HL Deb 27 October 2004 vol 665 cc1355-74

(1) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 1 to prove that the conduct to which the charge relates consisted of using dogs for the control of foxes for the purpose of protecting sheep on a fell or moorland within a sheep grazing area in a designated National Park.

(2) In this section "designated" means designated in an order made by the Secretary of State.

(3) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument and shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by each House of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 47A, I shall speak also to the associated amendment, Amendment No. 81. I apologise to the Committee for appearing a little fragile and wobbly on my feet. I am going through a period of some difficulty at present, but I was determined to attend this debate today.

My amendment would include in the Bill a new clause providing a defence for a person charged under Section 1. Some Members may recall that exactly this amendment—unamended—was tabled for the debate that took place in Committee in October last year. For ease of reference—particularly with regard to the Commons in the event that this amendment is successful this evening—it was moved at col. 159; it was approved at col. 181 after almost a two-hour debate with a majority of 36; and it was supported during the debate by the noble Lords, Lord Carlile of Berriew, Lord Kimball, Lord King of Bridgwater, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, and the noble Lords, Lord Palmer and Lord Renton of Mount Harry. I think that I have that correct. I mention that because the people to whom I refer specifically are those who, I am sure, today would prefer a system of registration and licensing, but at that stage they saw it as a compromise.

My amendment sets three tests for permissible hunting: first, that it be for the purposes of protecting sheep; secondly, that hunting be on a fell or moorland within a sheep-grazing area; and, thirdly, that the hunting take place in a designated national park approved under our statutory instrument procedures by both Houses of Parliament.

I do not know the detailed tactics of the pro-hunting lobby on the question of a compromise, which was dealt with yesterday in some detail. I can say only that, of all the amendments before us, it is my view that it is only a very narrow amendment and that it would gather a sympathetic hearing in the House of Commons on the question of a compromise. That is why Amendment No. 47A was tabled and it is why, I believe, Amendment No. 81 was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling.

We need to have clearly in our minds the process that will take place if the House of Commons is driven into using the Parliament Act. Under the provisions of that Act as they have been explained to me, the Bill to be approved must be the original Bill as sent by the Commons to the Lords for consideration. Therefore, if we want to try to avoid the use of the Parliament Act and yet maximise the concessions that we seek, we should insist on only those amendments which we realistically believe the Commons will accept. However, I am afraid that an amendment covering licensing and registration is not one of those amendments.

It is not as though, in my view, the Government could intervene to influence this debate. As my noble friend said from the Dispatch Box yesterday, this is now a Bill driven by the Back-Benchers in the House of Commons. In my view, they have total control of the Bill, and there is very little that the Government can do apart from listen to what Back-Benchers in the other place have to say and keep their fingers crossed. As I said, in my view, Back-Benchers have total control. While it is true that, as I understand it, the Government could block the use of the Parliament Act in the other place, I suspect that that would lead to a major row in the House of Commons and I do not believe that that will happen.

My amendment has been drawn up specifically to appeal to the Labour Back-Benchers in the House of Commons in the belief that they will determine events on this Bill. Why have I tabled it? I shall be absolutely frank. I have always voted against hunting. That is why I believe that this amendment, coming from the stable that it does, has some credibility in the other place.

The amendment stems from my experience as a constituency Member of Parliament for 22 years in the Lake District, where I still live, surrounded by a number of fell packs and with a huge mail bag—not only during general election periods but also outside general elections in the general cut and thrust of the argument that takes place about hunting in the Lake District National Park. I was for ever being approached by people demanding that some concession be made in this particular area. They were not arguments that I could simply ignore; they had to be addressed. They were primarily about the problems in the lambing season in the Lake District and the major problem of an invasion of guns into the Lake District National Park—an area of intense tourist interest and where many people are wary about the possible intrusion of guns on the scale that some have suggested.

I must refer to statements to which I referred on a previous occasion. I want to draw to the attention of the Committee a letter from John Hayton of Thackthwaite, near Cockermouth, in which he said: I am an upland sheep farmer in the Lake District National Park, who every year suffers losses to foxes. The local hunt does a great job in fox control by keeping numbers in check and are on hand in the spring to help farmers if they have a particular problem with worrying by bringing hounds to the lambing area, even if hounds are unable to catch the culprit, the very fact that hounds have been about can sometimes have the desired effect. Without hounds to carry out this very necessary task we would have to rely on shooting; surely no one really expects us to do that in an area where we already have up to 14 million visitors a year".

Another chap, Paul Renison of Troutbeck, near Windermere, wrote to me saying: I work on a farm called Braesteads—a traditional fell farm near Ullswater in the Lake District National Park. Through my work as a shepherd especially in lambing time I have witnessed the damage foxes can cause. We lost 15 lambs to the fox last year. If this is multiplied by a replacement cost of £50 per animal (not including time and effort) the damage lost the business £750. Would any business suffer this unnecessary expense (which will be higher) if a tried, tested, natural preventative measure were to be outlawed?

