HC Deb 14 May 1970 vol 801 cc1524-603

Order for Second Reading.

7.0 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

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

The subject matter of the Bill is not new to the House. As long ago as 1925 a Bill with similar objectives got through its Committee stage but failed to secure a Third Reading from lack of Parliamentary time. More recently there have been Private Members' Bills aimed at prohibiting hare coursing in the last four Sessions of this Parliament. Because of the considerable Parliamentary and public interest aroused by the Bill introduced in January, 1967, by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), the Government thought that Parliament ought to have an opportunity of discussing the issue, although at that time the formal attitude of the Government was one of neutrality.

Time was made available on 1st May, 1967. During the course of the debate most of the main considerations and controversies were ventilated, but the debate itself was not concluded. My hon. Friend reintroduced his Bill in the following Session but this made no progress, nor did a similar Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) in the next Session. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Arnold Shaw) introduced his Hare Coursing and Deer Hunting Abolition Bill this Session and succeeded in putting it down for Second Reading, second in order of business following the Conservation of Seals Bill, on 12th December. Many of us thought then that there would be opportunity to reach a decision on the matter, but it was a Private Member's Bill with all the hazards involved.

As regards the reasoned amendment which has been tabled by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), I am, of course, well aware that the British Field Sports Society has arranged for an inquiry to be made into hare coursing. But I understand that the inquiry is chiefly directed towards a re-examination of the rules and arrangements for hare coursing. Indeed, according to information given to us by the hon. Gentleman, the terms of reference of this body are to look at the conduct of coursing in modern farming conditions; adjustments in arrangements for stewarding and the general management of meetings; and any amendment to the existing rules. It is not an inquiry into the question whether or not competitive hare coursing should be prohibited. The Government do not, therefore, consider that the outcome of this inquiry will have any bearing on the principle whether or not competitive coursing, no matter how it is controlled, should be allowed to continue.

Some hon. Members will probably remind the House that there has been something of a tradition with field sports and, indeed, other specific matters related to animal welfare for initiatives to be left to Private Members. The Conservation of Seals Bill is a good example. That tradition depends upon a certain reasonableness in the handling of opportunities for Parliamentary discussion, which has not been altogether evident in this case. Those who oppose the Bill have no reason to complain if today the matter is brought to debate, and by the Government.

In the Government's view, competitive hare coursing involves an unacceptable degree of suffering to hares. We have decided that the only way of enabling Parliament to come to a decision on the issue is for the Government to introduce their own Bill. As the House will recall, this decision was announced by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on 19th March.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put the case against hare coursing very succinctly when, in replying to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) on 2nd December, he referred to hare coursing as a barbarous anachronism. I will elaborate the issues which seem to me most relevant.

First, I want to make it quite clear that no issue of pest control is involved in the so-called sport of hare coursing. I do not think that this is disputed even by those who support hare coursing. The Departmental Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals under the chairmanship of Mr. John Scott Henderson, which reported in 1951, indicated this very clearly in paragraph 274 of its report, the last sentence of which reads: The principal object of all coursing is. however, undoubtedly sport and in our view cannot be regarded as a method of control. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food confirms that coursing makes no contribution to the control of hares and, if abolished, would in no way add to farmers' problems.

So the basic issue is whether competitive hare coursing involves a measure of cruelty which today is no longer acceptable. The Government have no doubt whatever that it does, and there is much evidence to suggest that this view is shared by the majority of people in this country. I am aware of course that those hares which get away may not even suffer; that is open to argument. Let us remember those that are caught and killed by the dogs. No one can dispute that these hares suffer.

The Scott Henderson Report gives a lot of information and comment about the natural history of hares and the field sport of hare coursing. I have studied this with care. The committee approached the question whether or not a field sport is cruel on the following basis in paragraph 141: It seems to us that public opinion will be swayed by reasonable. practicable and broad considerations and not by ethical arguments alone. An act causing unnecessary suffering should be judged by the standard adopted by average, reasonably-minded people and should be viewed objectively. We think that the public generally are not likely to want to abolish a sport which may involve an element of cruelty merely because that sport gives pleasure to the participants. We have, therefore, decided to base our recommendations on the degree of cruelty and all other material considerations which seem to us to be involved. The committee went on to say that it considered interference would be justified (a) in cases where the sport does not serve control, if there is more than a slight degree of suffering; (b) in cases where the sport contributes to control, if the amount of suffering inflicted is greater than would be involved in the case of alternative methods of control.

The Scott Henderson Committee's analysis of the problem of hare coursing is not altogether easy to follow at all points, but the main argument seems to amount to this. On the one hand, the committee concluded that coursing involves no more suffering than the shooting of hares as ordinarily practised and, therefore, that the suffering involved in coursing did not constitute cruelty in so far as it was used as a method of control. This seems to have been the basis for the first part of the committee's recommendation No. 34: The degree of cruelty involved in coursing is not sufficient to justify its prohibition. In my view that comment is of no significance because, as I have already said, it is generally accepted that competitive hare coursing does not contribute to pest control. Since this is so, then any degree of cruelty inflicted in coursing must be unacceptable to anyone who believes that animals should be humanely treated. Indeed, the committee roundly concluded in paragraph 280 that on the definition of cruelty they had adopted competitive hare coursing—the Waterloo Cup meeting at Altcar was mentioned as an example—caused unnecessary suffering to hares and paragraph 280 says: Consequently, the suffering which is caused to hares coursed at such meetings comes within the definition of cruelty which we have adopted. However, at this point the logic of the committee's thinking seems to have disintegrated for, surprisingly, the Committee decided to: make no recommendation about coursing ". That is the second part of recommendation No. 34.

It seems to me that the committee hovered on the brink of condemning competitive coursing and coming out with a firm recommendation that it should be prohibited, and then drew back and settled for what might be described as a neutral attitude. My own view, and that now taken by the Government, is very far from neutral. We find the whole idea of competitive coursing repugnant.

It is now very nearly 20 years since the Scott Henderson Committee reported, and it is clear that whatever public opinion was towards the sport at the time, it is now no longer prepared to tolerate this activity purely in the interests of sport.

I appreciate, of course, that there are some with whom the Government's resolve to prohibit this activity will be unpopular. There will be arguments about urban pressures on rural pleasures. The yeoman's call to the world of the hunter and the survival of the fittest. The majority versus the minority. Of course with the passage of time the proportion of the population with a rural background—or indeed rural family connections—has diminished with industrialisation. Politically it would now be no longer possible, as it was a hundred years ago to make an emotional appeal to a recently urbanised working class with the cry of " an acre and a cow " [An HON. MEMBER: " Three acres "] All right, three acres and a cow.

In my own part of Leeds, as has been so accurately portrayed by Richard Hoggart inThe Uses of Literacy,the days of an urban population with their strong rural background are gone. Even so, this Bill is not an anti-rural measure designed by urbanites who shut their eyes to the realities of nature or the needs of agriculture. I have already referred to this point when discussing the particular question of control. It is equally true in the wider context of rural life. This Bill is concerned with competitive hare coursing.

I would commend to the opponents of the Bill the innocuous racing of greyhounds after an artificial hare which has a wide following. This is the civilised " model ", not the killing of hares for the satisfaction of the owners and followers of hounds. The Government's view is that in a civilised society in the latter part of the twentieth century competitive hare coursing has no place, and the sooner it is relegated to join those other cruel and discredited sports which are now defunct the better.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

The hon. Gentleman said that it was not an attack on country pursuits. Why are not the Government legislating on all the other field sports on this occasion? Why have they singled out this one?

Mr. Rees

The point I am making is that there is no control involved. This is related to competitive hare coursing. I will come to the wider question of hares in a moment. The Government have no intention of dealing with field sports as a whole. I am dealing with competitive hare coursing. If the hon. Gentleman has a great interest in this matter, then if he is here in the next Parliament he will no doubt do something to abolish fox hunting if that is what he has in mind.

Representations have been made to me that salukis are deserving of special consideration in relation to any ban on coursing. I have been told that the saluki is a most ancient breed and one of the few in this country that has suffered no hereditary defects. It is claimed that if this pure strain is to be maintained it is essential to course the dogs against hares to select for breeding those which display the right characteristics. I do not dispute that the breed is one which has existed for thousands of years, but the introduction of salukis into this country seems to be of comparatively recent origin. My information is that these dogs were first bred in this country towards the end of the last century and that regular coursing meetings for salukis have been held only during the last 15 years or so.

I am not persuaded by the argument that coursing is essential to maintaining the quality of the breed. I am sure that when hare coursing becomes illegal saluki breeders will not be unequal to the task of devising alternative methods for determining whether a particular dog has the right characteristics to be used for breeding. In any case if, as the Government maintain, coursing involves an unacceptable degree of suffering to hares, that proposition holds good irrespective of the breed of dog used against the hare. It matters nothing to the hare whether it is savaged by greyhounds, salukis or other coursing dogs.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

There is nothing in the Bill to save the hare in this respect. Hares can be coursed with salukis as long as it is not done competitively. This can be done to come to a judgment as to which dog to breed from.

Mr. Rees

I thank my hon. and learned Friend. That is precisely the point I was making. The whole point of the Bill is against competitive hare coursing, with people standing around, with bookies present, enjoying the destroying of hares. That is the point which has been made in various debates which have taken place over the years. [Interruption.] I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I have had representations about this matter and amicable discussions with various interests, and I understand there is betting on the courses.

An Hon. Member: There used to be 10 years ago.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House debates better when it debates in a conventional way.

Mr. Rees

That is the information I have been given by the interests concerned.

I turn to the Bill itself. Basically the Bill serves the same objects as that originally introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). However, we have amended the drafting somewhat by omitting in the definition of "hare coursing the reference to steps being taken before the dogs are released to bring those dogs and that hare within sight of each other ". This might have been taken to imply that it is necessary for the hare to see the dogs as well as for the dogs to see the hare. As this is not an essential element of the type of coursing we wish to put down, we felt it unnecessary to define coursing. The meaning of the verb " to course " is to pursue by sight. Therefore it would not be possible to commence to course a hare unless the dogs could see it. We have also modified the penalty provisions in order to avoid introducing short terms of imprisonment which are not in line with current penal policy. To compensate for this, the fines have been increased.

The Bill is confined in scope to the single issue of competitive hare coursing. The purpose of Clause 1 is to prohibit the coursing—that means pursuit by sight—of a hare by two or more dogs in a competition where the essential object is to compare the relative coursing abilities of those dogs. It is not the Government's purpose in this Bill to make illegal the hunting of hares with beagles or harriers; nor to interfere with the right of a farmer to set his dog after a hare where the object is to catch and kill the hare for control purposes. As I have said, the sole object of this Bill is to put down coursing where the essential object is to compare the relative merits of two or more dogs placed in competitive pursuit of a hare.

Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)

What happens if a farmer sets two of his dogs after a hare?

Mr. Rees

If the hon. Gentleman reads the Bill, he will see that it does not come under the heading of competitive hare coursing. Some hon. Members may be wondering why the Bill refers to the coursing of a hare by two or more dogs and does not make it unlawful to course a hare with a single dog, or to course species other than hares. The reason is that we are legislating for the situation which now exists. Coursing with a single dog is not a feature of present coursing practice, and it is difficult to see how the respective coursing abilities of different dogs could be effectively compared by such methods.

The Bill follows the general pattern of other animal welfare legislation by providing no specific enforcement provisions. Any person or organisation will be free to initiate proceedings in respect of any incident where they have reason to believe an offence has been committed, or to report the matter to the police who would decide whether or not to prosecute in the light of the evidence available. I have no doubt that voluntary organisations like the R.S.P.C.A. play a leading part in seeking evidence of offences and bringing the offenders to justice. This system works satisfactorily in the case of other animal welfare legislation—for example, the Protection of Animals Act, 1911—and the Government do not anticipate any widespread evasion of the prohibition being successfully pursued.

Some may argue that to ban competitive coursing will only result in the so-called " sport " going underground. This may occur to a limited extent for a time after the prohibition on coursing becomes effective, but in our view it is unlikely to flourish for long. It would have to be a hole and corner affair; judging would be difficult, there would be but a handful, or more likely no spectators to encourage the activity, and without the major events in which the dogs could be entered there would be little incentive to continue training coursing dogs. If a person is determined to evade the law he may for a time manage to do so; but because cases might occur of persons breaking the law, certainly that is not an argument in favour of doing nothing. If that were so, we should have no laws at all.

Clause 2 is largely technical. Subsection (3) allows a year's grace before the prohibition on coursing becomes effective. Representations have been made to the Government that some people—a figure of no more than 70 was quoted—are wholly dependent for their livelihood on training or caring for greyhounds and other breeds of dog kept exclusively for coursing. Although the number involved is relatively small, the Government have, in their view, made allowance for a period during which coursing can be run down and those whose employment is affected can find alternative work.

In the Government's view, there is no doubt whatever that the so-called sport of competitive hare coursing involves a degree of cruelty that cannot be tolerated in this day and age. I am sure the vast majority of Members of this House and the public would agree and wholeheartedly support the Government's action in bringing forward this Bill.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. May I make two announcements?

The first is that I have not selected the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) and a number of his hon. Friends—

That this House declines, in advance of the Report of the Stable Committee, which with the knowledge of the Home Office is conducting an inquiry into the sport of coursing, to give a Second Reading to a Bill which is not due to come into force for 12 months.

That will not limit the debate in any way.

The second is that, so far, 25 hon. Members have indicated that they wish to speak in this debate.

7.20 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

We are obliged to the Joint Under-Secretary. I confess that I lost touch with his argument about the salukis, but at least he has discharged what was a very difficult task agreeably and in a manner that we on this side of the House have come to expect of him.

I have a high regard for the Home Office under any dispensation, and I am sorry to find this great Department of State caught up in a Bill like this. I suspect that it may be a little sorry, too, and perhaps a little embarrassed. It is not alone because, whatever the Bill may do for hares, I fear that it will not, as some hon. Members hope, display the House of Commons in a very distinguished light.

I understand very well the dilemma of some of my hon. Friends and possibly of some hon. Members opposite. They may well have doubts no less strong than mine whether this is wise legislation for a Government. Other things being equal, they might wish to intimate that in the Lobbies. But they are not quite equal. Some of my hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite know of friends, supporters and correspondents who have been led sincerely to believe that we are dealing, as the hon. Gentleman has said, with a cruel and beastly practice and that this Bill will be a good day's work. These people will not be easily convinced otherwise by the wider considerations to which the House ought now to turn its mind.

I know all about the difficulties and pressures. I know them well enough. All that I can say to my hon. Friends who feel in difficulty is that they have one great advantage. On this side of the House, we shall have a free vote. I understand that other arrangements may prevail elsewhere. My hon. Friends are free to do as they please. They will suffer no assault on their consciences from me.

I want only to say as fairly as I can what troubles me about the Bill. I hold nothing whatever against the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) or the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Arnold Shaw). I congratulate them warmly. In their place, I would regard this Bill as a triumph, which for them it is. But there is a world of difference between a Private Member's Bill for any purpose and a Government Measure of this kind, brought along in this way.

Part of the Minister's argument was that we are dealing with a matter so serious and urgent, a pastime so damnable and such a threat to public decency that it demands action on these lines. In a sense, I wish that I felt that to be true. What I fear has happened is that we have been caught up in a tide of emotion and anger—alas, even of hatred —generated against those who course hares.

