Schedule 3 - Hunting with dogs: prohibition

Part of Hunting Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 25th January 2001.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 10:30 am, 25th January 2001

The hon. Lady makes a telling point. I cannot give her an answer. We must both look to the Government for an adequate explanation of paragraph 22, in which the answer lies. That is yet another paragraph that contains considerable uncertainty and ambiguity.

I turn briefly from rodents to rabbits. Surely, much the same argument applies to rabbits as to rodents. Members of the Committee would generally accept that rabbits cause enormous damage to crops and to the bark of young trees. Why have the Government decided not to include an exception for rabbits? I cannot understand why the damage done by rabbits is considered to be more acceptable than that done by rodents. Why is there a provision in paragraph 8 for rodent control yet no provision in the schedule for rabbit control?

Amendment No. 3 deals with mink. I know that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) has strong views on the matter, and she may wish to speak later. All the evidence that I have seen indicates that, in this country, mink are vermin. Speaking personally—I am not stating my party's policy—I think that there is a strong case for treating mink as successive Governments treated coypu. That would involve a well-planned programme, including a bounty to try to eradicate the species, which is not native to these islands.

The report by Lord Burns records the damage that is done by mink. They kill domestic poultry, ducks and geese; the rise in the mink population has been linked to a decline in the population of moorhens, coots and grebes; mink have come close to eradicating colonies of some ground-nesting seabirds; and, although they are not completely responsible for the precipitate fall in the country's water vole population, the report concluded that there is no doubt that the rise in mink population has aggravated that problem.