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Suffolk campaigners welcome PM’s pledge of free vote on fox hunting

PUBLISHED: 09:34 09 March 2015

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Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge of a free vote in Parliament on the fox hunting ban if he wins the General Election was last night hailed as the right move by campaigners in Suffolk.

Mr Cameron said he shares people’s frustration at the legislation and wants to see the ban – which has now been in place for a decade – repealed.

If the Conservatives have a clear majority after May 7, then there would be a real possibility of the ban being overturned.

James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt, said a free vote was the right approach and he believed Mr Cameron’s pledge – made in an article in the Countryside Alliance magazine – would make the topic an election issue.

He said: “It would not have been possible over the past five years because it needs a clear majority of Conservatives in Parliament.

“This is my sport that I love and I want to be able to do it legally. Everyone is determined to keep this sport alive so that future generations will be able to appreciate it, but if we see another five years go by without a vote that will become difficult because it will be hard to keep up the momentum.”

In his article, Mr Cameron said: “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 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.”

However, not all Conservatives are in favour of hunting.

Lorraine Platt, spokeswoman for the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, claimed last night that repeal of the hunting ban was “toxic and a vote loser”.

She said: “It will certainly alienate support for the Conservative party.

“It is important that the Prime Minister is aware that there is as much support in the countryside as there is in urban areas for the ban. Mr Cameron risks sacrificing his wider appeal for the sake of appeasing his friends in the hunting lobby.”

A spokesman for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said: “The repeal of the Hunting Act is an issue that evokes strong sentiments from both sides of the debate, and those in favour of its repeal will be pleased with Mr Cameron’s latest announcement as he looks to attract the rural vote ahead of an election that is shaping up like no other in recent history. It also follows the Labour Party launching its pledge to protect animals and defend the Act.”

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