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With some NFU members wanting the NFU to push for a legal challenge should Labour come to power and stop the badger cull, we asked the organiser of the West Somerset Labour Party, Andy Lewis whether Labour could really halt the cull if elected in May. His reply is shown below.
Thank you for your email and thank you for reminding your supporters of Labour’s policy. I understand your concern about the implementation of the policy, given that four year licences have been issued. However, the text of the licences is hedged around with restrictions which would make it possible for a Labour government to stop culling without legal difficulty.
Firstly, each year’s cull has to approved in writing by Natural England. Condition 2 says “no badger may be taken or killed….. until Natural England has specified in writing… the dates between which operations can be carried out.” In the absence of this written specification, no cull could take place.
Secondly, licence holders have been told (under “Important Information” clause a/) “This licence can be modified, extended, terminated or revoked at any time by Natural England or the Secretary of State.”
It is important to remember, I think, that badgers still have protection under primary legislation. A Labour secretary of state could terminate licences without her decision having to be approved by parliament. So this policy would not have to compete with others for parliamentary time.
And it is worth noting that in their response to our policy announcement, the NFU did not question the legal right of a Labour government to stop the culls:
Ending the badger cull pilot is a very clear Labour policy and I am confident it will be implemented if a Labour government is elected in May.
With best wishes