Orders of the Day — Hunting Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:25 pm on 15th September 2004.

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Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 6:25 pm, 15th September 2004

The measure affects not only the people who will lose their jobs but the farmers who will have 500,000 carcases, most of which currently go to hunts, a year to dispose of, the hunts, who will have the problem of what to do with their hounds, the fox population, which will explode as a direct result of the ban, and game shooting, poultry and sheep farming. It is interesting that, under the Bill as drafted, people are allowed to use terriers underground to save game shooting. That is considered acceptable. However, someone who uses terriers underground to save the 380,000 lambs a year that foxes kill will go to prison. Someone who uses terriers underground to save poultry farming, which suffers terrible depredations from foxes, will go to prison. Terriers may be used underground only to save game shooting. I welcome that, but it shows the absurdity of the detail of the Bill. The 18-month delay will not help.

The consequences of implementation in three months or 12 months—and immediate implementation for hare coursing, on which I shall not expand except to say that I do not agree with the Government's argument—are too horrible to contemplate from almost every perspective.

The Government's cynical offer of a delay is an insult to the intelligence of country people. We know why the Minister made the offer: to avoid too bad a backlash in the approaching general election. It has nothing to do with animal welfare. It will assuage neither our fury nor our determination by one whit. I urge hon. Members to accept the proposal for a delay of 18 months, but it would have been better to accept our five-year proposal, which would have taken good account of the animal welfare consequences of the delay.

Those who believe in freedom and tolerance and love the countryside will devote every ounce of their strength to removing the illiberal Labour Government who have ruined their lives in the sure and certain knowledge that an incoming Conservative Government will introduce a Bill to repeal the damaging, illiberal and disgraceful measure.