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Amendment Of Badgers Act 1973 S I

Volume 77: debated on Friday 26 April 1985

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 7, leave out '(2)' and insert '(a)'.

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 9, leave out from beginning to end of line 18 and insert—

  • '(b) before subsection (2) there shall be inserted —
  • "(1A) If, in any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) above consisting of attempting to kill, injure or take a badger, there is evidence from which it could reasonably be concluded that at the material time the accused was attempting to kill, injure or take a badger, he shall be presumed to have been attempting to kill, injure or take a badger unless the contrary is shown.".'.
  • No. 3, in page 1, line 18, at end insert—
  • '(2) Section 2 of the Badgers Act 1973 (digging for badgers etc.) shall be amended as follows
  • (a) before "If" there shall be inserted "(1)";
  • (b) at the end there shall be added—
  • "(2) If, any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1)(c) above, there is evidence from which it could reasonably be concluded that at the material time the accused was digging for a badger, he shall be presumed to have been digging for a badger unless the contrary is shown.".'.
  • No. 17, in title, line 2, leave out 'section 1' and insert 'sections 1 and 2'.

    The Bill has been called many things. On new clause 5, it was called the MAFF Bill. There has already been reference to the "closing the loopholes Bill". For many of us, it has been the badgers Bill. In the early stages, most heat was generated on that issue. It is an emotive issue. I am sure that not a single person in the House could support the cruel pastime of badger baiting. I think that the whole House is united in that. I am pleased to be able to say that from this Dispatch Box. We have no time at all for the cruelty involved, when people dig for badgers, take them, possibly blinding them or breaking their limbs, and then set dogs upon them. That is vicious and immoral, and the House condemns it.

    12.15 pm

    The real point is how we try to ensure that that "pastime" does not take place. When, back in 1979, I cosponsored the Bill on badgers of my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), we thought that we had overcome the problem. Sadly, ingenious and detemined people have shown that that Bill, although effective, has not been as effective as it should have been. Undoubtedly, there are many cases where prosecutions are not brought because of a weakness that has become apparent in the law.

    With that in mind, along with several bodies, particularly the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and the League Against Cruel Sports, I entered negotiations with Ministers at the Home Office to tackle the problem. It was with the best will in the world that we approached those discussions. We thought that we had come up with an approach when we originally drafted the Bill. I accept that there may have been drafting inadequacies in that first clause. It was also intended that that clause would be altered if it was found to be incorrect. I do not want to regurgitate the history, but we were surprised when the Government tabled an amendment in Committee. We are disappointed with it. I shall say no more about that. It was a genuine attempt and I think that the Home Office thought that it was pursuing the right course of action.

    All our legal advice has been to the contrary. I have further confirmation of that today from one of the leading counsel in the country. Talking about the previous amendment, which I am seeking to change through this series of amendments, he said:
    "The amendment makes it essential that a badger is actually either killed or injured. This means, I think, that the Prosecution might have to produce a dead or injured badger"—
    the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) said that in Committee—
    "so the case might well be far more difficult to prove. Therefore in my opinion it is a retrograde step and the amendment should be resisted."
    That opinion was given by John Mortimer, QC. A similar opinion was given by Lewis Blom-Cooper, who said that, although in the strict matter of the law the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment was correct in what he said in Committee, in practice it was his view that it would weaken the present legislation.

    This matter has caused a great deal of trouble. Does the hon. Gentleman accept, despite what he quoted from those letters, that it is a fact that what was added in Committee was a new offence, and that it in no way weakened the existing law? It provided an additional protection, albeit that we may now have found further protection to add.

    The great difficulty is that, once one starts down that route, one gets drawn on to tangential lines. I half accept what the hon. and learned Gentleman said. The second leading counsel's opinion was:

    "What I do think is that Magistrates' Courts, in applying the law after the passing of the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985, may be inclined to impose a stricter interpretation on what constitutes an attempt than hitherto; they would do so by concluding that the relevant acts or omissions were not sufficiently proximate to the killing or injuring to constitute an attempt in law. In so doing they would be wrong in law, but one cannot escape the feeling that Parliament's intention in section 1 A might be interpreted as requiring an actual killing or injuring before anyone could be convicted of an attempt under section 1."
    I take the hon. and learned Gentleman's point. The amendment was moved with good intent. I am just saying that in practice the leading opinions that we sought suggested that the situation would not have been interpreted that way in the courts. I believe that today's amendment overcomes those obstacles. I do not want to pursue too much of the history.

    Would it not be better for the debate not to be an inquest—[Interruption.] It would seem to be better to debate the amendment that is on the Notice Paper.

    I take my hon. Friend's point. I think that I have done enough of my inquest. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department accepts that I have been fair and frank, and have tried to outline what happened. There has been a difference in interpretation of the law. The Government have put forward their interpretation, and we have put ours. We have had a meeting of minds. I hope that the amendment that I recommend to the House will find approval.

    I agree that we should get on to the new clause, but, in view of the wide circulation of misleading leaflets, it is important that the promoter should publicly recognise the constructive help that he has received from the Government and from the British Field Sports Society in producing the new clause and in seeking to promote the Bill at every stage.

    The hon. Gentleman pre-empts what I am about to say, but I have been giving way in an attempt to be helpful. There have been a large number of misconceptions, misunderstandings and disputes about the law and we do not want any more. That is why the Bill is before Parliament, inadequacies having been found in both the 1981 and the 1973 Acts. Last week, a meeting was held with the Home Office, the British Field Sports Society and the Master of Foxhounds Association as well as with representatives of the amenity bodies. We all know that the League Against Cruel Sports is against hunting, but in a spirit of compromise it has dropped that objective in this instance and sought to work, almost uniquely, alongside the British Field Sports Society and has recognised that the interests of legitimate field sports must be protected. That is a step forward and I am sure that the House is grateful for the co-operation.

    I am sorry to press this, but since the Committee stage Conservative Members have been inundated with literature accusing us of putting in a clause which deliberately sought to make the prosecution of offenders more difficult. As I believe that the League Against Cruel Sports was undoubtedly behind the wording of that literature, I cannot accept that that body has cooperated in a full and fair manner either with the British Field Sports Society or with those of us who have been adamant throughout that we must find a satisfactory clause. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that that has now been achieved, but one cannot simply pass over the way in which the matter has been misrepresented to the country.

