Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife Sanctuaries: Reopening

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Andy Carter Andy Carter Conservative, Warrington South 4:17 pm, 11th June 2020

I congratulate my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell on securing this brilliant debate, to which I am delighted to contribute. I hope Members will not mind if I return to the theme of Chester zoo, because it is just down the M56 from my constituency. Christian Matheson mentioned the email campaign that the zoo launched. I can tell him that I was inundated with emails and telephone calls. I have even had some letters and Zoom calls. Constituents have used every method to contact me over the past few weeks to tell me about the desperate plight of Chester zoo, and I am pleased to be here today to speak on behalf of those constituents who have raised the issue with me. Many constituents work at the zoo and the situation has been a great concern to them. The past few weeks have shown to me, as a proud Cheshire MP, how deeply people rightly care about the conservation work undertaken by Chester zoo. That support extends not just through Cheshire and the north-west of England, but right across the UK, because of the fantastic television programme that regularly airs, showing the detailed work the zoo does to preserve animals and the environmental work it undertakes.

I was therefore pleased to speak last weekend to Lord Goldsmith, who gave us some reassurances on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Government that they would commit to any measures necessary to ensure that our zoos would be preserved. I say to the Minister today, following a very positive and reassuring message from the Prime Minister, that it is not just about opening zoos; it is about ensuring that our zoos are resourced properly for the future. I am keen to share with her some more detail about Chester zoo, because it has been particularly badly hit over the past few weeks.

Aside from its environmental work, Chester zoo’s contribution to the economy of the north-west of England is of great importance. It really is an integral part of our visitor economy. If we had lost it, it would have had such a wide economic impact. The zoo alone contributes £47 million to the regional economy. It supports 1,700 jobs, protects wildlife in more than 30 countries around the world, and engages, as Christian Matheson said, 150,000 young people every year on the future of our planet. I have to say that one of the highlights of every year for my family is to go to Chester zoo and see what it has done differently each year. It really is a treat to go there. Two million visitors regularly go to Chester zoo. This year it is likely to be half that and that will have a detrimental effect on its ability to work.