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

Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend for that important contribution. Chester zoo already has a programme in place to welcome members in the evening, but it wants non-members to go in the daytime. That is really important. The revenue that comes from welcoming non-members to Chester zoo for the first time is really important to ensure the viability of the zoo.

The zoo has developed some of the most detailed covid-secure plans of any in the sector: carefully regulated numbers, ticketing, and enforcement of social distancing. I was really interested to hear about its programme to make sure children stay in the right place. It has markings on the ground with crocodiles—I am sure they are not real crocodiles—to make sure children know that if they cross the line the consequences will not be good.

No corners have been cut at Chester zoo during the closedown: it has continued to feed the animals and it has not stopped doing its incredible work to prevent animal extinction. What has stopped is the money rolling in and that is where we really need to put our efforts now. Will the Minister look carefully at how her Department can offer continued support to the sector? I am aware of the incredible public fundraising that has gone on for Chester zoo, with in excess of £1 million raised by membership donations. May I ask the Minister to have a discussion with colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to allow the local authority to use some of its unused business support grant to matchfund that £1 million? That would really give the support that Chester zoo needs to continue to be a jewel in the Cheshire crown.