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Public hearings to be held on fox hunting’s future

A series of public hearings on the future of foxhunting have been announced by Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael.

A deadline of July 15 had been imposed on those wanting to put the case for or against a ban. However, Mr Michael said public hearings would now be carried out, probably in September.

Anti-hunting Labour MPs like former Sports Minister Tony Banks are already frustrated by the Government’s failure to bring in a ban.

An inquiry into the future of hunting was carried out by Lord Burns two years ago but a Government Bill to outlaw the practice failed when the General Election was called in the spring of 2001.

A new Bill to ban hunting was introduced in March of this year and MPs voted overwhelmingly for an outright ban on fox hunting, rebuffing compromise proposals which allegedly had the backing of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Anti-hunting MPs supported the ban by 386 votes to 175. The majority of 211 was almost identical to the vote for a ban last year when MPs were debating the Hunting Bill, which failed because of a lack of parliamentary time.

But the number of MPs backing the so-called middle way, which would allow hunting to continue under strict controls, fell to 169, despite clear indications from Downing Street that Mr Blair favours a compromise. Only 11 Labour MPs supported this option, including the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, and Robin Cook, Leader of the Commons.

The House of Lords voted against an outright ban on Foxhunting in their own debate on the issue the day after the House of Comons vote.

Delivering a huge vote in favour of the so-called ‘Middle Way’, the peers backed the option of allowing fox hunting under regulation by 366 votes to 59, a majority of 307.

Their Lordships rejected an outright ban on hunting by 331 votes to 74, a majority of 257, with the number opposing the move substantially up on last year’s vote. In a third vote, the option of preserving the status quo was rejected by 119 votes to 97, a majority of 22.


Mr Michael said more consultation was needed at the end of last month.

Details of the new hearings came in a joint statement with pro and anti-hunting campaigners and the Middle Way Group which is calling for restrictions rather than a ban.

Issued by Mr Michael, the Countryside Alliance, The Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals and the Middle Way Group, it said: “We have agreed to arrange public hearings, probably to take place in September this year.

“These will explore the key issues in a focused way, drawing on expert evidence.

“This will help towards the drawing up of legislation based on clear principles, as indicated in Alun Michael’s statement to the Commons on March 21. Detailed discussions will continue towards that end.”

How MPs Voted: (2001 debate figures in brackets)

Status Quo
For: 154 (155)
Against: 401 (399)
Maj: 247 (244)

Middle Way
For: 169 (182)
Against: 371 (382)
Maj: 202 (200)

Outright Ban
For: 386 (387)
Against: 175 (174)
Maj: 211 (213)