HL Deb 17 October 2000 vol 617 cc1-38GC

Tuesday, 17th October 2000.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi)

Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly the same as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard.

The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in the Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should also explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. This Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and then resume after 10 minutes.

Title postponed.

Lord Monson

I am not, of course, privy to discussions between the usual channels—I never have been and am never likely to be—but I had always understood that Bills suitable for discussion in Grand Committee in the Moses Room were confined to Bills which are relatively non-contentious in the political sense but highly technical or detailed. The Data Protection Bill and the Transport Bill are cases in point. This Bill, however, does not fall into either of those categories. It is highly contentious politically and not particularly detailed technically. I wonder, therefore, whether I could have an explanation as to why we are following this procedure rather than having a Committee stage on the floor of the House.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

This is not really a matter for me. But as the noble Lord has seen fit to intervene in this way, it may be helpful if I tell him that this Motion was agreed by the House after having been agreed by the usual channels.

Clause 1 [Offences relating to fur farming]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No 1: Page 1, line 5, after ("animals") insert ("other than rabbits or moles").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No 1, which is grouped with Amendments Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6. I must apologise to the Committee and indeed to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that unfortunately I was unable to be present at Second Reading. I apologised to the noble Baroness afterwards and said that I hoped that that would not mean that I should be unable to participate in the Committee stage. She assured me that that was not so. However, I did not want her to think that I had forgotten about it because I did not speak at Second Reading, nor that I was, like Banquo's ghost, coming to haunt her. However, my name appears on the Marshalled List with uncomfortable regularity. These are important matters in many ways so it is quite right that we should seek the Government's view upon them.

The first amendment would read that a person is guilty of an offence if he keeps animals solely or primarily for slaughter for the value of their fur, other than rabbits or moles. Rabbit farming is carried out by a considerable number of people and it would be absurd if those people who sold their pelts were to fall within the ambit of this Bill. The amendment of my noble friend, Lord Luke—Amendment No. 2—deals with that in greater detail and I shall leave him to deal with that.

It is possible for the price of rabbit meat to go down, in which case the value of pelts would exceed the value of the meat and, therefore, the rabbit farmer would find himself convicted, being fined up to £20,000 and his animals having to be destroyed. When the price came up, he would be legal again. But of course he would not have any animals. Therefore, it would seem to me to be right to exclude rabbits in the Bill.

Moles are rather a different matter. Moles do damage to grassland and there are such things as mole-catchers whom many people employ to catch their moles. The mole-catchers, being very prudent people, make sure that there is a good stock left for the following year. So they could be accused of fur farming, because they catch the moles, strip them of their pelts and then sell the pelts. Some people are lucky enough to have moleskin waistcoats, moleskin trousers and even, I believe, moleskin hats.

What happens if a mole-catcher is catching moles on somebody's land and is accused by the Bill of indulging in fur farming? After all, that is why he does it. He does not do it pro bono publico; he does it to farm the pelts. Does he get fined £20,000? What happens if he does it on 10 farms? Is he caught 10 times and fined £200,000? Of course that is absurd. But if the words of the amendment were included in the Bill, it would make it much clearer and everyone would know where they were.

Amendment No. 2 is similar to Amendment No. 1 and I invite my noble friend Lord Luke to speak on that, with which I am sure I shall agree and, if I do not, I shall take the opportunity to tell the Committee later.

Amendment No. 4 refers to reptile skins and says, In this section 'fur' does not include skins used for leather or reptile skins". This is a matter for clarification. I am sure the noble Baroness will say that fur is not a skin but, of course, it is a skin. We should not regard the taking of the skin of a mink so reprehensible when we take the skin of cows and use it as shoes, and we take the skins of crocodiles and apparently make them into ladies' handbags—I do not know whether the noble Baroness has a crocodile skin handbag or even a pair of crocodile skin shoes.

So the noble Baroness may say that furs are not the same as skins. But the Oxford English Dictionary says, The short, tine, soft hair of certain animals … growing thick upon the skin". So when we remove the skin of a cow, we remove it plus its hairs; when we remove the skin of a pig, we remove it plus its hairs; when we remove the skin of a mink, we remove it plus its hairs. The only difference is that the density of the hairs on the skin of the mink is such as to make one call it fur. Therefore, it ought to be perfectly clear that this does not include the skins used for leather or of reptiles.

We turn to Amendment No. 5, which seeks to clarify whether the prohibition applies to animals which are imported into the country for immediate slaughter. Mink can be brought in from anywhere. The trade is very much alive and will only suffer indirectly from this ban while people are still allowed to buy, sell and wear fur. I presume that the Government do not wish to ban that too; the Bill certainly does not say so. Therefore, to ban imports into the United Kingdom is pointless, as the United Kingdom makes up less than 1 per cent. of the entire European fur trade. I hope that the noble Baroness may consider this amendment to be worthy of incorporation. She will see that all the amendments that I have tabled are not destructive. They are not offensive or anything like that but are intended to help the noble Baroness to improve her rotten Bill.

I turn now to Amendment No. 6. This is a matter of interpretation. The Houses of Parliament in Westminster can legislate only for England and Wales and not for Scotland. What happens therefore in Scotland if fur farming is banned in England and Wales? Does that mean that fur farming in Scotland is all right until the Scottish Parliament does something about it? This amendment seeks to avoid confusion caused by the accidental criminalisation of overseas concerns where a director of an overseas company may have caused the company to commit an offence under subsection (1).

This amendment confirms that only the owners of animals in England and Wales can be prosecuted but not the employers of the owners who have knowledge of the illegal farms but who are not technically bound by English and Welsh law. That is a slightly technical amendment but I hope the noble Baroness will be able to respond to it. I have spoken to each of these five amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Luke

I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrers who has introduced this group of amendments, and who has mentioned that I shall be speaking mainly to Amendment No 2. However I should like briefly to say that I agree with all that he has said with regard to Amendments Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 6. The question of what happens in Scotland has been exercising my mind, as it did that of my noble friend. I imagine that someone may receive compensation in England; may move to Scotland and set up there, just in time to be caught by some new Bill going through the Scottish Parliament. He will then be paid double compensation. That does not sound very sensible but is not altogether impossible if someone moves at the appropriately fast speed.

Amendment No. 2 seeks to deal with a situation (save with rabbits) where the animal is kept both for its meat and fur. Therefore, it is obviously not primarily for its fur. Let us take a hypothetical situation where the market value of this animal's meat falls substantially so that the overall value of the animal is now dependent largely upon its fur. If that were to occur, a previously law-abiding farmer could then be breaking the law as set out in this Bill, since it could be stated that the animal was now being kept primarily for its fur. This exception does not of course apply if the animal is being kept solely for its fur.

Without my amendment, confusion may arise as to when or whether a person was or was not in breach of the law. If an animal was being farmed for both its meat and its fur, and kept in a manner appropriate to its status as livestock, bred for food production, then the change in the value of parts of the animal, in the hypothetical situation I have already mentioned, would mean in effect that the fur farm could be operating under exactly the same, and therefore highly regulated, welfare conditions as the food production business beforehand.

This scenario shows how serious a precedent this Bill could create for the livestock industry, since the complaints against the treatment of fur farm animals made by animal rights lobbyists can just as forcibly be applied to other creatures which are held in captivity to meet a human requirement, whether that requirement be a luxury or a necessity according to one's point of view.

The amendment raises a debate on the similarities between the farming of livestock for meat and farming livestock for fur, because it attempts to allow for the cross-over between the two industries which has not been fully appreciated in the Bill as it stands.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Monson

I wonder whether the noble Earl, or indeed any other Member of the Committee, could say whether the method of slaughtering farmed mink differs in any way from the method of slaughtering farmed rabbit or indeed farmed moles, should any such establishment exist. If there is no difference, and if the degree of distress at the time of slaughter is no different between those various species, it seems to me a particularly good argument for accepting Amendment No. 5, as well, no doubt, as all the other amendments in this group.

Lord Kimball

I am rather worried about Amendment No. 4 because I quite understand what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said about an animal being dead and about its skin, whether it is for shoes, handbags or something else. But what is the position with reptiles? Surely, the thing about a reptile is that it sheds its skin and carries on with the rest of its life unharmed. I should be grateful if we could have a little guidance on the position of reptiles as against that of the other animals which are dead because they have given up their skins.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

I hesitate to venture into the technicalities of this, but I should have thought that a shed reptile skin was not much use for anything. I believe that the skin is used only after the reptile has been killed for its skin. But I rise mainly to speak to Amendment No. 5. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches believe that Amendment No. 5 has the potential to encourage a live trade in animals, so we do not feel this would be a good amendment to include. We feel that it would encourage the very trades that we are trying to see diminished. I have no particular comment on the other amendments, except to say that we do not believe that they forward the purpose of the Bill.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

We are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for pointing out the similarities between this and some other kinds of farming where it overlaps between fur and meat. That raises the whole question of the farming of other animals. It is extremely good that our attention is drawn to it, and noble Lords, particularly members of the noble Earl's party, will no doubt take that argument away and think about what further legislation is needed.

In the meantime, there are quite clear reports and agreement that mink and foxes are kept in bad conditions, and that the fur farming of them has led to very considerable cruelty over a period of time. Therefore, no problem of how the practice spills over into other areas should prevent us from pursuing this Bill with, if necessary, one or two minor amendments.

Lord Hardy of Wath

I support this Bill. I want to touch upon the cruelty argument which the noble Lord has just mentioned. As regards the effect of fur farming within the British environment, great disadvantages have accrued. One thinks, for example, of the enormous damage done in the Norfolk Broads as a result of the release of coypu. One looks now at the problem presented by mink throughout many parts of the United Kingdom. My noble friend may recall that before the Summer Recess I said that I supported the Bill. However, I had one principal anxiety; that is, as the industry is wound down, further mink might be released. I asked the Minister to ensure that the inspectors from the appropriate department maintained their vigilance to ensure that no further mink escaped because of the damage they do.

