I appreciate being allowed to speak in the debate. I had to be absent for quite a time because I was on a Standing Committee.
The Minister stated categorically that there had been a lot of time to discuss the issue. It is not a new issue that has suddenly arisen. Debate on it has continued for many generations. I shall m make my remarks in the light of that. Most hon. Members do not have closed minds and have reached a conclusion having spent a bit of time looking into it. We will have differences of opinion; that is only natural.
The latecomer in the issue is the clause 2 option from the Middle Way Group. It reminds me of a device that I have seen from time to time in elections: a ringer. For those who do not know what that is, when someone appears to be a favourite and another appears to have a rather poor chance a third person is brought in to create the right amount of confusion. Sometimes, the favourite can be overturned and the non-favourite elected because there is a so-called compromise among votes.
I shall vote against clauses 1 and 2 because they are not very different. I shall vote in favour of clause 3. There are several reasons for that. Since I was at school, I have found foxhunting abhorrent. It may suit some hon. Members to say that they do not like the word "barbaric". We all have different ways of expressing ourselves and we do not always mean quite the same thing when we use the same word. I consider foxhunting to be as barbaric a method of destroying a fox as it is possible to imagine. What makes it even worse is that I find it impossible to understand how, in the name of sport, human beings can entertain themselves by their cruel destruction of an animal, as happens with foxhunting.
It goes further. It is not just a matter of lack of concern for animal welfare. I am as concerned about animal welfare as any hon. Member. It is very important and it is part of the foxhunting issue, but there is a more important issue: where human beings involve themselves in a barbaric practice, they demean the human race. The way in which animals such as foxes are treated with contempt can spread. A philosophy can grow whereby some human beings think that it is all right to treat other human beings in the same manner.
I have no doubt that some hon. Members will accuse me of being immoderate in my views. People are entitled to be in favour of foxhunting, but they are not entitled to impugn the motives and will of others who oppose them. They shout loud and long about how they are not understood. I think that they are well understood. The fact that people do not agree with them does not mean that they are not understood. It means they have concluded that they totally disagree with the practice. That is the issue.
The argument about town and country is ludicrous. I have lived most of my adult life in the country, although I represent a city constituency. I do not detect much difference in people's opinions. I have not had one piece of correspondence or representation from a constituent in favour of the clause 1 option, out of about 70,000 voters. Numerous people have made representations asking me to vote against foxhunting. I do not know why they bothered. If they had followed the publicity closely, they would know that that was what I was going to do.
I hope that the argument will end. I hope that we start to end it tonight. I felt sorry for my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster). He secured a satisfactory vote for his private Member's Bill. The Government did not deign to send the matter to the House of Lords. A bit of a legend has built up that it was defeated by the Lords. I do not know how that has come about, but I have read that in several places. Suffice it to say that I know that it is untrue. It does no one any credit.
As and when we vote in favour of clause 3 tonight, as I think we will, may we have an undertaking from the Government that they will take the Bill forward on our behalf to the House of Lords and tell it that, if it does not act properly and democratically, as we will have done tonight, the Parliament Acts will be invoked and the Bill will be brought back here? That is what people outside are looking for.
When our constituents and voters were given an undertaking that there was to be a free vote, they did not understand the niceties of this place. They did not understand that that could be a promise that meant nothing. They thought that it would be part of a sequence of events to help to bring about the end of foxhunting.
I do not want to hear a lot more about the fact that a minority are being oppressed. There is no oppression of a minority where a majority decides to use that majority to change legislation. I have no doubt that when legislation was introduced to abolish slavery, slave traders said that their personal rights and freedoms were being eroded. I know that we heard the same arguments from coal owners when children were prevented from working underground in the mines. The principle is the same.
The minority has to understand that, in a democracy, a majority prevails. If a majority does not prevail and a minority is allowed to prevail, we will have something that is very close to anarchy. In a democracy, one cannot be asked to be left alone when a vast majority of people do not agree with one's activities If the majority does not prevail, everyone can do as they wish and that would be the end of it.
I am grateful to my good Friend for giving way. However, he is not saying, is he, that an activity should be prohibited in legislation because a majority disapprove of it? Do we not need a stronger reason for prohibition? I disagree with and disapprove strongly of boxing and smoking, for example, but I not think that either should be prohibited in legislation. Do we not need a stronger reason?
I can think of quite a few candidates for that. However, as I do not believe in hanging, I shall have to divest myself of that particular pleasure—just as foxhunters will have to divest themselves of their pleasure.
It churns my insides to think that people can get enjoyment out of seeing an animal torn limb from limb. It is absolutely appalling. As a nation, we have quite a good reputation around the world on animals. However, it is perhaps wrongly thought that the United Kingdom is full of animal lovers. Although I wish that that were correct, it seems that many people in this country who love their own animals have no time for anyone else's animals. So, that reputation is not quite true.
The hon. Gentleman has been talking about a majority who are anti-hunting. However, as he well knows, recent polls have shown that the reverse is true—that people are willing to tolerate hunting. In many cases, particularly in farming, people wish to protect their own animals, which they look after very well, from foxes.
Different polls will always give different results and there will be fluctuations. However, over a great many years, a majority of the public have stated that they abhor hunting with dogs, and that is good enough for me. I remember that, not so long ago, a national poll showed that the Conservative party was in the lead. However, we all knew—even Conservative Members knew—that that was just a blip. I suspect that the fluctuation that the hon. Gentleman mentioned is just the same.
Several hon. Members have asked whether we are legislating to criminalise people. Legislation does not criminalise anyone; people criminalise themselves by ignoring that legislation. If people believe in democracy and the rule of law—we are signed up to, for example, the Council of Europe and the United Nations charter on human rights—and if Parliament, using parliamentary procedure, bans foxhunting, as I sincerely hope it will, we should expect everyone to fall into line.
I have had to fall into line with legislation that I did not much like. At such times, I had a choice: fall into line, or stand by my principle, break the law, as was my privilege, and be dealt with accordingly. However, the consequence would be the result of my own choice, not the fault of those who passed the legislation. Therefore, we should not be talking about criminalising people.
I hope that this will be an historic day. About eight and a half years ago, not long after I was first elected to the House, I was asked what single change would give me the most satisfaction in politics, and I said, "The abolition of foxhunting." I think that we are quite near that goal. The desperation of impending defeat has led to the creation of the Middle Way Group, so that it could cause confusion. That group did not exist 30 years ago, but was created only recently, when the issue became the flavour of the month.
I shall forgive my hon. Friend for suggesting that I am a ringer and that I do not stand up for what I believe in. No one puts me up to anything. He has been talking about foxhunting, but the legislation encompasses rabbit hunting and all other forms of hunting. The only hunting that will be allowed is hunting for rats on one's own ground, in one's own garden. Therefore, all those terriers belonging to the miners about whom he cares so much will not be allowed out to hunt for foxes, rats or anything else. What does he feel about that? Is he as passionate about that?
My hon. Friend mentions my regard for miners, but my record in standing up for miners is second to that of no hon. Member. I should think that that is indisputable. However, my great regard for miners does not require me to agree with every single one of their activities. It would be a little ridiculous if she were suggesting that I should let miners do whatever they wish because I like them.
I also did not accuse my hon. Friend of being a ringer. I said that the tactics being used by the Middle Way Group reminded me of electoral tactics involving a ringer. Then I defined a ringer. I did not suggest that anyone was a ringer or that anyone involved with the Middle Way Group was a ringer. I hope that my hon. Friend is clear on that.
I have said enough and I feel happy now. This is the first opportunity that I have had to speak on the subject, which is somewhat surprising to me if to no one else. I hope that we shall make some progress. I also hope that we can bring the United Kingdom into the 21st century on the issue. Hunting is more reminiscent of 14th and 15th century activities than of current ones.
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman must know that that is not a matter for the occupant of the Chair, but a matter for debate. I remind the Committee that we are rapidly losing time, and that I am trying to get in as many hon. Members as I can.
I should also think that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Etherington) might be in danger of being classed as politically incorrect by comparing slaves with foxes.
I approach the debate from the point of view of one who has never hunted, fished or shot. However, the force that drove me into politics was a passionate belief in and love for individual freedom. In the late 1940s and 1950s, when I first became involved in politics, individual freedom was being undermined continuously by the rampant progress of socialism and the increase of state control.
As the hon. Member for Sunderland, North said, in a democracy, the majority will usually prevail. There is, however, one caveat. It is very dangerous if a majority try to legislate to remove a minority's right to partake in pastimes and pleasures that do not affect anyone else. When that happens, democracy becomes tyranny.
According to the hon. Gentleman's argument, he should believe in an individual's freedom to do as he or she likes. Did he believe that badger baiting should be banned?
There is a great difference between badger baiting and foxhunting, as badger baiting contained no element of pest control. It was in an entirely different class. As I said, however, we are debating foxhunting. Although I have reservations about hare coursing, I want to talk about foxhunting, as that is what really affects my constituents and I have a couple of hunts in my constituency.
Both today and in our previous debate on the Bill, Labour Members have claimed that those who oppose a ban on foxhunting are a minority in the countryside. I contest that, and suggest that those hon. Members should study the numbers who will come to London for the freedom march. I should be very surprised if those who feel passionately about banning foxhunting could get an equivalent number of people from the countryside to demonstrate. That is very unlikely.
We are told, rightly, that we must respect the customs of the minority. Our country has been turned from a homogenous English nation into a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation. We have accepted that ethnic minorities have a right not be forced to integrate but to have their own culture. Indeed, under the law we allow the barbaric system of ritual killing known as halal slaughter, even though it undoubtedly causes suffering to the animals killed, who have a long and slow death. I suggest that the suffeting of those animals and the number of animals involved are far greater than the number and suffering of hunted foxes.
When I was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made representations to me about halal slaughter. I said that in many respects I found the process distasteful, but mat it seemed wrong to prohibit it under the criminal law simply for that reason. I therefore declined to act. That is the course of action that people should take.
I agree entirely. I find that form of ritual killing rather abhorrent, but I understand the culture and history of the people involved, and believe that we must be tolerant. It is very strange that Labour Members who are so keen that we respect and tolerate the cultural rights and beliefs of minorities should now propose to destroy part of the culture and freedom of the countryside.
I am amazed that those who favour banning hunting are not prepared to extend the same tolerance to minorities of their own countrymen, the English and the Welsh, who want only to continue the traditional country sports that they and their forefathers have enjoyed for centuries. I suggest that that is a flagrant example of double standards.
Many Labour Members consider most people who hunt to be toffs. Those of us who live in the countryside know that that is not true. The vast majority of people who hunt are ordinary people. However, if the majority of people who hunt belonged to minorities—if they were coloured people or homosexuals—I suggest that the Bill would never have been brought before us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]I think that I make the point very well. I am in favour of the rights of minorities, but Labour Members are not in favour of the rights of the people of the countryside.
I am fortunate to live in the countryside, although I was brought up in a city. We townies have a duty to respect the traditions and way of life of those who have lived in the countryside for generations. I suggest that most people who live there and who oppose hunting came from the towns. They live in the new estates in the villages, and are not countryside people, born and bred.
There is a crisis in the countryside. Farming is in an appalling state, and people's incomes have fallen dramatically. It is unbelievable that we should be doing so little to deal with the real problems of the countryside, where many people's livelihoods are being destroyed, yet are prepared to destroy a pastime that is part of the countryside's social fabric. There is no doubt that that will have some economic effects.
It is worrying that people say that 16,000 jobs lost might pose a problem, but that only 7,000 or 2,000 jobs will be lost. The problems faced by people who lost their jobs would be equally great, however many of them there were.
Will the hon. Gentleman regale the Committee with details of the level of his opposition to the loss of jobs in rural coalfields that happened under the Administration that he supported in past Parliaments?
I do not want to go into the question of coal, but I certainly strongly supported the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) to save a number of our pits. [HON. MEMBERS: "Save?"] My right hon. Friend saved them in the short term. I do not think that the record of this Government has been particularly good in that respect.
Labour Members dismissed this point earlier, but I firmly believe that if hunting is banned tonight, many people in the anti-hunting camp will move on to shooting. That would be logical. They will then move on to fishing. I suggest that one of the reasons Labour Members deny that is that many Labour voters take part in fishing.
There is a lot of hypocrisy in the Chamber tonight. Those who speak so passionately about the cruelty of hunting do not seem to appreciate that foxes are vermin that must be controlled. There is no doubt that foxes will suffer more if they are killed not by dogs but by shooting. Death by shooting is not always clean. Wounded animals can crawl away and take days to die of gangrene.
I was recently given a snare—a horrible item that gets tighter around an animal's body the more it struggles. It is an appalling instrument, but it is legal. The suffering of foxes will be even greater if hunting with dogs is banned.
Shooting causes a great deal of suffering. At a pheasant shoot, 500 birds can be downed in a day. That compares with the one or two foxes killed in a hunt, and not all the birds are killed instantly. In fishing, the poor fish gets a hook stuck in its throat. It is then played—tortured—before it is taken out of the water. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) said that he was a good fisherman and very gentle, but fish are thrown back into the water for the torture to recommence. There is much talk about the need to return to nature. However, we must never forget that man, by his very nature, is a hunter.
Who will enforce the law if this Bill is passed? The police will, of course. The country is very short of police. Rural crime has been rising. I do not accept the argument that the amount of police time at present spent dealing with the thugs who are anti-hunt demonstrators will equate to the amount of time needed to enforce a hunting ban.
We are proposing to turn tens of thousands of people into criminals. What they are doing is at present within the law. We will be telling them that their pastime will be turned into a criminal act. The inevitable result would be a massive loss of support for the police in the countryside. That would be very dangerous.
I was among those who passionately opposed the incorporation of the Strasbourg human rights regime in British law. It is ironic that whatever the Committee decides will probably be overruled on the ground of human rights.
To people who disapprove of hunting I say, "Don't do it, but for goodness sake don't take away the individual freedom of those who want to do it." Over the generations, many people have fought and died for that individual freedom.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I shall be brief. Some people have spoken about Scottish Members voting in Westminster. To vote here is my constitutional right as a political unionist: if anyone can prove to me that it is not my right, I shall not vote. However, no one will be able to do that.
