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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 16:58 GMT
Hunt bill axed
Hunt
Hunting with dogs is safe for now
The government is axing seven of its own bills, including controversial legislation banning hunting, because of the general election.

Tony Blair's poll date announcement on Tuesday leaves parliament with just three full working days before it is dissolved on Monday.

With time at a premium ministers have to seek Conservative and Liberal Democrat co-operation to ensure the passage of the most important bills while sacrificing others.

Bills axed
Hunting
Homes
International Development
Tobacco Advertising
Commonhold & Leasehold Reform
Culture & Recreation
Adoption & Children
The demise of the Hunting Bill was widely expected.

Another high-profile casualty of Monday's dissolution will be the Homes Bill, which aims to tackle gazumping and introduces property sellers' packs.

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, which would lead to a ban on cigarette adverts and sponsorship, also falls.

The House of Commons was told the fate of the bills at various stages of the parliamentary process by Leader of the House Margaret Beckett.

She indicated the government would be seeking to overturn the Lords defeat of proposals that effectively abolish community health councils and thereby ensure the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Seven other bills yet to complete their Lords stages are set to become law, including the high-profile 'anti-yob' Criminal Justice and Police Bill.

Bills saved
Criminal Justice & Police
Children's Commissioner for Wales
Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification)
Armed Forces
Social Security Contributions
Rating (Former Agricultural Premises & Rural Shops)
Finance
Consolidated Fund
The Labour Party will be relieved that the House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Bill is also among those set to make it through to Royal Assent.

Without the measure, which abolishes a law dating back to the 18th century, one of their candidates who is a former Roman Catholic priest could have been barred from sitting as an MP even if he had won.

Mrs Beckett's announcement followed tough negotiations between party business managers as the government attempted to save its most important measures and opposition parties sought to gain maximum advantage.

Shadow leader of the house Angela Browning protested particularly at the demise of the International Development and Homes bills.

"It is I think regrettable that, having had a Queen's Speech in this session as late as December last year, priority has been given to legislation regarding foxes rather than international development and the homeless."

'Fag end' business

But Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Tyler blamed the Tories for the fall of the International Development Bill, expressing "concern and astonishment" that they had, he said, chosen to block it.

However, he also called for reform of the way parliamentary business was thrashed out at the "fag end" of sessions.

"There is an element of stage-managed brinkmanship at this end of a parliament but this time that really is rather extraordinary given that we have all known this was coming for many months."

Mrs Beckett said the demise of legislation was a "source of regret" but insisted there was nothing to stop the Conservatives allowing the International Development Bill to proceed.

She said the way end-of-parliament business was handled was a "feature of our system" but denied the government had sought to "steam roller" legislation through.

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