HC Deb 03 March 1995 vol 255 cc1297-368

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to raise a matter, of which I have given you and, indeed, the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), notice.

I am concerned that the rise of new lobbying practices now requires the House urgently to reconsider the rules that govern the improper influence of hon. Members of the House. In the past fortnight, hon. Members have received hundreds of computer-printed cards and there has appeared in the press nearly £1 million-worth of full-page newspaper advertising, mentioning the name of an hon. Member and his Bill. So extensive now has become the deployment of lobbying resources by interest groups, that it is now clear that whoever wins a private Member's ballot risks being likely to be bid for in a sort of auction by groups that can offer political dividends as the reward.

I seek your guidance, Madam Speaker, on whether that practice can be referred to the appropriate Committees of the House, to the Nolan committee or to both.

Madam Speaker

As the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) and the House will know, the Speaker of the House has no authority whatever about publicity that takes place outside, and anyone is free to write to hon. Members to put a particular point of view to them.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Just a moment.

The hon. Gentleman must determine for himself whether the terms of reference of the Nolan Committee warrant a submission, and he is perfectly free as a Member of the House, if the procedures are there, to refer the matter to a particular committee. It is for individual Members to determine how they should proceed on that matter.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

There is no further point of order on that. We are going to proceed with the Bill. The House has been waiting, many hon. Members are here, we are now going to proceed with it.

9.41 am
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

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

I am most proud to stand here this morning to present my Bill. I should like first to thank a few people. Mention was made of the public. I have had 5,000 personal letters on the issue, and the latest estimate from the Post Office is that half a million postcards and letters have been sent to Members of Parliament, illustrating just how far up the political agenda the issue of animal welfare and needless cruelty is.

I congratulate the public on their insight and vigilance. I thank the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA, which have been most helpful and have been at the forefront of campaigning on the issue. I thank my sponsors, and will single out several Conservative Members, who include the hon. Members for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), for Brighton, Kemptown (Sir A. Bowden) and for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). This is an issue of principle and individual conscience, and I thank them most sincerely for their support.

I see that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) is in his place. He is chairman of the British Field Sports Society, and is diametrically opposed to what I am doing this morning, but we have had the utmost respect for each other over the past few weeks; I hope that that will be maintained, so that we have an informed and civilised debate this morning.

The purpose of my Bill is to remove the illogical and ridiculous anomaly in law that makes it a criminal offence to inflict cruelty on a domestic mammal, but which, generally speaking, permits cruelty to be inflicted on wild mammals without penalty. For example, under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, and 1912 in Scotland, it is an offence to kick or beat, or set a snare, or to set a pack of dogs, on a cat, dog or any other domestic animal, but it is not an offence to inflict such pain and suffering on a fox, hare or most other wild mammals.

The RSPCA has been involved in investigating cases of hedgehogs being kicked, beaten, burnt and impaled on sticks, and of live fox cubs being set alight with petrol. Records exist of foxes and squirrels being nailed alive to trees, and the League Against Cruel Sports even has photographic evidence of a live fox being hanged by its ears. It may be argued that such cases are rare, but the fact remains that it is unacceptable that we have no law to penalise such sadistic acts.

Clause 1 seeks to deal with such cases by making it an offence if any person cruelly kicks, beats or tortures any wild mammal. Those are all specific offences under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which not only could be, but, as I have explained, have been, committed with impunity against wild mammals.

Hon. Members will recall that, three years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) introduced a similar Bill—I congratulate him on his efforts at that time—but it was narrowly defeated on Second Reading. My Bill is similar, except that clause 1 of my hon. Friend's Bill would have made it an offence cruelly to ill-treat or intentionally inflict unnecessary suffering on any wild mammal.

During consultation on the wording of the Bill, it became clear that there were fears in the farming community that the creation of an offence of cruel ill-treatment might lead to frivolous attempts to prosecute farmers for carrying out normal pest-control operations.

It was thought that using shotguns or ferrets to control rabbits, or commonly used rodenticides to control rats of mice, might be considered by some animal rights groups to constitute cruel ill-treatment, and that such groups might be prepared to drag farmers before the courts to make a point. Whether such fears are justified is not important: I have no wish to interfere with reasonable and widely acceptable methods of pest control. That is why clause 1 is closely drawn, to target deliberate and totally unnecessary acts of brutality.

It is significant that I have not received any representations objecting to clause 1.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the care that he has taken over clause 1, and the constructive way in which he has described it. Does he not recognise that there is such widespread support for that clause that he would get his Bill through if he confined it to that clause, and perhaps to a revised version of clause 3? If he persists in wanting to make established country sports illegal, he will meet a great deal more opposition.

Mr. McFall

I thank the right hon. Member for his support for clause 1, but as the RSPCA stated—it has called this a Bill of principle—there is a continuum of concern over animal welfare. Some people might not see any qualitative difference between kicking a hedgehog about and tearing a fox limb from limb. That is the issue at stake here.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. McFall

Yes, of course.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

It is Liberal party policy, we might remind the Liberal party spokesman, to support my hon. Friend's Bill.

Mr. McFall

It looks as though the right hon. Gentleman is on his own on this issue.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way so early in his speech. I am at one with the point made by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), but will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that unspeakable things are also done by a small minority of hooligans at football matches, which we all want to see stopped, but that that does not justify the banning of football? That is the analogy that I draw with his intention, in clause 2, to ban field sports, when we all support what he proposes in clause 1.

Mr. McFall

I agree entirely with that. It is an issue of observing the law and of supporting law and order. We are behind the party of law and order and have been trying to get it to implement decent policies on law and order for 15 years.

I have allowed three interventions on my speech already, and I am not very far through. I will be happy to take half a dozen or so, but there is a limit, because I know that a number of hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport)

I appreciate that my hon. Friend has said that there is some cross-party support for his Bill, but will he note that, in my party of the country—in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset—there has been an opportunity for local politicians to make a decision about banning hunting on their land, land which the council owns. It is significant that Labour motions to ban hunting have not had support from Conservatives, but, significantly, they have also not had support from Liberal Democrats, who have been split down the middle on the issue?

Mr. McFall

I thank my hon. Friend. I know from feedback that 80 per cent. of county councils—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. I am determined to ensure that the debate does not get out of hand. The House knows my views on seated interventions. I wish to hear the hon. Gentleman's arguments and those of other Members who catch my eye.

Mr. McFall

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

As I was saying, 80 per cent. of county councils in England have banned hunting, and that is a step in the right direction. Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to outlaw the wilful use of dogs to kill, injure, pursue or attack wild mammals. It would outlaw the so-called sports of fox, hare and deer hunting, which involve hounding animals to exhaustion and death. It would also ban the use of terriers to attack foxes underground, an activity which has no close season, and which results annually in the deaths of tens of thousands of foxes and an unknown number of terriers which die underground battling with foxes.

The removal of this gruesome sport would dispose of the training ground for badger diggers. Every person convicted in the courts for badger digging has also been an enthusiast of digging for foxes with terriers. It is not widely appreciated that fox hunts also use terriers to attack or flush out foxes which defeat the hounds by going to ground. There was published this week a comprehensive report on fox hunting by Oxford university's wildlife conservation unit.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. I have no doubt that he will quote all sorts of experts and research. In drafting his Bill, which will dramatically alter the status quo in the countryside, what countryside organisations did he consult to try to find the opposite arguments? For example, has he been out hunting to discover the truth?

Mr. McFall

I have not gone badger baiting, that is for sure. We have consulted, and the latest opinion polls on the subject show that, while 93 per cent. of the public wish their Members of Parliament to support my Bill, 60 per cent. of those living in rural areas also wish their Members of Parliament to support it. Therefore, there is a majority right through.

I was dealing with Oxford university's wildlife conservation study. That study was conducted by Dr. David MacDonald and Paul Johnson, with the full co-operation of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and the National Farmers Union. It shows that a third of the 15,000 to 20,000 foxes that are killed by hunting are dug out or bolted from their earths with the aid of terriers, despite the fact that fox hunts employ earth stoppers whose job it is to block every fox earth, badger sett and drain they can find to keep the fox above ground, so as to provide a long chase for the hounds and riders.

Dr. MacDonald reports that, in some hunts, 75 per cent. of the foxes that are killed are dug out by terriers. It may be a measure of the cruelty that is suffered by both foxes and terriers that, under the codes of practice of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, hunt supporters and members of the public are forbidden to watch the dig-outs.

The facts about foxes and fox hunting are clear. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the damage done by foxes to British farming is insignificant, despite the fact that the UK has a high and steadily growing fox population. For instance, 27 million lambs are born annually and 18 per cent., or 4.8 million, of them die. Of that appalling mortality, abortion and still births account for 40 per cent. Exposure and starvation account for 30 per cent. while infectious diseases account for 20 per cent.

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

The hon. Gentleman quotes a whole range of statistics. The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) is valid. What first-hand experience has the hon. Gentleman had of fox hunting, terrier work or hare coursing?

Mr. McFall

The hon. Gentleman has occasionally spoken about unemployment and prisons. I dare say he has never been in prison and has never been unemployed. Conservative Members have no inhibitions about speaking on anything that they do not know about.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

The hon. Gentleman was asked about statistics. Is he aware that the National Federation of Badger Groups found that 178 incidents of illegal sett blocking and 148 incidents of sett digging had damaged the badger population? The hon. Gentleman is coming to clause 3, which will make illegal the setting of free-running snares which mutilate and kill badgers. I represent a constituency with one of the largest badger populations in the country, and my constituents are delighted that I am here to support the Bill.

Mr. McFall

The hon. Gentleman is sufficiently eloquent to need no addition by me. I have taken about half a dozen interventions, and I am aware that other hon. Members wish to speak. I should now like to get on with my speech, so as to be fair to everyone.

I was speaking about the 27 million lambs that are born annually, of which 4.8 million die, and I gave the statistics on that appalling mortality rate. The Ministry of Agriculture states that misadventure and all forms of predation, including lambs killed by foxes, predatory birds and dogs, account for only 5 per cent. of the total mortality. Therefore, it is clear that foxes have nothing whatever to do with 98 per cent. of lamb deaths.

Dr. MacDonald's new report included the results of a questionnaire sent to sheep farmers. Only 53.8 per cent. of those farmers claimed to have ever lost a lamb to foxes, and even they admitted that such losses did not exceed 1 per cent. of their lambs.

Of course fox hunters might claim that hunting keeps fox numbers down, thereby keeping lamb losses low, but Dr. MacDonald's Oxford university report reveals that the 15,000 to 20,000 foxes that are killed by hunts represent less than 10 per cent. of the number of foxes killed by man. We also know from scientific research that fox populations can withstand an annual mortality rate of up to 65 per cent. without reduction. That is because the survivors quickly make up the losses by increased reproduction. All that happens when foxes are killed is that the places are immediately taken by other foxes looking for various territories.

I have received letters of support from sheep farmers. One wrote to me from mid-Devon stating that he had never known a fox to take a living lamb, despite having many foxes living or travelling near his land. His letter states: The claim that foxes prey upon newly-born lambs is yet another spurious claim posted by the hunting lobby. We as farmers, horse owners and country-lovers fully support your Bill and wish you every success. One of the reasons for such a high fox population is that fox hunters commonly provide cosy artificial breeding dens for foxes, and even provide them with food in the form of dead chickens and sheep.

I congratulate Today and the Mail on Sunday on their work in this issue. On Wednesday, Today gave details of how unnaturally high fox populations are encouraged in the Thurlow hunt country, even on the estate of Edmund Vestey, the chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and master of the Thurlow hunt. A total of 20 artificial fox shelters were found in the area, and there were four sites on which dead chickens were piled up to provide food for the foxes.

Dr. MacDonald's report proves that point. In reply to his questionnaire, hunt masters were unanimous in the opinion that, without fox hunting, there would be fewer foxes.

On the one hand, hunters claim that hunting is necessary to keep foxes down, while on the other hand they are doing their best to create large numbers of foxes. Perhaps the people who complain about fox damage should now take their complaint to the local hunt master.

Clause 2 would also outlaw hare coursing.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, who is arguing his case extremely well. May I ask one question before he moves on to hares? Does he agree that there will have to be some form of control of foxes, which are classified as vermin?

Mr. McFall

I have nothing against shooting, and that is not included in the Bill. I know that the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) loves to go to Scotland for his holidays, and he will know of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1959, which allows for the culling of deer.

Clause 2 deals with hare coursing, which the House voted overwhelmingly to ban 20 years ago. Had it not been for the hunting lobby in another place—which diverted that measure into the backwaters of a Select Committee to await a general election—we would not have to consider hare coursing today.

According to the Government's Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the hare population has fallen by 80 per cent. since the beginning of the century. Ways must be found to reverse that trend. Hare coursers and hunters are known not only to kill thousands of hares in the course of their sports, but to arrange for hares to be trapped in other parts of the country and transported to the killing fields to replace those which have been killed.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

May I assure the hon. Gentleman that many people will support his Bill, not least because of the provisions for hare coursing which it contains? Anyone who has followed what takes place at the Waterloo cup every year in the name of sport—it is just an act of barbarism—will be compelled to be in the Lobby supporting the hon. Gentleman today.

Mr. McFall

That is a true Liberal speaking.

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham)


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he is not taking any more interventions.

Mr. McFall

I have given way on nine occasions so far, and I know that the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) has an honourable tradition of talking out Bills.

The police and the National Farmers Union have both expressed alarm about gangs of men who are raiding farms and estates to course hares with greyhounds and lurchers. Farmers and gamekeepers who intervene risk violence from the gangs, which are intent on killing hares and gambling large amounts of money on the prowess of their dogs. The gangs seem undeterred by the fines meted out under archaic poaching laws, and my Bill would provide for those people to be prosecuted for cruelty, with heavy fines, custodial sentences and confiscation of equipment, vehicles and dogs as extra penalties.

On the grounds of cruelty, conservation and the protection of private property, it is time that hares were properly protected. It is true that the main reason for the decline in the number of hares from 4 million to 800,000 is the advent of modern farming methods and herbicides, but, with more enlightened practices and a ban on the hunting and coursing of hares, we shall perhaps see their numbers revive.

Clause 3 seeks to prohibit the use of snares, which, as hon. Members have said, are undoubtedly both cruel and indiscriminate. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has evidence that domestic animals, badgers and even livestock have been maimed and killed by wire snares which have been set for foxes. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibits self-locking snares, but permits the use of free-running snares which—we are told by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and by the Game Conservancy—are supposed merely to restrain the target animal until it can be humanely killed.

A video entitled "The A to Z of Fox Control" is advertised in country sports magazines, such as The Countryman's Weekly, which is a trade member of the British Field Sports Society and is approved by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. The video recommends that snares are set using what is described as a "killing stick", which is a post driven into the ground next to the snare so that, as the captured animal thrashes around in panic, it becomes entangled with the pole and is strangled to death. The device effectively turns a free-running snare into a lethal instrument, which operates in the same way as the illegal self-locking snare.

A great deal of double-speak is emerging from the British Field Sports Society. When defending fox hunting, it condemns snares as cruel. In the BFSS hunting video, there is an horrific clip of a fox in a terrible state that has been caught around its stomach by a snare. The BFSS admitted that the snare had been legally set by a gamekeeper.

In its booklet "The Case for Hunting", the BFSS says: Indiscriminate snaring causes suffering to foxes and other mammals. Both snares and traps cause unavoidable stress for wild animals". The British Association for Shooting and Conservation would have us believe that gamekeepers adhere to a code of conduct in the use of snares, but the League Against Cruel Sports has successfully prosecuted gamekeepers for using illegal self-locking snares. Badger protection groups all over Britain have frequently complained that badgers have been caught in snares.

I have received letters from pet owners and people with personal experience of this subject. An individual from Morpeth in Northumberland wrote to me to say: My beautiful red setter, Sam, went missing. We searched, advertised, did everything we could think of to no avail. One week later … he arrived home. He was emaciated, a horror to behold. He had chewed off his own paw to free himself from one of the snares you are now trying to abolish. That is graphic support, which comes from the heart.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the British Field Sports Society and the Game Conservancy all oppose the abolition of snares, and have made it clear that they cannot accept the licensing scheme allowed for in clause 8. I have to say that the League Against Cruel Sports is also not all that happy with licensing, given the fact that Departments have already issued well over 1,500 licences for interference with badger setts under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has a code of practice for the use of snares which, if universally adopted, would certainly reduce much of the suffering and unnecessary deaths caused by snares. I would be more than happy to consider an amendment in Committee which would allow the proper use of snares under a code of practice similar to that promoted by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.

I also believe that snaring is such a potentially cruel way to capture an animal that it should be considered very much as a last resort. According to Doctor McDonald's Oxford university report, only around one quarter to one third of all foxes killed by gamekeepers are captured by snares. According to the report, nowadays most are shot with rifles using lamps at night.

I urge the game bird shooting lobby to become actively involved in attempts to move to less cruel and indiscriminate methods of wild mammal control. It would be wise to take note of the MORI poll published in The Mail on Sunday last week, which revealed that 53 per cent. of the British people would like to see the shooting of game birds banned by law.

My Bill does not include such a ban, but it will not help the case of those involved in shooting if they resist legislation to restrict the use of snares. After all, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has found that, in order to protect isolated colonies of their nesting birds on a couple of its reserves, some fox control is necessary. Where deterrents such as electric fencing are not practical, the control method is shooting, not snares or dogs. The Forestry Commission rangers who sometimes have to control foxes because of complaints from neighbours also use shooting, not dogs or snares.

The snaring of rabbits can be safely prohibited. The thin brass wire snares used for taking rabbits are lethal for domestic cats or any other hunting animal, which may itself be hunting for rabbits. There are other ways of dealing with rabbits which are far more efficient and humane, such as cyanide gas, ferreting or shooting.

Under clause 6 of the Bill, it would not be an offence to use dogs to kill rabbits or rodents, unless the people concerned were trespassing. The reason for this exemption is that, with 35 million rabbits in the countryside, it would be unreasonable to expect farmers to keep their dogs on leads to avoid the possibility of prosecution.

It is a fact that almost any dog which happens to catch a rabbit or a rodent, such as a rat, can usually kill it quickly and with the minimum suffering. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about fox hunting?"] The evidence for hare coursing shows that animals larger than rabbits suffer considerably when caught by dogs. Some hon. Members shouted, "Fox hunting." Just tell me what happens when terriers are put down a hole. Hares that have been mauled and wounded by powerful greyhounds have still been alive when they have been recovered.

Clause 5 would allow a farmer to use his dogs for the immediate protection of livestock—for example, to chase off or attack a wild mammal, such as a fox, which has gained access to a chicken run and is chasing hens around the yard. This and the other exemption clauses show, as I hope hon. Members will appreciate, that I have striven to produce a reasonable Bill that reaches a compromise between the two extremes.

Many people object to the killing of any wild creature on the ground of animal rights. There are those who could not care less what suffering they inflict on any wild creature that they find on their land or, indeed, on any land.

My Bill would provide long overdue protection for wild mammals against those who abuse them without just cause, while ensuring that reasonable methods of pest control remain available to those who need them. If a good case for amendments can be made in Committee, hon. Members will find that I have an open mind.

Cruelties such as fox hunting with hounds have nothing to do with fox control. Indeed, one reason why there is such a high fox population is an encouragement of artificially high numbers by fox hunters. On the one hand, they say that there are too many foxes and that they must be controlled by hunting; on the other, the same people create cosy breeding conditions and supply extra food to keep up the numbers.

It has been claimed that, if hunting with hounds is banned, some 25,000 hounds will have to be destroyed. That is nonsense. It reminds me of an intervention by a former Member, Sir John Farr, in a similar debate in February 1992, when he said that 1 million horses would have to be destroyed. He had to be told that there were only 600,000 horses in the country.

