Letter: Judge's ruling on council hunting ban ignores electors

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The Independent Online
Sir: The bizarre ruling by Mr Justice Laws (report, 10 February) that Somerset County Council exceeded its powers by banning stag hunting from council-owned land seems to put hunts in a privileged position.

The Government is already going to make trespass by hunt protesters a criminal offence, and allow hunts to call upon the police to protect their activities. Private landowners and individuals who suffer from hunts running amok over their land will have no such privilege. They will have to pay their own legal expenses by taking civil action through the courts.

Now we have a court ruling which states that democratically elected representatives do not have the power to ban activities that the majority of their electors find disruptive and loathsome.

Parliament should decide whether such so-called sports have any place in a civilised society. Labour is committed to providing parliamentary time for a free vote on this matter. The problem is that while a Conservative government holds the majority, there will never be an opportunity for such a vote, except by the tenuous method of a Private Member's Bill.

In the meantime, all those councils that have banned hunting from their land are to be congratulated. They are representing the views of the people whose property they hold in trust.

Hunting with hounds is condemned by the vast majority of the people in this country, even in the areas where it takes place. If the Quantock Staghounds disagree with that, I challenge them to organise an independent referendum of the people of Somerset. We shall then see who the people really back on this matter, elected councils or unelected judges.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

The writer is Labour spokesperson on animal welfare.