I have taken part in the foxhunting debate since the early 1990s, and I presented a private Member's Bill—the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill—in 1995, which was approved by 253 votes to zero. It was about animal welfare and sought to update the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which protected domestic animals but not mammals. The opponents to hunting killed that Bill eventually in the House of Lords because of one word—"torture". They said that, if that word was in the Bill, they could be charged by the police. In that action, they illustrated the weakness of their argument.
Thankfully, the issue was taken up the next year by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale). The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 is part of a rolling process of reform of animal welfare in this House. I shall gladly vote tonight for the third option.
There are a number of issues here. It is argued that banning hunting is an attack on the countryside. I mentioned my Bill; in 1995, I received 12,000 letters on the subject. Other right hon. and hon. Members had between 750,000 to 1 million postcards and letters sent to them. I had many, many responses from those in the countryside. Indeed, there was a group known as Conservatives for the McFall Bill—I was scared that they would abridge the name to Conservatives for McFall. I had many communications from Conservative supporters living in the countryside. The idea that hunting is a social activity associated with the countryside and loved by those in it is exaggerated. I do not rest on anecdotal evidence for that statement, but on the polls and statistics.
A MORI poll has been undertaken over the past few years in a rolling programme. MORI has indicated that 75 per cent. of those living in rural communities do not consider hunting to be an important part of daily life. The number is similar with regard to hunting with dogs. Indeed, the ratio of country people supporting a ban on fox hunting is 2:1. That tells us about rural dwellers.
I have conducted a large survey in north-west Leicestershire, a hunting county, which shows that in the rural areas there is still sizeable support for the abolition of hunting, but that 25 per cent. of those polled have been attracted by the middle way option, which has been expounded this evening. Thus the poll to which my hon. Friend refers may not be entirely up to date.
I think that the research that my hon. Friend conducted and the Burns report research were conducted in hunt communities. There is support for hunting in rural areas with hunting communities, but that is concentrated around the hunt. In the countryside in general, people support the hunt ban by two to one.
The hon. Gentleman is aware of the two polls in December that I and others cited, one for "Powerhouse" and another for "Channel 4 News". Both showed that 47 to 48 per cent. of people were in favour of a ban and 52 to 53 per cent. were in favour of regulation or supervision. Those are national polls, and they go against the figures that the hon. Gentleman quotes. We can play games with polls, but the hon. Gentleman must recognise that there is no longer unequivocal support for a ban in the United Kingdom.
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. However, the Channel 4 poll was conducted over the telephone, whereas MORI conducted a statistical poll over a rolling period, so statistically it is more accurate. It concludes that rural dwellers nationally are not pro-hunting, not at odds with urban dwellers over the most important issues and, indeed, not predominantly Conservative voters. In fact, more are Labour voters.
The anecdotal evidence presented to me in 1995 shows that the hunt is disruptive and disturbing. There is a romantic notion that, when hunting, people are at peace with the countryside. However, it is disruptive to people, socially and personally. The RSPCA has come up with numerous cases which they describe as "hunt havoc". I shall give an example. There was an incident in 1998 in which the hunt concluded in a local children's play area. The dogs tore into the fox and ripped him apart in front
of children just let out from school. As the grandmother reporting the incident commented, the children involved were terrified. She said that dogs,
most of them covered with blood … were running riot through the children's play area … and the poor school children were fending off the dogs with their satchels.
That is the reality of hunting in rural areas. The image of urban versus rural society is entirely imaginary.
There is a resonance between urban and rural voters. Again, the MORI poll indicates that the 10 most important issues faced by rural constituents are the same as for urban constituents. The first seven are—in order—transport, environment and pollution, conservation of wildlife, infrastructure and improving roads, crime and law and order, unemployment and education. Those are the same issues that the urban voter is interested in, and the Government are tackling them. The poll indicates that the term, "the country way of life" is recognised by less than 2 per cent. of the people.
The hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Townend) spoke about foxhunting as a necessary form of pest control. Statistics show that about 3 to 5 per cent. of the fox population is killed by hunting. More are killed on the roads. The Burns report found that foxhunting makes only a minor contribution to the management of the fox population. If the issue is reducing the numbers, why do some hunts create artificial breeding grounds, even providing dead chickens and sheep for food? There are more humane methods, such as lamping. Another is confined to Scotland. Under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959, the deer population is reduced on a yearly basis by shooting. I am not against shooting. It is very important that, if foxes have to be controlled, there is another way of controlling them.
The nub of the issue is that those who participate in foxhunting regard it as a sport. I do not deny them their social activities, which is why I advocate drag hunting. Let me give some more anecdotal evidence. I had dinner at Christmas time with an individual who is a foxhunter and a gamekeeper. The gamekeeper said, "Yes, John, people go foxhunting because of the chase—the thrill." The person who went foxhunting said, "Quite frankly, it is a good sport."
It is a sport that is and has been unacceptable to the House for many years. I thought that it would have been outlawed by 2000. We are not lucky enough for that to have happened yet, but I, along with other right hon. and hon. Members, want to ensure that next year, or the year after, we get rid of this barbaric sport. If we do that, we can consider ourselves and our country more humane.
This has, in general, been a good, unemotional debate on an issue that arouses huge emotions. The emotions shown this evening have run less high than they did on Second Reading, when we heard some quite intemperate language. I want to address the issue in a cool and reasoned way.
It is important for Members of Parliament not be swept along by emotion, but to stand back and address the issue logically and rationally. I shall not go into the various polls that have been undertaken, because whether a majority is in favour of a particular action is not relevant. It is not relevant how small the minority is. What really matters is whether it is right for the House to take the action that is being suggested, and we must assess that logically and rationally.
I came into Parliament with relatively few cardinal principles other than the ones that my party stands for, but I passionately believe in the right of individuals to live their lives and to accept the responsibility of being in charge of their lives, and everything that goes with that. Yes, there are times when the state, represented by this House, seeks to curtail the freedom of individuals, but every time that we do that, we have a responsibility to ensure that we intervene only where it is clearly justified—usually because an action affects the freedom of other individuals to live their lives. The presumption should always be on the side of personal liberty. Anyone who seeks to restrict that liberty must prove their case.
It was said many times on Second Reading, and one or two hon. Members have said tonight, that this is not a civil liberties debate. Of course it is. Any debate about legislation that restricts an individual's liberty is a civil liberties debate. The question is whether that restriction is justified. Having read the Burns report carefully, I do not believe that the case is made for that restriction.
The statement in the Burns report that hunting compromises the welfare of the animal is often quoted. That is obvious and does not need saying. It is self-evident that the individual animal's welfare is compromised. I want to look more widely and take into account the interests of the species. I believe passionately that banning hunting would damage the welfare of the species as a whole, even if hunting obviously involves the death of individuals.
How does it help a declining hare population, which was mentioned in the United Kingdom biodiversity plan drawn up by the Conservative Government, if we allow people to kill the hare for sport?
The answer is clear. Coursing takes place only in areas where there are hares. As I shall explain later, I believe that the hare population is better served on estates and in areas where coursing takes place than where it does not.
In support of my comment about the welfare of the species, I want to quote the Burns report. I know that it is easy to find bits of the report to quote in support of our case. On page 14, Burns says clearly:
It follows that the welfare of animals which are hunted should be compared with the welfare which, on a realistic assessment, would be likely to result from the legal methods used by farmers and others to manage the population of these animals in the event of a ban on hunting.
That demonstrates to me that the issue of the welfare of the species is vital.
As other hon. Members have said, no lives would be saved, especially in the case of foxes, by banning hunting. The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) said that only 3 or 5 per cent. of the total fox kill in a year is by hunting. That does not matter to me. The fact is that foxes will still be culled even if hunting is abandoned. The issue is how they are killed.
Although Burns says that lamping is perhaps the most efficient method, he also says that that is so only if it is carried out by an efficient marksman and in ideal conditions, which do not often arise. I have been involved in lamping and the fact is that a fox can move just at the moment the marksman pulls the trigger. The marksman may be able to shoot bull after bull on a range, but if the animal moves just at the instant that he pulls the trigger, no marksman in the world can ensure that the animal is not wounded. That is using a high-powered rifle. If people use shotguns, as many do, few foxes die instantaneously. I have seen many of them shot in that way and it takes a few minutes or, sadly, several days for the fox to go away and die.
There is clear evidence that, were stag hunting to be banned, the deer population would suffer drastically. The only reason why farmers and landowners in the Quantocks and elsewhere allow large populations of deer on their land is for hunting. There is clear evidence that, if there were no hunting, they would shoot out those populations, and deer overall would suffer.
I have received representations from constituents about what they regard as excessive deer culling by the Forestry Commission in the New Forest. Two years ago, the New Forest Buck Hounds shut their doors. They never dispatched many deer, but they dispersed the deer population throughout the forest. Now the deer congregate as far from the tourists as they can, in the most remote enclosures. That is precisely where the Forestry Commission estimates that they do the most damage—hence the determination to reduce the population.
My hon. Friend is right. His intervention endorses the point that I was making.
The hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) referred to the hare, the third most commonly hunted species. On estates that allow legal coursing meets to take place—obviously, I am not referring to the countless illegal operations that sadly take place in parts of the country—almost without exception the landowners husband and conserve the hares. The hares are coursed on a small number of days, depending how many meets there are, but even then the majority get away. On average, only between one in eight and one in ten are killed. Thus the welfare of the hare population is better on an estate that allows coursing.
I would rather not. I have a lot to say and I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, Sir Alan—[Interruption.] I apologise, Mrs. Heal. I was not facing the Chair; otherwise, I would obviously have noticed the difference.
The debate is not about cruelty per se. As other hon. Members have demonstrated, the House could address issues involving far greater cruelty and bring far greater benefits to animal welfare. Religious slaughter has been mentioned. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) referred to his cats. Cats are responsible for far more death in the countryside than foxes or humans, yet no one suggests banning cats. The difference is not the pain felt by the victim. I suggest that the pain, however one defines it, felt by the victim of a cat is no different and is probably worse than the pain felt by the victim of a hound. The difference is that, in the case of the hound and its quarry, people are involved and watching.
The real issue is what people should be doing and whether it is right for people's souls for them to, as some have suggested, enjoy inflicting cruelty. I believe that that is wrong. We have heard many spurious reasons for banning hunting. Some people say that hunters are unpleasant people. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) read out articles from his local paper. I am the first to accept that I find some people who go hunting obnoxious. There are people in every walk of life whom I find obnoxious, and I have no doubt that there are people who find me obnoxious.
It is very kind of my hon. Friend.
That is not a reason for stopping people doing what they want to do. The hon. Member for West Ham said that no one was criticising people who go hunting. If he read some of the correspondence that I receive, in which hunters are accused of being twisted and wicked and all sorts of evil people, he would take that back. We have even heard about red coats and pink coats. I do not care what people wear. It does not affect the issue of whether hunting should be banned.
A question that has often been asked in debates on the issue over the years is, "How would you like to be chased and torn apart by hounds?" Of course, the answer is that I would not like it, but nor would I like anything else about the life of a fox, a hare or even a deer. I would not want to live in a hole in the ground, snuffle about in cow pats, or engage in any of their other activities. That question demonstrates the absurdity of bestowing on an animal the intelligence, feelings and sensations of a human. I passionately believe that to be wrong.
We have heard the arguments about dog fighting, bear baiting and bull baiting. The difference is that all of those involved putting animals in a captive environment within an enclosed pit or ring from which there was no escape, and the fight was to the death.
No, I will not. I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about the issue, but I want to get through my speech and allow other hon. Members time to speak.
I have said nothing about terrier work. I have talked about dog fighting, bear baiting, bull baiting and other activities that were banned decades, if not centuries, ago. They were wholly different. We are discussing hunting an animal in its natural environment.
Let me move on to the issue of whether we should judge what people do or do not do. Labour Members have said that they have no intention of moving towards a ban on shooting or fishing, although some said that they would not support that. I welcome that pronouncement, but I remind Labour Members that there are others who do not share that view. The League Against Cruel Sports has clearly stated:
Human entertainment is inadequate justification for the destruction of life.
I have leaflets here—I shall not detain the House by quoting from them—in which the league condemns virtually every other activity that is classified as a field sport.
Dawn Preston of the Hunt Saboteurs Association has said:
The Association has been in existence for almost 40 years and our memorandum of association clearly states that we exist to "sabotage where practicable the pursuit, harassment and killing of any sentient creature for sport, pleasure or population control … until such practices cease to exist".
Some dismiss those people as extremists, but it is quite commonplace for what was once an extreme view to become mainstream policy in a short space of time. Indeed, the Prime Minister stated last summer that he had no intention of banning shooting or fishing. That may be what he said, but in the short space of time—some five or six months—since then, the Home Office has already done two things to make shooting much more difficult. First, it has backed the proposals for much stricter control over gun ownership, which can only detract from people's opportunities for shooting. Secondly, it has decided to increase the fee for a firearms or shotgun certificate from £17 to £40. Those actions do not fit in with a belief that the sports are not under threat.
There is no doubt that animals—I include fish in that description—can feel pain. That is the reality, for which there is plenty of scientific evidence. However, it is not a proven point that that pain manifests itself as terror, as has often been suggested. Even Professor Bateson, in his report on deer hunting, said:
Fear, distress, suffering and pain are all defined in terms of human subjective experience.
The bottom line is that we do not know how those experiences manifest themselves in different animals, fish or birds. However, we can be pretty sure that they will not be the same as they are for humans, for reasons relating to their wholly different ways of life.
Lord Soulsby—I point out for the record that he is a constituent of mine—was a member of the Burns committee. He published a critique of the Bateson report, in which he stated:
It is important that as full an account as possible of the physiological effects of hunting deer and other species be obtained to allow a justifiable scientific stand … If hunting is to be rejected on scientific grounds then the scientific evidence should be more conclusive than it is at present.
I remind hon. Members that Lord Soulsby was emeritus professor of animal pathology at Cambridge university.