I would now like to draw attention to the origins of the amendment. It was drawn up 17 years ago by me in preparation for a manifesto meeting of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party when I was concerned about what was going on in the national park and, at a meeting of the NEC, I sought to secure an undertaking for inclusion of the matter in the 1987 Labour Party manifesto. I was successful.

I have now trailed this same amendment through the corridors of Westminster over the past 17 years. It has been the subject of much informal debate over all those years in all kinds of places. I accept that my amendment is tighter and narrower than Amendment No. 81, to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, which I also support. The reason for that is that my amendment was designed to appeal to Labour BackBenchers, as I have already said, who were anti-hunting. I was trying to find a way of drawing them into an understanding of problems in the Lake District and the need for the use of foot and fell packs. It is only with the use of a narrow amendment that we have any chance of a sympathetic hearing in the Commons. I hope that the Committee agrees with me. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood

I wish to speak to Amendment No. 81 which stands in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Jopling and the noble Lords, Lord Bragg and Lord Hooson. It is intended to exempt fell hunting from the ban proposed in the Bill as drafted and to echo the generality of the case made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in his speech in support of his Amendment No. 47A, which I too support.

Amendment No. 81 covers both Welsh fell hunting and Cumbrian fell hunting. While I know nothing about Welsh fell hunting—although I understand there may be some slight differences between them—it seems to me that the Committee has heard about the circumstances in Wales and will no doubt do so again in a moment. The only thought that occurs to me on that is that Wales must be a very big place as we appear to have many Welshmen here to speak for it.

I shall confine my remarks to Cumbria, which is the only place that I can talk about with first-hand knowledge. Again, I must begin my remarks in Committee stage as I did at Second Reading, by explaining that I was born in Cumbria; I live in Cumbria; I have farmed an upland farm in the Lake District for just over 25 years; I have represented the area in the European Parliament for 10 years; and I was a member of the Lake District National Park Authority for, I believe, eight years.

As has been said in this long debate, sheep are the main harvest of the hills. They, of all farm animals, are probably more vulnerable to foxes, with the possible exception of poultry which, of course, is kept cooped up at night, than any other animal. While it is a great misfortune that the whole debate about hunting has in some ways been anthropomorphised by Disney and perhaps Beatrix Potter, from the perspective of a sheep or a lamb, every fox is a potential psychopath and a rogue fox is a serial killer. If I remember correctly the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, said, when speaking of his farming career, that one particular rogue fox had killed about 10 per cent of his farm's output by itself.

As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said, in the Second Reading debate, foxes have to be managed and that involves culling. We all have to recognise that death is grisly in whatever form it comes, whether for the fox or for the sheep or lamb and whether it is part of a cull or whether it is to provide English lamb cutlets on the menu in the Peers Dining Room this evening. The crucial point before us is to try to find the most benign and appropriate way of doing it.

It has been argued that hunting in the Cumbrian uplands could be replaced by shooting. It is probably true that in certain places and under certain circumstances that may work moderately satisfactorily on the periphery of the park. But it will simply not be effective in the high fells and crags where the ground is more vertical than horizontal and where rocks and boulders are strewn all over on tens, if not hundreds of acres—some quite small, some bigger, some the size of the golden Throne at the end of the Chamber and some a great deal bigger than that. In those conditions, shooting simply is not feasible.

Of course, that is the part of the Lake District where the foxes have their lairs; they are the reservoirs from which they flood out and fan across the grazing areas. This is an area where there has been de facto and in certain parts de jure general public access for decades and it is the area where there is about to be a statutory right to roam. The very idea of ricocheting rifle bullets swirling around the rocks and the ears of the hikers and walkers only has to be proposed to be seen to be completely absurd.

It seems to me absolutely clear that as far as the mountain areas are concerned, the best interests of sheep, foxes and walkers are best served by dealing with the fox problem via the fell packs. I believe the case for fell hunting is made on its intrinsic merits. But there is one additional point that I would like to make. It is very widely known that traditional fell communities are under great pressure. It is our Government's policy, the European Union's policy, the Northwest Regional Development Agency's policy, the national park authority's policy, the county council's policy and the district council's policy to support them.

In those areas, the fell packs play a very central role in the fabric of that rural society. Those organisations are run by rural people for rural people and their social activities, intended to support the packs, are absolutely crucial to the social life of the communities in the dales. The organisations are not hierarchical and the breadth of support that they command can be seen from looking at their long subscription lists, often with hundreds of names. The vast majority of the subscriptions are less than £5 and very many of them are under £l.

To ban fell hunting will severely damage the social fabric of those communities, which are already under threat. Do we really propose to make unlawful something that is not only the most efficacious means of managing foxes in those areas, but also one that is crucial to the underpinning of the communities that it is almost universally agreed should be supported? Surely it should not be a matter of banning the fell packs; it should be a matter of encouraging them.

7 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell

I listened with great respect and interest to the case advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. He will recall that although some of my noble friends supported him when he put forward the amendment on a previous occasion, I was not among them. I am going to criticise his amendment today for the same reasons as I did on that previous occasion. I shall turn later to the amendment of my noble friend, with which I have a good deal more sympathy, but I should like to deal first with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.

