David Cameron is being outfoxed, not only by the SNP, but by a sizable number of his own MPs who have decided to join the Labour Party in their opposition to the Government’s proposals which would effectively repeal the Hunting Act by the back-door. This is a humiliating climb-down from the Prime Minister and a clear admission that he simply does not have the support in his own Party to win the vote in the Commons, whether or not EVEL is in place.
MPs from all side of the House will know that The Hunting Act 2004 is hugely successful and overwhelmingly supported by 80 per cent of people in rural areas as well as urban areas. Yet the Tories had in their manifesto a promise to allow MPs “the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote in Government time” not to leave it on the statute book whilst making it unenforceable.
This trick is the kind of behaviour we are coming to expect from David Cameron. It is a shabby, cynical, underhand manoeuvre designed to placate and reward a vocal special interest group – the pro hunting lobby.
It is shabby because it purports to be a “minor technical amendment” which keeps the ban in place when it is designed to make it impossible to prosecute any breaches of the Hunting Act 2004.
It is cynical because instead of introducing a Bill that can be properly debated and scrutinised, the PM tried to use an unamendable SI that aims to wreck the enforceability of the Hunting Act whilst leaving it on the statute book. 700 hours to enact the ban, 90 minutes to wreck it, with no proper debate. A Prime Minister so cynical that he can’t even bother to debate properly the merits of his case in the House of Commons.
It is underhand because it is not about helping farmers, as it purports to be, but is about rewarding lawbreakers – the hunts which have never accepted the law of the land and continue to flout it and now want payback from the Tories for helping their election campaign.
With the prospect of another vote in the autumn Labour intends to ensure that the David Cameron does not get away with this appalling behaviour. We will vote to protect the best piece of animal welfare legislation that is currently on the statute book. We will vote to keep the ban on hunting with hounds. We invite all MPs who are opposed to chasing an animal until it is exhausted and then having a pack of hounds rip it to bits to join us in the No lobby, whenever that vote now comes.
This article first appeared in the Independent online on 15th July 2015 and can be accessed at http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/fox-hunting-ban-a-shabby-cynical-and-underhand-manoeuvre-10391041.html