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Schedule 1 - Exempt Hunting

Hunting (Re-committed) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 3rd July 2003.

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Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire 2:30 pm, 3rd July 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 75, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 21, at end insert—

', or

(aa) contributing to

(i) the biological diversity of an area (within the meaning of the United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992) or

(ii) the wildlife management of an area'.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 74, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 35, leave out paragraph 5.

Amendment No. 81, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 36, leave out 'two' and insert '10'.

Amendment No. 82, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 36, leave out 'two' and insert '20'.

Amendment No. 83, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 36, leave out 'two' and insert '35'.

New clause 7—

No. NC7, to move the following Clause:—

'The hunting of a fox which has been shot is exempt if it takes place on land—

(a) which belongs to the hunter, or

(b) which he has been given permission to use for the purpose of hunting foxes by the occupier or, in the case of unoccupied land, by the person to whom it belongs.'.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I shall speak succinctly because I am interested to hear the response of hon. Members who support the changes to the Bill. The Middle Way Group, as ever, bases its arguments on logic and fact, not passion and subjectivity. If right hon. and hon. Members choose not to respond, the conclusion must be that they are not willing to countenance improving the dreadful Bill before us.

Amendment No. 75 would include in the Bill consideration of biodiversity and wildlife management of an area. If damage to biodiversity is a good enough reason to permit the killing of an animal by stalking or flushing out, the same act, if it contributes to biodiversity, should be permitted. We are suggesting that there is a biodiversity benefit in hunting and that it should be recognised.

Before the Bill was changed to remove the registration provisions, the Minister suggested that the test for utility should include conservation and wildlife management, but that was removed from the

list of criteria. The Minister said in Committee on 21 January 2003:

''The narrowing down of a variety of definitions resulted from listening to the evidence and discussion ''throughout the process.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 21 January 2003; c. 298.]

That discussion presumably included the Portcullis house hearings. However, in a letter to the Countryside Alliance on 6 November 2002, less than a month before the Bill was printed on 3 December, the Minister was still referring to

''balancing the concerns of animal welfare and conservation with farming, land-owning and fishing interests.''

If the Minister was then persuaded of the biodiversity benefits of pest control, why is it missing from the Bill? Even with the hugely truncated, modified Bill before us, it is surely not unreasonable to request the Minister to take on board an amendment that is not controversial and that certainly would not change the spirit of what is wanted by the hon. Members who favour a ban. Our plea is that the Minister accepts in the good faith in which it is intended our contribution to schedule 1 which would reintroduce something that the Minister once said was important—biological diversity and wildlife management of an area.

Amendment No. 74 challenges the meaning of flushing out with dogs. Stalking, which is finding and following an animal unobserved, can certainly be undertaken with two dogs—perhaps with even one—but flushing out cannot be done with just two dogs on the sort of terrain on which gun packs operate, such as mid-Wales. The implication that flushing out can be done with two dogs suggests that the author either totally misunderstands the meaning of flushing out or—I hope that this is not the case—it is a malicious effort to try to curtail the activities of gun packs. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) acknowledged in past years that gun packs were not a target for prohibition. He sensibly accepted the arguments, which I put forward, that whatever he may think of people on horseback who chase after foxes with dogs, the gun packs that operate in the uplands of mid-Wales and the fells are clearly embarking on pest control.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I do not want to be discourteous, but the hon. Gentleman said that I adjusted my Bill to deal with flushing out and gun packs as a result of his arguments. I want to make it clear for the record that the exemption was written into my Bill before it went into Committee and before he made his case. Any amendment or exemption in my Bill in 1997 was a result not of his arguments, but of representations made to me by outside bodies.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

How disingenuous can the hon. Gentleman get? What was the point of saying that I had nothing to do with influencing his judgment? I do not care whether he wants to attribute his great change of heart to me or to outside bodies. I am happy to acknowledge on the record that he was not even slightly influenced by any of the arguments that he may have heard in Committee, but I am not sure why he is proud of that. The whole point of Committees and the only way in which they work in their intended democratic fashion is if hon. Members listen to each other and are prepared to change their points of view

on the basis of the arguments that they hear. [Interruption.] Shouting me down is not a great advertisement for those who believe that we should ban hunting with dogs—it would be better if they listened.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I will in a moment but I am on a roll. [Interruption.] A chase, if hon. Members prefer it. For the hon. Member for Worcester to suggest that he was totally uninfluenced by what he heard on this important matter in Committee is a source of great regret. With the benefit of hindsight, he might want to think about the message that that sends out to people who will read this record in future.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

Just before the hon. Gentleman had his tantrum, he referred to fell packs. He seemed to indicate that they flush to guns. I hope that he will put the record straight by saying that fell packs do not use guns because the dogs chase and kill.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I am surprised by that and have not been to see the fell packs. Unless other hon. Members can contribute, I am satisfied to take the hon. Gentleman at his word. If other hon. Members can contradict him, they can get up and make their point. In mid-Wales, gun packs are effective and work towards pest control.

I am calming down after my uncharacteristic outburst. In my characteristically generous way, I should like to praise the hon. Member for Worcester for having listened to outside bodies and having been influenced by feedback from outside the Houses of Parliament. If he were to listen even more closely, he would recognise that those outside bodies are hardly likely to have told him that they can flush to guns using two dogs. If just two dogs are used for flushing, there could be a chase round and round the woods, which would extend the chase rather than reducing it. Although I recognise that he will not listen to what I say in Committee, it might be appropriate for me to speak to outside bodies that can phone him up and influence him. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of time. I therefore ask the Minister, who has shown himself able and willing to listen to the Committee as well as to outside bodies, how flushing to guns can work effectively if only two dogs are used.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Can the hon. Gentleman imagine a situation in which a member of the public is arrested and brought to court to face criminal proceedings because it has come to the attention of the constabulary that he has used three rather than two dogs to flush out an animal?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We discussed enforcement this morning, and one can imagine a situation in which Farmer Jones goes out with two dogs and puts them in the wood but also happens to have his pet collie with him. The collie gets a bit excited, slips its leash and runs into the woods as well, at which point the police, who, no doubt, will be ever present when such activities take place, will say, ''You're nicked, Jonesie.''

The hon. Gentleman rightly points out the ludicrous challenge to enforcement that this part of the proposed legislation brings upon the unsuspecting rural world. We want workable legislation, and that is fair enough, but it should not prevent the methods that it seeks to regulate from being workable. Depending on how the restriction is interpreted, the Bill could do exactly that.

I am aware that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) wishes to speak on other amendments, so I shall speak briefly about new clause 7. In the light of the Middle Way Group's study on shooting foxes, the new clause, which is linked with amendment No. 72, is all the more important. Without dogs, wounded foxes will escape, and it is not always easy to know whether they have been hit. They can run for quite a distance, so human beings with guns will not be able to finish them off.

On the same principle that applies to retrieving hares that have been shot, the use of dogs is imperative if suffering is to be reduced. New clause 7, which has the heading ''Retrieval of foxes'', would reduce animal suffering under the new regime by enabling the use of dogs when the fox runs off. Hon. Members may say that that would loosen too greatly the incredibly tight and draconian restriction in the Bill, but they should remember what we have said all along, which is that the Bill, compared with what we had even a week ago, will increase animal suffering. I cannot emphasise that point enough. We have the evidence to support it, and we must get that message across to the wider public.

We would do something to ameliorate suffering by including new clause 7. I ask hon. Members who want a total ban on hunting with dogs what response they will give—I hope that they will respond in the debate—to the challenge of the Middle Way Group's findings about shooting; namely, that killing a fox with dogs is instantaneous—no experienced observer would say otherwise—but shooting a fox is a much less reliable way of achieving an outright kill.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I hope that his next response to me is a little more temperate than the last.

What is the difference between new clause 7 and paragraph 7(2) of schedule 1, which says that an exemption to the prohibition of hunting is that the

''hunter reasonably believes that the wild mammal is or may be injured''?

The schedule makes it possible to use dogs to locate an injured animal. What is the difference between that paragraph, which is part of the Bill, and new clause 7, which the hon. Gentleman is promoting?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I do not want to fire from the hip on that. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, when I have finished my contribution, and should there be time for a summation at the end, I shall respond to that point, but I do not want to do that while I am standing up now, because I would be making up the answer. Obviously, if the hon. Gentleman is right and the two are identical, there would be no point in having both. I commit to coming back to that, perhaps by intervention if there is no other way of responding.

The Middle Way Group has always been happy to take feedback and accept it when appropriate.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough 2:45 pm, 3rd July 2003

My hon. Friend may wish to consider the point that the schedule is subjective, whereas his new clause 7 is objective. His point about animal welfare is surely underlined when one considers the current state of foxhunting with gun packs in upland Wales. Am I not right in thinking that gun packs operate predominantly in wooded areas and that the welfare of the fox will therefore be much better protected by the continuation of the present gun-pack system than by allowing the indiscriminate shooting of foxes in wooded areas?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for his first suggestion. On his second point, he is right that much flushing to guns occurs in wooded areas. The dogs surround the area, then flush the fox out. There are two issues there. He is right that not being able to use dogs more liberally will cause welfare problems, as I have described. The second, incidental problem, which I shall mention briefly, is that the legislation is bound to increase usage of guns in the countryside. Given the greater access to the countryside that the Government have passed for ramblers, I do not need to tell the Committee that there are dangers associated with the increased use of guns in the countryside. I for one do not want to be in an emergency Standing Committee to introduce yet more legislation because some tragic event has occurred as a direct result of the increased use of guns in the countryside.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves flushing out, may I draw his attention to the fourth condition in schedule 1? It is that

''stalking or flushing out does not involve the use of a dog below ground.''

Can he conceive of any possible way of controlling dogs sent to chase an animal into a thicket, hedgerow, wood or copse that will prevent them from chasing the quarry into a rabbit hole or any type of underground space into which they can fit? It is absolute nonsense to think that the dogs are suddenly going to stop at the entrance to a small hole.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

One could regulate the size of holes in the countryside and demand that all dogs in the countryside have to be larger than the holes that are permitted. I think that the best place to discuss that point is when we discuss terrier work under the relevant Government amendment. I shall have a great deal to say about terrier work and the underground activity of dogs, some of which has been alluded to by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker).

Without my amendments, the legislation will, without question, have a detrimental impact on animal welfare in the countryside. The number of animals killed is not likely to be reduced by banning hunting, a conclusion from Lord Burns, which I do not think is a subjective interpretation. Alternative methods of control would replace hunting, which might result in increased animal suffering. No

verifiable evidence proves that hunting is cruel or that hunting people tend to cause unnecessary suffering. We are trying to ameliorate some of the worst effects of the changes made to the Bill during the past few days. We hope that hon. Members will take that seriously.

Only one person has questioned the quality and validity of our shooting research, but so that there can be no doubt that the Middle Way Group's objective and data-based conclusions are genuinely open to scrutiny, I shall quote Professor Patrick Bateson's response to some of our inquiries relating to requests for a perspective on our gun research. In a letter, he said:

''The conclusions of the report seem to me entirely reasonable''.

In fairness, I will read the next bit out for the sake of balance. He says that

''it is clearly the case that the poor welfare arising from incompetent shooting is not inexorably linked to this method of culling, particularly if education and training were improved.''

I accept that Professor Bateson raises some issues, which we can discuss at another point, but, crucially, although we have differences of view with him, even he has accepted the scientific validity of our research. Although he has other things to say about the chase, that research is exclusively devoted to shooting.

I hope that I have outlined why we tabled the amendments. I thank you for your gentle patience with my brief outburst towards the hon. Member for Worcester, Mrs. Roe.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

It was righteous indignation.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

Righteous indignation might be a better description.

More than anything, I hope that individuals who may not be predisposed to support amendments tabled by me because I happen to be in the Middle Way Group, will think again. Throughout the debate, we are seeking to improve animal welfare. If the amendments are ignored simply because of the affiliation of their originator, those who ignore them will be responsible for making animal welfare worse.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I congratulate the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) on the way in which he spoke about amendments Nos. 75 and 74 and new clause 7, and the people who work for the Middle Way Group on their nimble-footedness. They were so clever and nimble that they were able to put down their amendments first in this and the next two groups. I congratulate Jim Barrington and Georgia Boundy on that.

In that context, the Countryside Alliance is sad to be losing Sarah Godderidge and James Legge. Over the four or five years in which I have been involved in this business, they have carried out outstanding work briefing us all, and they will work hard right up until the summer. I thank them very much for what they have had to do, in spite of the fact that, on this occasion, they were outmanoeuvred by the Middle Way Group. I will not hold that against them.

I will speak briefly about the Middle Way Group amendments later, but first I want to touch on amendments Nos. 81, 82 and 83. They are alternative

amendments, and the intention was not to get all of them agreed, although I hope that one of them may be. The Committee will recall that, when we discussed flushing out previously, we proposed an amendment that would have allowed 40 dogs to be used for flushing out. The Minister said that 40 dogs was ludicrous, because that would be just like hunting. He said that 40 was far too many and he could not go along with the proposal. I suggested that if he did not like 40, he might consider a smaller number. The Minister said that he would certainly have considered intermediate numbers between two and 40, but that because we had not proposed such amendments, it would not be possible to do so in Committee. I thought it only sensible to give him that opportunity.

We have proposed three options—10, 20 or 35 dogs—and it will be interesting to hear which the Minister favours. Perhaps he will respond by saying that he is prepared to consider only two dogs, which is what is currently in the Bill. In that case, that may be a reflection on the Minister's approach to the issue, rather than the realities of finding foxes in the countryside.

We are talking about extremely large wooded areas. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire was rightly corrected. Gun packs are used to shoot, whereas fell packs are like other fox packs, except that they are on foot. Gun packs and fell packs are both on foot, but they are different. We are talking about gun packs, rather than fell packs. Gun packs often use dogs in extremely large areas of wooded countryside.

We are talking not just about trees, but about heavy undergrowth that has not been cleared for many years. That is where the fox likes to live. It is what we hunting types call bottom. The fox needs lots of bottom—lots of brambles and so on—to live there. If there is a clear wood in which trees have been felled so that the sunshine gets in and there is grass on the floor, there will not be a single fox. One finds foxes only where there is a good level of bottom to the cover. We might be talking about woods in Wales that are 100, 200 or 300 acres or more. The woods could be extremely large with few rides through them. It is completely impossible to flush foxes out of such country using two dogs because there is no way in the world that one would find the fox. If one did, there would be no hope of flushing the fox out. Foxes are not stupid. They do not just run in straight lines and say, ''Oh goodness me, here's a dog. I'll run in a straight line and see if I can find a chap out here with a gun.'' They do their best to avoid hounds if they possibly can. That is why it is essential to have a reasonable number of hounds seeking to flush the foxes out of the cover. Otherwise, there is no chance that they will be successful.

Foxhounds are pack animals, and they operate as a pack. It is hard to believe that two foxhounds operating on their own would necessarily be effective. If the Minister accepts the utility of gun packs, and using dogs for flushing foxes out of often dense undergrowth, he should consider whether eight, 10, 15 or more would be more effective. If, on the

other hand, the Minister is not prepared to consider the notion that hounds should be used for flushing foxes out, he might as well say so.

By including the number two in schedule 1, the Minister has admitted that he does see some utility in using hounds for flushing foxes out for waiting guns, and we are talking only about the best means by which to do that. If, contrary to indications, the Minister believes that the use of hounds for that purpose is disgraceful, wicked or sinful, he should remove the number two from the exemption. We should hear from him whether he believes that eight, 10, 15 or some other number that he might mention would be most effective.

Any number of learned and weighty organisations entirely support what we have said. For example NFU Cymru—[Interruption.] The Minister is Welsh; I am a Scot and we do not have that sound in Scotland. The Welsh NFU met the Minister recently and specifically asked him for an increase in the number of dogs that would be allowed to flush foxes from cover.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Yes, it says NFU Cymru on the paper here. The Farmers Union of Wales is different, and I shall, curiously enough, come to it in a moment. In evidence to the Burns inquiry NFU Cymru said:

''Amongst the farming community, there are strong feelings about the importance of maintaining all currently practised methods of pest control, not least the right to use dogs for the purposes of flushing out and/or taking mammalian pests.''

The Farmers Union of Wales said:

''The Welsh terrain makes it virtually impossible to control foxes without the use of dogs.''

Plenty of others would reiterate those points. I have no evidence to suggest that it could be done reasonably—in the uplands of Wales in particular—without using gun packs. There are 50 gun packs in Wales, which operate with between 20 and 35 hounds. It is essential that they be allowed to continue to do so. Leaving aside the contentious issues, I appeal to the Minister, purely for the sake of the utility of allowing fox control to continue in Wales, to consider increasing the number of dogs allowed under the exemptions.

I pay tribute to the Middle Way Group for its amendment No. 75 on habitat. It makes a great deal of sense. The Countryside Alliance recently carried out a major new scientific study into the habitat benefits that come about as a result of hunting. A very learned three-year study produced by the scientific journal Nature concluded that shooting and hunting maintain the most established woodland, and lead to the planting of more new woodland and hedgerows that anything else. The Minister has acknowledged that there is some utility in the matter in a letter dated 10 April 2002 to Sam Butler the chairman of the Campaign for Hunting. The Minister said:

'' 'Utility' addresses the need for the need for particular activities, particularly in the work of land and wildlife managers. It might be described as the need or usefulness of an activity for vermin control, wildlife management, habitat protection or land management and conservation.''

Again, in his original statement of 19 December 2002—although that is rather a tattered document now—the Minister said:

''The test of utility requires the activity to be shown to be necessary in an area to prevent serious damage by the quarry species to livestock, crops, property or biodiversity.''

I congratulate the Middle Way Group on amendment No. 75, which contains something that the Minister believed in as recently as December, although under political pressure, he may not be able to admit to it now.

Equally, I agree entirely with the Game Conservancy Trust and pay tribute to it. It is carrying out a most useful survey to map the extent of habitat management undertaken by country sports. Its most recent interim report, in July 2002, showed that at least 23,270 hectares of woodland are managed by foxhunting in England and Wales. One has to presume that that woodland will no longer be managed in the same way.

The same applies to coursing. In a National Coursing Club survey in 2002, 42.5 per cent. of those surveyed stated that they would change or cease current farming methods to conserve habitat suitable for the promotion of hare numbers in the event of a ban on coursing. There is no doubt at all in scientists' minds that significant benefits for biodiversity and landscape management are derived from hunting. If the Minister bans it in the way proposed, at least he might consider allowing, under the exemption schedule, some elements of hunting to continue in the interests of habitat preservation.

Equally, I entirely endorse new clause 7. It is an animal welfare consideration that, if a fox has been shot, hounds should be allowed to be used to catch it. Surely that is reasonable. If not, is the Minister suggesting that a shot fox should be allowed to crawl into a corner and die of gangrene? I would much rather see it pursued by hounds, and I think that that exemption from the Middle Way Group is perfectly reasonable.

