MPs threaten to embarrass Labour over fox-hunting ban

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of MPs are set to sign a Commons motion this week calling on the Government to press ahead with its promised ban on fox-hunting.

Tony Banks, the former sports minister and a leading opponent of hunting, has vowed to put down a damning early day motion criticising ministers for failure to bring in a Bill to ban hunting on Thursday ­ the official start of the hunting season.

Mr Banks said he suspected there was a "lack of political will" to bring in the ban, pledged in Labour's 2001 election manifesto. "There are a number of senior Cabinet ministers who have never been in favour of a ban on hunting," he said. "But they cannot defy the majority will of the House of Commons or the manifesto commitment."

MPs voted overwhelmingly for a ban before the last election but the legislation was held up by the House of Lords. The Queen's Speech, however, contained a promise of another free vote on hunting.

But supporters of abolition both inside and outside Parliament became concerned last week when Robin Cook, the leader of the House, suggested there may be no time in the parliamentary calendar given the pressure of the war in Afghanistan and the related bills to clamp down on terrorists. He was later pressed for a clarifying statement making it clear that no decision had yet been taken.

Now MPs and pressure groups are determined to hold the Government to its word on hunting. A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports said: "We believe there is a popular desire for hunting to be banned. It is now a matter of trust between the Government and the people."

Hunting is currently subject to a temporary ban in those areas subject to foot and mouth restrictions, where a decision on its resumption is expected this week.