Friday, June 24, 2011

The decline and fall

Illustrating why it will never be a serious newspaper, The Independent pronounces with great fanfare: "Victory in the campaign to ban circus animals", claiming: "Government concedes defeat after bribes and intimidation fail to deter rebels".

There has been no "victory", of course. Yesterday's debate was a "take note" motion, which seeks to instruct the government but which has no legislative effect. The government can (and will) ignore it leaving Pritchard with the procedural option of mounting a motion of no confidence – which he isn't going to get.

For the record, the motion reads:
That this House directs the Government to use its powers under section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to introduce a regulation banning the use of all wild animals in circuses to take effect by 1 July 2012.
This is more than a little interesting, because Pritchard was not seeking primary legislation – as in a Private Member's Bill – but was seeking to prevail upon the government to use existing welfare legislation to implement a ban. In so doing – as I pointed out in my earlier piece – he has collided head on with the European Union – and the doctrine of the occupied field. Animal welfare is an occupied field.

Herein lies a fascinating development for, having now had a chance to look at the whole debate, one finds that the EU was briefly referred to by Pritchard – and in a lot more detail by other speakers. The circus elephant was very much in the room, circling the backbenches, trumpeting for all it was worth – the nature of which we are going to have to look at in another post.

Nevertheless, I can happily stand by my original view of this MP, but there are an awful lot of people playing games here, on an issue which, in the UK, actually affects only 39 animals.

Thus, while the man pretending to be our prime minister was jetting over to Brussels to save civilisation as we know it, our MPs were battling with EU law, without the first glimmer of understanding, while HMG, impaled on the hook, was struggling to find more and more ways of explaining why it could not act.

The debate was thus a fine study of impotence, ignorance and stupidity, all combined, with the House frittering away its time and passion discussing the fate of less than two score creatures, about which it has the power to do nothing. What a graphic example this is of the decline and fall of a once-great institution.