MPS and peers are on a collision course again over hunting after the House of Lords backed a compromise deal for licensed hunts.

The Lords this week rejected the complete ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales that was overwhelmingly supported by the Commons.

They voted 322 votes to 72 more than four to one for a middle way' plan similar to that mooted by ministers but rejected by MPs last year.

As the Gazette went to press, peers were still voting on a detailed series of amendments, but so far they have supported licensing hunts if they pass tests on cruelty and demonstrate they are needed for pest control.

An idea to exclude national parks from any hunting ban or licence scheme to protect sheep flocks from foxes was rejected.

Now the peers' proposals will run the gauntlet through the Commons.

Downing Street appeared to signal a willingness to live with an amendment after Tony Blair's official spokesman declined to confirm whether it would use the Parliament Act to push through a complete hunting ban.

But anti-hunt MP Tony Banks argued that since the Commons had voted overwhelmingly for a ban, whatever compromise the Lords came up with, it would be unacceptable to MPs.