HL Deb 17 November 2004 vol 666 cc1585-90

(1) This Act shall come into force on a day appointed by order made by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument; and different days may be appointed for different purposes.

(2) The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (1) before 1st December 2007.

(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 14, an order under this section shall not be subject to parliamentary proceedings.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment relates to the enactment of the Bill. As your Lordships will be aware, the Government clearly do not regard this as an urgent Bill, even though for some reason they think that the Parliament Act should apply, because it is their intention that the Bill should not be enacted for some 18 months. My understanding of the reason for that is not entirely clear. However, early on in proceedings, some weeks ago, the Minister, Mr Michael, implied on the radio that it was something to do with the welfare of hounds. I do not find that a credible excuse.

I suspect that the real reason, as I think your Lordships will agree, relates more to the European Convention on Human Rights and in particular to the Select Committee's report. I think that most of your Lordships will agree—I believe that it is widely accepted—that the Bill both at Second Reading in another place and at Second Reading in your Lordships' House should not really have had the certificate on human rights. It is quite clear that the present Bill is in breach of human rights and that the only thing that will put it back within it is the Government's 18-month delay period. That is the first and main reason.

The second reason, which is also now perfectly clear, is that the Government wish to delay the enactment of the Bill to avoid any civil disobedience, disruption or difficulties they might face during a general election campaign. The delay that the Government have proposed is therefore for their own convenience and for nothing else.

It has been suggested in the newspapers this morning that those of us who are opposed to the Bill intend to move what I think is described in some of the broadsheets as a "kamikaze" amendment. I do not think that that would be a very sensible idea. The proposal that we are making to your Lordships this evening is to delay the enactment of the legislation for three years, until December 2007, which is almost the same as an amendment that we proposed at an earlier stage of the Bill, although we have excluded that the Secretary of State should need to commission research by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. That was probably not an appropriate thing to do at this stage.

Real welfare problems are involved in the enactment of the Bill, and not just the welfare of the quarry species. As the noble Baroness has already told the House, there are welfare issues around hounds. As she also said, there are welfare issues around the horses. That was specifically drawn to our attention this evening by the letter to the Minister from the British Horse Society, making it clear that his views on what will happen to horses in hunting are quite inaccurate. It has raised with him some very serious welfare issues of which I have no doubt your Lordships will wish to take note.

There are other welfare issues, such as the welfare of all the people involved in hunting. As we all know, it is very difficult for people to change their standard of living and their lifestyle very quickly in any way at all. It is therefore appropriate for them to be given a reasonable length of time. Most noble Lords would agree that three years fitted that bill.

We debated the final point—the deer management problem—at length on Report. It is specific to the West Country. It is widely accepted—the Minister accepted it and the noble Lord, Lord Burns, drew attention to it—that Exmoor is a unique and unusual place, to put it mildly. The herd of red deer on Exmoor is completely unique; there is no other herd like it in the United Kingdom. There are other herds of red deer, but they are nothing like the way they are in Exmoor. It has been said by everyone—the Porchester report, Exmoor National Park, the Minister, the Burns report, the Phelps report—that it would be deeply irresponsible to change the current system of management of the deer, which is centred around the stag hounds, without putting in place another system.

It is worth remembering that 30 per cent of the deer that the stag hounds take each year are injured or ill deer—they are nothing to do with hunting. Most are either poached and wounded, or involved in car accidents. In the absence of the stag hounds, no one has any ability at all to deal with those injured deer, which is a significant welfare problem. There are a very large number of small landowners down there; they all need to work together. The Government, particularly Mr Elliot Morley, have drawn attention to the fact that the local deer management group is the most successful such group in the United Kingdom, and it will take a very considerable time—certainly three years—to put anything else in place.

That is why—there are other similar reasons—we need the delayed enactment. The Bill is thoroughly objectionable, as the Prime Minister knows. It is not urgent; the Government have told us so. The 18-month period is pure political expediency. My amendment is logical and reasonable, and I invite the House to accept it.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 46 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 46A, at end insert, "but do propose Amendment No. 46C in lieu thereof".—(Lord Mancroft.)

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I do not wish to respond to all the points in the noble Lord's speech, because we have been over that ground rather too frequently in recent weeks. We are still trying to convince the House of Commons to modify its stance or operate on the basis of some degree of understanding of the position taken by this House. It does not seem sensible that we should try to delay by three years the implementation of whatever Bill eventually emerges, whether it is a registration Bill or a ban Bill, to use the shorthand.

We know the position that the House of Commons has already taken on the matter. It has suggested an amendment to us that would delay implementation until July 2006. I propose to move that amendment after the completion of the amendments to the Bill. It would do one or two different things. It would allow some time for adjustment, so it would allow some of the welfare problems to be addressed. It would also allow the people of the United Kingdom to decide whether they approved of the Bill, as the Conservative Party has made it clear that it would repeal the Bill after a general election. The amendment would take the implementation of the Bill beyond a general election.

The noble Lord referred to that as cynical political manoeuvring, but it is nothing of the sort. It is responding, in part at least, to the accusations made by the noble Lord and his colleagues about the Government and the majority of the House of Commons that we are acting undemocratically. It will allow no action on the Bill until a general election has either endorsed or not endorsed the Government and House of Commons that proposed it.

