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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 17:07 GMT
Blair promises action on hunting
Rally at the Beaufort Hunt in Didmarton, Gloucestershire
Hunt supporters say they will disobey any ban on hunting
The hunting issue will be resolved this Parliament despite no commitment to a ban being included in the Queen's Speech, Tony Blair has told MPs.

Pressed to guarantee action on hunting he replied: "We have said we are going to resolve this issue... we will resolve this issue in this Parliament."

Moves to outlaw hunting with dogs led to huge marches by pro-hunters.

Many Labour MPs want the Parliament Act to be used to force the measure into law despite House of Lords opposition.

Guarantee demand

But the pro-hunting lobby has said that would be "an abuse of procedure".

In the Commons debate on the Queen's Speech, veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner pressed Mr Blair for a guarantee that hunting would be banned before the next general election and possibly in this parliamentary year.

The hunting debate has become a matter of trust between the government and the voters
Douglas Batchelor
League Against Cruel Sports

The prime minister replied: "We have said we are going to resolve this issue in this Parliament. We will resolve this issue in this Parliament."

The prime minister's official spokesman refused to be drawn on whether the government intended to introduce another bill banning hunting in this session of Parliament.

He said: "Discussions are continuing within government in the normal way... An announcement will be made at the proper time."

Commitment

Earlier, Commons leader Peter Hain insisted that not every piece of legislation, or every bill the government intended to carry through, was actually in the Queen's Speech.

"There are eight pieces of legislation which are not in the Queen's Speech but which we intend to take forward, either in draft or in actual bills and therefore, whether hunting was or was not in the Queen's Speech is not actually the issue.

Peter Hain
Hain: Ministers have 'a responsibility' to resolve hunting
"We have a manifesto commitment on this issue to end cruelty to wild animals and we have a situation where the House of Lords abandoned, in an unprecedented fashion, a government bill seeking to achieve that."

Mr Hain, who voted for a hunting ban, added: "The government has a responsibility to resolve this situation - we intend to resolve it in line with our government policy and our party policy."

Labour MP Paddy Tipping said Mr Hain had given him "personal assurances" that fox hunting will be banned during the current parliamentary session.

"I'm sure the government will now fulfil its commitment to let parliament decide by finally banning fox hunting," he said.

Deadlock

Last month a bill was in effect killed off after the House of Lords ran out of time to debate it.

Earlier peers threw out MPs' overwhelming calls for an outright ban on hunting with dogs.

Instead they voted in favour of allowing hunting to continue under licence - reinstating plans for a registration scheme originally proposed by the government but later rejected in the House of Commons.

If the Hunting Bill was reintroduced in the Commons and peers voted to block it for a second time, the Parliament Act - a rarely used instrument to enforce the will of MPs if there is deadlock with peers - could be invoked.

If it was used, a ban could become law by autumn of next year.

'Time to act'

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "With ministers renewing the Government's commitment to resolve the hunting issue, all we need is a date for the Hunting Bill to come back to the House of Commons.

"The hunting debate has become a matter of trust between the government and the voters.

"The time has now come for Tony Blair and his government to stop dropping hints and announce when the Hunting Bill will be returned to the House of Commons."




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