Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman is under fire again over claims her department misled Parliament.
This time the row centres on the Government’s refusal to impose a ban on circus animals.
Mrs Spelman (Con Meriden), told MPs last week that it was impossible to impose a ban because a similar ban in Austria was “under legal dispute”, after a German circus company claimed it broke EU rules.
But red-faced Ministers have now admitted that there is currently no such court case.
Junior Minister Jim Paice was summoned to the Commons to face angry Labour MPs - while Mrs Spelman was visiting a flood project on Yorkshire.
It’s the second time Mrs Spelman has been at the centre of controversy because of decisions made by her department.
In February, she was forced by Downing Street to back down over the proposed sell-off of public forests.
Calls for a ban on circus animals have increased after photos were published showing Anne the elephant, Britain’s last circus element, being beaten, kicked and jabbed by a circus worker in Northamptonshire.
Speaking in the Commons last week, Mrs Spelman said: “The Austrian Government have been taken to court by a German circus company because of a breach of the EU services directive.
“It would be irresponsible of any Government . . .to recommend something that is under legal dispute.”
Mr Paice has now admitted that there is no court case at the moment. He told the Commons: “Officials from my department have spoken to the attorney acting for the European Circuses Association, they are developing a case and they expect to issue proceedings against the Austrian government in the next few weeks.”
Labour’s shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh said: “That is no reason not to ban wild animals in British circuses.”