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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 26 December, 2002, 12:55 GMT
Q&A: Hunting debate
Protests to meet the Boxing Day hunts have become a regular fixture for the "antis", but this year will be critical to both sides.

Q: Will Boxing Day be a last hurrah for a hunting community soon to be covered by legislation?

A: The Hunting Bill should go through the Commons' committee and report stages and reach the third reading stage by February 2003. The Bill then goes to the House of Lords. If the Lords pass the Bill, it should be in place next year and will be called the Hunting Act 2003.

Q: What happens if the House of Lords tries to stop the bill?

A: There will be enough parliamentary time to get the bill through by the next Boxing Day hunts, even with Lords opposition. The government can use the Parliament Act to overrule the House of Lords. This manoeuvre means a year must have elapsed after the second reading in the Commons and the bill finally being passed.

Q: What is the Conservative line on legislation?

A: The Conservatives have opposed any moves to legislate against hunting, but in the second reading vote, the bill was passed by 365 votes to 164. Ann Widdecombe is a rare example of an anti-hunting Tory.

Q: What is the government's attitude towards the practice and how did Labour MPs vote?

A: A promise to allow a free vote on the issue has been a fixture in the Labour manifesto. Tony Blair pledged his opposition to hunting in 1998. Now he is quiet on the issue, but there are many in the Labour Party that remain militant including Tony Banks and Gerald Kaufman.

Q: Why has it taken so long to get the Bill to this stage?

A: A private members' bill on hunting was blocked by Tory parliamentary tactics in 1998. Another bill was eventually drawn up in 2000, after months of reports into the practice. But the pro-hunting forces ranged around the Countryside Alliance have proved vocal campaigners.

Q: What do the police think about the Bill?

A: There have been suggestions that any ban could be a drain on police numbers and budgets if strictly enforced. But the new Bill has been more carefully drawn up, a fact acknowledged by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Q: How does the requirement in the Bill that hunting must pass a cruelty test work?

A: If hunting caused "unnecessary or avoidable suffering" and an alternative method of pest control was available hunting would not be allowed.

Q: What are the arguments on both sides?

A: The pro-hunt campaigners within the Countryside Alliance say a ban would be ruinous to the already-battered rural economy and maintain hunting is the best way of controlling the fox population. But they have hinted some form of statutory regulatory regime, coming well short of a ban, could prove acceptable. The "antis" protesting on Boxing Day say hunting is cruel to foxes, as well as being unnecessary to protect livestock.

Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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The Scottish ban

Analysis

Background

TALKING POINT
See also:

20 Sep 02 | UK
04 Dec 02 | Politics
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