HL Deb 27 October 2004 vol 665 cc1293-320

(1) The first test for registration in respect of proposed hunting of wild mammals is that it is likely to make a significant contribution to one or both of, firstly, the management of wildlife and, secondly, the prevention or reduction of serious damage which the wild mammals to be hunted would otherwise cause to—

  1. (a) livestock,
  2. (b) game birds or wild birds (within the meaning of section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (c. 69)),
  3. (c) food for livestock,
  4. (d) crops (including vegetables and fruit),
  5. (e) growing timber.
  6. (f) fisheries,
  7. (g) other property, or
  8. (h) the biological diversity of an area (within the meaning of the United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992).

(2) The second test for registration in respect of proposed hunting of wild mammals is that a contribution equivalent to that mentioned in subsection (1) could not reasonably be expected to be made (whether by the person proposing to hunt or by another person) in a manner likely to cause significantly less pain, suffering or distress to the wild mammals to be hunted."

The noble Lord said: On behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, I should like to move Amendment No. 10. I had the somewhat dubious pleasure of moving this amendment approximately one year ago when the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, quite rightly rebuked me for boring your Lordships for far too long. At that stage I was boring mostly empty Benches because it was at the end of the dinner hour; I am delighted to see that the House is now slightly fuller. I shall do my level best not to bore the Committee today.

Amendment No. 10 seeks to put back into the Bill the two tests of registration that were in the Government's original proposal when it came forward the first time. The tests are divided into two areas: utility and least suffering.

Yesterday, we discussed the principle of registration—which Members of the Committee, I am delighted to say, agreed to. Those of us in what has been called the "gang of four", which has now been enlarged to the gang of five—it may be six by this evening—tried to explain to the Committee that our intention was to return the Bill to the House of Commons in as precise detail as the original Bill that came to this Chamber. We said that where we had changed the Bill in any way, we would explain the change to the Committee.

At the same time, I told the Committee that the Bill that we were aiming at—the original government Bill—was a somewhat moving target, as it had changed somewhat in its passage through the other place and that there were, therefore, a number of small changes which were inadvertent but which we put there to make the Bill flow logistically. I do not believe that they are of substance; if any Members of the Committee spot them and disagree with them, please bring them to the Committee's attention.

There are a couple of changes, one of which we debated at length yesterday evening, which was to place coursing back into the registration process. The second, and only other, substantial change that we have made to the Bill is in the test of registration. We have included the change in the first paragraph of the proposed new clause, which reads: The first test for registration in respect of proposed hunting of wild mammals is that it is likely to make a significant contribution to one or both of, firstly, the management of wildlife". That is the change that we have included in the Bill—the reference to "the management of wildlife". We included it because, if one is considering a Bill which is about managing or culling four species of wildlife, it is not unreasonable to include the management of wildlife as one of the criteria for doing that. That is what it is about.

The welfare and cruelty issues that come in the second test are, of course, very important, but the first test is to do with utility—the reason why what is being done is being done. Of course, pest control is important if the relevant creatures are causing the damage listed in paragraphs (a) to (h) in the test, but managing wildlife is very important in its own right.

Under the amendment, the applicant for registration will have to show that the proposed hunting with dogs is, likely to make a significant contribution to … the prevention or reduction of serious damage which the wild mammals to be hunted would otherwise cause to … livestock … game birds or wild birds … food for livestock … crops … growing timber … fisheries … other property, or … the biological diversity of an area". The applicant must show that it will make a significant contribution to the above and/or the management of wildlife.

Why have we included that provision? When consulting on the grounds for his original Bill, Mr Alun Michael, the Minister, raised and consulted on the issue of wildlife management. He recognised and accepted its importance as a concept in determining the utility of hunting. The inclusion of wildlife management in this amendment is thus wholly consistent with the Minister's approach, and his claim that legislation should be based on principle and evidence, not on personal taste.

The Defra press release of 11 September 2002 said: Taking account of the evidence given at these hearings, and of the response to my two consultation papers, I plan to set out proposals for Parliament which can form good and robust law and can take us forward into the 21st Century, able to reflect evolving views on animal welfare and wildlife management". Earlier in the press release, the Minister said: The future of hunting with dogs should not be decided on personal taste, but on evidence on the principles of whether or not it is serving an effective purpose in managing wildlife and whether it is more or less cruel than the alternative methods currently available".

For the purposes of the utility test, "game birds" are defined by reference to Section 27 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which provides that "game bird" means any pheasant, partridge, grouse, black game or ptarmigan. Equally, in subsection (1)(h) of the amendment, the biological diversity of an area is defined by reference to Article 2 of the United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992. The convention provides that "biological diversity" means the variability among living organisms from all sources—inter alia terrestrial, marine and so on. So those phrases are very carefully defined.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the United Kingdom Government, both alone and as part of the European Union, are signatory to a number of international agreements, such as the Berne Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and habitats; the Convention on Biological Diversity, enshrined in law by the EU habitats directive; and, more recently, the Hague Ministerial Declaration to which we are signatory and which encourages and enables, all stakeholders to contribute to the implementation of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and recognise in particular the specific role of indigenous and local communities and incorporate with their prior approval their unique knowledge innovations and practices in conserving biodiversity and securing sustainable development and promote their participation in the Convention process".

Under the "Countdown 2010" initiative, as, a European Union member state, the UK responsibility to halt the alarming rate of biodiversity loss was given urgent imperative by the EU Council's Gothenburg Target to stop and reverse biodiversity loss by 2010 … The headline indicators, still at a draft stage, include the indicator 'Public awareness and participation—.

All that underlines our commitment as a nation to managing wildlife within the terms of those international agreements. Indeed, we are as a country keenly following that path. The United Kingdom Government, in partnership with our friends in the European Union, are currently funding an Operation Campfire in Zimbabwe, which is a wildlife management project in which sport hunting is the dominant source of income. That works on the principle that conservation can be endorsed only by local communities if they benefit. Wildlife populations, including the hunted species, have benefited and increased in number. That is what we are doing in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, and it is being done in Norway, Latvia and Canada—but apparently, at the moment, the Government do not want to do it here in the UK. That is why wildlife management is included in the amendment. It is extremely important, which is why we have made this one small change of significant effect to the test of utility.

The test of least suffering forms the second part of the amendment and the second of the registration tests. The language that we have used in it is the language of the original Bill as introduced to the House of Commons by the Minister. It is entirely correct that during its passage through the Standing Committee, the wording was changed, but it was changed in such a way as to create an imbalance. Members of the Committee have the wording before them, which is the Government's original wording, decided on following consultation.

I do not intend to go into the question of wording in minute detail, but it is quite difficult to understand precisely what it means. Having read it through many times over the past few months, it is clear that until recently I had read it wrong myself. How anyone is meant to work out precisely what it means and work with it is another matter—but it is the Government's original wording. It is our intention to give the Government back as much as we can of their original Bill, and we should do it.

I make one last point on the test of least suffering. If your Lordships turn your minds back to the Burns inquiry and the report and, indeed, to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and of my noble friend Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior in this House, one of the things that apparently is agreed, which I can understand, is that it is virtually impossible to measure physical suffering—I suppose that the "compromising of welfare" is the relevant term—as between one method and another, one animal and another and one circumstance and another. Yet that is exactly what the Government are asking the registrar to do in this Bill. When the Minister replies, if, indeed, he does—perhaps he will not feel the need to do so—will lie kindly tell us how exactly the registrar is to make this judgment, bearing in mind that the inquiry of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the welfare experts at the Portcullis House hearings said, after considerable debate, that you cannot measure suffering and that therefore it is very difficult to make a comparison in that regard? Although I am very keen that we should return to the terms of the original government Bill—and that is why I am moving this amendment—it would be interesting to know precisely how the registrar is to make that judgment every time an application is made.