The House of Commons ought not to allow that to happen. Certainly, it is part of our duty to have regard to and to respond to popular feelings and to give them expression, for animals as much as for anything else. But we owe another duty, and it is to make a level judgment which is above certain prejudices and patterns. After all, that is part of our raison d'être.

I turn now to the Bill. One of its palpable weaknesses is its selectivity. It is still not clear to me why the Government have changed their view from that which they held three years ago. In May, 1967, when the House was considering the Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Walton, the then Minister of State, Home Office, said that the Government's attitude at that stage was one of neutrality. Now the Government see fit to bring in this Bill of their own, and I cannot understand why. To my knowledge, there has been no serious study of this matter since the Scott Henderson Report in 1951. Now, Mr. Owen Stable has been engaged at the request of the British Field Sports Society to study the rules of conduct for coursing. That was a move which was welcomed at the time by a Home Office Minister, despite what the Joint Under-Secretary said today.

A few hours ago, the Minister for Sport said, on another issue, that the Government ought not to interfere in matters for which sport is responsible. I could hardly believe my ears. The British Field Sports Society has done precisely what the Government wished the Cricket Council to do. It has taken action on behalf of the sport. Yet, without awaiting Mr. Owen Stable's report, the Government have brought in this Bill.

The words of the Minister for Sport entitle me to say that this is a Bill of no principle. Certainly, there is a case, as was mentioned in 1967, for bringing to bear on field sports the Protection of Animals Act to ensure, if possible, that all these sports are governed by rules, as most are already. That is probably very difficult, but surely that is the proper role for Government. The Under-Secretary said that the Government have no intention of acting any further in this sphere. What is indefensible is the selection of one sport by the Government. In my view, we cannot be too careful before we legislate against tiny minorities.

I have some knowledge of most field sports. Comparisons are difficult because emotions are involved. We all have emotions in this matter. For my part, I would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to shoot driven birds. To me, the glint of a pheasant in a wood in autumn is one part of the gifts of an English autumn. That is a personal and perhaps idiosyncratic view. I mention it apologetically to indicate that those of us who think that this Bill is bad, unnecessary and even dangerous are notipso factodevoid of feeling for animal life.

We are talking about hares, not pheasants. There seems to be no logic and no sound basis for a Bill which outlaws coursing but not harriers and beagles. I have run with beagles quite often. Beagles look less rapine than greyhounds, but they do not kill a hare as quickly or as painlessly on occasions. I have to say that as one who still participates.

This issue of the degree of cruietly, the relationship to control about which the hon. Gentleman spoke and the relative cruelty of the shotgun, raises very difficult issues. It may be that some of my hon. Friends will speak about the Scott Henderson Report in this connection. I have no doubt that the shotgun, particularly the shotgun in unskilled hands, of which there are plenty today, causes more agony to wild animals than all the hounds and hunts put together. That is impossible to quantify. One can only offer a subjective judgment, that the sum total of suffering by hares will not be decreased by the Bill. Perhaps otherwise.

On balance, I have come to the view that organised sport, disciplined by rules and sanctions, will in the end cause less suffering and cruelty than unlicensed, unsupervised private enterprise. I accept that it is the discipline, the rules, the uniform, the ritual and the buttons that to many are provocative. That is what they dislike about organised sport. They must judge whether, at root, they are seeking to promote the welfare of wild animals or to demote those who organise the pursuit of them for sport.

We come to a gulf here which I find it impossible to bridge. Like many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Walton, I speak as a countryman. All my life I have had friends who have enjoyed various field sports, including coursing. Some hon. Members may say that their philosophy is misguided. Let us assume that they are right and that their philosophy is misguided. Even if that were true, there is no justification —and in their hearts hon. Gentlemen opposite kg-tow this—for the kind of abuse and vilification which has been piled on their heads by those opposed to field sports.

I reflected on this not long ago when I attended a small dinner given by the Romney Marsh Coursing Club to farmers and shepherds. As I looked around the company I said to myself genuinely, " I wish that the hon. Member for Walton were here. He is a fair-minded man, a countryman, and he would see these people as they are; not as some would wish us to see them."

Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)

Probably some of my relatives.

Mr. Deedes

That might be so.

The Prime Minister—and the Under-Secretary mentioned it today—used the word " barbarous " the other day. That seemed to me, for reasons I will touch on, a misjudgment. I am suspicious of causes, such as the one represented by the Bill, which must call in aid such words as " barbaric ", " torture ", " sadism ", and so on. It suggests, to me at least, that the issue—and it is an intensely arguable issue—cannot be safely left to discussion on its merits. Moreover, this language is not confined to those who course hares.

Like other hon. Members, I get a lot of literature about animal welfare and about intensive farming. In most of it we find the same emotive language, the same weasel words, the same shock treatment. No doubt some kinds of intensive farming are disturbing, but they do not justify hate campaigns against farmers or anybody else. This illustrates how very deep the gulf has become between some countrymen and the rest.

It is true that rude and crude things go on in the countryside. I recall about a year ago a fellow coming to me with a complaint. He had been picnicking with his wife and young family, when, in an adjoining field, a bull had set about his arduous duties of procreation. " It is not a very nice thing, Mr. Deedes ", he said to me, " when your wife and children are exposed to that sort of thing." He had nothing against the farmer, but he felt that he should have put up a warning notice.

Some rude and crude spectacles go on in our cities, too. Violence on human beings is in vogue—all power to the Home Secretary's elbow. There seems to be more than a smack of hypocrisy about a media which can present a film to inflame against hare coursing and then display and defend brutality, ostensibly because it is part of life, but in reality to push up the ratings. Glancing at some of the current offerings for public pleasure, those who course hares may wonder why they have been singled out for opprobrium and a Commons Whip.

I think that for the Government and for the House of Commons other standards, other considerations, at least ought to weigh. We owe our democracy a better prospective. We must be prudent about the causes we espouse and act on in this way.

Those who espouse the cause of children, for example, feel bitterly about this kind of campaign. They observe, as I do sadly, the comparative incomes of the R.S.P.C.A. —an excellent organisation—and the N.S.P.C.C. This is relevant, because this is the issue of perspective and proportions. With an income of £334,000 last year the National Society was left " in the red ". With an income of almost £900,000 the Royal Society ended the year with £157,000 in hand. Some of the injuries and cruelties inflicted on our children—we come across these cases in our political work—in our modern society are also very grievous. The National Society last year had to investigate, not isolated examples of cruelty and abuse, but 23,000, and some were heart-rending.

So, in considering this little Bill, a sense of proportion comes not amiss. The fact is that we here today are victims of a relatively new development which is disturbing. It is the capacity of a minority in a modern society, saturated by the media, to fire a cause— it may be a good or a bad cause—into a blaze of furious emotion. We have a handful of people presented to us by some as people who might have helped to run Belsen, although engaged up to this point in something which is perfectly legal. One picture, one film, one sound track, can be manipulated to whip up a holocaust of anger and hatred against a small section. Alas, the technique is not limited to hares. We shall see this process set in motion, I fear, against other field sports.

It is not clear to me, after today, on what principle the Government or this House will seek to draw the line. Some hon. Members will no doubt say that righteous anger against the wickedness of those who indulge in this sport is creditable. I fear that I cannot see it in that light. What has been said and propagated about this sport, and others. goes beyond what should happen in our proverbially tolerant society. Goodness knows, there is enough hatred about today.

The Bishop of Southwark, I think it was, thinking about the Bill, said recently that the case against field sports had clearly been made out in the Scriptures. He may well be right. But I recall something also about living in love and charity with one's neighbour—an ideal to which every hon. Member subscribes just before a General Election.

I do not think the campaigns of hate promote much good. They do not help this tolerant society of ours—this we all devoutly wish to see—to offer some sort of hope to a torn and bloody world. This, I venture to say, is where this House should be of some avail. If we are to be swung about, aroused to anger, emotion and passion on a matter of this kind by the forces of which I speak, our parliamentary democracy and our society will be grievously impaired.

Finally, I come back to my hon. Friends who feel that they ought to support the Bill, for reasons which I fully comprehend. I repeat, they must do what they feel is right. They have heard, and will hear, no syllable of reproach from me. I beg them and the House only to bear in mind that on an occasion of this kind we have a wider duty, a wider responsibility, and a perspective to keep, and we shall be harshly judged by our manner of discharging it.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

We have had an excellent exposition of the case against the Bill, and I am particularly grateful to the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), because no one this evening will put it better than he has done. It is a case which merits serious consideration, and that is what it must receive.

Before I come to the Bill itself, I should like to give the House one or two quotations from another debate in this House. I have here a record of the debates of 1835 on the Cruelty to Animals Bill, during which Sir M. W. Ridley said: I think that this is a most arbitrary and tyrannical Bill, and one conferring certain powers, which no previous Statute has ever given …I protest against what appears to me to be only a surreptitious code of interference to prevent the amusements of the poorer classes. In my opinion, the amusements of hunting, coursing, shooting, and fishing, are as much breaches of the Act as cock-fighting and bull-baiting. The former amusements are within reach of the higher classes only, and those individuals who have not the means to resort to them, avail themselves of the latter. The speech of the right hon. Member for Ashford contained echoes of that speech which I have just quoted. The right hon. Gentleman was saying, in effect, that this was a very dangerous Bill. I regard that as an echo from the previous debate.

The question is asked, " Why is this confined to coursing? Why did you not take in everything? " That is another echo of 1835—" Why only cock-fighting and bull baiting? " Why did you not take in everything? Why not? It would have been excellent if they had done so. Had this happened, we would have been saved from having this debate this evening, and it would that much sooner have made Britain much more civilised.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to be fair. I have done my homework on the Bull Baiting Bill, as I am sure he has. As a matter of history, the arguments advanced against bull-baiting had nothing to do with blood sports. It was a public order Bill, and that point made by Colonel Ridley and Mr. Roebuck was that the places where bull-baiting was done were those at which there was a grave risk of riot and public disorder.

Mr. Heffer

Many reasons were put forward, and I could give the House many quotations, but I am arguing that the echoes of that debate are to be heard in the debate today. I think that the whole matter must be brought into proper perspective, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.

I introduced what I thought was a very simple Bill, and I thought that it would be dealt with in a short space of time. I took the view that the overwhelming majority of the population would be in favour of it. I thought that we would mop it up on the way through and then get down to more serious business. I was absolutely innocent and totally naive. I did not fully understand the entrenched interests of hon. Members, most of whom are on the other side of the House. I predict that when this Bill goes through the House the other place will be full on the day appointed to debate hare coursing, much fuller on that occasion than on most others, for the simple reason that when one looks at the list of the people involved in hare coursing one finds that the list is comprised mainly of Lord this, Lord that, and so on.

Those who argued during the previous debate that this sport was largely the pursuit of the upper classes was right, but now we hear another cry. We are told that it is the miners who are deeply disturbed, and that in some respects it is the working classes who want to continue with hare coursing. I have some information on this, too. I have letters from miners, organisations saying that they will be delighted when the Bill comes into operation.

I am most gratified that my right hon. Friends have decided to introduce this as a Government Bill. My hon. Friends the Members for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), Ilford, South (Mr. Arnold Shaw), and others who have been involved with me at various stages in trying to get this Measure introduced are delighted that the Government have decided to take this action. It is only a small Bill. but it is an important step towards establishing a fully civilised society in Britain.

I think that my hon. Friends and I have made out the case for the Bill, and there is therefore no need to give countless examples of the cruelty to animals I think that this aspect is clearly understood by the majority of people. Yesterday I saw again the film made by the B.B.C. There was, too, the film which the I.T.V. showed in its sports arena. These films showed the overwhelming mass of people who do not know what goes on and what cruelty is involved in hare coursing.

Members of the Old Yorkshire Coursing Club say that people who are raising this issue are Left-wing and other well-intentioned but misinformed M.P.s. This is a great Left-wing plot. It is all designed—

Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)


Mr. Heffer

They are behind the whole thing. They are trying to take this sport away from the poorer classes so that they will rise up in revolt. I have never heard such nonsense in all my life. This is an amazing document containing so many wonderful statements that I do not know where to start, but one is: The ` anti ' argument is always on the basis of ` How would you like it to happen to you?'. They attribute human emotions of imagination and anticipation to animals. There is absolutely no evidence to support this. As the years go by the sanctimonious sentimentality over the killing of animals seems to increase at the same rate as the consumption of meat. That is one gem from this document. If that is the best case that can be put up in defence of coursing, I imagine that the coursers must be most grateful to the right hon. Member for Ashford, because at least he put up an important case which has to be answered.

The other argument is that it is only the urban dwellers who are opposed to coursing, that those who live in the country must be in favour of it. That is totally untrue. I have here some remarks from a letter which I received from the National Executive of the National Union of Agricultural Workers. Lord Collison, who was then general secretary, said: Thank you for your letter regarding Mr. E. Heffer's Bill on the abolition of live hare coursing. The proposition was put before and discussed by my Executive Council when it met last week, and I am pleased to be able to inform you that they are in full support of the Bill and wish Mr. Heffer every success in its passage through Parliament. Does anyone suggest that the National Union of Agricultural Workers has nothing to do with the countryside? That would be absolute rubbish. The facts are that the union is made up entirely of country workers, and they are fully in support of the Bill.

That needs to be stressed, apart from the letters which I have received from country people all over the country, who, in addition to those from urban areas, have expressed their full support for the abolition of live hare coursing—

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)rose

Mr. Heffer

No, it is not that I do not want to have interventions, but they prolong speeches and I wish to allow plenty of time for other hon. Members to speak.

An Hon. Member: Get on with it.

Mr. John Ellis (Bristol, North-West)

Do not be so rude.

Mr. Heffer

I gather that the hon. Gentleman does not agree with what I am saying.

I wish to turn to the British Field Sports Society's pamphlet on hare coursing. In the Amendment, which was not called, asking that there should not be a Second Reading now, is a reference to the report of the Stable Committee. For one moment, I thought that the Stable Committee would be entirely impartial, that it would include people in no way involved in hare coursing. But I discovered from the list of the British Field Sports Society's vice-presidents that the right hon. Mr. Justice Stable, P.C., M.C., was one of the vice-presidents—[An HON. MEMBER: " It is not the same man."] In that case, I am utterly wrong and I accept that it is not the right man. It was only a point in passing, because I thought that if that were the case the judge could hardly sit in judgment on this matter. If it is not so, I am delighted to hear it, but it is an interesting coincidence. Perhaps someone can tell me whether he is any relative. It is an interesting thing.

But the important point was that I do not remember organisations opposed to hare coursing or neutral organisations being asked to give evidence to that committee. If they were, I certainly was never asked. At no time have I had any communication from this committee. I only learned of it by accident through the Press; I have never been approached. Therefore, I cannot believe that a committee which does not get evidence from people like myself, who are obviously opposed to hare coursing, should be given any real attention.

Also, of course, it is not dealing with the whole question of whether hare coursing should continue, but only with the niceties of it. That in itself is an indication that pressure has been applied by people who are in opposition to hare coursing and that the hare coursers themselves have had to admit that they must do something to give coursing a better image.

This pamphlet of the B.F.S.S. proves the case for abolition. On page 6, the report on hare coursing by the League Against Cruel Sports is analysed, with quotations. One such is: Para. 1. ' Hares are often driven over a distance of a mile or more in the coursing field by some 60 or more men known as beaters. Comment: True.

