Like many of my colleagues, I was ready to vote to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.
At the last minute the government caved in and decided not to force a vote. The truth was they realised that MPs had decided to defy the government and vote for the ban.
Many people have written to me to say that the use of wild animals in circuses is cruel, in the same way as fox hunting was cruel before the last government banned that. Many people believe that it is a sign of our humanity that we treat animals properly.
They also believe that we are more likely to look after vulnerable people if we look after animals. This may be true. However, it was interesting to note the way the government reacted.
The Tory MP proposing the ban described how he was threatened by the Prime Minister’s office. Good for him in standing up to the bullying. But what about the disabled people who suffer abuse in their care home and what about the neglect of elderly people in their care homes? The scandal of private care homes which was unearthed recently showed that some private companies will do anything to make big profits.
What is really needed by MPs of all parties is that they show the same backbone in standing up to unacceptable behaviour by government ministers when it comes to protecting vulnerable people as they showed in defending circus animals.
One way of making sure that MPs put vulnerable people first is for the public to make as much fuss about the plight of vulnerable people as about animals. Nothing wrong in standing up for the rights of wild animals in circuses (I fully supported the campaign) but we need the same strength of feeling directed towards MPs when it comes to abuse in care homes of protection of children. That way, maybe the government will have a change of heart on a whole range of issues like the privatisation of the NHS, cuts to the number of police officers or cuts to benefits of cancer patients.
I was at a meeting with David Davies, the former Conservative Home Secretary. He admitted that many businesses are organised to take advantage of what he called wealth extraction, rather then wealth creation. That means that bankers pay extortionate bonuses to themselves and private companies queue up to make money out of hospitals, schools and councils.
Our trains are 30% more expensive than trains in continental Europe, which are run by the state. The service is not any better here so the difference is in where the money goes – to private companies.
We need to change the way that big business operates in this country. Big business cannot be allowed to exploit the rest of us. That’s why we need regulation and a strong public sector. Big business should also do more to support its small business suppliers. The big supermarkets and DIY stores are well known for the way they force their suppliers to accept ever lower prices for the goods they produce. This make profits for the big businesses which run the big stores but does very little to ensure that small businesses thrive.
The government is due to announce the results of its consultation into the plans to close Crosby Coastguard Station. The Transport Select Committee published its report which called for the government to go back to the drawing board, to ask staff, other emergency services and the public.
The committee said that local knowledge was essential and that it would be wrong to close so many stations around the country (the government wants to close 10 out of 18 including Crosby). In fact the committee said all the things that people in and around Crosby have told me and I have told the government. So far the government has not listened.
I have called for the minister to be sacked and for the Prime Minister to appoint a new minister who can gain the trust of the coastguard and the people who depend on the service for protecting their lives.
The public persuaded MPs to support a ban on wild animals. There has been a lot of lobbying by the public to try to save the coastguard. Let’s hope that we are as successful in Crosby in changing the mind of the government when it comes to the coastguard.