Fox hunt vote highlights folly of abstention, says Paisley
A controversial Westminster vote on hunting foxes with dogs has exposed why nationalists are barking up the wrong tree, according to a DUP MP.
Ian Paisley was speaking after the Prime Minister was forced to postpone a vote relaxing the ban on foxhunting in England and Wales.
The vote, scheduled for today, would have meant an unlimited number of dogs could be used to "flush out" a fox to be shot.
Currently, just two dogs are permitted in England and Wales.
Allowing any number of dogs would have brought the law south of the border in line with that in Scotland.
But in a twist, the SNP's 56 MPs agreed to break with their normal practice of not voting on England-only matters and join Labour in opposing the proposal.
Nicola Sturgeon directly linked her party's move to the Government's plans for "English votes for English laws", known as Evel, which would give English MPs a veto over England-only legislation at Westminster. Together with a number of anti-hunting Conservative MPs, who have been granted a free vote on the issue, this was expected to be enough to block the change.
David Cameron attacked the SNP for its "opportunistic" position on foxhunting after he was forced to postpone the vote.
But Ian Paisley said the SNP's move "shows even ardent nationalists can't resist the benefits of the Union at times" as it showed smaller regional parties could still exercise much power in the House of Commons.
The DUP's North Antrim MP suggested the level of influence the Scottish Nationalists were demonstrating should be an example to Sinn Fein's abstentionist MPs - and a warning about how his party was still a Westminster force to be reckoned with.
"The SNP's politics is self-serving with a sole objective of being destructive to the Union," said Mr Paisley. "Their decision to have a whipped vote on fox hunting legislation which does not affect Scotland is a recognition of the benefits of the Union. Whilst they traditionally look at Scotland and nowhere else, this is a departure from the norm.
"Indeed, it should again highlight the farcical and nonsensical position of some Northern Ireland MPs who refuse to take their seats and use their votes in the House of Commons.
"This vote once again highlights that throughout this Parliament, there will be times when the votes of the smaller parties will be critical. Those who mocked this point during the election campaign are now strangely silent."
While Sinn Fein's four MPs do not take their seats, they use the Commons facilities and attend events at Westminster.
Last week it was revealed that Martin McGuinness had kept his Commons pass despite stepping down in Mid-Ulster two years ago.
Stormont's Deputy First Minister, who never took up his Commons seat due to the oath to the Queen, decided he still wants to be able to visit the estate.
Fox hunting with dogs is banned in Scotland, as in England and Wales, but two dogs can be used to flush out foxes to be shot. Traditional fox hunting remains lawful in Northern Ireland.
It would have been banned, but by the time of the passing of the Hunting Act of November 2004 in the House of Commons, the Northern Ireland Assembly had been established and the hunting issue had been devolved to that body.
A Hunting Bill was introduced into the Northern Ireland Assembly but rejected in December 2010. The Assembly voted to ban hare coursing in Northern Ireland in 2010.