HL Deb 27 October 2004 vol 665 cc1342-55

(1) The Secretary of State shall by order make a scheme for the making of payments to persons refused registration or adversely affected by a refusal to grant registration—

  1. (a) whose employment is materially affected (whether by a reduction in profits or the incurring of losses), or
  2. (b) who are deprived of any services previously provided by hunts and as a result incur and are materially affected by costs, expenses or losses.

(2) The scheme shall, in particular, specify—

  1. (a) the manner in which losses, costs, expenses or reductions in profits may be calculated, and
  2. 1343
  3. (b) the evidence which may be reasonably required to show the losses, costs, expenses or reductions in profits calculated in accordance with this paragraph.

(3) The scheme shall also, in particular—

  1. (a) specify the basis of valuation for determining losses,
  2. (b) specify the amounts of the payments to be made or the basis on which such amounts are to he calculated,
  3. (c) provide for the procedure to be followed (including the time within which claims must be made and the provision of information) in respect of claims under the scheme and for the determination of such claims.

(4) Subsection (5) applies to any dispute as to a person's entitlement to payments under a scheme or the amounts of any such payments which—

  1. (a) has not been resolved within nine months of the day on which the original decision as to entitlement or amounts was notified in writing to the person concerned by the Secretary of State, and
  2. (b) has not been referred by agreement to arbitration.

(5) The dispute shall be referred by the Secretary of State to such appellate body as he deems appropriate by order.

(6) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."

(7) In this section— losses" includes losses of income, housing and losses of capital: materially affected" means a reduction in profit or the incurrence of losses, costs or expenses which may be measured by ordinary principles of commercial accountancy.

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I seek advice from the Minister. As he will well remember, when we debated this Bill previously, I tabled several amendments on compensation. At that stage, we were considering a total ban. Given subsequent events this week, we are not facing a total ban but dealing with an amended and regulated Bill. Therefore, I have tabled this amendment to get from the Minister some clarification of the Government's thinking.

When the matter was debated in another place, the issue of compensation in the event of a total ban was raised. The honourable Member Tony Banks (at col. 1282 of the Official Report) said that he was not unsympathetic towards the idea of compensation. It was recognised clearly, and indeed the Burns report said, that if there were a total ban 700-plus jobs might be lost. There would not be a loss of hounds and kennels alone—people would lose their homes as well.

I have returned to this situation today, dividing the matter into two—with the Minister's indulgence, I hope. I begin with regard to those who will not qualify, even within a registration scheme, which is something that clearly may happen. Last night we spoke in great detail on hare coursing. It may be that some people in other hunts would not qualify even under a registration system. If they do not qualify because of the new conditions laid down by the Bill as amended in this House, if it is accepted by the Commons, are they entitled to any form of compensation?

The Minister will remember that the Select Committee on Human Rights came to some conclusions on the matter. I turn to a comment that he made in response to comments by my noble friend Lord Astor. He said: The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and many others, referred to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. What the noble Viscount said was a bit of a travesty"— to quote the Minister exactly— of what the committee said—it did not say that the Bill was contrary to the Human Rights Act. The chair, Jean Corston, confirmed that in her speech last month. However, the committee did draw attention to the absence of any compensation scheme in relation to deprivation of benefit of vested rights under contracts. Nothing in the Bill deprives people of their possessions; it merely imposes control on the uses to which dogs and man may he put. In those circumstances, in the light of general European and British law, there is in our view no obligation to compensate. On the particular point, the Government consider that there cannot be a right to compensation for an unperformed or unenforceable contract. None the less, it is also true, as my right honourable friend the Member for Bristol East, the chair of the committee, made clear in the debate last month, that the issue of whether compensation is appropriate or not would be met by the amendment before us, in terms of the delay in the application of the main parts of the Bill. On that basis, I had no hesitation in signing the statement.—[Official Report, 12/10/04; col. 258.]

6 p.m.

It is a slightly complex issue in that I am asking noble Lords to consider whether it is right that some form of compensation should be due to anyone who in a registered system—if it is approved by the other House—would lose out because of this new legislation.

I ask the Committee to consider the position with regard to fur farmers and pig swill operators. The Committee may wonder why on earth I am referring to them. I do so because both have been put out of business due to government action. The Government decided that some form of compensation was due to fur farmers, and that has been forthcoming. However, pig swill operators, who through no fault of their own had their livelihoods removed from under their feet with no notice at all, were not compensated in any way. Therefore, my question to the Minister at this stage is twofold: first, how do the Government decide whether compensation is due in the first place; and, secondly, having decided that, do they have to consider any form of human rights within their decision, or is it purely a government decision which has no bearing on human rights?