We are not considering the contentious matters of principle that lie behind the Minister's proposals; that will come in the main part of the Bill. Under this schedule, we are considering how the Bill can best be used for animal welfare purposes and for the effectiveness of agriculture, biodiversity and landscape management. I hope that the Minister will make use of a liberal approach to the exemptions clause. We are not trying by this means to re-create or reintroduce hunting. All that we are trying to do is to establish a regime to ensure that the countryside is managed properly.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester 3:00 pm, 3rd July 2003

In my view, new clause 7 is superfluous given the existing conditions laid out in schedule 1(7) under the title, ''Rescue of wild mammal''. They make it clear that if a wild mammal is injured, or if someone believes it to be injured, dogs can be used to track and find it with the purpose of relieving it of its suffering. I should have thought that that was the prime purpose behind the new clause.

Schedule 1(7) also contains conditions about the land and the permission necessary for the person conducting the exempt hunting. Importantly, the seventh condition is that

''the wild mammal was not harmed for the purpose of enabling''

the hunting to take place. I suggest that that is quite a strict condition, which the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire might have liked to include in new clause 7 if he could. Given that schedule 1(7) covers what I think is his reason for introducing new clause 7, he should not press that new clause. Otherwise, I suggest—although I do not think for one minute that this is his motive—that new clause 7 is sufficiently loose for some people to take advantage of it to give as their defence for hunting a fox, ''Sorry, I thought we'd shot that fox and it was wounded because it ran away, so we chased it with dogs and had the sport that way''. Or, they could deliberately shoot it and then have their sport. New clause 7, as written, has that looseness and should not be pressed. We should keep the original schedule.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I promised to get back to the hon. Gentleman on this. The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) might have something to add too. We could have achieved something close to what we are trying to do with new clause 7 by deleting lines 19 to 22 from page 24 of the Bill—those relate to the conditions on two dogs and not being allowed to go underground. We could therefore have achieved the same thing in a different way. We have followed the path that we have, partly because that is how things have ended up, and partly because we have been so busy that this is the best that we can do. That is what happens whenever one is in a hurry. It is a little unreasonable for hon. Members to criticise us for trying to do our best.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

There is an argument about the use of dogs underground and I know that that will come up later. In response to the argument about not having enough time, and the points made by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire who endorsed new clause 7, if those hon. Members had taken the time to read the existing Bill and acquire a knowledge of it, they would realise that new clause 7 is not necessary.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

The hon. Gentleman and I are often separated by genuine issues of principle. On this occasion, there should not be any. We are trying to advance the welfare of foxes that have been wounded by shooting. Lines 19 to 20 of subsection (4) could prejudice the welfare of shot foxes. Labour Members should not have jeered when we said that we did not have enough time. We are not trying to find a loophole for hunting, we are trying to advance animal welfare, and there are big issues in subsections (4) and (5) that could prejudice that welfare. Our new clause 7 may be imperfect—I am prepared to accept that—but those subsections are also imperfect in animal welfare terms. The Government need to reconsider that point in the House or another place. Our arguments are genuinely about animal welfare.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I take the hon. Gentleman at his word that his points were genuine and that the subsections

were not written sufficiently loosely. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is telling the Committee the truth, the whole truth et cetera, and that is why I look forward to him withdrawing new clause 7. Paragraph 7 of schedule 1 is tighter on animal welfare.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

The point is that finding a fox that has been wounded by a shot may involve more than two dogs. It may not be possible to do it with only two dogs. What the hon. Gentleman is doing—I am sure with the best of intentions, as this is not an issue of principle—is advocating an imperfect method of retrieving a wounded animal. That is the worry.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I think that I am safe in saying that Labour Committee members are satisfied that two dogs could deal with the rescue of a wounded animal. My memory is that we did not discuss that matter when we had the earlier and more prolonged Committee stage. I do not think that anybody questioned whether two dogs were sufficient for rescuing, although we had plenty of time then to debate that.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Opposition Whip (Commons)

Much of what we are discussing is not based on fact or evidence of any sort. I wonder on what evidence the hon. Gentleman based his understanding that two dogs are enough to retrieve a wounded fox from a wood or thicket. Does he have any experience of that? Perhaps he has a great deal of experience, and if he does, I wish that he would enlighten the Committee. Alternatively, he could reflect that, if we are talking about animal welfare, we should all be concerned about dispatching a wounded animal in the quickest, most humane way. That might involve the use of more than two dogs. It might equally involve dogs being in at the kill to kill the wounded animal, as it is possible that it could not be retrieved by any other means.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

Before the hon. Gentleman's intervention, I was pointing out that when this part of the schedule was originally debated nobody mentioned the inadequacy of two dogs. One of the important differences between schedule 1(7) and new clause 7 is that the former contains a specific condition for appropriate action to be taken to relieve the wild mammal of its suffering as soon as it is found. That is a big difference. The mammal might be put down or treated in another way. New clause 7 does not refer to that, which is why it is defective, albeit not deliberately. I urge the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire to withdraw it.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

I had not intended to discuss new clause 7 or schedule 1(7) in such detail. Given that the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter and complained that nobody mentioned it in earlier sittings, it might be worth his reading the record of the Committee. That may remind him that at the equivalent stage in our previous deliberations, albeit that we were in Committee for 75 hours or so, we were subjected to guillotines, knives and time cut-offs—just as our discussions today will be vastly truncated, guillotined and subject to knives at various stages. Having said that, I am not sure that my recollection is the same as the hon. Gentleman's. I suspect that we discussed

numbers of hounds or dogs during a similar debate, although I cannot put my finger on that, because I do not have a copy of the record. That matter is fundamental when talking about animal welfare. I would be surprised if we did not discuss it. Schedule 1(7), which contains the proposal of the banners to limit the number of dogs to two, is an attempt not to promote animal welfare, although that is what they would like us to believe, but to inhibit the use of packs of hounds.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

There are some occasions on which we must assume that both the Government and Opposition Members want to enhance animal welfare. That is apparent in the words of schedule 1(4) on the retrieval of hares, which mirror word for word new clause 7 on the treatment of foxes. They are doing that because they care about hare welfare. If they care about hares, why not care about fox welfare?

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

I do not know the answer to that question. The point that my hon. Friend made is there for all to consider, although I am not sure that his criticisms of new clause 7 are as constructive as he thinks they are.

Schedule 1(7) is lengthy and deals with circumstances that will circumscribe the use of dogs in the rescue of wild mammals. Paragraph (7)(2) introduces a test of subjectivity. It says:

''The first condition is that the hunter reasonably believes that the wild mammal is or may be injured.''

No humane person who is interested in animal welfare would set about the task of rescuing an injured animal if they did not believe that the wild mammal

''is or may be injured.''

It continues:

''The second condition is that the hunting is undertaken for the purpose of relieving the wild mammal's suffering.''

Again, it is self-evident that a humane human being would have that in mind. That does not move the argument one way or another, nor does its absence from new clause 7 constitute a destructive argument. Paragraph (7)(4) contains the condition

''that hunting does not involve the use of more than two dogs.''

We all know why the Government want the number of dogs to be limited to two—they do not like packs of hounds. If permission were granted for the use of more than two dogs, which my hon. Friend and I, and others, deal with in amendments on using 20 or 30 dogs, the Government's purpose would be negated and they would have lost that argument. They do not want people going round with packs of hounds: that is the whole purpose of the Bill. Therefore, the arguments of the hon. Member for Worcester in favour of sub-paragraph (4) do not take us much further forward.

Sub-paragraph (5) states:

''does not involve the use of a dog below ground.''

A Member said that they will discuss terrier work and so forth shortly—although they might not, as there might not be enough time to do so. If Members on the Labour Benches think that animal welfare and the welfare of injured animals below ground will be assisted by the introduction of sub-paragraph (5), I beg to differ.

Sub-paragraph (7) sets out the ''sixth condition'', which is that:

''reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after the wild animal is found appropriate action (if any) is taken to relieve its suffering''.

Again, I do not know why the hon. Member for Worcester thinks that that is a wonderful sub-paragraph. If any humane person who is not into animal cruelty and deliberately inflicting pain on an animal has gone to rescue a wild animal that has been injured, he will put it down as quickly as possible. He may want to put it down by means of the hounds or dogs—which will kill it immediately, as the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said—or he may want to shoot it, if he is within range and it is safe to do so.

However, it will increasingly become unsafe for gun packs or users of guns—they might be trained marksmen in the police force or a Forestry Commission gamekeepers' team, for example—to use rifles in the countryside because of the right to roam and all of the other measures that give access to the countryside that are now in place. Therefore, the supporters of the Bill may be hoisting themselves and those who are interested in animal welfare with their own petard.

Sub-paragraph (7)(b) states

''each dog used in the hunt is kept under sufficiently close control to ensure that it does not prevent or obstruct achievement of the objective in paragraph (a).''

Again, that is fine and dandy, but it is unreal. It does not provide an argument that detracts from the wisdom of new clause 7: the arguments of the hon. Member for Worcester in favour of schedule 1 paragraph (7) do not in any way dispose of the arguments made in favour of new clause 7.

The Government need to answer the biodiversity case with considerable care because they are about to destroy a large part of the environment. I think that they will do that wilfully and thoughtlessly, which would be a huge pity. I do not know whether the Minister wishes to respond to the points of the hon. Member for Worcester, but if he does, I wish him well.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:15 pm, 3rd July 2003

I will certainly try to respond seriously, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has just invited me to do.

