High court challenge begins

  • Sir Sydney Kentridge QC will this morning lead the challenge to the Parliament Act being brought under the names of three petitioners: John Jackson, chairman of the Countryside Alliance; Mair Hughes, a blacksmith’s wife from Glamorgan and Patrick Martin; huntsman of the Bicester with Whaddon Chase Hunt.

    The aim of the challenge is to prove that the 1949 Parliament Act is unlawful because it was passed without the consent of the House of Lords. Sir Sydney Kentridge is going to argue that because of this, the true Parliament Act is the previous one passed in 1911, which ruled that the House of Lords must reject legislation three times before a law can be forced onto the statue book without its consent.

    The Hunting Act came before the Lords only twice in the last session, according to the rules of the 1949 Act.

    John Jackson said this morning: “This case has little to do with hunting and much to do with the constitutional arrangements in our country and respect for the law. We are asking the High Court to rule that the Parliament Act of 1949 which was used to impose the Hunting Act, is invalid and cannot be used to impose anything.”

    In reply to questioners accusing him of undermining the supremacy of the elected house – the House of Commons – over the unelected members of the House of Lords, Mr Jackson replied: “We are not disrupting the supremacy of Parliament. Parliament is the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Sovereign acting together and together, as Parliament, they have the ultimate right to make the law. But Parliament, and its constituent parts, must itself abide by the law which it has made. That is what the Rule of Law means.”

    The hearing is due to last two days, with Mr Kentridge going up against the Attorney General himself who will defend the Act, in an unusual appearance by the chief legal adviser to the government. A ruling is due on Friday with room for an appeal from the CA, should the decision go against them.

    Mr Jackson also said there was, as yet, no decision to be made on whether the Alliance would be applying for an injunction on the ban to delay its enforcement while the court case continues: “There is no need for us to consider that at present,” he said. “We are concentrating on our case today, we believe it is a strong one, and we believe we will win.”

    The League Against Cruel Sports has also said it will be present in court today to argue against any appeal for an injunction the CA might make, arguing that they were “seeking to uphold parliamentary democracy by opposing any delay to the commencement of the ban lasting beyond February 18, the date agreed by Parliament.”

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