Mr Prescott's control of the committee is a sign that the Government will go ahead with a Bill to ban fox-hunting with dogs as a sport, in spite of a delay in announcing how this will be achieved.
MPs were hoping they would be told before the start of their summer break today how the Government intended to proceed. But Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has been forced to delay the announcement as ministers argue over the detail.
They have to decide whether to try to implement a ban by using a private members' Bill, or whether to introduce Government legislation to guarantee it time to reach the statute book.
They also need to clarify whether there will be an outright ban, or whether there should be exemptions for areas which vote "no" to a ban in local referendums.
Sources close to Mr Prescott said the Deputy Prime Minister thought fox-hunting should be banned. A ministerial source said: "I think there will be a straight ban, no referendums."
Labour backbenchers who support the ban remained hopeful last night that there will be no backtracking.
"I don't mind a delay, as long as we get the right result at the end of it," said a supporter of the backbench Bill by Michael Foster, the Labour MP who failed to get it through Parliament in spite of a massive majority in the Commons.Reuse content