'(1) The Secretary of State shall pay compensation to those who lose their employment owing to a ban on hunting.
(2) The compensation will be equivalent to one year's lost remuneration and 100 per cent. of the assets that are lost on account of this Act.'.—[Lembit Öpik.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
We are talking about compensation. It is obvious that the Bill will do considerable damage to the economic circumstances of a number of individuals directly involved in hunting with dogs. The Middle Way Group has never regarded the question of economics as the core issue. There are important questions about animal welfare, which have been raised today, but there is no doubt that at the individual and regional level there will be considerable consequences for the local economy, as well as those
who have participated in the industry of fox control using dogs. That is why we are proposing new clause 8.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams), who is not on the Committee, felt so strongly about the matter that he was instrumental in suggesting that we consider it. I compliment him with pleasure for suggesting that we make the proposition.
It is clear there is plenty of precedent for the proposal. When the practice of fur farming was banned, compensation was paid to those employed within the industry. The principle of compensation after removing someone's livelihood has been established, and established in the same theatre of operations; animal-related changes to the law. Our amendment proposes compensation equivalent to one year's lost remuneration and 100 per cent. of the assets that are lost after the implementation of the legislation. In our view, that is the least that can be done.
Speaking of the area that I know best—Montgomeryshire and mid-Wales as a whole—and speaking on behalf of the farmers of Brecon and Radnor, it is clear that the Bill currently outlaws the hunting of foxes with dogs altogether. That is unacceptable in the eyes of many people in Powys. Rather than seek compensation, they would seek the opportunity to carry on with their pursuit. Since that is not within the scope of the amendments, we feel that it is reasonable to respect the inconvenience, let alone the trauma and the distress that the Bill will cause those who have spent a lifetime in the industry of hunting with dogs.
It is unnecessary to support the views of the Middle Way Group, the Countryside Alliance or any of those farmers in order to be sympathetic to the claim for compensation. It is a matter of fairness. As I said, in fur farming there is already a cast iron precedent that must be taken as a touchstone for what we do in the Bill. It would be mean-spirited in the extreme if, after peoples' trade was taken away, they were not compensated for an action that they did not request and which was forced on them.
In the hon. Gentleman's excellent new clause he states:
''The Secretary of State shall pay compensation to those who lose their employment owing to a ban on hunting.''
Will he also consider people other categories who will lose a substantial amount of their income—although perhaps not their employment as such—and others who will incur huge additional expenditure, not least hard-pressed farmers who currently use hunts to remove 78 per cent. of their fallen stock? It is not just about losing livelihoods; it is about losing business.
The hon. Gentleman is correct. If one considered comprehensively who would lose out financially, one would see that it is not just about the individuals who currently depend on hunts to deal with their fallen stock. The irony is that the Government have recommended that farmers use local hunts to deal with fallen stock, yet they are
going against their own advice by taking away that line of management.
There is another group, too, which includes farmers who depend on hunting with dogs to control the fox population. Despite the naive claims of some Committee members, anyone who has considered the issue seriously—I know that the Minister and Lord Burns have—will know that there is a degree of predation and much unequivocal documentary evidence to show that foxes kill lambs. Farmers involved in that business will also lose some stock, unless they find an alternative way that is equally efficient. We already know that farmers in my area, for example, regard hunting with dogs as the most efficient way of dealing with that problem.
We restricted new clause 8 because we wanted to table an unequivocal new clause to which no reasonable person could object. Perhaps it would, in another place, be possible to manage the other elements of compensation. However, who would question the fact that individuals who lose their livelihoods as a result of the actions of Committee members should be entitled to respectful financial compensation?
The hon. Gentleman mentioned predation losses. No one disputes that foxes prey on lambs. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that farmers should be paid compensation for such predation?
In an ideal world we would not be discussing such a flawed Bill. However, if I were able to set up a perfect compensation regime, it would be best to compensate those farmers who lost additional lambs as a result of the Bill receiving assent. That would be difficult to work out.
The Middle Way Group decided, because of the complexities, to table an unequivocal new clause that directly related to the people who were most immediately affected by the ban. As I said, that is a safeguard. If hon. Members wanted to pursue that, there may perhaps be a case, even on Report, for talking about compensation for lamb predation. We felt that if that were introduced in new clause 8 it was likely that considerable debate about the subject would harm our chances of the new clause being agreed.
