Nothing short of a ban seems to be the answer to making this absolutely clear. The views of many organisations have been represented in the debate this afternoon, but I would like to pay particular tribute to Virginia McKenna and the Born Free Foundation, who are observing the debate from the Gallery this afternoon.
I want to make two quick points. First, the Government’s proposals for licensing and regulation are still going to be subject to a legal challenge and I do not see how that would be any different. I refer the Minister to an answer to a parliamentary question in the European Parliament that was answered by Commissioner Potocnik. The question was:
“What is the Commission doing to enforce animal welfare standards in European zoos and circuses?”
In his answer, Commissioner Potocnik dealt with the question of zoos and then said quite clearly:
“Circuses are specifically excluded from the scope of the Zoos Directive, and are not covered by any other EU legislation. Therefore, the welfare of circus animals remains the responsibility of the Member States.”
That was at the end of May.
My constituent, Gerry Cottle, ran away at the age of 15 to join the circus, and very successful he has been. I spoke to him yesterday. He said that the circus has moved on and times have changed, and that public opinion was against “the dinosaurs” who use wild animals in circuses. We do not need them. He runs a successful circus without animals, creating good old-fashioned theatre and entertainment.
There is no way that any circus owner could say that banning animals from circuses was a human rights issue because it caused loss of livelihood. Many circuses operate without animals, which is a testament to progress. I support the motion and I trust that the Minister will hear the clamour for a ban both in this place and outside.