HC Deb 30 May 1956 vol 553 cc348-75

(1) Any person who causes or permits a dog to be on any designated road without the dog being held on a lead shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds.

(2) In this section the expression "designated road" means a length of road specified by an order in that behalf of the local authority in whose area the length of road is situated.

(3) An order under this section may provide that subsection (1) thereof shall apply subject to such limitations or exceptions as may be specified in the order.

(4) An order under this section shall not be made except after consultation with the chief officer of police. and shall not have effect unless confirmed by the Minister, or in Scotland the Secretary of State; and subsections (3) to (8) of section two hundred and fifty of the Local Government Act, 1933, or in Scotland subsections (4) (5), (7; and (11) to (13) of section three hundred and one of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, shall apply to orders under this section and the confirmation thereof as they apply to byelaws and the confirmation thereof.

(5) In England or Wales a local authority may institute proceedings for any offence under this section relating to a road in their area.

(6) In this section the expression "local authority" means the council of a county borough or county district, the Common Council of the City of London or the council of a metropolitan borough, or in Scotland a county council or a town council.—[Mr. Molson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Molson

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

We now come to the difficult question of dogs.

Mr. Summers

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? Would it not avoid repetition if comments relating to the new Clause—Offences relating to dogs— may be made during discussion of this proposed new Clause, as it seems to have a very close bearing on the matter?

Mr. Molson

I wonder whether it might be convenient, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and whether it would be agreeable to you, if you would indicate in advance which new Clauses you are disposed to select? This is the kind of matter which might arise in connection with some of the other new Clauses and Amendments.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The new Clause which has been moved and the Amendment proposed to it will be called. The next two new Clauses in the name of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings)— "Blood Tests in Fatal Accidents" and "Facilities for Chemical Test to be Provided"—are both out of order because they would involve a charge. The new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)— "Maximum Speed of Goods Vehicles" will be called.

The new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page)— "Lighting"—is out of order as it would involve a charge. The new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Crosby —"Licences for Persons under 18 years" —will fall. Anything to be said about the new Clause—"Offences Relating to Dogs"—in the name of the hon. Member for Crosby, which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) should be said on the Clause which we are now considering.

The new Clause—"Driving under Influence of Drink"—in the name of the hon. Member for Crosby and the one in the name of the same hon. Member" Driving Offences "—have not been selected. I understand that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) does not wish to move his new Clause—"Amendment of s. 46 of Act of 1930"—and the next new Clause which will be called is that in the name of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss)—"Wages and Conditions of Employment of Persons Employed in Public Service Vehicles." The new Clause in the name of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) "Use of Vehicles on Footpaths and Bridle Ways "—I imagine is superseded by the new Clause in the name of the same right hon. Member—"Use of Vehicles on Footpaths and Bridle Ways"—which is starred.

Mr. Ede

This is an effort to suggest alternatives, and I prefer the last named new Clause.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is what I thought.

Then there is the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet)—"Amendment of s. 5 of Act of 1930"—and the new Clause in the name of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall—"Amendments as to Suspension of Revocation of A and B Licences" —I shall then call the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle)—"Offences under s. 12 of Act of 1930"—and the Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Peckham —" Amendment of s. 6 of Act of 1934". I propose to call the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell)—"Diesel Vehicles".

After the new Clause—"Use of Vehicles on Footpaths and Bridle Ways", to which I have referred, there are the three Amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall: in Clause 2, page 4, line 23, to leave out subsection (3); in line 36 to leave out from "section" to "he"; and in line 38, to leave out from "section" to the second "the". They will be followed by the Government Amendment, in Clause 6. page 5, line 45, at the end to insert: or in such a condition, as respects lighting equipment or reflectors or the maintenance thereof, that it is not capable of being used on a road during the hours of darkness without contravention of the requirements imposed by law as to obligatory lamps or reflectors". I believe that all the rest of the Amendments are Government Amendments except the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for South Shields, in Clause 18, page 16, line 3, to leave out paragraph (a) and to insert: (a) on summary conviction under the said section eleven the offender shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both such fine and imprisonment. I gather that that Amendment goes with the two following Amendments, in line 16, to leave out "nine" and to insert "twelve" and in line 29 to leave out paragraph (d) and to insert: (d) on summary conviction under the said section fifteen the offender shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months; and any imprisonment awarded on a conviction on indictment for an offence under that section may be for a term not exceeding two years.