I want to touch on the effect of the proposals on point-to-points, in which I have a strong constituency interest. I have two point-to-point courses in my constituency, at Horseheath and Cottenham. There is no doubt that that common, countryside weekend activity would be severely damaged by a ban on hunting. The British Horseracing Board gave evidence to the Burns inquiry, in which it stated:
The BHB believes that a ban on hunting with dogs would severely undermine the present scale of Point-to-Pointing, and that this in turn would have a damaging impact on British Racing.
There is no doubt in my mind that that is correct.
To conclude, I believe that this is a matter of liberty. I do not believe that the Burns report has proven an overwhelming case of cruelty that would justify the House in restricting people's liberty, as is proposed. I believe that the argument returns to the issue of a moral judgment over what people should or should not do, and what they should or should not enjoy. I do not believe that that is a decision for the House; it is a decision for the individual.
I want to raise two issues. Most people have been talking about foxhunting, but the Bill is not solely about foxhunting: it is about hunting with dogs. The only hunting with dogs that would be permitted under the Bill would be hunting for rats and you could only hunt for rats if they were on your own property, if they were in your garden, you could set the dogs on them to hunt for them, but the moment they went out of your front gate, you would have to say to the dog, "Don't go out there. That's not my property." The only way of allowing the dog to go out would be to obtain permission from the owner of the land on the other side of your garden fence. That would be nonsense, and it is inconceivable that it should be allowed. We have many rats in this country, and they should be exterminated. If we could not do it with dogs, I cannot imagine anyone doing much good with a gun.
Yes, you could use rat poison, but to stop dogs hunting for rats seems to be a crazy idea.
The other issue is one that I have often raised before. I have received a leaflet from the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, of which I have been a member for many years, and which I strongly support. The leaflet states:
The mink swims better than the vole and the female is small enough to follow the water vole into its burrow. In other words, the mink is perfectly designed to kill the water vole.
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust wants to take immediate action to counter the threats from habitat change, man and mink to prevent the water vole becoming extinct…
One option in the Bill seeks to ban hunting for mink. No other creature, except man, can exterminate mink. If we go for the third option, we shall prevent that happening. I cannot understand how people who say that they are going to defend the countryside and that they are interested in the environment can say that one should not hunt for mink. Nothing else will destroy them.
I shall concentrate my remarks on the amendments that I have tabled with the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends regarding the commencement of the option on which the Committee will decide tonight. I want to put that briefly in context. Several hon. Members rightly described how they have consulted their constituents and worked with interests in their constituencies. On the whole, that has led them to believe that a ban is the right option in these circumstances. I have gone through a similar process.
Almost a year ago today, I stood in a by-election in Ceredigion to be elected to the House. My new-Labour opponent made my views on hunting an issue. Unfortunately for my opponent, we won with the largest ever percentage of the vote for Plaid Cymru. Even more unfortunately for new Labour, its candidate came fourth, with the worst ever result for the Labour party in Ceredigion. It was clear what I stood for as regards hunting in Ceredigion and west Wales and the upland and sheep farming areas of Wales in particular. During the campaign, I said that, should I be elected to the House, I would table the relevant amendments to ensure that the National Assembly for Wales had a say on hunting in Wales. That is the purpose of tabling our amendments and seeking the Committee's support for them.
I want to say a few words about the effect that our amendments may have on hunting in Wales. My views are not the only reason for our tabling them. After the publication of the Burns report, the National Assembly debated the report and gave its response to it. On a Conservative motion, the National Assembly voted, albeit narrowly, to ask for the powers to decide on hunting in Wales to be devolved. I am sure that Labour Members will not complain if there is a narrow vote for a ban tonight. Our amendments represent the view of the majority of Members of the National Assembly, though not, of course, the view of the present Lib-Lab coalition in the National Assembly.
Before the summer, when I first raised the matter with the Home Secretary, a couple of things were said to me, which the Minister has repeated. I want to quash the nasty rumours about what the amendments may mean to Wales or to the devolution settlement—which I would not describe as settled, but be that as it may. I hope that our amendments are selected. They would amend the commencement orders and the way in which those are drawn up, so that the National Assembly could make decisions in Wales. For example, were option 2 agreed to—perhaps not tonight, but further down the line when the Bill returns from the other place—the National Assembly would decide the details of the hunting authority in Wales and matters such as what hunting would or would not be licensed. Let me give a personal example: I see no reason at all for hare coursing, and many of my remarks will address the need for foxhunting as pest control.
The hon. Gentleman refers to hare coursing, and a lot of misapprehensions about it are apparent in the Chamber. Is he aware that illegal hare coursing, which takes place without the permission of landowners, usually for the kill and for big money, is widespread in the east of England and partly responsible for the destruction of the brown hare population, which the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) mentioned? If it cannot be policed now, what difference would passing a Bill banning hunting with dogs make? Illegal hare coursing has a lot to answer for, but such a Bill would do nothing to address the problem.
Well, it is. It is the Government's responsibility to provide the right resources to enable that to happen. I shall address the two main needs arising from the Bill: keeping upland sheep farming alive in Wales and maintaining an active, vital and biodiverse countryside. For me, hare coursing has no part in that. However, foxhunting, under a system of regulation, has.
My final point about the devolution aspects of our amendments concerns the idea that to introduce different criminal sanctions in Wales and in England would somehow be to undermine and rip up the United Kingdom constitution—not that it exists to rip up, of course. There have been differences in the past. Sunday pub opening was different in England and in Wales: it was a crime to have a pint in Wales, but perfectly legal to do so in England, which reflected the different social and, at the time, non-conformist, make-up of Wales. In advocating our amendments, we are suggesting that there are circumstances in Wales sufficient to allow for more flexibility to be devolved to the National Assembly through the Bill.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Sunday licensing laws were poor law and that many football and rugby clubs opened on Sundays, making nonsense of the system? He suggests that there should be a difference between England and Wales, but, in fact, just as the licensing laws made poor law, his proposal would make extremely poor law.
I do not accept that as a criticism of the principle. However, were I to pursue that argument, I would be well out of order, so I shall not do so. I say this to the hon. Gentleman, however. Last night, we discussed the Children's Commissioner for Wales Bill. There was full consultation on the Bill with the National Assembly for Wales and it is progressing on a fast-track procedure, with the support of my party and other opposition parties, because we know that the devolution settlement has worked in relation to that example. I ask the Minister to say whether there has been any serious discussion of this Bill with the National Assembly.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that upland farming in Wales is totally different from that anywhere else in Great Britain? There are 16 sheep to every person in my constituency. The only other place where that ratio occurs is in New Zealand. Lambs must be protected. They are vital to the rural economy, so we need effective control measures for foxes.
Yes, and that was recognised in the Burns report, which said that those special circumstances, which also occur in Cumbria, could not affect the general move forward that the House might want to make. However, we could do something different in Wales because we have the National Assembly. Other areas in England may have the same problems, and I regret that our amendments cannot assist them—whereas, as I shall argue, they may be of help to Wales and the Assembly.
The Children's Commissioner for Wales Bill underwent long consultation, which is why I ask the Minister whether the National Assembly has been consulted on this Bill. Last night we learned that the protocol between the National Assembly and the Wales Office—which is supposed to enable discussion and, where possible, agreement on legislation before it comes to the House—has not yet been agreed and put in place. In the absence of that protocol, have we in Wales had the opportunity fully to appreciate what is in the Bill? Be that as it may, we have been able to table amendments.
I want to make another point clear. The Government will seek to amend their own Bill, and what my party wants to achieve—devolving a decision on hunting in Wales wholly to the National Assembly, which may represent a departure from the present devolution arrangement—is not possible under tonight's voting procedure. However, it will be possible to decide here in the primary legislative Chamber the preferred option of Members. If Members wish it, we could accept the amendment which says that, in Wales, the details of the chosen option should be worked out by the National Assembly and should commence and be implemented by agreement with it. That would not fly in the face of any principles.
I shall say a few words about the different options, but would first point out that, when canvassed, National Assembly Members said that they would support a ban. I offer that information to the Committee. The extent to which our countryside, which we admire and feel strongly about, is managed by its prime custodians—the farming community and, in my area, those who run family farms—has not been sufficiently emphasised.
My constituency must be one of the most rural in Wales. Only one of all the post offices—there are about 40—is not classed as rural in the Government's guidelines. In such constituencies, the whole wild animal population is controlled in one way or another—in other words, killed in one way or another. Foxes, badgers, deer, mink and rats have already been mentioned; they are controlled—hunted or trapped—and killed.
In these islands, we are the species that cares for the environment, but we are also at the top of the pyramid of predators. In the countryside, what we do determines whether a species lives or dies. We may introduce the beaver or even reintroduce the wolf to certain areas; the human species is in control of our countryside.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Forestry Commission and private interests have imposed on our countryside a mono-culture of softwood forests that harbour thousands of foxes and have altered the ecology of our rural areas?
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. He demonstrates how we have changed the countryside for our economic purposes. That has side effects on the fox population and on other creatures. For example, in my constituency, a huge effort has been made to boost the population of red kite during the past few years. In one sense, that has been too successful, because conservation organisations have observed that there are too many red kite in mid-Wales—the birds are having an effect on farming.
It will be difficult to square the circle on conservation issues. Mostly, we ask farmers to do that. In Wales, we pay farmers agri-money through the Tir Glas and Tir Mynydd schemes and ask them to look after the land in a sustainable way. I am concerned that the ban option would take away from farmers one of the tools that they use on our behalf to maintain the countryside which we all say we love and want preserved.
The real question posed by the Bill is not whether or not we want to kill, because the killing takes place already: it is how we do it and where and when it should be allowed. It has been put to the Committee that the Bill contains only two options—to ban or not to ban.
Philosophically, however, even the ban option is not really a ban, because it allows certain types of hunting with hounds and dogs to continue.
I agree with supporters of a ban that what we are talking about in this debate is where we draw the line. Where is the best place to put that line? Should it be at the edge of strict control, so that hunting with hounds is almost impossible? Should it be somewhere in the middle? It is acknowledged that the detail of that option will have to be worked out in another Committee. Should the matter be relaxed and free and easy? Over the past few years, we have been made aware of how the public feel about that option.
The point at which we draw that line will reflect deeply on our approach to this issue. Is our approach based on conservation, on pragmatism, on making it work or on allowing a viable and sustainable countryside, especially in marginal fanning areas?
The Middle Way Group is satisfied that the provisions of the schedule associated with clause 2 are workable in their present format, but if that option were accepted, we could have a constructive discussion in the Standing Committee about those aspects that have proved to be bones of contention in this place.
I accept that point, but there is a line to be drawn in relation to the Middle Way Group option, too—and to say that is not to criticise its workings but to note that it could move either way along the spectrum.
As the Minister pointed out, the measure is a Home Office Bill. It thus broadly deals with non-devolved matters. However, it would have a huge effect on agriculture in Wales and on the social life of rural communities. It says to the citizens of Wales, "That which you were once doing shall be a criminal offence". Unlike some Members, I do not deny the House its role in that matter; under the present settlement, it is for the House to decide whether a particular activity is any longer acceptable to the majority of public opinion. I appreciate that.
There is no immutable right to hunt in all circumstances. There is a right to hunt only as long as the rest of society allows the practice to continue. That is what we are debating this evening. Nevertheless, I hope that members of society who are not involved in hunting—I am one—will think deeply about what will happen in certain areas. Do we want to create a situation in which farming in areas that we like to visit, that are biodiverse and sustainable, is further undermined by the removal from farmers of a particular option? I strongly advocate that we consider that point.
I feel strongly that, as the Minister said, the 40 Welsh constituency MPs—I hope that they are all in this place this evening—can and should be able to express the views of Wales. In his concluding remarks, will he tell us whether they will have a free vote on the amendments? He was rather circumspect when asked about that by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).
I am grateful to the Minister for that information. In that case, my remaining question is to Opposition Front-Bench Members: will Opposition Members have a free vote too? Plaid Cymru Members will of course have a free vote—[Interruption.] —I understand from informal remarks that, free vote or not, some Liberal Members will vote with us on this matter. I am glad to receive that confirmation.
Only one year ago, I stood on an election platform and made a clear statement of my stance on this matter and explained what I should be trying to do. This evening, I have had the opportunity to advance my views. I hope that hon. Members, no matter how they feel, will listen to some of the views and concerns expressed in a particular, peripheral farming area and will consider how the hunting ban will affect that area. If we have a further opportunity to debate the measure when it comes back from another place, perhaps we can consider a compromise that would allow certain practices to support farming interests in Wales.
I have only a few points to make because we have debated this issue to death. We have been around the course so many times that the arguments are extremely familiar.
I support option 3—a total ban—and reject the other two options. Some people say that a total ban is unenforceable. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) entered the Chamber a few moments ago, but then disappeared. As he is a former Home Office Minister whose e-mail has been plastered across the newspapers over recent days, I am disappointed that he is not listening to the debate.
I tried to intervene on the former Home Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), but unfortunately he would not allow me to do so. I wanted to ask him whether it is right for a former Home Office Minister to make the statement published in The Observer on 14 January. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border stated:
I think the banning option is impossible to enforce, and once we stir up the police about its weakness they will be terrified of trying to implement it.
Can hon. Members believe that?
The hon. Gentleman may be surprised to learn that I tend to agree with the consequence of what he says. This weekend, the master of a hunt told me that hunts are big business; it costs £50,000 a year to run them. Once the ban comes into effect—if it does—hunts will not be able to survive in some underground way; 18 in 20 hounds will have to be put down, as well as some of the horses. The hon. Gentleman is right. There will not be massive civil disobedience and the hunts will vanish. Of course, I regret that—he may not.
We hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am making the point that it is inappropriate for a former Home Office Minister to talk about stirring up the police so that they are terrified of implementing the law. Let me tell the putative law breakers on the Opposition Benches that, when the Bill has become an Act, they must take the consequences if they or those who support them break the law.
The hon. Gentleman is most generous in giving way. As I said earlier, every weekend in the east of England, people go hare coursing illegally. The police tell me that it is too difficult to control. He and I care about the fact that the brown hare population is declining, and brown hares survive where regulated, legal hare coursing takes place. Where hare shoots and illegal coursing take place, they are being wiped out, and farmers and landowners are being intimidated into the bargain.
