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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 15:23 GMT
Banks gives Livingstone the bird
Tony Banks and Ken Livingstone
Tony Banks and Ken Livingstone when they were allies
The pigeons of central London have found a new ally in the form of Labour MP Tony Banks.

Tourists flocking to Trafalgar Square have for years been greeted by hordes of hungry, feral pigeons. But a decision by new London mayor Ken Livingstone had put their future in doubt.

Mr Livingstone, a former ally of Mr Banks at the Greater London Council, had planned to get rid of the pigeons on health grounds, but he had not reckoned on the opposition of his old comrade.

The square's feral pigeons are sociable and intelligent creatures who have become accustomed to a food source provided by human beings

Tony Banks
Now the West Ham MP has tabled a Commons' motion in a bid to save the "gentle London pigeon".

Mr Livingstone had attempted to ban traders who sell pigeon feed to tourists under Nelson's column because the birds can spread encephalitis, influenza, toxoplasmosis, TB and Lyme's disease, through their droppings and to people who feed them by hand.

Ken Livingstone
Fighting against pigeons
After refusing to renew the licence of the square's last trader, Bernard Rayer, just a month ago - the mayor last week granted him a temporary permit to sell feed.

That U-turn was prompted by an outcry by pigeon lovers who said the birds would starve if deprived of the feed.

As if scenting blood, Mr Banks then tabled the motion indicating that tourists to London would have their feathers ruffled if their beloved pigeons got the bird.

In a clear bid to clip the mayor's wings, Mr Banks said: "Pigeons in Trafalgar Square are part of the London scene enjoyed by citizens and visitors alike.

Tony Banks
Friend of pigeons
"The square's feral pigeons are sociable and intelligent creatures who have become accustomed to a food source provided by human beings."

He said that to cut off their food supply abruptly would be "cruel and lacking in compassion".

Despite the fears of former sports minister Mr Banks, the pigeons are in no immediate danger of dying out - there are between 30,000 and 40,000 of them in Trafalgar Square alone.

A ton of droppings

And the cost of cleaning up after them does not come cheap with an average annual bill of 100,000 to clean a ton of bird droppings from Nelson's column and the surrounding area.

Mr Banks' decision to take a stand over the pigeons may be the final nail in the coffin of a political relationship that lasted from when Mr Livingstone ran the GLC in the 1980s.

The former henchmen fell out over Mr Livingstone's decision to run as an independent against the Labour candidate, Frank Dobson in last May's London mayoral election.

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11 Jul 00 | UK
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23 Jan 00 | Middle East
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