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Hunt protesters plan tax boycott


THOUSAND OF pro-hunting supporters will boycott the payment of council tax, car licence tax and the BBC licence fee under plans to launch a campaign of "civil resistance" against the proposed ban on foxhunting.

The threat of law-breaking by thousands of otherwise respectable middle-class citizens is revealed in confidential documents prepared by the Countryside Alliance and leaked to the press last weekend.

Other plans to foment "civil unrest" include an invasion of Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat, with hundreds of horse-borne protesters and the disruption of milk supplies by blockading dairy centres.

Simon Hart, chief executive designate of the Countryside Alliance, which claims 1 million members, admitted that his group had reluctantly decided that it could resort to breaking the law if the proposed ban on hunting with hounds comes into force.

"The alliance is committed to ensuring that unjust legislation does not get onto the statute book, so I am not going to be drawn into discussing any confidential documents other than to confirm that there are contingency proposals being discussed by rural organisations, including the alliance," Mr Hart said.

"Among the ideas that have been put forward are elements of ‘non-co-operation’ — which includes withholding of government revenue such as council tax and car tax, the withholding of the BBC licence fee as well as the simple commitment to continue hunting and face the consequences."

The House of Lords is expected next month to overturn the total ban on foxhunting which was backed by an overwhelming majority of MPs in July. Hunt supporters fear ministers will invoke the Parliament Act to force the legislation through onto the statute books.

Chaos

The leaked documents show that the Alliance believes several million people support its cause. Senior figures in the organisation say only a few thousand supporters would be needed to boycott payments of vehicle excise duty and council tax, along with the BBC licence fee, to cause chaos. One strategy document, entitled Civil Resistance, argues the case for law-breaking on a massive scale: "If it were to become apparent that the Parliament Act would be used then we would promise the government to make the ban unenforceable in the run-up to the next election."

One paper describes as a "perfect example" of future grassroots action the protest of Camilla Jackson, 23, who stripped for a Lady Godiva-style ride through London during the 400,000-strong Countryside March last year.

The plans have received the backing of senior figures including Lord Hurd of Westwell, the former Tory home secretary, who is a prominent alliance member. Asked if he would consider breaking the law or withholding tax, Lord Hurd said: "It depends a lot on what happens between now and then. It wouldn’t be my instinct. But I might well find myself sympathising with people who do."

The leaked papers reveal that the leadership of the Alliance feels it cannot afford to engage in token law-breaking to have any impact. A document states: "We have concluded that in this situation it is impossible to make an omelette without breaking eggs. This means that it is virtually by definition impossible to mount a campaign of civil disobedience without involving breaches of the law."