Orders of the Day — Hunting Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:14 pm on 15th September 2004.

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Photo of Ian Cawsey Ian Cawsey PPS (Mr David Miliband, Minister of State), Department for Education and Skills 8:14 pm, 15th September 2004

I did not intend to speak at this point in the debate, but I wish to address some of the issues that have been raised. It is a great honour to follow Mr. Gale who, in all matters of animal welfare, I think of as my hon. Friend—if not a comrade. I also agree with the comments by Miss Widdecombe about whether a delay is right. It is a narrow point. The House has now made its decision on what should happen to hunting in general, and I shall focus on the issue of a delay.

I am the chairman of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and, about a year ago, the Kennel Club wrote to me to say that it had no view one way or the other on the rights or wrongs of hunting and that it was a matter for Parliament to decide. However, it was worried about the dogs used in hunting. I met the Kennel Club and several other dog organisations, rehoming organisations and animal welfare groups, and we decided that I would recommend to APGAW that it commission a working group to look into that point. The working group met for the tail-end of last year and most of this year and finally published a report in the week before the summer recess.

People often refer to the APGAW report as though it were all the work of Members of Parliament, but—as the hon. Member for North Thanet will know—it is not unusual for the group to commission reports, and the contributors consist of people working in the relevant areas. The group that considered the welfare implications for the dogs of a ban on hunting was made up of Caroline Kisko, the secretary of the Kennel Club; Clarissa Baldwin, the chief executive of the Dogs Trust; Chris Laurence, head of veterinary services at the Dogs Trust; Dominic Rudd, the head of operational services at the RSPCA; and Dr. Rachel Casey, a vet and expert in dog behaviour and welfare from the University of Bristol.

We took much evidence from many groups and individuals over a long period. Dr. Casey and her colleagues at the University of Bristol spent much time visiting hunts. We received information from more than 30 hunts from various parts of the country that took part in different types of hunting and had different sizes of pack. It was a truly representative sample.