Labour party claims that it is not opposed to angling. Under pressure from the "Right to Roam" lobby, which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) mentioned, Labour has agreed to give a right of public access to foreshores, rivers and canals together with their banks. Nothing could be more damaging to fishing. I remind the House that, in a recent poll conducted among hon. Members, nearly one third of Labour Members replied that they were merely neutral on the issue of angling, whereas hon. Members from other parties overwhelmingly supported the sport.
I received a letter from the National Federation of Sea Anglers, which says:We feel that if the 'Anti Brigade' manage to force this through the 'House', their next target will no doubt be the `Fishing Fraternity'.The federation asks us to oppose the Bill with vim and vigour, and that is what I am doing my best to do.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
As was made clear earlier by the occupant of the Chair, a wide debate is allowed on Second Reading. The hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) is taking up the time allowed to the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who has the Floor.
§ Mr. Colvin
Thank you for that defence, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Much has been said about the effect that a ban on hunting would have on employment. I do not want to rehearse the arguments about that, other than to say that all field sports create jobs and trade and contribute significantly to the conservation of the landscape and its livelihood. There has been some debate about the figures. According to a letter from the British Equestrian Trade Association,Hunting contributes 16,500 jobs and £148 million of turnover to the British economy".That is a significant amount.
There has been some discussion today about the Scott Henderson report, which—I know—was written a long time ago, in 1951. Giving evidence on the Scott Henderson report, the RSPCA said that, although it could not approve ethically of any form of hunting—that is written into the society's constitution—it regarded fox hunting as an effective and traditional method of control and felt that, 1258 if hunting were abolished, greater cruelty would be caused to foxes by the more widespread use of other methods. That is the nub of the argument today.
That was the view expressed by the majority of members of the RSPCA at the time, although I know that others—a minority—wanted hunting prohibited. That is typical of the division of opinion among people who are genuinely concerned with the welfare of animals. Since then, through what is now described as entryism, the RSPCA has been taken over by people who seem to be more interested in politics than in the welfare of the animals for whose welfare they are constitutionally obliged to campaign.
It became clear to the authors of the Scott Henderson report, as long ago as 1951, that the opposition of some people to fox hunting is based on considerations other than cruelty. Some of the evidence that was submitted to that committee left it in no doubt that there were many who objected to fox hunting only because of the widely held misconception that it existed solely for the pleasure of wealthy people. In the view of the authors of the report, that was quite untrue and I can tell the House that it remains untrue today.
We are debating not only cruelty to animals but the rights and freedoms of individuals. In criticising Scott Henderson, hon. Members should take account of what the then Labour Minister said—
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)
First, I declare my interest as a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports. I have received about 300 postcards from my constituents. I regret that a number of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), should have attempted to smear the League Against Cruel Sports as a result of one—or perhaps half a dozen—isolated forgeries. I checked every card that I received to find out whether its sender was on the electoral register. I have answered each one. No one has responded in any way other than to say that he or she sent those cards. It is disgraceful to take an individual case, or a handful of them, in an attempt to smear an organisation such as that.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
All I can say to my hon. Friend is that I had a letter from a constituent who said that he was appalled that I had sent him an unsolicited letter. I agree that all the cards I have received came from people on the electoral register. However, I must point out to my hon. Friend that if somebody has taken the trouble to forge a card for one of my constituents, it is more than probable that many other cards were similarly forged.
§ Mr. Bowden
I accept my hon. Friend's withdrawal of his attack on the League Against Cruel Sports. What one individual does is an entirely different matter. The league did not need to forge cards; it sent out thousands and thousands because the vast majority of the people of this country are against hunting.
There is another aspect to this smear campaign. Many hon. Members will have received a letter from the Campaign Against Animal Rights Terrorism.
§ Mr. Bowden
There is no address on it.
The letter says:The Campaign Against Animal Rights Terrorism is calling for a number of animal rights groups to be proscribed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.It lumps the League Against Cruel Sports with organisations such as the Hunt Saboteurs Association and the Animal Liberation Front. No hon. Member on either side of the House —there are patrons and vice-presidents of the league on both sides—would be associated with an organisation that indulged in illegal or criminal activities. That anyone should use any such argument to undermine or attack the league is disgraceful.
It never ceases to amaze me that the pro-hunting lobby continually repeats that fox hunting is needed to control the number of foxes. We know that there are at least 300,000, and probably up to 500,000 foxes in this country. The hunts themselves admit that on average they kill only between 12,000 and 13,000 a year. We know that the fox population would continue to breed and exist if there were up to 70 per cent. culling of foxes in any given year, so hunting in the context of the control of foxes is completely irrelevant. It is not true to say that it controls the number—it does not control the number.
Let us not forget that all measures that go on to the statute book—this is why fishing and shooting are irrelevant—have to be approved by the House. To say that because we pass one Bill we automatically pass another Bill to do something else is a futile argument. In its wisdom, Parliament decided, rightly, to ban the digging for and the baiting of badgers. To dig out a badger and to smash in its head with a spade was legal not so long ago. Why on earth, therefore, cannot we accept the argument that it should be as totally revolting and disgusting to do the same to a fox? That is what is happening, however, throughout the country.
I have great respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body). I listen carefully to his comments on animal welfare. He has a proven track record and he has made a strong case regarding shooting. I have referred to the irrelevance of hunting the fox and he has talked about the dangers of shooting. Ought not we to examine whether there is a strong case for leaving the fox alone completely? Let nature take its course. The fox will breed only where there is food. Where there is a shortage of rabbits, rats and other vermin, foxes will disappear in great numbers. We know that hunting will not control the fox. We also know that there are great difficulties when it comes to shooting the fox.
The objective of hunting foxes with hounds is not conservation; it is not to control numbers; it is not a quick chase and a swift kill. The objective is to provide a cheap thrill for sadistic entertainment. Hunting with hounds is an organised, deliberate and calculated act of cruelty. Like cock fighting, bear baiting, dog fighting and badger baiting, it will soon be condemned to the dustbin of history.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
There has been a tendency in this debate to strike an abstract ring, almost as though the natural environment—nature itself—does not exist now as it has done over the centuries. My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) brought some reality into the picture of the environment that we are discussing.
1260 I am against the Bill because I believe that it is right and natural for man to hunt, just as it is for animals to hunt and as has been the practice over the centuries. To disrupt nature and our traditional way of controlling the environment would upset nature's natural balance.
Much has been said about shooting foxes. It is not an easy business. People should remember that one does not simply go out and shoot a fox to control the numbers. Foxes have to be found and dispatched swiftly and without accident. Controlling foxes by shooting raises the question whether they are shot and killed stone dead. What my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston said about foxes suffering from gangrene after a missed shot shows that it is every bit as cruel and painful as hunting those foxes.
Much has also been said about hedgehogs, and I would not disagree with clause 1. Indeed, if this were a one-clause Bill, it would have unanimous support. I wish that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) had dealt with that aspect of cruelty only, rather than widening it to encompass all hunting.
Hunting is not necessarily about killing the fox or the hare—it is the chase which is so important. That is what it is all about, and that is where man's instincts come into play. The cruelty that a cat imposes on a mouse is every bit as bad. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North may well try to ban "Tom and Jerry" cartoon films, which show far greater cruelty. That is the next stage of the logic being propounded in the debate.
There has been reference to jobs. It is important to recognise that many people living in the countryside love the environment and want to protect it, and it is their job to do just that. It could be trimming the hedges, being a gamekeeper, providing the weapons or the clothing or tending to the horses or the dogs that make up the whole panoply of the hunt. That involves a great number of people. We can speculate about the number of jobs at risk, but there will certainly be many.
This is not a matter of Labour against Conservative. Those who follow and participate in the hunts come from all walks of life. There is an underlying sense in the anti-hunting lobby that wants an end to the sport because those people believe that a class element is involved. That cannot be denied. I know that there will be hon. Members in the Lobby today voting for the Bill because they believe that there is a class element in the sport. I am not a huntsman —I do not hunt—but I have attended coursing meetings and I take an interest in field sports. There is a great mixture of people who enjoy those sports and they come from every walk of life. There is no class element.
The panacea for the debate must be to preserve country life and to allow it to go on as it has done over the centuries. To imagine that we now live in a different world and that we are more civilised even than the Romans is a myth. We must obey the reasonable instinct of mankind and allow the countryside to settle its own scores.
§ Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)
The hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) does not seem to understand that his is the perfect argument for the reintroduction of practices that have been banned for the past 100 years. If his argument is that hunting is a valuable part of the 1261 tradition of the countryside, why does not he advocate the reintroduction of otter hunting, badger baiting, cock fighting, dog fighting, bear baiting or bull baiting?
§ Mr. Davies
I am afraid that time is tight. The hon. Gentleman has made his speech and I want to make mine.
This morning we have had the strangest debate. My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has put before the House a simple, practical proposition: that we should extend to wild mammals exactly the same consideration and freedom from ill treatment that we extend to other animals, such as those in our homes, on our farms, in our zoos and even in our abattoirs. All those animals are entitled to freedom from cruelty. The particular anomaly is that in the eyes of the law we cannot be guilty of cruelty to wild animals, and my hon. Friend seeks to redress that anomaly.
All the opposition to the Bill has come from hon. Members who advocate hunting. What is strange is that not one of them has had the guts to stand up and defend the practice of hunting. They talked about the traditions of the countryside and jobs. We had the ludicrous assertion that a million horses would be put down. We had a dishonest speech from the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who said that behind the Bill was a hidden agenda, that it was opposed to shooting and would lead to the extinction of the deep-sea fishing fleet. Those were ludicrous assertions. My hon. Friend has made it absolutely clear that the Bill must be taken at face value. All of us have made it clear that we have no hidden agenda and that the Bill does not affect shooting, fishing, falconry, ferreting or any of the other absurd propositions.
§ Sir Charles Morrison
Surely what matters is not what the hon. Gentleman says, but what is in the Bill. What is in the Bill would be enormously detrimental to shooting.
§ Mr. Davies
That is a legal matter. If the hon. Gentleman is genuinely concerned for wildlife, he should support the principle of extending protection from cruelty to wildlife on Second Reading and make it clear that he wishes to seek improvements in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has said that he will move a new clause to address the hon. Gentleman's concerns. Why will not the hon. Gentleman accept my hon. Friend's guarantee at face value? Why will not he accept my hon. Friend's guarantee to include a new clause that exempts shooting from the Bill's provisions?
§ Sir Charles Morrison
What about clause 1? The hon. Gentleman must consider clause 1. Counsel's opinion is that clause 1 could be enormously disadvantageous to shooting.
§ Mr. Davies
I, too, have sought counsel's opinion. The opinion asserts that clause 1 statesa person wilfully inflicts unnecessary suffering on, or cruelly ill-treats a wild mammaland that shooting clearly is not "wilfully" inflicting cruelty. The act of shooting is designed to kill an animal.
§ Mr. Davies
No, let me deal with this point.
I concede that if an individual attempts to shoot a mammal or even a bird—the Bill refers only to mammals—with a weapon or even at a distance that is inappropriate for the target, clearly, it is an act of cruelty and the individual should be brought to book. The Bill and the guarantee given by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North should be enough to satisfy people of good intent. However, the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) and his friends are not men of good intent. They wish to defeat the Bill because they wish to defend the practice of hunting, but they do not have the guts to stand up and do that.
We have heard the absurd proposition that the Bill should be a matter of conscience. Have we ever heard anything so ridiculous? Do we say it is a matter of conscience if a farmer ill treats dairy cattle, his pigs or his lambs or whether a householder feeds his cat or dog? Of course we do not. We live in a civilised society and we have standards that we expect everyone to comply with. The hon. Gentleman and his friends want to exclude wild animals for the benefit of their entertainment, but they do not have the guts to tell us that.
On the matter of conscience, last July we saw members of Quorn hunt exercise that by deliberately defying their own codes of practice by digging up a fox and releasing it to a pack of hounds. Members of that hunt did not protest and exercise their conscience. It was not until the action of the Quorn hunt was exposed that the master of the hunt was forced to resign. What happened then? A new master was appointed, but he was sacked in a ballot last month because he insisted on enforcing the rules of the hunt.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman is nodding because he does not want the rules enforced. So much for leaving these matters to the conscience of individuals.
There is a good defence of hunting, but it has not been expressed in the debate. Hunting is a good day out and people hunt because they like to dress up, appear well attired, be with their friends, get on their horses and gallop around the countryside early in the morning. Why do the defenders of hunting not say that? I do not believe that they are deliberately cruel or full of malevolent intent. The charge against them is that they are indifferent to the suffering that they cause. They set off in the morning, either on Saturday, Tuesday or Thursday, for their entertainment and to gallop across the countryside, but they do not need a live quarry in front of them to enjoy that. The fox, for this purpose, is a dispensable animal and they are indifferent to the suffering that they cause. Why do the supporters of hunting not give us their defence?
The Masters of Foxhounds Association sent a letter to all of my hon. Friends. It states:Rule 1 of The Masters of Foxhounds Association states: `Foxhunting as a sport is the hunting of the fox in his wild and natural state with a pack of Hounds'.
The association asserts that that sport is a natural sport. Is it a sport for 50, 100 or 150 riders on horses with 15 to 20 couples of hounds to go to a wood, beat the sides of their horses to make the fox stay in and to send in the hounds to chase it round and round that wood with no possibility of escape? Is that a sport? Is that hunting the fox in its natural state?
What happens if the fox manages to get away and breaks across the country to find refuge? Out comes the 1263 terrier man whose first objective is to flush the fox out. Is that hunting the fox in its natural state? When that fox makes its first escape from the hounds and riders, it is forced out again. If that fox will not bolt, it is left underground to fight the terriers. Is that hunting the fox in its natural state?
If the terriers cannot drag the fox out, what happens then? The men with spades come along, dig it out and bash it over the head with their spades, or shoot it or just throw it to the hounds, as the Quorn hunt did. That is what the Master of Foxhounds Association describes as the sport ofhunting the fox in his wild and natural state.All those people with horses, hounds and men with terriers and spades, accompanied by Land-Rovers, are said to be indulging in a sport. I do not think it is much of a sport.
Those who oppose the Bill talk mostly about foxes. They do not even attempt to justify stag hunting, hare coursing or hunting hares with harriers or beagles. They assert that the fox is a predator. Some of us have been accused of attributing human characteristics to animals, and the fox has been referred to as a cruel and barbaric murderer. Do those who advance that argument really believe that a fox wakes up in the morning full of ill-intent and says, "I could murder someone today"?
The fox is, of course, a predator. It engages in its natural pattern of behaviour when it goes out gathering its fill of earthworms, beetles and fallen fruit, because that is its staple diet. If it comes across a nesting ground bird or a hare or rabbit, it will take it, and in the spring it will take a weak and sometimes even a strong lamb. But nobody has explained how fox hunting is an appropriate response to that problem. If one must deal with the problem by controlling the fox, an individual fox, not the total fox population, must be controlled.
When the hunters go out in the morning, they do not say, "We must get that one fox that last night was after farmer Jones's lambs" or "We must get that fox that is preying on poultry." They chase the first fox that they come across. Nobody has suggested that that is an effective means of dealing with a predator.
All who know about these issues are aware that if one wants to protect animals, birds or poultry from predation, it can be done in one or two ways. Either the individual predator must be shot at the point of its attack—that is recognised in the guidelines issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation—or by lamping.
The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) hit the target when he referred to his experience with poultry. If he lives in an area where there are foxes and he leaves his hen house open during the night, the fox will, of course, go in. What does he think will happen? If he is worried about his poultry, he should make arrangements to have the door locked at night. That is what I do, and only once—it happened in the middle of the last general election campaign—I left the door of my poultry house open, and the fox got in and killed all my chickens.
§ Mr. Davies
My hon. Friend asks a good question.
I make sure that my poultry house is locked. Every night the fox comes round. I could stay up every night and shoot whatever fox comes visiting. I could shoot one 1264 tonight and another tomorrow night. That could go on all week, and foxes would still be visiting my hen house. We have a resident fox population. Kill one, and another is waiting to fill that predator's space.
The hon. Member for Holland with Boston also talked about mink. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had a problem with a pest in his constituency—the coypu—and the Ministry wanted to exterminate them because they were burrowing into the canal banks. The Ministry did not start coypu hunting or obtain some coypu hounds. It ordered a proper scientific evaluation of the problem, set traps and monitored the situation. Scientists were employed to deal with the problem, and the coypu were wiped out.
If the hon. Gentleman is also worried about mink, he will be aware that every trout farmer and person with river interests trap mink, which are vulnerable to live trapping—
§ Sir Richard Body
I appreciate what can be done by trapping. I see many mink traps and I think that is much more cruel to keep a mink in such a trap. Often, those traps are set and not looked at again for two or three days. That is extremely cruel—much more cruel than the method that I suggested.
§ Mr. Davies
In that case, the hon. Gentleman is being highly irresponsible. He is either setting traps—
§ Mr. Davies
May I finish my point? If the hon. Gentleman is setting traps, he should exercise responsibility and visit them regularly. If he refers to other people setting traps, he should take it upon himself to ensure that those traps are properly inspected by referring them to the appropriate authorities. I am surprised that, with his long-standing record of support for animal welfare, the hon. Gentleman is so casual in his defence of the welfare conditions of mink.
The Bill makes full provision for that in clause 8(1)(a), which allows for the proper licensing of the control of pests or predators where necessary.
Earlier in the debate, I intervened on the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), who spoke about the problem of lambs. The hon. Members for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) and for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) assert that fox hunting is necessary to control the fox population because foxes kill nesting game birds such as partridge, pheasant and grouse. They are correct to say that foxes will take game birds and eggs. But why is there a closed season on fox hunting at the very time when those game birds are nesting? The problem exists in May and June, when foxes are not hunted. It is not a clever response to say, "All those foxes are killing our partridges, but never mind, we shall wait until October before we hunt them." Do they seriously believe that that is an acceptable argument? They then say that fox hunting is the best way to kill those predators.
The hon. Members for Romsey and Waterside and for Devizes support snaring because that is what they do. 1265 They do not hunt foxes in May and June because that is when they put down snares. Their real interest is shooting game birds, which is why they want snaring.
§ Mr. Paice
Is the hon. Gentleman honestly advocating that foxes should be controlled during their natural breeding season? It is traditional that any animal—pest or otherwise —are not hunted then. I do not refer simply to hunting. It would be wrong to shoot a vixen in April or May, or kill her in any other way, when a litter of cubs may be left in a hole to suffer from starvation. That cannot be what the hon. Gentleman is recommending.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman understands neither his brief nor the biology of the fox. Hunts go out during the very season when the vixen are whelped. They hunt in February, when the vixen has her cubs underground. The consequences are twofold: either the hunt will kill a vixen, leaving the cubs to die underground, or the hunt will kill a dog fox if it is above ground and he will be unable to provide for the vixen. The hon. Gentleman must understand that the current practice of hunting in February and March results in that happening.
It has been asserted that hunting controls the fox population. All the scientific evidence available from universities, academic studies, field research and the examination of other predators that are top of their food chain shows beyond doubt that the factors that control the fox population are not predation from above but the ability of the habitat to sustain that population. It depends on whether there is sufficient habitat for individual animals to control and defend an adequate food supply to sustain them. If one tries to control the total fox population by culling, whether by hunting, snaring or shooting, one simply encourages foxes to breed more rapidly. Instead of our having a smaller fox population, we will simply have a younger one, because the young vixens will breed more. We should encourage research being done at the universities of Aberdeen, Oxford and Bristol to determine the impact of the culling of foxes. I think that if it were not done, there would be fewer foxes. There would be an older fox population, and fewer vixens would breed. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) is laughing, but if he spoke to the farmers in his constituency, he would know that that is the case. Older vixens would breed less; they would have fewer litters. The population would come into equilibrium with the habitat. All the scientific evidence demonstrates that.
The Bill establishes that individuals cannot be cruel to wild animals—a principle which no one can dispute. If it applies to captive and domestic animals, surely it must apply to wild animals. The hunting lobby opposes that principle. We should support the Bill, in defiance of the hunting lobby, for three reasons. The first is that the act of hunting is cruel and unnecessary. Secondly, if we accept the Bill we shall start a new chapter; we shall start to rewrite our relationship with animals, saying that although we use them, we must do so with respect.
The third reason is that this country has no international moral authority when it negotiates on matters of animal welfare. That is why the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food could not get his way in Iceland when he opposed the culling of whales. The Icelanders said, "Do not tell us how to cull whales humanely. At least we eat the whales that we kill. You practise fox hunting for fun."
1266 In the Council of Ministers, we cannot oppose the French practice of culling birds, or the Spaniards' of bull fighting and the other blood festivals. We must accept that there is now a European and international dimension. If we want to hold our heads up high in the councils of the world we must put our own house in order.
§ Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you received any requests for a statement on today's sharp fall in the inflation figure? The Secretary of State for Employment should be brought to the House—
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)
I begin by offering my congatulations to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on his good fortune in securing the debate today. We have had the opportunity for a full day's debate on an important matter, and we have debated it with passion, but also with good humour. The matter was last debated and voted on in 1949—that may be something of a record.
The Bill's title describes it as a measure to provide protection for wild mammals. The Government have already given considerable priority to that aspect of the law, and I hope that the House will bear with me if I give a few details of what we have achieved. I hope that hon. Members will agree that it amounts to an impressive list of useful and effective measures.
We have put the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 on to the statute book. It established for the first time in this country a comprehensive framework protecting species and their habitats. I shall give the House three examples of the substantial advances that the Act has brought about.
First, it protects 116 species of animals, including all our endangered mammals. Creatures such as the red squirrel, the otter and 15 species of bats found in Great Britain are now protected against killing, injuring and disturbance. We keep the list of species under regular review with our scientific advisers, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
Secondly, the Act banned the use of the self-locking snare on any wild animal and protected a number of particular species, such as the badger and the red squirrel, from trapping and snaring in general. The United Kingdom is also acting against cruel trapping methods abroad. We were in the forefront in pressing for the EC regulation on the importation of certain furs. That regulation was adopted last November and will prohibit the use of the leg-hold trap, which has already been banned in this country for more than 30 years.
Thirdly, the 1981 Act gives special protection to birds. The Act made it an offence to kill or take wild birds, damage their nests or take or destroy their eggs. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 was also tightened up last year by making it an offence to cause or pennit another person to contravene those provisions of the Act which prohibit the use of cruel or indiscriminate methods of killing or taking wild birds or protected species. This will help to bring home to people who use or permit the use of illegal methods to kill wildlife that we are determined to 1267 do everything possible to meet our objectives for the protection of our natural heritage, and especially our endangered species.
Clearly, the provision of protection for animals which are pests in the countryside motivates the Bill. However, pests are already subject to the law. It is a testimony to the British concern for animals that our pests, as well as our pets, are covered by the law. I should say to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes) that some areas are probably not yet protected.
Quite apart from the Wildlife and Countryside Act, there is legislation governing the use of chemical products and spring traps to control pests. Before they can be approved for sale, products classified as pesticides undergo a thorough evaluation. This includes an assessment of whether the product is humane in its action. Similar criteria apply to the testing of spring traps, which must be approved by order in the House.
I am a little disappointed by the Bill's provisions. The Bill is very wide ranging, in that it seeks to provide protection for any wild mammal and to protect them from a number of activities. It is obvious that the Bill is designed to provide the greatest possible protection to the greatest number of wild mammals. However, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, especially at the start of his speech, made no secret of the fact that one of the principal aims of the Bill is the prevention of fox hunting and other field sports. As the hon. Gentleman knows, that central tenet is bound to be contradicted by those who see field sports as a proper and necessary part of maintaining the balance of nature. We have heard many such arguments in the debate. Nevertheless, this is the issue of principle at the heart of the debate.
My personal view is that a simple Bill that tackled the issue of field sports on its own would have been a better way of achieving the purpose. We could then have had a debate that concentrated entirely on the issue of principle. As it is, the other provisions in the Bill will complicate today's debate and the consideration of the field sports question. It is, after all, the issue of principle which really interests the public.
All hon. Members who have spoken and many others have reported full postbags on the central issue. The Bill's supporters claim that a substantial majority of the public are in favour of banning fox hunting. My straw poll on Wednesday among my Home Office colleagues, who represent a fairly good cross-section of constituencies, suggested that the division is nearer half and half. I share hon. Members' scepticism about the results of ordinary and straw polls.