If the hon. Gentleman is thinking about a compensation scheme for predation, which might be considered at a later stage—whether on Report or in the House of Lords—would he also consider such a scheme for lamb losses owing to malnutrition or hypothermia, which he will know result in far greater numbers lost than by predation? Farmers could be compensated for malnourished animals, or those lost from hypothermia through being born in a particular place.
For the second time today I thank the hon. Member for Worcester for showing a flash of compassion towards agriculture. I look forward to debating this in future. The hon. Gentleman proposes a scheme that is far more comprehensive than those that I have heard so far. I certainly welcome what he says and I hope that he will elucidate further on that point on ''Farming Today''.
Mr. Foster rose—
Yes, the right hon. Gentleman is right. As I said earlier, that is a cast-iron precedent. I would be surprised if the Minister, on anyone else, felt that that precedent was not as close to an open and shut case as one can get when it comes to justifying compensation for those directly affected, in terms of loss of income and assets, by an outright ban on hunting with dogs.
The position is simple. I look forward to hearing from the Minister. It is perfectly self-evident, whether one supports or opposes a ban on hunting with dogs or believes in a form of regulation, that, in the event of a ban, it is morally right for us to provide compensation. That precedent has already been established in the case of mink farming.
Under the European convention on human rights, there is an obligation to provide those who have been denied the free use of their property with compensation. As we ought to know by now—having signed up to it more than 50 years ago and having introduced it into British domestic law at the outset of the first term of the current Government—the convention states:
''Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.''
That second paragraph of article 1 of protocol 1 does not enable states simply to confiscate things from citizens without compensation.
A ban on hunting will interfere with the rights of landowners who participate in hunts over their land, or who give the hunt passage over their land, to use their land as they see fit. To that extent, it constitutes a control on the use of their property. That is an interference with ''the peaceful enjoyment'' of their property, which is guaranteed by article 1 of protocol 1. A ban on hunting is also an interference with the substance of ownership of packs of hunting hounds and, in that sense, is also an interference with ''the peaceful enjoyment'' of those animate possessions.
That is not a new idea; I do not claim to have thought it up in the past 15 minutes. There has been decided case law in the European Court since as long ago as 1982 and the matter has been further discussed by academic lawyers in more recent legal publications.
Although the interferences fall short of a deprivation of property, because the banning of hunting does not confiscate the land or the hounds,
they are governed by the first sentence of the article. Deprivation of possessions is acceptable only if it is in the public interest and conforms to international law and practice. Deprivation of the use or peaceful enjoyment of possessions without compensation is justified only in exceptional circumstances. Again, that point was drawn to the attention of the European Court and decided by it in 1986 in a case involving the UK Government.
Central to that concept is proportionality. There must be proportionality between the measures taken and the aim to be achieved, and a fair balance between the competing interests. The fair balance precludes the imposition of an excessive burden on the individual in question. There must be a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be realised.
In this field, in the absence of compensation, there is a complete disjunction between what the state wants to do on the one hand and what it is prepared to do to compensate those affected on the other. Working out what the compensation should be is, as the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said, almost impossible in this Committee Room, but it must be reasonably related to the value of any property taken or any peaceful enjoyment broken.
I should like the Government at least to salute the idea of compensation, even if they do not deal with it in detail this afternoon. I do not think that the Government can, with their hand on their heart, go before the citizenry of this country and say, ''You may or may not agree with what we are doing in this Bill, but whether you agree or not, we will confiscate something from your fellow citizens as though it were a tax, and not allow them to be compensated for the deprivation of that right or enjoyment.''
As long ago as 1215, the Executive, in the person of King John, were required to realise that the state should not take things away from the citizens of the country, or subjects as they were then—
Yes, it was mostly barons who, at the time, were having a constitutional tug of war with the king. They managed to establish, for all our benefits, the fact that the Government should not simply ride roughshod over the rights of others. We are about to see that happen in this case, unless the Government are prepared to look kindly on the principle of compensation. There has been no sign of it so far, and there was no sign of it during any interventions in the earlier consideration of this or previous Bills. However, I submit that the European convention, natural justice and plain good manners require the Government to admit the principle of compensation.