I apologise to the Committee for the slight complexity of the issue. If, for any reason when this Bill goes to another place it does not accept what the Committee has recommended and a total ban is introduced, what will be the position of all those animals, hounds and hunts who will have their livelihoods removed? As I said earlier today, one of the things that worries me enormously is that when this Bill finally leaves this House it will go to another place and Members of another place are not required to consider a word of what has been said in this House. It is very important that we get a steer from the Minister. It is in that spirit that I move the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My good colleague in the other place, Tony Banks, has been referred to by many noble Lords in a derogatory sense. However, the noble Baroness prayed him in aid of the case that she made regarding compensation and said that he could see some merit in it. That is one of the complexities that she introduced into the issue.

Members of the Committee are aware of my stance on the issue. We have lost the argument in this place. I accept that this House has the right to do what it has done. All of the amendments flow from the fact that a vast majority of noble Lords wish to see hunting continue in some form. I am in a minority in that regard. I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that I have checked the figures. According to my calculations in the vote last night 51 Labour Peers voted for hunting and 53 voted against. We shall check the figures again and consult on that. I do not resile from the fact that noble Lords on the Labour Benches are more polarised on the issue than noble Lords opposite.

Given that we have lost the argument in this House, it is ludicrous to expect those of us who share my view on these matters to deal with all the amendments, which were tabled to strengthen the vote taken yesterday. It is not on to expect us to engage meaningfully with the amendments that are before us. I read them, I listen to the discussion on most of them, as most of my noble friends are aware, and I appreciate the sincerity with which they are discussed.

Colleagues in another place will listen seriously to the arguments and will reach their own views on compensation. I accept that if a hunt is banned, that is not the end of it. Drag hunting has been referred to more than once. I am not as familiar as Members of the Committee opposite with the manner in which hunting or drag hunting are conducted. I have listened carefully to accounts of the terrible carnage that will be visited upon packs of hounds. However, Members of the Committee opposite know that the lives of those dogs are limited and that in due course, sooner rather than later when they outlive their usefulness to the pack and to the hunt, they will be destroyed, humanely, ofcourse. I do not belittle the fact that if a hunt is faced with a ban, it will have to consider what to do with all its accoutrements and paraphernalia. I take with a pinch of salt accounts of the devastating unemployment that would result from a ban on hunting. I am not familiar with the precise figure that is involved. However, if there is a serious intention to continue hunting, but not of foxes, for the pleasure and sport that that involves, a hunt can convert to drag hunting. Therefore, I cannot see why public money—which is as precious to Members of the Committee on this side of the Chamber as it is to Members opposite—should be set aside for compensation.

The noble Baroness has done the Committee a service in exploring the issues in a perfectly fair manner. It just so happens that I disagree with her largely because her arguments are predicated on the basis of hunting being banned. That may well be the ultimate decision of the other place and, I hope, of the electorate at the next election. I try not to speak on every issue. In a normal debate there is something you can get your teeth into but all of these amendments flow from an original premise with which I violently disagree. I rest my case.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for his recognition of the need for compensation. I understand that, given the stance he has taken, it is difficult for him to make a speech of that kind. It is very fair-minded of him to do so in the circumstances.

Amendment No. 47, which the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has put to the Committee this evening, covers most of the issues that arise in relation to compensation for those hunts that are refused registration. As she pointed out, that is quite different from the situation regarding a ban. It is necessary to put an amendment of this kind into the Bill as undoubtedly the registrar will refuse to register some hunts for various reasons which we cannot foresee at the present time.

The main issue, of course, concerns those who are employed in hunting and the discontinuance of services which have been provided hitherto such as houses and services that are provided for employees. It is interesting to note that the Burns report referred to compensation. Paragraph 10.57 states

"In the case of the hunts, the main issue which would arise would be whether some form of compensation should be paid in the event of their having to put down hounds and because the hounds would no longer be required. We noted in Chapter 6 that there is disagreement about whether it would in fact be necessary for all, or even most, of the hounds to be destroyed and that this would depend on the speed in implementing a ban. Leaving that question to one side, we understand that the principle which is generally applied, when considering issues of compensation, is whether the individual concerned is actually deprived of a particular benefit".
Lord Graham of Edmonton

I think that the noble Lord said that he was pleased that I supported the paying of compensation, in which case I hope that Hansard tomorrow will prove him wrong. I made the case that compensation need not be paid if the paraphernalia of the hunt continued with drag hunting, not normal hunting. If the amendment is pressed, I intend to vote against it.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I understand the noble Lord's interpretation, but it does not mean that hunts will follow drag hunting by any means. That is an untested thesis.

