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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 19:00 GMT
Date set for next hunt vote
Hunt
Hunting could be saved by dissolution of parliament
Moves to ban fox hunting have been taken a step further with government business managers announcing that MPs will debate the final stages of the bill to outlaw hunting on Tuesday 27 February.

The Commons has already overwhelmingly backed a move to outlaw hunting with hounds, one of three options in the bill.

But this is likely to put MPs on a collision course with the Lords, where peers are expected to vote for the so-called "middle way" option - allowing hunting to continue with regulation.

The leader of Conservative peers,Lord Strathclyde, has said the bill has no chance of becoming law because a general election is thought to be only weeks away.

No time

In these circumstances, he has indicated it will run out of parliamentary time.

However, the Lords could be faced with a full-scale second reading debate on the bill during the week of 12 March in the run-up to the Countryside March for Livelihoods and Liberty scheduled for Sunday 18 March.

Organisers are predicting that up to 500,000 pro-hunting farmers, landowners and rural dwellers from Britain and Europe will march through London in protest at the bill.

Lord Strathclyde said that if the Lords Committee stage took place during the week beginning March 26, "you can work out the implications of a dissolution around that time".

"The ploy is so utterly obvious that there is no prospect of it becoming law whatsoever," he said.

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