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Friday, 15 June, 2001, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Public back hunt ban, suggests poll
Fox hunting protest
The government could announce a new bill next week
The majority of people want fox hunting banned, a survey suggests.

A poll carried out on behalf of The Economist magazine found that of those people expressing an opinion, nearly two out of three favoured a ban.

The public will be expecting action on this and other Labour election promises

Prof Robert Worcester, MORI
The results come amid speculation the government will include a new hunting bill in next week's Queen's Speech.

Previous attempts to pass legislation failed during the last parliament, most recently because of a lack of time in the run up to the general election.

But the Labour Party manifesto pleged to give MPs another free vote on the issue.

Hunting options

The last bill gave MPs and peers a choice on the future of fox hunting.

It outlined three options - an outright ban, compulsory regulation, or a system of self-regulation.

MPs backed a total ban while the House of Lords opted for self-regulation.

However, the Bill ran out of time and failed to make it onto the statute books before the election.

But there have been reports the government is considering introducing a bill to legislate for a complete ban.

The government could use its huge majority to steamroll the bill through the Commons and use the Parliament Act to overrule the Lords.

The Economist poll, which questioned 1,010, people, suggests that an outright ban would have strong support among Labour voters.

Strong support

It found that 80% of those who describe themselves as "New Labour" want foxhunting outlawed.

Among the public at large, 57% supported a ban, 31% were against and 11% said they did not know.

Among those expressing an opinion one way or another, this equates to 65% in favour of a ban and 35% against.

The poll, carried out by MORI, suggests that support for a ban is the same among the middle class and the working class.

MORI chairman Professor Robert Worcester said: "Labour promised a free vote on the banning of hunting with dogs, and previous research has shown public concern that the last Labour government has left the people who supported it feeling that they have not delivered on their promises.

"There will not be such a long honeymoon after this election, and the public will be expecting action on this and other Labour election promises.

"This analysis has shown that banning fox hunting is not so much a class issue as a political issue, despite the efforts of opponents of fox hunting trying to position it as to do with class divisions."

Speaking earlier this week, Alun Michael, the Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who is responsible for hunting, said he would be discussing the options with the various interest groups.

"We will have to wait and see what is in the Queen's Speech in terms of when this will come back before parliament.

"And clearly part of my responsibility, early in this post, will be to talk and listen to all the groups and their different views."

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