Legislation to ban foxhunting has again been "kicked into the long grass", ministers admitted privately last week.
Despite repeated promises of a Bill to ban hunting with dogs and overwhelming support in the House of Commons for the measure, it has slipped down the Government's agenda.
Ministers have retreated from an anti-hunting Bill, government sources said, because of a lack of parliamentary time. Legislation prompted by the 11 September terror attacks has piled pressure on an already cluttered timetable.
The Government is also thought to be anxious "not to appear arrogant" by using the Parliament Act to over-ride the House of Lords' rejection of an earlier attempt to bring in a ban. There are fears of yet another clash on the subject with the Lords.
Senior figures around Tony Blair are also worried that re-visiting the subject could prompt fresh countryside protests and repeats of the displays of opposition seen last year in Scotland.
But Labour MPs, largely in favour of a hunting ban, are "sick and tired" of waiting for action, one said. "I think we should just get on and do it."
At a recent meeting with MPs, Alun Michael, the Home Office minister in charge of the hunting issue, reiterated the Government's pledge to allow a free vote on the issue.
But further delay is sure to infuriate already frustrated anti-hunt campaigners. One said: "The Prime Minister wants a solution that will please everyone. There isn't one. It comes down to whether he has the political will to do this."Reuse content