Anti-hunt MPs fear Blair betrayal

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Indy Politics

Opponents of fox-hunting on Labour's back benches have warned Tony Blair that he risks a significant backlash if he adopts a "middle way" stance on blood sports.

MPs made it clear, in private meetings with the Prime Minister last week, that the Government risks "upsetting everyone" if it does not support a ban on hunting. An existing Bill to outlaw hunting, rejected earlier in the Lords, is understood to have been shelved.

Anti-hunt campaigners fear that, in abandoning the Bill, ministers will be tempted to move closer to a compromise position.

Supporters of the middle way option, which would allow fox-hunting to continue under licence, share this perception. Peter Luff, a Tory MP, was heard crying "tally-ho!" in the lobbies last week. And a prominent supporter of the middle way admitted he was actually in favour of fox-hunting.

Labour backbenchers were offered a free vote on fox-hunting as part of a deal to secure support for the beleaguered Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Byers. Votes in the Commons and the Lords are expected to take place this month.