A CHAMPION for the rural way of life has announced its intention to fight a proposal to ban hunting with dogs by turning to the House of Lords and the courts.
The surprise decision by Labour MPs to reject a Government compromise allowing restricted hunting in favour of an outright ban has caused pro-hunters to muster their forces ready for a battle.
Leaders of the Countryside Alliance will try to persuade the House of Lords the Hunting Bill should be based on regulation covering all forms of hunting with dogs based on evidence and proper definitions of utility and least suffering.
The Alliance is likely to get a sympathetic hearing from the Lords who have traditionally been in favour of hunting and are expected to reject their parliamentary colleagues' proposal.
However, the elected chamber of the House of Commons would ultimately gets its way under the rarely used Parliament Act. If that looked likely, the Alliance would challenge the projected use of the Parliament Act in the courts with the help of leading constitutional lawyers.
The Alliance is also prepared to mount a challenge in the courts under the Human Rights Act. Alliance regional director for the North West Tom Fell, said: 'This campaign will reflect the determination of decent people never to submit to unjust laws. It will be long and arduous but our widespread support, and the justice of our cause, will sap the political will of our opponents and those who might give in to them.
'We will campaign, and campaign relentlessly, not just for the hunting community, not just for the rural community, but for everyone in our society who values freedom, fairness and the proper working of democracy.'
Stephen O'Brien, Conservative MP for Eddisbury, opposed the proposal for an outright ban on hunting and is furious that the Government, which had suggested a compromise solution, backed off in the end to appease its backbenchers.
He told The Chronicle: 'Tony Blair has made a pretence of proposing a regulated hunt but then withdrawn it to buy the support of his back-benchers in time for the debate about Foundation hospitals.
'This will be deeply damaging to the rural economy and the interests of my constituents.'
In contrast, Chester's Labour MP Christine Russell backed the radical amendment by Tony Banks, in voting for the ban in a free vote.
She said: 'I hope that the amendment to ban fox hunting with dogs supported by a large majority of MPs, will send a powerful signal to the House of Lords.'
The amendment, supported by 362 MPs with 154 against, means the Bill has fundamentally changed and it will be referred back to the Standing Committee to ensure it remains free of internal contradiction.