David Rutley contributions to the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019

Tue 4th June 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
24 interactions (3,700 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
10 interactions (1,312 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
20 interactions (1,051 words)
Tue 7th May 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
27 interactions (3,432 words)

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 4th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Sir Mike Penning Portrait Sir Mike Penning - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:25 p.m.

She does not look 30 years of age, as my hon. Friend comments. She said to me when she was about 11 years of age, “Daddy, I’m going to be taken to a zoo by the school, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to see animals in cages.” We have never gone to a zoo and never gone to a circus that has had live animals. My youngest daughter is 28 and my eldest daughter is 30. My eldest daughter is now a marine biologist, so the House can probably realise where I am coming from on this. If we are going to make a law that says that we are banning live animals in circuses, let us do that for them, and for the public. If there are animal welfare issues, that can be picked up, but actually over the years it has not been, which is why we are going to ban it ethically now.

Should the animals be taken if they are found in this situation? This is a really difficult grey area that the Minister is going to have to address. Why would someone travel with an animal if they have not been training it and using it? Why would they keep it in its winter quarters when perhaps there are better types of quarters that it could be kept in? If it is travelling, why would they do that if they are not using it within a circus production? I hope that there can be an accommodation in this Bill—whether in this House, around guidance, or as it proceeds to the other House, which will also understand that the public are with us on this—whereby we can do what it says on the tin. This Bill says that we are going to ban live animals in circuses—we are going to protect those animals should they be in a circus.

There will be loads of good will out there regarding these animals. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport said that he tweeted out about this —yes, but they have to go to the right place. We are talking about myriad different types of animal that are used within circuses. It is really important that these animals go to a place of expertise to be looked after, because a lot of them may well have been through very stressful procedures. They may have been in a circus nearly all their life and then they are taken to a completely different environment. That takes a degree of professionalism and expertise. That has to be addressed in terms of payment, which should come from the circus, as they are the people who are responsible for these animals. They can be passionate about them. I have heard some of the debates in public over the years where they have said, “We love these animals.” I do not doubt that, but we need to say, “If we have a situation where we are going to have to remove animals from you, as an organisation, then it is not right for the taxpayer or a charity to pick up that tab—it is your job.” We need to consider how we can move that forward within the guidance. Perhaps the other House will debate this for a little bit longer.

We are trying, on principle, cross-party and as a nation, to get the animal rights part of this right. My kids—our kids—are driving this forward. It is like the environmental arguments that are going on out there at the moment. They are right, because it is their future, not our future. I have been lucky enough to be in Kenya with the military and have been in most of the safari parks. Seeing an animal in its natural environment coming down to the water hole in the evening because that is what it naturally does is an absolutely moving thing, not like seeing an elephant standing on its back legs in a circus, which is very damaging for the animal.

The House should be very proud of bringing this legislation forward. I would disagree only slightly with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport on one thing. The previous Labour Administration had a huge majority—an absolutely enormous majority. They could have got whatever legislation they wanted through this House at any time during that period, but is a Conservative Government who have brought this through. I am very proud of that, but it should have been brought in years and years ago.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 5:24 p.m.

It is an honour to participate in the debate, and I welcome the genuine cross-party spirit. We are good friends on these issues, and it is good to hear well-informed, well-thought-through opinions, which will add to what we are taking forward. I congratulate the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) on setting out his concerns so clearly. We have spoken outside the Chamber, to facilitate further discussions, which shows the cross-party approach we are taking.

Animal welfare is a vital issue for everybody in the Chamber. All Members here have played an important role in trying to secure debates and take forward legislation on this issue. It is time to stop the outdated practice of wild animals performing or being exhibited in circuses. I will go into some technical details, but I think we all agree that we need to move in that direction.

I will start with new clause 1, new clause 2 and amendment 1, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). I have known him for a very long time. He is an extraordinary orator and a scrutineer extraordinaire—I am not very good at French, as Members can tell. I have enjoyed working with him in various roles. He got to this place well before me and has made a remarkable and important contribution.

Break in Debate

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 5:24 p.m.

There is concern about using two different bits of legislation to solve one problem. Would it not be clearer to cover this issue in the Bill, rather than relying on the Animal Welfare Act?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

That is an interesting point. It is difficult to get the balance right, but the key thing to remember is that we are discussing an outdated practice that we want to see removed on ethical grounds. Seizure is much easier where there are genuine welfare concerns—I will explain why in more detail—and those powers are contained in the 2006 Act.

If the animal is subject to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976—of those animals currently kept in circuses, only camels and zebras are subject—it may be seized if it is being kept without a licence or if a licensing condition is being breached. There is no need to replicate those powers here. In Committee, concern was raised about repeated breaches of the Act. The courts would have the power to impose unlimited fines, which makes it highly unlikely that a circus would continue to reoffend, for economic reasons.

Powers to seize animals interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of possessions, which is protected by article 1 of protocol 1 to the European convention on human rights. Interferences must be justified and proportionate. That may be easy to do if an owner is mistreating an animal and the powers are being exercised under the Animal Welfare Act, which is the point I was trying to make earlier. However, the objective of this legislation is simply, but importantly, to prevent the use of wild animals in circuses on ethical grounds. Preventing someone from using animals for other purposes, which is what the seizure and deprivation powers do, goes beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Bill.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:40 p.m.

I would like some reassurance from the Minister about a circus that operates in my constituency—Circus Mondao—which has a zebra and two camels. I have been campaigning for it to cease the use of these, and I ask that the Bill cover that so that I can happily go to Circus Mondao in the knowledge that, because of this Act, it is not using wild animals.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:40 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman sets things out incredibly clearly, as he has done on others Bills I have been involved in. Absolutely—I can categorically say that, at commencement of this Act, those practices will no longer be able to be taken forward, so his campaign will have come to fruition. I hope that reassures him.

Amendment 4 seeks to extend the enforcement powers in the Bill to police constables. A few points have been made, not the least of which were those made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), who is passionate about many things, including these issues. I always have a soft spot for Hemel Hempstead because that was where one of my sons was born. We are all talking about our children today.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:40 p.m.

You just put them in a circus then.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:40 p.m.

I do not know how to take that comment. I think I will move on.

Again, we do not feel that the amendment is necessary if an animal is in distress, when the Animal Welfare Act 2006 already provides powers for the police to respond quickly. The offence we are talking about—a ban on use on ethical grounds; let us keep that in the front of our minds—does not require such an urgent response. It does require a response, but it does not have same immediacy. It can happen only in the context of a public performance, which will of course take place in a public place. If a travelling circus wanted to break the law, it would have to do so in front of an audience. An inspector could be at the circus in sufficient time, and the schedule provides powers to search for evidence. As outlined in the schedule, that includes questioning any person on the premises, taking samples and taking copies of documents. Indeed, inspectors can seize anything, except an animal, found on the premises that they reasonably believe to be evidence of the offence in clause 1.

We do not believe it necessary to extend these powers to the police. DEFRA has approximately 50 circus and zoo licensing inspectors, who are qualified and experienced in identifying and, if need be, handling species of wild animals. In fact, in Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) made the point that we do have the expertise, and I think it is best to get qualified veterinarians or people with extensive experience of working with captive animals to take care of this work. Few, if any, constables would have that level of knowledge, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead pointed out.

In the rare cases where a police presence is needed, as I explained in Committee, the Bill also provides powers for an inspector to take up to two other people with them on an inspection. These could include a police constable, who would be able to exercise, under the supervision of the inspector, the powers of inspection provided in the Bill. Let me assure the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and other hon. Members that the guidance DEFRA will issue will also make it clear that police constables are able to accompany inspectors during the inspection, and I have also set that out to him in writing. I hope that gives him and other Members a greater degree of assurance that the police will be able to play a role, as required.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:43 p.m.