Baroness Mallalieu

What would the answer of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, be to a young woman who came to me the other day? She had two young children, and said that she was the wife of a kennel huntsman in a small pack in Devon. They lived in a tied house and had 70 couple of hounds in kennels, which she said were their children. If hunting ends, she has no prospect of that pack surviving; it runs on a shoestring. It is not jumping country, so drag hunting is a non-starter. When she rang her local council to say that she would be out of her house, possibly as early as May next year, she was told that she would be put into bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Plymouth. Would the noble Lord, Lord Graham, still give the answer to her that he gave to the noble Lord, Lord Livsey?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My advice to her would be to go to see her local MP.

Noble Lords


Lord Graham of Edmonton

The local MP is the best person to fight on behalf of his or her constituents. I am not saying that there will not be casualties when the issues are resolved one way or the other. Of course there will he, and they will be sought to be minimised somehow. Frankly, the best way to minimise them is to try to be collegiate in looking at such matters and resolve them in that way.

When I served in the other place and represented Edmonton, I had people placed in such a situation as a result of some decision—very often a decision of the Conservative Party. The fallout was such was that people like the lady mentioned were put in a terrible situation. The social fabric of the country—local councils and other methods—is there to help them. I am sorry for the lady—there will be many others; she will not be alone—but her plight will not determine the issue so far as I am concerned.

Lord Eden of Winton

I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Byford for tabling the amendment, as it has given us the opportunity to talk briefly about compensation. The amendment deals with one aspect of compensation but, following the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, the debate has widened a little to deal with compensation in the event of a ban. That was the point on which he focused.

It is not a realistic alternative to contemplate that drag hunting would replace live fox hunting or other animal hunting. Drag hunting is of only very limited scope. At the best of times, one would have only a small number of hounds, not a whole pack as one would of foxhounds. The more one considers that possibility as the direction in which one will go, it is clear that a large number of hounds would have to be destroyed.

Some put forward the proposition that rehoming is a possibility. It is beyond sense to talk about re-homing foxhounds and other hounds. They are pack animals, trained to chase in the wild. One cannot have them sitting in one's front room; they would destroy everything that they saw if they were kept there. They would perform and leave little visiting cards all over the place in the house. If they got outside, they would pursue whatever other animal happened to be around, given the opportunity. If it were the neighbour's cat, woe betide the neighbour's cat. There are large problems associated with that approach.

6.15 p.m.

It is very woolly minded to talk about drag hunting, rehoming and the like as though they provided cosy and convenient solutions. They would not. Those who favour a ban, such as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, have to face up to the fact that at least 20,000 hounds will probably have to be destroyed. That is a large number. Who will do it? The noble Lord says that the huntsman will destroy a hound when its useful life is finished. That is correct; he is preserving his pack. However, to destroy an entire pack is a totally different proposition. Many hounds are thoroughbred creatures with generations of genealogy behind them. It is known how they have been bred and brought up. They are class creatures; they are special animals, devoted to the one objective for which they have been bred.

hope that we hear no more woolly minded nonsense on the issue, whether from the noble Lord or anyone else. I also hope that this debate on compensation will give the opportunity—probably the only one that we have—for the Minister to talk about what would happen if the other House reversed all that we are trying to achieve.

Viscount Astor

When my noble friend Lady Byford moved the amendment, she referred to the exchange that the Minister and I had at Second Reading on compensation and the human rights convention. Following that exchange, I wrote to him questioning what he said; I still await the reply to the questions I asked, which is no doubt working its way through the system. He accused me of misstating matters when I put forward my argument, but I was very careful. I quoted verbatim the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the words of its chairman, Jean Corston. The words were theirs, not mine, and they raised serious issues about compensation.

I am afraid that the Minister set his own trap when he said that an 18-month delay would solve the problems, if there were any. That implied that there was a problem. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, took that up in a Starred Question, and we still did not get a satisfactory answer. However, we have moved on. The question is not one of compensation for a ban, as the amendment is about compensation for those refused registration. However, the principle behind it is important, and it is on that principle that I want to ask a very simple question.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, said that policies instituted by past Conservative governments resulted in people losing their jobs in the north-east. I accept that; people lose their jobs because of economic circumstances and such reasons. However, I want to ask the Minister specifically whether the Government still believe that if Parliament passes an Act that results in someone losing their job, for which they have a contract, they should be entitled to compensation. In effect, it is what the human rights convention says.

