For the sake of retaining their right to chase foxes across the English and Welsh countryside1 the Countryside Alliance seem prepared to attempt to change the British Constitution. Either they haven’t really thought about the consequences of what they’re proposing or they’re stark raving bonkers.
Their challenge to the recently passed Hunting Act is based on trying to get the courts to declare the 1949 Parliament Act invalid. As I understand it the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 allow the House of Commons to force a bill into law even if the House of Lords has rejected it under certain closely defined conditions.
The 1911 Act was approved by the House of Lords and so can definitely be said to be valid. The 1949 Act, which further restricted the power of the Lords, was passed using the 1911 Act and was not approved by the House of Lords.
The constitutional lawyers will probably have a field day with this one and it would be madness to try to predict what the outcome will be. The CA do, of course, have a perfect right to do this. The British Constitution is based on precedent instead of being fixed in stone. This makes it very fluid and adaptable but unfortunately makes it susceptible to taking strange paths on the whim of strange judges (and there are some very strange judges in the UK).
All of which means that the Countryside Alliance really ought to think very carefully before taking this route. The 1949 Parliament Act has only been used three times before to pass some very important laws2. If the Parliament Act is found to be invalid then the validity of these laws will also be questioned.
No doubt some sort of fudged answer will be found but I find it pretty worrying that a whole haystack of law might be blown away all over an issue which a lot of people probably find pretty trivial (even if they do oppose the hunting of foxes).
1 Fox hunting is already banned in Scotland
2 The laws in question are:
Posted 19 November 2004, 23:16 GMT