I entirely support what my hon. and learned Friend says about the European convention. We discussed that matter at some length during the previous Committee stage, and I reminded the Committee that the Joint Committee on Human
Rights considered the matter before the 2001 Bill, saying:
''In view of the absence from the Bill of provisions for compensating those who lose income or land value as a result of losing the right to hunt, either generally or on their own land, and who suffer an interference with their freedom to enjoy their own land for hunting non-commercially, there is a risk of incompatibility with rights under ECHR Article 1 of Protocol No 1.''
That view was reiterated in a letter, of which I have a copy, from the chairman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Jean Corston). She wrote to the Minister on 21 January, saying:
''The Bill would, in the Committee's provisional view, be likely to deprive people of possessions of type (ii). Deprivation of possessions without compensation requires particularly strong justification under P1/1.''
So, there is a definite question of whether the deprivation of property under the European convention on human rights applies. The Minister might want to give that some thought. I endorse what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) said.
I entirely support what the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said on the general question of compensation. It seems eminently fair and reasonable. He very properly referred to the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000, where the Government, or Government Back Benchers—for what they believed to be reasons of morality—thought that the wearing and farming of fur was wicked. I do not happen to agree with them, but that was none the less the will of the House of Commons. However, they realised that applying that will to an industry amounting to some 13 farms across England would have a bad effect on the income of those farmers. Section 5 of the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 came to the conclusion that those farmers ought to be properly compensated.
I think that I am right in saying that since then the European courts have decided that that compensation is not adequate, and the Government are currently consulting on whether fur farmers should have rather more compensation than the amount proposed under section 5 of the 2000 Act. The result may be that they receive a significantly better settlement than the one that they were offered. Why, then, should innocent people, who have been deprived of their livelihoods for reasons that they plainly do not believe are legitimate—although the Government or Labour Back Benchers may think that they are—not be compensated also?
We are not talking simply about people who are employed by the hunts, although of course they are an important group, variously estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 people. They will lose their livelihoods if the Bill is passed. Putting people such as huntsmen, farriers, and vets to one side, there are also clothing manufacturers. There will be a significant downturn in that industry, and it will affect quite a large number of Labour-held constituencies; most of the tack work is done, and most of the people who produce hunt clothing, are in urban areas represented by Labour Members of Parliament.
Obviously, there will also be a bad effect on grooms, livery yards and hoteliers. In my constituency, the effect on hoteliers will be deleterious. There are also feed merchants, horse dealers, fencers, timber merchants; the list goes on. The Bill will have a significant effect on the economy of the countryside.
Also, farmers will suffer seriously, not least because of the problem of the picking-up of fallen stock. Farmers face dreadful new regulations from Europe, too, which require them to ensure that their fallen stock is collected and taken to the knacker's yard centrally. The Government have recently acknowledged that their scheme for the central collection of fallen stock will not work, and they have no method of carrying out that essential task. Some 400,000 carcases a year are collected by the hunts. That will no longer be the case; the farmers will have to find some other way of getting rid of 400,000 carcases.
I hope that my hon. Friend will not allow the Government to get away with pretending that that problem came out of the sky or that the fault is with Europe, which is what the Government would say. We are talking about a sensible measure that has been taken by everyone in Europe, and every other Government in Europe has responded to it well. The reason why it is going wrong in Britain is that the Government, particularly in England and Wales, failed to produce a sensible policy and relied on the hunts for getting by. They now have the effrontery to suggest that the industry should pay for the scheme while they abolish hunting. The scheme has been more sensible in Scotland under the Scottish Executive, but in England and Wales it has been so appalling that it has got up the nose of even its supporters.
My right hon. Friend is right; this is yet another example of the British Government choosing to do things in a different way—an incompetent way, in this case—from other European nations. The same applies to the disgraceful episode of horse passports. The Government are choosing to enforce such passports in the horse industry, although it will have a devastating effect on that industry in England, and although the European Commission has made it perfectly plain that they do not have to.
This is another case of the hon. Gentleman leading with his chin. The industry has greatly welcomed what we have done in relation to horse passports and, in particular, that we have done it in partnership with them.
It is absurd to describe the situation with regard to fallen stock as the hon. Gentleman has done. The Government have been extremely generous and imaginative, and my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment has put in an enormous amount of work to produce something that would save money for the farming industry. It seems absurd that they did not rush to accept that, and I hope that it is not because of the misleading way in which hon. Gentleman describes that generous offer.