I hope that I have described what the amendment seeks to do. It would put back the terms of the Government's original Bill with one change, which I hope that I have adequately explained to your Lordships, and would put back on the original basis the test of least suffering. I accept that that test changed later but it appeared to do so in an imbalanced way. We hope that we have produced the best solution. I look forward to hearing what your Lordships say. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Earl Peel

I intervene briefly to support my noble friend's amendment. I do so for one very simple reason. It seems to me essential that nowadays when one is discussing any aspect of countryside management it would be impractical—indeed, foolish —to ignore the management of wildlife.

As the Minister himself knows only too well, tremendous changes are occurring within the common agricultural policy with money being decoupled from production and put into the environment. I hope that we shall see tremendous benefits from that, but if we do not include wildlife management as part of that activity, I suggest that, quite frankly, we are wasting our time. One very good example of that is a Biodiversity Action Plan species, the black grouse, which is doing extraordinarily badly in areas where there are no keepers because the foxes are not being controlled. We raised this whole question yesterday when we debated the position in Wales.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that in the absence of hunting, the control of foxes, particularly in hill areas, will be extremely difficult and will have a direct effect on our ability to look after and enhance our Biodiversity Action Plan species. I should have thought that this amendment makes total sense on the simple ground that if we are to have proper constructive environmental gain, we cannot do without the management of wildlife.

Lord Eden of Winton

I, too, support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Mancroft. In his references to wildlife management he stressed the experiences of other countries. The importance of wildlife management is recognised internationally. The linkage between hunting and the management of wildlife is also recognised internationally. This is being pursued effectively in areas where the threat to some species of wild animals has become acute. There has been a need to return some form of economic incentive to the local population. This has been done through controlled hunting authorisation.

In this country that issue is equally important. My noble friend mentioned the Convention on Biological Diversity. One of the key principles of that states: Local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognise and duly support their identity, culture and interest and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development". That principle has been applied in other countries but it applies equally in this country in relation to hunting. We must involve local communities in the management of wildlife and in ensuring biodiversity. Local communities are the people who know best. It is mistaken to establish a number of national or international bodies through which to seek to impose solutions upon local communities. By motivating and inspiring local populations, local communities and local individuals, you will get much more effective management of wildlife, much more effective biodiversity and, I may say, at much less cost. That is one of the great services which hunting does for this country. The beauty of our landscape and the sustainability of many wild mammals is ensured through the activities of the hunting community and through their linkage with other people in their population area. Therefore, I strongly support my noble friend's proposal that wildlife management should be one of the prime tests of utility before the registrar.

Lord Renton

There is only one other point which I think needs to be mentioned which has not been stressed and that is that in England and in Wales districts vary so much. I happen to have been born in Kent, the son of a Scotsman, and I have visited many counties of England and Scotland, but, by Jove, the wildlife in every county seems to vary a great deal. The proposals in the new clause will necessarily take note of that.

Viscount Brookeborough

The question of management needs to be taken a little further. When we talk about hunting, coursing and so on, we are talking about management of the system that we wish to manage, and how we wish to manage it. There is another side to this matter that I come across frequently outside the Houses of Parliament—although I believe it is an opinion held by many in another place—namely, that there should be no management. There is a body of opinion that queries the need for management in the first place. I accept all the biodiversity schemes. The majority of educated people support those schemes and the management that has to be applied. However, we must recognise that a significant number of people believe that management is not an issue and subscribe to the principle of live and let live. We must recognise that if we are to obtain backing for management in the first place. I believe that such people are misled and that they hold the wrong opinion through ignorance.

The reason is very straightforward, is it not? Even those of us with lesser brains now have greater brain power than animals per se, except that in my case my dog definitely has greater brain power than myself. We have learnt to extend our lives, our healthcare, our social services and our welfare at the expense, inevitably, of the environment and wildlife throughout the world. Obviously, if that continues unchecked, what we are most trying to save will be threatened. I say to those who subscribe to the principle of live and let live that they must also accept that in those circumstances we would go back a thousand years to the days when there were no hospitals or welfare and when people did not expect to live beyond the age of 30 or 40. We must address these issues because what we are talking about here is managing what educated people understand should be managed although some people hold a different opinion.

The Earl of Onslow

Special attention must be paid to: Exmoor's red deer. The fortunate visitor may catch a glimpse, and a fine sight they make. They live on Exmoor in good numbers and are believed by many to be genuinely wild, descendants of the indigenous population of the Royal Forest. Stag hunting and fox hunting are both notable features of the Exmoor way of life. Whilst it may come as a surprise to some and prompt the wrath of others"— I suspect that they include the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner, Lord Graham, and Lord Hoyle, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller—

it is undeniable that stag hunting on Exmoor operates as a force for conservation. The stag hunt is supported by almost every member of the farming community and this guarantees the deer's continuing existence. In the normal run of things, they can do considerable damage to crops and, without the active participation of the farmers in the hunts, their days would be numbered. Moreover, such is the local interest in stag hunting that substantial areas of land within the Critical Amenity Area are corporately owned with a view to securing the deer's habitat. So long as stag hunting continues it is unlikely that such land will he substantially altered by conversion or enclosure". I did not write that. It was written in the Porchester report of 1977, which reported to Messrs Silkin and Shore, Labour Cabinet Ministers at, respectively, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the Environment. They recognised the contribution that stag hunting and other forms of hunting made to the environment and its guardianship. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the Minister will understand exactly what was said in that quotation.

Lord Moran

In an earlier discussion, I expressed reservations about the concept of utility, which at that stage was defined by Mr Alun Michael simply as pest control. My reservations were primarily because, if that definition were included in the Bill, it would be a damaging precedent for shooting and fishing, both of which are threatened by the organisations that have powerfully supported the case for a ban on fox hunting.

The wording proposed in the amendment is a good deal better. It is not entirely satisfactory, because it preserves the concept of pest control in the provision on, the prevention … of serious damage which the wild mammals to be hunted would otherwise cause", to various things. I do not think that fish are a threat to "livestock", "crops" or "growing timber". It would be rather difficult to argue that someone fishing for trout or roach was contributing to "utility". I still do not like the word.

When we get to a tidying-up stage, I suggest that we delete the last four words of the title of the new clause in the amendment, and simply refer to a "Test for registration". That is what we want. We do not need to put in "utility and least suffering"; they are dealt with in the wording that follows, which is fully satisfactory. I support the amendment, but I hope that we will consider tidying up the title at a later stage.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

I welcome the addition of the test for registration, because it opens up a new dimension of wildlife management. Last week, we had a meeting in No. 2 Millbank with Vets for Hunting—there are 400 of them—at which veterinary surgeons gave a very good statement on how they would change the group's name to "Vets for Wildlife Management". They perceived something far beyond the name "Vets for Hunting"; they felt that it was far too circumscribed.

