It feels unseemly — selfish, even — to wonder aloud about the potential impact of the Cumbrian tragedy on lawful shooting sports. The issues we face as lawful shooters are as nothing compared with the plight of the poor people who were personally affected by the horrifying incident. The thoughts of all decent people will be with the families of the innocent people who were so senselessly murdered.

But time doesn’t stand still and grief is likely to turn to anger. Some of that anger is bound to overfl ow its rightful target — the perpetrator of the ghastly crime. Questions are being asked, yet again, about the role of lawful gun ownership in today’s society. Given this, I hope I may be forgiven for making two observations at this early stage: First, BASC’s media relations0 staff coped admirably with the initial media storm. I reckon the organisation has performed well in a very difficult situation.

Second, remember that barely a month ago we were still being ruled by a tired and desperate Labour Government. Just imagine how that failing administration, with its track record of demonising innocent gun owners in pursuit of political gain, would be behaving if it were still in office.

Spotlight on public spending

The new Government has launched an era of transparency and openness about public spending. Whether this noble attempt to shine a bright light into murky corners will work in the long term is a moot point, given the serried ranks of vested interests. But the fi rst skirmish, the publication of the pay of top public offi cials, has certainly caused a stir. It was fascinating to discover that no fewer than 382 employees of the BBC are paid more than £100,000. The herd is led by the director general, Mark Thompson, who trousers £664,000. His own personal adviser gets a mere £130,000 of licence-fee payers’ moolah, while three recent senior Beeb appointees have averaged an annual take of £190,000.

On a wider stage, it has been revealed that at least 806 public officials get more than £150,000 a year. Of these, 35 get more than £500,000, while eight get more than £1million. And if you thought social housing was a bastion of selfl ess public service, think again; the average pay of housing association chiefs was nearly £150,000 last year — up a whopping 63 per cent since 2001/2.

Next year, the pay of all public officials earning more than £50,000 will be published — and they ain’t gonna like it. But then, farmers’ public payments are already published online for all the world to see, no matter how much (or little) they receive. All this brings me neatly to that paragon of public sector efficiency, the Rural Payments Agency, which administers farm payments. I have previously regaled you with some of my dealings with this, arguably the worst performing agency in the history of the British civil service. More recently, the RPA assured me that my case was being examined by a specialist team. I asked for the identity of the head of this specialist team (I wanted to contact him or her direct). My request was simply ignored, even though I had couched it as a Freedom of Information Act request. When I pursued it, I was told that the RPA declined to agree that I had made the request under the Act. Eventually, they accepted that I had and I received a reply. It was a lengthy missive, packed with legalistic jargon, to the effect that the RPA felt entitled to withhold the information, despite the Act.

It seems that Sir Humphrey is alive and well.

Further evidence of discrimination?

As I write, there are rumours that cameras monitoring a hen harrier nest have captured startling footage of an eagle owl literally making a meal out of a hapless harrier. I wonder if the RSPB gives a hoot?