Interpretation

Orders of the Day — Hare Coursing Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 1975.

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'In this Act— coursing" means hunting hares with greyhounds;dogs" means greyhounds;place" means any naturally or artificially enclosed area of land;competition" means the act of striving against others to win something'.—[Mr. Farr.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

With the new clause we are to take the following amendments:

No. 5, in Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out from 'for' to 'he' in line 8 and insert 'hare coursing matches'.

No. 8, in Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert— (2) For the purpose of the foregoing subsection a hare coursing match is a competition between two greyhounds as to their ability to course hares, being a competition—

  1. (a) for which entries are invited before the day of the competition;
  2. (b) for a prize for money or money's worth;
  3. (c) for which official judges are appointed; and
  4. (d) of which the results are announced publicly.'

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I believe that it would be helpful to have an interpretation clause to guide those who will seek to implement the Bill in the months and years ahead if it should reach the statute book. With that in mind, I have selected what are probably the four most significant words in the Bill and have suggested their interpretations. These words are "coursing", "dogs", "place" and "competition", all of which are highly significant and highly loaded in respect of the Bill.

Before giving my reasons for the suggested interpretations, I shall give my reasons for thinking that we should have an interpretation clause. Most major Acts of the past 30 or 40 years have had interpretation clauses. In some cases some of the simplest words, with the most obvious meanings, are included in the interpretation clause. Let me give an idea of what I have in mind. If we look at the Public General Acts and Measures of 1973 we shall find some guidance to past procedure. I have chosen many short Acts because this Bill, if it becomes an Act, will be a two-section Act. I draw attention first to the Concorde Aircraft Act which is a two-section Act. There is no interpretation section in that.

On the other hand, if we turn the page, to the Coal Industry Act—a public Act of great significance and importance but only a short Act—it will be seen that there is a comprehensive interpretation section, Section 12. That Act has only 14 sections.

Photo of Mr Stephen Hastings Mr Stephen Hastings , Mid Bedfordshire

I was surprised to hear my hon. Friend say that here was no interpretation section in the Concorde Aircraft Act. I would have thought that this was an excellent example to reinforce the case for the new clause since, if we had had such an interpretation section in that Act, we might have been spared all the trouble we have had with this aeroplane.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. It would not be right for me to refer to the Concorde Aircraft Act in detail. One would think that with a Bill of the type we are discussing today, "coursing" should be defined, just as one would have expected that in the Concorde Aircraft Act the word "Concorde" would have been defined. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, the aircraft has caused a great deal of discussion.

Section 12 of the Coal Industry Act takes up half a page in defining, for instance, that 'the Act of 1946' means the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946;'the Act of 1965' means the Coal Industry Act 1965. There are other examples when obvious interpretations of this nature appear in what is a relatively short Act. In view of that it would seem that this Bill ought to have an interpretation clause.

If we skip through the Public General Act and Measures of 1973 a little further we come to the Matrimonial Causes Act which is a long and substantial Act. I remember it going through the House. It amounted to over 50 sections. Section 52 is the interpretation section. My point is that the most-simple words imaginable are defined here. It even defines what "child" means.

The Bill we are discussing today has such complex words as "coursing" but there is no interpretation. Yet in the Matrimonial Causes Act there are such words as "the court", "education" and many other simple words, of which even the densest person knows the meaning. There are several lines of closely printed type in Section 52. The Matrimonial Causes Act even defines what is meant by the word "adopted". Most of us have a ready recognition of adoption and its meaning. The Act refers to the Adoption Act 1958 and deals with what an adopted child is.

Probably a more relevant Act for our help and benefit today is the London Cab Act 1973. This was a three-section Act. This Bill has only two clauses. In the London Cab Act, nearly as short as this Bill, there is an interpretation section. It defines for instance the meaning of "private hire-car". It was defined as having the same meaning as in section 4 of this Act. Two further examples are the Rate Rebate Act, which had only four sections and contained an interpretation section, and the Bahamas Independence Act. That was a short Act of seven or eight sections including an interpretation section.

It puzzles me why the Government have failed to take the same precaution today. Section 6 of the Bahamas Independence Act actually defines the meaning of "the Bahamas". It seems odd that, while most of us have a good knowledge of what is meant by that phrase, there should be no references in this Bill to the definitions I have mentioned. It has to be remembered that it is the practice for our parliamentary draftsmen—when words are in question or meanings in doubt or when there is more than one interpretation of a significant word, sentence or phrase—to act most carefully to avoid any doubt.

I turn to the interpretations which I suggest to the House. In the first I refer to "coursing". I have extracted from several dictionaries the interpretations of that word. My amendment says that 'coursing' means hunting hares with greyhounds. That corresponds with the definition of coursing in Collins English Dictionary, which says that "coursing" means hunting with greyhounds. It comes from the Latin word "cursus", which means running.

1.0 p.m.

The short version of the Oxford English Dictionary gives a similar definition of the word "coursing". It refers to "coursing" as the sport of "chasing hares, etc." with greyhounds. The Bible of the English language, the full edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, gives the same meaning to the word "coursing". The full edition refers to coursing as running, racing and pursuing, and as the sport of chasing hares and other game with greyhounds, by sight.

It is important that there should be a definition of the word "coursing". The Under-Secretary, who is well known for her patience, forbearing and understanding, will appreciate that a definition will assist the House. If my definition is wrong—I accept that it may need amendment in some respects—perhaps the Government will say what kind of interpretation clause they would like to include in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Marcus Kimball Mr Marcus Kimball , Gainsborough

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he checked the definition in Collins English Dictionary?

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I referred to the 1959 edition of Collins English Dictionary, page 120. It is smaller than the Oxford English Dictionary but it refers to the word "coursing", in terms which cannot be confused, by saying that it means hunting hares with greyhounds. The word comes from the Latin "cursus".

I now refer to dogs. I have referred to the shortened and full-length versions of the Oxford English Dictionary. The amendment states that "'dogs' means greyhounds". I gave much thought to that definition.

The purpose of those promulgating this measure is the banning of hare coursing. In Britain the sport of coursing is almost entirely confined to coursing with greyhounds. All the dictionaries refer to coursing as the sport of chasing hares with greyhounds. "Dogs" must therefore be interpreted to mean greyhounds.

