MPs will only get 90 minutes to debate fox hunting before they vote on legalising it

Chancellor says he doesn't want it to take up too much parliamentary time

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MPs will only be given 90 minutes to debate fox hunting before they vote on whether to legalise it, George Osborne has said.

Confirming that the opportunity to repeal the bloodsport ban would take place, the Chancellor defended the Government making the issue one of its top priorities after winning the election.

“We promised in our manifesto that we’d have a free vote – that MPs could vote according to their conscience, on country sports,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

“We’re going to have that free vote in Parliament. As I understand it it’s going to take something like 90 minutes to debate, so it’s not going to take the whole of Parliament’s time, and then people have their say.

“So, frankly, if you look at what Parliament’s doing at the moment, it’ll be a lot more focused on these big economic issues.”

If all 650 MPs attended a 90 minute debate to speak each one would get just over eight seconds from the total 5,400 allocated to the issue.

Osborne explains why we shouldn't reduce the deficit faster (BBC)

In practice many MPs may not get an opportunity to speak on the polarising subject.

Most major new laws are given days of parliamentary time spread over months to ensure proper discussion both inside and outside Parliament.

The Chancellor was responding to criticism that repealing the Hunting Act should not be a priority.

He said he didn’t think the ban was sensible and indicated that he would be likely to support repeal.

“I’ve always thought that the hunting ban wasn’t very sensible and didn’t work and I think you’ve seen that in the way it’s operated,” he added.

In March David Cameron pledged to hold a free vote on repealing the fox hunting ban if the Conservatives won the next election.

The PM, who has previously ridden with the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire, said he believed in the “freedom to hunt” and wanted fox hunting legalised.


Writing in the Countryside Alliance magazine, he criticised widespread negative attitudes to the illegal animal killings.

“There is definitely a rural way of life which a born and bred Londoner might struggle to understand," he wrote.

“I have always been a strong supporter of country sports. It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act and the way it was brought in by the last government.”

Late last year anti-hunt Tories voiced worries that Mr Cameron would try to repeal the ban.

More than two dozen Tory MPs gave their backing to the Conservatives Against Fox campaign which works to challenge the pro-hunt lobby’s influence within the party.

Polling by YouGov conducted in January this year found that 51% of the population supported the current fox hunting ban, with only 33% opposed to it.