Government backs hunt ban

11 November 1999

Government backs hunt ban

HUNTING with hounds could soon be a thing of the past after the government announced it will support a backbench Bill on fox-hunting.

Home secretary Jack Straw also said he would hold an inquiry into the effects on rural unemployment of any future ban, reports BBC Online.

Mr Straw said: “The government will offer time and assistance to a private members Bill.

“Before that, the inquiry provides an opportunity for the facts about hunting to be properly assessed.

“It will not be into whether hunting is right or wrong, which is a matter for Parliament to decide, but into the facts about hunting and, among other things, about how a ban could be implemented and what the consequences of a ban would be.”

The home secretary, who is thought to be personally against a hunt ban, said the inquiry should conclude before MPs examine any Bill.

The inquiry will take evidence from all interested parties.

It will examine the effects on the rural economy, agriculture and pest control, the social and cultural life of rural areas and the management and conservation of wildlife.

Mr Straw also announced that when a private members Bill was considered by the Commons it would be put to a free vote.

The committee of inquiry will be chaired by former Permanent Secretary to the Treasury Lord Burns. Other members will be appointed later.

The home secretarys statement came in a parliamentary written answer on Thursday.

The Countryside Alliance, which has campaigned against a ban, responded to the news saying it was “not good enough”.

Spokesman Simon Hart said he was “very pleased” that by holding an inquiry ministers were at least acknowledging that a ban could have adverse effects on the rural community.

But he said the inquiry fell short of the fully independent investigation his group had requested and that it was not comprehensive enough.

The most recent attempt to ban hunting – Labour MP Mike Fosters bill – collapsed in 1998 partially because the government refused to give it any of its parliamentary time.

This week the Prime Minister met the cross-party Middle Way group of MPs, which is seeking a compromise which would allow hunting to continue, but in a form regulated by a code of conduct.

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