DESPITE disruptions caused by protesters, MPs voted to ban fox hunting with dogs in England and Wales on Weds (September 15).

At its third reading, the Hunting Bill was passed by 339 votes to 155.

The bill will be debated in the House of Lords next month, but the government has said it will be pushed through – by means of the Parliament Act – if peers oppose it.

But because of an amendment to the bill delaying its enforcement the ban will not come into force until July 2006.

The Countryside Alliance has stated its intent to take legal action against the government on the grounds that use of the Parliament Act to fast-track legislation breaches the European convention on human rights.

But rural affairs minister Alun Michael told The Guardian that ministers were confident that any attempt to invoke the convention would fail.

Many pro-hunt protesters said on Wednesday that they would continue hunting regardless of the ban, and many belived that the ban was pushed through more for party-political reasons than out of animal welfare considerations.

“I fear it is being done for good, old-fashioned misconceived ideas about the sort of people who go hunting,” Luke Annaly, from Banbury, Oxfordshire, told the BBC.

“People have come from all over the country and all sections of society. It‘s no longer a privileged exclusive activity.”

But Libdem shadow rural affairs minister Andrew George told The Guardian that the debate was about “who runs the country”.

“Is it based on primogeniture and birthright – what one might describe as the old boy network, or it is run on the basis of democracy?” Mr George said.