The phrase introduces something that I have spoken about before, which is the additional component of ISAH—the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting. It thinks that wildlife needs to be managed. We all must accept that; it is accepted worldwide. Part of the management of wildlife is to make sure that populations are properly controlled and, if necessary, culled so that they do not die of starvation, suffer from endemic disease and the rest. The phrase is an important test for registration, and will produce excellent management of our prey species that are hunted.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Mancroft for moving the amendment. I hope that it will he agreed.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Hoyle

I want to say—I have said it previously—that I am opposed to hunting with dogs anyway because I believe that it is cruel, as does the majority of the population of the country, whether in urban or rural areas. On utility, we are once more ignoring amendments that have been made to tighten up the Bill in the House of Commons. Wildlife management is a very wide term. It could mean anything or nothing; it is very vague. As the noble Lord, Lord Burns, said in his report: Nowadays, however, hunting with dogs is likely to form only a relatively minor factor in determining farmers' and landowners' land management practices". That is being ignored. I hope that the Committee will take it into account. The amendment is another sign of the weakening of the Bill.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Before I decide on the amendment, I would like some clarification from those who tabled it, if they would be kind enough to give it. First, what is the position of otters in relation to it? They obviously pose a threat to fish, but I would be horrified if there were any thought that they should come within the meaning of the amendment.

Secondly, with regard to wildlife management, Members of the Committee probably agree that badgers cause a lot of serious damage to various items in the list in proposed new paragraphs (a) to (g), hut they are currently protected. What is the intention of the amendment with regard to badgers? Thirdly, I am not clear what would happen when serious damage prevention conflicted with wildlife management. By that. I mean when a species generally in decline—one that we did not want to hunt—was causing significant damage to crops in small areas.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth

I want to reassure the patient and loyal Minister of what I am afraid is the abiding agnosticism of those on our Benches about the whole Bill. I do so along the lines that my colleagues the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Chelmsford and the Bishop of Peterborough have already indicated. I hope that this realistic amendment will find agreement in the Committee.

Lord Selsdon

I suppose that I could say that the cat had my tongue and the fox my throat, and that all I had was a still small voice. I am a disciple of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth. As the Committee knows, he has the only church in this country named after the patron saint of hunting, St Hubert. I would like to share with the Committee some of my experience from foreign countries, not least those where hunting is regulated, but where "hunting" is translated as "chasse" and means chasse-ing everything.

I have spoken often of wildlife and I have great affection for it. But because I have respect for Defra and the Minister, this morning I looked at his wildlife websites for a couple of hours. They are very good—they are absolutely superb in the description of all aspects of wildlife, except the web page relating to the brown hare was down today, perhaps following yesterday's problems.

I am not seeking compromise, but the solution. The Bill has always related to wildlife. The problem is that we do not have in this country the type of rural population that we used to—we have prejudices and other matters. In that part of the world where I have a house the fox is feared and loved. But as well as the shooting of everything in the shooting season, we are controlled by the Federation de Chasse. That government body requires you before you can chasse to pass an exam. You must know about wildlife. You must be able to survive in the forests. You must know north, south, east and west at dark. You must know the names and breeding habits of all of God's creatures and you must protect them.

The fox and wildlife in general suffer severely if there is no management by the greatest predator of all: man. Disease, such as sarcoptic mange and others, becomes rife and spreads. We saw what happened with myxomatosis, which was an imported disease. It almost self-regulates rabbits. But in areas where the fox cannot be culled adequately, farmers very quickly break the rules and put out poisons in old meat cans. People who are walking their dogs are required in some of those areas to carry with them a syringe with which they inject their dogs within three or four hours of taking poison. The shooting brigade, the hunters, is required every year to go on a fox hunt. There are fox hunts with scenting hounds throughout the year to control the fox, but at the end of the season, to cull the numbers, advertisements are taken in local newspapers requiring all good peasants, great and true, to assemble—to stand apart at 75 metres' distance to cull the foxes. Into the thickets and forests go an amazing collection of dogs, all of which are regulated and have tattoos on their ears—often microchips—have different voices and hunt in packs and pairs.

That is a strange event, but, in a way, the weak are culled to some extent, given that animals cull each other. Then, from time to time, nature itself takes its turn. Metres of rain fall in short periods which cause floods and destroy wildlife. Only two years ago we had—almost—the fires of the centuries, when everyone was trying to protect wildlife. Believe it or not, wild boars charged fire engines in fear; and firemen tried to direct them with their hoses away to safety. The foxes attacked the firemen. When it was realised what was happening, the hunting dogs were let loose to get away from the fires themselves. There were stories of those retrieving baby wild boar, marcassin, and returning them to their mothers. Nature is wonderful, but it needs managing. The amendment is the most important of all.

Lord Crickhowell

I rise because I was prompted only by the question put by the Liberal Democrat Front Bench regarding otters. I am delighted that otters have returned in considerable numbers to the stream that flows past my garden in Wales. I believe that it is correct to say that they have returned, not due to any change in the rules of hunting, but because they are a protected species. Surely the proper way to deal with animals that we do not wish to be hunted is to protect them in that way. There are other forms of legislation which could provide the protection that the noble Baroness seeks. I think that I am correct that otters are a protected species, and I would be anxious if we suddenly discovered that the populations that had returned were being wiped out. However, there is a way to deal with that problem.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, said that the amendment weakened the Bill. That is not right. The Minister Alun Michael's own definition of "utility" was clearly expressed in a letter to the campaign for hunting. He said: 'Utility' addresses the need for particular activities, particularly in the work of land and wildlife managers. It might be described as the need or usefulness of an activity for vermin control, wildlife management, habitat protection, land management and conservation". Rather than weakening the Bill, the amendment strengthens it and returns it to the Minister's original intention. It would seem sensible to return that to the face of the Bill.

The only other matter upon which I seek clarification regarding the second part of the amendment, relates to a second test for registration and, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, is almost impenetrable. There are other ways of controlling the fox population. Could the Minister state the Government's preferred method of controlling foxes? It may vary according to territory, but, surely, fox hunting is part of the mix. That is what farmers believe—and I declare an interest as a farmer. We should have a mix of methods to control the fox population—unless the Government's line, which I have not heard them, or anyone in this House, suggest, is that foxes should be a protected species. I do not know whether that is the Government's view, but if foxes are not protected, they must be controlled—let us not mince our words, killed—in one way or another.

Lamping finds favour in some quarters, but the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, points out the difficulties of lamping. We have recently seen that a person has been killed and two seriously wounded when high powered rifles have been used in the wrong way, at the wrong time in the wrong areas. The Government's thrust is to discourage people from using high powered weapons. It is much more difficult to obtain a firearms licence.

Shotguns are also widely used for this purpose, but, since the Burns report, the "middle way" supporters have produced an authoritative report, that is undergoing peer review, showing that control of foxes with shotguns brings its own problems of serious wounding, unless it is carried out in the correct manner with the right weight of shot, at the right distance and in the right conditions. That, too, has its problems.

My noble friend Lord Peel mentioned snaring in his speech yesterday. If it is properly controlled it could be a suitable way of proceeding, but Mr Michael said that he deplored snaring, which is extremely cruel. Even my noble friend Lord Peel admitted that if snaring was not appropriately done, it could be cruel. It is also nonselective. It does not choose only foxes. Anything can walk into a snare, whether a dog, cat, badger or anything else.

I should like to hear the preferred alternative of people who wish to ban hunting. What method should be undertaken and why do they support that above controlling foxes by hunting?

Lord King of Bridgwater

My noble friend has raised precisely the point that I wished to make. One of the features of the Bill that was brought from another place is that, in taking the decision for a ban, the other place has decided to take no interest whatever in what the alternatives should be. The Bill merely determines that one method of dealing with foxes, stags or whatever should be banned. I speak as having formerly represented part of Exmoor. My noble friend Lord Onslow read out the interesting Porchester report, written about Exmoor. It was a study set up by the Labour government of that time to consider particularly moorland conservation and the introduction of moorland conservation orders that related to biodiversity and nature conservation issues.

4 p.m.

Since then, the question of the alternatives has arisen. Evidence has come forward on Exmoor of what the alternatives might be. In what I thought was an unfortunate, unilateral act, if one can call it that, the National Trust decided to ban hunting from its estate which came within the area of the Devon and Somerset stag hounds, which had previously been hunted. That suddenly created an area where the deer used to roam where the hunt no longer went. Some disturbing figures have emerged on the incidence of wounded deer. That is the challenge that must be faced.

The merit of the amendment before your Lordships is that it charges the registrar with undertaking a full and decent investigation of relative cruelty and of what will involve less suffering. As my noble friend Lord Willoughby has rightly said, it issues the challenge to those who seek simply to ban deer hunting and who say, "We're against cruelty". They cannot just shut their eyes and say, "Well, as long as we've banned hunting, we've abolished cruelty".

Animals are going to be culled in one way or another. Those who seek a ban have a responsibility. If this ban goes through, the responsibility for what happens thereafter will be on their heads. They will have to listen and I know they will. Many Members on all sides of this Committee have rather more practical experience of some of these issues than I do. But I shoot and I have hunted. To my absolute terror, I once went out with the Devon and Somerset stag hunt, at the invitation of the chairman of the hunt, so that I should know what it was like in my constituency. It was an exciting experience. We did not account for a stag on that particular day, but it gave one a much better understanding of the issues.

The hunt carries out an important role even now. If a stag is shot and wounded, it is of course axiomatic, if one cares about cruelty, that that animal is found and, if it is seriously wounded, put out of its misery. I hope that any noble Lords who talk about stalking in Scotland will accept that there is little similarity between the coombs of Exmoor and the great deer forests of Scotland. They are quite different. Somebody has to find that deer or stag and it can be done only with dogs. That is their regular role. At any hour of the day or night, the stag hounds will turn out and try to track down a wounded deer that will have been shot by somebody else—possibly by a poacher, because they can be valuable animals—and account for it.

It is interesting that 233 deer have been shot on the Holnicote estate in the four years since the National Trust introduced its ban, whereas 149 were shot in the 10 years before it. That is on that one estate and reflects the need to cull the deer. My next statistic does not relate necessarily to the National Trust stalker. Since the ban, 20 wounded deer have had to be shot by the stalker on the part of the Holnicote estate that was traditionally hunted; only two had had to be shot in the 10 years previously. Those figures provide an immediate measure of suffering. The total number of casualty deer which were accounted for following call-out of the Devon and Somerset staghounds increased from 35 per year before the ban to 57 per year since the ban. Sadly, it was reckoned that probably less than half the injured deer on Holnicote are found, brought to the attention of the stalker and dispatched before suffering lingering death from their injuries.

That is the challenge that those who seek a ban face. If the hounds are not allowed to be used, wounded deer will not be found. If the hounds and the hunt are disbanded as a result of the ban, that facility will no longer exist. The suffering on Exmoor in that respect—I accept that other noble Lords will raise other issues—will clearly be much worse. That is a consequence that those noble Lords who vote for a ban must knowingly—because I have given them that information he prepared to accept. They must accept the totality of the problem.

In my constituency, the League Against Cruel Sports decided to address the problem of protecting deer from what it saw as the cruelty of hunting by establishing a sanctuary. The problem with that was that it tended to congregate deer. It resulted in a concentration of deer which the British Deer Society said was extremely unwise on health grounds. I hope that the Minister has been informed by his officials of the serious concern about TB in deer in the concentration that now exists around Baronstown. I know that some of his officials have been involved in some of those considerations.

I raise this matter because it illustrates another attempt to impose some form of banning system, which the sanctuary effectively was, because the league owned the property and it banned hunting on it. It prevented what previously was the normal distribution and perambulation of deer, which was one of the effects of hunting. Hunting, by dispersing deer across the area and avoiding deer concentrations, led to the outstanding health and quality of that red deer herd. Why are not the red deer all across England like they used to be? The reason is, as is the case on Exmoor, the extraordinary relationship between the hunting fraternity and its deer. Some noble Lords may have seen a very good video by Ludovic Kennedy called "Guardians of the Deer". It illustrated that relationship between the farmers, who either hunt or are sympathetic to many of their friends who hunt, and the deer they allow to feed on their land at considerable cost to themselves and the value of their crops. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, and Lord Porchester identified that in their reports on Exmoor.

Artificial attempts to ban will have very damaging effects. I echo my noble friend Lord Willoughby in saying that one cannot vote for a ban without considering the alternatives. There is a great fallacy in the Bill that has come from another place. The amendment requires that under legislation somebody looks seriously not just at banning an activity but also at the alternative. It accepts that if the activity causes the most suffering, it should not be allowed, but if it involves less suffering than an alternative, it should be permitted. I strongly support the amendment. Buttressed by these important, seminal reports about the deer on Exmoor, I hope those noble Lords who are contemplating voting for a ban and opposing registration will carefully consider their position on this matter.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I underline with personal experience what has been said by my noble friends Lord King, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lord Mancroft in introducing the amendment. I have not troubled your Lordships with my views on the Hunting Bill since it was first introduced to this Chamber, when I am afraid I irritated all sides of the field sports debate—my noble friend Lord Onslow asks, "What's new?"—by revealing that I had perhaps shot more foxes and deer personally than all of your Lordships, all those who advise the Government and all Members of the other place put together. This experience led me to tell your Lordships how difficult it is to kill a fox cleanly with a shotgun using number six or seven shot, which is the usual shot with which the gun is loaded when people are shooting pheasants and a fox appears, although it is perfectly possible and normal to kill a pheasant or a rabbit stone dead with such shot.

That irritated those on all sides of the field sports debate because hunting folk do not approve of shooting foxes; those who want to ban hunting do not want to be told that shooting is not a less cruel alternative to hunting; and shooting folk feared that I was saying that shooting is more cruel than hunting—which of course I was not saying.

Against that background, I take further issue with the feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, and others. I accept that they are genuinely held but they are feelings. I doubt whether any of them has ever personally shot a fox or a deer or, for that matter, a rabbit or a pheasant. I take particular issue with the idea that shooting deer is necessarily kinder than hunting them.

At home in Scotland, we shoot some 200 deer per annum. No deer hunting takes place in the highlands of Scotland, not because it has been banned but because the ground is altogether too boggy. Throughout most of the highlands of Scotland, one can hardly lead a horse over the land, let alone ride it. My noble friend Lord King is right: it is more difficult to shoot a deer dead on Exmoor because of the cover, the trees and the crops and the difficulty of seeing the animal clearly. And if an animal is wounded, it is certainly more difficult to find it on Exmoor than it is in the open expanses of the Scottish highlands.