Will the Minister go into slightly more detail about where the guidance will land on that point? Will the police constable be one of the two people who can accompany an inspector, or will that be in addition to those two people, since there may be very good reasons why certain specialists are required for certain animals?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:43 p.m.

That is a good question, and we will take a closer look at that. At this stage, it would be one of the two people, but that is something we can take a closer look at.

I accept the point that has previously been raised that the Scottish Act provides powers for police constables to enforce the legislation. The Scottish guidance states:

“Although constables are provided powers for enforcement, it is expected that it will primarily be Local Authorities that will enforce the Act as part of other responsibilities relevant to travelling circuses.”

Even under the Scottish Act, the police are not seen as the primary inspection force.

Since Committee, DEFRA officials have discussed enforcement of the Bill with the chief constable of Hertfordshire constabulary, Charlie Hall, who is the national policing lead on animal matters. The view of the police is that while they would of course support DEFRA-appointed inspectors, should this be required, they do not want to take on the additional responsibility of being the primary enforcer of what is a very specialist area of business. They see their role as being one of support in keeping the peace when necessary to enable inspectors to conduct the work provided for in the Bill.

Mention has been made of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and we certainly respect its contributions, but we are concerned here with an offence involving captive wild animals, not wildlife crime, so it is unlikely that that group will have a primary role in inspection. That will be for the other inspectors we have talked about.

Sir Mike Penning Portrait Sir Mike Penning - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:45 p.m.

There could be a situation in which a wild animal has been inappropriately brought into a circus. We are not talking about everything coming from Africa or Asia; it could, for instance, be a wild animal from the UK, or one illegally imported. There are people who have that area of experience, and all we are asking for in the guidance is that they should be appropriately contacted and their expertise used, should that be needed.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:45 p.m.

I think that is a perfectly fair point, but the point I am trying to make, to reassure colleagues, is that we have 50 inspectors who are well trained to take care of this. Of course, we would get the police involved at the right time, and we will put that in guidance. We can anticipate that there may be circumstances in which we need to get the National Wildlife Crime Unit involved, and we will set that out as appropriate. Again, I hope that the points I have made give sufficient reassurances to hon. Members, and that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport feels that he need not press amendment 4.

I turn to amendment 2, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley. He seeks to prevent circus operators from euthanising their wild animals, which is something we all want to be avoided, unless they have permission from a qualified vet. Again, I assure him that these issues were raised directly with the circuses during the evidence session. I understand the sentiment behind the amendment, but we have not seen any evidence that current circus operators would seek to euthanise their animals. Indeed, the two remaining circuses have assured us that they would not do so. In oral evidence during the Bill’s Committee stages, Peter Jolly senior was clear that:

“I would change my business to something else, but the animals would stop with me.”––[Official Report, Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Public Bill Committee, 21 May 2019; c. 42, Q107.]

Carol MacManus suggested that the other circus, Circus Mondao, was considering either rehoming its wild animals or keeping them at winter quarters with people to supervise the animals

“because we would have to look after the animals.”––[Official Report, Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Public Bill Committee, 21 May 2019; c. 50, Q152.]

They are concerned about their animals and consider them to be part of their family.

I would also point out that, in practice, the amendment would unfairly target circus operators by requiring them to obtain permission from a veterinarian to have an animal euthanised. No such legal requirement exists for pet owners or other owners of working animals who operate a business. As we have discussed, we do not need to seize an animal under the Bill to prove that an offence of using a wild animal in a travelling circus has been committed. The other thing it is important to set out to my hon. Friend is that retirement plans are in place for these wild animals, and the Animal Welfare Act will of course continue to apply to protect these animals. Once again, I hope that the points I have made will give reassurances to my hon. Friends and to Opposition Members.

New clause 4, as set out by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, aims to prevent new animals from being added to existing licences and to prevent new licences from being passed, and amendment 3, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, seeks to allow the circuses two more years on their existing licences. We do not believe new clause 4 is necessary, although I understand what the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport is seeking to achieve with his amendment—to mitigate the risk of additional wild animals being brought into travelling circuses between Royal Assent and the Bill coming into force on 20 January 2020. New clause 4 appears to be intended to come into force on Royal Assent; I think that is the intention. By convention, there is a strong presumption against commencing any earlier than two months after Royal Assent, because the public are entitled to be given a reasonable period of time to adapt to a change in the law and to reorganise their affairs in response to it. It would be highly unusual to commence a clause such as this on Royal Assent.

Paragraph (a) of new clause 4 seeks to prevent new licences from being issued after the Bill has passed, so it would apply only to new travelling circuses or existing ones that currently do not use wild animals in their performances. If a travelling circus wished to start using wild animals before the end of the current touring season, typically at the end of October—for those who have not been part of this debate, circuses would not continue until 20 January, because they normally stop performing at the end of October—it could technically have a last hurrah, and the hon. Gentleman has made that point with conviction. However, it would have to apply for a licence as soon as the Bill was published to maximise the revenue it would want to get. I reassure hon. Members that DEFRA has received no inquiries from anyone regarding even the possibility of an application for a new licence.

If, however, a new circus decided to apply for a licence, say, next week, DEFRA’s application takes a minimum of six weeks, and for a new circus unfamiliar with the demands of our licensing regime, it could take considerably longer for an application to be determined. Both current licensed circuses, when they first applied for a licence, needed to be inspected twice before their licence was awarded, and those inspections took place at winter quarters, which is an easier place to conduct an inspection; even then, both applications took two months to be approved. Even if a circus were to submit an application for a licence next week, it would be able to use its wild animals for, at most, 14 weeks or three months before the end of the current touring season.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:50 p.m.

That is quite a long time.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:52 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman says that is quite a long period. It is long enough to take what he is saying seriously. We understand his arguments, but for the sake of completeness, I want everyone to understand the processes.

Paragraph (b) of the new clause would affect circuses already licensed by DEFRA. The two licensed circuses still using wild animals have not said that they have any plans to add further wild animals. Given that a ban will be in place before the next touring season, it would make little economic sense for them to invest in new trained animals or equipment now, and significant changes to a performance require planning, which would usually happen when the circus is at winter quarters, from late October onward. Also, in the unlikely event that a circus sought to add a wild animal to an existing licence, the proposed moratorium would not prevent that from happening between now and the moratorium coming into effect.

I assure the House that that is a highly unlikely scenario. The current 2012 licensing regime would safeguard the animal’s welfare. Existing licence conditions require circuses to provide DEFRA with at least two weeks’ notice of their intention to add a wild animal to their circus, and inspection would follow as soon as possible after the animal’s arrival in the circus. The Government accept that that leaves open the possibility—albeit a very small one—that new animals could be used in travelling circuses for a maximum of 14 or 16 weeks, or just over three and a half months, if the licence application was submitted and approved, unless the proposed early moratorium comes into effect. Although we have had no indication that any circus in the UK would try to make use of such a gap, I understand the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead. I will take the matter away and, ahead of Committee stage in the Lords, consider how best we can ensure that no new wild animals are used in travelling circuses by the time the ban comes into force on 20 January 2020.

On amendment 3, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, we believe that circuses have had enough time to plan for the ban. He suggested, I think probingly, that the decision has only just been made; in fact, the legislation has been long in gestation, and the general feeling is that it would have been better had it been introduced sooner. I think we all share that view. It has been difficult to get parliamentary time. Circuses have had six and a half years to prepare, ever since the introduction of the licensing regulations, which contain a sunset clause that made it clear that the ban would be in place by January 2020. We do not believe, therefore, that the amendment is necessary.

