New clause 11 - Use of dogs below ground

Hunting Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 25th February 2003.

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'Registration under Part 2 shall not be effected in respect of any hunting that involves the use of a dog below ground.'.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester 8:55 am, 25th February 2003

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 12—Lowland hunting of fox—

'Registration under Part 2 shall not be effected in respect of any hunting of fox in an area of land below an altitude of 500 metres above sea level.'.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I am proposing that new clause 11 be added to the Bill, but I also want to explain in a couple of sentences why I shall not move new clause 12. New clause 12 refers to foxhunting in the traditional sense and I believe that the symbolic nature of the fox in the Bill give us the onus to make a decision on foxes on Report instead of in Committee. However, new clause 11 covers terrier work.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Do I understand correctly that the hon. Gentleman wants to ban foxhunting and activities associated with it on Report?

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I made clear in my contribution on Second Reading the aspects of foxhunting that I do not like from an animal welfare perspective and I hope that those concerns can be dealt with on Report with the backing and full support of the Chamber as opposed to the smaller group in the Committee. It is with that in mind that any issues concerning foxes will be raised on Report.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. One of his new clauses, which he is not moving, would have banned all hunting below 500 m—that is, all foxhunting. Will the hon. Gentleman clarify whether he will, on Report, seek to end foxhunting or simply to end cub hunting and other aspects that he dislikes?

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

If the hon. Gentleman reads my Second Reading contribution he will see that cub hunting was one of my concerns, as was lowland hunting. New clause 12, which refers to hunting below an altitude of 500 m, is a signal that I believe that lowland hunting should be examined by Parliament either in Committee or in the Chamber. I decided that the Chamber is the place for that decision to be made at a later date.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

For clarification, does the hon. Gentleman intend to raise

new clause 12 on Report or is he dropping entirely his commitment to new clause 12?

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

It may well be that another form of words can be found to enable the Chamber to debate the principles of lowland foxhunting, which would satisfy me entirely. The Bill has not yet left Committee, so I do not want to prejudge where we will be on Report.

New clause 11 refers to terrier work and we have spent some time describing that work. For those who are uncertain about it, it is the practice of sending a small dog—a terrier—down a hole where a fox is believed to have sought refuge for that fox to be flushed out and shot or for the dog to kill the fox underground. Humans also dig down to where the terrier is holding the fox at bay underground. Once that digging-out process is complete and the fox has been retrieved, it is then disposed of.

Two main areas of concern were identified in the Burns report: the animal welfare of the fox in relation to the digging-out process and the use of terriers and the physical injuries sustained by the fox if a fight takes place with a dog. We should also bear in mind animal welfare concerns relating to the terrier.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Has the hon. Gentleman ever seen the way in which a Jack Russell terrier attacks prey? If he has, he will agree that the terrier will always bark at the prey and then back off. I have never seen a Jack Russell terrier attack a fox and I doubt if I ever would. That is not the instinct of such dogs. Their instinct is to bark at the enemy—the person walking past the front gate of the house, for example—and then back off. What evidence does the hon. Gentleman have for saying that Jack Russell terriers or other types of terrier instinctively fight with foxes underground?

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

Given the last couple of days in the history of the Conservative party, I knew that its members were living in the dark. I did not realise that they were able to see underground, to where the battles between Jack Russell terriers and foxes take place. I will deal with that matter later and if it is not to the satisfaction of the hon. Gentleman I am sure that he will intervene.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

The word used by the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), which I happened to hear, was totally unparliamentary. I did not know that the word ''bollocks'' was a parliamentary term, Mr. Stevenson.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. Here we are again. I did not hear that if it was said. If I do hear it, I shall take the strongest possible action.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

Being a former member of the teaching profession does give one more acute hearing than most.

Terrier work is conducted in association with traditional foxhunting. If a fox escapes a hunt into a hole of some sort, terrier men are sent to flush out, bolt, or dig out that fox and have it shot. There is also the sport—and I use the term loosely—of terrier work, where unofficial terrier men will go out and somehow gain pleasure from putting terriers down holes to find

and kill foxes. I have to be honest and say that the terrier work carried out by associated, traditional fox hunts, will no doubt be more tightly regulated than unofficial terrier work. However, the act of sending a terrier underground in that way causes real problems on animal welfare grounds. Whether that act is regulated through the Masters of Foxhounds Association or totally unregulated, I want it banned.

There is some uncertainty about the number of foxes that are killed through the use of terriers. The National Gamekeepers Organisation has a different estimate to the one that Burns gave. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has a slightly different estimate to the NGA, and there will always be a problem in estimating the number of foxes killed through the unofficial work of terrier men. It would therefore be easy for us to bandy around numbers on the overall size of the problem; that might be an interesting argument but not an especially productive one.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the submission made to the Burns inquiry by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as it was called at the time, was that outside organised hunting, 50,000 foxes were dispatched every year using terrier work underground?

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

That is an interesting point, which reinforces my comment about bandying numbers around, because the NGA has come up with a lower estimate. It is difficult to make much progress using such arguments. It is the practice itself with which I am concerned.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

Let us be clear on the numbers. I accept that views differ on how many foxes are involved, but the orders of magnitude are surely similar. We are not talking about 10,000 or 100,000 here or there.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

If I were making an estimate, based on the numbers that I have seen, it would be in the region of 30,000 to 50,000 foxes officially counted. However, the unofficial estimate is, by its very nature, difficult to make. That is based on the evidence that has been submitted to me by BASC and the NGA. Regardless of the numbers involved, it is the principle and the process to which I object. I am concerned that a dog is sent underground in the first place.

The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) asked whether I had witnessed a Jack Russell engaged with a fox in a so-called battle. I have to be honest: I have not. As I have explained, the engagements tend to be conducted underground, and my concern is with their underground nature. The Burns report contained a post mortem conducted on a fox that had been dug out, where terrier work had been involved. I do not know whether that case involved a Jack Russell, but it was obviously a similar type of dog. The case was from the Royal Artillery on the Salisbury plain, which I think is familiar to the hon. Gentleman. The fox was found to have multiple bite wounds on the face and the top of the head, damage to the right eye, bite wounds, haemorrhage and oedema in the region of the larynx

and lower neck and other injuries associated with shooting. I think that the first three items on that list were not self-inflicted wounds but were inflicted by the terrier work. That evidence provides one example of terrier work engaging a fox in a fight between two similarly sized animals.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Yes, I was there that day and I remember it well. As I recall, that fox—I hope that the hon. Gentleman can confirm this—had been hunted first and then went to ground. The post mortem discovered that it had been shot previously. It had been through a lot of trials and tribulations over the years, but was eventually killed that day—it was shot by the terrier man, perfectly humanely. The notion that that fox was killed underground by the terriers is incorrect.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I am clear in my recollection: I did not say that that fox had been killed underground. I said that it was killed by being shot. It was shot twice, because the first bullet did not kill it. That is clearly laid down in the post mortem evidence. The hon. Gentleman is right that there was evidence that the fox had been shot beforehand. Shotgun pellets from a past shooting were found in the left hand side of the head, the left forearm, the abdomen and the left hind leg. The individual pellets were walled up in fibrous tissue, which showed that the wounds had healed.

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the multiple bite wounds, damage to the right eye and haemorrhage and oedema of the larynx and lower neck were inflicted by the pack of dogs chasing the fox, that causes grave concern at the process of foxhunting. There was certainly no quick kill there. The hon. Gentleman has always argued that foxes never get away from a foxhound because they either escape unharmed or are killed, and are never injured and left to die a lingering death. I thank him for his contribution and if I were the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), I would say that I rest my case. However, I will continue—in the manner of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

The Government have rightly recognised the animal welfare concerns of terrier work. Schedule 1(5) states:

''The fourth condition is that the stalking or flushing out does not involve the use of a dog below ground.''

The Government have made it clear that they are concerned about terriers going underground to flush out foxes to be shot or so that they can continue to be hunted. Let us assume that the fox is flushed out to be shot. The Government have said that they do not like that on animal welfare grounds. However, the Bill allows a terrier to go underground to engage in a fight to kill a fox. I have real concerns about that in terms of animal welfare. Allowing a dog to go underground to push a fox out to be shot is not allowed, but allowing a dog to go underground to engage in a fight with a fox until one—or both—is killed is allowed. Purely on animal welfare grounds, I want to tighten up the legislation and I hope that new clause 11 does that by not allowing terriers to go underground in the first place to engage in the activity.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem is that there are many so-called terrier men who are not members of

the National Working Terrier Federation, which has a strict code of practice? Terriers are used underground and the entrances are then blocked, which leaves the fox and the terrier to fight it off below ground, with no way out. That is very much against the code of practice of the National Working Terrier Federation.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

My hon. Friend is right. As I said, where there are codes of practice, clearly such activities will be better enforced than they are when unofficial terrier work is conducted. In paragraph 6.52, Lord Burns made it clear that one of his concerns was the protracted nature of the process and the fact that the fox was prevented from escaping from the hole. The practices associated with hunting gave me concern from the moment I considered the issues. I went on a fox hunt and found that, to enable lowland hunting to continue, holes are stopped up to prevent the fox from escaping down them. There are some strange anomalies in the practices.

To return to terrier work below ground, the unofficial terrier men give me real concern. One of their magazines, Earth Dog—Running Dog, gives some examples of the enthusiasm with which such people conduct their activities. A 1995 article in the magazine stated:

''The fox can punish and his attentions can cause a terrier's head and muzzle to swell like a pumpkin, though in this day and age antibiotics control the worst effects.''

That provides clear evidence of dogs and foxes engaging in some form of battle. In March 1996, an article stated:

''Breaking through I found a very dead fox and a nearly-dead terrier exhausted and bearing horrendous lacerations to his head; the old boy was nearly a goner.''

A year later, in 1997, an article about a 30-hour dig to get to a fox stated:

''I set about moving a large rock that was now blocking my progress. It proved to be the end of the road. When I rolled it away, there was Turk''—

the terrier—

''and the fox both dead.''

That provides clear evidence of adverse impacts on animal welfare—to use Burns's terminology.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

To some degree, I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I daresay that in almost any practice in the countryside it would be possible to find malpractices of one sort or another. Some of the things he describes—30 hours of digging—sound like real malpractices to me. However, does he agree that—leaving aside those extremes, because he cannot justify his argument using extremes—those who conform to the National Working Terrier Federation's code of conduct would not condone any of the things he described? Most of the 50,000 foxes every year by using terriers are killed under the code of conduct.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I agree that it is difficult to make a case based only on extremes of evidence, but that has not stopped the hon. Member for North Wiltshire in Committee. My point concerns not the descriptions of battles between foxes and dogs, but the fact that those descriptions are published and relished. Having an article published in Earth Dog—Running Dog is like an award or code of honour. People are proud of having

had a 30-hour dig in which good old Turk copped it in the line of duty. Terrier work is objectionable and it concerns me.

