Parliament: Foxhounds ban slips away

HUNTING
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The Independent Online
MINISTERS WILL not attempt to force through parliament a ban on fox hunting because the Government is convinced that peers would block it, Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the Commons, said yesterday.

There has been speculation at Westminster that a backbench MP could use the new session of Parliament to launch a fresh attempt to ban hunting with hounds, using a Private Member's Bill.

But Mrs Beckett said no one should believe the Government could get such a measure through the Lords after it was defeated five times over the introduction of closed-list voting system under the European Elections Bill.

"I think there should now be clarity about the real position because a lot of people who supported the abolition of fox hunting find it difficult to accept that the Government, with a substantial Commons majority could not, in some magic way, impose its will," she said.

Mrs Beckett made clear that the Lords had just demonstrated, "without a shadow of a doubt", that they could obstruct government legislation when they were prepared to do so.

She signalled that any such Bill would be unlikely to get ministerial backing because the Government had already met its manifesto commitment on fox hunting with a free vote on the issue in the Commons last year.

The attempt by Michael Foster, the Labour MP for Worcester, to outlaw hunting with hounds failed last session after bitter debates and delaying tactics by the ban's opponents.

The ballot to decide which backbench MPs get valuable Commons time to introduce their own legislation will be held in the next few weeks, and it will then be up to the backbench MPs who win to decide what their Bills should be.

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