The words "or a dog" are not so much a loophole as an outer-space black hole that would send this bill up into orbit and, indeed, into oblivion. When the Rural Development Committee debated these issues, Mike Watson warned the committee about the impact of the proposed amendments. It will be obvious to anyone who reads the transcripts of those debates that the committee was voting to allow loopholes. The insertion of the words "or a dog" in this section is one of several ways in which I believe that the committee's amendments to the bill would permit hunting.
When the issues were debated, the loophole was clear. Mike Watson warned the committee, Rhoda Grant warned the committee and I warned the committee. I said that Fergus Ewing's amendment, to introduce this loophole, should not have been on the marshalled list in the first place. I took the view—and it certainly seems to have been confirmed—that amendment 53K would allow foxes to be flushed out and killed by dogs. At this point, it was obvious to Mike Watson, to Rhoda Grant and to me that it was a loophole. So why did the loophole not reveal itself to Alex Fergusson, the Rural Development Committee's convener, until his recent interview with The Daily Telegraph? Unfortunately, five members of the committee were so determined to allow this activity that our warnings came to nothing.
The committee was tasked with upholding the democratic decision of Parliament at stage 1 and with working with Mike Watson to include helpful amendments to allow the bill to proceed. The stage 2 amendment to include the words "or a dog" was unhelpful to say the least. In my view, it tried to wreck the aims and principles of the bill, despite what Fergus Ewing says. I urge the Parliament to support amendment 41. It is vital to do so. We must remove a glaring loophole that should never have been allowed.