NEW Forest MP Desmond Swayne has promised he will vote to repeal the hunting ban if the Tories win the election.
His comments come after Labour’s Environment Secretary Hilary Benn called on Conservative leader David Cameron to rule out a repeal of the Act.
The Tories have said they will give MPs a free vote over the issue in the next parliament. But veteran New Forest anti-hunt campaigner Frankie James claimed: “There’s not a majority of people in
the Conservative Party who want it repealed.
“They recently did a poll saying that 51 per cent of Conservatives don’t want it repealed. And an even bigger proportion of the population as a whole are not in favour.”
If any alterations need to be made, she said, they would be to tighten up loopholes that led to foxes being chased and killed “accidentally”.
Mr Swayne said: “I voted against it and I will vote for it to be repealed.”
‘I voted against it and I will vote for it to be repealed’Desmond Swayne
He thinks a repeal should be put before Parliament quickly, but that MPs should be given the opportunity to follow their consciences and not be forced to toe the party line.
He believes his electorate is divided “about 50:50” on whether the five-year-old Hunting Act should stay in place or be lifted.
He does not believe many people are really concerned and said: “It is not a vote-turning issue”.
The number of enthusiasts who turn out with the New Forest Hounds for trail hunting practised there over the past five years has not diminished.
Mr Swayne said: “I think that’s because by and large they are hanging on waiting for the Seventh Cavalry to arrive and repeal the law.
“It’s very much ‘keep the faith’. Some hunts have suffered and some have not.”
New Forest Hounds spokesman Dr Graham Ferris agreed trail hunting was popular but is “not like traditional hunting because it will never have the same element of the unknown”.
He and many others will continue to support it whatever its form, because they regard it as part of the Forest’s heritage.
It was important to recognise the Tory Party had said it would give members a free vote and had not promised repeal, he said.