I noticed a few weeks ago that people from the animal rights organisation sought to attack a fur farm to the west of Doncaster. They were taken away by the police and some evil people burnt the car that they left behind. They are in the process of suing South Yorkshire Police for that particular incident. I do not know what will happen and that is nothing to do with the case. But it worries me that animal liberation people have themselves released mink. The mink that they released probably suffered a crueller death than the mink that were to be killed on the fur farm, but some were not killed and entered British wildlife.

We are seeing a critical situation arise with regard to the water vole. The population of water voles has dropped dramatically and they are now the subject of a biodiversity recovery programme. One wishes it well. But the remaining water vole will not benefit if more mink are released into the wild. Therefore, I trust that the Bill will go through, and that steps will be taken to ensure that the mink problem is not exacerbated.

One can go on. Furs become fashionable. The coypu fur was extremely fashionable 40 or 50 years ago, and a tremendous penalty was paid. Mink, I understand, are not quite so fashionable today. But what happens if another species is regarded by the fashion trade as the "in" fabric for their future sales? We will then find yet another non-indigenous species coming into Britain and inevitably escaping. Members of the Committee on both sides strongly supported the provisions of the 1981 Act to prevent alien species being brought into Britain; we have had too many. One can go through a wide variety of both animals and plants which present real problems in the United Kingdom. This Bill can therefore be seen as having a conservation value as well.

I hope that Members of the Committee will not press their amendments because the cause in terms of the environment and conservation is also strengthened by this measure.

Lord Monson

The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, is a great expert in these matters. Can he tell us whether most of the released mink were accidentally released by fur farmers, or deliberately released by so-called animal rights saboteurs?

Lord Hardy of Wath

I suspect that the majority have been released by saboteurs. I hold no brief for saboteurs; they have done a great deal of harm. However, I do not suppose that every mink farm in this country has operated with such a degree of security that no mink have escaped. They are fairly intelligent animals, even though their lifespan is relatively short, apart from the breeding females and they may not have many weeks of life before them. It is possible that some of them are sufficiently ingenuous, where proper care has not been exercised, to escape by themselves.

But it does not matter whether they were released or escaped. A great deal of damage has been done. It needs to be minimised. The problem needs to be resolved, and we should certainly not get ourselves into a situation in this country where releases from another species designed for the same purpose cause havoc in many parts of the country.

I mentioned the farm close to Doncaster. If any mink were released there, I would be very anxious because only two or three miles away is an important nature reserve of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Denaby Ings. Three miles to the west of that is a splendid nature reserve, heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, developed as a result of the improvement of the Dearne Valley. A mile and a half from that is a lake at the back of my house on which wildfowl have been encouraged to breed, and the population is quite high. I would hate to think I had to spend time walking around that lake trying to ensure that mink do not exercise depredations on the wildlife I like to watch.

In my view, it is essential that great care is exercised when closing fur farms. I am sorry to have spoken at length but the noble Lord will realise that the environmental effect is not dependent on the nature of the release of the mink.

Lord Kimball

Perhaps I may suggest that when we consider the compensation clause, we must ensure that payment is made for the dead meat in order to be absolutely certain that every mink for which we are paying is dead.

Lord Hardy of Wath

I hope that my noble friend will consider that proposal very seriously indeed.

4 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman)

We have had an interesting short debate which has raised many of the fundamental issues that were raised at Second Reading. I do not think of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, as a ghost who has come to haunt me. He is very much alive and kicking, I would say, in terms of the contribution he has made today, that there are certainly worse ghosts in one's past that one may have to confront.

We missed him at Second Reading and he was right to raise with us today some of the basic issues that we covered in that debate. I must say I thought we dealt with many of the possibilities arising from this Bill, but I underestimated his imagination. I was surprised when I saw his amendment dealing with the commercial keeping of moles, and it was not until he expatiated on that in his contribution that I considered the possibility of being an accessory before or after the fact in trying to deal with the molehills in my own garden. I hope I can offer him some reassurance on that issue in a moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, took us back to some of the fundamental issues here; namely, the question of the breeding of animals for slaughter as a matter of principle, and the basis on which we in our society consider that breeding and slaughter to be justifiable.

At the heart of this Bill is the Government's answer to the challenge to which it is appropriate that any of us should rise when asking for a justification of killing animal life; that is, whether the purpose justifies the slaughter. At the heart of this Bill is the Government's belief that fur farming is quite distinct from food production, and that while food production provides the justifiable purpose for the breeding of animals for slaughter, the public benefit to justify the breeding of animals for fur does not exist. That is why this Bill sets out to outlaw, in very strictly defined terms, that activity.

I deal now with the individual amendments. I am afraid I am not able to accept any of the amendments that we have discussed; but I hope I can offer some reassurance on the reasoning behind the arguments in favour of the amendments that have been put forward. I shall deal with them slightly out of order but in what may be seen as a logical sequence.

Amendment No. 6 deals with the scope of the Bill. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that there is a general presumption in UK law that UK Acts of Parliament do not apply outside the United Kingdom. Equally, it is made clear in Clause 7(4) that the Bill applies to England and to Wales. Therefore, it is clear on the face of the Bill that none of its provisions can apply outside England and Wales. In that sense, therefore, I hope that there is some reassurance.

As regards the possibility of the transfer of activities to Scotland, the Bill does not apply to Scotland, as is clear from Clause 7(4). That is one of the consequences of the division of responsibilities between the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament following devolution. I can, however, tell the Committee that the Scottish Executive have said that they intend to put a Bill before the Scottish Parliament to ban fur farming. Unless and until that comes into force a person will be free to keep animals for fur in Scotland and this Parliament cannot legislate for North of the Border in that respect.

I turn to Amendment No. 1. As I said earlier, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, suggests in this amendment that rabbits and moles should be exempted from the purposes of the Bill. As regards moles, the reassurance is that the skins used are traditionally from moles trapped in the wild, not from farmed moles. It is, of course, the farming of animals with which the Bill is concerned. I hope that that gives him reassurance. I have looked for examples of commercial mole production but without success. If he has found some, we may need to look at that matter again but, as he outlined, the use of the skins appears to be very much a by-product from wild moles and therefore not within the scope of the Bill.

Rabbits are farmed for their meat with fur as a by-product. It is not the purpose of this Bill to prohibit that activity. When we turn to Amendment No. 2, we come to the problem outlined by the noble Earl and by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, about the possibility of "primary purpose" being misinterpreted or changing in the light of fluctuations in market value—the relative value of the meat production and the fur production.

The Government do not have to introduce an arbitrary test to determine when someone is keeping an animal primarily for the sake of its fur. There is some guidance in the explanatory notes, to which I can direct the Committee. The primary meaning of "value" in this context is commercial value but the term is sufficiently wide to include the value of the fur to an individual who has no intention of selling it. It would be for the courts to decide on the meaning of "primary" in particular cases. If a prosecution were brought in a case which clearly did not merit it—for example, where fluctuations in the value of rabbit fur changed the primary purpose—the courts would no doubt make it clear in sentencing or even acquitting when a prosecution was not appropriate. Our purpose is not in any way to outlaw the keeping of rabbits when this is done both for meat and fur as a by-product. The courts will be quite capable of interpreting "primary purpose" in that respect.

Amendment No. 4 is not necessary in that fur does not extend to leather. The Bill covers only fur and it would not extend to leather, the Bill only covers fur and it would not extend either to reptile skins. I can do no better than to read to the Committee the legal advice I have on this matter for people to reflect upon, which is that fur may indeed be a skin, but a skin is not a fur unless it has fine hair on it. In that clear and simple definition, we see the distinction that is to be made.

Earl Ferrers

If that is so, and I quite accept it, what is so objectionable about having a skin in the form of a shoe which does not apply to having a skin in the form of a fur? They are both skins. It is merely the amount of fur or whiskers that come out of the skin which determines whether or not it is a fur.

Baroness Hayman

The noble Earl is focusing on the end product, which is not what we are trying to outlaw, rather than focusing on what we are trying to outlaw—the breeding and slaughter of animals for the sole purpose of their fur. If one thinks about leather production, one is talking about a by-product for a dual purpose; one is not talking about a sole or primary purpose. The Bill does not outlaw the wearing of fur or the wearing of leather, or the selling of fur or the selling of leather. We are talking about the activity of farming; that is, breeding for slaughter animals for the primary purpose of fur production.

Lord Monson

Perhaps I may put a question to the noble Baroness. She said that the Government object to the breeding of mink for the sole purpose of their fur, and I understand her position in relation to that. But I presume that the meat of slaughtered mink is not currently suitable for use as pet food. Otherwise, it would surely already have been used in that way. Let us suppose that chemists devise a method of treating mink meat so that it became suitable as pet food and was subsequently sold as such. Would that not undermine the Government's support for the Bill, because then there would be a dual purpose for the slaughtered mink?

Baroness Hayman

The noble Lord may wish to reflect on the European legislation in relation to mammalian meat and bonemeal and its incorporation in animal food and the fact that mink are subject to a variety of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In view of that, I feel that the likelihood of anyone desiring to bring that back into the pet food chain in any way is so remote as to be one that we need not envisage in this particular area.

I turn to Amendment No. 5. The Bill provides for the ending of the keeping of mink solely or primarily for slaughter for their fur. It does not matter for how long mink are kept, whether it is a day, a year or a decade, the point is the same. We do not want to see animals imported solely for slaughter for their fur on the same day. We regard this as unacceptable in terms of public morality and, therefore, we could not accept the amendment as it would permit such a trade to continue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, made the point that we should be supporting an import trade in an activity that we are setting out to legislate against within England and Wales. On that basis, I hope the Committee will agree that the primary issues behind these amendments have been dealt with within the Bill and I hope that they will not be pursued.

