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No imminent vote on hunt ban repeal
There is no imminent prospect of a parliamentary vote on repealing the hunting ban, a Cabinet minister has signalled.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson appeared to rule out bringing the issue before the Commons next year.
Mr Paterson, a keen supporter of country sports including hunting, told the Daily Telegraph: "There's only a point having a vote if you're going to win.
"At the moment, it would not be my proposal to bring forward a vote we were going to lose. There needs to be more work done on Members of Parliament."
He went on: "It is our clear intention to have a free vote but we need to choose an appropriate moment."
The comments emerged as an estimated 300 Boxing Day hunts gather up and down the country for the busiest day of the season - despite the ban on hunting with dogs that was passed under Labour in 2005.
Campaigners say enforcing the restriction wastes police time, and suggest some officers turn a blind eye to breaches of the law.
But David Cameron has been accused of dragging his heels over acting on the coalition agreement promise of a free vote on overturning the ban.
Many Tories would support repeal, but most Labour and the Liberal Democrats are still in favour of the ban.