HL Deb 09 March 2001 vol 623 cc439-71

11.5 a.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The present arrangements for protecting animals from abuse are complex and incomplete. They reflect nearly a century of sporadic legislation, especially the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which absorbed earlier legislation dating as far back as the 18th century and which has itself since been amended nine times. That was concerned primarily with captive and domestic animals where humans have responsibility, not with wild animals, and hunting and coursing were exempt. Cruelty was defined as "unnecessary suffering".

Since then, Parliament has passed, as examples, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which I noted created some problems for my former colleagues at MAFF, and particularly the Wild Mammals Act 1996, to which my Bill today is an amendment. The 1996 Act also began as a Private Member's Bill under John McFall. It had two objectives: to prevent cruelty to non-captive wild animals; and to ban hunting. That second part fell so it remained as an anti-cruelty Act.

It had, I believe, two disadvantages. It contained a long list of specified cruel acts, which left grey areas around and between the list; for example, nailing a fox was an offence but shooting it to wound and be left in agony was not. It also contained a list of exemptions. It may help the House if I read out the offence created in the 1996 Act, although it is long and horrifying: If, save as permitted by this Act, any person mutilates, kicks, beats, nails or otherwise impales, stabs, burns, stones, crushes, drowns, drags or asphyxiates any wild mammal with intent to inflict unnecessary suffering he shall be guilty of an offence". It seemed fairly comprehensive but there were many exemptions, including hunting and coursing.

My Bill today is deliberately simpler than that 1996 Act. It aims at one stroke to protect wild animals from suffering. There will be no exemptions. The existing exemptions for hunting, shooting and coursing are removed, as are exemptions relating to snaring and trapping. So is the use of poison to kill wild mammals, although it is not intended to protect local rats. Simply, if a wild mammal is deliberately made to suffer unnecessary suffering, that is an offence.

The Bill is firmly rooted in the excellent Burns report. Chapter 9, page 152, paragraph 9.38 states: One other possible legislative approach would be to remove the present exemptions for hunting in the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996. This would give an important signal that hunting should be subject to the same standards as apply to other organisations and individuals. And it would give a clearer opportunity to test views about cruelty in the courts". We take up that Burns suggestion.

The one reservation expressed in the Burns report was that most of those acts on the list in the 1996 Bill do not apply in hunting; exactly. That is why I replace that list with a single, simple, comprehensive offence. Clause 1 of my Bill states that, any person who intentionally inflicts, or causes or procures, unnecessary suffering on or to any wild mammal shall be guilty of an offence". That replaces the 1996 list and so, I trust, meets the Burns reservation and overall, it is in line with the Burns report.

The Bill then goes on to remove the exemptions for hunting and so on as stated in paragraphs (b),(d) and (e) of Clause 2 of the 1996 Act.

The advantages of my Bill are clear. It creates consistent and universal minimum standards to protect all wild mammals. It provides certainty and clarity, with no exceptions or grey areas. There is no list of barbarous acts, as in the previous legislation, with scope to create new cruelties outside the list. It is simply intentionally inflicting, causing or procuring unnecessary suffering which is criminal.

Because it is simple, policing should be easier. The Bill would modernise and pull together nearly a century of piecemeal legislation. Of course, I recognise and accept that nature—those who live in Tower Hamlets may not be aware of this—unavoidably involves some suffering. It is not possible to eliminate all suffering from rural life and that suffering will appear to be cruel. The Bill enshrines in legislation that it is suffering which is deliberate, intentional, excessive and unnecessary which is unacceptable and will be prosecuted.

The Bill does not assume or establish that the simple pursuit of properly organised hunting, without specific acts of cruelty, such as digging out and so on, set out in Burns, is committing an act of cruelty. However, it would be for the courts to decide, as Burns suggests, with which I would be happy. I do not believe that that is a disadvantage in the Bill. It is quite normal for legislation to be tested in the courts and we should all be happy with that.

I turn to the sub-theme of the concerto, the Bill's relationship to hunting and to the Bill that will come before the House next week. First, I declare some interests or potential interests. I am involved with two racehorses that run under National Hunt rules. If God is kind, one will run tomorrow at Sandown. Racing will be damaged by a total ban, so I have a position on that.

I also have a shotgun, although it is not used greatly, and a licence. It is mainly reserved for pests, such as rats, magpies and intrusive journalists! I was also a Minister for agriculture and I am deeply concerned with the countryside in which I grew up. I have been a member of the Countryside Alliance, although I take no part in the direction of its affairs, I disagree with some of its political activities and I shall not vote for its option on the Hunting Bill next week. I have never hunted; nor will I ever hunt. As we appear to be expected to say where we come from, I tell the House that I come from rural Northamptonshire. I dislike cruelty to animals. My dog, Honey, is very close to me—I dare not say "the closest" because others may hear. I support the countryside and I am deeply concerned about the future of National Hunt racing.

On the Hunting Bill, I believe that my Bill forbidding unnecessary cruelty will be of interest to many noble Lords involved in Monday's debate, although it does not stem from that Bill. There are those who will consider voting to ban hunting because they deplore individual acts of cruelty in hunting, as I and many in hunting do, yet quite rightly they have doubts on libertarian grounds because they are reluctant to interfere in the traditional sports and life of the countryside.

This Bill will forbid and punish deliberate and excessive cruelty in hunting—it removes its exemption—but it will leave that sport to continue in the proper and legitimate way, without unnecessary cruelty, if the courts so conclude. After all, some solicitors—I say "some", unwilling to offend friends—regularly defraud their clients, but that is not a justification for a ban on practising the law, although many may sympathise with that approach for other reasons.

This Bill could link naturally to the middle-way option on the Hunting Bill for a licensing authority in a way that would strengthen that approach, give it teeth and reinforce that option by providing a basis on which licences may be withheld or withdrawn; for example, if a master, a member or an employee of a hunt were found guilty of inflicting deliberate and unnecessary cruelty under the Bill, the licensing authority would consider that when issuing a licence.

I admit that this Bill would make the middle-way option more credible and practical, although I should like to insist that the Bill is desirable in itself, without any reference to the hunting issue, because it criminalises unnecessary cruelty. With that in mind, the Bill has been drafted so that it could, if the House wanted, be moved and adopted later as an amendment to the Hunting Bill.

I need not point out in detail to my noble friend the Minister the political advantages to the present Government of this Bill—although I shall. Currently they are under pressure from a militant minority to impose an illiberal ban on countryside people pursuing their traditional sports at a time when the countryside is already suffering quite enough. We know that only a small minority cares strongly either way on this issue, although a significant number reluctantly are inclined to support an illiberal ban, not because they want a total ban, but because they want to stop incidents of unnecessary cruelty in hunting.

This Bill offers a compromise way forward. It bans unnecessary and intentional cruelty in hunting, but it leaves the properly regulated pursuit of the sport to continue if the courts so choose. It will do nothing to satisfy the extremists on one side, who basically hate country people who hunt. I am not sure whether they hate cruelty because they are willing to hit country people over the head with baseball bats. It will do nothing for that side. In my view, nothing will influence that minority. Nor will it satisfy some traditional extremists who want hunting to be exempt from all constraints on cruelty.

I make no appeal to either militant sect and I hope that the Minister is not of either tendency. However, I believe that this Bill will satisfy the large majority in the middle ground. Taken together with the licensing option, it would enable the Government to move forward with greater protection for wild animals, without falling into the hands of an illiberal, extreme minority.

The main purpose of the Bill is much wider than hunting. It is justified regardless of what happens to the Hunting Bill. I believe that it will provide a significant improvement and modernisation to our legislation to protect mammals and to regulate relations between man and mammals in the wild. As such I ask the House, the Minister and the Government to view this Bill positively. I am confident that as an intelligent man my noble friend the Minister will not come forward with a hoary old Whitehall spectre, with which all Ministers and former Ministers are familiar. I refer to that of "opening Pandora's Box". Like "the slippery slope", it has been used throughout Whitehall history and throughout the "Yes Minister" series as an obstacle to any desirable reform where rational arguments are lacking. I confess that I was a regular and, I believe, chief adviser to the "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister" series. We found that whenever Sir Humphrey lacked an argument to resist the Minister or Prime Minister, he could refer to "opening Pandora's Box" or "going down the slippery slope".

The Bill is not a Pandora's Box. It is a limited Bill, opening up a new horizon but a limited and desirable one. It does not apply to farm animals; pets; domestic animals; birds; fish; and laboratory experiments. It applies only to wild mammals and only to the unnecessary excesses in the method of killing—that is, "how"—and not to the intention—that is, "why". The only Pandora's Box concerns whether there is proof of deliberate and unnecessary cruelty.

My Bill might also raise further questions; for example, why Britain lacks the desirable legislation on wild animal management, which many other countries have. But that is beyond the scope of today's discussion. The Bill aims, simply and effectively, to ban deliberate and unnecessary cruelty to wild animals. I trust everybody who deplores such cruelty will support the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Donoughue.)

