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Shooting and rural bodies welcome new government

Shooting and rural organisations welcome coalition government.
The first coalition government since 1945 has been broadly welcomed by shooting and other field sports-related bodies.

First impressions of the new Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration are that ministers will be more receptive to the concerns of country people, have a better understanding of rural issues and will attempt to cut rural red tape and reverse unpopular legislation.

BASC?s pre-election online campaign revealed that 252 of the 290 newly elected MPs who responded were largely supportive of shooting and only six said they were opposed to the sport.

Welcoming this support among new MPs, BASC?s director of communications, Christopher Graffius, said: ?We aim to build broad all-party support for shooting. BASC and its members will be seeking out MPs who have not yet expressed their views on shooting and will target those who declared themselves to be unsure or under-informed about shooting, its conservation benefits and contribution to the economy.?

The Countryside Alliance (CA) was similarly optimistic about the look of the new government and parliament in general.

Tim Bonner said: ?As a result of the election there are a lot of new MPs in parliament who are very supportive of shooting, including George Freeman, who is a wildfowler, Neil Parish, a farmer, Richard Drax, a keen shooting man, and of course former CA chief executive, Simon Hart.?

The CA is looking forward to the new government bringing a fresh approach to the game bird code and the recently convened Lead Ammunition Group (LAG).

Tim Bonner continued: ?The first test will be the withdrawal of the game rearing code of practice, the ban on raised units, which we hope the new government will amend. Though it would be irresponsible of the new government to suspend the LAG, the relevant ministers acting in an overseeing and advisory role may want a change of focus.?

As far as the repeal of the Hunting Act is concerned, the CA recognises that the hung parliament may delay the free vote promised in the manifesto, but is confident that it will take place at some point in the course of the next parliament.

Tim Bonner added: ?Repeal is still very much on the cards. A Bill could be brought forward during the course of the parliament and a vote won. The coalition scenario probably does push the timetable back and we are not blinkered enough to demand that hunting should be at the top of the new government?s agenda. A free vote on repeal is, however, a manifesto commitment that should be delivered at the right moment.?

The National Gamekeepers? Organisation?s Charles Nodder also welcomed the new government: ?Though we are in unfamiliar territory with regard to a coalition, with this new government countryside matters look like getting a fairer hearing from politicians with more knowledge of rural issues. The days of sorting out rural affairs through the old-boys network have gone and we will still have to make our case, but I believe decisions are more likely to be made on the basis of facts.?

Stephen Tapper of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust looked forward to a reduction in power of rural government agencies with responsibility for implementing agri-environment schemes increasingly falling to non-governmental organisations.

He said: ?I think we can expect the new Lib Dem/Conservative coalition to be much more in tune with rural issues than the previous administration. Both Conservatives and Lib Dems are strong in rural areas. We suspect that cost savings will principally be made in the first instance within the big agencies of Natural England and the Environment Agency, so money they receive and distribute may be reduced. I think we are likely to see the new government looking more to the voluntary sector to run these schemes. This would fit in with David Cameron?s ?big society? concept.?

The Country Land & Business Association?s president, William Worsley, supported the appointment of Caroline Spelman as DEFRA head: ?We warmly congratulate Caroline Spelman on her appointment as secretary of state for environment, food and rural Affairs. We know her farming background means she is well prepared for the DEFRA brief.?

He went on to call for a review of planning law and for all members of the new coalition government to recognise their collective role in reviving the rural economy, adding: ?Every new department needs to take account of the needs of the rural economy and grasp this opportunity to help develop a countryside that is truly sustainable in terms of fulfilling its economic, social and environmental potential.?

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