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Theresa May pledges free vote on bid to overturn fox hunting ban

Prime Minister Theresa May (Phil Noble/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Theresa May (Phil Noble/PA Wire)

THE Tories will renew a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning the ban on fox hunting, Theresa May has said.

The Prime Minister said she was in favour of the outlawed activity but MPs would be given the final say.

David Cameron had promised to put the divisive issue to Parliament but did not go ahead with the plan due to a lack of support.

During a visit to a factory in Leeds, Mrs May said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against.

“As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote.

“It would allow Parliament the opportunity to take the decision on this.”

A Conservative Party vice-chairman warned against re-opening the debate.

Sir Roger Gale, a patron of Conservatives Against Fox Hunting, said MPs in the next parliament will have “more than enough to occupy” their time without considering “yesterday’s argument” of repealing the Hunting Act.

He added he “cannot see many Conservative votes” for fox hunting in marginal seats the party is targeting at the General Election, while most of the newer MPs could turn out to be anti-hunting.

The law, introduced by Labour in 2004, bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals in England and Wales.

Sir Roger, seeking re-election in North Thanet, said he would oppose any attempt to repeal the Hunting Act should a free vote take place in the next parliament.

He added he understood there were around 30 to 50 anti-hunt Tories in the last parliament, with the potential for the 2017 intake to have similar views.

He told the Press Association: “I cannot see many Conservative votes for fox hunting in marginal seats we are hoping to win.”

Sir Roger said he believed a “huge amount of parliamentary time and effort” has been spent on the issue, with the existing law “probably as good as we can get” given the difficulty in satisfying everyone.

“We have more than enough to occupy parliamentary time with Brexit and all that follows.

“In my view, it’d be folly to waste further time on the issue.”

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner labelled the Hunting Act “failed”, adding: “We will wait to see what is contained in the manifesto, but every party would agree with the premise that if you don’t like a law, campaign against it and take your views to the ballot box.

“The case for hunting, and the case against the Hunting Act, remains strong, and we will continue to make the case to politicians of all parties.”