Lord Kimball

Before the noble Baroness sits down, will she clear up the point about a mink that has escaped and is then taken, quite correctly, in a cage trap. What is the position in regard to that? There is no reason why that mink cannot be sold and so on. It is a wild animal and has been caught in a trap. Why can it not be sold?

Baroness Hayman

I shall try and think on my feet while others think sitting down. I suggest to the noble Lord that what we are talking about here is not sale; we are talking about breeding and slaughter for commercial purpose. In that sense, a wild mink caught in the trap would not be covered by this Bill, and therefore the sale of its fur would not be illegal.

Lord Davies of Coity

Perhaps I can ask a question arising out of that, because there seems to be a problem inasmuch as it perhaps opens the door for some abuse. As mink can be released into the wild and then trapped that undermines the purpose of the Bill, if the Minister is correct in that regard.

Baroness Hayman

Other legislation covers that issue, and my noble friend Lord Hardy referred to it at Second Reading and again today. There are very tight strictures against the release of mink into the wild, and so an offence would be committed by anyone who was trying to circumvent the law in that particular way.

The Earl of Carnarvon

Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. If a farmer was keeping merino sheep for wool, or a rabbit farmer was keeping chinchilla for fur, you are saying that those two areas would not be involved. Is that correct?

Baroness Hayman

I am saying that the sole purpose of the keeping and slaughter for the production of fur—and we have had some debate about that—is an offence. If the fur is shorn or clipped—one can think of alpacas, for example—no offence is committed. It is the slaughter solely or primarily for the purpose of obtaining the fur which becomes illegal.

The Earl of Carnarvon

That probably covers the merino position, but how would it cover the chinchilla? I am asking in order to save someone further down the line from asking all these questions.

Baroness Hayman

All animals which have fur which are being bred for this purpose solely or primarily would be covered by the Bill.

The Earl of Carnarvon

Will that include chinchilla?

Baroness Hayman

Yes it will. It is quite clear that it includes rabbits if they are not kept primarily for the purpose of meat. The issue is whether there is a joint purpose of food production and fur production. That is one test. The other test is whether the fur can be extracted without slaughter, which is the alpaca question.

Earl Ferrers

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for those answers. I understand that she was struggling a little for the appropriate riposte. The majority of the amendments that have been put down are really for clarification, and I would have thought that they could do nothing but help the Bill. I was surprised when the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, said that she did not like Amendment No. 5 because it encourages trade. I thought the Liberal Democrat Party liked to encourage trade, but apparently not over this.

I was also interested by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath. I know how keen he is on the wildlife and so forth, particularly that near to him. He said that mink would do terrible damage if it were let out. Of course, it is perfectly true. One mink farmer had 9,000 mink and an animal rights group let out 7,500. It is not the farmers who are doing the harm; it is these people who are deeply offensive—and more than deeply offensive. They throw things at them; they swear at them; they even follow their children to school. It is the farmers whom the noble Baroness should be protecting rather encouraging through the provisions of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said that he was in favour of the mink being destroyed, because if they escaped they would eat up all the wildlife. Mink have a right to live too, and should not necessarily be destroyed.

What about endangered species like cormorants? One cannot shoot them, and they fish out of the rivers. Nobody can stop that because of European Union legislation.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

The point I should have stressed is that the mink may well have a right to live and perhaps thrive in their natural environment which is not within the United Kingdom. It was and is an alien species, and it is deeply regrettable that it was ever allowed to enter the United Kingdom.

Earl Ferrers

That is not much of an argument. I do not see why people cannot bring things from outside. If the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, were to look at his garden and other gardens, he would find endless cherry trees that were imported from Japan. They are not indigenous to this country, but they add to the glory of it. It is not much of an argument to say that, because an animal started off in another country, it has no right here particularly when it is being kept securely.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said that it was not necessary to include moles because we do not farm moles. However, the mole catcher farms moles; he makes his living out of the pelts, and they are not caged.

Baroness Hayman

I wondered whether the noble Earl breeds moles.

Earl Ferrers

I do not breed them; they breed themselves! The argument that it is all right to breed rabbits if you keep them for meat and fur, but not if you keep them for fur only is absurd. When I was a child, I used to keep rabbits; I remember having chinchillas and silver foxes. One would now be described now as a criminal if one kept those animals only for their fur.

It is an absurd argument that it is all right to keep an animal if you kill it for its meat, but not if you kill it for its fur. I know some people do not like using fur, but others do. It is not the Government's duty to pontificate and moralise as to who is right or wrong. For the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, to say that it is right to kill for an animal's meat but not for its fur is a bad argument.

I had hoped that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, would have been amenable and say my amendments were helpful.

Lord Davies of Coiyy

Before the noble Earl sits down, I am somewhat intrigued that he failed to make any distinction as regards the breeding of animals for the purpose of food. We eat; we survive; and we live. That is to be distinguished from the breeding of animals simply for decoration. That is the essence of the argument. We breed animals to eat, and that is permissible. However, it is not permissible to breed animals simply in order to take their fur for decoration.

Earl Ferrers

That is the argument which is used; I do not agree with it. One keeps animals for food, but uses their skins for other purposes. That apparently is all right. If you did not eat those animals, doubtless you would still keep them for their skins, unless the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, wants to walk around in clogs. While he may not like the idea of people wearing skins, it does not mean to say that other people do not. It is not the Government's job to moralise and tell us what to do; it may be the job of Government to ensure that the animals are kept in good condition and looked after well. Indeed, that is the case in this country. We expect that and, indeed, the animals are looked after very well. It is another thing, however, for a government to stipulate that someone should, for example, wear mink or a black tie and pass legislation to achieve that which is quite wrong.

Baroness Hayman

I hope the noble Earl will allow me briefly to interrupt. I shall try not to be tempted into the wider argument to which he alluded. He said that it is absurd to argue that there is a difference in purpose between keeping animals for food and keeping them for fur. He would probably not consider it to be an absurd argument to say that there is a difference when the animals are kept and bred in order to satisfy the amusement of those who take pleasure in cruelty. For example, bear-baiting might be a simple example of that. We have to draw lines in society about the purposes and ways in which we treat animals.

I accept that the noble Earl does not agree with where this particular line has been drawn. I have to say that there are others who agree with it totally. Those of us who have been involved in this debate could be in no doubt about the strength of feeling that exists on this issue. He is not right, therefore, to say that it is absurd for the Government to take a position on an issue which is of grave public concern, although I accept absolutely his right to take a different view on that.

I rose to speak mainly to ask him whether he will be kind enough to correct an earlier point that he made, on which he may have given the wrong impression. I hope that nothing I have said and nothing that this Bill puts forward encourages illegal activity by those either who intimidate people going about their legal business or who, against the law, release mink into the wild. There is no encouragement for that either from the Government or from this Bill. I should like firmly to put on the record the Government's opposition to any such illegal activity.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Baroness was quite right to say that and naturally I accept it entirely. I meant to imply that people—animal rights activists—who have been doing these terrible acts have taken succour from the fact that the Government have introduced this Bill to prohibit an activity which they consider to be morally wrong. That has "encouraged" them in their crusade. I do not mean that the Government have deliberately set out to encourage them.

Baroness Hayman

I say only to the noble Earl that even that statement is contentious. The level of animal activists' activity against fur farms has diminished rather than increased since the prospect of Government action.

Earl Ferrers

In view of everything the noble Baroness has said about these amendments, I beg leave to withdraw them. I cannot guarantee that I shall not return to them but I certainly appreciate her comments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 3: Page 1, leave out line 17 and insert ("£l,000").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 3 is designed to put some sense into the system of fines. If in the future you are found to be keeping mink, you may be fined £20,000. That seems a monumental sum. I have suggested that the figure should be £1,000. It is rare to have fines above £5,000 without the possibility of a custodial sentence. It is surely unlikely that anyone would consider that to be appropriate for the offence of keeping a few mink. Compared with, for example, grievous bodily harm, the offence of keeping mink is fairly paltry. In any event, a forfeiture order may be imposed so the person is bound to lose his mink. Moreover, it is possible that prosecutions could take place in respect of animals farmed primarily for their fur. That is what we have just been talking about and rabbit farmers could possibly become caught up in it. I think that the figure of £20,000 is unrealistic and bizarre and suggest this might be a more appropriate figure. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayman

This is a matter of a simple disagreement between the noble Earl and the Government—and that is not a unique situation —as to the appropriate level of the penalty. I would remind him that the maximum fine—and it is a maximum fine—of £20,000 would be for the offence of keeping any number of mink and not per animal, if one can put it that way. Our belief is that a maximum fine of£1,000 will not act as a sufficient deterrent to the keeping of mink once the ban is in force. As I said earlier this is a maximum fine but we ought to legislate in terms of allowing that penalty to fulfil its deterrent purpose and on that basis the Government believe that £20,000 is an appropriate figure.

Lord Monson

Can the noble Baroness confirm that there would be no right to jury trial for this offence, and that the maximum fine, if imposed, would be imposed in the magistrates' court? Is that correct?

Baroness Hayman

Given the current flux in debate on these issues, I would wish to be absolutely certain of my territory when answering the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and I can confirm that he is correct. There would not be the option of a jury trial; this would be a magistrates' court offence.

Lord Hylton

The noble Baroness said that the £20,000 figure is a maximum but I do not think she can in any way justify that level, particularly when it can be combined with forfeiture of goods.

