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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: TONY BANKS, MP, FORMER SPORTS MINISTER MARCH 3RD, 2002
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DAVID FROST: This week came the announcement that MPs would be given another opportunity to ban hunting with dogs. The bill passes through parliament and it could be outlawed in England and Wales by late next year. Labour Party officials deny they've organised the vote as a reward to backbenchers who supported the Transport Secretary Stephen Byers a few days ago. I'm joined now by the former Sports Minister and an advocate of legislation, the one and only Tony Banks. Good morning Tony.
TONY BANKS: Good morning David.
DAVID FROST: You're not just being rewarded for supporting Stephen Byers.
TONY BANKS: No, I mean that's a typical bit of sort of cynical journalese. I'm not accusing you of that - of course. The idea that there's always got to be an ulterior motive is something that journalists love. It's demeaning to, you know, to the campaign that's been going for years, to try and get a ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs. The enormous amount of pressure that's been put on the Prime Minister in the Parliamentary Labour Party at our meetings, the backbench members, a committee who go to see him regularly, keep saying "when are we going to carry out our manifesto undertaking and the Queen's Speech promise. So to link that with, you know, with Stephen Byers, as we've been chucked a bone, is, is nonsense, it's demeaning - and quite frankly if that was the way, I would even start cheering Peter Mandelson because if we get what we want by helping beleaguered ministers then that's the key to policy success. It's nonsense!
DAVID FROST: It's not just the journalists who have been cynical this week, some of the politicians have been pretty cynical -
TONY BANKS: Oh heaven forfend.
DAVID FROST: Pardon.
TONY BANKS: Heaven forfend.
DAVID FROST: Heaven forfend. Now tell me, how are you going to get this through with opposition in the House of Lords?
TONY BANKS: Well, the interesting thing is, of course, is that we'll get ..
DAVID FROST: Because you don't want to compromise, you want the full ..
TONY BANKS: (OVERLAPS) No. No, no, I mean, the so-called, the so-called middle way option is licensed killing. It's no great consolation to a wild mammal that it's been ripped to pieces according to some sort of latter-day Queensbury rules. So I don't think that is, it isn't acceptable and it won't be accepted by the House of Commons, there'll be a massive majority for a total ban, as there was before. What will then happen, I assume, is that, is that the Lords will shift their position, because previously they went for the status quo, and put them in direct conflict with the House of Commons. I think what will happen now, they'll go for this sort so-called middle way option, which is one that Robin Cook and a number of senior ministers seem to fancy, and they'll go for that and then it will be brought back to us and I think ministers will still try and say is it not possible to get a deal here. The answer is, no it isn't. Someone's got to win and in my opinion, and in the opinion of the great majority of MPs in the House of Commons, and public opinion generally, the winners have got to be those that want the total ban.
DAVID FROST: And what's really wrong with the compromise? Do you hate all compromises? I mean it would be a bit better wouldn't it?
TONY BANKS: No. I mean -
DAVID FROST: It would be a bit better ¿
TONY BANKS: Well maybe a bit better, I mean obviously, I mean I've got nothing wrong, I've got no problem with compromises, I mean, you know, it, if it actually gives people the majority of what they want. But I don't really see how licensed killing is actually going to give us what we want, which is to end the suffering of animals, and turning, you know, with control of certain animals into some sort of blood-lust driven sport. I don't understand the mentality there and the middle way, incidentally, the licensed killing, they've got no policy with regards to hare-coursing, you know, so I don't understand why they think that they should, as it were, try and effect a deal with us when honestly it doesn't answer the moral issue of whether or not it's right to take pleasure from ripping an animal to pieces. I just can't understand that.
DAVID FROST: Well at the same time, people say ah this is the thin end of the wedge and people like Tony Banks and so on are going to go for shooting next and then for fishing.
TONY BANKS: Well, look I mean -
DAVID FROST: Is fishing in danger?
TONY BANKS: No. No, no, not at all. I mean I was a very keen angler, won prizes at it, I was quite good at it. There are always lines - you know what it's like in politics David - the lines are drawn and everyone's going to sort of complain if they're the wrong side of the line, but fishing cannot be compared with fox-hunting. You know, when people say you, you know, you hunt a fish and you rip its hook from its mouth, I mean if you're a good angler that isn't the way that you do it, so you cannot compare those two activities.
DAVID FROST: Tony, thank you very much indeed for being with us. Tony Banks making his view crystal clear.
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