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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Question mark over hunting bill
Fox hunt
Hunting remains a live political issue

A bill to ban foxhunting could fall victim to pressures on parliamentary time, John Reid has hinted.

The Commons' leader stressed the "crowded" nature of the timetable at Westminster when asked whether the government was to live up to its commitment to ban hunting.

It had been thought that a bill would be introduced that would allow foxhunting to continue under a strict system of licensing but that it would outlaw hare coursing and stag hunting.

But there is a substantial majority in the Commons which backs a total ban on foxhunting.

Dr Reid said: "We will bring it in due course. I think that we will give it the seriousness it deserves.

"We have got a pretty crowded programme which, to be honest with you, has become even more crowded because we have responded to understandable demands that we report very regularly through statements and debates on the position in Iraq both in the run-up to the war and during the war itself.

"So the programme is pretty crowded."

'Outright ban'?

The bill has already had a second reading in the Commons and has been thoroughly gone through in its committee stage.

MPs could try to amend the bill when it returns to them for a vote and try to introduce the outright ban.

New House of Commons rules mean that the bill can survive into the next session of parliament and will not automatically fall if not approved by the end of the session in July.

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