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EDITIONS
Monday, 18 March, 2002, 23:47 GMT
MPs back hunting ban
Hunting
Regulation may have support among the hunt lobby
MPs have overwhelmingly backed a ban on hunting with dogs.

Members were allowed a free vote on three different options - a ban, a compromise deal or to leave the law as it stands.

Possible timetable
18 March: MPs given "indicative" votes
Before Easter: ministers' proposals
November: Bill proposed in Queen's Speech
Autumn 2003: Ban could be in place
But in a Labour-dominated Commons the outcome never seemed in doubt.

In the end MPs voted by 386 to 175 for a ban - a majority of 211.

The previous two votes saw the status quo rejected by 401 votes to 154 and then the compromise deal by 371 to 169.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was among those who supported a ban, although it was indicated that the government overall preferred a compromise option - the so called middle way.

That involves a system of tighter controls to try and get round the impasse caused in the past by MPs voting for a ban and Lords voting against.

Before Monday evening's debate in Parliament, both pro and anti-hunting groups converged on Westminster to lobby MPs.

Leading anti-hunt campaigner, Labour MP Tony Banks, said that most foxes were killed on the roads and rejected the notion that hunting was an effective method of pest control.

"We would probably be better off issuing the hunts with four wheel drive vehicles," he said.

He insisted that when it came to hunting there could be no compromise.

"There is no middle way. You can't compromise on cruelty."

'Willing to compromise'

But Labour MP Kate Hoey insisted that foxes were vermin and controlling them with hounds was "the most natural way" to kill them.

"They may be slightly furrier and slightly more sexy than rats but they are vermin."

Former Conservative home office minister Ann Widdecombe rejected suggestions that those who opposed hunting were "anti-toff".

"Anti toff? Moi? I am one of the few people in this chamber who upheld the rights of hereditary peers to carry on in the House of Lords.

"My parents hunted and I like my parents very much indeed."

She went on to reject the argument that banning hunting would cost jobs asking whether society would hesitate to ban crime or ill-health because of what might happen to the jobs of police or nurses.

While former Tory leader William Hague contrasted the desire to ban the pursuit of hunting with bullying.

"It is because it can be picked upon and that is the hallmark of the bully throughout the ages," he said.

The Upper House will have their chance to vote on the three options on Tuesday but unless a compromise is reached between the Commons and the Lords, there will be a time-consuming battle between the two houses of parliament.

Alun Michael, Rural Affairs Minister
Alun Michael will draw up plans after the vote
This could be damaging to the government's legislative programme and has persuaded some opponents of hunting, including Home Secretary David Blunkett, that the "middle way" was the best option.

The alternative is that the government could use the Parliament Act to force the bill through even if the House of Lords votes against it.

The votes this week are not binding and are intended to provide ministers with evidence to help them draft the legislative bill before Easter.

Protest

MPs voted for a ban when a hunting bill went before Parliament last year, but the legislation was dropped when the general election was called.

Anti-hunt campaigners now want exactly the same bill to be reintroduced.

The Scottish Parliament voted to ban hunting with hounds last month and it will probably become law later this year.

Hunting with hounds includes fox hunting, hare coursing and fox baiting - although the Countryside Alliance says fox baiting does not exist.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Andrew
"The majority in favour of a ban was almost a carbon copy of the vote 14 months ago"

Talking PointFORUM
Hunting with dogs
Ask the experts at 1600 GMT
Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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The Scottish ban

Analysis

Background

TALKING POINT
 VOTE RESULTS
Hunting with dogs?

Ban
 45.47% 

Compromise
 11.75% 

Status quo
 42.77% 

519 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Internet links:


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