The full version of the Oxford English Dictionary says that the origin of the word "dog" is unknown. It refers to Hunting Dogs as being a Northern constellation near the Great Bear, although that has nothing to do with the amendment. Reference is made to the burrowing dog, which is a kind of hyena. Again we are not concerned with that. Another section refers to a dog used for hunting, or a hound. A book published in Britain in 1475, which must be one of our oldest printed books, refers to a person taking "greyhounds" to chase the hare. The shorter version of the Oxford English Dictionary defines a dog used for sporting purposes as a dog used for hunting, which is often a greyhound.

I was not a member of the Standing Committee which considered the Bill. There were, I understand, long and detailed discussions about the meaning of the word "dog" and whether hunting and sporting hounds in Britain would come under the Bill. As practically all hare coursing in Britain and the rest of the world is carried out with greyhounds, it would be sensible to define the word "dog" as meaning "greyhound", as I suggest in the amendment.

The definition of the word "place" should be included in the Bill. I have not extracted this definition from a dictionary. This is a suggestion. The amendment reads, 'place' means any naturally or artificially enclosed area of land". The shorter version of the Oxford English Dictionary devotes one page to the meanings of the word "place". It says that "place" means a particular part or spot in a body or surface, or a particular part or page in a book. That is not an appropriate meaning. It also refers to a place as being an open space in a city—a square or a market place. That definition is less appropriate. It goes on to say that it can form a group of houses in a town or city.

In view of these silly dictionary definitions, I strongly urge the hon. Lady to accept the clarification of the meaning of "place" contained in the amendment. The amendment suggests that "place" means any naturally or artificially enclosed area of land". By a naturally enclosed area of land I mean a valley with a river or stream at one end—

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

Does my hon. Friend regard the Isle of Wight as being a naturally enclosed area of land?

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) is not present today. If he were here he would no doubt tell us all about that. I would say that it is a naturally enclosed area of land, as it is, to the best of my knowledge, surrounded by sea water.

A valley with a river at one end and rocky escarpments or impenetrable brushland on two sides which prevents the escape of a quarry is a naturally enclosed area of land. An artificially enclosed area of land can be simply defined as any place which is fenced in, wired in or entirely walled in. The definition of "place" suggested in the amendment would be a valuable clarification.

The last of my interpretations is of "competition". I only wish that I had been a member of the Standing Committee because I understand that discussions took place on the meaning of "competition". If the Bill is to be readily understandable when it reaches the statute book it must give the meaning of "competition". "Competition" is perhaps the easiest word of all to interpret. Clear definitions are given in the three major dictionaries which are available to us for reference here. The 1959 edition of Collins English Dictionary defines "competition" exactly as I have defined it in the amendment, as striving against others to win something". The unabbreviated Oxford English Dictionary refers to "competition" at considerable length but in the first five lines it gives the meaning as The action of endeavouring to gain what another endeavours to gain at the same time; the striving of two or more for the same object; rivalry". It goes on: Now largely used in connection with competitive examinations". That perhaps is not appropriate. The Collins English Dictionary interpretation and the interpretation given in the first four lines of the unabbreviated Oxford English Dictionary are synonymous.

1.15 p.m.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary interprets "competition" in much the same way, as The action of endeavouring to gain what another endeavours to gain at the same time; the striving of two or more for the same object; rivalry". The interpretation mentions various types of rivalry. It does not mention sporting rivalry but deals with rivalry in commerce and allied forms of rivalry.

Those three dictionary interpretations of "competition" are helpful to the House. From what I have said it will be obvious to all that the interpretation of "competition" contained in the amendment the act of striving against others to win something is a condensation of the meaning of that word given by the three dictionaries I have mentioned.

The Children Bill, which we are to discuss on Tuesday, was produced by the same Government as were in power when the Hare Coursing Bill was introduced and it contains a whole clause which is devoted to interpretation—Clause 89. It interprets simple words, not complicated words which are capable of a double or treble meaning. "Child" is defined as a person who has not attained the age of 18 years". The clause contains 20 lines on the interpretation of "guardian". It even defines the meaning of "home". Every simple, non-controversial word is spelt out with meticulous care, including the meaning of "United Kingdom national" and "voluntary organisation". The Under-Secretary of State and those who sponsor the Bill have made a grave error in omitting an interpretation clause.

Photo of Mr David Weitzman Mr David Weitzman , Hackney North and Stoke Newington

I cannot resist the temptation to express my admiration for the speech made by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) and the research he has done in a valiant effort to prolong discussion on the Bill. I wonder why he did not define the terms by saying that reference should be made to the Oxford Dictionary or another dictionary, or that "place" means "place", "dogs" means "dogs" and "competition" means "competition". Every lawyer knows that the amendment is not a definition clause but a restrictive clause and that its whole object is to defeat the purpose of the Bill.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

I must declare a non-interest in the Bill. I have not been hare coursing and I do not believe that I ever shall because, although I have indulged in every other field sport, to the best of my knowledge coursing is a spectator sport and I am not a born spectator.

It has been suggested to me that I should bring the Loch Ness monster into the ambit of the Bill, but I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if I did so you would rule me out of order, and rightly so. In any case, I have no evidence to believe that greyhounds are very skilful at swimming. Nevertheless, it is with great regret that I oppose the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) because, although it seeks to clarify a bad Bill, it can only make it worse. In my submission, the Bill is essentially an attempt by ignorant townsmen to legislate against the interests of country folk. [Laughter.] The Under-Secretary of State is laughing. I hope that she will soon laugh on the other side of her face.

The one failing of people who live in towns is that they do not realise that there are no geriatric wards in nature. Animals do not go to sick berths and die surrounded by attendant nurses. To all intents and purposes the fate of every animal is to be eaten, sooner or later, in the predator chain. The only animals which achieve old age are domestic pets such as dogs. It is significant that most of us, sooner or later, no matter how valued a family dog may be—mine is now 14½—have to take it to the vet to be put down because it is clear that it would be incapable of supporting itself, even in a domestic situation, let alone in wild life.