In February 2000, the RSPCA was involved in a landmark legal case in which the practice of terrier work, which involves a dog being forced into a hole, was recognised by the High Court. Individuals were found to be ill-treating their dogs by sending them underground to combat foxes. The offence occurred in July 1998, and in 2000 the High Court found two individuals from Teesside guilty of ill-treating their dogs under section 1A of the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The High Court rejected the defendants' right of appeal, awarded costs to the RSPCA and said that the practice was bad for a dog's welfare. Rather than waiting for the odd prosecution to take place along the lines that I have highlighted, we can put the matter right in Committee by putting that the practice should not be continued on the face of the Bill.

I want to make the Bill consistent. Schedule 1 hints at the adverse animal welfare implications of terrier work but does not ban all of it. Perversely, it bans the more humane side of terrier work. We need to make the Bill tight by using belt and braces to stop the activity completely.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 9:15 am, 25th February 2003

The hon. Gentleman says that he seeks consistency in animal welfare. Why does he not mention shooting, which is how the vast majority of foxes die? If shooting increases, injuries and wounding are also likely to increase. Why is he unconcerned by the horrific, grisly injuries caused by shotguns or similar firearms? He has referred to those injuries but is unconcerned by them.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that I am unconcerned. The Bill is about hunting wild mammals with dogs and does not concern shooting. If it considered the shooting of foxes we would debate the matter. Of course, the high levels of wounding to which he has alluded concern me and DEFRA rightly provides guidance on the appropriate calibre of weapon to deal with foxes. Burns said that lamping with a rifle is the most humane way to deal with foxes, but it is wrong to say that I am unconcerned by wounding rates.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned orphaned cubs being left underground, which merits further consideration. We should consider whether it is more humane to let the cubs starve underground or whether terriers should be used. That is a genuine concern of mine and of the hon. Gentleman. I understand that he may raise it on Report so that we can look at further ways in which orphaned cubs can be dealt with.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I am puzzled. The hon. Gentleman seems to believe that there may be some utility in using terriers for orphaned cubs underground, but if the new clause becomes part of the Bill that will be illegal.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

As I told the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle, an amendment that dealt tightly with orphaned cubs would demand serious consideration.

I am concerned by the principle of sending a dog underground to protect game birds, which will be shot

later. One cannot justify killing orphaned cubs in that way because, by definition, they are not a threat to game birds. If they could hunt game birds, they would not be reliant upon their mothers. The hon. Gentleman's amendment has faults, but there is some merit in looking at it further.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I shall try to be brief. This is an important procedural point. As the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals acknowledged, in Scotland orphaned cubs are a real welfare problem. That is why Scottish legislation accepts the use of terriers. The problem is procedural. If the new clause does not concern that qualification, I doubt whether we shall succeed in amending it in the time available on Report. The Government would then be faced with Parliament enacting a Bill that does not include this safeguard. If the House of Lords includes it, it will not be good enough to use the Parliament Act—if the Government use it. There is a real danger in pursuing the new clause. The hon. Gentleman could end up not allowing that particular safeguard to be part of the legislation.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns about the procedures on Report and the amendments that might be made. We need to look at the genuine animal welfare issue and not reverse what the Committee has done.

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

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) assumed that the House of Lords would block the Bill and frustrate the will of the House of Commons, rather than improve the Bill, which would be preferable.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

My right hon. Friend makes a strong point about the Parliamentary process.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

This debate is in danger of getting out of order. The assumption that I made was that the House of Commons would not listen to sensible amendments made in the House of Lords. The House of Commons will be the problem.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. Let us get back to the new clauses.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I shall try, but I am being led astray by the Minister and the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire. There are concerns that need to be addressed. Perhaps the House of Lords is the appropriate place to see how they can be dealt with. If they cannot be dealt with then we must accept that. However, this new clause must first be put in place. We have set down a marker that, in principle, the practice of sending a terrier underground to kill or flush out foxes, which will be shot later, should not be allowed to continue.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

On the welfare of cubs when the vixen has been shot, is the hon. Gentleman saying that effectively he washes his hands of their welfare in pursuit of his principle, leaving it for others to intercede? Is he washing his hands of the welfare of the cubs because they do not fit with his overall prejudice?

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

I was trying to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle for raising an issue that is a dilemma for us. By expressing some sympathy with that view, I have been accused of being prejudiced in my overall view on animal welfare. I do not ignore the impact on cubs, but there is a school of thought that there will always be orphaned cubs because mothers can be killed in a road accident or shot, or for many other reasons. It is possible that we do not know about it and that orphaned cubs are left to starve. Where we can dispatch them as humanely as possible, we must consider doing so. However, the number of foxes that have been killed through terrier work is so great that the Bill must stop the practice.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

Can I try to cut the Gordian knot? New clause 11 deals with registration. The amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle, with which my hon. Friend will remember I expressed some sympathy, related to exempt hunting under paragraph 7 of schedule 1. Therefore, orphans come under exempt hunting, rather than under registration, so there is no contradiction and not necessarily a procedural problem.

Photo of Michael Foster Michael Foster Labour, Worcester

My hon. Friend, as always, makes a clear case for animal welfare being the only issue that we should consider in the Committee: we should certainly not consider prejudice, class hatred or any of the other nonsense referred to in the past. I tabled new clause 11 and seek the approval of members of the Committee for it on animal welfare grounds alone.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The hon. Gentleman proposed the abolition of all terrier work with roughly the same insouciance and lightweight argument as he used when he successfully proposed the abolition of all hare hunting. He seems to base his argument primarily on two things. First, he says that, under exempt hunting in schedule 1, the Minister has excluded the use of dogs underground, which somehow creates an inconsistency in the Bill. Secondly, he went to lengths to quote one or two extreme examples of what he described as fighting underground, saying how awful that was. He quoted an extreme and bizarre newspaper called ''Earth Dog—Running Dog'', which nobody in the countryside or involved in pest control using hounds or terriers would allow to grace their coffee tables. It is not a magazine that any of us would read. It is a disgraceful magazine. [Interruption.] It is interesting that Labour Members find that terribly funny. It is an extreme and extraordinary newspaper. For the hon. Gentleman to quote it and pray it in aid, without tackling any of the other issues involved in the abolition of terrier work, seems to demonstrate a lightweight approach to the issue.

As we discovered the week before last, the hon. Gentleman knew that he had the support of his hon. Friends. He clearly took the view that there was no necessity to advance the real arguments, because he knew that, after a few quiet words, they would vote for the abolition of hare hunting. I suspect that he received the same indications this week with regard to terrier work underground.

It will be interesting to see whether, after the Minister's humiliation in seeing his Bill wrecked by the hon. Gentleman's amendment, he will this week have

the courage of his convictions and vote for his own Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said memorably the week before last, in his 25 years in this place he had never seen a Minister fail to vote for his own Bill. However, this Minister committed that humiliating little crime the week before last, as he saw his Bill being wrecked by his own Back Benchers. It will be interesting to see whether this week he is ready to stand up for his Bill as printed and to resist his hon. Friend's new clause and, equally, whether his Parliamentary Private Secretary and the Whip will do so too.

The Minister wants to intervene. I presume that he will tell me that he intends to resist the amendment.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 9:30 am, 25th February 2003

The hon. Gentleman should not presume. I am going to suggest that he does not believe his own spinning. I have seen the reports in the papers. He sought to portray what I did as a climb-down or a failure to defend the Bill. It was no such thing. I made quite clear the reasons for my neutrality on the new clause last time, and I am quite content for what I actually said, rather than what the hon. Gentleman has managed to persuade journalists of, to stand in the record.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

What stands in the record is that when the hon. Member for Worcester moved a new clause to ban hare hunting, the Minister abstained rather than voting in favour of his Bill, while the PPS and the Whip voted against it. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. I think that the point has been made. Can we get back to the new clauses?

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I am most grateful, Mr. Stevenson. We shall watch what the Minister does today and see whether he abstains on this new clause or whether he votes against his own Bill. That would be perfectly in character. We have heard from the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) that he intends to table amendments on Report to ban hunting altogether. It will be most interesting to see whether the Minister supports those. That point is in order because the hon. Member for Worcester has been telling us that he is not moving new clause 12 because he intends to move amendments on the Floor of the House to deal with foxhunting. Will the Minister, at that stage, stand up for his Bill?

Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Labour, Weaver Vale

What does this have to do with new clause 12?

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The hon. Gentleman has obviously not read new clause 12, which is on foxhunting and has not been moved. It is legitimate for us to talk to it.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. I should like to get this straight, for my benefit and for that of hon. Members. We are debating new clauses 11 and 12. Whether there is a vote on those depends on the outcome of the Committee's considerations.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Thank you for that clarification, Mr. Stevenson. I am sure that the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall) will also be grateful for it.

If there is a move to ban foxhunting on Report, along the lines of new clause 12, or if there is a vote on

new clause 12 this afternoon—although the hon. Member for Worcester has said that he will probably not move it—will the Minister stand up for his own Bill or cave in to his Back Benchers? [Interruption.] From a sedentary position, the Minister says, rather crossly, ''Don't be so juvenile''. If new clause 12 is moved this afternoon, or if a similar clause is moved on Report to ban foxhunting, will he stand up for his Bill as drafted or cave in to his Back Benchers who are trying to wreck it? Will the Minister's humiliation become even more public than it is already, or will he bravely stand up for the Bill as it lies before the Committee today? The Minister might like to intervene to tell me which he intends to do.

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

The Minister would like to intervene to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that being a representative of one's party on the Front Bench is an honourable occupation, which should add to and illuminate a Committee's considerations. I find his juvenile contribution slightly embarrassing.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. I think that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire anticipated that I would rise to my feet again. He is entitled to ask the Minister what his attitude is to a new clause that we are debating. The point has been made and I think that we can now move on to the other arguments that I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to make.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Thank you, Mr. Stevenson; you are right. The fact that a Minister of the Crown gets to his feet to launch personal abuse at an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman seems to indicate the nature of the beast. We are dealing with an extraordinarily important new clause. The Labour party thinks that it can ban anything that it likes overnight without discussing it with us. That seems to be what the hon. Member for Worcester wants to do on terrier work. Surely to goodness, Labour Members should be ready to listen to some of the sensible arguments being advanced on behalf of the countryside, rather than responding in the insulting way that the Minister has just attempted.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

If it is all right with the hon. Gentleman, I should like to move on to the meat of terrier work. There is much to be discussed. I hope that he will forgive me.

