Gerald Kaufman – the quiet man who roared for animals

By Douglas Batchelor, former CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports

The Gerald Kaufman I knew was a consummate parliamentarian and a man of principle. He didn't shout, he didn't need to, he didn't suffer fools gladly and he had a gleam in his eye when you caught it.

Portrait of Gerald Kauffman | Copyright The Labour Party

During the passage of the Hunting Act into law he played a key part. MPs were promised that they would have a vote on whether or not to ban hunting. On the final day the Government stacked the amendments on the order paper in an order that meant that if they voted as the Government had wished for licensed hunting, their amendment to ban hunting for sport would not be voted on.

Sir Gerald, Tony Banks and others protested to the Speaker that this was not what they had been promised. The Minister Alun Michael tried to force it through but couldn't, the Secretary of State Margaret Becket joined him on the front bench and still MPs wouldn't have it. Seeing that things were not going their way, unprecedentedly, the two Ministers went to Downing Street mid debate and told the Prime Minister that he had two choices, either allow the vote which would take out the licensing clauses in their entirety or pull the Bill.

As time went on MPs realised that the Government were not sure they had the votes to force what they wanted, licensing, through. Gerald and Tony rallied their troops and the Government agreed to withdraw their amendment and to allow the amendment, taking out the licensing clauses, that was finally passed to go first.

All of this was a triumph of Parliamentarians, led by Gerald and Tony, using the tools at their disposal in Parliament. It isn't often that the men of principle can take on a Government Bill in Government time and amend it so substantially. That takes real skill, determination and the knowledge gained through years of experience of how to use parliamentary procedures to force change.

Sir Gerald never gloried in what he helped us all to achieve that day but I am sure he thought of it as a Parliamentary job well done over a matter of principle and that for him was what really mattered.

All of us, who saw hunting and coursing with dogs for sport made a crime by the Hunting Act, should remember that the quiet man, Sir Gerald, had the loudest voice when it really mattered. And for that we should all remember him and give thanks.

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