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EDITIONS
 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 02:58 GMT
Blair to woo anti-hunt MPs
hunt
Changes to the bill could end hunting with dogs
The prime minister is expected to woo anti-hunt MPs by accepting amendments to the government's hunting bill which could mean an end to the blood sport, according to newspaper reports.

The Guardian newspaper says a range of proposals put forward by Michael Foster MP offer a compromise to backbenchers angered that the bill does not go far enough to secure an outright ban.

Although the bill would allow hunting under strict conditions, the amendments will make it virtually impossible for hunting to continue.

anti-hunt protesters
Supporters and protesters attended hunts on Boxing Day
The apparent compromise come after hunters and protesters were out in force for Boxing Day hunts and amid reports that the Queen has ordered Prince Charles to give up hunting as it was damaging the monarchy's image.

The Daily Mirror says she wants Charles and his sons William and Harry to stop hunting, even if the government introduces a partial ban.

Mr Foster, Labour MP for Worcester, first proposed the private member's bill to outlaw hunting after the 1997 election.

The Guardian reports that he and other anti-hunt backbenchers would back off pushing for an outright ban if the bill is amended to include:

  • extending a ban on hare-coursing to a total ban on hare hunting
  • banning the practice of setting hounds on young foxes at the start of the season - known as "cubbing"
  • offering more assurances that fox hunting will be banned in lowland areas.

    The Hunting Bill proposes a ban on hare coursing and stag hunting, with hunting with dogs only allowed with special licences.

    To continue, hunts would have to prove hunting is a necessary form of pest control and not unnecessarily cruel.

    More than 100 MPs have signed a Commons motion saying only a total ban on hunting will be acceptable.

    They were expected to push to amend the bill to include an outright ban.

    Royal riders

    They would then call on the government to use the Parliament Act to force the amended bill through the House of Lords, where a total ban has previously met strong opposition.

    It is now hoped they will come round to Mr Foster's amendments will would avoid such confrontation.

    The Boxing Day hunts in England and Wales, which could be the last of their kind, attracted tens of thousands of supporters who say hunting is a key part of rural life and thousands of jobs would be lost if it were outlawed.

    Protesters who say the blood sport is cruel and outdated also made their opinions known at the hunt meets.

    Opinion polls suggest there is mixed feeling about exactly how to deal with hunting.

    But the Mirror says the Queen is certain her family's support for it is bad PR.

    Princes William and Harry and Prince Charles' companion Camilla Parker Bowles are well known for their passion for hunting.

    But the paper says the Queen has ordered Prince Charles to give up riding with hounds to prevent bringing the Royal Family into disrepute.

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

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    26 Dec 02 | UK
    26 Dec 02 | UK
    26 Dec 02 | England
    20 Sep 02 | UK
    04 Dec 02 | Politics
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