It is to the extent to which the clause attempts to clarify a bad Bill that I object. I have referred to predators. I have been through the list of British birds and mammals. The hare and leveret are subject to the attention of 17 different sorts of birds and three mammals; namely, the fox, the stoat and the weasel. In the past the hare's main enemy was the wolf. The wolves were finally exterminated in Scotland, the last one being shot in Kirkcudbright in 1775. However, for many centuries the wolf was the main container of the hare population.

Labour Members wax angry and become upset about hare coursing, but I wonder, from the hare's point of view, whether it makes all that much difference whether it is chased by a pack of wolves or by a couple of greyhounds.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

Is my hon. Friend right in his definition of the numbers of predators which prey on the hare? I understood him to mention three mammals in Britain. Is he not forgetting the Golden Eagle? I think he will find that the latest research shows that the staple diet of the Golden Eagle is the Scottish hare. The Bill applies to Scotland. I suggest that my hon. Friend bears that matter in mind.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

I am sorry. Possibly I missed out a sentence in my speech. I thought I said that there were 17 birds on the British list which took hares—all the raptores, two owls and one skua. It may interest the House to know that I saw an eagle take a full-grown hare from a hill in Scotland just over a fortnight ago.

Therefore, the hare is at risk from many quarters. It has developed a technique for survival. It has developed great speed, and a capacity to twist and turn. That is how a hare defends itself.

It is not surprising that with the extermination of the wolf men have bred greyhounds specifically with the aim of making them come to terms with the hare—

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. James) but I should be grateful if he would relate his argument to the question of interpretation rather than the question of the mechanics of hare coursing.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

I am most grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will appreciate that the speech I am trying to make was designed for the previous amendment and not for this one. I am doing my best to keep myself within order by pointing out that any interpretation clause makes a bad Bill even worse.

With your warning in mind, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall not deal with the nature of hares, which are stupid creatures, which cannot anticipate death and which have virtually no sense of pain. Therefore, it is a great mistake to impose on wildlife animals the sort of sentiments which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I feel. This is a thoroughly bad Bill and any attempt to improve its interpretation merely makes it worse.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I believe that we owe a debt to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). I do not agree with the hon. and learned Member for Hackney North, and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman).

Photo of Mr David Weitzman Mr David Weitzman , Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Surely it would be more honest for those hon. Members who move or support the new clause to say plainly that this is a restrictive clause and not a definition clause.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is good enough to hear me out in the very short speech that I propose to make I am sure that I shall be able to help him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has remined us how very difficult legislation is. It is often assumed that if a majority in Parliament wants something done one just introduces a law, pushes it through, votes it through with one's feet and somehow it will produce the desired effect. However, my hon. Friend has illustrated that doubts can arise. Sometimes doubts arise because there is an interpretation clause and sometimes because there is not one. In my opinion we must first try to avoid having unnecessary detail in the Bill. I fear that I do not go the whole of the way with my hon. Friend in the wording of this clause, much though I admire the motive behind it.

Secondly, we must try to avoid doubt. If we are not careful in that respect we shall leave doubts which will have to be resolved by the courts, which are sometimes given an almost impossible task of interpretation. Such a situation can arise because we put in unnecessary detail or, because, with or without detail, we have created doubts.

Therefore, my view about interpretation clauses in general is that necessarily they may add to the detail and to that extent they are unwelcome. However, to the extent that they remove doubts they should be put into a Bill. One has to consider each case in the light of its own terms and decide what should be done.

I see that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has just left the Chamber, but I invite the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office to a matter that arises out of my hon. Friend's attempt to give clarity and to remove doubt. Clause 1, line 7, refers to "a competition". However, in the side note we see, not "competitions", but "matches".

1.30 p.m.

In my opinion, those two words are not synonymous but they do to some extent overlap. In other words, every match is a competition but not every competition is a match. The courts are not entitled to use the side notes for interpreting the wording of the sections of an Act, but when different words are used in the side note, as with this instance, it throws doubt on the words used in the section. To the extent that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough may, by his proposal, remove that doubt, we should be grateful to him. This is the sort of matter that will be discussed in the House on Monday week, I hope, and other hon. Members may wish to follow up the point.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Gloucestershire South

My right hon. and learned Friend has referred to the use in the marginal note of the word "matches" as opposed to the use of "competition" in the clause but the difficulty also relates to the Long Title to the Bill. The Long Title is capable of being used. Certainly it affects our debates. It can also be used and referred to in the courts and it may therefore affect the question of definition.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend because, through an oversight, of which I should not have been guilty, I had failed to read the Long Title. As the Long Title uses the word "matches" and Clause 1 uses the word "competition", we must assume that the two words are intended to have different meanings. If so, there should be a definition clause in the Bill to describe at least one of the meanings, which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has done.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

May I try to clarify the matter? Originally we tabled an amendment to amend the Long Title. We were led to believe that it would be ineffective. Therefore, we changed the amendment and tabled a fresh amendment dealing with the point about "matches".

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend, but the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Cope) and with which I am dealing remains valid in the context of the new clause.

We should not knowingly, now that we have been alerted to the matter, pass legislation which presents the courts with a doubt. It is far better that we should strive, not necessarily in precisely the way proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, to remove that doubt so that the people affected by the Bill when it becomes law need not have recourse to the courts, and, incidentally, so that the police, acting on behalf of the public, know the position when they prosecute people for infringements of the legislation, as they may occasionally have to do. I hope that the Bill will give clear guidance to the police as well as to the courts.

It will be interesting to hear what the Under-Secretary of State says about the new clause. I did not expect the Bill to be dealt with today, because I assumed that, as this is a Government Bill, it would be taken at a more usual time for Government legislation. Therefore, I arranged a long-standing invitation in my constituency a number of weeks ago. I shall not be able to stay indefinitely for the rest of the discussion, and I am sorry about that.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

My right hon. and learned Friend is vastly experienced in legal matters and legal phraseology. I am not sure—perhaps because I am stupid or because I did not hear him say it—whether he is saying that the Long Title containing the word "matches" would be taken by the courts as meaning that it overrode the clause.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

That is the difficulty. It would be for the court to decide whether the word "matches" in the Long Title meant anything different from the word "competition" in Clause 1 and, if so, whether the word "matches" or the word "competition" should have precedence. I cannot answer that question. I do not think that anyone could. It would be for the court to decide. That shows that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has done a service by alerting the Government and the House to the use of different words which, I agree, overlap to some extent. The problem could be resolved only by taking it to court or by a definition clause which dealt effectively with it to prevent the necessity of going to court.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

My right hon. and learned Friend is a great expert on legal matters and will be speaking in the House at a later date on the question of the preparation of parliamentary legislation. Is he indicating that the confusion to which he and my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) have rightly drawn attention could place the courts in a difficulty if the matter needed to be decided on the basis of the Bill as drafted?

