Fox-hunt ban vote set to dog Blair

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The Independent Online
A ballot of MPs to introduce backbench Bills yesterday threatened to embarrass the Government by putting a vote on banning fox-hunting at the centre of Tony Blair's first year in office.

A new Labour MP, Mike Foster, 34, also discovered what it was like being the fox pursued by the hounds, when his name was picked out in first place.

As the only Labour MP in the first six names, he was seen as the main hope for the anti-fox-hunting lobby finally to bring in the legislation for which they have been waiting years.

Within minutes of coming first in the ballot, the new MP for Worcester came under pressure from three animal rights charities to promote a Bill to ban all forms of hunting animals with hounds, which they already have in draft form.

The League Against Cruel Sports had him down as anti fox- hunting, after he was quoted during the general election in his local newspaper saying: "I would vote to ban fox-hunting. I think it's barbaric practice."

They attempted to contact him on his pager and mobile telephone. Emerging for a few minutes to do a BBC radio interview, he went to ground again. "I am trying to hide away for the next hour or so, just to collect my thoughts," he said.

Labour fought the election on a manifesto pledge to allow a free vote on banning hunting with hounds for sport, but did not plan for it to happen in the first 12 months, when the Government was embarking its ambitious reforming program-me of 26 bills.

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