The Government have always been clear that the licensing regulations were an interim measure only. It is important to highlight that licences must be renewed every year, and in February last year we reaffirmed that any license issued to circuses this year would be the last, because a ban would be in place by the time the interim regulations expired on 20 January 2020. The coming into force date of the Bill aligns with the expiry date of the regulations, which means that the two circuses will be able to update and plan their routines for next year while they are not on tour, as the majority of circuses would do anyway.

It should not be too difficult for the circuses to replace the wild animal elements of their shows. DEFRA has been inspecting these circuses at least three times a year for the last six and a half years. Our inspections show that the animals, where they are used, are used for only about five to ten minutes as part of a two-hour show. As long as the ban comes into force during the winter season, which has always been the Government’s intention, we believe that the two circuses have enough time to adjust their routines. Indeed, there are about 25 circuses in the UK and Ireland that do not use wild animals in their show, and they operate successfully. They show what can be done. To reassure my hon. Friend further, comparisons with ticket prices in other travelling circuses that do not use wild animals do not show a premium for seeing or involving wild animals.

I should add that the amendment does not reflect the fact that the interim licensing regulations expire next January. The amendment would therefore permit wild animals to be used in travelling circuses for two years—that is, to 2022—with a much lower level of scrutiny than they have been subjected to for the last seven years. In those circumstances, I would certainly share the concerns about more wild animals being introduced into travelling circuses. A two-year moratorium, with no DEFRA licence required at all, could well lead to more wild animals being used in travelling circuses. That is not something this Government would agree to.

I hope I have made it clear why the Government believe that next January is an appropriate date for the ban to come into force, and that hon. Members in all parts of the House are reassured by my comments. I hope my hon. Friend feels that it would be best were he not to press his amendment.

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:56 p.m.

I thank the Minister for an extremely thorough response to the amendments tabled by me and the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard). People will now see why I speak so highly of my hon. Friend, not just in his time as a Minister but in his time at Asda. His courteous, serious and thorough treatment of all the amendments does him credit and shows why he is such a fantastic Minister, and I am grateful to him. I am pretty sure that he will discuss these matters further with the shadow Minister and me before the Bill goes to the Lords.

As the Scottish National party Chief Whip, the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), is present, I should restate my view that the law introduced by the Scottish Government is better than the Bill we are dealing with, but I have heard the Minister’s response and, based on that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the new clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 5:29 p.m.

Consideration completed. As the Bill has not been amended since its introduction, Standing Order No. 83L does not apply and I do not need to suspend the House to reconsider the Bill.

I remind the House that on Second Reading the Speaker certified that clauses 1 and 2 and the schedule relate exclusively to England on matters within devolved legislative competence. Under Standing Order No. 83M, a consent motion is therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Copies of the motion are being made available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website, and have been made available to Members in the Chamber.

Does the Minister intend to move the consent motion?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

indicated assent.

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England) (Standing Order No. 83M(3)).

[Dame Eleanor Laing in the Chair]

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 7:59 p.m.

I remind hon. Members that, if there is a Division, only Members representing constituencies in England may vote. I call the Minister to move the consent motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses of, and Schedule to, the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill—

Clauses and Schedules certified under SO No. 83J(1)(h) as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 1 and 2 of, and the Schedule to, the Bill (Bill 385).—(David Rutley.)

Break in Debate

The First Deputy Chairman - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 8:01 p.m.

I look around expectantly and discover that nobody wishes to catch my eye.

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.

Third Reading

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 8:02 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am pleased to move the motion for the Third Reading of this short but very important Bill. It is a Bill with a very simple purpose: to ban the outdated practice of using wild animals for performance or exhibition in travelling circuses. The Bill addresses important ethical concerns about the way we use and perceive wild animals in the 21st century. This country is rightly proud of its place in the world for the protection and care of animals. Our regard and respect for wild animals, and our sense of their intrinsic value, are now much more important to us than allowing them to be used for entertainment.

The Government’s belief, which I hope is widely shared by many in this House, is that travelling circuses are not the right place to experience or learn about wild animals. Frankly, circuses do not need to use wild animals. Most circuses have been thriving without the use of wild animals for a long time now. The continued use of wild animals in travelling circuses, often performing demeaning routines for our amusement, sends completely the wrong message about the value and respect we should accord them. The Government’s view is that the very notion of inducing wild animals to perform tricks in a circus setting is well past its sell-by date and should now stop.

The Bill fulfils a long-term commitment. I once again pay tribute to those hon. Members on both sides of the House who have sought to take it forward as a private Member’s Bill, including my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince), for Torbay (Kevin Foster) and for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), and my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard), who took this important issue forward initially, for his advocacy and support.

I also wish to thank hon. Members who have contributed to today’s debates and throughout the proceedings in this House, as well as the members of the Public Bill Committee and the expert witnesses, including those who submitted written evidence for their consideration on the Bill. I am grateful for the constructive engagement by representatives from animal welfare non-governmental organisations, especially in their willingness to help to draft the guidance that I have committed the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to producing when the Act comes into force.

I extend my thanks to my hard-working and long-suffering Bill team, my private office, the parliamentary private secretaries, the Whips on both sides and, of course, the Clerks for their work and support on this issue. I thank those on the Opposition Front Bench for the constructive way in which they have taken the Bill forward and most of the other proposed legislation we have been working on over previous weeks.

It is an honour to take the Bill forward. It has had such overwhelming support from all parties, the public and animal welfare organisations from Second Reading through to today. We are committed to enhancing our well-deserved worldwide reputation for caring for animals after we leave the EU. This ban is another important measure to protect and improve the lives of animals, from strengthening the protection of service animals through Finn’s law, to ensuring puppies and kittens are no longer sold by unscrupulous third-party sellers—we will have more of that tomorrow—and combating the illegal wildlife trade. We are grateful for the continued support of colleagues across the House for our efforts to protect animals and to ensure a sustainable future for our shared planet. I wish the Bill safe and speedy passage through its remaining stages in the other place.

Sandy Martin (Ipswich) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jun 2019, 8:06 p.m.

I thank all those right hon. and hon. Members whose persistence has led to the Bill coming before us today: in particular, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who as Secretary of State at the time promoted the initial consultation; Thomas Docherty, the previous Member for Dunfermline and West Fife; my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick); the hon. Members for Colchester (Will Quince), for Torbay (Kevin Foster) and for Copeland (Trudy Harrison); my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman); and the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), who made the very powerful point that it is important for the public perception of the force of law that the police should have at least equal powers to inspectors in the enforcement of the Bill. Of course, we have all been ably assisted by the officers who have prepared the Bill.

There is overwhelming popular support across the country for the Bill, with 94% supporting a total ban on wild animals in circuses in the 2009 consultation. There is almost unanimous cross-party support shown by the hon. Members from across the House, who have not just signalled their support but have pushed over a 10-year period for this Bill to come before us. As a newcomer to this House I do think there is an issue with the length of time it has taken for various uncontentious Bills to make it into law.

We can be pleased that the Bill has now been taken on by the Government and should indeed make it into law, but there is other outstanding legislation that has still not come before us. In this context, I want to mention the need for an animal cruelty sentencing Bill, the absence of which has been a bone of contention for the last three years, despite the best efforts of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, other campaigning organisations, various hon. Members and despite the Secretary of State assuring us that the Government would introduce one as quickly as possible.

