The 10-year hunting ban may be repealed within 12 months with confident lobbyists claiming they have the numbers to win any open vote at Westminster. David Cameron is under pressure from Tory MPs to honour the party’s election manifesto pledge to hold a free Commons vote on the controversial ban as soon as possible.
According to the Independent, the pro-hunting lobby, which has analysed the views of the MPs elected this month, believes it has achieved the “magic number” of 286 votes it needs to win. The figure is less than half of the 650-member House because the Scottish National Party has said its 56 MPs will abstain.
The Countryside Alliance calculates that only about 12 of the 330 Conservative MPs will vote to keep the ban imposed by the Blair Government. The rival League Against Cruel Sports is confident that more than 12 Tories will vote to maintain the ban. It believes it can win the critical vote, which could be very close. It accused the Countryside Alliance of pressuring Tory MPs into believing a decision to repeal the Hunting Act 2004 is inevitable, when it is not.
Any Commons vote is unlikely to be mentioned in the Queen’s Speech on May 27, as that will dilute Mr Cameron’s message of a new a “one nation” government and an end to the Tories’ image as the “party of the rich.” But the Speech traditionally says that “other measures” will follow later in the parliamentary year and Tory MPs are hopeful that there will be a vote in the next 12 months.
Owen Paterson, the Conservative former Environment Secretary, told the Independent: “The hunting ban is bad legislation, bad for animal welfare and bad for the liberty of people in the countryside. A repeal of this law is a clear manifesto commitment and I am confident we will see it in the Queen’s Speech on May 27.”
Simon Hart, a Tory MP and former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, added his voice to the call for the return of the traditional sport of hunting with dogs: He said: “We need to get on with this and I am sure the Government will want to resolve the matter quickly and efficiently. The commitment to a vote on repeal has been in the manifesto since 2005 and we now have the opportunity to deliver that and get rid of a law that has been a running sore in the countryside for over 10 years.”
Hart added that he thought the vast majority of his colleagues understand the hunting debate was never really about animal welfare, but rather Labour MPs attacking a defining Conservative target.
“The recent election result has shown once and for all that Labour’s obsession with fighting a class war has rendered them unelectable, so it is only right that we remove laws based on this prejudice from the statute book,” Hart said.