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld

Perhaps I may make a few remarks in support of the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. It is absolutely right to do that and to provide for compensation. I was surprised to hear my noble friend Lord Graham make his speech. He is a much respected figure in this House and his credentials as a Labour man are certainly not in doubt. But he made a speech that I do not believe that a trade unionist would recognise and he did not make a speech that a trade unionist with a Labour Party background would recognise, because subsection (7) of the amendment states that, 'losses' includes losses of income, housing and losses of capital", and, 'materially affected' means a reduction in profit or the incurrence of losses, costs or expenses which may be measured by ordinary principles of commercial accountancy". When I was a trade union officer I argued that kind of case time and again. I would be willing to do so again on behalf of those who may lose their jobs as a consequence of the Bill.

From these Benches, I am certain that the principal view would be that the contents of the amendment are correct and consistent with what I understand to be Labour Party principles.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I cannot stay quiet any longer on this matter and I wish to support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld. Those of us who live north of the Border know only too well what has happened regarding hunting. In my part of the border country there has been much trouble as a result of there being no compensation. What I have heard from the Labour Benches tonight is something that I never thought that I would hear—noble Lords voluntarily ensuring that people lose their jobs. To my mind that is not the tenet of the Labour Party as I used to know it. I am surprised to have heard it from there.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has raised an extremely important issue, for which I am grateful. I cannot support this amendment because it is too widely drawn. That is because when we looked, for example, at the results of foot and mouth in the West Country, we found businesses that had been affected that we never believed would have been.

I shall give noble Lords the example of an underwear shop whose takings fell. One would not have thought that foot and mouth could have possibly affected that business. Why did that happen? Because they sold white brassieres to waitresses who had to wear them under their white shirts, and, of course, the tea shops' incomes had fallen so much that the waitresses were not being employed that season. That is one example of a knock-on, unexpected effect.

As I read it, the amendment is not drawn tightly enough for those who lose their incomes and whose prime incomes are from employment with the hunt. If that were the case then it would be most surprising if the Government were not to support it. When we debated the fur farming Bill, I understood from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who took that Bill through the House for the Government, that because a moral decision was taken by a government to end a particular activity—in that case, fur farming, but in this case, hunting—then those whose prime incomes came from that activity should be entitled to compensation. I cannot believe that this case would be any different. So I urge the noble Baroness very much to tighten up those to whom this important amendment applies. I could then support it at Report stage.

Viscount Ullswater

The amendment deals with those people who are refused registration, but the Minister has given us an indication that that will ensure that it is not accepted by the other place. Therefore, the wider concept of compensation should perhaps be addressed as well. I hope that the Minister will address that.

The discrete area that I wish to bring to the Minister's attention is that of point-to-pointing, because if there is a hunting ban, the British Horseracing Board, in its evidence to the Burns inquiry, estimated that a minimum of a quarter of point-to-point venues would close as a consequence. About 25 per cent of the horses participating in that sport would be affected. From memory, approximately 4,000 horses take part in point-to-points; thus 1,000 horses would be affected. In small areas that would be the knock-on effect and there would be no alternative for those horses. They have been used for hunting, which would be banned, but generally they are not kept for riding around the countryside. They are kept for racing or hunting. Many of them are held in livery stables, which will suffer a considerable drop in income if great areas of the country are deprived of point-to-pointing. Could the Minister turn his mind to that?

Lord Jopling

I wish to cast my mind back some years, when I was in another place. Legislation was passing through that House following the tragic shootings in Dunblane. As a consequence, the previous government in the 1990s—my government—decided that they would introduce stringent new laws concerning gun clubs. On that occasion I remember that the government said that they were not prepared to give compensation. A number of us felt that that was quite outrageous. People were being put out of business; I know that in my old constituency there were people in that position. A number of us voted against our government on that occasion. It would be totally inconsistent of me if, on this occasion, I did not follow exactly the same line and follow my noble friend into the Lobby, as I hope she will divide the House on this matter. It would be outrageous if compensation was not given in this case.

Lord Whitty

This has been an interesting debate on an important issue and some clarification is required. There are two basic streams of argument regarding compensation. The first is whether we are obliged to pay compensation under the legislation relating to the European Convention on Human Rights and the other is whether there is a precedent for the Government to pay compensation in any case.

