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)

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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.