Published: 00:00, 04 July 2003
KENT MPs were divided when it came to Monday's vote to ban hunting - but not totally along party lines.
The county’s eight Labour MPs were among the 362 to vote for an outright ban but they were joined by two Tory members who have long campaigned for an end to hunting.
Both Maidstone and Weald MP Ann Widdecombe and the Thanet North MP Roger Gale helped ensure a hefty defeat for the Government’s compromise deal, which would have meant tougher rules on licensed hunts.
Miss Widdecombe, a long-standing opponent of hunting, was the only one of the county’s 17 MPs called to speak in the House of Commons’ debate.
In an impassioned appeal to colleagues to back a ban, she said it was time to “end this barbarism” and for MPs to have the courage of their convictions.
She stressed: "This is the best chance that we have ever had to get an absolute ban. It will be a mark of shame for all of us who have fought for it if we give in now, when we are at the door of achieving it, to some shoddy compromise that a blackmailing Government has tried to impose on its own backbenchers."
“This is our best chance for years. If we give it up, ours is the shame, not hunting's.”
Chatham and Aylesford Labour MP Jonathan Shaw, another opponent of hunting, said: “I expect it will be a couple of years before a ban becomes fully effective. Nevertheless we are, at long last, approaching the day when this barbaric sport is consigned to the dustbin of history, along with cock fighting and bear baiting.”
There was a less sanguine view from the Faversham and Mid Kent MP Hugh Robertson, who accused the Rural Affairs minister Alan Michael of caving in to opponents of his Bill.
He said: “I am appalled by the way the Government has behaved. Alan Michael failed to back his own Bill in committee and in the House and caved in at the first sign of any opposition. It was utterly pathetic.”
* MPs who voted for an outright ban were: Paul Clark (Gillingham); Dr Stephen Ladyman (Thanet South); Bob Marshall-Andrews (Medway); Chris Pond (Gravesham); Dr Howard Stoate (Dartford); Gwyn Prosser (Dover); Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey); Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford); Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone); Roger Gale (Thanet North).
MPs who opposed a ban were: Archie Norman (Tunbridge Wells); Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid Kent); Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks); Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe); Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling).