My Lords, perhaps I may give my views on Amendments Nos. 2 and 23. I say at the outset that I am strongly in favour of registered hunting, both inside and outside the less favoured areas. However, this amendment is specific to foot packs in the uplands in the less favoured areas. I understand that in the event of a ban, they would be exempted from that ban.
I prefer Amendment No. 23 to Amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 23 lays the matter out in some considerable detail, and in fact names the fox as the culprit which is to be hunted. I am sure that efforts will be made over the next week or so to secure a compromise. That may emerge but, sadly, I believe it to be a faint hope. As yet we do not know what the components of a compromise might be. What I do know is that there will be opportunities at Third Reading in this House and on what we call ping-pong—when legislation goes back and forwards between the House of Lords and the House of Commons—perhaps to achieve a final compromise.
Therefore, I believe that these amendments really are insurance for hunting to continue in the uplands as a means of pest control. Clearly, that will be necessary were a ban to come into play.
The protection of lambs in particular is very important. As I have said before—and I shall not repeat it at length today—sheep populations are very dense and there are many lambs in most of the uplands. Monoculture conifers harbour huge numbers of foxes which predate on lambs and cause severe economic damage to the farmers concerned. Only the foot packs provide a vital control. It is a frequent occurrence, especially during the lambing season, for farmers to call in those hunts to control particularly the foxes that get a taste for lamb in the spring.
So I believe that these amendments are very worthy, but they are a backstop in a worst case situation. We will just have to wait to see what emerges at Third Reading and in the ping-pong phase of the Bill.