Parliament 17th July 2015

Will this week’s debate on the Hunting Act be the first step to a full repeal? Catherine Paice reports

The Draft Hunting Act 2004 (Exempt Hunting) (Amendment) Order 2015 would remove the limit of two dogs that applies to certain exemptions under the Act – stalking and flushing out, rescue of wild mammals, research and observation. It means that farmers and gamekeepers would be able to make a judgement, based on the terrain and other circumstances, to use more than two dogs to flush out and stalk wild animals as part of the exemption that allows for pest control.

This is mainly aimed at upland areas, where the current limit of using two dogs across large, often wooded areas is not regarded as effective or practical for pest control purposes. There is no such limit in Scotland, so the amendments would simply align England’s and Wales’s legislation with that in Scotland.

The Hunting Act was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech, but earlier in this session, during DEFRA questions, environment secretary Liz Truss (Con, South-West Norfolk), said the Conservatives would keep their manifesto commitment to bring forward legislation to repeal it. Neil Parish (Con, Tiverton and Honiton), the new chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee in the House of Commons, has already made it clear he would support this.

Former BBC R4 Farming Today producer/presenter and new MP Rebecca Pow (Con, Taunton Deane) has now been appointed to the EFRA committee. Other new members are Sarah Champion (Lab, Rotherham), Chris Davies (Con, Brecon and Radnorshire), Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab, Poplar and Limehouse), Harry Harpham (Lab, Sheffield – Brightside and Hillsborough), Simon Hart (Con, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire), Dr Paul Monaghan (SNP, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross), Margaret Ritchie (SDL, South Down), David Simpson (DUP, Upper Bann) and Rishi Sunak (Con, Richmond).

In written questions, Albert Owen (Lab, Ynys Môn) asked what assessment had been made of the extent poor broadband access prevents farmers accessing online CAP applications. Under secretary of state George Eustice (Con, Camborne and Redruth) repeated that the rollout of the £778m programme, meant to provide 95% of UK premises with access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017, was a “key priority”.

In an astonishing admission, he added that the RPA online system had been designed to operate on older dial-up internet connection speeds. Who has used those in recent years? Mr Parish, who addresses issues from flooding to the Single Payment, said he’d keep up the pressure on broadband suppliers to deliver for the most remote areas.

Mr Parish plans, meanwhile, to set up an EFRA inquiry into TB and the efficacy of the pilot badger culls as an early priority.”

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