Hunters will beat off the Bill today - but it's only a brief reprieve

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The Independent Online
On the eve of today's Commons vote on a Bill to ban hunting with hounds, the hunting lobby received the unexpected good news that the Forestry Commission has decided to lift a ban on stag hunting by the Quantock Hunt. The decision was taken after farmers shot 36 stags and assembled their heads for a photograph. But the opponents of hunting also received a boost with the news from Home Office minister George Howarth that they would be given a second chance to ban hunting before the next election if today's Bill fails; the Government, he said, is prepared to amend a forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill to include a ban on foxhunting.

Michael Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, will today lead the charge against Labour MP Michael Foster's Bill, and its opponents are confident of killing the Bill in Parliament during its committee stage. It will only take a handful of committed "saboteurs" to kill the Bill in later stages because of the lack of time. Last night, outside Parliament, both sides were maintaining vigils and both were claiming to be confident of success. The hunting lobby pointed to a television poll this week in which a "very significant minority" of 45 per cent voted against a ban. Opponents of hunting heralded a MORI poll which found that 54 per cent of adults in Mr Heseltine's Henley-on-Thames constituency wanted him to support the Bill.

Hunting debate, page 7