The hon. Member for Worcester talked about the use of terrier work only in the sport of organised foxhunting. He did not once mention a gamekeeper. He mentioned the National Gamekeepers Organisation at one stage, but he did not talk about the use of terriers in the straightforward pest control of foxes. Does he not realise that if foxhunting and the chasing of foxes above ground were banned, the use of terriers underground for pest control purposes would be significantly more important than it is now? Right now, it is an enormously important industry. A large number of foxes are killed using terriers underground, but if no foxes are killed above ground by fox hounds, does the hon. Gentleman accept that the use of terriers underground will become even more important?

The National Pest Technicians Association has written to the Minister expressing its concerns about

the potential implications of the Bill for its members. We are not talking about the Beaufort hunt. The association states that its members increasingly use more natural and environmentally friendly methods, which most certainly include dogs. It says that it could not carry out its work were it not for the use of dogs.

The hon. Gentleman did not mention pest control or gamekeepers when he moved the new clause. All he talked about was the use of terriers in support of organised hunting, which seems a narrow approach to moving the draconian new clause. Does he realise that if all terrier work underground were banned, the sport of shooting in England would be significantly affected? The sport of shooting could not continue unless there was some method of controlling foxes.

Most gamekeepers use dogs to control foxes so that they can carry on shooting. The hon. Gentleman and his party keep saying that they are strong supporters of game shooting. The hon. Gentleman should realise that if the new clause is carried, it will have a devastating effect on the game industry in the United Kingdom today. Some 10 million pheasants a year are shot by organised shoots. That is a significant industry in the countryside, and pest control using dogs is an absolutely essential tool in that industry. The new clause would wreck it.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

Has the hon. Gentleman read the first four words of new clause 11: ''registration under part 2''? That is what we are talking about. All this stuff about shooting is a complete red herring.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I am puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I am sure that he knows that ''registration under part 2'' would mean that to use dogs for any purpose at all underground, it would be necessary to register. All gamekeepers, hunts, pest control operatives or anyone who wishes to use a dog underground would need to register under the Bill. There is no exemption for pest control operatives. All use of dogs underground has to be registered under the Bill. The new clause removes the ability to register. It is an outright ban on the use of all terriers underground. I hope that my understanding is correct.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

Can I remind the hon. Gentleman of the longer title of the Bill? It states:

''Make provision about hunting wild mammals''.

Birds are not wild mammals, and therefore are not going to be subject to registration under part 2.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The hon. Gentleman has plainly has not begun to understand the Bill. I was not suggesting for a second that the dogs are used to chase the birds. Perhaps he could come to my constituency and I could show him how a shoot works. At a shoot, the birds go up in the air and the guns shoot the birds. We are talking about the use of dogs to control the pests that prey on the birds, especially baby birds. Baby birds cannot fly very well and the pests prey on them, particularly foxes. Foxes like to eat birds, such as baby pheasants that cannot fly. It is necessary to use dogs underground to control the foxes so that they do not eat the baby birds. I hope that I have explained that

clearly enough to the hon. Gentleman and he has the hang of it now.

If we ban the use of dogs underground for the control of pests, there will be a significant effect on the huge game shooting industry in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Worcester did not even begin to tackle that point, and I shall return to it in a moment.

Terriers are used for pest control in many countries where hunting is banned, such as Belgium. There is extensive use of terrier work in countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, New Zealand, Slovakia, South Africa, Tasmania and America. In many of those places ordinary hunting as we know it does not happen, but the use of terriers for pest control is widespread.

In this country, we are talking about farmers, gamekeepers and pest control companies, not the organised hunts with which the hon. Gentleman is fixated. In an earlier sitting, we heard about the 9,000 foxes killed in London in the past six or nine months. A significant proportion of them would have been dug out using terriers because they were under garden sheds or in parks. Terrier work is the prime method for catching foxes in London, but that has nothing to do with organised hunts. Terrier work is widely used by land managers, wildlife managers and, in particular, gamekeepers.

That issue was addressed during consideration of the Scottish Parliament's Bill to ban hunting. The Rural Development Committee in the Scottish Parliament, which considered the matter in some detail, said that

''The use of terriers in pest control work is necessary as there appear to be few practical alternatives. The Committee welcomes Mike Watson's acceptance of the necessity of the use of terriers. The principal point of disagreement remains the use of terriers underground to dispatch orphaned cubs which appears to the Committee to be the only practical alternative, and more humane, than leaving them to starve.''

It was bizarre to hear the hon. Member for Worcester accept that there may be some utility to the use of terriers in an earth. He said that there is some purpose to it, but none the less his amendment would make it illegal. Bizarrely, he has suggested that if we think that the use of terriers to deal with orphaned cubs is so important, we should table a new clause on Report. I find it difficult to imagine the massed ranks of the Labour party on Report voting for a new clause that would allow dogs to be used to kill cubs underground. I cannot imagine the red, tooth-and-claw Labour party saying, ''That is a good idea and we will vote for it. Killing cubs underground is a very good plan. We do not want to kill grown-up foxes, but terrier work should be allowed to kill little baby foxes.''

I do not want to be unkind to the hon. Member for Worcester. He has said that there is some utility in the use of dogs underground to kill cubs, which will be quoted back at him on Report. None the less, I hope that he will consider whether he can table such a new clause on Report. If he stands up in the Chamber of the House of Commons and says that despite his lifelong ambition to abolish the use of dogs to hunt

mammals he has concluded that it is important for terriers to be used to dispatch orphaned cubs underground, Government Members may go along with him.

The Rural Development Committee accepts the need to use terriers underground. The hon. Gentleman extensively quoted Burns, who states in paragraph 5.43,

''In upland areas, where the fox population causes more damage to sheep-rearing and game management interests, 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.''

Farmers, landowners and gamekeepers consider terrier work necessary to manage the fox population. The various forms of killing by dogs account for a substantial proportion of foxes killed. More than one third of the foxes culled in mid-Wales are killed by terrier work.

On Saturday, I had an enjoyable day out with the Blencathra foxhounds in Cumbria. Its members told me about their use of terriers underground. Incidentally, I am happy to be wearing a Blencathra foxhounds tie, which I have added to my extensive collection of appropriate ties for this subject. Its members told me about their use of terriers in the Cumbrian mountains, where digging is impossible because the terrain is stony. If terriers were not used to chase foxes out of the piles of stones, there is no way a fox would ever be killed in Borrowdale, where I was on Saturday and which I enjoyed very much. The hon. Member for Worcester does not understand the necessity of using terriers in such countryside and in upland mid-Wales.

It was interesting that the hon. Gentleman seemed to be indicating again in new clause 12 that he dislikes lowland hunting but is prepared to allow upland hunting. No hunt is more upland than the Blencathra so I shall write to it this afternoon to say that the power of my oratory has persuaded the hon. Member for Worcester to allow it to continue.

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman said one thing, but meant something else. His amendment to ban all hunting below 500 m would have banned the use of dogs in all circumstances. No dogs are used in Britain above 500 m because there are no mammals above 500 m. It is three quarters of the way up Ben Nevis. It is a ludicrous notion and the only reason for suggesting that is a straightforward, outright ban on the use of all dogs everywhere.

If the hon. Gentleman intends to ban lowland hunting, as he describes it, and to prevent the Beaufort hunt from continuing to hunt, but to allow hunts such as the Blencathra and the foot packs in Cumbria, Wales and elsewhere to continue, it might be more sensible to specify a height of 250 ft. I suspect that the figure of 500 m that he chose to put into new clause 12 indicates that he is determined to stop all hunting.

The use of terrier work in upland areas, such mid-Wales and Cumbria is important. The National Gamekeepers' Organisation told Burns:

''In the overall context of fox control, the ability to kill foxes at their underground earths is very important because, as in all wildlife culling, locating the animal is the initial difficulty.''—

That may answer the problems raised by the hon. Gentleman—

''Moorland gamekeepers in particular rely on terrier work at earths because locating, let alone shooting or catching, a fox on the open moor is extremely difficult.''

That is so. There are holes everywhere in places like Salisbury plain, where I have done most of my hunting, and it is difficult to locate foxes above ground because they are almost always down holes. The use of terriers to locate them, as well as to flush them out into the open, is important.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, which the Minister is always calling in aid and saying how helpful it is, told Burns:

''Keepered land is closely managed on a regular basis by full or part-time land managers who rely mainly on shooting, snaring and the use of terriers for the prevention of damage by pests such as foxes . . . Terriers have a specific and essential role in fox control . . . The use of terriers is the most effective method open to gamekeepers once a fox is underground.''

The Federation of Welsh Packs told Burns:

''The FWP consider it imperative from a welfare point of view that if an injured or wounded fox goes to ground during a day's hunting, then terriers must be used to humanely account for it, so as to avoid prolonged suffering. With such an emphasis on fox control within Wales, the digging of foxes that are found underground, or are hunted to ground is the norm with all member packs of the Federation and curtailment of the use of terriers would severely compromise the effectiveness of the fox culling.''

In the research commissioned by Burns, Professor David MacDonald said:

''Shooting adult foxes during the breeding season has particular welfare implications for orphaned cubs which contrast with its relative effectiveness.''

He continued:

''If a rifle is used to kill adult foxes at the cubbing earth, terriers may be the only way to ensure that dependant cubs are killed. The National Working Terrier Federation have a code of conduct that identifies best practice for humane and efficient use of terriers for pest control.''

That code of conduct lays down precisely what may and may not be done with terriers and it is disappointing that the hon. Gentleman in his new clause chose to rely on the evidence in ''Earth Dog—Running Dog'' instead of looking at the National Working Terrier Federation's code of conduct, which lays down very plainly what is good, bad and indifferent in terrier work underground. That organisation is supported by all the hunting and pest control organisations. I recommend it as essential reading for the hon. Gentleman. It may allay some of the concerns about terrier work that he raised during his speech.

The truth is that terriers are used by something like 50 per cent. of all gamekeepers. These are MAFF figures. The Minister questioned them from a sedentary position a moment ago, but I think that they are none the less the correct figures that MAFF submitted to the Burns inquiry. The figures for fox control in recent years are as follows. The figure for shooting, including both shotguns and rifles, is 80,000 foxes; quite a reasonable number of those foxes will have been brought to the surface by terriers. The figure

for hunting with dogs, as a whole, is 75,000. Of those 75,000, 50,000 involved the use of terriers. So organised foxhunts above ground using foxhounds account for something like 20,000 or 25,000 cases. In the case of sight hounds, such as lurchers, the number of foxes killed is something like 10,000. Those are MAFF figures. Terriers kill 50,000, making that by far the largest single way of controlling foxes. Snaring is the other method; 36,000 foxes were killed by snaring last year.

