The vote proposing amendments to the Hunting Act 2004 scheduled for Wednesday 15 July in the House of Commons has been shelved.
The dramatic move by the Government comes after it emerged last night (Monday, 13 July) that the Scottish National Party (SNP) was to vote against the proposals. Ever since the Conservative Party was elected as a ruling majority, there has been speculation over whether the SNPs would vote on this issue.
As recently as February, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, said: “The SNP have a longstanding position of not voting on matters that purely affect England — such as foxhunting south of the border, for example — and we stand by that.”
This position now appears to have been reversed with the SNP saying they would be voting against the proposals to remind “an arrogant UK government of just how slender their majority is”.
In light of this development, Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, said: “We were very confident of achieving a majority of English and Welsh MPs in tomorrow’s vote, but it is understandable that the Government wants to postpone the vote to deal with the constitutional issues the SNP’s decision raises. Quite clearly this has nothing to do with the amendments to the Hunting Act under discussion.
“It is quite extraordinary that the will of English and Welsh MPs cannot be expressed in Parliament. A clear majority of MPs supported the amendments and we fully support the Government’s actions.
“We feel confident of winning this vote once the issue of English votes for English laws has been put to bed.”
The proposed amendments being brought forward by the Secretary of State in the form of a Statutory Instrument (SI) were going to vary the terms of exempt hunting. It was suggested these would have offered significant improvements for farmers who would have been able to decide how they control vermin on their land.
The changes 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 League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), organised a demonstration outside Parliament today (Tuesday, 14 July) to protest against the proposed changes, and are allegedly now calling for amendments to be made to the current laws in Scotland.