Lord Hardy of Wath

I take the point made by my noble friend that this is a maximum but one would hope that in many cases the court would shrink from applying the maximum fine. On the other hand, I have from time to time been horrified by fines imposed by the court which bore no relationship either to the maximum penalty available to the court or to the scale of the offence.

The noble Lord, Lord Kimball, may recall that a long time ago there was a very substantial trade in falcons. Virtually all young falcons in the nest in the United Kingdom were under threat because they could be sold for £600 a bird and the maximum penalty which then applied was £2. A Bill to amend the protection of birds legislation was introduced and one of its provisions was very substantially to increase the fine. Both Houses of Parliament saw that Bill reach the statute book within about a fortnight. I watched with horror a few months later when the first prosecution came up in court: although both Houses had seen the wisdom of increasing the fine massively, the court applied a fine of £5. That was more than the previous maximum but it bore no relationship to the maximum laid down by law.

I have again been horrified in recent months by the fines imposed for polluting water courses. A very substantial fine was imposed but it covered only about 10 per cent of the public cost of carrying out the investigation to establish that an offence had been committed. The courts are very flexible, sometimes too flexible, but it is appropriate that from time to time a substantial fine can be awarded where circumstances justify it.

Baroness Hayman

My noble friend makes the Government's case eloquently here. We need flexibility and range to deal with the variety of circumstances that may occur. It might well be that an extremely small fine was appropriate for an extremely small breach. However, given the turnover possible for some of the larger farms, it is our responsibility as legislators to make sure that we put into the armoury of deterrent penalties an amount substantial enough to ensure that the fines do the job for which they were introduced. It is on that basis that the £20,000 was reached as a maximum.

Earl Ferrers

I knew that, if the noble Baroness did not find acceptable my helpful amendments earlier, she would not find this one acceptable and I understand the reasons why. It just seems to me to be a gargantuan figure. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.30 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 4 to 6 not moved.]

On Question, whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Earl Ferrers

Clause 1 is the meat of the Bill and its purpose is to criminalise what is a perfectly legal form of farming. My noble friend Lord Kimball said it is equivalent to a Bill of Attainder, where someone's right to do something is taken away without there ever having been a law passed or that person ever having been convicted of wrongdoing. I find it unbelievable that the Government should set out to harry, to penalise and to destroy 13 people and their businesses. The Government ought to be protecting minorities. But they do not want to do that. It does not matter whether it is fox-hunting, hereditary Peers or mink farmers; if they do not like them, get rid of them!

Then the noble Baroness said that the public benefit does not justify mink farming. The Government are not there to pontificate on people's morals. The real reason is that, according to Elliot Morley who was one time Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and has now passed on—or moved on—

Baroness Hayman

No, he is still there.

Earl Ferrers

He is still there? My goodness! Anyhow he said that the principal reason for this is public morality. Who is Mr Morley, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture—and I apologise for having misdirected myself—to dictate what our morals should be? Why should the Government consider that this particular facet of our lives—mink farming—should be considered immoral but it is perfectly moral for them to lower the age of homosexual consent and to promote homosexuality? Are all farmers in the European Union—mink farmers and fur farmers—immoral? What about the skin farmers in Canada? Are they all immoral too?

The principal reason for the introduction of this Bill, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, pointed out at Second Reading, is that when Mr Morley was in Opposition, he received assistance via the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is not a charity, which gave the Government £1 million. Presumably this is the payback. I understand that the Government will receive another £1 million from that organisation. Is that for services rendered or for more services about to be received and other facets of policy to be purchased? The whole principle behind this clause is, if I might say so, total hypocrisy.

I shall say this in the most charming way that I can. The noble Baroness knows that all the Members of her party in the House of Commons hate the House of Lords, but they all queue up to come here. And when they come here, what is the first thing they do? They put on robes covered with ermine. Some people say it is not ermine now; it is rabbit. But it is not a myxomatosis rabbit; it is a farmed rabbit. So what is the difference? Why are they prepared to say all that is wrong and yet they are quite happy themselves to wear it? Will it make any difference to the mink? The answer to that is no, because the United Kingdom only produces 1 per cent of the European fur trade. Of course, the additional reason for saying that this Bill is brought forward on moral grounds is because, had the Government brought it forward on animal welfare grounds, they would have contravened European Union legislation. They did not want to do that so they have brought it forward on moral grounds. I think that it is wrong and totally unacceptable for the Government to pontificate on morals—what should be considered to be morally correct and what should be considered as morally wrong.

Lord Luke

I support my noble friend in everything he has just said. I should like to help the Minister by making one small quotation. Ultimately, what is the moral difference between rearing an animal to eat it or to wear it? Mr Morley says that there is one, but to the animal there is none".—[Official Report, 19/7/00; col. 1138.] Who said that? It was the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, in her Second Reading speech.

Lord Hylton

I regret that I was unable to be present for the Second Reading of this Bill. In the past the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and I have had many tussles when he was occupying various ministerial offices. But today I am extremely happy to support him in criticising the Bill, and in particular Clause 1. It seems to me to be political correctness gone completely mad.

There has been a great deal of argument about whether or not it was cruel to trap wild animals for their furs in Northern Canada, or wherever else that may happen. Now, by extension, we get a Bill that prohibits fur farming in this country.

I should have thought the criteria should have been whether or not there is good husbandry of the animal, as in the case of any other animals that are farmed. If the husbandry is good, there will be no cruelty. If the husbandry is bad, it is very likely that there will be cruelty. I wish the Government had not chosen to overload the legislative process with this rather unnecessary Bill.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I want to comment on what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. He has challenged the Government's right to act on morality as such. Whenever that is done in respect of a current problem, there is always an argument, and there is an argument on which there are two sides. I think the general principle is quite clear: where there are abuses in the structure of society and they are widely recognised as such, the Government have a right to act.

The Government had a right to act in banning bear baiting. They had a right to act in the abolition of the slave trade. That put out of business many extremely inoffensive people who had been in that trade for a long time and it took away their money. The Government are right to legislate about prostitution. In this case the Government are not quite clear about what they want to do. And the Government are absolutely right, of course, to tackle the problem of hereditary Peers, which has been a crying scandal ever since my two grandfathers fought against it in the 1906 Parliament, and Mr Campbell-Bannerman before that.

There is no question that the Government have the right to act on questions of morality in the public sphere where there is a widespread knowledge of abuse. I believe that the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, does not stand up.

Lord Monson

The noble Lord has failed to address the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, on what the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu said at Second Reading. The animal being slaughtered is totally indifferent as to whether it is being slaughtered for meat or for fur. The degree of pain, if there is any pain felt, is absolutely no different at all.

An additional point which was not made is that it is not necessary to eat meat for human survival, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree. It is much more agreeable to eat meat than to be a vegetarian but people can perfectly well survive without it, Therefore, we are not talking about necessities; we are talking, in a sense, about luxuries in both cases.

The Earl of Shrewsbury

I would like to support my noble friend Lord Ferrers because I find this a pretty obnoxious Bill. I find it very difficult indeed to understand how fur farming can be judged by the Government to be morally unacceptable when they are quite happy to allow Halal killing. Halal killing is done for just a small number of cattle and sheep and it is the most appalling way of killing animals. That to my mind is totally morally unacceptable. I wonder whether the Government will move to ban that next. I hope that they will.

Lord Hardy of Wath

Perhaps I may ask the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, a question. He has put a very powerful argument, one which is natural from that side of the House, but do we take it that a Conservative government, should they be elected, will introduce a measure to restore fur farming to the United Kingdom, which clearly they would seem to find acceptable?

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I may answer that; I do not have the slightest idea. It is not my business to decide the next government's policy.

Lord Kimball

Will the Minister answer a further question in winding up, one which arises from the speech at Second Reading by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu? We all know it is absolutely wrong to take cash for Questions. Why is it wrong now to have money for policies? There is no difference, surely? If it is wrong to take cash for Questions, why is it right to take money for policies?

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

I find the suggestion that governments should not make moral decisions on behalf of the people they govern quite incredible. After all, that is what political parties' manifestos are about. They set out the kinds of moral stance which they intend to take on particular issues and the public decide whether or not they agree with those issues. Political parties at the moment are tussling with the moral issue as to whether cannabis ought to be legalised, and I do not believe anybody has any final wisdom on that issue. However, each party—and certainly the Conservative Party when it was in power—made moral judgments on all kinds of things, from housing provision and who should be eligible for housing through to whether cigarettes could be sold to minors. I do not think the argument that governments should not make moral decisions carries any weight at all.

Baroness Hayman

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, and in a light-hearted moment, which are few and far between, I was tempted to suggest to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that I would stop talking about public morality in this respect if the Opposition would stop talking about it in terms of Section 28, the age of gay consent and many other issues in respect of which we seem to have spent an awful lot of time because we thought it was appropriate for politicians, and indeed governments, to join in the debate.

We are dealing here with an issue which is not susceptible of an absolute definition. There are judgments to be made. I feel I have shown a little more respect for the different views taken by Opposition Members than they have taken for the legitimate view of the Government, endorsed by another place. Although the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said this was a deeply politically controversial Bill it did not elicit any voting in another place, which is perhaps one of the reasons the House decided that it was appropriate to take the Committee stage here.

However, we shall not solve deep-rooted differences of opinion in the Moses Room this afternoon, although I feel I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, that he is wrong to suggest that money has been taken for policies in the way it was proved that cash was taken for Questions.

I say to anyone from the Opposition who tries to be helpful to me to stop; I may do better without helpful comments.

I say to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, what I said to my honourable friend at Second Reading; that is, that he can be as charmingly rude to me any time he likes. As regards my honourable friend in another place, it is inappropriate to have any suggestion of hypocrisy on his stand on this issue. Over many years he has had a long-standing commitment to animal welfare and animal rights issues. Members of the Committee may not think he is correct in his judgments, but to suggest that he is influenced in them by improper means or by inappropriate donations, should not be on the record, and is something I should like to put firmly to one side.

