Ministers move to block debate on circus animals

The Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, is being urged by MPs not to allow the Government to block demands for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

Ministers plan to head off calls for the practice to be outlawed in a Commons debate on Thursday by tabling a counter-motion which stops short of a ban. There is now a risk that MPs will be able to vote only with the Government motion rather than the backbench call for a ban.

Yesterday senior MPs appealed to Mr Bercow to prevent ministers using this technical device to avoid a vote on stopping the practice.

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the Tory 1922 Committee, who has secured the debate, said: "The Speaker has proved his willingness to be champion of the backbencher many times. I hope that this will be another opportunity. It is important that Parliament is a counter-balance to the government of the day and that the voice of the public is heard through the backbenchers who represent them."

Some 28,400 have signed The Independent's online petition calling for a ban.

Backers of a ban in all parties had been confident that MPs would vote overwhelmingly in favour, but that has now been thrown into doubt by the Government's move to table its own proposal. However, many ministers will have a dilemma on Thursday over whether to vote for the Government, or with their conscience. At least 16 Coalition ministers – 13 Liberal Democrats and three Conservatives – supported a ban on wild animals in circuses while in opposition.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat Transport Minister, campaigned on the issue several times, tabling a Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) in 2005, while the Tory Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin seconded an EDM in 2009.

Support for a ban is particularly strong among Liberal Democrats, with all four of the party's cabinet ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, backing a ban before last year's general election. It is known that Mr Clegg remains sympathetic to a ban but may miss the vote as he due to be on a visit abroad.

Alistair Carmichael, Lynne Featherstone, Nick Harvey, David Heath, Norman Lamb, Andrew Stunnell, Sarah Teather and Steve Webb signed Commons motions in 2008 or 2009 or both years. Two former leaders now on the Liberal Democrat backbenches, Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell, also signed a Commons motion in 2009.

As well as Mr Letwin, other Tory ministers who signed EDMs in favour of a ban are the Education minister Tim Loughton and Transport minister Mike Penning.

Animal welfare groups hope that ministers will miss the vote rather than back the Government's motion.

The Liberal Democrats said their ministers would back the Government. A spokesman said: "The point about coalition politics is that we have to support some things that weren't previously our policies and the Conservatives likewise. That's not a betrayal of principle, that's coalition politics."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit