PM targets fox hunting countryside lobby, saying MPs would have free vote on bill to repeal Hunting Act if Conservatives win election.
In a key election promise aimed at shoring up his rural support, the prime minister pledged to give MPs a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act through a government bill.
However, he could only be sure of being able to bring forward such a bill in the event that he won a majority at the election, given that most of Labour and the Liberal Democrats are against repealing the act.
Cameron wrote in the Countryside Alliance magazine: “The Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. A Conservative government will give parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.”
At the last election, the Conservatives promised a vote on overturning the law but were unable to keep their pledge after going into coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
“There is definitely a rural way of life which a born and bred Londoner might struggle to understand,” he wrote. “I have always been a strong supporter of country sports. It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act and the way it was brought in by the last government.”
The Hunting Act came into force 10 years ago under prime minister Tony Blair and retains a large degree of public support.
A poll by Ipsos Mori, carried out for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, found 80% of the public believed fox hunting should remain illegal. It found little difference in views between rural and urban communities.
However, many countryside campaigners argue hunting is an essential part of rural tradition that are misunderstood by people who live in towns.
Labour has said it would not repeal the ban. Maria Eagle, shadow environment secretary, has already stated: “Only Labour will protect the Hunting Act. Ten years ago the Labour party ended the cruel practice of hunting with dogs, because we believe that causing defenceless animals to suffer in the name of sport has no place in a civilised society.
“But just as we celebrate the Hunting Act, the Tories plan to repeal it. Only Labour can protect the Hunting Act because Labour is the only major party committed to defending it.
“The hunting ban is a testament to the progress made since the days of bear baiting and other such barbaric blood sports.”