    The hon. Gentleman has made his point forcefully and now, at the last moment, an amendment has been agreed. I am grateful for the assistance of the Home Office in the drafting as this was an incredibly difficult maze to negotiate, given that we did not wish to injure the interests of legitimate field sports.

    It is important to put it on record that many people who are not opponents of field sports are extremely concerned about this. For instance, the great naturalist Phil Drabble, who is a personal friend of mine, knows as much about badgers as anyone in this country and he is extremely concerned, so it is not just a question of representation by certain antagonistic bodies.

    The hon. Gentleman has an excellent record in this area. It is sometimes easier for him to make these things clear to the House and I am grateful for his assistance.

    I have come to listen to the debate because I am as concerned as anyone about the badgers and I respect what the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) is trying to do. My constituents have been extremely disturbed by the leaflets and stories that have been circulating. The hon. Gentleman quoted the view of a playwright, or perhaps it was a barrister, but that is not a statement of the law. That opinion concerned the way in which a magistrates court— a very low level court—might interpret the law in practice, but that is not an opinion as to the law itself.

    I have been giving way not only in an effort to be helpful but in the hope that if hon. Members are able to raise points in interventions fewer of them will wish to make speeches and time will be saved later. I take the thrust of the Gentleman's comment, but we are concerned about the protection of badgers and the first level of legal protection is prosecution in a magistrates court. I was not disputing the purity of the law. I was quoting an opinion as to the protection that the law would give to badgers in practice. The object is to protect the badgers and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman joins me in that aim.

    The amendment to section 1 of the Badgers Act would oblige defendants to show, regardless of the methods being used, that they were not after a badger. At present the prosecution has to prove that the defendants were after a badger, so the attempt provisions are strengthened.

    The amendment to section 2 would oblige defendants to show that they were not digging for a badger. Currently, the prosecution has to prove that the defendants were digging for a badger, so here, too, the attempt provisions will be strengthened. In that sense, the provisions follow the line adopted in section 1(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

    This is a very complicated matter, but for my own benefit I shall describe it in simple terms. At present, many people caught digging around badger setts, often with badger baiting equipment, have said that they were digging for foxes, which was quite legal. Because it was impossible to prove that they were not digging for foxes, prosecutions too often were not brought and it was clear that a shift in the onus of proof was needed. Defendants will now have to prove that they were digging for foxes and not for badgers, which safeguards the interests of legitimate field sports such as fox hunting.

    I believe that this is a sensible amendment and I am delighted to put it forward with the backing of the British Field Sports Society, the Masters of Foxhounds Association and, I hope — no doubt the Minister will wish to say something on this — the backing of the Home Office. The arguments have been well rehearsed and I hope that the number of interventions that have been made will considerably reduce the number of speeches.

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
    (Mr. David Mellor)

    I am glad to give the Government's view on this important issue, which has become even more important as a result of the public debate — much of it, unfortunately, not too well informed — surrounding the various discussions and negotiations.

    I should make it absolutely clear at the outset that I speak in favour of accepting the amendment for one clear and unsurprising reason. The amendment was thought out by my officials and presented to a meeting of the various interest groups last week. When the substance of it seemed to be acceptable, the amendment was then drafted by parliamentary counsel on the instructions of the Home Office and presented to the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). I therefore stand at the Dispatch Box as the parent of the amendment and not as one dragged along behind an amendment thought out and pressed by others. It is the Government's amendment and the hon. Member for South Shields has been kind enough to accept it and put it forward in his name. If there is any praise or blame to be attached to the amendment, it should be directed to the Government.

    I am as appalled as anyone at the thought that, in this day and age, people can go out into the countryside with dogs, sticks, spades, or some combination of all three, and take the pleasures of the countryside as being to dig into a badger's sett and capture the badger to use it in some sport or to beat it to death. That is utterly disgraceful. It was plainly the intention of Parliament in the 1973 Act to outlaw such behaviour. I condemn such behaviour unreservedly on behalf of the Government. If the law is defective, I wish to recognise that and to put the full weight of the Government behind proposals to change it.

    12.30 pm

    I make it clear that that is a pious aspiration which I share not only with the hon. Member for South Shields but with a number of those concerned with wildlife matters. Some of these people have been traduced by those who seek to exploit the badger, not by beating him over the head, but by using him for partisan ends to make tendentious and wholly wrong attacks on the Government and on some of those who believe that it is legitimate for country folk to involve themselves in legitimate country sports. No one involved in such legitimate country sports, any more than someone who abominates all forms of hunting, wants anything to do with the killing or torturing of badgers.

    In assembling my thoughts on this matter I have been enormously assisted by the British Field Sports Society and the Masters of Foxhounds Association, who have always been ready to work with the animal welfare group, to whose views I also attach importance. I commend in particular the approach of my hon. and learned Friend for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lyell), who has brought his considerable skills in the detail of the law to bear on this matter, and has been of enormous help

    The debate, both in the House and outside, has been long on tendentious but rather short on the detailed thinking that needs to be done to translate pious aspirations into effective statute law. In that regard, apart from the advice that I have received from my officials, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire stands alone. Many of those who have been most vocal in advocating the cause of the badger have been extremely limited when it has come to putting forward drafts which would be workable and made sense in the courts.

    When people come to allocate blame out of what has been an unhappy story, they should perhaps give most of it to those who have sought to blacken the characters of others whose only intention has been to find a proper way out. They have aimed to find a solution which ensures that an individual walking through the countryside with his dog does not run the risk of being hauled before the magistrates. Nobody who cares about the countryside wants to stop legitimate enjoyment of it by those who are playing their part, as people have done for centuries, in enjoying the countryside and appreciating our rural heritage.

    Some matters need to be put on the record. My task is not only to commend the amendment to the House as I intend to do, but to set it in the context of the debates that have taken place. I am not in favour of seeing my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) traduced in the way that he has been in some of the literature, or of seeing colleagues' postbags full of some of the most malicious assertions about the Government, none of which is grounded in fact. I put on record our involvement in this matter, and in doing so I shall go through the three drafts which have appeared before the House in order to set them in their context.

    Just as I have challenged some individuals whom I have met privately to come forward with any assertion that they may wish to bring about bad faith and so on, so I shall happily give way to any hon. Member who wishes to pursue an assertion of bad faith. I do that so that I can deal with these points fairly and openly in the presence of those who will later bring our debates to a wider public knowledge.

    Long before the hon. Member for South Shields had the good fortune to be drawn high in the ballot, this matter was raised with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and myself by that most distinguished battler for animal welfare, Lord Houghton. It is no secret that I have worked closely with Lord Houghton on a number of matters in our plans to reform the law on animal experiments. We worked together on the extremely successful venture, which perhaps passed without notice at the end of the last Session but should not have done, on the sale of pets in open street markets. The law was changed to prevent the scandal of places such as Club row. That began with an initiative by Lord Houghton, and it was taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) and me.

    When Lord Houghton said that he was unhappy about the working of the Badgers Act, I was glad to meet him. My right hon. and learned Friend and I met Lord Houghton and Mr. Richard Course. My right hon. and learned Friend made it clear that we would look favourably at any provision to tighten up the law on badgers, with only one caveat—that it should not be used as a stalking horse to make unlawful what was legitimate field sport. Provided that that distinction could be maintained, my right hon. and learned Friend was wholly in favour of making these changes. That happened on 12 November 1984.

    On 19 December, just before Christmas, I had a further meeting with Lord Houghton, at which I indicated my view that if the mischief which he wished to address was that of dogs going into subterranean refuges and the difficulty of proving that when a dog entered a subterranean refuge its owner wilfully intended to take a badger, the proper way to address it would be to import the element of recklessness into that conduct so that, whether or not somebody could demonstrably be proved to have intended to take a badger by putting a dog down a hole, if a reasonable person knew, as a reasonable person would be deemed to know, that the hole concerned was a badger sett and not a rabbit warren, the element of recklessness would make it easier to prove the offence.

    It is important for the House to recognise that the problem being drawn to our attention was that of dogs entering subterranean refuges. The problem, however, which needed to be addressed was that the requirement in section 1 of the Badgers Act 1973 that wilfulness was required in relation to intention to take a badger was too high a fence for the prosecution to leap over. On that basis I suggested in good faith to Lord Houghton that a provision for imported recklessness would be the way forward.

    I welcome the involvement of the hon. Member for South Shields in these matters. Leaving party politics on one side, in general he has been prepared to accept the good faith of the Government, subject only to one caveat, to which I shall turn later. On 20 December 1984 I met the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) at which I offered drafting assistance on any proposal that he might wish to make relating to the badger. The difficulty that faced us at that time about the hon. Gentleman's Bill was that he had committed himself to amending the Wildlife and Countryside Act. His short title so provided.

    It seemed logical to me that to amend an Act which did not deal with the badger when there was already a specific Act dealing with the badger on the statute book made very little sense and that the appropriate course to take was to amend the Badgers Act. This was discussed at a meeting between Lord Houghton, the hon. Member for South Shields and myself on 16 January 1985, at which Lord Houghton suggested that an amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act might be a marker and that later it might be converted into an amendment to the Badgers Act, either in the House of Lords, whose rules are more flexible than ours, or in the House of Commons. At that stage, however, we doubted whether the Badgers Act could be amended in this House, on the basis that it would be outside the scope of a narrowly drawn short title which set out only to amend another Act.

    At that point we were troubled by the intervention of the dog and the difficulty of proving intent where a dog was allowed to go down a hole, whatever dark suspicions one might have. I stress that point only because the condemnation that was seen to rain down upon our unprepared heads dealt with a totally different point. One of the interesting aspects of the argument is that, like the sands of the Sahara, it has shifted as the winds have eddied and flurried. In no sense have we had at any successive point to meet precisely the same argument. However, at this point we were dealing with dogs. Therefore, when the hon. Member for South Shields drew up his Bill, he included an amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, being fully aware that in due course it would have to be changed into an amendment to the Badgers Act 1973.

    The hon. Gentleman is a generous person, and he was typically generous in his Second Reading speech on 8 February when he said:
    "I am pleased to say that the Home Office has helped me. The Home Secretary saw a deputation of which I was not a member, and offered general support to try to tighten up the legislation. The clause was given to me by the Home Office. I am grateful for its assistance and the time it gave me to get this point right." —[Official Report, 8 February 1985; Vol. 72, c. 1239.]
    I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman was trying to make his Second Reading speech quickly, and I do not criticise him for that, but he was inaccurate to suggest that we had handed the amendment to him. We had not, but we had said that the importation of the concept of recklessness was important and we had promised to assist in making the amendment to the Badgers Act 1973 in due course.

    It is important that that point should be cleared up. If that is the case, I was under a severe misapphrension on that occasion. I still have in my possession a draft of the amendment on ministerial notepaper, which I thought had ministerial backing. Therefore, if I have misled the House it was because I misunderstood the situation, as, indeed, I think most of the amenity societies misunderstood the situation. If that is the case, 1 apologise to the Minister for what I said on that occasion, which appears to have been inaccurate.

    I ask the House to believe that, apart from one quibble about the suggestion that the hon. Gentleman may have made at his press conference yesterday that the Government had made a U-turn, I wholly exonerate the hon. Gentleman. It is to others that I am directing my remarks. The hon. Gentleman is in a difficult position, being committed to the countryside and being drawn into the necessary partisanship of being an Opposition spokesman. He has not much for which to stand condemned. However, it is necessary to make those points clear.

    The original Bill said that the prohibition should be on using

    "a dog underground, (whether actually or ostensibly in search of another wild animal) to take, injure or kill, or to attempt to take, injure or kill a badger if he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that it is likely to do so"
    We are here dealing only with the use of a dog. That is important to the points that are soon to come.

    Further consideration was then given to what the shape of the Bill should be. At that point others entered the fray, at a meeting on 19 February 1985, at which Lord Melchett and others proposed to my officials a different badger clause. It was at that point that a number of other considerations, such as the protection of the badger's sett, began to enter into the arrangements, when that had never been part of the original proposal.