There is nothing to prevent existing hunts from switching to drag hunting, where the hounds and riders follow an artificial trail. Drag hunts and bloodhound packs have doubled in number over the past 20 years, while the number of fox hunts has declined. Drag hunts can operate in much smaller territories than can wild mammal hunts.

It has been predicted that a ban on fox hunting could lead to the setting up of many more drag hunts, thus ensuring more rural employment, with the retention of horses, hounds and tradition and an end to hunt saboteurs and hunt trespass—

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)


Mr. McFall

I have already given way nine times. I have been very fair. I am not giving way this time.

Every season, scores of hounds are killed on roads and railway lines in the pursuit of foxes. Hounds out of control, following a fox on its desperate flight, frequently invade private land, stampede livestock, kill sheep and poultry, attack and kill pet cats and dogs, invade gardens, damage crops and disrupt the lives of rural people. By contrast, in the entire history of drag hunting—which goes back to the 1800s—there has not been one recorded case of drag hounds being involved in any such incident while out hunting.

Drag hunting is the obvious acceptable replacement to fox hunting. The only thing that hunters would lose would be the kill—which, strangely, they tell us is the one thing that does not attract them.

According to an article on drag hunting in this January's "Kennel Gazette", drag hunts obtain their hounds from existing fox hunt packs, and the hounds start drag hunting after one season's fox hunting. That proves that fox hounds can easily be trained to switch from foxes to drag hunting, so let us hear no more nonsense about 25,000 hounds having to be destroyed or shipped out of the country if fox hunting is banned.

There is massive public support for the Bill. The MORI poll in the Mail on Sunday showed that 70 per cent. want a ban on fox hunting and hare coursing, and 82 per cent. want a ban on deer hunting. A national opinion poll conducted by the RSPCA shows that 75 per cent. favour a ban on fox hunting, 83 per cent. a ban on stag hunting and 80 per cent. a ban on hare coursing. That poll, and another commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, found that well over 90 per cent. of British people support the principle of the Bill.

Some 80 per cent. of county councils have voted against hunting with hounds. Again, 80 per cent. of county wildlife trusts have adopted anti-hunt policies, as has—and I am proud to say this—the Scottish National Trust. The National Federation of Badger Groups supports the Bill, not only because it will outlaw the terrier men who start on foxes and move on to badgers, but because it will end the illegal blocking of badger setts by hunts—some of whose servants and officials have been convicted of such offences. The Bill would drastically cut the number of badgers that suffer horribly in snares.

I have received letters from many individuals on the issue, including from country folk and farmers. One individual, writing from Hampshire, said: I cannot deny that days spent in the countryside with friends were some of the happiest and most fulfilling of that time. But in the end it was impossible to justify my personal enjoyment when it depended on the infliction of pain and death on the defenceless fellow-creatures which I cherished so much and which I didn't even need to eat. That letter comes from an ex-hunter.

It is clear that the country is crying out for wild animals to be protected. I have received honourable support from Conservative Members. I want to read out a couple of letters from Conservative councils. One comes from a Conservative councillor on Swanage town council, who writes: On behalf of our mayor, Cllr Julie Wheeldon (Conservative), our Deputy Mayor Cllr Keith Marlow (Conservative) and of course myself, I send you very best wishes for the success of this measure. Hotfoot from Glasgow, by first-class post, comes a letter from Bailie John H. Young, OBE, JP, DL, saying: Just to let you know that you have the full support of myself and my family. If I had been elected an M.P. three years ago"— sadly, not many Tories are elected in Scotland— I would have supported your Bill. I am against blood sports, bull fighting and all abuse of animals. I hold these views above all political dogma … If you wish you can quote that you have some Tory support as outlined above. I am delighted to quote that letter.

It is clear that the country is crying out for wild mammals to be treated with respect and compassion. In a memorable intervention during our last debate on these matters, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) mentioned the book "The Road to Ruin" by E. S. Turner, which catalogues the history of social reform and how hard it was to achieve in this country. He made an eloquent speech on that issue. He mentioned all the reforms that had been advocated in the House and listed the arguments against them. A book was issued in favour of torture and was dedicated to the Chief of the General Staff. We have moved on since then.

We are debating an issue of social reform. We can call ourselves a truly civilised nation only if we ban this outrageously anti-social activity that uses foxes and other innocent animals for a contrived sport and entertainment.

A letter published in the Glasgow Herald in December said: I am out for a good day's fox hunting. What happens to the fox is incidental. It is not incidental to hon. Members on both sides of the House or to the mass of public support—

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Or to the foxes.

Mr. McFall

That is true.

It is time for wild animals to be granted the same basic protection as that provided 84 years ago to their domestic kin. My Bill would provide such a law, and I commend it to the House.

10.18 am
Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) on his speech. He has mastered his brief, and he clearly presented his arguments, which are well known to many of us. He finished his speech with a barrage of statistics. In quoting the letter from the lady from Glasgow, he rightly brought out the point, which appeared to be a surprise to him, that the views of all political parties are divided on this controversial issue. Although some fun was made of the Liberal Democrats, some fun could be made of the Labour party and of the Conservative party.

I respect something that the hon. Gentleman said. In some respects, he may be somewhat new to this subject, but he has understood one thing clearly: it is all too easy for passions to be inflamed and for sensible argument to be rapidly buried in the heat of discussion on the issue. I therefore appreciate his comment about the way in which he and my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes), who hold entirely different positions on the argument, have approached it.

I have a duty to the House to declare an interest, not just because of my activities elsewhere, but because I am deeply sensitive to declaring an interest on all occasions and to setting an example to more errant hon. Members, who might occasionally omit such declarations.

For 25 years, I have been the Member of Parliament for one of the most wonderful parts of the country. I represent a part of Somerset, which is an urban as well as a rural area. The majority of people live either in towns or in dormitory villages, which are said to be in the countryside, but which are obviously under the influence of urban areas. In my constituency, we find farming, tourism, industry, wildlife and all the wonderful attractions of the country. There is also enormous pressure on what remains of the wonderful countryside of Exmoor, the Quantocks and the Somerset levels.

In my constituency, I have the Devon and Somerset staghounds, the Quantocks staghounds and three packs of fox hounds. It contains many deeply sincere Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat citizens, who deeply resent the hunting that takes place there. I have lived with that for 25 years. As some hon. Members will know, the League Against Cruel Sports is active in my constituency. Sanctuaries have been established for deer. That has led to pressures and problems for Exmoor in particular, and for the Quantocks.

I understand how easily this issue can sometimes be turned, as it has recently, into a party political football, yet members of all parties hold different views on the subject. I remind hon. Members that I took through the House the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which, after close consultation, outlawed self-locking snares, and in which we dealt with the use of snares. I was pleased that the letter from the National Farmers Union paid tribute to the consultation that took place, which sought to get the Act right before it was became law.

I hope that hon. Members will understand that I have lived with these issues all my parliamentary life and before. To declare another interest, I am a farmer. My family have a small farm, so at weekends I live with these issues directly. We have foxes and badgers, we conserve the countryside and we do not normally shoot any foxes. We try to maintain a balance with nature. That is right.

Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. King

If my hon. Friend will allow me, I intend to he as brief as I can.

I have never spoken in a hunting debate, but I thought that I should explain the background. Last night, I saw the hon. Member for Dumbarton on "Newsnight". I took him to say, and I think he repeated again today, that he had never witnessed—I do not expect him to have taken part in—the hunting activities with which the Bill deals. This is the first occasion I can remember of a Bill being presented by a sponsor who takes pride in announcing to the House that he has never seen those activities that he is proposing to criminalise and to make illegal. As the issue involves a country sport in which perhaps as many as 500,000 people take part, I should have thought that that would have been the right approach.

I believe that I am right in thinking—the hon. Gentleman must intervene if I am incorrect, as I do not want to misrepresent him—that the Bill was originally prepared by someone else. I do not believe that he wrote it: I think that it was written by the League Against Cruel Sports, in conjunction perhaps with other organisations. He has said that he genuinely does not intend the Bill to deal with the banning of shooting and fishing.

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is beginning to understand that many of the people who support the Bill have a different agenda from him. Some of them—I think he recognises this—have a much more comprehensive agenda, leading to an entirely different relationship between animal rights and human rights. Many people hold such views. I do not disrespect them—they are entitled to hold those views, but the House should know about that.

It is never easy to get a private Member's Bill through the House. Hon. Members know of the time limits and restraints that may be placed on them. As the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) made clear, the hon. Member for Dumbarton has the opportunity to strike an important blow against cruelty to animals. I would guess that he could get the Bill through today if he were determined to tackle clause 1.

The hon. Gentleman made an interesting comment in his speech on snares. Having taken the Wildlife and Countryside Act through the House, I am sympathetic to some of his comments about clause 3. If genuine causes for concern exist, and if there is a need to alter the Bill, I should be ready to consider that. He has an opportunity today to tackle cruelty to animals and snaring, which is of great concern to many people.

Of course, we know that that issue is not the whole Bill. By moving into the much more vexed ground of country sports and hunting, the Bill takes on a much more controversial issue. I consider first the attitude of farmers.

I did not quite get the answer about how much consultation there had been with outside bodies. The Government undertook such consultation during passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, to which the National Farmers Union pays tribute. However, in this case, the hon. Gentleman will know that the NFU feels that his Bill severely restricts the choice of pest control measures available to farmers. It is imperative that a range of lawful options are retained". The Farmers Union of Wales also supports the right of farmers and landowners to hunt and kill foxes in order to control the fox population and reduce the risk of predation on livestock especially lambs". The Devon farmer that the hon. Gentleman quoted is the luckiest farmer I have ever heard of. With my wife, I tend a flock of sheep. That farmer has been remarkably lucky to avoid damage and loss of life because of foxes. Good luck to him, but he is not representative.

The hon. Gentleman took some pride in quoting Scottish sources, but, as he knows, the National Farmers Union for Scotland believes that the measures would seriously compromise the ability of farmers to control pests, and foxes in particular, in the interest of the welfare of their livestock". I recognise the sincerity in which these issues are debated by people on both sides. People who hunt and who support country sports are not evil. Some of the most admirable people in my constituency, those on whom one would rely most in times of need and distress and those who care for animals, are the very people involved in the hunting world. I am also aware of the sincerity of many—some, I am proud to say, vote for me—who hold an entirely different view and are unable to accept the concept of hunting.

I try to understand the views of people who are really involved with the countryside—I do not mean those who simply think they are—and I accept that they perhaps have different standards and experiences. They live much closer to the life and death cycle.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

They should see Stratford.

Mr. King

The debate would not be complete without a crack from the hon. Gentleman.

We are suddenly experiencing a very sharp spell of weather. How many farmers in my constituency were out on the hills last night, finding stillborn or twinned lambs, or even triplets, which they brought back to the farm to feed with a bottle and tried to warm in the oven? They will nurture those lambs and treat them with love and care, but in the knowledge that, within six months, they will be taking them to market to be slaughtered. That is often very difficult for people to understand if they do not accept the concepts of death and slaughter.

Dr. Spink

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the 1984 Hewson and Leitch study entitled "Scavenging and Predation upon Sheep and Lambs in West Scotland"? It found that, between 1976 and 1979, foxes killed a minimum of 1.3 per cent., 1.8 per cent., 0.8 per cent. and 0.6 per cent. of lambs estimated to have been born in each of those years respectively. That is not a large number of lambs, especially when one considers that eagles and other predators take lambs, too.

Mr. King

Like the hon. Member for Dumbarton, my hon. Friend has a barrage of statistics. I could show him what could happen on certain farms in certain circumstances. One can take all the averages one likes, but such figures can mean the difference between viability and disaster for a farmer, and can affect his very ability to survive.

Anyone who has the relevant experience, and some who take an interest in agriculture, will know of the problems caused by the weather last year. Some farmers lost 40 per cent. or more of their lambs on the hills, which was a tragedy. It might be said to have been an act of God, but nevertheless it means that farmers often have to struggle even to make a living, and no losses are easily accepted.

I said that I have lived with these arguments for 25 years. In the main, there was tolerance and understanding of the different points of view, but now things have changed. Undoubtedly, there have been outside influences at work, and undoubtedly some very nasty elements have crept in. It is no secret that farmers are now not happy to appear on television, and will not give their address. Some hon. Members know that that is because of fear and the threats that they have received. I know that no hon. Member regards such threats as acceptable.

There are now enormous sums of money available to fund huge campaigns. I do not know where the money goes, and it is not entirely clear how well it is accounted for, but there is no question but that huge sums are involved.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. King

If the hon. Gentleman will excuse me, I must continue.

Tolerance is an essential ingredient, and I shall cite a classic example to illustrate that fact. I mentioned the Quantock hills. This morning, I made a quick list of all the people and groups who have an interest in that especially beautiful part of the country over which one pack of stag hounds and a pack of fox hounds hunt.

They include the county council, which owns some of the land, as do various landowners such as the National Trust; they also include farmers, commoners, a very active and successful wildlife trust, two hunts, wardens who offer guided tours for the study of geology and the flora and fauna, riders, walkers, school expeditions that study the hills, bird watchers, botanists, a 4x4 motor club, mountain bikers and those involved in orienteering, cross-country runners, sponsored walkers, children working for their Duke of Edinburgh awards, and, I am glad to say, the whortleberry pickers.

Anyone who is familiar with Wordsworth and Coleridge will know that even poets take pleasure in those hills. All those I have mentioned value and love the hills, and formed the Quantock joint committee. All its members try to co-exist to protect the deer and ensure that they thrive—and they do.

However, something happened last year. Despite the very sensitive situation, the county council decided suddenly to ban hunting on a particularly small piece of land that runs like a neck across one part of the Quantocks. The most enraged comment that I received was from a non-Conservative voter, an anti-hunt conservationist, who said that this act of aggressive vandalism—as he saw it—would undermine the whole balance and spirit of co-operation in the hills.

People are not either members of a hunt or farmers; some farmers hunt, and some commoners who do not own the land also hunt. People of varying occupations saw the need for co-existence. I think that the hon. Member for Dumbarton might be beginning to understand that, by jumping in with jackboots, he may achieve exactly the opposite of the desired effect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Jackboots?"] Hon. Members may laugh, but— [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have warned the House already about seated interventions.

Mr. King

There used to be deer in many constituencies, but why are there now deer only in two parts of my constituency? One of the groups that cares most about them is the hunts. It is interesting to recall that someone who was very interested in nature—Henry Williamson who wrote "Tarka the Otter"—wrote: The world being as it is, the deer will vanish with the end of hunting and those who care for the deer know this to be true. I was a Member of Parliament when, in 1977, the Labour Government were concerned about Exmoor being ploughed up and the habitat destroyed. They set up an inquiry headed by Baron Porchester, now Lord Carnarvon, to examine the Exmoor habitat and decide how its ecology could be preserved.

The report said: It is undeniable that stag hunting on Exmoor operates as a force for conservation. In the normal run of things the deer do considerable damage to crops, and without the active participation of the farmers in the Hunts, their days would be numbered. A number of farmers have come to my surgeries complain about the damage done by 30, 40 or 50 deer destroying their crops, but that would not be tolerated unless it was seen as part of the deers' way of life, a way of life in which the hunt plays a part.

I suppose that the strongest argument has been made by Richard Course, a man with whose activities I was familiar for many years. He was very active in my constituency. He was the executive director of the League against Cruel Sports and he played a part in establishing sanctuaries in the area. He said: The simple prohibition of stag hunting would destroy the survival prospects of wild Red Deer in the West Country. Why is it that Exmoor has deer, whereas Dartmoor has not? Hon. Members may like to reflect on that. Could the reason be that Dartmoor has no hunting? In Exmoor, there is organisation, and the people of the moor are actively concerned to see the maintenance of the deer, which have never been in better shape.

I have looked at the issues. I have talked especially about stag hunting, because it takes place in my constituency. I know that it worries many people, and that is why I wanted to address that point. I do not tolerate some of the incidents that have happened in stag hunting, which are well recorded. Everyone can remember them, as I do.

I remember the stag on the roof of the shed in Porlock. One can remember the stag at bay in the sea off Porlock. One can remember the recent incident, which was absolutely unacceptable, with the stag at bay and the shambles of the final kill. The kill was handled in a completely improper way, and prompt action was taken by the Masters of Deerhounds Association. I will not tolerate cruelty or any failure to observe the correct rules. I hope that the House sees, therefore, that I approach the matter in a balanced way. I am concerned that the arguments on the other side are often not considered.

I care about tolerance in this country; I now see an intolerant strain. It exists in other parts of our life, and I see it coming to play in this area as well. This strain of intolerance will do great damage to our country. I am under no illusions. The people for whom I advance the case today are a minority, because the majority of our country is urban or suburban. However, we are discussing the way of life of people in the countryside, which is dear to them. Hunting is part of the structure of the countryside in which those people live.

My next point is not a party point. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) is one of the few here who has personal memory of one of the great sons of Exmoor. I refer to Ernest Bevin, from Winsford on Exmoor. Was it because he came from Exmoor that he voted as he did when hunting was discussed in the House?

One of the great Agriculture Ministers, certainly in the memories of farmers, was Tom Williams, who was a Labour Member. He said that he did not believe that one could justify banning hunting, because to do so would interfere with the liberties of the rural population and would criminalise a whole community. Hon. Members may say that standards have changed, and that those people lived long ago. I believe that they had stronger roots in the countryside, that they had a closer understanding, and that they were, in some senses, more tolerant.

I hope that, on reflection, the hon. Member for Dumbarton will realise that there is a challenge. He can take a significant step forward in tackling the problems of cruelty to animals. In that, I would fully support him. If he seeks to widen the issue, he will not, I fear, succeed.

10.43 am
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

This is an interesting debate for reasons rather wider than might appear at first sight. I participated in a similar debate three years ago. One of the points that I find interesting about debates on animal welfare is that all the speeches from those who support the other side of the argument reinforce our argument. The more speeches we hear like the speech by the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), the stronger becomes the case in favour of the Bill.

I declare an interest; I am a vegetarian. Like many people of my age, I was persuaded by my children to become a vegetarian. As a child, when I went for a walk every Sunday, I passed a little shop that was put up by the National Anti-Vivisection Society. As a child, I saw a display in which a stuffed animal was being tortured. All my life, I have been committed to the cause of anti-vivisection.

The arguments put by those on the other side are interesting. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) is accused of not having been on a hunt; secondly, he is accused of not having consulted people; and, thirdly, it is said that he did not draft the Bill. None of those arguments is credible.

This is not, strictly speaking, a party matter. There are members of the Labour party, such as Lady Mallalieu, who support hunting. There are Conservative Members who will vote with us in the Lobby. There are Liberal Democrats who support hunting. The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), who is not now in the Chamber, is in favour of hunting. We must not make this into a strict party matter. The debate takes place against a background of changed public opinion.

Mr. Peter Griffiths

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is not a town versus country argument? It is a debate freely entered into by all the people of this country.

Mr. Benn

I am trying to do credit to the argument. There is a real argument. There are those who get pleasure from hunting and those who think that it is wrong. What makes this debate different from the one in 1992—I understand that the British Field Sports Society does not seek to divide the House—is that public opinion has changed. In every generation, the House is a reflection of public opinion, although we are a bit slow to pick it up. I sometimes think of the House as a rusty weathercock that does not shift until the wind is very strong.

As anyone who visits primary schools today will know, young people are passionately interested in the environment and the planet. I enjoy my visits to primary schools more than any other visits; the same may be true of other hon. Members. Children in primary schools in my constituency are cheeky, intelligent and questioning. They always ask about badgers, elephants, the rain forest and the other environmental questions that may be not so interesting to the older generation. I know that we are not debating the export of live animals, but the recent campaign has helped substantially to change the tide of opinion.

