Country sports were praised by Labour MPs at a rural reception hosted by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Angling Trust at the Labour Party conference in Manchester.
Tom Harris MP, the Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister, said he was delighted to have been given a shotgun lesson by BASC recently.
He said: "There is a tolerance of country sports and shooting, we cannot simply be tolerant, country sports add a huge amount to conservation and we as the Labour government should encourage field sports for all the benefits that they provide in terms of employment, income generated and conservation. I was delighted to be recently given a shotgun lesson by BASC and I hope to go out again soon and game shoot, it would be rewarding to be able to eat something I had actually shot myself."
Diana Johnson MP, Shadow Crime and Security Minister and Shadow Front Bench spokesperson on firearms law, praised BASC's work.
She said: "I’m very pleased to know that BASC are so involved with looking at current legislation and through this, lobbying to try and get policy changes in place for the benefit of the rural community and the promotion of safe gun use. They do extensive research and present facts rather than react and speculate – we’re all aware of some of the issues that the shooting community are faced with but they are lucky to have an organisation such as BASC to represent their issues and concerns in such a impartial manner."
Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Shadow Food and Farming Minister, said the Labour party needed to recognise the importance of field and country sports and the impact they have.
He said: "We need to recognise as a party the importance of field and country sports and the impact they have on a vast area of the country, we need to be engaging much more positively with organisations such as BASC and the Angling Trust and be less reticent about the impact they have. Both organisations have my admiration as they engage genuinely on a mainstream agenda. There is always going to be a certain discretion with meeting representatives from organisations but it widely recognised that both BASC and the Angling Trust are voices that should, and need to be heard by the Defra team so I encourage you to carry on your work with us."
John Swift, BASC's chief executive, said: "It has been very much a voyage of discovery in conjunction with Labour MPs, twenty years ago there was not much connection between shooting sports and the Labour party and little would I have thought then that I would hear such positive comments by Labour MPs today. BASC hugely values the relationship between itself and the Angling Trust. BASC is about getting things right and as such we operate to high standards and best practice so that members become advocates for shooting."
Martin Salter, from the Angling Trust, said: "As a former MP, I don’t want to see shooting and fishing driven to the margins, I want both sports to remain mainstream to politicians. Both sports encourage young people not to go down the route of drugs and crime and there are huge social benefits and huge economic benefits to come out of both shooting and fishing."