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EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 23:50 GMT 00:50 UK
Public to have say on hunting ban
Duke of Buccleuch hunt
Campaigners fear jobs will be lost
A series of public hearings on the future of foxhunting have been announced by Rural Affairs minister Alun Michael.

The hearings will allow those for and against a ban to put their cases forward and are likely to be held in September.

A joint statement from pro and anti-hunting campaigners and the Middle Way Group, which is calling for restrictions rather than a ban, said the hearings would "explore the key issues in a focused way".

It added that they would draw on "expert evidence" leading to "legislation based on clear principles".

Opinion divided

A 15 July deadline has been imposed on those wanting to contribute to the debate.

An inquiry into the future of hunting was carried out by Lord Burns two years ago but a Government Bill to outlaw the practice failed when the General Election was called in the spring of 2001.

Mr Michael said more consultation was needed at the end of last month.

Opinion remains divided, according to the statement.

"Open and frank discussion is even more important when views on an issue are sharply polarised and deeply held," it said.

'Mature debate '

"The issue of hunting with dogs needs to be dealt with effectively, and the government wishes to proceed on the basis of as much common ground and agreement as possible.

"The test of a democracy is the extent to which mature debate is possible on the most contentious issues of the day."

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said the hearings were "not about a deal or a compromise, or being held on an expectation that people will change their views.

"All three main umbrella groups have agreed to take part in a free and frank discussion," he said.

Background and analysis of one of the most contentious issues in British politics

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See also:

22 May 02 | UK Politics
18 Mar 02 | Wales
13 Feb 02 | Scotland
19 Mar 02 | UK Politics

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