Thank you for contacting me about the Hunting Act 2004. I apologise for the delay in response but I have received hundreds of emails and letters on this subject from both sides of the issue. Certain constituents have emailed me multiple times with the same email or multiple times with different emails on the same subject so I apologise if you receive this more than once.
I appreciate the strong feelings many people have although there does seem to be widespread lack of clarity about what was proposed. The situation is as follows:
As part of the Hunting Act’s pest control exemptions, farmers and gamekeepers can currently use up to two dogs to flush foxes from cover to be shot. This makes an important contribution to land managers’ ability to control foxes. However, upland farmers have said that the two-dog limit is impractical on this terrain, which can be vast, difficult and often covered by woodland. They have asked for more flexibility, bringing the law closer to the position in Scotland.
On 15 July therefore, the Government intended to give the House of Commons the opportunity to amend the provisions for exempt hunting so that farmers and gamekeepers could decide, based on the terrain and other circumstances, if it is appropriate to use more than two dogs to flush out foxes. Conservative MPs were to have a free vote.
The measure would also let land managers use a single dog to flush foxes from underground to protect livestock, as they already can for game and wild birds, and extend to include diseased animals in the provision that permits exempt hunting to relieve an injured wild animal of suffering.
These technical amendments would not lift the ban on hunting with dogs and, while placing greater trust in farmers and gamekeepers, the controls would remain more restrictive than those in Scotland.
As you will be aware the Scottish National Party decided that they would vote on this issue. This is notwithstanding the fact that the legislation has no impact on Scotland; that on the equivalent legislation in Scotland, English and Welsh MPs have no say; that the SNP have historically not voted on such devolved matters and that the leader of the SNP as recently as February said that they would not do so, citing the Hunting Act as a specific example on which they would not vote. Following the SNP’s decision the Government withdrew the proposed amendment there is no date set for its return to the Commons.
I believe this is an entirely sensible set of proposals that will make the exemptions in the Hunting Act more workable and I will be voting in favour if they are presented again.