It is not only young people who are interested in such issues. I have never forgotten a woman who came to my surgery when I represented Bristol, South-East many years ago. She was a very short lady with a bun and horn-rimmed spectacles. She had worked all her life in a wool shop. I had a talk about her problems and I then asked her what she did. She said, "My uncle left me a little money." I said, "How lovely! What did you do?" She said, "I left the wool shop and I joined the hunt saboteurs." That story is absolutely true; I have never forgotten it.

The House must face the fact that it is not a matter of people wanting to prevent the right hon. Member for Bridgwater from enjoying himself. He could take part in drag hunting. I have not seen that either so I hardly dare to mention it. It must be just as much fun. The reality is that cruelty for fun is no longer acceptable to an overwhelming majority of people in this country.

In the previous debate, the late Nicholas Ridley made a powerful speech in which he accused those who favoured the banning of hunting of being kill-joys. It was as if we were looking round for country pleasures and then trying to ban them. He simply did not understand. There are many people, of whom I am one, who think that to inflict cruelty for fun is wrong.

It is so long since moral questions were allowed to penetrate into political debate that it must be a bit of a puzzle for people who believe that enjoying oneself, at whatever cost to animals, is fine and who believe that making money out of cruelty to animals is also fine. When people say that it is wrong, it is a bit of a shock. Some people say, "What do you mean by saying that it is wrong? If it is fun, it must be right. If it is profitable, it must be right." That is the argument in our debate today.

The same point applies to the export of live animals. People believe that it is wrong that animals should be treated in that way for the profit of farmers. It is no good the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food telling us that we must allow the export of live animals because the European regulations require it. What does he think will happen? Will the German army be sent here to insist that we continue with the export of live animals? The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous. When the Minister, who is also a farmer, says that we cannot do anything about the export of live animals because we have to build a new Europe, he is not credible at all. That is why the party in favour of hunting—I do not mean the Conservative party in any way—simply does not understand what it is up against and I want to help to explain.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Benn

I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman allowed me to proceed because I am trying to develop a very serious argument.

I was very surprised that the Bill in 1992 was defeated by 19 votes on the eve of an election. [HON. MEMBERS: "12 votes."] Yes, 12 votes. The whole situation is now different and we should ask what has happened meanwhile. People have done something about it. All change in this country has been brought about by people doing something, not by writing to The Guardian or to The Independent or by trying to get half a minute with the media. The media is much more interested in other matters. Jim Naughtie has to interview Jeremy Paxman about what Hugo Young said about what Alan Watkins thinks about the next reshuffle. That is much more interesting than anything else. They interview each other. They are not interested in politics at all—they are interested in politicians. There is more interest in the future of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer than there is in, for example, cruelty to animals or unemployment or anything else.

One does not make much progress with the media until very late in the game, when the battle is all over, and the same media get an award at Cannes for an insight programme into how hunting was banned in Britain. In the first instance, however, the media do not take much notice.

Hunt saboteurs are presented as if they were hooligans, yet they protect animal life. They are presented as if they were members of a new, creeping intolerance, led by passion. I listened to the right hon. Member for Bridgwater. His speech was incredible. The passion is felt by those who dress up in red coats and get on horses and kill. The feeling—

Mr. Colvin

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Benn

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman because he will help my case.

Mr. Colvin

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman as one ex-Bristol Member to another. Was it pure coincidence that on the day the poll tax rioters were burning Trafalgar square, not one hunt in this country was sabotaged?

Mr. Benn

I may go on to speak about the poll tax in a way that the hon. Gentleman will not really like. I know that the Deputy Speaker will not automatically, with the help of "Erskine May", link the poll tax to hunting, but there may be a connection if I am skilful enough.

We make progress by doing something. If something is done, some attention has to be given to the matter. As a result of what was done at Shoreham and Brightlingsea and Coventry, many things happened. The media noticed the issue. Previously, hunt saboteurs were presented along with gangsters, thugs and football hooligans, but the media had to realise, because something was done, that they had to be reported. One hon. Member raised with Madam Speaker his objection that people had written to him—the lobbying of Members of Parliament—which he found outrageous. I have heard of electors trying to change Government, but I have never heard of Government trying to change the electorate. A new principle is emerging as we return to a Victorian society.

There will not be a vote today because hon. Members who oppose the Bill would not win it. Those who favour hunting have decided to retreat into two more secure areas. One area is the recesses of the Committee, where all sorts of devices can be used to delay the progress of the Bill. There may be a long, long debate about the Bill in front of it in the queue, which is completely non-controversial, to prevent this Bill from being discussed. Then, in the end, there is always the Lords. Proceedings will be dragged out by some of those old country peers, who, when they have discovered where London is, will get the train here and vote against the Bill. I was talking to one of the officials of the House the other day who said that a peer came into the Member's Entrance and asked "Could you tell me where the House of Lords is?" I thought that that was a very interesting example. I have been informed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) that there will be a vote today.

I have referred in the past and I would like to refer again—I know that it is very painful to the House of Commons to be told and reminded yet again—to how social progress is made. We like to think that it is made by an amendment from a Back Bencher, and accepted by the Government. It is not like that at all. Social progress is made when public pressure builds up. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton, who moved the Bill brilliantly, quoted "Roads to Ruin" by E.S. Turner, in which he described someone who wrote a book in favour of torture and dedicated it, with permission, to the chief of the imperial general staff.

There was, of course, a big campaign against the abolition of chimney boys on the grounds that it would endanger country houses. I have no doubt that the right hon. Member for Bridgwater would have given very powerful arguments for the love of country houses and the absolute necessity to send little boys up chimneys. Samuel Plimsoll, who introduced the Plimsoll line, which dealt with the coffin ships, was described in The Shipping Gazette as a terrorist. All that is in the lovely book by E.S. Turner.

My experience is that when people come along with some good idea, in the beginning it is completely ignored; nobody mentions it at all. If people go on, they are mad, and if they continue, they are very dangerous. After that, there is a pause and then nobody can be found who does not claim to have thought of it in the first place. That is how social progress is made.

If we consider the history of this country, we see that none of the great advances came from initiations made in the Houses of Parliament. How does the House think that the trade unions were legalised after the Tolpuddle martyrs? Do people think that there was a debate in the House of Lords one day when one duke said to another "My Lords, I think we've been a bit unfair to the working class, let us repeal"—it was not like that at all. They could not keep trade unions down.

How do people think that the Chartists got the vote? How did the suffragettes get the vote? Does the House think that men woke up one day and said "By the way, we've been a bit unfair to the wife, let's give her the vote"? Women chained themselves to the railings, they were arrested, they went on hunger strike, they were forcibly fed and women got the vote.

How does the House think that apartheid ended? Was it because Nelson Mandela got a new suit or because he amended clause IV of the African National Congress constitution? It was because the Africans simply would not accept exclusion from the political process. That is how change occurs and it is much resented by hon. Members.

I believe that we are on the eve of a victory here today. I am told that there will be a vote and I am sure that the Bill will be passed. The campaigners deserve the credit for it, together with those who have advocated such a Bill for a long time in the House. Then, we shall take the next stage. The one thing about which I am absolutely certain is that when all the arguments put forward in favour of hunting today are studied and analysed, they will turn out to be in support of the Bill. I am grateful for those who argue the case for hunting, because the more they are read the less credible they are.

10.57 am
Sir John Cope (Northavon)

I support the general cruelty provisions in clause 1. I thought that the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) explained that clause extremely clearly and put the issues very fairly. If he had confined his Bill to that clause and the necessary issues and enforcement clauses behind it, or if he were to do so subsequently in Committee, he would improve the statute book and have my support in so doing.

The Bill, of course, mixes the unnatural torture of animals in clause 1, to which the hon. Member for Dumbarton referred, and hunting in clause 2, which I do not believe in the least comes in the same category. I do not support a ban on hunting. My constituency is not quite as well provided for as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), but we have two packs of fox hounds and one beagle pack in the constituency.

Many of my constituents support hunting, including, but not entirely consisting of, those who go hunting and many, too, who earn their living from it. It is for many of them a whole way of life, which is under attack in clause 2.

Of course, I have constituents, particularly in the more urban parts of my constituency, who dislike fox hunting and I respect their views. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater, I have lived, although not for quite so long, with the issue as a Member of Parliament for more than 20 years. Clearly, one cannot please all one's constituents in respect of a matter of this kind whatever one does.

I am clear, however, that the control of foxes is necessary, particularly from an agriculture point of view. Foxes kill lambs and chickens, often in much larger numbers than they need to eat. Farmers in my constituency have given me plenty of examples of that and I gather that English Nature, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and gamekeepers control foxes in their areas by different means. The argument is not whether foxes should be killed but how they should be killed. There is a great deal of acceptance about that point, even among those who do not agree with us.

The Bill does not provide for the conservation or protection of foxes or of any other species. The hon. Member for Dumbarton argued that hunting is irrelevant to controlling foxes. If we turn that argument around, the anti-hunting part of the Bill is irrelevant to the preservation of foxes and I believe that is true. It will not do foxes any good at all if the Bill is passed in its present form. Indeed, I believe that it would lead to more foxes being killed and to the erosion of their habitat. Large parts of England, including sections of my constituency, have areas deliberately conserved because of fox hunting and that has helped to form the landscape as we know it.

Patently, hunting does not eliminate species: far from it. Obviously, if it did, there would have been no foxes for hundreds of years. Foxes have flourished here and Frederick Forsyth made that point particularly well yesterday in his article in The Times. The only real argument relates to the different methods to kill foxes.

I believe that properly conducted hunting is, by comparison with other methods, a humane way of killing foxes. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater, I emphasise "properly conducted hunting" by which I mean under the rules of the Masters' of Foxhounds Association. Those rules cover the relevant points.

Hunting is a humane way of killing foxes because there are no wounded foxes and death is quick. It is the most natural way of killing foxes in the literal sense of the word: it is like nature itself. After all, it is the way in which the fox kills.

In some areas, hunting is essential to control foxes. However, even in areas where it provides only a small part of the control—reference has already been made to this point—it would be wrong to ban hunting in favour of more difficult and less humane methods of control. It is significant and persuasive that supporters of hunting, who I know include many of the most knowledgeable people on the countryside and wildlife and its ways. Those people include vets and farmers who spend their whole lives, often from childhood, working with animals. Clearly, without the support of farmers, hunting would quickly end. Fox hunting people are perfectly aware of that because many of them are farmers and vets.

Other people, of whom the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) has obviously been one for a long time, dislike hunting. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield's speech raised a point that I have observed before. It often seems that the core of their dislike is that people follow hounds, particularly on horseback. There has long been a problem with people on horseback looking down on people on foot. The cavalry and the infantry have always had their disputes and that has partly to do with the fact that if one is sitting on a horse, one is bound to look down on someone standing on the ground. However, people like the right hon. Member for Chesterfield dislike the idea that hunting is sport or "fun" as he eloquently, as usual, put it.

It would be interesting to speculate whether we would have the same trouble or the Bill before the House in this form if only the hunt servants went out and no one followed in a pink coat, and particularly if no one appeared to enjoy seeing hounds work out a line. That is only part of the reason why some people oppose hunting. There is a small minority for whom it is part of a much wider agenda altogether. I do not think that that is true of the hon. Member for Dumbarton. However, some people are now deliberately confusing animal welfare and animal rights. I have no doubt that if the ban on hunting was passed, the whole expensive animal rights caravan would move straight on to fishing, shooting, livestock farming and on beyond that.

The central engine of the animal rights campaign seems to be morally flawed. It argues for the so-called rights of the fox, but not for the rights of the lambs or chickens they kill over and above those they need to eat. It also argues in ways that will not help foxes, as I have already described, and there seems to be no morality in that.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield told us that we should consider opinion polls, which claim that many people are against hunting, but the percentages in different polls vary very widely indeed. That is not surprising when the same polls tell us that hunting is very low on the list of things that people are bothered about. The results are also not surprising when so much money and effort is being devoted by animal rights activists into misleading the public, 90 per cent. of whom have never seen a hunt.

That money and effort is directed at hunting at the moment because of its symbolism for the animal rights movement. It is fairly interesting that, in its efforts to persuade the public and to work up public alarm about the matter, the Bill concentrates on mammals. The public can be drawn into that net, but there does not seem to be a moral difference between mammals and spiders, flies and wasps, which the public happily want to stop interfering with their lives. It is also interesting that rabbits and rats are excluded from the protection of clause 2.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield implied that someone was bound to say that the animal rights movement is thought to be dangerous. I agree with him. He said that people would say that it was dangerous and I believe that it is. It is the only single-issue campaign that has spawned a violent terrorist wing. In taking to violence, those people are, as other terrorists do, attacking the basis of law. There is no morality in that. Apart from the reported attacks, which have been referred to, these people desecrate graves. There was an example of that in my constituency not so long ago.

In some respects, the animal rights movement is sinister because there seems to be a considerable overlap at the top of the movement that stretches from the animal liberation front and hunt saboteurs to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Militant animal rights activists have infiltrated the RSPCA, which has a respectable and respected history of animal welfare. After all, militants infiltrated the Labour party to use its decent members as a front for much more sinister underlying objectives. The Labour party has fought that for some years and it continues to do so, so it should understand that point very well.

Mr. Benn

In his list of criminals, where would St. Francis of Assisi fit into the right hon. Gentleman's view of those who are injecting dangerous ideas of animal welfare into the human mind?

Sir John Cope

I have no objection to people putting forward ideas, as I have already made clear. I respect those who have a different view from mine on this or other matters. St. Francis of Assisi may be included in that. I do not know precisely what his views on hunting were, but he was not, after all, a terrorist. I am referring to those who use unsatisfactory and unacceptable measures to pursue their points of view. That is against the tolerance that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater successfully supported. It is also against our way of life and the rule of law.

The RSPCA has great resources given to it for animal welfare—the work that it does so well. It is very sad that it should use a large part of its money on campaign advertisements which, incidentally, are also dubious from a legal point of view. The International Fund for Animal Welfare itself has had a very chequered history in a number of countries. It is not a charity but a limited company and it does not have the same restrictions on what it can do. It also makes a profit.

I have no doubt that, if it were successful, this attack on hunting would lead—perhaps not by the hon. Member for Dumbarton but by others in the so-called animal rights movement—to further attacks on shooting and fishing and to attacks on equestrian sports. I note that prominent members of the League Against Cruel Sports have attacked the Olympic games because of their equestrian events. Attacks on farming would increase. We have seen militant activity in respect of farming. Attacks would extend to the keeping of pets. Once again, prominent members of the League Against Cruel Sports have argued about that matter. The process would not stop here.

We should not go down the animal rights road. The Bill is the start of that road. The anti-hunting clauses are anti-conservation. Ultimately, they are inhumane and illogical. The hon. Member for Dumbarton should settle for clause 1 and the consequential enforcement clauses, and do as the excellent Labour leaflet says and "leave country sports alone".

11.13 am
Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

I join others in congratulating the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) on his skill and initiative in introducing the Bill. As one who piloted a private Member's Bill through the House many years ago, I know how much extra work and how much public pressure is involved in such a controversial issue. I commend the hon. Gentleman on the manner in which he presented the Bill to the House.

In particular—I do not want to argue this matter in detail—the hon. Gentleman was wise, when dealing with the sections of the Bill concerning snaring, to say that he is open to further consultation and amendments in Committee. Although hon. Members listened with concern to what he had to say and shared his objectives, we are certainly not sure that he has that section of the Bill right. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's broad approach in introducing the legislation.

I fully support clause 1. Everybody wants legal protection to be extended to wild mammals. Of course, without beating about the bush, the controversial part of the Bill and the one on which right hon. and hon. Members have been lobbied assiduously is clause 2, which would ban hunting.

I live in a beautiful part of the Scottish countryside. I have two organised hunts in my constituency. For 10 years or so, I owned a horse and enjoyed riding. I have never hunted, but I have watched hunting on occasions. If I were confronted with an opinion poll and asked to tick a box to approve or disapprove hunting, I would have to say that I disapprove, but that is not the point. The point is whether I use my vote in the House of Commons to ban an activity in which I personally do not wish to take part when others might use their votes to ban activities in which I do wish to take part. As a Liberal, I believe very firmly that that is a matter for individual conscience and that it is for individuals to make up their minds. It is not a matter for the law to intervene in.

I say that because I admit to fishing—I enjoy fishing. I am an honourary member of the Selkirk and District angling club, and I fish on the Ettrick and Yarrow. I owe it money for my annual salmon permit. I am also in a syndicate that fishes a nearby loch. On occasions, when I have been photographed or televised in that pursuit, I have received letters from members of the public and, indeed, from members of my own party asking why I engage in such a barbaric pursuit as fishing.

People are entitled to their views on that matter, but the only safe recourse is the one that was put forward by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). He is at least logical in his arguments; he is a vegetarian. I have been to abattoirs in this country and overseas, and I have no doubt that abattoirs overseas are less well regulated than they often are in this country. I have no doubt that cruelty to animals is involved, unhappily, in a meat-eating society. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right to seek refuge in being a vegetarian and to enunciate as a fundamental principle that any activity that involves cruelty to animals should be banned by law.

That, of course, takes us down the very road that I do not wish to travel. I do not wish to ban fishing or shooting. I shoot occasionally, usually when people want to preserve their stock, as I am not a particularly good shot. I have a trained flat-coat retriever with which I enjoy working in the countryside.

The promoter of the Bill mentioned a recent opinion poll that showed a narrow majority, but still a majority, of people against shooting. I regard clause 2 as the thin end of a wedge that will threaten the pursuit of country sports as we know them today. I shall tell the House what the implications of that would be for the rural environment and the rural economy.

I am told that one of the hunts in my constituency is just about to move into new premises. There will be direct employment implications in that, but of course indirect employment in the saddlery shops, vets' surgeries, smithies and so on associated with organised hunting would be put at risk. Much more important, because I do not speak with any great knowledge of hunting, is that the growing practice of proper wildlife management in this country would be put at risk if the economic benefits of country sports were removed. I will give a specific example.

In some parts of Scotland, vast sums of money are charged to visitors for a day's fishing or shooting. That does not happen so much in my part of Scotland. However, I shall give a breakdown from an estate near where I live, showing the expenditure of one visiting sportsman over either a long weekend or a short mid-week break. Such people tend to be from Germany or Italy, who come to shoot deer or pheasant. If one sportsman spends £650, £350 goes directly into the wildlife department of the forestry estates in order to maintain the gamekeepers and the other resources which enable wildlife to be managed; £100 goes into a local farmhouse for bed-and-breakfast accommodation; £50 goes into the local hotel for meals or drinks; and about £150 on average, it is reckoned, is spent in the local woollen mills by those welcome visitors buying some of our splendid wool or cashmere products to take home to their nearest and dearest. That is part of the fabric of the rural economy in the south of Scotland. If we take away the injection of income that country sports bring there would be some destruction of that economy as we know it today.

Of course one could say that in an ideal world man should not interfere with animals. But we grow sheep and cattle on the hills, and we plant more and more trees to help with the balance of payments. Man has interfered with the balance of nature, so the only way in which wildlife can be sustained and protected is through further interference by mankind.

To read some of the letters that we receive one would think that the animal kingdom was a world of tranquillity, peace and order, and that cuddly foxes leapt straight out of the pages of Beatrix Potter and were never destructive themselves.

I remember, in my early days as a Member of the House, having to make speeches critical of the forestry organisations, both the Forestry Commission and the private forestry interests, because they ignored the long-term interests of the environment. I am happy to say that over the 30 years that I have been a Member of Parliament there has been a complete revolution in the thinking of both the Forestry Commission and the private forestry interests about the long-term development of the rural environment.

Now in my constituency we find with pleasure places where the forestry has been opened up to the public, where deciduous trees have been planted, wildlife has been protected and ponds have been created for bird life. The result has been a complete revival of wildlife—deer, foxes, badgers, eagles, osprey and red squirrels. All that can be enjoyed not only by those who, like me, are fortunate enough to live in rural areas but by the urban population, who can come out to the lungs of the country and enjoy the pleasures of wildlife.

I believe that the Bill strikes at the heart of the progress that has been made. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield is correct to say that if we accept clause 2 it will not be long before other Bills come before the House seeking to ban other country sports too. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think that it should be drawn by deleting clause 2.

11.21 am
Sir Cranley Onslow (Woking)

I agree strongly with what the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) said about the long-term implications of clause 2. I shall dwell on those later, but I also endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about clause 1. I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) is not in his place now, but there is no doubt that if he had the good sense to say that he would proceed with clause 1 only, the House could get on with that without any difficulty and we could get on to the following business, which is equally important to many of us. We want to see that proceed too, and I hope that that can happen without any unnecessary procedural time-wasting by the supporters of this Bill.

The presence on the Opposition Front Bench of the hon. Members for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) and for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who have recently been taking an interest in angling, is welcome, and I draw attention to it. I think that they are mistaken if they believe that angling is not threatened by the anti movement. I do not know whether other hon. Members have seen a remarkable pamphlet entitled "Angling—the Neglected Bloodsport" published by the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling. For hon. Members who have not yet seen it, that document will repay some study.

The pamphlet declares: Sparrows, swans, moorhens, coots, gulls, dogs, bats, fish … anglers kill them all". That is illustrated with a photograph of a sparrow found on the river Medway in Kent, with the comment: It is but one of thousands of animals killed and injured every year by anglers' lost and discarded fishing tackle. I should declare my interest here. I am chairman of the fisheries committee of the British Field Sports Society and I fish myself. I do not hunt, but I shoot. I see the threat to hunting presented by the Bill as extending across the board, and I believe that those seeking to advance it—not the promoter himself, but those who lie behind him, such as the League Against Cruel Sports—have a wider agenda, as my right hon. Friends the Members for Bridgwater (Sir T. King) and for Northavon (Sir J. Cope) have already said—

Mr. Bellingham

My right hon. Friend is talking about fishermen; is he aware that in my constituency there are several angling clubs, and that in one of those clubs a disabled angler had his tyres slashed and all his kit thrown into the river by hunt saboteurs? Is he aware that the agenda of the League Against Cruel Sports is, of course, to outlaw fishing too?

Sir Cranley Onslow

Indeed, I was moving towards that point, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. But first I want to spend a little longer on the activities of the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling.

The pamphlet that I have already quoted goes on to define what it calls: The Extent of the Cruelty", by saying: Of all types of angling, coarse fishing is the most popular. It is also the cruellest. Millions of seemingly 'harmless' anglers seek to stick hooks into the mouths of largely inedible fish purely for the fun of it! … Not content with abusing fish, anglers are also responsible for the maiming and killing of countless thousands of waterfowl and other animals which ingest and become entangled in lost/discarded fishing tackle. I do not defend any angler who litters the bank of a river or a canal or a still water with discarded tackle. I know that that practice can cause harm, and I also know how strongly the angling governing bodies feel against it. However, I ask the House and, in his absence, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield, to understand that that sort of propaganda is put about to influence impressionable children and others, and that we should recognise that.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)


Sir Cranley Onslow

No, I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman is a great intervener but I wish that he would stay tethered for the moment. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but there are moments when the hon. Gentleman reminds me of a hot-air balloon.

I want to draw attention to the connection between the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling and the hunt saboteurs. The Campaign for the Abolition of Angling advertises in the hunt saboteurs' publication, and the hunt saboteurs' spokesman has said: Next we would move onto the fringe blood sports: shooting and fishing. In 1992 the newsletter of the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling said: Last year was the first that the hunt saboteurs joined in the fight against angling, using non-violent direct action to save the lives of fish. Many sab groups have continued to target anglers throughout the season. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) has pointed out, such intervention is by no means always non-violent. I could cite other cases with which the House should be familiar in which violence has been used to intimidate individual anglers, and to drive them from the river or canal. I have little doubt that if the hunt saboteurs and those who drive them on were successful in their campaign against hunting there would be only a short spell before they moved on to activities aimed at other sports—activities of the same kind and degree.

I deplore, as I hope the whole House deplores, the intrusion of violent action into perfectly legal legitimate activities and recreations. There is little doubt about that, and if any hon. Member wishes to challenge the proposition, I hope that he will intervene now, because I should be glad to hear from him. I notice that no one has sought to intervene, so the point can be taken as conceded. This is the thin end of a dangerous wedge. The antis have a wide agenda and broader objectives than are embodied in the Bill. To encourage them by supporting clause 2 would simply threaten all field sports. Hunting, shooting and fishing all stand threatened in the same way and by the same people.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I shall respond to the right hon. Gentleman's challenge. It is disingenuous ever to argue on any legislation that a particular proposal implies that later there may be support for further measures—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is true."] Of course it is not true. The issue must be judged on its merits, and the right hon. Gentleman will persuade people only if he argues about the merits of hunting, whereby people and dogs go out and kill foxes for pleasure as an alternative way of killing them. Only on that argument can he adduce support for his proposition. Anything else is irrelevant.

Sir Cranley Onslow

The hon. Gentleman might do best to talk to one or two of his Liberal colleagues. They have said that they agree with me and not with him. The hon. Gentleman is a master of disingenuousness, and he has demonstrated that to the House.

Mr. King

Did I misunderstand the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), or was he saying, "Don't worry about newspaper editors and the normal conduct of politics, direct action is needed"? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be supporting the call for direct action, and not just in hunting, since he seem to regard that approach as a seamless robe to other country sports as well. He appears to be saying that he has the route to a more acceptable society.

Sir Cranley Onslow

Unfortunately, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield is not in his place. I have no doubt, however, that my right hon. Friend's interpretation is entirely right. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman meant what he said. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) does not understand that. It is clear that his Liberal colleagues do.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

Perhaps I might redress the balance. I am a Liberal Democrat Member for a rural area, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the conservation of the countryside, which so many urban people are determined to secure, is conservation of something that has been created by those who farm the countryside? Surely the best judges of whether fox control is needed by the means that we are discussing are those very people, the farmers. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree also that one of the most misleading arguments in the debate is that we are talking about toffs in red coats? Most people who hunt—this is certainly the position in rural Wales—are ordinary farmers, many of them earning very little. They pay a small subscription each year and manage to keep a fair balance between farmer and fox.

Sir Cranley Onslow

I entirely agree. My Welsh farming friends share the view that the hon. and learned Gentleman has expressed. I do not want to rub salt into the wound, but it is conceivable that there might now be a Liberal Member representing Brecon and Radnor if the Liberal candidate at the last election had expressed the view that the hon. and learned Gentleman has put before the House. I am glad to have his support.

I do not wish to detain the House for much longer. I merely put on record the fact that the National Federation of Anglers, the National Federation of Sea Anglers and the Salmon and Trout Association all object to legislative interference in any legitimate country sport. They all reiterate the fundamental right of every individual to choose his or her country sport. These are not matters for legislation and clause 2 does not deserve the support of the House.

11.32 am
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), in his absence, on the Bill that he has produced and on the eloquent way in which he presented it.

It is not my intention to take a great deal of the time of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton covered all the points that had to be made, and did so eloquently. I wish to make only one or two observations.

In pursuing these issues—hare coursing or whatever—for nearly 30 years in the House, I have become conscious of increasing support for action to stop cruelty to animals and for the need to legislate against it. That support has come about over the passage of time. That is due in large part to the great campaigning work of the League Against Cruel Sports. I am proud to have been associated with the league over nearly 30 years. I am a vice-president.

The purpose of clause 1 is to extend the protection that is given to animals in captivity to wild animals. Over the past few months, there has been an argument about the way in which we look after calves that are transferred to the continent. There has been a great deal of hypocrisy. Ministers have thrown up their hands in shock, horror and disgust at the crating of calves on the continent. They seem surprised when they do not get their own way. At the same time, their friends, or members of their families, dress up in red coats and pursue other animals to have them pulled to death by dogs. There must be some consistency of argument. Unfortunately, Ministers have been failing in that regard and in their attitude towards the care of veal calves.

I listened with interest to the former leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel). Much of his speech had nothing to do with the Bill. It should be understood that the Bill would not ban shooting, or angling. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention that. Similarly, he did not mention that hunting deer by dogs in Scotland has been outlawed for nearly 40 years.

I welcome, with the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, all the improvements that have been made in forestry. We have seen the provision of ponds, the planting of deciduous trees and the introduction of opportunities for bird life, for example. All those developments have had the support of many people, who take the view that such things have nothing to do with the contents of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman were to urge the Government to spend more money on such developments, many of us would support him.

Needless cruelty is demeaning to humankind. At the same time, no exaggerated value should be placed upon the deer, the fox or the hare in relationship to human beings. If we were spending our time today debating homelessness in London or in the rest of the country and urging the Government to spend more money to tackle the problem, I would feel that that was a better use of our time than discussing our attitude towards animals, but that is not the position. We are discussing animals and the way that we treat them, and the way that that affects our dignity as human beings. As I have said, to allow needless cruelty to be inflicted on animals is demeaning to human dignity.

Animals were placed upon the earth to be used by man, not to be abused. To hunt them purely and simply for the purpose of personal satisfaction and fun is immoral. It is denying animals their dignity and, more important than that, debasing ours.

Clause 1 is important because it would end the present legislative anomaly. On Radio Humberside this morning I heard people from the Hull Hedgehog hospital talking about their work. They have received about 4,000 hedgehogs over the past few years, many of which have been mutilated by people or animals. When they are in their cages in the hospital it is a criminal offence to poke them with sticks, to beat them or to abuse them in any way. When they are set in a field after receiving care, people can kick them, throw stones at them and burn them. We have heard about the young schoolboys from Pocklington. That sort of action is permissible in those circumstances.

Conservative Members say that they are against kicking, thumping and torture. They say that it is needless cruelty. They are happy for such behaviour to be banned. If my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton, in his wisdom, was content only for clause 1 to be enacted, along with some legislation on snaring, it seems that there would be no objection from Conservative Members. What difference is there in principle between kicking a hare and deliberately setting dogs on it to use it as a tug of war? What difference is there in the pain that is suffered in those circumstances?

Conservative Members ask, "Have you seen those things?", as though to appreciate the difficulties that are associated with a deadly disease we must suffer it before making a speech about it. They seem to be suggesting that it is necessary to have had smallpox, leprosy or cholera before we can legislate to try to get rid of such diseases.

Yes, I have been to see hare coursing; I went with my former colleague, the late Arnold Shaw, to see it at the east of England meet. On that occasion, they did not know that Members of Parliament were present. They released the hares far closer to the dogs than they did, for example, at the Waterloo cup, when it was known that lots of people would be there. On those occasions, I saw—photographic evidence of it appeared in the Daily Mirror and, if it had been allowable in the debate, I would have produced them—a hare with its hind legs in the mouth of one hound and the head in the mouth of another, being pulled around, screaming. That is what hon. Members who speak in favour of hunting today are defending.

Mr. Colvin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McNamara

Yes, but let me make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that that is what he is defending.

Mr. Colvin

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because I know that he feels strongly about this, but I could not condone the sort of things that he has just described, and he knows perfectly well that all field sports are governed by strict codes of conduct, and if anyone participating in a field sport breaks those codes of conduct, there are sanctions that the governing bodies can take against them. If field sports cannot regulate and control themselves, they are just asking for Parliament to come in and do it for them.

Mr. McNamara

That is precisely what we are doing. We are trying to stop them, because they are not even enforcing their own rules. The masters of fox hunts are not enforcing the rules, as we have seen in recent cases.

Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

Is my hon. Friend aware that when I had the dubious privilege of visiting the Waterloo cup on one of the occasions to which he referred, by some strange coincidence all the hares got away, because it was known that a deputation of Members of Parliament was present? What was interesting to me was the baying of frustrated blood lust on the bank opposite.

Mr. McNamara

I understand what my hon. Friend says.

Sir David Steel

The hon. Gentleman said a few moments ago that he held office in the League Against Cruel Sports. I think it was that organisation—he will correct me if I am wrong—that sent hon. Members an anti-hunting video. I took the trouble to watch it and it had nothing whatever to do with organised hunting. It was in fact the repeated release and capture of a fox, being torn to bits by dogs. I wholly oppose that and believe that it should be outlawed under clause 1.

Mr. McNamara

It showed organised huntsmen digging out foxes and putting terriers in and it showed the way in which foxes were treated. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that the arguments that have been advanced here this morning—about the use of dogs and so on—in favour of hunting are precisely the same arguments that should be used about badger baiting. Why should badger baiting be illegal? It is only people going down, getting out a little animal and putting other animals in to tear it to pieces. What is wrong with that, for goodness sake? Hon. Members should be up in arms and demanding the end of the ban on badger baiting, on bear baiting, on bull baiting. We should be building bigger and bigger plazas in the centre of London so that we can have bull fighting.

That is the sort of logic of the argument that people in favour of hunting use, and that is what they are not prepared to accept, so they hide behind fancy little phrases like "country sports", as though they sanitise the nastiness that is contained within them. Or they say, "If it was really done properly according to our rules, none of this would be allowed." But we all know that those rules are there to put up a facade to preserve something. If there are serious breaches, they fail to act properly in any way against the miscreants, as one can see in what has happened recently to the masters of many distinguished hunts.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

I refer to the point that was made by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel). I, too, have seen the video that was sent out, in which a number of long dogs were seen tearing apart a hare.

Mr. Tony Banks

It was a fox.

Mr. Garnier

It is not a very good video, perhaps. The point, surely, is whether the appalling conduct that was seen on the video would be allowable under clause 4, which would allow gangs of men, each with their own dog, to go out and do precisely what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is complaining about?

Mr. McNamara

That is not true at all. It would not be allowed. Look at the data contained in that clause.

We have had no real defence of what has been going on. The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King)—the right hon. Member for two stag hunts—said how deplorable it was at Porlock that the stags jumped on to the roof to escape the dog, how deplorable that they had to go into the sea, how deplorable that they jumped off the cliff. It is very deplorable, but he is not going to do anything about it, because it is one of the nice things about country life that we do not really understand.

Mr. O'Hara

It is colourful.

Mr. McNamara

It is very colourful, but I am sure that that opinion was not shared by the deer in question.

Then we come to what is supposed to be the real reason for fox hunting—to put down pests. Nobody here has attempted to defend hare coursing. Deer hunting has been defended, but no one has explained why it is not necessary to use hounds to control deer in Scotland, where they have the biggest deer herds, or in other places where there are deer—Epping Forest, Richmond, the midlands, coming down from the north into Yorkshire and so on.

Mr. O'Hara

Magdalen college, Oxford.

Mr. McNamara

Magdalen college, Oxford, is a little separate. I understand that the deer are reared specifically for consumption. It is not necessary to control wild deer in any way.

We go to enormous expense to control foxes as pests. Yet we choose the most inefficient way of doing it, even doing it with dogs. The dogs are bred not for their ability to get hold of a fox's neck and twist it quickly and kill it but for their stamina. They do not want the fox to be caught. They want the enjoyment of the chase. If one wants the enjoyment of the chase, there is the drag hunt. To argue that hunting is an efficient form of pest control is really putting logic on its head. The real reason is the pleasure of the chase and the kill. We have seen what has been done by terrier men associated with hunts.

We have seen the evils that many people have been engaged in, despite the passing of legislation: in badger baiting, in the blocking up of holes. We have seen dog fighting continue, as it has done in the East Riding of Yorkshire. All those evils are there and the basis of those evils is that further along the social line there is the attitude that fox hunting is permissible. Because of that, all those other evil, illegal things go on.

If hon. Members say that the Bill is the thin end of the wedge, they are arguing in favour of the return of each and every one of the sports that I mentioned earlier. They would be saying that we could have a good society for badger baiting with elaborate rules to prevent cruelty, and we could do the same for bull baiting and cock fighting, that we could go along with all those things and have a perfectly civilised, organised society. There would be no thin of the wedge, which is the fear of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, the former leader of the Liberal party. There would be a nice, happy sort of society and we could go out of our way to breed tiny, thin, little boys who would be able to go round cleaning central heating pipes.

11.49 am
Mr. John Patten (Oxford, West and Abingdon)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on his speech. He is passionate about these matters, and he delivered a passionate speech. I share his slight surprise that the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) has been missing from the Chamber for a great number of speeches. Doubtless he is out being addressed by those luvvies to whom the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) referred, so that they can later talk to each other about their response to him.

Mr. McNamara

The right hon. Gentleman is being unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall). As a former Minister, the right hon. Gentleman knows that, when he used to grace the Front Bench and make speeches, he sometimes disappeared to do his bit on television and radio. He will probably be far less successful in his career than my hon. Friend will be in his.

Mr. Patten

I do not want to take up much time on this matter.

The hon. Member for Dumbarton spoke well, passionately and clearly, although he got into a frightful muddle when he set himself a trap by speaking about the way in which dogs fall roundly on a rat or a rabbit and dispatch it fairly quickly. He used that argument as though that practice were acceptable, but that is exactly what happens at the end of a fox hunt. I would like the hon. Gentleman to be here to listen to the arguments. It is his Bill, and perhaps his one chance to put a measure into law. He is wrong to prefer the media to the House: he should be listening to the debate.

Having made that entirely bipartisan comment, I shall make four points. They are on my interest, on terminology, on important constitutional implications of the Bill, and on the problem of balance which it poses for our society. I make it clear that I respect the deeply held convictions of hon. Members who support the Bill. I especially appreciate the way in which the hon. Member for Dumbarton made his points.

I shall deal first with my personal interest. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) enjoined us to declare our interest in these matters. I have no interest at all to declare. Neither I nor anyone in my family hunts, shoots or fishes. It must be 25 years since I last concerned myself with anything remotely connected with field sports.

I suppose I should also declare that, as I represent a largely urban and suburban constituency, it is unlikely to be in my political interests to oppose the Bill. However, I am told that, in some politically correct parts of north Oxford, the journal Country Life is cling-wrapped and put on top shelves, and it is possible to get Horse and Hound from under the counter of newsagents' shops only on the payment of particularly large sums.

Secondly, I shall deal with terminology. I say to hon. Members in all parts of the House who care about animals that, irrespective of whether they are in favour of the Bill, the use of the term "animal rights" is inappropriate. Rights are the mirror images of duties, and there can be no such things as animal rights, since there can be no animal duties. Of course, there can and should be animal welfare, but it is important that we do not drag the correct use of the word "rights" in the human context into the area and arena of animals.

Thirdly, I shall deal with the constitutional issue. The House must face the implications of using this or any other private Member's Bill to criminalise activities in which a substantial number of our fellow citizens regularly and innocently engage, and have done so historically under part of our constitutional arrangements. Such a change should always be covered by the authority of the electorate. In other words, such legislation should be Government or Government-backed, and the Government of the day should take responsibility for it before Parliament and the public.

There are, of course, precedents in this place for all sorts of private Member's Bills which have later effected changes in the criminal law, but that has always been with Government backing. That is an extremely important constitutional point. Many hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens could find themselves involved, prima facie, in criminal activities should the Bill become law.

The Minister and I were new entrants to this place in 1979. If he is lucky enough to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, and speaks in the debate, I ask him to reflect on the substantial constitutional point. He knows me well enough to know that, when I say that I would be very upset if he did not do that in his remarks, I mean it.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on what might happen if 250,000 people going about their regular daily life were to be regarded as criminals although they did not think they were? Many of their friends would not be prepared to give evidence against them, and that would result in an important law being completely unenforceable.

Mr. Patten

That is why I advise the House to tread extremely carefully on this issue. It should do that not only because of the Bill's substance but because of the wider implications that my hon. Friend mentions.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Patten

Perhaps I may complete the point that I was making to the Minister.

Of course, in his winding-up speech I do not expect my hon. Friend to commit the Government to support or oppose the measure in any way. I am trying to be brief, as I know that many hon. Members want to take part in the debate.