Hon. Members: Read on.

Mr. Heifer

Of course—I have it underlined. I am glad that hon. Members have asked me to read on: I was hoping that they would. The quotation is: True. But observe the subtle effect intended upon the uninitiated non-countryman of this sentence taken out of its proper context and placed in the leaflet following several pages of inflammatory build-up. What undertones of taskmasters, slavery and cruelty is the reader encouraged to find in the words ' driven ' and ' beaten '? What they say is that hares are driven over a distance of a mile by men known as beaters. That implies to me nothing except that hares are forced along and that they call these men beaters, but this apparently is inflammatory.

That shows clearly how emotive is the case of the hare coursers, how they are trying to suggest that we are not being fair. I could quote from this pamphlet at great length. They spend a good deal of time analysing a speech which I made when we had our previous debate. The suggestion is that I persistently misled—but misled what? The first time that I raised this in the House, I said. I do not wish to overstate the case for the Bill. The purpose of coursing is not to kill the hare, and a great many hares escape. Under the rule of the National Coursing Club, it would be wrong if the field used were fenced in to prevent the escape of a hare."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1967; Vol. 740, c. 254.] That is hardly persistently misleading people. I clearly explained what happened and they know that I explained what happened, because I quoted the rules of the National Coursing Club. It is their document which is misleading and overstating their case, when it has any case at all.

What exactly is the kill? Again, I quote from the National Coursing Club Rules: The kill. Two points or in a descending scale in proportion to the degree of merit displayed in that kill, which may be of no value. I quoted the whole aspect.

I went on: The merit of the kill must be estimated according to whether a dog, by his own superior dash and skill, bears the hare; whether he picks her up through any little accidental circumstances favouring him, or whether she is turned into his mouth, as it were, by the other dog."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 7.] I quoted that from the rules of the National Coursing Club. I could not therefore have exaggerated the position.

I made it perfectly clear that the kill was not essentially part of it but that it is in the rules of the club that points are awarded for the kill. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite deny that? Will they say that the kill is not an inherent part of the club's rules?

I have evidence—we all have evidence —from the R.S.P.C.A., the League of Cruel Sports and many others who have become involved in this matter, not just because of their interest in those organisations but because they have visited various coursing meetings to discover the facts for themselves, to show that hares become involved in a living tug of war between dogs, that they are pulled apart by the dogs and that sometimes the stewards are not fast enough to get to them to prevent suffering.

This is undoubtedly a cruel sport, if sport it be. It is a form of cruelty which we, in a civilised society, should not be prepared to accept in this day and age. I am not arguing whether or not we should extend legislation at this stage—I stress " at this stage "—further, to the whole question of blood sports. I would not cry if ultimately we abolished all blood sports in Britain. Indeed, I would not be ashamed to introduce a Measure to do that. I hope that the House—I am sure that it will—give the Bill every support.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I am strongly against cruelty and when, two years ago, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who always approaches matters of this kind reasonably and takes a great deal of trouble in preparing his case, raised this matter, I felt that I should examine this coursing question more closely.

I had never before been to a coursing meeting. I took an early opportunity of attending one in my constituency and I will tell the House exactly what I found and, from that, what is my personal attitude to the Bill. The meeting which I attended took place on farm land where normally hares are shot. There is an abundance of hares in this area and, prior to the meeting, there was no shooting of hares.

During my visit there were 25 courses and about one-third of them resulted in the hares being killed. In every case that I saw, death was instantaneous. There was, however, one regrettable incident when a hare, trying to escape, came out of the course and got held up near a hedge by a crowd of people. The hounds quickly came on the scene, snapped at the hare, which died instantly. Having entered the coursing meeting quietly, the audience were not aware of my presence. They were, however, extremely concerned about this incident, because it was contrary to the rules.

This shows that we must be careful in considering this matter. In other words, we should be concerned more with the regulation of this sport than with its abolition. That, I believe, is the right attitude for us to take towards coursing. After all, what is the alternative? Being a farmer, I assure the House that hares are a great problem to us, especially if myxomatosis has occurred on one's farm. Prior to myxomatosis the buck rabbit kept down the number of hares by killing off the young leverets, and not in a very kindly way. As a result of myxomatosis, the hare population has been increasing.

I do not have coursing on my farms. However, in the late winter or early spring, usually about February, all the local farmers go out for a hare shoot on their adjoining farms. I find that the most unpleasant of the duties that I must undertake.

In this connection, it is interesting to note that it was stated in paragraph 280 of the Scott Henderson Report: Our conclusion about coursing is that it involves no more suffering than the shooting of hares as ordinarily practised. Indeed, there can be no comparison between the lingering death of a hare that is shot at and wounded and the quick death of a hare that is coursed and caught.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the fact, accepted by the National Coursing Club and mentioned in the Scott Henderson Report, that coursing is no form of control. Thus, if he wants to keep the number of hares down, the alternative is not between coursing and shooting, because coursing does not operate as a method of control.

Mr. Turton

I think that the hon. Gentleman is being led into a misapprehension as a result of the Minister's quotation from paragraph 274 of the Scott Henderson Report. It is true that, referring to Altcar the report says, in paragraph 274: Consequently, coursing under National Coursing Club rules cannot be justified as a method of controlling hares, and we think that this applies in varying degrees to other meetings ". In the area about which I am speaking, in Yorkshire, coursing is held where hares are too numerous on the ground. It is, therefore—certainly for us—the alternative to shooting.

Mr. Sheldon

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. The quotation which I had in mind was the one at the end of paragraph 274, which reads: The principal object of all coursing is, however. undoubtedly sport and in our view it cannot be regarded as a method of conrol. That referred to " all " coursing and is accepted by the National Coursing Club, members of which I have met.

Mr. Turton

I have quoted from paragraph 274 and, whatever Scott Henderson said, I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is regarded as a method of control. If we were to abolish coursing, the only way to keep down the number of hares would be by shooting. There is no alternative.

Mr. Sheldon

Coursing is no alternative, either.

Mr. Turton

I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity later to make his own speech, I hope standing. Sedentary interruptions only delay matters. I have given my point of view, and I stick to it.

The hypocritical point of the Bill lies in the fact that at present there is far more cruelty to farm animals than at any time this century. What is the attitude of the Government towards that? The Scott Henderson Report says that coursing should be permitted and that there is no unnecessary cruelty in it. Some hon. Members may disagree with that view, but that is the finding of the committee.

Mr. Christopher Soames appointed the Brambell Committee. It came down quite clearly on the terrible cruelty involved in certain aspects of intensive farming. What has been done about that? The Government have run away from carrying out the recommendations of the Brambell Report. It was a properly constituted committee and said that it was very cruel to have five battery hens in a cage and that the method of rearing veal calves was very cruel. Yet, without any proper inquiries into coursing, this Bill is brought forward in a hurried way.

Mr. Ellis

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that some of us who are most concerned about the recommendations in the Brambell Report, and subscribe to them, are also supporters of the Bill.

Mr. Turton

I know the worry of the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis). I share his anxiety and worry. I am attacking the attitude of the Government to cruelty as proved by a committee. What did they do? [HON. MEMBERS: " Nothing."] They appointed the Hewer Committee. The hon. Member for Walton, unfortunately, fell into a mistake about the Stable Committee in suggesting that the Field Sports Society was represented on it, but what did the Government do about the Hewer Corn mittee? They put on it a large number of people who go in for intensive farming. When they got that report they watered down the Brambell Report. That hypocritical attitude on behalf of the Government I find very hard to defend.

Let us try to be constructive. We want to try to wipe out unnecessary cruelty. Some people sincerely believe that coursing as practised under properly regulated conditions does not involve unnecessary cruelty. The object is not to kill the hare, certainly not to kill cruelly. The object is to test the ability of the greyhound to jink and do all the rest. The greyhound which actually kills the hare need not necessarily win the course.

Mr. Hellerrose

Mr. Turton

The hon. Member for Walton made an appeal to hon. Members not to interrupt him. I have given way to him once. He has made his speech. Let us get as many hon. Members involved in the debate as we can without unnecessary interruption.

Mr. Heffer

I should like to finish the quotation.

Mr. Turton

The hon. Member wants to quote from the Brambell Report?

Mr. Heffer

No, I want to quote from paragraph 280 of the Scott Henderson Report, which the right hon. Gentleman quoted. That report contradicts itself. At the end of the paragraph, it says: But that obviously does not apply to the coursing that takes places at, for example, Altcar, where hares are far more numerous than they would be if their numbers were controlled by ordinary methods, and the same is probably true in varying degrees in other places. Consequently, the suffering which is cause to hares coursed at such meetings comes within the definition of cruelty which we have adopted. It is totally contradictory on the subject of cruelty.

Mr. Turton The hon. Member expressed that view earlier. I think there is general concern that unnecessary cruelty to wild and domestic animals should be outlawed. Mr. Christopher Soames set up a committee to examine cruelty to farm animals. When that committee, the Brambell Committee, made recommendations, the Government should have made regulations and codes of practice to ensure that intensive farming was carried out under humane conditions.

I recommend a similar policy over unnecessary cruelty to wild animals. Before the Bill goes further there should be an independent inquiry into coursing. Following that independent inquiry, regulations should be made on codes of conduct that must be practised to avoid unnecessary cruelty in the sport of coursing and other sports. That would be the correct way to deal with this matter.

To follow an intervention made by the hon. Member for Walton, I think it very questionable that hares should be introduced into a certain area in order to be coursed. That to me is quite foreign to the kind of coursing which goes on in my native county, Yorkshire. I beg the House to take the correct line in dealing with unnecessary cruelty. Otherwise, people in the countryside, worried about the way in which domestic and wild animals are frequently cruelly treated, will regard the Government as hypocritical when they find they are rushing this Bill through at this particular time without any proper recent inquiry, with no attempt to regulate, nor even to wait for the report of the Stable Committee.

It is a great pity that the Stable Committee was not a Government committee of inquiry and that it was left to the British Field Sports Society to inaugurate it. Is it too late for the Government to take over the work of the Stable Committee and find exactly what should be the codes of conduct for coursing? Unless the Government accept that correct line, I shall vote against the Bill.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Arnold Shaw (Ilford, South)

A suggestion has been made that this is possibly the first of a series of Bills which might be introduced to abolish blood sports. I sincerely hope that that is so.

I am grateful to the Government for introducing this Measure although it is only a part of the one which I introduced this Session. I look forward to the time when the other half will be introduced. I think it right that the Governmnt should introduce this Bill because it gives an opportunity for hare coursing to be dis cussed and not to be thwarted by clever Opposition Members who use the mechanism of our procedure to thwart the overwhelming wish of the House and the country.

In the debate, initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) on 1st May, 1967, the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) said: We know that one real danger would be if the Government were ever misguided enough to introduce their own Bill. He was absolutely right from his point of view. From our point of view we think that this is the beginning of a breakthrough which we have wanted for a long time. I am glad that the Government are so " misguided " and that the worst fears of the hon. Member are now being realised. The hon. Member also said: All of us in the countryside who are connected with field sports regard this Bill as the thin end of hte wedge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 16–20.] That is quite right. It is the thin end of the wedge.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

Does that mean that the sport of fishing is also included?

Mr. Shaw

That is a question of definition. We will deal with that when it arises. I am talking about blood sports. After all, there is a divergence of opinion here. We are dealing with what members of the Opposition call a sport, but what we on this side do not call a sport. We shall have to define each " sport " as it arises.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Will the hon. Gentleman answer my question?

Mr. Shaw

I have done so.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The hon. Gentleman has not.

Mr. Shaw

I understand that many hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. Gibson-Watt


Mr. Shaw

Very apt.

The object of the Bill is simply to abolish a pursuit which is abhorrent to the great majority of the people. As the Prime Minister said recently, it is " a barbarous anachronism ".

When my Bill was published, I received hundreds of letters from all over the country supporting it. The postbags of other hon. Members were also taxed. In answer to a Parliamentary Question, the Prime Minister admitted receiving more than 2,000 letters on the subject. The claim by the opponents of the Bill that this is a conflict between the townee and the countryman is not true. Practically all the letters I received came from the countryside. will read just one of those letters. It comes from Wadhurst, Sussex, and sums up the case: Dear Sir, Re coursing of hares. If Members of Parliament had heard the screams coming from the hares when being torn apart by two dogs like I have I do not think they would hesitate one moment whether coursing should be banned or not. I when a boy lived on a farm of a thousand acres. Coursing used to take place in the fields and on the marshes. I have seen and heard the hares screaming when caught by one dog and the other dog pulling the hare in the opposite direction. That goes on until someone catches up with them. One wonders if they are human beings sitting in Parliament that agree with coursing. I am aged 78 and I can still visualise the agony and pain those hares suffered. So many sit and judge on a subject which they know nothing about. That applies to Members of Parliament. I have seen coursing and I know. Support has come from many animal welfare organisations. I give special credit to the League Against Cruel Sports, which has carried on the campaign ceaselessly. Religious bodies of all denominations have added their voice to abolition. In January of this year a Gallup Poll on attitudes to blood sports showed an overwhelming majority in favour of parliamentary action to abolish hare coursing—62 per cent. voting for and 16 per cent. disapproving.

A number of pamphlets and documents have been quoted. I shall quote from one which hon. Members have received recently. It is called "The Furry Few" and was written by Mr. P. A. Sweeney who purports to defend blood sports. If he is defending blood sports, they need another advocate. On page 14, he describes the way of the animal world, of the predator and the prey. He contrasts the wild animal which hunts for food that means survival with the domestic animal which hunts for the sake of it, and says: Perhaps the most common examples of predator and prey familiar to urban people are the cat and the mouse. The feral mountain cat of Scotland is obliged to hunt for its food for survival, but the fat neutered cat in the comfort of a Chelsea flat will hunt and kill rodents, birds and fishes merely for the sake of the chase. That is true. Our ancestors hunted because they had to: they hunted for survival. Is it necessary in this day and age that the city gentleman, or, for that matter, the country gentleman should emulate the fat neutered tabby?

What kind of people are these that defend sports such as these? Can we accept Mr. Sweeney's assertion that coursing enthusiasts are among the most honourable people and sporting types"? I might be prepared to agree with that. I freely admit that I have not met such people. I have met people who have been coursing and who did not think much of it.

Mr. Sweeney's description would hardly be shared by three housewives, members of the League Against Cruel Sports, who recently went to witness the Waterloo Cup meeting at Altcar. There, they were threatened with being dumped in a ditch if they interefered—not exacly the actions of sporting gentlemen.

Mr. William Hickey, reported on that meeting at Altcar, wrote as follows in the Daily Express onTuesday, 24th February: Mr. Brian Cheetham, a 42-year-old Manchester cotton boss "— no doubt a country gentleman— and a courser for 14 years, was in no doubt about what should be done with any demonstrators. 'I should not be sorry if they were put in a ditch of cold water', he said. 'They seem to protest for the sake of protesting. It is nonsense to say the sport is cruel. Coming closer to home, it is worth while examining thebona fidesof some hon. Members. In doing so, I return to the debate—I almost said "that famous debate "—which took place on 12th December, 1969, the debate on the Conservation of Seals Bill. There are a number of hon. Members present who were here then. They will recall the filibuster designed to talk out my Deer Hunting and Hare Coursing Abolition Bill. They will also recall how vigorously hon. Members denied that the prolonged debate was due to their desire to talk out what was coming next. Some of them said that they were there to talk on the Conservation of Seals Bill or even oppose it.

