Given the pressing demands of tackling the deficit and introducing reforms in health, education and welfare, no time will be found in the parliamentary time table to hold the promised free vote on the ban, introduced by Labour in 2005. Earlier this year, Alice Barnard, the head of the Countryside Alliance, said that people living in rural areas would not understand it if the vote was not held during the current parliament, which will last until 2015. But Jim Paice, the Agriculture Minister, said: There are many greater priorities facing the Government at the moment.”
Hunts meeting over the Bank Holiday will be disappointed by the minister’s words. But while most Tories in the last Government, including Mr Cameron, were pro-hunting, the new intake of Conservative MPs are thought to be less fervent about the subject, meaning the ban may not be repealed even if the vote is held. Conservatives Against Fox Hunting, a recently-formed campaign group, Claims that two-thirds of Conservative supporters, oppose the repeal.
Five new Tory MPs, including Caroline Dinenage and Mike Weatherley, backed a statement issued yesterday which said: “This Government has far more important things to do than spending time on bringing back cruelty to animals for sport.”
Tony Blair, who was prime minister when the ban was introduced, has said that the Hunting Act was a mistake and, in his recent autobiography, expressed regret at the amount of parliamentary time which was spent on introducing it.