My fourth point is that I advise the House to think carefully about two other matters. First, on the one hand is its duty to protect a plurality of interests and minorities. Secondly, and on the other hand, I advise it to pursue strict logic in looking at issues of animal welfare. As I hope to demonstrate, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North did not follow strict logic. On the first point that I have just made, any country should accept different points of view and should tolerate different values among its citizens, as the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) said so clearly in his liberal speech.

John Stuart Mill warned us against Parliament framing laws which forbid people from pursuing long-established customs, or from destroying natural forms in our society. He felt that the business of Parliament was to protect such spontaneous associations that stemmed from our constitutional freedoms, based on our traditions, and thought that every act should be permitted unless it was forbidden by law. Such ways of life form the stuff of our national life. Equally, my distinguished constituent Sir Isiah Berlin tells us today, a couple of centuries later, that civil society should have a plurality of values.

We should struggle to avoid narrow-minded intolerance, and should resist the temptation to insist that everyone must conform to what a majority opinion poll says, simply because the majority in an opinion poll express a certain point of view on a particular day.

Of equal importance to the constitutional and philosophical points is the need for logic. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North said that anyone who opposed the Bill must automatically be in favour of the reintroduction of all forms of animal cruelty that were abolished in the past. The hon. Gentleman is right. There is a settlement about how animals may be killed in this country, one part of which the Bill seeks to disturb and then to criminalise.

I welcome the hon. Member for Dumbarton back to the Chamber. Hon. Members must recognise that all killing of animals involves some degree of pain and cruelty, except in the case of sick animals being put down in a vet's surgery. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North said, some forms of killing are proscribed by law because, in the view of this place, they involve cruelty.

The Bill picks out hunting with hounds as being peculiarly cruel, and therefore deserving of a criminal penalty. If those who support the Bill think that line through, their arguments must lead them to pursue the logic that all animal killing which involves cruelty should be banned, because all animal killing involves some cruelty and fear.

Fearful birds which are driven over guns and badly shot doubtless feel great pain as they eventually die from their wounds, or are picked up by a dog. Fish on the end of a line doubtless feel the same, and the logic of the Bill demands that the hundreds of thousands of people who shoot and the millions who fish in this country should be similarly strictly treated.

Mr. Duncan

One could not even keep a cat.

Mr. Patten

I speak not of cats today.

Hon. Members should go down to their local abattoir, and they will see animals in the queue with an odd look in their eyes. The animals are conscious that something unusual is probably about to happen to them. It is something unusual—they are about to be killed. They do feel fear, discomfort and pain. The killing of animals always involves shock and pain.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Patten

Many people in this country disapprove of ritual slaughter.

Mr. Banks

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he is not giving way. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.

Mr. Patten

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your protection from the terrifying vision opposite. I would certainly never give way to an hon. Member who is dressed in a cinema usherette's jacket.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. In a debate of this nature, it is better for all personal references to be strictly suppressed.

Mr. Patten

I entirely agree, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am deeply ashamed of myself, and I hope that the whole House will accept my apology about the remarks I made about the hon. Gentleman's disgusting jacket.

Many people disapprove of ritual slaughter on account of the alleged suffering involved. I understand and appreciate that feeling, and I believe that more pain is caused to animals who are ritually slaughtered than to animals killed in domestic slaughterhouses. But I do not feel that practices which are central to the lives of our Jewish and Muslim minorities should be banned by this place.

Some who dislike hunting talk of the fear and mental cruelty which may be caused to animals by their being chased. I personally intensely disapprove of the cruel habit of keeping large dogs pent up in city flats, but I do not think that this place has any right at all to seek to outlaw a custom on which many people—often lonely people—depend for companionship or for peace of mind.

The waters represented by the Bill, which has been put forward by its promoters for the best of reasons, are very dangerous. Activities should never be banned because the majority happen to be opposed to them on moral grounds. It must be a principle that the state must not intervene on moral disagreements between different groups of citizens of different sizes.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Patten

Despite the charming jacket which my hon. Friend is wearing, I shall not give way to her, as I did not give way to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). I am just about to complete my speech.

Minorities in the country feel threatened and misunderstood by the overwhelming urban majority. People in the country who hunt, shoot and fish pose no threat to civil society. People in the countryside who pursue country sports pose no threat to their fellow human beings. They receive no state subsidies, and ask for nothing. They pose no danger to the environment, or to the welfare of others. They do not threaten nature in any way. Their lawful activities should be protected by a House of Commons which is properly tolerant of a minority with historic rights in our constitutional settlement.

12.4 pm

Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe (Leigh)

I wish to relate some personal—and rather horrifying—experiences which occurred when I, as a young boy, had to deal with animals, including some of those mentioned in the debate today.

I remind the House that fox hunting was originally an entertainment for the wealthy of the nation, and it is only in recent times that those involved have been forced to provide justification for the unnecessary cruelty involved in the sport. Despite what people may say, hunting is big business, but it is the relentless persecution, maiming and death of a living creature for money and enjoyment.

With some emotion, I shall relate to the House some of the horrifying acts which I was forced to undertake as a young boy. At the age of eight, I had been left with my grandfather who had been injured in a mining tragedy in a colliery owned by the Duke of Bridgwater and the Earl of Ellesmere. He had been given the job of estate ranger in a tied cottage, where I was domiciled at that age.

Arising out of the household duties—as they were called in' those days—I was given the job of looking after and grooming the fox hunters' horses. I was taught how to set snares and traps, and I became aware of the unimaginable cruelty which was imposed on various species at that time. It was commonplace 50 years ago to wring the neck of a pheasant or a pigeon, or to skin a rabbit. Unfortunately, that was the practice of the times. I must say regretfully that we have not made tremendous progress over the years.

I well remember the worst experience I ever had. I was forced to take a spade and bludgeon to death some baby weasels in their nests. I never forget those indescribable screams which rose from the weasels, and after all these years I still imagine that I can hear the haunting echoes of those penetrating shrills.

That dreadful experience was one of the reasons why I joined the Labour party, as I always considered the Labour party to be the natural political home for the welfare of animals. I ran away 48 hours after the weasel incident. I was not arrested, but I was found by the local constabulary just beyond Preston. I was apprehended in a very nice way and placed in what was called Worsley court house, which belonged to my grandfather's employer, the duke. I was chastised and scolded by the local sergeant, and was put on so-called "lighter duties".

I was taught to shoot at the age of 12. In that great area of Worsley woods, I shot foxes, hares, rabbits and birds and anything else that I believed was detrimental to the terms of my grandfather's contract of employment. I remember the first fox I shot, for which I received the reward of a silver threepenny bit.

That was the stage when I began to wonder about blood-letting money. I was a religious young boy and I was disturbed about it. I remember going to confession and telling the priest how I felt. I did not get a very prudent answer; I was told, "Just remember the good that you have done and the evil that you have borne," and to say 10 Hail Marys.

Although I do not always agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), I support his comment that 60 per cent. of all foxes that are shot die a very slow death. We used to dispose of some down disused mine shafts on the colliery estate.

On one occasion, one of the gamekeepers was wounded by a bullet that had ricocheted off a tree. I have to tell the shooting fraternity—

Mr. Colvin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cunliffe

No; this is only the fourth speech since the debate started at 9.30 am. I might give way later.

I say clearly and distinctly to the marksmen that, when thinking about and judging or acting on these matters, if the bullet or arrow were first dipped in the blood of the marksmen it would never reach its target because it would never have left the gun or the bow—because they would then understand the excruciating pain and torment that is inflicted on animals. There should be a greater realisation that it is impossible to minimise the amount of pain, even with the best techniques available.

Mr. Colvin

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way; I acknowledge that he speaks with first-hand experience of living in the countryside and being involved with the matters that we are debating this morning.

I want to endorse what the hon. Gentleman said about shooting. He may be interested to know that, a couple of years ago, it was reported by the Cambridgeshire hunt that half the foxes it killed during that season were suffering from gangrene wounds. That underlines how unsatisfactory shooting is as a method of fox control. It shows that hunting can provide a useful way of putting those foxes out of their misery—otherwise, they would suffer a long and lingering death.

Mr. Cunliffe

I am grateful for the first part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I fundamentally disagree with his final comments.

Having spoken to animal rights activists and having looked back on some of the things that I did when I was young, I am passionately convinced that all acts of animal cruelty, no matter what the purpose, are despicable, detestable and indefensible in a so-called Christian civilised society, especially if those acts are, as is unfortunately so often the case, carried out in the pursuit of pleasure.

12.14 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Nicholas Baker)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) on his good fortune in securing the debate today, and on the excellent way in which he introduced the Bill. We have had a wide-ranging consideration of an important issue, with some excellent speeches—to which it is now my duty to respond.

The matter was last debated almost precisely three years ago. The hon. Gentleman is a doughty warrior, and has the stamina one would expect of a long-distance runner. I pay him tribute for the fact that, in drawing up the Bill, he has taken note of some of the concerns which my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), on behalf of the Government, expressed on that earlier occasion.

The Bill's title describes it as a measure to provide protection for all wild mammals. Specifically, it seeks to protect any such animals from being cruelly kicked, beaten or tortured. The Government have already given considerable priority to that aspect of the law. Our record on the protection of our animal species and the conservation of their natural habitats is very positive, and one that I happily present to the House.

Britain has 48 species of mammal. Those species which are endangered, or which would become so unless conservation measures were taken, are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The mammals covered by the Act include the red squirrel, otter and dormouse, together with all species of bats, whales, dolphins and porpoises which may be living in our territorial waters or migrating through them.

The Act fulfils the United Kingdom's international obligations under the convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats. The Act has now been supplemented by the European Union's habitats directive. That directive sets out protective measures for wildlife habitats and a wide range of European species of animals and plants. It has been implemented in the United Kingdom since last year by regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972.

Dr. Spink

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 does not give adequate protection to badgers because their setts can be blocked? Are the Government intending to resolve that difficulty?

Mr. Baker

The Government have introduced measures on badgers, and I hope that my hon. Friend will acknowledge what has been done. If he has any suggestions for improvements, we would certainly consider them.

The 1981 Act contains provisions for a review of the species covered by the Act and the addition of species where that is necessary in the interests of conservation. Since the Act came into force, there have been two reviews of the animals and plants covered by its provisions. Those resulted in the addition of species as diverse as the sturgeon, the wild cat, six species of beetle and 22 species of butterfly. The next review is due to be completed by the end of 1996.

The Act also specifically prohibits the use of the self-locking snare on any wild animal, and protects a number of particular species, such as badgers, otters and red squirrels, from trapping and snaring in general, as my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) acknowledged. The maximum fine for anyone found guilty of using an illegal snare is £5,000 for each animal harmed.

The United Kingdom has also acted against cruel trapping methods abroad. We were at the forefront in pressing for the EC regulation covering the use of leg-hold traps. That regulation was adopted in November 1991, and it prohibits the use of leg-hold traps within the Union from 1 January 1996—a prohibition that has already been in force in this country for more than 30 years.

Legislation also exists to control the use of spring traps, which must be submitted for approval and are tested for humaneness and efficacy. Traps must be approved by order in this House. Strict conditions of use are specified, covering the manner of use and the species against which the trap may be used, thus minimising the risks to non-target species. Use of an illegal spring trap is punishable on summary conviction by a fine of up to £1,000.

Similarly, there is legislation governing the use of chemical products to control pests. Before they can be approved for use, products classified as pesticides undergo a thorough evaluation, including an assessment of whether the product is humane in its action. That area of legislation is supported by the Government's campaign against illegal poisoning of wildlife. That campaign publicises the consequences of the illegal use of pesticides and aims to encourage the adoption of legal methods of pest control.

In addition to that strong legislative framework for the protection of mammals, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food continually seeks to develop alternative, more humane methods of controlling pests. Current projects include the development of electric fencing, repellents and conditioned taste aversion, the latter involving tricking an animal pest into associating food with illness. The use of a fertility control agent is also being investigated to control wild rabbits. If successful, the Ministry will consider whether fertility control can be used against other pest species.

The United Kingdom is also a party to the convention on biological diversity, signed by more than 150 countries at the 1992 earth summit conference in Rio de Janeiro. The UK's response, "Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan", published in January 1994, sets the goals of conserving and enhancing biological diversity in the UK, and contributing to the conservation of global diversity. A range of costed targets for key habitats and species, including many mammals, will be published by the end of this year.

That shows that considerable protection already exists for wild animals. Hare coursing was raised earlier. I remind hon. Members that Parliament has only recently taken action to discourage illicit hare coursing, which we all agree is a great nuisance. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 has increased the applicable penalties under the Game Act 1831. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the argument will welcome that.

Of course, many circumstances remain in which wild mammals are not subject to any form of legal protection. Some of those concern animals that are regarded as pests in some rural settings, but even so-called pests are not altogether unprotected—the prohibition of the use of gin traps and self-locking snares applies, no matter what the species of animal. It is testimony to our enviable concern for animals that that should be so. It is clear, both from the speeches in this debate and from the postbags that Members of Parliament receive, that a substantial body of opinion is in favour of extending more widely the protection afforded to wild mammals of all types.

The Bill seeks to provide protection for any wild mammal from certain specified forms of ill-treatment—being cruelly kicked, beaten or tortured—but there is one particular circumstance for which it is claimed above all others. As the hon. Member for Dumbarton said, one of the principal aims of the Bill is the prevention of fox hunting and other field sports. That is the issue of principle at the heart of the debate. It is the aspect that really interests members of the public.

As the hon. Gentleman will be well aware, strong views are held by people on both sides of the hunting debate. Some people regard it as unspeakable barbarity; others argue that field sports are a proper and necessary part of maintaining the balance of nature. We have heard that argument in the debate today. There are two separate issues: the ethical question whether hunting should be allowed, and the utilitarian question whether other provisions in the Bill would have a harmful effect on pest control. On the latter point, I have to tell the hon. Member for Dumbarton that the Government have considerable reservations about the effect of that aspect of the Bill both on farmers and on rural communities.

The Bill would impose an onerous obligation on everyone in rural communities, making it extremely difficult to control agricultural pests effectively. As I said earlier, I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has taken note of some of the reservations on that score expressed by the Government in relation to an earlier Bill moved by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). The licensing system in the Bill remains a problem. The licensing arrangements envisaged for controlling the use of snares would impose onerous obligations on farmers and gamekeepers, and would make it difficult to control agricultural pests.

The hon. Member for Dumbarton quoted statistics about lamb mortality and the need to control foxes. I should like to stress that the known number of lamb deaths attributed to foxes should be set against a background of widespread fox control by farmers. Foxes can cause serious local problems for farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture takes the view, therefore, that foxes need to be controlled to minimise lamb losses.

I hope that I may be permitted a personal observation. Having been brought up on a farm, I am well aware of the damage that predator foxes can do in taking piglets, lambs or fowl on cold winter nights. Farmers must be permitted to deal effectively with agricultural pests. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider that aspect if his Bill proceeds to Committee.

Snares are needed where other methods of pest control are ineffective or impracticable. They are needed, in particular, for the control of foxes at night, where night shooting is considered unsafe, or for the control of rabbits above ground. There is also the risk that, if the use of snares requires a licence, that could encourage the use of more dangerous and illegal alternatives, such as poisoning or unapproved spring traps.

At a time when the Government are trying to reduce bureaucracy, the Bill seeks in some respects to increase the burdens on farmers, many of whom, as I know well, feel that they are already burdened enough with rules and regulations to follow and forms to fill in.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Am I right in thinking that, if the Bill goes ahead as it stands, every gardener who has a mole in his garden will have to apply to my hon. Friend's Department for a licence to snare it?

Mr. Baker

That accords with my reading of the Bill, but the hon. Member for Dumbarton will have heard the criticism.

Such a system would also have resource implications for the Ministry of Agriculture. That would need to be funded. I am sure that, if individuals were asked to pay for licences, it could lead to a general increase in unlicensed and illegal control activity.

As I said earlier, much of the debate today has centred on the question of hunting. There are strongly held views on each side of the debate, and the Government respect the sincerity with which they are held. Moral debate on a subject like this is right and good. What is not acceptable is any attempt to influence the outcome by force and intimidation.

There have been protests and demonstrations that have been far from peaceful. That is one of the reasons why the Government introduced measures in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to deal with trespass, which were aimed at preventing other people from going about a lawful activity.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Baker

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not give way, as I am just about to conclude my observations and I do not wish to hold up the debate any further.

Mr. Colvin


Mr. Baker

I shall not give way to my hon. Friend, for the same reasons.

The implications for law and order mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) will have to be considered by the Standing Committee, if the Bill gets that far, and certainly by the Government as part of that process. I welcome the important, and in many ways philosophical, contribution that my right hon. Friend made to our debate.

As hon. Members are aware—

Mr. Colvin


Mr. Baker

I apologise again to my hon. Friend for not giving way, as I wish to conclude.

The Government have consistently adopted a position of neutrality towards all matters affecting field sports. We take the view that participation in field sports is a matter of individual conscience. The Government will maintain that tradition of neutrality today. All hon. Members who wish to express a view one way or another on Second Reading—that includes members of the Government—will be perfectly free to do so, but the licensing provisions and the implications for the control of pests have little to do with the Bill's central issue. If the Bill proceeds to Committee and beyond, I must tell the House that the Government will have to oppose that particular aspect.

I am pleased to have been able to inject a neutral note into this passionate debate.

12.29 pm
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) on using the opportunity to allow the House to debate this subject and on the excellent way in which he made his speech and outlined his arguments.

Every hon. Member is aware of the public's widespread concern about cruelty to animals and hunting. Yesterday, I and a few other hon. Members of all parties were present when a petition signed by more than 1 million people was presented to No. 10 Downing street, calling for an end to hunting. It had been organised by the campaign against hunting.

I shall take this opportunity to spell out where the Labour party stands on the issue. First, the Labour party supports the protection of wild animals from the infliction of deliberate cruelty and, in that sense, we fully endorse clause 1. I very much hope that it will receive support from a majority in the House.

As for hunting, I can do no better than read out a letter sent by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) to people who have inquired about the Labour party's position. He stated clearly: The position of the Labour Party on this issue is firm. A Labour Government will make Parliamentary time available for a free vote on the abolition of fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing with dogs. Of course, if the House voted for abolition, the necessary legislation would be introduced. We recognise that there is a moral element to the issue and that hon. Members of all parties would want to make their position clear in a free vote. I must make it clear that the Labour party is not opposed to responsible shooting or angling and we have never proposed to ban them.

There are issues other than the banning of hunting that a Labour Government would want to consider—for example, the appropriateness or otherwise of activities such as hunting with hounds through public lands such as Forestry Commission land in the New Forest and the impact that it might have on nature conservation and leisure activities.

We would also want to be absolutely sure that Ministry of Defence resources—public money—were not being spent on hunting with hounds and that people in the armed services who wished to hunt with hounds did so at their own expense, not at the taxpayer's expense.

We recognise the need for pest control and wildlife management in the countryside, but hunting with hounds is the least appropriate means of achieving that. There are many reasons why people go hunting—socialising, the enjoyment of the chase and a love of horses but predator control certainly is not one of them.

There is so much independent academic evidence on how ineffective fox and stag hunting is as a method of control that I do not believe even the blood sports lobby believe that argument any more. We should put into perspective the impact on livestock of foxes in particular. I can think of at least one Conservative Member who is a bigger danger to sheep than all the foxes in Lincolnshire, and I think hon. Members know to whom I am referring.

As some hon. Members have said, more sheep are lost from hypothermia than from fox predation. Research by Aberdeen university showed that in areas of Scotland where there are no foxes, such as the island of Mull, sheep mortality is generally the same as in other areas. Dr. David McDonald recently issued a report—with the full co-operation, incidentally, of the British Field Sports Society and hunts—that showed the ineffectiveness of controlling foxes with hunts. Professor Stephen Harris of Bristol university has done a great deal of work on the subject.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

The point I put to the hon. Gentleman, as I did when the House previously discussed the issue, is that the proper control of foxes means not the abolition of foxes but keeping a proper balance of foxes in the countryside. Hunting contributes greatly towards that.