§ Mr. Colvin
My right hon. Friend speaks about the results of straw polls, which were mentioned by some hon. Members. A recent straw poll in the New Forest showed that a majority of people were in favour of a ban on hunting. On that result, the local Liberal Democrat council decided to pass a resolution calling on me to support such a ban. However, that straw poll was not consistent with a previous one which showed that 97 per cent. of New Forest people were in favour of hunting. Those who carry out straw polls probably get the results that they seek.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I am not sure whether I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that, as I carried out a straw poll among my Home Office colleagues.
I must tell the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North that the Government have considerable reservations about the effect of the Bill both on farmers and on rural communities as a whole. The Bill would impose onerous obligations on everyone in rural communities, making it extremely difficult to control agricultural pests effectively. The licensing system in the Bill is the problem. I was glad to note that, when the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North introdued the Bill he pointed to the possibility of reconsidering those provisions.
I will explain our fears about what would happen in practice once a farmer had applied for a licence and it may become clear to the House why we have such concerns. The Bill provides only for the issue of licences to prevent serious damage, but licensing should be limited in application. Each application received would require an assessment of whether serious damage was occurring, probably involving site visits, as well as a decision about whether a particular type of control might cause unnecessary suffering. The likely number of such applications would mean a massive work load for those involved in the proposed licensing authorities, with huge resource implications. At the same time, normal agricultural practices would be severely disrupted. I really am concerned about the effect that the increased bureaucracy would have on the farmer, whom many would consider to be quite burdened enough already, with rules and regulations to follow and forms to fill in.
The need for the farmer to protect his crops and livestock, and thus his livelihood, from pests is crucial and I fear that the Bill does not quite recognise that. This point is partly in reply to the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). Let us suppose that, quite unexpectedly, a farmer's lambs or chickens are attacked by a fox. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), in an excellent contribution to the debate, told us that that happens. What does the law-abiding farmer do? It is clear that the Bill would require him to put in for a licence to deal with any repetition of the situation by shooting or by some other method. How long would it take for that licence to come through? [HON. MEMBERS: "Years."] As I have already said—and as hon. Members have just pointed out—the men from the Ministry would have to visit to assess the seriousness of the damage to crops, land and poultry. They would then make a recommendation.
§ Mr. McNamara
I do not think that the right hon. Lady wants to mislead the House. If a farmer were presented with the difficulty to which she refers, clause 5 would apply. It says:A person shall not be guilty of an offence under section 2 above if he shows
- (a) that his action was necessary for the immediate protection of any domestic or captive animal which was being attacked by a wild animal; and
- (b) that he was the owner … or was acting" on his behalf.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I understand that point. I am addressing the central point of the Bill, which is that one expects licences to be gained by people who wish to protect their property.
§ Mr. Robert Banks
My right hon. Friend has spoken about the cost of the licensing system if the Bill were enacted. Does she agree that the cost would bear as heavily on urban dwellers as on those who live in the countryside and who benefit from the control of vermin?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
Exactly that effect would be felt, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I fear that Labour Members do not quite understand the extent to which licensing could cause a considerable problem. The man from the Ministry would have to make a recommendation and someone else would have to agree it. Eventually, there would have to be a licence in the post. However much one does not want to recognise that for the purposes of the Bill, in reality that is the way in which large bureaucracies work.
I fear that it will be too late for many farmers. Of course licensing systems can work quickly, but the scale of operation proposed in the Bill would be massive. Staff and money would be required to provide the standard of service that would be needed. If the public are expected to foot the Bill, we wonder whether that would be acceptable to them. We wonder also whether it would have to be yet another burden for the farmers to undertake. In reality, the farmer would choose to protect his livestock by whatever method he favoured before his licence arrived. That is something that he would have to justify, but, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has said, he would clearly be able to do so.
§ Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)
My right hon. Friend said at the beginning of her speech that it is a long time since the House debated the principle of the subject now under discussion. I believe that there has not been an objective inquiry into these matters since the late 1940s. As it is clear from our constituency mail and from the debate that there is a wide variation of interpretation of the factual evidence, does my right hon. Friend see any merit in establishing an objective inquiry so that those who wish to proceed may do so on the basis of agreed evidence?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I am interested in the notion that my hon. Friend puts forward. For the purposes of the Bill, however, several arguments have been advanced extremely clearly. I think that a high percentage of hon. Members understand the issues that we are debating.
The problem that I have outlined would go beyond the countryside. The Bill would have implications for the statutory control of rats in urban area, for example. I make that point only to show that the comprehensiveness of the Bill means that it strays away from the hunt into areas which I believe would better have been avoided. These are not just technical points. The licensing system underpins the whole of the Bill and amounts to a serious flaw.
Many of the arguments advanced on the question of hunting today were similarly advanced during the debate in 1949, although inevitably there have been changes in attitudes since then. Perhaps one of the more regrettable changes is that the issue tends these days not to be the subject of clear and well-argued debate alone. There are protests and demonstrations, some of which are far from peaceful, instead of rational and reasoned argument of the sort that we have had today.
I cannot help feeling that there is an irony, and one which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) will enjoy. The Minister 1270 who replied to the 1949 debate was the then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, who expressed his hope that the party that he represented, which I think was the same party as that which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North now represents, would not go down in history as the party that was anxious to abolish the pleasures of others. That was one of the many reasons which he adduced in support of the then Government's decision to oppose the then Bill.
As hon. Members are well aware, the Government have consistently adopted a position of neutrality towards all legislation which touches on field sports. We take the view that participation in field sports is a matter of individual conscience. The Government will maintain this tradition of neutrality today. As I have said, however, much of the Bill— the licensing provisions and the implications for the control of pests—has little to do with the central issue. I must tell the House that if the Bill reaches Committee the Government will have to oppose those aspects.
While the Government remain neutral—I shall not vote one way or the other today— we nevertheless think it right that all those Members who wish to express a view one way or another on Second Reading, including members of the Government, should be perfectly free to do so.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
Either the Minister's heart was not in the speech that she just made or she has accidentally made a compelling case for giving the Bill a Second Reading. If that was the best argument that the Government could put up against the Bill of my good and hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), I hope that the Bill will not only receive a Second Reading but do so by a huge majority.
I especially congratulate my good and hon. Friend because this is one of the rare occasions when we are invited to do something which has the clear and overwhelming support of electors in both town and country: 80 out of every 100 people polled, not in a straw poll but in a national opinion poll in November 1991, said that they disapproved of fox hunting. Indeed, I can tell Conservative Members that 67 out of every 100 people who say that they intend to vote Conservative at the coming election are also opposed to fox hunting.
Another poll, by NOP, found that 53 in every 100 rural residents disapproved of fox hunting, as against 69 per cent. of urban residents. On stag hunting, 79 per cent. of rural residents disapproved as against 81 per cent. of urban residents. On hare coursing 80 in every 100 disapproved, including 77 in every 100 in rural areas.
§ Mr. Corbett
So the enthusiasts for blood sports are in a clear minority. It has been argued that the fox is a pest that must be got rid of. But 70 in every 100 farmers say that foxes do not significantly harm their interests, and 36 per cent. say that foxes are useful in controlling rabbits and rodents. Two out of every three farmers say that they suffer no financial loss from fox damage.
Indeed, we know that in areas where there are fox hunts—this has been said in today's debate—great care is taken 1271 by those who hunt to construct artificial earths and stick heaps for foxes to breed in and to feed and nurture foxes when the weather is hard.
§ Mr. George Howarth
Does my hon. Friend agree that a lot has been made of the point that if we vote for the Bill today it will be the thin edge of the wedge for angling? Does he agree that the two things are distinct and separate and that it is possible to support anglers and angling while voting for the Bill today?
§ Mr. Corbett
I intend to come to that point later. My hon. Friend will be aware that sitting in front of him is my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) who, when he was Minister for Sport and filled that office with such distinction, took the lead in setting up a national angling council to give anglers a unified national voice. My hon. Friend is, of course, right that the Bill has nothing to do with angling or shooting.
§ Mr. Corbett
In a moment.
If, as the hunters argue, foxes are a vicious pest that must be driven from the face of the countryside, why all the tender loving care towards them? Most hunts know exactly where foxes live in their area and could easily dispatch them by shooting, if they chose to do so. If it is argued that shooting runs the risk of injuring rather than killing the fox, one wonders whether it is appropriate for such bad shots to hold a shotgun or firearms licence as they would appear to be a danger not only to wild animals but to themselves and other sporting shooters.