A significant number of fox deaths are entirely dependent on terriers. The gamekeeping industry, in particular, would be decimated if that were no longer allowed. About 50 per cent. of gamekeepers use terriers and they are unanimous in saying that it would be a disaster for their business if the practice were abolished.

During the Scottish inquiry, the important role of terriers in relation to gamekeepers and other independent pest controllers was clearly recognised. A number of MSPs took the opportunity to see terrier work carried out at first hand. Dr. Richard Simpson, the MSP for Ochil and, in a certain sort of way, an hon. Friend of the Minister's, spent a day with the Fife and Kinross working terrier club, which is a member of the National Working Terrier Federation. He said that he saw

''a most efficient, controlled and acceptable method for control of fox numbers.''

His letter is on Scottish Parliament headed paper. It is an interesting letter, dated 18 March 2002. Dr. Richard Simpson, who is a Labour MSP, writes:

''I accept that fox numbers have to be controlled, however I have always been against hunting with packs of hounds.

What I saw in December with your group appeared to me to be a most efficient, controlled and acceptable method for control of fox numbers.

I believe that your type of hunting is not threatened with the passing of the Wild Mammals Act and I expect you and your group to be able to offer a service to the countryside for many years to come.''

He was writing to one of his local terrier users.

One can go across the country and talk to people who know about the countryside. We should leave aside the prejudice against hunting with hounds, which is what this is about—the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West has admitted on several occasions that it is about human behaviour—and talk about the means by which foxes are killed. Everyone accepts that foxes need to be killed; there is no question about that. Everyone accepts that the number of foxes killed will be precisely the same or perhaps larger if the Bill becomes law. The debate is not about how many foxes are killed, but about the means by which they are killed. That is all we are talking about.

Anyone in the countryside who knows about such matters will say that terriers are an essential tool in controlling and culling foxes. I have come across nobody who knows about such matters who argues against the use of terriers. People who are terribly opposed to foxhunting argue in favour of terriers. I am talking not about terriers in the context of organised

foxhunting, but about terrier use by gamekeepers and companies that are employed in pest control operations. The hon. Member for Worcester does not seem to understand that. He seems to think that terrier work is just to do with people in red coats and we know that he hates people in red coats and organised hunting. He is wrong to link terrier work with organised hunting because it is about far more than that. It is about the whole way of controlling an acknowledged pest in the countryside.

If hunting with hounds is banned, as the hon. Member for Worcester would like it to be, or registered in such a way that it becomes almost impossible for an organised hunt to continue, if he and Lord Burns do not like the shooting of foxes with shotguns by night, which nobody seems to like, and if he accepts the need for foxes to be controlled—unless he has become one of those who say that foxes are cuddly little things that must never die and never be killed—I challenge him to tell me by what means he will achieve that if he bans the use of terriers? If hunting is banned, the use of terriers in the way described becomes more important.

If the new clause becomes law and all terrier work and foxhunting are abolished, the countryside will be overrun with foxes that are, by definition, less healthy than they are now. Banning terrier work will have huge animal welfare implications; continuing it has precious few. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to tell me why he believes that banning terrier work would benefit foxes in any way, leaving aside his two fatuous arguments—the illogicality of his right hon. Friend's Bill, as he sees it, and the one that he has culled from the pages of ''Earth Dog—Running Dog''. I want him to tell me about the use of terriers in the countryside and why gamekeepers and pest control operatives should no longer be allowed to use them.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex 9:45 am, 25th February 2003

I spoke at some length in an earlier debate about the National Gamekeepers Organisation's concerns and I shall not bore the Committee with the same arguments. I have praised the Minister before, and I do so again, for holding the hearings at Portcullis house. It was a serious and genuine attempt to find common ground on a difficult and divisive matter. All those who attended the hearings did so in the hope that the discussions would be taken seriously. I do not wish to use too harsh words, but many of them feel deeply betrayed by subsequent events, not least as many of them attended against their better judgment, but, having been persuaded to do so, put their wholehearted effort into putting together the evidence to try to persuade the Minister and officials of the case for hunting and the preservation of order in the countryside through field sports.

None entered into the debate more enthusiastically or with a greater sense of purpose and endeavour than the National Gamekeepers Organisation. Again, I praise the Minister for having the good sense to invite that organisation, which, as I have said before, is an admirable body of highly professional and skilled men, and one or two women, who are keepers. They do an immense amount of work at all hours of the day and night to look after their game, keep at bay the vermin

that prey on them and generally retain a proper balance in the countryside.

As I have told the Minister before, the NGO believes that it has been deeply and roundly betrayed. It will have been horrified to hear the hon. Member for Worcester this morning move the new clause on the working of terriers underground. I shall not try your patience, Mr. Stevenson, or that of the Committee by going through what I have already said at considerable length, but the work that keepers do must involve the control of foxes, and in certain places and situations the only viable method of doing so is to use terriers underground.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire says that terriers do not get hold of foxes. I want to disabuse him of that notion. That is not true. Of course, in a set-to underground, strong words are exchanged between the terrier and the fox. Since I was a child, I have often been present at the digging-out of a fox while out hunting. A farmer wants a fox put away, and when one digs down one often finds that the terrier has hold of the fox—not always, but on some occasions there will have been a proper set-to. The fox will then be dispatched immediately by a humane killer.

A fox's natural habitat is underground. There has been extensive research carried out abroad on badgers. The badger and the fox are both completely secure and happy in their underground earth or sett. For the edification of hon. Members opposite, foxes live in earths and badgers live in setts. Otters live in holts. In the fox's earth, the fox is master. He is the master of his domain and the terrier is a most unwelcome intruder. If gamekeepers are to do their job properly, they must be allowed to use terriers.

I am going to repeat my earlier arguments to the hon. Member for Worcester. If the new clause is accepted, the pressure will increase further on rare species such as the wild English partridge. Very small viable populations of the partridge remain in this country, mainly in East Anglia, but rarely elsewhere to our great sadness and disadvantage. A fox is a dangerous enemy to all ground-nesting birds, and not just the birds mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire.

People who rear pheasants in great numbers have to deal with foxes in their own way. They can regularly be taken above ground, but if one has to use a terrier, one has to use a terrier. There are many other ways of dealing with the problem in the lowland setting. On the moor, the hills, the inby land, the high hills and the uplands there is no other satisfactory method of getting a fox out of an earth other than using a terrier. If one cannot deal with foxes, they will predate on grouse, and the cycle of decline begins in the uplands.

I explained at some length to the Committee how that cycle of decline works, its implications, and how serious it is. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman meant there to be the sort of unforeseen consequences that will flow from the Bill. If the new clause is accepted, the hill keepers will look at the Committee with mouths wide open and think that we are

completely mad. No one in this room has ever been out with a moorland keeper. They have never seen the job of a moorland keeper. They have never understood the imperative of controlling the fox population. A hill keeper has only limited resources.

In the uplands, large numbers of people walk on the moors, mainly on footpaths. It is not always safe to use a high-powered rifle in a great open space. It is not always possible to lamp at night. It is not always possible to get close enough to a fox to risk a shot. No keeper worth his salt would ever take on a fox with a rifle unless he was absolutely sure he was going to kill it. It is essential that they are allowed to use their terriers.

I will delay the Committee in one respect only. The cycle of catastrophe on the hills begins with a lousy, foolish, idiotic common agricultural policy that allows too many sheep to graze, thereby destroying the heather. I know several landowners who have spent a fortune of their own money to get the heather back by taking the sheep off, putting the heather back and bringing the grouse back. They are entitled to allow their keepers to maintain the rising population of grouse, which disappeared from those moors for generations, and to allow the sport that retains the keepers' jobs. It retains employment where there is no other employment. In many such places there is no employment other than as shepherds or keepers. I know that that is of little consequential interest, but it is the truth.

I expect the Minister to deal seriously with the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Worcester because it would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. It flies in the face of all the evidence submitted to Burns, all that Lord Burns said about terrier work and all the detailed, comprehensive, experienced evidence of the National Gamekeepers' Association. Those people truly know what they are talking about, and mind very much about it. They really understand the matter, and know that what the hon. Gentleman is doing is just whim and whimsy, part of a dreadful, idiotic, facile betrayal of the countryside and all those who love and take part in field sports.

I draw the Minister's attention to the very important work done by the Game Conservancy Trust. In the enlightened days when I was a Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Game Conservancy Trust—

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:00 am, 25th February 2003

I take it that that was when some of the ills of the common agricultural policy were being pursued.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

Unfortunately, I was not nearly senior enough to take part in that. I was confined to the more interesting and agreeable slot of Minister with responsibility for food and animal welfare, an electric combination. I moved effortlessly from bovine spongiform encephalopathy—I hope that Hansard can get its mouth round that—to Gulf war syndrome. I did not deal with those important matters, but with more humdrum ones such as granting licences to shoot cormorants. So efficient and effective was MAFF's bureaucracy that it could take up to six

months to get a licence to kill one cormorant, by which time it had eaten all the fish.

To return to the important point, I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to an admirable document produced by the Game Conservancy Trust. I mentioned my time as a Minister at MAFF because my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal, then the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, did much work with the Game Conservancy Trust at a time when we were altering the rules on set-aside. Those rules needed to be altered quickly because as they originally came in, they were doing tremendous damage to ground-nesting game. We altered them. The Game Conservancy Trust produced a definitive booklet called ''Fox Control in the Countryside'', at a time when I was one of its trustees. It is a really important scientific work, written by Jonathan Reynolds. I draw the Minister's attention to what it says on the use of terriers and digging out and the importance of that practice, particularly to keepers in upland areas.

Moorland keepers rely heavily on the use of terriers. That is not for sport, in the sense that Labour Members understand it. I thought that what the hon. Member for Worcester read out about long dog and running dog was despicable and contemptible. I despise and loathe people who behave badly and abuse animals, but the people about whom I am talking are not using those dogs to derive massive pleasure, although it is good fun to see a terrier do its job properly. There is intrinsic pleasure involved in seeing the job well done. Those people are immensely proud of the courage of their terriers. They are remarkable, brave, bold dogs, but that is not the point. The point is that gamekeepers have to have these dogs to do their duty. If they are not able to control foxes, stoats, weasels and all other vermin that have to be controlled, the hon. Gentleman will be doing genuinely irrevocable harm to the eco-management of the countryside.

That argument is outside the central argument to do with hunting. I understand, accept and honour those whose view is totally different from mine and that of all those who love hunting. Why should people be in favour of foxhunting? It is a very emotive subject. Personally I would never dream of banning it, any more than I would dream of banning football or rugger, but that is outside the argument. It is truly outside the Bill. The Minister will be very foolish if he accepts this new clause and allows it to be part of the Bill, which is not necessarily about that issue.