Mr. Morley

There is not the slightest bit of scientific evidence to back that assertion. The fox population is self-regulating and the impact of hunting on it is negligible. There are far more sophisticated methods of fox control. I am glad that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has given a great deal of considered thought, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said, to non-lethal methods, such as conditioned taste aversion. I understand that the Game Conservancy Trust is also carrying out research on that. To assume that chasing animals around with dogs is the only way to control pests is an outdated attitude with no basis in scientific fact.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

What has not been stated in the House this morning is that hunting folk place great emphasis on keeping nature in balance. The hon. Gentleman says that there is no evidence that fox populations are kept in balance by hunting folk. Why, therefore, are there more foxes in areas where there is more fox hunting?

Mr. Morley

The reason for that has nothing to do with hunting. It has to do with food availability and the distribution of fox populations. Hunting has had no bearing on that.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend knows all about the Bill. In answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown), there are probably more foxes in London than there are in any of the areas that we are discussing. Foxes run around getting food from fast-food restaurants and scavenging in bins. There are no hunts in London of which I am aware; I certainly have not seen any in round recently.

Mr. Morley

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I have seen more foxes in Southwark than I have seen in Lincolnshire.

Mr. Peter Atkinson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morley

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Recently, he took the opportunity to wreck the Protection of Calves (Export) Bill, promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), which dealt with the export of veal calves. He therefore does not deserve the courtesy of being allowed to intervene; he need not bother to ask again.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morley

I will give way in a moment.

Most people hunt for the enjoyment, as we must recognise. The vast majority of people who hunt are indifferent to the fate of the fox. A minority go because they like killing animals and they like to do things such as pitting terriers against foxes. They do not care much about cruelty or suffering. That is the dark side of hunting, which the Bill rightly seeks to address. That is why the National Federation of Badger Groups supports the Bill. It is aware of a catalogue of incidents in which fox hunts have gone beyond night stopping and have stopped up setts in a way that is both illegal and detrimental to the badger population. As has been mentioned, it is no surprise that the majority of badger baiters who have been convicted are supporters of or are connected with fox hunts.

There are no moral or intellectual arguments to defend hunting. As the arguments in favour have been demolished, the blood sports lobby has been forced into rural apartheid. It says that people who do not live in rural areas do not understand the situation and that the opposition to blood sports comes from people living in urban areas. That is not true. The majority of the rural population are opposed to hunting. NOP found that 60 per cent. of people who were asked whether they favoured fox hunting were opposed to it. That figure applies to purely rural areas. A huge referendum organised by the Worcester Referendum Society involving 25,449 people, of whom 10,500 lived in rural areas, showed that 71.8 per cent. wanted hunting with hounds to be banned.

Mr. Garnier

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the recent survey conducted by the Leicester Mercury, which covers my constituency? It found that 70 per cent. of respondents favoured the retention of hunting and that only 29 per cent. favoured banning it.

Mr. Morley

Many surveys have been conducted by recognised, independent and professional pollsters, showing the opposite opinion among people in rural areas. It is clear that the vast majority of people do not support blood sports, even those who live in villages.

Hon. Members and others argue that people are opposed to blood sports because they do not understand the issue—the same arguments were put in the poll tax debates to justify a policy that was wrong, illogical and cruel. The same people—some the same Conservative Members—argued that people opposed the poll tax because they did not understand the argument. The truth is that people understood the argument all too well, as indeed, they understand the argument against hunting all too well.

Let us consider some of the people who live in rural areas, support fox hunting and use the argument that they have some special knowledge. Hon. Members may have received a very interesting circular, as I did in 1992 and again today, called "Let's Learn About Fox Hunting and Stag Hunting" from a Mr. Barton from Somerset. I am always willing to learn, listen to people's arguments and read the facts. Indeed, I was very interested in some of the arguments put in favour of stag hunting by Mr. Barton.

One of Mr. Barton's arguments is that herbivores, including red deer, need predators to keep them wide awake and watchful. There we are: if it were not for packs of dogs, these deer would fall asleep and slump over. He argues that hounds are needed to stop deer overgrazing the same piece of land. These must be really dozy deer who have to be moved on by dogs, otherwise they graze circles of land and starve to death in them.

Mr. Barton argues that dogs are needed to disperse the deer and thereby act as a safeguard against inbreeding. If the deer cannot move on when they have eaten all the grass, too much inbreeding is probably already going on.

We recognise, of course, the need for proper deer management and for deer management committees, but even the most sympathetic study of deer hunting, which was carried out recently by the National Trust, described deer hunts as "not vital" in controlling deer.

In the last debate on the Bill dealing with wildlife protection, Sir John Farr, former Member of Parliament for Harborough, told us that if hunting were banned 1 million horses would have to be put down, when there are only 600,000 horses in the country. I presume that he was planning to import a few and to put them down in sympathy with the issue.

Mr. Garnier

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morley

I will in a moment.

In the last debate, the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) told us of a constituent who saw seven foxes surrounding one lamb. Fox gangs are now going around; packs of foxes. That goes against all known biological studies and evidence. In addition, an unnamed farmer in a press report has been accusing people from towns of rounding up urban foxes and releasing packs of them in the countryside. I am sure that those foxes would be somewhat confused. Indeed, the good side to that is that the only chicken at risk is Kentucky Fried Chicken since the foxes come from an urban area.

My favourite quote is recent. Mr. Jonathan Young, editor of The Field, wrote in The Times that a Mr. Davies of Lampeter, in Dyfed, lost 18 lambs in 1993 and seven years ago witnessed an attack. Mr. Davies said: The lambs were prancing in the spring sunlight when a Macnab—that's our name for the fox—leapt over the fence, jumped on a lamb's neck and started sucking its blood. This is new—a vampire fox. The Welsh have to go one extra. Mr. Davies continued: I shouted and Macnab disappeared. I do not know whether it turned into a bat and flew away. If that is the strength of rural arguments and an example of their expertise, I really think that they need to be better.

Mr. Garnier

I am the first to admit that the hon. Gentleman is making a very witty little speech, but I would be grateful if he would be a little less unkind to my predecessor, Sir John Farr. We all know that that was a wrong figure and to seek to build an argument based on a slip of the tongue such as that, against a man who is not here to defend himself and who knew more about the countryside than, I dare say, the hon. Gentleman, is really not on.

Mr. Morley

I certainly do not wish to disparage Sir John Farr, who I know quite well. I sat on the all-party conservation group with him. I am quite prepared to match my credibility on countryside conservation and naturalist matters against that of Sir John Farr or anyone else in the House.

Dr. Robert Spink

While the hon. Gentleman is quoting to the House, is he aware of this one: Whilst it undoubtedly accounts for a number of foxes,"— we, the Ministry, do not consider fox hunting to be a major controlling factor in the fox population. That quote comes from a letter sent by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 17 February 1994.

Mr. Morley

The hon. Gentleman has made a very good point and he puts the whole issue of fox predation into perspective. I do not dispute that there are localised problems with foxes, but, overall, I do not think that foxes are a real problem.

It is clear that chasing animals around for a hobby does not make the person who does that an expert on biology, ecology or population dynamics. Many of the articles by hunt supporters that I have read are just depressing for their lack of knowledge. The real reason for hunting is revealed by what we might call the intellectual wing of the blood sports lobby—although perhaps I am being a little generous—in an article by Mr. Roger Scruton. He recently wrote: Hunting, like football or music or poetry, is a good in itself, a fulfilment of the human spirit, a heightened experience of life which needs no justification. I believe that it does need justification. However, I am grateful to Mr. Scruton because he is absolutely honest: people go hunting because they like it and for no other reason.

Mr. Colvin

The hon. Gentleman has produced some splendid stories and I hope we can hear a few more because they are grist to the mill of the debate. Earlier, he referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and his reference in an earlier speech to a lamb surrounded by seven foxes. I saw a similar thing this year.

As the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) will be aware, a vixen will take her litter out and teach them how to kill. It just so happens that earlier this year I lost all my chickens. Admittedly, I did not have very many—I only had 12—but I lost them all because the vixen had come in with a litter of five cubs and she taught them how to kill my chickens and they made a very good job of it.

Mr. Morley

Perhaps the vixen should have taught the hon. Gentleman how to lock his chicken house before he goes out. That might have been more useful. At the time of year to which the hon. Member for Devizes referred, the foxes would have been breeding and would not have had their cubs out.

I want to return to the issues in defence of hunting. In some ways, I am sorry to spend so much time on the issue of hunting, but as hon. Members have recognised, that is the most controversial part of the Bill and it requires some attention and arguments.

We hear the argument about predator control, which I believe I have dealt with in some detail. There is also an argument about landscape protection, which we have heard before, and the role that hunts play in that regard. Such arguments may have been relevant in the past, but that still did not stop the loss of 150,000 miles of hedgerows, 50 per cent. of our ancient woodlands and 97 per cent. of our hay meadows. Given the changes in agriculture and agricultural support, there are now enough mechanisms to protect our landscape and to enhance it without the role of the hunts.

We have also heard a quite contradictory argument today. On the one hand, it is argued that hunts must control foxes while, on the other, we hear that hunts protect foxes and maintain the population. I do not believe that that argument stands up to examination.

There is also the issue of deer management. We need effective deer management, but hunting deer with hounds is not one of those management techniques.

The argument about jobs has not been raised at length today. I do not deny that jobs are involved in hunting, but I believe the number is somewhat exaggerated. I also believe that those jobs could be protected by a switch to drag hunting.

In 1983, the Cobham report estimated that the total number of people employed in hunting was 3,333, which presumably included indirect employment. In 1992, the people who produced that report increased the figure to 9,500. That was a somewhat startling increase and I could see no real basis for it. In 1994, Penny Mortimer, writing in The Guardian, claimed that hunting supported 30,000 jobs. That report appeared on 1 March and it shows a tremendous increase between 1992 and 1995. On 2 March, in The Times, Frederick Forsyth claimed that 35,000 jobs were supported by hunting. It is the most amazing growth sector. I wonder whether the Secretary of State for Employment is aware of such increases. In fact, I wonder whether such people are using the same calculations as the Secretary of State is using.

There is also the humane argument. I just do not accept that hunting animals with hounds is humane. It is banned in respect of domestic animals and pet animals. The argument is made in that respect. Hunting is deliberately excluded because it was recognised in the past that those who wanted to keep it going had to make sure that it is excluded from the law. Most foxes are run to ground and are killed by terriermen. No one will convince me that putting terriers down fox setts to fight the animal—the fight may continue for a considerable time—and then dig it out, is a humane way of dispatching a fox.

Hunts cause considerable damage and destruction—roads are blocked, gardens invaded, stock scattered and killed, pets savaged and killed, railways blocked, and great inconvenience is caused to people who live in rural areas, as I have read in many letters to rural magazines and rural newspapers.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morley

I should like to make progress.

Some people who have dared to complain, incidentally, have been threatened. Mr. Chris Eley, a sheep farmer in Wales, with whom I have had correspondence, has had dead foxes hung in his trees for having the cheek to complain about the hunt constantly trespassing on his land.

The Government's response was to protect hunts with the aggravated trespass legislation and, with it, all the associated threats to civil liberties. I find it depressing that a Government who thought it important to pass legislation that currently protects members of the Holduness hunt, who recently waved the severed head of a fox on a stick at peaceful protesters, also refused to introduce legislation to deal with racially motivated attacks. It is a matter of wrong priorities.

We have heard about choice and minorities. Some Conservative Members who have used such arguments have not been known for defending minorities. How far do we take the argument of choice? Does it apply to pornography or taking drugs? One could certainly apply it to defend sports such as dog fighting and badger baiting.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

If the hon. Gentleman really is concerned about the harassment of racial and other minorities, will he accept that the new offence that the Government have introduced will protect not only racial ethnic minorities but minorities of all kinds? Therefore, the offence that we have introduced goes very much wider than the hon. Gentleman would have wanted.

Mr. Morley

I accept that the Government have moved on the issue of racial attacks, following criticism from the Opposition and following criticism during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act 1993.

Let us not try to pretend that there is any other reason for hunting other than the inflicting of prolonged pain and stress on animals as part of entertainment for their human tormentors. I do not believe that most hunts see it that way at all. I know that, for many people, hunts provide a social function. I live in a rural area and I represent a rural constituency. I have constituents who go hunting with the local hunt. Like the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), I have had representations from people on both sides of the argument.

I have had discussions with constituents who are pro-hunters, in a very civilised, thoughtful and polite manner. They know my views and I know theirs. I recognise and understand the social function that hunts play, particularly in areas in which there is little opportunity for social interchange. But there is no reason whatever why the social side—the traditional side—cannot be maintained by existing hunts simply switching to drag hunting. It may even attract more participants and boost rural employment.

All hon. Members know of the strength of public feeling on the matter in all parts of the country. We will shortly vote on the Bill. It is an opportunity for the whole House to show whether it supports an end to all forms of cruelty. I note the letter of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) in The Times today, in which he says that he does not intend to vote against the Bill. What has changed from 1992, when my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) introduced an almost identical Bill, which was voted down by the hon. Member for Wimbledon and other hon. Members? Attitudes have changed, and the pro-blood sports lobby no longer has the majority to defeat such a measure, and it does not want to demonstrate its weakness. I find it a little strange that they now say that they will accept clause 1, when they could have accepted a similar measure in 1992.

If the Bill secures a Second Reading it will be the first time that the House has approved such a measure to ban hunting. That will be a clear and unequivocal signal that the House wants to see the end of hunting and other acts of cruelty to wild mammals. Whatever the Bill's progress in Committee, people will have noted the decision, and the Labour party will certainly call on the Government to recognise and to honour that decision taken in a free vote of all Members of the House.

Whatever our differences may be, we all know that the days of hunting and of inflicting deliberate cruelty on wild animals are numbered. In the not-too-distant future people will look back in amazement at the fact that in the latter part of the 20th century the House allowed people to inflict deliberate cruelty and stress on wild animals in the name of entertainment.

12.55 pm
Mr. Peter Brooke (City of London and Westminster, South)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) on making a good speech in his own cause, and I thank him for making the Labour party's position clear—although the principle of ostensible neutrality appeared clothed in committed raiment.

If I may say so, I rather resented the hon. Gentleman's attitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), because a Labour Government Whip approached me in 1978 to encourage me to make as long a speech as I wished to prevent progress on a Labour private Member's Bill on live animal exports, and I seem to hear the grinding of a double standard.

I shall seek to emulate the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir David Steel) in the brevity of my remarks. This is an important debate, and one for which we should thank the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall). It addresses the relations between animals and man, in continuance of a dialogue that has gone on for centuries.

I speak as an urban Member, and there is no doubt that urban areas and rural areas see such issues differently. I remind the House of the lines by Seamus Heaney: 'Prevention of cruelty' talk cuts ice in town Where they consider death unnatural, But on well-run farms pests have to be kept down". Community is the vogue word of the 1990s. Both major parties have entries on the charge sheet against them for what they have done to urban communities since the war. The Bill is addressed primarily towards rural communities, and that places a special responsibility on urban Members to use their powers sensitively, because it is not the lives of their communities that they are dealing with. I still recall a constituent of my father's in Hampstead, when there was a Ministry of Agriculture bounty on squirrel tails, writing to seek reassurance that the squirrel suffered no pain when its tail was removed.

I have no personal direct experience of fox hunting, but I do not come to the debate as an entire novice, because I served as Government Whip on the Committee on the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 when it was a Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) referred to that Act, and I regard its Committee stage as a model of intelligent and frequently bipartisan commitment, with more than 100 hours of unguillotined debate of a high and expert standard.

I do not seek to make a political point when I say that the previous Labour Government and the Lib-Lab pact had not been prepared to grasp the nettle of that legislation. I simply say that it is possible for a Government of any party to take such matters forward after widespread consultation with rural interests.

Much is made by the lobbyists of the weight of opinion polls on such matters, and those have been cited today. But, to refer to another series of great House of Commons setpiece occasions, similar opinion polls on capital punishment do not seem to interfere in Members' minds with the dictum of Burke, that a Member's first duty towards his constituents is that of his own judgment.

However, in my view, the opinion polls threaten the judgment of the lobbyists who produce such Bills. I mean no discredit to the hon. Member for Dumbarton when I say that I do not regard him as the Bill's principal architect. Those who know the House know that, with private Members' legislation, the simpler the Bill, the more likely it is to get through. By contrast, this is a Christmas tree of a Bill, with something for everybody.

As this greatly reduces its chances of passing through the House, one must return to the judgment of the architects. I am left with the uneasy suspicion that the Bill has been laden with material to maximise public support from those who are perhaps unfamiliar with our ways in this place.

Like sin and motherhood, we know where we are when it comes to cruelty. We are all against it. Some might regard the motivation of the Christmas-tree strategy as akin to speciousness, and believe that the heart of the Bill remains fox hunting.

I shall let my hon. Friends and hon. Members from rural constituencies address the problem of the use of hounds in upland farming areas. The Bill's proponents must face that highly technical issue, which the Bill seems entirely to ignore. It is a pivotal point of the proposed legislation. It hangs on the issue of the fox being a pest. Anyone who has gone back with the debate over the centuries knows that it is a central factor.

It is crucial for those who argue that fox hunting has a key role in the sense of community in rural areas to demonstrate that that sense of community is not being secured at the price of unnecessary and unwarranted cruelty to the fox.

I pass to those more informed than myself the conservationist question, which is whether the demise of fox hunting would lead to more violent deaths and lingering deaths of foxes than is the case now. I have a sense in the ecology of the countryside that there is an unspoken concordat, of a kind familiar to the nation in other matters as well, that, if fox hunting is available as a vehicle of pest control, farmers will leave foxes to the hunt and not take matters into their own hands with the gun.

Considerable strides are being made in the rigorous philosophical argument about animals' rights, if such they be. The predecessor of the present dean of Westminster, in my constituency, chaired a working party that produced a most thoughtful pamphlet. The university of Oxford has appointed a professor of theology with responsibilities concerning animals. Professor Peter Singer has given the subject a new philosophical prominence. I doubt, however, whether any of those parties would say that the intellectual debate is yet concluded and resolved. That is important, because reason as well as emotion must be satisfied in the debate.

Anthropomorphism has played its part in this century. My grandfather's work as an artist, which was highly anthropomorphic, was praised by fellow artists for the way in which he introduced human features into his animals. He was personally responsible for persuading Frederick Warne and Company that it should publish Beatrix Potter when her work had been rejected by eight other publishers. I remark in passing that neither in the "Tale of Mr. Todd" nor in "Jemima Puddleduck" does the gentleman with foxy whiskers emerge as a hero. Nor is it chance, perhaps, that he was omitted from a central role in "The Wind in the Willows".

It is a strain that goes back further. The most distinguished historian that the relationship of man and the natural world has ever attracted says of Darwin's "Descent of Man" in 1871 that some of his arguments in defence of the proposition that the mental difference between humans and the existing higher animals was one only of degree seem naively anthropomorphic.

The defenders of rural communities must make their point in the context of the fox, but those who seek to interfere with the countryside's ecology have a duty similarly to prove their point rigorously.

Of all the nation's sports, hunting has enjoyed the greatest literature after cricket, in Fielding, Scott, Surtees, Trollope, Somerville and Ross, Conan Doyle, Kipling, Saki, Sassoon and Masefield. I mention that because one of the more thoughtful postcards that I recieved prior to the debate was from a constituent who referred specifically to Sassoon, that most sensitive of war poets. He was critical of the war condition, yet he wrote "Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man". My constituent quoted him to make the point that hunting practices have changed since his day.