Of course I understand why the noble Lord has advanced the amendment. He made it very clear that he advanced it primarily because of his personal involvement and interest in the Lake District. But I, too, know something about national parks. As a Secretary of State, I was responsible for the three parks in Wales. One of them was entirely within my own constituency. I live in another of them today. The amendment before us contains so many flaws and inconsistencies that I would find it almost impossible to support it.

My first difficulty is that I am not clear why the Committee should limit the provision solely to national parks in general or to one particular national park. In Wales, it would provide some protection—if the park was designated—to the Brecon Beacons National Park, to part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park—I think to the Preceli Hills but not to the coastal strip which comprises most of that national park—and to the Snowdonia National Park, or again to part of it. But it would provide no protection at all for the whole of mid Wales about which the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, spoke so eloquently yesterday. It will also not protect the Berwins in north east Wales.

As noble Lords heard from the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, yesterday, this area of mid Wales is an area full of sheep under threat. Therefore, I have difficulty with supporting an amendment that seems to breach one of the fundamental principles that was addressed yesterday—that we ought to have legislation that applies equally and fairly both to individuals and to particular animals. You get into considerable difficulty if you say, "But we are going to make an exception here and there", because you start raising all sorts of questions.

I also have a difficulty with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, because it seems to me that without a great deal of elaboration it will raise more questions than it answers. It says that we are to protect sheep within a sheep grazing area. I am not entirely clear what a sheep grazing area is. It might well include most of the industrial valleys of south Wales where the sheep roam uncontrolled down into the very heart of the former mining communities. But I think I know what the noble Lord intends. The amendment then says, on a fell or moorland within a sheep grazing area in a designated National Park". I am not entirely clear where the fell or moorland in the national park begins or ends. In my national park the sheep roam and graze on the open hill, but they are also housed, at least for part of the year, below the mountain wall. They are just as vulnerable in the fields below the mountain wall, particularly because they will be there probably when they arc lambing and in the cold parts of the year, as when they are on the open hill. I am not at all clear from the amendment whether they can be protected under this clause.

So, it seems to me that we have a clause that is difficult to interpret, identifies only specific areas and gives no general definitions so that we can have an equitable approach to the whole issue.

I have a great deal more sympathy for the amendment of my noble friend Lord Inglewood. It goes broader and does not raise some of the questions of definition. He himself kindly said—perhaps he was looking around at the number of Welshmen that he identified in the Chamber—that it would cover the areas of mid Wales and north east Wales which would be excluded under the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Campbell-Savours. I am not quite clear whether it would apply to those upland areas of England which fall outside the Lake District and the area he was particularly identifying. But that is another problem that we need to address.

It is clear that if we go ahead with a Bill based on registration the noble Lord's amendment will not be required because we can go forward on the basis that we leave the matter for the registrar and get through the definitions we have already included in the Bill. So, we are dealing with a fallback clause; a clause that might be accepted in a situation where the other place says that it wants its Bill but perhaps would accept a minor modification of this kind. At the moment I would be prepared to say that it may be worth having such a fallback position, although I think we have a particular difficulty. This clause does not sit well in the Bill as we have amended it with the whole system of registration, but it may be that the two can be brought together. I should like to consider more carefully whether there is a particular conflict before we reach a later stage of the Bill.

My position is that while I have some sympathy for the wider clause advanced by my noble friend, I would find it not just impossible to support the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, but I would have to vote against his amendment. The provision is so hard to defend and so full of anomalies and inconsistencies that it would not go well into a piece of legislation. So I am listening still with an open mind and some sympathy to my noble friend's amendment, but I have to indicate that the opposition I had last October to the same amendment advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has been strengthened rather than weakened in the interval.

Baroness Mallalieu

I very much regret that I cannot accept either of these amendments. I live in a national park. I keep sheep and I rely on the local hunt—in my case the Exmoor—to hunt foxes on the farm. The amendment introduced by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours would exempt that pack.

I have also enjoyed visits to the Lake District and I would endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has just said about the way the fell packs operate and their importance in that community, not just to animals and livestock but also to the people of that area.

The reason I cannot support either of the amendments is that the Committee has, as I understand it, taken a course which means that it intends to return a registration scheme to the other House. Neither of those exceptions fit into that scheme. If there is to be registered hunting, it must apply across the board, however much one would want to see excluded people for whom one has a particular interest or affection.

The House undertook to try to return the Alun Michael Bill with as few amendments as possible. The Committee already has had to make some. Although I think that my noble friend Lord Whitty has not been generous in describing the two amendments that have so far been passed as coach and horses provisions, I do think that both amendments would breach the registration system that the Committee has now set up.

The provision is inconsistent essentially with registration. It is also inconsistent with the principle of evidence, which is the basis on which noble Lords are, I hope, trying to return a sensible, workable Bill. What has been said in relation to these two areas applies to many others as well. Under a fair registration system, the fell packs and national park packs would be able to gain registration because they would pass the two tests which we have this afternoon approved.

I am further influenced by the fact that I have had a communication today which I have passed to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, from Edmund Porter, the leader of the Central Committee of Fell Packs, who hopes that the amendment will not be pressed today. I ask that neither noble Lord presses their amendment to a vote today. I understand totally what they are trying to do and I have the greatest sympathy, but at this stage, when we are trying to see the shape of the Bill that might go back to the Commons and command the support of reasonable and open-minded Members of the other place, we should not spoil the registration system in this way.

Viscount Bledisloe

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and to the other distinguished noble Lords who appear to have supported this amendment in the past, I find it impossible to detect its logic. The noble Lord may recognise that and think that it is all right for it to be illogical if he has a chance of getting the House of Commons to accept it.

As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, says that he has always voted against hunting. That presumably means that he considers that using dogs to chase foxes and kill them is cruel. Will he explain to me why it suddenly ceases to be cruel because those foxes are operating within the boundaries of a national park? As a corollary, and if he were to say that it is very important to defend the sheep, will he explain to the unfortunate sheep why, if their farmer moves them somewhere outside the boundaries of that national park, it suddenly becomes impossible to use the dogs to protect them from the foxes? I really do not see how geography and morality can possibly run together in the amendment.

Viscount Astor

I support the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. The problem with both amendments is that they would introduce unregistered hunting. If we go back to the original debates we had in this House when the Government first introduced the hunting Bill, one of the reasons that concerns were expressed about hunting was the lack of control. As we know, some packs are members of the MFH Association, and some are not. Many of the packs which might go over very rural areas are not. Under the amendment, they could do anything they wanted; they could do what we regard as unacceptable now with respect to hunting. That is the effect of the amendment.

I hope that we have established the principle that hunting should be done in a fair way, with the least suffering, which is what registration does. Both amendments drive a coach and horses through that principle.

I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has moved this amendment many times over many years. As he admitted in his Second Reading speech on this Bill and a previous Bill, he regards it as what we might call the last ditch—if there is a ban, he hopes his amendment might be accepted. However, we are not at that stage—the Bill introduces registered hunting, and we should accept that. Therefore, I do not think that the noble Lord's amendment is suitable for this stage of the Bill.

I have problems with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Inglewood. I have to tell him that all rural communities are under threat. It does not matter whether they are at the top of the hill or the bottom, there is absolutely no difference. I do not know what the definition of an upland area is. Does it include the downs, where I live? Does it include Exmoor? Does it include the valleys next to Exmoor? It does not make any sense. I understand my noble friend's concerns about his particular area, but as we have made the case for registered hunting, I believe that we should stick to it.

Lord Monson

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, described his amendment as tighter and narrower than Amendment No. 81. In fact, in one respect, that is not the case. Unlike Amendment No. 81, Amendment No. 47A does not discriminate between hunting on foot and hunting on horseback. I can see no logical reason why mounted hunters should be discriminated against. It certainly makes no difference as far as the fox is concerned. So although I have some sympathy with the reasoning behind both amendments, I think it anomalous that Amendment No. 81 confines itself to foot packs. As for Amendment No. 47A, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, may be a little overoptimistic in imagining that the Labour Party in the other place, as at present constituted, would back this amendment merely because it has been proposed by somebody of such distinction as himself.

Finally, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, has given a most conclusive argument as to why we should not support these two amendments, well intentioned though they undoubtedly are.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Jopling

I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that the difference between packs that hunt the hounds on foot and others is that they do so in an area where hunting is essential for agriculture if sheep farming is to continue. I can give an illustration of the situation; I shall not repeat it at length. I gave the example on Second Reading a year ago and referred to it again on Second Reading a week or two ago.

A clear case of the essential need for fox hunting in upland areas where sheep breeding is the main pursuit was picked up in west Wales during the last world war. It was well documented in Picture Post at the time—if any noble Lord wishes to see it, I have it upstairs. A huntsman was called up into the Army, and within a year or two, because the hounds had been disbanded and were no longer hunting, the growth of the fox population so threatened the food effort during the war that the huntsman had to be released in the hunting season to resume hunting and to control the foxes. That seems a very clear example of what could happen in these areas. These areas are different, as my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, explained.

Lord Crickhowell

I hate to find myself in disagreement with my noble friend—it does not happen very often. I think that in my speech I was pretty sympathetic to what the amendment attempted. But it is not really true that these areas are entirely different. Where I live, the sheep are just as important to the economy—they are absolutely fundamental and crucial to it. But the area is not hunted traditionally by foot packs. In fact, the local hunts come in to the Black Mountains and hunt the valleys and—well, I was going to say the lower slopes, but it is quite high ground. But we are to be excluded in an area where it is just as essential. Therefore, I find it very difficult to accept an amendment which again draws a distinction when, as the noble Baroness pointed out, we are going down a path of registration and trying to treat every individual and community with the same justice.

Lord Jopling

I understand that, but perhaps I can explain why I think it is very important that these two amendments are put in the Bill at this stage. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that the two amendments do not fit in with licensing. Maybe they do not. If we introduce a licensing system—although it does not sometimes seem very likely—the two amendments become unnecessary.

