The State Opening of Parliament saw a Queen’s Speech packed with controversial policy announcements by the government, but missed out any mention of hunting.

Anti-hunting MPs are furious about the omission, and it appears that the coming year will see wall-to-wall squabbling in Parliament, which represents good and bad news for hunting fans.

On the positive side, the more packed the legislative programme, the less likely it is that the government will find time for a prolonged debate on hunting, which would be required by the House of Lords if Mr Blair tries to use the Parliament Act.

Looking at the negative implications, it is highly likely that Mr Blair will use hunting as a carrot for Labour MPs if he receives an awkward time on, for example, his university fees policy.

He already did this a couple of weeks ago when some Labour MPs were encouraged to believe that hunting would be banned if they voted in favour of foundation hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance says that it is remaining vigilant, and is keen to emphasise the importance of keeping the pressure on the government during the next period of Parliament, describing the position as “uniquely vulnerable” during the next nine to ten months.

“The whole political calculation this government makes minute by minute is how much each decision will damage its reputation,” says alliance spokesman Tim Bonner.

“It would hurt them more now to do it [ban hunting] than not to do it. The human rights angle is absolutely critical at this point — the government cannot return a Bill in breach of human rights.”

  • Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s in depth news story about the implications of the contents of the Queen’s Speech in today’s issue (4 December).

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