Page last updated at 07:59 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 08:59 UK

Tories consider hunt 'watchdog'

Huntsmen
The hunting ban, which came into effect in 2005, remains controversial

A Conservative government could create a regulatory body for fox-hunting if the ban on it ends, shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert has suggested.

The Conservatives have promised to provide government time for a free vote on repealing the 2004 Hunting Act if they win the election.

Mr Herbert told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a regulatory body could work towards "minimising animal suffering".

The act, which came into force in 2005, bans hunting with dogs.

The animals are still allowed to follow a scent or flush out a fox but not kill it.

'Conducted properly'

Mr Herbert said that, if a free vote happens, the Conservative leadership had not decided if it would back a simple one-line bill reversing the legislation or push to introduce a new framework of safeguards.

He said: "I don't think most people are thinking we would simply go back to that [pre-2005]situation.

"The hunting bodies have been working on a proposal to set up some kind of regulatory authority.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

"I think the public will want to be sure that all country sports, including hunting, are conducted properly, minimising animal suffering.

"We will want to ensure, if we are making proposals to a new Parliament, that people can be sure that animals are going to be at the forefront of people's thinking."

Mr Herbert said the Hunting Act had proved "unworkable" and was an "affront to civil liberties", comparable to government proposals for ID cards.

But he indicated that repeal was not the Conservatives' top priority, as a new government would have to focus on the economy, public services and environmental issues.



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