    I then engaged with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West, who has only wanted, as I have, to try to make progress on this matter, to draw up a clause which would be an amendment to the Badgers Act, not to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which would have had the consequence of bringing into law a legally cogent way of expressing the intentions which had been agreed between myself and the hon. Gentleman.

    We then came to a difficulty upon which a great deal of the propaganda hangs, so I shall expose it for a moment if I may. The original clause drafted by the hon. Gentleman suggested that it was possible recklessly to attempt to commit an offence. One does not need to be a lawyer to appreciate that "recklessly to attempt" is a contradiction in terms because to attempt to do something one must have an intention to do it and then to fail. The attraction of "recklessness" in the scheme of things which the hon. Gentleman and I worked out was that it is not a settled intention. One would not have to establish a settled intention to take a badger, only that someone was reckless but that what he did would have affected a badger. To put it another way, a reasonable person would not have done it because he would have appreciated the consequences to the badger, whereas a reckless person would have blundered on.

    Much turns on this. If one looks at the leaflets with which we have been showered, one sees that they all fail to recognise that one crucial point. In law one cannot recklessly attempt an act. Therefore, to give effect in legal sense, and not to commit a contradiction in terms which even Parliament, which has sometimes put the most unusual things into statute, might subsequently have cause to blush with shame about, we determined that the appropriate thing to commend to the Committee, and my hon. Friend did so, was to remove the attempt, on the basis that we wanted to keep recklessness. That passed the Committee and has been traduced in a number of documents that have been before the House.

    Let me make it completely clear that it cannot be the case that, if a new offence is set alongside an existing offence, that can weaken the law. One may argue that the amendment does not do all that one wants it to do, but the idea that the amendment in some way derogates from a quite separate, free-standing offence that is already on the statute book is again legal nonsense.

    12.45 pm

    The assertion contained in the badger factsheet that a conviction in Derbyshire in 1984 would not have occurred under the Bill as it left Committee is nonsense. If, when a person uses a dog, it is clear that a court is prepared to impute that that person had formed an intention to harm a badger and was attempting to do so, the prosecution would proceed under the 1973 Act and would be untouched by the new subsection (1A) which was inserted into the Bill by the Standing Committee of this House. That subsection would come into effect where it was not possible to prove an intention, but where recklessness in the use of a dog could be imputed.

    Although much has been made of legal opinions, we have never to this day seen a legal opinion in writing which backed up any of the assertions. I say this in all gentleness to the hon. Gentleman. What he read out, as he acknowledged in the course of a vigorous cross-examination by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire — a man to whom, if one could sign a big enough cheque, one should always turn if in trouble in the courts—was not a legal opinion to suggest that we had derogated one whit from the strength of the law. It was a tendentious assertion that the courts might be confused, based on the rather patronising view that some lawyers take of magistrates—a view with which, on the whole, I am not inclined to agree.

    My hon. Friend is deploying his case with clarity and vigour, as we would expect, and I can completely understand why he feels aggrieved and that certain people might have behaved irresponsibly. May I suggest to him, in all humility, that the tone that he is adopting could be misinterpreted outside this House, because—I say this as a friend of my hon. Friend and not just in a technical sense—the people who have been showering us with the leaflets have been genuine in their fears. It is important to recognise that fact.

    It is also important to recognise—as my hon. Friend has — the good faith of the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), and the fact that, when he reads out letters from people such as John Mortimer, he is genuinely believing that, because they are eminent lawyers—as well as eminent playwrights and so on—their views have some validity. Therefore, I urge a little charity on my hon. Friend.

    I think that my hon. Friend has a point about the badger factsheet leaflet. I do not say that that leaflet was issued in bad faith. I say that its authors were misled and that they have now sought to place the blame wrongly. I hope that anyone who subsequently reads what I have to say —I am grateful to my hon. Friend for saying that it was clear; that is always an advantage—may feel, like me, that it was misleading. My venom is directed at another document which I am about to read to the House. The badger factsheet is merely misleading.

    Let me state my position clearly before I move on to the other document. The Derbyshire case would certainly not have been decided differently if the law had remained as it was when the Bill left Committee, and that is an important point. I believe that the case in Retford will be dealt with by the new amendment which we shall be discussing later. That is why it will be a considerable step forward.

    Not for the moment. I shall give way in due course, but I should be given the opportunity to give way when I feel like it, rather than when the hon. Gentleman thinks I should give way.

    Even my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) who wants to impute good faith to everybody—as I generally do—would have objected to the letter circulated by the League Against Cruel Sports. At a meeting in my Department last week, I challenged Mr. Course of the LACS to say whether he thought that anyone at the Home Office had acted in bad faith, and he did not pursue the matter. However, he sent out a leaflet urging his members and others to write to hon. Members. The leaflet said:
    "However, the pro-hunting BFSS puppet MPs who initially indicated their 'full support' for a crackdown on badger baiters have resorted to their usual dishonest and treacherous tactics. They persuaded another of their puppets, Mr. William Waldegrave, the Government Minister from the Department of the Environment, to propose an alternative clause on badger baiting which would, if passed, effectively wreck Dr. Clark's measure and worse still, actually weaken the existing 1973 Badgers Act. Because this was a Government Amendment, the Conservative MPs on the Committee supported Mr. Waldegrave's Amendment."
    That is false and, I have reason to think, is known to be false. It is grotesque, and I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South nodding in agreement. As I have made clear, the Government amendment adds to the law and does not detract from it.

    In so far as a gap in the law has been revealed by the Retford magistrates court case, the gap would have remained as yawning if we had left the Bill as drafted. It should be understood that the only difference between the Government amendment and the original proposal was that the amendment made legal sense and the original proposal did not. Their ambit was the same.

    The original proposal sought to impose responsibility for reckless attempts and would not have assisted clarity of the criminal law.

    As I replied in the House last week to two important Bills on glue sniffing and on drugs, in the absence of any alliance Member, the fact that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is here makes me feel sufficiently warmhearted to give way to him.

    If I were shadow spokesman on home affairs, I would have been here last week. I am here to deal with an environment Bill.

    If the 1973 Act had remained, without this Bill it could be argued that using an animal was covered by that Act. However, as the Bill specifically relates to animals and the use of dogs in setts, it is possible that the courts could —rather than would—have interpreted that to mean that the 1973 Act did not cover the use of animals and dogs down setts. That would have weakened the law.

    The amendment proposed by the Government — at 11.15 pm on the night before the Standing Committee met —required the production of an animal at the end of the exercise. That was not in the Bill. There was ambiguity. The office of the League Against Cruel Sports is in my constituency, but I do not argue the league's case without judging its merits. There was ambiguity in the last-minute amendment of the Government and there was a risk that it could have weakened the 1973 legislation.

    If one is looking at the intention of the individual rather than of the dog, who is not on trial anyway, it is possible to rely on the 1973 Act. One would move to the amendment of the hon. Member for South Shields or of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment only if one needed to rely on something which was not a settled intention, but was recklessness involving the use of a dog.

    The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey is saying that, at most, this is a matter about which lawyers could squabble over a glass of port and a piece of Stilton. It is not the sort of error which could have led to all my hon. Friends who do not think that fox hunting should immediately be made illegal being impugned as "dishonest and treacherous" and so on. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey is not attempting to defend what seems to me to be a wholly gratuitous insult directed against my hon. Friends. If others were as prepared to lay their interests aside and join in discussions to resolve problems with as much willingness as those of my hon. Friends who are interested in field sports, the House might make much more progress on a number of other pressing problems.

    The amendment was proposed after my meeting on 17 April 1985 with the hon. Gentleman and representatives of a number of wildlife groups. I made it clear at that meeting that I was prepared to instruct my officials to make every effort to resolve the problem. There was a further meeting on 23 April, which the hon. Gentleman attended, as did representatives of the animal welfare groups and the British Field Sports Society. At that meeting, my officials suggested a way forward which would have involved requiring an individual to give an account of himself once a prima facie case had been established that he was attempting to take a badger. I am glad to say that that idea has found favour with the groups and is acceptable to the British Field Sports Society and to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire. Parliamentary draftsmen were then instructed to do the work, and the amendment comes before the House with unanimous support. I hope that where there was discord there will now be concord.

    The amendment affects the case where someone is digging at a badger's sett, or putting a dog down the sett, and the person who sees him apprehends him—as he may very reasonably wish to do—before that person has had a chance to ascertain whether there is a badger there or to catch it. Once that evidence has been proved before the court, the man will be required to rebut the presumption that he was after a badger. Under the present law, the situation is quite different. Unless it can be shown that someone has wilfully set out to take a badger, he cannot be successfully prosecuted. If he said — even with a smirk—"I was after foxes, Guv", that might wash under the present law. It will not wash under the amendment.

    I have been concerned to ensure that someone whose dog suddenly runs down a hole is not put to proof in a magistrates court, that people legitimately engaged in clearing out vermin are not caught, and that legitimate field sports are not inhibited from finishing off a hunt. I am wholly satisfied that, in all those circumstances, the necessary evidence to determine a prima facie case that the man was after a badger could not be established. It is only those who cannot demonstrate any right to be where they are, or any interest in being there, who are actually acting against the badger sett. The arguments over the past two months have been not about dogs but about the protection of the badger's sett. I suspect that it is only in the context of the badger's sett that the necessary prima facie case would exist. Thereupon, and rightly, people would be required to give an account of themselves.

    If all the disharmony has resulted—as I believe it has —in much greater protection for the badger, it will have been of use. My only regret is that when, with the Home Secretary, I embarked on this task six months ago, we had no idea that some people would be so willing to impugn our motives. To slam a door in the face at the outset might have led to much less hostility than the fact that at every material point we have sought to deal seriously with the arguments.

    We now have a proposal which we can commend to the House, and which not even the most distorted mind could distort. The badger is an ornament to the countryside. How it treats its animals is the test of a civilised community. I believe that Parliament will have rightly responded to the concern of the British people about the badger if it passes the amendment with acclamation.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) said earlier that he comes from Warwickshire. I also come from that beautiful leafy county—the part of it known as Arden. It remains a mystery to me why the oaks of Arden are answerable to the Secretary of State for Scotland as the Minister responsible for the Forestry Commission.

    I also congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). If I had his skill in bringing forward a private Member's Bill, I should have been privileged indeed to have been the sponsor of such an excellent piece of legislation. If I had presented it half as well as the hon. Member, I should have been very pleased with myself.

    All right hon. and hon. Members present are pleased that the various parties have been able to come together on amendments Nos. 2 and 3. uncivilised and utterly unacceptable. That any people should regard it as some form of pastime beggars my comprehension. It seems to me to be a straight exercise in sadism which has no place in proper society.

    1 pm

    There is a double mechanism in these amendments which enable the prosecution, if it can cross a preliminary and not very demanding hurdle, to put a citizen to proof of his innocence. That is not a happy concept in the traditions of English law. I hope that I can be reassured on that matter, because I intend to support the Bill. Indeed, I am here today especially to support it. My reservation is narrow and I am confident that the Front Bench will be able to deal with it.

    I was especially glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) said what he did because he enabled my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to explain why they felt rather keenly about some of the matters that seemed to have been directed at them with some animus and spite. I am glad that they had that chance to respond.

    Rather patronising mention has been made of magistrates. Having humbly practised before magistrates' benches for some 20 years, I believe that magistrates and their learned clerks dispense an admirable form of justice and I am sure that they will look properly to the implementation of this splendid Bill when it is on the statute book.

    The only interest that I have to declare in this debate is my anxiety about the fate of the badger and my desire for the law to be amended and improved.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department about the rather convoluted history of this matter. Many Conservative Members agree with the aim and intent of the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) to ensure that the law is improved. It is clearly inadequate, as it allows those who go digging for badgers to give the feeble and untrue excuse that they are digging for foxes. However, I must agree with the Minister that the original clause was something of a nonsense as it is not possible in law recklessly to attempt to do something.

