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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK

UK Politics

Hunt supporters march on Labour

Tony Blair has promised a vote as soon as possible

Thousands of protesters are gathering near the Labour Party's conference in Bournemouth to stage a mass demonstration against the government's plans to ban fox hunting.

The Countryside Alliance, which has organised the march, is expecting up to 16,000 people to join the demonstration in Bournemouth.

BBC News' Susanna Reid: Foxhunting lobby plan to make their voices heard
The figure represents the number of jobs the alliance says will be lost if hunting is abolished.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised a vote on ending hunting with hounds, a Labour manifesto commitment.

[ image: The alliance organised the countryside march last year]
The alliance organised the countryside march last year
He said in July he hoped to find time in the coming parliamentary session for the vote.

But pro-hunting campaigners say a ban would lead to a way of life being destroyed.

The demonstration follows Monday's rally by farmers, angry at the crisis suffered by the agriculture industry and rural communities.

The Countryside Alliance has attacked the government for neglecting rural concerns.

BBC News' Guto Harri: Delegates think protests are a distraction
The alliance organised last year's countryside march, when 200,000 people gathered in London, and Tuesday's march is part of a programme of demonstrations leading up to the Queen's Speech on 17 November.

Fox hunting
Last week, the prime minister said the hunting lobby had sought to muddy the waters by painting Labour as an "anti-countryside" party.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he wrote: "The truth is the Countryside Alliance is an organisation created primarily to defend hunting with hounds.

"That's fine. But their priorities should not be confused with the real priorities of those who live in rural areas."

Dr Jack Cunningham: "The Government is simply reflecting the overwhelming majority"
Mr Blair says the hunting lobby has also terrorised rural voters with "scare stories" about ramblers trampling across their gardens and the countryside disappearing beneath millions of new homes.

A vote in the forthcoming parliamentary session, would be the second time this Parliament has considered banning hunting with hounds.

Farrier and former Labour supporter, Brian Hughes
In November 1997 Michael Foster's Private Members' Bill was approved by a majority in Parliament but it failed to make it to the statute book due to lack of parliamentary time.

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Internet Links

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Labour Party

The League Against Cruel Sports

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