I take the point, but all I would say is that the Home Office has been in touch with the Association of Chief Police Officers to find out whether there would be any particular difficulties about enforcing such a Bill if it were to reach the statute book. The Minister will want to comment on this in winding up the debate, but I understand that the chief police officers do not envisage any unusual, particular problems in enforcing the proposal if it becomes law, as I am sure it will. On the spring hare population in the east of England, it is up to the police to do what we pay them to do—enforce the law.
As the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) said, ACPO's view is that much the same resources are likely to be involved in enforcing any of the schedules, because substantial resources are currently involved in ensuring that hunts can take place and in dealing with protests and the other issues associated with hunts. The other two schedules may involve resource issues.
A survey has been conducted on how much police forces spend on policing the hunts. We have replies from about half the police forces in England. The average annual sum is about £500,000, so police forces already spend considerable amounts on such policing.
I do not want to labour this point, but it is important because Opposition Members talk about the criminalisation of law-abiding people. When the Bill goes on to the statute book, it will not involve criminalising law-abiding people, but taking action against law breakers. People outside the House do not make the law. We are elected to make the law and, if people reject our views, they can vote us out. The members of the Pendle Forest and Craven hunt, which is based in my constituency, can vote me out; they can put up a candidate if they like, and they can circulate leaflets. I am happy to have that debate because I am convinced that my views would prevail if we were to do so.
For the record, I tell the hon. Gentleman that I wrote to each chief constable to ask the cost of policing hunts in the year 1999–2000. About a third of the forces replied, and the total for each was £542,854—not an insubstantial sum.
The House will be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for supplying that information.
This debate is not about the slippery slope, angling, shooting, insects—astonishingly, we heard about mosquitoes earlier—birds, the whale population or all the sentient creatures in God's universe, but about what is in the Bill. All the other tactics are merely diversionary and intended to take us off the main argument.
I must make a little progress, but I will give way because I am interested to hear the exponent of the third way—[Interruption]—the middle way. That was a Freudian slip, because I was about to refer to the main exponent of the third way—the Prime Minister. I am a great fan of the Prime Minister, and all Labour Members breathed a huge, collective sigh of relief when he stuck to his principled position, which he set out two years ago, and did not move because he is a man of principle. That should encourage hon. Members on both sides of the House to vote for option 3.
I like being candid—not unkind, but just candid—so I have to say that I was disappointed in my good friend and constituency near neighbour, the Home Secretary. I withdrew my amendment to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, because the Government promised to introduce their own legislation, and, in the euphoria, I referred to the Home Secretary as a hero. That heroic phase was just a passing one, but I still like him and we get on well together. However, the middle way, which the Home Secretary supports, is chasing moonbeams.
I am a student of the third way and of the middle way, and it is amazing that after two and a half years' cogitation, trying to square the circle, the middle way did not have an answer on hare coursing. What did the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) say a few moments ago? I jotted it down, because that is the sort of person I am. He said that we still have some way to go. Can hon. Members believe that hare coursing is still work in progress?
At least the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) came up with some sort of solution. I paraphrase him, but he suggested that hare coursing should be allowed in those parts of the country where there are hares and banned where there are none. The middle way may be short of money but it is not short of intelligence, so why cannot it find a solution?
I find that attack extraordinary. I have already, made it clear to the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey)—I sometimes like to think that he is also my friend—that we have tried to take an honest approach throughout, and I said that there had been division and concern about hare coursing in the Middle Way Group. Furthermore, does the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) not remember that I gave him credit for causing us to focus on that issue? If he continues to lambast us simply for trying to have an honest and open discussion, having taken a tentative position on our schedule, I shall be disappointed because I thought he would be more generous than that.
I will not allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene. The answer was that he still had some way to go before working out a position. He must stop pointing to the Bill; we have all read it and we know what it says.
The Burns report said that hare corsing was
essentially carried out for recreational purposes.
As I said, the little hares that hop about do not eat meat or harm anyone, but the hare is a threatened creature. The Conservative party introduced the biodiversity action plan, which included a target. I thought that Labour Members had fixations about targets, but the plan included a target for the little spring hare, jumping about. It was that the spring hare population should double by 2010. We are thus supposed to be doubling the hare population, but at the same time some hon. Members condone the killing of hares—which are not pests or vermin—for fun. That usually excites a response from the Conservatives, but let me say it again—for fun.
I know exactly what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is going to say. He has intervened on me before, but I want to make some progress because many of my colleagues want to speak.
I am voting for option 3 because hunting is cruel. That is not a difficult concept to grasp. Some people, including eminent people such as scientists, say that it is not cruel. The Times published a letter on 20 December last year which many of my colleagues will have read. It was written by Dr. L. H. Thomas of Smiths Cottage, North Heath, Chieveley who is the secretary of Vets for Hunting, a group that I did not know existed. He said:
For 90 per cent. or more of any hunt—
in this case, a fox hunt—
are not fleeing in terror of their lives, but rather are responding in a remarkably controlled manner to an entirely natural, albeit adverse stimulus.
It is only in the short final stages of the hunt that the quarry comes under any serious stress and that no more, in physiological terms, than the extended athlete or racehorse.
There we have it. He went on to say:
I do not know how these scientists divine such information—
no apparent premonition of death.
Can hon. Members believe that?
The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire said that it would be wrong for us to bestow human traits on animals. We are not doing that. I am concerned about what we as humans do to animals. I believe that we should treat animals with respect, but I do not t think that they are prototype humans. The Burns report, which we have all read, concludes that there are more humane alternatives. Shooting foxes—lamping—has not been dreamed up by the League Against Cruel Sports. It was official Government policy when the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) was Minister of Agriculture and running the show at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The official line was that if there was a problem with the fox population, the fox was shot. That is also my view.
We hear much from self-appointed people who speak for country men and women. Apparently, no Labour Member speaks for them; it is something that the Conservatives do. The hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Townend), in a most astonishingly racist speech, gave the impression that he and people like him speak for country people. Well, they do not. I represent a constituency with a large rural collar and speak for many country people. I do not, however, take it upon myself to stand here and say, "I speak on behalf of everyone in the countryside", because I do not. I speak for people who share my point of view, as many people in the countryside do.
The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) spoke about the abolition of the hunt changing the face of agriculture. I allowed myself a wry smile, because the hon. Gentleman—and I like him too—was an Agriculture Minister in the previous Government. That Administration changed the face of agriculture—not irreversibly, we hope—by advocating the common agricultural policy and intensive agriculture. During the Conservatives' stewardship, 158,000 km of hedgerows were ripped out; yet they come here and lecture us, and people outside the House, that they are the guardians of the countryside, but they are not.
We will all—each individual Member of Parliament—vote according to our own lights. No one is pulling any strings as far as I am concerned. I believe that hunting's time has gone; it has passed. When we ban hunting, people will just have to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and get on with their lives. I urge my hon. Friends and other hon. Members to vote for option 3.
It is a great pleasure to speak for the first time with you, Mrs. Heal, in the Chair. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), but I shall try to be more concise.
There were two demonstrations in Parliament square today that involved horses: one was a horse-drawn hearse on behalf of Harefield hospital, and was attended by several hundred people; the second was a demonstration about hunting. One really has to question what the general public thinks is the most important issue. It is extraordinary that we are using parliamentary time on hunting when there are so many other issues—such as crime, police and hospitals—that we could be discussing. However, here we are tonight. I have not spoken on the issue since I had the pleasure of serving on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster). I shall try to make a few brief points on detail, as the Minister invited us to do.
I represent North Shropshire, where four packs of foxhounds, two packs of beagles and a pack of mink hounds operate. I hunt, and my family has hunted for many years. I am probably a definition of hell on wheels for the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Etherington).
Following the Burns report, Labour Members have a duty to produce an overwhelming reason why the ban should go through, because Burns does not prove cruelty. That is the fundamental point. Hunting has taken place in this country for 200 years. As a result, we have the most healthy and sustainable fox population in western Europe. Therefore, I will be supporting clause 1, but I could not support it if Burns had given conclusive proof that hunting was cruel.
People who go hunting are decent and honest. It is clear that they go hunting for entertainment, but they would not go hunting if conclusive evidence proved that an alternative method of culling foxes was less cruel. However, the Burns report says that none of the legal methods of fox control is without difficulty from an animal welfare perspective. That is a great understatement. Hunting works with the seasons. Every hon. Member has missed that point. Apart from the six or seven days that a pack of hounds visits an area, foxes are effectively protected, which allows for a sustainable population. Every other method that has been mentioned would lead to the indiscriminate killing of pregnant vixens, cubs down an earth and healthy mature foxes.
Burns tentatively recommends that lamping could be the most effective method. Obviously, a marksman—I have yet to meet a marksmen in the country, although I have lived there all my life—in broad daylight, with a rifle, in good weather conditions, would probably kill a fox outright.
Is not my hon. Friend's reference to healthy mature foxes terribly important? Is it not the truth that foxhunters, on the whole, kill elderly and infirm foxes? If those animals were shot, there would be indiscriminate culling, including that of healthy and young beasts.
My right hon. and learned Friend endorses my point. In addition, hunters catch foxes that have been wounded by shooting. Marksmanship is not a skill for which most of the farmers in north Shropshire are noted. Lamping would put at risk humans and livestock within at least a mile of the shoot. Most shooting would take place with No. 6 gameshot, probably fired from shotguns, and most foxes would go on to die an agonising and lingering death that is infinitely more cruel than the details of the moment of death in a hunt, which the hon. Member for Worcester goes on and on about.
Last weekend, I visited the members of one of the gun packs in the area above Oswestry. They kill 250 foxes a season and they are skilled people. They use shotguns with BB shot, but only 20 per cent. of the foxes that they kill are killed outright with the first shot; the rest have to be pursued by hounds. Therefore, the evidence that I have given shows that tamping and shooting are certainly not less cruel than hunting.
Some years ago, I visited a shooting area in the north of England in which there was no hunting at all, and I found a vixen in a snare. That was absolutely revolting. She must have been in the snare for some time and I will not give a gory description of what I saw. However, I am completely convinced that trapping and snaring are hideously cruel. Gassing is illegal and it is revolting in the indiscriminate manner in which it kills and partially poisons other animals down an earth, particularly badgers, which are protected.
Those who support a ban on hunting have comprehensively failed to address the cruelties of alternative methods. They also ignore the practical consequences of a ban. First, foxes will be less healthy—there is no doubt about that. Yesterday, I spoke to the master of a German pack of drag hounds who was clear that, since the ban in Germany in the 1930s, the fox population has been plagued by diseases. Germany has just got on top of rabies, but it now has a particular problem with a tapeworm, which he described as FuchsbandswÖrm. The worm is so dangerous to human beings—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Worcester is laughing, but the gentleman told me that, in Germany, people touch foxes only with plastic gloves and a handy bin liner, which they then take to an incinerator, because the FuchsbandwÖrm can cause a contagious reaction in human beings that can affect the liver and also can be lethal.
A ban will no doubt cause terrible damage to the sheep industry, as we heard from the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), who was backed up by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey). In the area above Oswestry, four or five valleys each have a gun pack that kills 250 foxes a season. The masters of those packs are adamant that only packs of hounds can flush out foxes from blocks of forest, some as large as 10,000 acres. Einion Evans, the master of the Banwy fox control society, said last night:
If they ban it, we'll be overrun. It'll be a disaster. The fox will be a hell of a lot less healthy.
A serious conservation question is also involved. On the hills, most ground-nesting birds, such as curlew, plover, merlin or hen harriers, would be wiped out. Yesterday, I spoke to a researcher who works for Severn Trent at lake Vyrnwy, where the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds runs a large reserve around the lake. It collaborates with the pack of hounds that I have just mentioned and the researcher has carried out a study on the black grouse in that area. He was quite clear that only hounds can effectively keep foxes down. He said:
For ground nesting birds it would be devastation. If they stopped around the lake, I don't know how we would deal with them.
I am grateful for that helpful intervention, which endorses what I have just said. I think that the hon. Gentleman would also agree that tamping could not work in upland areas, because one has to use a vehicle.
Another consequence of the ban that has not been touched on in the debate is the benefit that the hunts bring from disposing of fallen stock. Hunt kennels provide a crucial free service—24 hours a day, every day of the year—in humanely and quickly putting down injured animals and in disposing of the carcases in an environmentally friendly manner. In the last year, the Wynnstay and the North Shropshire hunts have alone each taken 2,500 calves and more than 300 cattle. A vet would charge at least £50 to come out, do the diagnosis and put down the animal and the carcase would still have to be disposed of. A knacker charges £70 to £80, but a local knacker to whom I have recently spoken doubted that the industry could handle a huge increase in work given the extra costs imposed by recent regulations.
Those urging a ban must address that issue. Farm incomes have collapsed, so who will pay for the disposal of carcases? Will they just be buried at night? It is disgraceful that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has come out in favour of a ban without a response to those questions, at the same time as the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food puts out literature commending hunt kennels to farmers.
I spoke to the Malpas farmers club only last week and it was clear that the attack on the rural economy that a potential ban represents will be enormous when one takes into account the added costs of disposing of fallen stock. That will be an on-cost to the farming community, which forms part of the proper balance in the fragile and inter-dependent rural economy that is under terrible attack from the Government.
I agree with my neighbour; I endorse his remarks.
Many farmers tolerate hunting be cause of the service that hunts provide for fallen stock. Many will not allow drag hounds across their land and there will be a drastic reduction in the horse population. The German drag pack that I mentioned now has only 12 mounted followers and it meets only 35 to 50 times a year, because landowners will not tolerate it meeting more often. That point was made clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Sir R. Body).
There will be significant job losses. The hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin) was disingenuous because he cherry-picked the Burns report. Burns referred to 6,000 to 8,000 jobs—but, luckily, the hon. Gentleman was tripped up by my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray), who took the figure up to 12,000 to 13,000 at least by considering more than job equivalents and part-time jobs.
Businesses near me will be disproportionately affected in rural areas. I know a saddlery business that will be wiped out—it will close down—and a family feed business that will also close entirely Yesterday, I talked to the head of a substantial feed chandler whose turnover is at least 50 per cent. devoted to hunting. He thinks that half his work force will go. There is a disproportionate impact in isolated rural areas. Many blacksmiths get through the winter only because of hunting and I know that, in some areas near me, farriers no longer take on apprentices. A major veterinary practice has told me that it will almost certainly reduce the number of fully qualified vets that it has, to the detriment of the whole animal population in the area.
