No change to fox hunting laws, says David Cameron

26 March 2014 Last updated at 14:02

The government will not seek to ease the ban on hunting with dogs for upland farmers, David Cameron has said.

Farmers in Wales want to be allowed to use more than two dogs to flush out foxes because of concern over attacks on their lambs.

But at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron said "I regret to say" the coalition had not been able to reach agreement on allowing such a move.

Most Tory MPs support easing the ban, but the Lib Dems are against it.

The coalition agreement in 2010 included a commitment to give MPs a say on repealing the ban on hunting with dogs introduced by Labour in 2004, but it has yet to schedule the promised free vote in the Commons.

Separately, the government has been considering allowing farmers to use more than two dogs in pest control.

Under the current legislation they are allowed to use a maximum of two dogs to flush out foxes which are then shot.
‘Westminster rumours’

The League Against Cruel Sports has opposed any changes, saying it would be a bid to repeal the law "by the back door".

But the Federation of Welsh Farmers’ Parks, which is calling for the change, has produced research which it says "shows clear need for change in the law on fox control with dogs".

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour’s Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, asked Mr Cameron: "Westminster is awash with the rumour that the government is considering an amendment to the Hunting Act.

"So will you take this opportunity to quash that rumour by confirming your commitment to the coalition agreement, which only allows for a free vote on the repeal of the legislation?"

Mr Cameron replied: "There are always lots of rumours going round Westminster and it’s a good moment to talk about them.

"As you know, as I’ve said before at this Despatch Box, proposals were made on a cross-party basis to (Environment Secretary Owen Paterson) about an amendment to the Hunting Act that would help in particular upland farmers deal with the problem of fox predation of their lands.

"That letter has been received and is being considered but I regret to say I don’t think there’ll be government agreement to go forward."

Mr Cameron has previously said he has "some sympathy" with the Welsh farmers’ argument.

Downing Street aides said guidance would be issued later on whether MPs will be given a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act in the current Parliament.

A senior Liberal Democrat source Mr Clegg opposed a change to upland hunting laws as it was not covered by the coalition agreement – but the Lib Dems would not block the free vote on fox hunting promised in the agreement.
North West Hunt Saboteurs Association

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