THE bill which could spell the end of fox hunting or lead to major changes in the country tradition continues its movement through parliament next week.
For the first time since July, when MPs in the House of Commons voted for an outright ban on hunting with dogs, the new-look Hunting Bill will be considered by the House of Lords on September 16.
The Lords will sit at 2.30pm for the second reading with the debate expected to start at 3.15pm and the meeting scheduled to last until 10pm.
Hunt followers anticipate that the Lords will allow the bill to continue to the committee stage where its terms could then be considered line-by-line in October and any additions or withdrawals made.
Hunt opponents believe the Lords will “tear it apart” at the committee stage and send back a Bill that permits hunting to continue, which would delay any progress.
That would involve MPs in the House of Commons taking another vote on whether to sanction it in a new format and considering whether to invoke the Parliament Act to over-rule the Lords.
The Countryside Alliance, which supports country sports, has been encouraging huntsmen and members of the public to make their feelings known to the Lords at some of this summer’s major Lake District shows.
Jill Grieve, of the Countryside Alliance, said it believed the Lords would adjust the bill into a “more workable, licensing and registration” system.
She said: “We have had some good feedback – members of the Lords are listening to us. We think they will probably take it forward to the committee stage and convert it into a workable piece of legislation, so instead of an outright ban you would get some form of licensing or registration scheme.” Ernie Shepherd, 75, who is joint master and field master with the Coniston Foxhounds, said there was a sense that it could be the last season.
“People are saying we have to enjoy what we have left.” He added: “Mr Blair went to war when nobody wanted him to go to war and a lot of people in this country don’t want him to stop fox hunting, and he will stop it.
“In my view, once they stop fox hunting, they could also wipe foxes out because there will be more shooting of them and they’ll start trapping and snaring them,” said Mr Shepherd.
He said the effect of any ban would spell the end of social occasions for many of those in the rural community and have knock-on effects at hound show events like Rydal and Lowther.
Liam Slattery, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “I think the House of Commons has made it absolutely clear that they represent the vast majority of people in this country and they want to see an end to hunting with dogs. For the unelected members of the House of Lords to try and prevent that, puts them in the minority.” Announcing the MPs’ decision in June, rural affairs minister Alun Michael said: “Anyone who wants to use dogs to hunt other mammals for the specific purpose of pest control will have to prove in advance not only that it is necessary but also that it is the least cruel means of controlling pests.
“If they can’t prove this, they can’t hunt - and enforcement will be simple. Police can check whether or not they are registered; if not, enforcement powers include fines and confiscation of dogs and equipment.” See Farming and Countryside for more.