Theresa May will reportedly abandon her Conservative general election manifesto pledge to give MPs a free vote on whether to overturn the fox hunting ban.
According to the Sunday Times, the prime minister will in early 2018 announce plans to permanently drop the commitment to a House of Commons vote, in a move that would risk infuriating rural Tories.
A Downing Street source described the report as “pure speculation” and reiterated the government’s position: “There is no vote that could change the current policy on foxhunting scheduled in this session of parliament”, which ends in 2019.
Michael Gove has prioritised animal welfare issues since May appointed him environment secretary after the June election.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, repeatedly criticised the prime minister for saying she was in favour of foxhunting during the election, which shattered the PM’s authority after the Tories lost their Commons majority.
The Conservative had pledged in their manifesto to hold a free vote on a bill in government time to allow parliament to decide the future of the Hunting Act 2004.
During a factory visit to Leeds during the election, May said: “As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of foxhunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative party, to allow a free vote.”
But the policy’s omission from the Queen’s speech, which outlined the legislative programme for the parliamentary session of 2017 until 2019, was the first indicator the plan had been put on the backburner.
The law, introduced by Labour in 2004, bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals in England and Wales.