The House of Lords has rejected the proposed ban on hunting by an overwhelming 317 to 68.

Peers voted three times on the legislation: once after taking out the clauses which ban hunting, again after inserting an amendment proposing a system of self-regulation (249 for the Bill to 108 against), and, finally, after these latter amendments had been replaced with strict licensing laws (122 for the Bill; 202 against).

In a heated four-hour debate, some peers condemned the decision to proceed with the bill at all while foot-and-mouth disease was raging through the countryside.

Members of the House were expected, by both hunt supporters and welfare groups, to vote against a total ban.

The fact that the so-called ‘Middle Way’ option was thrown out has delighted hunt supporters.

Simon Hart of the Countryside Alliance, a proponent of self-regulation, said: “This is overwhelming cross-party objection to a ban and it is quite clear there is no mandate for criminalising people who support hunting.”