HUNT CAMPAIGNERS are plotting to use English-only Commons votes to repeal a ban on hunting with foxes, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
As hunts gather across England today, the Countryside Alliance has confirmed it is hoped that four-and-a-half years of disappointment with the coalition Government can be changed if Scottish MPs are blocked from voting on English-only issues.
The alliance is preparing for a new battle to repeal anti-hunting laws after the General Election in May following a pragmatic decision to accept the coalition is unlikely to win a hunt vote. And, as Ukip leader Nigel Farage is expected to attend a Boxing Day hunt, there is a direct attack on his policy of offering a county-by-county hunting referendum, with a senior alliance director describing it as “idiotic”.
The Countryside Alliance’s campaigns director, Tim Bonner, said: “The hunting act had been passed in November 2004 and came into force in February 2005. It was thought by some it would just go away, but here we are 10 years later and frankly we have got nearly as many hunts as we had then, the only hunts that closed down did so because of development and the fact that there’s no countryside for them to hunt in rather than as a result of the change in the law.
“There’s a lot of optimism out there. That may sound strange after four-and-a-half years of coalition government and no significant change in the law, but the day after the last election we knew it was unlikely there would be significant change in the law.”
Mr Bonner maintained that a hung parliament brought with it opportunities for a new look at hunting, including the potential for MPs representing non-English constituencies to be banned from voting on issues where the devolved nations have their own rules.
Hunting is devolved for the Scottish government to decide on, meaning Labour could lose the chance for its Scottish MPs to block a change in England.
Mr Bonner said: “One reason for optimism is the English Votes issue, Scotland has separate legislation on hunting which ironically allows you to do an awful lot more on hunting. There are 41 Scottish Labour MPs, and every single one of them is committed to voting against a repeal of the act in England and Wales. The one Tory said he will not vote on the issue as it is not relevant to Scotland.”
Asked if he thought hunt supporters would edge towards Ukip, Mr Bonner maintained that the alliance’s members would find it difficult to back Mr Farage.
He added: “There is a temptation towards Ukip, but frankly Ukip has possibly the most idiotic policy on hunting that is capable of imagining.”