Mr. R. Bell

In page 3217, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, there is an Amendment in my name to leave out Clause 7, which, I gather, is not selected. You did not mention that.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That Amendment is not selected.

After that there is the Amendment in page 3220, in the name of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) to Clause 18, in page 16, line 9, which falls, because of the Government Amendment at the bottom of the previous page; and the Amendments to it will also fall. The Amendments to Clause 18, page 16, lines 3, 16 and 29, in the name of the right hon. Member for South Shields, will be called and the two Amendments at the top of page 3221, in the name of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford Holt), relating to Clause 24, page 19, lines 38 and 39. The Amendment to Clause 33, page 26, line 34, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), will be called as will the Amendment to the Sixth Schedule, page 38, line 3, in the name of the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs). The others are all Government Amendments. All that I have said is subject to Mr. Speaker altering his mind, because all the Amendments have been selected by Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Molson

Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am sure it will be for the general convenience of hon. Members to know that.

General concern about the control of dogs in relation to road accidents has been shown throughout the consideration of the Bill and also during the consideration of the Measure during the previous Parliament. Amendments were moved which the Government were unable to accept, mainly on the grounds of un- enforceability; or because it appeared that the liability which would arise from the wording of such Amendments would be so wide as to go beyond what hon. Members who had moved them intended.

During the Committee stage there were long discussions on this matter, and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee made strong representations to the Government that some steps should be taken to ensure that more effective control over dogs was exercised. The number of road accidents which are, at all events in part, due to dogs is very great. My right hon. Friend the then Minister undertook that the question should be referred to the Road Safety Committee of which I am Chairman. He undertook that everything possible would be done to speed up the matter so that the Government could at this stage lay before the House the recommendations of the Departmental Committee.

A special Sub-committee which was set up to consider the matter found that the more it went into the question, the more difficult it became to make recommendations which were not open to strong criticism. It seemed to the Subcommittee that the suggestions advanced during the Committee proceedings by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) held out the best prospects of achieving the maximum advantages and incurring the minimum disadvantages. It was suggested that local authorities should be given discretion to make byelaws dealing with this matter.

Conditions vary considerably in different parts of the country, and the actual places where dogs may reasonably be expected to be kept under control can be determined only by local authorities familiar with the neighbourhood and the way in which dog owners exercise their animals. The Sub-committee therefore made the recommendations contained in this new Clause which, as I say, are based on the suggestions made by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall. This is an enabling provision to empower local authorities to make regulations.

It enables local authorities, except county councils in England and Wales, after consultation with the chief officers of police, to make orders designating certain lengths of road within the areas for which they are responsible. Such orders would be subject to confirmation by the Minister, or in Scotland by the Secretary of State. When such an order has been made the new Clause would make it an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding £5 to cause or permit a dog to be on a road designated by the order unless it is held on a lead.

Subsection (1) makes it an offence to cause or permit a dog to be on any designated road if such dog is not held on a lead. Subsection (2) defines the term "designated road" as a length of road specified under the order made under the Clause within the area of the local authority making the order. Subsection (3) provides that an order made under the Clause may apply, subject to such limitations as are contained in the order. For example, it may be thought desirable to apply the order only at certain specified times—for example, at times of the year when traffic on the designated road is exceedingly heavy—or to make certain exceptions from its operation.

Mr. Summers



Mr. Molson

No, I would rather get on and give the explanation of what the new Clause seeks to do and try to answer my hon. Friend's point later.

The need for such exceptions may be illustrated by the obvious necessity not to prevent shepherds from using dogs to assist them in driving cattle or sheep along the road. That will be dealt with by an Amendment which is, I think, to be moved later. When devising this Clause we had that kind of difficulty in mind.

Subsection (4) lays down the procedure to be adopted if a local authority wishes to make an order. Prior consultation with the chief officer of police is necessary, and thereafter before an order can come into operation it must be confirmed by the appropriate Minister. Orders made under this subsection are made subject to the normal procedure adopted for the making of byelaws under the Local Government Act, 1933, for England and Wales and the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947.

