Theresa May has announced that she wants to bring back fox hunting with a free vote in the house of commons in the next Parliament.

The prime minister made the stunning announcement to reporters during a factory visit to Leeds as she campaigned ahead of the 8 June general election.

Her admission that she has always been pro-hunting followed this morning's publication of a leaked email in which a Tory peer allegedly told fellow pro-hunt activists: "This is the chance we have been waiting for."

When asked about the report, the prime minister said: "This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against.

"As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote.

"It would allow parliament the opportunity to take the decision on this."

Rural Conservatives been wanting to overturn the hunting ban ever since Tony Blair's New Labour government outlawed the blood sport over 12 years ago.

This morning the Daily Mirror published emails apparently sent by Lord Mancroft, chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations, to its members, in which he claimed that a repeal of the 2004 Hunting Act ban could be imminent.

He said: "A majority of 50 or more would give us a real opportunity for repeal of the Hunting Act. This is by far the best opportunity we have had since the ban, and is probably the best we are likely to get in the foreseeable future."

May has promised a free vote on the issue, meaning that she would not coerce MPs into supporting a lifting of the ban. Lord Mancroft's optimism may therefore be misplaced as many young Tories are anti-hunting or ambivalent towards it.

Sir Roger Gale, a patron of Conservatives Against Fox Hunting told The Metro: "In the last parliament, 2015 to 2017, we know there was not a majority in the House of Commons for a repeal because a number of the young new Conservative members were anti-hunting

"I cannot see many Conservative votes for fox hunting in marginal seats we are hoping to win," he added.

Theresa May
Fox Hunting Ban Vote Protest
Theresa May says she has always supported a ban on fox hunting