§ Mr. Corbett
I wonder why groups of people seek pleasure in the cruel destruction of so much of the wildlife with which we share this planet. It is a shame and a stain on a society which calls itself civilised that the badger has no enemy but man. Despite the law, men still dig up badger setts in a brutal and senseless manner. [HoN. MEMBERS: "It is Of course it is illegal, but I hope that no one is suggesting that because it is illegal it does not happen. Those of us who have seen badgers at close hand marvel at their beauty and dignity.
Some people—a minority—claim that it is perfectly all right to turn our countryside into the killing fields. There is no justification for any form of hunting with hounds in this day and age—if there ever was—and for such wanton cruelty to wildlife to continue under the name of sport. It is no such thing. It is the organised ritual destruction of wildlife, carried out in fancy dress amid great ceremony by those who pretend that they care for wildlife and its habitats. It degrades and disgraces the name of legitimate sport.
1272 Why cannot those who live in the countryside and those of us who visit it simply enjoy it, marvel at its beauty, rejoice in its variety, find solace in its silence and listen, relax and learn?
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
The country will be very interested to hear an official statement from the Labour Front Bench of the party's vitriolic hatred of people who pursue country sports. If the hon. Gentleman's case is that, because the opinion polls show that a large proportion of people are against hunting, the House should act against hunting, may I invite him to join me in the Lobby in support of capital punishment?
§ Mr. Corbett
No, not at all.
I also wonder what otherwise responsible parents feel they are doing when they encourage children as young as six or seven to see a fox, hare, stag or badger needlessly killed, and in some cases have those children blooded. What effect do they think that that has on a young mind, and what does killing for pleasure do to people who hunt over the years?
I am aware of, and have seen at first hand, the care that estate owners and landowners take with the conservation and protection of the threatened environment in our countryside, but if the price of that is that much of our countryside has to be needlessly soaked with the blood of wild animals, it is too high a price to pay. Those who hunt seem to claim that, in return for looking after the countryside, they should have the unfettered right to slaughter the wild animals that live there. That is a claim without foundation. As citizens privileged to have private access to the land, it is their duty to treat it with respect on behalf of us all and on behalf of future generations, and they should not seek—nor should they have— any privilege in return.
Some argue—although the polls show that it is not the case—that it is just us townies who oppose hunting with hounds. Although I help to represent a great city, I yield to no one in my devotion to, and concern for, the countryside, and I spend as much time as I can in it. To those who live in the countryside, I would also say that the environment is not just theirs—it belongs to each and every one of us.
§ Ms. Mowlam
Will my hon. Friend clarify the point about our being opposed to the people who go hunting? We have no objection to people who go hunting and we have tried to explain—as the Bill explains—that drag hunting is another option. Apart from the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), no one has come up with a reason why drag hunting is not acceptable, and the hon. Gentleman's explanation is that it is like kissing one's sister. Does my hon. Friend have any view on that?
§ Mr. Corbett
My hon. Friend is quite right. The Bill is about the protection of wild mammals, not the protection of people.
Those who took part in yesterday's so-called farmers' protest at the Stoneleigh showground in Warwickshire were under close instruction to make themselves look more like a squad from "The Archers" than those engaged in bloodsports. The National Hunt Committee memo instructed:There will be no hounds, no red coats, no top hats, no hunting horns. Banners should be made which state clearly the county you are from eg 'Gloucester farmers say this', 'Warwickshire farmers demand that' etc.".1273 Why the modesty? If there is nothing to hide, if there is nothing to be ashamed of, why no hounds, why no red coats, why no top hats and why no hunting horns? Are they not all part of the ritual that hunters claim is their birthright? Why was there no bold assertion of that ancient right? The truth is that somewhere behind those who organised yesterday's demonstration was just plain shame—a shame which prevented them from literally demonstrating in their true colours and a shame which stains their sporting claims.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why a briefing note was sent to all his colleagues who feel as he does suggesting that they should refuse any invitations to go and talk to the hunts or to see how the hunts operate?
§ Mr. Corbett
I have not seen such a note; I did not get one. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Nor did we."] I said earlier that there has been a bid by those who engage in blood sports to turn this into a townie-versus-villager issue. I shall read out a few random cuttings from a number of newspapers which circulate almost exclusively in rural areas. On 6 December 1991 the West Cumbria Evening News reported:Cumbrian villagers are up in arms after claiming that fox hunters cause 'mayhem' in the countryside … Anne Watson, of Newcroft Kennels, Mawbray, said 'I was appalled at the mayhem they caused.'The Western Daily Press on 23 December 1991 stated:Angry businessman Joe Hughes yesterday rapped the Beaufort hunt—a favourite of the Royals—after hounds and riders galloped through a field of valuable young ponies… huntsmen cut through a padlocked chain to gain access to the private paddock.I do not doubt that those very same huntsmen would be quick to condemn those who indulge in violence and vandalism at football matches.
The Shropshire Star of 8 December 1991 reported:Residents in a Shropshire village were angered when hounds from a hunt poured into gardens hot on the scent of a fleeing fox … the incident upset a number of villagers in Sheriffhales, near Telford.My favourite newspaper, the Royston Crow, on 29 December 1991 reported:A family looked on in horror as a fox was slaughtered in their garden by hounds from the Puckeridge and Thurlow Hunt.I have here similar reports from around the country and a list as long as my arm going back some years.
No other group of people would be allowed to cause such unfettered mayhem and distress, annoyance and damage. In urban areas the police would rightly have charged them with public order offences before they could say "Tally-ho." We know from the polls that hunting with hounds upsets large numbers of people who live in the countryside. We also know that most people in the countryside are opposed to hunting with hounds. We know, too, that if it is claimed that foxes are such an expensive pest and menace, hunting them with hounds must be the most costly and inefficient method that anyone could possibly devise to deal with them. If the aim is to exercise some form of control, it would be better for the huntsmen to admit that that is a senseless ambition and turn to drag hunting.
I like the comments of Miss J. E. Holland, whose address is Beech Hall, Depden, Suffolk. From the heart of rural England, and from an address which might suggest a political persuasion other than Labour, she says:Whatever one's opinions of the morality of cub/fox hunting perhaps these alleged sportspeople should consider 1274 how they would feel if, for example, their homes were besieged by football fans with dogs. I can think of no other sport where such unruly and selfish behaviour is considered acceptable.Neither can I, nor can my right hon. and hon. Friends, and nor can a substantial number of Conservative Members of Parliament.
There have been many comments about the Labour party's attitude towards angling and shooting —and indeed, to its animal welfare and wildlife policy generally. Among those who have questioned that is Jonathan Young, editor of the pro-hunting publication The Field. As a responsible editor, he should know that in 1978 the Labour party published a document called "Living Without Cruelty". It was the first major political party to publish such an animal welfare docment. It followed a decision by Labour's national executive committee to seek the abolition of all blood sports. That was reflected in our 1983 election manifesto, which stated:Hare coursing, fox hunting and all forms of hunting with dogs will be made illegal.In 1987, our election manifesto pledged toend all forms of organised hunting with hounds.
In each of those documents, significant extra words followed those that I have quoted. I shall quote them now to rebut the false allegations made by those who hunt and by others in this House. The 1987 manifesto said that, following the pledge to ban all forms of hunting with hounds:These changes will not affect shooting and fishing.I ask the House to accept that that is Labour's policy now, that it will be Labour's policy at the coming election, and that it will remain Labour's policy. When silly Jonathan Young of The Field asserted in the Daily Mail on Tuesday:An attack on one field sport is an attack on all",he was talking through that part of his body which usually sits upon a saddle. I repeat that Labour has no intention of extending the ban on hunting with dogs to shooting or angling.
The Bill gives the House the opportunity to respond to the public demand. By majority, people in town and countryside want an end to the needless slaughter. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading on an all-party basis. If it does not, the new Labour Government will introduce a Bill early in that Government's life.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)
I declare my interest—although it is well known to most hon. Members—as chairman of the British Field Sports Society, and I am a farmer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] I can hear the cries of "Disgraceful" from the Labour Benches. That clearly gives away both the intention behind the Opposition's support of the Bill and what they intend the Bill to accomplish.
Until the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) we had had a good debate, conducted in a fair and proper manner. The hon. Member for Erdington made one of the worst and most provocative speeches that I have heard in a long time. It was divisive—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is pleased with himself. He claimed that he was looking for all-party support, but in fact he managed to divide both the parties and the town and countryside communities.
