Tomorrow the House of Commons was supposed to vote on the important issue to change the law on fox hunting in England and Wales. Since the SNP have said that they will vote in line with Labour against the amendment to the law, despite the proposals being in the same as Scottish Law, the importance of having only English MPs voting on English matters is even more pronounced.
Voting against that amendment would have been nothing short of rampant hypocrisy by the SNP especially since Nicola Sturgeon said the following in only February this year:
“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. Where any issue is genuinely “English-only”, with no impact on Scotland, the case for Evel can be made.”
The amendment follows a manifesto commitment by the Conservative Party to allow a free vote on repealing the law brought in by the Labour Party in 2004. However there is some misconceptions about the current law and what was actually being proposed for Wednesday.
First of all, in England and Wales it is currently legal for two hounds to be used to flush out foxes whereas in Scotland there is no limit. Therefore this aspect of the proposed motion was about equalisation of the law, rather than the principal of flushing out foxes.
Secondly, the language of the Act asks that foxes are shot as soon as possible. Leaving personal views aside on the principle of the legislation, this is one of the areas where it becomes very difficult to enforce and is one of the reasons why there have been calls to repeal the legislation simply on the grounds of it being unenforceable.
Thirdly, the vote on Wednesday did not seek to repeal the Hunting Act despite significant efforts from the Pro Banning lobby. Whilst the RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports have attempted to paint this as repeal, as discussed above this is not the case.
In all likelihood the vote, if it did happen, was being used as a litmus test by Downing Street to gauge opposition to change and now that it has failed no doubt the Hunting Act fall off the agenda for some considerable time. This is a shame as the Act raises important issues relating to the efficiency of the current law and whether it is fit for purpose.
It is absolutely right that this issue should be voted upon to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to honouring its manifesto commitments.
Alexandra Paterson is on the CWF Organising Committee and is the National Chairman of Conservative Future.
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