Angela Smith rules out attending a meeting at London Zoo

Third sector minister will not be present at the annual Compact meeting next week because she is a patron of the Captive Animals' Protection Society

Angela Smith ruled out meeting at zoo
Angela Smith ruled out meeting at zoo

Third sector minister Angela Smith, a strong supporter of animal rights, has ruled out attending the annual Compact meeting next Monday on the grounds that it is being held at London Zoo.

The venue was agreed jointly last September in consultation with the Office of the Third Sector, but OTS officials did not consult Smith at the time and were not aware of the potential problem until more recently.

Smith, a patron of the Captive Animals' Protection Society, will go instead to Cardiff next Monday to address the annual conference of the Social Enterprise Coalition, Voice10, which continues on Tuesday.

Smith's Cabinet Office colleague Dawn Butler, minister for young citizens and youth engagement, will take her place at the annual meeting on the Compact, the agreement that regulates relations between the voluntary and public sectors.

The Compact meeting is an annual opportunity for assessing progress on the Compact, which was recently re-written. The key participants are the Commission for the Compact, the Office of the Third Sector and Compact Voice, which represents the sector over the Compact.

Smith was strongly criticised by sector organisations last November for breaching the Compact when she scrapped the Campaigning Research Programme, withdrawing grants to 32 voluntary organisations without consultation and transferring the money to the Hardship Fund.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the minister had "a prior engagement" at Voice10, but added that she would not have attended the Compact meeting anyway because she was opposed to animals being kept in captivity.

"It was unfortunate that officials overlooked the minister's patronage of the society," said the Cabinet Office spokesman.

"The views of the minister were not sought on the location of the meeting. It would be unrealistic to expect the minister to get involved in such detail. It is estimated that hundreds of meetings with stakeholders go on every month on OTS business.

"As soon as the minister was aware of the location of the event, the Commission for the Compact was informed."

A spokeswoman for the Commission for the Compact refused to comment other than to say the venue had been jointly chosen by the three organisations.

Craig Redmond, campaigns director at the Captive Animals Protection Society, whose income for the year ending 31 December 2008 was £27,600, said animals were used primarily for entertainment at zoos and their needs were secondary to those of visitors.

"The society is extremely proud to have Angela Smith as a patron," he said. "Since becoming an MP she has worked hard in Parliament to achieve better protection for animals and is well recognised for her support for charities, in both her political and personal life."

Read Stephen Cook's blog on Angela Smith's zoo decision

 

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