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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Move to relax hunting law by the ‘back door’

David Cameron has been urged not to dodge a full debate on reintroducing fox hunting.

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It has been reported that the Prime Minister is searching for MPs who will back a behind-the-scenes move to get the law changed.

A Sunday newspaper claimed that he and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson want to use an obscure parliamentary device, known as a statutory instrument, to amend the Hunting Act.

They are said to have booked time for a debate next Wednesday with the aim of lifting the ban on hunting with any more than two dogs in England and Wales.

That means using packs of up to 40 hounds would become legal again, although dogs would not be allowed to kill foxes. They would instead have to be shot.

Any move to change the law surrounding hunting is likely to trigger fierce debate in Cumbria, where there are strong pro and anti-hunting movements. The prospect of that happening brought a predictably mixed response in the county – with even Mr Cameron’s own Cumbrian MPs dubious about whether a statutory instrument would be used to force change, even though they support the repeal of the hunting ban.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: “If there was a vote to repeal the Hunting Act I would support it. My view is that if it is to be repealed it should be done through a vote in the whole House (of Commons). It was passed like that in the first place.”

Penrith and the Border’s Rory Stewart thought it was “unlikely” the Government would seek to overturn the ban this way and said: “Hunting in Cumbria is a completely different activity from hunting in the rest of England. It is done by farmers and connected to farms.”

Local hunts would undoubtedly welcome the ban lifted, however it’s done.

Joanne Charlton, secretary of the Cumberland Foxhounds hunt in north Cumbria, said: “It’s one of those laws which has been put in place and it has been a disaster because it has just not worked.”

However, Elaine Milbourn, a local member of anti-hunt group Protect Our Wild Animals (Powa) criticised any moves to repeal the ban by the back door.

“This amendment is something they are going to just try and squeeze through,” she said. “I don’t think local people want to see a pack of dogs chasing a fox.”

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