THE COUNTRYSIDE Alliance estimates that a ban on hunting would cost the government £155m in compensation, reports The Telegraph and The Times.

The estimate, made by accountant William Patterson from west Wales, is based on losses incurred by the Warwicks hunt, with the figures extrapolated to give a national estimate.

“If the government brings back the Bill to ban hunting, it will face a fierce battle as well as this compensation bill,” said Simon Hart, Countryside Alliance chief executive.

“The sensible option would be to leave well alone.”

The alliance commissioned the study after the Lords and Commons‘ Human Rights Committee concluded that a ban on hunting would be in breach of the Human Rights Act.

As it stands, the Hunting Bill makes no provision for those who would lose their job following a ban, therefore breaching the Act.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said that should such a Bill be successful than any compensation would have to be paid by DEFRA.

However, The Times reports that a DEFRA spokesman said that its legal advice differed from that of the committee and it did not believe it would have to pay compensation.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Their case is without foundation because the Hunting Bill does not stop hunting; what it does is take the wild animal out of the equation.”

The figure for compensation could be much higher if ancillary businesses such as livery stables were also to receive compensation for lost revenue.

Some believe that there is also a strong case for compensation to hotels that would lose revenue because of the cessation of hunting on places such as Exmoor.