Once again the Tories prove themselves to be a party for the few and not the many. Fox hunting was outlawed in 2004, following a Private Members Bill from the then Labour MP for Worcester, Mike Foster.
Despite the majority of the population feeling that the hunting and killing of foxes for leisure is inappropriate and antiquated, many Tory backbenches feel that the ban should be repealed. In fact, the only reason a free vote in the Commons on the issue has not taken place during this parliament, is because of Liberal Democrat pressure.
As Lib Dems we believe in libertarianism and freedom, however this does include the liberty to be cruel. Similar ‘animal sports’ such as dog and cock fighting were outlawed, and rightly so, and it is hard to imagine the Tories supporting the reinstatement of these. The only reason they support the reintroduction of fox hunting is because of pressure from certain backbenchers with links to pressure groups, such as the Countryside Alliance. This, along with the far right euro-sceptic wing, shows a party divided and more interested in fighting each other than the problems this country faces.
The Conservatives will try to lift the fox hunting ban if the party wins May’s general election.
The party will offer a free vote in the next Parliament to legalise hunting if the party wins in May, The Telegraph can disclose.
The news has emerged on Boxing Day, traditionally the biggest day of the hunting calendar when thousands of supporters turn out to watch their local hunts.
The party’s manifesto is set to say that the Hunting Act is wrong-headed and a future Tory government would try to repeal it.
The decision will be on a free vote of MPs in the House of Commons, echoing the manifesto commitments in 2005 and 2010, and has been agreed with Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister who is drawing up the manifesto.
The Hunting Act 2004, which prohibits the pursuit with hounds of various wild mammals in England and Wales, came into force under Labour in February 2005. The pursuit of foxes with hounds was banned in Scotland in 2003.
Simon Hart, a Tory MP and chief executive of the Countryside Alliance between 2004 and 2010, said: “All the indications are that a commitment will be just as robust as it always has been and there is no reason to believe any changes are intended or planned.”
The wording is likely to be the same as the 2010 party manifesto, which said: “The Hunting Act has proved unworkable. A Conservative government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the hunting act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.”
The Coalition agreement then committed to “bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act”.
However the pledge was not delivered on, and few Westminster watchers now expect there to be a vote before May’s general election.
Nick Parrish, parliamentary researcher for the Conservative Rural Action Group, said the party wanted to pledge to bring hunting legislation in line with the law in Scotland.
He said: “What we need is an overall majority to enable the Conservatives to deliver this otherwise we will not. This is something that I and many people in the countryside believe in. It is a matter of freedom and livelihood and should be put right.”
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “We fully expect the Conservative manifesto commitment to repeal of the Hunting Act to be retained in 2015 and repeal or replacement of the Act is matter of trust between the countryside and the Conservatives. If there is a Conservatve majority, or a Conservative led coalition, there must be action on hunting.”
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, was an enthusiastic supporter of hunting before he became Tory leader, riding to hounds with the Heythrop Hunt.
Tory MPs have been left frustrated that one of the final commitments from the 2010 Coalition agreement – for a free vote on hunting – is unlikely to be honoured by the Government before May.
Labour has sought to use the hunting issue to portray the Conservatives, and the Prime Minister personally, as preoccupied with the concerns of a privileged elite, and out of touch with wider public opinion.
In the past, Lynton Crosby, Mr Cameron’s election adviser, is said to have warned ministers that raising the hunting issue would be a damaging distraction from the party’s core election message, which focuses on the economy, welfare and immigration.
A Conservative party spokesman said: “We are still deciding what will be in our manifesto and will outline its contents in due course.”
Article from the Daily Telegraph.