STROUD MP Neil Carmichael has warned constituents that an immediate ban on wild animals in circuses would not solve the problem, with legal challenges likely to hold the process up and fees billed to the taxpayer.

MPs defied the government on Thursday and backed the ban on wild animals with Tory MP Mark Pritchard's motion approved without a formal vote.

The motion is not binding on the government but it will increase pressure on ministers to act over the issue.

Downing Street said the government would "recognise the will of the House".

Mr Carmichael has assured campaigners that the government would be looking to resolve the legal issues in order to bring a bill to the House of Commons and that he personally would look forward to it happening.

"In principle, I would very much like to see a ban on wild animals in circuses as soon as these legal obstacles are resolved," said Neil.

"However, I understand Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has received clear legal advice stating that if the UK Government was to introduce a ban immediately it would be challenged as illegal under European law at the present time.

"But, I am pleased that Ministers have decided not to wait for the outcome of court cases and are taking action as soon as possible by introducing a very tough new licensing regime using existing powers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006."

At present, DEFRA believes there are only three circuses that still have wild animals remaining in England and two years ago, it estimated that there were 39 such animals.

As a result of the new licensing regime any circuses in England that wish to have wild animals will need to demonstrate to Government-approved vets that they meet very high animal welfare standards for each animal before they can be granted a licence to keep those animals. If circuses cannot meet these demanding welfare standards, they will not be allowed to use wild animals in their performances at all.

Stroud District Green Party welcomed Thursday's motion in parliament to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

"This move is long overdue," said Stroud Green Party member Dominic Neate, who is a trustee of the environmental charity One World Wildlife.

"Travelling circuses were never a place for wild animals and it is right that a ban should be imposed on this shameful practice.

"We are delighted that parliament went against the wishes of the coalition government and pushed ahead with this vote; it is heartening to see politicians stand up for principles and not simply toe the party line.

"Animal welfare should always be at the heart of a civilised society."