11.22 a.m.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, the House should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for promoting this Bill today in such a clear and concise manner. I certainly extend a cautious welcome to the Bill.

As a board member of the Countryside Alliance, I am pleased to declare my interest. The Countryside Alliance has a particular interest in animal welfare, both in terms of domestic and farm animals and in respect of wildlife, and our policy handbook makes that clear.

I, too, have taken a special interest in the subject and I have been involved in most of the relevant debates in this House during the past decade. In particular, I was involved in the passage of the 1996 Act, originally a Private Member's Bill introduced into the other place by Mr Alan Meale, and its forerunner in the previous year, in the shape of another Private Member's Bill sponsored by Mr John McFall. I was also involved in the passage of the Protection of Badger Setts Bill, which was later consolidated into the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

The debate comes at a very interesting time. On Monday we shall be having the Second Reading of the Hunting Bill, and many of the issues raised here today will be relevant to that debate. Bearing in mind the strong opposition that I voiced in respect of some parts of the original 1996 Act, it may surprise your Lordships to know that the Countryside Alliance broadly welcomes this Bill. It may, therefore be instructive to look for a moment at the history of the original Act.

As the noble Lord. Lord Donoughue, told us, the original Act began life as a Private Member's Bill in the other place. It was primarily a Bill to ban hunting but with other welfare measures tacked on it. It was deemed to be unacceptable to your Lordships in its original form and the anti-hunting measures were removed to allow its safe passage through this House. It was therefore somewhat of a lopsided Bill. At the same time the general offence of deliberately inflicting unnecessary cruelty was taken from the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which is still the principle piece of animal welfare legislation in Britain.

However, that primary offence of intentionally causing unnecessary suffering was deemed too wide to be included in the 1996 Act without qualification and therefore the list referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, added to it. Exemptions were included in the Act at Section 2(b). Looking at this again with the benefit of hindsight it seems, not to put too fine a point on it, a little bizarre. The idea that anyone would commit any of the acts listed in Section 1 during the course of the sporting or pest control activities listed in Section 2(b) is not credible. But the reason the exception was thought to be desirable is part of the recent history of animal welfare legislation. The constant battle over hunting has meant that for years we have been unable to make improvements to the law relating to animal welfare. And the ridiculous thing is that even the anti-hunting lobby now admits that hunting is, in welfare terms, an insignificant issue.

The Home Secretary set up the Burns inquiry to inform the debate on hunting. Apart from achieving that, it has also helped those of us who were already fairly well informed to clarify our thinking. Certainly those of us who are involved in the hunting debate have benefited from the process. And it is important to remember that the Countryside Alliance is not a single-issue group, as some of our opponents seek to suggest. The Countryside Alliance is a democratic organisation with almost 500,000 members. Not only do they hunt, shoot and fish, but they also own more dogs and horses than any other group in the UK. They also include large numbers of livestock farmers, and many are responsible for the management of most of Britain's wildlife, which task they perform with unrivalled skill and dedication.

As many of your Lordships will be aware, the Countryside Alliance was responsible for contributing one of the options to the hunting Bill that we shall be debating next week. What some of your Lordships will not be aware of is that the option which we produced was not our preferred course of action. We made our position clear to the Home Secretary and he was generous enough to make that point in his speech at Second Reading of the Hunting Bill, in another place. Mr Straw said: I should make one thing clear immediately. The Countryside Alliance does not accept that those who undertake properly organised hunting are committing an act of cruelty that would he liable to prosecution under the two Acts to which I have referred [the Protection of Animals Act 1911: Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996]… The second point that I should make, in fairness to the Countryside Alliance, is that while the alliance has been most helpful in presenting that option, it is quick to emphasise that it does not reflect the entirety of its position. The alliance does not believe it is right to deal with hunting in isolation. It would prefer a complete overhaul of our animal welfare legislation, making it unlawful to inflict, by any means, unnecessary suffering on any mammal".—[Official Report, Commons, 20/12/00; col. 384.] That is my position today. I believe that there is a substantial gap in our welfare law in respect particularly of wild mammals. I believe that no one should be able intentionally to inflict unnecessary suffering on a wild mammal, and I do not believe that the courts would conclude that properly conducted field sports, including hunting, involve the intentional infliction of unnecessary suffering. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, made the same point and I greatly look forward to hearing the views of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, on that issue.

I believe that for two reasons, apart from my own experience. First, case law in the English courts has developed the concept that cruelty should be defined in terms of unnecessary suffering. Previous laws have always recognised that traditional rural activities and management practises do not involve unnecessary suffering and have made that clear by including them among the exceptions. However, because they do not involve unnecessary suffering these exceptions may well now be obsolete. Certainly this view was supported by the 1951 Scott Henderson report. I believe that the same conclusion is clear in the report of the Burns inquiry.

It is particularly interesting to note that this issue was discussed at length during one of the oral evidence sessions that the noble Lord, Lord Burns, chaired as part of his inquiry on 15th May 2000. I would not want to detain your Lordships by quoting long passages of the transcript of that session, although I have them here. The view expressed during that seminar by Rachel Newman, the head of the RSPCA's legal prosecutions department, seems to reveal that the RSPCA does not believe that it could prove in court that hunting per se involves the intentional infliction of unnecessary suffering.

The seminar also touched on the exemptions that hunting has from certain provisions within the Protection of Badgers Act, but reading the transcript leads me to the conclusion that none of the participants understood the original reasoning behind that exception. It may, therefore, be helpful to your Lordships to look at it for just a moment.

The purpose of the original Bill relating to badger setts was to increase the protection not only of the animal but also its sett. Hunts were not exempted from the new crime of interfering with a sett on welfare grounds but purely as a practical matter. If setts are not stopped during hunting foxes will use them, and consequently hounds will be more likely to disturb them.

In terms of extending protection and the purpose of the exemption the legislation is successful. But the important point is that in providing that level of protection it became virtually impossible to cull badgers in order to regulate their numbers. Consequently, there is now a strong body of opinion that there are too many badgers, and there is evidence that that leads to disease within the badger population. I know that that causes concern within MAFF, as the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, said; and it certainly causes concern within the farming community. This is a classic example of the law of unintended consequences. That is more likely to occur when legislation is too complex, unclear in its purpose or too widely drawn.

There is no doubt that the Bill before us today simplifies an area of the law that is currently over-complicated and impractical to operate, and as such it is a welcome improvement. However, I should like to see the whole subject taken further. Clearly, although today's debate is immensely useful, there is virtually no chance of the Bill making much progress. I hope, however, that the Government do not reject it out of hand and take the opportunity to move the whole issue forward in the next Parliament.

The whole relationship between man and animals has changed and we need to take account of that. At the outset of my remarks I said that I welcomed this measure, but I must sound a note of caution. This is a difficult area which we should enter with care. In this short debate we have not had time to look at all the difficult areas into which we need to go. But there are two areas that I believe we should explore further. First, I believe that there is a case for giving some guidance to the courts to assist them in differentiating between what is necessary and what is not in terms of the activity, be it pest control, sport or killing for food. The word "necessary" that is currently in the Act refers to the method of killing, not the motive. I believe that that is where courts may need assistance, although I have an open mind as to whether that guidance should be on the face of the Bill.

Secondly, I am concerned that legitimate activities may face malicious prosecution by private individuals and organisations which are completely undesirable. There is evidence that that was what happened following the passage of the 1994 legislation, and we need to ensure that that is not repeated. But I believe that there are solutions to these problems. At the same time, if we consider welfare we must also examine the wider issues of wildlife management. The Burns inquiry looks at these issues and identifies the problems. There is a conflict between animal welfare—the needs of an individual animal—and the wellbeing of populations and species. What suits the individual animal may not suit the population of animals, and vice versa. When we look at this in future we need to take that into account as one of a whole series of issues relating to man's relationship with animals. Huntingdon Life Sciences, the hunting debate, wild animal welfare and wildlife management are all issues in need of resolution.

The current foot and mouth outbreak following BSE and swine fever has again raised the issue of livestock farming and how we look after farm animals. These issues will not go away. I share with the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, the hope that the Minister will not use Pandora's Box as a reason for walking away from this. The box is wide open, and it is up to government to give a lead in dealing with these very complex and difficult issues. If we do not deal with them in that way we shall be pressured into it by extremists in future. That is not a route down which we should like to go.

The Countryside Alliance believes that one way forward is for the Government to take the same approach to these problems that they take in relation to hunting. I believe that an independent inquiry by way of a Royal Commission to inform the discussion rather than resolve the issues would be acceptable to all sides and take the heat out of the debate. I believe that that would command widespread support.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for bringing this matter to our attention. This is a very valuable opportunity. I hope that we can return to the debate early in the next Parliament. I assure the noble Lord and the House of the support of the Countryside Alliance, although I cannot promise that that support will be unqualified.

11.35 a.m.

