Theresa May has pledged to hold a free vote on fox hunting, paving the way for the law that currently bans it to be repealed if the Conservatives win the general election.
The commitment to allow the House of Commons to decide whether to repeal the ban was included in the Tory manifesto, which was unveiled in Halifax on Thursday.
The prime minister has already said she remains personally in favour of repealing the ban, which has been in force since 2005, telling reporters earlier this month that "personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting".
The manifesto now confirms the commitment to hold a free vote.
David Cameron also pledged a similar policy in the 2015 Conservative manifesto but the vote was never held after SNP politicians made it clear they would block the measure. However, if the polls are correct and May wins a large majority in next month's vote, it is more likely that MPs will get a chance to repeal the bill.
"We will grant a free vote, on a government bill in government time, to give parliament the opportunity to decide the future of the Hunting Act," the manifesto states.
Although fox hunting was banned by Tony Blair's New Labour government, many hunts continue to ride with packs of dogs and chase scents, and there are several loopholes in the law.
Repealing the Hunting Act has become a totemic issue for many Conservative MPs in rural constituencies, but a substantial minority of Tories are thought to support the current situation. As a result, fox hunting is only likely to stand a chance of being legalised if May wins a very substantial majority in the election.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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