Twenty-two Conservatives amongst anti-hunting MPs who would win Commons vote, says charity.
Figures released by the League Against Cruel Sports ahead of the traditional start of the fox hunting season suggest that a vote to repeal the Hunting Act would be lost by 66 votes.
The Hunting Act 2004 banned stag hunting, hare hunting and coursing, and fox hunting. But despite polling by Ipsos-MORI showing that a majority of the public support the legislation, some politicians remain supportive of the hunting lobby’s call for the legislation to be repealed.
Whilst a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act was amongst the Conservative Party’s election promises, the coalition government is rather more luke warm on the issue. The coalition agreement published in May includes a free vote on a motion on bringing forward a vote on repeal. “There is no real appetite in the coalition for bringing back a bloodsport,” said Douglas Batchelor, the League’s chief executive. “There are now twenty-two Conservative MPs who oppose repeal, as do the vast majority of Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs. They are all very well aware of the public feeling on this issue, and we know that many of their mailbags and inboxes are frequently filled with constituents’ concerns about hunting.”
Mr Batchelor said that the League, which earlier this week expanded its wildlife sanctuary in the West Country, was “confident” that it would win any House of Commons vote and said that 319 MPs oppose repeal while 253 support it. Fifteen said they would abstain and 23 are undecided. “Even if the 23 undecided and the 31 unknown MPs voted in favour of repeal, there would still be more against repeal than for it,” said Mr Batchelor.
“It is very clear that the hunting issue is off the political agenda. We don’t expect the first vote to come much before the next election, and even the hunters know this. The tradition for the start of the hunting season has become the hunters claiming that this will be the last season under the Hunting Act, but they aren’t saying that this year,” said Mr Batchelor. “Our message to the hunters is clear: The law is here to stay and we will continue to support the police in enforcing it.”
There have been over 130 convictions under the Hunting Act since it came into force, averaging one every fortnight. Prosecutions against hunt representatives are ongoing in North Yorkshire, Devon, Leicestershire and Somerset, based on evidence provided by the League.