We have very few wounded deer at home in Scotland—perhaps one in 300 or 400 that we shoot. But I must ask my noble friend Lord Hoyle and those who oppose the amendment to try to grasp some idea of the suffering caused when a deer is wounded: when it is shot in the jaw when someone is aiming at the brain; when it is shot in the windpipe when someone is aiming at the neck; and when it is shot in the stomach when someone is aiming at the heart. In the open expanses in Scotland, we can catch up with those deer. We usually dispatch them on the same day, but not always.

I am sure that that situation will exist on Exmoor and elsewhere if hunting is banned because, human nature being what it is, farmers and others will take to shooting deer on Exmoor. The fox will no longer be a revered animal in the English countryside; it will be shot at in anger and disdain whenever it is seen. Those who oppose the amendment must think very carefully of the considerable suffering that will be caused to all these animals if this amendment and the amendments that were accepted yesterday are eventually rejected by this House and the other place.

Baroness Golding

I, too, strongly support this amendment on the grounds that I hope that it will concentrate Defra's mind on doing something about mink. My noble friend recognises that mink cause a great problem in the countryside, but Defra seems very reluctant to do anything about it. In the previous debate, my noble friend Lord Hoyle said that he thought that only 7 per cent of mink were caught through hunting. I have to tell him that at a meeting that I attended last week, the vets present calculated that there may be up to 110,000 mink in this country following their release from farms. Seven per cent of 110,000 amounts to a lot of mink.

Lord Hoyle

I do not want to interrupt my noble friend other than to correct one point. I said 1.7 to 2 per cent, which is less than my noble friend is saying.

Baroness Golding

The figure of 7 per cent is quoted in Hansard and that is the figure that I am quoting. In any case, there are far too many mink in our countryside. Wildlife in the countryside needs to be managed, and one way of doing so is to do something about mink. I hope that Defra will take note of this amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

Amendment No. 10 is extremely important. It concentrates on utility tests of least suffering and, in particular, it stresses the importance of wildlife management—correctly so, I think. All this is in the context of registration.

It is extremely difficult to debate this subject when, as has already been said, the countryside and the environmental circumstances are very different in different parts of the United Kingdom. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, say that wildlife management was very important in relation to this amendment, and quite right too, but in other parts of the country pest control is also extremely important. I believe that the amendment covers both wildlife management and pest control.

In many parts of the country—particularly in the west and the north—farmers sometimes have to call in hunts and hounds in order to control foxes because they are a pest and kill their livestock. That is a fact of life in many upland areas. But the serious damage to mammals and crops, which is mentioned in the amendment, impinges very much on the countryside, and the circumstances will be very different depending on whether the habitats are dense or sparse.

The issue of wildlife management in the countryside makes the Bill workable. It is through habitat conservation and development that hunted species and, indeed, many other mammals obtain the cover to exist and thus produce biological diversity. The Bill would enable that to happen and it is extremely important because it is in line with the EU biodiversity directives. Indeed, the Government have signed up to such directives. Therefore, the Government have a duty to ensure that wildlife is managed properly in the countryside.

I have personally experienced the damage that foxes can cause. In my worst season with a 250-ewe flock, I lost 37 lambs. Most of them had had their heads chopped off. They were not eaten but were simply left where the fox had attacked them. We discovered that the attacks were due to one fox in particular.

Having been away from my home area for about 20 years, I regretted, in particular, coming back to find that there were no curlews and no curlew calls in spring. They are ground-nesting birds. The fox population had increased and the foxes were predating on the young birds and the birds' eggs. In the part of the world that I come from, the call of the curlew in the spring was an essential part of the spring arising, but we hear them no longer. That is the situation. We used to see lapwings in profusion, but they do not exist either. One sees them only occasionally on the M4 when coming to this place. All that is a consequence of inadequate wildlife management. Indeed, those of us who farm have seen a great deal of damage to crops and those of us with forestry have seen a great deal of damage to timber.

So far as concerns fisheries, I respect very much what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, because of his acute and detailed knowledge of that area. But I also commend what the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, said about mink. Mink cause a massive problem in the countryside. They are terribly destructive. They have wiped out the moorhen population in my part of the world, and they have caused mayhem in the countryside, including at some fisheries. They are extremely destructive and the Government must do something about having them eliminated—I use that word advisedly.

The test of least suffering is a harm test. Subsection (2) of the amendment refers to "significantly less pain". Those three words are very important indeed. I believe that the comparisons that have been made between hunting and shooting are fairly crucial. Shotguns certainly wound foxes and not infrequently in the countryside foxes are found in a very poor state with gangrene. That is substantiated by the findings of the Middle Way. There is a correct way to shoot foxes and that is with a rifle, which can be fairly certain if one shoots accurately.

On suffering, the noble Lord, Lord Burns, in particular called in his Second Reading speech for more research; he also called in March 2001 for more research. He said: Our difficulty was that there was insufficient evidence about wounding rates".—[Official Report, 12/3/0 I col. 534.] He wanted more research into that. It is very important that the words of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, are taken into account in this respect, otherwise we are talking about subjective, not objective, matters.

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I may support what the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, said about mink. At Second Reading I had occasion to describe to your Lordships what had happened near where I live. All the antis turned up and people were knocked down and those who came to their rescue were typically arrested.

As I understand it, if the Bill goes through, there will be no mink hunting and if there is no mink hunting, as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, said, what will happen? I ask the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, what he thought would happen if there were no mink hunting and he said, "Well, it is a very difficult problem; mink breed like mad and get killed in various ways and hunting is just one way of killing them".

If there is to be no mink hunting, mink will multiply. They are very difficult animals to shoot because they disappear under the water most of the time and are almost impossible to deal with. Hunting is one way; it does not include horses or toffs and it should not include nastiness. The characters who came to our place were good enough to put on a website the fact that they thought I should be strung up and I think they suggested I should be executed and that maybe that was too good a way of dying. As I have never hunted or had anything to do with mink, I thought that was a rather extreme view to take.

The fact is that if the Bill is to do away with mink hunting, not only will it do away with a part of people's life in rural communities—which they enjoy while having a good day out in the countryside—but we shall also prevent the control of mink. I think that is a bad thing. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, asked what Defra will do about it. That is a very good question. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will answer what Defra will do and what he suggests people who own land and who have the responsibility for other animals on the land should do, bearing in mind that mink eat almost every young bird that they can.

Baroness Byford

I shall speak briefly as 20 noble Lords have spoken in great detail. Their contributions have been most valuable to the debate. I would like to sum up the situation from my point of view. We are trying to ensure that when the Bill leaves this House it is a good, robust law. I hope that it encompasses the enormously important aspect of the management of wildlife, as wildlife does not always control itself, as many noble Lords have mentioned. My noble friend Lord Soulsby mentioned the view, which I well respect, of vets who have carried out much work in this area.

A total ban would bring difficulties in keeping and maintaining a healthy wildlife, which is what we want. Two points came out of yesterday's debate on Wales. The first was particularly noticeable: how does one cope when terrain is very difficult compared with normal lowland terrain? Secondly, if hunting is not allowed to continue there, how will the situation be controlled?

I have not given up on the Minister, who is to respond. I believe that he is a realist. In his response I hope that he does not let down noble Lords by just saying that the Government will not consider the matter. If the Government do not accept the amendment, they are beholden to the Committee to say very clearly this afternoon how will they control matters and ensure that we have a healthy wildlife to enjoy in the future.

