Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Hunting Bill goes to the dogs
The Bill's demise will disappoint animal welfare supporters
A Labour MP's attempt to ban hunting with hounds has died a death.
Michael Foster has withdrawn his Private Members Bill, which was scheduled for discussion in the House on Friday, citing "cynical tactics" by his parliamentary opponents.
The Bill was ranked a lowly eighth in the queue for debate and was never likely to get an airing, but Mr Foster says his Bill would have been used by opponents to talk out other important proposals such as legislation on puppy farms.
"The cynical tactics of my opponents were all too clear," said Mr Foster "It would be wrong to needlessly sacrifice such worthy Bills as the Puppy Farm, Fireworks, Minicab and Energy Efficiency Bills by keeping my Bill on the Order Paper, when my Bill had little chance of becoming law."
Straw seeks "way through this"
The government refused to back the Bill on the grounds that it had other important legislation to put through. Mr Foster consequently knew the likelihood of his Bill being passed was very slim.
Home Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC, before he knew the Bill was being withdrawn, that "The problem has been that there is huge pressure on the government's legislative programme - main Bills which we have to get through."
"There will be discussions with Mike and his colleagues to see if there is some possibility of a way through this," promised Mr Straw.
Hunting will not survive
Reacting to the home secretary's words, Mr Foster declared: "I will continue the fight against hunting with dogs. Given the huge majority in the House of Commons on this issue, it is inconceivable that hunting will survive this Parliament."
Campaingers go on
The Bill's demise is a major blow for animal welfare supporters and many, mostly urban, Labour MPs who have fought a vigorous campaign to halt the sport.
A spokesman for the Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals has responded to the withdrawal of the Bill: "Our campaign goes on regardless. He knew plans were being made to scupper his Bill and he did not want to hold up any other worthy Bills on the list by keeping his own on it."
The controversial Bill was talked out of time in the Commons in March. Its sponsor, Worcester MP Michael Foster, was unable to persuade the Speaker to allow time for a debate on a new clause aimed at bringing in the ban through existing legislation.
Previously, the Bill's opponents had blocked debate by tabling hundreds of amendments to ensure its allotted time was used up discussing endless new clauses.
As private members' Bills are given very limited Parliamentary time, they can fall prey to sabotage by opponents who can continually put down amendments, or talk for so long that it runs out of time.
Earlier this year, the issue of hunting with hounds became one of the focuses for a protest by country dwellers represented by the Countryside Alliance, which believed their concerns were being ignored by the government.
After a rally in Hyde Park last summer, more than 250,000 people descended on London in March to protest at what they saw as an infringement of their rights to control a pest as well as the government's handling of the BSE crisis and its plans to build houses on greenfield sites.
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance described the end of the Foster Bill as "a victory for common sense."
"MPs have got far more important things to discuss," he said.
UK Politics Contents
A-Z of Parliament