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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 13:39 GMT
Anti-hunting MPs 'wasting time'
Derwent hunt
The hunt remains a controversial issue
MPs "obsessed" with trying to ban fox hunting are blocking more important legislation, a leading pro-hunt campaigner claims.

Simon Hart, director of the Countryside Alliance Campaign for Hunting, told Radio 4's Today programme that Parliamentary time was being wasted on the issue.

His comments come as pressure grows on the government to lift the hunting ban imposed in February because of foot-and-mouth disease.

Pro-hunting groups are urging a review of the situation, calling on the government to publish a report assessing the risks of hunting spreading foot-and-mouth.

Most people want MPs to be getting on with the important things in life

Simon Hart
Countryside Alliance
Mr Hart said "We don't believe there is any good time for legislation to ban hunting.

"There's certainly no justification for it, there's no need for it.

"I think most of the public are heartily sick of the fact that there are certain MPs who seem completely obsessed with the hunting issue and once-a-week table yet another early day motion.

"Most people want them to be getting on with the important things in life."


Farmers and vets are keenly awaiting the government's veterinary risk assessment, which could pave the way for fox-hunting to resume after the foot-and-mouth crisis.

But Labour's former sports minister, Tony Banks MP, has tabled a Parliamentary early day motion signed by more than 200 MPs from all parties, calling on the government to honour its election manifesto commitment to make time for a vote.

Members of the pro-hunt lobby believe the report has been deliberately delayed for more than a month.

They say it is time for the government to clear up the anxiety for the sake of the rural businesses associated with hunting, which are struggling to survive.

On Wednesday in the Commons, the pro-hunting Labour peer Baroness Mallalieu pressed Farming Minister Lord Whitty to reveal when the risk assessment by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Department (Defra) would be published.

Lord Whitty
Lord Whitty: announcement due shortly
She claimed it had already been with the ministry for five weeks.

Lord Whitty confirmed a report on all forms of hunting currently banned under the foot-and-mouth rules had been received.

He said: "That has to be assessed against the developing state of the disease and the changing regulations which apply to the autumn movements.

"We are now considering all of those things together so that we can treat hunting in the same way as other countryside activities and an announcement will be made on that shortly."

Temporary resumption

Pressure for a resumption of hunting has been growing in the last few weeks as the foot-and-mouth crisis has apparently been brought under control.

The League Against Cruel Sports believes any restart will only be temporary.

It expects a bill to ban hunting to be brought forward in the current parliamentary session.

See also:

31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
MPs urge action on hunting ban
25 Oct 01 | England
Government accused over hunting
26 Oct 01 | Scotland
Legal hurdle to hunting ban bill
19 Sep 01 | Scotland
Vote supports hunting ban
15 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Public back hunt ban, suggests poll
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