Commons Amendment

– in the House of Lords at 1:44 pm on 18th November 2004.

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[The page and line references are to HL Bill 112 as first printed for the Lords.]

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

rose to move that the House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44, 46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54, to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C in lieu:

54C Leave out Clause 15 and insert the following new Clause— "Commencement (1) The following provisions of this Act shall come into force on 31st July 2006—

(a) sections 1 to 4,

(b) Part 2 in so far as it relates to sections 1 to 4,

(c) sections 11 to 14 in so far as they relate to sections 1 to 4,

(d) Schedule 1, and

(e) Schedules 2 and 3, except in so far as they change the law in relation to an activity to which section 5 applies.

(2) The following provisions of this Act shall come into force at the end of the period of three months beginning with the date on which it is passed—

(a) section 5,

(b) Part 2 in so far as it relates to section 5,

(c) sections 11 to 13 in so far as they relate to section 5, and

(d) Schedules 2 and 3 in so far as they change the law in relation to an activity to which section 5 applies."

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, we are at a very late stage in the proceedings on the Bill. This House has made its view known to the Commons; the Commons have made their view known to the Lords. The only outstanding issue, in reality, is the date of the Bill's commencement. If your Lordships insist on the amendment of my noble friend Lady Mallalieu to my Motion, the Bill will go back to the Commons again, there will be a further insistence, and there will be no further stage at which we can consider it again. Therefore, this is the last chance to consider commencement.

The Commons did what I urged your Lordships to do last night—to take a middle way on the commencement date and move away from the virtual immediate commencement of this legislation and move to 30 July 2006. I elaborated on the advantages of so doing last night and shall repeat them briefly. It would give some time for adjustment and to see how the animals were dealt with, at least in part. It would also allow time for the will of the nation to be known because July 2006 is after the last possible date that the next general election can be held.

This approach therefore meets the criteria that have been advanced by the opposition—in its widest sense—to the Bill. We need not destroy immediately the lives of people before they have had time to adjust and the lives of animals before those options have been considered. It also meets the democratic arguments that the people of this country need to have a say in this before the Act, which is likely to be subject to the Parliament Act, is imposed on the hunting fraternity.

For all those reasons, it is very important that we take a positive decision in favour of a July 2006 commencement date. The amendment of my noble friend Lady Mallalieu is a package amendment which explicitly rejects that date. It is a single Motion rejecting all the proposals of the Commons, including the July 2006 date.

The issue before us now is therefore not registration against ban. It is not even Lords versus Commons. It is the date, because we know what will happen to those arguments and the will of the Commons will prevail. The only argument before us and the only thing that this House can really determine tonight is the commencement date. If noble Lords vote for my Motion they will be starting the commencement of this Act in July 2006. If noble Lords vote for my noble friend's Motion, hunting will come to an end in February 2005. That is the stark choice. Any other elements are actually passed. We have dealt with them and they are in procedure and moving towards, regrettably, a Parliament Act conclusion. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44,46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54, to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C in lieu.—(Lord Whitty.)

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour

rose to move as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44, 46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54 to which the Commons have disagreed and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C.

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour

I beg to move Motion B as an amendment to Motion A. If this Motion is agreed to, the House will insist on its amendments and disagree with the Commons amendment in lieu.

The conduct of this Bill is an object lesson in how not to achieve good legislation. I very much doubt whether the amendments before us should be before us in this form. My amendments seek to restore the compromise registration Bill for which this House voted so decisively. I correct the position that has just been expressed to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty: to vote against my amendment is to vote for the banning Bill, which I hope no noble Lord who voted before for registration will do now.

The other place has put us in an invidious position by returning the banning Bill parcelled together with the identical 18-month commencement date amendment that this House has already firmly rejected. The other place has not moved one inch at any point in this saga. The Lords have moved again and again from status quo to self-regulation to statutory regulation. The 18-month commencement is designed to assist the Government and avoid the consequences of bringing this Bill back now. It is not supported by the hunting community. If the Government want this Bill, they must surely have it via the Parliament Act in the form in which they sent it to us.

This House has taken a principled stand. I hope that we will not abandon our principles now. I repeat: a vote against my amendment is a vote in favour of a ban. In the past few weeks, this House has done the countryside proud. It has also done liberty proud. Let those who despise both use the Parliament Act on this miserable Bill if they can, but let us not help them to avoid the consequences of what they are doing.

