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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 01:05 GMT 02:05 UK
Hunt ban bill clears Commons
Hunt supporters in front of Big Ben
Pro-hunters ask what will become of their dogs
A bill to ban hunting with dogs has cleared the House of Commons, with the Tories failing to win compensation for those who may lose their livelihoods.

MPs had already voted for the activity to be banned after the government was forced to abandon a compromise plan which would have allowed fox hunting to continue under licence.

The call for compensation came during debate on the remaining stages of the Hunting Bill, as pro-hunters, accompanied with hundreds of dogs, gathered outside the Commons to protest.

But MPs gave the bill, which makes no provision for compensation, a third reading by 317 votes to 145.

Last week MPs forced the government's compromise measure, contained in the bill, to become an all-out ban on hunting, by 362 votes to 154.

The result sets up another bruising battle with the House of Lords, which has opposed a hunting ban since Labour was elected with a pledge to allow a free vote on fox hunting in 1997.

Time to adjust

The government has already said that hunting with dogs could be outlawed for good within two years.

1997: Labour's election manifesto promises free vote on a hunting ban
1999: Countryside Alliance marches in support of hunting at Labour Party conference
2000: Burns inquiry says between 6,000 to 8,000 jobs would be lost by a ban.
2001: Lords votes against Hunting Bill
2002: Six month consultation announced to produce new bill
2003: MPs vote by 362 to 154 to ban hunting with dogs

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael has said he hoped the Lords "would not block" the legislation, but stressed that the government "would not stand in the way" of applying the little-used Parliament Act to force the legislation through.

James Gray, the Conservatives' rural affairs spokesman, said 1,000 people faced losing their jobs, houses, livelihoods and way of life if the Hunting Bill succeeded.

Opening the debate, Mr Gray said it would be "right and decent and honourable" to compensate those who lost out.

It was "frankly an absurdity" to suggest that people who had made their career in the industry would be able to walk out and get another job immediately.

Mr Gray said rural businesses needed 12 months - not just three - for the implementation of the ban, to give them time to adjust.

Fox hounds
Hundreds of hunting dogs gathered in Westminster
He also warned that 26,000 fox hounds faced being put down because there was "no way the hunts or anybody else could re-home those animals".

Mr Michael rejected the compensation call, insisting the Tories' proposals were "impractical and unworkable".

He said the number of people who might be able to claim would be impossible to determine.

"I can't believe people would stop riding just because they cannot hunt.

"The desire to ride won't go away," he said, adding that the demand for saddlers, farriers and other associated trades would not decline.

The level of money to be paid out would be "open ended" and the cost to the taxpayer would be "huge and unjustifiable".

'No obligation'

"It is has been a long standing matter of settled public policy that no government is under any obligation to pay compensation to a business for any loss of opportunity for carrying on that business which may arise from Parliament's properly considered legislative decision."

The sheer hypocrisy of today's demonstration is mind boggling - hunts have an appalling record of dealing with their dogs
Douglas Batchelor
League Against Cruel Sports

Mr Michael added that the RSPCA had offered to help re-home the hounds.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said it was "morally reprehensible" for the pro-hunting lobby "to threaten MPs with the death of a single hound".

"Hunts have an appalling record of dealing with their dogs. Unwanted puppies are disposed of, young dogs that fail to make the grade as hunters are shot and dogs that can no longer keep up with the pack are routinely shot," he said.

But Simon Hart, director of the Countryside Alliance's campaign for hunting, said the Hunting Bill had become "a bone which the government has thrown to bigoted backbenchers to smooth the way for other controversial legislation".

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