New Clause 13 — Registered Hunting: Absolute Bans: Deer, Hares, Foxes and Terrierwork

Part of Hunting Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 30th June 2003.

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Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Conservative, Witney 9:30 pm, 30th June 2003

I rise to speak against new clause 13. I put my cards on the table. I ride; I have been hunting; and I shoot. On occasions I have been asked to shoot foxes and I know what a hit and miss affair it can be—not in my case, but I know that it can be.

I was not a member of the Committee, but I believe that I do know something about which I am going to speak. Mr. Speaker, you asked us to be calm, but I find it very hard to be calm on this issue. I do not just disapprove of the Bill. I heartily dislike it. What I believe about this debate—and we have heard a lot of it today—is that it is born out of prejudice and misunderstanding.

Many hon. Members have talked about what has happened over the past five years. In many ways, it has been Back Benchers on both sides of the House who have put huge pressure on the Government to introduce a Bill against hunting because those Members so dislike the ritual, the chase, the redcoats. Then, those on the Front Bench are left with the difficult problem of how to ban the hunting of mammals by dogs. In some circumstances, and we have it in the Bill, if one is chasing rabbits, it is okay, but if one is chasing hares it is not. We go through all these twists and turns to prove it.

We have had a fascinating debate today about terrier work. The Minister is telling us that it is all right for a gamekeeper to use terriers underground but it is not all right for a farmer to use terriers underground. How can that be justified? We have had months of tergiversation: the Minister moves one way, then another and no one can make sense of it. Here is our countryside Minister, who should be thinking about post office closures, the crisis in agriculture, broadband and a hundred other things, having to spend all his time thinking about how to try to ban hunting with dogs.

The other reason why I find it hard to be calm is that I think about my constituents who are employed by the hunts. I think of Anthony Adams, the huntsman with the Heythrop who wrote to me to say that he had had 27 seasons of animal welfare. That is how he saw his job. He simply does not know what he will do when the hounds and the horses are gone. I give way to my neighbour.