THE COUNTRYSIDE Alliance will on Friday (Nov 19) deliver its legal challenge to the validity of the Parliament Act to the High Court.

The CA has been preparing the challenge for some time since it became apparent the government was prepared to force the Hunting Bill on to the statute books using the Parliament Act.

During a late-night session on Tue (Nov 16) MPs voted by 321 to 204 against a deal that would have allowed the regulated hunting of foxes to continue.

Earlier in the day MPs voted overwhelmingly by 343 to 175 against the Lords‘ amended Bill that would have allowed for licensed hunting of foxes, stags and hares.

The CA delivered notification to the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, on Tue detailing its intention to challenge the Parliament Act 1949 should the government pursue its threat to use the Act.

“The series of Parliamentary challenges are now over and we now move on to the legal challenges,” said Simon Hart, chief executive of the CA.

“The challenge to the Parliament Act should receive its first hearing during Jan 2005 and we would hope for a mid-year conclusion.”

To date the CA has managed to raise about £2.5m in preparation for legal proceedings which also include a challenge to the Human Rights Act on the basis that the Bill makes no provision for compensation.

Although the CA is prepared to fight a case under the Human Rights Act, it will not be able to take its challenge to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg until the Bill comes into effect.

Anti-hunt MP Tony Banks was not concerned by the CA‘s intentions.

“Parliament is the highest court. There is no superior court,” he said.

“If they want to spend their money, good luck to them – I‘m sure they will find a lawyer who will take it.”

Mr Hart also warned those who enjoyed shooting and fishing not to trust the government when it said it did not intend to ban those pursuits.

“Anybody who hopes the government can be relied on to protect shooting and fishing should beware of backbenchers who will stop at nothing to get their way.”

“Those who watched the debate in the Commons on Tuesday should be under no illusion – this was an attack on rural Britain.”

On Thurs (Nov 18) the rual affairs minister, Alun Michael, introduced an amendment that would delay the introduction of the ban for 18-months until July 2006.

Fearful that a deal had been struck anti-hunting MPs reacted angrily, but eventually accepted the amendment.

But the Lords, unwilling to pass the motion which would delay the ban until after the general election rejected the proposal by 153 votes to 114 meaning the ban will come in to effect on Feb 18 2005.