Tory says ban on hunting will be repealed

A PROMISE to repeal the controversial Hunting with Dogs act within a year of the Conservatives winning a General Election was confirmed yesterday by the shadow Defra Minister.

Nick Herbert, making his first visit to the Great Yorkshire Show since entering the Shadow Cabinet, said a Tory Government would seek to repeal the Act if elected.

Mr Herbert also gave further details of a dairy summit the Conservatives are organising today, in Whitehall, to examine ways in which the embattled industry could be supported.

He made his comments on hunting after the regional director of the Countryside Alliance, Steve Clark, a former Master of the Bramham Moor Hunt, said 300 packs had been out twice a week since the ban but only three prosecutions had resulted.

Mr Herbert told the Yorkshire Post: "The law is unworkable. It was brought in out of spite and we have constantly said it should be repealed."

Speaking earlier, he said: "This time next year hunting could be legal." But he warned: "We have to convince the thinking Press and the politicians that we do deserve to have the Hunting Act repealed and that we are running an open and transparent system."

But whoever is in Government, the Countryside Alliance is planning the introduction of a new form of regulation for the Hunting Code with an independent adjudicator – probably a retired High Court judge.

A new training system for kennel staff is underway with National Vocational Qualifications. It will be backed up by regular inspections of hunts.

One of the four hunts which paraded in the Main Ring yesterday is moving to new kennels at Coniston Hall, near Skipton – the home of the outgoing President of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, Michael Bannister – where the public will be able to see the hounds

The Pendle Forest and Craven Hunt, which has been based at Gisburn, near Clitheroe, since 1945, joined the Zetland Hunt, the Holderness and the Holme Valley Beagles for the Hound Parade – a tradition on the last day of the Great Yorkshire.

The Master of the Pendle, Jane Pighills, said Mr Bannister had offered unused buildings. "Our move fits in with his hotel which has the shooting, falconry and off-road driving. The hunt will form part of that experience. It is going to be a lot of work, but we hope it provides an opportunity for school groups and others to come and learn about hunting."

The Tories announced a major rural strategy last week in which they promised to hand more powers to countryside communities and also said that a policy announcement specific to British agriculture would soon be made.

Mr Herbert said: "There is no firm date yet but it will be before the election. In terms of agricultural policy we will clearly take a strong stance in support of the British agricultural industry.

"We are already running a campaign to promote honest labelling displaying country of origin status in order to secure a fair deal for British farmers and get proper information to consumers.

"We want them to do more to recognise that the consumer is in need of proper information."

Today Mr Herbert is back in London speaking to representatives of the UK dairy industry about how it can enjoy a long term future. He said: "All the major players are coming along in order to discuss this issue and it is very important that dairy farmers are treated fairly.

"It is important that we get the balance right between a good deal for the consumer and keeping the dairy industry on the land.

"The loss of dairy farms has been bad, more than half in the last decade."

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