We have supported the Bill all along and will obviously support it today. We have had assurances from the Minister that there is no added danger of a “last hurrah” of additional wild animals being introduced to circuses in this country in the remaining time between now and January of next year. In this context, it is sensible that the hon. Member for Shipley withdrew his amendment, as the opportunity for a last hurrah would be enormous in the additional two-year period that that amendment would have afforded. I expect many of us have been lobbied, as I have, by Martin Lacey of Circus Krone and invited to visit his circus in Munich. Mr Lacey also took the trouble to travel to this country to make the case for his big cats circus, and I feel sure that he would want to take advantage of a two-year grace period to bring his lions and tigers to perform in this country if he were able to do so.

The Minister also assured us that the definition of travelling circus, and the protection and welfare of any animals that were found to be in contravention of the Bill, would be adequately covered by guidance. We believe that the Minister is perfectly sincere in these assurances, but we still maintain that it would be preferable to have these things acknowledged on the face of the Bill.

We have the Bill before because it was made clear that the existing Animal Welfare Act could not be used to ban wild animals in circuses. The test for welfare under that Act would not be clear enough to end the practice of transporting animals to perform for the amusement of the public, but there is a higher test: the respect we have for our fellow creatures. The Bill is but one step in showing that respect, but it is an important one.

Visiting animals in their natural habitat and seeing them living the lives that they would naturally want to live is uplifting and educational. Watching them jump or climb on to bits of furniture, or even on to each other, and contort themselves into unnatural postures is neither educational nor respectful. It is well past time that we should end the use of wild animals in circuses and we are pleased to support the Bill.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill (First sitting) Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019

Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 21st May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Mr Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael - Hansard
21 May 2019, 10:13 a.m.

Q If you have people there exercising functions under the Act, does it not make good sense for everybody to have powers to gather evidence in the normal way?

Dr Ros Clubb: Yes.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
21 May 2019, 10:13 a.m.

Q Thank you very much for your contributions, which are much appreciated. When DEFRA carried out its public consultation, 95% of the public supported a ban. I am interested in your views, either anecdotally or through any other survey data that you have seen, on whether the public’s view has changed significantly since that time, which was 10 years ago.

Daniella Dos Santos: I would say that most people think there already is a ban; their belief is that this not happening any more. I would suggest there has been no significant change in public support.

Dr Ros Clubb: From the public opinion polls that we have seen over the years, support has remained at a similar level. The majority, when questioned, believe that there should be a ban. Anecdotally and from talking to people, including our supporters, many people believe that a ban has already been passed and are not even aware that this practice is still allowed to continue.

Nicola O'Brien: As I said before, people are surprised that we are still talking about this and that all animals are not banned in circuses. People are really surprised that there has not been legislation in England on this yet. We have seen an increase in frustration that there is not a ban in place yet. We think public opinion is still as strong. Again, the consultations carried out in Wales and Scotland more recently show wide public support for a ban.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 10:14 a.m.

Q Questions have been raised around seizures and disqualification. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, there are powers for seizure. This Bill would be based on a rationale of ethics, as we discussed on Second Reading. If there are any animal welfare issues, the enforcement powers would be available to seize the animal under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The courts are also empowered to disqualify those who have held those animals. Notwithstanding your concerns, those are strong powers. Do you accept that they will have some real weight in this area?

Dr Ros Clubb: We accept that those powers exist and, where there is evidence of animal welfare issues in contravention of the Animal Welfare Act, those powers could come into play. We absolutely accept that. Similarly, there are powers of seizure for species that fall under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. Our concern is if neither of those apply, something might fall between the cracks. Our angle is to be consistent and ensure that any illegal use can be addressed with those powers.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 10:15 a.m.

Q There has been a lot of discussion around travelling circuses in Scotland and Wales. The Governments there—in their various stages of taking this legislation through—have not felt the need to define what a circus is, and neither did the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee when it was dealing with its evidence. Should we have a different approach here?

Daniella Dos Santos: From the BVA’s perspective, our issue is that the meaning of “travelling circus” is not defined in the Bill. We would support the inclusion in the Bill of a definition in line with the one used in the Scottish Bill.

Dr Ros Clubb: From our perspective, our main concern is to ensure that the activities meant to be captured by this are captured. Part of that could be covered in statutory guidance, if it was associated with the Bill, to ensure that the less formal use of animals associated with circuses is captured and that there is more guidance around what is meant by “travelling circus”.

Nicola O'Brien: I have nothing further to add.

Sir Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con) - Hansard
21 May 2019, 10:15 a.m.

Q Birds are covered by the Bill because the Animal Welfare Act 2006 defines an animal as being a vertebrate. Is that correct?

Dr Ros Clubb: Yes that is correct.

Break in Debate

Bob Seely Portrait Mr Seely - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:09 a.m.

Q You used the words “free to choose”. Animals respond to their behaviour types; they do not have freedom of choice in the same way that humans do. When you talk about being free to choose, you are getting into a grey area, are you not? A lot of people would dispute the idea that animals are free. Okay, going to a circus is not natural behaviour for an animal—I get that—but what about galloping with a human on?

Jordi Casamitjana: I agree that there is a grey area and different interpretations. I am an animal welfare expert—that is my background. The fact that the behaviour is used in a domestic environment does not mean that that behaviour is the behaviour that the animal would use if it was alive and doing it their way.

For instance, an animal running from a predator is natural behaviour, but running too much is no longer natural behaviour, nor is running for another purpose, because it has been hit or for other reasons. There might be behaviours that have their origins in natural behaviour that have been forced and modified to the extent that they become an animal welfare concern. From that point of view, you can say that even humans have some behaviours that are instinctive and some that are learned. That is no different from any animal. We have feelings; they have feelings. We have intentions; they have intentions.

Angie Greenaway: Regarding the legislation, we know there is long-standing public and political support and commitment to legislate on the issue, as opposed to some of the other issues. People probably accept that there are welfare issues involved with those and things that we might speak out against, but there are inherent welfare issues with the travelling nature of the circus.

We also accept that there are issues with domesticated animals in travelling circuses. Actually, most opinion polls show that there is majority support for a ban on those species as well, although it is not quite as high as wild animals and it has obviously not been consulted on and debated. We would like that to be addressed in the future. There have been so many arguments about the science, the consultation process and all the markers along the way over the past 10-plus years. That is why it is really important to get this legislation through. I am sure people will address some of these other issues in due course.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:15 a.m.

Q Thank you for your contributions. Do you as groups agree that societal attitudes towards wild animals in circuses have changed over time? Why do you think that might be? What are the drivers of that? I am interested in your thoughts about public perception.

Angie Greenaway: That is something we have seen over the past 20 or even 30 years. Public opinion polls have shown that there has been consistent support— 70% or 80%—for a ban. The Government consultations in England, Wales and Scotland show that 94.5% to 98% are in favour of a ban. I think some of that is because people generally are more aware of the needs and the lives of animals through documentary programmes, scientific research that comes out and investigations by groups such as ours, which expose living conditions and the training and handling techniques used in circuses. When people are aware of that inherent suffering, attitudes change, and over time that is happening not just in this country but all over the world.

Dr Chris Draper: All I would add is that I think public attitudes have reached a crescendo. They perhaps reached a crescendo quite a few years ago and we have been kept waiting. This dates back to discussions in Parliament in the 1920s, in the run-up to the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925. Concerns have been raised about how animals fare when they are used for entertainment and exhibition in circuses. Those concerns never went away, but awareness increased of what was going on behind the scenes. This is not just about people’s ethical and moral consideration of animals, as it was in those days. It is an emerging picture, but the picture is consistent: the public are now united against the use of animals in this way.

Jordi Casamitjana: I would go even further than that. Some 300 or 400 metres from here, years ago, there was badger baiting, bear baiting and bull baiting going on. In 1835 we banned those activities. There was already a concern then that having wild animals in a circus-like spectacle, where they fought with each other for entertainment purposes, was wrong. The enlightenment—this political, social and philosophical movement—started there, and it has not finished. Time is constantly moving. Our views about how we treat animals are opening up. We see animals as sentient more than we used to. We realise they are suffering. We realise their needs better than before. This drive towards a belief that we do not have the right to impose suffering on animals just for entertainment purposes has continued. It is not surprising that it has taken some time, but it has never stopped—and it will never stop, because that is what social progress does.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:15 a.m.

Q On the discussion about defining travelling circuses in the Bill, there are concerns, which we have discussed at length, that defining them too narrowly may mean that certain activities, such as falconry, cannot happen. It sounds as if you would be quite understanding of an approach that involved using guidance to define things more clearly. I think one of you actually said that might be a more flexible approach that could adapt to changing circumstances in the years ahead. Obviously, primary and secondary legislation can take time. It would be interesting to hear your more definitive views on that. If we were to move forward with guidance, would your organisations be willing to get involved in that process and help review it?

Angie Greenaway: Yes, we would be very happy to contribute to that and to comment on the Scottish legislation as well. Guidance is needed for clarification. As Committee members have mentioned, there are circumstances in which people are not sure whether the legislation would cover something. Guidance would help provide clarity.

Dr Chris Draper: Statutory guidance is necessary in this case; leaving things with an industry-led guidelines approach would not be wise. In terms of the statutory guidelines type of approach, I would be more than happy for Born Free to be part of that process.

Jordi Casamitjana: I would also be happy to be involved. Guidelines give special flexibility, so you can perceive problems and make modifications in the future, when there is suddenly an unforeseen type of activity. We have the reality right now; there is a variety of activities, and therefore it is already neweded right now.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:16 a.m.

Q I wanted to go back to Angie’s written submission, which talks about the circus animals suffering. There is a general understanding that banning wild animals from circuses is a good thing, and we want to do that, but I have not yet heard—apart from in small bits—about the levels of suffering that we have in circuses at the moment. There is a sense that that has already been banned, so any animals that are already there must be well treated; otherwise, how would people pay money to go to a circus if they felt animals were not well treated? Can you give us a sense of your assessment of the welfare of the animals we have in circuses in the UK currently? What is the best way to assess the wellbeing of an animal in any type of captive environment, especially one where they are subject to so much touring and travelling?

Angie Greenaway: I think the British Veterinary Association covered it well when they talked about the inherent welfare issues of travelling and the fact that the accommodation needs to be small and collapsible and to be put on the back of the trucks. Big cats, even though they are not currently touring, will be in a series of small cages on the back of a lorry; that is their permanent accommodation. Sometimes they might have access to an exercise enclosure, but it will only be for x hours during the day. Elephants will be kept chained all night, at least, and possibly all day.

Other circus animals, such as camels and zebras, might be tethered and on their own. Obviously, they are herd species, so those are unnatural social groupings, which was touched upon earlier. The provision of the accommodation is not suitable, nor is the constant travel. The report by Professor Harris, commissioned by the Welsh Government, said that there is no evidence to show that these animals get used to the travel. Some people think it does not matter and say, “Oh, they’ve been touring for years.” That is still going to be a stressful experience that will compromise their welfare.

There are issues across the board, but also those that are species-specific, depending on how the animals are socially grouped, managed and trained. The welfare of the animals is compromised, and that has been accepted by veterinary bodies. The scientific evidence is overwhelming about the issues involved.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Second sitting) Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill (Second sitting)

(Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 21st May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury

I will have to interrupt. We only have three minutes left.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
21 May 2019, 2:43 p.m.

Q I just have a couple of questions. Thanks for coming along today—we appreciate it. In terms of the animals we are talking about now and the ones you have, I understand that you want them to carry on travelling. As you know, the legislation we are considering at the moment does not allow for that, so I just wanted to ask again about retirement plans for the animals. Mr Jolly, you seemed to indicate that this might be enough for you to decide that you do not want to carry on in the circus arena anymore, and you, Ms MacManus, you were not too clear what was going on.

Carol MacManus: I don’t think it is fair on the animals.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 2:42 p.m.


Carol MacManus: If I leave my camels behind, I would have to leave some llamas and horses behind just to keep them company. They were really stressed when I could not take them to Spalding.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

Q When you talk about leaving them behind, do you have people at your winter base all the time?

Carol MacManus: I wouldn’t just turn them all out in the field and hope they were still there when I got back next week or next year.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

Q Forgive me, I do not know how your operating model works. You do have people at your winter quarters throughout the year?

Carol MacManus: At the moment, no, but we would have to put that in place, because we would have to look after the animals.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

Q So that would mean that, although you do not have definitive plans, you have options for your two reindeer, your zebra and your two camels.

Carol MacManus: If it makes a difference on the Bill, I could say I am just going to have them all put to sleep, but I do not think it would make any difference. So, yes, there are plans in place.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 2:44 p.m.

Q Thank you very much.

I have one other quick question. There is a lot of public interest in this Bill, and some people want to see this happen as soon possible. If the legislation was put in place before 20 January 2020—I think that is the deadline; is that right?—would you be able to cope with that in terms of your plans?

Carol MacManus: But I thought we were still licensed and that our licence was valid until January 2020. I am not a lawyer, so I do not know. I would have to get a lawyer on to that case. I thought we were safe until January 2020.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 2:44 p.m.

Q Mr Jolly, any thoughts on that?

Peter Jolly: If it goes on till 2020, we are in the winter quarters anyway.

Carol MacManus: But say a ban comes in next week.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 2:45 p.m.

Q It will not be next week, but what if it was brought forward earlier?

Peter Jolly: We travel until November.

Carol MacManus: Won’t that contradict the legislation that is in place?

Order. I am sorry, but the time has passed so quickly. I want to thank our two witnesses for the time you spent with us. We thank you for your full and frank responses to the questions. You have given very valuable evidence to the Committee. Thank you very much indeed.

Carol MacManus: Thank you for having us.

Examination of Witnesses

Martin Lacey Jr and Mrs Rona Brown gave evidence.

Break in Debate

If there are no further questions from colleagues, I call the Minister.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 3:28 p.m.

Q Thank you very much. I have one question, but first I just want to reassure the circus families who are still in the room that there is no discrimination involved in the basis for this legislation; there is certainly nothing to do with religious discrimination. I think all the Members around this table can agree on that. I hope that those families get that clear sentiment here today, notwithstanding the fact that I understand it is a difficult time for them.

I want to ask this of the two witnesses in front of us. Do you recognise that the public perception of using wild animals in circuses is fundamentally changing? If not, what do you consider to be the reason that most travelling circuses in the UK have stopped using wild animals?

Martin Lacey: It is definitely now much harder to run. There are a lot of costs in taking care of animals. Just for my lions, we have our own lion clinic just outside Munich, and it costs €20,000 a month just to feed the lions. Obviously, the expense is very high.

We have 1.1 million visitors in the summer season. There are 450,000 people in Munich who visit us in our own circus building. There is obviously a lot of interest there, but I would agree there is a lot of scepticism about circuses. Our way is just to be open. We are very open; we show everything. Everybody who knows us knows that we love and care for our animals.

Personally, I do a lot of scientific work. I know that I am good with animals, but to prove it to politicians I need to work with scientists, and we try to find out. We are doing another test now on stress. We did one with travelling and now we are doing another one to back that up. I think that is the future.

