By Phil Murphy and John Deane
From The Universe, November 9 1997
The MP hoping to pilot a Bill through Parliament to outlaw hunting
has insisted his measure will reach the statute books - despite
Government warnings that no extra Parliamentary time will be allotted to
help it on its way.
Mike Foster, Labour MP for Worcester,
published a draft copy of his Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill on
Tuesday. Formal publication was due to follow this weekend, with the
first crunch vote taking place on November 28.
maximum penalties of £5,000 fines and up to six months' imprisonment for
huntsmen who flout the law, or even those who allow hunting to take
place on their land. Yet there were fears among anti-hunt campaigners
that comments from Downing Street on Monday spelled the death-knell for
the bill, with the Government insisting it had "enough on its plate" and
would not be able to find extra time for the measure.
said his family had faced personal abuse since he agreed to sponsor the
"In the summer, we were subjected to death threats and
abuse, which were aimed at me and my family," he said.
threats stopped only after Commons colleagues referred to them publicly.
"Clearly people in the hunting community knew it did them no good
to have this level of intimidation against me," he said.
Foster and her children abandoned their home last week while a
pro-hunting campaign was taking place in Worcester after claims that
racists and other extremists might be attaching themselves to the
Nevertheless, he did not regret backing anti-hunting
legislation as his first major public act as an MP. "The experience I
have had since launching this bill has been wonderful overall in the
sense that I have seen how the place works and I have a greater insight
into the workings of the House, which will make me a better MP in the
MPs from all parties attended a photo-call outside
the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday to show support for the measure.
Roger Gale, Tory MP for North Thanet and chairman of the all-party
animal welfare group, acknowledged that Mr Foster's bill faced real
problems in the absence of Government support.
Member's Bill is an extremely fragile Parliamentary instrument," he
said. "It's very easy to block."
"This is a Bill whose time has
come. Whether it gets through now or in a year's time is almost
Mr Gale said support for a ban on the Tory side of
the House should not be underestimated, with former Ministers Sir Teddy
Taylor and Anne Widdecombe backing the bill.
While he did not
blame the Government for failing to support the bill, Mr Gale said: "My
quarrel is not that they are not doing it; my quarrel is that they gave
the impression before the Election that they would facilitate this."
But Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, accused
the Government of "treachery" and said he hoped Labour MPs would make
their leaders change their mind.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the
pro-hunting Countryside Alliance attacked the bill as "unworkable".
"Mike Foster's bill is draconian and unworkable and for anybody who owns
a dog it makes it into an offence if the dog hunts anything," said the
organisation's Janet George.
"This would affect totally innocent
dog owners and makes the Dangerous Dogs Act look sensible.
fortunately, it is doomed to fail and everybody who has got a dog can
thank their lucky stars for it"
Reproduced with thanks
See Article: Dogged MP pins ban bid on poster – campaign
offers a ray of hope for female deer
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