THE HUNTING Bill has passed through its second reading in the House of Lords on Tue (Oct 12) following a lengthy debate that lasted nearly nine hours.

Lord Whitty, who introduced the Bill, told the Upper House that the Lords were in “the last-chance saloon” as he urged peers not to provoke a clash with MPs.

“The ball is in the court, in this House, of those who have supported hunting in its present form to offer a way forward, or alternatively to accept the bill as it now stands, if we are not to provoke the use of the Parliament Act,” said Lord Whitty.

Had the Lords voted against the Bill and blocked its passage then the government would have used the Parliament Act to force the Bill on to the statute book.

The Bill now moves to the committee stage where it is expected that peers will seek to amend it and produce a compromise that would allow hunting to continue under licence.

It is expected they will offer the “Middle Way” compromise that was refused by the Commons in March 2003.

Peers across the chamber condemned the use of the Parliament Act insisting they would resist attempts to impose a ban.

Lord Mancroft, a director of the Countryside Alliance, accused ministers of acting like a “fascist dictatorship”.

Lord Burns, who chaired the government inquiry into fox hunting, made a rare intervention adding criticism to the proposed use of the Parliament Act.

“I do find it very difficult to accept the use of the Parliament Act in circumstances where there is no scientific support for the animal welfare implications of a ban,” said Lord Burns.

“I fear it could only be divisive in the country at large, as well as being inconsistent with the use of that procedure.”