The government is rushing through the next stage of its Hunting Bill before the summer recess, hoping to convince the Lords to hurry up with its scrutiny before The Queen’s Speech in the autumn.

New Leader of the House of Commons Peter Hain announced last week that the Bill would have its third reading on Monday, 30 June. However, it faces an extremely tight timetable if it is to reach the statute book in this session of Parliament.

At the same time, Peter Hain issued an unprecedented warning to the Lords not tohinder the legislation. Unlike his predecessor, Robin Cook, who was in favour of hunting, Hain is violently opposed to the sport.

In his new position, he is in charge of Commons business, and, despite reports that Tony Blair may have lost hisappetite for the anti-hunting legislation, Hain wants to make sure it remains on the front burner.

In its last manifesto, the government stated that it wanted to come to a conclusion on this issue during the current Parliamentary session.

Despite varying reports, if the Bill remains stuck in the Lords, it will not be eligible to be carried over into the next session of Parliament, as this rule only applies to Commons business and if there is all-party agreement.

However, the government still has the option to invoke the Parliament Act if the Lords votes in a different way to the Commons.

Rural affairs minister, Alun Michael has warned deputy Prime Minister John Prescott that a complete ban would “wreck” the Bill. There are rumours that Mr Blair would not want to invoke the Parliament Act if the Bill were to ban hunting completely.

Parliamentary protest

Women and children will gather in Parliament Square next Monday as Families 4 Huntingmaintains a vigil intended to focus the minds of MPs on the potential impact of a hunt ban on family life.

The vigil begins at 5pm on Sunday, 29 June, and large crowds are expected to gather in time for the vote on the Hunting Bill at 10.30pm on Monday, 30 June.

TV cook and countrywoman Clarissa Dickson-Wright will be cooking breakfast for the vigil on Monday morning.

For details of the vigil, contact the Campaign for Hunting action office (tel: 01367 850488)

The Countryside Action Network is encouraging its supporters to take part in the vigil and to back it further by driving to Parliament Square between 3-5pm, displaying stickers or posters featuring the hunting message. For more information (tel: 01291 650962).

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (26 June), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.