Anti-hunting MPs agonised by absence of Hunting Bill

  • Anti-hunting MPs are becoming increasingly nervous that so-called ‘promises’ of the re-introduction of the hunting bill are unlikely to materialise before the summer recess.

    Gerald Kaufmann, Tony Banks and Dennis Skinner were some of the most outspoken members at yesterday’s Business Statement, from which the hunting bill was once again absent.

    There has been intense speculation on the hunting question since January, with various ‘top-ministerial sources’ being quoted on a regular basis as having pledged that Labour backbenchers will be appeased in the matter of the hunting Bill.

    But no such appeasement has yet materialised, and as the summer recess on 22 July approaches, and no mention of hunting made, those fervently anti-hunting MPs who have made it their business to pursue the matter of the hunting Bill seem to be suffering from ever-increasing nerves.

    Dennis Skinner (Labour MP for Bolsover) clarified why anti-hunting MPs are becoming so edgy when he stated that he deemed 11 October, until which date it appeared to him the Government were waiting to introduce a bill, as “too late”.

    Parliament resumes on 7 September, but Conference recess runs from 16 September until 11 October, after which it is no more than a matter of a couple of weeks before the Queen’s speech and the end of the session. After a new session has begun, a Bill cannot be re-introduced.

    Tony Banks (Labour, West Ham) mentioned “a degree of nervousness” felt by Labour backbenchers regarding their wish for hunting to be banned, but Leader of the House Peter Hain stated yesterday that he had “nothing further to add” to his previous comments, made as the hunting question has been raised repeatedly in business statements. Last week, Mr Hain stressed that he “would make an announcement when he was ready to do so”, and that “we will see what transpires”.

    A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports continued to express optimism, saying that “every indication from every MP we talk to points to the fact that the Government will stick to its promises.”

    But through the optimism came an admission that the timings were not quite as the league would have liked: “Obviously our preference would be to see the issue dealt with before the summer recess, but we are still confident that this bill will receive Royal Assent before the end of the session.”

    Anti-hunting MPs have been pressing for the Goverment to use tactics usually reserved for emergency legislation in order to push the Bill through the commons in one day. It would then have to sit with the Lords for 30 days. Thereafter, the wheels of the Parliament Act could be set in motion for a ban to be in place by next February.

    The Countryside Alliance issued a stern warning against any complacency however. A spokesman said: “It now looks unlikely that any Hunting Bill will return before the summer recess, but we must be very aware that it could still be possible for the Bill to be brought back before the end of the session.

    “It is important that we keep up our campaigns, and continue to extend support by such means as our Countryside to Town Campaign.”

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