With only a few weeks to go before the expected announcement of the general election date, Tony Blair is believed to be backing down over the Labour Party’s plan to ban hunting.

Insiders say that there is rising concern among ministers aboutthe Liberty & Livelihood March on 18 March in London and the general feeling is that the issue is wasting valuable Parliamentary time which could be better spent.

Parliamentary sources believe that Mr Blair now plans to remove from the manifestoany reference to another free vote on hunting in the next Parliament which is expected to cause outrage among MPs who voted for the bill banning foxhunting by a majority of 213.

The bill is due to go before the Commons again early next week and then to the Lords next month.

Ministers expect peers to reject an outright ban and to vote either for no change or for licensed hunting – the so called “middle way” option.