Clause 1 agreed to.

4.45 p.m.

Clause 2 [Forfeiture orders]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 7: Page 1, line 22, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Earl said: We now come to calmer waters. I beg to move Amendment No. 7 and speak to Amendments Nos. 8 to 11.

Amendment No. 7 allows for the forfeiture of animals which are kept by a person who has not been prosecuted or convicted of keeping animals under Clause 1(1); for example, a tenant whose landlord may have been convicted of knowing there was mink farming taking place on his land. It also applies when someone who has not kept the animals is convicted; for example, the landlord.

The forfeiture powers should be confined to the person who kept the animals. In other words, the tenant should be convicted under Clause 1 before his animals are forfeited. If only his landlord is convicted, the forfeiture should not take place. That seems to be wholly reasonable, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, will think so also.

Amendment No. 8 relates to the words, so as to deprive any person of his rights in those animals". That is pungent stuff. Should one deprive a person of his rights? The effect would be just the same without them because the animals would have gone anyway.

Amendment No. 9 relates to Clause 3 and leaves out paragraph (c). Where a court makes a forfeiture order, the person may be compelled to give up his animals and also pay for them to be destroyed, or pay for them to be kept before they are destroyed by somebody else. That again is hefty stuff. First, the person is fined £20,000; secondly, his animals are destroyed, or he pays others to keep them before they are destroyed; and, thirdly, he pays for them to be destroyed. It is hard on a person who is already going to lose his animals, and is unnecessary and heavy-handed.

Amendment No. 10 inserts another subsection. The amendment ensures that the animals cannot be destroyed under a forfeiture order before an appeal can be made or dealt with. That seems obvious. If a person has a forfeiture order made against him, he ought to be allowed to appeal before the order is carried out. That is based on Section 4(3) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 which deals with orders for the destruction of dogs.

Amendment No. 11 prevents the release of forfeited animals into the wild. Much has already been said about animal rights activists who, while claiming sympathy for the mink, then let them out of their cages, ostensibly doing them a service. The result is that some of them have died, not being used to the wild conditions, and others have killed birds, fish and other sorts of wildlife. As I said earlier, one mink farmer has had 7,500 of his 9,000 mink let out into the open by these animal rights activists. Some farmers have been made ill by all of this and I believe that this would be a reasonable amendment to be included.

As regards Amendment No. 11, it is currently an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 to release mink or to allow them to escape into the wild. It is still in the interests both of the animal rights activists and the mink to have this amendment in the Bill so that the prohibition is prominent and clear. I beg to move.

Lord Hylton

I have already protested against the excessive level of the maximum possible fine. Therefore, I should like to support the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in what he has said about the possible accumulation of penalties against an offending person.

While I am on my feet, perhaps I may say also that I very much support his Amendment No. 11 which deals with the release of animals into the wild.

Baroness Hayman

I shall deal first with Amendment No. 11, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to it. I hope I can reassure the Committee that it is not necessary to pass that amendment. It is already illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to release mink into the wild and there is no way in which a court could, or would, sanction something that would be illegal. Therefore, I hope that, in the way of a belt and braces provision, that is unnecessary in a situation that I believe we all wish to avoid for the reasons that have been referred to already today.

I hope I can reassure the Committee that the provisions of the Bill in relation to forfeiture are not in fact heavy-handed but only those that are necessary to cover all the circumstances that may arise. Indeed, I suggest to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that the need to convict a tenant before forfeiture would produce an unnecessarily cumbersome procedure.

Where a secondary offence under the Act has been committed, the court needs the power to impose a forfeiture order on the animals being kept. For example, a landlord may have permitted a person to commit an offence under Clause 1(1). In such circumstances where the offender is prosecuted under subsection (2), the court needs to have the power to make any animals kept subject to a forfeiture order.

On Amendment No. 8, Clause 3(1) ensures that, when a court makes a forfeiture order, it is fully effective regardless of who may have an interest in the animals. Perhaps it would be easier for the Committee if I were to give an example. Let us suppose that a farmer mortgaged his property and the lender had a charge on it and that that included the animals. The court would not thus be prevented from using its powers to supervise the keeping or disposal of the animals as appropriate. Deletion of this provision would give rise to uncertainties as to the effect of a forfeiture order in such circumstances where someone else has an interest in the property.

Amendment No. 9 would make it unclear as to who was responsible for the keeping of animals subject to forfeiture. The Government are not prepared to fund these costs and it is right that the court should have this power.

As regards Amendment No. 10, under subsection (3)(d), the court may order that the animals may not be destroyed or otherwise disposed of until any appeal is determined. It is best left to the court to consider what is appropriate in the circumstances of each case, as is achieved by the current drafting of the Bill. In our view, however, a court would be most unlikely to allow destruction to proceed pending an appeal. On that basis, I hope I have removed some of the concerns that lay behind these amendments and that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw them.

Earl Ferrers

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the position. There is a danger with Amendment No. 7 that the animal keeper might suffer a penalty by losing the animals without necessarily being convicted of an offence. That could be unjust, particularly under provisions of the Human Rights Act. I would ask the noble Baroness to comment on that in a moment, if she would be kind enough to look at it. I am grateful to her for her other replies and explanations with regard to the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Effect of forfeiture orders]:

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 11 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Powers of entry and enforcement]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 12: Page 2, line 32, leave out subsection (1) and insert— ("(1) If a justice of the peace is satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds for believing that an offence under section 1(1) has been or is being committed at any premises, he may issue a warrant authorising a person authorised in writing by the appropriate authority to enter the premises and inspect the premises and any animals or things found there.").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 12, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 13 to 19. Amendment No. 12 seeks to secure that a warrant from the justice of the peace is necessary before entry can be made into premises. It is not merely a regulatory inspection. Entry is allowed under Section 4(1) only if the commission of an offence is suspected, when people are permitted to enter premises by the appropriate authority, which means presumably some kind of government authority. Entry should be effected only with a warrant from a justice oft he peace. The powers of entry under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 both rely upon such warrants.

Amendment No. 13 is a standard provision in the rights of entry, being based on Section 19601) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It could be particularly important in fur farming cases because the shutting of gates is a necessity. If it is known that premises have been entered into because of suspected fur farming, there is a risk that people will enter in order to release the animals or to cause damage, which would clearly be undesirable.

Amendment No. 14 seeks to remove the word "intentionally" and insert the word "wilfully". The noble Baroness might question the difference but it takes me back to the House of Lords Bill when I moved an amendment that it should be "an" hereditary Peer and not "a" hereditary peer! I was told that it was not right. Everyone thought that it was right apart from the parliamentary draftsman and the Government can apparently modernise everything in this country other than the parliamentary draftsman. Here, "wilfully" is used more often than "intentionally" in respect of obstruction to the rights of entry. That appears in the Section 2(2) of the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and Section 196C(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. So there is a very good provenance. I am sure that now the Government will come round to modernising the parliamentary draftsmen as well as everything else under their view and they may perhaps agree to that.

Then we come to Amendment No. 15, which leaves out the word "includes" and inserts the word "means". This is a technical amendment. In the Bill at present, "premises" includes any place. What else can it include other than the premises? Surely the word it should have is "means". In other words, the premises "means any place", as opposed to "includes any place", unless the Government have the idea of including something else other than the place.

We then come to Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 18 where I have suggested that instead of "private dwelling" we should insert "dwellinghouse". I will ask the noble Baroness to take her mind back to the House of Lords Bill and "a" and "an". The parliamentary draftsmen were always keen to use that which went before, and these amendments replace "private dwelling" with the word which is more commonly used; in other words, "dwellinghouse". Those are the words parliamentary draftsmen use for powers of entry under the Town and Country Planning Act and many other Acts. In order to achieve conformity they should be used.

Amendment No. 19 provides for compensation if damage is caused while exercising the powers of entry and enforcement. That is a perfectly natural thing if the damage is done when enforcement is being undertaken. The amendment is based on compensation provisions for rights of entry under Section 196C(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Amendment No. 19 provides for compensation if damage is caused while exercising powers of entry and enforcement. This is a standard provision to which I have already referred. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Kimball

I do not quite agree with my noble friend Lord Ferrers on this particular point. As I understand it, MAFF has the right to go into a fur farm at any point and inspect it. After all, we have in front of us an application to MAFF to keep a mink farm. It can go in at any time and inspect that mink farm.

If an offence is being committed by somebody else, it is a different matter, and of course you have to go to the magistrates and obtain the necessary authorisation. As I understand it, a police constable would need an authorisation, whereas the man from the Ministry would not. He would be allowed to go in because of the licence issue that has already been done. But I agree with my noble friend Lord Ferrers that anyone else going in would want to be absolutely certain that he had something issued by the magistrates and would have to take great care not to do things such as leaving the gates open.

Lord Monson

Even if Amendment No. 12 is defective, as the noble Lord, Lord Kimball suggests, I can see no objection whatever to Amendments Nos. 13 and 19 in particular. They seem to be entirely justified and I hope the Committee will agree to them.

Baroness Hayman

In putting forward these amendments, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, reminded us of some of the detail of the debate on the House of Lords Act. I have to say some of that took on a dreamlike quality for me and, although I cannot recall all of the debates, the dream-like quality is somewhat enhanced by the fact that we are still enjoying his presence and that of many other hereditary Peers as I look around the room. I do remember however the debates on "a" and "an" hereditary Peer, and have to say that, in common with him, I have a slight tendency to pedantry. Thus, had it been a free vote, I might have supported the noble Earl in that particular respect, but did not feel it was a resigning issue.