Lord Burns

My Lords, I support the Bill. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for giving us the opportunity to debate this issue. In taking that view, however, I should like to make two points by way of introduction. First, I shall limit my remarks to the relevance of this Bill to hunting with dogs, because I am afraid that I have even fewer qualifications to speak about anything else. Secondly, from my perspective my remarks are of relevance only if Parliament decides against a ban on hunting with dogs. If there is a ban, clearly they have rather less relevance.

I appreciate the scope for misunderstanding, but I also stress that my support for the Bill is not an attempt to predict the outcome of the debate; nor does it indicate a preference for Parliament to decide against a ban on hunting. I shall make that clear when we debate the hunting Bill on Monday. I took on the job of chairing the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs on the basis that the committee did not have to come to a view on whether hunting should be banned. We were asked only to inform the debate on various aspects of hunting. Our report stuck to that remit, and I hope to do likewise today.

I believe, however, that even without coming to a view on that issue it is possible to support both elements of this Bill: first, the proposal to widen and generalise the definition of the offence; and, secondly, to remove some of the exemptions, including those for hunting. My reason for speaking today is that both issues were dealt with in chapter 9 of the report of the hunting inquiry, as the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, explained. The context of that discussion was consideration of some practical aspects of hunting and coursing where the committee had a number of concerns. We set out suggestions as to how some of those concerns might be dealt with if a ban on hunting was not introduced, and my remarks today should be seen in the same light.

It is important also to stress that today's Bill is not a substitute for a ban in the sense that it would achieve the same result. I doubt that it would achieve the same result as a ban, and that was one of the issues to emerge from the seminar which we held during the course of the inquiry. Instead, I see this Bill as a step towards helping to resolve some of the concerns about aspects of hunting if Parliament decides, for one reason or another, not to introduce a ban.

As the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, explained, the hunting inquiry report looked at this question and noted that one possible legislative approach would be to remove the present exemption of hunting from the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, quoted part of the report. Basically, the argument was that it would give an important signal that hunting should be subject to the same standards as apply to other organisations and individuals, and it would give a greater opportunity to test in the courts views about cruelty.

The main point here is that some hunting practices are claimed by opponents of hunting to be cruel. I believe that there were a number of concerns raised about some aspects of hunting across the range of people who gave evidence to us. At the same time, supporters of hunting claimed that what they did was necessary and that it involved no more suffering than other ways of managing the population of the animals in question. As we shall see on Monday when we debate the Hunting Bill, much of the debate centres on the welfare of the hunted species; indeed, it is probably the most complicated aspect of that debate, and not one that I want to go into today. But if the present debate does not lead to a ban on hunting, it is important that the courts should have a greater say in the types of practices that do not meet the test for "unnecessary suffering".

As the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, explained this morning, at the moment the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act contains exemptions for, lawful shooting, hunting, coursing or pest control activity". I listened carefully to what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Donoughue and Lord Mancroft, about why there were pressures to include those exemptions in 1996 so that the Bill did not become a method to abolish hunting by the back door. However, if the supporters of hunting are right about the welfare implications of hunting, those exemptions are unnecessary. I continue to take the view that to subject hunting to the same standards as apply to other organisations and individuals would be an important signal. It would demonstrate that hunting does not enjoy special favours and that it should be called upon to justify itself, as any other group of people. For that reason, I am in favour of removing the exemptions.

The second issue is the nature of the offence. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, explained that in the report on hunting we note that removing the exemptions might have only a limited effect, since the principal offence in the Act relates to certain activities only and few of them appear to apply to hunting.

Therefore, the second welcome feature of the Bill is to drop that list of activities and to replace it with a general clause covering anyone who intentionally inflicts or causes or procures unnecessary suffering on or to any wild animal. That strengthens the Bill. It means that it will cover a wider range of matters relating to hunting and other activities. Both aspects of that are important— the removal of the exemptions and the widening of the offence.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, mentioned that during the course of the inquiry into hunting we had a seminar which actually looked at this question. We debated the effect of removing the exemptions. The discussion is available on the CD-ROM at the back of the report. Although I recognise that not everyone will be able to find their way to the issue immediately, help is available if anyone really wants to look at it. There one finds that lawyers acting for the anti-hunting organisations argue that, even if the exemptions were removed, cruelty would have to be proved in each and every case. Therefore, it would be unworkable. They expressed concern that it was very unlikely that sufficient precedent would be set up to outlaw hunting activities as a result of this change.

However, having since contemplated and considered the issue, it is possible to see, as the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue pointed out, that a combination of a licensing authority, as set out in one of the options to the Bill, and the changes that we are debating today could substantially reduce some of these concerns.

Removing the exemptions in the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act and redefining the offence gives the option to test in the courts some of the practices involved. If successful prosecutions are brought against certain practices, surely the licensing authority would have to take that into account in granting new licences, even if it did not establish a firm legal precedent.

I come to the conclusion that the Bill would strengthen the hand of any licensing authority as it provides the opportunity for the law to play a bigger part in defining what does and what does not constitute unnecessary suffering to wild animals. It would enable successful prosecutions to be generalised beyond the case in question; and it would raise the issue of animal welfare and the role of the courts more clearly in the debate.

Once again I stress as strongly as I can that I am not advocating this combination as a better option than a ban. I wish to keep out of that debate. I do not want to argue that it would give the same effect as a ban, which some people might be encouraged to argue. My remarks are based entirely on the possibility, and not the prediction, that Parliament will decide not to introduce a ban on hunting. This gives us the opportunity to focus on how to take the issue forward; how to raise the question of some of the activities and practices, about which no doubt there is quite a lot of concern; how it will be possible to meet those concerns; and how to take the matter forward with the help of the courts. For those reasons I wish to support the Bill.

11.44 a.m.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, right at the outset I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Donoughue in his condemnation of the militant tendency that surrounds some of the activities which have been peripheral to the argument. The examples that my noble friend gave are condemned by everyone, whether it is people being attacked by baseball bats or some of the more reprehensible activities that we have seen in the context of Huntingdon Life Sciences. I join with him absolutely, as strongly as I did in the 1970s when we were combating a militant tendency in our own party.

The facility with which the Bill has been claimed to have a potential linkage with the so-called "middle way" is perhaps dangerous. That was partly shown up in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, who referred to the facility that this would give to the licensing authority were the Bill to be enacted. But the noble Lord went on to say quite clearly that that was not to argue in favour of the licensing road; we had to make the fundamental decision first. That is where I differ from my noble friend Lord Donoughue.

I have no doubt that my noble friend has produced his Bill with the best of intentions, particularly concerning the welfare of animals. His record on that matter is quite exemplary. However, the argument is beginning to become a diversion, because the Bill never can be, nor should be, seen in isolation from the debate which is to take place in your Lordships' House next Monday. It cannot be an alternative to the choices that must be made. It cannot be a substitute for them. The one matter that it points out very clearly is the rather false nature of the choices between three options that we shall have to make in your Lordships' House.

It would have been far better if we were faced with making a choice of principle between abolition of the process of hunting with dogs or a continuation of it, and, first and foremost, have that choice clearly made. If the choice were for a continuation of the practice of hunting with dogs, then the combination of licensing and the contribution of my noble friend's Bill would be entirely pertinent. But I believe that his well-intentioned measure at this time and in this way and in this juxtaposition to the debate that takes place next Monday, is flawed.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Burns, that this measure would not achieve the same result as a ban. That makes this a premature decision to be making. The first and foremost decision should be whether or not this House supports the view of another place on the merits of a ban, rather than the fundamental—some would argue moral—question, "Should the hunting of wild mammals with dogs for sport be banned?" The effect of the Bill, if passed, would be to allow instances of hunting to be brought before a magistrate if there was evidence— that evidence would necessarily be post-mortem evidence— of unnecessary suffering. The report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, referred to the difficulty of getting such post-mortem evidence.

It could take years for case law properly to emerge. It would remain inconclusive on the matter of principles. It would nullify what I believe is a central conclusion of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns—I join with other noble Lords in expressing thanks and gratitude to him for all the work that went into it—that hunting with dogs would seriously compromise the welfare of hunted animals.

The noble Lord's report produced evidence beyond all reasonable doubt that hunting with dogs includes the element of suffering. It is my belief that that suffering is unnecessary. In those circumstances, to have to prove each and every individual case of unnecessary suffering before a magistrates' court makes as little sense as having to wait for a drunken driver to commit an offence before you take him to court, rather than to say that the offence is being in the position to cause damage to someone else.

The effect of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, would be to turn every allegation of cruelty taken to a magistrates' court into a repeat at that court of the process of gathering evidence which the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his inquiry have already done for us.

The Bill has a simple approach. Its simplicity appears attractive, but I believe that it does not produce a positive answer to an equally simple question. Will its passage lay a divisive debate to rest? I fear not. In my view, it will not prevent cruelty; it provides a very limited redress to allegations of cruelty; and that redress would be significant for its capacity to engender protracted legal argument, indecision, confusion and, as between one magistrates' court and another, inconsistency. If the Bill is passed, the only certainty is that hunting with dogs would continue with almost no visible difference. If hunting with dogs is inherently cruel—on the balance of evidence, I believe it to be so—there should not be any requirement to prove each individual case of unnecessary suffering.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Donoughue for his efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution. However, in an argument such as this, my noble friend is trying to bridge an almost unbridgeable gap. There are views that can never co-exist. The fundamental decision on allowing hunting to continue legally or abolishing it must be taken first. It is that fundamental conflict which should be resolved and I fear that the Bill, if carried, would divert us from that task.