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

Let us suppose that somone was charged with the coursing of a hare by two or more dogs in a competition and that that was the wording of the charge or indictment. If the defence argued that the word "competition" did not carry out the intention of Parliament as expressed in the Long Title but meant something different from it, the answer to my hon. Friend's question would be "Yes".

Photo of Mr Charles Morrison Mr Charles Morrison , Devizes

Although I understood precisely why my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) sought to withdraw new Clause 3, the fact that that happened, coupled with the fact that the House decided in the Division not to include new Clause 7 in the Bill, has emphasised the importance of putting an interpretation clause in the Bill. If either or both of those new clauses had been included in the Bill, there would have been further opportunity to reconsider the question of the interpretation of certain aspects of it. However, they have not been included. That emphasises still more how important it is that an interpretation clause should be included at this stage or perhaps in another place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has spoken eloquently of the need for an interpretation provision. It is worth pointing out to the hon. and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) that this is not the first occasion on which a request for an interpretation clause has been made in discussions on the Bill. I said during the Second Reading debate: It is important to know what we are talking about. It is not good enough to produce a Bill as short as this with no interpretation or clarification".—[Official Report, 13th June, 1975; Vol. 893, c. 851.] I expanded on that theme a little later in the debate.

I was not lucky enough to be a member of the Committee on the Hare Coursing Bill, but I am extremely disappointed that, for one reason or another, no such clause was included in the Bill at that stage. I can only believe that this was because of the generosity of my hon. Friends towards the Government. I can only suspect that they were desirous of helping the Government with their programme and in consequence did not indulge at that stage in a lengthy debate on an amendment aimed at introducing an interpretation of many of the important aspects of the Bill. But I am convinced that, if no interpretation clause is included, the danger to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire referred will come about.

Why should it be right to leave the interpretation of the Bill almost entirely, as will be the case, to the courts? If this Bill ultimately receives Royal Assent, I am afraid that yet again Parliament will only have produced a lawyers' field day. I have nothing against increasing the income of the legal profession—although I suspect that very often their needs are rather less than those of some other sections of society—but in practice, unless there is an interpretation clause in the Bill, we shall be doing no more than legislating to increase the income of the legal profession.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire has described this in much greater detail than I intend to do, and it was perhaps as an act of self-denial on his part, as an eminent lawyer, that he should have expanded on what will happen if the Bill gets on to the statute book as at present drawn.

I do not want to cover the ground already covered so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, but while I agree in principle with the need for an interpretation clause, as I have already emphasised, I do not think that the new clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough is necessarily fully adequate. For that reason I hope that the Under-Secretary, when she sums up, will give an undertaking that the Government at a later stage will introduce a more comprehensive interpretation clause.

I am concerned about the meaning of a number of aspects of the Bill as at present drawn, but I fear that if I were to enlarge in any detail on these aspects I might be going outside the rules of order. I therefore express the hope once again that the hon. Lady will give an undertaking of the type I have requested when she replies.

1.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

I am astonished at the fact that the House of Commons is apparently, with the lead of the Government, ready to acquiesce—I say this with respect to my hon. Friends who are not ready to do this—in the passing through this legislature of a Bill which, as stated by one of the leading legal authorities in this country, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir. D. Renton), will simply be left for interpretation to the courts and to the judges. Nobody has yet challenged my right hon. and learned Friend—who has unfortunately had to leave—on his assertion.

What nonsense is this that we are doing? What have we come to in the House of Commons? What are the Government thinking about in bringing in these stupid little measures, which have no sort of validity or general support amongst people who know anything about the subject in this country? What is the matter with them? We are like people who have gone mad and berserk. Here we are asked to accept shoddy legislation from a shoddy Government. It is legislation which, as we have been told, will not be understood until our judges, brilliant as they are—better than the judges in any other country in the world—have been called upon to decide what the Government had in mind.

This is monstrous. But it is all of a part and no different from the Government's action in many of the measures that they are putting before the House these days. What a sorry farce this great assembly of a great nation has come to when the hon. Lady is willing to sit there and cannot get off her seat for a moment in order to deny the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire. She was. I believe, present when the statement was made. It was a statement which must have proved to her that the Government do not know what they are talking about, and that the judges will be left to decide what is meant by this legislation. It is tragic.

I only wish to ask the hon. Lady, in conclusion, whether, with her experience and her mother's experience in the work of this House over many years, it does not irk her slightly to be the leading party in telling the judges that this monstrous Bill has nothing to do with Parliament and that it is their job to decide what we mean.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Gloucestershire South

I should like, if I may, to correct my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) in one small particular. He was a little carried away at one stage when, in referring to the shoddiness of the Bill and of the Government, he seemed to be including the Minister. Whatever else one may say, whatever else those who served on the Committee may say, the Minister is not shoddy. On the contrary, it was a delight to have her sitting opposite us in Committee.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

The Minister, of course, of herself is not shoddy, except that she runs herself down and makes herself a miserable person by being party to this sort of rubbish.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Gloucestershire South

I entirely support that and am glad to have given my hon. Friend the opportunity to correct the impression he might otherwise have left.

The Standing Committee, contrary to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison), spent some time discussing some of these questions. It is true that some of our debates were a little rushed and that we were not able to discuss the point which was discussed earlier by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) about the difference between matches and competitions as deeply as we would like to have done. In fact, I tabled an amendment to the Long Title but the Chair in its infinite wisdom decided that it was out of order.

