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Dartford MP Gareth Johnson changes mind on repealing the Hunting Act as government delays free vote

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has performed a u-turn on government proposals to relax the Hunting Act on the day the vote was delayed in Parliament.

Mr Johnson previously said he was in favour of repealing the ban but had changed his stance following opposition from constituents.

Mr Johnson said: "I maintain that fox hunting is not the most pressing issue for Dartford but I am aware that some people feel very passionately about it.

"I have been listening very carefully to people in Dartford expressing their views on this issue.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson is in favour of building the crossing in Gravesham.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson is in favour of building the crossing in Gravesham.

"Having carefully considered the arguments put forward to me by Dartfordians, I have concluded that it is right to vote against these proposed amendments to the hunting ban and keep the law as it currently stands.

"I don’t want the Government to be over-controlling when it comes to peoples’ lives and lifestyles but that will always be up to a point and I recognise that the country has moved on.

"Some people will be disappointed by this decision, others will be pleased.

"However I feel that as the local Member of Parliament it is important to listen to what local people have to say and this is why I have decided to vote against the Government’s proposals."

Traditional hunting with dogs has been illegal for 10 years. Stock picture by Nico Morgan
Traditional hunting with dogs has been illegal for 10 years. Stock picture by Nico Morgan

A free vote was due to be held in Parliament tomorrow but was delayed after the SNP announced they would join Labour in objecting the proposals.

It meant David Cameron was likely to face his first defeat in the House of Commons since the Conservatives won the general election.

In Dartford, more than 2,500 signatures were collected on a petition started by Watling Street resident Natalie Boorman.

Miss Boorman, 30, attended a rally at Westminster today with friend Sarah O'Rourke, also 30, to join PETA and the League Against Cruel Sports in opposing to scrap the ban.

Ant-hunt campaigners Natalie Boorman and Sarah O'Rourke outside Dartford station
Ant-hunt campaigners Natalie Boorman and Sarah O'Rourke outside Dartford station

Miss Boorman said: "The Hunting Act is one of the greatest pieces of legislation in Britain.

"It protects wildlife, it stops the barbaric so-called sport of hunting with dogs. It doesn’t just affect foxes but stags, hares and badgers.

"I just can’t understand in modern society whey there would be even a place for this to return to be frank."

Despite the delay, Mr Johnson maintained he intended to vote against the government when it is brought before members.

He added: "After issuing my earlier statement, I understand the Government is now delaying the vote.

"This does not change my position and I will be voting against these measures when this matter returns to Parliament."

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