There is a bad side to terrier work. There is no doubt about it. I have contempt for people who bring dishonour and discredit to something that is part of a genuinely wonderful sport. The people who abuse it destroy it for everyone else, as happens in any other sport where the system is abused. However, that is not what we are talking about. The hon. Gentleman is a good man who approaches the debate without nastiness, class conflict or any other nonsense, unlike some of his hon. Friends. But he is wrong on this. If he cannot understand the absolute necessity for keepers

to be able to work terriers underground, he really will be doing untold damage to the management of the countryside.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

It is a genuine privilege to follow the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex. He has enabled me to truncate my remarks substantially because he has made many of the points that I wish to make much more eloquently than I would have been able to do.

On hunting, I have some very serious disagreements with the hon. Member for Worcester and the Minister. Hunting is not inherently cruel if it is properly conducted within the codes of conduct established by the hunting organisations. That issue has been disputed for many years. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex made clear, this new clause is not about hunting. It is about a great deal more than that. Although there is genuine disagreement between the hon. Member for Worcester and myself, I urge him carefully to reflect on the impact of the new clause as it stands. It will have an impact on conventional hunting and mounted lowland hunting. As drafted, it will also have a serious impact on farmers, gamekeepers and the shooting world.

The irony is that earlier in our proceedings, when we discussed clause 8, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) introduced an amendment that said hunting had to be pest control. We debated the tests of utility and least suffering at some length. It is my view that terrier work, in most circumstances in which it is used, would sail through a pest control test, a utility test and a least suffering test. That is why it is right to allow the principles in the Bill to be applied to terrier work. I will not rehearse the arguments about hare hunting—to which the tests should have been applied. Politicians are not experts. I defer to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex who clearly is an expert and my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire who was a gamekeeper, at least in part.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

For the record, it was a student job.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

Well, at least he has seen it in action. Broadly speaking, we are not experts in Committee. The Minister has set out a framework for the Bill that—although I am not entirely comfortable with it—could work if it is properly conducted, where we apply the tests for utility and least suffering to the activities we want to regulate. The idea that we should toughen up the Bill by insisting that any form of hunting with dogs is pest control and then arbitrarily take out one of the most effective pest control functions using dogs is simply wrong.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

My hon. Friend raises the important question of pest control. Does he agree that the dispatch of cubs whose nursing mother has been shot above ground is not a pest control measure? Such cubs are clearly not pests: they cannot leave the cover. It is the most humane thing to do, and anyone concerned with animal welfare would do nothing other than send down a terrier to catch them.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:15 am, 25th February 2003

I thought that that argument had been made. I was grateful to the hon. Member for Worcester for accepting it and it was certainly accepted in the Scottish legislation. There is an overwhelming animal welfare reason for allowing the use of terriers underground. That is why the Scottish legislation specifically, and contrary to the instincts of many Labour MSPs who voted for it, permits the use of terriers. That is a powerful reason why the hon. Member for Worcester should reflect on the wisdom of insisting on the new clause. It is a specific and narrow animal welfare point, but a powerful one. He must not rely on our being able to insert an amendment on Report, which is always notoriously difficult. Given his acceptance of that point, it is a shame that his new clause does not reflect and incorporate it. Had he done so, his position, though still weak, would have been much stronger.

The hon. Gentleman is right. Terrier work is important to lowland hunting. He has discussed this issue with the joint masters of the Croome and West Warwickshire foxhounds. Some of those joint masters, who enjoy their sport of foxhunting, would be happy not to use terriers. They take the view that if the fox goes to ground it has won the battle and deserves to be allowed to fight another day. If they did not use terriers, however, they would not be allowed to hunt, because the farmers over whose land they hunt would not get the benefit of the pest control function of the Croome and West Warwickshire foxhounds' activities. Some of the joint masters do not have a problem using terriers and think it is marvellous, some of them do it rather reluctantly, but they do it because it makes what they are doing pest control. Without the use of terriers, what they are doing is not effective pest control. If the Committee accepted the new clause, we would be insisting that hunting with hounds was pest control, but denying hunts the ability to be pest controllers. That would be unfair and illogical.

The new clause would also have a major impact on farmers, who often have difficulties with specific foxes. I have cited in the past two examples, one from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) on Trawscoed farm in Carno, Powys. I believe that he saw the photograph that I have here of lambs being killed by a particularly dangerous fox being taken.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

On that point, did the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire see the fox killing the lambs? Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying?

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I do not intend to open up the debate as to whether foxes kill lambs. They do. I am glad to say that one of the ways in which this argument has moved the evidence on is in the general acceptance by those who do not like hunting that foxes in the countryside are pests. That is now accepted and it is a welcome development. I shall not be drawn into an old argument that has been rejected even by those who would ban hunting. Foxes kill lambs. In some circumstances, they even kill calves; they certainly kill chickens and wild fowl, even when strenuous efforts are made to protect them.

I also mentioned in detail earlier in our proceedings an instance in my constituency when a fox was known to have killed lambs. It was tracked using foxhounds and then dispatched using terriers. The terriers were essential. The hunt did not go out mounted on either of those occasions. It took a small selection of hounds, followed the line of the fox, located its earth and then used terriers to destroy it. It was a targeted method of pest control, which relied on the use of terriers. There are implications for farmers here too.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex has made at length the case for gamekeepers. I shall not repeat that point. He has relied on the National Gamekeepers Organisation's lobby of members of the Committee. It is a matter of great regret to me that the British Association for Shooting and Conservation has not seen fit to brief us on this issue, and it weakens our argument. I understand that it has said things in public—I have read reports in newspapers and it has a view on this issue—but it has not seen fit to brief the Committee. It would have strengthened our hand considerably in arguing genuinely and fairly—not scoring cheap party points or retreating into our laagers of prejudice—if we had had a brief from the BASC. If we had had such a brief, it would have strongly supported the arguments that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex have advanced.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Countryside Alliance's campaign for shooting is good?

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I agree and repeat my regret that the BASC, to which I belong, has not been as active as it should have been. I do not know whether you are familiar with ''Chicago'', Mr. Stevenson, but the Billy Flynn of the Committee, the Minister, has seduced the BASC into thinking that it has nothing to fear from the Bill—Billy Flynn is a silver-tongued lawyer who persuades a jury that a guilty woman is innocent. The Minister has heaped praise on the BASC and got it off its guard on the new clause. I have watched his body language during the debate, however, and perhaps he will reflect some of the concerns in his winding-up speech.

The National Working Terrier Federation code of conduct is excellent and has been improved over time, but not everyone who uses terriers follows it, which is its weakness. That is also a weakness of the Independent Supervisory Authority on Hunting and of the status quo. The Middle Way Group has always had concerns about terriers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex said, some people do not use terriers in a nice way. ''Earth Dog—Running Dog'', from which the hon. Member for Worcester quoted, is not a nice magazine and is at the rough end of the trade. It is published in the south Wales valleys—I assure the Minister that that is no reflection on the Welsh—and some of the things that are said in it are unfortunate, unattractive and regrettable.

If everyone who used terriers were bound by law to follow a code of conduct, we would drive up standards of animal welfare for both the fox and the terrier while allowing an essential pest control function. There are problems with the use of terriers, and if we could only put the code of conduct on a statutory footing, which is the Middle Way Group's idea, those problems,

which I freely acknowledge, could be addressed, which would improve animal welfare.

The Minister has proposed a framework of utility and least suffering. The Middle Way Group believes that those tests should be applied to terrier work. There should be no specific refusal to register terrier work under part 2 of the Bill, as the new clause proposes. There may be occasions on which terrier work is not appropriate—I presume that such work would not be registered—but the bulk of terrier work would pass the utility and least suffering tests with flying colours and should not therefore be denied the right to register.

Although the hon. Member for Worcester has said that he does not intend to move new clause 12, it has been selected for debate. He has said that he might bring back an alternative version of it on Report. I do not want to embarrass anybody, and on a number of occasions the Minister has thought that I was attacking his civil servants when in fact I was attacking politicians. I would never attack a civil servant or an Officer of the House. However, a mistake, which led to some points of order, was made on new clause 12. Sadly, it was tabled in my name and that of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) rather than in the name of the hon. Member for Worcester, which led some people outside this place to think that the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire and I genuinely believed that the new clause was a good thing. We thought no such thing. If one looks at a map of England and Wales to see how much hunting would be allowed, the dogs would have to paraglide to the hunt. New clause 12 is nonsense.

One organisation outside this place that assumed that we believed in new clause 12 was the League Against Cruel Sports. I am indebted to the LACS and Mr. Douglas Batchelor, who has enabled me to explain in detail why new clause 12 in its present form, or indeed in a revised form on Report, should be resisted.

I shall quote from a briefing document sent by the LACS on 10 January 2003 to all readers. I shall read the last paragraph of the document rather than paraphrasing it because it is quite short and makes the case more briefly than I could. It says:

''Meanwhile the Middle Way group, always the jokers in the pack, have put down amendments to limit hunting to land above 500 metres. It clearly has escaped them that there is not much land in England or Wales above 500 metres. It has also clearly escaped their notice, good countrymen that they are, that there are no trees and precious few sheep or pheasants, or foxes for that matter, resident over 500 metres. It would be an interesting sight to beholda meet at 500 metres with the master carrying an altimeter having to call off the dogs as soon as they left the tops of the hills. Hunt followers''—

I am grateful for the league's concern for hunt followers in this moving passage—

''would be exposed to the full force of the elements, with no cover. On a wet day if they hadn't got enough subcutaneous fat, they might get hypothermia. We of course would not seek to cull them to prevent hunters from suffering, but by their own logic, the weak, thin and aged had better watch their backs. Their hunter killer colleagues might think that they should do the decent thing, act as an angel of mercy and put them out of their misery. We, of course, would just

prefer to ban hunting at all altitudes. That would be the most humane option for both man and beast.''

That is a thorough demolition of new clause 12 and alternative versions specifying 450 m, 400 m or 350 m. The altimeter point is the killer blow and I am grateful to the league for enabling me to explain why the hon. Member for Worcester is so right not to move new clause 12.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I had not intended to speak to the new clause but feel moved to do so, although there is not much I can add following the powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex, so I shall not detain the Committee for long.

It seems to me that the hon. Member for Worcester recognises in the new clause that there are genuine arguments in favour of using terriers. However, terriers are not the principal focus of the new clause. Terrier men and their activities and the total lack of sympathy—or the antipathy—of the hon. Gentleman to the countryside are the focus.