11.52 a.m.

Baroness; Mallalieu

My Lords, I should, first, declare my personal interests. I am president of the Countryside Alliance, I am chairman of the Labour Leave Country Sports Alone campaign and I am a member of the RSPCA. I am also fortunate enough to live in close contact with animals of many different types: farm animals— sheep and cattle; pet animals— horses, cats, dogs and even guinea-pigs; and wild animals, which live on our small farm in the Chilterns—roe deer, muntjac, foxes, badgers, rabbits, hedgehogs and a range of small mammals, some of which are more desirable to have as close neighbours than others.

The relationship between man and animals is full of contradictions and the laws which govern those relationships are at present both complex and, in some respects, plainly inadequate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, on introducing the Bill. Whatever is said by others, it is both timely, in the light of the debate we shall be having at great length on Monday, and it also provides a much needed opportunity for a short public debate on the duties and obligations we owe to animals and the limits which the law should impose on what we do with them.

I support the Bill. It is limited in its scope because it applies only to wild mammals. I do not believe that the law should afford protection to anyone who deliberately causes unnecessary suffering to any wild mammal or, for that matter, to any animal. We have in recent years, as other noble Lords have said, seen the rise of the animal rights movement and with it a dangerous, intolerant extremism, which is now manifesting itself in acts of intimidation, violence and terrorism. I do not subscribe to the concept of animal rights. If animals have rights, it is surely wrong for us to eat them and it is wrong for us to keep them as pets; and I do both. But I strongly support the concept of trying to do our best to improve animal welfare and to show respect for animals in all our dealings with them.

There are many aspects of our present treatment of animals—it is right to say that the animal rights movement has highlighted them—that need proper examination and need to be changed. Many pet animals in this country, both large and small, are kept in wholly unsuitable conditions that cause unnecessary suffering. Many farm animals are treated in ways that require to be changed, as the current crisis is showing us. There is an urgent need for public concerns about experiments on animals to be examined and allayed if we are not to jeopardise progress in research developments which could benefit both people and animals alike. There is a need for proper examination of the way in which man can live together with the wild animals in our increasingly urban and suburban country and how their populations can best be managed and balanced against competing interests.

Unfortunately, the national debate is not addressing those issues and we are becoming a nation of sentimentalists. It may make the nation feel better to see television programmes night after night in which deer have plaster casts fitted to their legs before they are returned to the wild. But it does not begin to address the real and growing problem that the national deer herd has exploded to a level which in some places means that there is serious damage to crops and trees and a major road accident problem. A steady diet of unrestrained sentimentality on television, where every wild animal is given a name and attributed with quasi-human emotions, means that we are failing to face up to the realities and the hard decisions which we are going to have to make.

Wild animals have, for a variety of reasons, to be killed. Those reasons include the protection of crops and of livestock and the protection of human health or animal health; and they may need to be killed because they are sick, diseased or injured, or are simply too numerous for their habitats to accommodate them. A lack of contact with wild animals, other than through these television programmes, means that too many people fail to make a distinction—it is an important one—between wild animals and domestic animals such as pets. They have different needs.

Wild animals and domestic or pet animals are very different. The latter usually cannot manage without our assistance. What is acceptable in the treatment of a pet may be positively harmful to a wild animal, and vice versa. A pet may be put in a cage or a kennel. A fox is deeply distressed by the experience, as are most wild animals when trapped, even when the trap inflicts no physical pain. Nor can many people in today's climate, divorced, as most of us are, from the production of our food, understand that a farmer who rears animals for food and sends them off to the abattoir may still care greatly for them.

How these problems should be handled, and how all these aspects of our relationship with animals should be managed, should not be determined or led by people wearing the Balaclava helmet and wielding the baseball bat, to which my noble friend referred. Nor should they be determined or dictated by animal rights lobbying groups with bottomless bank accounts. What is needed is a measured and responsible lead from government; not a defensive or a piecemeal response to this campaign or that campaign, to this pressure group or that extremist demonstration. An inquiry is needed in the very near future into all aspects of our relations with domestic animals, farm animals, animals used for experiments and wild animals, and there should then follow, as part of that inquiry, a proper comprehensive review of the law—not just piecemeal reform of the law—in relation to them. That is why I say that this is an excellent Bill, but it is limited and modest in its scope.

As other noble Lords have pointed out, the proposal for the reform of the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 was raised initially by the Countryside Alliance in its evidence to the inquiry chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, back in April last year. Other speakers have referred in detail to what took place. I think that it was unfortunate that those who represented Deadline 2000, which campaigned for a ban, did not welcome that proposed change.

I am also disturbed by some of the arguments proposed so eloquently to the House by my noble friend Lord Tomlinson. He believes that hunting is cruel. I believe that it is not. The inquiry of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, made no finding that hunting was cruel. I hope that that will be spelt out in language that we can all understand during the course of the debate on Monday. There is a dispute between my noble friend and myself. We disagree on this matter. Surely it is right that a disagreement of this kind should be tested by the courts. Surely it is not right that Parliament should adopt the view that perhaps it is difficult to provide the evidence and therefore we should simply legislate to outlaw the whole of the activity without ever trying to see whether an individual charged with an offence has or has not committed the offence.

If hunting is cruel, as the noble Lord believes, then it must be right that the courts should be required to produce evidence of that cruelty before a conviction is passed for a crime. If, during the course of hunting, anyone breaks the rules and intentionally causes unnecessary suffering in the way that this Bill provides, then not for one second would I argue that the criminal law should apply. As an essential principle it must be right that no one, under any circumstances—hunting, pest control or any other activity—is entitled deliberately to cause unnecessary suffering to a wild mammal.

As it stands, this Bill may need some amendments to provide further clarification. Other noble Lords have pointed this out. But that basic principle is surely sound. In reality, there is no nice way of killing a wild mammal. It is not easy to do in a manner that alleviates suffering. Those who bear the direct responsibility for controlling wild mammals must still be able to do so within the law, provided that they adhere to that principle; namely, that unnecessary suffering must not be caused deliberately.

The present law is illogical. As the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, said when introducing the Bill, it cannot be right that someone who kicks a fox to death is a criminal, but someone who deliberately shoots it, intending only to wound, is not. I warmly welcome this modest and sensible measure.

12.3 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, I should like to join my noble friend Lady Mallalieu in commending the Bill and congratulating my noble friend Lord Donoughue. I believe that the speech we have just heard, along with the speeches before it, need to be considered carefully.

Perhaps I may declare a non-interest. I do not practise or support field sports. What I am concerned with is animal conservation and animal welfare. I have been involved in those matters for a long time. On this occasion I shall not refer in detail to my views on the Hunting Bill because I wish to speak in the debate on Monday. However, I will say this: the test should be whether the Hunting Bill will reduce or add to cruelty. In my view, the Bill before your Lordships' House today would reduce cruelty, but the Hunting Bill will increase it. No doubt the reasons for that will be spelt out on many occasions during the long hours of the Second Reading of the Hunting Bill, but the fact remains that, if I were a fox, I would vote against the Hunting Bill. I would rather die quickly by the hounds than in up to a fortnight in agony as a result of septicaemia. I shall not say any more on that subject.

However, I am concerned about the need to improve, clarify and strengthen the existing law in regard to cruelty to animals. Around a year ago, I was fortunate enough to hold a debate on this matter and I remain convinced of the need for stronger legislation. Perhaps I may take the House back to 1973 when I steered the Badgers Act through Parliament. I did so because at the time I was studying badgers. Indeed, shortly afterwards I wrote a book about them. I found out that, in South Yorkshire, badger setts were being assailed during the breeding season when the cubs were below ground. They were being attacked by people who were trapping the badgers and taking them for the purposes of baiting. Those people were pretty ruthless. They even put gin traps at the side of badger setts close to a nature trail being used by the children of local schools. The House passed the Badgers Bill.

Far fewer prosecutions were brought under the Act than there ought to have been because the law allowed that fairly unreasonable defences could be accepted. People who knew very well what they were doing got off because they would say, "We didn't know it was a badger. We thought it was a fox". It was all right for them to be cruel to a fox, but it would have been wrong to be cruel to a badger.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, along with other Members of both Houses, I took part in several visits to Forestry Commission land. I spoke to the people responsible for the management of deer in those areas. In one case, the chap in charge of culling the deer told me that every single deer culled that year in his territory had been injured or wounded, usually quite deliberately. An air gun pellet had blinded one deer; a bolt from a crossbow was embedded in the side of another. After consultation, I presented the Deer Bill to the House. It did not attempt to stop the culling of deer because, as my noble friend pointed out, the deer population rises and there are no natural predators—unless we take into account motor vehicles, although one could not class them as "natural".

