Protesters invade British parliament

Four pro-hunt activists ran out from behind the chair of the speaker, while another wrestled past a doorkeeper from a different entrance.

They were hustled away by guards, but the incident – just two days after an activist dressed as Batman scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace – revealed the vulnerability of Britain’s institutions.

Security was stepped up immediately, with armed police guarding the chamber in place of the usual footmen and stewards.

The Commons debate was suspended for about half and hour but ministers later voted in favour of the fox hunting ban.

The prime minister was not in the chamber at the time.

Shocked lawmakers demanded to know how the five had evaded guards to enter the debating floor.

“Following Monday at Buckingham Palace and today at the House of Commons, serious questions need to be asked about how secure our major institutions are,” said Conservative Party chairman Liam Fox.

Pro-hunt demonstrators also scuffled with police outside parliament where about 10,000 rallied against the hunting ban. Several people were injured and seven arrested.

The fox hunting issue has been simmering since the Labour Party took power in 1997. Tension erupted last September when more than 400,000 hunt supporters marched through London.

The Commons has voted before for a total hunting ban, but it has been stalled by opposition in the upper House of Lords.

Supporters insist the practice is an inalienable right and a rural tradition which helps control countryside pests and provides thousands of jobs.

Opponents say it is elitist and barbaric, with a pack of dogs tracking a live animal and then tearing it apart.

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