The Bill is riddled with unintended consequences, most of which will have an adverse impact on animal welfare. The new clause is another massive example of how the ideological purity of anti-foxhunting extremists is riding roughshod over those with genuine concern and interest in the welfare of the fox. The fox will suffer most from the new clause and not just fox cubs and wounded or diseased foxes, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex said, some of our most endangered, precious and rare species of wildlife. Banning the use of terriers, which is vital for pest control and the control of predators that threaten those rare species, will have a devastating effect on the fragile ecobalance of the English countryside.

Whether we listen to the humanitarian argument, which is strongly in favour of the use of terriers for the humane dispatch of foxes, or to the ecological argument, which is very finely balanced, no understanding person would ban in all and every case the use of terriers in the English countryside. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Worcester to say that he is sympathetic to the argument, but this is not a debating society. We are not trying to influence one another. What we are debating will become the law of the land. It is no good the hon. Gentleman weeping crocodile tears and trying to empathise with terrier practices if the result of his new clause is a ban on the use of terriers in every single facet of English countryside management. That is what would happen.

As has been pointed out, it is almost inconceivable that foxhunting could be banned on the Floor of the House but a reprieve granted for the underground slaughter of fox cubs. We know how emotive the argument will be on the Floor and is here in the Committee Room. The thought that the use of terriers against fox cubs underground will win a reprieve in the Chamber is just fanciful. Labour Members must know that as well. Unless the hon. Member for Worcester withdraws the new clause, or it is voted down, it will have terrible welfare implications.

Something else about the new clause troubles me deeply; the reality of what will happen in the countryside following such a ban. Unless terriers are to be banned as pets or exterminated as a species, they will continue to be kept. Terrier work of the type being discussed will therefore continue; unregulated, furtive and quiet, out of the sight of the law and away from best practice and codes of conduct. The use of terriers is often a solitary occupation, done quietly by people far from prying eyes. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex asked, who here has been out with a moorland keeper? Who has been out with the terrier men in the woods at night? The practice will carry on, quietly and furtively, away from the prying eyes of the law. It will be far, far worse for that.

If the law is not to be made an ass and if we are to encourage best practice, we should not pass into law things that we know cannot possibly be enforced. We must pass laws with our eyes open, knowing and understanding the consequences. If we ban all terrier work, part of that necessary activity will be driven into the arms of the unrepresentative, unattractive, minuscule minority singled out by the hon. Member for Worcester in his extract from that unpleasant magazine. That group is as unrepresentative of the terrier profession as the Chelsea mob is of the average football crowd. We should not stumble into legislation lightly. This—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) wish to intervene?

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle 10:30 am, 25th February 2003

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman confused the Committee when he referred to the Chelsea mob. I was just saying that it is a good job that the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) is not present.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I am so glad that the hon. Gentleman is taking such a keen interest in such an important part of the Bill and bringing his great knowledge to bear. He can chuckle away, but this new clause would have a profound effect on the English countryside. He may be flippant and think that it is a laughing matter, but I am taking it extremely seriously. I am sorry that he is not.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman's every word. He is not convincing me, but I am listening.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

In conclusion, neither side of the Committee has a monopoly on animal welfare; most Committee members have such an interest, whatever conclusion that leads them to on foxhunting. I hope that Members on both sides with a genuine interest in animal welfare will recognise that new clause 11 would have a profound and deleterious effect on the welfare of the fox and other species in the English countryside. It would do damage out of all proportion to any possible good it could do.

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

The hon. Gentleman made quite an important point, perhaps unconsciously. He made a comparison with football hooligans. He was quite right to suggest that football hooligans make up a minority of football supporters. Indeed, it could be argued that they should not be regarded as football supporters at all. However, that is the group to which

the law has to pay the greatest attention. The activities of those people and the disruption that they cause to football and the general public in the vicinity of football grounds make it appropriate for Parliament to be concerned—as it has been on many occasions—with the way in which such behaviour is dealt with. Therefore, when we consider terrier work and the concerns that have been expressed by members across the Committee, the law has to engage with the unpleasant, unacceptable end of terrier work. This has been one of the best debates—

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

The Minister picks up the point I was trying to make, which is that we should no more consider banning terrier work in order to eradicate a very small and unpleasant minority than any Government would consider banning football in order to deal with the small minority of football hooligans.

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

The hon. Gentleman draws the wrong conclusion from the point that he made. In relation to the activities of football hooligans, of course one has to pay attention not to the occasional activities on the pitch that perhaps should require legal intervention but to the genuine mischief. The genuine mischief, as outlined at the beginning of the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester in his introduction, is the activity underground. That is what gives cause for concern. We are talking about part of the activity, but not the whole of it. The matter has caused genuine and considerable concern on a variety of occasions.

I was starting to say that, generally, this has been one of the most constructive debates that we have had in Committee. The fact that there are problems with terrier work has been acknowledged by a variety of Members on both sides of the Committee. The hon. Members for Mid-Sussex and for Mid-Worcestershire rightly referred to some activities relating to terrier work that are genuinely objectionable. They reflected the sort of comments that I have heard made on a number of occasions by people who are strong supporters of hunting. That point came up during an earlier debate. We should all acknowledge that there is a genuine issue to be resolved.

In his initial remarks, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester rightly pointed out that one of the conditions of the exceptions to registration for stalking and flushing out is that the activity does not involve the use of dogs below ground. The overall effect of the new clause and the attempt to identify and deal with the mischief associated with terrier work is consistent with the drafting of the Bill.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister may be coming to this, but I offer a constructive thought. One of the ways of dealing with the mischief of which he has spoken would be to include in the conditions applied to registration in clauses 13 and 14 an obligation to follow a code of conduct such as that of the National Working Terrier Federation.

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

The hon. Gentleman raises an issue to which I have given some time and consideration. The difficulty in recognising in legislation a code of conduct that is outside legislation and may change

over a period of time is that there is a degree of uncertainty, which gives rise to problems. Different organisations may set different requirements. I acknowledge the value of the code of conduct to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I was going to say that I have met representatives of terrier men who are clearly concerned to undertake activities in a way that gets rid of the problems that have been associated with the activity and only in a way that recognises genuine animal welfare considerations. I have met others who do not have those considerations. I assume that the hon. Gentleman's concern about terrier work was a recognition that responsible individuals do not reflect the whole of the activity.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The Minister is pointing out that it would be difficult to enforce a code of practice such as the National Working Terrier Federation code. Does he accept that the highway code sets out the good things that we would like motorists to do, and is acknowledged in law without being part of the law?

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

No, the hon. Gentleman misunderstands my point. What he says is perfectly correct, but the highway code is a specific publication published and drafted by the Government with the support of the Government rather than by an independent organisation, which may reflect some individuals' views and be supported by a proportion of those undertaking a particular activity. In the legislation, we have to apply something consistent for all, not just members of a particular organisation. The suggestion made by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire has an initial attraction in some ways, but the question is how one makes the establishment of standards universal and how one enforces them.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

There are two answers to the Minister's question. First, it would be perfectly possible for the Government to publish a code currently published by an outside organisation in the same way as the highway code. I am sure that the National Working Terriers Federation would be delighted if the Minister wished to publish its code as a Government document. Secondly, the code could be enforced universally across the board in the same way as the highway code is enforced; by the police.

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

We are entering into a complex area of detail. Any code of conduct, or of regulating activity, would and should result in some of the activities not being undertaken in future. The approach that the hon. Gentleman is urging would mean that some activities were not allowed to continue, just as an amendment to the Bill to further regulate terrier work would require some activity not to be undertaken in future.

There have been expressions of distaste for some aspects of terrier work on all sides. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester, I am keen for us to have consistency in the Bill, but I also recognise the practical issues and the considerations that have been pursued at a detailed level to ensure that animal welfare issues are properly addressed. I am sympathetic to the aim of the new clause. Against that, I have received representations on behalf of

gamekeepers that without recourse to the use of a dog below ground, the task of protecting shoots and game would be extremely difficult. They argued that it is a necessary part of their work and that there are specific cases that need to be addressed where alternative methods would involve the likelihood of greater suffering than the use of terriers.

Those may a minority of incidents, but my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester acknowledged them in his introduction. He also acknowledged the question of orphan cubs and the methods available to deal with that problem; the question needs to be addressed. The difficult line to draw is the one between terrier work related to hunting—a matter for the Bill and the Committee to deal with—the activity that might be unintentionally banned but might be the more animal-friendly way of dealing with particular problems, and other activities that fall outside the ambit of the Bill. I acknowledged that to the hon. Member for North Wiltshire earlier. He referred to people being persuaded to give evidence during the Portcullis house hearings. Many organisations were concerned about their evidence, how they were listened to and how they were questioned, which made the weeks leading up to the hearings extremely interesting and time-consuming.

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

I shall make my point and then give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The Countryside Alliance, which was involved in the design of the hearings, acknowledged that the hearings met all its requirements and it is fair to say that animal welfare organisations approached the hearings with greater trepidation. It should be understood that no one has been betrayed, nor have the representations made and evidence brought forward during that process been ignored. It is inevitable that when arguments are so opposed, and even contradictory, some people will not see the views and the evidence that they provided reflected in the legislation. Having listened to all of them, I take responsibility for having designed a Bill that I hope reflects adequately both the principles that I set out at the beginning of the process and the evidence that I have heard throughout it.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex 10:45 am, 25th February 2003

The fact remains that however the Minister chooses to dress the matter up, the Countryside Alliance, the National Gamekeepers' Organisation and all those who took such trouble to give detailed evidence have had their views entirely ignored. It is absurd of the right hon. Gentleman to try to preface his comments on the amendment by saying that we all agree that there are some bad points about the more exotic end of terrier work. That involves such a tiny proportion of people who work with terriers that to suggest that the new clause should be accepted on those grounds alone is utterly ridiculous and quite wrong.

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

I hear the hon. Gentleman's views, but he is wrong to say that the views of the organisations he named have been ignored. They were listened to very carefully.

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

Oh yes they were. The hon. Gentleman should not make that allegation when it is entirely without foundation. Many things said by organisations that, in general terms, are not content with the Bill were listened to carefully and taken into consideration when drawing up the Bill. However, the hon. Gentleman was right to suggest that in some ways the new clause and our discussion on terrier work goes wide of the mainstream arguments about hunting. The bad side of terrier work to which he referred is often associated with hunting, so we cannot ignore the issue. I acknowledge that we dealt with it adequately in schedule 1, but I also acknowledge that we have not covered the issue as fully as necessary in relation to the whole of the Bill. To that extent the new clause is understandable and addresses the need for an amendment to the Bill.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex raises the important point that many people feel that they were listened to but not heard during the Minister's inquiries. The Minister said that many people who contributed evidence and were not supportive of a ban have been listened to and their views have been taken into account in the Bill. Can he give a major example of where that is reflected in the Bill?

