Hunting

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 22nd April 2004.

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Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac Labour, Cleethorpes 11:30 am, 22nd April 2004

What recent progress has been made in relation to a ban on hunting with dogs.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

A clear commitment has been given to the House that the issue of hunting with dogs will be dealt with during the life of this Parliament.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac Labour, Cleethorpes

As this democratically elected House has expressed its will on the matter on a number of occasions, does my right hon. Friend agree that we can conclude the matter swiftly and that we could deal with all stages of a reintroduced Bill in one sitting day?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I agree that the views of the House have been made clear. She knows as well as I do how announcements are made about how the future business of the House will be dealt with. I hear what she says. The commitment to which I referred was made at the time of the Queen's Speech and reinforced as recently as 7 January. I hope that that gives her sufficient confidence about the way in which we will deal with the issue.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

In view of what the Minister has just said, could he predict when this Parliament might end?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider how the business of this House is dealt with. I am sure that he has sufficient knowledge to make predictions of his own.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Does the Minister accept that, when he says, "in this Parliament", the next Session of Parliament could be a relatively short one? There are fewer than 20 parliamentary weeks in this Session. For the life of me, I cannot understand why, if a big conversation is launched in the Labour party, and in almost every single discussion the banning of fox hunting in this Session of Parliament rears its head, the matter is not being dealt with. Get on with it. The Prime Minister dealt with the European problem the other day; let us settle this one as well.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

In some of the big conversations in which I have taken part in rural areas, fox hunting has not come up as a major issue. People are concerned about big issues to do with employment, education, jobs and the economy. Nevertheless, this is an important issue that needs to be dealt with. That is why an assurance has been given that it will be dealt with in this Parliament. I assure my hon. Friend that the question of how long remains in this Parliament has been fully considered.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there would be bitter disappointment among the large majority of Labour Members and the majority of people in the country if, in this Parliament—the second with a strong Labour majority in the House of Commons—there is no ban on this barbaric sport? Is it not time for this Government to have the courage to say to the House of Lords, "We will not accept your veto; the elected Chamber will decide", and to make sure in this Parliament, before the general election, that there is a ban, which I hope the Tories will challenge in the general election?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am indeed aware of the passion that this issue raises and the views of my hon. Friend and many colleagues. That is why a commitment has been made that the issue will indeed be dealt with during the life of this Parliament. I suggest that a measured view should be taken of this issue. It needs to be dealt with and people have passionate views about it, and that is why it will be dealt with in the course of this Parliament.