Hunting will be firmly back on the agenda tomorrow with an announcement expected in the Business Statement that the Hunting Bill, as amended to ban all hunting, will be re-introduced to the Commons next week.
As had been widely speculated, the leader of the House, Peter Hain, is expected to use emergency procedures to schedule all Commons stages of the Bill on one day, which will allow the Bill the requisite 30 days in the House of Lords before the end of the session. This will in turn make it possible for the Parliament Act to be employed should the Lords reject or amend the Bill.
The news comes as little surprise to the hunting community, but following eons of media speculation during the course of this Parliamentary year, this last-ditch attempt by the Government to mollify Labour backbenchers will galvanise feelings of fury and betrayal among hunting and rural communities throughout the country.
While the Government may be relying on emergency and extraordinary legislative procedures to push through the Bill, the path will far from smooth. It has been reported that the Lords have already threatened that other Bills of importance to the Government could be sacrificed in order to allow enough time to debate the Hunting Bill.
“The reality is that the Government has planned the timing of the reintroduction of the Hunting Bill so that it interferes as little as possible with other legislation”, explained Lord Donoughue.
“Providing we are given enough time, which we weren’t last time, to give the Bill the scrutiny it requires, it will without question present problems for the rump of the Government’s program,” he continued, concluding that it “would be outrageous if an important measure such as the Gambling Bill, which is essential to Britain, were delayed because of this nonsensical and prejudiced piece of legislation.”
An inside source, however, states that such a course would be extremely unusual:
“The Government has behaved with great duplicity through all this, and it would be extraordinary for them not to allow the Lords time to discuss the Hunting Bill properly, as they have never really been given the time to do so.
“However, while it would not be so unusual for the Government to extend the session in order to allow for extra time, it would be extraordinary to drop another piece of legislation on account of the Hunting Bill, and it would be an astounding statement of the Government’s priorities if they were to do so.”
The Countryside Alliance (CA) explains that the battle is far from over. In fact, it has only just begun. “The last thing that people must do is to think that it’s all over, and that they should just turn their backs and walk away”, said a spokesman.
The Alliance explains that they are ready “to challenge the validity of [the 1949 Parliament Act] as soon as it is clear that the Bill is subject to the use of the Parliament Act (i.e. that it is exactly the same text). In addition it may also be necessary to challenge the validity of the ‘Speaker’s Certificate’ (necessary for the Parliament Act to apply) in relation to any attempt to use it.”
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