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1995: MPs move to outlaw hunting
A bill which would ban hunting with hounds in England and Wales has become the first such proposal to get a second reading in parliament.

The private member's bill, introduced by Labour MP John McFall, would outlaw fox and stag-hunting and hare-coursing.

There was cheering in the House of Commons chamber and the public gallery as it was passed by 253 votes to nil after its first reading.

But the bill is still unlikely to become law as its opponents in the Conservative ranks decided not to vote against it in the early stages.

However, when it comes up for discussion in committee they are expected to use delaying tactics so it runs out of parliamentary time.

A spokesman for the British Field Sports Society said the bill stood no prospect of reaching the statute book unless the "anti-country sports" elements were dropped.

This is a historic first step towards a better deal for Britain's wild animals
RSPCA statement
But the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), one of the bill's main backers, insisted the end was in sight for blood sports.

A statement issued by the RSPCA said: "This is a historic first step towards a better deal for Britain's wild animals.

"It is just a matter of time before wild mammals get full protection in the law."

But without the help of the government the bill is unlikely to get enough parliamentary time to get on to the statute books.

The governing Conservatives, traditionally the party backed by the hunting lobby, could not afford to be seen to support such a bill.

However, any future Labour government is expected to allow a free vote on the issue.

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Hunt members
The hunting lobby vowed to block the bill

In Context
John McFall's bill was rejected by the House of Lords.

In 1998 the new Labour government failed to back another anti-hunting bill by one of its MPs in spite of its election pledge to "ensure greater protection for wildlife".

However, the following year Prime Minister Tony Blair made a surprise announcement that he planned to make fox-hunting illegal.

In a free vote to gauge opinion in March 2002 MPs overwhelmingly backed a complete ban on hunting with dogs, rejecting two other compromise options.

In the Queen's Speech in November 2002 the government announced its intention to bring forward a bill after consultation with all sides in the debate.

In Scotland hunting with hounds was banned in February 2002.

At Westminster the hunting bill continued to ping-pong between Commons and Lords until it was finally passed and became law on 18 February 2005.

The new law bans hunting with dogs but it is still legal to use dogs to chase a scent trail. If a real fox is cornered, no more than two dogs can be used to flush it out and the animal must then be shot.

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