Hunting Bill will fall short of a total ban

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The political compromise on fox hunting will fall a step short of a ban in an attempt to appease Labour backbenchers and the pro-hunting lobby, under plans being prepared by ministers yesterday.

The political compromise on fox hunting will fall a step short of a ban in an attempt to appease Labour backbenchers and the pro-hunting lobby, under plans being prepared by ministers yesterday.

Alun Michael, the Rural Affairs minister, is expected to announce a further consultation on new legislation on hunting later today. But he is likely to anger some anti-hunting backbenchers by refusing to reintroduce last year's Bill for a ban on hunting with hounds.

Instead, a compromise would allow strictly regulated hunting in some parts of England and Wales, such as hill farming areas, where it could be justified as the only way to control pests.

Privately, ministers are concerned that a ban, such as that introduced in Scotland, would prove unworkable. The Scottish Countryside Alliance has vowed to challenge the ban north of the border amid claims that it is flawed and riddled with loopholes.

The alliance also points to the Burns report, which found that foxes caused greater damage in upland areas, where there were "fewer alternatives available to the use of dogs".

Tony Blair, who met members of the Labour backbench committee yesterday, will hope that such a compromise, presented in effect as a ban, could win the support of many MPs opposed to hunting.

MPs voted overwhelmingly on Monday to support a ban on fox hunting, but peers defied the Commons in a second "indicative vote" on Tuesday, overwhelmingly backing the "middle-way" option, which would allow hunting to continue under licence.

The new proposals are likely to be far tougher than the middle-way option and will anger many peers.

If the new Bill is tough enough to satisfy the Commons, ministers could use the Parliament Act to force reform past opposition in the Lords.

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