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Minister free with spin - economic with truth

Henry | 01.10.2004 15:19

Junior DEFRA Minister Alun Michael has continued to mislead, deceive and spin over his handling of the hunting issue.

Having falsely claimed last week that he pulled out of an engagement on police advice that there would be violent protest Mr. Michael this morning made a number of misleading claims in an interview on the Today programme.

He claimed that:

The House of Lords "failed to engage" with the Hunting Bill in the last session
The Lords was recreating the structure of Alun Michael's original Bill after MPs had, to use his own word, "wrecked" it.

The House of Lords had "plenty of time to engage with the Bill"
The Government refused to give peers more than two Committee days. The Government gave MPs 77 hours to debate the Bill in Committee, but the Lords were given just 12 hours to scrutinise the "wrecked" Bill in Committee.

Hunting is "cruel"
The Government's own inquiry found that it is as humane as all other methods of control, and Lord Burns himself directly rejected the proposition in the House of Lords*.

The Countryside Alliance "did little to help efforts to find a way through"
The Alliance has always been quite clear in its support for workable licensing legislation** based, as the Minister promised, on 'principle and evidence'.

The Alliance has been "playing with" the idea that "hare coursing should go"
The Alliance specifically rejected proposals to ban coursing and staghunting in Mr. Michael's original Bill. The Minister has also been asked on dozens of occasions to produce the "incontrovertible evidence" he claimed as his justification for banning coursing and staghunting. That evidence has never been forthcoming and the Mr Michael has been described as "scientifically illiterate" by Professor Patrick Bateson who carried out an extensive inquiry into staghunting.
Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: "It is not good enough for the Minister to cite support in the House of Commons alone as a justification for enacting unjust legislation, which is in direct contravention of the 'evidence and principle' on which the Government promised to resolve this issue.

"He knows as well as we do that the Government enabled Parliament to conclude this issue by introducing its licensing Bill, but the prejudice of the House of Commons has consistently blocked any resolution.

"In the last session Mr. Michael brought forward a Bill to license hunting, the Prime Minister says that it "remains" his preferred outcome and the hunting community has always been clear that it would accept workable, evidence-based licensing legislation. In this situation it would be obscene if the Government allowed the bigots on its backbenches to drive through prejudiced and unjust law