Senior Tory defends hunting vote plans

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Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has defended the government’s decision to put a promised vote on ending the hunting ban in England and Wales on a back burner while pressing ahead with plans for gay marriage.

Rural Tories warned that David Cameron must honour his pledge to allow MPs a free vote on lifting the ban on hunting with hounds, after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson indicated there were no immediate plans to take the issue back to parliament.

Mr Paterson – a strong supporter of country sports – argued that as there was no parliamentary majority in favour of repealing the ban there was little point in staging a vote. Mr Shapps insisted that ministers were simply being pragmatic in the face of the parliamentary arithmetic.