The opportunity to explore such issues is one of the reasons why we must be grateful to the hon. Member for Dumbarton for bringing forward the Bill. I reiterate my recognition of the importance of the debate. His Bill should be considered in Committee.

Our countryside is one of the country's most important national and natural glories. Those who live in it have been its custodians and trustees for centuries. I do not seek to put on the mantle of Dr. Pangloss in saying that those of us who enjoy and admire the countryside are immensely grateful to them, for I realise that we live in an imperfect world, but the centuries-long achievement is substantial. Urban colleagues present today might feel that we would rest less easily if our custody and trusteeship of urban areas were compared with that which the countryside has enjoyed.

1.14 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

The right hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) made a speech rich in literary references, which is unusual in this place but befitting of a former Secretary of State for National Heritage.

The way in which anthropomorphism is projected in our literature, in paintings, and the way in which we treat animals is quite objectionable. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree. It seems absurd that beautiful creatures in the wild, such as bears, can be exterminated and their bile tapped and used for medicine purposes in the far east, yet we cuddle bears; we look on the fluffy bear as being a wonderful soft toy. Many of the magnificent creatures of the wild will soon perhaps be represented only in the form of fluffy toys that people can cuddle and admire. We need to admire the real thing and not its pale and fake imitation.

There was much in the right hon. Gentleman's speech with which I could go along, but it seemed that the essence of his speech was, "Oh Lord, make me virtuous, but not yet." I must take issue with him on the matter of attacking animal welfare organisations—the RSPCA, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the League Against Cruel Sports, and many others—for the way in which they have focused and channelled public opinion. They have not fabricated it. They have not invented it. They have just been the conduits whereby the real passion that exists in favour of animal welfare and in concern for animals can be directed towards us.

In the end, all the compassion, the feelings, the determination to see change, can end up only here, with legislation. That is precisely what the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) is trying to do. I congratulate him, as have other hon. Members, and am proud to be a sponsor of it, with hon. Members of all parties. That needs to be emphasised time and again. It is not a party political issue. On this occasion there may be more Opposition than Conservative Members supporting the Bill, but it is only a matter of progress. As Conservative Members diminish in number, we expect our support to grow. Indeed, in many ways there has been a change in the nature of the Conservative party. Conservative Members have taken different attitudes in recent years to fox hunting, hare coursing and deer hunting, and we welcome that. It is pleasing to see that we have a good cross-party coalition on important issues such as this.

It is natural that the Bill centres on something as controversial as fox hunting, but it is not just about fox hunting. It is also about hare coursing, deer hunting and a whole range of other activities, which, clearly, Opposition Members or abolitionists would consider totally unacceptable.

Mr. Bellingham

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Banks

Not at the moment.

The important part of the Bill, of course, is clause 1, which has much support, It seems quite unbelievable to hon. Members and people outside that sadistic perverts are free to abuse animals such as hedgehogs, squirrels and foxes, and are able to walk free when they are taken to court. That outrages public opinion and we must address it. I am glad that the Bill will do that.

Mr. Bellingham

The hon. Gentleman says that the Tory party is changing. I suggest that the Labour party is changing as well. He has obviously seen the leaflet "Leave country sports alone" which contains the names of Baroness Mallalieu, Penny Mortimer, Lord Donoughue, Denis Forman, Jeremy Isaacs, Anne McCluskie, John Mortimer, David Puttnam and Richard Course. They are all prominent socialists who support hunting. Surely the Labour party is changing as well.

Mr. Banks

The hon. Gentleman has certainly changed his line. He comes from a family that boasts a distinguished assassin, although we must exonerate the hon. Gentleman's predecessor because his action was jolly useful in that he assassinated a Tory Prime Minister in the House of Commons. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) reminds me that the hon. Gentleman has just read out the complete list of supporters of "Leave country sports alone". The House will notice that the list did not contain one elected Member of Parliament.

I do not take easily to lectures from Baroness Mallalieu who failed to get elected in successive elections and got herself into the other place only by an act of patronage. I do not need her to lecture me about democracy and on winning votes. I say to a successor of a famous assassin that we have ways of dealing with the enemies within, although I hasten to add not in the way that his predecessor did.

Dr. Spink

The hon. Gentleman speaks eloquently, as he always does, about cruelty and torture perpetrated on animals by hooligans and nasty elements in society. Does he agree that when such cruelty or torture is perpetrated by an educated so-called elite in the name of entertainment and for self-gratification, it falls short of the standards that society should expect?

Mr. Banks

I certainly agree, although cruelty knows no class barriers. It is not confined to ill-educated people but can be seen at all levels in our society, which is tragic. One cannot condemn just one area of activity and not admit to others. The hon. Gentleman is a good supporter of the Bill and I am proud to call him a friend in the debate. He knows the case very well.

I have always felt that, in the matter of animal welfare, people who can be cruel to animals can in the end be cruel to human beings as well. It lowers one's resistance to cruelty. I do not say that a person who goes hunting will necessarily turn into a serial killer but he is more likely to become one than if he followed lepidoptery, for example, although I would not want to push that one too far. I suspect that I am getting into dangerous areas.

It is possible to be concerned about animal rights and human rights. I am always dealing with the problems of the east end. I admit that I do not have a large amount of mail from people in the Stratford area or Forest Gate saying, "Let's ban fox hunting." I get many letters, but most of them are about housing, unemployment, social security and so on. I am obviously concerned about those issues, far more than I am about fox hunting, but there is enough in my background and in that of hon. Members who are on the abolition side of the argument to enable us easily to encompass human rights and animal rights. Perhaps being protective of animal rights makes us more protective of human rights.

I do not want to speak for too long because I want to hear other contributions. I have spoken many times on the issue and I doubt that this will be the last time. However, I should like to address one or two of the points that have been made. There are no great arguments to be won in the debate. They have been entered over the years and they have been won. The only thing missing has been victory in the House, and I hope that we shall do something about that today.

I say to hon. Members who are in favour of fox hunting and blood sports that we who are opposed will never go away. Our determination is absolute and I feel that, in the final analysis, our determination will be stronger than that of the supporters of the sport. I feel that their support is waning all the time and, that being so, they should know that they are facing implacable opponents who will simply never concede. Public opinion is moving in our favour all the time. I shall not go over the figures, as we have heard them, but public opinion is clearly and massively on the side of the abolition of blood sports. There can be no argument about that.

Some of the arguments which have been adduced today in favour of fox hunting—such as that it is a traditional sport—have been used by every reactionary in history as justification for some abhorrent activity or another which has been under attack. No doubt similar arguments were used to support slavery, and they were certainly used in the argument about electoral rights for women.

The abolition of "traditional activities" such as bear baiting, dog fighting, badger baiting and cock fighting could, according to that argument, have undermined civilisation as we know it. But this House decided that those activities should be declared illegal, and I suspect that this House will do the same for fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing in due course. We laugh at the arguments used in support of the activities which have been described today, and I suspect that we will be laughing at the arguments put forward by the supporters of blood sports in the years to come.

On the matter of pest control, it is nonsense to argue that fox hunting is effective as a control of the fox, even if one accepts the definition of the fox as a pest. Only 10 per cent. of foxes are killed by fox hunting. It is true that hunts introduce foxes into areas where they hunt, and there are examples of the bagging of foxes and the providing of artificial earths. I believe that there were no foxes on the Isle of Wight until they were introduced for people to hunt.

The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King)—who may have gone with his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) to find a suitable tailor to purchase a jacket as splendid as the one that I am wearing—said that there were no red deer on Dartmoor, where there is no hunting, but that there are red deer on Exmoor, where there is hunting. Ergo, hunting means that deer exist. What the right hon. Gentleman did not know—I have since had a chance to check this—is that all of the herds of red deer were exterminated by the Duke of Bedford when he brought his stag hounds there in the late 18th century. In other words, there are no deer on Dartmoor because they were killed off by the hunters. That is the answer to the silly point made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Another argument put forward is that hunting is not cruel. Tell that to the fox, I say. When one has seen foxes being dug out by the terrier men after they have introduced the terriers into the place where the fox might have bolted, one will know that cruelty is involved. It is also ridiculous to say that there is a quick kill by the hounds. Those hounds are not natural killers, and if one really wanted to kill foxes, a pack of rottweilers would probably be far more effective than fox hounds. There is a mass of evidence to show that the fox does suffer.

The last absurdity of all is to say that fox hunting is not as cruel as other forms of control. That argument is intellectually bankrupt. It is like the argument that if we do not supply arms to Saddam Hussein, somebody else will. No one can seriously argue that fox hunting is kind to foxes. To say that there are crueller ways of killing a fox is rather like saying that it is better to beat an old lady with a brick in a sock than to hit her with a straight brick. It is absurd to say that fox hunting is not cruel. If any of the supporters of fox hunting had been chased across a field and ripped to pieces, their arguments might be totally different.

The right hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon—who is now diligently looking for such a splendid jacket as mine—gave us a tuppeny-ha'penny lecture on John Stuart Mill. To say, as he did, that if we believe in animal welfare we should move against all forms of cruelty and suffering is absurd. First of all, if we proposed a Bill which said that, the right hon. Gentleman would be the last to vote in favour of it. Secondly, it suggests that if we cannot do everything, we should do nothing. This Bill is about a range of cruelties. It neither heralds nor precludes further legislation. Any other proposals on any other country sports will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and consent. It is not the thin end of the wedge.

The Bill stands on its own merits and it should be judged accordingly this afternoon. I believe that it will be because, in the end, anyone who can actually take pleasure in seeing an animal tortured and killed is not a person who has a place in a so-called civilised society.

1.20 pm
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) on introducing a Bill that many people, especially in rural England, would be surprised to find is not already on the statute book. I thank him for his tribute. It is a pleasure to be a sponsor of the Bill.

I join the hon. Gentleman in the tribute that he paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes), who has acted as Whip on the Bill. I endorse the comments about the courteous way that he has handled such a contentious and sensitive matter.

I intend to be as brief as possible for two reasons. First, a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House are still waiting to make their contributions. It is important that as many observations as possible, from both sides of the argument, are placed on the record. Secondly, we are all conscious of the fact that following this debate will be one on the Carers (Recognition and Services) Bill. People outside the House would be quite astonished if that Bill were not also given a hearing today.

We are debating the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, not a fox hunting Bill. It deals with stag hunting, hare coursing and the protection that many people are astonished to discover is not already afforded to hedgehogs, squirrels and other mammals. As has been said, it is not a party political issue. I am saddened that an answer given in the House yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was construed as prime ministerial opposition to the Bill. That is a mischief by the media. People outside the House will not be aware of our conventions, so we should state very clearly that it is not the convention for the Prime Minister, or, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition, to be expected to be in the Chamber on a morning like this.

The Bill undoubtedly has all-party support both inside and outside the House. Equally, it has all-party opposition both inside and outside the House. That fact needs to be recognised. I want to place my pedigree on the record, simply because there appears to be a slightly arrogant assumption in some quarters that those of us who support the Bill are townies who know nothing and care nothing about the countryside.

My upbringing was in rural Dorset. I do not pretend to be a huntsman, but I have followed the hunt on foot and I have been to meets. I represent a largely rural constituency. My farmers in north Thanet do not hunt. When there is a pest control problem, they shoot—and they shoot cleanly. I want to deal with that aspect of the control of foxes, which I recognise must be controlled. Before Christmas, my right hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) was faced with a distressed member of an ecclesiastical community. The nuns of Minster in Thanet lost their entire chicken coop in one night as a result of predations by a fox, which clearly was not just hunting chickens to eat but was killing for pleasure.

There is a need to control, but even the British Field Sports Society claims that only 3.6 per cent. of all foxes are killed by the hunts. It is a vastly inefficient way of controlling where control is necessary. I cannot accept the argument that it is a humane method. My farming community lamp and shoot. The gamekeepers in most of rural England are highly professional and can shoot straight. It is slightly perverse that those who promote shooting when it comes to pheasants and grouse, and claim—with some justification—that the majority of shots kill cleanly, should then claim that the same highly qualified, highly professional people cannot lamp and shoot foxes equally cleanly. Clearly, there are poor shots, but there are poor shots that wing pheasants and pigeons. Equally clearly, on occasions people shoot foxes badly.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Gale

I shall not give way. My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) has intervened about five times. He has virtually taken more time in interventions than I shall take in my speech.

Mr. Leigh

I have intervened once.

Mr. Gale

I shall not give way because I am conscious of the time. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to make his speech.

We are told that one third of foxes that are chased by the hunt go to earth. That much-vaunted clean kill from one bite to the back of the neck does not occur. There is a long tortuous process of digging out. Hunt terriers are used. They often grab the frightened animal underground by the muzzle and drag it out. We know that that animal is then swung around, hung up by the tail and killed with a spade. That is not a clean kill. It is not a nice way to exercise necessary control. I cannot accept that such a practice is viable in this day and supposedly civilised age.

Stag hunting is no way to control the stag population. I accept that that population needs culling. We are told that that is done anyway at the end of a hunt by a rifle shot. We also know that that is not always the case and that hounds maul stags. The pro-hunting argument is that a huntsman comes and shoots a stag when it is at bay. Surely the way to cull a stag is with the rifle. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) referred to the loss of the stag and of the red deer populations on Dartmoor. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation says: The increase in numbers of deer has brought about the responsibility of managing their populations. Deer stalking has played a particularly important role in such management programmes and has contributed to the fact that Britain has a very healthy population … whereas 30 years ago deer were considered to be relatively scarce throughout most of lowland England". As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, deer on Dartmoor were not lost as a result of the absence of a hunt; they were taken out through bad management and bad hunting. Scotland's deer population is controlled not by the hunt, but by stalking and by the gun. I have no objection to that.

A number of my hon. Friends have said that the Bill is the thin end of the wedge. I do not think that that has happened hitherto, but I agree with the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who said that this issue should be taken on its merits and as it stands on the face of the Bill.

I do not accept that, somehow, hunt saboteurs who employ violent action, which I abhor, will transfer all their allegiance to fishing or to shooting. Even if they were to do so, I and many people like me who are opposed to hunting animals with dogs would not support legislation to outlaw fishing or shooting. How can I stand here and say that I believe that the way to control foxes and deer is with the rifle if I were then to say that I would try to outlaw shooting?

The vast majority of people believe that the time has come to end the hunt for the kill. Perhaps surprisingly, the rural economy has only been referred to peripherally. That argument has been used consistently, but I am slightly surprised that hon. Members who support the hunt have not played it harder today.

Mr. Leigh

May I intervene now?

Mr. Gale

I am sorry, but I have said that I shall not give way.

I do not accept that the rural economy, which is vital to the country, would suffer in the way that some people have described. As has been said, there are alternatives to hunting to kill. Drag hunting is a viable alternative. It already happens in several places, it has a growing allegiance and it has a number of distinct advantages in addition to the obvious animal welfare advantage. In a drag hunt, a trail laid by man starts from a given point, traverses pre-planned land over pre-determined obstacles that can be designed and suited to the riding ability of those chasing; and it can end at a given point. It removes the many complaints received by Members of Parliament to the effect that hunts trespass undesired on people's land without their permission.

If drag hunting takes over, I believe that the jobs of the farriers, saddlers and smiths, which are much more at risk as a result of the various proposals to alter the training procedures for those crafts, and the jobs of grooms, stablelads and kennel men and maids will be safe. If such hunts continue and increase in number, another problem that has not yet been referred to—that of the fallen cattle and sheep which are currently disposed of by the hunt—will be taken care of.

My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside, in one of his many interventions, rather gave the game away. I paraphrase but he basically said that there would be problems if rural sports could not self-regulate. I suggest that, in a number of very well-publicised instances, rural sports have failed to self-regulate, but some of my hon. Friends have chosen to gloss over the mistakes—I put it no more strongly than that—made by those practising hunting in particular. As a result, many of us believe that the Bill is vital. It is a measure whose time has come. It is wanted by the overwhelming majority of people in the country.

Mr. Bellingham

But not in the countryside.

Mr. Gale

I hear what my hon. Friend says and I hesitate to quote yet more polls, but that does not seem to be the case. The farming community in my constituency does not hunt. The farmers do not wish to do so and I do not believe that they wish to have the hunt on their land. I believe that that is true for vast areas of rural England.

As I said, this is a measure whose time has come. It is a measure that is wanted. If it does not reach the statute book as a result of parliamentary procedures, today's vote will give a clear indication of the mood. I believe that hunting animals and tearing them to pieces with hounds will go the same way as bear baiting, badger baiting and cock fighting—into the dustbin of history.

Mr. Garnier

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has research assistance provided by the political animal lobby. I do not criticise him for that but I wonder whether he should have mentioned it in his speech.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

If the hon. Gentleman has declared such an interest in the Register of Members' Interests, it should have been declared this morning if it was relevant to the debate which, on the surface, it would seem to be.

Mr. Morley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am a little surprised at your ruling. The research assistance is of no financial advantage to me and is not necessarily of relevance to this debate. It involves general research support. I have declared it quite properly in the Register of Members' Interests and, had I thought that it was relevant to today's debate, I should most certainly have declared it today.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The judgment of relevance lies entirely with the hon. Gentleman.

1.33 pm
Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) on producing this important Bill, and on his excellent presentation of the arguments earlier in the debate. I am proud to be a sponsor of the Bill, which covers a subject dear to my heart.

I shall address the issue by means of the only two pieces of correspondence I have had from supporters of fox hunting—fox hunting is the aspect of the Bill that I shall address—amid the hundreds of communications in support of the Bill I have had from constituents. The first letter was from a lady from the farming community—her address contained the name of a farm—in the west country. It was a courteous letter, and I now regret the fact that my response was perhaps not as courteous as her first approach.

The lady approached the issue in terms of the benefits of fox hunting for her children, and she made a number of points. She first pointed out that her children had learnt discipline and responsibility from handling and caring for horses. My father kept cart horses in the docklands of Liverpool so I spent all my young life on what was, in effect, an urban farm. I assure hon. Members that close proximity to two dozen magnificent cart horses—I still think that cart horses are among the most magnificent animals in this country—taught me much about respect for horses and about discipline. Fox hunting was not necessary for me as a means to that end.

Secondly, the lady pointed out the social benefits for her children from fox hunting. She said that, together with three generations for her family, her children met a wide variety of people in the scattered rural community through fox hunting. That may well be the case. The only response I could make was that it was rather sad if fox hunting was the only social outlet she could find.

Thirdly, the lady argued that, through fox hunting and riding with the hounds, her children had access to parts of the countryside that would otherwise have been inaccessible. That surprised me. I do not see why it is necessary to hunt a fox when riding a horse to have that experience. I should have thought that concentration on the chase might detract from that otherwise worthy aspect of horse riding.

Fourthly, the lady argued that riding with the hounds and the chase taught her children familiarity with the fact of death in animals. I have always felt that that was important. I have always pointed out that fact out to my own children when they have had pets who have died. It is important that children realise that death is a fact just as much as life is a fact. It is important that they realise that pets will die and that they will have new pets.

Fifthly, the lady said that her children learned about the natural phenomenon of the violence of animal against animal through riding with hounds. I learned much about that from my urban farm childhood, as I have described. Surely fox hunting is different; the difference has been referred to by a number of contributors to the debate this morning. The difference with fox hunting is the involvement of humans in the phenomenon—humans hunting animals for pleasure and exploiting that natural phenomenon for their own pleasure. Even if the foxes were eaten, I would still condemn hunting, as I pointed out to this worthy lady.

The lady's final argument was that hunting was not as cruel as people made out, because the death of the fox was instantaneous. That point bemused me. The only response I could make was that it was either a truism or nonsense. When a living creature dies, it is alive one moment and dead the next instant. What matters in fox hunting is the prelude to death for the hunted fox, which is long, exhausting and terrifying.

