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Hunting Act 2004

Volume 594: debated on Thursday 12 March 2015

My support for fox hunting is well known. The Hunting Act was a mistake, and I strongly support repeal. Acknowledging the strong views on both sides of this debate, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has said that a Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote with a Government Bill in Government time.

Despite Tory hysteria, the Hunting Act did not reduce the pageantry of hunting or result in the mass slaughter of horses or hounds. What it did do was reduce greatly the sadistic torment of the chase and the kill. Is the nasty party really going to campaign in the election to bring cruelty back into hunting?

I am not prepared to listen to the advice of a party that has a shadow farming Minister who will not listen to the chief veterinary officer and who has said publicly that he will not follow his advice on animal welfare issues.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating members of the Holcombe hunt, whose hounds have their kennels in my constituency, on maintaining their activities within the law since the hunting ban was introduced and preserving this most traditional of rural pursuits?

I completely agree that hunting is important for rural communities. It is traditional and part of the fabric of our countryside.

Why will the Secretary of State not recognise the huge opposition to the idea of repealing the Hunting Act? Instead of proposing yet more cruelty to animals, why will she not look at extending the Act to grouse shooting and hare coursing, which also are cruel and hugely opposed in this country?

Our approach is that we will introduce a Government Bill in Government time to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote.

If that is indeed our approach, can the Secretary of State tell us why there has not been a free vote in this Parliament, as set out in the coalition agreement?

I want to see repeal of the Act, and I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister has said that a Conservative Government will give the opportunity for that.