Lord Whitty

First, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that I have never accused him of being, nor do I find him, boring; he can be a little lengthy at times, but he is always interesting. On this occasion he is being quite deliberately disingenuous. He referred to this as a small, although important amendment, whereas some of the subsequent contributions have clearly shown that this is designed—whether it will do so or not—to drive a coach and horses through what was the utility test as set out in the original Alun Michael Bill.

Noble Lords who opposed the original ban, and who have proposed this amendment, are trying to convince the outside world, and presumably the House of Commons, that all they are doing is bringing back the original government Bill. This debate shows quite clearly that that is not their intention. Their intention is to go much wider than that. The amendment purports to reinstate the tests of utility and least suffering, which were the key tests of the original Bill, but it extends it substantially.

The test of utility in the original Bill, as introduced, would have permitted hunting only for pest control; that is to say, the prevention or reduction of serious damage … to livestock … birds … crops … other property, or the biological diversity of an area". That was the original Bill, which was further clarified by an amendment made in Committee which expressly referred to pest control. But that did not change the effect of the test; it merely clarified it.

This amendment goes much wider than the original Bill by including a whole new category of purpose for which hunting can be undertaken—the management of wildlife, which in itself is a fairly wide term. There was good reason for not including that in the original Bill and that good reason remains. In the case of the main quarry species, it is hard to see what population control measures are necessary other than those needed to prevent the damage that they caused to livestock, to crops, to other property, or to biodiversity, all of which is covered by the reference to pest control.

Even if there were a wider need for population control, the Burns report, which I have not hitherto quoted in this debate—it has been referred to again today—makes it clear that with very limited exceptions, hunting with dogs makes little or no contribution to the management of foxes, hare or mink.

Baroness Golding

Can the Minister tell me why in Iceland 6,500 mink are caught every year using dogs?

Lord Whitty

My noble friend has a greater experience of Iceland than I do. I am sure that the conditions in Iceland are somewhat different from the conditions here because, as my noble friend Lord Hoyle has pointed out, a very small proportion of mink which are culled are culled by hunting with dogs. That is also the position with all these other species. I do not understand the argument of the alternative methods of control of wildlife; we are talking about a Bill dealing with hunting with dogs.

In the case of foxes, about 7 per cent of all foxes are killed by hunting with dogs. The vast majority of the rest are killed by other methods of culling. Of course, we need management of wildlife for reasons of biodiversity and the rest but, of course, we will have some culling. The culling operation will be similar to that which operates already in the vast majority of cases, and which the Bill does not touch. Therefore, I think that those are pretty spurious arguments.

It is true, and I come to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord King, that a slightly better case was made to the noble Lord, Lord Burns, on the management of the deer population, specifically on Exmoor. But it is also true that similar deer populations are now flourishing in other parts of the country without the intervention of hunting with dogs.

4.30 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

To which red deer populations does that apply? I accept the point in relation to muntjac, roebuck and sika deer, but I do not think that the Minister is talking about red deer.

Lord Whitty

I think that one would find red deer flourishing in Scotland and in places in the northern counties of England. If the noble Earl wishes, I can identify those places more accurately. But, of course, we are talking about all species of deer and not solely one species.

Let me spell out what we are doing with these amendments. The original Bill prohibited all hunting with dogs of any species of deer. We have already—by what amounts to a sleight of hand—deleted that prohibition. The Committee is now, by widely extending the quality definition, decrying a justification of the deletion of that exception so that deer hunting with dogs can pass a much broader utility test than the original Bill intended.

Under that new broader definition, deer hunting may well pass the utility test, but it is doubtful whether it will pass the least suffering test. The Committee is therefore diluting the final position that the House of Commons took on the least suffering test. It is providing belt and braces for a coach and horses—if I may mix my metaphors. It is effectively creating a huge hole in the Bill by adding to the cumulative changes made to the Government's original Bill.

So let us not go on pretending that, in very important respects, what the Committee now seems intent on sending back to the Commons at all resembles the Alun Michael Bill. Much of the detail will be the same, but in important key respects, including the one covered by this amendment, it is not the equivalent of the Bill that the House of Commons received.

Lord King of Bridgwater

Did I hear the Minister say that deer hunting would not pass the test of least suffering? That is a serious repudiation of the Burns report. I should be very interested to hear on what basis he makes that statement.

Lord Whitty

I think that what I actually said was that if deer hunting passed the utility test, there must be doubt about whether it could pass the least suffering test. We have claimed—I think that I have consistently claimed—that we proposed the original prohibition on deer hunting because there was no way that hunting deer with dogs could pass the least suffering test. Stalking and shooting or the straightforward shooting of deer would cause less suffering to the animal than hunting with dogs. Experienced hunters are considerably less likely to miss a deer than a rabbit or a fox. That has been the argument throughout.

I am not saying that it is an absolute certainty that they would not pass the least suffering test, but I am saying that one of the motivations for not only hugely widening the utility test, but diluting the least suffering test, is to justify the deletion of the prohibition on deer hunting. I do not think that that will be understood in either the House of Commons or the country generally. There is substantial support for banning deer hunting.

Lord Monson

Is not the Minister's case based on a misconception? At Second Reading, he said: To most people … the unique feature of fox hunting in particular—the same applies to deer hunting, I guess—is the final act of tearing apart the quarry".—[Official Report, 12/10/04; col. 256.] Is he not aware that this does not happen in deer hunting? It might have happened in the past, but it does not happen any longer.

Lord Whitty

I agree that the issue of fox hunting is not entirely analogous with deer hunting, although there are still occasions when that does happen. The point is that we are creating serious distress for the animal, and we are ultimately destroying—and, in some cases, tearing apart—the animal. It is unnecessary cruelty, both in the chase and the ultimate destruction. In this Bill, we are trying to ban—by registration or by a direct ban—unnecessary cruelty. We recognise that the countryside sometimes requires some cruelty, but that is unnecessary cruelty. That is why the test of least suffering is important and why any dilution of that test over and above what the Commons intended is a very serious dilution of the Bill and its intent.

Baroness Mallalieu

The Minister may have made a slip of the tongue, as I am sure that he has been properly briefed, about the way in which a deer meets its end at the end of deer hunting. The end is by a direct shot to the brain—something that is almost never possible with stalking—which results in instant death. The deer is not torn to pieces or touched by the hounds, and death is instantaneous.

Lord Whitty

That is after several miles of chase, and that is not absolutely always the case, as we know.

My point is that people will take different judgments. No doubt, now that we have a registration system that the Committee would want in the Bill, the registrar may take different judgments on what constitutes least suffering. However, the motivation behind this amendment is to justify a deletion from the original Bill. That deletion requires justification. The Committee is broadening one of the tests and diluting another. That is not the way in which to reach a compromise with the House of Commons. Nor is it a way to convince the country. I therefore oppose the amendment.

Earl Peel

Can the Minister tell the Committee how we can get a compromise?

Lord Whitty

As I said yesterday, I am not the person with whom you have to negotiate. As I indicated to the Committee, you definitely will not find compromise on some matters.

The Earl of Onslow

Perhaps I may help the Minister. Yesterday, the Prime Minister let it be known via a Downing Street spokesman that he would like a compromise. May I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that he trot up the street to Downing Street, knock on the door and say, "Oh, Prime Minister, what sort of compromise would you like"? Then, he could come back to the Committee and say, "I have seen the Prime Minister and found the compromise that he would like". After all, that is what the Lord Chancellor voted for yesterday. So I see that the Government are lovely and split over this.

