1 Lord Rennard debates involving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
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My Lords, I shall begin my contribution with six words very rarely used by me on these Benches: I support the Government on this. There are some people, including some here, who have been busy praising Boris Johnson in the manner of Shakespeare’s Mark Antony’s funeral oration following the murder of Julius Caesar. They ignore the line

“The evil that men do lives after them”,

and heap praise upon him for his election victory in 2019. But as the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, said, they should all remember that this Bill was part of the manifesto commitment of the Conservative Party in that election. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, confirmed, it was in Labour’s manifesto to support a Bill such as this. I can confirm that my party’s manifesto supported a ban on the importation of hunting trophies, albeit with reservations.

We should all note that the Bill was supported without opposition in the House of Commons, where a substantial majority of MPs was elected on the basis of the Conservative manifesto. The Daily Mirror reported this as, “Victory over cruel hunters”, and it was. The Times, in an editorial in 2019 said:

“Killing lions bred in captivity for fun is heinous and should be stopped”.

It is four years since Cecil the lion was killed by a Minnesota dentist, prompting an international outcry against big-game hunting. The public are firmly behind the Bill. A survey of 2,000 adults found that 86%, almost nine in 10, were in favour of banning trophy imports as soon as possible, rising to 92% of Conservative supporters. Anyone who wants to see film illustrating the cruelty of the industry can see videos on Twitter, using the hashtag #BanTrophyHunting, or find them on YouTube.

It is important to understand that only around a dozen African countries currently permit trophy hunting, and that the contribution of trophy hunting to their GDP is minuscule. It means that the economic productivity of these blocks of land is actually very low, and that hunting is not an economically sustainable land-use solution.

We have heard expressions of support from all parts of the House today for the welfare of wild animals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare told me this week that it is opposed to trophy hunting. It believes that it cannot be justified as a conservation measure and that the economic contribution from trophy hunting cannot be shown to adequately protect endangered wildlife and local livelihoods compared to alternative positive conservation measures.

It is very misleading to suggest that hunting businesses are about supporting poor people in Africa. A survey by the United Nations and a pro-hunting group found that hunting companies contributed only 3% of their revenue to communities living in hunting areas. The issue is not about charity but about profits. Millions of dollars are being spent on lobbying to protect those profits—profits that are derived from cruelty, not sport. As the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, said, it is big business.

We have heard several noble Lords today say that they support the aims of the Bill but consider that it requires some form of amendment. I simply say that I have sat here on many Fridays supporting Private Members’ Bills seeking to end the ludicrous process of holding by-elections for new hereditary Peers, but they have all been thwarted as a result of unnecessary amendments being tabled. We should all be aware that any amendments passed by your Lordships’ House would also need to be agreed by the House of Commons, and that no more sitting Fridays are scheduled in the Commons for such business to be considered. Therefore, any amendments passed in the Lords would have the practical effect of killing the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Robathan, albeit very briefly, and the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, suggested that this Bill is about colonialism and is an issue for the liberal intelligentsia, but they ignore what Conservative voters actually care about. The views of Conservative voters forced their own party to scrap plans to repeal the Hunting Act during the 2017 general election.

I draw the attention of the House again to the letter from 103 wildlife conservation experts, scientists, government officials and community leaders who live or work in different parts of Africa, in countries such as Botswana, Tanzania, South Africa, the DRC and Zimbabwe. They urge all of us to back an import ban on the prizes of what they call the “morally reprehensible colonial relic” of trophy hunting.

Will the Minister confirm today that business managers in the Commons will guarantee time for any Lords amendments to the Bill to be considered? If not, we will know that any talk about amendments is really talk about killing the Bill, as well as killing animals for fun.