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

Yes, there are many examples. The Bill seeks to recognise two aspects; the need to ban cruelty and the need to recognise activities that are necessary for proper management of the countryside, particularly pest control. That is precisely the issue on which many organisations whose headline approach would have been to leave it alone have given evidence. Whether one looks at the evidence provided by farming organisations, organisations representing gamekeepers and shooting interests or organisations more directly involved in hunting, their concerns have been listened to and taken fully into account.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

With respect, those principles were laid down before the Portcullis house hearings. What specific account of the evidence from Portcullis house informs the Bill? I am not talking about the principles. The Minister laid down those principles before the hearings.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. I think we are getting into a general discussion about the hearings in Portcullis house. The questions have been asked and the Minister is responding.

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

I would merely say that they have all been taken into account, because they all address how hunting should be regulated, cruelty eradicated and the practical issues of countryside management recognised.

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

I think that you, Mr. Stevenson, have given a fair indication that I have one sentence in which to wrap the issue up, so let me go on. The hon. Gentleman may then wish to intervene on the substantive matters before us.

I have previously recognised the need to be careful in drawing the line between activities that are

unacceptable and those that are necessary for gamekeepers to do their work and pay full attention to animal welfare considerations. In this instance, the devil is in the detail, and if we are to get the broad sweep of legislation right, we must pay attention to that detail. I am pleased to acknowledge that my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester recognised that complexity in moving the new clause.

A few weeks ago in the Committee I promised to look at the detail again in relation to the needs of shooters and gamekeepers. Indeed, my officials have already held meetings to inform our deliberations on this issue. My hon. Friend also acknowledged the problem of dealing with orphaned cubs, a matter that may need specific attention. I am also looking at that.

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire rightly referred to the pest control objectives of terrier work, but we must also recognise the animal welfare problems inherent in terrier work and the small but significant area of activity where terrier work passes the animal welfare test. It is an important issue, and all hon. Members will have heard the arguments and seen the evidence. If my hon. Friend pushes the new clause to a vote, it will be difficult to resist it. The alternatives are to amend the Bill now, knowing that the job is incomplete, or to table a more comprehensive amendment later. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has made its views clear. I am surprised that Opposition Members were critical of that organisation, although I am not surprised that the hon. Member for North Wiltshire sought to praise the Campaign for Shooting, because it shares with the Conservative party the cynical wish to seduce shooters into defending hunting. [Hon. Members: ''For goodness sake!''] Yes, for goodness sake indeed.

The point is that this is an extremely serious issue. Lord Burns in his report was clearly uneasy and unhappy about aspects of terrier work. He acknowledges, as hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have done, that the regulation of terrier work has improved in certain respects in recent years. As I said earlier, I have met representatives of terrier men who recognise the genuine public concern about their activities and are committed to proper animal welfare standards. I have met others who are more cavalier in their approach. Reference to problems, to fights underground and to the unacceptable practices referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester are reflected by Lord Burns, who says in paragraph 6.51:

''we have no doubt that this is more frequent in unofficial terrierwork than in that linked with the registered packs.''

Again—I look to those who accept a code of conduct—that is not the problem end of the activity.

I reject the suggestion that the new clause will be inconsistent with the Bill, but I accept that it does not deal adequately with all the issues acknowledged in earlier debates and by my hon. Friend today. If the Committee supports the new clause, I shall need to consider how to table amendments to protect the position of gamekeepers and to ensure that animal welfare considerations are applied consistently and in detail. As I have said, the alternative is to table a later amendment that incorporates those aspects.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I am worried that the Minister is giving a mixed message on the new clause. For clarity, can he confirm that, in the light of Burns and other evidence, he accepts that the new clause would be wholly inconsistent with points that he and others in the Committee have made about the use of terriers in areas such as my own?

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

No. What I have said is that although the new clause would recognise the genuine public concerns with aspects of terrier work reflected in Burns and elsewhere, it would provide too blanket an approach, leading to certain aspects of terrier work being banned that, I believe, should not be. That must be addressed.

Several hon. Members rose—

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

Will hon. Members allow me to make the point? That there is a genuine need for terrier work in particular circumstances was recognised in the hunting Bill that has now become law in Scotland. We need to provide similar recognition in this Bill, and gamekeepers and organisations such as BASC would expect me to do that. As long as that is clearly understood, I am not opposed to the new clause in general because we need to make clear what is not acceptable while—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire is obviously paying too much attention to licking envelopes to follow the line of reasoning that I am offering. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester has tabled a new clause that covers something that he rightly suggests has not been adequately dealt with in the Bill. I accept his reasons for doing so and the general thrust of his argument. However, I am accepting that on the basis that there is then—

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

I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would allow me to give way at the end of a sentence. I know that he does not want to hear what I am saying, but I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester is addressing, in the new clause, an issue that is not adequately dealt with in the Bill as drafted. If we accepted the new clause, however, we would need to amend it further to deal with other issues, which he has acknowledged. The alternative, as I have said, is to table a different new clause later.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I am keenly interested in what the Minister has to say and am encouraged by it to a limited extent because he seems to be acknowledging that there is utility in the use of terriers underground on some occasions and for some purposes. If the Committee accepted the new clause and he then had to table the amendments that he has mentioned on Report, how would he distinguish between acceptable terrier work by gamekeepers and unacceptable terrier work by hunts? More importantly, how likely is it that he will persuade his Back Benchers to accept any such amendments on Report?

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

I said in a previous discussion that there are complexities over where to draw the line on such matters. I made that point in an earlier debate when I said that I would discuss with organisations

such as BASC and animal welfare representatives how to draw the line as accurately as Members on both sides of the Committee would wish. I accept that the hon. Gentleman would prefer us not to draw a line but to leave terrier work as it is, without further control, so that it can be dealt with through voluntary approaches. It is quite clear, however, that there is a will to go further than that, as is reflected in what my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester has said. That is consistent with the drafting of paragraph 1(5) of schedule 1, which deals with that matter in a separate context. As I acknowledged to the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex in an earlier debate, there are issues to be addressed. I have already started work; I am talking to officials, lawyers and the organisations involved to try to discover how best to address the matters. That remains my approach.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The Minister must understand that when considering whether to accept the new clause, it is terribly important for us to have some kind of idea of the way in which he plans to distinguish legitimate terrier work from illegitimate terrier work. I also want to know how certain he is that he will get any such amendment through on the Floor.

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

I am satisfied about the common sense that my hon. Friends bring to bear on such matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester acknowledged from the beginning that there are issues to be dealt with and that the blanket approach in his new clause leaves unfinished business. That is what has encouraged me to say that we can deal with the new clause, as long as it is clearly understood that the unfinished business needs to be dealt with.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire 11:00 am, 25th February 2003

For clarification, am I really hearing the Minister say that he is willing to accept a new clause that would ban an activity that all parties represented in the Committee think is necessary in the hope that he can un-ban some of it at a later stage?

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

The hon. Gentleman would be right if he had suggested that the concern about terrier work associated with hunting, which has been brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester, could be addressed by the new clause, which might create unintentional consequences, particularly in relation to the work of gamekeepers. In line with the promise that I gave earlier, however, I am concerned that the work of gamekeepers is addressed. That is my clear and simple response to the new clause.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

That is procedurally outrageous. The Minister is about to put proposals that he knows to be defective in the Bill in the hope that he can find a better way. I should be happy if he said to the hon. Member for Worcester, ''Please do not press this new clause. I will bring back something to deal with your concerns on Report.'' To address those concerns in this way is a procedural outrage. The Minister is inviting the Committee to pass flawed legislation.

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

No. We have acknowledged that there are concerns, on which I have undertaken to come back to the Committee, about the Bill's implications for gamekeepers. That is in the bank. If

my hon. Friend's new clause is passed, the way in which terrier work would be affected should acknowledge the needs of gamekeepers. I am sorry if the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire has difficulty in understanding that, but it seems simple to me.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

This is extraordinary. I wonder whether the Minister has read the new clause, which states that

''Registration under Part 2 shall not be effected in respect of any hunting that involves the use of a dog below ground.''

There is no tidying up to be done because the new clause would impose an absolute blanket ban. The Minister has said that his approach is evidence-based. What evidence in the Portcullis house hearings, or what scientific, veterinary or clinical evidence that has suddenly been produced at this late stage, has convinced him that we need a blanket ban, subject to one or two tweaks?

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

I point the hon. Gentleman to Lord Burns's findings on terrier work, which were clearly negative. I am concerned about the activities undertaken by gamekeepers, which the Bill is not intended to affect. We need to protect those activities. In moving the new clause, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester made it clear that he is concerned about the terrier work associated with hunting.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West

First, does my right hon. Friend agree that there is clearly something wrong with some terrier work, regardless of what Burns says, because otherwise there would not be the code of conduct from the National Working Terrier Federation? Secondly, can he assure me that the important issue of gamekeepers would be much better addressed by looking again at schedule 1, which concerns exemption, rather than by looking at new clause 12, which concerns registration?

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. My difficulty with that is that we are talking about new clauses 11 and 12.

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

That is why it is sensible to deal with the issue in terms of registration, and to do so separately to look at what is needed to protect gamekeepers. Where that fits into the Bill will come out of our current discussions. Government and Opposition Members acknowledge that terrier work is complex, which is why I have undertaken specifically to address it. I gave that undertaking a few weeks ago, and I have already started the work in order to honour it. The need to do so is reinforced by the new clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester. That should be perfectly straightforward. We have to deal with the issue during the remaining stages of the Bill.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

A moment ago, in what may have been a slip of the tongue, the Minister said that he had undertaken to work on the question of the use of terriers by gamekeepers and to bring the results back to the Committee. As Thursday will be the last day on which we sit, it would be impossible for the Minister to bring any such work back to the Committee. If it was a slip of the tongue, does he accept that committing himself to bring something to the Floor of the House on Report—perhaps in two or three weeks—is

inadequate and would prevent the passing of the new clause, because we do not know what it will be?

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

If I said that—I do not think that I did—it certainly was a slip of the tongue. I meant during a later stage of the Bill's passage. On a previous occasion, I said that I would table amendments to deal with the issues either on Report or at a later stage of the Bill's proceedings if the time on Report were inadequate in order satisfactorily to complete that work.