Lord Whitty

I have one vote in this House, the Lord Chancellor has one vote in this House and the Prime Minister has one vote in another place. This is a free vote.

What I am pointing out to the noble Earl and the Committee is that, in order to change the mind of the House of Commons, one does not send back to it a Bill that, from its point of view, is worse than the one that it has already rejected. If the message has not got across to the Committee yet, then I despair. I shall not intervene all that frequently later today. I would just underline that this amendment, if passed, would add to that message which you are sending to the Commons and the country.

Baroness Byford

I should like to lower the heat of the debate. I think that it is rising slightly, and that does not help anyone. The problem for the Committee is that, whatever happens to the Bill after it returns to the Commons—and I am sure that all noble Lords want to return it to the Commons—we have no confidence that the Commons will debate one word of what has been said. That is why it is so important that we get it right now.

Lord Whitty

Whatever Bill this House sends back to the House of Commons, the House of Commons will give it due consideration.

Viscount Bledisloe

I fail to understand what the Minister is suggesting the Committee should do. He said, "The amendment, if passed". Yesterday, by a somewhat large majority—indeed, by a majority of Labour Peers—this Committee voted in favour of registration. It is inherent in a system of registration that there is a test to decide how one should register. However, only one test is being proposed to the Committee today. If the Minister is suggesting that anyone, including himself or any of his Back-Benchers, could vote against this test, he is proposing to wreck the vote passed yesterday and to end the Committee stage with a Bill that is meaningless if it provides for registration but no test.

If the noble Lord does not like this test of registration, he should either have suggested an alternative test or proposed an amendment to this test. Is the noble Lord really suggesting that this Committee stage should end with a Bill that says that there shall be registration but has no provisions for a test for registration? If so, the noble Lord is making a mockery of the parliamentary system.

Lord Whitty

I am deeply puzzled by that intervention. I have not sought to reopen the decision made yesterday on registration; I have accepted that we are working in a context of registration and that we have to have tests for registration. I am objecting to the fact that the tests proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, are nothing like those in the original government Bill, which several noble Lords have asserted they are trying to return to the Commons.

Yes, there is only one amendment before us today, but we have subsequent stages. If the amendment is passed, noble Lords will be sending a signal to the Commons that they do not want to go back to the original government Bill, but want to go way, way beyond it and dilute all its implications. If the amendment is defeated today, there will be a chance at subsequent stages of putting back something like what was in the original Bill. It is absolutely absurd to assert that I am somehow subverting parliamentary procedure by making this rather obvious rational point to the Committee and giving kindly advice.

Viscount Bledisloe

I am not suggesting that by saying this is not a very good amendment and that it will be improved later, the noble Lord may not be well in order in his argument. But surely it is the duty of the Committee to end up with a Bill at each stage which is coherent. The noble Lord appears to be suggesting that we should finish the Committee stage with no test for registration whatever. Is that really what he is proposing?

Lord Whitty

I think that I have made my position clear. It is frequently the case in this House that the Committee cannot agree on a particular part of a Bill and returns to the subject at a later stage. Quite why the noble Viscount is getting so exercised, I do not know.

Earl Ferrers

There is one point which the noble Lord has not made quite clear, and I should be grateful if he would consider it. Deer hunting and fox hunting are important, but we come back to mink hunting. As the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, asked, what does Defra intend to do? If you cannot hunt mink with hounds, how do you control them? You cannot shoot them, can you? How else do you control them? It is all very fine the noble Lord bringing in a Bill just to stop one kind of control, but you have to put something in its place. Perhaps the noble Lord would be good enough to address his mind to this question, which I have asked before: how does he propose that mink should be controlled?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I have to tell the House, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who has patiently been trying to draw the debate to a conclusion, that I believe this is the appropriate moment.

Earl Ferrers

With the greatest of respect, the noble Baroness cannot get away with that. I asked the noble Lord a perfectly good question and he is perfectly capable of replying without the noble Baroness's intervention.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Mancroft

I rather think it is the view of the Committee that we should try to draw these happy proceedings to a close. At one point, I thought we were having rather an interesting debate.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, said, it is widely recognised that you have to manage your wildlife. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, questioned that concept, and I understand why. The reality is that everybody around the world and in this country accepts that you have to do this. The culling of wildlife is only a part of that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, drew our attention to otters and badgers, which are very important in this context. Otters are on the protected list, and remain so to encourage their population to increase to a sustainable level. I am delighted to say that it is slowly reaching that level, and let us hope that it does so soon. On the other hand, the badger is massively over-populated, a result of which, as is widely known, is the increase in tuberculosis. If populations of animals increase too much because they are not managed, they become diseased. That is what has happened to the badger population since protection. So protection is not the only answer; it is one answer and it sometimes causes a bigger problem than going down other routes.

My noble friend Lord King drew our attention to what is happening in the west country at Baronsdown where an artificial population of deer is being encouraged. As the Minister's vets will tell him, the deer have chronic infestation of worm, both lungworm and intestinal worm, and there is a significant reservoir of tuberculosis—the first major reservoir of tuberculosis infection in the deer population. Why? Because the League Against Cruel Sports is artificially concentrating wild deer, which is incredibly irresponsible. That is not management, it is exactly what we should not be doing. That is why we should be managing populations and managing wildlife. As I said, management is not just about culling.

My noble friend Lord Eden drew our attention to the fact that the management of habitat is extremely important. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, asked whether most farmers now managed their habitat in such a way as to encourage biodiversity. The answer is, increasingly, yes, but as the Durrell Institute report last year said, the best examples of management of habitat for all species are on those farms and estates that are managed for shooting and hunting. If we take those voluntary motivations away, the subsidies that are given for that sort of habitat management are not of a sufficient level to encourage a high enough standard of protection and management of biodiversity, and added motivation is required. Added motivation means hunting and shooting. That is why Her Majesty's Government are subsidising projects that do exactly that in Africa and in other countries. That is what they are attempting to achieve.

The noble Baroness, Lady Golding, drew our attention to a similar problem in a more difficult area. Mink are not an indigenous species. I do not particularly wish harm on anything, but I rather wish that mink would go the same way as coypu and that we could eliminate them. I believe that a responsible government would be finding out how to get rid of this alien species which has done so much damage to our wildlife, because we are not adequately managing that.

This shows that management is extremely difficult but, more than that, it is incredibly important. If we do not manage our wildlife—that means protecting populations, protecting habitats to allow breeding and having closed seasons at one end of the scale and culling at the other—we shall not have any wildlife. That is why it is an international obligation for our government to adopt policies. Part of that is the responsibility of individual landowners and land managers to manage and cull the wildlife on the property they manage. That is a legal obligation in this country. The Government, by pushing the Bill through in the form in which it came to your Lordships' House last week, will be limiting farmers' and land managers' ability to do that. That is why we have suggested the change to the utility test.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, accused me of being disingenuous. I am not really certain how I can have been. When he opened the debate yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, explained exactly what we were doing with the Bill; I explained it at length yesterday, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, did as well. I explained the change and the reason for it as openly as possible and at as much length as I thought your Lordships could stand when I introduced the amendment. I am not really sure that that can be described as disingenuous.