There is nothing misleading about what I said. The horse industry has not welcomed horse
passports. I speak as the President of the Association of British Riding Schools. Some 3 million people a year go to riding schools, and riding schools are 100 per cent. opposed to the compulsory imposition of horse passports. The only group in favour of it is the British Horse Society, which the Minister has consulted, and which would benefit from it because it would run the register. People out there riding horses at riding schools are totally opposed to it. It is simply not the case, as the Minister has tried to claim, that the horse industry is in favour.
No, I would rather not go down that particular track.
The same applies to the question of the collection of fallen stock. At the moment, hunts collect 400,000 carcases a year, most free of charge. If hunting is banned, 400,000 carcases will have to be collected by somebody else, and that is not to mention all those carcases—of which there are many hundreds—that are currently buried on farms. Because of the incompetence of this Government, somebody is going to have to collect those carcases. The Government came up with a half-baked scheme—some kind of national carrier to go round the farms to pick up carcases—and farmers, perfectly reasonably, did not want it. The Government are now in a hole of their own making. We will have large numbers of animal carcases all over the countryside for years to come, and the Government have no way of collecting them.
This Bill will make things worse. Given that the farmers were perfectly content with what was happening, surely it is right that the Government should consider compensating them. Compensation in relation to a hunting ban has been discussed for a time, so perhaps a few quotes on the subject would be helpful to the Committee. Paragraph 10.60 of the Burns report says:
''In the event of a ban on hunting, consideration would need to be given to possible action in respect of the fallen stock service provided by many hunts and to whether there would be case for compensation if hounds had to be destroyed''.
I remind the Committee that 26,000 hounds will be destroyed as soon as the Bill becomes law. What compensation will there be for them? And what compensation will there be for hunts with no further use for their kennels?
At paragraph 10.16, the Burns report states:
''Both sides [Deadline 2000 and the Countryside Alliance] also agree that the 'general interest test' is interpreted by the European Court with considerable latitude to national authorities. The approach to which we were referred is to ask whether Parliament's judgement as to what was in the public interest is 'manifestly without reasonable foundation'. The Countryside Alliance . . . argue that, even if the Court held that it was met, there is a strong likelihood that a 'fair balance' would require economic compensation for owners of packs and for landowners.''
To return to the ECHR question, people argue that there is a perfectly good case for sensible compensation. At paragraph 10.57, the Burns report states:
''In the case of the hunts, the main issue which would arise would be whether some form of compensation should be paid in the event of their having to put down hounds and because the hounds would
no longer be required. We noted in Chapter 6 that there is disagreement about whether it would in fact be necessary for all, or even most, of the hounds to be destroyed and that this would depend on the speed in implementing a ban.''
I hope to return to the matter of whether the implementation should be three months, one month—as the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) suggested—or a year, as I suggested, as did the hon. Member for Worcester in his Bill. The speed with which the ban is implemented has real economic consequences for those most affected. That has a bearing on the amount of compensation that would be appropriate.
My hon. Friend referred to the extraordinarily harrowing fact that 26,000 hounds will have to be destroyed as a result of this legislation. Not only are they to be destroyed, but those carcases will have to be disposed of. The regulations for burying carcases are now, of course, much more stringent. Will my hon. Friend invite the Minister to give clear guidelines on how to deal with 26,000 hounds once they have been destroyed?
My hon. Friend makes a good point, although perhaps he is not entirely familiar with the fine print of the regulations. People are still allowed to bury pets in their gardens, and it will be interesting to learn whether hounds that are killed as a result of the Bill can be buried in and around the yard. Everyone who I know in the hunting world loves their hounds to such a degree that burying them locally would be the most compassionate thing for the Government to allow them to do. However, my hon. Friend may be right that the Government will require the hounds to be carted off in lorries to be incinerated in some anonymous knacker's yard. Hunting people I know would not like things to happen like that.
I have spotted two quotes from the Minister from our Committee stage on 27 February 2003. He has entirely changed his mind on the first point that I will quote, so I hope that he will be equally ready to change his mind on the second. He said,
''I am pleased that the animal welfare provisions have been strengthened and that the content has been clarified as a result of the debate of the Committee.''
This is the last sitting of the Committee after umpteen months. He goes on to say,
''I stress that the Bill is based on principles that all sides, including the pro-hunting organisations, accepted as right during the consultation process that led to its drafting and publication.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 27 February 2003; c.1253-4.]
