Burns speaks out against use of Parliament Act

  • During the Second Reading of the Hunting Bill in the House of Lords yesterday, Peers debated the issue until the early hours of the morning.

    The vast majority of speakers yesterday evening spoke in support of licensing rather than an outright ban on the activity, in accordance with Alun Michael’s Bill of 2002.

    Lord Burns, who headed the Government inquiry into hunting with dogs in 2000, has remained silent in the debate until now because he felt that he “had little to add to what was said in the report”.

    Yesterday, however, he was driven to “make some observations about the process that has been and is underway.”

    He commented: “I find it difficult to accept the use of the Parliament Act in circumstances in which there is no clear scientific support for the animal welfare implications of a ban.

    “I fear that it can only be divisive in the country at large, as well as being inconsistent with the use of that procedure,” he added.

    The Parliament Act has been used just three times since the 1911 Parliament Act was amended in 1949. It is designed to be used to push through urgent Government business or to realise manifesto pledges.

    The Prime Minister is known to privately support the compromise of licensed hunting Bill. In Monday morning’s briefing, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson reiterated that the Prime Minister’s support for the compromise proposal put forward by Alun Michael was on the record.

    But while the overwhelming feeling in the House of Lords yesterday was that Peers were prepared to budge on the issue, there has, as yet, been no such indication from the Commons and the Labour environment Minister Lord Whitty hinted that the Government would not compromise. “The Will of the elected chamber must prevail” he said.

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