Animal Defenders International steps up UK campaign to ban wild animals in circuses with support of Clive Betts MP for Sheffield South East

Animal Defenders International (ADI), the leading animal protection organisation that works globally for the protection of animals has stepped up its campaign to ban the use of wild animals in circuses – and Clive Betts MP for Sheffield South East, has pledged his support.

In a show of unity, Mr Betts, ADI representatives and over 20 MP’s from all political persuasions gathered on Wednesday 2nd February at Parliament, to pledge their commitment to securing a ban on the use of wild animals in UK circuses, and calling on the Minister responsible Lord Henley to finally action what the UK is calling out for.
Mr Betts is one of 162 politicians who have now signed a parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) 403 calling for the wild animal ban to be implemented. He said,

“I feel very strongly in support of a total ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. Circuses are not a place to see animals in their natural environment.”

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International said: “We applaud Clive Betts MP for helping strike a blow for wild animals currently languishing in UK circuses.

“We have been encouraged by the results of our recent political opinion poll and by the results of government’s own public consultation last year that found nearly 100 per cent of the public were behind a total ban.

“It is now abundantly clear to us that public and political support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses has never been stronger. This process has been trundling along for over five years, and it is now time that government listened to the will of the UK people and enacted a ban.”

A recent parliamentary poll conducted by ADI found that 63% of MPs would like to see a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and only 14% disagreed. Government’s own public consultation in March 2010 also found that 94.5% of respondents backed a ban on wild animal acts.

162 politicians have now signed Early Day Motion (EDM) 403 ‘Wild Animals In Circuses’, tabled by former Defra Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP, which states there is no obstacle to a ban on wild animals in circuses and a ban should be implemented. This shows strong cross-party support for a ban on animals in circuses in the UK Parliament, and demonstrates the depth of feeling as this is one of the top number of signatories to an animal welfare EDM.

All present on Wednesday agreed that the draconian use and abuse of animals in circuses is no longer acceptable, and that self regulation of the industry, which is being considered as a viable route by the Minister, is totally flawed, as effectively the abusers themselves are being asked to self regulate.
ADI has already provided government with a wealth of overwhelming evidence from undercover investigations that graphically shows that random violence and abuse is an unfortunate part of everyday life for animals currently languishing in circuses. Both evidence and opinion is now overwhelming, and government needs to act decisively and enact a total ban.

ADI’s investigation into the Great British Circus (GBC) in 2009 showed that violence against animals in circuses is far from an exceptional occurrence and at the very least circuses cannot provide an environment in which the welfare needs of wild animals can effectively be met.
Their exposé of the horrific abuse of elephants put wild animals in circuses back on the political agenda and the damning evidence from this investigation was presented to Government, which helped prompt a three month public consultation of animal circuses, the results of which were condemning for UK circuses.

And the GBC was not an isolated case. Previously ADI exposed systematic and random cruelty of animals at the Chipperfields circus a decade before as part of an undercover investigation. When this material was released as the ‘Ugliest Show on Earth’, it was credited with bringing the UK’s animal circus industry to its knees.
The spread of years shows that these abusive practices have been common for a long time and are considered as acceptable within the industry. Video collected by ADI from other overseas countries also confirms these practices are endemic – and no other animal industry has been so repeatedly caught on film abusing animals.
ADI has put together a video which depicts the random abuse of wild animals in several UK circuses over the last fifteen years which can be viewed at: http://www.ad-international.org/adi_uk, under the heading ‘Self Regulation, Are They Serious?’ and are urging the Minister to watch the video as part of his deliberations.

Clive Betts MP helps HEART UK to tackle the next challenge for heart disease services

Clive Betts MP, for Sheffield South East is calling for coordinated action to improve post-event care for people who have heart attacks.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the UK’s biggest killer – around one in five men and one in seven women die from the disease. CHD causes around 94,000 deaths in the UK each yeari – this is around 140 deaths in every parliamentary constituencyii.

Encouragingly, in the last 10 years there has been a 50% reduction in mortality from CHDiii. This is largely due to prompt care for patients when they’ve had a heart attack, with many more specialist centres and wider use of clot busting drugsiv. Secondary prevention has also improved with a greater emphasis on prescribing drugs which lower cholesterol among those at riskv.

