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The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"There is said to be growing support in the Lords for the middle way"
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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 12:44 GMT
MP warns Lords over hunting
Hunt
A ban on hunting has moved a step closer
The House of Lords is facing a constitutional clash with the Commons if fails to support a ban on hunting with dogs, according to a former sports minister.

The Labour backbencher, Tony Banks said peers should not defy the massive majority of the lower house in favour of stopping hunting when they debate the bill on Monday.


There is no middle way option - you can't regulate cruelty

Tony Banks MP
Many peers are believed to support the so-called middle way, a compromise which would allow foxes and deer to be hunted by dogs under licence.

Speaking on Today on BBC Radio 4, Mr Banks said: "If their Lordships do actually go for the middle way, then they will be on a confrontation course with the House of Commons."

The Commons backed an outright ban by 387 votes to 174 in January.
A fox skin in front of Big Ben, London
A highly charged issue

Mr Banks, a former sports minister and MP for West Ham in London, added: "There is no middle way option - you can't regulate cruelty as far as we are concerned."

Liberal Democrat Lord Phillips of Sudbury told the same programme it was vital for the Lords to take a "cool, hard, independent look" at the Hunting Bill.

"It's a pastime that's been at the heart of country affairs for centuries," he said.

"To make it a criminal offence is simply a nonsense."

Private bill

He pointed out the legislation was not an official government Bill, and a ban had not been in Labour's election manifesto which meant the Lords' role was especially important.


It's a pastime that's been at the heart of country affairs for centuries

Lord Phillips
Monday's debate will be followed by a vote later this month on three options.

These are to allow hunting to continue, keeping it under a licensing system or opting for the all-out ban approved by the Commons.

Many members of the Lords are known to believe that an outright ban cannot be justified and would restrict personal freedom.

Self-regulation

Hunt supporters say rural communities already damaged by foot-and-mouth should not have another blow to their way of life inflicted on them.

The Countryside Alliance (CA) has also said it will seriously consider the option of statutory controls on hunting.

The lobby group's chairman, John Jackson, told BBC News the CA preferred self-regulation but would consider statutory controls if the option had cross-party and prime ministerial support.

The Bill, which only affects England and Wales, is being presented to the House for its second reading.

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See also:

28 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Anger as hunt bill clears Commons
07 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Second hunting bill seeks compromise
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