MPs dominate committee
MPs will have a clear majority on the committee that is being
set up to deal with the next stage of the Government Bill to
restrict the sport.
Government and opposition whips met last week to discuss the
composition of the committee that will start the line by line
scrutiny of the Hunting Bill early next month.
Alun Michael, the rural affairs minister, is hoping that supporters
and opponents of hunting will accept his proposals as the basis
for a settlement.
But anti-hunting MPs are determined to amend the Bill so that
it bans the sport completely, and the second reading debate
in mind December suggested that neither side was in the mood
to compromise. The Commons backed the Bill by 368 votes to 155.
Although MPs were offered a free vote, the House divided largely
along party lines. Of the 368 MPs who voted in favour of the
Bill, 322 were Labour, 36 were Liberal Democrat, six were Tory,
three were Plaid Cymru and one was Ulster Unionist.
The six Tories were: David Amess, Roger Gale, Marion Roe, John
Taylor, Sir Teddy Taylor and Ann Widdecombe.
Of the 155 MPs who opposed the Bill, 141 were Tory, eight were
Liberal Democrat, three were Labour, two were Ulster Unionist
and one was the independent MP, Dr Richard Taylor.
The three Labour opponents were Denzil Davies, Mark Fisher and
members of the Cabinet, including Gordon Brown, Robin Cook and
Jack Straw, voted for the Bill. Tony Blair and John Prescott,
who have put their name to the Bill, did not take part in the
Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, voted against Mr Michael's
proposal. Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, voted
with the Labour majority.
Anti-hunting MPs are likely to introduce an amendment banning
all foxhunting during the Bill's committee stage. The composition
of the standing committee will reflect the balance of opinion
in the Commons, and Government sources have confirmed this means
it will be dominated by anti-hunting MPs.
The key vote will take place when the Bill reaches its report
stage a few weeks later. All MPs can vote during report stage
The Countryside Alliance said the Government faced a "long
fight" if it wanted to stop hunting. He predicted that
tempers would "boil over" if a fair solution was not
"We have said a just outcome is fine. We are prepared to
move quite a long way to a statutory regulatory system,"
said Simon Hart, a spokesman.
"When people are treated unfairly, when their voices are
not heard, when they are treated as second class citizens, then
they get angry and I cannot blame them."
A spokesman for Countdown to the Ban, a group representing several
anti-hunting organisations, said: "The only outcome that
will be acceptable to us is a complete ban."