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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Peers reignite hunting clash
Hound
Are hunts' days numbered?
Peers have reinforced their opposition to MPs' plans to outlaw fox hunting - despite an appeal for the two Houses of Parliament to compromise over the issue.

Earlier this summer MPs voted for an outright ban on the so-called sport, but after an impassioned debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday, it seems clear peers will reject such a move in the coming months.

This was despite Environment Minister Lord Whitty's warning that if the two Houses continued to clash, it would finally be down to the Commons to decide whether to use the Parliament Act to force the controversial bill on to the statute book.

A total ban on hunting is now inevitable - hunting will be illegal in 18 months
Douglas Batchelor
League Against Cruel Sports

While the Lords did not vote on the bill's second reading, the frustration and anger felt by peers over the abandonment of a compromise solution of regulated hunting was evident during the debate in which 60 peers were down to speak.

Baroness Byford, a member of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, and Tory front bench spokeswoman, described the bill as a "buy off".

"It's a cold calculating attempt by the government to mollify its backbenchers, to give them something they want in the hope that they will thereafter accept a few things they obviously do not want."

'Collision course'

The bill had banned stag hunting and hare coursing, but allowed fox hunting to continue under licence until MPs voted for a wholesale ban.

The Countryside Alliance has warned the government it risks provoking a row over civil liberties if it uses the Parliament Act to steamroller the bill into law.

Earl Onslow
'Hunting is all about adrenalin'
The House of Lords, which lost many of its land-owning pro-hunting peers in 1999 when the government axed over 600 hereditaries, is almost certain to overturn the ban during the Hunting Bill's committee stage in October, placing it on a collision course with MPs.

Lord Whitty, who said he would vote for a ban, said the measure needed to be treated as a "government bill".

"We continue to hope for agreement between the Houses, but a word of caution underlying all of this must be obvious, that your lordships need to take account of the views expressed very clearly by the elected House," he said.

'Buy-off'

But Tory Earl Onslow, who opposes the measure, argued that hunting was all about adrenalin, claiming a young woman had once told him it was "better than an orgasm and lasts a lot longer".

The UK would be the only European country to outlaw hunting apart from Germany where a ban had been imposed by a "tobacco-detesting vegetarian - Adolf Hitler".

HAVE YOUR SAY
Never in the field of British politics has so much time been wasted by so many for the benefit of so few
Pete, UK

Rt Rev John Gladwin, the Bishop of Guildford, argued that it would be dangerous for Parliament to impose on to unwilling communities laws they did not understand, "based on a morality they do not accept".

"Isn't it our duty and moral responsibility in Parliament as a whole to preserve the liberties of the people?" he asked.

Independent Labour peer Lord Stoddart of Swindon described the measure as "this grubby and illiberal bill" which should not have been brought before the Lords where there were so many other pressing matters.

Public opinion

The prime minister told MPs before their long summer break that the bill was now in the Lords' court, but would not comment on whether further opposition would lead to the use of the Parliament Act to force it through.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said he was pleased by Lord Whitty's comments.

"A total ban on hunting is now inevitable - hunting will be illegal in 18 months," he said.

John Rolls, RSPCA director of animal welfare promotion, said: "The public wants the government to push ahead with a ban regardless of the outcome in the unelected House of Lords."




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