The Second Reading of the hunting Bill has been taking place in the House of Lords this afternoon. It seems likely that the Lords will scrutinise and modify the banning Bill to a licensing system.
The Lords are expected to amend the Bill to Alun Michael’s licensing Bill of November 2002. To this end, just two amendments are likely to be tabled.
Firstly, the Bill will affect all hunting, unlike the current Bill, which, as Labour Peer Baroness Mallalieu explained to her fellow Peers this afternoon, allows the hunting of mice but not rats with dogs, and similarly the hunting of rabbits but not hares.
The second amendment will relate to the question of the utility test. This will be considered in the broader context of wildlife management rather than pest control.
Lord Whitty, Agricultural Minister, introduced the Bill this afternoon, warning the Lords that they were in their “last chance saloon”.
“We need to offer a way forward or accept the bill as it now stands in order to avoid a deadlock between the two houses,” he continued. He did, however, emphasise that should a deadlock be reached, the Commons and the Lords would not face a “constitutional crisis” as some have implied.
The Committee stage of the Bill is to come at the end of the month, from October 26-28 and then the Third Reading and two days’ report stage follow on November 8. In the week of November 15 the Bill, as amended by the Lords, will go back to the Commons.
Prorogation is expected on the 18 November, leaving just three days for the Commons to either accept the new Bill for further Commons debate, or to invoke the Parliament Act.