The Minister was proud of the principles behind the Bill, that being the final sitting.
Shortly after, during the debate on compensation, the Minister spoke about whether people who are made redundant should be compensated. Less honourably and attractively, the right hon. Gentleman said,
''Certainly those who are made redundant have certain statutory entitlements: they are entitled to use the Employment Service to find alternative employment. There are opportunities for training.''
He went on:
''There can be no rights to compensation that rely on allowing people to be cruel.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 27 February 2003; c. 1256.]
The Minister is winning his argument after centuries of debate about whether hunting should be banned. If the Bill is accepted, the Government will have won the argument. Hunting will be banned. They will be triumphant. There will be parties to celebrate. Throughout the land, 10,000 or 15,000 people will be thrown out of their jobs. Hounds and horses will be killed, vehicles will be thrown away and buildings closed or passed on. What does the right hon. Gentleman say about that? If he were decent, he would say that he was extremely concerned about the plight of the people concerned.
My hon. Friend is pursuing a point that I am sure he remembers we debated at length in Committee. Would he care to reflect on the fact that the stud book of the Beaufort hounds that he hunts with in his constituency goes back to the 17th century? The buildings in which they are lodged are some of the finest and most magnificent of their type in the country. This in not just an act of meanness, prejudice and viciousness, but a hammer blow to part of our national heritage. How can that be compensated for?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point, though I will correct him one small matter. I occasionally go out with the Beaufort pack, but I normally go out with the Avon Vale pack, which is equally distinguished and has the same problems. There are 53 direct generations that can be traced on the Beaufort bloodline. The Bill would cut that off at a stroke. There is no way that such a national tragedy can be compensated for. It is a tragedy to our heritage, and a personal tragedy for the people involved. It would be impossible to compensate for that.
What my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) says is absolutely right. We should not frighten the Minister unduly. New clause 8 is modest in scope. It has a limited effect, and I hope that he realises that compensating individuals who lose their employment is a specific point and one that the Government—if they are feeling generous to those that they penalise with this draconian legislation—might well consider.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. I can imagine all sorts of Bills that if I ever have the good fortune to be a Minister, I would pass—and would be glad that they had been passed—which would affect innocent people. I would like to think that, under those circumstances, I would say, ''I'm glad that the Bill has been passed,'' and that, for example, hunting had been banned, but that I was deeply concerned about the people who were losing their jobs, and the other consequences that would come about as a result of this triumph of reason—if that is what the Minister thinks it is.
As a result of being so worried, I would find ways to put in place some form of compensation and to ameliorate the situation that such people would be
facing. I would look after them even though I disapproved of the fact that they were kennel huntsmen. I would say, ''Kennel huntsmen are wicked people and I hate that, but I have put them out of business and I will find some way of compensating them.''
It is disgraceful merely to say that such people have the ability to go to the employment office like anybody else. Most people who go to the employment office do not do so as a result of parliamentary activity. We are passing a Bill that will put people out of work and my hon. Friend's new clause 8, which I support, would compensate them for that. [Interruption.]
The Minister's PPS, the Member for The Wrekin (Peter Bradley)made an interesting comment from a sedentary position, which should be recorded. He said, ''What about the miners?'' or words to that effect. Does that give us a clue to the motivation behind the legislation and its failure to pay compensation?
The hon. Gentleman denies that he said that, but he certainly referred to miners, so he said something close to what I suggested. Is there not a real difference between the regrettable commercial situation that faced them, which we all regretted, and a direct act of statute?
I am afraid that I do not agree with my hon. Friend. I think that there is a direct parallel between the two. That is why the Conservative Government put in place all sorts of activities to ameliorate the lot of steel workers, miners, shipbuilders and others who lost their jobs. The town of Corby, which was so devastated, is a standing tribute to how much the Conservative Government did to compensate steel workers who lost their jobs. It has been regenerated as a result of our activities. There is a direct parallel.
The people who will lose their jobs because of this Bill will receive no compensation, help or even sympathy from the Minister who said:
''I am advised that there is no obligation, either legal or moral, to pay compensation to those who may be affected by the Bill.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 27 February 2003; c. 1257.]
