MP to move foxhunting Bill

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The Independent Online
A Labour backbench MP last night was expected to go ahead with a Bill to ban foxhunting, in spite of warnings by ministers that it will run into trouble.

Michael Foster, who came top in the ballot of MPs to introduce backbench Bills, was told at a private meeting with Government whips that if he pressed ahead with the Bill to ban foxhunting it could be blocked in the Lords.

However, ministers strongly denied claims last night that Tony Blair had ordered the new MP for Worcester to drop the idea of introducing a Bill on foxhunting, and pick up something less controversial.

"He had a private meeting with the whips but there was no pressure to stop the Bill. Personally, I think the time could be right to go ahead with it," said one ministerial source.

At the election, the Prime Minister promised a free vote on banning foxhunting, but the Government has so far refused to offer the time for a Bill to get through all its stages.

Ministers believe pro-hunting peers in the House of Lords would savage the measure, but they have come round to the view that it would be better to proceed. "It could be picked up again in the next session in its amended form," said one minister.

Mr Foster, an outspoken critic of blood sports, was reported yesterday by his local newspaper to have decided to go ahead with his Bill after receiving more than 1,000 letters in support of a ban.

The League Against Cruel Sports, which is sponsoring the Bill, said last night it was expecting an announcement by Mr Foster on Monday. "We have had nods and winks that things are looking good," said a source.

The Bill would ban all hunting by hounds, including harecoursing and staghunting.