The noble Baroness went on to say that the leader of the Central Committee of Fell Packs had said that he did not want the amendment pressed. I think that he is making a grave mistake in giving that advice. I do not know why he sent such a message about 10 minutes before I got to my feet, when the amendment has been tabled for 10 days or two weeks—I cannot remember exactly how long. I shall explain why I believe he is totally wrong in asking for the amendment to be withdrawn.

Let me explain three separate scenarios. Let us suppose that the clauses proposed in these two amendments, or something like them, are not in the Bill when it leaves your Lordships' House. If the Commons decides that it wants to use the Parliament Act, there will be no hope of the fell packs being able exceptionally to continue. That is the first scenario. The second is that, if noble Lords agree to include in the Bill the clauses proposed in the two amendments, or something like them, and if the Parliament Act is used, there is a chance of a compromise to allow the continuation of the fell packs. That is a possibility; nobody knows which way it will go. If we agree to the amendments and then the Commons uses the heavy hand, we have a chance of saving something from it. The third scenario is that, if the two amendments are in the Bill, and if licensing is approved by the other place, they will become unnecessary.

Lord Eden of Winton

I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving way. Both my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, have represented constituencies as Members of the other place. I would have thought it sensible if the noble Lords, having made the points that they have made, withdrew their amendments at this stage in this House. If the registration Bill, if I might so put it, went forward to the other House, and if the other House is minded to reject the major amendments which this House has made, surely it would be possible for a Member of the other House to move an amendment and instate the two clauses that the noble Lords are promoting. That would be a much tidier way of proceeding.

Lord Jopling

If my noble friend is suggesting that, if that happened, he could support these two amendments, or something like them, then why do we not agree them now? I would have thought it far more sensible to agree to the amendments at this stage. We have two straws in the wind. The first is that there is a strong possibility—to put it mildly, some would say—that the Parliament Act will be used. I hope to heaven that it is not used. I explained at Second Reading why I thought it would be a total disgrace if it were used, particularly in view of the fact that the time that your Lordships' House was promised last year to deal with this Bill amounted to rather less than half the time that the other place took in dealing with it. On that basis, it would be wrong to use the Parliament Act at this stage.

The other straw in the wind goes back to what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said from the Dispatch Box yesterday when he was asked what a possible compromise might be. He pointed out that he thought that something along the lines of the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, might be a compromise. So here is the possibility. We must resist the temptation to throw out the baby with the bathwater. If we can make a suggestion at this stage to try to protect fell hunting, which is essential to farming in upland areas, within the context of a total ban on other sorts of hunting, we ought not to take a dog in the manger's attitude and say that, if we cannot have everything that we want in terms of licensing, we will not have anything. That would be the wrong approach.

I hope that Members of the Committee will vote both for the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has tabled and for that tabled by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, to which my name is attached. I accept that, if we can get those two amendments into the Bill, some refining will be needed, probably to both amendments, and it might be possible to amalgamate them in the future. I see the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, nodding as I say that. We could then refine them on Report and save the baby with the bathwater, if unfortunately the bathwater were poured out.

Lord Richard

I shall be very brief. One of the things that I have learnt about negotiations over the years is that each side must leave equally dissatisfied, otherwise somebody will claim a victory and somebody else will claim a defeat. If there are to be negotiations on the Bill, it may be that at some stage the proposals made in principle by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours and the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, may form the basis of those negotiations. I accept that entirely.

However, I am not convinced at this stage about why they have to be written into the Bill. I agree with what my noble friend Lady Mallalieu said on the issue. The amendments do not fit with the pattern of what we are trying to do in the Bill: to restore a licensing system. For the life of me, I do not think that putting the clauses into the Bill adds much to the fact that the tentative suggestion of these two clauses as the basis for future negotiations has been made. At this stage I would have thought it enough that the amendments had been tabled and that everybody here has supported them, at least as an eventual fallback position upon which negotiations can take place. No doubt, those at the other end who are interested in this Bill—there seem to be a fair number—will read what noble Lords have said on the issue today.

One of the problems is that there is no interlocutor reliable, representing the majority of Labour MPs at the other end, with whom people can sit down and say, "Let us see what we can negotiate, how we can negotiate and on what basis we can do so". At this stage, the only sensible approach is to carry on with the pattern of the amended Bill, follow the course that we have set ourselves and hold in reserve the possibility that when, and if, negotiations can take place, a possible fallback position would be on the basis of the principles in the clauses proposed by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours and the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. At the moment, I do not see the necessity to put the clauses in the Bill. The political effect of what has been said is probably sufficient to put the marker down.

Lord Hooson

I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, has said and respectfully disagree with what I have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Richard, for the following reason. It is much more politically realistic to appreciate that, if there can be a change of heart by the majority in another place, they must have before them the possibilities. Whereas I disagreed with some of the wording of the clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, his political nous was correct. There are Members in the other place, some of whom I know, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, knows, who represent Labour areas where traditionally there are foot packs. There must be pressure on some of the Members in such areas to look for a way out—in any event, for their local hunt.