I have a son who is 11 years old. He flew over with me and he is interested in this. He loves his animals as well. For my future, that of my children and his children, we are showing and being open. It is possible to have animals in human care and to have a high standard.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 3:28 p.m.

Q Do you have any comments on the question, Mrs Brown?

Rona Brown: No, I think Martin said everything and I agree totally with him.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

Thank you.

Thank you both very much for the time you have spent with us. This has been a very robust session, but we have greatly appreciated the time that you have spent with us, the evidence you have given and the responses to our questions. Our Clerk will accept the books from you. If colleagues would like them translated into English, they are most welcome.

Rona Brown: May I just say something, Mr Chairman?

Break in Debate

Sir Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald - Hansard
21 May 2019, 3:52 p.m.

Q It is pretty easy with a lion and, probably, a zebra, but once we get on to some of these other animals, it can be a bit more difficult, obviously.

Mike Radford: Yes, I agree.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
21 May 2019, 3:52 p.m.

Q Thanks again for the contributions today. As you probably heard in the earlier sessions, there has been a debate about police powers and whether constables should be able to inspect properties. Can you confirm your understanding that under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the police have powers to intervene in welfare situations, and that the courts may seize and disqualify?

Mike Radford: Yes, but they may only do that under the offences defined in the Animal Welfare Act. If the issue is unnecessary suffering or failure to meet the animal’s needs, in accordance with the welfare provisions the animal may be seized. If there were no welfare or suffering issues and the potential offence was simply that the animal was within the circus and that went against the ban, I doubt that the courts would allow seizure, because under the Animal Welfare Act seizure is allowed on the basis of an offence under the welfare Act being alleged to have been committed. The offence here would be under this legislation, not under the welfare Act.

Mr Radford, I thank you for the time that you have spent in Committee this afternoon and for the expert evidence that you have given us. Thank you very much indeed.

Mike Radford: Thank you. I hope it is of some assistance.

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Legislation Page: Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019

Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
David Rutley Excerpts
Tuesday 7th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Second Reading

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Bill delivers an important part of the work that the Government are doing to protect animals, both in the wild and in captivity, and to ensure that we as a country maintain our world leadership on safeguarding and respecting animals. This important Bill seeks to bring to an end outdated practices that have no place in modern society and delivers a long held Government commitment. It addresses the specific concerns of the public and Parliament about the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and seeks to bring that activity to an end. That requires primary legislation, for reasons that I will explain in a moment.

The Government published the draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in April 2013. I pay tribute to Members who have taken the Bill forward as private Members’ Bills. First, the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), who is in his place, picked up the Bill at the end of the 2010 to 2015 Parliament. Then my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince) and for Torbay (Kevin Foster) attempted to take the Bill forward during the last Parliament. Last, but by no means least, during this Session my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), who is in her place, really sought to give the Bill wings. Sadly, those attempts were not successful, for reasons that I will not go into here, but I thank those Members for their efforts.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard), who, I am pleased to see, is also in his place. His Backbench Business debate back in June 2011 put this issue firmly on the Government’s agenda and made it clear what Parliament was specifically concerned about.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Minister is setting out the history—the long time it has taken to get the Bill to this point. Although I very much welcome the fact that it is here, it is very overdue. Will he confirm that the Bill will come into force in January 2020? Will he also confirm that, if by some strange happenstance it gets delayed by Brexit or anything else—even if the Bill has not finished its progress through Parliament—the Government will not issue any more licences after January 2020?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

We will do everything we can. We are completely committed to making sure that the legislation gets into place. The hon. Lady has been keen to see it through, and we will do that. We are absolutely committed to delivering on this legislation.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab) - Hansard

This has been a pretty sorry story of delay, but I welcome the fact that the Bill is now here, given the lack of legislative business. Will the Minister say when the Government will bring forward legislation on increasing the penalties available to the courts for those guilty of animal cruelty? That is another issue that has been waiting a long time. It urgently needs to be resolved.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

I completely agree. We are working hard to find the right vehicle to take that important legislation forward. I am just delighted that today we are taking forward action on wild animals and circuses.

Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con) - Hansard

I support this Bill, but will the Minister confirm that nothing in it should cause any animal affected by it to be put down?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

I completely understand my right hon. Friend’s concern. We have had conversations with circus owners, who certainly have no such intentions whatever—they regard these animals as part of their families. The issue is that the practice is outdated and society has moved on; it is not appropriate for such performances and exhibitions to take place. As I will explain later, circus owners will still be able to own the animals and look after them, but they will have to seek licences and will be inspected.

Many Members on both sides of the House have spoken passionately about this issue. Time prevents me from naming them all, but we recognise the concerns and I am pleased that we are able to take action today. I am delighted that there is strong support across the Chamber today. I will, of course, talk about the important work that took place under the previous Labour Government. I am delighted at the degree of co-operation. Of course we understand that there will be challenges, but we are grateful for the co-operation, which will ensure smooth passage for this legislation.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

We were promised that the Bill would come in after the Backbench Business debate secured by the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard). One of the reasons subsequently given by the Government for not introducing it was that the European Union would not allow us to—there is a stream of responses to my written parliamentary questions on the subject that told me that. However, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Scotland, Slovenia and Slovakia have all introduced a ban. Will the Minister put on the record that that line that we were given—that we could not introduce a ban because we were in the EU—was just not true?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

I was not around at the time of whatever was said. I have been involved for eight months and we have been working closely together on a wide range of activities. We are trying to get this legislation through at pace. I pay tribute to the work that has gone on in Scotland since we declared that there would be a commitment to introducing this ban. The ban has been introduced there and we are pleased that there has been support for what we are doing today from the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) and the Scottish Government.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con) - Hansard

The Minister was not around at the time and cannot be held responsible, but the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) is absolutely right. France is another member of the European Union that has introduced a ban.

I welcome the Second Reading of this Bill in the House of Commons. It has taken some time, perhaps longer than it should have, but I am grateful that the Government have brought it forward. I have two quick questions. Will the Minister give a commitment that the timetable for introduction will not slip beyond next January? Secondly, does he believe the Bill is tough enough on enforcement?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for those questions and again acknowledge his work and tireless commitment on this issue. I remember him discussing the issue at length and in depth.

No, the timetable will not slip. Obviously, what was said when we made the commitment to bring the legislation into place was that there would be interim regulations involving licences. There was a sunset clause on those, and we will get the legislation in place so that there is no gap. There have been questions about that matter previously.

On enforcement, this Bill, as I will explain, is based primarily on ethics rather than welfare concerns. It does not have some of the enforcement powers that some people have talked about. However, it is important to note that other legislation is in place—not least the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and legislation from 1976—that will enable us to have those enforcement powers. This Bill complements that: the legislation works together to provide the enforcement mechanisms that my hon. Friend is seeking.

When we first announced in March 2012 that we would introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, the Government were clear that primary legislation would take time. As I have said, we introduced interim measures—welfare licensing regulations. Those regulations will expire in 2020 and the Government have announced that they will not be renewed. That is why this Bill is being introduced: so that we can deliver with confidence on that commitment.

It might help if I provide a bit of historical context, to put the timeframes into perspective.

Dr David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard

That will have to be long!

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:39 p.m.

Given all the statutory instruments of recent months, I am used to this sort of barracking and harassment from the other side, but I take it in the intended spirit.

The subject matter itself has long been a source of debate: the issue was considered by a parliamentary Select Committee between 1921 and 1922, which resulted in the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925. No Members in the House today were around at that time. As hon. Members may be aware, this Government replaced that Act when we introduced the Animal Welfare (Licensing and Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. Since the 1925 Act was introduced, debates and motions in Parliament on animals in circuses have been commonplace.