I suspect that issues of taste, pedantry and semantics will perhaps govern my response to some of these amendments. I deal first with Amendment No. 12. We believe that the process suggested by this amendment is cumbersome and unnecessary. Subsections (3) and (4) already require a person entering premises to show evidence of a right to do so if challenged. Under Clause 4(1) the "appropriate authority", which in England would be the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, will appoint responsible individuals as officers, and I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, that we would prepare appropriate guidelines for them to follow. There are precedents for such investigations where there is a reasonable suspicion of a breach of the terms of the notice served. Under the Plant Health Act 1967 for the purposes of plant health control, or the Animal Health Act 1981, persons authorised by the Minister may enter premises to investigate suspected breaches; for example, having diseased animals and not reporting it. There is precedent therefore and a system which works in a satisfactory way; anything else would be unnecessarily cumbersome.

We believe that Amendment No. 13 is unnecessary. Under Clause 4(1) the Minister is likely to authorise officers of the Ministry to enter premises. Those people would be responsible individuals and would certainly not leave premises exposed to intruders following an inspection. I can assure the Committee that Ministers and the police are well aware of the attention given to fur farmers by certain animal activists and the need under the Mink Keeping Order 1997 for fur farms to be secure at all times against the escape of mink. I hope that will provide some reassurance to the Committee.

In dealing with Amendment No. 14 perhaps I may refer to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary in response to the noble Earl's preference for "wilfully" rather than "intentionally" in this context. I suggest it is a matter of taste. The main point is whether or not the obstruction or delay to which this clause refers is deliberate. That is covered by both words and the dictionary definition of "wilfully" is, purposely, on purpose, intentionally or deliberately". So although the noble Earl may prefer one, I hope he will accept that the other fulfils the purpose.

Equally, in dealing with Amendment No. 15, I have to say that the natural meaning of "premises" is a place with a structure on it. With a view to extending the natural meaning of the word "premises", the Bill provides that premises includes any place, to clarify the point that the special meaning of premises here is that it can include land which is not built on. If the Bill provided that premises means any place, it would not carry the same clarification that premises can include land which is not built on. I hesitate to pray in aid parliamentary counsel, but the noble Earl will understand that I take my advice from him on this issue.

I suspect equally on Amendments Nos. 16,17 and 18 the need to change "private dwelling" to "dwellinghouse" is a matter of taste and preference of the noble Earl but tot homines, quot sententiae, and I suspect that parliamentary counsel's sententiae in this area were for using "private dwelling".

Earl Ferrers

I thought we were speaking English and suddenly the noble Baroness dropped into Latin and I did not quite hear it.

Baroness Hayman

I was trying to enter into the spirit of the thing and hoping to reach the levels of debate to which the noble Earl makes us all aspire. I said tot homines—as many as there are men—quot sententiae—there are sentiments or feelings, and I was suggesting that we could, between us, find many substitutes for "dwellinghouse", "dwelling", "private dwelling" or "dwelling place". Perhaps the simplest way forward is to go with parliamentary counsel on this; there is no dubiety on it.

We believe that Amendment No. 19 is unnecessary. Under subsections (1) and (2), the Minister is likely to authorise officers of his department, and, as I said earlier, those officers are responsible individuals who are not likely to cause damage when inspecting premises. If an officer were to exceed the limits of his statutory powers, the court would have powers to award compensation according to the ordinary principles of law; for example, relating to negligence. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, when dealing with Amendment No. 12, we would certainly be providing appropriate guidelines to those officers who are undertaking this work in order to ensure that damage and difficulties are not caused.

Earl Ferrers

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for those explanations. The only purpose of Amendment No. 14 was to make for conformity. I was delighted that she explained the difference between "includes" and "means" with regard to Amendment No. 15, and saying that the word includes land makes a great deal of sense.

With regard to her deviation into Latin, she said that for as many men as there are, there would be as many views. That may well be true but I was just trying to go along with the view of the parliamentary draftsman which I thought was helpful. However, I quite see that she prefers to have a different view. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her helpful replies to these amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 13 to 19 not moved.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Compensation for existing businesses]:

The Deputy Chairman (Lord Brougham and Vaux)

I must advise the Committee that, if this amendment is agreed, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 20 to 23 inclusive because of pre-emption.

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 19A: Page 3, line 14, leave out subsections (1) to (3) and insert —

  1. ("(1) Where any person incurs losses as a result of ceasing, by reason of the enactment or coming into force of section 1, to carry on his business so far as it consists of activities prohibited by that section, he shall, subject to the provisions of this section be entitled to receive a payment (hereinafter referred to as "compensation") from the appropriate authority.
  2. (2) The amount of compensation shall be equal to the losses he sustains as a result of ceasing, by reason of the enactment or coming into force of section 1, to carry on his business so far as it consists of activities prohibited by that section and in estimating such losses regard shall be had to the period for which such business may reasonably have been expected to be carried on but for that section.
  3. (3) Compensation shall carry interest, at the rate for the time being prescribed under section 32 of the Land Compensation Act 1961, from the date of the enactment of section 1 in the case of losses incurred by reason of the enactment of that section and from the date of that section coming into force in the case of losses incurred by reason of that section coming into force until payment.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 19A, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 23A to 23D. I am sure that all Members will agree that this group of amendments is the nub of our work in the Committee this afternoon.

I am moving this amendment to ensure that people who are being stripped of their way of life under the Bill are, nevertheless, compensated fairly for their loss. I would first like to apologise that this amendment appeared rather late in the day. The reason for that was that we were waiting to hear the response to the government amendment from the National Farmers Union and, accordingly, we wished to take advice ourselves on the Government's amendment.

We appreciate that the Government have tabled their amendment to Clause 5 in recognition of some of the deficiencies in the original content of that clause and in response to concerns over the lack of an adequate compensation scheme. However, we believe that it does not go far enough and, therefore, we propose an alternative amendment, which we believe shows proper consideration for all the concerns of fur farmers.

Without a simple and available scheme on the face of the Bill, confusion and uncertainty are inevitable. Although a procedure for compensation is to be provided under Clause 5—for which we are, of course, extremely grateful—until that scheme becomes much clearer it is impossible to confirm that it is based on fair and sound principles.

My proposed amendment would remove that uncertainty by inserting a layer for compensation that precludes the necessity for having an obscure and rather vague scheme which is to be decided some time in the future by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The amendment uses a framework taken from an existing compensation scheme under the Land Compensation Act 1973, and goes no further than that. Since the Government accept that there should be a scheme, it makes perfect sense to use a framework already proven and accepted as fair and which has stood the test of time.

The amendment would introduce compensation that is equal to all losses, including income and prospective income losses sustained by a person as a result of the removal of his business. Such compensation would in effect act as a purchase price under a compulsory purchase type scenario where businesses, not land, were being acquired. The amendment would permit those persons who would be forced to relinquish their livelihoods under this Bill to have confirmation that a fixed scheme was already in place prior to the enactment of the Bill. They will not be left in any doubt as to what is to become of them, nor as to how the Minister proposes to treat them in terms of compensation; that is, in a fair and honest manner. After all, it is only right that they should be aware of the method employed to calculate the loss of their prospective earnings and capital investments.

This amendment will help maintain a welcome transparency because it will ensure that both the farmers and the public are made aware of the amount of taxpayers' money required to put the farmers out of business, instead of leaving the direction and important details of a future scheme to the Minister.

It seems to me that the only possible objection to the presence of such a scheme in this Bill that the Government might raise would be to declare that such a scheme would take time to formulate—time that is not available to them before the Bill receives Royal Assent. However, it seems to us that that objection is not an objection but an excuse. Under my amendment a perfectly workable scheme could be produced within 24 hours and, if the Government are unwilling to produce their own scheme as part of such a transparent process, this amendment should stand.

Indeed, the fact that no detailed scheme for compensation has so far been forthcoming from the appropriate authority suggests that either they are incapable of completing a relatively straightforward task, or else it is not of primary concern to the Government. Perhaps it is not, but it is certainly a priority for the besieged and beleaguered fur farmers whose welfare has consistently been neglected and abused. They deserve, at least, to know unequivocally what provision is to be made for them. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Kimball

The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation made a very firm recommendation to this Committee. It said quite definitely that the Committee must consider the question of whether or not compensation should be included for loss of income, which has important human rights applications, and should not be left to ministerial discretion. It therefore recommended the amendment of Clause 5 to make the Government's intention absolutely clear.

That is very important. We know perfectly well that every year the fur farmers make a return of the number of animals which they have in their possession. I have such a return here. The number of animals that they have to return is the number of male animals plus the number of female animals. Thus, you know at the beginning of October exactly how many animals are on the farm. At that moment, the previous year's harvest has been cleared so that in fact you start off at the beginning with your minimum number.

There has already been a case of a fur farm being closed down. It was closed down as the only fur farm in Austria. It is important that people should realise the level at which the fur farmers should be compensated. I am not particularly good at converting currencies but I have been advised that—I am sorry, is the Minister good at this?

Baroness Hayman

It makes a good argument for the euro!

Lord Kimball

It might cost somewhat more in the euro but as it stands at the moment, the price being paid out for every single female mink on a farm should be £390. The mink mink are extremely productive. It must be admitted that the fur farmers have been doing extremely well; and why should they not? They have been running a good business and deserve to be properly compensated for it. I hope, therefore, that we start off by bearing in mind that in respect of the only fur farm to have been abolished within the European area—the man moved over into Czechoslovakia and was able to start again—the farmer received the proper price for his fur farm. I hope that I can add to what my noble friend, Lord Luke has said: that we should put a figure on this question of compensation. That is the figure that we should ask for the farmers.