One hon. Member complained earlier that the new clause was not solely interpretative but was also restrictive. I agree. It is in part restrictive, but that is not necessarily an argument against it. On the contrary, that is part of its charm. But it is also interpretative.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire, as he explained, has had to leave, and probably he did not speak as fully as he would otherwise have done, but we have the benefit of some more of his thoughts and those of some distinguished colleagues who served on the Committee on the Preparation of Legislation. We are to discuss the whole of that report a week on Monday, but certain of its passages deal with the desirability of definition clauses and are relevant to this clause. Unfortunately, the passages in the report do not come down firmly on one side or the other.

The alternative arguments are put and it might be helpful to refer to them. One side was put in the early evidence by Professor Reed Dickerson of Indiana University. The Committee drew widely in its choice of witnesses and experts.

Professor Reed Dickerson thought that definitions should be used sparingly, which may surprise hon. Members. He thought that the word "includes" in a definition could be helpful and was often preferable. That way, of course, one gets a definition which does not of itself limit the matter being defined. It includes certain things but does not say that something is all that is defined. He went on to say: Occasionally, you need a full-blown definition, but most of the time definitions need only to stipulate the meaning in the area of marginal uncertainty.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is what we have here—marginal uncertainty.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Gloucestershire South

"Marginal uncertainty" is an American expression which I would not have chosen. As my hon. Friend says, we are certainly in such an area at the moment.

The contrary view was put by Professor Driedger of Ottawa University, who advocated the use of definitions not only for extending or fixing the boundaries of meaning but also as a drafting technique to remove from complex Bills some of their lack of clarity. This Bill hardly comes into that category and on that basis probably does not need a definition clause. Nevertheless, the Renton Committee was able to agree fully with Professor Driedger in relation to complex Bills. So we do not get from the Committee clear guidance on whether or not, in principle, interpretation clauses should be inserted in Bills.

But the clause that we are discussing is in part restrictive as well as interpretative. It is also, in my view, wrong. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) will not take it amiss if I say that at least one of his definitions is clearly wrong and some of the others are less than desirable. The one which is wrong is his definition of coursing. I do not believe that it means hunting hares with greyhounds. I understand from him that that definition is from Collins Dictionary, but he used others from other dictionaries which I think were more accurate.

Hunting essentially means pursuit by means of smell, whereas coursing is pursuit by means of sight. Those of us who have been able to go to coursing matches, as I have although I am not what would be called a coursing man, have seen this to be so. When, as frequently, indeed normally, happens, the hare gets through the hedge or fence at the edge of the ground after a minute or so of pursuit, as soon as the greyhounds lose sight of it they give up. Although they may be only a few yards behind and most dogs would be able to use their sense of smell to continue the pursuit, the greyhounds as a rule do not follow.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I can probably satisfy my hon. Friend's curiosity. The definition in the amendment is that of Collins National Dictionary but it was a 1959 edition, whereas the other two versions to which I referred were from pre-war editions of the Oxford English Dictionary which are available in the Library and one of which went back to the beginning of this century. Over a period, the meaning given to words varies. I would respectfully suggest that the 1959 Collins edition meaning is more up-to-date and appropriate now. To give a simple example—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. The hon. Member has already spoken for 30 minutes. He is now going beyond the length of time appropriate for an intervention.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Gloucestershire South

What my hon. Friend says concerns me. If he is correct and the courts hold him to be correct, the Bill will deal not only with coursing as it is generally understood but with other forms of chasing hares. It might cover such forms of hunting as beagling if his interpretation were held to be correct.

There is another point about this, namely, that it very much strengthens the idea that we need a definition clause. If there is this uncertainty between the compilers of dictionaries about what the word means, it needs definition if the courts are to understand what we, the House of Commons and the legislators, intend the Bill to mean.

2.0 p.m.

The second definition is of "dogs", and this is said to mean greyhounds. That is one example of a restrictive rather than an interpretive definition, but I do not quarrel with it for that reason.

The next definition is of "place". I think that in some respects this goes to the heart of the basic argument about hare coursing and whether it should continue. I have found in my constituency that those who have written to me or approached me on the subject of hare coursing have been divided in the first instance roughly speaking half and half between those who are in favour of the sport continuing and those who are against it. When I have discussed the matter in more detail with those in favour of the Bill and against hare coursing, however, I have found that many of them have a false impression of the way in which hare coursing is conducted.

What is involved is summed up in the definition in the new clause which defines "place" as an enclosed area of land. In so far as this is a restrictive element in the new clause I regard it as desirable, though I realise that not all Members would take the same view. Many members of the public who are against hare coursing on the basis of limited knowledge would accept that this is a sufficient restriction to put on the conduct of hare coursing. If the definition were included, the only coursing that could take place would be in an open field where the hare was able to escape. That is the form of coursing that takes place for the most part in this country, though I understand that the position is different in Ireland, and in Northern Ireland to a certain extent, but I cannot speak for that. But the definition seems to be restrictive but desirable.

Then we come to the fourth definition, that of "competition". I dislike the definition used here, though it is difficult to quarrel deeply with it. It seems to me that in the context in which they appear the last three words of the phrase act of striving against others to win something has the implication of a kill. This again is part of the misunderstanding in the public mind about hare coursing, or at least in the minds of many people who do not know much about the sport. They think that hare coursing necessarily involves the killing of all the hares that are coursed, whereas I am sure hon Members who have studied the matter know that that is not the case. I should prefer a definition that did not carry the implication of killing that this definition seems to have, because it is a little misleading.

Perhaps I might conclude by referring briefly to the definition of "match" because it arises a little in the context of Amendments Nos. 5 and 8. The point that I was trying to put to the Committee upstairs was that a match is essentially a competition between two individuals or two teams of individuals. The definition of "match" in the racing fraternity is exactly that. A horse race may have any number of horses in it—quite often there are 10, 20 or more horses in a race—but if there is a horse race between two horses it is described as a match. I am sorry that the hon Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) is not here, because not long ago he took part in a notable horseracing match.

There is another element to "match" as opposed to "competition" which has entered into the word in the course of its life, and that is the element of formality. If one plays football, one may kick a ball about in an informal manner on a piece of waste ground or grassland or in the park, but if there is a football match more formalities enter into it. There are rules and a referee, and in general the whole thing becomes a more formalised arrangement.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

If someone was out exercising two of his greyhounds—whippet or saluki—and they put up a hare, would he be liable under the Bill? He would be a person out exercising his animals. They put up a hare and perhaps pursue and kill it. Would he, with his two dogs, be liable under the Bill?