As I said, it is important to recognise the work undertaken by the previous Labour Government. During the debates on the Animal Welfare Bill in 2006, the then Government agreed to look at the issue in order to bring forward a ban on the use of certain wild species in travelling circuses using the delegated powers provided in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, subject to there being sufficient scientific evidence to support it. To assess that evidence, the academic lawyer Mike Radford was appointed to chair a circus working group. His report, the Radford report, concluded that there were no welfare concerns over and above animals kept in other captive environments. Therefore, any attempt to take forward a ban on welfare grounds under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 would fail the test of proportionality and primary legislation would be needed.

Following the report, a feasibility study was undertaken during 2008 to assess whether regulations were appropriate. The study concluded that a regulatory regime could be devised and implemented. The previous Government issued a public consultation in December 2009 on how best to protect wild animals in travelling circuses and about 95% of respondents supported a complete ban.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:41 p.m.

Is the Minister aware that the British Veterinary Association concluded:

“The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus—in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour”?

Does he agree with the evidence brought forward by the BVA?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:41 p.m.

We have worked closely with the BVA and I am really pleased that it has welcomed the steps we have taken. I agree that it has put forward some compelling arguments and I am pleased it recognises we are able to deliver on them. Again, we are seeing collaborative working relationships across Parliament with the welfare groups to get the proposed legislation through. It has taken time—more time than any of us would have liked—but it is now moving forward.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:42 p.m.

The Minister said that 95% of people responded to the previous Government’s consultation. What does that mean in numbers, so the House can have a good idea of how many people were actually consulted?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:42 p.m.

That is a fantastic question—a terrific question—which I know the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), with her encyclopaedic knowledge, will be answering in a little time. It will be worth waiting for. I know the hon. Gentleman asked me the question, but we will get that answer in just a little while. Joking aside, the important point was that 95% of respondents wanted the ban. That is the key point. Society has moved on and this is not appropriate activity.

In terms of the next milestone, I have already talked about the important Backbench Business that was put through unopposed by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin, calling on the Government to introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. In response, in March 2012, the Government announced they would pursue a ban, with licensing regulations introduced as a temporary measure. In April 2013, the Government published the draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny, leading to subsequent attempts, by the hon. Members mentioned in my introduction, to introduce the Bill via the private Members’ Bill route.

There are now only 19 wild animals left in travelling circuses. That is a low number, but the BVA captured the importance of the Bill when it said that a ban is emblematic of how we should be treating animals in the modern world.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:44 p.m.

There are two circuses, Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus, with the 19 animals. Is the Minister going to ensure the welfare of those animals is secured after they have been released from performing? They are not wild animals or domestic animals. They will need to be well looked after.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:44 p.m.

As defined in this legislation, they are wild animals, but I understand my hon. Friend’s point. As I tried to make clear earlier, their welfare absolutely will be looked after. We have had assurances of that from the circuses themselves and we have legislation in place that will ensure that there are ongoing inspections to make sure that their welfare is looked after. I hope that reassures my hon. Friend. I recognise his interest as the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the important work the Committee has done on this issue and across a wide range of other activities on animal welfare. I am grateful to him for that.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:46 p.m.

I thank the Minister for giving way; he is being very generous. A lot of people across the House have supported me over the years, whether the Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats and so on. This is a tribute to them all. He mentions the Animal Welfare Bill under the previous Labour Government. I remember working with colleagues across the House on that. Is it not time for the Government, however grateful I am for the introduction of this Bill, to introduce a comprehensive animal welfare Bill of their own, which incorporates so many other private Members’ Bills that have been discussed in this House over the past few years, rather than take a piecemeal approach? Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, for plugging my own private Members’ Bills, but there are three I could name: the Protection of Common Birds Bill, the Sale of Primates as Pets (Prohibition) Bill and the Sale of Endangered Animals on the Internet Bill. Those are just three Bills from one lowly Conservative Back Bencher. Many other important animal welfare thoughts, ideas, policies and Bills have been introduced over the past few years. Will the Government seriously consider a comprehensive Bill to modernise animal welfare once and for all?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:47 p.m.

That is another important question. There is a strong rationale to do that. We are looking at other proposed legislation going forward. The environment Bill will be absolutely pivotal in the next Session, but as my hon. Friend knows we have other legislation we need to get through. We all know, including those on the Opposition Benches, that there is a lot of other proposed legislation that will take up time and make matters more complicated. However, he makes a good point and it is vital we seek ways to get other Bills in place, not least on animal sentience. We have already had a question about sentencing and increased sentences. I share the commitment to seeing that proposed legislation through. We just need to find the right vehicle to do that.

There are key arguments about necessity. It is not necessary to use wild animals to operate a circus or to enjoy the circus experience. The public can still, as the vast majority already do, attend travelling circuses that do not use wild animal acts. They can also readily see wild animals in zoos and safari parks. We need to consider the intrinsic value of wild animals. Modern society recognises the intrinsic value of these animals. This concerns the respect of animals and their natural behaviour. Wild animals in a circus are trained for our entertainment and amusement. That sends the wrong message to audiences about the intrinsic value of those animals. We should appreciate wild animals behaving naturally, not in a comic or superficial setting. We need to look at the educational conservation benefits. The practice of using wild animals in circus performances, unlike in zoos, does nothing to further our understanding or the conservation of wild animals. There is no greater benefit to humans or animals that justifies the use of wild animals in circuses. In short, it is an outdated practice that is no longer necessary to operate a circus or to enjoy the circus experience, and it is demeaning to the wild animals involved.

In 1990, 29 years ago, there were over 250 wild animals across some 20 circuses, including tigers, lions, elephants and bears. By the time of the 2009 DEFRA consultation, it was estimated that there were only four circuses in the UK using some 47 wild animals. Today, there are only 19 wild animals left and only two travelling circuses. Attitudes and audience appetites have changed, but if we fail to bring in a ban by the time our licensing regulations expire in January, there is a risk that we could see more travelling circuses using wild animals such as lions and tigers again. It is crucial that we do not let that happen.

Let me turn to the Bill itself. Clause 1, the main clause, will make it an offence for a circus operator to use a wild animal in a travelling circus in England. The offence applies only to operators of travelling circuses in the circus environment; our view is that most people are employees or hired acts who are firmly in the control of the operator, so it should be the operator who carries responsibility for any illegal use of a wild animal.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:54 p.m.

Will the Minister look again at the need to define “travelling circus” in the Bill? A concern exists that without such a definition, the law will be unclear on circuses that travel without actually showing the animals. Many animal welfare organisations think that it would be much clearer if the Bill included a definition of “travelling circus”.

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:50 p.m.

I understand that some residual concerns have been raised by welfare groups, but I assure the hon. Lady that the definition set out will be adequate. In fact, the Scottish Government arrived at a very similar definition.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:50 p.m.

The Minister says that he believes that the definition is adequate, but surely he will concede that such matters can be explored and tested in Committee. If it can be demonstrated that the definition is not as clear as it ought to be, will the Government be open to amending the Bill before Third Reading?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:52 p.m.

Of course, in Committee, we will have the chance to review these things in more detail. There has been ongoing discussion with Opposition Front Benchers about the Committee process.

Clause 1(2) defines “use” as either performance or exhibition. It should cover circumstances in which wild animals are put on display at the circus, usually just adjacent to the big top, as well as performances in the ring. The penalty for a circus operator who is found guilty of using a wild animal in a travelling circus is an unlimited fine; the Animal Welfare Act 2006 also provides powers to seize animals where there are grounds to do so.

