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Hain warns on hunt ban Bill.

Byline: Kirsty Buchanan

A BACKBENCH bid to force an outright ban on hunting could herald major delays to the longawaited legislation, Commons Leader Peter Hain has warned ahead of Monday's clash with Labour MPs.

Mr Hain warned that any significant amendment to the Hunting Bill, such as an outright ban, would force the legislation back to committee for scrutiny, ensuring the controversial legislation has no chance of clearing Parliament this year.

Mr Hain's warning will anger backbenchers planning to toughen up the compromise Bill drawn up by Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael and is unlikely to stave off an amendment signed by 130 MPs to force a total ban on fox hunting.

Normally the Hunting Bill would move to the House of Lords after Monday's Report Stage in the Commons. But, speaking during Business Questions yesterday, Mr Hain said unless significant changes to the face of the Bill went back to committee for scrutiny they may not be legal. And without recommittal, he warned, the Government could not use the Parliament Act to force through the legislation in the face of expected Lords opposition.

The Welsh Secretary, who is opposed to hunting and has himself voted for a total ban, told MPs there would be free vote on Monday and said he stood by Mr Michael's promise to use the Parliament Act if necessary.

It is likely that any decision to send the Bill back to committee would delay the expected use of the Parliament Act to 2005.

Cardiff South and Penarth MP Mr Michael is under intense pressure from Downing Street to ensure the Bill clears the Commons on Monday and has announced a series of amendments to head off a clash with backbenchers.

Mr Hain's comments will be viewed as a lastditch attempt to persuade antihunt MPs not to back the ban amendment, proposed by former Sports Minister Tony Banks.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Lembit Opik, who chairs the Middle Way Group, said, ``The Middle Way Group has long said the inflexible position taken by the proban parliamentary lobby is harmful to animal welfare which would actually increase animal suffering, not reduce it.''
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 27, 2003
Words:355
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