The Minister may be right in saying that there is no legal obligation because his advisers will have told him the position, but he is entirely incorrect in saying that he has no moral obligation to pay compensation. Of course he does. Anyone who knows anything about morals knows that he should pay compensation and I hope that he will consider new clause 8. He could say that it is not correctly drafted, but he could return with another format. He can see the light at the end of his tunnel—the smell of success in banning all forms of hunting, which he believes will happen, although we are determined to ensure that it does not. Let us hope that he has the decency, as a sensible Minister, to say that he is concerned about the matter and will seek a way of compensating those who will be so badly affected by the Bill.
I have mostly kept my thoughts to myself today because so much of what we have been doing has been a charade and we have rehearsed old
arguments. I have lost what little faith I had left in the Government and their attempt to find a solution that they peddled as being a compromise. They have abandoned all pretence of that.
What has changed in the Bill? No longer can it pretend to be about registration. Even the Minister would concede that. This is now a banning Bill. In the original Government Bill, there was no reference to compensation and the Minister could say that at that time he was not banning hunting but registering it, so there was no need to pay compensation. However, the Government have adopted what is effectively the private Member's Bill of the hon. Member for West Ham and it is now an all-out banning Bill. If the Minister has any spirit of generosity, he should take this opportunity to revisit the whole question of compensation, not for those who have been brought up with the hunt as part of their social lives in remote areas—there can be no compensation for them—nor, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex said, for the abandonment of many fine buildings up and down the country and the destruction of bloodlines going back hundreds of years. There can be no compensation for that. However, there can and should be compensation for those people who have been brought up to hunt and to work for hunts for very little reward and whose lives have centred around hunting. They are being offered an inadequate olive branch that they can be retrained to do something else. Many of those people know no better and would be loth to be parted from their houses in remote areas. In many instances, there are no jobs that those people could do.
Moreover, the subject of who is going to pay for the destruction of hounds was raised. Will the hunts that we are disbanding be invited to contribute financially to the destruction of their hounds? If that is the case, what a bitter irony it would be.
We will conclude our discussions artificially shortly in an era when the countryside is still bleeding in the wake of foot and mouth. If the Government had any intention of offering the countryside any succour, support and hope they would not be introducing this Bill in this manner. They would be talking in terms of providing compensation for those who are set to lose their livelihood.
This is a good new clause. I would like it to go further so that it includes all those who, in good faith, have diversified. That is another keynote of Government policy: when faced with a farming challenge, they urge farmers to diversify. Many of them have taken the Government at their word and are now beginning to regret it.
The proliferation of riding stables in East Devon has fuelled a renaissance in the number of people who have taken up riding. More people ride today than ever before. That is an extraordinary fact. Many of those people go on to take up hunting. Indeed, many of them take up riding in order to hunt—not the great majority, but a significant proportion. Many people have taken out large loans and mortgages to expand their riding establishments. What compensation should they be entitled to?
My hon. Friend will not have seen the puzzled looks on the faces of one or two hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches, who clearly think that those yards might continue if hunting were banned. I think that my hon. Friend is referring to livery yards that were set up for the purpose of hunting. If hunting no longer exists in areas such as his in Devon and mine in Wiltshire, those livery yards will close.
My hon. Friend, characteristically, makes a strong point. I was about to deal with livery yards. On Dartmoor, which I know something about, there are many such yards. Many new companies are starting up with riding safaris and a lot of them are tied in with the hunt: they have diversified into other areas. If hunting is banned, many of those stables will not be able to survive by relying purely on riding safaris.
It is no good the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for The Wrekin, looking disdainfully down as if I were some sort of Shirley Porter figure, because the truth is that he does not understand these matters—worse than that, he does not care about them.
I will not detain the Committee any longer than necessary because the sooner that these proceedings are brought to a conclusion and the charade is ended the better. I conclude by saying that new clause 8 is a good clause. If the Minister was a good Minister who cared one jot for the countryside and the people that this Bill will affect, he would consider a form of compensation that would allow some of them to complete their lives with a degree of dignity, and others to survive into the next era without having to go cap in hand with a begging bowl to the nearest jobcentre.
The hon. Gentleman is obviously attempting to develop a talent for exaggeration and rhetoric to equal that of the hon. Member for North Wiltshire. As he suggested, we have debated compensation before; that is not a new issue.
