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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 08:18 GMT
Ministers weigh hunting ban options
Fox hunting
The compromise deal allows for hunting under license
Ministers are deciding whether to back a total ban on fox hunting in the wake of Tuesday's House of Lords vote in favour of the so-called "middle way".

Peers voted by 366 to 59 in favour of a compromise deal, which will allow hunting to continue under license.

It is out of the question that the House of Commons can yield to the House of Lords

Gerald Kaufman
Labour MP
They had previously rejected any change to the status quo.

The vote followed Monday night's House of Commons vote for an outright ban on hunting with hounds - the fourth such vote since Labour assumed power in 1997.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael is expected to make a statement on Thursday outlining what legislation the UK Government is planning to bring forward in response to the "indicative" votes.

"We are committed to enabling Parliament to reach a conclusion on this contentious issue, and that is my task," he said.

He added: "We have seen something of a shift in consensus in the Lords, although votes cast in the Commons demonstrate the continuing strength of feeling there."

Compromise rejected

By opting for the middle way, ministers would be spared a protracted Parliamentary battle with the Lords and further conflict with the countryside lobby.

But the apparent move towards compromise came under fire from its own anti-hunt MPs and the RSPCA, which is opposed to hunting.

Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, insisted that the Commons "must get its way", even if that meant using the Parliament Act to force a ban through.

"The House of Lords last night decided on confrontation with the House of Commons," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It is out of the question that the House of Commons can yield to the House of Lords when the House of Commons has spoken absolutely unequivocally."

Alun Michael, Rural Affairs Minister
Alun Michael is due to make a statement on Thursday
Director of communications at the RSPCA, John Rolls, said of Tuesday's outcome in the Lords: "This is not a vote in favour of compromise, this was a vote in favour of hunting with added bureaucracy."

He accused the peers of ignoring the views of their elected counterparts in the Commons.

A spokesman for the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, Simon Hart, welcomed the Lords' vote.

"This shows that well over 55% of Parliament has wholly rejected the concept of a ban," said Mr Hart.

"It has shown that a sensible and fair resolution is now essential and that must not involve sacrificial lambs."

Opening the debate on the issue, rural affairs minister Lord Whitty said the government wanted to find a solution to the hunting problem, insisting that the debate was not "an invitation to opt for deadlock or delay".

Peers have traditionally been in favour of allowing hunts to continue, but Monday night's widespread support by MPs for outlawing the traditional country sport means they were under pressure to give ground.

The government has dismissed reports of behind-the-scenes deals.

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519 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Lords hunting their prey
19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Foxed again by his MPs
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
MPs back hunting ban
19 Mar 02 | UK Politics
How the MPs voted on hunting
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair hunts a way out
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Hunting is 'a way of life'
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