A ?rural reception? was held by BASC and the Angling Trust at the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party conferences to remind those in power of the value of country sports to both the environment and the economy.

Shooting is worth at least £1.6 billion to the rural economy, with 70,000 jobs supported by shooting and two million hectares being managed for conservation through shooting.

The sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe MP, praised the conservation work carried out by shooting and angling interests.

Mr Sutcliffe also revealed his hope that shooting and fishing would play a large part in encouraging a targeted 2m people to take up sports in the wake of the 2012 Olympics.

At the Conservative party conference Nick Herbert MP, the shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said: ?We understand the problems facing rural communities and activities. We value what country sports do and the value they bring to the UK economy as a whole.

?I hope that, as a party, we will ensure that responsible gun owners are not treated like criminals. There needs to be a much more balanced, sensible view regarding firearms to allow people to enjoy shooting without fear of prejudice.?

The Liberal Democrats also revealed their support for shooting, the shadow secretary of state for the home department, Chris Huhne MP, saying: ?As a party, we are absolutely committed to the rural economy. Rural activities are absolutely essential and we should not obstruct shooting and fishing, but help to develop them.?

The parliamentary spokesman for angling and shooting, Martin Salter MP, meanwhile, suggested that country sports bodies should work together in order to get their message heard.

He said: ?The success of the rural reception is very much an argument for countryside sports to unite together to produce one manifesto to approach MPs with. This will help MPs to better understand the messages and issues that organisations such as BASC and the Angling Trust are trying to put across.?