    The Bill went into Committee sooner than most of us expected, and the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment was only put in the tray at the Public Bill Office at 11.15 pm the night before, so there was no opportunity for the usual consultation and exchange of views. That led to great disappointment in Committee. I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lyell): the amendment introduced in Committee would not have weakened the law, but I thought that it was not much help either. That is why I declined to vote for it.

    Some of those lobbying on the Bill have been politically motivated, but I believe that political prejudice as a basis for argument is no ally of the cause of animal welfare. Like many of my hon. Friends, I was prepared in Committee to take at face value what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment said. It is worth briefly reminding the House that on 6 March he said:
    "We are trying to make an improvement in the protection of badgers …The aspect of the present legislation which we are
    seeking to improve is the fact that in some cases it has been difficult to prove intent." — [Official Report, Standing Committee E; 6 March 1985, c. 8.]
    On no fewer than three other occasions my hon. Friend clearly said that he was concerned about the inadequacy of the law, and wanted to see some improvement. That is why I and several of my hon. Friends worked quietly behind the scenes to put our point that the amendment was not what was wanted, but that something more was required, and could and should be done. Accordingly, I am delighted to support this amendment.

    I shall illustrate my argument in case any hon. Members question whether the law needs amending. I do not normally quote from the Daily Mirror, but on 10 April 1985 it carried an article together with a photograph of a badger. The heading is "Victim of the Brutes". The article says:
    "The pitiful survivor of an evil badger-baiting session sucks hungrily at a feeding bottle. Vet Geoff Allan is trying to keep Bessie, the eight-week-old orphan, alive. She was found in a sack in South Yorkshire with her brother who later died. Their mother and another cub were torn to pieces by the baiters' dogs. The mother's jaw had been broken to give the dogs a better chance."
    I find that utterly disgusting.

    An article in the Daily Telegraph of 23 March shows that badger baiters have no regard at all for animal welfare. It is not only badgers that suffer at their hands. The article is headed:
    "Driver Forced 11 Dogs into Boot of Car".
    It states:
    "A man who drove 80 miles with 11 dogs crammed into the boot of his car was fined £330 with £40 costs yesterday by magistrates at Narberth, West Wales …Mr. Ivor Rees prosecuting, said the inspector accused Moon"—
    that is the defendant—
    "and three other men of using the 10 fox terriers and a lurcher to fight badgers. Moon denied this and said they were for chasing foxes."
    Is any more evidence needed to convince the House that we should take a step in the right direction today by supporting the amendment?

    Hon. Members have rightly raised several questions about the amendment. I take note of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor). The question is not only whether the new clauses will be effective but whether they are an acceptable way of changing the law. I understand that he was slightly concerned that we were shifting the burden of proof to the defendant. I think that he was questioning whether that was acceptable in a free society, and was saying that a man should be considered innocent until proved guilty, and should have a right to silence.

    We are entitled to ask what the aim of the law is. Its aim is to achieve the correct balance between the rights of the individual and the ability of the state to secure prosecutions for abuse. There are precedents for adopting such a line. I hope that I will be forgiven for using an animal metaphor if I say that the precedents may not be on all fours with this case. However, if the police stop a motorist and wish to inquire whether he has committed the offence of driving without insurance, without a licence or without an MOT certificate, the onus is on the motorist, because he has specialist knowledge of his situation, to show the police that he possesses those documents.

    I believe that a similar analysis can be made in this case. Where a person is lawfully going about seeking to rid an area of foxes that the farmer regards as a nuisance, he can show that that is the case. When a person is part of a fox hunt, he can show that he is genuinely after foxes and not seeking to take part in the disgusting practice of badger baiting. Therefore, I cannot see how this relatively modest amendment will lead to any injustice. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull is satisfied on that point.

    I hope that both sides of the House will support the amendment. It raises a couple of questions. Can a rational argument for change be sustained and can a valid case be made for increasing the protection for badgers? In my submission, the answer in both cases is a resounding yes, and I commend the amendments to the House.

    I am glad to support the amendment. I congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) on his perseverance and his approach to this difficult, and at times vexed, subject.

    I speak on behalf of the British Field Sports Society. I wish to make it clear that neither I nor the society has any wish to condone or encourage the practice of badger baiting or digging. The society is strongly in support of measures that will assist in convicting those who carry out such activities, provided that such measures do not interfere with the genuine activities of fox hunting or pest control. I emphasise pest control because I do not believe that the clause contains any dangers for hunting as such. However, it does pose some dangers for the liberty of individuals involved in pest control. Parliament has a duty to look at that aspect.

    My hon. and learned Friend will be aware that fox hunting does not take place in certain parts of the country, so it is necessary to adopt pest control methods to control the number of foxes, which would otherwise get out of control.

    My hon. Friend is right, which is why I was emphasising the pest control aspect. Although I do not wish to speak at length, I must refer to it. We must fulfil our duty as legislators and not produce unfair legislation when taking the fairly drastic step of shifting the burden of proof, which is what we are seeking to do.

    I thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department for his kind remarks. From what I have seen of both his Department and that of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, there has been a consistent effort to make constructive proposals to add to the protection of badgers.

    The Badgers Act 1973 offers considerable protection. It was strengthened in 1981 and is being further strengthened today. While the hon. Member for South Shields has not sought to take party political advantage, others have. Therefore, it is fair to point out that those three measures have come about under Conservative Governments. I say that only to correct the record and not to make a party political point.

    The amendment tabled in Committee undoubtedly provided an additional offence and in no way weakened existing legislation—the 1973 Act, as amended in 1981. I support hon. Members who have deplored the criticism of magistrates, who would have been perfectly capable of dealing with the legislation. I am sure that they would not have been bamboozled by the fact that to have a successful prosecution for recklessness an animal must be killed, injured or taken.

    I intervene only because I think that it will save time later. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that Shooting Times did not take that view? On 29 March it stated about the amendment that was passed in Committee:

    "An amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the result of Dr. David Clark's private Member's Bill, means that terrier men can only be convicted if a badger is actually killed or injured."
    The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to magistrates courts. A solicitor who has been concerned with perhaps more of these cases than any other solicitor, Peter Quinn, is reported to have said that the amendment was
    "scandalous …and nothing better than a badger-baiters' charter."
    I accept that that may have been an exaggeration. I mention it simply to show that there was a legal divide on the issue, with people in the legal profession taking a different view from that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. However, that is behind us now and I am satisfied with the new amendment.