I shall deal with the human rights issue first. The position of the Joint Committee on Human Rights—and the comment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and my exchange with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe—was on the basis of its view of the Bill imposing an outright ban. The committee's view was that the Bill did not raise the issue of human rights, except in one limited area relating to compensation where contracts were broken. I responded to the noble Viscounts in the context of a Bill which, at that point was proposing a ban. The JCHR also considered the Bill as it was originally put to the House of Commons—what we are all calling the "Alun Michael Bill". At that point the JCHR did not raise any concerns of any sort in relation to human rights—primarily, I guess, because a due process of assessment was being made and the committee concluded that there was no issue of human rights arising from a Bill that required a due process of registration. Therefore, the Bill that is now before us, as a result of earlier amendments, falls into the same category as that on which the JCHR commented at first.

To complicate the issue—that may have been my fault earlier—even with a ban, the chair of the human rights committee said that its concerns would be alleviated if the delay suggested by the Commons was built in.

6.30 p.m.

The Government had already concluded that issues of human rights do not arise in this respect, but if a delay were adopted by both Houses, that would clearly reduce even further any concerns about human rights. However, as I indicated in my exchange with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, the other day, the Government reach that conclusion in any case.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, who said that we are talking about deprivation. We are not talking about deprivation. The European Convention on Human Rights treats deprivation of goods differently from restrictions on use of goods. In this respect, we are talking about a restriction on the use of goods—premises, land, dogs and so forth. Therefore, that is not automatically a European Convention on Human Rights issue.

If the registration scheme is reinstated, the Joint Committee on Human Rights states that there is no issue of human rights at all. Indeed, even if one were to accept that there might he some precedent for payment of compensation on human rights grounds—I shall come to that in a moment—the proposed new clause is written extremely widely, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has indicated. It covers anybody who is refused registration, which could include somebody who had never hunted or organised a hunt before; it covers somebody who flagrantly broke both the criteria for being registered; it would affect too those who are indirectly affected, such as the underwear shop to which the noble Baroness referred. As the proposed new clause stands, compensation could be payable even to somebody who, because of previous convictions for cruelty, had been refused registration.

The breadth of the proposed new clause is therefore an issue, but there is a more fundamental issue which goes back to the way in which the European Convention on Human Rights operates. A number of noble Lords referred to fur farming. Compensation was paid to fur farmers, although issues relating to that are still not entirely clear. It was paid on the basis of deprivation of the animals which were confiscated at the insistence of the Government to prevent fur farming taking place. That is a different issue from the restriction of the use of assets. It is the equivalent of paying compensation to those farmers whose stock was destroyed as a disease control measure during the foot and mouth outbreak. It is they who were compensated because of that deprivation, not people who were indirectly affected in terms of their livelihood, their businesses or their ability to use their assets as a result of such measures.

The issue is a little more complicated in relation to guns legislation. The previous government stated that they were not—in line with my argument—prepared to pay compensation, except in the limited cases where they were depriving people of the guns, which was a limited part of that Bill. They did not therefore pay compensation to gun clubs which could no longer operate or to anybody except those from whom they took the weapons and equipment. Although the amount of compensation was significant, it was because of the first part of the European Convention on Human Rights and not the second, which deals with restrictions on use.

There is therefore neither a requirement under the convention or the Human Rights Act to pay compensation nor a precedent for paying compensation. My noble friend Lord Graham said that there will undoubtedly be hard cases. They will not be as many in number as is often claimed by those who advance pro-hunting arguments, but there will be some hard cases. However, governments regulate year in and year out and introduce other forms of legislation in ways which directly and indirectly affect businesses and livelihoods, some of which suffer detriment as a result of that government intervention. It is not normal for the Government to pay compensation in those circumstances.

The example to which my noble friend Lord Hogg referred presents an entirely different circumstance. As a trade union official, he would be approaching the employer for compensation for deprivation or reduction of terms and conditions or loss of employment or pension. That is a different issue because it is a contractual arrangement under the terms and conditions of employment between the worker and the employer. Whatever the form of regulations and government intervention, it is not a circumstance where the Government, in previous situations, have seen it as a requirement that they would pay compensation.

As a result of the interpretation of the convention and the Human Rights Act or on the basis of precedent that has been presented here, I cannot accept the principle of the amendment of the noble Baroness and I certainly could not accept its wording, because it is extremely wide. I am not advising the Committee, but that would be likely to be the position of the Government in this respect. The proposed new clause affects a more direct party than the two Houses because it would be a cost to the Government, but I do not believe that the Government would wish to advise the Committee to accept any such compensation scheme. That is also likely to be the position of the majority in the House of Commons. Although Tony Banks and others are saying something different, neither the law nor precedent would support that position.