Above all, the horse industry will be severely damaged. At the moment animals bred for specialist activities, such as racing, point-to-pointing, show jumping and eventing, that do not make the grade can be sold on as hunters for £3,000 to £5,000. They will go on to enjoy 12 to 15 years of happy life. If a ban is introduced, this floor will be torn up and the only option will be the vile alternative of the Belgian meat market where prices are currently as low as £300 per carcase, and would obviously be depressed further.
Hunts draw young people into a social network that lasts all their lives. Drag hunting is only suitable for wealthy, aggressive thrusters. [Interruption.] Labour Members may laugh but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) said, they totally underestimate the determination of country people to defend their freedoms. As I was about to say, people can hunt well into their 70s and the loss of social cohesion in isolated rural areas will be a further totally unnecessary consequence of a ban.
The ban option is thoroughly incompetently drafted. It does not define hunting. It requires breathtaking double standards. It will be illegal to hunt rats with a terrier, but not with a ferret. It will be illegal to hunt rabbits with a dog, but not with a hawk. The ban is drafted in such a way as to presume guilt in direct breach of the most ancient traditions of English law. It is quite wrong that a person innocently walking his dog should be subjected to intrusive visits by police without a warrant.
Above all, a ban will be supremely difficult to enforce. The last march in London totalled 300,000 people; the next will be a lot bigger. We understand that Members have their power, but it is not possible to run a pluralist society if the majority abuses its powers over a significant minority. [Interruption.] If Labour Members listened, they might learn something.
As a former tanner, I know what damage is done to cattle during halal slaughter. However repulsive I find it, I would not dream of banning an activity that is central to the religion of a small but significant minority. The proposers of a ban must provide an overwhelming reason for the deprivation of such a large minority's freedom to pursue an activity that is legal in all other western countries except Germany. Before they troop through the politically correct Lobby, brimming with self-righteous bile and spiteful prejudice, they should remember the unhappy precedent of 1936 when the revolting Reichsjägermeister Hermann Goering persuaded Adolf Hitler to ban hunting. We should not create criminals lightly. No one gained in Germany then; no one will gain now. A ban will be an ominous portent of further freedoms to be lost at the hands of an intolerant majority.
This is foreign territory for me because I have never spoken on this subject. [Interruption.] My neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Taylor), is clearly in an ebullient mood. To give hon. Members the flavour of my constituency, I can say that it is largely rural, and it has one beagle hunt and the Meynell hunt, which of course caused the heir to the throne a mishap a few weeks ago. I am not sure whether that accident happened in my constituency, but it appears that it was roughly in that area.
Like my hon. Friend, whose constituency is very similar to mine, I have found that opinions are not bitterly divided. They are broadly the same throughout the rural areas, the small town and the fringe of Derby that I represent. A possible exception are the most rural hamlets to the west of Derby, which, based on my correspondence and contacts, might contain a slightly higher number of people who support hunts.
A difficulty with the Bill, and a flaw in the Government's approach, is the fact that we have three positions that are, as the Minister said at the start of the debate, set out by their advocates. I shall support the third option, a total ban. However, I shall do so with concerns about the precise application of that ban and the way in which it will be implemented. I find it hard to accept the contributions of some of my hon. Friends, who have implied that this is the finished article that will be thrust into play without thought or consideration. Although I would not support the middle way, the defence that it is work in progress and a listening process needs to apply to the third option as well.
Rational points have been made about the precise application of this law. I listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), although I did not agree with everything that she said. In my constituency, too, people pursue rodents using dogs, and we must address the need for a precise definition of when one may use one's dog and of how one controls a dog in pursuit of a rat if it goes underground or on to someone else's property. I do not want to make people involuntary criminals by passing this law.
I have found it difficult to take part in a debate such as this because the debates that tend to appeal to me consist of clear, coherent philosophies that I can grasp, and the positions taken by those who defend hunting and by those who oppose it often contain incoherencies and inconsistencies that are difficult to defend. I am regularly confronted by those who know of my position as an opponent of hunting and who point out that there are many other examples of cruelty to animals and, indeed, to human beings that society appears to accept, and yet we act in this case. My answer tends to be that I am certainly an imperfect human being and that the perfect is often the enemy of the best possible solution that we can achieve. As human beings, we often have to tolerate inconsistencies.
I have listened to much of the debate, and I listened carefully to the arguments about civil liberties, which were well expressed, and for the need for hesitation, if not a halt, to any step that reduces an individual's liberty to carry out his normal activities, which are currently legal. It has been clearly stated that liberties are not absolute. We regularly restrict the liberties of our citizens to do things that may cause harm to others or to our environment and wildlife, which are of course unable to represent themselves in the Chamber. Examples have been given of laws passed to prevent cruelty to animals. Those are all infringements of liberty.
I do not belittle the fact that the third option would reduce liberty, but considering it in the light of other decisions, I do not regard it as a step change towards a dictatorial society. The hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) implied that a ban would be akin to an act in Nazi Germany. I do not find that resonance in the issue, although, as a ban may reduce an individual's liberty, it must clearly be reflected on. However, it would be a reasonable step because for a long time, and certainly during the past century and a half, the House has consistently made decisions that reflect the social mores of the majority in our country and its definition of what is acceptable in life.
As always, the hon. Gentleman is making a considered contribution. On the last point, does he acknowledge that the shift in opinion since the matter was first debated in the House a couple of years ago has, if anything, been towards greater tolerance of hunting? Does he accept that, as the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Taylor) was honest enough to admit in his contribution, there has been a shift towards the view that hunting should be allowed to continue in some form or another?
No, I am not sure that I do, to be honest. I have listened carefully to the debate, and I although I hope not to speak for too long, I shall come on to the steps that we need to take to deal with the serious issues. Defences of hunting have been given on which, I must admit, I have had to reflect carefully. However, I do not think that there has been a substantial shift of opinion in favour of hunting.
Over the past 30 years I have been involved in Bills of this nature. Is my hon. Friend aware that long before the previous general election there was a huge shift in attitudes towards hunting in the House and the community as a whole? In order of priority by which people would ban hunting, hare coursing is top, followed by deer hunting, which Conservatives Members have not mentioned, and foxhunting.
I dot not doubt my hon. Friend's word. It would hardly be right for me to advise the advocates of hunting, but in their position I would have sought some time ago to discard certain, utterly indefensible hunting practices, so that much more of the ground on which they stand could be defended. Their tactical stance has instead been to make a brazen defence of every practice, however unjustifiable. To that extent, they have been their own worst enemy throughout much of this debate, but that is for them to judge. [Interruption.] I see the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) gesturing—I do not know whether he wants to intervene, but I was not casting aspersions on him.
The nub of my argument is that, because it is possible to knock down on philosophical grounds the arguments that have been presented by both sides, in the end I have to make my judgment on pragmatic grounds. That is where I stand. The Burns committee provided useful information, but we should remember that it sought to do no more. There has been a tendency to wave the Burns conclusions in all directions, but we should be careful. In fact, the committee was instructed not to advise us on how to legislate on this matter. It sought instead to provide intelligence—sometimes a rare thing—and useful information on which we can base our judgments.
From that, I draw certain conclusions, the first of which is that, in some parts of the country—not all, by any means—the fox is a significant predatory pest that causes damage, mainly to farm stock. We must accept that fact and think carefully about how to deal with it.
Secondly, accepting that conclusion, we have to think about the ways in which foxes can be controlled. The Burns committee showed that there is no welfare-friendly way to control foxes in absolute terns. All methods have disadvantages and there is no perfect solution. The report inclines towards lamping, but some hon. Members—particularly those with constituencies in Wales—have expressed reservations about the difficulties that lamping in upland wooded areas might present.
Thirdly, in some instances, terrier work and work underground has produced app fling examples of damage—certainly to the fox and occasionally to the terrier. One Opposition Member referred to the mistaken comparison with practices such as bull baiting and badger baiting, wherein a confined animal is attacked by human beings. Such practices are comparatble to the work of terriermen following hunts. In the east midlands, the outcome of many hunts is that the fox goes to earth and is dug out and killed with dogs. That strikes me as similar in many respects to practices that have previously been banned by Parliament with general consent.
Fourthly, hounds do not always kill foxes rapidly. The idea that a pack of hounds descends on the fox and death is instantaneous is a myth. Speeches by Labour Members have demonstrated that a quick death is not always the case. Sometimes foxes suffer an appalling and barbarous death. One cannot blame the foxhounds—that is what they are bred to do. It is human beings who have developed that process and we have to be aware of that.
On employment and job losses, useful information has been provided. The precise numbers have been bounced around this Chamber, but as someone who cares about every job that is lost, speculation as to whether 8.000, 12,000 or a mere 800 jobs will be lost serves only to trivialise the issue. To the individual! concerned, each job is a job lost. I do not necessarily de fend the activities in which those people are involved, but at the moment they are legal. If we choose to legislate according to what the majority considers an appropriate way to control mammals that cause problems, we must have some consideration for the rights and future employability of such people.
It is also possible to exaggerate the impact on employment. Many people in m" constituency ride horses—from time to time, I allow neighbours to keep horses in my field. Horse culture appears to be a thriving part of the local economy. The drarnatic laic statements that were made about the abolition of hnnting leading to the death of horse culture were ridiculoe us exaggeration. To be honest, my impression is that a large proportion of the horse-riding population in my constituency takes no part in hunting activities. They choose to enjoy the pleasure of the Derbyshire countryside on horseback and I am hardly going to blame them for that.
We must ask how we can ensure t tat the economies of very isolated communities—Burns identified a few—that are highly dependent on hunting activities would cope with the abolition of hunting. In arriving at a judgment—as I shall tonight—that hunting should be abolished, we must recognise our responsibility to those whom we would thereby put out of work. Their small—often, extremely small—communities would be substantially damaged by the loss of a currently legal activity.
I want to see the key elements reflected in the work of the Standing Committee that will consider the Bill—I am not bidding to sit on it, but, with respect, I am advising those who will—and implement the total ban, which I am sure will be introduced, with my support. First, we need to reflect on the timetable that will be applied to the Bill, and how that impacts on hound welfare. Some exaggerated points have been made about the potential loss of life of hounds. There are employment implications and particular implications for some smaller communities. There is an opportunity for us to consider these impacts and the action that any Government should take.
Secondly, an important element is that of reviewing the effectiveness of other means of control of foxes in certain areas. The point has been well made that there is a shortage of highly trained marksmen to carry out the task. That should be our concern. If the main thrust of enacting the Bill is to improve animal welfare, it would be wrong to disdain the issue of how that control should be exercised in future. More reflection is required on whether assistance is needed to improve the quality of training of those who exercise the duty of control in the countryside. Perhaps we should consider funding for that purpose in some instances.
Thirdly, there is the targeting of aid to certain communities. We should not cast aside that responsibility to the citizens involved, however much we may disagree with what they have chosen to do legally until now.
Finally, we should consider whether it is adequate to rely on various activities being used as a defence against prosecution. I have read the Bill with care. It will be a defence against prosecution if it can be demonstrated that someone was carrying out certain activities that by implication, but not explicitly referred to in the Bill, were legal.
Some useful points have been made about the control of rats, and how that exclusion would work. As someone who has never defended the mink as a native species of the United Kingdom—I am well aware of the impact that it has on wildlife—I would want to consider how it should be controlled. There is more detailed work to do. I commend the Standing Committee that considers the Bill to undertake that task with rigour.
The Prime Minister said:
The House of Lords prevented the foxhunting Bill from proceeding. —[Official Report, 13 July 2000; Vol. 353, c. 1102.]
That was—[Interruption.]—the Prime Minister. I know that some hon. Members do not like this. He said that in response to a query from me, following three statements on television to the same effect. They were repeated on the record in the House.
The Prime Minister was either deliberately wrong or stupid. Either way, that gives me small confidence that what we are debating is anything other than a cynical exercise designed to get the Prime Minister off the hook from an idiotic undertaking that he knew he could not keep. However, he made it on television, to the effect that the Bill would be on the statute book by the end of this Parliament.
I am worried that hundreds, if not thousands, of people outside this place are following the debate and waiting for me to go, as I will, through the Lobby in support of a total ban, believing that the Bill will go on to the statute book. However, all hon. Members know at the bottom of their hearts that there is not a snowball in hell's chance of its being on the statute book, as the Prime Minister promised, by the end of this Parliament. It is no longer any good saying that that is due to the Tory House of Lords. It is Tony's cronies' House of Lords. He created it. No matter how we feel on the subject, it is time that we injected a little honesty into the cynicism that lies behind this.
No, I shall be brief.
Another fundamental thesis of dishonesty in tonight's debate is what has become known as the third or middle way. I do not share their view, but I respect those who honestly believe that foxhunting is not cruel, as I respect those on both sides of the House—some of my hon. Friends and many friends on the Labour Benches—who fought alongside me, as I fought alongside them, to bring foxhunting to an end because we believe that it is cruel. A woman cannot be a little bit pregnant. One either believes that hunting must go or that it must stay. Anything in the middle is nothing short of idiotic.
Therefore. I shall go through the Lobby to vote for a total ban tonight, as I always have done. I shall be joined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and other colleagues. That will not deny me the respect of Labour Members, such as the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), who will go through the other Lobby, because there is a genuine difference of opinion on the matter. It should not be a party political matter.
I want to place on the record tonight two matters that worry me a lot. As I am on the Chairmen's Panel and shall not, therefore, serve on the Standing Committee, I want to know that the Committee will consider these two issues. The first, which has already been referred to, is the possibility, nay probability, that hundreds of hounds, and possibly horses as well, will be destroyed. I want foxhunting to end. I expect that, in due course, the red-top tabloids will print pictures of piles of dead dogs and say that that is what has been done. I am ready for that, but I am not sure whether many supporters of the ban are ready for it.