    1.15 pm

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, though, with respect to the solicitor to whom he referred, it was, as the hon. Gentleman said, an exaggerated opinion. As for the article in the Shooting Times, one only needed to show that a badger had been killed or injured under the offence proposed in Committee because what had been done recklessly was to kill or injure a badger. It is inaccurate to suggest that one would necessarily have to produce a body, although to do so might have been helpful.

    I agree that we are putting that difficulty behind us, and I too am happy to concentrate on the new clause, the effect of which will be to shift the burden of proof. That may cause difficulty for some people in connection with their defence, and it also emphasises an important point for the prosecution.

    It is important that the standard of naturalism—of understanding wildlife and their habits and habitats—is improved. That applies both to the prosecution and those seeking to defend themselves. It is important, when a prosecution is brought, that it is established that the place where the person was found digging was a badger sett. That is not always obvious, but it can be ascertained by fresh marks-fresh droppings and so on— and fresh indications of the badger's bed.

    I emphasise that, because I wish to examine the burden that is placed on the defence. 'There is no danger for the legitimate fox hunt. That will be well known in the locality and its objective appreciated and understood. It is a clear rule of the Masters of Foxhounds Association that one not only never hunts a badger but that if one comes close to a badger sett or finds oneself having anything to do with a badger, one withdraws, even if one is digging for a fox at the end of a hunt. Thus, the legitimate hunt is not endangered.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) pointed out, in large parts of the country there is no hunting and the digging of foxes is necessary for pest control. The tunnels, earths or setts into which it is necessary to dig to carry out that pest control are not, to the layman, immediately distinguishable, although they are to the naturalist and expert. It will be necessary for those carrying out pest contol to prepare themselves so that if somebody, misguidedly or otherwise, accuses them of badger digging they can explain themselves.

    Those people can take certain measures to protect themselves. First, it is important for them to obtain the permission of the landowner or farmer. There may not be an obvious landowner, but they should go to the person who farms the land or who has an interest in it nearby and seek his permission, preferably in writing, to dig for foxes. The fox is a nuisance in such areas, and has to be controlled.

    Secondly, one needs to have evidence as to why one is digging in the hole, such as the fact that foxes are known to be using it as an earth and working from it. Thirdly, those who dig at such holes should look carefully for signs of fresh or recent occupation by a badger. They should look for the droppings, the bedding and the disturbance of earth. They should be prepared for that, and if they find those signs, they must keep away. That is the object of the legislation — to protect the badger. If, subsequent to their starting to dig, they find any sign of a badger, they must clear off. Again, that is what we want to achieve. I strongly support all those things.

    Those people would also be wise to be members of a recognised terrier club which has as its known and published rules duties to do nothing to injure the badger and to take the sort of precautions that I have mentioned. If they are challenged, they should explain their reasons at once, and if it is wrongly put to them that it is a badger's sett whereas they have good reason to know that it is a fox's earth, they should make that clear to those who accost them. If they do those things, they will have nothing to fear and are unlikely to be prosecuted.

    This is an emotive subject, and fears have been expressed that people might bring a misguided or even a malicious prosecution. That is a little bit of a worry, but the independent prosecution service is coming forward and by autumn 1986 it should be in being. There will be more professionalism in prosecutions at all levels. I hope that it will be made clear that those who prosecute will need to be satisfied that it was a badger's sett and that they will exercise the same proper discrimination and restraint that they should exercise in any offence. Then I do not believe that there will be too much to fear.

    I should like to refer to the background, because this is an emotive subject on which many people are ignorant. We are adding a strong measure of protection for the badger to a series of Acts that already give more protection than has often been recognised or accepted.

    On Second Reading I mentioned the number of prosecutions that were successful in recent years. Since then I have managed to find the figures going back to the Badgers Act 1973. Between 1974 and 1978 there was an average of 14 prosecutions every year, of which more than 10 were successful. In 1979 there were 25 prosecutions, of which 24 were successful. In 1980 there were 24 prosecutions, of which 20 were successful. In 1981 there were 39 prosecutions, of which 26 were successful. For some reason, the 1982 figures are not available. In 1983 there were 57 prosecutions of which 50 were successful. We do not have the up-to-date figures for 1984, but I know of at least 33 successful prosecutions and no failures. In relation to the argument that one has to produce a dead badger to be able to succeed, 50 per cent. of all the prosecutions to which I have referred were for attempts. That shows that in the magistrates courts there are already a great many successful prosecutions. A great deal of myth is attached to the difficulty.

    I have in my hands —I shall show it privately to anybody who wishes to see it—an opinion given to me by one of the societies that is deeply involved. It shows that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the difficulties of prosecution. The society had evidence that badgers were being set upon by dogs and being cruelly mistreated by dogs with the encouragement of five men. An eye witness saw that. Nevertheless, the society's lawyer says that those concerned could not successfully prosecute. Those facts cannot be accurate. There is the clearest possible evidence of an existing offence under section 2(a). It is a serious offence of which we would all hope to see those responsible convicted. There must be deep misunderstanding among some of those who are involved in prosecutions.

    Therefore, I ask for a higher standard of naturalism and higher appreciation of wildlife by those who prosecute in future. People who dig for foxes will have to take sensible measures to protect themselves. I believe that this will be a powerful measure for the protection of badgers, and I am happy to support it.

    I warmly welcome the initiative of the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) in introducing this change in the law. There is no doubt at all that badger digging or pestering or baiting badgers in any way is utterly repulsive to right-thinking members of the community. I know that countrymen are deeply repelled by it. Unfortunately, many cases have shown that marauding gangs of "cowboys" from the towns and cities have been going out into the countryside to do these dreadful deeds. There is no doubt at all that the hon. Gentleman has introduced a very worthy amendment.