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Gloucestershire South

That is an interesting question. My own opinion, for what it is worth—I am not a lawyer, and I cannot interpret the Bill in a legal sense—is that he might be liable in such circumstances if it were thought that the purpose of releasing the two dogs at the same moment to course the hare was to compare the abilities of the two dogs. In a peculiar way, however, if it were thought that the purpose of releasing the dogs was to kill that hare, or hares in general, he would not be liable. As far as I can see, he would have a perfect defence against an action under the Bill.

That seems to be a peculiarity of the Bill, because many people who have not followed the debates on this subject might feel that the Bill was about stopping people from killing hares, but if someone sets out to kill a hare in this way that will be a defence under the Bill. It is only if someone is setting out not to kill but, instead, to judge the ability of two or more dogs that it becomes an offence. If someone can say that he was doing it to kill, he would get off scot free.

I turn to what I was saying about the definition of a match. This is an important definition that should be included in any definition clause that is inserted into the Bill. The definition in Amendment No. 8 has an essential element. It refers to two greyhounds, which to my mind, as I explained earlier, seems to be an essential feature of a match. That is certainly so on my old-fashioned definition of it. However, more importantly, it demonstrates that what is attempted to be legislated against in the Bill is a formal competition set up with prizes and with the public able to attend in a formal manner.

The sort of informal occasion to which reference has been made is not the occasion against which legislation should be attempted. If that is the occasion on which hares are chased by two or more greyhounds, or whatever sort of dog is involved, and against which the supporters of the Bill are trying to legislate, they are not doing what many people who might otherwise be sympathetic towards them believe they are and should be doing.

Photo of Hon. Robert Boscawen Hon. Robert Boscawen , Wells

I have not intervened in discussion on the Bill because I recognised that many others know a great deal more about this subject than I ever shall. Some matters cause me considerable concern, in particular the justification of the Bill as it stands without close definition, which has some unsavoury implications.

Many of my constituents have written asking me to oppose the Bill. The Under-Secretary gave as the justification for the Bill that it was a cruel, barbaric and cowardly sport. By implication she is saying that many of those who have written to me are supporting a brutally cruel and cowardly sport. If that is the case, it behoves Labour Members who support the Bill to define it carefully.

In this country we tolerate a great deal of cruelty to animals as well as to human beings. The hon. Lady's great Department tolerates some revolting experiments on animals. They are done under careful control with, as she assured me in a letter the other day, the minimum of cruelty. However, they are done because the ends justify the means and for the better enjoyment of human life. I suggest to Labour Members that that is cruel all the same.

At present in certain areas of my constituency the Department of Agriculture is engaged in exterminating the badger on the ground that it is the carrier of bovine tuberculosis. The Department is doing so in a particularly repulsive and dangerous way—gassing these enchanting animals in their own homes. It is said that the end justifies the means and that it is necessary for the better enjoyment of human life. However, I suggest to those hon. Members who are against cruelty to animals that it is cruel all the same.

The Department of Trade imports films into this country on which horses, for the sake of glorious spectacles, are brought down by trip-wires. Their limbs are broken and afterwards they have to be shot and put out of misery. That is for the better enjoyment and entertainment of our people. We tolerate and allow it to happen but it is cruel all the same.

Unfortunately and regretfully, there are many examples in this country of individuals maltreating domestic animals, especially dogs. I happen to be very fond of dogs. I hate to see the condition of some of the dogs that are wandering about our city streets. One can see that they are suffering, in pain, badly fed and not properly looked after. However, we tolerate it because it would be highly unpopular and expensive to bring in the restrictive measures that are necessary to prevent that happening.

Photo of Mr Leslie Spriggs Mr Leslie Spriggs , St Helens

The hon. Gentleman has given a list of items that come under the heading of cruelty. He should not forget the pig farmers who harness down the sow while she has a litter of 20 or so piglets feeding off her. She cannot protect herself because she is fastened down by a steel harness. Is not that cruelty for the sake of profit?

2.15 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Robert Boscawen Hon. Robert Boscawen , Wells

I do not want to enter into the controversy over factory farming. It is a closely argued controversy whether it is more-cruel for the animal to step on a piglet. We could argue about that for a long time.

Photo of Mr Leslie Spriggs Mr Leslie Spriggs , St Helens

People want cheap food.

Photo of Hon. Robert Boscawen Hon. Robert Boscawen , Wells

I am trying to impress on the hon. Gentleman that we tolerate a great deal of cruelty to animals when it suits us. It ill behoves Labour Members to tell me that many of my constituents are brutally and cowardly inclined because they support this blood sport, when Labour Members close their eyes to other cruelty that is taking place because the end justifies the means.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

That is totally untrue.

Photo of Hon. Robert Boscawen Hon. Robert Boscawen , Wells

It is not totally untrue. It takes place and the hon. Gentleman knows it. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I have been challenged by the hon. Gentleman's colleagues to say why I regard that as totally untrue. I speak only for myself and as a vegetarian who regards all killing as equally immoral. I draw no difference, as many Conservative Members know, between live hare coursing and any other form of killing. As it applies to me, what the hon. Gentleman has said is quite untrue.

Photo of Hon. Robert Boscawen Hon. Robert Boscawen , Wells

I accept absolutely the hon. Gentleman's explanation and his high morality in this matter. I am not attacking any individual. It ill behoves me or anyone else to attack others for cruelty to animals in this country when we tolerate it officially as well as unofficially. It behoves those who want to stop hare coursing to define what is and what is not cruelty. The Bill is loosely defined. I should like Amendment No. 8 to be agreed so that those who are called cruel in my constituency know what is and what is not cruel. We have to get away from humbug and cant on this subject, and from pretending that one or another of us is holier than thou. We are not.

In the main we are quite a cruel nation, despite the fact that we pretend we are not. We were cruel in the war—I know, because I saw it. We are still cruel in some areas in peace time. That is why I resent the attack on a rural section of the community which does not believe that it is any more-cruel than those who live in cities and who allow their dogs to run about unfed and medically unfit. I resent this attack on one side as opposed to another. If hon. Members want to tackle cruelty and to put a stop to it, let them do so as a whole and not in the partisan way in which they have approached this Bill.

