The Conservative party will attempt to repeal the ban on hunting with hounds if it wins next year’s General Election. The party will offer a free vote to repeal the controversial law, passed by Tony Blair’s Labour government, using government time in the next parliament.
The information was disclosed on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas when hunts across the country meet, with thousands of supporters turning out to watch.
The Telegraph reports that the party’s manifesto for May’s election will likely say the passing of the ban was a mistake, and that a Conservative government would seek to repeal it. The wording is likely to be very similar to the party’s 2010 manifesto, which read: “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 ban was passed in 2004 after the then Labour government forced it through parliament after spending many hours of parliamentary time debating the issue.
Hunting on horseback on with hounds has traditionally been regarded as a typically British pursuit, and an integral part of rural culture. Although popular across all sections of rural society, it became associated with the landed gentry, with even members of the Royal Family enjoying it.
Most current Royals have taken part in the pursuit, while Prime Minister David Cameron has also been an enthusiast.
Its reputation as a sport of the upper classes, however, led to many on the left resenting it, and Labour MPs spent hours of parliamentary time in the late 1990s and early 2000s trying to ban it, ostensibly on animal welfare grounds. They finally succeeded when Tony Blair, desperate to placate angry backbenchers in the wake of the Iraq war, allowed them to force the ban through.
Ten years later, there are now increasing calls for a repeal, with very few prosecutions ever being successful under the law, and nearly all hunts still continuing to ride out as they did before.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the pro-hunting 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 Conservative majority, or a Conservative led coalition, there must be action on hunting.”