Subsection (4) provides for corporate liability where the circus operator is a corporate entity. Subsection (5) sets out definitions of terms used throughout clause 1, including “wild animal”—a term that is well understood and has already been defined in other legislation such as the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012. We have largely replicated that approach in the Bill:

“‘wild animal’ means an animal of a kind which is not commonly domesticated in Great Britain”.

To meet that definition, an animal does not have to have been born in the wild. Most of the wild animals currently in English circuses have been bred in captivity, usually from several generations of circus animals, but that does not make them domesticated. Domestication is a process that happens over many generations—hundreds of years, if not thousands.

To return to a question asked by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), clause 1 does not define “travelling circus”. The term is left to take its common meaning, which we believe that the courts will have no trouble in interpreting. Indeed, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s July 2013 report on the draft Bill agreed that we did not need to include a definition of the term; nor was a circus itself defined by the Scottish Parliament in the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018. Defining a circus in a specific way might be unhelpful, because it could provide parameters for an operator to seek to evade the ban.

The common meaning of “circus” is

“a company of performers who put on shows with diverse entertainments, often of a daring or exciting nature, that may include, for example, acts such as…acrobats, trapeze acts…tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists”.

The role of wild animals in a circus, when they are used, is to provide an entertaining spectacle for our amusement, often as a way to demonstrate the skill or dominance of the trainer. That is outdated, and it is what we are legislating against.

Clause 2 relates to inspections, for which powers are set out in the schedule. Inspectors will be appointed by the Secretary of State, although we envisage that the numbers required will be small. We already have a small panel of inspectors to enforce the interim wild animals in circuses licensing regime, all of whom are drawn from the Department’s list of zoo licensing veterinary inspectors and are highly experienced in the handling and treatment of wild animals in captivity. Inspectors will be appointed on a case-by-case basis by the Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate evidence of any offence.

Clause 3 will make a minor consequential amendment to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, which requires persons who wish to keep dangerous wild animals to be licensed. Those who keep dangerous wild animals in a circus are currently exempted from that requirement, but once the new ban comes into force, there should no longer be any vertebrate dangerous wild animals in travelling circuses. We have therefore taken a belt-and-braces approach to make it clear that using dangerous wild vertebrate animals in a travelling circus is not allowed.

The Scottish Government, who have already introduced a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland, have asked us to extend to Scotland our amendment to the 1976 Act, and we are pleased to enable that request. Once again, we are grateful for the Scottish Government’s work on this and many other aspects of animal welfare. The Welsh Government are considering their own ban; we have also discussed the matter with the Northern Ireland Government, who are not in a position to consider a ban at this point.

Clause 4 provides for the Bill to come into force on 20 January 2020, the day after the interim circus licensing regulations expire. I hope that I have already reassured hon. Members that it will come into effect in a timely way.

It is worth clarifying what the Bill will not do. First, I make it absolutely clear that we are not proposing to ban circuses, only their use of wild animals. Plenty of travelling circuses do not use wild animals, or indeed any animals, in their acts; the Bill will have no impact on them. Nor will it stop circus operators from owning wild animals. If circuses wish to continue to own them after the ban is enacted, they will be subject to the appropriate licensing requirements, for example under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 or under the Department’s 2018 licensing regulations for animals hired out for TV or film productions. If a circus does not intend to continue using wild animals in other work, we expect to see retirement plans being deployed under the interim licensing regulations.

Nor will the ban lead to the banning of other animal exhibits such as falconry displays, zoos, farm parks or the sort of displays that we might see at summer fêtes in our constituencies. Even though such activities may move animal displays from one place to another, they do not fall within the ordinary interpretation of a circus and will therefore not meet the definition of a travelling circus. We do not wish to ban them, because we acknowledge that they have a role to play in education. The important distinction is that circuses move from A to B to C, whereas other displays may go to one place, come back to a home base and go to another place some time later—they are a very different activity.

Lastly, the Bill will apply only to wild animals. I know from parliamentary debates and from my Department’s postbag that the overriding concern is about the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, which is precisely what the Bill will address. Other domestic animals such as horses and dogs will continue to be subject to inspections under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 to ensure that the highest welfare standards are met.

Continuing to allow wild animals to perform often absurd and unnecessary behaviours for our amusement in travelling circuses goes against the Government’s efforts towards—and the House’s interests in—raising awareness and respect for animals. People can continue to enjoy the experience of going to a circus, but we must move on from the age when wild animals were paraded around as a spectacle. We want people to see animals in a more dignified and natural setting. We cannot make that message clearer than by introducing this Bill to ban that practice. I commend it to the House.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 May 2019, 6:59 p.m.

Circuses are no place for wild animals. That view is shared not only by animal welfare organisations and animal lovers, but by the vast majority of people in our country and—as I am very glad to see—by hon. Members on both sides of the House. As the Minister said, banning wild animals in circuses is a policy that began under Labour before we lost power in 2010, so we support the Bill. It is long overdue, but we are pleased that, having walked the tightrope of parliamentary time so many times, it has now arrived. I thank Members on both sides of the House for their advocacy for wild animals. This will ensure that we can have the greatest shows: circuses that do not have wild animals in them.

In welcoming the Bill, I want to echo some of the points that have been made by hon. Members. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar), I ask the Minister where the Bill is to increase the penalties for animal cruelty. The Bill before us is welcome, but it is not the only Bill that we need in relation to animal welfare. That is one of the promises that remains missing.

The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 will expire in 2020. Now is the time to address this issue once and for all. Forcing wild animals to perform in circuses is one of the most archaic and inhumane forms of animal exploitation. We should be clear that we no longer want it to take place in Britain.

According to the latest figures from September, 19 wild animals are owned by the two remaining circuses that use wild animals in their performances. I am very pleased that the six reindeer, four zebras, three camels, three racoons, one fox—which is not for hunting—one macaw and one zebu, which of course is a type of humped cattle, will soon be free from their lives in circuses and able to enjoy the rest of their lives without being put on display for our entertainment.

I have received a few questions about the Bill since I mentioned I would be speaking in the debate. I would be grateful if the Minister could set out whether birds are included in the Bill, as a few people want to know. I believe that they are, but it would be helpful if the Minister made it clear for the record in her concluding remarks.

The problem with the current regulations is that if the licensing conditions are met, there is nothing to stop more animals and different types of animals returning to circuses unless further action is taken.

The review of the science on the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses by Professor Stephen Harris, which was commissioned by the Welsh Government and published in April 2016, provides strong evidence that wild animals in travelling circuses not only suffer poor welfare, but do not have a “life worth living”. Every circus animal matters. That is why we should have no wild animals in our circuses anymore. The report built on existing evidence that shows that the welfare needs of non-domesticated wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus—a conclusion with which the Opposition agree.

I am sure that all hon. Members are animal lovers. I am sure we can all agree that animals need a suitable environment to live in, an appropriate diet, the ability to express normal patterns of behaviour and to be housed properly, whether that is with or without other animals, and that they should not suffer. Wild animals that are used in travelling circuses are carted from one venue to another, sometimes in cramped cages and barren trailers, and are taught to perform tricks, often through fear of punishment. In many cases, animals are not suited to the travelling life, where they are denied their most basic needs. When animals suffer, we all suffer.

Labour planned to ban the use of wild animals in circuses before the 2010 general election. The draft legislation had been prepared and consulted on, with a substantial majority of respondents in favour of a ban. While we are pleased that there is finally parliamentary time for this crucial and urgent Bill, it is disappointing that we have been overtaken by no fewer than 30 countries worldwide in banning the use of wild animals in circuses. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for setting out just how many EU member states have banned the use of wild animals in circuses and showing just how paltry was the Government’s line that our EU membership prevented it.