The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) told Mr. Speaker: … some of us who are anxious to catch your eye are very much opposed to this Bill in detail and in principle …. and if we are successful in speaking later we will prove that point to your satisfaction and that of the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1969; Vol. 793, c. 862.] To give him his due, he voted against the Bill, but it was rather a different story in Committee.

It is true that the hon. Member raised some valid Committee points about the size of the bullet—I am not a countryman, and do not understand the difference between one sort of bullet and another —and whether one should aim at the seal when it was moving rapidly through the water or when it was stationary. But when the hon. Gentleman referred to his hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who sponsored the Bill, he used such words as whose initiative in producing the Bill we all congratulate ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT,Standing CommitteeC, 25th February, 1970; c. 13.] A little later he talked about the " admirable Bill ". Surely anyone opposed in detail and principle could hardly refer to the Bill as admirable.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

One refers to one's colleagues' Bills as being admirable automatically, just as I refer to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Arnold Shaw) as an hon. Gentleman by custom, automatically. Perhaps he would say something about the Third Reading debate and Report stage of the Conservation of Seals Bill on 17th April—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. It would be out of order to proceed with a discussion on that Bill.

Mr. Farr

I follow your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the hon. Gentleman suggested that I had no interest in opposing the Second Reading of that Bill. I think that he will admit that both on Report and Third Reading I initiated debates on it.

Mr. Shaw

I am prepared to accept that in certain detail the hon. Gentleman was opposed to the Bill, but I do not accept that anyone using phrases of the kind I have quoted can be opposed to it in principle.

Now we come to the curious behaviour of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball). [An HON. MEMBER: " Get on with it."] I am trying to get to those people who, in effect, are opposiing the Bill. On 6th November, 1969, I had a letter from the hon. Gentleman, on House of Commons notepaper, asking me to use my place in the Ballot to take up the Bill eventually sponsored by the hon. Member for City of Chester. The hon. Gentleman stated in this invitation that the Bill had the support of competent naturalists, which I certainly accept. I replied on 11th November regretting being unable to accede to his request as it was my intention to promote a Bill to ban staghunting and hare coursing, and I added, with tongue in cheek, that I would be grateful for his help.

Back came the reply, but this time on British Field Sports Society notepaper, and I must quote from it because it is rather apt. He said: Thank you for your letter of 11th November. There is all the difference in the world between the Seals Bill, which has the support of competent naturalists and countrymen, and the Bill which I believe you intend to introduce under your Ballot place. The hon. Gentleman voted against the Seals Bill. I assume that he of all hon. Gentlemen regards himself as a competent naturalist and certainly as a countryman.

But perhaps the most despicable action of all—

Deputy Speaker. Are we discussing the Hare Coursing Bill or the Seals Bill?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I was about to draw attention to the fact that the hon. Gentleman is going a little wide of the Bill before the House.

Mr. Shaw

The question of cruelty in hare coursing has been adequately dealt with and I am trying to establish thebona fidesof those hon. Members who are opposed to the Bill. I feel that the House will be persuaded that, in effect, the opposition to it will be bogus. Perhaps the most despicable action of all was the blackmailing of the R.S.P.C.A., through the threat to challenge its charitable status if it actively supported my Bill. I can only conclude that such people would naturally be found in the vanguard of the movement to preserve the right to indulge in blood sports.

Several Hon. Membersrose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The House has much business to deal with today and many hon. Members wish to speak. Brief speeches will help the Chair.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

I am certain that all country men will be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) for the way he opened the debate from this side of the House and the tone he set and the arguments he developed, which I am confident will be used in many similar discussions of field sports for a great many years to come. I shall deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Arnold Shaw) later in my brief speech.

I want to make three points on behalf of the British Field Sports Society and the National Coursing Club. First, I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State why the Government have departed from their neutral position on this issue. In moving the Second Reading he did not really make his case. If it was so important that the House should have a chance to reach a decision, why was it not done on a Private Member's Bill? Why did no hon. Member who had a place in the Ballot think the Bill worthy of giving it one of the first six places?

Secondly, why could not the Government wait until the report of the independent inquiry, set up with their full knowledge, under Mr. Owen Stable, has been completed. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will be asked to give evidence. I understand that the field work of the inquiry has only just been concluded and that Mr. Stable has another very important inquiry to complete, which has delayed him in getting on with this one. Thirdly, why, if the Government were going to act, did they not legislate along the line of the Scott Henderson Report, which would be more than acceptable and, indeed, welcome to the National Coursing Club and all other sports?

As my right hon. Friend said, the Government redeclared their neutrality in 1966. This was confirmed again by the Minister of State, Home Office, in February, 1968. I remember the interview I had with the Minister of State then. It was at the time of the trawler disasters and hon. Members will recall what a great public outcry there was about the safety of our trawlers in the North Sea. As I left the Home Office, the Under-Secretary of State said to me, " You see what I mean? If you have an incident which encourages a subsequent public outcry in any field sport on the scale we are enduring at the moment, I think the Government would have to act." What incident has there been in coursing which makes it necessary for the Government to act? What outcry has there been—and I mean genuine outcry? In fact, there has been no genuine outcry. What the Government and hon. Members have suffered from is an organised campaign which has been mounted against this sport and described by some as sired by bias out of ignorance—a campaign which has avoided setting the facts in their proper perspective, which has made frequent use of the unfamiliarity and ignorance of the general public about this very small sport, and which has cleverly cashed in on our animal-loving, pet-keeping and humane society.

The Home Office has a long experience in dealing with campaigns. Look how well it stands up to pressures on vivisection and ritual slaughter! Why has it not been able to stand up to this campaign? Hon. Members should appreciate the extent of the distortions to which the campaign has run. Even one respectable newspaper claimed after the Waterloo Cup the other day that hares were torn to pieces. I took the trouble to get the receipt from the poulterer to which the hares were sold afterwards and in fact they were not torn to pieces. This is a familiar pattern of propaganda. Propaganda is poured out ceaselessly on one point. Biased pictures are suddenly produced, sensational articles are published, and in this particular case an even more sensational record, and finally the House is faced with a Private Member's Bill and then a Government Bill.

Members are being asked to make a judgment on this sport and yet they have consistently refused to go and see for themselves. I think I am right in saying that even the hon. Member for Ilford, South has not been to a coursing meeting. Few, if any, hon. Gentlemen opposite have even bothered to answer the invitation which has been extended to them to attend a National Coursing Club meeting. Only two Members have been since this Bill was announced. Since then —I must be fair—two senior members of the Government have expressed a willingness to attend a coursing meeting, but unfortunately the announcement of this Bill came after the end of the coursing season so it was not possible to provide this facility. The hon. Gentleman will argue that one does not have to see a murder to know that murder is wrong.

Mr. Sheldon

There were three hon. Members who went to Altcar, and I was one of them.

Mr. Kimball

I apologise. But three out of 300 Members is all who have bothered to go.

The hon. Member for Walton and his friends have argued that they do not have to see a murder to know that murder is wrong. This is no argument. We all accept that murder is wrong. But after all, a very respectable body of people and a large number of knowledgeable countrymen who support coursing have an opinion contrary to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have had an inter-Departmental inquiry which, if my reading of the summary is correct, said that coursing did not introduce into the life of a wild animal a cruelty which was not normally there in nature.

Hon. Members say that their postbag is overwhelmingly against coursing. But who, if they live in the middle of Birmingham has an opportunity to go coursing. to see coursing, or even to understand the countryside? They do not have a chance to live close to nature like people in the countryside. They do not see the carnage on the roads in the early morning. They do not appreciate that nature and the countryside is very cruel and the most any animal can expect, if it is very lucky, is to live long enough to procreate itself.

In dealing with the second criticism that we have of the Government, why they did not follow the Scott Henderson Report, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) did not actually develop this argument to the full. What Scott Henderson said was that the Home Secretary would set up an advisory committee for each sport and that the rules of each sport should be deposited with that advisory committee.

I have constantly told successive Home Secretaries that the governing bodies of all sports under the British Field Sports Society are ready and longing to deposit their rules and would welcome Government action along this line, which would be followed by amending the Cruelty to Animals Act so that conduct not according to those rules could be prosecuted. This would deal with the case that the hon. Member for Walton has always quoted, that when he went to a coursing meeting the hares were being slipped at only 30 yards until such time as he arrived. If it was true, he could take action if the Scott Henderson recommendations were followed. I hope that the Under-Secretary will seriously consider taking action along these lines.

Hon. Gentlemen do not realise how strictly the rules governing any sport are enforced. The sanctions for breaking those rules are enormous. In most sports there are considerable financial sanctions and in coursing, if a person ever has his dog in a course not properly run according to the rules, he would be forbidden to register it in the stud book and he would not be able to sell it or its progeny. The rules of the National Coursing Club are the oldest rules governing any sport in this country. Of course, they are a bit out of date. They were amended in some aspects in the light of Scott Henderson. The rule about " pickers-up " was put in Rule 21. The rules about photography were put in recently and are in line with the rules in the rule book of the National Hunt Committee.

This rule book does not deal with the problem of the motor car and equally it has to be amended to deal with the campaign of distortions now being carried on against coursing. The rule book has to be amended so that the stewards' report of any meeting will be in such a form that we would be able to prosecute the hon. Member for Walton for the allegations he made at the meeting he attended.

My third point has to do with the Stable inquiry. The Under-Secretary mentioned the first three terms of reference. These are to do with conservation and management of the hare, breeding and training of the coursing dogs and the inter-relationship between coursing and greyhound racing. Paragraph (d) is particularly important in view of the arguments advanced from the other side of the House. I understand that the field work has been completed this coursing season. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Walton in his place, because I am confident that he will receive an invitation from the Committee which is hoping to report by the end of the summer. The important thing about the Stable inquiry is that it will build on the work of Scott Henderson which only looked at the Waterloo Cup. How typical is Altcar of coursing? What is the difference between driven in and walked up coursing, whippet coursing, saluki coursing and the coursing of Blue Mountain hares in Scotland with the deerhound? All of this will be covered by the Stable inquiry and was not covered by the original Scott Henderson inquiry. No one can inquire into a country sport today without developing the conservation argument. The point has already been made that the National Coursing Club did not develop this argument 20 years ago. In any review of coursing conservation must come in and we must consider the changes in the countryside, the destruction of habitat and the need for control and management.

What is clear is that abolitionists would welcome the extermination of the species rather than that it should be conserved through sport. This is the evidence they gave to Scott Henderson. The effect of coursing is to produce fine strong hares and to kill off the weaker animals. It is not recognised as a conservation policy yet by the Coursing Club, but it is precisely what professional conservationalists would like to do in dealing with other species in this country. In coursing areas land management is properly organised to ensure a good supply of hares. It is only in those areas, certainly in the East Midlands, where this is practised, that hares thrive.

I have tried to show that the Bill should not be given a Second Reading. There is no logical case. Here is an activity which has been going on for centuries and has given endless pleasure to many country folk. Now it is to be made a crime. It is wrong to say that we live in a permissive society. We live in an intolerant society. Intolerance has led to a campaign of misrepresentation which, for misguided political motives, the Government have adopted, thus lowering the standards of a very great Department of State. No attempt has been made in the Bill to follow the recommendations of the committee of inquiry set up in 1951. That such wrong-headed principles can be put into legislation means that all and every country sport is now in danger. The arguments in defence apply to them all. The Bill, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South said, is the thin end of the wedge. We will fight against it to defeat it with all the means in our power.

8.50 p.m.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

The hon. Member for Gains-borough (Mr. Kimball) spoke of the updating of the rules and, in attempting to show how much more akin to people's thinking the rules are becoming, he instanced one of the latest rules which prohibits photography at meetings. Anyone who knows anything about the way in which the National Coursing Club runs its affairs knows perfectly well that that rule was adopted to conceal the club's activities, and the effect of those activities upon people who have tried to take photographs has been considered in hushing up what has actually gone on to the shame of the club and to those who take part in it.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough mentioned the emotionalism that is inevitably linked with this subject. In that, he is completely right. There cannot fail to be a great deal of emotionalism when we are considering cruelty and pain unmitigated by the work of the National Coursing Club.

Whereas we in this country were once rightly proud of what we did in preventing cruelty to animals by various acts of legislation, time has not stood still: other countries have been following our example and have rapidly been catching us up. Many countries have legislation controlling cruelty to animals in a manner not appreciably worse than ours and possibly in a few cases more advanced than ours. So our position as the forerunner and advance guard in preserving the dignity of animals, while understanding the limitations, has changed. We need now to consider the next step.

The legislative story started with the Act of 1822, when the cruel and improper treatment of horses, mares, geldings, mules, asses, cows, heifers, steers, oxen, sheep and cattle was banned. The penalty for contravening the Act was a sum not exceeding £5 nor not less than 10s. That £5 was higher then than the £100 penalty suggested in the Bill.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

A hundred years of Tory inflation!

Mr. Sheldon

Years of Tory inflation I accept, but no one can say that the penalty is fixed too high.

The next landmark was the Act of 1911. Clause 1 banned definitively bear-baiting and cock-fighting—

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

Bear-baiting and cock-fighting were banned in 1845. The Act was consolidated in 1911.

Mr. Sheldon

Because the position was not clear, the 1911 Act was brought in to clarify it completely, and a very useful Act it was.

I introduced my Bill in the 1968–69 Session and I received a large number of letters from people in rural areas, towns, universities, workshops, factories, trade union branches, organisations, Women's Institutes—the whole range. I am sure that even hon. Gentlemen who support hare coursing also received similar letters.

I received a letter from the University of Leicester Conservative Association in full support for the Bill that I was attempting to get through Parliament at that time. We all know that even in the Conservative Party there are large numbers of people throughout the country, perhaps not including many of those who are represented in this House, who would like this Bill to be given a Second Reading.

I should like to quote from two reports by the R.S.P.C.A. I quote, first, from the report of Inspector No. 88 of a hare course meeting which took place on 29th October, 1968; … the greyhounds coursing both caught the hare. One dog had hold of one rear leg, the other dog had hold of the front leg. The hare was squealing. Another hare then started running. The dog holding the rear leg released it and started to chase the other hare. The dog holding the front leg also gave chase, still holding the hare. I estimate that the time the hare was held was about 30 to 45 seconds. The hare was finally dropped and it staggered and then ran off over a part of the field that was ploughed. One man who ran after the hare said on his return that the hare had disappeared and he could not find it. The second extract is dated 15th October, 1968, and is as follows: During the afternoon session two dogs chased the hare right to where I stood and they grabbed it about 25 yards in front of me. I had a pretty good close-up this time and the hare was in the jaws of two dogs. One had the centre back, the other held to the top of the hind quarters. There was some powerful pulling and the hare was squealing. Concern was noticed by me of the men and two or three of them ran hard to the spot. As it was difficult to grab the hare from the dogs, one man quickly put his foot hard down on the hare's head. This is what goes on in hare coursing. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen will recognise this as a fair description of the kind of thing that can take place at these meetings.

We must also remember the number of people who take part in these events. The one that I visited with my hon. Friends the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett) was attended by 20 or 30 people.

This is typical of a small meeting and is the figure mentioned in the Scott Henderson Report in paragraph 265.

