John Hayes MP has defended himself from accusations of not doing enough to bring hare coursing to the Government’s attention.
Mr Hayes, whose South Holland and the Deepings constituency has been the part of Lincolnshire hardest hit by gangs hunting hares on farmland, confirmed that he was putting pressure on the Home Office to address the problem.
As reported in the Spalding Guardian last week, Deeping St Nicholas Parish Council wrote to Mr Hayes with concerns about his absence from a meeting with Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly and NFU members in February.
Parish councillors were also told, wrongly, that their MP was absent for a House of Commons debate on rural policing and hare coursing which took place on March 7.
Mr Hayes said: “I was surprised to read the coverage in last week’s Spalding Guardian because I take illegal hare coursing extremely seriously and have done for many years.
“Deeping St Nicholas Parish Council members will know that I attended the last meeting about hare coursing, held in Spalding with the police and NFU members in December 2015.
I was sat prominently on the front bench and spoke to the Ministers from the Government several times during the debate to re-emphasise the points being made by the various speakersJohn Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings
“What they clearly didn’t know was that, contrary to the claims made in the article, I went out of my way to attend the debate in the House of Commons on March 7.
“I was sat prominently on the front bench and spoke to the Ministers from the Government several times during the debate to re-emphasise the points being made by the various speakers.”
Mr Hayes also confirmed that he had spoken to Victoria Atkins, MP for Louth and Horncastle who works as Parliamentary Private Secretary for Policing Minister Brandon Lewis, along with Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Marc Jones.
“I pressed with Victoria the significance of the debate and, a few days later, I was in a meeting with the PCC where I re-emphasised the content of the debate and expressed my concerns about hare coursing.
“Having said all that, I am happy to meet with the parish council and work with them to tackle this problem.”
A statement from Deeping St Nicholas Parish Council said: “The Parish Council is aware that the statement that John Hayes MP was not in the House of Commons for the debate on hare coursing was incorrect and apologises to him for this misrepresentation of the facts.
“The Parish Council has been supporting all efforts by local people, police, NFU, South Holland District Council and our Police & Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones, to highlight the issues of illegal hare coursing and their impact on local, rural communities.
“We heard that there had been a debate about this matter in the House of Commons and were delighted that this problem had reached the most important, political chamber in the land.
“On reading the report of the Debate, we found that our MP, John Hayes, was not mentioned as having spoken on the matter.
“We have always had excellent support from Mr Hayes over this and other matters and were disappointed not to see him join the debate.
“However, we did now know that he, in fact, was inside the Chamber, sat next to the Policing Minister, Brandon Lewis, and keeping him informed of the issues as the Debate proceeded, although Mr hayes was unable to speak himself due to parliamentary protocol.
“We are very sorry for any ‘fake news’ and did not intend to mislead anyone, but were only trying to highlight the importance of the hare coursing issue in this rural community.”