Minister must placate MPs as fox-hunting ban is delayed

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Alun Michael, the Countryside minister, will face an angry meeting of Labour MPs in the Commons tomorrow to try to persuade them to accept Tony Blair's plan to let fox-hunting continue for two more years.

Alun Michael, the Countryside minister, will face an angry meeting of Labour MPs in the Commons tomorrow to try to persuade them to accept Tony Blair's plan to let fox-hunting continue for two more years.

The Prime Minister has been under attack from both sides since last week's announcement that legislation to ban hunting will returnto the Commons this week, but with a motion tacked on saying that it will not come into force until after the next general election.

The delay has done nothing to soothe the anger of hunt supporters, who plan a season of headline-grabbing protests against a ban.

But the proposed delay received an angry reception from long-standing opponents of hunting, such as the senior backbench MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, who warned that the Commons might refuse to accept it.

Tony Banks, the former sports minister who has led the campaign for a ban, said that he hoped to negotiate with ministers over the weekend to produce a proposal acceptable to most Labour MPs.

Yesterday, hunt supporters staged their second protest in Mr Blair's constituency in 24 hours.

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