18 October 1999
Human rights threat to hunting bill

MOVES to ban foxhunting in Britain may be scuppered by a legal challenge based on the European Convention on Human Rights.

This could land the government with a multi-million pound compensation bill, according to The Times.

Pro-hunt campaigners believe ministers will breach the convention if they outlaw the practice without compensating an estimated 23,000 people whose jobs depend on it.

Field sport campaigners are expected to launch a Scottish court action as a test case within weeks.

A successful action could kill a Scottish Parliament private members bill designed to outlaw foxhunting in Scotland, years ahead of an English ban.

The Countryside Alliance says a positive result in Scotland would hit plans to ban foxhunting in England.

Some 15,000 pro-hunt campaigners took to the streets of Newcastle yesterday in a Countryside Alliance protest against the governments threatened ban.

Meanwhile, the government is finalising its legislative package for parliament which will include a countryside bill establishing the statutory right to roam.

There is expected to be no room for legislation to ban fox hunting, which is likely to emerge as a backbench private members bill.

The government has awarded a contract to GeoData of Southampton University, to draw up a map of the rights of way in mountains, moorland, heath and down.