Weakened British PM ditches fox hunting vote promise

Fox-hunting is unpopular with the British electorate but has the backing of a minority of dedicated Conservative supporters (AFP Photo/Justin TALLIS)
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London (AFP) - British Prime Minister Theresa May's government ditched two controversial manifesto promises on Tuesday on fox hunting and free school lunches, as it limits its ambitions after last month's disastrous election.

The ruling Conservatives lost their majority in the House of Commons in the June 8 vote, forcing them to form a minority government with the help of a small Northern Irish party -- and scrap some plans they think will not pass.

One of the most contentious was the promise to allow MPs to vote on the future of the 2004 ban on fox hunting with dogs, which has widespread public support.

"We are not planning to bring forward a free vote in this session," environment minister Theresa Coffey told the Commons in response to a question from the opposition Labour party.

The Conservatives had also pledged to scrap free lunches provided for children in their first three years of school, offering instead cheaper school breakfasts for more children.

"We have listened very carefully to the views of the sector on the proposal to remove infant free school meals and we have decided that it is right to retain the existing provision," said education minister Nick Gibb, again in response to a Labour question.

MPs voted by 323 votes to 309 last week to approve the government's legislative agenda for the next two years, which was dominated by bills preparing for Britain's exit from the European Union.

The first piece of Brexit legislation -- the Repeal Bill, which will convert EU law into British law -- will be published next week, May's spokesman said Tuesday.