Lord Davies of Coity

I should certainly like some help with regard to this amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. There seems to be no question as to whether the farmers should be compensated but rather how that should be done. I am somewhat bemused about the way in which it is now being proposed that the compensation should be paid. It is a business and is being allied to the land compensation provisions. The noble Lord seemed to say that he saw no difference between compensation in terms of land and that in terms of business and that there should, therefore, be a parallel between the two.

It strikes me that in my lifetime, the value of land has been either fairly constant or it has increased. When it comes, however, to compensating business which is more open than land to the whims of the market, the position seems to be inflexible and the two are not parallel. There could be a quite different situation in one fur farm as compared with another and there needs to be a measure of flexibility. I thought the Government were proposing to consider the circumstances with a view to compensating adequately, certainly, but not over-compensating, which might be a difficulty were this formula to be introduced.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

At Second Reading, I did mention that for those on the Liberal Democrat Benches, the issue of compensation was now our main concern with the Bill. Clearly, it is imperative that the scheme should be fair, transparent and quick. The noble Lord, Lord Luke, referred to compensation covering prospective income losses. For what length of time into the future does he envisage that that should apply? This would help me to consider his amendment.

Lord Luke

I cannot guess the period into the future on which an actuarial assessment might be made.

Baroness Hayman

I suspect that that interchange illustrates that the simplicity of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, but the attractiveness of that simplicity belies the difficulty of applying it in practice.

I hope the Committee will accept that throughout the debates on this issue—and it was a central issue in our debate at Second Reading—we have made clear the Government's intention to provide fair and reasonable compensation. However, there is no established practice of compensation in this field, and it is only after proper investigation and consultation that an appropriate and fair scheme can be drawn up.

In the debate at Second Reading, I alluded to the fact that the Government would obviously have serious regard to the recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, referred. Indeed, if the amendment is not pursued and we deal with the government amendments, I hope the Committee will accept that the Government have tried to make explicit on the face of the Bill that they will ensure that income losses are covered. That was the crux of that recommendation.

The amendment sets out one way of trying to ensure what is an agreed objective; that of providing fair, appropriate and reasonable compensation. I hope the Committee will agree, however, that what the Government recommend will provide a better way of doing this than Amendment No. 19A. Our intention is to look at the books of the fur farmers and at the profits that were described, so that we can then consult the industry on the basis of a compensation scheme which would be fair and reasonable.

The amendment would remove the consultation exercise with industry which is a key element of the Bill and which we inserted after representations from the industry itself. In moving the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Luke, said that it would mean that the compensation scheme would be more transparent. In fact, the amendment in effect would mean that the details of the scheme would be less transparent as they would not be set out in an order. It would be much more difficult for the fur farmers to see the basis of the compensation scheme in order to inform their own decision making.

There would be no speeding up of the payment of compensation moneys through the amendment, and the speed by which this can be done is an issue with the fur farmers, as in practice we would still have to look at individual farmer's books and go through with the consultation exercise which the Bill formalises.

We have made clear that we will be willing to consider payment of interest in the interim. However, the way we suggest of going forward—that is, consulting with the industry and considering issues such as the closing-down costs, valuer's fees, redundancy payment, land clearance costs and interest payments before compensation—will be able to be considered in the framework that is set down in later government amendments.

While I recognise the motivation behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, I hope he will feel able to withdraw it, and perhaps listen to the argument on the government amendment and be reassured that the provisions we are putting into the Bill will cover the areas of concern.

Lord Luke

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for that explanation. I am also most grateful to my noble friend, Lord Kimball. His desire to have a figure put on the compensation as soon as possible is something the fur farmers would like to hear.

I am a little worried by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, saying that all these things are going to happen. I wonder why a certain amount of consultation has not already taken place with the fur farmers as to what their incomes might have been without the Bill going through.

I hope very much that when the Minister deals with her own amendment, she will be able at least to give us some ballpark figure as to how long these fur farmers will have to wait before they obtain compensation after the Bill comes into effect, after which presumably they will not be allowed to continue trading. I hope that perhaps the noble Baroness might be able to give a better answer to the question to me from the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, which I was unable to answer. Having said all that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Hayman moved Amendment No. 20: Page 3, line 16, after second ("of") insert ("income and non-income").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 20 I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 25. Perhaps I may say at the outset that I cannot guarantee to answer the question posed to the noble Lord, Lord Luke. I have enough difficulty in answering my own questions without taking on the task of answering his as well.

As I said when speaking to Amendment No. 19A, this set of amendments relates to the compensation scheme for fur farmers put out of business by the ban. At Second Reading of the Bill in July, as Members of the Committee will recall, concerns were raised about the proposed compensation scheme. As I explained at the time this is an enabling Bill. It is not appropriate therefore for full and exact details of the compensation scheme to be included in the Bill. The intention is for Ministers to decide on the detail of the compensation scheme after Royal Assent, once we have undertaken a valuation exercise of the fur farms to provide financial information on which a decision may be based.

Indeed there has been no official inspection of fur farmers' books; that in turn awaits Royal Assent. But I can give an assurance that it will happen quickly thereafter. The key to this whole process is to get the Bill onto the statute book and then proceed appropriately with the consultation and the drafting of the scheme.

At present Clause 5 of the Bill does not specify whether or not compensation would include loss of income. That was a cause for concern during Second Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, has alluded to it again today. In the light of the concerns that have been raised, and in the light of the report of the Select Committee, the Government have decided to put forward these amendments permitting Ministers to include loss of income in the compensation scheme. Clause 5(1) therefore requires the scheme to cover income and non-income losses incurred as a result of ceasing fur farming because of the enactment or coming into force of the prohibition in Clause 1.

Subsection (1)(a) requires the scheme to specify the descriptions of income and non-income losses in respect of which payments are to be made, although the scheme need not provide for all such losses to be compensated.

Clause 5(2) goes on to provide that the scheme shall specify the basis of the valuation for determining losses; the amounts of the payments to be made or the basis on which such amounts are to be calculated; and the procedure to be followed in respect of claims under the scheme.

Concerns were raised in another place that the use of the word "may" in Clause 5(2) could theoretically allow the Government to avoid including these matters in the compensation scheme. This was never our intention, as I made clear, but in drafting these amendments in order to remove any doubt at all as to the Government's commitment, we are proposing to change the word "may" to "shall" in line 20.

The full details of the scheme would be subject to a consultation exercise with the industry after Royal Assent and before the order introducing the compensation scheme is made. I hope that Members of the Committee will feel that we have genuinely moved to meet the concerns that were expressed. On that basis I ask them to support these amendments. I beg to move.

The Earl of Shrewsbury

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling this government amendment. No doubt she recalls that a number of noble Lords who spoke at Second Reading made it abundantly clear that the big issue was that if a ban was to be implemented, an adequate and fair compensation should be made both for the loss of income as well as other losses. What she had to say in the last few minutes is most welcome.

The Government's new position as stated in this amendment is to be welcomed, as I said. But I wonder if I could press the Minister on three issues very briefly. First, is the noble Baroness able to indicate where the Government intend to draw the line between losses that would be claimable and those that would not? Secondly, the noble Baroness will be aware that, in compulsory purchase situations, 90 per cent of the compensation is payable up front, on account. Is it the Government's intention to pay compensation? If so, will they consider paying compensation to fur farmers on the same basis as that paid in compulsory purchase situations? It would help their cash flow enormously.

Finally, within the compensation arrangements, will the Government include the reimbursement of the claimant's reasonable professional fees and charges involved in settling their claim for compensation? I believe that to be an important point and that it is only fair that such reimbursement be taken on board by the Government. It is a normal set of circumstances in virtually all other compensation situations.

Finally, Clause 5(5) says, The dispute shall be referred by the appropriate authority to, and determined by, the Lands Tribunal". Is it not the case that the Lands Tribunal could take an inordinate amount of time to process this particular dispute? Would it not be better—as happens in the case of property disputes—if all else fails, for the arbiter to be the president of the Institute of Chartered Surveyors? Its experience is very widespread. Perhaps the noble Baroness could consider that.

Lord Monson

One understands perfectly that the noble Baroness cannot possibly give us the precise figure or even an approximate figure for the cost of the Government's compensation scheme. But her department must surely have produced some guesstimates as to the highest and lowest possible cost. Are we talking about a seven digit sum, or an eight or nine digit one? I wonder if she could give us some indication.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Can the Minister give me some indication of the length of time under her scheme for which income losses would be paid? Would it be until the person could reasonably set up another business? What would happen if they were virtually of retiring age? What sort of criteria will the Government set for how long that income should be paid? And will it he able to take account of personal circumstances such as approaching retirement age?

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I can underline that, because it was a question that I was going to ask the noble Baroness. It is a very important factor. If compensation is going to be given and it is going to be given for loss of earnings, obviously it makes a difference whether the person is to receive loss of earnings for one year and then be left on his own, or whether it will be for three, four or even 10 years. That is important. Whatever figure the Government arrive at is a very important one.

The only thing that worries me—and I think it worries one or two other people—is that this Bill was considered way back in July and it is now half-way through October. One wonders why these discussions have not begun before now so that the Government had some kind of idea as to what they propose. The noble Baroness said that the decision would be made after Royal Assent. I find that rather curious. I quite perceive that we cannot put on the face of the Bill exactly what the figures are going to be. But people should know before this Bill goes through—a Bill which deprives them of their rights—whether they are going to receive one kind of compensation or another. It is important that they know. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, will be able to find ways of concluding those discussions before Royal Assent even if they do not appear on the face of the Bill.

Lord Davies of Coity

Discussions certainly have to take place. The Minister has indicated that discussions will take place with the farmers' union and with representatives from the fur industry. However, we may be in danger of locking ourselves into another inflexible position when we talk about compensation for future years. I would rather like to think that the compensation will not be an ongoing payment as though these people will never work or do anything again, but that it will assist in building an alternative business which might be as profitable as the previous one. Those areas are more fruitful to consider than saying that an amount of money must be paid because those concerned will never do anything else again.

