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Hunting Bill

– in the House of Lords at 3:09 pm on 26th March 2001.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office 3:09 pm, 26th March 2001

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Skelmersdale) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Hunting with dogs: prohibition]:

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

Notwithstanding what the Chief Whip has just said, I advise the Committee that if Amendment No. 1 is disagreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 2 to 6.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

Although this amendment is not grouped with Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, I anticipate that many Members of the Committee will find it impossible to discuss the issue of the ban in isolation. In order to facilitate that, I therefore propose to address all three options in my opening remarks.

The amendments that we debate today would replace the ban on hunting, for which the Bill currently provides, with either self-regulation or statutory regulation. I hasten to point out that I am not suggesting that Members of the Committee should vote for, or against, any particular option. Rather, I am helping the Government to carry out their role as a neutral facilitator of debate and I recognise that the debate has to begin somewhere.

I will say a little more about the three options before the Committee in a moment. First, it may be helpful to remind Members of the Committee of the procedure that we are to follow. The Government's aim has been to ensure that your Lordships have the same choice between the options as did Members of another place and that you are able to express a clear view by voting on each of the options. The Motion that your Lordships passed on 13th March, the day after the Bill's Second Reading, enables precisely that to take place.

As I have explained, the Bill contains a single option, which is the one that was put forward by Deadline 2000 and which would have the effect of banning most hunting with dogs. That was the option selected by Members of another place. Included in the amendments standing in my name are the two other options--that is, the one put forward by the Countryside Alliance, which provides for a scheme involving the self-regulation of hunting, and the one put forward by the Middle Way Group, which provides for a scheme involving the statutory regulation of hunting.

As my noble friend the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms has just explained, at the end of this debate we will vote on whether option one--the ban--should remain in the Bill.

My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton will then move Amendment No. 2, which, if carried, would put the self-regulation option in the Bill and replace the ban option, if that had survived the first vote. When that amendment is moved, it is open to any Lord who wishes to speak to it to do so. At the end of that debate, there will be a second vote.

At the end of the second vote, my noble and learned friend will move Amendment No. 3, which, if carried, would put the statutory regulation option in the Bill, replacing any of the other options which may at that point have been in the Bill. Again, any noble Lord wishing to do so will be able to speak to that amendment. There will then follow the third and final vote.

To put it another way, there will be votes on the ban option, the self-regulation option and the statutory regulation option in that order, and the last one that receives a positive vote will be the chosen option.

I remind Members of the Committee that as a result of the procedural Motion that your Lordships adopted, the Bill will then be reprinted and recommitted to a Committee of your Lordships' House.

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

I apologise for interrupting the Minister so soon, but we have already heard a difference of view between the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms--the Chief Whip--and the Deputy Chairman, who explained to us that if Amendment No. 1 is disagreed to, no further votes can take place. What the Deputy Chairman said differed from the answer that was given to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, a few moments ago. I should be grateful if the Minister would confirm the situation.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

My understanding of procedure is that which was outlined by my noble friend the Chief Whip. I thought that the procedure and the way in which Members of the Committee wish to proceed had been clarified during the debate that followed the Bill's Second Reading. I hope that we can proceed on those terms.

Photo of Viscount Astor Viscount Astor Conservative

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but if Amendment No. 1, which would leave out Clause 1, is not agreed to, how can one call Amendment No. 2, which also states, "Leave out Clause 1", because there would at that stage be no Clause 1 to leave out?

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

I think that the answer is that Amendment No. 2 states, "Leave out Clause 1" as well. Amendment No. 2 also relates to the schedule, which is consequential. The three options will all be voted on. I am sure that Members of the Committee will have the opportunity, as they wish, to proceed in the way in which my noble friend the Chief Whip outlined.

Perhaps I could now say a little more--

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

I understood the Deputy Chairman to state quite categorically that were we to disagree to Amendment No. 1, the other amendments could not be called. This needs to be clarified but not by a member of the Government Front Bench. I am sure that this is not procedurally correct. The procedure is being altered today anyway. We need an explanation from the Chair.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

I have been advised by the authorities of the House that, as I said originally, if Amendment No. 1 is disagreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 2 to 6 by reason of pre-emption.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

May I continue with this point, because I was the one who raised this matter? That totally differs from the opinion given by the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

The Committee should be guided by what the House decided exactly two weeks ago on this very question.

Photo of Lord Mishcon Lord Mishcon Labour

Would it not be appropriate, for the dignity of the House, for us to adjourn for five minutes while the matter is clarified?

Noble Lords:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Lord Marsh Lord Marsh Crossbench

I ask a simple question. Whose authority prevails on this issue? We cannot proceed until we have an answer.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

I energetically urge Members of the Committee to support the very sensible approach proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.

Photo of Lord Graham of Edmonton Lord Graham of Edmonton Labour

It is clear that the Deputy Chairman's explanation, which was given in the presence of my noble friend the Chief Whip, is contrary to the advice given by the Chief Whip. All that the Deputy Chairman said was that the authorities had advised him. So far as I am concerned, one of those authorities must be the Chief Whip. The situation needs to be clarified. Denis, it is all yours!

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Lords Chief Whip (HM Household)

That last remark was certainly out of order. The advice that I gave the House earlier was given in good faith. The advice I received was that there would be three amendments and options, which were alternatives, and that there would be three votes. The first that I knew about this situation was when the Deputy Chairman advised the Committee that a decision on the first vote, which would be for us to accept a ban--I stress that--would mean that subsequent amendments and options were inconsistent. That was the first I had heard of that advice. The advice that I received previously was that there would be three clear votes and three alternatives.

Without wishing in any way to pre-empt the Committee's discussion--Members of the Committee will have their own views on our chances of voting for a ban--it remains, on the advice that I heard a few moments ago, that if the Committee voted for a ban, it would not then be possible, and it would be inconsistent, to consider the other two clauses. In the circumstances in which the Committee is likely to find itself, I suggest that we proceed with our debate and to a vote on a ban. In view of the outcome of that vote, we could then decide on the best thing to do.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, wisely suggested that as we are in a procedural muddle it would be easiest for the Committee to adjourn for five minutes in order for the position to be clarified. Everyone will then be content.

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Lords Chief Whip (HM Household)

I was outside the Chamber when the Motion was moved. I was not clear to which Motion my noble friend referred. But I am happy to accept the noble Earl's suggestion and move that the Committee should adjourn during pleasure for five minutes while we discuss the matter.

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

If we were to adjourn for 10 minutes, the Statement could then follow immediately after the adjournment and the debate on the Committee stage could resume immediately after that. That may be more convenient.

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Lords Chief Whip (HM Household)

That is an extremely good idea. I beg to move that the House do now resume and, in moving the Motion, I suggest that the House does not take the Statement until 3.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

[The Sitting was suspended during pleasure from 3.20 p.m. to 3.35 p.m.]