Hunting Bill to face legal challenge

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Indy Politics

The pro-hunting lobby is planning a legal challenge to scupper a government plan to ban hunting by February.

The pro-hunting lobby is planning a legal challenge to scupper a government plan to ban hunting by February.

Ministers will next week announce plans to bring back a Bill banning fox-hunting within the next fortnight. The long-awaited Bill, which would outlaw all organised hunting with dogs, is expected to be become law at the end of November.

It could come into force as early as February next year, after a three-month period for hunts to adjust to the change.

But the Countryside Alliance is planning a dual challenge that it hopes will scupper the plans.

Pro-hunting lawyers are to argue that plans to use the Parliament Act - a little-used device to push a Bill past the House of Lords if it blocks the will of MPs - are illegal. They are also expected to argue that a hunting Bill would breach human rights legislation.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said that depriving people of income from contracts relating to hunting would be in breach of EU human rights law.

A wave of pro-hunting demonstrations, including one at this year's Labour party conference and several at Westminster, are also being planned.

Labour MPs will be delighted at the decision to bring in a hunting ban, promised by Tony Blair in July 1999.

The Bill will be introduced into the Commons in two weeks, when it is expected to be approved almost immediately. But the Bill is expected to be heavily amended in the Lords - in effect blocking its passage - which will allow the House of Commons Speaker to invoke the Parliament Act.

Douglas Batchelor, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said he was delighted that Mr Blair was planning to honour his promise to ban hunting.

"We have been waiting for 80 years for this moment," he said. "We are very pleased the Government has finally decided to honour their promises."

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