Hunting bill clears the Commons

The controversial bill to ban hunting with dogs cleared the House of Commons on Wednesday, July 9, by 317 votes to 145. MPs rejected an amendment by Tory Rural Affairs spokesman, James Gray, to compensate those who will lose their jobs and homes if a ban is enforced on the grounds that the proposal was “impractical and unworkable” and would bear “huge and unjustifiable” costs to tax payers.

Across the road, hunting supporters and their dogs gathered to demonstrate against the bill. Although only hunts within 150 miles from London were invited to the rally, the turnout was impressive.

Hundreds of hounds, beagles, lurchers and terriers took over Parliament Square, wagging their tails under placards that highlighted the devastating effects a hunting ban would have on the livesof working dogs and their handlers.

“It’s a disgrace that when this government bans hunting it is also banning the lives of thousands of dogs,” Robin Page told the crowd. “This has nothing to do with democracy. This has to do with domination.”

Robin, who was arrested last year for comments he made during a pro-hunting demonstration, went on to say that “bad laws are made to be broken and we shall all break this”.

Expectations were high that the House of Lords would give the Bill “proper revision”, according to the chief executive designate of the Countryside Alliance, Simon Hart, who said: “I think people overlook the fact that Parliament is made of two houses, so this issue is for both to resolve.”

“I have great confidence in the House of Lords,” agreed Labour MP for Vauxhall, Kate Hoey. “They will want to look at this very carefully and make sure that such a Bill never sees the light of day at the end.”

Because the House of Lords is likely to reject it inits current form, speculation is rife that the government will use Parliament Act to force the legislation through.

“It would be a constitutional obscenity if the Parliament Act were used to push through a Bill which, by the Government”s own admission, is flawed”, said Simon.

However, anti-hunting organisations, such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, insist that the Government has all but assured them that hunting ban will become law.

“We fully anticipate that the Lords will reject the Bill,” said Lis Key from IFAW. “The difference is that in this instance we have received assurances that the Parliament Act can apply. In the Standing Committee last week, Rural Affairs Minister, Alun Michael was confident aboutthis.”

Director of Political Affairs for the Countryside Alliance, John Gardiner, thinks that the Government knows better than to resort to the little-used Parliament Act for such a minor issue as hunting.

“Ms Key is from IFAW so it is obvious that she would see things this way,” he said. “But I don’t think Downing Street and other sensible people will want to use the Parliament Act when the Bill as it stands is divisive and discriminatory.

“A criminal law must have the consent of the people and this Bill clearly does not have the consent of the people. This is why there are so many people here today and there will be many more wherever we go. We are never going to give in.”

And this is really the underlying messagefrom the hunting community. Rally organiser Chipps Mann said that there is “plenty more in the pipeline, although everything will have an edge to it now. We are going to fight this unjust law and they’d better get used to it.”

As another of the organisers, Liz Wills, put it, “we’ll be there to greet any minister that comes to the country – and they will know we are there. We have great imagination.”

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