The hon. Gentleman's views, expressed as a representative of Birmingham, were clearly hostile to not only those who participate in field sports in the countryside but those who live and work the countryside. They were hostile to 1275 those who have the trust—that is the only word that he uttered with which I agree —of maintaining the countryside and improving it for future generations. That is the intention of those who live in the countryside. The consequences of Bills such as this, and the attitude of people like the hon. Member for Erdington, make their job more difficult and make it less likely that the countryside will be maintained for future generations in a way that those of us who live in it and work it try to achieve.
Before the hon. Member for Erdington spoke, we had had an interesting and stimulating debate. Several issues were raised, and I wish to deal with them briefly. The first question is: what lies behind the Bill? It has two purposes. The first is to eliminate cruelty to wildlife. In so far as that is its intention, we on this side of the House and in the British Field Sports Society certainly agree with it. We supported the Badger Bill in the last Session, once it has been put into a state in which it genuinely protected badgers and no longer clandestinely threatened hunting. That was also a hidden agenda in that Bill in its original form.
We would support any legislation that gave added protection to hedgehogs against being maltreated or to any wild animal against being beaten and cruelly ill treated deliberately by people who have no business to do so.
Whether such a law would be effective is another matter. We have legislated on badgers yet, sadly, I read in my papers last week of a revolting attack on badgers during the past two weeks or so, in which one was impaled from head to tail by a stake. Such behaviour is disgusting. No hon. Member and few people in the country, other than the appalling perpetrators, would support it. Unfortunately, however effective we try to make the law, it cannot wholly prevent such activity from taking place. In so far as it does take place, it must be condemned. If an hon. Member introduced legislation to give hedgehogs the protection that has been given to badgers, of course I would support it.
It is, however, not the main purpose of this Bill to give such protection in the countryside. As the hon. Member for Erdington made absolutely clear, the principal thrust of the Bill and the main intention of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and the supporters is undoubtedly to abolish fox hunting. The hon. Member for Erdington made clear his personal commitment to shooting and fishing. I should like to know how he justifies logically an attack on hunting on the ground of cruelty and distinguishes it from an attack on shooting or fishing on the same ground. There is no logical way of claiming that hunting is unnecessarily cruel while in the same breath saying that fishing is not. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and others have expressed that point well.
In any culling or killing operation, an element of cruelty is undoubtedly involved. That is true in slaughter houses. It is true in particular of the Halal system killing. I think that those of the Jewish faith have that system of slaughter before they are prepared to eat any meat. There are degrees of cruelty in any method of slaughter. It is the job of the House, rightly, to try to eliminate that element of cruelty in both wild and domestic situations. Again, in so far as we are trying to do that, the British Field Sports Society, all my colleagues and I would agree.
1276 The Bill is bad because that is not what it would do. It is picking on fox hunting for all the old, class-divisive reasons behind why the Labour party tried to do this before and it has no justification. It is not true that hunting is an activity that only toffs and very rich people enjoy. It is probably one of the best sports enjoyed by people of all walks of life.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth
I reinforce completely what my hon. Friend has just said. Indeed, a constituent of mine wrote to me, saying:I am not a toff or a snob but a welder by trade and work in a local factory in a dirty and demanding job. The reason I feel so strongly about this issue it is down to the freedom of choice if I want to go I go, if not I don't go but these people who want the sport banned are telling me I should not go. So much for the freedom of choice.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
Yes, it is about freedom of choice. The author of that letter expresses my precise point well. This sport is enjoyed by people from all walks of life. It is enjoyed by those who live in the town as well as those who live in the country. It has an important conservation role.
The attack on fox hunting is misconceived and politically guided. I find it astonishing that, in the 1990s, the old Labour party and, I am sorry to say, one or two misguided members of my party, are still walking down that precarious path.
§ Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)
Will the hon. Gentleman take the opportunity today to dissociate himself from the activities of the Quorn hunt, as shown on film? Will he also condemn those who control that hunt for their lack of commitment to stop the barbaric actions that were vividly shown on television a few months ago?
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I dissociate myself, the British Field Sports Society and the Masters of Foxhounds Association from the misconduct of those running the Quorn hunt on the day in question. That is why disciplinary action was taken against those masters and why the Masters of Foxhounds Association is now reviewing its rules. I hope that it will produce a code of conduct. That is why every step is being taken to ensure that such behaviour is not repeated.
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that every walk of life, even this place, is not populated by saints. In every aspect of human activity some people behave as they should not. The hon. Gentleman, however, asked me to dissociate myself from the specific conduct of the Quorn hunt. I have done so and I will do so on any occasion should it be repeated.
§ Mr. Budgen
Would my hon. Friend also concede that when that conduct occurred at the Quorn hunt it was dealt with effectively and quickly?
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
Yes, it was. The disciplinary committee of the Masters of Foxhounds Association reviewed those activities as soon as they were brought to its attention. It took the necessary action as swiftly as possible.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
My hon. Friend should be aware that two votes have been taken in Leicestershire county council on whether hunting should be allowed on county council land. In 1982, the county council narrowly voted by a majority of four to allow such hunting. Another vote was taken after the Quorn incident and a decisive vote of 47 to 34—a majority of 13—found in favour of maintaining 1277 hunting on county council land. That suggests that my hon. Friend is winning the argument and it demonstrates to the House of Commons what an elected body in Leicestershire, the centre of hunting, feels about that issue.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
It is true that in Leicestershire and in many other counties this issue has been reviewed recently. In almost every case, the decision has been to continue with hunting across publicly owned land. That is welcome and it gives the lie to the point made by the hon. Member for Erdington about a huge lobby against field sports. Those who live in and have a duty to care for the countryside are, by a huge majority, in support of field sports. Because a large number of people have no knowledge of hunting and are susceptible to the cuddly bear image of the fox, which Beatrix Potter and others have managed to implant in people's minds, they are, on a superficial level, against fox hunting.
I remind hon. Members that we went through all this in the late 1940s. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State reminded us that the then Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Tom Williams, a member of the Labour party, urged hon. Members on both sides of the House to support fox hunting. He tabled a motion in 1925 to abolish it. [AN HON. MEMBER: "That was 40 years ago."] The reasons for supporting fox hunting are as valid now as they were then. In 1949 Mr. Williams argued his case on the issue of cruelty. It is on that issue that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is asking the House to support his Bill. Mr. Williams said:the promoters of this Bill … regard hunting and cruelty as synonymous, thinking that to abolish the hunt is to abolish cruelty. On the contrary, they render rural recreation illegal, and do absolutely nothing towards abolishing or restraining cruelty".—[Official Report, 25 February 1949; Vol. 461, c. 2231.]That is the truth. We have today reviewed extensively the alternative ways in which foxes can be culled, and the only Member in the whole debate to suggest that they should not be culled at all was my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), who at least followed his argument to its logical conclusion by saying that foxes should not be culled but should be allowed to breed on and on—never mind the farmer, one might say, or the poultry keeper or even the foxes, which might find that there were too many of them for their own health. It was an absurd argument, but at least my hon. Friend carried to a logical conclusion the idea that it is cruel to hunt. It is not. It is more cruel to kill the animals by other means.
§ Mr. Marland
To add strength to my hon. Friend's argument, he will be interested to know that yet another local authority has voted to allow fox hunting to be carried on across its ground. Gloucestershire county council, having been heavily lobbied by all shades of opinion, has a substantial majority of councillors in favour of allowing fox hunting to continue on council-owned land. It is absolute nonsense to try to persuade us, as Labour Members do, that the majority of people are against fox hunting, when they are clearly not.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. When people consider the merits of the argument and focus on what is involved, they come down on the side of fox hunting.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for not giving way. I do not want to delay the House much longer.
There is no doubt that field sports, taken collectively, have always played an enormous role in the founding of the countryside as we enjoy it today. [Interruption.] I see the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North dissenting and, I think, making rude noises at me. That helps to show the ignorance of Labour Members in that they are unable to accept even that elementary point.
On my small farm I have eight pieces of woodland. Four of them were planted by my grandfather, who was chairman of the local hunt, two were planted by my father because he was a keen shot, and I have planted two because I am a keen shot. If we did not have country sports, none of those small areas of woodland would have been planted or would be maintained.