Earl Ferrers

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity. It would be wrong if a certain sum were suggested and then there were to be annual payments or whatever. There should be one big payment to cover however many years it concerns. The amount of years ought to be known in advance.

Baroness Hayman

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, asked me to make a guesstimate of costs. I am always nervous about doing so, but if he looks at the explanatory notes to the Bill he will see that a preliminary assessment in paragaraph 26 puts the costs to the Government up to £400,000 for loss of assets, and up to four times that for income, but it would be subject to the valuation exercise.

In the debate we come back to something of a circular argument around the valuation of assets, something that we have not been able to do up until now. It would need the consent of the fur farmers and would be very much in their interests. We intend that to happen very quickly after Royal Assent.

In Amendment No. 20 we have gone as far as we can to ensure that we include loss of income in the compensation scheme. However, the detailed issues raised by noble Lords and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, about the period over which the income compensation should apply and whether there should be some cap on it if someone was near retirement age, are the very issues that we will need to consider in detail as part of the consultation exercise.

At the moment, we do not know how we will measure income loss as we need to visit the fur farmers to look at their books, but we have in mind concepts such as the loss of trading and profits. Details will be established later. However, in addition to loss of income, compensation will be paid where assets cease to have a use and investment cannot be recouped by sale. The principal assets of fur farming are the land, buildings and equipment, breeding stock and young stock for slaughter. No compensation should be required for the land—that would have alternative uses—but compensation may be required for buildings and equipment which do not have alternative usage. Compensation may be required for wastage of some livestock over a winding-down period of two to three years.

I say to the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, that compensation will also be considered for miscellaneous closing-down costs such as the valuer's fees, redundancy payments, land clearance costs and interest payments before compensation is paid. Those are all issues that the farmers will want to debate in order to influence the shape of the scheme.

Disputes over compensation claims—because we all know that this cannot be ruled out in these circumstances—could be settled by the Lands Tribunal. However, I should tell the noble Earl that they could also be settled by arbitration. The Bill clearly provides for that and the arbiter could be a person appointed by the president of the RICS if that was what the parties agreed. In the interests of putting the case clearly, however, arbitration can sometimes be just as slow as a decision by the Lands Tribunal. It is not an absolute guarantee that there will he a quicker answer and the parties have to pay the arbitrator in those circumstances. However, the Bill is even-handed here and allows for that possibility, if that is a possibility that Members of the Committee would prefer.

I am sorry that I have not been able to be more specific. I hope that I have laid down as clearly as possible the framework and the areas in which we shall be looking to put flesh on the bones of the scheme. But I do not believe that we can undertake that exercise until we have the bones; namely, achieving Royal Assent for the Bill. On that basis, I hope the Committee will support these amendments.

5.45 p.m.

Earl of Shrewsbury

Before the noble Baroness sits down, I wonder whether she could give me some guidance on the question I asked her about on-account payments of compensation, and whether she would be prepared to look at that issue. It is a fairly common occurrence in these matters.

Earl Ferrers

I just want to ask a couple of questions. The noble Baroness has been very helpful and she has given a description of what is expected and what is proposed. However, I cannot quite understand the mystique of Royal Assent. The noble Baroness said that all this can be done very quickly once the Bill receives Royal Assent. If that is so, one wonders why it cannot be done in advance of that so that we may have some idea of what is going to happen. One has a horrible feeling that, once Royal Assent is over and this becomes law, the Government may not be quite so flexible and open. After all, the Government have the Freedom of Information Bill going through this House. The fur farmers are to lose their livelihood. Why can they not know what sort of compensation they are likely to receive?

Baroness Hayman

In responding to the issue raised by the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, on payments on account, we shall certainly consider that as one of the elements of the scheme. However, he will understand that I cannot give him an absolute commitment any more than I can on any other element.

It would be possible to start consultation from now onwards as, indeed, it is possible to start consultation after Second Reading. If this Session is not going to be that long, there will be something of a distinction without a difference here in terms of the timing. Certainly, I give the Committee the assurance that I shall consult fellow Ministers about the appropriate date on which consultations and investigations as to income levels should properly start, with a commitment that there will not be undue delay in doing that. I hope the Committee will accept that assurance.

Earl Ferrers

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that undertaking which will be of great help and succour.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hayman moved Amendments Nos. 21 to 23: Page 3, line 20, leave out from ("scheme") to ("of") in line 22 and insert ("shall, in particular, specify—

  1. (a) the description or descriptions of income losses and the description or descriptions of non-income losses in respect of which payments are to be made, and
  2. (b) the description or descriptions of businesses in respect of which payments are to be made,
but need not provide for the making of payments in respect of all income losses or all non-income losses or (as the case may be) in respect of all businesses. ( ) A scheme shall also, in particular— ( ) specify the basis or bases"). Page 3, line 24, after ("basis") insert ("or bases").Page 3, line 26, leave out ("any") and insert ("the"). Page 3, line 26, leave out ("any") and insert ("the").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 23A to 23D not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 24: Page 3, line 44, leave out from ("shall") to ("House") and insert ("not be made unless a draft of it has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each").

The noble Earl said: This is a simple amendment suggesting that the draft of the scheme should have affirmative as opposed to negative approval. I hope the Government will agree to that.

Perhaps I may just recap because I said something nonsensical. I said that the measure should have affirmative as opposed to negative approval. Of course, you cannot have negative approval. I meant that it should be subject to the affirmative as opposed to the negative resolution procedure.

Baroness Hayman

I am grateful to the noble Earl for that clarification. I got his drift anyway. A matter of judgment arises. We have proposed the negative resolution procedure and as I understand it, that was not questioned by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. It considered that a negative resolution procedure was not inappropriate.

The reasoning behind that is that the detail of the compensation scheme will be subject to a consultation exercise with the industry but others may become involved in that. So it is not a matter on which there will be no opportunity whatever for debate. Obviously the negative resolution procedure gives some advantage in terms of speediness of parliamentary process. It is a judgment call, but the judgment was made. We have very clear mechanisms for consultation and the procedure proposed was not considered to be inappropriate by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee in order to deal speedily with those matters.

Earl Ferrers

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that. It did not come as a surprise. The funny thing is that when one is in government, the opposition are always suggesting that the negative procedure changed to affirmative resolution, and the government always object because they think it is a waste of time. However there are methods of discussing this under a negative resolution. I had hoped that we should have the affirmative procedure, but the noble Baroness says no and I shall submit entirely to what she has said.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hayman moved Amendment No. 25: Page 3, line 45, at end insert — ("( ) In this section—

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

Lord Kimball moved Amendment No. 26: Page 4, line 9, leave out from ("force") to end of line and insert ("on the day on which the Act is passed").

The noble Lord said: We have made great progress in the last three-quarters of an hour and I am quite certain that fur farmers as a whole have heard many things from the noble Baroness that set their minds at rest. However, on this final point, perhaps I may press her on one more issue. In Committee in another place the Minister said at col. 81 that he took the point that some fur farmers may want to get out of the business as quickly as possible. I understand that point.

He then went on to say that the compensation scheme should be introduced as quickly as possible in order to assist those people who wanted to get out of the industry. He went on to say further that it might take a couple of months to get the draft consultation up and running, and then there would have to be a further two month consultation period followed by another month for internal consultation.

Given the extensive delays brought about by the passing of this legislation, and the fact that the fur farmers have been unable to make any progress with altering their equipment since March 1999, there seems no reason why the Government should not make a compensation payment immediately after Royal Assent. The passing of my amendment would allow the ministry to commence consultation immediately after Royal Assent. If we play it the other way, it will take two months and then another month instead of being able to deal with the issue straight after Royal Assent. I beg to move.

Baroness Hayman

I am grateful for the spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, moved this amendment. I have to say to him that it is conventional—and my heart sinks when I start an argument along those lines— in general, no Act should be brought into operation sooner than two months after Royal Assent. It is particularly desirable that the minimum period be observed in respect of provisions that will directly affect the public. However, we can respect that propriety without unnecessarily delaying the course of the exercise, which is probably the intention behind the noble Lord's amendment.

If the Bill were to receive Royal Assent, as I hope it soon will, I am well aware that there are some farmers who might wish to cease their businesses very shortly after that date. I can assure the Committee that the "two month" provision will have no effect on the eligibility of fur farmers for compensation if they were to close down during that two-month period.

Clause 5(1) makes clear that the compensation scheme will apply to those ceasing their businesses after enactment—that means after Royal Assent rather than after the Bill coming into force. I recognise also that farmers will then want to receive their compensation as soon as possible. I can assure Members of the Committee that the Government will move on this matter as fast as possible. Discussion took place earlier in the deliberations of the Committee as to whether we could do that a little more speedily. Moreover, we shall certainly not wait for the conventional two months before commencing the task of drawing up the compensation scheme.

We are proposing to use professional valuers and accountants to assess the assets and income of the fur farmers to assist us in drawing up the scheme. We will then consult those affected by the Bill on its detail. That is usually done, as the noble Lord said, over a two-month period. There is a balance to be struck here between adequate consultation and speedy implementation. We have to do both: we have to consider the responses to the consultation exercise and then draw up a statutory instrument to be laid before Parliament. It would be wrong to suggest that that will not take time. But I hope that the two months between Royal Assent and the bringing into force of the Bill will not in any way add to the amount of time necessary to put the scheme in place and compensation being paid. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kimball

In view of the way the noble Baroness has been able to set the fur farmers' minds at rest, I have much pleasure in saying, I beg leave to withdraw the mendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

The Committee adjourned at six o'clock.