Free vote on repeal of hunting ban will still be held

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A House of Commons vote on whether to repeal the Hunting Act will still be held despite Liberal Democrat Ministers blocking a plan to relax the current laws, the Environment Secretary has said.

Owen Paterson told MPs that the free vote on repealing the Act which was promised in the 2010 Coalition Agreement will go ahead “at the appropriate time”.

A group of Welsh farmers had been pushing for the current law to be amended, to allow them to flush out foxes using a pack of dogs before shooting it. However, David Cameron announced on Wednesday that despite his personal support for the plan, it would not proceed due to Lib Dem opposition.

Separately, the Coalition Agreement of 2010 promised a free vote “enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act” at some point over the course of the Parliament.

But Conservatives who want the ban abolished fear they do not have enough support in the House to win the vote – leading to speculation it will be shelved.

Questioned on the matter yesterday, Mr Paterson said he regretted the amendment would not proceed but insisted the free vote will take place as promised over the next 12 months.

“We received an interesting report from a number of Welsh farmers, which presented a reasonable view that there is an increased problem of fox predation on lands since the Hunting Act 2004 came into force,” the Environment Secretary said.

“But as the Prime Minister made very clear, sadly there is no agreement between the coalition parties, which is needed for an amendment to be brought before the House.

On the free vote, he said: “I think we have made it very clear.

“The commitment in the coalition agreement still stands and I have made it clear that a vote will come forward at an appropriate time.”