Tory Simon Hart faces calls to quit Commons committee after revelations he gets £30k blood sport lobbying fee
TORY MP Simon Hart is facing calls to quit Parliament’s environment committee amid concerns that he is “abusing his position” by acting as a paid advocate for fox hunting.
The Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire MP is a former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, which helped stage 300 hunts on Boxing Day.
The Morning Star can reveal that he is now being paid £30,000 a year to act as a “high net-worth consultant” for Britain’s biggest pro-bloodsports group.
Since October 2012, Mr Hart has been paid £20,000 a year for working six hours per week as an “outdoor education consultant” for the alliance.
But under a new contract which began in November the MP is now being paid £7,500 per quarter for a “commitment of approximately eight hours per week.”
The pay rise, which is disclosed in the latest register of members’ interests, comes after Mr Hart was made a member of Parliament’s environment, food and rural affairs committee.
Former Labour MP and animal-rights campaigner Chris Williamson accused Mr Hart of “abusing his position” on the committee to promote the pro-hunting campaign.
He told the Star: “He has a clear conflict of interest.
“It is highly improper in my view for Simon Hart to be sitting on this select committee when not only does he have these objectionable views but is actually receiving a substantial sum of money to promote these views within the committee.
“It’s not really a healthy position in my view for anybody to be in the pay of the organisation in that way, it’s not healthy for democracy.
“It’s actually the sort of thing that leads people to become cynical about the whole political process.”
The League Against Cruel Sports said the payments to Mr Hart are part of a “murky influence” exerted by the group at Westminster in the hope of ending the hunting ban.
Huge donations from prominent pro-hunt supporters helped Mr Hart win his seat at the 2010 and 2015 general elections.
In 2010, his campaign was given £5,000 from Lord Daresby, a former chairman of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association.
He also received donations worth £40,000 from a New York-based hedge fund run by former Isle of Wight huntmaster Johan Christofferson.
Mr Christofferson made a further personal donation of £5,000 to the campaign in 2010 and boosted Mr Hart’s re-election bid with £10,000 in 2014.
The Star contacted Mr Hart to give him the right to reply but has not received a response.
The Tories attempted to rush a Bill through the Commons earlier this year relaxing rules on fox hunting but backed down in the face of a crushing defeat and overwhelming public outcry.
But Labour warned this week that it is now only a “matter of time” before the government tries again.
League Against Cruel Sports campaigns director Tom Quinn:
Public polling this month makes it clear that opposition to hunting is at an all-time high, with 83 per cent supporting the ban on hunting.
Opposition in rural areas is also at a record 84 per cent, so it is an outrage that the Countryside Alliance claims to represent country people.
It is shocking that in this age of austerity they are paying an MP such a huge amount for services unknown.
Is he being paid to whisper in the ear of the Prime Minister and other government figures to encourage them to ignore the public and instead legislate to appease the influential minority?
Given the huge support for the hunting ban, we call on the Countryside Alliance to start representing country people and stop trying to undermine the Hunting Act.
Simon Hart’s other interests
- In February 2014, Simon Hart was one of only 24 MPs to vote against introducing regulations requiring plain packaging for tobacco products, making it offence to sell e-cigarettes to children under-18 and making it an offence for adults to buy cigarettes for under-18s.
Two months later, Mr Hart accepted two tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show worth £1,404 from Japan Tobacco International.
- In 2010 Mr Hart’s campaign received £5,000 from Anthony Buckingham, a former partner at Executive Outcomes, a “private military company” formed in South Africa.
The company held contracts to provide military advice and personnel with the governments of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Indonesia as well as transnationals such as De Beers, Rio Tinto and Texaco.