Photo of Mr Marcus Kimball Mr Marcus Kimball , Gainsborough

I am in some difficulty on these amendments and the new clause. While agreeing entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Cope) that we need a definition, and while at the same time not wishing to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), I cannot accept that new Clause 9 which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has put to us gives the definitions which we need in this instance.

Definitions of words are included in many Acts of Parliament. As hon. Members know, full lists of such words may be found in the volumes of "Halsbury". In Room A of our Library there are over 43 volumes giving definitions of terms used in Acts of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough made much of his search of two of our principal dictionaries, but I do not know whether he had time to search the third edition of definitions of words and phrases under Halsbury's name. I strongly suspect that had he done so he would have been able to find better definitions than appear in his new Clause 9. For that reason, should we come to a vote, I do not feel that I could support my hon. Friend in adding the new clause to the Bill.

My main objection to the definitions proposed in the new clause lies in the certainty that, if such definitions were added, they would restrict the number of activities in the countryside which could be carried on if the Bill were ever to become law.

It is significant that Messrs. Stable and Stuttard carefully considered what would be the consequence if the House of Commons were ever to pass the present Bill, which is precisely the same Bill as has been trotted out before us some 13 times during the last 11 years. Thus, in forecasting what the position would be, Messrs. Stable and Stuttard were not talking about a hypothetical situation but were directing themselves to something which they could properly forecast. As I say, my reason for opposing the proposed definition clause as it stands is that it would be more restrictive than the Bill as drafted.

As Messrs. Stable and Stuttard saw it—this must be right—if the Bill were to be passed in its present form and without a better definition clause than new Clause 9, both the coursing rules and the field officials associated with the present conduct of coursing would no longer be there. The organisation of matches and the systems of cup, plate and purse would no longer be there. But coursing would still continue.

It is significant that in recent times the owners of Scottish deerhounds have adapted their practices to keep them in line with the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959. That Act made it an offence to set two dogs on a stag, a red deer or a hind, but now the owners of Scottish deerhounds wishing to test their dogs in their natural surroundings go on to the hills and course blue, mountain or Arctic hares with their dogs. We shall never change the genuine desire of enthusiastic breeders of dogs always to test their dogs' natural abilities—and not necessarily their natural abilities one against the other.

What happens today if one runs a fox to ground? Out of every corner of the countryside men appear with their terriers, hoping to be given a chance to see whether their dogs will go to ground and whether they will work. One of the greatest problems at any dig which a master of foxhounds encounters nowadays is to get his own well-trained and experienced foxhounds into the earth and tactfully keep out the mass of enthusiasts who bring their own dogs because they want to test them in doing the job they are bred to do.

The House has no doubt about my interest in this matter. I want to see coursing survive in some form or other, in any possible legal way, even if the Bill becomes law. But, having studied the new clause, I fear that if its definitions were added to the Bill they would make it more difficult for those who own any one of the five coursing breeds to be given an opportunity not necessarily to match one dog against another but to be certain that their dogs still retain the natural characteristics of the breed.

Messrs. Stable and Stuttard predicted what the position would be if the Bill ever became law without a definition clause. We should have to dispense with the judge in a coursing match, the judge who is a symbol and the arbiter in a test of merit and ability. One would no longer be able to test the merit and ability of two dogs one against the other.

I cannot accept that the definition of "competition" in new Clause 9 is sufficiently closely drawn that some form of testing of one dog against another in some other form would still be possible. As I understand it at present, we should find coursing continuing on people's farms and for the control of hares, but without the judge.

We should have to dispense also with the field officials. There would no longer be the slipper. In a greyhound match, the slip is an extremely skilled job. I do not believe that Labour Members realise what they are doing in wanting to remove the slipper from coursing. The slipper is the man who stands where the hares come on to the coursing ground and who decides whether a particular hare is fit to be coursed. If hon. Members have ever stood in the slip, they will understand what a skilled job this is. Is the hare coming forward a wormy ill-bred poor creature on which it is not fair to slip the dogs? Is the hare coming forward an animal which has been balled up on its feet from coming across a lot of plough? It is the slipper who decides whether it is a suitable hare on which the powers of two dogs shall be tested. If hon. Members remove the slipper, they will be removing one of the most important officials from the field.

Moreover, their proposals would remove the pickers-up. We hear a lot of talk from hon. Members opposite about hares being torn to pieces. I have never seen a hare torn to pieces at any coursing match.

Photo of Michael Mates Michael Mates , Petersfield

Perhaps my hon. Friend would care to invite any hon. Member opposite to stand up and say whether he has seen a hare torn to pieces.

Photo of Mr Marcus Kimball Mr Marcus Kimball , Gainsborough

The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Price) and I differ greatly—

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I respond to the hon. Gentleman's intervention in this way. I have never seen a woman raped. I have never seen torture. I have never seen a public execution. Yet I abhor them all, and I should expect the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends to share that abhorrence with me.

2.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Marcus Kimball Mr Marcus Kimball , Gainsborough

I cannot follow the hon. Member. I would like to keep to my argument. I am against the new clause, which seeks to add certain definitions, because it would not be helpful to coursing.

Even if the Bill goes through, certain forms of coursing will take place quite legally, but they will not be helped by this definition clause. This coursing, although legal, will be carried on without the present safeguards. We shall be going back to the seventeenth century form of coursing when people went out with their greyhounds to catch hares solely in order to eat them or as an amusing way of controlling hares. There will be nothing illegal in that. If people go coursing with these motives, they will want to make sure that they kill the hare. The hounds will be slipped at short range, at the moment the hare is sprung or at the moment it appears through a hedge.

The National Coursing Club rules lay down that, in competition, dogs must be slipped from at least 80 yards. This makes coursing a fair match and gives the hare a chance. It is not difficult to kill a hare if one does not give it much of a start. The first hare I ever killed with a greyhound died purely by accident. It knocked itself out on the bottom bar of a gate. It had suddenly been sprung in an unsual position and dashed through the first hole it could see.

If Labour Members are worried about hares, they should realise that the best way to reduce the number of hares that are killed by greyhounds is to see that all chasing of hares is carried out under the rules of the National Coursing Club.

