Tories renew vow to hold vote on repealing the hunting ban

More than 350,000 people have signed a petition calling for the ban to be kept Credit: PA

A free vote on repealing the ban on hunting with dogs will be held during the next five years, as the Conservatives renewed their manifesto commitment on the controversial issue.

More than 350,000 people have so far signed a petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to abandon his plans for a vote on repealing the Hunting Act 2004, which outlawed the hunting of wild animals - including foxes, deer and hares - with dogs.

But during Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) questions in the Commons today, Environment Secretary Liz Truss confirmed the plans were still on the table.

Labour's shadow environment minister Angela Smith told the Commons that 80 per cent of the public supported the existing ban, and urged Ms Truss to drop plans for a vote and "get on with the job of making sure the legislation is enforced".

She said she was "confident" the opposition would win any vote on repealing the ban.

But Ms Truss said the vote would be "up to the individual conscience of individual members", adding that she was "surprised" by the suggestion Labour would vote under whip.

People signing the petition have described hunting as "sick" and "disgraceful".

Adding her voice, Karina Wakefield from Salford said repealing the ban would "send the country back to the Dark Ages".

Chris Naylor, from Buckhurst Hill, added:

Stella Skelton from Cardiff described hunting as "barbaric, inhumane and pointless", while Nicola Brightman, from Widnes, said: