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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
How hunt ban could be forced through
The Hunting Bill will go before the House of Lords
Peers have already rejected one attempt to ban hunting
A little-used act of Parliament may be employed by the government to force through the ban on hunting with hounds.

The government may resort to using the Parliament Act of 1949 if the House of Lords continues to oppose a ban on hunting.

By using the act, the government can pass a bill into law without the Lords' agreement after a year.

Two years ago, peers voted by 317 to 68 against a ban. The hunting bill was dropped when the general election was called.

After its surprise retreat in the Commons over a much-vaunted compromise which would have allowed some hunting to continue , the government is expecting peers to again reject a total ban.

The bill will now return to a committee of MPs and go before the Lords in the autumn.

If, as expected, the Lords throw out the Hunting Bill, the government would have to employ the Parliament Act to get the ban on the statute books.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael said he hoped the Lords "would not block" the legislation, but said the fovernment would not shy away from using the Parliament Act to force legislation through.

Royal assent

He said he would be "very surprised" if people were still hunting in a couple of years.

Parliament Acts
Since 1949 only three acts have become law without the consent of the House of Lords. They are:
The War Crimes Act 1991
The European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999
The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000

Since 1949 when the Parliament Act was given royal assent, only three acts have been passed into law without the consent of the House of Lords.

It was used by the Tories to pass the War Crimes Act in 1991, allowing Nazi war criminals to be brought to trial; twice by Labour in 1999 to implement the European Parliamentary Elections Act on proportional representation for MEPs, and in 2000 for the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act lowering the age of consent for homosexuals to 16.

If the Hunting Bill is blocked by the Lords or runs out of time before the end of this parliamentary session, the government could reintroduce it into the Queen's Speech at the opening session of Parliament in November.

Ban on hunting

To qualify for the Parliament Act, the Bill would need to be reintroduced in the same form as it leaves the Commons - with a total ban on hunting.

Provided it is passed again by the Commons it would then go to the Lords in early 2004. The government could only invoke the Parliament Act if peers were deemed to have blocked the bill for a second time.

If the Lords voted the bill down, it would still become law by the end of the session, providing the Commons speaker has certified that the provisions of the Parliament Act have been complied with.

Successive governments have been reluctant to use the Parliament Act to ride roughshod over peers.

There is broad acceptance in the upper house that, as MPs are elected and Lords are not, debates on the principles of legislation should be resolved in the House of Commons and that the House of Lords should be merely a revising Chamber, altering some aspects of bills.

Under the Salisbury Convention which followed World War II, the House of Lords is expected not to reject manifesto commitments on the grounds that such pledges have been approved by the people.

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