Published: 00:00, 15 February 2002
KENT Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe has thrown her weight behind an RSPCA campaign to push for a complete ban on hunting with dogs. She is among the first politicians in the country to sign a petition organised by the animal welfare charity.
Miss Widdecombe, who represents Maidstone and the Weald, said: "My first duty is to my constituents, the majority of whom tend to be human but I am certainly very interested in animal welfare. I think that my stand on hunting is fairly well known. It's unnecessary and it's cruel and it's something that I do feel very strongly about."
A year ago a bill to ban hunting with dogs was blocked by the House of Lords, despite being supported by a majority of 412 MPs in the House of Commons. Miss Widdecombe added: "Tony Blair promised in writing to allow a free vote on hunting with dogs which he did but he left it right until the last minute when no controversial bill was going to succeed.
"The Prime Minister has been extremely hypocritical about this and I feel he should be made to feel embarrassed."
The former Home Secretary visited the south east regional headquarters of the RSPCA in Albion Place, Maidstone, to add her signature to a giant banner which will be put up outside the building.
The Banner for a Ban campaign was set up by the RSPCA with the help of the League Against Cruel Sports and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It is being staged all over Britain and aims to collect the signatures of more than a million people which will be taken to Downing Street and presented to the Prime Minister.
RSPCA south east regional manager, Richard McCrow, said: "We're delighted that Ann has found the time to come along and support our campaign. Hunting with dogs has no place in modern Britain and we're convinced that thousands of people in the Maidstone area will want to add their names to this campaign."