There is a glorious ignorance among Opposition Members about countryside matters. Indeed, the impression was given earlier that the trees were everlasting. Why would people take out woodland if fox hunting were abolished? That is a silly question to ask, because they would not take it out. But they would not renew it, either, and on reaching the end of its natural life, the woodland would not be replaced. Conservation and field sports and conservation and farming are synonymous. Sadly, Labour Members are unaware of that and they are careless about the future of the countryside and those who inhabit it.
§ Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)
Is my hon. Friend aware that a report in The Shropshire Star says that 4,000 people are against a ban on fox hunting and only 2,643 are in favour?
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
Every time an hon. Member intervenes, new facts in favour of the continuance of fox hunting are produced. The argument is clearly being won by the fox-hunting lobby.
One of the saddest aspects of the measure is that unfortunately the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North does not understand what his Bill proposes to do. I say that with sadness because I know that his intention is honest and that he does not wish to mislead the House or the country. Yesterday, in a radio interview by Mr. Chris Stewart, the hon. Gentleman stated that the Bill covered all wilful cruelty to animals. He said that in the first part of his statement and repeated it a little later. The Bill does not mention "wilful" with regard to the cruelty aspect. Clause 1 states:a person wilfully inflicts unnecessary suffering on, or cruelly ill-treats a wild mammal".The hon. Gentleman has clearly not taken on board the fact that "wilful" refers only to the first half of the sentence. He infers that if the cruelty is inflicted by the nature of an act, as opposed to by someone intending to be cruel, that would not be covered by the Bill. But it is covered. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman misled the people who listened to that radio programme about the precise terms of the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman intervented when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State was arguing that the only defence under the Bill is to obtain a licence. My right hon. Friend explained how appallingly cumbersome that procedure would be and what a burden it would be on the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman then intervened and referred to clauses 5 and 6. Howeever, those clauses refer only to clause 2, which relates to the use of a dog. Neither 1279 clause 5 nor clause 6 provides a defence for clause 3, which refers to snaring. Unless a person has a licence, he will be unable, for example, to snare a mole in his garden. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman's intention is to make someone whose garden has been ravaged by moles go to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for a licence to control moles—or rats and mice.
The Bill covers a range of necessary innocuous activities that the hon. Gentleman does not intend it to cover. Indeed, he did not know that the Bill covered them when he accepted the draftsman's proposal for the Bill
§ Mr. Colvin
My hon. Friend is discussing defences and drawing attention to clause 5, which is meant to provide an exemption. It says that action can be taken, where necessary,for the immediate protection of any domestic or captive animal which was being attacked by a wild mammal".Does not that mean that, to be effective, packs of foxhounds and walkie-talkie sets must be permanently on call? Clause 5 is totally ridiculous and unworkable.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
Neither clause 5 nor clause 6 would protect farmers or people who live in the countryside, or even people with gardens in rural areas, from being accused of committing a criminal offence if they took the steps that were necessary to protect themselves or their property.
There is no doubt that this is a remarkably bad Bill. It is a pity that the House has had to spend this Friday debating a party political issue that should have been dead and buried long ago—[Interruption.] I thought that some Opposition Members might find that amusing. The debate should never have taken place.
May I close my remarks with a note of regret, as did Mr. Williams so long ago? The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is the Opposition spokesman on Northern Ireland. The Bill would not even take effect in Northern Ireland, were it to be passed. It is sad that the hon. Gentleman did not find a better and more relevant cause to put before the House today. I echo the sentiment of Mr. Williams—a former Labour Minister—when he said, in 1949:'Would it not be better to discuss the million people in camps in the depressed areas of Europe? Would it not be better to discuss what an hon. Member opposite writes about so eloquently in 'The Tribune'—what is going on behind the iron curtain?"—[Official Report, 25 February 1949; Vol. 461, c. 2238.]Would not it be better to turn our attention to some of the serious issues facing the Government and the country today instead of wasting time by raking up, once again, the old, divisive socialist desire to abolish fox hunting?
§ 2.9 pm
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
I have been present throughout the debate, since 9.35 this morning. I find it most impressive that so many farmer-politicians have found time in their busy lives as farmers to take up their parliamentary duties on a Friday. in order to take part in a debate and vote on the important Bill before the House. Those of a more ungenerous nature than myself may suggest that vested interests are involved, because of the close association between farming and fox hunting, but I do not accept that calumny. I remain impressed by the devotion to duty shown by so many Tory farmers.
1280 However, I am less impressed by the arguments that they advance against the Bill. The hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who is a member of the Select Committee on Energy, said that he was worried about the Bill's impact on unemployment, and on the 16,000 workers in the British equestrian trade. I could take the hon. Gentleman's concern far more seriously if he had shown any such concern for the thousands of Scottish workers made redundant when British Steel ratted on Ravenscraig and on the Scottish steel industry, or if he had shown any concern for the 2.6 million people whom the Government have made unemployed. I do not take such arguments seriously from opponents of the Bill.
It has been said that opponents of the Bill are just as concerned about the well-being of wild mammals as its supporters. They expect us to believe that, because of such concern, they continue to support the prolonged terrorising of foxes, which are wild mammals. They support the tearing apart of foxes by frenzied packs of hounds, and although they may convince themselves that by taking part in such barbaric practices they show their concern for the well-being of the fox, they would have a hard time convincing the fox of that—or, indeed, of convincing anyone whose view was less prejudiced than theirs.
The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) began the day with a point of order. Although it was not a bogus point of order, the information that he conveyed was bogus. The hon. Gentleman complained about the postcards distributed by the League Against Cruel Sports to its supporters, some of which have been passed on to hon. Members to try to persuade them to support the Bill. He gave an example of one of his constituents whose name had been used on a postcard without his knowledge or permission. On that shaky foundation the hon. Gentleman argued that the whole exercise conducted by the League Against Cruel Sports was bogus, that the names being sent to hon. Members were fake, and that support for the Bill outside the House was far less than was being claimed.
The hon. Gentleman was eager to interpret in a different light the one example that he gave. However, opponents of the Bill, concerned about the massive support whipped up by the League Against Cruel Sports, may have decided to undermine that campaign by sending bogus postcards. I agree with the advice that has already been given to the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes to pass the matter to the Humberside police. I am sure that they will be able to get to the bottom of it and find out who is trying to kid whom.
The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. N. Ridley) asked whether it was really in the public interest to ban fox hunting. He said that, after all, those who take part choose voluntarily to do so, and that the landowners on whose land hunting takes place give their permission. On that basis, he suggested that the public interest was in no way harmed.
Such logic could be applied to all the other activities that the House has already banned, such as bear baiting, dog fighting and cock fighting. If landowners were prepared to allow people to bait bears on their land and people were prepared voluntarily to take part, would that make it all right? Would that mean that such activities were not against the public interest? Of course not. That 1281 was an especially weak argument and, given the high offices of state that the right hon. Gentleman has held, one would have thought that he would know better.
The right hon. Gentleman said that shooting was a crueller way of dealing with foxes than fox hunting. He cited the example of bad shots, who may wound a fox, which leads to unnecessary cruelty and suffering being inflicted. But he could not give a single example of such a thing having happened. Only once during the debate has such an example been given. That was the only evidence that we have heard that such a thing has ever happened. Yet we know, from the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports and other animal welfare bodies that there are countless examples of unnecessary cruelty and suffering being inflicted on foxes by the fox hunters. Given the balance between the two, it is essential that the House should support the Bill. Hon. Members who oppose the Bill will have a hard time convincing voters that it is less cruel to pursue a terrified animal for more than an hour and attack it with terriers or tear it apart with a pack of fierce and frenetic hounds. Nobody is convinced by such specious arguments.
Perhaps the weakest argument was the one about pest control, which does not stand any examination. Opponents of the Bill say that they are concerned about pest control. Why do some hunts rear foxes with the intention of hunting them? No Conservative Member could answer that question. Hunting has nothing to do with pest control. Other hunts keep artificial earths to attract foxes into the area and then hunt them. I thought that the idea of pest control was to limit the number of foxes and not to attract them to an area so that they could then be hunted.
It was said that it was right and natural for man to hunt—a call not so much to go back to the countryside as to the caves. It was said that killing the fox was not important. If it is not important how can it be argued that hunting is necessary to control pests? The Bill's opponents defeated their own arguments and cannot expect anyone to take them seriously. It was said that the chase was all important. What was meant was that the sport—the entertainment—was all important, and that is the kernel of the debate. The Bill's opponents say that it is justified, for reasons of entertainment and sport, to inflict suffering and cruelty on foxes and other wild mammals for the pleasure of men. That is unjustifiable and must be stopped.