However, fewer than 50% of patients receive cardiac rehabilitationvi despite the fact that NICE guidelines recommend this is offered to all patientsvii. Clive Betts MP met representatives from HEART UK to find out more about heart disease services in Sheffield South East and the importance of improving post-event care for patients.

By getting the treatment and support given to patients after an event right, the NHS will not only improve the experience and outcomes for patients but also save money which could contribute to the £20 billion efficiency savings that the NHS must deliver between 2011 and 2014.

Clive Betts MP said “I want to thank HEART UK for raising these important issues with me and showing me a picture of heart disease services in Sheffield South East. I am committed to working with the local NHS and in parliament to ensure that heart disease services are coordinated and delivering for the local population”.

Jules Payne, Chief Executive of HEART UK said, “I would like to thank Clive Betts for supporting the work of HEART UK in improving outcomes for people with heart disease. Coordination across the NHS, Public Health England and social care services is vital at both a national and local level to continue to deliver improved outcomes for heart disease and tackle the post-event care challenge.”

Clive Betts MP warns of deadly carbon monoxide risk

Clive Betts MP has urged Sheffield households to protect themselves against the deadly threat of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

New research from the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign shows that 69% of households in Yorkshire and the Humber could be at risk of poisoning by not having an audible Carbon Monoxide alarm.

Carbon Monoxide – known as the silent killer – is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell, making it impossible to detect without an alarm. It is produced when fuel-burning appliances, such as gas boilers, cookers or fires, are incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained, or if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.

Clive Betts is supporting the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign which encourages people to ensure they have an audible Carbon Monoxide alarm and that they have all fuel-burning appliances serviced annually by a registered and qualified engineer.

Clive Betts said:
“Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Too many people are dying or suffering severely from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, and we need to take action. I urge every Sheffield household to make sure that they have an audible alarm and that they have their fuel-burning appliances serviced each year by a professional.

I would like to see requirements for all new homes to be automatically fitted with an alarm and for landlords to fit alarms in their properties. Having been reminded of the dangers, I’ve bought one for my own home.”

Oliver Wright, Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign manager, said:
“Our campaign aims to raise awareness and to dispel the myths around Carbon Monoxide alarms. They are available at DIY stores, supermarkets, high street shops or directly from energy suppliers. They cost around £20, but many retailers are offering special discounts in support of our campaign throughout January. Importantly, they save lives.”

It isn’t fair and it will be painful

In advance of discussion on the Conservative-led government’s Localism Bill, I initiated a parliamentary debate about the government’s local government finance strategy.
I noted that local government services are some of the most immediate and important to people locally. They include education for our children and grand-children, social services providing residential and home care and aids and adaptations for elderly parents and grand-parents. There are services which about the quality of life of local families and communities: things such as parks, libraries and sports centres. Some services are essential to support our daily lives – refuse collection, street cleaning, highway maintenance, street lights. Some are essential when things go wrong – police and fire services.
There is a separate debate to be had about the scale, nature and timing of any required reduction in public spending. But the three questions I wanted answers to in this debate were
Why is the government forcing
  • bigger cuts in local government spending than it is making in the rest of government expenditure?
  • front-loaded cuts for local government – 28% in the next two years?
  • cuts that are four times as big in the most deprived communities as in the least deprived communities?
Let me be clear. There is nothing socialist about being inefficient, ineffective and unresponsive. In every area of life – public and private – we should be continually looking at ways of getting better value. Incidentally, the independent auditors have been clear that local government has consistently delivered the highest year-on-year efficiency savings over the last decade.
But, government ministers keep stating that local councils do not need to make any cuts in frontline services as a result of the cuts in government expenditure. No-one believes this.
On the day after the Secretary of State asserted that no council needed to or should cut services to support elderly or disabled people, one of his favourite councils – Westminster – which is getting lower grant cuts than most, announced it would be cutting its budget for those services by £1m. Councils across the country have already proposed the closure of more than 400 libraries – and there will be many more to come.
Do government ministers believe that every council – of every political persuasion and none (there are some independent-controlled councils) – will be making cuts in frontline services simply out of malicious perversity?
Over the next few weeks, the scale of the cuts in local services throughout the country will become clear. They will shock and they will be painful.