I do not believe that 2007 is a sensible date, and I did not believe so last week. There has been some improvement in the technicalities of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, but I do not believe that the House should accept that date. I shall propose an alternative date in a moment.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that if the amendment is passed he will still propose an amendment suggesting an alternative date? How can two alternative dates be proposed in one Bill?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Viscount is being disingenuously logical. We know very well where we are. There are in fact two Bills in play here. The amendment was part of the package—it would be slightly amended by the noble Lord's current amendment—for a registration Bill. We also know that the House of Commons has insisted, and is likely to insist again, on a Bill which is primarily a ban with a number of exemptions. The timetable proposed by the House of Commons ought to apply to either Bill. Therefore, if the package of amendments on which we have just voted prevails, it is probable that the 2007 date that is attached to it prevails. However, the alternative position, which the Commons amendment addresses, would provide a delay in the banning Bill. Therefore, I propose to move it, when we have completed all the amendments presented to us by your Lordships tonight.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I support what the Minister has said logically and clearly. It provides me with the opportunity to express my admiration for the manner in which the Minister has conducted himself not only today but at all stages of the Bill.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, he has had to show tremendous patience and understanding. At all times, when his integrity with regard to the Bill has been questioned, he has stood firm. He made his position clear at the outset and on other occasions. He is entitled to the thanks of the whole House.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, I listened to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, with great interest, and I listened, too, to the words of the Minister. He spoke about time for adjustment, which is precisely what I am proposing.

The concept that a minority spread as thinly as butter across the country, such as the hunting community, can impact significantly on a general election is a twisted view of the democratic process. I suspect that that is part of the reason why we face the problems that we face today.

There is no point in rehearsing the arguments; your Lordships know them well enough. I commend the amendment to the House.

8.28 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 46B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 176; Not-Contents, 85.

Division No. 4
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Chadlington, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Chester, Bp.
Arran, E. Chorley, L.
Astor, V. Clement-Jones, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Cobbold, L.
Attlee, E. Colville of Culross, V.
Baker of Dorking, L. Colwyn, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Cope of Berkeley, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Courtown, E.
Bell, L. Cox, B.
Best, L. Craig of Radley, L.
Blatch, B. Crathorne, L.
Bledisloe, V. Crawford and Balcarres, E.
Borrie, L. Cumberlege, B.
Bragg, L. Darcy de Knayth, B.
Bramall, L. Dean of Harptree, L.
Brennan, L. Denham, L.
Bridgeman, V. Dixon-Smith, L.
Brittan of Spennithorne, L. Donoughue, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. D'Souza, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Dykes, L.
Burnham, L. Eccles of Moulton, B.
Buscombe, B. Eden of Winton, L.
Byford, B. Elis-Thomas, L.
Caithness, E. Elles, B.
Cameron of Dillington, L. Elton, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Erroll, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Falkland, V.
Feldman, L. Newton of Braintree, L.
Ferrers, E. Noakes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L. Norfolk, D.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Northbourne, L.
Freeman, L. Northbrook, L.
Geddes, L. Northesk, E.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Glentoran, L. Onslow, E.
Golding, B. Palmer, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Palumbo, L.
Goschen, V. Park of Monmouth, B.
Greenway, L. Patten, L.
Grenfell, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Hanham, B. Peel, E.
Harris of Peckham, L. Peterborough, Bp.
Hayman, B. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Henley, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Heseltine, L. Plumb, L.
Higgins, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Hogg, B. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Rawlings, B.
Home, E. Reay, L.
Hooper, B. Redesdale, L.
Howard of Rising, L. Rees, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B. Renton, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L. Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Inglewood, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
James of Holland Park, B. Rooker, L.
Jopling, L. Rotherwick, L.
Kalms, L. Russell-Johnston, L.
Kimball, L. Ryder of Wensum, L.
King of Bridgwater, L. Saatchi, L.
Kingsland, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Linklater of Butterstone, B. Seccombe, B.
Liverpool, E. Selborne, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L. Selsdon, L.
Luke, L. Sharman, L.
Lyell, L. Sharples, B.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L. Simon, V.
Skelmersdale, L.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L. Slim, V.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Steel of Aikwood, L.
Mallalieu, B. Stewartby, L.
Mancroft, L. [Teller] Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Mar, C. Strathclyde, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Thatcher, B.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Miller of Hendon, B. Tugendhat, L.
Monro of Langholm, L. Vinson, L.
Monson, L. Waddington, L.
Montrose, D. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Moore of Lower Marsh, L. Wakeham, L.
Moran, L. Waldegrave of North Hill, L.
Morris of Bolton, B. Warnock, B.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Wilcox, B.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Wilkins, B.
Neill of Bladen, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Neuberger, B. Willoughby de Broke, L. [Teller]
Windlesham, L.
Alderdice, L. Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Andrews, B. Crawley, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Dahrendorf, L.
Avebury, L. David, B.
Bach, L. Davies of Oldham, L.
Barker, B. Dixon, L.
Brett, L. Dubs, L.
Burlison, L. Elder, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Carter of Coles, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Chandos, V. Faulkner of Worcester, L. [Teller]
Clinton-Davis, L.
Fookes, B. Lockwood, B.
Gale, B. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. McKenzie of Luton, L.
Giddens, L. McNally, L.
Gilbert, L. Mar and Kellie, E.
Goodhart, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Goudie, B. Maxton, L.
Gould of Brookwood, L. Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Morgan of Huyton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller] Newby, L.
Northover, B.
Grantchester, L. Pendry, L.
Greaves, L. Prosser, B.
Greengross, B. Rennard, L.
Griffiths of Burry Port, L. Roberts of Llandudno, L,
Grocott, L. Rosser, L.
Hamwee, B. Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Harris of Haringey, L. Shutt of Greetland, L.
Harris of Richmond, B. Snape, L.
Harrison, L. Thornton, B.
Haskel, L. Tomlinson, L.
Haworth, L. Triesman, L.
Henig, B. Truscott, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Tunnicliffe, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Wall of New Barnet, B.
Hoyle, L. Warner, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Jones, L. Whitaker, B.
Judd, L. Whitty, L.
Laird, L. Worcester, Bp.
Leitch, L. Young of Norwood Green, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

8.38 p.m.