Article in today's Telegraph about what a Conservative Government might do in respect of the ban on hunting with dogs. Rosa Prince has built her piece around some comments David Cameron is supposed to have said on BBC Radio 4. It's interesting to me because its one of those 'touchstone' issues, which leads voters to decide how to cast their vote - particularly in a rural constituency such as Montgomeryshire. Regular readers of this blog will know that I was strongly opposed to the ban, when it was passed into law. Let me outline what I would like to see happen.
I believe that we should make a manifesto commitment to provide the next Parliament with an opportunity to re-consider the hunting ban - and in Government time. It should be early in the Parliament, despite the inevitable accusations this would attract about skewed priorities. Simple rule applies. Promises should be kept. It should be a free vote, because its a 'conscience issue. In general I'm supportive of there being more free votes. I realise that many who are implacably opposed to hunting with dogs cannot be placated, but I still think it would be sensible (as well as right) to make concessions to those who are concerned about improper practices, which is why I support regulation.
The major issue I have to decide on is what form this regulation should take. My preference is for the hunting community to self regulate, rather than create some new quango to do the job. This may be the only difference between the opinions of my political opponents in Montgomeryshire and myself. But it must be genuine regulation - and seen to be genuine regulation. There would have to be some form of independent 'lay' inspection, without warning. And there would have to be tough sanctions for any breach of agreed protocols. If I were to be an MP, I would vote to over-turn the ban. But I would the legislation to ensure that the sport be conducted with minimum distress and cruelty to animals.