News and Information
Pro-hunt protesters storm Commons
|September 15, 2004
| Parliament was suspended after five protesters burst into the Commons chamber while MPs debated whether to ban hunting with dogs.
Four of the men ran out from behind the speaker's chair. Another wrestled past a doorkeeper from a different entrance.
It came as thousands protested outside Parliament. There were some scuffles but it was mostly a peaceful rally.
Once the Commons resumed business, MPs voted, as expected, to back a ban on hunting with dogs - by 356 to 166.
15 Sept 2004: MPs vote
Oct: Lords debate
Nov: Bill forced through using Parliament Act
Feb 2005: Hare coursing ban
Autumn 2006: Fox hunting banned
All dates assume Commons votes in favour of ban and Lords votes against
Watch the Commons break-in
See how events unfolded around Parliament
MPs vote for hunting ban
Outside Parliament, police estimate there were between 8,000 and 10,000 protesters but the organisers put it at 20,000.
MPs' debate on the ban was suspended for 20 minutes after the unprecedented security breach.
The protest comes two days after a Fathers for Justice campaigners got onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
MI5 is already reviewing security at Parliament after a protester in May threw a flour bomb at Tony Blair as he was speaking in the Commons chamber.
Wednesday's invasion of the chamber is a security breach which Commons leader Peter Hain said could have been "deadly serious".
The government has chosen the path of prejudice and spite - the reaction it unleashes will be entirely its own responsibility
Speaker Michael Martin promised to report back to MPs once he had met the serjeant-of-arms, who is responsible for security, again on Wednesday evening.
It was shortly after 1620 BST that the protesters rushed in, with one shouting at Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael: "This isn't democracy. You are overturning democracy."
The men were bundled out of the chamber, which is now being guarded by armed police, and later led away handcuffed by police.
A security sources say up to 10 protesters went into a corridor behind the speaker's chair, but a number of them were apprehended before reaching the chamber.
BBC political editor Andrew Marr said had the men been armed they could have killed all the MPs present.
As the sitting resumed, Labour MP Stuart Bell said such an invasion had not happened since the time of Charles 1.
Shadow home secretary David Davis condemned the protest and demanded an urgent security review and Labour MP Clare Ward suggested somebody must have given them access.
But the move was applauded by protesters outside Parliament, with the rally's compere saying: "Well done, you have suspended business in there and that can only be good."
But Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said all disruption was "unfortunate and unnecessary", if unsurprising given provocation by ministers.
Some protesters have been hurt
The demonstration, organised by the alliance, broke up at about 1800 BST.
Van loads of police in riot gear were sent into the area to bolster the hundreds of officers already there, after scuffles in one corner of Parliament Square as police sought to keep demonstrators penned in.
Some bottles and fireworks were thrown and some protesters were filmed with bloodied heads after the clashes, but the protests were overwhelmingly peaceful.
Scotland Yard says a small section of the crowd tried to break through the police cordon but it was "in the main... a peaceful demonstration".
Some protesters accused the police of being heavy handed.
Seven people were arrested outside Parliament for various offences, including affray and using threatening words or behaviour.
It is understood 16 members of the public and one police officer have been injured, none of them serious.
In the debate, ministers are proposing a motion to ban hunting with dogs - though not until July or August 2006.
Mr Michael said the two year delay would give people time to re-home hounds and look at converting to drag hunting and other business activities.
Downing Street says it is time to honour to manifesto commitments to resolve the hunting issue after seven years of trying to find a middle way.
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Some critics say the two year delay before the ban would come into force is to avoid pro-hunt protests in the build-up to the election expected next spring.
The minister said the election gave opponents of a ban the chance to register their protest at the ballot box rather than on the streets.
The ban is expected to pass all its Commons stages on Wednesday.
No date has been given for a Lords debate, but this is expected to take place in October.
The government has said that it will force the ban into law using the rarely used Parliament Act even if the House of Lords once again votes against a ban.
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