A NORTH-EAST MP and former Labour minister is leading moves to ban "enriched" cages for egg-laying hens.

Sunderland MP Chris Mullin said an EU Directive will ban the conventional battery cage from 2012.

However, so-called "enriched" cages, which are 45cm high, are only slightly bigger than conventional ones and do not allow hens to turn, stretch or flap their wings.

"Enriched cages also have a perch - but, as this is 7cms off the floor, the bird cannot stand up straight if it uses it," said the MP.

Mr Mullin's Bill effectively prohibits farmers from keeping egg-laying hens in any kind of cage and it has the support of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

He said: "Germany has already banned enriched cages, recognising that they provide no significant welfare benefits. If they can do it, so can we.

"We should insist on humane treatment for the chickens that produce our eggs."

Peter Stevenson, CIWF political and legal director, said: "It would be immensely disappointing if the hard-won ban on conventional cages simply led to hens being shifted into enriched cages.

"Farmers should instead move over to well-run free-range or perchery systems."

CIWF has published a report that demonstrates that enriched cages provide too little floor space and insufficient height to allow hens to perform many basic behaviours, such as turning, wing-stretching and wing-flapping.

They do not allow hens properly to satisfy their needs to dust-bathe, lay their eggs in a nest, perch, and peck and scratch at the ground.