First, I will deal with amendment No. 75, which was moved by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire. I wish to make it clear that I resist it. A reference to biological diversity is already included in the list of purposes for which stalking and flushing out is permitted—in schedule 1(1)(2)(a)(viii) to be precise, if anybody wishes to look it up.

The existing provision concerns the stalking and flushing out of quarry animals to prevent or reduce damage to biodiversity, whereas the amendment would allow stalking and flushing out for the purpose of contributing to biodiversity. Despite the deceptively similar wording, the amendment is vague and wide: in effect, it would allow hunting on the grounds that trimming hedgerows to facilitate hunting would encourage butterflies. Encouraging biodiversity,

important though that is, should not be used as an excuse for allowing cruelty to wild mammals. Cruelty is what the Bill addresses at its heart.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

The Minister knows that we are signatories to the Rio convention, which states that the best way to preserve biodiversity is to encourage the cultural habits of indigenous people. That seems to be all right for foreigners but not for people in the UK.

Can the Minister tell us whether his Department has commissioned and received an environmental impact assessment on the new Bill before us, and whether that assessment will take into account all the serious biodiversity implications of the Bill?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We certainly considered hunting's effect on biodiversity at some length, including during the evidence sessions and so on. There have been attempts to row in the Rio declaration in a series of inappropriate ways.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I shall give way once, and then, if I am to respond to questions raised in debate, I shall have to make progress.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

The Minister will know that I have been antagonistic to my party as well as others when environmental impact is not taken seriously. I hope that he takes it seriously, too. The Bill is new in all but name, and so we should have an environmental impact assessment. Otherwise, the Bill will not meet our obligations either in the European Union or more widely. Can the Minister assure us that before the Bill goes to another place there will be an environmental impact assessment?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I will consider the right hon. Gentleman's point, because I accept what he says about the seriousness with which he has always approached the issue. However, there is no reason for a new, separate environmental impact assessment, because of the narrowness of the difference between the likely impact of this Bill and that of the previous draft. The structure of the new Bill is quite different; however, the impact is another matter.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

On a point of order, Mrs. Roe. I know that the Minister said that he would not give way again, and I understand and respect the reasons for that, but I have a serious point: surely we deleted clause 12(2)(h) on page 4 this morning, so it is not in the Bill.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

With respect, Mrs. Roe—

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am seeking your guidance, Mrs. Roe. Did we delete clause 12 this morning? I hope that that is a legitimate point of order. I have no wish to challenge you.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful for that, Mrs. Roe.

My point is that encouraging biodiversity, important as that is, should not be used as an excuse for cruelty. The argument is that hunting should not

affect the wildlife management of an area. Again, that is vague and wide and would permit hunting to continue regardless of the cruelty that it caused. In chapter 7 of Burns's report, he considered the effect that a hunting ban would have on the management of conservation and habitat, and on wildlife. He concluded that hunting with dogs is not a major factor in any of those subjects.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

On a point of order, Mrs. Roe. Can the Chair clarify whether an environmental impact assessment is a requirement of the legislative process under European directives, and not simply an optional extra that the Minister can take notice of, or not, at his discretion? It is a statutory obligation.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

That has nothing to do with the Chair.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To prevent the hon. Gentleman from getting over-excited, I should point out that both Houses have processes that involve requirements and in this House a regulatory impact assessment is required. However, that is also required in the Lords. When the Bill goes to another place, it will have a regulatory impact assessment, which will deal with the Bill that goes to the House of Lords, and not the Bill that was introduced in this House. Hon. Members should calm themselves and wait to see what is said at that stage.

Neither at the public hearings nor elsewhere have I seen any convincing evidence that hunting with dogs plays a significant role in wildlife management. There is no evidence that the absence of hunting would have a significant or long-term adverse affect on the way that wildlife is managed. In so far as hunting may encourage land managers to keep land in a particular—

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

On a point of order, Mrs. Roe. The Minister has just said that the Bill that will go to the House of Lords is not the Bill that was introduced into the House of Commons. If that is so, the whole of these proceedings are no longer in order. Those were his words.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is an attempt to clutch at straws. It is clear to everyone that the Bill is not as it was when it was introduced. Very few Bills reach this stage of discussion in Committee unamended. Very few Bills go to the House of Lords in precisely the same form as they were introduced into this House. It is at that stage that a regulatory impact assessment is required by the processes of another place.

Hunting may encourage land managers to keep land in a particular way to promote some wildlife and other features of the land, but the same can be said of other uses of land that are not linked to cruelty to wild animals. Much concern has been expressed about the consequences of a ban on deer hunting and about the fact that herds on Exmoor and in the south-west would be decimated. It is generally accepted that red deer numbers in Devon and Somerset need to be controlled, but hunting accounts for only 15 per cent.

of the annual cull. Implementation of an effective deer management strategy in co-operation with interested parties can deal with the consequences of a ban on deer hunting with dogs. There are alternative methods of controlling or maintaining the number of all quarry species and hunting does not play a significant role in their management.

Photo of Mr Adrian Flook Mr Adrian Flook Conservative, Taunton

When will that management plan be available?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Part of the problem, which we debated in Committee, is the reluctance of those who want hunting to continue to engage properly in developing a proper deer management scheme until such time as they know that it is inevitable. As I did previously, I encourage everyone who is concerned with the welfare of deer to engage in the work of developing and promoting an effective deer management scheme.

Photo of Mr Adrian Flook Mr Adrian Flook Conservative, Taunton

On a point of order, Mrs. Roe. Is it fair for the Minister to give the impression that my constituents and people in neighbouring constituencies have done nothing towards deer management planning when it would appear to be the Minister's Department that has done very little?

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

That is a matter of argument between the two Members.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to you, Mrs. Roe. It is also an inaccurate rendition of what I said. I said that some people have been reluctant to enter into management planning because they want the continuation of hunting rather than deer management.

The hon. Member for North Wiltshire tabled a number of amendments. I must resist amendment No. 74 to remove the condition set out in the Bill on the number of dogs that may be used for the stalking and flushing-out exemption. I think that the Committee should also resist the amendments with a random set of figures—10, 20, 35—for the number of dogs that might be used. During a previous debate I suggested that the hon. Gentleman should provide evidence for a specific number if he wanted to vary the number from two, which the Bill specifies, but he has provided a range of alternatives.

The Committee will be aware that in Scotland there is no limit on the number of dogs allowed to flush wild mammals out of cover to waiting guns. Drawing on that experience, it would be unwise to be tempted by the amendment. Opposition Members have perhaps not grasped the plain fact that the House of Commons has expressed its will that traditional hunting with packs of dogs should be banned. The amendments, which have come from two sources, are clearly intended to allow hunting with packs through the back door under the guise of flushing out to guns.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I invite the Minister to look at the video made by the Middle Way Group on our shooting study. It shows a wounded fox—it was shot five times and survived—and it is clear that two dogs would not be enough to bring that fox down. This is a welfare issue, not a loophole.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I have looked at the video and it does not make the point in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

New clause 7 mirrors the exemption in paragraph 4 of schedule 1, which permits the retrieval of hares that have been shot. The retrieval of a shot hare is an essential part of the activity of hare shooting, which, as the Committee knows from our earlier debate, is the primary method of controlling hare numbers. Retrievers, which are used during that activity, are trained to pick up hares, but not foxes, and bring them to the shooter. Hares are edible. Foxes are much larger than hares—too large to be retrieved by dogs—and are not eaten by people, so there is no similar necessity for retrieval in the case of a fox shot by a competent person. Therefore, I resist the amendment. There is no need for the new clause on welfare grounds because the Bill already contains an exemption in paragraph 7 of schedule permitting the use of up to two dogs to follow a wild mammal that a hunter reasonably believes to be injured. The exemption is subject to strict conditions, which prevent it being abused. That is why I suggest that we reject the amendment and stick with the conditions in the Bill.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire 3:30 pm, 3rd July 2003

I ask for a separate vote, Mrs. Roe, on the three amendments tabled in my name and that of the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire, not least because the Minister has clearly forgotten that he has deleted the comment about biodiversity

It being half-past Three o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put: That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 19.

Division number 18 Adults Abused in Childhood — Schedule 1 - Exempt Hunting

Aye: 8 MPs

No: 19 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

I cannot put the question on the second amendment for which the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire asked for a division because it is after half-past three o'clock.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I beg to move amendment No. 73, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 37, leave out paragraph 6.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment No. 68.

Amendment No. 72, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 38, at end insert

'unless the practitioner is abiding by a code of practice recognised by the Secretary of State, in accordance with the conditions laid down in subparagraphs (1), (2) and (3)'.

Government amendment No. 69.

Amendment No. 85, in

schedule 1, page 23, line 7, at end insert—

1A (1) The use of a dog below ground in the course of stalking or flushing out is in accordance with this paragraph if the conditions in this paragraph are satisfied.

(2) The first condition is that the stalking or flushing out is undertaken for the purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage to game birds or wild birds (within the meaning of section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c.69)) which a person is keeping or preserving for the purpose of their being shot.

(3) The second condition is that the person doing the stalking or flushing out—

(a) has with him written evidence—

(i) that the land on which the stalking or flushing out takes place belongs to him, or

(ii) that he has been given permission to use that land for the purpose by the occupier or, in the case of unoccupied land, by a person to whom it belongs, and

(b) makes the evidence immediately available for inspection by a constable who asks to see it.