My friend, the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey), the chairman of the all-party animal welfare group, quite properly said that he could not take a foxhound into his own home. My friend, the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) said likewise. I have two labradors, a collie, nine cats and two rabbits in my house and I do not have room for a foxhound either. I am already over-dogged and over-catted by several factors. If we cannot do it, believing the way that we do, I wonder how many of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of foxhounds can be found homes. I fear that many will be destroyed and we need to be ready for that. It is no good ducking the issue.
Secondly, I was delighted to understand that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be in the Lobby with us tonight voting for a total ban. I hope that he has spoken to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister and that there is an understanding that fallen stock, to whit h my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) referred, will be disposed of. A farming industry in crisis, with farmers facing bankruptcy, unable to employ the services of veterinary surgeons to treat live animals, sure as hell will not be able to dispose of dead bodies that are currently disposed of by the hunt. Those who want a ban, as I do, have to face the hard reality that Judi issues must be dealt with. I am sorry that the Minister of Agriculture is not on the Front Bench tonight to hear what I have to say, but I am sure that he will read it and I hope that those on the Front Bench will realise that at such issues must be dealt with in Standing Committee.
I want the ban, I want the issues dealt with and I want it done by the end of this Parliament, as promised by the Prime Minister. For those reasons, I shall go through the Lobby and vote for a total ban tonight.
I shall be extremely brief. I want to take up issues in chapters 5 and 6 of the Burns report that have not really been examined, concerning the scientific work carried out by Professor David Macdonald of Oxford university on the population management of quarry and the work of Professor Patrick Bateson of Cambridge university on stag hunting. In both cases, and in work with people who have disagreed with them in the past, the professors state that science itself should never be—and, in this case, has not been—the answer to the whole problem, as many other factors must be taken into consideration.
I have heard much tonight about how different techniques are going to control the population numbers of different species. That is balderdash. There is no evidence for it whatever, and science does not purport to make that claim. Much more needs to be done on that front. So much of what has been said by the proponents of hunting tonight is nonsense: it does not control population numbers.
Bateson and his collaborator Harris co-operated with the Burns inquiry and were commissioned to do research. Previously, there was disagreement between them, but they have now made a joint statement, in which they say:
Deer live in relatively small home ranges, moving about them slowly except when disturbed by humans, dogs and vehicles. Nothing in the course if a deer's life resembles being hunted by hounds; known pattern of predation by wolves do not resemble hunting. Taken together with the physiological effects of hunting, it is clear that hunting with hounds would not be tolerated in other areas of animal husbancry.
The Burns inquiry accepted that and said:
scientists agree that deer are likely to suffer in the final stages of hunting.
The only disagreemeat is at what point that occurs. A hunted deer is not like a trained athlete who can stop whenever he feels a little pain. An animal runs in fear of its life when it is t Bing chased. In the last 20 minutes before it dies, it is in a dreadful state, with all sorts of bad chemical imbalances and so on. Every scientist agrees on that.
For that reason, I support the ban. Other reasons have been adduced by Opposition Members. There is much more to do and it is true that there is an absence of evidence on hunting quarry other than red deer. However, absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence. The overall conclusion of the whole scientific community is that welfare problems are likely to arise in all so-called sports involving the use of dogs. In that case, how can we not ban hunting? In modern parlance: do not let the dogs out.
May I ask a favour of you, Mrs. Heald? I am conscious of the fact that you want us to be quick. I would not want my speech to last more than eight minutes. If I reach eight minutes, would you be good enough to indicate that? I want to be brief.
If the Bill passes and if hon. Members choose the third option, three things will certainly happen. First, many people—many thousands, probably—will lose their jobs. Secondly, many more thousands will be prevented from doing things that they want to do. I astly, there will be a serious infringement of civil and political liberties. The House should not allow that unless there is a compelling reason for it. Many of my hon. Friends and I believe that there is no such reason.
I have had the opportunity to speak in previous debates on this matter, so I can put my comments in short order. I propose to do so and, if I have time in my eight minutes, I wish to make four points. First, this is essentially a matter of freedom. We must recognise that, in a free society, people must have rights to do things of which others disapprove. We are not living in a free society if we can do only those things of which the majority approve. There are many things of which I disapprove with which I have had to wrestle as a politician and, formerly, as a Minister. For example, I dislike boxing very much, but I would not ban it. When I was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I was asked to consider religious slaughter, which, if I am honest, I also dislike, but I would not ban it.
Let us take, for example, homosexuality. We will shortly be asked to consider making lawful sadomasochistic behaviour in groups of consenting adult homosexuals. I find that pretty disgusting, but I do not want it to be subject to criminal law. I shall therefore support such a Bill. I also accept that abortion raises important issues of principle. However, generally speaking, I do not wish to see criminal law intervening in that matter. I am trying to make the point that, in democratic societies, we have to respect the rights of minorities.
My second point is that people like me, who defend foxhunting, are often accused of being the sort of people who would have supported bear baiting and so on. That is simply not true. The proper comparisons with foxhunting are angling, pheasant shooting and other forms of game shooting. I have shot all my life. I did so most recently last Saturday, although rather less well than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell), with NA horn I have had the pleasure of shooting many times.
I know that pheasants and fish surfer as the process of the sport is conducted. If one is wholly honest, one must recognise that the comparison with the other activities to which I am referring, which I defend, is favourable to fox hunting. Foxes are pests and must be culled; coarse fishes are not pests and do not have to be culled; and pheasants are bred for the purpose of shooting. Foxes either get away or are killed. On the whole, their deaths are fairly expeditious, but that is not true of pheasant shooting, in which as many pheasants fly away wounded as are brought down dead. The pleasure of coarse fishing lies in the extrication of the fish from the water. They feel pain, are not eaten and are often thrown back into the water. To try to distinguish between those activities is to make a false distinction.
From my time at MAFF, I know that those of us who eat meat are party to processes that are infinitely crueller than foxhunting. Anybody who doubts that should visit an abattoir or poultry-killing plant. I have visited many such places in my life, and I shall not describe the processes that go on there. However, it is clear that the animals in abattoirs are deeply distressed and know that something horrid is happening. If we are discussing cruelty, surely we should focus on the things that really matter, and not on foxhunting.
My third point is procedural. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), who spoke earlier, is not in his place—at least I do not think he is. I do not believe that hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies should be voting on the Bill, as it applies exclusively to England and Wales. Surely it is in the nature of democracy that those who make laws are accountable to those affected by them. If their constituents are not affected, there is no accountability at all—and in the absence of accountability, there is a form of tyranny. The precedent established by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is, therefore, wholly and utterly right. Scottish Members—by which I mean Members who represent Scottish constituencies—should not vote on the Bill.
No, I want to press on, as I have put a time limit on my speech.
One can often judge the propriety of an activity by the nature of the people who participate in it. That is certainly the case in respect of fishing. I walk up and down the River Trent every weekend with my dog. I see people fishing—they are often fathers and sons—and I am delighted to see them enjoying themselves. It would be absurd to suggest that such people are embarking on the sort of activity that should be made criminal. However, there is no difference in principle between what they are doing and foxhunting.
When I see people who engage in foxhunting, I recognise that I am dealing with the backbone of rural society. They have often been the first to rally to the colours when the country has gone to war, and many of them serve with the special constabulary. Such people are also often deeply concerned with the environment and are likely to participate in public life. They are, as we used to say, the salt of the earth. To say, of them and to them, that the activities that they pursue, like their fathers and grandfathers before them, should be made criminal is, to my way of thinking, deeply offensive.
This House should be in the business of defending civil and political rights: it is that, rather than indulging our personal prejudice, which is our function. I hope that hon. Members who reflect on that basic truth will vote for the status quo, which means voting for clause 1. If they cannot bring themselves to do that, they should vote for clause 2. In any event, they should vote against clause 3.
I will be brief, given the shortage of time.
I will vote for option 3, and I encourage others to do the same. I have just one reason—namely, my belief that there are more humane ways of killing wild mammals. I have listened to what has been said today, but nothing that I have heard has persuaded me that I should change my view. I also think that the issue of hunting with dogs is irrelevant to the issue of pest control: indeed, I believe that the submission of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the Burns committee used the word "insignificant".
An Opposition Member claimed earlier that the present system selected the weak and the elderly among the fox population. According to the figures in the Burns report, 40 per cent. of deaths caused by foxhunts are deaths of cubs caused by the cubbing process. Cubs hardly fall into the category of the elderly or the sick, and the process involved does not constitute a traditional hunt of the kind with which Members who are present will be acquainted. It involves the repeated surrounding of cubs so that they have no escape, until those participating are inclined to kill.
Forty per cent. of deaths caused by hunting result from that practice, although it is not printed on the card. It is irrelevant in pest-control terms, and it does not kill selectively.
I am convinced that the rural economy does not rely on foxhunting. We have heard any number of selective quotations from the Burns report this evening, but, whatever brief we take from Burns, let us read the text rather than just the bold recommendations. Burns clearly said that the question of job losses in the rural economy being linked with a hunting ban would largely be decided by what hunters did subsequently, and that was especially relevant to the ownership of horses.
We know from the results of a poll undertaken only a few months ago that, when asked whether they would ride less or more following a ban, all but 6 per cent. of horse riders said that the ban would make no difference. Of the 6 per cent. who said that it would make a difference, 3 per cent. said they would ride less and 3 per cent. said they would ride more. I do not think that the rural reliance on hunting is anywhere near as great as it is being made out to be.
Animal welfare is an issue for me, and for many other Members. We have heard an awful lot about foxes this evening, a little about hares, a very small amount about mink, but hardly anything—if anything—about deer. I am not surprised that no one wants to speak up in favour of deer hunting. I see no excuse for anyone, in a civilised society, to stalk a deer, make it stay where it is and return the following day to hunt it for many hours, using dogs which, because they are moving more slowly, lead it to believe that it has escaped, and to relax. The dogs, which have greater stamina, eventually overcome it, so that when it is totally exhausted, it either stands at bay or gives up and lies down. Then the dogs get it, and it is usually shot anyway.
If the deer has been stalked the previous day, why does it take 24 hours to get round to putting a bullet through it? I see no justification for such practices, and I am not surprised that no Member has sought to defend them today, although I am disappointed that more did not speak against them.
There are, of course, alternatives for those who wish to enjoy the countryside in this traditional way. I have seen the New Forest drag hunt, and I am sure that people will adopt that practice wren this ban has been imposed.
I want to say a little about licensing, and what I consider to be the perceived weakness of it. The middle way option—or, at any rate, what I think we are finally seeing tonight: a semi-complete set of options that will lead to a full set of options later—is not a new idea. We already have licensed meetings. The New Forest hunt is a licensed hunt, taking place on forestry land. Although that hunt is licensed we still have horrendous problems with it. There is still hunt havoc. There is still trespass on private land, there are still problems caused by loss of control of the pack— — it is very difficult to licence for that—and there are till problems with digging out. The New Forest hunt licence prohibits digging out, but it still happens. It is absurd to believe that, after licensing, all the problems will suddenly go away.
Nye Bevan used to say "You don't have to look into the crystal ball when you can read the book." You do not have to look into the crystal ball of licensing; it exists in England now, and it does not work. That is the only important point: it does not work.
We have heard a lot about liberties. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) said that the measure would put severe restrictions on tens of thousands of constituents' liberties. Someone else said that it did not affect anyone else. I disagree. I shall tell hon. Members why.
I have one of the largest rural constituencies. We do not have a hunt, but we sometimes have a visiting hunt. One visiting hunt came off the private land that it had been authorised to use. It went through the village and ended up in a constituent's garden. The fox was trapped. The family had to witness the huntsmen moving in, grabbing the fox and throwing it live to the hounds, which is against the hunt's own rules. The family then had to watch the fox being ripped to shreds. They said that the sight and sounds would live with them for ever.
The RSPCA took statements because the fox was "captive" and therefore protected by law. The society had a strong case for prosecution, but just before the matter went to court, the statements were withdrawn. The people in the village could no longer stand the intimidation and hassle that they were getting. Hon. Members talk about liberties, but there are other people's liberties as well. My constituents want to live in their house and on their land and to enjoy their gardens without having to put up with the activities of the hunt and the intimidation that follows their attempts to raise the matter.
When I visited the New Forest drag hunt in 1999, as I approached the gates, a large man jumped out and took my photograph. It was not the new-found celebrity status that I was hoping for—I found out that he was taking everyone's photograph. When I asked the organiser of the drag hunt why, he said that the man was from the hunt and was ensuring that everyone in the village saw who went to the hunt and was letting the side down. People have a liberty to attend such an event and not be photographed and have their photographs passed around the local community. There is a liberty for those people, too. They are the people whom we should be trying to support.
I agree that the abuses should be stopped. May I ask the hon. Gentleman a simple question. If he has the time, can he comment on t le thoughtful speech by the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd), who is supporting the same option as him? That is not a trick question. I am genuinely interested.
As the hon. Gentle man knows, I take a great interest in all sorts of animal welfare issues. If we can tackle issues through the all-party group that I chair, or through other hon. Members, I would be interested in working on those solutions.
The hon. Gentleman has only just come into the Chamber. Some of us have been here all day. There is little time left.
What about pensioner Moira Lamb, who was walking her dog Candy, who was attacked by a hunt? Attempting to protect her dog, Moira Lamb covered her with her body. She says:
the hounds were all around us and on top of me. I thought I was going to have a heart attack but I held on tightly because I knew that if they got hold of her they would rip her apart … The whole incident lasted for at least five minutes … eventually a hunter arrived … I demanded that they take mt to a vet. They seemed reluctant and asked if I had a car myself.
A grandmother was collecting her grandchildren from school. They watched as a pack of hounds tore into the fox. She said that they saw dogs
ripping it apart in front of us … no one from the hunt was at the scene and … the dogs were running riot through people's gardens and through a children's play area. Many if them were covered in blood … children were fending off the logs with their satchels. The poor kids were terrified.
The hunt took half an hour to arrive.
Hon. Members have mentioned sheep farmers. A sheep farmer from Gloucestershire said:
Over 20 years I have suffered more damage through the activities of the hunt than ever from those of the fox
That farmer then goes on to talk about trespass, about the local hunt damaging gates, about the death of pregnant ewes, about the trampling of lambs and—this is the point—about the fear of reprisal:
It may be hard to understand but. intimidated by events and fearful of reprisals from the hunting set, it was only after all these incidents that I plucked up the courage to complain to them. I asked them to let me know when they would be in the area—they refused.
