MPs have voted through an amendment tothe Hunting Bill, which will ban the use of terriers in fox control, with serious consequences for shooting estates.

Gamekeepers will no longer be allowed to send terriers underground to flush foxes, which are the primary predator of game birds such as pheasants, grouse and partridges.

Shooting estates will face huge difficulties in controlling the vermin as nearly half of the foxes shot by keepers are first chased from their dens by terriers. Under the original terms of the Hunting Bill, keepers would have needed to apply for a licence to use terriers.

Pro-shooting campaigners are outraged by rural affairs minister Alun Michael’s decision to throw in his lot with anti-hunting backbench MPs and vote against his own bill on the issue.

Country sports groups say Mr Michael’s decision flies in the face of the Government’s pre-election manifesto promise not to interfere with shooting.

Simon Hart, of the Countryside Alliance, said: ‘Alun Michael has caved in to pressure from backbench and DEFRA colleagues to such an absurd degree that he has ended up voting against his own bill.

‘It is a betrayal of the Government’s 2001 election manifesto since the impact of this amendment on gamekeeperswill clearly breach the claim that they had no intention of placing restrictions on shooting.’

Last week, shadow minister for the countryside James Gray toldCountrylife.co.ukthat he believes Mr Michael’s readiness to accept the amendment on terrier working is part of a deal with backbench MPs.