I am totally in favour of registration. If that is passed by another place, I shall be delighted. The other amendment will not then be necessary. However, political realism tells me that the alternative should be clearly available to Members of the other place, when the Bill goes back in that direction.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

I shall begin my remarks with a declaration of interest. Since about 50 years ago—I regret to say—I have been a periodic follower of the fell packs in Cumbria. I have the greatest affection and admiration for them.

I see the clinical argument advanced by some noble Lords today that affection does not come into the matter and we must maintain the pure milk of principle in our argument. I also see the danger that exists when we seek, from a position of total opposition to the Bill, to create a fall-back position and put it into the Bill. I see the points that have been made. I have listened to the unhappy conflict—albeit one expressed in such friendly terms—between several of my personal and parliamentary friends, and I must say that I am firmly of the view that the better part of the argument lies with my noble friends Lord Inglewood and Lord Jopling and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, who has just spoken.

Somebody once said that consistency was a lean virtue. It is important that we do our best to bring an alternative to the notice of those at the other end, with whom the ultimate decision will lie. The best alternative is universal registration. That point has been made and does need to be recited. However, if it is a question of drawing attention to the possibility of saving something in the most meritorious of instances, it will be more persuasive if it is seen in the Bill than if we leave it to people to read about it in a few columns of Hansard for this House. We rather deceive ourselves if we suppose that that will be too sedulously followed a discipline.

I wish that those who support the banning of hunting in the fells and, no doubt, in the other upland regions—I speak of the fells from personal experience—could have been on the slopes of Mount Grisedale, as I was, 18 months or two years ago. They would have heard people say, "Down there, don't they realise what this means to us here in these remote dales'? What is there that can bring so many of us together with all that good cheer, fellowship, comradeship and mutual support in hard times?". These are people struggling to make a living from sheep farming in remote areas, areas where—I speak with deference to those who represented such areas—depression and even suicide are disproportionately present in the community. I wish that opponents of hunting could have heard what was said to me and seen what was taking place. As my noble friend Lord Jopling said, the hunt is the centre of the exiguous social life that their remote circumstances permit them. I shall support my noble friends in whatever course they choose to take on the amendments.

Lord Sewel

I wonder whether in the amendments, despite their inadequacies, there are the beginnings of a possible route to a compromise. I believe that any form of hunting ought to be registered—on that, I have common cause with my noble friends who spoke earlier—but I wonder whether registered hunting could be linked with some geographical constraint.

The national parks and sheep grazing are, most likely, the wrong geographical constraint, but we have a clear definition available to us: the less favoured area. My noble friend Lord Donoughue will, as a former agriculture Minister, be aware of it. If we could relate registered hunting and less favoured areas and bring the two together, we may have the beginnings of a compromise that we can take to the other place. For those reasons, I ask my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours not to press his amendment at this stage but to reflect further on the issues.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

We must keep our eye on the ball, which is the introduction of a registration system that is universal, fair and consistent across the board. My fear is that, if the amendments are made, we may encourage the extremists in the other place to believe that it will be sufficient concession on their part to accept the two amendments. They will present it to the world that they have met us halfway. It would not be remotely halfway to accept the two amendments as an alternative to the universal scheme proposed in our main amendments.

Members of the Committee must pay their money and make their choice about where the major risks lie in the negotiating puzzle. For my part, I am persuaded by what the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I realise that there is little, if any, time left. We have a registration Bill, and the two amendments are in that context. I might be challenged on that, but I believe it to be the case. We are considering the amendments in that context.

The situation is difficult for me. Wales has 80 per cent less favoured areas and has many of the problems elicited by several speakers, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and my noble friend Lord Hooson. It is a free vote, and some believe that the amendments will irreparably spoil what they see as a registration Bill. I think that there ought to be some co-operation on the amendments, if they are to go through.

There is a way out. The amendments could be withdrawn, and we could consider the matter again at a later stage. However, that is a matter for those who put the amendments before the Committee tonight.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and I hope that he is feeling better. I congratulate him because I thought that he made a wonderful defence of fox hunting in general. He was very persuasive and had letters to back up his argument. However, I cannot support his amendment or the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Jopling.

As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, said, we must keep our eye on the ball. The amendments would create so many different exceptions. One exception is tied tightly to a national park. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, asked, what will happen when the sheep move out of the national park? Presumably, with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, it would be criminal to hunt the sheep outside the national park, even though 10 yards further along it would be legal.

I also have great difficulty with the other amendment. Why is it particularly virtuous to hunt on foot all of a sudden? My noble friend Lord Crickhowell made the point that many sheep farmers in Wales depended not just on foot packs but on mounted packs. Some packs hunt one day on foot and another day on horses. It is inconsistent to say that such hunting should be supported just by virtue of being on foot.

What does "traditional" mean, anyway? If the amendment said that all traditional fox hunting should be legal, I would agree with it. That is quite different.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, made an interesting point about less-favoured areas. That sort of approach widens both of the amendments making them more attractive generally and would address the issue of the needs of the uplands. But these particular amendments are far too tightly drawn to be supported. Certainly, I will not go through the Lobby in support of them.