In whose liberty is the House interested?
I give a final example from Essex. Villagers in Woodham Walter are sick of the hunt coming through their village. They drew up a petition and held demonstrations against it. We are talking about a quiet, leafy al part of Essex. The newspaper said:
The villagers decided to protest after violence … broke out at a hunt … and resulted in six arrests.
The spokeswoman said: 'We want to make it known the vast majority in Woodham Walter do object to the shattering of the peaceful enjoyment of their property.
This is our village—we should have some rights but our rights are just being thrown out of the window.'
Douglas Hill, joint master of the hunt, said … 'We don't have to inform the villagers. What has it got to do with the villagers?'
That is what we are discussing. It is a libertarian issue. People are living in fear of reprisals and living in a repressed state because of the activities of the hunt. When we vote tonight, we vote for a total ban because that is the only thing that will liberate those people.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey). He was right to cite the New Forest hunt as a classic example of how a licensed hunt cannot adhere to the rules. That hunt was in breach of the rules as recently as Boxing day, when the only thing it killed was a year-old cub. At first the hunt denied killing the cub, but it finally gave in when three lots of video film shot at the scene were produced. It then admitted that it had killed the cub and broken its licence.
I represent the inner-city heart of Portsmouth, which is one of the most densely populated parts of the United Kingdom. I was born and brought up there, and I have no connection with the rural areas outside Portsmouth except that I now live on the fringes of Portsmouth. Nevertheless, I am totally opposed to hunting. Why? I am against it because, 30-odd years ago, I went to my first hunt, in the hope of trying to prevent a fox being killed. In the past 30 years, I have been to dozens of hunts, most recently on Boxing day in the New Forest.
My experience at that New Forest hunt was quite interesting, as there were probably more policemen helping the huntsmen to cross the major roads of the New Forest than there were patrolling Portsmouth, which is a city of 200,000 people. One interesting fact is that in the past year the New Forest hunt has killed more of its own hounds than foxes. It has lost nine hounds, but admitted to killing four foxes.
The figures for the cost of patrolling the New Forest hunt's 26 meets in the past year are quite stark. A total of 613 riders were counted at the meets, which is an average of 24 per meet. They killed two foxes on Forestry Commission land, and two that went to ground on private land, using terrier men who dug out the foxes and shot them. Police, railway police and Forestry Commission representatives attended each of the meets. The total cost of policing just those 26 meets of the New Forest hunt was more than £20,000.
It has been interesting to hear the reasons given by hon. Members for voting for a ban. However, we should vote to ban foxhunting for the simple reason that the deaths of foxes in hunts are cruel and obscene. Those who have been at a hunt when a fox is killed will know what the kill sounds like, and those who have seen a kill will know that the memory of it will stay with them. Those who advocate hunting could never have been anywhere near a hunt when a fox is killed. If they had been, they could not possibly justify opposing a ban by citing an infringement of liberties.
What liberty and whose liberty do ban opponents think is at stake? It is certainly not the right to dress in hunting garb, to own a horse or to ride a horse across the countryside with dogs and accompanied by friends. The only liberty that will be removed is the one to kill a wild animal in the most obscene and grotesque way. That is what the debate is about.
The third way is an impossible dream and makes Don Quixote look positively sane. My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) could not even say how regulation would be policed or operated. We cannot regulate cruelty. A practice is either cruel or it is not. We either allow a practice or we do not. Some people honourably maintain that they want hunting to be allowed, but one cannot honourably maintain that it is possible to licence cruelty. That in itself is an obscenity and has to be rejected.
People have been duped into believing that this mythical third way is possible. As I said, however, it would be about as effective as Don Quixote tilting at windmills. It really is a fool's dream. The only real choice today is between allowing and stopping hunting. After 30 years of campaigning against hunting and attending dozens of hunts, I believe that there is no answer but to ban it.
My experience on Boxing day was that the only potential problem arose when some huntsmen on horses demanded that a person in a wheelchair be moved so that they could go down a path to which they thought they had right of access. Most huntsmen riding that way had gone the long way around, but some stopped and insisted that the person in the wheelchair be moved. That was the closest thing to confrontation that occurred.
There were probably nearly 200 demonstrators present at the Boxing day hunt. I was proud to be there with my family. I was proud, too, to witness the good discipline of the anti-hunt campaign's reaction. What was hideous was the delight that some of the hunt participants evinced at the fact that the only kill that they achieved was that of a year-old cub. That is why we should all be ashamed to allow hunting to continue, and why we should be proud to go into the Lobby tonight and vote to throw it out once and for all.
My contribution will be short, as I wish to cover only one issue. It is that of civil liberties, which has been mentioned by most Opposition Members who have spoken. The argument for civil liberties has been the loudest that we have heard tonight, and is probably the strongest that can be adduced against a total ban on foxhunting. I disagree with that argument.
I hope that I do no disservice to the argument by saying that it asserts that a ban on foxhunting threatens to criminalise law-abiding citizens simply for exercising their free will to enjoy a recreational country pursuit. In that way, the argument runs, we would offend against people's fundamental civil liberty to carry on hunting. I share those civil libertarian instincts, and I am proud to describe myself as a civil libertarian, but I wish to put on record why I profoundly disagree with the assertion that I have just set out and why I will vote tonight for a total ban.
In the modern world, civil liberties do not give us liberty to do everything that we want. They give us the liberty to do certain things, constrained by our responsibilities for our actions. Liberty is for ever constrained. It is surrounded and hedged in by our potential liability for what we do.
We recognise that every day in respect of our responsibilities towards other human beings. We accept that civil law constrains our liberty. We owe a duty to our neighbour to take reasonable care, not to trespass on his land, and not to act unreasonably so as to cause nuisance. We accept also that our liberty is properly constrained by criminal law and that, if we breach criminal code imperatives, our liberty can be taken away.
We accept also that the duty is owed not only to other human beings, but to the environment and to animals and their welfare. That is why, in certain circumstances, we can be convicted of a criminal offence for causing pollution, and why certain activities and leisure pursuits affecting animals—bear baiting and badger baiting, for example, among others—have been banned in the past.
In a civilised society, when we assume the right to kill animals we assume two further responsibilities—that we will not exercise the right other than for good reason, and that we will exercise it only in the least cruel way possible. As a civil libertarian, I therefore ask myself three simple questions. Is there a good reason to kill? Is hunting with dogs the least cruel method of making that kill? If not, is the extra cruelty involved none the less justified?
I accept that there can be good reasons for killing foxes, if not for killing hares. I say that even though, as a vegetarian, I have not eaten meat for 20 years. I used to wear shiny plastic shoes—until my noble and learned Friend Lord Irvine of Lairg, my former head of chambers, told me that I could not go into chambers dressed like that.
The second question is not whether hunting with dogs is so unusually cruel that we should ban it, but whether it should be allowed because it is the least cruel method of killing. I have read all the evidence and listened to all the debate, and I simply contend that it is not the least cruel method of killing.
The final question is whether there is, none the less, some compelling reason for allowing that additional cruelty to take place In my view, there is none. It is not a case of the welfare of the hounds—there are no geriatric hounds, because they are killed anyway. It is not a case of jobs, because jot s should not trade in cruelty. It is not tradition, because we should not allow traditions to continue if they are cruel, and it can never be pleasure, because human gratification does not justify killing anything.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak, albeit briefly. This measure gives more pleasure to Back-Bench Labour Members than almost anything else has done in the past three and a half years. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Etherington), who has been in the House for eight and a half years, said that this was what he had been waiting for. That is extremely sad, in my opinion, but it is what this is all about. This is a bone to faithful hounds—a sop to loyal supporters. It is to turn out the cc re vote before the election—we all know that.
I do not usually quote Oscar Wilde, but he wrote, very amusingly, of the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable. On this occasion, tint refers to Labour Back Benchers— many of whom are usually quite decent—in pursuit of the uneatable huntsman.
On Radio 4 this morning, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), refused to accept that fishing was cruel or that it had anything to do with the Government. To those who believe that this is about cruelty, let me quote from a report entitled "Pain and Stress in Fish", prepared by Mr. Kestin of the university of Bristol school of veterinary science and last updated in 1994. It says that the society's policy is
to oppose the infliction of pain and suffering in the name of sport.
The report refers to evidence that strongly confirms that fish can suffer pain and distress. It goes on to say:
the case for fish feeling pain is surprisingly complete.
Finally, it says:
the pain fish feel as a result of injury is likely to be just as important to them in their own way as human pain is to humans.
So I say to those who fish but wish to ban hunting that it is not a question of cruelty but of hypocrisy.
I do not hunt, but I have been to meets. I shoot, but I do not particularly like watching football. I do not want to spend my Saturday afternoons careering around the countryside after a fox, breaking my neck on a horse; nor do I want to spend them with a football jersey pulled over my distended stomach, waving a scarf, half drunk, walking up and down the streets of West Ham or Chelsea and chanting. However, I defend the right of those who wish to do so, as long as they do not unreasonably infringe other people's rights.
When 700-odd English fans were arrested in Charleroi last year, who called for the banning of football? Not many, but it was a serious incident. How many huntsmen have been arrested in the past 10 years for committing any infringement of other people's rights? I said that I would be brief. We know that the Bill will be passed in the House of Commons. It will be passed to cheers from some of the more mean-minded on the Labour Benches. [Interruption.] They laugh now, but it is mean-mindedness and chippyness, and it is very distressing.
The public in general do not really care about this issue. I spoke to a Minister some time ago—before he was a Minister—who said that he could not care two hoots about hunting, but 300 or 400 people in his constituency were passionately opposed to it. As most of them were in his constituency Labour party, he said that he would vote against hunting. That is what the issue is about. The legislation that will be passed tonight will be shabby and shoddy. It will be cheered by those who should be ashamed of themselves for persecuting others who want to do something that they do not want to do.
So far, 28 right hon. and hon. Members have spoken in the debate. None did so better than my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), in opening for the Opposition Front Bench and speaking in his own cause. He was explicit in his support of the present arrangements. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) wisely pointed to the problems of enforcement that seem set to result from the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) sensibly underlined, as someone needed to do, the passionate support for hunting that, whether right hon. and hon. Members like it or not, exists and is pervasive in our rural communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) underlined the danger, at which hon. Members are unwise to skit, of a rural-urban divide. My hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Townend) highlighted the arguments for freedom.
From my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) we had a speech that was wise, shrewd and characteristic of a country dweller who knows about the subject on which he speaks. I was especially pleased to welcome back to the bosom of the Committee my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson). My only problem with him, one with which I will seek to assist him, is that he has a dangerous habit of understating his case.
I have two hunts in my constituency—the Bicester hunt with Whaddon chase and the Vale of Aylesbury hunt. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury made his position clear. I shall follow suit and make mine explicit. I shall vote, and with gusto, for option 1. I shall, if pressed and with some reluctance, support option 2, and I shall vote against option 3 with pride coursing through my veins for the simple reason that it is unjust, unfair, improper and a chronic waste of the time of the Committee.
In this debate—there have been dissenting contributions of which the contributors can be justly proud, including my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale)—there are certain central arguments, the first of which is about cruelty. Despite the fact that we seek to magnify the differences between us, there is consensus between landowners, farmers, gamekeepers, conservationists and, belatedly perhaps, even political parties that the fox population needs to be controlled. The question is not whether it is to be controlled, but how to do so. As Burns rightly observed, none of the legal methods of fox control is without difficulty. Whether one deployed gassing, snaring, shooting, trapping or even tamping, problems would abound.
Lamping is not a practical proposition in upland areas. It is extraordinarily difficult to envisage how at night it can be expected that that method will distinguish between a healthy young vixen and a mangy old fox. The truth is that it would do nothing of the kind. In respect of hunting, however disagreeable the fact may be for right hon. and hon. Members whose prejudices are well established and unlikely to change, Burns emphasised that in the vast majority of cases the time between insensibility and death is no more than a few seconds.
So the simple reality is that the welfare case has not been made. Hon. Members seem to think that if, with sufficient frequency and venom, they spout the mantra of animal welfare and the need to prevent cruelty, that will somehow make their case. They ought to realise that there is a distinction between argument by advocacy and argument by evidence. There is plenty from them of the former and precious little of the latter.
I confess that I am inclined to salivate about the liberty argument. The reason why I get excited about liberty is that as a Conservative and a believer in the individual citizen, I regard liberty as a determining feature of my philosophy and so do my right hon. and hon. Friends. I make the point now which should not need to be emphasised, but under this Government more than ever does, that one of the curses of our times is the progression from the observation, "I do not like" to "It should be banned." That is not a wise, obvious or logical progression. It is not a progression that is worthy of or does credit to a mature parliamentary democracy.
I happen to believe that the problem with most Labour Members—it does not apply to them all, and certainly not to the Minister for Sport—is that they greet with blank incomprehension assertions based on the principles of liberty. They do so because most socialists do not believe in liberty, and the best that they can do is to believe that they believe in liberty. That is not the same thing at all.
If those Labour Members want to have their way, are hell-bent on doing their worst, and are determined to criminalise a whole section of the population, they can, of course, do so. However, to display the indifference, disdain and rank contempt for other points of view and for the pursuit of an alternative life style, as Labour Members have done tonight, is deplorable in a free society. If people want to hunt, they will hunt. Wealthy people in particular will go to France, Spain, Sweden or Italy and hunt if they wish to do so.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people stand four-square in support of hunting, but do not engage in the practice. As Labour Members know, I hail from the wing of the Conservative party that pays mortgages and buys its own furniture. I went to a comprehensive school, I use the national health service and I do not practise country sports. I have never done so and have no desire to do so, but I defend passionately, consistently and without apology those who exercise their liberty to do so.
The prospect of my hon. Friend salivating is obviously intensely pleasurable.
Will my hon. Friend comment on the prospect of an action being brought in a local magistrates court in this country for a breach of civil liberties under the European convention on human rights?