I found some of the contributions disgraceful. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire mocked the statutory services that exist to help unemployed people. He also said something that can be associated with that. He claimed that the period of Conservative rule in recent decades was some sort of golden age when people whose steelworks or mines or other places of employment were closed down were treated reasonably and humanely. The work of the employment services and the training services, the opportunities, the rights of workers, and the support that they get in this country as a result of actions taken by this Government since 1997 are considerable. In addition to that, far more employment is available to people as a result of our economic policies, including in rural areas, which have benefited more in percentage terms than many urban areas.
I am pleased that the attitude of the services has improved tremendously in recent years. After speaking to a conference of officials about the new deal, I commented that there was a sense of optimism around, to which a person replied, ''Well, we have been asked to do what we joined the service to do, which was to get people into work.'' During the long periods when some of us worked on economic development when the Conservatives were in power, we saw little care for many of the people whom we now represent. Indeed, it was the experience of working with unemployed young people and the way that the Conservative Government had taken hope away from them that led me to stand for Parliament. I make those points to counter the disgraceful slurs that have been made on the public services.
Mr. Gray rose—
For the sake of good order, I wish to make it clear that I have the highest regard for the Employment Service and the other organisations to which I referred. At no stage in my speech did I cast a slur on them. I merely said that it was disappointing and upsetting that people who are in hunt service would have to make good use of such organisations. My praise for the services to which the Minister referred, including those in Chippenham in my constituency, could not be higher. It is wrong of the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that I said something else.
The Minister keeps at it. I did not withdraw my remarks. I clarified that what I said was sensible and that the right hon. Gentleman had misquoted me. I say again that I have the highest regard for the services. I said so at the time. I made no disparaging remarks about them. I have no need to withdraw any remarks. The Minister has lowered himself by suggesting that I did.
I shall obey your injunction to the letter, Mr. Pike. I refer to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire quoted from paragraph 38 of its first report, HL 41. Its second report, HL 74, came to the clear conclusion that there is no significant risk of incapability with convention rights. No doubt the Committee will wish to scrutinise the Bill, but I am confident that it will reach the same conclusion.
The point of the argument of the hon. Member for North Wiltshire is that the absence of compensation
provisions—especially in light of the Bill as it emerged on Report—makes it incompatible with the convention. In that respect, I note that two challenges have been made to the Scottish legislation, which bans hunting without the payment of compensation. So far, both have been unsuccessful. Furthermore, the Hunting Bill in 2000, which contained the option of an outright ban, was deemed compliant with the European convention on human rights.
My hon. Friend made a point that I am sure Conservative Members will take into account. We have compensation. While the structure of the Bill has changed, the principles are the same. As for the nature of the businesses about which we are talking, some hunts have small turnovers, but others have large. Large businesses can be expected to look after their staff. People have the statutory retirement entitlement to which the hon. Member for North Wiltshire referred and make use of the Employment Service to find alternative employment.
There are other opportunities. Reference has been made to the fallen stock scheme. With the scheme that the Government have created, there are opportunities for those who will be looking for new employment or the hunts themselves to be a part of the fallen stock service. There is an opportunity for them to change their business. People who need their fallen stock dealt with will choose not to be part of the Government scheme. That option is also available.
The group of amendments that we are discussing includes the stand part debate in respect of clause 53. It provides for expenditure by a Minister of the Crown in connection with the Bill to be paid out of money provided by Parliament. Such statutory cover was required when the Bill provided for the establishment of the registrar and the tribunal, which would have given rise to substantial costs. With the deletion of the provisions for the registrar and the tribunal, the clause would be unnecessary. I would wish to move that clause 53 should not stand part of the Bill. References have also been made to earlier compensation schemes.
I am not sure that I have the figure to hand, but I can provide my hon. Friend with the estimate. Originally, we designed a system that would have involved costs. Clause 53 would have allowed for that expenditure, which, as a result of the decisions that we have already taken today, is not necessary.
I stand corrected, Mr. Pike. I am grateful to you for that guidance. I would not have liked to put my foot in it now.
In the past, compensation has been given to those who, as a consequence of legislation, have been
deprived of their property; I underline ''deprived.'' The most recent example was the firearms compensation scheme that was put in place as part of the legislation that followed the tragedy of Dunblane. I saw a certain amount of its operation, because it was part of my responsibilities when I was at the Home Office. We have generally not paid compensation from public funds—''we'' includes Governments of all colours—to those who may have lost their livelihoods as a result of such legislation. To go down that route would set an unfortunate precedent.
