I also hope that the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) recovers his voice soon.
The Government have made no assessment of the effect of trail hunting. However, anyone who believes that an offence has taken place during a hunt, including during a trail hunt, should report the matter to the police, as the police deal with complaints of illegal hunting. Decisions on the arrest and prosecution of those taking part in illegal hunting activities are matters for the police and prosecuting authorities.
The Minister will be aware that concerns are growing that trail hunting is being used as a cover for illegal hunting. This was recently brought into focus by the invasion of a cat sanctuary—run by the well-known Celia Hammond Animal Trust—in East Sussex by a pack of hounds from the Romney Marsh hunt. What action will the Government take against those who continue to hunt illegally?
The law in this area is clear. Between 2005 and 2015, 682 individuals were prosecuted and 423 were found guilty, so the law is clear and is being enforced. Even groups such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have accepted that this is a law that is being enforced.
In the four weeks since Boxing day, at least four foxes in Cheshire have been illegally killed by trail hunts. As the Government have withdrawn their plans to scrap anti-hunting laws, is it the case that someone in government has given a secret nod and a wink to trail hunts that they can continue to hunt and kill foxes with impunity?
No, that is not the case. The Prime Minister has made it clear that she has listened to the mood of the country and that there therefore will not be the free vote on foxhunting in this Parliament that we pledged in our manifesto. As I said earlier, foxhunting is a matter for the police and the prosecuting authorities. Anybody who believes the law has been broken should report it to the police.