Blair defeated over hunt ban compromise

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Tony Blair suffered a humiliating defeat over fox hunting last night as Labour backbenchers overwhelmingly rejected his last-ditch attempts at a compromise and forced through an outright ban.

Tony Blair suffered a humiliating defeat over fox hunting last night as Labour backbenchers overwhelmingly rejected his last-ditch attempts at a compromise and forced through an outright ban.

The vote means all hunting will be banned, possibly as soon as February, after MPs voted 321 to 204, a majority of 117, to reject proposals backed by Mr Blair for limited hunting to be permitted under strict licensing.

Mr Blair made a rare appearance in the division lobbies to support the compromise, but won the support of twenty-two colleagues, included Hilary Armstrong, the Chief Whip, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, Dr John Reid, the Health Secretary, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary.

MPs also voted by a large margin to reject licensing proposals from the House of Lords, which would have also allowed stag hunting and hare coursing to continue.

Anti-hunt MPs cheered in the packed chamber last night as the final vote was announced following a highly charged debate. "Tally ho!" called one MP as the vote was declared. Security was tight outside. About 30 pro-hunt protesters locked themselves to railingsas MPs began their debate.

The late-night vote came three hours later, prompting a highly unusual constitutional clash between MPs and peers over the Hunting Bill which heads back to the Lords today.

Peers are expected to reject plans for the outright ban which is likely to trigger a move by the Speaker of the Commons, Michael Martin, to force through the legislation with the little-used Parliament Act. In theory, peers could make a fresh attempt to amend the Bill today but in practice many accept that they have little choice but to accept that the Parliament Act will be invoked for only the fourth time in its 55-year history.

The Countryside Alliance vowed yesterday to challenge an outright ban in the courts, while the Conservatives said they would repeal a ban if they were returned to power.

Senior ministers said Mr Blair was secretly hoping that hunt campaigners would overturn a ban in the courts and prevent a bitter row over country sports souring next year's general-election campaign. A senior Cabinet member told The Independent that legislation to impose an outright ban on hunting as soon as February would be "wide open" to legal challenge.

The amendments, moved by the Labour backbencher Huw Irranca-Davies, were greeted with anger by anti-hunt MPs during the debate. The member for Ogmore, in south Wales, compared his attempt to win round anti-hunt MPs to the charge of the light brigade.

Comments