The Parliament Act was used last night to force the Hunting Bill into law. Hunting will now be banned in 90 days time.
After the Lords rejected an amendment made by the Commons to delay the ban for 18 months, leaving the disagreement between the two Houses unresolved, Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, invoked the Act for only the fourth time since 1949 to force the Bill onto the statute books.
The bill immediately received royal assent, and is now law. Hunting will be banned in England and Wales from February 18 next year.
Amid confused and chaotic scenes in the Commons yesterday, MPs voted against the Government’s preferred option of delaying the ban until 2007 in favour of an 18-month delay.
Alun Michael, the Rural Affairs Minister, accused the Lords of struggling against the inevitable by behaving like: “turkeys voting for Christmas”.
The Lords voted, by a narrow margin, against the 18-month delay, a move thought to be a conscious effort by pro-hunt peers to make the ban an issue in time for the general election.
MPs disagreed, and as a result, Peter Hain invoked the Parliament Act, requiring that the original Government Bill was passed into law.
Conservatives have pledged to overturn the ban if they win the election. Conservative Minister James Gray said: “I look forward to the opportunity to propose the repeal of this disgraceful, prejudiced and ignorant little bill.”
Simon Hart of the Countryside Alliance, which is planning to launch two legal challenges against the ban, expressed his fury at the scenes in Parliament: “The chaos and deceit that has surrounded today’s events is a fitting finale to what has been one of the most ridiculous, dishonest and time-consuming episodes in Parliamentary history.
“The Government’s behaviour, and its pathetic attempt to shirk responsibility for its actions, has only served to bring it further into disrepute. We will now launch the next stage of our campaign in the courts, and in the country.”