*Please note, the Government has now withdrawn the vote which was scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday 15th July)*

The issue of hunting returns to Parliament next week. I recognise this is a highly divisive issue for those who are engaged on both sides on the debate, and I appreciate the many emails I received on the subject. Please accept this as the response to the basic question of how I am going to vote on the issue.

I have never hidden the fact that I support country sports practised within the law of the land and find them an invaluable part of rural and countryside life. I shall continue to do so.

For some time it appeared as though the question to be put was whether or not the Hunting Act should be repealed. This will not now be the case, and I agree completely with this. I do not think such a vote would have been appropriate. Although heavily contested at the time, I think the fundamentals of the Act have become established. I cannot see the point in reopening that issue.

The vote on Wednesday will be to bring English and Welsh law in line with that in Scotland. The fundamentals of the Hunting Act remain. It will still prohibit the pursuit and killing of a wild animal with dogs. The amendments proposed will remove the limit in England and Wales on the number of dogs which can be used to flush out foxes for pest control purposes, still a vital need for farmers in my constituency, who need to protect livestock.

I intend to vote for this amendment. I quite accept that those who oppose hunting will not agree, and there might be some hunting supporters who would wish to go further.

The House will have a free vote. I hope it will be the last for some time, so the balance between respective rights on this matter can be allowed to develop with some degree of tolerance on both sides, which in many cases appears to have been achieved in recent years.

I have given this matter extensive thought over many years in Parliament, and much appreciate the various representations made to me, and the sincerity behind all. I do not intend to change my mind over the next few days.