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Volume 77: debated on Monday 15 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on current Government policy regarding action to counter the baiting of badgers; and if he will indicate what recent representations he has received on this subject.

Badger baiting is illegal under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The Badgers Act 1973, by making it an offence wilfully to take, kill, injure or dig for badgers except in particular circumstances, excluding sport, gives them additional protection. The Government are sympathetic towards any reasonable measure which will strengthen the protection afforded to badgers without jeopardising legitimate activities such as field sports or pest control. They have therefore welcomed the efforts made by the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) in his Bill to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to extend the law in this area and tabled an amendment during Committee stage which offered significant improvement on existing legislation. The amendment was agreed and the Government are now considering if any further amendment is possible within the policy constraints outlined.In the last six months, I have received representations on this subject from many hon. Members, members of the public and conservation groups.