Earl Peel

I find myself in a real dilemma over this, certainly as regards the amendment tabled by my noble friends Lord Inglewood and Lord Jopling. That does not apply to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for all the reasons that my noble friend Lord Crickhowell spelt out so clearly earlier.

In my wildest dreams, I cannot imagine how such an amendment could ever be considered a practical proposition. I was quietly amused at the noble Lord's words when he said that he wanted to introduce something that the Commons could realistically support. My only conclusion from that is that it just compounds my view that Members of the House of Commons have pretty little idea of what goes on in the countryside. Quite frankly, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, his amendment is impractical.

Foxes will never respect boundaries of national parks. I am bound to say that those who are responsible for the creation of national parks would be very surprised if they thought that those original designations were going to act as a refuge for the hunts. The only good thing that might come out of it is that it might stop further designations. Other than that, I cannot support the noble Lord at all.

I turn now to the amendment tabled by my noble friends Lord Inglewood and Lord Jopling. Of course, I agree with everything that has been said. I acknowledge wholeheartedly that hunting is the only effective way of controlling foxes that kill lambs and the wading birds, which no one has mentioned, that are so under threat, particularly in the Lake District, from predation. I understand that completely. As noble Lords have said, lamping is a possibility in certain areas. But in the more rugged parts of the Lake District National Park and other upland areas, as my noble friend has said, it is completely impractical.

I have to listen carefully to what people have said in terms of the fact that we are pursuing a Bill based on registration. The remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, have persuaded me that at this stage it would be a mistake to depart from the principle that we have so steadfastly set ourselves. So it is with deep regret that I say to my noble friend Lord Jopling that on this occasion I do not think that I can support him.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Chorley

I had not intended to take part in this debate at all, partly because I am losing my voice. My home is in the Lake District, where I have spent much of my life. As with a number of other noble Lords, I have great difficulty with interesting Amendment No. 47A tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. It is totally arbitrary: why not make it areas of outstanding natural beauty? Someone asked about the less-favoured areas. I have great difficulty with that amendment. Perhaps it may be agreeable to BackBenchers in another place, but I think that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, put his finger on it.

I have much more sympathy for the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Inglewood and for the particularly powerful intervention made by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling. My problem with that amendment is simply one of definition. I do not know what an upland area is. I live in the Lake District, but I do not think that I am in an upland. There is an awful lot of the Lake District that is probably not an upland.

I should like to suggest, as have other noble Lords, that the amendment is not pressed to a vote today, but that further thought and tightening up is given to it between now and Report.

Baroness Byford

I hope that noble Lords will reflect on what has been said. There is much sympathy for what they are trying to do. Many suggestions have been made tonight. It would be extremely wise if the noble Lords could be persuaded to listen to what has been said and perhaps come back with further amendments that widen and clarify their proposals. In the light of today's debate, improvements could be made to those amendments. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Whitty

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, was correct to say that in the discussion on the first amendment to the Bill—only yesterday—I sounded slightly more benign to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours than perhaps to others and by extension therefore to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling.

That of course was at a time when the Bill before us was still a ban. My point about the amendment then was that, if we pursued it, it was at least within the structure of the Bill. In a sense, I am saying the obverse to my noble friend Lord Richard. It was within the structure of the Bill to try to find a deal by means of extending the exemptions with something that was likely at least to require the House of Commons to consider it seriously; whereas, some of those we were proposing, as we have now agreed an entirely different Bill, are unlikely to meet the same level of examination or serious consideration.

I still hold that position. It is of course true that either of these amendments could apply to a registration Bill or to a banning Bill. In a sense, that is one of their merits. There are exemptions under the original registration Bill. This could be added to the exemptions. There were also exemptions in the banning Bill that first appeared. This could be added there to protect the particular sections referred to in these two amendments.

Of course there would be problems of definition of the areas designated by my noble friend, and I do not necessarily say that I would support in any context the proposal—even if it was included in the 1987 Labour Party manifesto, for which I had some responsibility. Regrettably, by and large much of that manifesto has not so far been translated into legislation.

The position we are in now is that we have a registration system. One could argue that special considerations should apply to these areas. The Burns report indicated that there may be a stronger case for allowing hunting in such areas than elsewhere. Moreover, it is clear that in some upland areas the proportion of pest control achieved through hunting is higher than in general. Therefore arguments can be put forward for treating those areas in a different way. However, one could also argue that a registration system would deal with those issues, and that it would be the kind of judgment that a tribunal and registrar would have to make.

However, at this point, if we want the House of Commons to consider these amendments, they have to be in the Bill. I therefore do not consider that those who support the drift of these amendments would be sensible in advising the Committee not to put them in the Bill at all. Of course they may need to be tidied up, but they certainly could not be part of any compromise or move on the part of the House of Commons if they are not put to that place. That is not my endorsement of the amendments either in general terms or in terms of the precise formulations before the Committee, but procedurally that is the point that noble Lords either tonight or at a later stage will have to decide.