(4) The third condition is that the stalking or flushing out does not involve the use of more than one dog below ground at any one time.

(5) The fourth condition is that any dog used below ground must when below ground at all times be kept on a leash of no more than one metre in length firmly held by the person undertaking the flushing.

(6) The fifth condition is that the said leash must be of sufficient strength that it does not break at any time during the flushing.

(7) In so far as stalking or flushing out is undertaken with the use of a dog below ground in accordance with this paragraph, paragraph 1 shall have effect as if for the condition in paragraph 1(7) there were substituted the condition that—

(a) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being found the wild mammal is flushed out from below ground,

(b) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being flushed out from below ground the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person,

(c) in particular, the dog is brought under sufficiently close control to ensure that it does not prevent or obstruct achievement of the objective in paragraph (b),

(d) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of preventing injury to the dog, and

(e) the manner in which the dog is used complies with any code of practice which is issued or approved for the purpose of this paragraph by the Secretary of State.'.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

In a spirit of goodwill, I may owe the Minister an apology—[Interruption.] A grovelling apology. He may have been referring to the debate on clause stand part, but is that not evidence of the problems caused by the restricted time available? Such mistakes are made when time is limited. How much better it would be if we had a decent amount of time in which to consider these matters?

All the amendments in the group have merit except amendment No. 85, which was tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris). [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will not now see to move the amendment, which is wise. I

shall not detain the Committee by discussing the merits of having terriers on leads down holes, which is odd in terms of animal welfare.

It is important that we understand that the other four amendments in the group have merit, and I hope that the acrimony that has characterised some of our debates can be avoided. Amendment No. 73, which leads this group, is blunter than amendment No. 72 because possibly in stalking, and certainly in flushing foxes to guns, some will inevitably go to ground. In the Scottish legislation, ''flushing'', ''cover'' and ''hunting'' are not defined, which makes our job more difficult. It has led to considerable confusion over what exactly a hunt is as compared with, for example, a flush from one end of a large wood to another.

[Mr. Peter Pike in the Chair]

If a fox goes in and out of bushes and gorse, as foxes tend to do, where does the flush end and the hunt begin? There are some real difficulties with that question. The link between stalking and flushing indicates that those who were involved in drafting the Bill did not properly understand the complexities of the subject. Deer are more likely to be stalked and, of course, do not go to ground—a very large hole indeed would be needed—while foxes are more likely to be flushed from cover and regularly go to ground. We know that to be the case.

It is unlikely that the Government will accept amendment No. 72, which we tabled before we knew the Government's intentions. We had not seen Government amendment No. 69, which is the substantive amendment, or No. 68, which is a consequential amendment. I have reservations about amendment No. 69, depending on what the Minister says about it, but I accept that it represents an improvement on the Bill as drafted.

Amendments Nos. 68 and 69, Mr. Pike—I welcome you to the Chair—make exemptions for the use of dogs below ground solely for the purpose of protecting birds that are bred to be shot in the name of sport, which is a tad odd, to say the least.

The Minister kept his promise to table an amendment that would protect shooting, but I find it difficult to understand why it is okay to use dogs underground to protect game birds but not to use them for other pest control reasons. What are the animal welfare implications of the distinction? It is as if terriers go into a hole where there is a fox and interrogate it to learn whether it intends to eat a pheasant or a lamb. If the fox says, ''A pheasant'', the fight is on; fair game. If the fox says, ''A lamb'', the terriers say, ''Terribly sorry, old chap, we can't touch you,'' and back off. That illustrates a certain inconsistency in the approach. Amendment No. 72 represents a significantly better way of dealing with the matter.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

It is even more complicated than that; in the territory of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, an English-speaking terrier may have to address a Welsh-speaking fox.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I was pushing my luck with my metaphor; I shall not go down that route. However, the question is serious. The amendments provide an exemption to the prohibition of terrier work for gamekeepers only. It is welcome and right that they have an exemption, and I congratulate the Government on tabling the amendments; particularly amendment No. 69, which is substantive.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I understand that only gamekeepers have been included, but I find it extremely difficult to understand why it is that when the owner of the land is sufficiently rich to pay for someone else to do the work, he is given permission, whereas he is excluded if he seeks to do it himself. It is a matter of egalitarian necessity. Justice demands something different, and I wonder why this Government of all Governments should feel that it is possible to bring forward such an amendment.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point, to which I hope the Minister will respond when he winds up. But I am not sure that he is right. As I read Government amendment No. 69, if the person has evidence

''that the land on which the stalking or flushing out takes place belongs to him'',

he can do the work himself. I may be wrong. I wait to hear what the Minister says.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

The point remains that the owner may be able to do it himself under that paragraph, but if he employs someone or has a friend who can help him, he will not be able to do so unless he fits a series of qualifications. I do not think that the Government understand how things happen in the countryside, where much of the work is done by people who do a range of things. They will do something for someone else even if they are not employed to do so, because that is part of the deal whereby someone else does something for them. That is the bartering nature of that society. The restriction is extremely difficult for people who are not rich enough to have a full-time employee.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

Again, although my right hon. Friend's understanding of the countryside is infinitely deeper than mine—and is certainly deeper than the Government's—I suspect that on this occasion he may not be entirely right, but we shall see what the Minister says in response. If my right hon. Friend is right, he makes an extremely important point.

It is certainly true that the approach is not very principled in animal welfare terms. Pheasant can benefit from terrier work, but not the golden plover, the lapwing, the skylark, the curlew, the redshank, the black grouse, the merlin, the hen harrier, the red grouse, the dunlin, the twite, the snipe, the great crested grebe, the little grebe, the meadow pipit or terns; that seems a little odd.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

My hon. Friend has made a correction; perhaps I can now correct him. The schedule refers to

''within the meaning of section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981''.

Dogs may be used underground to protect them. I am sorry to pick up my hon. Friend on that, but I suspect that he may be not quite correct.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

That is the point of a Committee. We should not be worried about having errors in argument exposed, particularly at such short notice. It would have been good to have two or three days more to look at the Bill. We are on a wing and a prayer because of the ridiculously tight timetable.

It is clear that a farmer who has a shoot on his land can use terriers under the Government's amendment to control foxes he thinks might be going for his pheasants, but the same farmer cannot use terriers to protect his lambs from predation by the same fox, which gets us into terribly difficult territory. The clue to all this is in sub-paragraph (5)(e) of Government amendment No. 69. That is the element that they should be pushing. There is a need to ensure that the dogs are used in a genuinely acceptable way, which is what amendment No. 72 would do. Amendment No. 72 is preferable to the convoluted wording of amendment No. 69 but amendment. No. 69 is all we have. If the Government resists amendment No. 72, I would not wish to resist amendment No. 69, but I do not think that it is as good.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

Does my hon. Friend share my concern about sub-paragraph 5(e)? It refers to

''any code of practice which is issued or approved for the purpose of this paragraph by the Secretary of State.''

We are legislating in a hurry for a code of practice that we have not even seen.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. and learned Friend anticipates some of my later remarks. I find it very strange, because amendment No. 69 has the blessing of some of the shooting organisations that have resisted attempts by the Middle Way Group to put codes of practice into law in Lord Donoughue's Wild Mammals (Protection) (Amendment) Bill. They are acquiescing in a bland, unspecific endorsement of a code of practice, but they are resisting our more stringent attempts to do it a systematic, thoughtful way. We are rushing through bad legislation that was intended to be introduced in the House of Lords. The Minister's original intention was to delay tabling amendment No. 69 until the code of practice was available. It would have been better if we had seen the code of practice that we have been asked to endorse.

The National Working Terrier Federation is an organisation for which I have great respect, and is very different from the sort of people who write for ''Earth Dog, Running Dog'', which featured in our earlier discussion. The chairman of the federation, Barry Wade, wrote to the Minister on 25 March and shared many of the concerns expressed by Government Members. Mr. Wade said that the federation's prime objective was to identify, promote and advance the best and most humane practice associated with the use of terriers for pest control purposes and to discourage bad practice. In order to meet those objectives, it drew up, published and promoted a code of conduct for terrier work that covered all quarry species and different types of activities involving the use of terriers.

Even those who oppose hunting with dogs have never offered any criticism of the code because it is not enforceable in law. The National Working Terrier Federation went on to suggest amendments to the Minister that would introduce the code of conduct into the Bill. We have a difficulty here. There is some reluctance to include a code of conduct in the Bill because the real situation changes. I do not think that that is a satisfactory way of proceeding myself.

A code of practice introduced in the way suggested by the Minister is probably right, but it would be good to see it. We are implicitly invited by amendment No. 69 to endorse the code before we pass the amendment and send it back for consideration on the Floor of the House. Amendment No. 72 is a better way to proceed. The amendment would exempt practitioners from a total ban on terrier work under certain conditions.

The Minister has said repeatedly that the Bill should not affect shooting. As I understand it, that is more of a manifesto commitment issue than a matter of principle. It is certainly more of a manifesto commitment issue than a matter of animal welfare, but let us leave that to one side. Amendment No. 72 is a better way of proceeding.

It is important that I make the Committee aware that, as printed, amendment No. 72 is wrong due to a printing error. Given the rush of the timetable motion, when the amendment was drafted, paragraph 1(3) of schedule 1 referred to the second condition under which

''stalking or flushing out takes place on land . . . which belongs to the person doing the stalking or flushing''.

