Stormont MLAs are set to debate whether to ban hunting with dogs in Northern Ireland.

A private members' bill brought by Alliance MLA John Blair aims to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

However, the Countryside Alliance has urged MLAs to vote against the bill, describing it as "very clumsily cobbled together with absolutely no regard or thought for its wider implication".

Speaking ahead of the debate, Stormont Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots indicated he would not be supporting the bill.

Mr Poots contended foxes are a threat to some ground-nesting birds such as red grouse and hen harriers.

"If we're serious about biodiversity, then we need to have management tools and we need to be very cautious about removing management tools," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"I'm not sure it is a particularly well written bill so I can't support it on that basis. Personally I don't hunt, I don't particularly like hunting but I can't support this particular bill because I think that it isn't well thought through. It might be well meaning but not well thought through and has damaging consequences if it came into force."

Hunting with dogs has been banned in England, Scotland, and Wales since the early 2000s.

The bill will be open for debate on the floor of the Assembly today after gaining significant support during a public consultation with nearly 80% of the 18,000 respondents in favour of a ban.

It is understood to be the largest consultation response in Stormont's history.

The bill has been backed by the Northern Ireland animal welfare charity, the USPCA.

Mr Blair said: "Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom without a ban on hunting with dogs, despite widespread public support to ban the practice.

"It is my intention in bringing forward my Private Member's Bill, to reform legislation on hunting wild mammals with dogs in Northern Ireland, and bring our legislation in line with that in England, Scotland and Wales where the practice has been illegal for close to 20 years."