The Deer Bill received all-party support. Then a colleague of mine, who meant well because he was a decent man with good motives, said, "I shall block your Bill". I asked him why, to which he responded, "Because it allows deer to be killed. Deer are beautiful animals which should not be killed at all". I pointed out the arguments and how the Bill provided for a close season for roe deer which, at the time, did not have a close season. That permitted brutality to carry on throughout the year. But the Bill was blocked.

Three or four years later, another measure was passed, which was somewhat ameliorated. Certainly it was better than nothing because it did apply a close season to roe deer, which they sorely needed, but there was a refusal to accept the notion that any control needed to be applied to the deer population. Some controls are needed, but they must be exercised with humanity and competence.

I am experiencing some considerable irritation at the present time because I am deeply fond of swans. My noble friend remarked that wild animals should not be given names. Although I accept the general argument, I should say that, if I step out of my back door and shout, "Charlie!", a cob comes along for some corn. Over the past few months in South Yorkshire, several swans have been shot with air guns, for no good reason at all.

People still go out and shoot what they consider to be rats, but which are in reality water rats, of which there are few in Britain today, largely because of the mink. Mink entered the wild in Britain as a result of the lunatic activities of some of the animal liberation activists that a number of us heard Mr Cass of Huntingdon Life Sciences talk about in this building on Tuesday of this week. They have no regard for the fact that, if they were to succeed in their aim, the research would be moved out of Britain and taken to countries where there is no animal protection legislation, no inspection and no proper safeguards to guarantee some sort of decency in the treatment of those animals. These people are as unwise and irresponsible as my honourable friend who blocked the Deer Bill and ensured that many deer suffered for a long time before we finally got the measure through.

The test has to be one of good sense and wisdom, but with an understanding that what we do should add to the protection of nature and to the fulfilment of our humane responsibilities. I do not believe that the Hunting Bill does that; I believe that this Bill could. I hope that we will see this measure—with perhaps some of the amendments to which my noble friend referred embodied in it—reach the statute book. It is the kind of approach that we desperately need in this country. Frivolous and irrelevant measures which dominate debate do not take us far forward; this Bill could certainly remedy that situation.

12.11 p.m.

The Duke of Montrose

My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest. My title perhaps gives sufficient explanation as to where my interest lies; my family are still landowners after hundreds of years. I should also add that I shall not be speaking on Monday. Having seen the list of speakers, I feel that I should not burden your Lordships with anything that I may have to say because it will have been said already by a great many other noble Lords. However, many of the arguments brought forward today will overlap with those which will come forward on Monday.

Whether we see it as a fortunate or unfortunate attribute, human beings have evolved throughout a major part of our time on earth in order to hunt or to avoid being hunted. We have bifocal vision, we have carnivore-type teeth, and we have never developed the multiple stomachs that would enable us to live off grass and to chew the cud. The one area in which this side of our nature is now considered totally acceptable is in what my rather chauvinistic part of the country calls "wenching", where our judgment of movement, form, speed, distance and opportunity are brought into play, along with various other biological urges. The rules are mostly unwritten, but time-honoured.

In the hunting of game, many of the same areas of judgment are used, although the biological urge is different and encompasses many aspects. It encompasses the pleasures of exercise and exploration and the sense that we are participating in an activity that has its origins in the skills which have ensured the survival of our species, down to the pleasure that one can see in the face of a young boy who brings home a fish for his mother to cook.

Your Lordships are, no doubt, fully aware that to say that we are going to make many aspects of this activity illegal is not going to put an end to it. It merely means that those who take part in it will not have as a main motivation that they should minimise the suffering of the quarry species; their overriding motivation will be to see that they do not get caught. That element exists at the moment and, depending on one's background, is known as "claimants of ancient people's rights" or as "poachers".

I have had similar experiences to those outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath. I have frequently come across roe deer that have been left to die in the woods; geese and wildfowl that have been peppered with shot when they were so high that they were out of proper killing range; and red deer limping around because of their wounds. We even had a ewe running around with a crossbow bolt lodged through its head and sticking out the other side.

The countryside has a fairly active cadre of people who put a lot of time and effort into preventing the activity of poachers. These are people who presently exercise their legal and sporting rights. Perhaps the most effective in this regard are the groups of ordinary working men who form syndicates to police areas themselves. I should like to see any poacher trying to operate in that kind of situation. If we make these activities too difficult, these people will cease to act as guardians and we will be left looking for more official policing and so on to try to control matters.

To achieve mammal and other wildlife protection—which is a very proper and laudable aim—the system we produce must be capable of providing it. Unfortunately, merely passing a law is not the main line of defence that is needed; it is merely the underpinning. We have to be sure that we have thought through what it is underpinning and that it will be effective.

My main misgiving about the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, is that it will leave the final determination of what constitutes unnecessary suffering to the courts. They will also be left to determine in each case whether the person accused of causing the suffering did so intentionally. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, who I see coming back into the Chamber—

Lord Donoughue

I have never left it, my Lords.

The Duke of Montrose

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, continually used the word "deliberately" rather than "intentionally". I should be interested to know whether that word better conveys his intention and will be the subject of an amendment at later stages of the Bill.

A considerable amount of time was spent in this House and in another place, both in 1992 and in 1995, in trying to determine a satisfactory definition of what constitutes cruelty. If we continue to pursue this new approach, it seems to me that we may need to introduce amendments and spend a considerable amount of time trying to define certain acceptable methods of wildlife management and control so that these cannot be challenged by some novel interpretation under this legislation at a future date. It is not beyond speculation that shooting with a shotgun might be ruled as capable of inflicting suffering, and then we are back into the old area of intention.

One part of the Bill leaves me completely perplexed. Clause 1(2) states that paragraph (e) of Section 2 of the original Act should be omitted. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, would argue that the legal use of poisons does not cause unnecessary suffering. However, the current legal use is not confined to the control of rats and mice—which, after all, are mammals, whatever their other status in law may be—but may be used for the control of squirrels and moles, and perhaps for other mammals of which I am not aware. The Government have to reserve the right to use strychnine to control foxes in the event of an outbreak of rabies. We cannot leave it that the Government should require primary legislation to carry out this activity. Unless the noble Lord can reassure me on this matter, I feel that an amendment will need to be introduced into the Bill to ensure that that paragraph is retained.

The Bill has many aspects to commend it—I certainly support the idea that it merits further consideration—but I feel that we should proceed cautiously.

12.17 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, like every noble Lord who has spoken, I appreciate the opportunity provided by the Bill to discuss an issue of great importance to the House. There is no question but that during the debate on Monday—and, who knows, for a long time afterwards—we will be carrying out a most important task on behalf of the people of this country; that is, we will be giving our minds to an issue about which a great many people are concerned.

I am heartened by my knowledge that over the years when a Member of the House introduces a Private Member's Bill it has been customary for that Bill not to be opposed; it is given a Second Reading. That does not happen automatically—sadly, I have been in the House when a Second Reading has been opposed—but I subscribe to the convention that such a Bill should be given a Second Reading. It should then be sent to the other place, where I hope that it will be dealt with in the normal way, and I can imagine exactly what that will be.

Other noble Lords have declared interests. I have no interest to declare as a member of any organisation; I simply declare a lifelong belief, or commitment, or feeling, that hunting foxes and wild animals is wrong. It is either right or it is wrong; I believe that it is wrong. I do not disrespect those who believe that it is right. This is not a political issue. It goes across both sides of the House, as we shall see on Monday, and is an issue among all parties. We all have to make our decisions.

Not only am I very much concerned with what the Bill seeks to do; I should also certainly subscribe to the view that we have heard from many that its purpose is to be helpful to those who take my point of view. However, I do not believe that it will be. With respect, the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, have said so many times that, ultimately, this will be dealt with in the courts where determinations will have to be made. I am mindful of the fact that the magistrates' courts vary; that they are numerous; and that they come to different decisions.

I can understand a situation where, for example, a criminal act is committed in the eyes of individuals and they need to proceed with the evidence. That evidence will undoubtedly need to be a carcass. There will need to be a post mortem, as well as an assessment, a judgment and a finding, all of which will then be produced as the evidence in the case. It will then be tested; it needs to be. A magistrates' court will have to determine whether an offence has been committed and then apply, in its judgment, the punishment to suit that alleged crime. I can envisage time being wasted and much money being spent. We not only have this House as the nexus of appeals; we also have the European Court. Quite frankly, I just wonder whether the desire to do something that I accept is designed to be helpful will be fulfilled.

I turn to the definition of "cruelty". I have considered the evidence, but, quite frankly, I do not have a jot of experience in the matter. Indeed, I adopt the same stance as that of the former Prime Minister, Mr John Major, who stood up during the debate in another place and said, "I've never hunted; I have never seen a hunt. But I have my views on the matter". That is where I stand. My view on the matter is that it is cruel and barbaric. I have seen pictures of the barbarism and the obscenity and it has been conveyed to me through correspondence. I am interested only in moving towards a situation where such practices are obliterated.

