Does this mean the vote to repeal the Hunting Act is on?
Defra today released the full list of ministerial responsibilities for its new (wholly-Conservative) team.
Top man Jim Paice, as widely expected and welcomed in the industry, has become Minister of State for Agriculture and Food.
His responsibilities include:
• Animal health (including endemic and exotic diseases)
• Responsibility and cost-sharing
• Welfare of farm animals
• Single Payments Scheme
• Forestry (including Forestry Commission)
• Agriculture and forestry carbon budgets • Hunting and shooting
• Agricultural Wages
• Gangmasters Licensing
• Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS)
• Better regulation
• Deputising for the Secretary of State at EU Agriculture Council
Now, the appearance of 'Hunting and shooting' seems significant. A quick trawl through the archive shows none of Labour’s last Defra team was responsible for either of these things.
Shooting is obviously a major industry, and a popular country pursuit, so it is good news that a minister is now overseeing it.
But what about hunting? It has proved impossible to get any information out of the new coalition government about the likelihood of the Tory promise of a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act 2004.
But surely you wouldn’t have a minister responsible for something which remains illegal, would you? It is certainly back on the radar.
I understand new Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman will be setting out her priorities later this week. I suspect this subject will be raised.