By Graham DinesPolitical EditorHUNTING with hounds will be banned in England and Wales from February 18 next year after the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin invoked the Parliament Act last night to force the Hunting Bill on to the statute book.
By Graham Dines
HUNTING with hounds will be banned in England and Wales from February 18 next year after the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin invoked the Parliament Act last night to force the Hunting Bill on to the statute book.
Mr Martin told the House of Commons that the Act was being applied for only the fourth time since 1949 in order to send the Bill for Royal Assent because agreement could not be reached with the House of Lords.
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Peers maintained their stubborn resistence to a ban up to the brink, voting by 153-114 to retain regulated hunting.
This was a direct disagreement with thecompromise offered by MPs, who although wanted to see the end of hunting, voted earlier in the day to delay the implementation of the ban until the end of July 2006.
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Fox-hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing with dogs – was banned three months after the Bill received Royal Assent.
Mr Martin told MPs he had received a note from the Lords informing him that "they insisted on amendments to which the Commons have disagreed . . . and they disagree to the amendment proposed by the Commons."
The peers' decision had "brought us to the end of the road." said the Speaker.
"I am satisfied that all the provisions of the Parliament Act have been met," he said.
"Accordingly, I have to tell the House that I have certified the Hunting Bill under Section 2 of the Parliament Act 1911, as amended by the Parliament Act 1949.
"The Bill will be sent for Royal Assent."
It ended a Westminster saga which has seen hunting take up 700 hours of debate in the Commons and Lords, producing 10 successive votes by MPs in favour of a ban over the course of six years.
But it is unlikely to mark the end of the bitter row over hunting. The Human Rights Act may also be invoked as the basis for a legal challenge.
The result of the stand-off between the Upper and Lower Houses will be unwelcome to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who wanted any ban delayed until after the General Election, expected next May.
A February ban now raises the prospect of the election campaign taking place against a backdrop of clashes between huntsmen and police and the mass culling of foxhounds.
A Government amendment, which would have put the ban off until July 2007, was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs. One MP who did support the move was Alan Hurst, the Labour member for Braintree in Essex.