§ Mr. McAllion
No. There is not enough time to give way.
We heard the quite extraordinary case of Mr. Harry Roberts, a huntsman who in 1941 was called up to join the Army. As soon as he was called up, the foxes went wild and the number of lambs being killed by foxes shot up. It was said that that was proof positive that fox hunting was necessary to protect hill farming. Of course there are other interpretations, such as that that must have been the first case of draft dodging. If Dan Quayle had thought of such an ingenious device, I am sure that he would have used it in connection with Vietnam. The story proves nothing because there is no proof that fox hunting is necessary to keep pests under control.
I should like to refer to a group called Animal Concern, which describes itself as a select committee of members 1282 representing countryside and conservation organisations. I received a letter from the organisation, as I am sure have other hon. Members. That letter does not name the countryside and conservation organisations. For all we know, it may be the Quorn hunt. How can we take seriously the representations of Animal Concern? It says that the real issue at stake in the Bill—
§ Mr. Moate
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will know that some hon. Members have been here throughout the debate and have not had an opportunity to speak. You will also note that two Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen have taken up an inordinate amount of time by using the subterfuge of speaking from the Back Benches. Will you inquire into that to see whether it is proper for Front-Bench spokesmen to move to the Back Benches and take up the time of the House? If the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) continues to take up so much time, do we assume that he is trying to talk out the Bill?
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 3.1283
|Division No. 82]||[2.25 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)||Darling, Alistair|
|Allen, Graham||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Amess, David||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Anderson, Donald||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Dicks, Terry|
|Ashton, Joe||Dixon, Don|
|Atkinson, David||Dobson, Frank|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Doran, Frank|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Duffy, Sir A. E. P.|
|Barron, Kevin||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Battle, John||Edwards, Huw|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fatchett, Derek|
|Bell, Stuart||Faulds, Andrew|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Flannery, Martin|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Flynn, Paul|
|Benton, Joseph||Fookes, Dame Janet|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Foster, Derek|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fraser, John|
|Blair, Tony||Gale, Roger|
|Boateng, Paul||Galloway, George|
|Bottomley, Peter||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n)||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Boyes, Roland||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Bradley, Keith||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Gordon, Mildred|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Gould, Bryan|
|Bright, Graham||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Grist, Ian|
|Canavan, Dennis||Grocott, Bruce|
|Cartwright, John||Hain, Peter|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hardy, Peter|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Clay, Bob||Haynes, Frank|
|Cohen, Harry||Hayward, Robert|
|Corbett, Robin||Hill, James|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cousins, Jim||Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Cox, Tom||Home Robertson, John|
|Crowther, Stan||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cryer, Bob||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Cummings, John||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Hoyle, Doug||Prescott, John|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Redmond, Martin|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Reid, Dr John|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Richardson, Jo|
|Illsley, Eric||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Rogers, Allan|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Rooker, Jeff|
|Kilfedder, James||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Leighton, Ron||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Lewis, Terry||Short, Clare|
|Litherland, Robert||Sillars, Jim|
|Livingstone, Ken||Skinner, Dennis|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|McAllion, John||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|McCartney, Ian||Snape, Peter|
|McKelvey, William||Spearing, Nigel|
|McNamara, Kevin||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Madden, Max||Stott, Roger|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Strang, Gavin|
|Marek, Dr John||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Martlew, Eric||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Meale, Alan||Thorne, Neil|
|Michael, Alun||Turner, Dennis|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Vaz, Keith|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Walley, Joan|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Ward, John|
|Morley, Elliot||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Mudd, David||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Mullin, Chris||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Nellist, Dave||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Norris, Steve||Wilson, Brian|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Patchett, Terry||Mr. Jerry Hayes and|
|Pendry, Tom||Mr. Tony Banks.|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Mr. Paul Marland and|
|Conway, Derek||Mr. Nicholas Soames.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 187.1286
|Division No. 83]||[2.35 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Boateng, Paul|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.)||Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Allen, Graham||Boyes, Roland|
|Amess, David||Bradley, Keith|
|Anderson, Donald||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Atkinson, David||Bright, Graham|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)|
|Barron, Kevin||Canavan, Dennis|
|Battle, John||Cartwright, John|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)|
|Bell, Stuart||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||clay, Bob|
|Benton, Joseph||Cohen, Harry|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Corbett, Robin|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cousins, Jim|
|Blair, Tony||Cox, Tom|
|Crowther, Stan||McCartney, Ian|
|Cryer, Bob||McKelvey, William|
|Cummings, John||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Madden, Max|
|Darling, Alistair||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Marek, Dr John|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Martlew, Eric|
|Dicks, Terry||Meale, Alan|
|Dixon, Don||Michael, Alun|
|Dobson, Frank||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Doran, Frank||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Duffy, Sir A. E. P.||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Morley, Elliot|
|Edwards, Huw||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Fatchett, Derek||Mudd, David|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mullin, Chris|
|Flannery, Martin||Nellist, Dave|
|Flynn, Paul||Norris, Steve|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||O'Hara, Edward|
|Foster, Derek||Patchett, Terry|
|Fraser, John||Pendry, Tom|
|Gale, Roger||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Galloway, George||Prescott, John|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Redmond, Martin|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Gordon, Mildred||Reid, Dr John|
|Gould, Bryan||Richardson, Jo|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Rogers, Allan|
|Grist, Ian||Rooker, Jeff|
|Grocott, Bruce||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Hain, Peter||Ruddock, Joan|
|Hardy, Peter||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Haynes, Frank||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hayward, Robert||Short, Clare|
|Hill, James||Sillars, Jim|
|Hinchliffe, David||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Home Robertson, John||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Snape, Peter|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hoyle, Doug||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Stott, Roger|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Strang, Gavin|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Illsley, Eric||Turner, Dennis|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Vaz, Keith|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Walley, Joan|
|Kilfedder, James||Ward, John|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Leighton, Ron||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Lewis, Terry||Wilson, Brian|
|Litherland, Robert||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Loyden, Eddie||Mr. Tony Banks, and|
|McAllion, John||Mr. Jerry Hayes.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Alexander, Richard||Batiste, Spencer|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Beggs, Roy|
|Allason, Rupert||Beith, A. J.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Bellingham, Henry|
|Amos, Alan||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Arbuthnot, James||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Body, Sir Richard|
|Baldry, Tony||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Lord, Michael|
|Boswell, Tim||Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard|
|Brazier, Julian||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Maclean, David|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Madel, David|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Malins, Humfrey|
|Burns, Simon||Marland, Paul|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Marlow, Tony|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Mates, Michael|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Carrington, Matthew||Maxwell-Hyslop, Sir Robin|
|Cash, William||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Chope, Christopher||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Churchill, Mr||Mills, Iain|
|Clark, Rt Hon Sir William||Moate, Roger|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Colvin, Michael||Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Conway, Derek||Moss, Malcolm|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Neale, Sir Gerrard|
|Critchley, Julian||Needham, Richard|
|Curry, David||Nelson, Anthony|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Dover, Den||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Dunn, Bob||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Page, Richard|
|Farr, Sir John||Paice, James|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Pawsey, James|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Freeman, Roger||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Fry, Peter||Price, Sir David|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy|
|Gill, Christopher||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Rhodes James, Sir Robert|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Riddick, Graham|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Rost, Peter|
|Ground, Patrick||Rowe, Andrew|
|Grylls, Sir Michael||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Hague, William||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie||Shepherd, Richard Aldridge)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Shersby, Michael|
|Harris, David||Sims, Roger|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Speed, Keith|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Speller, Tony|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Steen, Anthony|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David||Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Hunter, Andrew||Stokes, Sir John|
|Jackson, Robert||Summerson, Hugo|
|Janman, Tim||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Jessel, Toby||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Thompson, Sir D. (Calder Vly)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Key, Robert||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Tracey, Richard|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Tredinnick, David|
|Knapman, Roger||Trimble, David|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Trippier, David|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Latham, Michael||Viggers, Peter|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Walden, George|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Watts, John||Wolfson, Mark|
|Wells, Bowen||Yeo, Tim|
|Wiggin, Jerry||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Wilkinson, John||Mr. W. Benyon and|
|Winterton, Mrs Ann||Sir Charles Morrison.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.