FARMERS WHO allow hunts on their land will not be risking their single farm payment entitlement, even if the hunts breach the Hunting Act, farmers weekly has learned.

As Ben Sharples, an agricultural solicitor with Burges Salmon explained, the Rural Payments Agency is only able to withhold payment in cases where fraud or non-compliance with cross-compliance regulations has been committed.

They also have an obligation to pay in full where the rules are complied with.

“Despite some flexibility in how the UK government implements some cross-compliance regulations, it is thought unlikely that permitting hunting will constitute a breach of the regulations.

” However, details of the environmental stewardship schemes are awaited, and these will need to be studied with care as they are distinct from the SPS.

“On that basis, allowing fox hunting across your land while being in contravention of Section 3 (1) of the Act and therefore a criminal offence, is not a breach of the single payment scheme regulations,” said Mr Sharples.

However, the Countryside Alliance and the Association of Chief Police Officers are advising farmers to amend their agreements with hunts to remain inside the law.

“Farmers should not be prepared to tolerate illegal activities on their land,” said Nigel Yeo, assistant chief constable of Sussex constabulary and head of public order offences for ACPO.

Mr Yeo is urging farmers to read the Hunting Handbook, published by the alliance, as a guide to what forms of hunting will be legal under the Act after Feb 18.

On Fri, Jan 28 the alliance learned of the verdict to its High Court challenge to the Parliament Act 1949 which allows the Commons to make laws without the need for approval by the Lords (albeit subject to certain conditions).

On hearing the arguments before him Lord Justice Maurice Kay found on the side of the government, dismissing the alliance”s claim that the Parliament Act 1949 was invalid.

However, the alliance was granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal. The appeal is due to be heard on Feb 8-10 days before the ban comes into effect. The alliance is not believed to be seeking an injunction to delay the ban”s introduction.