22/12/2012 07:59 GMT | Updated 22/12/2012 08:07 GMT

Investigate RSPCA's 'Staggering' Legal Costs For Fox Hunting Trial, Says MPs

Politicians have called for a watchdog investigation into whether the "staggering" £326,000 spent by the RSPCA on legal action against a fox hunt was a breach of the charity's obligations.

Tory MP Simon Hart, the former head of the Countryside Alliance, has written to the Charity Commission along with a small cross-party group of MPs and peers asking it to investigate.

The commission said that "on face value" there was no reason for it to intervene however, and that it was a matter for the animal protection charity's trustees to scrutinise the spending.

On Monday the Heythrop Hunt - with which Prime Minister David Cameron has ridden in the past - admitted four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on land in the Cotswolds, in breach of the ban.

fox hunting

Julian Barnsfield, 49 (second left) and and recently retired hunt master Richard Sumner, 68 (left) pleaded guilty to four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on land in the Cotswolds

District Judge Tim Pattinson imposed a £4,000 fine on the hunt and smaller fines on two individual members and told it to pay £15,000 towards the RSPCA's costs.

But passing sentence, he also said he found "quite staggering" the sum spent by the charity bringing the prosecution.

"Members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed," he said.

The politicians, including Labour's Kate Hoey, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams and Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Heseltine, raised concerns in a letter to commission chairman William Shawcross, seen by the Daily Telegraph.

david cameron

David Cameron has formerly ridden with the Heythrop Hunt

"We believe that this 'staggering' expenditure constitutes a clear breach of the 'duty of prudence' by the trustees of the RSPCA in that it cannot possibly be argued that charitable funds and assets have been used reasonably," they said.

The prosecution could have been brought more cheaply using in-house lawyers, they suggested.

"Instead, hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to the RSPCA by members of the public have been squandered unnecessarily on lawyers' fees."