That is now covered by paragraph 1(4). On Report, we inserted a new paragraph 1(3) about field trials. Reference should be made in amendment No. 72 to sub-paragraph (4). If we succeed in pushing the amendment to a Division, it would be on the understanding that we are referring to sub-paragraph (4), not (3). I hope that I will secure assent to that proposition, Mr. Pike.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am grateful. For the benefit of the Committee, I wish to explain that the last line of amendment No. 72 should state:

''sub-paragraphs (1)(2) and (4)''.

I genuinely believe that there is a problem with an exemption that is exclusive to gamekeepers, but I would rather have that than nothing. It is an improvement. However, it assumes that the protection of birds is more important than the protection of lambs. We have discussed pest control at great length in Committee. It seems that such practice is acceptable to one group of people, but not to another; a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

Given that we are often told that foxes are more sentient than other animals, surely it would be even more in the interests of those who want to improve health welfare to allow retrieval of higher order beings.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I agree with my hon. Friend. We are motivated by animal welfare, which I accept that Labour Members do not understand. Many of our suggestions deal with the issue in a precise way. I accept that Labour Members do not like hunting. The previous amendments were drafted in classic style, but Labour Members resisted one that would have improved animal welfare. They did it because of their fear that they would see packs of hounds in the countryside. I would rather see that and better animal welfare than make bad law. However, we often face that choice in Committee. I say to the Minister that amendment No. 69 would make the Bill better than it was when it left the Commons on Report. I welcome it, but it is flawed. It would not go far enough. I genuinely believe that amendment No. 72 would be a better way in which to proceed.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

In welcoming you to the Chair, Mr. Pike, I wish to respond to amendments Nos. 73 and 72 and to speak to amendments Nos. 69 and 68. The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire sought to engage in the issues before us, rather than taking a more scattergun approach to the matter. I shall respond to him in the same way. I cannot accept amendment No. 73, which would allow the use of dogs underground without limitation or control. Nor could I accept amendment No. 72, because it would merely make activities subject to a code of practice. There are some issues that can be done through a code of practice, but others need to be covered by primary legislation. That is why I ask the Committee to support wholeheartedly amendments Nos. 69 and 68.

The Committee will recall that, in an earlier sitting, we had an extensive debate on the use of dogs below ground. It is an issue about which many hon. Members feel strongly. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester tabled an amendment that was carried. In effect, it banned such activity. In accepting the amendment, I said:

''I shall need to consider how to table amendments to protect the position of gamekeepers and to ensure that animal welfare considerations are applied constantly and in detail.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 25 February 2003; c. 1126.]

I and other hon. Members have referred to the issue in shorthand when considering an exemption for gamekeepers.

Let me be crystal clear about the issue. It concerns the need to protect those involved, not the job title of the individual undertaking the activity of protecting the birds. One hon. Member asked whether he could put on a jacket with the word ''gamekeeper'' on the back and then be able to use terriers. The answer is no. Let me acknowledge at the outset that this is a difficult issue. That is why we have given considerable thought to the drafting of the amendment and also sought to see a draft of what a code of conduct would look like. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has completed its draft, which I believe is now available. A draft code is not limited or finished, if we amend the Bill as it stands. We have the capacity to designate a code and the type of issues that it could deal with.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is correct that the BASC has a code

either in draft or some other form, but would not the debate have been better informed if we had had copies of it, in whatever stage of development it may be, so that we could get a better idea of what the Minister and the BASC have agreed?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My understanding is that the association has started to make the code available for comment more widely, having completed its work within the organisation. I have certainly seen a copy and have sought advice on it.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

Which organisations are involved in drawing up the code? I have not been shown it. It has not been sent to me.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My understanding is that the draft has completed its consideration through the British Association for Shooting and Conservation as an organisation. This week, I received a copy of the draft, and the BASC will be looking again at it. We can make copies of the draft available to the Committee, if hon. Members have not seen it. My point is that it is not completed. It is a matter for the organisation. It would be for the Secretary of State, if satisfied with the draft, to then adopt or designate the code, but the draft shows what can be contained in an effective code of conduct.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

The Minister has referred to the previous discussions that we had in Committee about the problems of dogs underground. However, he has neglected to mention one important area that was a subject of earnest discussion and even of the twinkling of a compromise between either side of the Committee; the use of terriers to dispatch the cubs of nursing vixens. In fact, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West and I exchanged notes on the subject. He undertook to be as helpful as he could be when the Bill came back to the House and use his good offices to ensure that the welfare of cubs that had been orphaned and left underground—

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

Order. This is an intervention on the Minister and it is getting a bit extensive.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

On a point of order, Mr. Pike. I had discussions with the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle, but I gave him no undertaking. I said that I would look at the documents.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am impressed by the fact that members of the Committee on both sides have been talking to each other about matters. It is a good thing and to be encouraged. I greatly welcome it.

I want to deal with the point that was made by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire when he asked a serious question about why we were making a distinction of different sorts. He suggested that somehow it was okay to protect birds, but not lambs. I want to come back to the evidence that is available, which is always a good place to look to reach conclusions. There is evidence that fox predation on birds is prevalent. I refer to chapter 5 of the Burns report. Burns concluded:

''foxes kill a substantial number of game birds . . . In the absence of fox control a substantial number of birds would be lost before the start of the shooting season.''

Burns went on to say that

''foxes are the most significant predator affecting pheasant shooting'',

and that

''foxes are significant predators of grouse on commercial grouse moors.''

I undertook to consider the position of shoots and ensure that animal welfare considerations are applied consistently and in detail. I believe that amendment No. 69 would achieve both aims if hon. Members consider them in detail.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The Minister quoted Burns in aid in the context of birds, but Burns also said at paragraph 5.43:

''In upland areas, where the fox population causes more damage to sheep-rearing . . . and where there is a greater perceived need for control, fewer alternatives are available to the use of dogs, either to flush out to guns or for digging-out.''

Burns states elsewhere that more than one third of the cull of foxes in mid-Wales is as a result of terrier work. Burns comes down clearly in favour of terrier work but not for farmers. Why does the Government's amendment deal only with gamekeepers and shooters and not with farmers?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

First, that was the undertaking I gave. Secondly, Burns is clear and did not find similar circumstances of fox predation of game birds and lambs. He made the point that less than 2 per cent. of otherwise viable lambs are killed by foxes.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

We could all go on quoting Burns for ever, rather like the Bible, and we can always find something to prove contradictory points. However, I note that Burns referred to terrier work and suggested that it should be banned even if fox hunting was not banned. [Interruption.] It is in paragraph 9.20 on page 149.

Alun Michael rose—

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

Will the Minister arrange for his officials to photocopy the code of practice that has been made available to him and to Labour members of the Committee, but not to anyone else in the Committee? It would help us to reach a decision on amendment No. 69 if we saw a copy of the code.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I have arranged that. I understand that some Committee members have received a copy of the code, but not from me. I have received it separately. I shall certainly make arrangements for it to be made available.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Will the Minister answer the specific question as to why there is no provision to take account of the welfare of orphaned cubs left underground? Are they to be left for days to starve, or is there a way, using dogs, to dispatch them humanely when the vixen has been shot?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As the hon. Gentleman indicated when he said that he had discussed that with Committee members, there is evidence both ways as to whether there is any activity that helps in relation to orphaned cubs. The provisions are set out clearly in

my amendment and I shall explain what it says. The Bill that emerged from Report makes it an offence to hunt a wild mammal with a dog unless it is exempt hunting. The exemptions are set out in schedule 1. Amendment No. 69 provides for the use of a dog below ground in the course of the stalking or flushing out, provided certain conditions are met. The amendment adds to the conditions for what is already a limited area of activity.

The first condition is that

''the stalking or flushing out is undertaken for the purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage to game birds or wild birds . . . which a person is keeping or preserving''

for shooting. The second condition is that the person engaged in the activity has written evidence that he is the landowner or has the permission of the landowner and that such evidence can be made immediately available for inspection. That has nothing to do with whether people are employed or paid. It is the activity that is important. The third condition is that only a single dog may be below ground at any one time. A number of conditions relating to animal welfare are set out in paragraph 1A(5) of the amendment and they are important. They are clear requirements that

''reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being found the wild mammal is flushed out from below ground''

and shot dead by a competent person. The dog must be brought under sufficiently close control to ensure that it does not prevent or obstruct the mammal being shot and reasonable steps must be taken for the purpose of preventing injury to the dog. Injury to dogs has been an issue in relation to terrier work, which is the reason for that clear and precise requirement.

The way in which the dog is used must comply with any code of practice issued or approved by the Secretary of State. Such approval would follow enactment of the Bill, if some way down the line. As I said to the House, I wanted to be satisfied that a code of practice could be satisfactory and meet the animal welfare requirements and was therefore well developed in draft before introducing the amendment. In order to pursue that matter, I sought advice on an early draft before it had been approved by BASC, and a number of improvements were made based on the animal welfare advice that I received at that time.

I also sought advice from Bill Swann, who is known to many members of the Committee, to consider the issue. Having looked at it, he completely understood the Government have a commitment to consider shooting interests in the drafting of the Bill, and that amendments would be introduced that would allow limited use of dogs for the location of foxes underground to enable them to be shot. He said that he had read the attached code of practice relating to the use of dogs underground, and in his opinion the provisions of the code, if applied as written, would minimise the welfare costs of using dogs underground to enable the shooting of foxes.

