NEWS
04/07/2017 10:27 BST | Updated 04/07/2017 11:27 BST

Government Shelves Plan For Free Vote On Repeal Of Hunting Ban

A free vote on the repeal of fox hunting restrictions has been shelved, the Government has confirmed. 

Environment minister Therese Coffey said the Tory minority administration is not planning to bring forward a vote in "this session", suggesting it will be a minimum of two years before such an idea is even considered.

The Tories had pledged in their manifesto to hold a free vote on a Bill in Government time to allow Parliament to decide the future of the Hunting Act 2004.

But the policy's omission from the Queen's Speech, which outlined the legislative programme for the current parliamentary session of 2017 until 2019, was the first indicator the plan had been put on the back burner.

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

Ms Coffey's remarks came in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour's Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green).

The minister said: "The Government's manifesto includes a free vote on the Hunting Act 2004, but we are not planning to bring forward a free vote in this session."

Anti-hunt Tories warned during the election campaign against a free vote, with Sir Roger Gale insisting MPs would have "more than enough to occupy" their time without considering "yesterday's argument" of repealing the Hunting Act.

Prime Minister Theresa May lost her Commons majority at the June 8 poll, thwarting her bid to implement a wide range of policies.

Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesperson Baroness Parminter said: "It's good news that the Government has dropped this proposal. It was a ridiculous idea to reopen a debate which was comprehensively decided on 10 years ago.

"In these uncertain times, the Government should be focusing on the real priorities for rural communities and protecting the wildlife and countryside that they cherish."