Tory attempts to introduce a new Bill designed to strengthen protection for householders who tackle intruders have run into the sand after three MPs failed to turn up for a crucial committee hearing.

The blunder by Chris Grayling, Andrew Mitchell and Hugo Swire - seen as deeply embarrassing for the party leader, Michael Howard - means the Householder Protection Bill will have no time to become law before Parliament is dissolved for the expected general election on 5 May.

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