I emphasise that the code is a draft. It has reached the stage where BASC is prepared to make it public, and I would welcome any constructive comment on its

terms. I am also confident that BASC would listen carefully to what has been said. The code would require the approval of the Secretary of State for it to be covered in relation to the Bill as drafted, but I believe that sufficient progress had been made to pursue that matter and consider the draft before us.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:00 pm, 3rd July 2003

I am interested to know whether, in addition to BASC, which, as the hon. Member for West Ham wittily observed, is now affiliated to new Labour, the National Working Terrier Federation and the National Gamekeepers Organisation have also been involved in those discussions.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

BASC undertook to draw up a code. We accepted that in good faith. Its members have clearly put a great deal of work into producing an effective code of conduct that would meet the animal welfare requirements, and to consulting a variety of others in so doing. They are doing that because it is their code. I am now satisfied that they would be able to develop it to a stage where the Secretary of State could designate it.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. He knows that I have misgivings about the removal of the amendment. Can he enlighten members of the Committee and other MPs who would like to have some input in the writing of the guide and tell us if it deals with some of the animal welfare implications about which I feel strongly? Could he also assure me that when the Secretary of State looks at the guide, she will ensure that the criteria relating to the use of terriers underground are not there just to curtail time and act as a short cut and that, if it is necessary to wait a little bit longer so that the fox can be dealt with more humanely, the terrier is not used just because it is convenient to save a bit of time? Animal welfare should be the priority of the Secretary of State when she looks at the guidelines.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I think that the starting point of the code of conduct is the necessity of using terriers in particular circumstances. I accept that those are issues that can be looked at seriously and I welcome my hon. Friend's comments in that context. We have to get it right. I am sure that he will also acknowledge that in offering to accept the amendment that he proposed to the Committee some time ago, I said that that was on condition that everybody understood clearly that we would have to introduce amendments to protect the position in relation to gamekeepers.

I said at that time that the animal welfare considerations would be taken fully into account, and in the discussion that I then had with BASC it accepted that people would be looking carefully at the code of conduct to ensure that the animal welfare considerations were provided for fully. I am happy to continue that discussion in relation to the code, and I am sure that BASC too will be happy to meet MPs to discuss any issues of concern.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

My right hon. Friend knows that I cannot support amendment No. 69. As I have caught the Chairman's eye, perhaps I may make a few comments. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the

National Federation of Badger Groups and the RSPCA are not happy about the amendment? Codes are all right for the sort of people who do not normally need them. The problem lies with people who could not care less about codes.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There is a difference between one of the amendments, which says that there should be a code, and this one, which says that the code should be part of a condition—in other words, it should be underpinned by the law. This amendment also places clear animal welfare requirements on the use of dogs by gamekeepers. For the first time, there will be legal conditions limiting the use of dogs underground and a code of conduct. The code of conduct in many ways goes beyond the requirements of the amendment, which introduces onerous requirements for animal welfare.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

First, may I thank the Minister for removing my concern about the inegalitarian element of this matter? I am pleased that he has been able to answer my question in a way that he could not during the debate in the House. However, I am still worried and I hope that the Minister will not mind me pressing him further. During the early days of discussions on the original Bill, he made great issue of it having to be based on a moral approach. I still find it difficult to understand why it is more moral to do these things to protect birds than it is to do the same things to protect lambs. I can see that it might be useful and that it might carry out his promise. However, I agree with the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks)—I do not see the moral basis for this approach. Some of us in this House rather care about such matters. The Minister said that he was doing all this for a moral purpose, so can he explain the difference?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The right hon. Gentleman introduced the word ''moral''. He took us back to the basis of moral philosophy, which was interesting especially as it flushed out the fact that there are so many philosophers on the Committee.

I shall take the right hon. Gentleman back to the beginning. I said that it was important to face legislation with principles and to seek, wherever possible, to apply those principles consistently. Although in terms of the Bill the two principles we are talking about disappear along with the structures of registration and tribunal, they are still right. They are the principles of necessity—the utility—and the avoidance of cruelty. That is the difference between the two circumstances.

As I have said, the evidence on the protection of birds is strong. There is a need to protect birds against predation, so the test of utility is satisfied. Once the test of utility has been satisfied, which it has not been in the case of lambs, one can apply the test of cruelty by asking whether the activity could be conditioned in such a way as to avoid cruelty or suffering, whether it is the suffering of the animal being pursued or of the animal that is being used for pursuit, as it is in this set of circumstances.

We have reached a situation where it is possible to control and limit the use of the animals, and therefore deal with the animal welfare side, although not in a

perfect way—I understand the reservations of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham. However, that will change the situation for the better in a variety of ways, and will not allow the sort of terrier work that has been associated with hunting in the past and has caused concern—[Interruption.] I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend saying that we have made an improvement. Rather than seek perfection, I want to improve things and reach a practical situation.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

Although I believe that amendment No. 69 does not go far enough, I should like to help the Minister. First, the hon. Member for West Ham said that the type of people who follow codes of conduct are all right anyway. Actually, those who do not follow them will be breaking the law and can be dealt with by the majesty of the law, so that is not an issue. Those in the countryside who want to control foxes properly will respect the code of conduct and the rest will be taken to court for their misdemeanours.

More importantly, is it not the case that gamekeepers cannot use terriers to deal with foxes, but must use other methods of control? Whether shooting is worse for animal welfare than terriers—we think it is—is a controversial issue in the Committee, as is the use of snares. However, I hope that all Committee members think that snares are less desirable than the relatively rapid method of using terriers. If the hon. Gentleman can bring himself to compromise his principles just a little, he may advance animal welfare overall.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I certainly agree that there is a hierarchy on both sides of the equation. On necessity in relation to the protection of birds, the evidence is strong; however, in relation to the protection of lambs, it is not. It is for that reason, rather than because one person happens to be employed as a hill farmer and another as a gamekeeper, that there is a distinction. It is a question of what the person is trying to achieve.

I still think that utility is the right test to start off with. If there is no utility, the activity should not be allowed; if there is sufficient utility, one should consider the methods available. The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that alternatives need to be considered, too. It is sensible to ask what the alternatives are to a particular activity. That is the sort of element that underpins the approach that the code of practice ought to take. We know we have done that with ratting and the use of poisons and snares. We then decided that ratting is okay; that is why it is permitted under the Bill as an exemption, as it has been under other Bills.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, in his search for perfection, may feel a little uneasy with that, but I think that he would agree that, when one considers the alternatives, we have the least-worst situation with ratting. I want the least-worst situation in relation to birds, so that activity to protect birds is enabled but animal welfare considerations are dealt with too. Having seen that an organisation representing those who undertake that work is willing to engage seriously with those animal welfare issues, we have decided that this is the way forward for us.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

I have some sympathy with what the Minister is saying, but will the fact that there are wild birds all over the countryside be used as an excuse?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I understand my hon. Friend's point, but the answer is no. That cannot be used as an excuse and that is one reason for the requirement to be able to show permission, authority and a reason for being in a particular place undertaking a particular activity. Also, there is a requirement for adherence to the code, which of course goes much further than even the fairly stringent requirements in the schedule. I do not think that the schedule provides a loophole for terrier work associated with other forms of hunting. The amendment is phrased carefully to avoid that possibility. I understand precisely why my hon. Friend raises the issue, but I hope that I have given him the reassurance that he seeks.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

Amendment No. 69 also says that only one dog should be sent below ground, but there does not seem to be anything in the amendment to prevent a group of thugs who have the landowner's permission to be on the land from sending a dog into the hole into which a fox has bolted. Where is the control in the amendment? We keep talking about the provisions referring to gamekeepers, but it would be possible for a landowner to invite a bunch of thugs on to his land so that they could continue their sport, using a terrier—although perhaps only one—below ground.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

Order. Before I call the Minister, I should say that the code of practice will be put on the Table in just one minute and will then be available for all Committee members.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful, Mr. Pike.

It is always possible that there are people who are prepared to break the law. It is also possible that some people might be willing to give them permission so that the trespass element goes out the window. However, it is only the trespass element that would be removed by giving that permission, because the requirements in the amendment are stringent and they are not alternatives. People cannot choose from paragraphs 1A(5)(a), (b), (c) and (d). They all have to be adhered to: the use of the dog, the reasonable steps to ensure that the wild mammal is flushed out from below ground as soon as possible after finding it, and so forth. Those are very detailed requirements and all of them must be complied with. People who are willing to break the law might well ignore those as well as ignoring whether they are trespassing, but clear conditions are laid out there.

There are much more extensive requirements for the steps that a gamekeeper has to go through to establish whether it is appropriate to use a terrier. They have to ask whether they need to do so—whether it is essential—and professionals will do that. I accept my hon. Friend's concern about those who break the law, but it is difficult to pass a law that will stop people behaving illegally and being cruel. We have to have law that is absolutely clear for those who wish to undertake an activity, so that they do so under stringent requirements. That would make it easier for those who enforce the law to say that someone is not

obeying the code of conduct and the fifth and sixth requirements.

Under the exemption, terriers can be used to flush out a wild animal from underground only for it to be shot. I shall underline that point, because I think that many Members may not have understood it. Under the exemption, terriers can be used to flush out a wild animal from underground only for it to be shot. The exemption relates to flushing out: it is not wider than that. The exemption does not allow terriers to be used to kill wild animals underground, as is the case in a good deal of traditional terrier work, which is what has given the activity such a bad name.

