21 June 2001
Alliance warns of new London march

By FWi staff

HUNDREDS of thousands of rural protestors may soon again descend on London in protest at moves which could outlaw fox-hunting, warn campaigners.

The Countryside Alliance has threatened to revive its plans after a free vote on hunting was included in the Queens speech on Wednesday (20 June.

Its Countryside March in 1998 attracted 300,000 people, but plans for a follow-up in March this year were shelved due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Alliance chairman John Jackson said a decision of any new action would depend on the form of a Bill when it was finally introduced.

No details of what MPs will be asked to vote on have been released.

If the government brought forward legislation to ban hunting, a massive civil liberties march in London and a determined campaign against a ban would be a racing certainty, said Mr Jackson.

Mr Jackson noted that the government planned to consult all interested parties, including the alliance, before deciding on the form of a bill.

If this marked the start of attempts to find a workable solution, then the alliance would do all it could to help resolve the issue, he said.

A statement from Downing Street said hunting was an issue that aroused strong passions among people on both sides of the argument so was rightly a free vote issue.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs came under criticism for outlining no other goals in the new government programme.

Shadow rural affairs secretary Tim Yeo said it was absolutely outrageous that there was no mention of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

This showed that the Prime Minister neither cared for nor understood rural issues, said Mr Yeo.

The level of support for the 1998 march shocked the Government and showed that many people felt it did not care about rural issues.

One of the key tasks given to new Secretary of State Margaret Beckett is to improve Labours standing with rural dwellers.

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