Noble Lords may not like the amendments since they are aiming for a system of registration. My own view is that some of the decisions taken by the Committee so far have in any case made the possibility of compromise far more remote. I have made my views clear as we work through the Committee stage. But if the Committee considers that special considerations should apply both to fell packs and in upland areas, however defined, then at some point these amendments will have to be added to the Bill that this House sends back to the House of Commons. I make no prediction of how they will be received; I simply point out a matter of procedure and of fact. Noble Lords will have to make up their minds about whether they support the amendments.

Lord Campbell-Savours

I shall be brief and respond only to the major issues. I was asked by the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Chorley, and the noble Earl, Lord Peel, why this should be limited to the national parks. I shall be absolutely frank. The answer to the question is that that is all I could gain support for among Labour Back Benchers in the other House. That is not a good answer, but it is the truth. If that is the reality we are faced with, we should take it seriously.

I was also asked about an inconsistency in my position. The answer is that it is simply impractical to use guns in the national parks. Again, I am forced to face that reality. My noble friend Lady Mallalieu again referred to her consistent approach on the question of licensing and registration. I understand that my noble friend feels passionately about it, but there is a big problem at the other end of the corridor. I am afraid that registration and licensing is not going to surface on the Commons agenda. We have to face that reality. It may be unpalatable to many Members of the Committee, but I repeat that that is the reality of the situation at the other end.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said that we are not at the end of the road. I am sorry to say that we are at the end of the road. They know exactly what they want to do at the other end. I go down the corridor every day and mix with them, so I know what they are saying and how passionately they feel about this Bill. They are just as passionate as Members of this House. Again, if it is the case that we are nearly at the end of the road, this is the time to lay down markers.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, referred to the question of horses and where they could be ridden. I am afraid that it is very difficult to ride horses on fell land in the Lake District National Park. That is the only way I can respond to him.

My noble friend Lord Richard asked why we should add this proposal to the Bill now. The answer is that the House of Commons needs time to consider this proposition fully and to digest the implications of these amendments. If they are not put in the Bill at this point, we shall lose out overall in terms of the amendments before us.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, for his support. I thank also the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, for making a judgment based on his vast experience of the House of Commons. I am particularly indebted to my noble friend Lord Sewel, who clearly understands precisely what I am trying to do. We have to find a compromise and I am dealing with the Bill as it is. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, took his usual hard line on the issue. I know that he feels strongly that there is an issue of principle involved here, as is indeed the case for the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. I thank once again the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, for his sensible and realistic advice.

All I can do is echo what was said by my noble friend Lord Whitty. We have to deal with the real world, and there is a real problem there. If noble Lords do not address it tonight by allowing these amendments through so that they can at least tag along in the background while the major argument about licensing and registration goes on, I believe that we will have failed people in the national parks and perhaps those in the less favoured areas. I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

7.54 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 47A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 36; Not-Contents, 81.

Division No. 2
Arran, E. Mayhew ofTwysden, L.
Attlee, E. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Buscombe, B. Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. [Teller] Park of Monmouth, B.
Chadlington, L. Rawlings, B.
Colville of Culross, V. Razzall, L.
Dundee, E. Reay, L.
Falkner of Margravine, B. Renton, L.
Glentoran, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Greenway, L. Roper, L.
Haworth, L. Sandberg, L.
Hooper, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Hooson, L. Shutt of Greetland, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hylton, L. Taverne, L.
Inglewood, L. [Teller] Tunnicliffe, L.
Jopling, L. Vinson, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Grocott, L.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L. Hanham, B.
Astor, V. Harris of Haringey, L.
Bledisloe, V. Harrisof Richmond, B.
Borrie, L. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Bramall, L. Howells of St. Davids, B.
Bridgeman, V. Judd, L.
Brookeborough, V. Kimball, L.
Brookman, L. King of Bridgwater, L.
Byford, B.[Teller] Laird, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Liverpool, E.
Carter of Coles, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Lyell, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Chorley, L. Maginnis of Drumglass, L.
Clark of Windermere, L. Mallalieu, B.
Cohen of Pimlico, B. Mancroft, L.
Craig of Radley, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Crickhowell, L. Maxton, L.
Denham, L. [Teller] Miller of Hendon, B.
Dixon, L. Morris of Bolton, B.
Dixon-Smith, L. Nickson, L.
Donoughue, L. Northbrook, L.
D'Souza, B. Norton of Louth, L.
Dubs, L. O'Cathain, B.
Eden of Winton, L. Palmer, L.
Elder, L. Patten, L.
Evans of Parkside, L. Peel, E.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Fookes, B. Plumb, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L. Richard, L.
Gale, B. Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Geddes, L. Rogan, L.
Golding, B. Rotherwick, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Greaves, L. Scott of Foscote, L.
Seccombe, B. Ullswater, V.
Selborne, E. Waddington, L.
Simon, V.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Walpole, L.
Tope, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

8.6 p.m.

Clause 6 [Penalty]:

Baroness Mallalieu moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 2, line 20, at end insert—

"( ) Where a magistrates' court convicts a person of an offence under this Act the clerk of the court (within the meaning of section 141 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c. 43)) shall notify the registrar."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 9 agreed to.

Baroness Mallalieu moved Amendment No. 49:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—