Politics: `Bossy' Labour accused of creating criminals

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THE Government was yesterday accused of criminalising honest citizens with "an endless raft of unnecessary, bossy, nannying, tyrannical rules and regulations", dealing with issues from pistol-shooting to on- the-bone beef.

The Commons outburst from Quentin Davies, an outspoken Conservative backbencher, coincided with an announcement that planning permission was being considered for Leylandii hedges, and news that the Commons agriculture committee is to investigate controversial plans to curb the sale of Vitamin B6.

Mr Davies's irate protest came during Commons question time, when he asked Jack Straw, the Home Secretary: "Do you not realise that, in the light of yesterday's countryside rally, if you go much further along this road and reduce the drink-driving limit and ban fox-hunting, you will bring the law into progressive disrepute, not to mention your dreadful government?

To Tory cheers, he asked: "Isn't it about time this government thought before it regulated?"

Mr Straw replied: "You know the fox-hunting Bill is a Private Member's measure - but you also know there is overwhelming public support for the crime and disorder agenda which this government is vigorously pursuing."

During question time, Mr Straw also took the opportunity to accuse some animal rights protesters of being terrorists.

"I believe that some of the actions of the so-called animal rights protesters to be utterly outrageous," he said. "In some cases ... some of the individuals have been convicted of offences which amount to terrorism."

But the charge that the Government is meddling in matters that should be none of its business will be fuelled by a decision taken by the Commons agriculture committee, at a private meeting last week, to hold a speedy investigation into government plans to restrict the sale of B6 Vitamins.

Under government proposals - which will require legislation and which are said to have provoked 100,000 protest letters - B6 doses of more than 10 milligrams will only be available from pharmacists, with anything over 50mgs requiring a prescription.

As for domestic hedges, Richard Caborn, the planning minister, said in a written Commons reply to Peter Luff, Conservative chairman of the agriculture committee: "Planning permission is already required where a fence, wall or gate would be over one metre high and next to a highway used by vehicles, or over two metres elsewhere.

"I am considering whether some form of government intervention is relation to Leylandii trees and other high boundary hedges is necessary."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said yesterday that legislation on fox-hunting was not seen as a government priority, if, as expected, Michael Foster's Private Member's legislation is stalled and killed off by determined opponents.

His Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill is due to have the first day of its Commons report stage on Friday.

The No 10 spokesman also said that Mr Blair had not so far given any consideration to the creation of a new government department, which would consolidate responsibility for countryside matters.

He said a decision was not imminent, but as any announcement would be tied in with Mr Blair's first Cabinet reshuffle, there is no need for haste.