Such an eventuality is plausible. I do not find the prospect particularly attractive, but it might prove necessary. It would be a crying shame if the House of Commons so reduced itself that, instead of protecting liberty by its own decisions, it ended up having to tell members of the great British public that they had to look elsewhere for their protection.
Option 1 proposes an independent supervisory authority comprising people with real expertise, proven dedication and a track record of knowledge, commitment and care. Option 2 would, I fear, be expensive and complex, although I do not sniff at the motives of its proponents. I believe that they deserve respect. However, I hope that the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) will understand when I say that the problems of the option that he adumbrated were made ever clearer as he progressed through his speech, which lasted for more than 25 minutes.
No, I will not.
The third option is to criminalise, to use the full force of the law to arrest and charge people and even, ultimately, to put them in prison if they do not pay their fines, simply because they do not subscribe to the principles of Labour Members and dare to live their lives according to different it ones. We are witnessing from Labour Members—we see it clearly at this time of night, 9.48—nothing but a triumph of intolerance. That is sad, miserable and deplorable. In present circumstances, legislating on hunting displays the most astonishing perversity of priorities. There is a crisis in the countryside—the worst of its kind for 60 years—in which every agricultural price is down, suicide rates in the farming community are up and a real sense of despair exists as to whether there will ever be better times ahead. Class sizes are rising, the fight against crime is weaker, our transport system is more congested, the millennium dome is a fiasco and an obscenity, yet we have a tranche of Bills on licensing, consumer affairs, vaccines, referendums and mental health. Each and every one of those Bills has been regarded by the Government as less important than the pursuit of this abominable, politically correct fetish of criminalising those people with whom the Government and Labour Back Benchers happen to disagree.
The Bill is wrong; it is untimely and illiberal. The Bill stinks to high heaven and the great majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends will vote for option 1. They might suffer option 2, but they rightly loathe, despise and will vote against option 3
I never thought that I would hear the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) described as politically correct. Furthermore, to describe one's boss as intolerant is bizarre, but I suppose that from time to time we, too, have described the right hon. Lady as intolerant.
This has been a good debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is your boss?"] I can easily say that my boss is someone who will always consider the seriousness and reason of debate—sometimes he comes to the right conclusion.
The subject of hunting arouses emotions on all sides of the debate. That has been reflected in today's proceedings, but we also saw a greater degree of seriousness and concern as to the rationale of the arguments. That is one of the benefits of the Burns report and the Government's decision to set up that inquiry. The Government have introduced the Bill at this time because we made a manifesto commitment and the measure fits within our overall programme.
The development of the debate has been extremely good. Several valuable contributions were made today. The hon. Members for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) and for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) made thoughtful speeches in support of their point of view.
The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) support the middle way—again, I almost called it the third way. My hon. Friends the Members for Worcester (Mr. Foster) and for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) put strong arguments.
I draw special attention to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington. He said that the prospect of people with rifles walking around a national park in Cumbria should be considered seriously by the advocates of those who were thinking of voting for a ban. We must consider not only our overa11 view of the matter, but how we might deal with any difficulties that might arise. That is a lesson not only for those who may vote for the third schedule but for all those who may vote for each of the schedules.
The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) made a strong argument. He used his speech to complain about crime and police numbers—he who, from 1993, presided over budgets that cut police numbers by 1,500. Over the whole period of Conservative Government, crime doubled.
Order. It is entirely up to the Minister whether he gives way. I appeal to the Committee, on what is an important and emotive occasion, that the debate should conclude in the same equable manner in which it has been conducted throughout.
Whichever schedule we choose, the police will have the benefit of the 9,000 extra recruits in our police budget.
In defence of foxhunters, I echo the views expressed on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who has been in his place during this debate, and, to some extent today, by the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson). They pointed out that most foxhunters are decent and law-abiding—they may not agree with the law, but most of them are not law breakers. Foxhunters may seek to reverse a law that they oppose—that is their democratic right—but most of them will not cause a great draw on police time.
I will give way in a moment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should let me finish the argument, then he can deal with it.
The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that foxhunts are medium-sized businesses, so hunting is unlikely to be carried out surreptitiously. However, the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) told us that there may be a problem with hare coursing, and we shall have to deal with that issue.
Does the Minister accept that any comparison should be made on the basis of accurate facts? So will he accept that the number of police officers was rising towards the end of my period in office; that the number of police constables did not fall at all; that robbery fell sharply in the last year for which I was responsible; and that crime overall fell by 18 per cent. during the four years that I was Home Secretary?
I am not sure whether that is a matter for debate now, but crime doubled under the Conservative Government. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was a member of the House during that time, and police numbers fell after he left office under the budgets that he set, but let us deal with the Bill.
Other important issues were raised. Liberty was referred to throughout the debate. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) set out the case on liberty. He said that the fundamental contention was that liberty should not be restricted. It is clearly a restriction on liberty to regulate or ban hunting. One option would perhaps be more onerous than the other, but both would represent restrictions on liberty. The House is the custodian of the balance between preserving the liberty of the individual and the need to criminalise certain activities. The law is the baseline of shared values and obligations in society, and we must decide where that baseline should be set. It is Parliament's responsibility to debate and resolve such difficult issues. That is why we are here; it is what we were elected to do.
The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said that liberty is the over-riding issue. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) believed that cruelty is the over-riding issue. Of course, each Member has to make a judgment. The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire claimed that if hunting were banned, shooting and fishing would be the campaigners next target. He is right to say that the campaigners may make that their next campaign, but the Government are unequivocal on the point. Let me reassure those who may be concerned that, whatever happens tonight, there will be no ban on fishing or shooting under a Government led by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
I remind the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), who spoke for Plaid Cymru, that Wales and England form a common jurisdiction and that the power to decide whether to ban hunting has not been transferred to the National Assembly for Wales. There would have to be a stronger argument than that which he has used today to impose a territorial distinction on the grounds of their merely being different countries, given that they have a common legal system. He should not press his amendments to a Division. If he does, I shall invite my hon. Friends to vote against them.
The Bill has allowed all hon. Members to have their say today and on Second Reading. On Second Reading, the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) reminded us that we are representatives of our constituents, not delegates, and that we owe our constituents our judgment, our conscience and our sense of morality. Without fear or favour, each of us must exercise his or her vote today, each on a free vote. Others have set out their views. I will exercise my judgment having read the Burns report. I have considered my conscience on the views of liberty and cruelty.
I will vote according to the sense of morality that the debate has given me. I will vote the way that I promised my constituents that I would vote. I will vote against the liberty to be cruel; I will vote for a ban on hunting. I am sure that all hon. Member know that they will have to decide how their consciences dictate they vote. I now invite hon. Members to follow their consciences and to vote so that we can set out on the road by which this vexed issue will be resolved.
It being Ten o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN put the Question, pursuant to Orders [7 November and 20 December 2000].
Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
|Division No. 60]||[10 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Hayes, John|
|Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James||Heald, Oliver|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Baldry, Tony||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Beggs, Roy||Horam, John|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Bercow, John||Hunter, Andrew|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Blunt, Crispin||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Body, Sir Richard||Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Key, Robert|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Brady, Graham||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Brazier, Julian||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Breed, Colin||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Lansley, Andrew|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Leigh, Edward|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Letwin, Oliver|
|Burnett, John||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Burns, Simon||Lidington, David|
|Butterfill, John||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)||Livsey, Richard|
|Lioyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Cash, William||Loughton, Tim|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|McCartney, Robert (N Down)|
|Chope, Christopher||McCrea, Dr William|
|Clappison, James||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Collins, Tim||Malins, Humfrey|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Maples, John|
|Cran, James||Mates, Michael|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Davies, Quentin (Grantham)||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Moore, Michael|
|Duncan, Alan||Moss, Malcolm|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Norman, Archie|
|Evans, Nigel||O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)|
|Faber, David||Page, Richard|
|Failon, Michael||Paice, James|
|Flight, Howard||Paterson, Owen|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Pickles, Eric|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Prior, David|
|Fraser, Christopher||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Garnier, Edward||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Gibb, Nick||Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Ruffley, David|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Gray, James||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Green, Damian||Shepherd, Richard|
|Greenway, John||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Grieve, Dominic||Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Hague, Rt Hon William||Soames, Nicholas|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Hammond, Philip||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Harvey, Nick||Spring, Richard|
|Steen, Anthony||Walter, Robert|
|Streeter, Gary||Wardle, Charles|
|Swayne, Desmond||Waterson, Nigel|
|Syms, Robert||Wells, Bowen|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)||Whittingdale, John|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Wilkinson, John|
|Townend, John||Willetts, David|
|Tredinnick, David||Wilshire, David|
|Trend, Michael||Yeo, Tim|
|Trimble, Rt Hon David||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Tyler, Paul||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Tyrie, Andrew||Mr. Christopher Gill and|
|Viggers, Peter||Mr. Andrew Robathan.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Cann, Jamie|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Caplin, Ivor|
|Ainger, Nick||Casale, Roger|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Caton, Martin|
|Alexander, Douglas||Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)|
|Allan, Richard||Chaytor, David|
|Allen, Graham||Clapham, Michael|
|Amess, David||Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary|
|Ashton, Joe||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Austin, John||Clelland, David|
|Bailey, Adrian||Clwyd, Ann|
|Baker, Norman||Coaker, Vernon|
|Ballard, Jackie||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Banks, Tony||Cohen, Harry|
|Barnes, Harry||Coleman, Iain|
|Barron, Kevin||Colman, Tony|
|Bayley, Hugh||Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)|
|Beard, Nigel||Cooper, Yvette|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Corbett, Robin|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)||Corston, Jean|
|Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)||Cotter, Brian|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)||Cousins, Jim|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Cox, Tom|
|Benton, Joe||Cranston, Ross|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Crausby, David|
|Berry, Roger||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Best, Harold||Cummings, John|
|Betts, Clive||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Blackman, Liz||Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Darting, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Blizzard, Bob||Darvill, Keith|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Davey, Edward (Kingston)|
|Boateng, Rt Hon Paul||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Borrow, David||Davidson, Ian|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Brake, Tom||Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)|
|Brand, Dr Peter|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Dawson, Hilton|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Day, Stephen|
|Browne, Desmond||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Denham, John|
|Burden, Richard||Dismore, Andrew|
|Burgon, Colin||Dobbin, Jim|
|Burstow, Paul||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Byers, Rt Hon Stephen||Doran, Frank|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Dowd, Jim|
|Caborn, Rt Hon Richard||Drew, David|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Drown, Ms Julia|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bndge)||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Edwards, Huw||Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Efford, Clive||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Etherington, Bill||Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa|
|Feam, Ronnie||Joyce, Eric|
|Fieid, Rt Hon Frank||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Flint, Caroline||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Flynn, Paul||Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)|
|Follett, Barbara||Kelly, Ms Ruth|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)|
|Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Foulkes, George||Khabra, Piara S|
|Fyfe, Maria||Kidney, David|
|Gale, Roger||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Galloway, George||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|Gapes, Mike||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Gardiner, Barry||Kingham, Ms Tess|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Gerrard, Neil||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||Lammy, David|
|Gidley, Sandra||Lawrence, Mrs Jackie|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Laxton, Bob|
|Godsiff, Roger||Lepper, David|
|Goggins, Paul||Leslie, Christopher|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Levitt, Tom|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Lewis, Terry (Wotsley)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen|
|Grogan, John||Linton, Martin|
|Gunnell, John||Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)|
|Hain, Peter||Lock, David|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Love, Andrew|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||McCabe, Steve|
|Hancock, Mike||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Hanson, David||McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)|
|Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Harris, Dr Evan||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Healey, John||Macdonald, Calum|
|Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)||McDonnell, John|
|Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)||McFall, John|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Hendrick, Mark||McIsaac, Shona|
|Hepburn, Stephen||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Heppell, John||McNamara, Kevin|
|Hesford, Stephen||McNulty, Tony|
|Hinchliffe, David||MacShane, Denis|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Hood, Jimmy||McWalter, Tony|
|Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||McWilliam, John|
|Hope, Phil||Mallaber, Judy|
|Hopkins, Kelvin||Marek, Dr John|
|Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Martlew, Eric|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Maxton, John|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Meale, Alan|
|Hurst, Alan||Merron, Gillian|
|Hutton, John||Michael, Rt Hon Alun|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Milburn, Rt Hon Alan|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Miller, Andrew|
|Jamieson, David||Mitchell, Austin|
|Jenkins, Brian||Moffatt, Laura|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)||Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)|
|Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)||Morley, Elliot|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie|
|Mudie, George||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Mullin, Chris||Snape, Peter|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Soley, Clive|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)||Spellar, John|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Norris, Dan||Steinberg, Gerry|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Stevenson, George|
|Olner, Bill||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|Pearson, Ian||Stringer, Graham|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Pickthall, Colin||Stunell, Andrew|
|Pike, Peter L||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Plaskitt, James||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Pond, Chris||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Pope, Greg||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Pound, Stephen||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Powell, Sir Raymond||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Prescott, Rt Hon John||Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Thompson, William|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Timms, Stephen|
|Purchase, Ken||Tipping, Paddy|
|Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce||Todd, Mark|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Radice, Rt Hon Giles||Touhig, Don|
|Rammell, Bill||Truswell, Paul|
|Randall, John||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Rapson, Syd||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Raynsford, Nick||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Rendel, David||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)||Tynan, Bill|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (CoVtry NW)||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Rogers, Allan||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff||Wareing, Robert N|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Watts, David|
|Roy, Frank||Webb, Steve|
|Ruane, Chris||White, Brian|
|Ruddock, Joan||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Ryan, Ms Joan||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Salter, Martin||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Sarwar, Mohammad||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Sawford, Phil||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Willis, Phil|
|Shaw, Jonathan||Wills, Michael|
|Sheerman, Barry||Winnick, David|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Wood, Mike|
|Shipley, Ms Debra||Woodward, Shaun|
|Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)||Woolas, Phil|
|Singh, Marsha||Worthington, Tony|
|Skinner, Dennis||Wray, James|
|Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)||Wright, Tony (Cannock)|
|Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)||Wyatt, Derek|
|Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Tellers for the Noes:|
|Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)||Mr. Ian Cawsey and|
|Smith, John (Glamorgan)||Mr. Michael J. Foster.|