    Having sat on the magistrates bench for a number of years, I am grateful for the compliments paid to magistrates today, but I am rather worried about the presumption of guilt before innocence that has crept into the amendment. It is a cardinal principle of our law that a person is innocent until proven guilty. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) cited various precedents in motoring law, but from my experience as a magistrate I hope that some of the mish-mash in that area of the law will not creep into serious areas such as this. In this context, I am slightly surprised that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, whom I greatly respect and who is himself a lawyer, has allowed this instance to slip through his fingers so quietly, because I believe that lawyers should be very worried by it.

    I certainly do not wish to hold up the passage of the amendment or, indeed, of the Bill, but I hope that in another place noble Lords such as the Lord Chancellor and Lord Scarman will examine this closely and perhaps, with their wisdom and expertise, produce something rather more acceptable which will be welcomed by everyone.

    I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) on his initiative in this respect. I am also grateful to the Ministers involved for taking such great pains with what I believe will ultimately be a thoroughly workable clause. It strengthens the law to protect badgers, which is what we all want.

    The hon. Member for South Shields has been entirely constructive and non-political. Those who seek to use matters of this kind as a stick to beat the Government will have no satisfaction today, but those who are genuinely concerned about these matters must feel that progress has been made. Only those who seek to exploit animal welfare for their own political ends will be disappointed.

    Let it not be thought that badgers reside only in the country. In many parts of London the countryside comes to the town and these beautiful animals can exist there, too, but barely so. In my constituency there are badger setts not only in Richmond park but on the land that I share with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. There are also badgers on a stretch of urban land. I shall not mention the location in view of the activities of perverse people who, despite the law, will try to kill anything that moves—the kind of people who shoot at swans with crossbows, and throw darts at dogs and cats and at the deer in Richmond park.

    It may be suggested that London has no interest in wildlife but a growing proportion of the population, which is still more than 6 million, feel passionately about animal welfare. More and more children now appreciate the importance of wildlife and even of the badgers within our towns and are anxious to know more about conservation and the protection of animals. I am glad that so many schools now teach children about conservation matters and I am grateful to the RSPCA for its constructive help in this respect.

    I wish particularly to commend the London Wildlife Trust. The hon. Members for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and for Peckham (Ms. Harman) are vice-presidents of that trust with me. It is a constructive, all-party group trying to preserve the flora and fauna within the capital in spite of the commercial pressures that are always there to clear and build on open urban land. The trust is composed not of extremists but of people who wish constructively to redress the balance of extreme exploitation in our cities.

    These amendments are welcome on a day when the RSPCA announced that cases of cruelty to animals increased by 30 per cent. last year. The clause as amended is stronger and puts the onus the right way round—on those who act in a thoroughly suspicious and uncivilised manner. It does not put the onus on the state to prove such behaviour. It answers the demands of many of my constituents, who join me in welcoming any attempt to reduce man's cruelty to animals.

    1.30 pm

    I hope that the Bill will pass today and will soon be law. The only reason that many of my colleagues have left for their constituencies today is that they know that on Wednesday an all-party agreement was reached on the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). Without doubt, it will be approved and it is to be welcomed. The difficult and complicated negotiations have produced progress. I hope that many thousands in this country, both urban and rural dwellers, will welcome what we have done and will help us in future to do even more to ensure that the wildlife habitat is better preserved every year.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) for putting fully on record what happened. Some hard and unfair things have been said in some of the outside lobbying. Some of the people who write those things, while they may care about badgers, do not appear to care about the morality of being unfair to people. That is up to them, but it is exceedingly bad lobbying to proceed in such a way. The result of such lobbying is that my right hon. and hon. Friends, when they hear about proposals for improvements in animal welfare, do not wish to get involved with those people because they feel that they will tell lies about what is intended and publish misleading pamphlets. They feel that it is not worth the candle, and that there will be no gain to anybody from proceeding with such improvements. That is why such behaviour is incompetent lobbying as well as being unfair and wicked.

    We have heard some good speeches this morning. I particularly commend the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) who is rapidly establishing himself as one of the leading animal welfare campaigners. He made a number of fair points and covered the ground. He explained clearly why the clause is a major step forward.

    Like my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey), I am a magistrate and grateful for today's kind words about them. Magistrates are rarely misled about anything. My hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) made an important point, backed up by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton, about whether change in the law in this way is right. However important and emotive the issue, it is essential that we should not be pushed into writing bad law. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North gave one previous precedent for the change of onus of proof and I have a couple more which I hope will encourage my hon. Friends the Members for Solihull and for Surbiton. They fit the changes that we are making today.

    The first comes from the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916. Section 2 provides:
    "Where …it is proved that any money, gift, or other consideration has been paid or given to or received by a person …or agent of a person, holding or seeking to obtain a contract from His Majesty …consideration shall be deemed to have been paid or given and received corruptly … unless the contrary is proved."
    That is a powerful precedent.

    Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, about the carrying of offensive weapons, says:
    "Any person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, the proof whereof shall lie on him, has with him in any public place any offensive weapon shall be guilty of an offence".
    That is a little comparable to the cases that will have to be proved in a court under this Bill. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton that a matter of this importance which affects wildlife will not have escaped the attention of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor who has vetted it closely.

    We have brought before the House, as was always our intention, a clause that represents good law. It will provide additional protection for the badger. I thank my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department for having put on record all the facts. The House can be proud of the work that it has done today for the protection of the badger.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendments made: No. 2, in page 1, line 9 leave out from beginning to end of line 18 and insert—
  • '(b) before subsection (2) there shall be inserted—
  • "(1A) If, in any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) above consisting of attempting to kill, injure or take a badger, there is evidence from which it could reasonably be concluded that at the material time the accused was attempting to kill, injure or take a badger, he shall be presumed to have been attempting to kill, injure or take a badger unless the contrary is shown.".'.
  • No. 3, in page 1, line 18 at end insert—
  • '(2) Section 2 of the Badgers Act 1973 (digging for badgers etc.) shall be amended as follows—
  • (a) before "If' there shall be inserted "(1)";
  • (b) at the end there shall be added—
  • "(2) If, in any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1?(c) above, there is evidence from which it could reasonably be concluded that at the material time the accused was digging for a badger, he shall be presumed to have been digging for a badger unless the contrary is shown.".' . — [Dr. David Clark.]