The value of shooting has been praised by shadow Labour ministers at the rural reception hosted by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Angling Trust at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester.
Angela Smith MP, the Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, praised the role of shooting in conservation. She said: “I want to start by recognising the work that BASC does – its conservation work – and its work to promote an environmentally sustainable and environmentally responsible industry.”
She also affirmed Labour’s commitment to shooting. She said: “I need to make it clear that we have no intention of including anything in our manifesto that would suggest that we would ban shooting as a sport. We recognise that it is a legitimate recreational activity.”
“It’s a well-known fact that in the UK over 700,000 people have gun licences for nearly 2 million guns. I think it needs acknowledging that the overwhelming majority of shooters are law-abiding and conscious of safety.”
Angela Smith MP told the reception that Labour would form policy on shooting with an evidence-based approach. She said: “I also want to make it clear that the approach we take on shooting…is evidence based. I’m not talking about partial evidence – I’m talking about a robust evidence base.”
She asserted that she wanted to continue to work with BASC to achieve “the best possible outcomes” for shooting and the environment and said: “We want to see an industry that is environmentally responsible. An industry where the examples of best practice which are already there to be seen are propagated throughout the whole shooting industry.”
Diana Johnson MP, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, has the policy responsibility for firearms licensing. She said: “I think it’s really very positive that over the last few years we have been able to have such a strong and forthright conversation about issues.”
Diana Johnson said she wanted to see BASC and policy makers continue to work together where both parties “have an interest in making sure that we have the most effective licensing system that we can – that it is efficient and people feel that when they pay their fees they get a good service”.
BASC chairman Alan Jarrett thanked the speakers and said: “I very much welcome the support from the Labour Party, whether in government or opposition, you have helped us and supported our aims in shooting and conservation over the years and I hope you will be able to continue to do that in future.”
Mr Jarrett encouraged delegates to read the Value of Shooting report, an independent study, which emphasises the benefits of shooting to the countryside and shows how shooting “is integrally woven into the management of the countryside”.
He welcomed Angela Smith’s comments on a ‘robust evidence based approach to policy making’ and stressed the importance of better regulation.