It is also came to the conclusion that about 50 per cent. of the hares were killed at most of these meetings. This may be a little on the high side, but, clearly, it is a substantial number. It is not a rare occasion that a hare is killed. It is a frequent event. The way in which the killing of hares takes place in such a cruel way is an indictment of the way in which these meetings are controlled and the sport is organised.

The control of hares is not the reason for coursing. Many unpleasant things occur to animals. Realising the nature of pain that is caused to animals, it must be our task to minimise it. We all know that there is a choice between the rights of animals and the needs of man. Unfortunately, the needs of man must come first. This is based on no particular logic, but only on the expedient consideration that we are meat eaters. But the rights of animals must be considered. We consider that matter in terms of animals as pets, as food for human consumption and in all sort of ways. The needs of man must not obliterate the rights of animals.

When we consider the needs and convenience of man, I suggest that no one could say that we should put this sport, for want of a better word, in the same category. When we consider hare coursing, we must accept that the only advantage to man is the pleasure that he may get out of it. To say that the needs of the animal are subservient to the pleasure obtained by man is to exaggerate the case.

We all know the argument which has been advanced from the benches opposite. It is what I call the " thin end of the wedge " argument. A number of hon. Gentleman opposite will vote against the Bill because they believe that it is the first of a number whereby legislation will come before the House to restrict the other blood sports which are a stain on the way in which we conduct our affairs. If that is the sole objection of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I ask them to mitigate it on this score alone.

Hare coursing cannot be compared with other blood sports. It cannot be compared with foxhunting. Foxes are pests and they have to be kept down. The argument is whether that should be done by shooting, hunting, or trapping, or by other means. Hares are not pests, except in rare cases. Here, we have a situation which is more akin to cock-fighting and bull-baiting than to fox-hunting.

If hon. Gentlemen opposite were clever and sensible, which they are not, they would forgo this one because it is linked more with those so-called sports which have been banned in the past than any which are to be banned in the future. Hare coursing is utterly indefensible. We are debasing animals, debasing ourselves and inflicting pain on animals solely for our own pleasure. We are not doing it for our need and convenience. Here is an exact parallel with cock-fighting, bull-baiting and bear-baiting. Hare coursing lies very much in the early years of the 19th century as a suitable subject for prohibition rather than in the 20th century, when we might have to deal with other matters in due course. Even given the assumptions of hon. Gentlemen opposite, they are wrong to make their stand on this point. They should have let it go and retreated to fight the others.

We have heard it said from the benches opposite that few hon. Members on this side have seen the coursing of hares. I want to give a brief description of the situation which my hon. Friends and I saw in January or February of 1969 at Altcar. We arrived unannounced and unnoticed. We found ourselves in a field of about 1,000 acres. We tried hard to avoid being conspicuous, and we were wearing clothing similar to that worn by other people present. Between 20 and 30 people were in attendance. I have the card of the course, and it is numbered " 16 ". We arrived two hours after the meeting had begun. This is an indication of the number of spectators present on that occasion. It was a fairly pleasant day, the kind of day on which one would go coursing if so inclined. The weather was good.

As soon as we arrived we saw a hare being coursed. The hare was caught by both dogs, one at the foreleg and one at the back leg, and there was a tug of war. A second course took place, but the hare managed to get away. We were then spotted. It is easy to see why we were spotted, although we did not look so conspicuous. People travel round the country from place to place to attend these courses and they know each other. The assertion that this is a local sport for local landowners, farmers and land workers is nonsense. It is difficult to discover where coursing is being held. The local people do not know, because they are not interested. This is a wealthy man's game. Small numbers attend these courses, with dozens of beaters beating the hares out. I repeat, it is a wealthy man's game.

An Hon. Member


Mr. Sheldon

I will read through the list. These are the owners in the United Produce Stakes which took place on Thursday, 9th January, 1969: the Earl of Sefton, Mrs. Bobs Lucas, the Earl of Sefton again, Mr. R. de Larrinaga, Lady Hudson, the Earl of Sefton, Mrs. M. W. Evans, Lord Rank, and so on.

Mr. Roebuck

The shop stewards!

Mr. Sheldon

The shop stewards might have been almost as conspicuous as we were.

Clearly, amongst such company a Member of this side of the House would stand out. We stood out because it is not a local sport. It is a sport indulged in by people who travel round the country and know each other from going around. They use various places because they have hares, and where there are hares they have their courses.

We saw this taking place. But, as soon as we were spotted, they called the lunch interval. We saw two courses only, and then the lunch interval was called. After lunch the whole thing changed. The rules —I have a copy of the rules—state that the nature of the ground should be such that the length of the slip—that is, the length between the hare in movement and the releasing of the two dogs—should never be less than from three to four score yards, 60 to 80 yards. It is a measure of the approximation of these things that the hare travels at about 30 miles an hour, and it is difficult to measure the distance between the lead given to the hare and the dogs at the beginning of the event.

When we arrived we estimated that it could be between 40 and 80 yards. However, as soon as the lunch interval was over and they were conducting the event in the knowledge that three Members of Parliament, or three strangers, were present, and they realised the purpose of our visit, the lead increased to over 100 yards on the best estimate that we could make, and the dogs did not have a chance. The hare just ran off into the field and the dogs were almost driven into the ground. Therefore, it is important that visits should be unannounced, because it is extraordinarily difficult to find out what goes on.

There is a new rule about photography. Is this to improve the game, to improve the sport? No. It is because they know exactly what goes on. They know that. unless by chance one of the dogs gets hold of the neck of the hare and kills it outright, the dogs will catch hold of the part nearest to them, which is usually one of the legs, and from then on the animal is in torment and the sport is there to be enjoyed. I do not say that that is the moment of great triumph for all those watching, but it is an inescapable part of the operation of this sport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walton said that the rules provided for a certain number of points to be given for the kill and the manner of the kill. When I asked whether this sport could be made less barbarous, I was informed by the National Coursing Club that there could be no change, that dogs could not be muzzled, that courses could not be changed, and that the rules could not be altered, because if they were coursing as it was known would come to an end, and I think that the club is right.

The thing which is enjoyed either has to be abolished, or it must be allowed to continue. I believe that if we are to take our place again at the forefront of the countries which have made advances in animal welfare, and in the protection of animals, we must end this cruelty.

9.11 p.m.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

Unlike the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), I shall try to be brief, because we began this debate later than we would normally have done, and I know that many hon. Members on both sides wish to speak.

I shall pursue a little later the point made by the hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech, about the recent deficienies in legislation in this country on the subject of animals compared with that in other countries, when I hope to make what I trust the House will accept is a constructive suggestion for the future handling of legislation on this subject. To begin with, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall not follow him, but will get back to the merits and consequences of the Bill, which I think have been a little lost sight of in some of the recent speeches to which the House has listened.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to repeat what I said in reply to him when he brought forward his Measure, but I want to repeat, as it is crucial, the first point that I made on that occasion. The Bill will not prevent coursing. It will prevent coursing matches. It will prevent coursing as it is conducted at Altcar. It will prevent coursing as it is conducted under the rules of the National Coursing Club, but it will not prevent people from running dogs after hares. The Minister of State, who has had to go away to get his dinner, was quite specific about this.

Whereas at present comparatively few people go out casually and run a dog after a hare, if the accepted form of the sport is prohibited it is likely that the irregular and casual form of it will increase very much in popularity, and with it will increase the amount of undesirable practices which the carefully drawn and studied rules of the National Coursing Club are designed to prevent.

Mr. Heffer

That kind of coursing will be totally illegal when the Bill becomes law. The Bill is drawn in such a way that it will be illegal for people to carry out that kind of coursing. The only thing that will not be illegal is if two people, at a given moment, though not by design, let their dogs go after a hare had appeared. If it is competitive coursing, it will be illegal.

Mr. Ramsden

I hope that we shall get this clear from the Government. I listened carefully to the Minister, and I thought he was explicit that coursing matches would be banned, but that coursing not under the rules, not in the context of a match, but of letting a dog go after a hare would not be illegal. If that is the case, then that practice will increase.

Coursing is a very ancient sport. It owes its origins, I suppose, to the days when a man let loose a couple of dogs after a hare to get something for the pot. But it is interesting that, as long ago as 2,000 years, the object of the sport had already changed from the capture of game, the filling of the pot, to interest in and enthusiasm about the performance of the dog. The expression " pot-hunting ", which most of us know in the context of going around trying to pick up prizes, is itself a coursing term. It originated among the coursing fraternity, where it was used as derogatory to those who approached the sport in a spirit of wanting to catch hares, as opposed to taking pleasure in the performance of the long dog.

I can readily see, as can the House, I think, that for those who go in for this sport—I am not one—there is something compellingly attractive about the dash and the grace and the speed of a couple of greyhounds. We do not need to have passionate views about the cruelty or otherwise of the sport to appreciate this. It is a rather amiable characteristic of the British people that they get very keen about the habits and characteristics of all sorts of animals, from budgerigars to tropical fish, and especially about dogs.

It is not surprising that the performance of a magnificent animal like the greyhound should capture people's imagination and grip them and that they should come to develop enthusiasm about it. Given that the Bill will continue to permit the legality of people enjoying the performance of a dog after a hare, so long as this is not done in competitive conditions, I am pretty clear that the practice will continue. I think that it is likely to increase.

A letter recently appeared inThe Field,quite unconnected with this present controversy, headed, " Coursing with lurchers "—[An HON. MEMBER: " With what?"] Lurchers. They are not pure greyhounds, but are greyhounds crossed with a dog that can use its powers of scent. They use their noses as well as their eyes in pursuit of their game. This letter reads: I do not know the extent of your past correspondence on lurcher coursing. I and several friends have for the past three winters made headway in joining together for some sport with 'running dogs' as often as time allows. A dozen of us can field two dozen runners. The sole rewards are the sport and good health. Betting and stakes are banned. We realise that our sport is not recognised as open coursing, but we do challenge a world record. It is said that the longest course is 4 minutes 10 seconds in theGuinness Book of Records and the Badminton Diary.On Mr. Nicholas Playne's farm at Aunsby, two running dogs covered one and three-quarter miles. That gives a course time of just over 4 minutes 52 seconds. That letter was written to illustrate the growth of a new form of coursing. This and kindred practices will grow.

This means that whereas coursing conducted under the auspices of the National Coursing Club, with the safeguards of the club rules, will be banned, coursing not subject to such safeguards will be able to flourish, and is likely to. The lurchers course the hare to death. They use their noses when the hare runs out of sight, and there is a kill in every case.

Coursing that is not done under the rules will be done in conditions which make it unsuitable for the hare to run, when it is too frosty or too muddy. It will be done without the safeguards of people posted to, despatch the hare quickly if it should be clumsily caught by the dogs. There will be cases, which I believe are minimal now, of the kind of thing described by the hon. Member for Walton as a living tug of war.

I ask the Minister to tell the House quite straight the answer to this question. He said that it was desirable to ban the sport of coursing on grounds of cruelty. What is it that is acceptable in point of cruelty about the kind of coursing I have been talking about, which will continue to be legal, which is not acceptable about the kind of coursing done at the Waterloo Cup under the rules of the National Coursing Club? It is the declared object of the Bill to lessen cruelty. But it simply will not achieve that object—rather the reverse.

I shall vote against the Bill because I consider it to be a sham. We are not sent here by our constituents to vote for Bills which are a sham, even in the last weeks, or it may be the last days, of a Parliament.

I wish to end with a suggestion that I hope the House will accept as an attempt to be constructive. We are in a situation which presents genuine difficulties as regards this Bill and others along the same lines which may follow, certainly for Home Office Ministers and probably for hon. Members on both sides. I beg hon. Members not to underestimate these difficulties or the extent to which they may grow. They arise not just in the context of this Bill, but in the context of field sports generally, and I think that they will be with us for some time. They arise because there is a strong, rich and energetic organisation outside the House campaigning against field sports and mobilising public opinion.

This is big business. Let the House make no mistake about this. It has plenty of money and a large staff, and its coffers are continously replenished. Against that, there is an equally determined organisation, the British Field Sports Society, resisting those efforts. In sum, a great deal of time, money and ink is being spent. We know that Ministers are most unhappy about the Bill and about its consequences, but the fact remains that there has been—

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by " unhappy "?

Mr. Ramsden

I said that we know Ministers are unhappy about the Bill. I know that because I have talked to hon. and right hon. Members opposite and I know that they are not particularly happy about the situation. There is, none the less—

Mr. Merlyn Reesrose

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Ramsden

There has been put upon them what has amounted to irresistible pressure from public opinion and from hon. Members opposite to legislate in this sense. I do not think that this is an easy situation. I think it a good rule in politics, when this kind of situation exists, to consider ways and means of taking the steam out of it for the future.

I do not believe that this Bill will take the steam out of it, because, if it goes through, the next objective of the campaign will be a similar or parallel Bill and public opinion will be mobilised once again. Here I disagree with the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, because I do not believe that the distinction between this Bill and others based on degrees of cruelty is supportable. I do not think that distinction can be made.

We shall have a situation which will be embarrassing for hon. Members, and for Home Office Ministers in particular, in which we are likely to get continuous pressure and a head of steam which the passage of this Bill will do nothing to relieve. One of the basic reasons for this situation, as the Scott Henderson Committee recognised, is that those who object to field sports at present have no remedy at law. They have no remedy at law to register such protests as they may genuinely feel they should make. We have legislation dealing with the question of protection of domestic and captive animals from cruelty. There is no legislation dealing with the position of wild animals or providing protection for them from what may be considered excessive cruelty. It follows that those who allege such instances or feel indignation that they may exist have no redress.

I think the Scott Henderson Committee was absolutely right in recommending that this situation should be coped with. The Government should consider extending the protection of the 1911 Act dealing with wild animals with the provisos mentioned by the committee. I would take the matter out of politics and put it in the courts. Instead of having this continuous pressure on hon. Members, and from them on Ministers, instead of having the continual difficulty of trying to frame sensible laws in conditions in which I believe it is not possible to frame them, these matters should be brought before the courts and the courts should decide on particular instances according to the evidence.

I seriously believe that the Government should consider doing this. There will be difficulties, but I do not think that they will weigh much against the kind of difficulties which will arise from this Bill and which, I am sure, will crop up in future as a result of pressure for similar Bills. The Government should consider legislation on the Scott Henderson lines, or at least consider setting up another Committee to investigate the matter.

To me, this is a matter of the liberty of the individual. A few of my constituents—not very many admittedly, certainly not very rich and not very influential but none the less an articulate few—enjoy going coursing. They are thoroughly decent, law-abiding Yorkshire people, the last sort of people I should have thought the Home Office would wish to fall foul of or go out of its way to upset. They cannot understand what they take to be the values of this present Parliament, which seems to them to have promoted and condoned conduct and manners which they deeply deplore in other spheres and to be picking on them simply because there are fewer of them. I think that they are right. I shall vote against the Bill.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that many hon. Members wish to speak. I have appealed, so far without conspicuous success, for brief speeches.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I hope that the Minister will pay attention to the very wise speech just delivered by the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden). The right hon. Gentleman is of the countryside; he knows it; he has lived with animals all his life and has learned to love them, as in a measure so have I.

It has been said that this is a nation of animal lovers. It is true that within this nation as rarely elsewhere there are people who are prepared to devote their lives to the services of animals—their dumb friends, whatever one likes to call them. They staff animal health dispensaries. They staff pony clubs, where so much has been done to get decent treatment for the ponies. They police the rules against export for slaughter. They campaign on the question of poisoning in the countryside.

