I pay my respects to my hon. Friend Mark Pritchard, whom I cannot see in the Chamber, and congratulate him on securing this important debate.
I should like to put it on the record that I am grateful that we will now have a free vote. Applying a three-line Whip to an issue such as this would have made a mockery of the relationship between Parliament and the Government. That is a welcome move in the past couple of hours.
I shall not pretend that this is the biggest animal welfare issue, because it clearly is not. There are 30 or 40 wild animals in circuses in this country. That does not compare with the millions of animals that have to experience daily the brutality and horrors of factory farming. This is none the less an important issue. There is no justifiable reason for keeping animals such as elephants, tigers, lions and so on in small, travelling cages, away from any semblance of what for them would be a normal life. That is just not civilised.
My understanding is that until recently the Government took the same view, but that that changed somewhere along the line. It is hard for me—and, I believe, many others—to understand why that happened. For one thing, the vast majority of people support a ban. All the polls suggest that. The public appetite for such entertainment is, at best, fading. It is certainly not a growth sector.