Hunting enthusiasts in Hampshire have been left frustrated by a Government decision to shelve a promised vote on repealing a controversial ban.

The Conservatives made an election pledge to give a free vote in Parliament on the foxhunting legislation, which was passed in 2005 and outlawed hunting with dogs.

But it has been reported that senior officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have admitted there won’t be a vote in 2011.

It was a double disappointment for the New Forest Hunt who also had to cancel their Boxing Day meet because of icy conditions.

The event was planned for yesterday, as it’s traditionally never held on a Sunday, and around 400 hunting supporters still went to Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst to see a parade of the hounds.

Paul Ames, senior master at the New Forest Hunt, said: “It looks like it’s becoming one of the most difficult seasons we’ve ever had. We’ve only been out twice in December because of the weather, and we’re usually out twice a week.

Many members of the hunt were resigned to the parliamentary vote on foxhunting being postponed.

Mr Ames added: “I don’t think it will happen for another 12 to 18 months.

“I can wait, and my hunting colleagues can wait. We know at some point the free vote will appear, and we’re very patient because the country must come first.”

Huntsman Michael Woodhouse says pro-hunting people realise repealing legislation is not the Government’s top priority.

He said: “I think people understand and respect the decision. We’re managing – we have kept going over the last six years and we will keep going until it’s repealed.”

But a Hampshire Tory MP is among those hoping to make sure that fox hunting stays illegal.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, a member of the recently-formed Conservatives Against Fox Hunting, backed a statement that said: “This Government has far more important things to do than spending time on bringing back cruelty to animals for sport.”

Campaign group League Against Cruel Sports also say there is little public support for overturning the ban.

In a poll they commissioned, 76 per cent of those surveyed said they thought foxhunting should remain against the law.