Among animal lovers in this sense the promoters of the Bill are not to be numbered. Nor have they been active in outlawing the really great cruelties which still occur. The use of explosive harpoons in hunting the whale is bringing about the extermination of this great and highly intelligent mammal.

Then there is rat and mole poisoning. I remember the agitation there was against the poison given to the rat so that he should not die in his hole where he would stink; so he was given phosphorus which caused in him such thirst that he then went and drank and destroyed himself by the medieval water torture, because he got water in until he burst. We have succeeded in getting phosphorus and red squill poisoning banned, but still not enough, and nothing like enough, has been done to deal with the poisoning of the rat which is a far more intelligent animal than the hare, although perhaps not as emotionally attractive. Strychnine is still legally used against the mole—by God, that is cruelty.

Then there are the recommendations of the Brambell Committee on factory farming.

None of those matters is touched, because it would mean hitting strong interests. Coursing is being hit, not because it is cruel, but because it is weak. Even within field sports it is not selected for humane reasons. Take fishing, there is the putting of the barb into the mouth; the pleasure is the struggle against that torture, the more attractive the longer it lasts. In the case of coarse fishing, the fish is pulled out and the barb removed; then the fish is thrown back because it is not wanted, except to be tortured again. Nobody touches that. The interests are too strong.

Then there is shooting. Shooting does not kill instantly in anything like the majority of cases. There are wounded that get away, particularly in a hare shoot. I thoroughly agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Father of the House —the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton)—that a hare shoot is a horrible thing.

I once saw 600 hares shot at a single shoot, but I do not think that one-third of them were killed instantly. They were brought in by dogs, not dogs which strike like a greyhound and generally kill instantly but dogs trained to use a soft mouth for carrying birds. Mostly they brought the hares back alive, and often the hares broke away from the dogs and had to be retrieved several times before being brought to hand. I am not talking about what happens to a few hares at a coursing meeting but to what can happen to literally hundreds of hares in a day at a shoot.

I am told by some hon. Members that hare coursing is not an alternative to this sort of hare shooting. In a sense, when we are talking about control we are really talking about what level of population will be tolerated by those who produce the food which hares eat. If there is coursing because it is a sport, the farmer will tolerate a far higher level of hares than he would otherwise allow.

In any event even within hare hunting it is not the inhumane but the humane that would be banned by the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has obviously not read the Measure thoroughly.

Mr. Heffer

I certainly have.

Mr. Paget

Then he has not understood it, because the Bill provides that one can course as much as one likes as long as one courses to kill the hare. One can not course to test a greyhound, without wishing to kill the hare. This means that the precautions which the National Coursing Club's rules are designed to have to protect the hare are being removed by the Bill. That is all the Bill does.

This is not a Bill which the hare would vote for if he were here. Frankly, those who are producing the Bill do not care a damn about the hare. [Interruption.] This must be said and I am saying it. There are other reasons for this Measure, one of them being back bench frustration.

Mr. Heffer

My hon. and learned Friend is an expert at that.

Mr. Paget

When one is successful in the Ballot one is often in difficulty to think of something to do with one's luck.

Mr. Heffer

This really is not good enough.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was heard. He must hear things that he might not like.

Mr. Heffer

On a point of Order—

Sir Robert Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

Take it like a man.

Mr. Heffer

On a point of order. I am not objecting in any way to the statements being made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I only wish to make it clear that while many hon. Members on the back benches may be frustrated, my hon. and learned Friend is about the most frustrated of all.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Be that as it may, the hon. Member must listen to things that he might not want to hear. He himself was heard.

Mr. Paget

I was speaking of back bench frustration. Having been successful in the Ballot—

Mr. Heffer

The Ballot has nothing to do with this.

Mr. Paget

—a back bencher is often at a loss to decide what to do with his luck; that is, except in this sphere of animals, which traditionally has been dealt with by back bench Bills.

Mr. Sheldon


Mr. Paget

Most Measures of this kind have resulted from back benchers being lucky in the draw.

Mr. Sheldon

My hon. and learned Friend must be aware of the many other contributions on numerous subjects which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and I have made in the House.

Mr. Paget

That is entirely true, and I am often deeply interested in their efforts. I am only saying that this interest in our dumb friends arose from back bench luck in the Ballot.

Mr. Heffer

That is not true.

Mr. Paget

I have been talking about back bench frustration.

Mr. Heffer

My hon. and learned Friend would not, I am sure, wish to make statements which are totally untrue. I first introduced a Measure of this kind under the Ten Minute Rule. It had nothing whatever to do with the Ballot.

Mr. Paget

Splendid. This is it—finding legislation a back bencher can deal with. But no dumb friends nor the League Against Cruel Sports or anyone else about animals came to my hon. Friend's interest until these private legislation opportunities arose.

The second factor here is the puritan joy of rebuking sin as long as it is somebody else's. In a permissive society the opportunities for this are limited, but the appetite remains. Here is a great opportunity for the townsman to rebuke the countryman and say what a primitive and savage brute he is.

Even more, on a class basis we are told that it is lords and other such formidable people who go into this sport. But we do not rebuke fishermen because there are too many of them. We do not rebuke shooting because too many people shoot. But here, in hare coursing, is a weak minority. They are attacked not because they are cruel but because they are weak, and it is nice to find some sort of whipping boy on whom one can impose one's frustrations.

I would like to examine this matter of what cruelty is in these terms, and from the point of view of the victim I would ask: does it increase the total of suffering? Let us remember that nature provides no beds for its denizens to die in. Death in nature is brutal and cruel. Again, one may ask whether this sport cuts into the balance of nature because it has gone on for a long time and whether the upsetting of that balance would be cruel. What about the preservation aspect? It seems to be a paradox that much is preserved which would die otherwise simply because of sport.

The red deer is an example. He would certainly be exterminated if he were not hunted. One could not legislate to make a farmer submit to his crops being destroyed. He would blaze away at the deer, generally using bird shot, with the wretched animal dying of gangrene. This is what happens everywhere there is not a hunt to preserve the animal.

But the abolitionists would be happy to exterminate a species so long as they could deny the huntsman his quarry. I am not saying that the hare would be exterminated if it were not for coursing, but, certainly, a lower level of hare population would be tolerated if it were not for coursing and the sport which is provided.

Occasionally, I sleep out because I am interested in natural pursuits. I remember hearing in the night a hare being killed by a weasel. It was crying for nearly 45 minutes and when the light enabled me to trace it I tracked it for three quarters of a mile over which the death agony of that fight had gone on. Nature's death for the hare is not pleasant. I venture to say that of all the deaths available to the hare probably the quick death from the greyhound is the best.

Having said this, one asks, from the point of view of the sportsman, whether he should be stopped. We have been told that we do not have to see murder to know that it is wrong. Murder has been recognised as wrong by all societies since man has been organised in society and equally, throughout that period, the hunting of hares with dogs has been a pursuit of mankind, recognised, accepted and encouraged by all humane societies of which we have any record. It is rather a different position from that of murder because, curiously enough, it has been supported and encouraged by all peaceful Governments. The Governments who have denounced the chase have been the Governments who have said, " This distracts our citizens from their proper warlike occupations ". But peaceful Governments have realised that there is an aggression in man's nature and that it is most harmlessly expressed in sports which man has pursued right through history. This particular nut has not been selected for cracking because particular cruelty is involved, nor because the occupation itself is anti-social, but simply because it is thought that this is a small, weak interest by which we can appease a clamour without annoying somebody very much. This is the very negation of democracy. Democracy is not merely the rule by a majority, it is the rule by a majority which recognises the rights of minorities and which recognises the duty to protect minorities, and not merely to sacrifice minorities for its convenience.

The Bill will not become law because it will be dropped as we get to the election. I hope we see no more of it and that we have a proper inquiry to produce proper, sensible, thought out legislation to deal with the whole question of wild life.

9.47 p.m.

Lieut-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)

When the Under-Secretary opened the debate he emphasised several times that it was competitive coursing that we are dealing with, and said that it involved a degree of cruelty—I hope I have his words correctly—which cannot be tolerated at the present time.

What, then, is the purpose of the Bill? Is it to deter humans from some of their baser instincts, alleged sadism and gambling, or is it to prevent suffering by hares? Because if the Bill still permits the coursing of hares, provided that coursing is not competitive between two or more dogs, then that coursing can continue. If we believe all that we have been told about the cruelty involved, obviously if that is true the cruelty applies equally to competitive or non-competitive coursing

The Bill goes far belond that. If the advocates of the Bill were sincere, they would be consistent. There would be no shooting, no fishing, no killing of mice or rats—not just by strychnine, but by any method. The use of insecticides in the household or the garden would be forbidden. We would not even be allowed to be vegetarians. It would be a sin to go into the garden and cut a cabbage—the poor thing, so green and lovely; and think of the deprived cabbage white caterpillars.

In the words of a popular song of the 1920s: Never swat a fly, he may love another fly, He may sit all day and sigh, the way I do with you. Never kill a moth when he is flying through the air "—

Mr. Roebuck

Sing it.

Lieut-Commander Maydon: He may love another moth in somebody's underwear. I regret that I do not quite remember the end of this romantic ditty. [HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."] At any rate: Never kill a moth when he is flying through the air, He may love another moth in somebody's underwear. If the promoters of the Bill really were consistent and true to their theme our diet would contain no meat, no vegetables, eggs and milk would be taboo. Beer would be beyond the pale, so cruel to hops and barley would its making be. Wine would be banned, not on grounds of total abstinence but because its making involved depriving the vine of its offspring. We would all have to live on beastly little pills cooked up from synthetic substances in a horrible laboratory.

That may all be very fine for a kill-joy Socialist society in a kill-joy Socialist world, but the world is not all Socialist.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will not be out of Order if he comes to the Bill.

Lieut-Commander Maydon

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps my enthusiasm was running away with me.

If I passionately believed, as some obviously do, that hare coursing was wrong I would still believe sufficiently in the rights of individuals to follow pursuits of their own choice which do not harm the community or their neighbours. That would be my overriding consideration.

What is more, the result of the Bill will do harm to the community. If enacted, it would be defied in many remote quarters of the countryside, possibly in some not so remote. Defiance will bring the law in general into further disrepute and, goodness knows, there is enough contempt for the law already. That will be harmful to the whole community.

The Bill will also be harmful to individuals. Secret coursing contests will still take place on land without the consent of the owners, whether they are individual persons or public bodies like the National Trust. These owners may be constrained to police their land to prevent the law being flouted otherwise they may, in the words of the Bill, … knowingly permits or suffers any place to be used for, the coursing of a hare… Another result would be the clandestine coursing of hares by individual groups no longer controlled by the rules of the various societies which organise and support proper hare coursing. These rules prohibit cruel or unfair practices and the societies have had a marked influence upon the conduct of coursing. The consequence will be much more real cruelty instead of imagined cruelty of which so much is made in this misguided cause.

What of the dogs who enjoy this sport, the greyhounds and salukis, whippets and others? Are they not worthy of consideration? [Laughter.] Hon. Members may think that this is funny, but this is a serious aspect of the Bill. Not all these dogs are suitable to be trained in the pursuit of electric hares. Incidentally, the Bill seems to include electric hares. It does not specify live hares. That may be a Committee point, but it is one which the promoters should take seriously.

Are these dogs to be deprived of the fulfilment of their natural instincts? One sad feature of the present day is the way in which the true nature of many breeds of sporting dogs has been distorted and subjugated to the whims and demands of the show ring and the vagaries of fashion and fancy. " Keeping up with the Joneses " is very much a cult in the dog-owning world.

In many cases instinctive intelligence, stamina, strength and even the health of a breed has been surrendered to foible. Far too close inter-breeding of strains to produce changes in size, appearance and bone structure have resulted in highly-strung animals often subject to canine hysteria and a prey to many diseases to which natural resistance has been bred out. At best, this results in soppy, sentimental pets of low intelligence, but a shadow of their once famous forebears. This is a cruel fate which the promoters will inevitably impose upon the breeds at present engaged in coursing.

The promoters of the Bill intend to deprive a dog of his natural function and the fulfilment of his instincts and to forbid him resort to his natural environment. Is not this more cruel to a highly intelligent animal than a swift death to a running hare?

9.56 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Test)

As another frustrated backbencher, I will not attempt to follow either of the last two speakers. I do not know whether either of them intended their speeches to be taken seriously. The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) was worried about dogs, but if the dogs are taken away I shall be worried about the trees. —[Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think we might get back again to the serious debate.

Mr. Mitchell

Two arguments have run through the debate. The first concerns whether or not hare coursing is cruel and should be banned. The second argument is concerned with whether the Government should have introduced the Bill. I detected in the speech of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) an argument that we were wasting our time this evening in discussing a Bill on hare coursing. He advanced the familiar argument that the R.S.P.C.A. always do better than the N.S.P.C.C. and he said that we talked more about animals than children. As one who has spent 12 years on a children's committee and many years as a teacher, I have a great interest in children and have taken part in debates on children. If as is possible, in the next few weeks I make speeches in the country I doubt whether I shall mention hare coursing and I do not think I shall get any questions on hare coursing. One of the great things about British democracy is that at a time like this when we are all thinking about other things the House of Commons can spend a few hours talking about hare coursing.

I was proud to be a sponsor of the Private Member's Bill introduced earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Arnold Shaw). He has told the House of the methods employed by a small minority of Members opposite to block his Bill by talking on the Bill which was taken previously. On two previous occasions Private Members' Bills on hare coursing have been introduced. The Government are absolutely right to say that the House should make its judgment on the matter.

The second question is whether hare coursing should be abolished. I do not think that there is any doubt about this. I regard it not as a sport but as a vile and cruel activity.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.


That the Proceedings on the Hare Coursing Bill, on the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords] and on the Tonga Bill [Lords] may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Dobson.]

Question again proposed,That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Mr. Mitchell

I have been to hare coursing meetings. I congratulate thePeople,the B.B.C., I.T.V. and other media on bringing what happens to the attention of people all over the country.

I have no doubt that we should support the Bill, I only regret that it does not go further. I would have liked certain other things to be included, like deer hunting and so on, which were in my hon. Friend's original Bill. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is very difficult for the hon. Gentleman to address the House against a background of conversation from his hon. Friends.

Mr. Mitchell

I hope that the next Labour Government will not only reintroduce the Bill if we lose it through a General Election but will also introduce other Government Bills to abolish blood sports.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

I am one of the vast majority of Members who have never been coursing. I do not suppose that I ever will, but I have tried to inform myself by literature and conversation about what goes on at a coursing meeting, unlike some of those who are so hotly opposed to coursing, judging by what they say, and unlike in particular the League Against Cruel Soprts, whose propaganda is so often unfair and untrue.

I admit that it is absolutely unnecessary to control the number of hares by coursing. I admit also that some cruelty is involved, although I believe it to be much less than is involved in shooting hares, and probably less than there is in nature uncontrolled by man. There is cruelty in many other activities that we condone in ourselves for economic or other reasons, such as the cruelty in abattiors, the degree of cruelty in factory farming, and destroying vermin that we think to be harmful to our economy.