The good lady wrote back to me and, again courteously, acknowledged the points that I had made in my letter and added one further point, because I did not convince her. She added that, from her experience of observing hounds in the chase, the foxes regularly did not seem especially bothered. In fact, she said that, many a time, she had seen a fox—a dog fox, presumably—stop and cock a leg in the middle of the chase. I can think of one very good reason why a dog fox might do that in the midst of being chased by a pack of hounds.

The other letter from a participant in country sports was more peremptory and more hostile, and made a number of different points. I shall cite several. I was criticised for objecting to fox hunting but not objecting to shooting for sport. I have strong reservations about shooting for sport as well, but my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton adequately covered that point. As long as shooting for sport is properly controlled and licensed, it can certainly play an important role in culling, and keeping wild animal populations under control.

The correspondent said that snares, shooting and the laying of poison are more painful to foxes than being hunted and torn to pieces by hounds. I must acknowledge that certain forms of snaring, shooting and poisoning can cause intended and unintended pain and death to intended and unintended victims, but the only response I can make is that perhaps there should be more control of such activities or more search for more humane methods of entrapping and disposing of pray and pests.

In the view of this correspondent, a Government do not have the right to regulate and control the freedom of individuals. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) would agree that this is the constitutional point; the tuppence-ha'penny lecture—I would not have given tuppence for it—given by the right hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) on John Stuart Mill. My hon. Friend covered that point reasonably well.

I simply add that I certainly believe that it is an important duty of Government to regulate the freedom of individuals in so far as it may be damaging to the freedom and welfare of others and to the welfare of the environment—flora and fauna. I would certainly include in that duty the duty of regulating the ability and freedom of others to cause distress, suffering and, in many cases, mutilation of a noble animal, all in the cause of sport.

The correspondent finally suggested that I should be concerning myself with the extinction of thousands of other species on the planet, rather than concerning myself with foxes, which, she assured me, were multiplying and do very well without my help. That is a non sequitur.

Talking of non sequiturs, I have sat through this debate since 9.30 am being more bemused than amused by the number of non sequiturs which I have heard from Conservative Members. I shall start with the right hon. Member for Bridgwater, who is no longer in his place, who said that anybody from an urban environment, such as myself, who does not have experience of country life, does not have the right to participate in a such a debate.

That interested me—[Interruption.] That was said by the right hon. Member for Bridgwater and by many others. The logical development of that argument is that practically all Conservative Members would be precluded from participating in any debate or legislative procedure in respect of unemployment or state education. However, they do take part in such debates.

Mr. Garnier

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. O'Hara

No, I am aware of the time, and there may be time for another hon. Member to speak.

The right hon. Member for Bridgwater also said that deer herds survive in certain parts of his constituency precisely because hunters keep them there. That was like saying that muggers are responsible for keeping little old ladies with handbags on the streets. I could not see much difference between the two arguments. However, perhaps the Tory party and that most famous of all ladies with a handbag might fit that analogy.

Mr. Leigh

Will the hon. Gentleman give way now?

Mr. O'Hara

No, I will not give way, because I am conscious of the time.

Various Conservative Members have referred to the thin end of the wedge argument. That argument was dealt with adequately by several of the Bill's supporters, and most admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara)—as hon. Members would be aware if they had been fortunate enough to be present for that part of his contribution.

The right hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) made a number of philosophical points in his little lecture. One which interested me was that we should not talk about the rights of foxes, as animals do not have rights because they do not have duties. If one is going to be philosophical, do not babies and mentally handicapped adults have rights? Indeed, do former Secretaries of State who no longer have duties have no rights?

The right hon. Member for Northavon (Sir J. Cope) seemed to have no problem with rights. He said, "Why should we concern ourselves with the rights of the fox, but not the rights of the lamb?" That is another non sequitur. If the right hon. Member for Northaven were in his place, I would tell him that I found his speech a regrettably unworthy concatenation of non sequitur, logical elision, sophistry, fudge and slur upon animal welfare movements.

Several hon. Members have made the point that the time has come for this Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) mentioned the history of reform and how it starts. There are many instances in history of how reforms which we now take for granted occurred in rather the way in which this reform—which has its time, and will come—is going to come about.

I can do no more than refer to the editorial in today's Guardian, which put the point so eloquently. It said that perhaps society is now at last ready for this reform. Just as we now recognise that there is no place in society for slavery, bear baiting and female circumcision, perhaps it is time that we recognised that there is also no place in our society for fox hunting.

1.48 pm
Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

I am grateful for catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall make what I hope will prove to be by far the shortest speech in the debate. I wish to clarify my position on the issue, for the benefit, at any rate, of my constituents, a large number of whom have written to me about it in recent weeks. I speak as an urban resident with a suburban constituency, who holds absolutely no brief for cruelty to animals or, indeed, to people. We need to recall that our first responsibility is to our fellow citizens here and around the world.

The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill flies under somewhat misleading colours. For example, the title is a bit misleading. The real intentions of the people who provide the driving force behind the Bill outside the House go much wider and deeper than the Bill.

If the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) and others had wished only to protect wild mammals, as the title suggests, they could have urged on Parliament, in the available legislative time, ways making the protection of foxes, stags, hares and other animals legally more entrenched as protected species. That route might have been more worthy of consideration. In fact, I suspect that the real objective of many proponents of the legislation outside the House is, first, to outlaw hunting, as has been said, and, secondly, after a decent interval, probably to have a go at shooting and fishing. As a layman, I wonder where it will end.

The emotive expression that is used in such debates is "bloodsports". It will be within hon. Members' recent memory that there have been some very tragic events, which go under the heading of "bloodsports", in the boxing ring in the east end of London. I regard what happens to human beings as, in many ways, much more consequential than what happens to animals. Indeed, I refer to other national institutions such as the grand national. From following that sport, I know that horses fall at enormous fences and have to be shot and put down. Very often, before that happens, they break their legs or even their backs. They can suffer enormous pain.

Mr. Graham

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Forman

No, I shall not give way because I am trying to make a brief speech.

However much expert evidence is adduced on both sides of the argument, it boils down to a clash of cultures, a clash of sentiment and a clash of emotions. It will be difficult, therefore, for the House, if the Bill is given a Second Reading and if it is considered in Committee, to deal with those issues as rationally as they should be dealt with. The cause of rationality has not been helped in any way by the extravagant and almost dishonest aspects of some of the propaganda that I have seen in the national press recently by the proponents of the Bill. They seek to use the old technique of guilt by association to frighten people into writing to Members of Parliament about the issue.

I am very wary of the way in which the matter has been approached, which is why I want the Bill to be considered more closely in Committee, clause by clause. Therefore, if there is to be a vote, I intend to vote for the Second Reading. There are elements in the Bill, such as clause 1, with which hon. Members can comfortably agree, but the House should be aware of the implications of the Bill. Some subsequent clauses would create a number of new criminal offences and impose extra burdens on the police. I should like to know from the proponents of the Bill—perhaps later—the extent to which they have consulted chief police officers and others about those aspects.

We bring the law of the country into disrepute if we extend the criminal law into matters in which it does not properly belong or if the invasion of the law is too detailed and too specific. We must take account of the fact that we remain—

Mr. Budgen

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Forman

No, I am sorry.

We remain a law-abiding community, largely because people agree freely to abide by the law. It is not evident that the Bill would help that process. For that reason, there are aspects in clauses 10, 11 and 12 which could bring the law into serious disrepute.

I agree with my right hon. and hon. Friends who have drawn attention to the great anthropomorphism is the Bill, which is out of place in legislation. I was much struck by the article by Frederick Forsyth in The Times yesterday, which other hon. Members will also have seen, and I shall quote a paragraph from it, because it hits the nail on the head: The mainspring behind the conversion of millions to hostility towards foxhunting is anthropomorphism—which means two things: the assumption by humans that wild animals share the same standards, criteria, attitudes and fears as we do, and a presumption that we can judge the worth of a wild animal by whether we think it is pretty or not". Those are cautionary words, and I hope that if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading it will bear in mind the serious risks and consequences of such a measure being passed in an anthropomorphic frame of mind. The House should be cautious about introducing legislative bans that would extend the criminal law into areas where it is unlikely to be accepted by a large and significant minority of the population.

1.55 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I think that I can make a speech even shorter than that of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), but as I am a sponsor of the Bill and greatly welcome the initiative of the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) it is important that, like the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), I make clear the view of my party, as opposed to the view of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We have a difference of view, and it is encouraging for those of us who support the banning of hunting that in the parliamentary party the number who share that view is growing all the time, and that the party as a whole has consistently voted to support a ban on hunting with hounds and to extend the Protection of Animals Act 1911 to cover wild mammals. Like other parties, we recognise that individual Members will be free to vote as a matter of conscience, unwhipped on the party line.

As an urban Member I also warn the House that people should not presume that urban Members either do not have rural backgrounds, do not understand such matters—or do not represent many constituents who understand them—or that there is not the same coincidence of interests on both sides. I spent my whole life in villages until I was an adult. Hunts met in front of my home, and I went beagling when I was a teenager. I have as much authority to speak on such matters as Members representing rural parts of Britain.

Opinion polls are not determinative, but they are relevant and helpful in informing us of the mood of the public. Support for the Bill and all its contents is certainly growing. As someone who trained as a lawyer, I think that the Bill is well drafted, and deals with exemptions carefully and well. I do not think that it can be criticised as a wide measure that will be difficult to enforce.

The key question appears to be: is it appropriate that we as a Parliament should legislate to ban something that a minority think an appropriate form of activity?

Mr. Duncan


Mr. Hughes

That is the issue, and we must always be careful about imposing the views of a majority. I understand that entirely.

The minority views, such as those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir David Steel) are honestly held. [HON. MEMBERS: "Liberalism."] The question is: what does that liberalism mean? Where does it stop? What activities are unacceptable?

When we try to answer those questions in connection with the Bill we must first ask ourselves what our responsibility is as human beings, and as stewards of all that has been created for our enjoyment. We are the most intelligent mammals; we are given the responsibility as stewards of creation, and we therefore have to decide how to apply the principle of stewardship to wild animals.

If we ask the same questions we may get different answers if we apply them to shooting and fishing—and I shall explain why. Three questions flow from that definition. First, do we need to kill foxes for food? That is one of the reasons why people have killed animals in the past. They have done so to provide food for human beings. It would seem that the answer is no. There is no direct case for killing foxes with hounds for food.

Secondly, do we need as a matter of stewardship to intervene to ensure that foxes are not predatory and to curb their predatory characteristics where they are harmful? It is a more debatable question but it is more easily answered because there are various ways of dealing with the predator fox.

Mr. Duncan

Ways that are worse.

Mr. Simon Hughes

No. The argument is, of course, whether the other ways of dealing with the fox are better or worse.

If we assume that we do not allow or encourage animals to set on other animals, arguably the less dangerous, less problematical and less harmful course is to shoot and not to allow hounds to chase to kill.

I move on to the third question. We are stewards, and is it appropriate for stewards to take a course that is justified on the basis of recreation?

I take the view, Mr. Deputy Steward—you are a slightly more senior steward than the rest of us, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that the answer to the third question is no; there is no recreational justification for countenancing such activity. It is justified only if it is the only, or by far the better way, of dealing with the predator fox. The arguments seem overwhelmingly in favour of outlawing fox hunting with hounds rather than supporting it. I appreciate, of course, that others take a different view. We shall, no doubt, debate the issue.

The Bill is not the thin end of the wedge because there will be other debates about shooting and fishing. They are activities that are primarily entered into for food and not for dealing with predators or for recreation.

Over the passage of time, what is acceptable as an activity changes. Rural activities have changed as all human activities have changed. Boxing used to be bare knuckle; it now takes place with gloves and helmets. It may be even more constrained in future. We must judge whether we have reached the stage in our development when it is compatible with the civilisation to which we aspire to go hunting with hounds. I and those who sponsor the Bill believe that it is no longer compatible with our level of civilisation and development to countenance fox hunting. The stewardship that we exercise should lead us to say that fox hunting is not an activity that should continue. It should be outlawed, and the Bill, with all its clauses, should be given a Second Reading and placed on the statute book.

2.2 pm

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I suppose that I should declare an interest immediately. I have fox hunted all my life—50 years. I am an occasional contributor to the principal magazine on hunting, "Horse and Hound".

I represent a constituency which is urban and suburban. It has no farmland. I have no doubt that a majority of my constituents are at least vaguely disapproving of the continuance of hunting, although there are significant minorities. For example, one of my constituents is the master of a local pack of beagles. A quite significant minority of my constituents engage in rural sports of all sorts.

Our discussion has been mainly about hunting. The debate is about the role of a minority in our society, which the House should be concentrating upon. We are fortunate in that the view of the Labour party was made extremely clear by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley). It is no longer in a position of neutrality. The Labour party, no doubt with a few minority interests, is significantly and overwhelmingly against the continuing of hunting. [Interruption.] I am glad that everybody agrees, because I am sure that that view will be widely noted. I deal with plenty of people who come to me and say, "There is only one reason why I am going to vote Conservative at the next election—because you are more likely to retain our rural sports." Let me say, as a good party member, that I know that that attitude will change nearer the general election.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be a good idea to have all the huntsmen with their glasses of sherry sprayed and given a 10 yd start on the foxes, on foot? Let us then see who enjoys the sport.

Mr. Budgen

The important point—it was properly raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten)—is: what should be the attitude of the House and the nation towards a significant minority? I contend that, most of all, the House should ensure that legislation, particularly criminal legislation, enjoys the consent of the nation. The quarter of a million people who now hunt do not feel themselves to be doing anything morally reprehensible. They do not believe themselves to be criminals, and it is difficult to see an important distinction between them and those who shoot—some half a million people a year. It is also rather difficult to see an important philosophical difference between them and the 3 million or 4 million people who fish.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Budgen

May I finish?

The only way in which the rights of minorities in our society can be protected is by the procedures of the House. We have no written constitution. We have no Bill of Rights. The supervisory role of the European Union does not yet extend to telling us how minorities in our country are to be dealt with. It is only by the proper adherence to the procedures of the House that we protect the rights of minorities. The worst legislation—for example, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989—that ever goes through the House is legislation that ignores the proper procedures of the House and that is said to be popular or is supported, for example, by the Daily Mail or The Guardian.

Let us not have legislation by the Daily Mail or The Guardian. If the majority of the people of this country can persuade the one quarter of a million people who go hunting that they are doing something that is morally reprehensible, that is one thing, but I say to my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), that, whatever else we do, let us keep to the procedure for private Member's legislation. Let us not have the talk that arose from the House yesterday about "We was robbed."

The procedure for dealing with private Member's Bills is designed to protect minorities. It is a proper and important constitutional safeguard, and until the majority can persuade the 5 million or 6 million people who engage in field sports that they are doing something morally wrong, which should be made a crime, they should be allowed to continue to carry out field sports.

Mr. Garnier

My hon. Friend will realise from his own experience that many of the people to whom he referred hunt in my constituency, and, indeed, in Leicestershire. Does he agree that they should be protected against legislation by post card?

Mr. Budgen

We want legislation neither by postcard nor by referendum if we can avoid it; nor do we want legislation by any form of public opinion poll. We represent people through the procedures of the House, which are the distilled wisdom of our forebears. Let us stick to that.

2.9 pm

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

I think all hon. Members would agree that our attitude towards wildlife should be to respect its habitat and preserve species. I represent the rural area of north Lincolnshire where there are three hunts: the Brocklesby, the Burton and the South Wold. Those hunts not only employ large numbers of people and are vital to the rural economy, but their very existence ensures that the fox as a wild species is preserved. Farmers view the fox as a predator. If it were not for hunting there is no doubt that the fox population would be severely depleted and might eventually be wiped out in rural areas. If the House is united, as it is—

Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

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

The House proceeded to a Division:

Mr. Alex Carlile

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that Tellers are to be assumed to support the side for which they tell? Is it in order for a Division to be called for entirely tactical reasons by those who are opposed to the cause for which they are telling? Nobody who shouted "No" has expressed any opposition to the Bill. The cries of "No" were by those who support the Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

As far as the Chair was concerned, the Noes were shouted and accepted.

The House having divided: Ayes 253, Noes Nil.

Division No. 94] [2.10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Dowd, Jim
Adams, Mrs Irene Dunnachie, Jimmy
Ainger, Nick Dykes, Hugh
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Eagle, Ms Angela
Allen, Graham Enright, Derek
Alton, David Etherington, Bill
Amess, David Evans, John (St Helens N)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Evennett, David
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Ashton, Joe Fatchett, Derek
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Fisher, Mark
Austin-Walker, John Flynn, Paul
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Forman, Nigel
Barnes, Harry Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Barron, Kevin Fraser, John
Battle, John Fyfe, Maria
Bayley, Hugh Galbraith, Sam
Beith, Rt Hon A J Gale, Roger
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Galloway, George
Bennett, Andrew F Gapes, Mike
Benton, Joe Garrett, John
Bermingham, Gerald George, Bruce
Berry, Roger Gerrard, Neil
Betts, Clive Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Boateng, Paul Godman, Dr Norman A
Bowden, Sir Andrew Graham, Thomas
Boyes, Roland Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Bradley, Keith Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bright, Sir Graham Griffiths, Peter [Portsmouth, N]
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Grocott, Bruce
Burden, Richard Gunnell, John
Byers, Stephen Hain, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hall, Mike
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hanson, David
Campbell-Savours, D N Hardy, Peter
Canavan, Dennis Harman, Ms Harriet
Cann, Jamie Hayes, Jerry/
Chidgey, David Heppel, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Clapham, Michael Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hinchliffe, David
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hodge, Margaret
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hoey, Kate
Clelland, David Hood, Jimmy
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hoon, Geoffrey
Coffey, Ann Horam, John
Cohen, Harry Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Connarty, Michael Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hoyle, Doug
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Cox, Tom Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cummings, John Hutton, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Darling, Alistair Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jamieson, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Janner, Greville
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Day, Stephen Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Denham, John Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Devlin, Tim Jowell, Tessa
Dicks, Terry Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dixon, Don Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Dobson, Frank Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Donohoe, Brian H Khabra, Piara S
Kilfedder, Sir James Randall, Stuart
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Redmond, Martin
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Reid, Dr John
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Rendel, David
Liddell, Mrs Helen Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Livingstone, Ken Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rogers, Allan
Loyden, Eddie Rooker, Jeff
Lynne, Ms Liz Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McAllion, John Rowlands, Ted
McCrea, The Reverend William Ruddock, Joan
Macdonald, Calum Sedgemore, Brian
McFall, John Sheerman, Barry
McKelvey, William Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Mackinlay, Andrew Short, Clare
McMaster, Gordon Skinner, Dennis
MacShane, Denis Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McWilliam, John Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Madden, Max Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Maddock, Diana Soley, Clive
Mahon, Alice Spearing, Nigel
Marek, Dr John Spellar, John
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Spink, Dr Robert
Martlew, Eric Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Meacher, Michael Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Meale, Alan Steinberg, Gerry
Merchant, Piers Stott, Roger
Michael, Alun Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Sumberg, David
Millar Andrew Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Morgan, Rhodri Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morley, Elliot Timms, Stephen
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Tipping, Paddy
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Touhig, Don
Mowlam, Marjorie Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Mudie, George Turner, Dennis
Mullin, Chris Vaz, Keith
Murphy, Paul Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Norris, Steve Walley, Joan
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Ward, John
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Wareing, Robert N
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Welsh, Andrew
Olner, Bill Wicks, Malcolm
Oppenheim, Phillip Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Pearson, Ian Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Pendry, Tom Wilson, Brian
Pike, Peter L Wise, Audrey
Pope, Greg Worthington, Tony
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wray, Jimmy
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Wright Dr Tony
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn Tellers for the Ayes:
Purchase, Ken Mr. Kevin McNamara and Mr. Edward O'Hara.
Quin, Ms Joyce
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Colin Pickthall and Mr. Jeremy Corbyn

Question accordingly agrees to.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills)