Circus Act benefiting 19 animals took same parliamentary time as Brexit limit

Three raccoons, a zebu and a macaw are among 19 animals that could benefit from an Act on the use of wild animals in circuses, which enjoyed 11 days of parliamentary time.

That is equal to the maximum Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan could get as he tries to hurry his deal through Parliament to meet his “do or die” commitment.

The Prime Minister urged MPs to work “night and day” to scrutinise his Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which spans 110 pages, to prevent a no-deal exit at the 11pm deadline on October 31.

The potential 11-day time-frame factors in peers sitting through the weekend in another extraordinary move in the Brexit saga.

Parliamentary time spent on EU legislation
(PA Graphics)

With MPs getting three days in the Commons before the legislation is passed to the Lords, and a little more than 12 hours from the Bill’s publication to the debate beginning, there has been widespread criticism.

The deal may surmount its first hurdle on Tuesday evening if MPs vote for it during the second reading – when MPs decide on the principle of whether to legislate.

But the next obstacle comes immediately afterwards when they vote on the “programme motion” of the PM’s proposed accelerated timetable.

Some MPs including exiled Tory rebel Rory Stewart have suggested they could vote for the Bill in its second reading but then reject the speedy timetable.

Research from the Commons library details how many days previous EU treaties have had in Parliament, with the six major ratifications getting an average of 24 days.

The Treaty of Rome, which led the UK into the European Economic Community in 1973, was a third of the length of the PM’s Bill and had 39 days in Parliament, a 2015 paper said.

The Maastricht Treaty, which founded the EU and brought further integration, got 41 days in Parliament spaced over a period of 14 months. That started in 1992 as a one-page Bill.

Mr Johnson has allowed 11 days from the cursory first reading that introduced the Bill on Monday evening to the Halloween deadline.

His 110-page Bill is accompanied by 124 pages of explanatory notes.

To make every day count, MPs are expected to sit into the night during three days of debate so the Lords could potentially consider the Bill over the weekend.

Macaw
A macaw is expected to benefit from the Act (Joe Giddens/PA)

For a comparison, some pointed to the number of days in Parliament from first reading to royal assent that the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 received.

Data from September last year suggested there were 19 wild animals still used by two circuses: six reindeer, four zebras, three camels, three raccoons, one fox, one macaw and one zebu.

Defending the proposed Brexit timetable, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I suspect there will be MPs who would not have voted for this even if they had had until Christmas to debate this.”

But Green MP Caroline Lucas tweeted: “It’s hard to think of anything which better illustrates this Govt’s contempt for people, Parliament & democracy.”

MPs had more time to debate the Wild Animals in Circuses Act (affecting 19 animals) than they will to decide the future of 65 million people 🐪👩‍👩‍👧‍👦🦓

It’s hard to think of anything which better illustrates this Govt’s contempt for people, Parliament & democracy #Brexit

— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) October 22, 2019

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of “trying to blindside” Parliament with a “disgraceful attempt to dodge accountability, scrutiny, and any kind of proper debate”.

Mr Johnson has threatened to pull his entire Bill and call for an early general election if MPs vote against the proposed timetable.

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