I do not believe that the cruelty in coursing is so great as to entitle it to be singled out as a special form or degree of cruelty. In that I rely on the Scott Henderson inquiry of 1951, which came to that conclusion. I also wholly agree with the conclusion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), who said that it was idle to seek to discriminate between cruelties and impossible to do so; we could come to no good conclusion if we tried. But whether or not coursing is cruel, it is absolutely certain that the Bill does not deal with it. It would abolish coursing under the rules which have governed it, but would not abolish running hares with dogs in any other way. Those who have indulged in these things tell me that it is far more likely, with less powerful dogs and dogs less expert than the trained greyhounds employed in coursing, that the runs may be much longer and may far more often result in the death of a hare or its exhaustion, and even in some cases the exhaustion of the dogs, which are sometimes not so large as to be able to sustain the run. So the Bill does nothing towards the banning of any kind of cruelty.

One may ask why it has been introduced. I hope that I will not be thought to be politically prejudiced when I say that it is clear to me that it has been introduced to gratify the opinions of a large number of people who live in towns and who are not familiar with country pursuits. It has therefore been introduced as a political ploy.

I believe that we should be against the Bill on other grounds. It is obviously the thin end of the wedge. This has been said over and over again, and it has the endorsement of two hon. Gentlemen opposite who have said that they very much hope that this is the first of a series of Bills which will end all forms of field sports before very long. That is a matter of opinion, but, if we take that view, we are up against a fundamental argument which is the only really powerful one in the debate. It is undemocratic if a majority seeks to impose its will upon a minority, especially a minority which is chosen because it is weak and not very effective politically.

The State should not intervene except in cases where its safety or welfare is involved. Where the State is not in winger and where it is in no way harmed by the activities of a minority, it is immoral, undemocratic and even dangerous for the Government to intervene.

The puritanical attitude of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should be regarded with the greatest fear for the future to our demcoracy. I shall vote against the Bill on that main ground.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have a curious idea about democracy. We have heard that there is widespread support throughout the nation for the banning of hare coursing. Because of that support, they declare that it is undemocratic for Her Majesty's Government to introduce a Bill to meet that demand. That is a curious notion of democracy. If one went back as far as the Greek city State, one would have great difficulty in persuading its citizens that the views of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite bear any resemblance to what is meant by democracy.

There is a further aspect of the matter which should be borne in mind. Over the past year or so, a number of my hon. Friends have informed their electors that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have, Friday after Friday, sought to block a similar Measure to this one by using what can only be termed rather unsporting methods. In attempting to deny that, many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have flung up their hands in horror, saying that they had no intention of blocking the Bill and that their tactics were part of the normal procedure of Parliament since there was not enough time to debate the Measure. That humbug has been unmasked tonight. From the benches opposite, hon. Member after hon. Member has risen to oppose the Bill.

It is particularly instructive that the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) is one of the Parliamentary Private Secretaries of the Leader of the Opposition—

Mr. Kershaw

Would the hon. Gentleman care to expand his remarks about parliamentary opposition and refer to the six occasions in this Parliament on which the party opposite has blocked the Bill which seeks to give pensions to the over-80s?

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) does, he will be widening the debate too far.

Mr. Roebuck

I would not dream of infringing the rules of order by following the hon. Gentleman. But if he will invite me to his constituency, I am prepared to debate the issue with him there. That would have the fortunate effect of our not seeing him here after the next General Election.

The point should be driven home that, almost to a man, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite oppose this Measure to reduce the amount of cruelty in the country. I listened carefully to what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said in his interesting and erudite speech. I agreed with what he said about rats, moles, and animals of that nature. Where I differ from my hon. and learned Friend, who does not deny that there is a considerable element of cruelty practised in this so-called sport, is when he appears not to want to abolish it until we have done many other things. I find that a strange doctrine indeed.

Several hon. Gentlemen opposite have pointed out that nature is very cruel—that the method by which some animals dispose of others is very cruel—and have offered that as a defence for hare coursing. I find that, also, a very strange doctrine. Are not human beings supposed to be at the apex of the animal kingdom and to have sensibilities which would lead them to want to pursue rather more civilised practices?

The only other point I wish to mention, because I am sure that hon. Members on this side wish to come to a determination on this matter, concerns individual freedom. Again, we had a strange doctrine enunciated from the benches opposite: that people ought to be allowed to pursue these curious practices because it was a question of individual liberty. I suppose that precisely the same argument was offered when hon. Members wanted to abolish bear baiting, cock fighting, and a large number of other cruelties. Of course, that interfered with some form of liberty, but this is democracy. If the nation as a whole feels that these practices are repugnant, that they degrade our society, then it is obviously legitimate for the House to legislate for such matters to be outlawed.

In view of the widespread support throughout the country for previous Measures which my hon. Friends have tried to introduce, I believe that the Government are absolutely right to bring forward the Bill tonight so that the House can come to a proper determination on the issue. I hope that it will soon go to the vote and that we shall outlaw this squalid form of cruelty which has such attraction for so many hon. Gentlemen opposite.

10.13 p.m.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

After that rather unpleasant speech by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck), which marred an otherwise excellent debate, with arguments put forward with great sincerity on both sides, I should like to put two points to the Government.

I thought that the Under-Secretary introduced the Bill with no great relish. It is my opinion and knowledge, too, that the Bill was not really accepted by the Home Department but by the Prime Minister, because, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, the dogs have to be given bones sometimes. That is what has really happened, and it is a bad political, party performance.

Mr. Heffer I am a Heffer not a dog.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

With respect, I was not insulting the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). He has pursued the Bill with the greatest sincerity, according to his lights. We do riot happen to agree.

Mr. Roebuck

Do not be impertinent.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am not being impertinent. I am saying that, according to his lights, the hon. Member for Walton is perfectly sincere and that, according to mine, I am also trying to be sincere.

I believe that the Government are starting on a somewhat slippery slope. As many hon. Members have said, it is difficult to compare the amount of cruelty in various field sports. Equally, the Government have found it extremely difficult to compare the amount of cruelty in the different forms of factory farming which were reported upon by the Brambell Committee and referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). It is not to their credit, as he said, that they have failed to legislate on factory farming, which is well known to be considered by a vast number of people to be cruel.

It is not to their credit that they have failed to legislate following the Report of the Brambell Committee, and yet they are not prepared to come forward and set up a further commission to report on coursing to follow the Scott Henderson Committee which is now nearly 20 years old. I believe that if the Government were to do this, if they were to accept the suggestion that a commission should follow the Stable Committee which has just reported, we should then be in a much better position to decide about the future of coursing.

It is fair to say—and it has been said by others—that this is a small sport. It is therefore vulnerable, and so the Government have not hesitated to attack it. May I ask the Minister a question which I asked his hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Arnold Shaw)? I ask this question as the Chairman of the British Field Sports Fisheries Committee. Would the Government have taken the same steps against fishing as they have taken against hare coursing?

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I should prefer to answer that in my own time when I reply to the debate in a few moments.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do so. Nobody would say that any of the various sports is perfect. I agree with what has been said, that a hare shoot is 100 per cent. more cruel than hare coursing, although I do not happen to have seen hare coursing under national rules. I say to the party opposite, and to the Government in particular, that they should consider in their heart whether they would have attacked the fishing industry, with all the votes that it commands, in the way that they have attacked hare coursing tonight.

If the Government were prepared to say tonight that they will carry out a further inquiry into coursing by a commission. they would have the whole House behind them.

10.17 p.m.

Mr. Ratton Pounder (Belfast, South)

Just as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was the only person on the benches opposite to speak against the Bill, so I am the only person on these benches thus far to speak for it. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman is not here, because he said that those who supported the Bill " do not give a damn about the hare ". I regard that as thoroughly offensive and inaccurate.

I have been bombarded by constituents and various animal welfare and other organisations with literature over recent months and years. The one thing to which perhaps insufficient attention is paid is that those who support hare coursing have also engaged in their own degree of emotionalism. It has not been one-sided. I should like to quote two short sentences from a document called, " Documentary on Field Sports with special reference to Coursing ".

It says that the relationship between hare and hound was as indelible as that between man and woman …". It goes on to say: Anyone who has ever been to a coursing meeting and heard the spontaneous cheer of joy and admiration for a clever hare when she tricks and leaves her pursuers bewildered, will testify that there is nothing bloodthirsty about coursing folk. The hare, no doubt, waits for the encore. It is no use one side attacking emotionalism by the other side when it is itself engaged in the same practice. Likewise, I object strongly to the argument that this is a contest between town and country. That is unfair. If I may strike one note of disagreement with what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, with whom no doubt I shall be voting later, it is that I regret that they have sought to inject into the debate the wider issue of bloodsports as a whole. This, surely, is an issue which we must try to take on its own merits and stop chasing bogeys on the one side and on the other trying to imply that those who support the Bill are really after something much broader. This is a very unfair and does no service to the cause of the Bill.

Likewise, mention has been made of the fact that life in the wild for the hare is cruel. Of course it is. Life on the roads for the hare can be cruel also. But there is a world of difference between life in the raw and organising that wild life for sporting occasions. I realise that the National Coursing Club rules are strict and that those who break them are severely dealt with, but not all courses are held under such strict supervision.

There are certain differences between the National Coursing Club rules, which have been mentioned several times tonight, and those of the Irish Coursing Club. In England there is an 80-yard start for the hare; in Ireland it is 200 yards. Why can there not be some synchronising of the rules? A start of 200 yards seems much fairer.

We have heard a great deal about cruelty, injury and death to the hare, but there is also, occasionally severe injury to the greyhounds involved. It is not good enough always to plead the case of the hare alone. There is the issue of the chaser as well as of the chased.

One thing is not clear to me from the Bill. In the training of greyhounds for coursing there are trials and various tests of stamina involving the use of hares. This has nothing to do with the set piece at Altar or anywhere else: it deals with the training of hares before they start coursing. This involves the blooding of hares. Is this covered by the Bill? I hope that it is, because one has no idea of how many hares are slaughtered in this way.

No one who has advocated hare coursing tonight has spoken about the condition and value of the greyhound industry. But where I come from that is an argument which has been used against the abolition of hare coursing—that it is a big and important industry. But that is not a valid argument, because the greyhound which is bred for coursing is rather like a steeplechaser, whereas the greyhound which races around the track after the electric hare is more like the flat racing horse. So it is wholly nonsensical to say that, if coursing is banned, the greyhound industry will be damaged. We are talking about two completely different types of greyhound. Therefore, it would be very unfortunate—

Mr. John Wells

I have owned a racing greyhound in training and it is a normal part of training to allow it to have the occasional course.

Mr. Pounder

I accept that. My hon. Friend has misunderstood me slightly. I was thinking in terms of those which are specially bred for one function or the other. This does happen, certainly in Northern Ireland, where, I am glad to say, the Stormont Parliament is currently in the process of abolishing hare coursing.

It is also argued that the way to weed out the weaker stock is by such a practice as coursing. This is utterly crazy. The weaker stock will be weeded out anyway by their natural predators, so it is a slightly bogus argument to say that coursing helps to produce good quality hares.

In the final analysis, what we are concerned with is the fact that coursing is a sport.

Sport, by its very nature, implies a contest between equals. That does not apply in hare coursing. It is argued that sport should be physically exhilarating—but in this case for whom? There can be few sports in which one of the participants stands almost an even chance of being killed. Sport implies that both sides are participating voluntarily. Again, hare coursing fails to meet this qualification of being a sport. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will shortly be on its way the Statute Book.

10.26 p.m.

Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

Having heard most of the speeches in the debate, I intend to be short and to concentrate on the money aspect of this so-called sport, to which not sufficient attention has been paid.

I wish, first, to draw attention to the fact that the Bill refers to the coursing of a hare by two or more dogs in a competition as to their ability to course hares ". Apparently, there is no objection to one dog chasing one hare, although I suppose that that is designed to take the sporting aspect, not to mention the gambling aspect, out of it.

This brings me to the subject of the monetary side of hare coursing. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) made a magnificant speech, he might have concentrated more on the money aspect of something that calls itself a sport.

My hon. Friend referred to a hare coursing meeting which he attended in January, 1969. The programme for that meeting cost 10s. and, though a small meeting, the prize money was £95 for the winner, £45 for the owner of the second dog and £20 for the third. Although I cannot confirm this, I imagine that the stakes were considerably higher and that they become higher as time goes by.

This, together with the other obnoxious aspects of hare coursing, make this so-called sport repulsive. Many of the contributions which hon. Members have made in an effort to justify it as a sport I have found equally repulsive when I think of hares being torn to bits. Reference has been made to hares being taken to local poulterers who have not found evidence of the hares being pulled to pieces. That is easy to explain. Obviously, only the least mutilated hares were supplied.

The Government are right to make a start on what I hope will be a wholesale attack on blood sports in this country, sports which are an anachronism and a hangover from feudal days.

10.28 p.m.

Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)

The Minister gave as a principal ground for the Bill the fact that it was demanded by public opinion and that the Government were now convinced that this was a repugnant sport.

Had the Minister looked over his shoulder he would have seen only 11 supporters behind him and that he was accompanied on the Front Bench by one other Minister. That is a measure of the overwhelming public opinion that has called for the implementation of this Measure.

In so far as it exists at all, public opinion arises from two factors. The first is a recording of a hare screaming, which is used in certain circumstances which I shall describe later. The second is the fact that certain organisations have persuaded people in particular localities to write to their Members of Parliament. This is proved by the fact that some hon. Members have received an enormous number of letters while others have received hardly any. In other words, public opinion on this matter has been deliberately organised.

Various organs of publicity, particularly the Press and the B.B.C., have been praised for the publicity that has been given to this subject. The House might be interested to hear a personal experience regarding the B.B.C. The Bill had its First Reading last Wednesday, on which day a telephone message came to me asking if I, as Vice-Chairman of the British Field Sports Society, would agree to be interviewed by the B.B.C. I agreed and went there. It was an interview where one does not see the interviewer, conducted through a mouthpiece and earphones. We practised one or two questions and then had five minutes with the interviewer cracking at me and I cracking back.

Then I went to listen to the recording. What I heard was not the beginning of the interview, but This afternoon Mr. James Callaghan is to introduce a Bill to outlaw hare coursing. If it passes through Parliament an end will be put to this sort of thing.… There then followed by sound sequence the screaming of a hare for several seconds and the recording went on: I find it difficult to discover any feeling of justification for such a sport. But Mr. Jasper More, Conservative Member for Ludlow, is also a Vice-Chairman of the British Field Sports Society and I asked him what his attitude was going to be towards the anti-hare coursing Bill. After that introduction, the interview followed. It is hardly necessary to say that the second sentence of that introduction, If it passes through Parliament an end will be put to this sort of thing, and then hearing the screaming hare, is obviously untrue. Hares screaming, unfortunately, will continue in horrible circumstances. The Bill will not prevent the wounding of hares in large numbers by shooting, nor, worse still, the appalling number of accidents involving hares which take place on the roads.

I went immediately to see the B.B.C. to tackle the corporation about this. I am glad to say that the B.B.C. has behaved very handsomely about it and I now have a letter from the corporation in the following terms: Let me say at once that I agree that you should have been told how it was intended to preface the interview and that, anyway, the second sentence was clearly inaccurate and misleading. I am sorry if this caused you any personal or political embarrassment. We are glad to see the Leader of the House present. His name is on the back of the Bill. [Interruption.] I should be glad if he would pay attention. The letter continues with an undertaking which I was glad to get from the B.B.C. that its attitude on this matter will be to present it impartially from now on. It ends rather mysteriously: if you want a head on your charger let it be mine—you will find willing hands to help you raise it, not least on the Government Front Bench! I mention that as an example of the type of publicity which perhaps innocently, but I am afraid not always innocently, has been invoked to provoke the public opinion which the Minister claims has compelled the Government to bring in this Bill. I ask the House, when judging on that, to consider how worthless this publicity has been.