When we examine the possible effect of this Bill, the test for me is whether or not it answers the fundamental question: should the hunting of wild mammals with dogs for sport be banned? Many Members of this House attended a well-attended meeting yesterday and heard the speech made by the chairman of the Countryside Alliance. I listened to him and was grateful for his presence at the meeting. But when it came to the question of the motives in the minds of different people for hunting, I believe, with great respect, that he ran into trouble. He said that, for many people, the premise upon which hunting takes place is watching the way that the dogs "work". They do not see the kill; they do not feel the cruelty. It is the social ambience of the hunt that attracts them. Yet, once the chairman had said that, it was challenged from more than one side.

Quite honestly, the great difficulty here is trying to persuade people like me that hunting with dogs is a benign exercise. In my view, it is not accidental. It is organised for, and culminates in, a sequence of events that the people who go along for social purposes know will happen I do not believe that it is right; I believe that it is wrong. Indeed, it will be difficult to go through a process—as this Bill proposes—whereby the suffering must be proved in every case.

Remarks have been made about the activities of saboteurs and others. As a law-abiding citizen and a reasonable person, I am repelled, like most decent people, by the activities of extremists. On Monday, I shall attempt in the limited time available to me to comment on what was said by my noble friend Lady Mallalieu about the intimidation, violence and terrorism connected with the issue. I say that it is not all on the side of the hunters: some of it is perpetrated by those who oppose hunting. In other words, it is not right to categorise people. I believe that my noble friend Lord Donoughue talked in terms of extremists and people who hate country folk. There will be some like that, but the vast majority of people who share my views on the matter are reasonable people who just cannot stomach the idea that wild animals are hunted to their death by people for sport, and cruelty.

Therefore. I shall not oppose the Motion when the Question is put at the end of the debate. However, I very much hope that colleagues in another place will give it the treatment that I believe it deserves.

12.27 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

My Lords, perhaps I may begin by adding my congratulations to those offered by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, on this valuable piece of proposed legislation and for thus giving us the chance to discuss such an important matter. I find myself very much in sympathy with what the noble Lord said, especially as regards the exemptions and grey areas in existing legislation. I am glad to be able to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, that I do not support this proposed legislation for sentimental reasons. There is a truth—it may be a brutal truth, but it is, none the less, a truth—namely, that there is a food chain. The human species is at one place on it and mammals are at another. Nor do I support the Bill for anthropomorphic reasons. Again, a brutal reality is that there is a need for pest control in the last resort in order to safeguard the position of our species.

Surely the mark of a civilised society must be that those processes are carried out with the minimum of suffering. Therefore, I particularly support the wording of the Bill and the reference in Clause 1 to "any person" intentionally inflicting "unnecessary suffering". Along with many other noble Lords, I believe that this issue will no doubt be raised again on Monday. However, I do not wish to dwell upon it today.

I should like to raise quite another issue. I wonder whether the noble Lord considers that this is indeed an issue which could be brought in under the provisions of his Bill. I should also like to hear from the Minister what view the Government take on it. The process to which I refer is that of genetic implantation. In simple terms, plans are now well advanced to breed animals with a disease implanted in them; for example, cystic fibrosis. I am talking about the deliberate breeding of faulty animals—that is to say, deliberately to breed maimed animals, deliberately to cause suffering—and then experimenting on them to see whether cures can be found.

I should like to make it clear that this is not about Huntingdon Life Sciences. I doubt whether anyone likes the proposal to experiment on live, healthy animals but it is a necessity to ensure that medicines are safe for human use. The experiments by Huntingdon Life Sciences, and those conducted elsewhere, are carried out in a controlled way at minimum levels and, most importantly, within a statutory framework. Therefore, within the evolutionary chain, I see these experiments as a regrettable necessity but a necessity none the less. I submit, however, that gene implantation is different because its objective is to breed diseased animals, intentionally to cause suffering. At the very least in my view, there is an issue of public policy which deserves wide discussion.

A number of scientific articles on gene implementation have been published recently. The one I wish to quote from appeared in the Financial Times of the weekend issue of 24th/25th February. As a nonscientist and a banker I feel more at home with the Financial Times. The article refers to work being undertaken by Professor Schatten at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, USA. He is attempting to insert a fluorescent gene from a jellyfish into a monkey. The article states that Schatten, tried again to insert the gene, this time using a slightly different method. Six months later, twin monkeys were born. Schatten was more cautious, but became excited again when he saw them in the black light. These monkeys glowed brightly, and genetic tests soon confirmed that the fluorescent gene was, indeed, present. The trouble was"— this is some trouble— that the twins were still-born. 'We don't think it was the fluorescent gene that killed the monkeys but we are still investigating that possibility', says Schatten … Why would anyone want to create glowing monkeys? Fluorescence was simply a convenient way to prove an important concept: that scientists may use gene therapy to alter monkeys' DNA. The technique paves the way to breed transgenic primates with human-like illnesses", and then use them to experiment on and test drugs.

I understand that transgenic experimentation on mice has taken place for some years. However, the DNA of a mouse is very different from that of a human being. Monkeys are much closer to human beings in that regard—hence, this new work. Fluorescence, however, is only the beginning. The article further states that Schatten is now working, on better ways to transfer the DNA. 'We really need to be able to place the gene on a specific part of the chromosome, so we can for instance remove the healthy gene for breast cancer and replace it with a defective one' says Schatten"; that is, to breed monkeys who are bound to get breast cancer or some equally unpleasant disease.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, used the word "obscenity" in reference to hunting. I believe that we are getting close to obscenity when we talk about deliberately breeding maimed animals. I hope that I am not alone in finding this a difficult and challenging moral issue. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, said that his Bill does not, and will not, cover animal laboratory experimentation. He will understand that I am concerned about that gap. As I hope I have made clear to your Lordships, the processes I have described inherently and intentionally cause suffering to animals. I therefore very much hope that the noble Lord may consider introducing amendments to strengthen his Bill in that respect.

I also hope that the Minister may find just a moment when he replies to the debate to outline the Government's approach on this issue which I believe is coming upon us by stealth. I end as I began by congratulating the noble Lord on his Bill. I wish him success with its broad approach.

12.34 p.m.

Lord Weatherill

My Lords, I rise in the gap to express my warm support for the Bill so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. He said that it might be of interest to some of your Lordships who wish to speak in the debate on Monday. I certainly had intended to speak on Monday in order to support the middle way and in doing so to declare two interests which I suppose I should declare today. First, my family firm might be said to be the regimental tailors to many of the hunts in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. However, I was somewhat distressed to discover in Horse and Hound advertisements for second-hand Bernard Weatherill hunt coats. That is not much good to us.

My second interest is a much more personal one. As some of your Lordships may know, for many, many years I have refrained from eating meat. I am a passionate vegetarian. I became a vegetarian on the ground of cruelty. I have seen too much cruelty and too much cruel death in my lifetime, not least between 1940 and 1946, gratuitously to cause cruelty to humans or to animals. Having listened to the debate, it seems to me that the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, seeks to outlaw gratuitous cruelty to wild mammals. That, of course, includes foxes. He mentioned that it might be incorporated as an amendment in the Hunting Bill. I hope that it will be because it constitutes the middle way which I would wish to support if I were to speak on Monday. As I say, I hope that it will be incorporated and that it will attract wide support not only inside but also outside your Lordships' House.

12.36 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for bringing the Bill before your Lordships' House and for enabling us to have a particularly interesting debate this morning.

I was struck by the fact that three noble Lords referred to evolution in one way or another. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, suggested that we were rather further back on the scale in evolutionary terms than we might wish. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is obviously further advanced in evolutionary terms with regard to what I concede are animal rights. Speaking as a carnivore, I find it difficult to accept that animals have rights when we eat them. However, we have initiated an important debate this morning. We are somewhere along the evolutionary route as regards our treatment of animals.

The Bill has a useful part to play in that debate. I do not believe that, standing alone, it will constitute the debate on hunting that needs to take place. However, it will be useful as a part of that debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, has just said, if the middle way were to be adopted incorporating a body to regulate hunting, that would be an effective way forward.

I consider that the disadvantage of the Bill as it stands stems not from the words "intentional" or "cruelty" but, rather, "unnecessary". We still have forms of hunting which I believe fall outside anyone's definition of what is necessary. An example is hare coursing. I accept that foxes need to be managed. I have read extremely carefully the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns. I note that the methods of managing foxes, deer, mink and hares vary widely. It is interesting to compare the cruelty inflicted by shooting them ineptly with a shotgun, shooting them more accurately with a rifle or hunting them. In upland areas there seems to be considerable doubt as to whether shooting could provide a reasonable alternative for hunting foxes that would cause less suffering.

If we were to take the Bill as a stand-alone measure, thereby placing the onus on the courts to decide whether unnecessary suffering was caused, there would be inconsistency of judgments, as has been pointed out this morning. Although the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, regarded that as a bad thing, one could argue that magistrates in different areas had every right to make different decisions on unnecessary suffering. Hunting in an upland area might be considered the most efficacious control of foxes in that area. The courts may take different views for valid reasons.

Even if this Bill were to proceed in this House, it will be overtaken by the Hunting Bill. I believe that that is right because the Hunting Bill is the forum for debate. The public expectation is that there will be a legislative decision on the correct way forward. As an evolutionist, I believe that the middle way is right. The Government have not considered in sufficient detail the issues around fallen stock. I must declare an interest: my husband is chairman of the Exmoor National Park Authority. A large number of issues about the management of the national deer herd remains to be resolved. None of those issues has been addressed, and if the Government were to support an outright ban sufficiently the deer herd would face rapid and extreme culling, as occurred in the Quantocks when the Foster Bill was first introduced. A ban on hunting should not place our national deer herd under the threat of less adequate management than we would all wish.

I hope that we shall return to this measure, perhaps as an addition to the Hunting Bill. Today's debate has been useful. However, I do not believe that as a standalone Bill the measure will be sufficient.

12.42 p.m.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, this Bill is an important addition to the debate on animal welfare and hunting. Neither this Bill, nor the Hunting Bill which we shall debate on Monday, will achieve passage through both Houses in time for the general election which we hear will come in May—but, of course, the Government Chief Whip looks perplexed and knows nothing about that, as we would expect. Discussion on both Bills will add to the public and parliamentary understanding of the issues. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for introducing the Bill. The timing is helpful. It will add to our understanding in the debate on Monday.

My noble friend Lord Mancroft said that the Countryside Alliance welcomes this Bill. I, too, welcome it. I am delighted that the Countryside Alliance is able to support it. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, supports the Bill. Indeed, the Bill is referred to in Chapter 9, paragraph 38, of the noble Lord's report if no ban on hunting is introduced. As the noble Lord said, if such a ban is introduced, the measure might be unnecessary. But if there is no ban, this Bill could be helpful.

I agree with the noble Lord that the courts could have a greater say. That would demonstrate clearly that hunting would not enjoy special favours. I would be in favour of hunting coming under the remit of this Bill. However, I agree with my noble friend Lord Mancroft; we would have to consider further the details of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, addressed the subject from another angle. He attempted to persuade your Lordships that the three choices offered to another place during debate on the Hunting Bill should not be offered to this House. I find that argument extraordinary. I cannot agree with any attempt to curb debate in this House and remove its proper role as a revising Chamber. Like another place, this House must be able to debate all three issues. I believe that the Government have given that commitment and will give it again at Second Reading of the Hunting Bill on Monday.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, spoke with her usual clarity on the Bill, animals in general and hunting. I agree with her concerns about how we treat pets and experiments on animals, to which my noble friend Lord Hodgson referred. Although the Bill does not cover such issues, they must be addressed by Parliament. The Government must consider the best way in which to address them.

The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said that if he were a fox he would vote against the Bill in its current form. I understood him to mean that he would vote against the ban. His speech reflected his strong interest and experience over many years in dealing with animal protection and animal welfare issues. His contribution was helpful.

At first, the speech of my noble friend the Duke of Montrose seemed more to do with sport conducted in Scotland on a Saturday night rather than any afternoon sport. (I am not sure whether such activity is cruel—that is a different issue!) My noble friend was concerned about control of wildlife, particularly in relation to deer.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has always been against hunting. He believes that hunting wild animals is wrong. He is, therefore, against the Bill. The noble Lord said that he has never seen a hunt.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I apologise for intervening. I have just remembered that I once saw the Quorn Hunt. It met at Stanford Hall which was owned by the Co-operative Movement. In 1950, as a student, I went along to remonstrate but received short shrift. I have never seen a hunt in action.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I am delighted to hear that explanation. I wish that the noble Lord could see a hunt in action. If he did, his views might change. The noble Lord might understand the motives of those who hunt. It must be clear that the only hunters of the fox are the hounds. The hounds hunt the fox guided by the huntsmen. Those who hunt follow the hounds; they do not hunt the fox. They do not hunt for cruelty. Nor would any of them hunt if they considered it cruel. I believe that he is wrong on that issue. However, I was glad that he and other noble Lords condemned those extremists who break the law, on whichever side of the issue they stand.

My noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts was concerned about genetic breeding, cloning and the swapping of genes. I share his concerns. I have always been concerned about animal testing on primates. I am never happy about animal testing on other mammals.

The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, who spoke in the gap, declared his interest in his family firm that tailors hunting clothing. I declare my interest as a client and customer of the noble Lord's family firm. They do a fine job and I hope that I shall continue to go along to Saville Row as one of their customers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, showed clearly how the courts could rule on the different issues involved. She gave the example of hunting in upland areas, which could be shown as the best and most effective way of controlling foxes. Her remarks on what would happen to the deer herd on Exmoor were very interesting. We must consider whether the animals would be better off if hunting did not happen. There is a strong argument for saying that that has not been shown to be the case and that they would be worse off.

The courts rule on many issues. Case law is constantly evolving. The 1911 Act and subsequent Acts and case law clearly show how cruelty or justification for cruelty can be proved or not. I would be disappointed if the Minister said that the Bill was too wide in that regard and that it would be difficult to rule on what would be cruel. That is an unacceptable argument and I hope that the Minister will not use it, because the premise behind it is disingenuous. The courts have clearly shown since 1911 that they are able to decide what is cruel and what is not. The Government must come clean on that. In Standing Committee on the Hunting Bill in another place, the Minister resisted that idea. That was more to do with not wanting to involve the courts in that Bill. The Government should admit that the courts could have a role, because they deal with the point on many other issues.

The Bill would amend the 1996 Act. It would ensure protection for wild mammals from unnecessary suffering. There would be no exceptions for the previously exempt activities. I am happy for hunting to be included, as is the Countryside Alliance. The Bill would make the intentional infliction or causing of unnecessary suffering a criminal offence. The Bill is a model of clarity, certainty and brevity. I hope that the Minister will take those words back to the Home Office draftsmen next time he is considering a Home Office Bill.

The Bill would go a long way towards raising welfare standards for our wild mammals. I hope that the Minister will welcome it as a contribution to the debate. However, we all recognise the limited timetable that it is up against.

12.54 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)

My Lords, before I get to the heart of the issue, I join the general congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, on introducing this important Bill. I also congratulate him on his diligence in and out of government, in championing the welfare of animals. He has focused particularly on striking a balance between the demands of modern agriculture and the needs of the environment, including the welfare of wildlife.

The Government will not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. That is in accordance with tradition and it is particularly important in this case, because we recognise that the Bill has an important part to play in a wider debate. As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, this is a prelude—and a very well-intentioned one, I think—to our debate on Monday, which will have broader considerations.

There have been too many contributions this morning for me to refer to all of them, but I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Burns, not least because of his report. He set out some important pointers and guides for our other debates. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, gave a clear exposition of her position. The noble Lords, Lord Graham and Lord Tomlinson, and others also gave clear and well made arguments. Both Opposition Front Benches have also made important contributions. I am grateful to all those who have taken part in this well-informed debate, which has been underpinned by a genuine desire on all sides of the House to promote the protection and welfare of wild animals. That does your Lordships' House great credit.

The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 is an important Act that has made it easier than ever before for the police to act to protect wild mammals in the countryside. It gives officers more power to prosecute those causing unnecessary and unlawful suffering to wild animals such as hedgehogs, squirrels and foxes. Section 1 of that Act makes it an offence to mutilate, kick, beat, nail or otherwise impale, stab, burn, stone, crush, drown, drag or asphyxiate any wild mammal with intent to inflict unnecessary suffering. Those convicted can be fined up to £5,000 or sent to prison for a period not exceeding six months.

Section 2 contains a number of exceptions to this general provision so that a person is not guilty of an offence if an attempted killing of any such wild mammal is an act of mercy; if the killing is done in a reasonably swift and humane manner and it can be shown that the wild mammal had been injured or taken in the course of lawful shooting, hunting, coursing, or pest control activity; if any act made unlawful under Section 1 of the Act is done by means of any snare, trap, dog or bird lawfully used for the purpose of killing or taking any wild mammals; or if they have lawfully used any poisonous or noxious substance on any wild mammal.

The Act addresses cases of, for example, hedgehogs being kicked to death or live squirrels being thrown on a bonfire. The Act is not intended to threaten those who, in the course of carrying out their lawful pursuits in the countryside, may cause death or injury to wild mammals.

So much for the present position. Perhaps I may now turn to the effects of the amendments proposed to it by the Bill put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. The noble Lord's amendments to Section 1 would delete all the explicit references to specific acts, such as mutilation, beating or kicking. The effect of this would be that the provision would bite on anyone who unnecessarily caused suffering to a wild mammal.