Messrs. Stable and Stuttard looked most carefully for a definition of the word "coursing". I have survived various examinations in the peculiar language of Latin and become dependent on Kelly's "Keys to the Classics", but that does not cover the definition of coursing. In trying to define coursing, Messrs. Stable and Stuttard found that it was derived from the Latin "currere". I am rather apprehensive about using Latin words in the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More), whose pronunciation is slightly different from mine. He was at school earlier than I was.

Photo of Mr Jasper More Mr Jasper More , Ludlow

I was brought up on the classical pronunciation. One pronounces Latin exactly as one does English.

Photo of Mr Marcus Kimball Mr Marcus Kimball , Gainsborough

The particular versatility of the words descended from "currere" is seen in such words as " current", "currency", "curriculum" and "corsair", which is a hit-and-run sea raider upon coastal settlements. A courser may be either a runner, a swift-running horse or charger, a dog used in coursing or the dog's owner. This shows the difficulties we get into in trying to define "coursing". Scientists have also got hold of the word, and the scientific word "cursorial" is a term used by zoologists for certain types of insects, birds and mammals whose legs are specially adapted for running. Cursorial mammals are dogs of the greyhound type. In the excellent report by Messrs. Stable and Stuttard there is a very good appendix which gives in more detail the qualities of dogs of the greyhound type.

When one looks at the problems that Messrs. Stable and Stuttard had in defining the word "coursing", I cannot accept the definition in the new clause that "coursing" means hunting hares with greyhounds.

Photo of Mr Stephen Hastings Mr Stephen Hastings , Mid Bedfordshire

It is important that the House should be clear on this matter. The definition in the new clause includes only greyhounds, and, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, a number of other dogs are often involved in coursing. As this subject was inadequately dealt with in Committee, and as Labour Members have shown today that their ignorance is profound, could my hon. Friend tell us a little more about the subject?

Photo of Mr Marcus Kimball Mr Marcus Kimball , Gainsborough

My hon. Friend pre-empts the argument I was about to develop. This is not the only point to be cleared up if we are to accept, as the new clause does, that "dogs" means greyhounds. We also find ourselves in considerable difficulty about dogs used for hunting purposes being considered as greyhounds.

First, I should like to clear up the definition of "coursing". We have heard that the word means not only swift running or the owner of a swift-running dog but also a hound which hunts by sight. Greyhounds hunt by sight, and one can unsight them very easily. This is why so much coursing takes place in the North-West in the fens, where the Waterloo Cup is held. It is possible to go for miles without being able to unsight a greyhound Whippets can also be unsighted and they, too, will cease to pursue their quarry.

A definition of coursing limited to hunting by sight would exclude lurchers, salukis and Scottish deerhounds, all of which are coursing dogs. They hunt not only by sight but by scent. I do not know whether any hon. Members have been to a saluki meeting, but the moment they become unsighted they set off in pursuit of the hare on its ground scent. One can see owners disappearing into the far distant countryside to collect their dogs after they have chased off after a hare. They may hunt it very slowly, or they may do so quickly according to the scenting conditions on that day. If hon. Members opposite had seen the coursing of the Arctic hares in Scotland—

Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I shall accept that motion in five minutes. If the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) wishes to hear a Government reply he must conclude his remarks almost at once.

Photo of Mr Marcus Kimball Mr Marcus Kimball , Gainsborough

On a point of order. If I were to conclude now, Mr. Speaker, to give the Government a chance to reply to these arguments, and the closure were then not carried, would I be allowed afterwards to develop the rest of my argument? I have five other points connected with the amendment with which I have not yet been able to deal. If I sit down now I shall cut myself out of the debate which will follow if the closure is not carried, and I shall be unable to continue with my argument, which is vital to the debate.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

The hon. Member is well known for his reasonableness. He has been speaking now for 21 minutes.

Photo of Michael Mates Michael Mates , Petersfield

But it is all good stuff.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As one who is seeking to intervene in this debate may I suggest, first, that points of order should not count towards the five minutes—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I can help the hon. Gentleman on that point straight away. They will count.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Is there a precedent for your saying, Mr. Speaker, that you will accept a closure in five minutes' time? It might be that no hon. Member will seek to move such a motion in five minutes. Surely it will greatly truncate the debate if hon. Members have notice that they have only five more minutes to speak. I believe that the precedents are that either you accept the closure when it is moved or you do not. If you do not accept the closure when it is moved, it is usual for hon. Members to delay for another two hours before seeking to move it again. The closure having been moved by the Assistant Whip and having been refused by you, surely it would be within the precedents that no hon. Member should seek to move another closure for another hour or two. For you to announce in advance that yon will accept it in five minutes' time is something which has never before come to my ears in my short experience in this honourable House. Of course, I may have missed it. Is it not unusual to say what you have said, Mr. Speaker?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

There is no question of accepting it in five minutes. I shall now accept it in two minutes.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

I am in difficulty, Mr. Speaker. I have been unable to speak to my amendment and I do not know whether it is usual practice for the closure to be moved so suddenly without warning the Opposition Front Bench so that we may adust our timing and arrange for a proper conclusion to the debate.

Photo of Mr Jerry Wiggin Mr Jerry Wiggin , Weston-Super-Mare

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) has made a fairly fundamental point. There are other implications to giving five minutes' notice of a closure. While I appreciate that probably in your charity it would seem advisable to give that notice, may I suggest that on reflection you might reconsider whether you are setting a wise precedent? I can see that in the future it could cause infinite procedural difficulties to give notice of the time when a closure will be accepted.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

I think I took a commonsense line. I thought it was conceivable that Conservative Members would want to hear what the Minister had to say on the debate which, after all, has been going on already for nearly two hours.

Photo of Hon. Adam Butler Hon. Adam Butler , Bosworth

Just so that the House may fully understand your ruling, Mr. Speaker, are you saying that there is a delayed agreement to the Question being put five minutes from when the Government Whip moved it, or are you saying that you would accept it if he were to move it again within five minutes of the time when he originally moved it?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Of course, the Whip will have to move it again. I think the time has come when he should do so.

Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 101, Noes 1

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House proceeded to a Division; but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Ayes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Noes had it.