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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 14:38 GMT
Hunt ban not big issue - Prescott
Hunting in Oxfordshire
A hunt ban cleared its final parliamentary fence last week
John Prescott has said he does not think fox-hunting is a serious issue, days after MPs forced through a ban.

The deputy prime minister told the BBC that people who liked to hunt were "obsessed" with the issue.

"How many people really care about fox hunting? Very few," he said adding that it was one of "those tally ho issues" and nothing to do with modern Britain.

Pro-hunt groups have promised to defy the ban and are pursuing a legal challenge to the way it was outlawed.

'Obsessed'

Mr Prescott was appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme where he was being asked about international terrorism and Iraq.

He was then asked a question about the hunting ban to which he replied: "Fox-hunting? Cor blimey! What are we getting worried about fox-hunting for? Iraq's a very serious question, fox-hunting isn't."

The deputy prime minister was then asked why there had been so much fuss about an issue which has seen scores of parliamentary hours devoted to in the past seven years.

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He replied that some people got obsessed with it, adding: "How many people are really concerned with fox hunting? Very few!"

Mr Prescott said that now the proper Parliamentary procedure had been gone through people should now obey the law on the issue when the ban comes into place.

"I think the majority of people in my constituency, quite frankly, see it as one of those tally ho, tally ho issues and nothing to do with modern Britain."

Electoral price?

Responding to the deputy prime minister's remarks, a Countryside Alliance spokeswoman accused the Labour Party of being obsessed with fox-hunting.

"It wasn't the hunting community who forced the government to waste so many parliamentary hours or use a constitutional sledgehammer to force a ban," she told BBC News.

"Obsessive MPs like John Prescott who voted for a ban at every opportunity will pay for their actions at the forthcoming election."

But Labour MP and anti-hunt campaigner Tony Banks said a ban was long overdue saying it was pro-hunting peers who caused the Parliamentary battle to be so long-run.

"What John Prescott was talking about was the right of people to kill animals for fun and that is not something that stands high in terms of human rights," he added.

Last week Commons Speaker Michael Martin invoked the Parliament Act, meaning a ban on fox hunting will be in place by February 2005 despite the House of Lords opposing a ban.

Demonstration prediction

He told MPs the Act was being used for only the fourth time since 1949 - a move sparked by peers who earlier rejected a ban on hunting with dogs.

The bill was then given Royal Assent bringing to an end years of wrangling.

Legal action and demonstrations are now predicted in the run up to the general election, widely expected next May.

As well as fox hunting, deer-hunting and hare-coursing with dogs will now be outlawed in England and Wales.




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