AN MP says he hopes a controversial vote on fox hunting will be the “first step” towards bringing it back after a decade-long ban.

Animal welfare activists, including Poole-based cosmetics chain Lush, have lined up to criticise the government for giving eight days’ notice of a vote to allow hunting with dogs.

But Simon Hoare, recently elected Conservative MP for North Dorset, said: “I think it’s a step in the right direction. I think it’s important if you have a law it is evidence rather than prejudice based.

"I’m committed to a total repeal and I would hope that this, if it’s positive, will be a first step on that journey.”

A proposal in the House of Commons on Thursday, July 16, would make it legal for foxes to be hunted with packs of dogs as long as it was “appropriate” for the terrain and done “efficiently”.

Mark Constantine, co-founder of Lush, said his business would be mounting shop window displays to campaign against the moves.

He told the Daily Echo “On the day of the budget, the government decided to leak out a bit of information that it was intending to repeal an aspect of the act.”

Lush – which campaigned for a ban on hunting – began putting together a national publicity campaign immediately after the announcement.

In a video posted yesterday on Twitter, Mr Constantine added: “Setting a pack of dogs onto an exhausted fox is not something we need reinstating. The government should be spending their time on more important issues.”

Queen guitarist Brian May, who owns land near Bere Regis, is also among those criticising the government.

A pledge to allow MPs a free vote on hunting was part of the Conservative manifesto. But the government has been criticised for allowing only 90 minutes for Thursday’s vote, with any decision implemented by “statutory instrument” rather than needing a full act of Parliament.

Chris Chope, MP for Christchurch, said he did not believe the amendment was significant – but was not convinced of the merits of a full repeal.

“I feel that there’s a lot contained in the legislation which was sensible and I was disappointed when I saw that the manifesto was talking about repeal,” he said.

“I’m not somebody who’s tally-ho or gung-ho with repeal. I think that what we’ve got to do is take the issue of fox hunting out of the party political arena. I would much prefer trying to find common ground and a reasonable consensus.”