Safer Medicines Campaign

Patient safety group Safer Medicines Campaign today thanked Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts for signing Early Day Motion 475 “Safety of Medicines” to improve the safety testing of new drugs.
Although many medicines are essential and save many lives, their side effects hospitalise a million Britons and kill more than 10,000 every year, making them one of our leading causes of death.
 
Better methods to test the safety of new drugs could have a major impact. Current methods rely on animal tests, which often create a false sense of security, as with Avandia and Vioxx, which both caused many thousands of heart attacks, killing thousands, despite animal tests which indicated that they would protect the heart.
 
New safety tests, using state of the art techniques on human tissues and in ultra low dose studies in volunteers, promise to give results more predictive for humans. But these tests are not yet required by law.
 
Dr. Margaret Clotworthy, Science Director of Safer Medicines Campaign, said:
“It is time to compare these new tests with the animal tests currently required by the Government. Technologies to predict safety in humans have leapt ahead in the past ten years but our regulations are stuck in the past. These new technologies must be embraced to reduce the tragic toll of adverse drug reactions. We must congratulate Mr. Betts for taking a lead in modernising our outdated regulatory system.”
 
Clive Betts said:
“We have made enormous progress in pharmaceutical testing and development, but we can do even better. If superior tests are available, the law should require them. I’m pleased to support the campaign to hasten the comparison called for in the Safety of Medicines Bill. This is a real opportunity to move safety testing into the twenty-first century.”

BETTS CONGRATULATES CHILDREN AND CASTIGATES GOVE

Clive Betts MP [Sheffield South East] today congratulated the secondary schools and colleges in his constituency on their GCSE and A level performance in 2010.

Clive Betts said:
“I am delighted to see the continuing improvement in the achievements of local schools. Children, parents and schools should be proud of their results, which have been achieved through all the hard work they have put in.”

Clive Betts then went on to castigate Michael Gove, the Conservative Secretary of State for Education for his proposals to introduce the English Baccalaureate as the key measure of secondary performance.

Clive Betts said:
“The results are the best ever and reflect the determination of the last Labour government to tackle the appalling education legacy of the last Conservative government.

Everyone needs to understand that the most important reason why Michael Gove announced new education targets yesterday was to divert attention from the massive improvement that has taken place in education achievement over the last decade.

Under the last Conservative government, more than 1300 secondary schools in England failed to achieve the 5 A-C GCSE target. In 2010, it was just 82.

I am fully supportive of setting even more ambitious targets, because I believe the potential is there. With the right attitude, commitment and determination of children, parents and teachers and the continued investment in teaching resources and buildings, we can maintain the momentum of continuous improvement.

All Michael Gove’s bluster will not disguise the fact he is cutting the budgets of the majority of schools next year and the year after and the year after that.”

Clive Betts continued:
“Michael Gove’s proposal to introduce the English Baccalaureate as the key measure of secondary performance is simply ridiculous.

It’s a return to a narrow, elitest model of education, simply designed to boost the perception of private, selective, independent schools at the expense of the majority.

It is simply out-of-touch with the economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

How ludicrous can you get to propose that a GCSE ‘C’ grade in Latin is to be exalted and defined as education excellence, whereas a GCSE ‘A*’ in IT is written off as an irrelevance and a sign of failure?”

It’s a question of balance

One of my colleagues has always said that the most difficult decision any councillor will face is where to site a bus-stop. Everyone wants one in their street, but no-one wants it outside their home.
Lots of decisions that both local and national politicians have to take are about balancing the interests and rights of different citizens. This is most obvious in planning. One person’s right to build an extension on their home has to be balanced against the neighbour’s entitlement to light and a view. The national economic interest and the north’s expectation of a high-speed rail service has to be balanced against the interests of the residents of the Chilterns, who will get no direct benefit from the rail service but will experience some detriment to their local environment.
What everyone does know is that, whatever decision is reached, you’re bound to get attacked by those who feel their interests have lost out.
Governments often have to legislate to set out clearly the issues that must be taken into account when balancing interests in particular issues. Before I was elected as a member of parliament, I had experience of two particular issues where I believed new legislation was required in order for action to be taken to protect the interests of local people and where the balancing interests had to be defined.
The first was about trees, specifically leylandii. Some people decided to plant leylandii trees on the boundaries of their gardens. This wasn’t a problem until the trees became 30 foot tall and completely blocked out the light to neighbouring homes. Those who planted them said “It’s my property and I can plant what I like and you can’t stop me.” And no-one could, until we introduced new legislation in the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act to provide for action to be taken, where necessary, to balance the interests.
The second concerned empty homes. Sometimes – and, thankfully quite rarely – an owner would effectively abandon a house, but refuse to maintain it or sell the property so that someone else could do so. The result was a house where windows became boarded up, tiles and guttering fell off leading to water ingress to neighbouring properties, and rubbish would pile up in the garden. Neighbours became absolutely despairing and infuriated about councils’ inabilities to act. Sometimes they couldn’t even sell their own property because no-one wanted to buy with a tip next door and no prospect of resolution. This could go on for years.
Therefore, I was a big supporter of new legal powers – called the Enforced Sale Procedure – which enabled councils to act in situations like this. Obviously, it is in everyone’s interest to get the owner to act but, failing that, neighbours should be able to petition the local council to act. Then, the council – after taking all appropriate steps to get the owner to act – could apply for an Enforced Sale.
Last week, some of my constituents went public with their anger about the council’s failure to enforce the sale of a property in Waterthorpe which has now been empty for several years. I supported them. The property is overgrown, boarded up, rubbish is tipped and it’s become the focus for anti-social behaviour.
 
Then, this week, Eric Pickles – the Conservative Secretary of State – has announced that he is going to remove some of the powers and insist on a delay of two years before a council can even consider acting to deal with the problem. He says he’s doing this to protect the interests of property owners.
I think he’s simply failing to have a proper balance between the rights of property owners and the rights of all the neighbours who have to live with the consequences every day for years on end.

No Allowance

In 1999, my good friend David Blunkett then Secretary of State for Education -launched a scheme in some areas of the country to see if providing a weekly allowance to some 16-18 year olds would increase the number of children who stayed on in full-time education. From an initial fifteen, the scheme was expanded to another forty-one areas in 2000.

Parents, young people and teachers in the pilot areas were all really positive about these new Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs). Not only did more young people stay on in education, but the research showed strong evidence that the ‘something for something’ approach was having a positive effect in encouraging extra effort by students. This was because the allowance was only paid weekly and it depended on good attendance and hard work.

As a result of this success, EMAs were introduced nationally. This year, EMAs are paid at the rate of £30 per week if the household income is less than £20, 817 per annum (£20 if less than £25,521 and £10 if less than £30,810). More than 5800 young people in Sheffield currently receive EMA.

The impact has been significant. Not only have we seen more young people staying on in education, but we’ve also seen significant improvements in academic success. It has meant that children from households with below average incomes have been more ambitious about realising their educational potential.

It has also contributed to the significant increase in the number of young people, from households with no experience of post-16 education, going on to further education. In my constituency, there has been a near 60% increase in young people going on to university in the last 10 years. In David Blunkett’s constituency, the increase has been a massive 160% increase.

When the coalition government education secretary, Michael Gove, was interviewed before the general election, he flatly denied that the EMA was for the chop, saying: “Ed Balls keeps saying that we are committed to scrapping the EMA. I have never said this. We won’t.”

But, on January 1st, he announced that the scheme had closed to new applicants. Those young people who currently receive an EMA will continue to receive it until the end of the academic year. But then it stops… dead. Those in the first year of their A levels will not get it in the second year.

It gives me no joy to point out that, like student tuition fees, this is just another broken promise. The real losers are ordinary young people and ordinary households throughout our area. In the long-term, our economy will also be damaged.

For those with the biggest challenges in life, EMA has been proven to boost attainment and help them succeed. The loss of EMA coupled with £9000 a year tuition fees means that students from ordinary families will be left thinking that post-16 education isn’t for them, and that thousands of our young people may fail to reach their full potential.

Isn’t there something quite daft about a policy which discourages young people from staying on in education and gaining more skills at the same time as unemployment is set to rise?

Humpty Dumpty

It has often been said that only three people understood local government finance – one was dead, another mad and the third had joined a silent monastic order. That is why Ministerial statements always have to be taken with a pinch of salt until all the information is on the table and a detailed analysis can be undertaken.

How necessary that was last week when Eric Pickles announced the financial settlement for councils for the next two years. What we’ve now discovered is that his statement needed to be taken with the complete contents of a grit-lorry.

Earlier this year, the Coalition Government announced that it intended to cut council expenditure by 28% over the next 4 years and that the first-year cut would be the biggest.

So, when Eric Pickles announced that the average cut for each council for 2011/12 was just 4.4%, we knew that couldn’t be true. Now, we know the statement was a complete travesty. Detailed analysis shows that next year’s national cut is 12.1%.

Sheffield fares even worse. It gets a grant cut next year of 14.5%, followed by a further 6.5% in 2012/13 – a 20% cut over the next 2 years. Doncaster does even worse.

And, it isn’t just all of South Yorkshire’s councils that are facing massive cuts. South Yorkshire Police gets a 7.5% cut next year and a further 8.7% the following year. And South Yorkshire Fire Service gets a near 10% cut next year.

Eric Pickles then compounded his misrepresentation by insulting our intelligence.

First, he told us that councils could manage these cuts by sharing chief executives and buying a different brand of paper clip. Just ask yourself this – if you got a 20% cut in wages, could your household budget deal with this just by cutting the children’s pocket money and buying a different brand of baked beans? Of course, you couldn’t. The suggestion was ridiculous.

Secondly, he told us that the settlement was ‘fair and progressive’, when it is exactly the opposite. There is a huge transfer of government grant from North to South – betraying Nick Clegg’s pledge that he would not let spending cuts unfairly impact on the north – from poor to wealthy areas, and from urban to rural areas. Sheffield is hit with a 20% cut and Dorset gets an increase.

Thirdly, Pickles suggested that councils should make ‘filling potholes a priority’ – well, we all know about that debate in Sheffield – when he has cut the capital funding allocations for highway maintenance by 19%, some £164m a year.

Eric Pickles has obviously learned from his alter ego Humpty Dumpty – ‘words mean what I want them to mean’. This settlement is unfair and regressive. It is very bad news for our local communities and services.

BADGER BEWARE

Sheffield has the highest proportion of students who choose to live in their university city after graduation in the UK.
When asked why they made that decision, they say it’s because Sheffield people are so friendly and then say it’s because Sheffield has all the benefits of a big city, but with easily accessible glorious countryside. It used to be described as ‘Sheffield in its golden frame’.
Of course, in South East Sheffield we have easy access to the big city, but the countryside is on our doorsteps. We are also fortunate in having a large number of groups and volunteers who are committed to maintaining and enhancing the local environment and supporting and protecting local wildlife.
However, not satisfied with launching attacks on students, council services, ordinary working families receiving housing or other benefits, and many more, the coalition government has now decided to wage war on badgers.
There is a long-standing problem with bovine TB in the UK. But, there is a huge amount of contradictory evidence about whether badgers give TB to cattle or cattle give it to badgers.  There is also no scientific evidence that culling badgers actually deals with the problem of TB in cattle; indeed a past trial shows it could actually make it worse. That was why the last Labour Government decided not to cull badgers, but to look for vaccination as a long term solution, as there is considerable scientific evidence that that policy would work
But now the coalition government is proposing that any landowner can apply for a licence to cull badgers. Leading scientists and ecologists have described the proposals as fundamentally scientifically flawed.
Why is this important locally? Well, we have a good badger population spread around the area. Although many – perhaps most – local residents have never seen them, a number of local groups and individuals have been quietly ensuring that their habitat is protected. They are very concerned about these proposals and the potential impact on local wildlife.
I agree with them. I have already made my protest to the government and will continue to do so, as I believe the proposals are just wrong-headed and irresponsible. I hope that no landowner in the area will apply for a licence but, if you hear differently, please let me know.
I suppose the only relief is that, given the new government’s commitment to try to lift the ban on fox-hunting, it hasn’t decided to re-introduce legalised badger-baiting. Or have I spoken too soon?