Pro-hunt lobby jumps Commons in pursuit of MPs

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The Independent Online
A new blood sport - hunting MPs - was launched yesterday in the central lobby of the House of Commons as Parliament was besieged by more than 800 pro-hunt campaigners to rally opposition to the Bill by the Labour MP Michael Foster banning fox-hunting with dogs.

The Commons has rarely seen so many tweed jackets and Barbours. As it was raining, the massed ranks of tweed gave off a country smell that put one in mind of standing downwind of a barn. Two of Mr Foster's constituents who support hunting were put on his scent, but failed to run him to ground, and accused the sponsor of the Bill of running scared.

Mr Foster dismissed the protest as a "stunt". He told The Independent: "They are saying that because two of my constituents wrote to me asking to see me. I am going to a ... meeting. I said I cannot meet them today but any other time they want to meet me, I will do so."

One Tory MP was also avoiding the hunters in the lobby. "I was told at my adoption meeting that if I ever came out against hunting, they would be hunting me. I've never forgotten that."

The lobby was mounted to try to cut the number of MPs supporting the Bill's second reading on 28 November. The pro-hunt campaigners are hoping that by limiting the majority expected for the Bill, they will avoid the Bill's supporters claiming there is massive popular support to drive it through the Lords, where it is expected to be killed.

Meanwhile, the Government did a U-turn to lift the threat of a ban on foxhunting on Ministry of Defence land. In a clear appeal to farmers not to ban the army from their land, John Spellar, the defence minister, said in a Commons written answer: "We have renewed licences for foxhunting on the defence estate and there should be no question of training use of private land being withheld on this account. Hunting with hounds is one of the means by which fox numbers on the defence estate are reduced."

- Colin Brown

Chief Political Correspondent

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