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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.)
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.
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.
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.
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--
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.