TWICKENHAM MP Vincent Cable and Richmond Park MP Jenny Tonge joined hundreds of MPs in voting for a ban on hunting with dogs.

MPs backed a backbench amendment to the controversial Hunting Bill by 362 to 154.

Although the bill was passed by an overwhelming majority, the government would have to invoke the Parliament Act to get it through the Lords. Dr Cable expressed doubts that a ban will happen before the end of this parliamentary term.

He said: "I’m sceptical that the government wants to force this through and alienate the countryside alliance. I think they might try and kick this issue into touch."

Fox-hunting ignites public opinion, both locally and nationally more than the NHS, schools or trains. Until the war on Iraq letters about hunting filled Dr Cable’s post bag like no other issue.

"When the hunting bill was first announced I had 700 letters on the subject.

‘‘Before this debate we had three letters that were pro-hunting and 400 that supported a ban. I think there are a lot of people who live in Twickenham who really care about animal rights issues."