Baroness Byford

I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in this debate. It is an important issue and I want to pick up on one or two points. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, knows that I do not agree with him on this issue—and indeed on some others. He holds clear views on the matter and one cannot argue with someone who holds clear views. The matter is important to him. However, as he has heard me say previously, I believe that he is misguided in the belief that in some way people who hunt can be converted to drag hunting. It does not work in the way he thinks it can. We will agree to disagree.

The Burns report is most important and I want to refer to it again. The regulatory impact assessment refers to Burns as stating that hunting, as an economic activity, is so small as to be almost invisible in terms of national aggregates. That is a blatantly selective use of Burns, because it went on to say

"However, it often takes place in the remoter regions where farming is vulnerable and where there are few alternative jobs close at hand".

There are therefore other parts of the Burns report that I have not debated in depth, although I could have done so. However, as this was a probing amendment, I wanted to gain the Minister's reaction, but I want to return to the matter at a later stage.

My noble friend Lord Eden spoke about drag hunting and the important issue of the rehoming of hounds. The All-Party Group on Animal Welfare, of which I am a member, produced a report about six weeks ago in which it stated that it would be possible to rehome a lot of hounds. I must say that I totally disagree with that and I support my noble friend. Hounds are brought up to be pack animals; they are not individual, cosy little animals which can—

Lord Hoyle

Can the noble Baroness explain what happens to the hounds when they reach the end of their useful life with the hunt, which is at about four to five years?

Baroness Byford

I thank the noble Lord for that question. Like all of us, they ultimately come to an end. Usually a hound would expect to have a seven or eight-year working life—fortunately, not for us—after which they are humanely put down. That is quite right. On the question whether they could be re-homed, my noble friend was right to point out that there would be in excess of 20,000 hounds were a ban to be imposed.

I am grateful for the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld. Although the Minister argued that it is a different issue, I do not believe that it is. We are talking about people whose employment is based on the continuation of hunting or, in this case, on obtaining the qualification to be registered. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, rightly pointed out, those people are under contract with the hunts and live in accommodation connected with the hunts. I believe they are in the exact position that the Minister said they were not in and therefore, on that issue, I have to agree with the noble Lord and disagree with the Minister.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, rightly said that my amendment is drawn very widely. Indeed, it is. I thought it important that it should be drawn fairly widely at this stage so that we could discover the feelings of the Committee and, far more importantly, the feelings of the Minister. That is why, at this stage, I do not wish to press the amendment to a vote. I want to consider what has been said and return to it at a later stage.

My noble friend Lord Ullswater raised the very important question of what will happen to point-to-points and the knock-on effect on race hunts. I could add many other examples to that.

My noble friend Lord Jopling gave the example of gun clubs. Probably one reason that compensation was paid on that occasion was that it was possible for gun clubs to operate in a different way, although they were not using handguns. That situation occurred a little before my time, but I think that it is an important issue which has a bearing on our current debates.

When replying to the amendment, the Minister suggested that no human rights issue was attached to this matter. I beg leave to differ with him. I hope that between now and Report he will ask the government lawyers to check that situation because it has been suggested to me that there is still a human rights implication in respect of this amendment.

The noble Lord said that the position in relation to fur farming was based on deprivation. However, if the Bill is passed with a ban on hunting, as opposed to regulated hunting, I believe that those who fail to qualify will be deprived. They will lose the use of their homes. Some are in rented accommodation and they will have nowhere to go. Some Members of the Committee have said that that is tough and that there are hard cases out there. But I do not think that, just because things are tough, we should not address the issue, and that is what I have tried to do tonight.

It is not only a question of the hounds, or the hunt servants for whom the human issue is particularly important. A total ban, which may well be the situation when the Bill is returned to another place, will result in spin-off effects on farriers and those who supply equipment for horses, as well as hoteliers and bed and breakfast establishments. Often people who partake in a hunt do not live in the area. In the winter months, hunting brings people to Exmoor and other areas of the country which they would not normally visit. Therefore, my amendment is not based only on a narrow issue.

I am grateful to each and every noble Lord who has spoken in the debate. I have been tempted to move the matter to a vote, but I hope that noble Lords will bear with me. It is an important issue but, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell-Savours moved Amendment No. 47A:

After Clause 5, insert the following new clause—