Moved, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendments Nos. 1 to 9, 10C, 11, 12C, 13 to 44, 46C, 47 to 51, 52C, 53 and 54 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 54C.—(Baroness Mallalieu.)

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Shadow Minister, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My Lords, from these Benches I must say that the procedure has been a nightmare today—complicated to a degree and undermining for those noble Lords who actually want to understand what is going on and have an input. I hope that we never have to go through a procedure as complicated as this again and I suspect the staff of the House and the Clerks feel the same.

I believe that the vote is now simply about the commencement date. We have voted on the other issues and it is what those in the countryside would wish us to be voting on. Earlier in the passage of this Bill, we heard pleas about animal welfare, the welfare of people involved in hunting, the welfare of the countryside as a whole and countryside management issues. We have heard, indeed, impassioned pleas about the red deer herd on Exmoor.

For all those reasons, I believe that 18 months' adjustment is absolutely essential. Given the passion of their earlier speeches, it is unbelievable that some noble Lords are really pressing for a ban to be brought in by February. Therefore, we should support the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. Besides that, I emphasise for noble Lords who, I believe, have a firm commitment to the democratic process, that the electorate have a right to have a view on the matter. We should support the idea of commencement being delayed, and we shall be supporting the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for those reasons.

Photo of Lord Burnham Lord Burnham Conservative 6:15 pm, 18th November 2004

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, she says "we"—

A noble Lord:

She has sat down.

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Shadow Minister (Agriculture), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My Lords, I speak on a matter of conscience. I do not agree with what has been stated from the Front Bench, and it is my perfect right to do so, as this is a free vote. I believe that the consequence of voting for an 18 months' delay will be a ban. That is just a fact.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, I do have to repeat, particularly in the light of the noble Lord's comments, that this is not the vote that will decide whether or not there is a ban. The fact that the House has repeatedly taken one view, and that the House of Commons has taken its view, has determined, in effect, that the House of Commons will prevail and that the ban will occur. The only issue on which this House is voting tonight—and it can be a heroic gesture or principled gesture, if noble Lords wish—is whether hunting ends earlier or later.

The principled stand of my noble friend and many others is respected. It may at times have appeared that we did not respect each other in this argument in the course of this debate—but that stand is respected, and is no doubt appreciated among the hunting fraternity and among many who do not agree with the hunting fraternity. But there comes a point when a principled stand must also be practical for the people for whom that stand was taken to defend. Can noble Lords really go back and tell the hunting fraternity that they have deliberately voted on the one issue that it remains to them to determine—to vote to end hunting earlier rather than late, without a period of adjustment, rather than with one, and without allowing for a democratic choice of the whole of the British people rather than allowing for one? That is the point at which principle no longer exists and party tactics begin to enter.

There is one choice before noble Lords tonight: early end of hunting or later end of hunting. There will be a ban. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, is wrong, because once the Bill leaves this House in the form my noble friend suggests, it will go back to the Commons and straight in to the Parliament Act procedures. That is the constitutional position. There is one choice: February 2005 or July 2006. That is the choice for noble Lords. I do have respect for other people's views in this matter, but now we are on course for a final decision.

Photo of Viscount Bledisloe Viscount Bledisloe Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister says that the choice is only over the date. Surely the other important choice is whether the Bill is enacted under the Parliament Act, with all the challenges that could be made to that, or whether the Bill is enacted consensually, in which case the Parliament Act challenge would entirely go. The Minister must not pretend that we are talking only about time.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, that is now a matter for the constitutional process; it is not a matter for this House, for the noble Viscount or for myself. I have explained what the constitutional position is, but there is still a choice in relation to the timing.

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour

My Lords, I am not aware that the noble Lord has consulted the Council of Hunting Associations. I did so this morning and it made it very clear that it wanted nothing of 18 months. The noble Lord's proposal is designed to help the Government over the pre-election period, and it is designed to try to persuade this House not to put the other in the position of having to use the Parliament Act with all the legal challenge that they know is likely to follow. The choice is a simple one: do we throw away our principles or do we vote to support this grubby little banning Bill? I hope that the House will continue to act in the principled way that it has throughout.

On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 153; Not-Contents, 114.

Division number 3 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Commons Amendment

Aye: 151 Members of the House of Lords

No: 112 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

On Question, Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Bill returned to the Commons with a reason.