Compensation was provided for the fur farming businesses shut down as a result of the prohibition on fur farming, but that is hardly an analogous case. In the case of the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000, we were closing down an entire industry. By contrast, the Bill restricts certain activity, but many other activities are able to continue. Those who run hounds will be able to use them for drag hunts. Those who own horses will be able to ride. Those who serve such people—the blacksmiths who shoe horses and the grooms—will still be required. The horse industry is indeed a growth industry, which we will encourage and work with.
I believe that our new clause 8, which I hope we will put to the vote in due course, is more restrictive than the Minister understands or my interventions might suggest. I remind him that the ending of hunting, which this Bill enforces, is a total ban—the idea that it is anything else is disingenuous—and will end the largest voluntary access agreement for horse riders to the countryside that exists. It will lead to a sharp reduction in horse riding in the countryside. People will lose their jobs in a host of related industries as a result of the access to ride horses no longer being there. Although that is not strictly relevant to the debate on new clause 8, what the Minister said cannot be allowed to stand part of the record unchallenged.
There are decisions that people have to take when new legislation is introduced. Some decisions are consequent on the legislation specifically. A lot of other decisions that people take are not consequent on it.If people make such decisions, it is not appropriate for compensation to be paid.
If the Minister is so sure that all those people can re-deploy their resources and activities in a comparable way, he should not be concerned that the Government will have to pay compensation. Why are the Government being so mean-spirited in refusing to acknowledge that people who lose their livelihoods and assets have a justifiable expectation that the Government will compensate them?
The hon. Gentleman misunderstood what I said. In the comparison with the legislation on handguns, it was the weapons that individuals were deprived of for which compensation was paid. A parallel example would be the slaughtering of cattle and sheep during the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. There is no comparison with hunting. As I said, we have debated the issue more than once in the past.
The Minister said that people were compensated when their animals were confiscated and slaughtered. Surely, it is even worse in this case, because not only will people not get compensation for being forced to have their animals slaughtered, they will have to pay for the slaughtering.
I can understand the Minister being cautious about consequential losses; perhaps to saddlers, for example. However, let us try to focus in the last few minutes that are available to us. Does he accept that 2,000 or 3,000 people who are directly employed by hunts—the kennel huntsmen, the whippers-in, the people who have no other occupation at all—will, without question, lose their jobs as a result of the legislation? Burns acknowledged that a small number might be able to move to drag hunting. Will the Minister consider giving compensation to the large number of people who are directly employed and whose situation is directly analogous to that of the fur farmers who lost their jobs?
I do not believe that their situation is analogous to that of the fur farmers, and there is no difference in principle between this Bill and the Bill that we considered earlier. The question of whether more people would lose their jobs as a result of this or the earlier legislation is not at issue; the principle is the same. We debated the issue and said that compensation was not payable, and that remains the case.
Coming back to the foot and mouth situation, the reality is that the farmer was compensated for the loss of the animal, but the farm labourer who lost his job was not given compensation.
My hon. Friend is right. Nor were those individuals compensated who were unable to trade because they could not move animals at that time. The element that led to compensation in the past was direct confiscation. There is nothing different in principle between this Bill and the Bill that we debated earlier in Committee. Therefore, I resist the amendment.
I am very concerned about how to explain to my constituents that yet again I am attacking the Government from the left. It is an extremely annoying circumstance. [Interruption.] I realise that several colleagues are in the same position. I went through the whole of the Criminal Justice Bill finding myself constantly attacking the Government from the left, except on the one thing that was so closely guillotined that I could not argue about it.
The truth of the matter is that the Minister has just put forward the most hard-faced, 19th-century, illiberal attitude that I have ever encountered. Talk
about the Duke of Omnium! This man knocks him into a cocked hat. He says that the Government will not compensate people who will be forced to dispose of goods that they will no longer be able to use. The Government will say to people who lose their jobs and homes that they will get no compensation even though the Government allowed their rabble to push through legislation that they did not approve of in the first place. In fact, this is the most right-wing, extreme Government that we have seen in this country, not only in the general matter of Home Office affairs. The Minister should be ashamed of himself, and I believe that, deep down, he is.
We started today knowing that the Government would ban an entire activity. We finished by learning that they are not even willing to compensate people for taking away their livelihoods. That is not just a shame; it is a disgrace and immoral.
Question put, That the clause be read a second time:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 14.