Purdey Awards Speech 2019

Tuesday 4th February 2019, Aspley House.

“I am very honoured indeed to have been invited to present the Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation and to have a public opportunity not just to congratulate the winners but also to thank Purdeys for their extremely generous sponsorship of this important award which recognized the outstanding efforts of those who are involved in shoot management and conservation and how they have achieved such remarkable results, in the important work of improving game bird habitats, and the biodiversity of their land.

The rigorous questionnaires for the entrants are devised by Dr Nick Sotherton of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and assessed by Dr Mike Swan also of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to get past these two and the highly knowledgeable judging panel is no mean feat and for that alone the winners are to be warmly congratulated.

I should declare a personal interest in my 59 years love of shooting and as a former Trustee of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust as Chairman in Parliament of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Game and Wildlife Conservation and for 36 years in Parliament promoting with others the great important of shooting and conservation and how management of shoots and game species, plays a significant and irreplaceable role in the stewardship of the countryside.

I have, frankly, long felt disappointed at the rather small voice in Parliament over the years that has stood up for the countryside for the rural way of life and for our country sports and the traditions of rural culture.

I have long believed, that Government must do more to recognize the value of country sports and their role in conservation, the substantial investment made in conservation and the historic role shooting has played in shaping the countryside.

It is of the first importance that when Government policies are shaped that they should be based on sound evidence, on principle and on science and to this end, if I may, I would like to pay a particular tribute to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust for the outstanding work that they do in this regard.

It is an organisation comprised of scientists who by weary, dogged, patient and relentless deployment of scientific evidence, ensure that the conservation arguments carry the greatest possible weight.  Their work informs the Purdey Awards, and makes them more important.

Everyone in this room, who loves shooting, will understand that such work is vital and deserving of the greatest possible support and again, I thank Purdeys – Britain’s greatest gunmaker, for their tremendous help.

The awards themselves demonstrate that Conservation and Species management, play an important role in protecting and enhancing the natural world. It also shows the serious economic contribution of shooting, not just in jobs but through investment in natural capital to everyone’s benefit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we, who are truly fortunate to live in this beautiful and wonderful country, who take part in shooting and other country pursuits. In surroundings of great and often unique beauty, we know we have in our lives in shooting in all its forms, a source of great and fascinating pleasure.

But shooting, and other country sports face unprecedented pressures, not least through populist campaigns and social media. It is therefore vital that all shoots are in compliance with the Code of Good Shooting Practice. Yet despite the opposition, shooting has never been more popular in terms of participation and this presents a huge opportunity.

Our goal should be to move shooting and conservation from a vaguely defensive posture to positive promotion. The contribution that shooting makes to nature conservation and the countryside is intense indeed it makes a powerful active contribution to rural wellbeing.

The Purdey awards show that we love what we do and that we care for the countryside and its people and that the sport of shooting is completely committed to conservation at its best.”