Schedule 3 - Hunting with dogs: prohibition

Part of Hunting Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 25th January 2001.

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Photo of Mr Colin Pickthall Mr Colin Pickthall Labour, West Lancashire 11:00 am, 25th January 2001

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed rightly referred to the need to tackle badly drafted legislation, as he called it, and the anomalies and weaknesses that he detects in the Bill. However, in supporting the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, he is in effect seeking to introduce other weaknesses.

I agree with much of what has been said about the need to tackle the rabbit problem. My garden has been completely wiped out twice by rabbits, so I have no reason to be particularly fond of them, even if they do keep the lawn cut. Nor do I have a quarrel with what was said about rodents or mink. However, the amendments would enable those who wish to hunt animals that are set apart from hunting to find a cover. Amendments to paragraph 1 would allow people to argue that, in hunting rabbits to control them, the dogs mistakenly pursued a hare or fox while temporarily out of sight. The countryside in which such activities take place is not like a bowling green, where one can see everything that is going on. It is complex territory, full of holes, rocks and so on.

The amendments would provide a built-in excuse for hunters who wish to hunt in a way that is proscribed. They would be able to pretend that, in catching something else, they were in fact hunting rats. In a subsequent court case, their position would be relatively simple to defend. In the case of mink, they could say, ``Sorry, your honour, we set out to hunt mink but in fact we caught an otter. It was one of those things—we couldn't prevent the dogs from turning at the last moment.''

I do not underestimate the seriousness of what right hon. and hon. Members are saying about the problems caused by rodents and rabbits, but excepting such animals from the Bill would only weaken it. I know that some oppose the Bill lock, stock and barrel, but it is the will of the House to legislate for a ban, and it is our duty to make that ban operable. The amendments would prevent that.