I am also not certain that asking Her Majesty's Government, through a major piece of primary legislation, to accept their international and national obligations to manage wildlife can exactly be described as driving a coach and horses through a Bill. It is the responsible and correct thing to do, plain and simple.

The problem, at which I hinted yesterday, is that after years and years of considering the question of hunting, it is entirely apparent that those who are opposed to it do not understand what it is about. Hunting is not pest control. It never has been; it never will be; it never was. Hunting is part of a complex system of community wildlife management, as described in all the international agreements that we have signed, are party to and have funded in other parts of the world.

We need to control populations not just because they cause damage, which is what pest control is about. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, drew attention to it; it is very important. That is why it is one of the criteria. If you are a farmer, a gamekeeper or someone who is getting damage from deer, foxes, hares or mink, of course you must manage them and you regard them as a pest.

I am not a farmer or a gamekeeper. I do not suffer from damage from deer or foxes but, like most noble Lords on all sides of this debate, I adore the wildlife that we have in this country and I know that if we do not manage it, which includes culling it as well as providing habitat, we will not have any. We manage it for its good and for our good because it is a national asset. That is why people visit Exmoor to see those amazing deer. They are a community asset and they are managed by the community.

So when the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, says, "I do not understand", I believe him. He clearly does not understand. He mentioned other deer. He is quite right: there are red deer herds in Thetford Forest in Norfolk and in the Lake District and, of course, all over Scotland. But let us look at deer management in Scotland. As my noble friend Lord Pearson said, it is extremely difficult. It is so difficult that the Scottish Executive has to use helicopters to drive the deer across the hill to a cull, to a line of waiting rifles where half of them are shot on the move and wounded, where the keepers are so appalled that they refuse to do it again, where the deer are then dragged through the faeces of other stock, breaking every national and international rule. That is management by the state. In anyone's book, that is unacceptable. That is how the Scottish Executive managed it. I hope to God that we never have to see that here in England.

So we must have wildlife management. It is absolutely essential. It is not gold plating or a coach and horses. It is none of those things; it is exactly what we should be doing. It is not just about welfare; it is about our responsibilities for this amazing island that we live in. The Bill before us today affects four of the most important—three of the most important and one of the most undesirable—species of mammals in this country. We must face the matter head-on and address it in the best way that we possibly can. That is the motivation behind the amendment: not a coach and horses; not irritating another place; not winding up the Government; but doing what we should be doing in a wildlife management Bill—managing wildlife.

When we started our debates, the Minister described himself as an honest broker between this House and another place. I hope that he will fulfil that role: I think that your Lordships would appreciate it and I think that the other place would appreciate it. But in his winding-up speech, he did not come over as an honest broker in a way that would help us to find a way through. I do not know how we will end up, but I know that when you negotiate anything there are two prerequisites to negotiation. One is that all parties conduct themselves in good faith; and the other is that all parties demonstrate their ability to deliver. We are operating in good faith and I am pretty certain that we can deliver. I hope that the Government can. I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

4.54 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 194; Not-Contents, 57.

Division No. 1
Ackner, L. Dundee, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Durham, Bp.
Anelay of St Johns, B. Eden of Winton, L.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L. Elis-Thomas, L.
Arran, E. Elles, B.
Astor, V. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Elton, L.
Attlee, E. Erroll, E.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Falkender, B.
Biffen, L. Feldman, L.
Blaker, L. Ferrers, E.
Bledisloe, V. Fowler, L.
Bowness, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Bradshaw, L. Glenarthur, L.
Bragg, L. Glentoran, L.
Bramall, L. Golding, B. [Teller]
Brittan of Spennithorne, L. Goschen, V.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Greenway, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. Hanham, B.
Brookeborough, V. Harris of High Cross, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Hayhoe, L.
Buscombe, B. Henley, L.
Byford, B. Heseltine, L.
Caithness, E. Hogg, B.
Cameron of Dillington, L. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hooper, B.
Carlile of Berriew, L. Hooson, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Howard of Rising, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Howe of Aberavon, L.
Chorley, L. Howe of Idlicote, B.
Colville of Culross, V. Howell of Guildford, L.
Colwyn, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Hurd of Westwell, L.
Craig of Radley, L. Hylton, L.
Crathorne, L. Inglewood, L.
Crickhowell, L. Irvine of Lairg, L.
Cumberlege, B. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Jopling, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Kalms, L.
Dearing, L. Kilclooney, L.
Denham, L. Kimball, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. King of Bridgwater, L.
Donaldson of Lymington, L. Knight of Collingtree, B.
Donoughue, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
D'Souza, B. Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lipsey, L. Reay, L.
Listowel, E. Rees, L.
Liverpool, E. Rees-Mogg, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L. Renton, L.
Lucas, L. Renton of Mount Harry, L.
Luke, L. Richard, L.
Lyell, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Rogan, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L. Rotherwick, L.
Maginnis of Drumglass, L. Ryder of Wensum, L.
Mallalieu, B. St. John of Bletso, L.
Mancroft, L. [Teller] Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Masham of Ilton, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Sandwich, E.
Methuen, L. Scott of Foscote, L.
Miller of Hendon, B. Seccombe, B.
Mishcon, L. Selborne, E.
Monro of Langholm, L. Selsdon, L.
Monson, L. Sewel, L.
Montrose, D. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Moran, L. Simon, V.
Morris of Bolton, B. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Moser, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Smith of Clifton, L.
Murphy, B. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Steinberg, L.
Neill of Bladen, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Nickson, L. Strabolgi, L.
Northborne, L. Strange, B.
Northbrook, L. Strathclyde, L.
Northesk, E. Swinfen, L.
Norton of Louth, L. Taverne, L.
O'Cathain, B. Temple-Morris, L.
Onslow, E. Thatcher, B.
Palmer, L. Thomas of Gresford, L.
Park of Monmouth, B. Trefgarne, L.
Patten, L. Trumpington, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L. Ullswater, V.
Peel, E. Vinson, L.
Perry of Southwark, B. Waddington, L.
Peterborough, Bp. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Wakeham, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L. Walpole, L.
Plant of Highfield, L. Warnock, B.
Platt of Writtle, B. Weatherill, L.
Plumb, L. Wilcox, B.
Portsmouth, Bp. Wilkins, B.
Prys-Davies, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Quinton, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Rawlings, B. Windlesham, L.
Rea, L. Winston, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. Gould of Potternewton, B. [Teller]
Avebury, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller]
Berkeley, L.
Campbell-Savours, L. Greaves, L.
Clark of Windermere, L. Grocott, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Craigavon, V. Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Haworth, L.
Dholakia, L. Howarth of Breckland, B.
Dixon, L. Howells of St. Davids, B.
Dubs, L. Hoyle, L.
Evans of Parkside, L. Judd, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Kirkhill, L.
Finlay of Llandaif, B. Laird, L.
Fookes, B. Leitch, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L. Lockwood, B.
Gale, B. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B. MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Goudie, B. Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L. Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B. Rowlands, L.
Morris of Manchester, L. Sheldon, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L. Thornton, B.
Pendry, L. Tomlinson, L.
Prosser, B. Tunnicliffe, L.
Puttnam, L. Wall of New Barnet, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B. Walmsley, B.
Rennard, L. Whitaker, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

5.6 p.m.

Lord Mancroft moved Amendment No. 11:

After Clause 5, insert the following new clause—

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