Very briefly, I wish to refer to new clause 12, which has not been moved. The Burns report supported the underlying motive for the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester. He distinguished between the damage caused by fox populations in lowland areas, that caused in upland areas and the contribution made by different forms of hunting. On a positive note, my hon. Friend made a genuine attempt to pursue the views expressed by Lord Burns and to make a genuine distinction. As we are discussing what might appear at later stages, the nature of the terrain is such that there is no ready mechanism for applying in practice the distinction that Lord Burns highlighted. It is very difficult to find one level where certain criteria apply and another where they do not. There may be more lowland areas that lead to difficulties in relation to lamping, for instance. Therefore, drawing a line simply at a height level was something that I considered at an earlier stage, but I decided that it would not be fruitful to pursue it. Therefore, the evidence basis for the nature of the activity that could be undertaken in a particular location gave a better means of making an appropriate distinction. That is probably an adequate response to the new clause that my hon. Friend has not moved.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I had not intended to speak, on the assumption that the Minister was not going to support the new clause. I am more concerned now than at any previous stage in Committee on the basis of what the Minister has said. There is a philosophical issue here. The Committee needs to recognise that passing the new clause is exactly the same as the stance that the Government seem to take with regard to Iraq. That is the problem. The Government seek to eliminate the risks of various dangers in our society, potentially embarking on a very unpopular course.

The Minister seeks to eliminate the risk of bad behaviour when it comes to terrier work. Therefore, in my judgment, he is pursing an unacceptable course. What makes the situations similar is that legislation intended to address—by the Minister's own admission—a small minority of individuals who behave unacceptably will, by consequence, affect the vast majority of people who pursue their lives in an honest, law-abiding way. The Minister has invited the hon. Member for Worcester to take this Committee down a one-way street in the hope that he will find an exit to redeem the blanket ban clearly introduced by new clause 11 on terrier work.

I listened carefully to every word the Minister said and that is why I intervened. I did not want to allow any possibility of misunderstanding, either in the record or in my mind, in relation to what he said. It seems quite clear to me that what the Minister has

agreed to do is to allow the Committee to change the Bill into one that bans all terrier work in many circumstances. In addition, he seems to have gone further to try to reassure those of us who are extremely concerned about that by, I think, offering a promise to address the issues later. That is not a promise for him to make. He cannot deliver on a promise in a free-vote environment; he may not even have the time on Report to raise the issue.

If the Minister had given us a promise to provide sufficient time to address the issue on Report by some complicated guillotine—or, more likely, by having to leave us in an open-ended environment when it comes to the discussion—that might conceivably have been slightly less bad. Even then, I do not understand how the Minister can seriously expect those of us who have recognised a lack of listening at many points in the debates to think that Members of the House of Commons—the majority of whom probably will not spend the afternoon listening to the debate—will come in at the appropriate moment and say, for example, ''Despite the fact that we have a secured a blanket ban in Committee on terrier on work, we will now comfortably vote in favour of using terriers to destroy cubs that have lost their mothers.'' It beggars belief that anyone would pretend that we can achieve sensible legislation in that way when we understand the mood of the House in relation to such matters.

Furthermore, I just do not understand how it would be politically tenable for the hon. Member for Worcester to think that he could, with much credibility, get up and argue for the very amendments that would be necessary to try to redeem the balance.

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

What else has the hon. Gentleman got on offer?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

The Middle Way Group—[Interruption.] It is hard for two of us to make a speech at the same time. I am happy for hon. Members to intervene again, but first let me answer the hon. Gentleman's intervention. The Middle Way Group offers a willingness to work in partnership with the Minister and the Committee to try to achieve sensible legislation that treats people in the countryside and the overwhelming majority of people who use terriers responsibly fairly.

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

I was being brief and hoping that the hon. Gentleman would get my point. What has he got on offer from the Committee?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I do not understand—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

Order. I will advise the Committee what we have on offer; new clauses 11 and 12.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

Thank you, Mr. Stevenson. I am not deliberately seeking to evade the hon. Gentleman's question; I simply do not understand it. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire can help.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

I will tell the Committee what should be on offer. The Minister should say, ''The new clause is flawed; it does not work. I urge the Committee to

reject it but I promise that, on Report, I will bring back something that does work.'' We are being invited to pass something that is very dangerous and which will strike—

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

There is probably not much I can add. Throughout the discussions in Committee, members of the Middle Way Group have tried to offer—as transparently and positively as we can—a partnership with other members of the Committee and the Minister in order to get the right kind of legislation.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire 11:15 am, 25th February 2003

I will in just a minute. Rather than trying to respond on what the Middle Way Group has on offer, I point out that what the Committee has on offer is clause 8, which is an absolutely clear-cut commitment to having to pass the test of pest control when it comes to such items. In fairness, the hon. Member for Worcester has adopted a clear position; he wants to ban the whole lot. There is no point in going over that debate just now. But those of us who are not trying to ban the whole lot, including the Government, can surely recognise that the reason why we spent so many sittings on clause 8 was to ensure that the test that it contained would stand up when we assessed whether terrier work was permissible as pest control. What the Committee has on offer and what the Middle Way Group was willing to accept as an offer was the stringent—perhaps over-stringent—tests in the Bill. To go further is completely to ignore the logic of our debates.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if the Minister genuinely wanted to work his way through this problem and to find a solution in Burns, he would—instead of caving in at the first opportunity to the extremists on the Labour Benches—have looked at Burns, who says:

''In the case of terrier work, another requirement might be membership of the National Working Terrier Federation and adherence to its code of conduct''?

That form of regulation exists in several other countries. That is what a responsible Minister would do, instead of caving in at the first opportunity.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

The hon. Gentleman is right. There is no need to repeat the point. There is plenty of evidence in the Burns report—a document that we have all accepted as being tremendously influential in our thinking—to suggest that terrier work can be regulated, and with a wider remit than the Minister is currently suggesting.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the Minister relying on cruelty and utility. Has he seen the letter dated 12 January this year from the Minister to Ken Butler, the chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation? In it the Minister says that the Bill

''does not ban the use of dogs below ground but like other non exempt activities it does require that the activity passes the two tests of utility and cruelty''.

The Minister says that terrier work must pass those tests. How can that be giving in to his Back-Bench colleagues?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

The Minister seems to have made a qualitative shift in what he is trying to do with the Bill. The hon. Gentleman made some other important points, which again I shall not repeat, but he highlighted many issues in respect of banning terrier work.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

There is another concern that I think my honourable colleague should address. The new clauses were tabled by the hon. Member for Worcester on 9 January. The Minister has had six weeks in which to think about amendments that the Committee could consider alongside them, and he has not tabled any.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

I had not considered that point, but it will make those interested individuals who read Hansard even more surprised and perhaps even more concerned about the true motives behind this temporary ban, if we are to trust the Minister.

I want to run briefly through some new points. One is the question of enforceability. The Minister said that restrictions on terrier work would be hard to enforce. All history shows us that prohibition is a damn sight harder to enforce than regulation. Everything from the prohibition of alcohol in the United States to the prohibition of other activities in the United Kingdom has shown that, if one is serious about reducing an ill in a situation that will be hard to police, one will get much more co-operation from those whose activities one is seeking to restrict by regulation. Furthermore, if people feel a natural sense of injustice, it is likely that there will be almost no impact, except when they are being explicitly watched. Who will enforce the ban? Will the police be willing to go into the countryside and ban whatever terrier work took place in the past that people who genuinely believe it is in their interests to carry on terrier work continue to pursue?

The next point relates to animal welfare. I am sure that the hon. Member for Carlisle was only being wistful and perhaps a little mischievous when he suggested that foxes do not kill lambs.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

The question that I asked was not whether foxes kill lambs, but whether the hon. Gentleman was there when the lambs were killed; the answer came back no.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

There is not much point in rehearsing the question of whether foxes predate on lambs, because the evidence is cast-iron. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows enough about the countryside to know that the puncture marks on, for example, a lamb's head when the fox brushes the lamb's skull and often blinds the lamb are distinctive hallmarks of a predatory attack by a fox.

Banning terrier work would result in net harm to lambs in terms of animal welfare. In areas such as upland mid-Wales—Montgomeryshire is obviously the area I know most about—it is patently obvious to anyone who has followed a hill pack, such as the David Davies hunt, which I have mentioned many times, that terriers are essential for finishing the pest control function which the dogs set out to do. If

terriers are removed from that equation, the effectiveness of the pest control activity and, therefore, the welfare of lambs, will, inevitably, be reduced. In a utilitarian context, it is obvious that banning terrier work in conjunction with the use of a pack of hounds in hilly areas will be harmful to animal welfare.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Opposition Whip (Commons)

Can my colleague explain to the Committee the difference in animal welfare terms between using terriers for gamekeeping but not for hunting? What is the animal welfare distinction?

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

That was the point with which I was going to wrap up new clause 11. The Minister referred to gamekeeping, but he did not mention terrier work when talking about fox control, although Lord Burns did. I hope that the Minister will make a second contribution to answer my question. When it comes to terrier work, what exactly does he have in mind to ban and what exactly does he have in mind to permit? I have no doubt in my mind that clause 8 imposes an extremely stringent test on terrier work, so there is no need for a further restriction on that work.

I am open minded enough to change my view if the Minister provides a plausible explanation. I do not expect that from the hon. Member for Worcester—it is not his duty to speak for the Government—but I expect it from the Minister because the matter concerns everyone involved in upland fox control, and that probably applies also to the fell packs of Cumbria and elsewhere. Will the Minister state clearly whether he accepts that terriers are necessary for a large number of the hill packs that I am describing? Will he give a specific assurance that he does not intend to ban terrier work in upland packs such as the David Davies pack? Will he also explain how he intends to reintroduce those exemptions into the Bill when the pro-ban lobby has succeeded in introducing a blanket ban on terrier work?

I shall conclude with a poignant observation on new clause 12. When the League Against Cruel Sports assumed that the clause had been tabled by myself and the hon. Member for Worcester, it was pilloried. The hon. Gentleman and I did not table that new clause but, for understandable reasons, an innocent mistake was made and our names were printed with it. However, it shows the degree of assumption—almost prejudice—that has sometimes shown itself simply on the basis of whose name or which organisation is associated with an amendment. That is a salutary and humbling lesson; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and I are potentially prone to the same thing, but we should learn from it.

The League Against Cruel Sports will ridicule a proposal put forward by one of their primary advocates—the hon. Member for Worcester—and I suggest to the Minister that there may be some merit in taking a lesson from that and looking at new clause 11 in the same context. I know that the Minister wants the Bill to work and that the hon. Member for Worcester genuinely wants to improve animal welfare, but we have seen from what happened with new clause 11 that sometimes our intentions are obscured by our own prejudices.

I hope that we do not enter an abyss from which the Minister will find it difficult to get out. If we pursue that route and new clause 11, that will be evidence that the shooting lobby ought to be concerned about where the Bill is heading.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I rise to speak briefly; according to the clock, for only 15 seconds—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.