Select Committee on Constitution Seventh Report

Constitutional aspects of the challenge to the Hunting Act 2004


1.  On 3 December 2002, the Government introduced a bill to allow licensed hunting. The House of Commons passed an amendment proposing to ban hunting entirely, but the bill did not complete all its stages in the House of Lords before the end of the session.[1] The bill was reintroduced to the House of Commons on 9 September 2004 and received Royal Assent as the Hunting Act 2004 on 18 November 2004, when the House of Commons invoked the Parliament Acts after refusing to accept amendments made in the House of Lords.

2.  In the light of the controversy surrounding the passage of the legislation, we invited Professor Rodney Brazier[2] to provide us with an authoritative account of the genesis, main provisions and use of the Parliament Acts, including recent proposals for their legislative reform (as for example were considered by the Wakeham Commission on House of Lords reform[3]), and a discussion of any conventions or practices with regard to their use that may have emerged. We asked that the paper should not be based on original research but should aim to draw together in a single document relevant material already available. The result of Professor Brazier's work is at Appendix 1.

3.  An attempt by pro-hunting groups to challenge the Hunting Act by questioning the legality of the Parliament Act 1949 failed in the Administrative Court (28 January 2005) and the Court of Appeal (8 February 2005). The ban took effect on 18 February 2005. The appeal from the Court of Appeal was argued before the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords ("the Law Lords") in July 2005 and the Committee rejected the appeal in a ruling on 13 October 2005.[4]

4.  Professor Anthony Bradley[5], who was the Constitution Committee's legal adviser until 31 December 2005, provided us with analyses of the decisions of the Administrative Court and the Court of Appeal in rejecting the challenge to the validity of the Hunting Act 2004, and of the reasons given by the Law Lords. His first paper concluded that, unlike the Administrative Court's decision, the reasons for the decision given by the Court of Appeal raised difficult and potentially far-reaching questions about the Parliament Acts 1911-1949 and the use of those Acts in making future constitutional changes. His second paper concluded that, while the nine Law Lords were unanimous in preferring the reasons for the decision given by the Administrative Court to those given by the Court of Appeal, the individual judgments contain many observations on the Parliament Acts 1911-1949 which are of constitutional interest, particularly in regard to the making of further reforms relating to the House of Lords and the relationship between the two Houses. The papers are reproduced at Appendices 2 and 3 respectively.

5.  We publish the three papers for the information of the House and to ensure a wider readership of their analysis of significant questions of principle affecting a principal part of the constitution.

1   First reading was on 10 July 2003, second reading on 16 September, and there were two days in Committee (21 and 28 October) Back

2   Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Manchester; barrister and Additional Bencher (Lincoln's Inn) Back

3   Cm. 4534 (2000) Back

4   R (on the application of Jackson) v Attorney-General [2005] UKHL 56  Back

5   Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University; barrister (Inner Temple); a Vice-President of the International Association of Constitutional Law; alternate UK member of the Council of Europe's Commission on Democracy and the Rule of Law; a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of European and Comparative Law, University of Oxford.  Back

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