I hope that I have done enough to satisfy Committee members that I am introducing an amendment that fulfils an undertaking. It fits very precisely with a manifesto commitment to which Labour Members are committed, and it fulfils the undertaking that I gave in Committee when I accepted an amendment from my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester. In creating the limited exemption, much work has been done to ensure that the activity can take place only under strict arrangements, which are there to protect animal welfare in regard to any dog and any quarry animal. I therefore hope that the Committee will wholeheartedly support the amendment.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 4:15 pm, 3rd July 2003

I rise simply to say, at risk of wrecking the Minister's reputation, that amendments Nos. 68 and 69 are sensible, and Opposition Members will support them. However, they raise an issue, mentioned to me by various farming organisations. The greatest use of terrier work at the moment is by farmers. Legitimately and sensibly, farmers use terriers on their farms to get a rogue fox out in order to shoot it. It therefore seems strange to allow the use of terriers in this way to support the game industry, in fulfilment of the Labour party's manifesto commitment not to damage shooting, but to ignore the plight of hill farmers, particularly in Wales. NFU Cymru has made that point very strongly. It is extraordinary to allow that limited use of terriers for the benefit of the game industry but to ignore the plight of Welsh hill farmers.

I appeal to the Minister, once the amendment is accepted, as I hope that it is, to consider the plight of the hill farmers at a later stage in proceedings.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I had been hoping that the hon. Gentleman would say something about the Welsh hill farmers. Does he agree that the reason that we have laboured the point about terrier work is that the current formulation, although better than nothing, is still to the detriment of a large number of wounded animals in different circumstances, which have already been covered? Welsh farmers will look to the Minister to find a way out of that mess.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I rather think that that was the point that I was making. That is quite right. I hope that the Minister will look at the matter again at a later stage, and consider where limited use might be made of terriers in other, perfectly legitimate circumstances, even given his dislike of hunting. Leaving hunting

entirely aside, I hope that he will consider other circumstances in which terrier work might be permitted in the future.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

I shall be brief, because I do not want to deny hon. Members the opportunity to make their points. For the record, I am against amendment No. 69 because, in the end, it would open up the possibility of loopholes. We are always passing laws to stop the people who will not usually abide by codes of practice or normal decent behaviour. Therefore, even if a code is drawn up, those who are determined to continue their practices will find a way round it if a loophole is provided.

I have read the British Association for Shooting and Conservation code. I have seen everything about using soft terriers as opposed to hard terriers. My terriers would take on a lion, and they would be eaten: they are marginally more stupid than their owner in that respect. Such codes are interesting and they are normally written for reasonable people. Unfortunately, we have to pass laws that are used to control unreasonable people, and this amendment would open up a loophole.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I understand what the Minister is trying to do in this group of amendments, but I find it hard to be asked to vote for unprincipled proposals. My problem with this is the lack of principle. I am not opposed to this for the same reasons as the hon. Member for West Ham, but I am opposed for an important reason.

The Minister suggested that if an activity is cruel or not useful, we should ban it. My problem is that he argues that the activity need not be cruel in circumstances where, because it is not useful, it should be banned. That is a regional matter. He may be right that in general in the country the fox is not a sufficient predator of the lamb to open up the disadvantages that have been mentioned. However, if his ruling on shooting is applied to the uplands of Wales, for example, the argument does not hold water. According to his ruling, terriers could be used in the uplands of Wales to deal with foxes that need to be shot for animal welfare reasons, but perhaps that should not be allowed in the flatter lands of Suffolk. The Minister's logic is not the logic behind the amendment that he has moved.

Therefore, I find it difficult to be asked to vote for this amendment. I am placed in the position of saying that I want an amendment that goes much further than this because although this is a proper way of handling the issues we are talking about I do not want to be seen to be part of what seems to be a nasty compromise. The truth is that there is no principle behind this.

I know what has happened: the Minister and the Government have been very worried by the fact that it was widely—and rightly—thought that once hunting had been banned, shooting and fishing would be next. Everyone knows that that is the case, because that is the logic and the morality. The Government have never managed to explain the difference between those activities in moral terms. Therefore, we know that they will be going down that route next. Their idea was to

get this Bill through with as little opposition as possible, so they had to give an undertaking—which only lasts until the next election—that they would not do anything that is deleterious to shooting.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

I agree with the thrust of my right hon. Friend's argument. I, too, will not support Amendment No. 69. Does he not agree that the genesis of the amendment is to be found in the fact that its co-signatory is the hon. Member for Reading, West (Mr. Salter), who is the Labour party's link man with the shooting world? His name appears here because he was probably the fellow who was used to persuade the shooting fraternity by saying, ''Don't worry boys. We will stuff hunting and all things to do with it, but we will not stuff shooting.'' However, now that we have seen what the poor fellow has come up with, I do not think that the shooting world can be at all convinced by the appearance of his name in the context of this Bill.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I agree. One would have to be extremely naïve—not to say jejune—to believe that this has anything much to do with principle, morality or fundamental concern. It is about politics, expediency and producing the minimum protest. It is a very difficult line for the Minister to walk, because he cannot stray too far before the hon. Member for West Ham rightly points to a lack of principle. Somehow he has to find a line that will con BASC, which is obviously so worried about being conned that it gave its statement only to Labour members of the Committee.

It is no wonder that the statement was not given to any Opposition Members. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire or the Welsh nationalists might well have seen through it. I thank the Minister for providing a copy. He has been more forthcoming than BASC, which perhaps explains why it has such a bad reputation and why we are asking for a few other people to be interviewed on the subject.

We all know that the campaigners will go after shooting next and that the police who are being used now to stop the hunt saboteurs will be used to stop the shooting saboteurs. The idea that many spare policemen will be available to stop hunting activity is, of course, entirely fictitious. Finally, once we get beyond that, the offer of money for party political purposes for the banning of shooting and fishing will become irresistible. We know very well how that operates. Unfortunately, I fear that this Minister will be proposing the next legislation, because he is obviously prepared to propose anything that comes his way.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

I endorse what my right hon. Friend has said and shall not vote for amendment No. 69. I wish to mention a few practical points that the Minister might care to consider, even if he does not have time to respond to them. Amendment No. 69(3) states:

''The second condition is that the person doing the stalking or flushing out—

(a) has with him written evidence—

(i) that the land on which the stalking or flushing out takes place belongs to him''.

I appreciate that the owner of a large agricultural estate such as those that one finds in East Anglia can address a letter to himself saying that he owns the land. He may wish to carry the deeds or some form of copy of the land register. Essentially, he will have to carry something of legal provenance to demonstrate that he owns the land. Simply to write a self-serving statement, ''I own this land'', will not necessarily persuade the police officer, unless he knows the landowner anyway, in which case he will not need to see the written evidence.

However, when it comes to

''the land on which the stalking or flushing out takes place''

in Wales, for example, it may be necessary to deal with several small farms or holdings. To extend the argument to its logical—or illogical—end, people engaged in the activity will have to go around with a filing cabinet or wheelbarrow containing all the written permissions from the various landowners. [Interruption.]

The Minister says that that is a very silly point, but it is not. Not only the value of the evidence will have to be considered carefully but also the amount of evidence and documentation. I am not sure that the Minister or those who helped him draft the subsection have given that sufficient thought. The idea that a policeman will wander around the countryside looking for people who are carrying out unlawful terrier work and will ask them for pieces of paper that they will carry around on their person is unreal. It is just another example of the Government's lack of understanding of what is involved in such an activity.

I wish the Government would occasionally think a little longer and harder before coming up with half-baked proposals. This is one of the worst that I have seen in a long time.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

These are complex issues, and my hon. and learned Friend has just made an important point. I am tempted to withdraw amendment No. 73 and not press amendment No. 72. I invite my colleagues to support Government amendments No. 68 and 69 reluctantly, because I think that they are defective. The code of conduct is strangely less onerous than the existing code of conduct from the National Working Terrier Federation. The Minister would be well advised to look carefully at what the National Working Terrier Federation does, because he might find that it has a tougher and more effective code in relation to animal welfare. There are issues about locating dogs that are dealt with in the federation code, but not in the Government's. Bizarrely, the code deals with issues relating to shotguns, the use of which is not normal practice when bolting a fox.

It being half-past Four o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: No. 68, in

schedule 1, page 22, line 38, at end insert

'otherwise than in accordance with paragraph 1A below.'.

No. 69, in

schedule 1, page 23, line 7, at end insert—

'Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting

1A (1) The use of a dog below ground in the course of stalking or flushing out is in accordance with this paragraph if the conditions in this paragraph are satisfied.

(2) The first condition is that the stalking or flushing out is undertaken for the purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage to game birds or wild birds (within the meaning of section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c.69)) which a person is keeping or preserving for the purpose of their being shot.

(3) The second condition is that the person doing the stalking or flushing out—

(a) has with him written evidence—

(i) that the land on which the stalking or flushing out takes place belongs to him, or

(ii) that he has been given permission to use that land for the purpose by the occupier or, in the case of unoccupied land, by a person to whom it belongs, and

(b) makes the evidence immediately available for inspection by a constable who asks to see it.

(4) The third condition is that the stalking or flushing out does not involve the use of more than one dog below ground at any one time.

(5) In so far as stalking or flushing out is undertaken with the use of a dog below ground in accordance with this paragraph, paragraph 1 shall have effect as if for the condition in paragraph 1(7) there were substituted the condition that—

(a) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being found the wild mammal is flushed out from below ground,

(b) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being flushed out from below ground the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person,

(c) in particular, the dog is brought under sufficiently close control to ensure that it does not prevent or obstruct achievement of the objective in paragraph (b),

(d) reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of preventing injury to the dog, and

(e) the manner in which the dog is used complies with any code of practice which is issued or approved for the purpose of this paragraph by the Secretary of State.'.—[Alun Michael.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.