The changes to Section 2 are equally significant. Three of the exceptions would be removed. Protection would no longer automatically be afforded to those who kill wild mammals as part of hunting, coursing or pest control. Nor would those who lawfully use snares, traps or poisons have the benefit of an exception.

I shall say more about pest control in a moment, but first I shall deal briefly with hunting. We are going to have a lengthy deliberation on the subject on Monday and it would not be right to get into a detailed discourse in advance of that. As I have already explained, the 1996 Act contains exceptions for hunting from the offence in Section 1 of cruelty to wild mammals. Section 2(b) provides an exception in respect of the killing in a reasonably swift and humane manner of any such wild mammal injured or taken in the course of, among other activities, lawful hunting or coursing. Section 2(d) provides a further exception in respect of any act made unlawful by Section 1 if carried out by a dog used lawfully for the killing or taking of a wild mammal.

The Bill before us would remove those exemptions. The effect would be that hunting with dogs would constitute an offence where unnecessary suffering was caused to the mammal being hunted. I can see the attraction of that suggestion as most, although perhaps not all, people who oppose hunting object to it because they believe that it is cruel. If they could be reassured that any unnecessary suffering would be punished in the courts, they might feel more comfortable about the matter.

However, I could present the other side of the coin and suggest that that may not, as some supporters of the Bill would argue, help to resolve the difficult issues of hunting. From the meetings that I and my colleagues in the Home Office have held with various campaign groups involved in the hunting issue, I am well aware that very different views exist. Some, such as Deadline 2000, support a ban and believe that, by its very nature, hunting with dogs inflicts suffering on the quarry. Others, such as the Countryside Alliance, take the contrary position and argue that, in properly organised hunting, no unnecessary suffering is caused.

Both sets of views have been heard in the House during the course of this debate. Both sides choose to interpret in different ways the scientific evidence and, indeed, the report produced so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Burns, so as to support their point of view. This Bill does not seek to resolve the question of whether hunting with dogs causes unnecessary suffering; rather, I believe that it would hand the courts a difficult and, no doubt from time to time, highly controversial problem.

However much some of us would prefer to avoid the issue, I believe that it must be for Parliament to take a view on whether or not hunting is an unnecessarily cruel activity and, therefore, whether it should be permitted to continue in its present form or be regulated. Some will argue that we should not abdicate our responsibilities by placing this essentially political question in the hands of the courts. They may be right, but your Lordships have heard arguments to the contrary. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, spoke in favour of variable sentencing as a potential strength, and I can understand that argument.

As your Lordships well know, on Monday we shall discuss the Bill on hunting. That will give Parliament the opportunity to form a view on what it wishes to do in relation to what we all accept to be a contentious question. I believe that that is the right way to proceed.

Perhaps I may now turn to the pest control aspects of the Bill. Again, I have every confidence that the intentions of those who proposed and support the Bill are entirely honourable. Their motives are to protect wild mammals from unnecessary suffering. I believe that we all applaud that sentiment; I certainly do. On the face of it, it appears that the Bill would have precisely that effect in that it would simply ensure that those who inflicted unnecessary suffering as part of pest control would be liable to prosecution.

However, again, I venture to suggest that the degree of imprecision that that creates may cause problems. I do not believe that anyone could argue seriously that there is not a need to control various pests. It is an important and valuable aspect of the work of gamekeepers and others involved in the management of the countryside. However, there may be disagreement about the best way to do it, and perhaps a concrete example would illustrate the matter.

Mink is a vicious and voracious predator which does great damage to riverbanks and attacks indigenous wildlife, such as water voles. Clearly, mink numbers need to be controlled. There is no argument about that. One way in which to do so is to use traps and snares. We can all form a view as to whether such devices cause unnecessary suffering. The Government's view is that where traps and snares are used properly, they may prove to be more humane than other methods. Of course, strict rules apply to the use of snares, including a requirement for them to be checked every 24 hours. I am conscious that others take a contrary view and regard such devices as little short of barbaric.

There is a danger that if we remove the exemptions for pest control, as the Bill seeks to do, those who quite legitimately and properly use snares and traps in order to control mink numbers could find themselves the subject of private prosecutions and brought before the courts—perhaps even convicted. I could cite similar examples involving other species and other means of control, including poisons, but I hope that the point is made clear to your Lordships.

It would be unacceptable to remove the exemptions for pest control without defining clearly what such control is and is not. There would be a risk that those who undertake proper and necessary pest control activities would be exposed to private prosecution by those who may take a less reasonable attitude in relation to animal welfare. I believe that we are all aware of people, particularly on the extreme wing of the argument, who can be quite unreasonable in that regard.

I want to make a further point. If farmers and gamekeepers consider that they are at risk from the threat of prosecution, there is a possibility that that could encourage the use of more dangerous and illegal alternatives, such as uncontrolled poisoning. Clearly, the cause of animal welfare would not be served if that were to happen.

The 1996 Act is aimed at preventing mindless cruelty against wild mammals. I believe that it has been an important tool in preventing such activity. My fear is that the Bill before the House may confuse such mindless cruelty with the proper and legitimate work undertaken by farmers and landowners to control pests in the countryside. I am also concerned that the proposed amendments, if passed, may make the 1996 Act more difficult to enforce because they would remove the clear tests as to what does or does not constitute cruelty. My noble friend Lady Mallalieu was right to suggest that, even with the Bill as it is—she suggested a measure of support for it—there would need to be important clarification. I believe that that comes close to the heart of our concerns about the Bill.

I would not want anyone to imply that the existing tests are inadequate or that areas of cruelty to wild mammals are not being tackled. I do not accept that that would be a valid view of the tremendous amount of work carried out in recent years by animal welfare experts and legislators to improve the welfare of our wildlife.

One or two important points were made, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, in relation to scientific experiments. It may be worth placing on the record that such experiments are regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. They fall outside the scope of this Bill. All animals used in experiments are captive and not wild, and the Bill will have no effect on animal experimentation. It may be worth reminding the noble Lord that a Motion to be moved, I believe, next Tuesday will seek to establish a committee of the House to report on the working of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Perhaps that will provide a better opportunity for a more scientific debate in considering the issues that the noble Lord raised.

In conclusion, again, I want to express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Donoughue for having introduced the Bill. I believe that we all agree that it has provided us with an all too rare opportunity to discuss important questions. Questions in relation to pest control, in particular, are rarely debated in your Lordships' House. I hope that my noble friend has not found my remarks too discouraging, not least because, having discussed the Bill with him privately and also publicly, I am in absolutely no doubt about his genuine desire to improve animal welfare.

Although I could not suggest that the Bill in its present form should be passed into law, I hope that, by highlighting what I consider to be some of the areas of concern, I have given my noble friend and other noble Lords food for thought. My noble friend may wish to reflect on that as the Bill progresses.

This has been a most valuable debate. I am sure that it will be seen as an important contribution to the debates that follow. I certainly recognise the validity and importance of all the contributions made by noble Lords during the course of the debate.

1.9 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to what I considered to be an excellent discussion. I welcome the support which the Bill received. That support was not universal but came from all sides of the House: from my own, from the Cross Benches and from the Front Benches of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative sides. I particularly appreciated the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the weighty support that he gave. I also thank my noble friend Lord Hardy, who has a deep knowledge of and commitment to wildlife and rural affairs.

I say to my noble friends Lord Tomlinson and Lord Graham that although I respect their views, of which I was already aware, we continue to differ. I do not accept what my noble friend said about there being an unbridgeable gap on the broader hunting issue. There is an unbridgeable gap with regard to the two minority positions but I believe that a bridge can be found with regard to the majority position. My noble friend Lord Graham made a fine speech, which would be more appropriate for next Monday's debate than today's debate. If only he had consulted his diary! I have difficulties with my noble friend's statement that my Bill will not reduce cruelty. It is clear that regardless of one's views on hunting, the Bill will reduce cruelty. I stress that. I should be puzzled if any individuals or, especially, institutions that claim to be committed to the reduction of cruelty tried to oppose the Bill. I would not know whether they had other agendas.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, made an impressive contribution but I believe that his concerns are covered by the 1986 Act, to which my Bill does not relate.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for not opposing the Bill's Second Reading and for his friendly words, which were warmer than I was expecting in view of the stable from which he comes. I really appreciated that. I was a little disappointed but not surprised by one of his reservations— predictably, the "Pandora's box" of court decisions was wheeled out. I welcome that aspect of the Bill, as have some other noble Lords. I support the role of the courts in clarifying what cruelty is. I support the courts in this country and I was surprised that the Home Office does not; it may know things that I do not. In fact, it already lies with the courts to interpret existing legislation. Case law does establish positions; that is normal in our polity. However, that does not mean that there is a permanent ratchet of court cases endlessly going on. Case law would be established, and I should accept whatever was decided.

I hope that the Minister will press his department to adopt an open approach on this issue. He and other noble Lords— in particular, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, who made a very good contribution—raised genuine points that I hope to address as the Bill progresses through the House. I am aware of the question of test controls. I am confident that we can get more clarity on that, which will be done as the Bill progresses through the House. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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