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We can't win 'pointless' vote to end hunting ban due to parliamentary opposition, say Tories
Grant Shapps defended decision to delay vote on hunting banThe Tory Party chairman said vote on lifting ban on hunting with dogs 'pointless' due to strong parliamentary oppositionMr Shapps' comments came as hunting parties with hounds gathered for the annual Boxing Day event
10:12 GMT, 27 December 2012
Pointless: Grant Shapps said holding a vote for lifting the ban with such strong opposition would be a waste of time
The ban on hunting with dogs will not be overturned, Tory chairman Grant Shapps declared yesterday.
Speaking on the day that a quarter of a million supporters turned out for Boxing Day hunts, he said there was no chance of getting the majority needed to scrap Labour's law.
Earlier, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said he was not expecting a vote in 2013, because it was clear the Government would lose.
And yesterday the outspoken new head of the RSPCA, Gavin Grant, taunted David Cameron on his failure to bring forward a vote on fox hunting – telling him it was because he knows he will lose.
The Prime Minister had pledged a free vote in the Commons on reversing the ban on fox hunting before the 2015 election.
But almost three years into his Coalition, no vote has yet been timetabled.
A poll, released yesterday, found that 76 per cent of the public are against moves to legalise fox hunting. The IpsosMori survey also found that 81 per cent oppose deer hunting.
Mr Shapps said: 'As Owen Paterson said, it makes sense to bring something forward if you think there's a chance of there being a Parliamentary majority.
'At the moment there doesn't appear to be one.'
But Mr Grant said that Mr Cameron still had two and a half years to make good on his pledge to hold a vote on overturning the hunting ban.
The former PR man, who seems determined to make the RSPCA more political, said: 'It is in the Coalition agreement and this Government seem intent upon enacting the Coalition agreement line by line so I think we've got to assume it will come,' he said.
'It's great to see the Coalition bringing forward legislation to grant gay people the same rights to marriage as straight people, so the notion that at the same time we could reintroduce something that was seen as appropriate in the 19th century and very inappropriate in the 20th century is absolutely bizarre.
'If the Prime Minister feels he wants to have his vote then let him have his vote. He will discover that he's going to lose and maybe that's necessary to end this discussion about the Act.'
Earlier this month, the RSPCA successfully took the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire – whose previous riders include the Prime Minister – to court for illegally killing foxes.
The battle cost 330,000, an enormous sum from the RSPCA's depleted coffers. The hunt itself was only fined 4,000.
No vote: Mr Shapps' comments on the vote to lift the hunting ban comes on one of the biggest hunting days of the year – Boxing Day – where many hunting parties set out with dogs despite the ban
Mr Grant has also taken on the
National Farmers' Union over the badger cull. He appeared to call for a
milk boycott aimed at dairy farmers who had shot the animals on their
land – but he later retracted this.
He has also attacked the Grand
National for being cruel to horses, going further than any previous
RSPCA chief in calling for the removal of the notorious Becher's Brook
Mr Grant's confidence on keeping the
hunting ban in place was matched by Mr Paterson's indication that moves
to repeal it may not happen next year.
No dogs allowed: Using dogs as part of fox hunts have been made illegal, with drag hunts still permitted, but many Tory MPs want the ban lifted
No need to vote: Environment Secretary Owen Paterson argued that a vote could only be justified when there is a chance of parliamentary majority in favour of the issue
The minister said: 'There's only a point having a vote if you're going to win.
'At the moment, it would not be my
proposal to bring forward a vote we were going to lose. There needs to
be more work done on Members of Parliament.'
He added: 'It is our clear intention to have a free vote but we need to choose an appropriate moment.'
Simon Hart, Tory MP for Carmarthen
West and South Pembrokeshire, warned Mr Cameron he could lose vital
rural votes if he does not table a vote. He said: 'We are only
two-and-a-half years into a five-year parliament, there is plenty of
time to deal with this.
'I'm confident that we've got a strong
commitment from the PM and he knows that he's made a promise on this;
he knows he can't really afford to let down core voters in rural
Labour's environment spokesman Mary Creagh said: 'Most people back Labour's ban on hunting wild animals with dogs.
'People are worried about their
incomes falling, prices rising and losing their jobs, yet this out of
touch Tory-led government wants to bring back hunting.'
The Countryside Alliance said it had seen no slackening of support for hunting in recent years.
But executive chairman Sir Barney
White-Spunner admitted now may not be the best time for a Commons vote.
'If you were going to go for some sort of repeal then it would probably
take a … huge amount of parliamentary time at a time when the
Government and Parliament's got other priorities,' he said.