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Zoo Inspectors

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

14. How many inspections have been carried out by her Department’s zoo inspectors since May 2010; and if she will make a statement. (55100)

According to our records, from 1 May 2010 to 9 May 2011 DEFRA’s nominated zoo inspectors carried out 59 inspections. This is a matter for local authorities, however, and sadly they do not always inform us when inspections take place.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Can he give me the figures for the inspection of circuses as well?

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, there has been a lot of speculation about circuses. There have been recent press reports that the Austrian Government have been taken to court for their attempt to ban wild animals in circuses, so our Government can hardly recommend something that might not be legal. I can assure him, however, that the proposals we will bring forward shortly will be tough enough to ensure that animal welfare in circuses is properly protected.

It has been reported, and suggested by the Minister, that there will be enhanced inspections rather than a ban on wild animals in circuses. Labour’s consultation showed that 94% of respondents favoured a ban. The petition in The Independent attracted nearly 15,000 signatures in the past week, and crucially on 3 April DEFRA briefed that it favoured a ban as well. Another month, more drift and no announcement: is it dither, delay or No. 10 that is preventing the Secretary of State from showing some leadership?

The hon. Gentleman obviously did not listen to the answer I just gave. Whether we like it or not, this court case is going on in Europe and therefore the British Government could not bring forward a proposal—although I am interested to hear that he would—that might well prove shortly to be unlawful.