The English MP who is the Hen Harrier champion is Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge. She has, in the past, been an outspoken critic of killing of birds of prey, especially in her own Peak District constituency. Angela was also one of very few non-Conservative MPs to speak in the Westminster Hall debate on banning driven grouse shooting. I gather the time restrictions on speeches, imposed according to the rules because so many MPs (almost all Tories) wished to speak, meant that she had to cut out large chunks of what she was expected to say. Water under the bridge now.
Last week, at a conference in Sheffield on peatlands, which I was unable to attend, Angela spoke briefly and mentioned the illegal killing of raptors, including Hen Harriers. She is said to have said ‘The persecution of the Hen Harrier has to stop before any progress can be made’ – which is consistent with what she said last year.
Trouble is, Labour doesn’t have a line on what happens when the persecution doesn’t stop nor what happens if it does.
It won’t be Angela Smith who determines the Opposition’s line on these things, that task resides with Sue Hayman. So, if the bad boys don’t behave what will be the punishment? The SNP have introduced vicarious liability (which must have some impact on the problem) and appear to be moving steadily towards licensing of shooting estates – in England Labour doesn’t even have a plan despite 123,077 people signing an e-petition calling for driven grouse shooting to be banned the Labour party doesn’t even have a line on the subject.
It was disappointing that the Hen Harrier champion was unable to support Findlay Wilde’s thunderclap which went out over 11 million social media accounts on the #Inglorious12th. The Westminster Hen Harrier champion’s voice was absent despite the thunderclap attracting strong support from the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPCA and LACS (and lots of others).
Come on Labour – we’re talking about grouse shooting here – which side are you on? The many or the few?