Proposals to change Hunting Act were legitimate, report finds

  • Proposals to vary the terms of exempt hunting within the Hunting Act 2004 were not an “unexpected use of the powers” of the Defra Secretary of State, a report has found.

    Suggested amendments to the act were due to be debated by MPs in July.

    However, they were shelved after Scottish National Party MPs reversed their previous decision not to vote on legislation that does not affect Scotland.

    The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI), made up of a cross section of MPs and Peers, revealed its report on 23 October and the findings have been welcomed by the Countryside Alliance.

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    Statutory Instruments are used to amend, update or enforce existing laws.

    The JCSI has the responsibility to report on all statutory instruments that come before Parliament to ensure that amendments made this way are a correct use of ministerial powers.

    The report confirms that the statutory instrument is a legitimate use of the Secretary of State’s powers to alter exemptions to the ban to allow pest control.

    The changes would have included removing the “two dog” limit and allowing the flushing and shooting of foxes using packs of hounds — providing it was “appropriate” for the terrain and carried out as “efficiently” as possible. These proposed changes would have brought England and Wales into line with the law in Scotland.

    Traditional hunting would still have remained illegal as the requirement to shoot foxes as soon as possible after they have been found would have remained.

    “The report from the joint committee confirms that the Secretary of State’s proposals were reasonable and sensible amendments to a bad law,” said Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance.

    “Whilst this report will be little consolation to farmers, especially in the uplands, who are struggling to control the fox population and protect their livestock from predation, it does vindicate the Government’s attempt to respond to their legitimate concerns.

    “The need for proper wildlife management legislation based on principle and evidence, rather than ignorance and bigotry, is as strong now as it ever has been.”

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