Vote on changes to fox hunting law welcomed by Shropshire hunt leaders
MPs are set to vote on changes to laws banning fox hunting as early as next week.
However, instead of giving MPs the chance to vote for an outright lifting of the ban, the Prime Minister is likely to propose an amendment to the law which would exempt certain types of hunting for pest control purposes.
The news has been welcomed by hunt leaders in Shropshire. Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said he would seek to give MPs a chance to "debate an issue and then have a vote".
Shropshire MPs Owen Paterson and Mark Pritchard have previously called for the ban to be repealed, saying it did nothing to promote animal welfare.
At the moment, hunts in England and Wales are allowed to shoot foxes providing no more than two dogs have been used to flush them out.
Under the proposed changes, the limit would be lifted on the number of dogs allowed to chase the foxes. If MPs vote for the changes, they could come into force by the end of the year.
The rule change would bring England and Wales in line with Scotland, which already allows unlimited use of hounds to flush out foxes for pest control purposes. During the election campaign, the Conservatives pledged to allow a free vote on repealing the ban on hunting with dogs.
The controversial ban came into force in 2005, although it remains legal to hunt with two hounds to flush out a fox and certain other animals to a gun for pest control purposes as long as they are shot as quickly as possible.
It is believed the Prime Minister has not chosen to repeal the legislation in its entirety. Instead he will use a procedure known as a "statutory instrument", which would allow the existing law to be amended.
Julian Hill, joint secretary of Albrighton & Woodland Hunt, said the change would be a good thing for the hunting community.
"It would be a step in the right direction," he said. "Ideally we would still like to see the law repealed, but this will definitely make a difference."
Bob Smith, joint master of Ludlow Hunt, said he thought the proposal was a sensible compromise.
"I think if the Prime Minister went for an outright repeal, that would be asking for a 'no' vote," he said. "I think this is more acceptable."
Downing Street would not confirm the timing of any future vote, but a spokeswoman said the Prime Minister
remained committed to its pledge to give MPs a vote on completely repealing the hunting act.
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