Government accused of cowardice over hunting ban delay

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Indy Politics

Ministers were accused of cowardice yesterday after it emerged that plans to outlaw hunting with dogs may not come into force for at least another year.

Ministers were accused of cowardice yesterday after it emerged that plans to outlaw hunting with dogs may not come into force for at least another year.

The Government will not oppose an attempt to delay the ban in the High Court, which could delay it for 18 months. But the Countryside Alliance is also planning to mount a challenge in the European Court, which could delay a ban for several years.

It had been due to take effect in February and hunters had threatened to run a campaign of civil disobedience in the run-up to the general election expected on 5 May.

The delay, in line with the Government's original plans, will suit ministers keen to avoid embarrassing publicity during the campaign. Anti-hunting MPs were also relaxed about a delay to 2006, accepting it might help to ensure the ban was legally watertight, although they will be livid if it slips beyond 18 months.

But Mike Hobday, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "We're absolutely shocked by what the Government is saying - the Government has a moral responsibility to the public and to Parliament itself to vigorously defend what Parliament is saying.

"We can only believe this is cowardice in the face of threats and intimidation by the Countryside Alliance and it is really a constitutional outrage that the Government are allowing themselves to be browbeaten in this way."

The Government invoked the rarely used Parliament Act to force the Hunting Bill through in November.

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