10.34 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

In this debate sincere views have been expressed very fully on both sides of this argument. I know that a number of my hon. Friends would still like to address the House, but I think that it might be the wish of the House to reach a conclusion upon this matter at some time within the next half hour or so, though we regret the truncating of the debate through the unusual circumstances of today's business.

I make clear that I shall be expressing my own views in the few remarks I make. I am not a member of the British Field Sports Society or of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, greatly though I admire much of the work done by those bodies. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), I felt really sorry for the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department this afternoon. I have never known a Minister, especially a Home Office Minister, who sat down so thankfully after rushing through his Second Reading speech introducing a Bill so rapidly. The Home Secretary has displayed his interest in the debate by his total absence from it. Although coursing is carried on in my constituency—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Back to the Hare Coursing Bill.

Sir D. Renton

There is a very great distinction between the attitude of the two Front Benches towards the Bill. The Government, for utterly misguided reasons, have made it into a Government Bill. My right hon. Friends on the Front Bench have decided that this is not a proper matter for the assertion of a Front Bench view, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford made it abundantly clear that he was speaking for himself.

Although coursing is carried on in my constituency, I am not a coursing man, but I have been to two hare coursing meetings—one for greyhounds and one for Salukis—and I did not see anything on either occasion which could be called barbarous. Very few hares were killed. Those that were killed were killed instantaneously.

Hares are very numerous in my constituency, especially in the village where I live. Several years ago my neighbour, who owns and farms a lot of land there, decided that the hares were too numerous and he had to organise a hare shoot. In two days 1,500 hares were killed on that one farming estate, three or four times the number killed in the whole of England and Wales by hare coursing in a season.

It is, therefore, right to maintain a sense of perspective. I mention these facts because they are in reality the background to the Bill.

Like all hon. Members, and like most of the British people, I am a great lover of animals. Hon. Members who are in favour of the Bill may well ask why I oppose the Bill. I think that most people with any decent feelings about animals become indignant about something or other which in animal life may cause suffering to them as a result of human action. Some people get most worried about the export of horses, others about factory farming. Some people get worried about some field sports.

What worries me most and gets me most "steamed up" is the life imprisonment of animals or birds in cages. Some years ago our children were given a pet hare. We put it in a cage where we thought it had reasonable space and plenty of room to turn round and move about. But the poor thing got so stiff that when we let it out of the cage and on to grass it could do no more than hop about. I said, "We will have no more animals in cages as pets".

I have always thought that it is awful to cage wild birds. When I see a caged wild bird I am reminded of the old poem— Thou poor bird mourn'st the tree Where softly thou didst warble In thy wanderings free. I sometimes wonder whether those who send in letters of protest about hare coursing feel no uneasiness about animals or birds in cages.

The mere fact that I get worried about these things does not make me want to introduce a Bill to make them into criminal offences, however. Although I do not like the caging of animals, I realise that other people do not share my views. I regard this as a matter for their consciences—[Interruption.] —and not as a matter for—

Mr. Speaker

Order. All hon. Members who have spoken in the debate have been listened to.

Sir D. Renton

It does not seem to me that the various forms of indignation, which vary according to the individual, should each be made a matter for adding to the criminal calendar. Moreover, if it is sought to add some things to the criminal calendar, we must be clear in our minds whether there is a serious social evil to prevent and one which must be prevented by the whole weight of the criminal law and enforced by our hard pressed police forces. I do not consider that hare coursing is one of those great social evils.

As the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said in what I thought was a brilliant speech, which commanded the attention of the House, "coursing is being hit not because it is cruel, but because it is weak ". It seems to me, therefore, that the Bill is misguided, for the reason I have given, that it does not affect a serious social evil which should lead to an addition to the criminal calendar, and for two other reasons. First, it defeats its own purpose in ways which have been forcibly expressed in speeches from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and others, notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden). Secondly, it is a socially divisive Bill.

Undoubtedly, one of the tragedies in discussing this subject is that so few people, a small minority, know the full facts about it. It is too easy, on the other hand, for millions of people to get to know only half the facts or a mildly distorted version of the facts. I can easily understand how public opinion builds up, as it undoubtedly has, but we in this House, in my view, have a duty to ascertain the facts, to consider them seriously, and then to make up our minds whether we have a real social evil to cure.

Because I believe that the Bill is self-defeating and may, indeed, lead to more cruelty than it would stop, and because it is socially divisive, speaking for myself, though I am not a hare-coursing man, I shall vote against it.

10.42 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

May I have the leave of the House to speak again?

The debate has covered most of the points, including some of the arguments raised in the past. When I opened the debate, I covered as much of the ground as I possibly could, endeavouring to do it all in 20 minutes, I assure the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) that I sat down thankfully, as he put it, because I had managed to do it. The Bill has my full support.

I made clear that the Bill is directed against the competitive coursing of hares. I repeat that it is not the Government's purpose to make illegal the hunting of hares with beagles or harriers, or to interfere with the right of the farmer to set his dog on to a hare where the object is to catch and kill the hare for control purposes. The object of the Bill is to put down coursing where the purpose is to compare the relative merits of two or more dogs placed in competitive pursuit of a hare.

To refer again to the report which has been so much quoted, which referred to Altcar, the suffering caused to hares coursed at such meetings of which it spoke comes within the definition of cruelty which we have adopted.

My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has advised me that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) made a remarkable speech. I am sorry that I missed it. He expressed much of what has been argued in debate on Private Members' Bills and by the Government tonight with precision. He stated that hare coursing is different from other blood sports and is more akin to those banned in the past. He also said that the Stable inquiry is concerned with the re-examination of the rules and regulations and is not looking into the basic facts we have been discussing—whether there should be hare coursing with all that is involved with the public present, with the cheering, the bookies, and so on.

Mr. Ramsden

The hon. Gentleman has left the point on which I asked a specific question. We understand that competitive coursing is banned. The hon. Gentleman told us about a farmer letting his dog go after a hare. What about any other sort of running of dogs with hares? As long as it is not competitive, is that within the Bill, or does that continue to be legal?

Mr. Rees

If it is not competitive in the sense I have indicated it does not come under the Bill. We are dealing with the sort of event taking place at Altcar.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) raised the question of the wider implications of the Scott Henderson Report on whether all wild animals should be brought within the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, with special provisions for hunting, and so on. The difficulties of framing rules while permitting the sport to continue and effectively avoiding unnecessary suffering have proved to be virtually insurmountable. That part of the report has not been implemented, but it has no bearing on what we are considering. The Bill concerns the principle of whether it is right to inflict suffering on hares for the purpose of competitive coursing, irrespective of rules.

The argument that the abolition of hare coursing would be a disservice to conservation, with the implication that farmers and others would no longer be

able to tolerate hares on their land if they could not course them, and would exterminate them, is grossly exaggerated. It is rather odd to think hares are allowed only because of hunting. In fact, judging by all the evidence put to me in recent weeks the extent of coursing is not as great as all that. It has become smaller and smaller over the years.

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) spoke with his usual perception and raised the most interesting point of lack of concern for children, that there was more concern for animals in our society, and so on. There is much in what he said, particularly as regards those who condemn violence in this field and not on the television screen, also. But the Bill is concerned only with competitive hare coursing, which is an anachronism in our society.

I ask for the support of the House in giving the Bill its Second Reading.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Mellish)rose in his place and claimed to move,That the Question be now put.

Question put,That the Question be now put:—

The House divided:Ayes 197, Noes 72.

Division No. 129.] AYES [10.47 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Freeson, Reginald
Alldritt, Walter Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Garrett, W. E.
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Golding, John
Armstrong, Ernest Davies, Ifor (Gower) Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Delargy, H. J. Gregory, Arnold
Barnett, Joel Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Bence, Cyril Dewar, Donald Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Bessell, Peter Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Bidwell, Sydney Dickens, James Harper, Joseph
Binns, John Doig, Peter Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bishop, E. S. Driberg, Tom Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Blenkinsop, Arthur Dunn, James A. Haseldine, Norman
Booth, Albert Dunnett, Jack Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Boston, Terence Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Heffer, Eric S.
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Edelman, Maurice Hooley, Frank
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Edwards, William (Merioneth) Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Brooks, Edwin Ellis, John Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Ennals, David Hoy, Rt. Hn. James
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Huckfield, Leslie
Buchan, Norman Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Faulds, Andrew Janner, Sir Barnett
Cant, R. B. Fernyhough, E. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Carmichael, Neil Finch, Harold Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Coe, Denis Fletcher, Raymond (llkeston) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Coleman, Donald Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Concannon, J. D. Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)
Crawshaw, Richard Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexharn)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Forrester, John Judd, Frank
Currie, G. B. H. Fowler, Gerry Kelley, Richard
Dalyell, Tam Fraser, John (Norwood) Kenyon, Clifford
Kerby, Capt. Henry Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)
Latham, Arthur Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Sheldon, Robert
Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Morris, John (Aberavon) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Lester, Miss Joan Moyle, Roland Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Lever, Bt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham) Newens, Stan Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Oakes, Gordon Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Lipton, Marcus Ogden, Eric Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Lomas, Kenneth O'Halloran, Michael Silverman, Julius
Loughlin, Charles Orme, Stanley Small, William
Luard, Evan Oswald, Thomas Spriggs, Leslie
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Palmer, Arthur Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
McBride, Neil Parker, John (Dagenham) Taverne, Dick
McCann, John Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
MacColl, James Pavitt, Laurence Tinn, James
MacDermot, Niall Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Tuck, Raphael
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Pentland, Norman Urwin, T. W.
Mackie, John Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Walden, Brian (AH Saints)
McNamara, J. Kevin Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Macpherson, Malcolm Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Wallace, George
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Price William (Rugby) Weitzman, David
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Wellbeloved, James
Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.) Rees, Merlyn Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Marks, Kenneth Rhodes, Geoffrey Whitaker, Ben
Marquand, David Richard, Ivor White, Mrs. Eirene
Maxwell, Robert Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Mendelson, John Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St.P'c'as) Winnick David
Miller, Dr. M. S. Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Roebuck, Ray TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Molloy, William Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Mr. R. F. H. Dobson and
Rose, Paul Mr. William Hamling.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Onslow, Cranley
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Percival, Ian
Astor, John Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Peyton, John
Biffen, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Pounder, Rafton
Biggs-Davison, John Hastings, Stephen Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Body, Richard Hawkins, Paul Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hay, John
Brinton, Sir Tatton Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter Kershaw, Anthony Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Bryan, Paul Kimball, Marcus Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Kirk, Peter Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Chichester-Clark, R. Kitson, Timothy Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Cooke, Robert Langford-Holt, Sir John Summers, Sir Spencer
Corfield, F. V. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Crouch, David McMaster, Stanley Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Macmllian, Maurice (Farnham) Weatherill, Bernard
Dean, Paul Marten, Neil Wells, John (Maidstone)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wiggin, Jerry
Digby, Simon Wingffeld Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Donnelly, Desmond Mills, Peter (Torrington) Woodnutt, Mark
Emery, Peter Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Worsley, Marcus
Errington, Sir Eric More, Jasper
Farr, John Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Murton, Oscar Mr. Michael Hamilton and
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Nabarro, Sir Gerald Mr. David Gibson-Watt.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time—

Division No. 130.] AYES [10.58 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Booth, Albert Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara
Alldritt, Walter Boston, Terence Coe, Denis
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Coleman, Donald
Armstrong, Ernest Bray, Dr. Jeremy Concannon, J. D.
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Brooks, Edwin Crawshaw, Richard
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Barnett, Joel Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Crouch, David
Bence, Cyril Buchan, Norman Dalyell, Tarn
Bessell, Peter Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)
Bidwell, Sydney Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)
Binns, John Cant, R. B. Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)
Bishop, E. S. Carmichael, Neil Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Bienkinsop, Arthur Carter-Jones, Lewis de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey

The House Divided:Ayes 203, Nose 70.

Delargy, H. J. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Dewar, Donald Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pavitt, Laurence
Dickens, James Jones. Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Doig, Peter Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Pentland, Norman
Driberg, Tom Judd, Frank Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Dunn, James A. Kolley, Richard Pounder, Rafton
Dunnett, jack Kenyon, Clifford Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Kerby, Capt. Henry Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Edelman, Maurice Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Price, William (Rugby)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Latham, Arthur Rees, Merlyn
Ellis, John Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Ennals, David Lestor, Miss Joan Richard, Ivor
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Lipton, Marcus Robinson Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St P'c'as)
Eyre, Reginald Lomas, Kenneth Rodgers William (Stockton)
Faulds, Andrew Loughlin, Charles Roebuck, Roy
Fernyhough, E. Luard, Evan Rogers, George (Kensington! N.)
Finch, Harold Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Rose, Paul
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)
Fletcher, Raymond (llkeston) McBride Neil Sheldon, Robert
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McCann, John Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) MacColl, James Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tie-u-Tyne)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) MacDermot, Niall Short, Mrs. Renée(W hampton,N.E.))
Forrester, John Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John(Deptford)
Fowler, Gerry Mackie, John Silkin, Hn. S. C.(Dulwich)
Fraser, John (Norwood) McNamara, J. Kevin Silverman, Julius
Freeson, Reginald MacPherson, Malclom Spriggs, Leslie
Garrett, W. E. Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Steel, David(Roxburgh)
Golding, John Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Goodhart, Philip Mallalieu. J.P. W.(Huddersfieldt,E.) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Marks, Kenneth Taverne, Dick
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Marquand, David Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Gregory, Arnold Maxwell, Robert Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mellsh, Rt. Hn. Robert Tinn, James
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mendelson, John Tuck, Raphael
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Miller, Dr. M. S. Urwin, T. W.
Harper, Joseph Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Molloy, William Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Wallace, George
Haseldine, Norman Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Weatherill, Bernard
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Weitzman, David
Heffer, Eric S. Morris, John (Aberavon) Wellbeloved, James
Higgine, Terence L. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hooley, Frank Moyle, Roland Whltaker, Ben
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Murton,Oscar White, Mrs. Eirene
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Newens, Stan Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Huckfield, Leslie Oakes, Gordon Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Ogden, Eric Winnick, David
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur O'Halloran, Michael
Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Orme, Stanley
Janner, Sir Barnett Oswald, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Mr. William Hamling and
Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Palmer, Arthur Mr. R. F. H. Dobson.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Astor, John Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Biffen, John Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert More, Jasper
Biggs-Davison, John Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Body, Richard Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hastings, Stephen Nott, John
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col.Sir Waltw Hawkins, Paul Onslow, Cranley
Bryan, Paul Hay, John Paget, R. T.
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Percival, Ian
Cooke, Robert Kershaw, Anthony Peyton, John
Corfield, F. V. Kimball, Marcus Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kirk, Peter Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dean, Paul Kitson, Timothy Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Langford-Holt, Sir John Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Digby, Simon Wingfield Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Donnelly, Desmond MoMaster, Stanley Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whltby)
Emery, Peter Macmilian, Maurice (Farnham) Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Errington, Sir Eric Marten, Neil Summers, Sir Spencer
Farr, John Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wets, John (Maidstone) Woodnutt, Mark Mr. Michael Hamilton and
Wiggin, A. W. Worsley, Marcus Mr. David Gibson-Watt.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.