Briefly, and without dwelling on the minor differences in this particular between English and Scottish local government structure, this procedure is that before application is made for confirmation of the byelaw the. local authority making it shall for a period of at least a month before such application is made give notice in a local newspaper of its intention to apply; and secondly, must make available copies of the byelaw for public inspection free of charge at the council offices.

Subsection (5), which applies only to England and Wales, provides that a local authority may institute proceedings for any offence under this section relating to a road in their area. Subsection (6) defines the local authorities which are empowered under the Clause to make an order; namely, in England and Wales: the council of a county borough or county district, the Common Council of the City of London or the council of a metropolitan borough,"— and in Scotland— a county council or a town council. We recognise that the Clause is open to some of the objections on the ground of unenforceability which we made when considering the new Clause entitled "Offences relating to dogs" which was moved in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), and which I think he has been optimistic enough to put on the Notice Paper again in unchanged form. I will be quite frank with the House and say that the more we have studied this whole question of trying to control dogs—and their owners—the more difficult we have found it to be satisfied that it will be possible to enforce fairly and equitably the kind of prudent restraint which I think is ordinarily shown by good and sensible dog owners.

At the same time, in view of the very large number of accidents that are caused by dogs not being under proper control, and in view of the very strong representations that have been made to us from both sides of the House, we referred the matter to the Departmental Committee on Road Safety, as we had promised. It is in accordance with the spirit of the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend who was then Minister of Transport that we have accepted the recommendations of the Road Safety Committee, and it is for that reason that I have moved this new Clause.

Mr. Summers

Whilst one can respect the motives which evidently inspire those who support this proposed new Clause, I am bound to say that I think it is perfect nonsense. Whether it be the Government or the Road Safety Committee who drew up the Clause is not my concern. All I say is that I do not think that it will work, and those who drafted it cannot realise what it is designed to deal with.

It is suggested that there shall be hours of the day and seasons of the year when these regulations shall apply. How does anybody imagine that the innumerable dogs which wander about are going to know whether it is the season of the year or the time of the day when these regulations shall apply? I am reminded of the lady who went to a shop to buy a bowl for her dog to drink from. It was recommended by the salesman because it had the word "dog" written on it. The Lady said, "I am afraid it is no use. My little dog cannot read, and my husband does not drink water".

It might perhaps be fair that people living on a designated highway should be punished if their dogs are allowed to stray and cause accidents. But what is the position of the housewife whose child inadvertently leaves the door open, allowing the dog to go out? Is the housewife to be liable to a fine of £5 because of the inoffensive carclessness of the child?

Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)

It is better than people being killed.

Mr. Summers

It is all very well for the hon. Member to refer to accidents which are brought about by dogs.

As I have already said, I respect the motives of those who brought forward this new Clause, but it is unrealistic to imagine that it is fair for a dog owner, perhaps a housewife, whose child inadvertently leaves the door open or who fails to detect a hole in the fence so that the dog escapes and causes an accident, to be liable to a fine of £5.

Mr. G. Darling

And rightly so.

Mr. Summers

The hon. Gentleman says "Rightly so." He will, no doubt, have an opportunity to speak in support of this new Clause if he is successful in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

There will be scores of instances of dogs wandering about in the region of designated areas in circumstances in which it will be quite unreasonable to expect the owners to keep them on leads.

The proposed new Clause says that it shall be an offence either to cause or to permit a dog to be on a designated highway without the dog being held on a lead. How far from that designated highway is it to be thought reasonable to expect all owners of dogs to keep them so firmly under lock and key that they cannot stray and make their owners liable to the penalty of this Clause?

We all know that many accidents are caused by dogs, but I do not think this is a sensible method of trying to reduce the number of accidents which are caused in that way. If dogs are to be dealt with in this way, why not cats? As the traffic in this country increases and the dangers of accidents increase, the criticism of today against dogs will be directed against cats tomorrow. The designated areas will extend all over the country. I think that we are losing our sense of proportion. There may well be ways in which owners of dogs which cause accidents may be punished, as is intended in another new Clause, but it is quite another thing to say that the owner of every dog that is seen straying on a designated highway, from however far the dog may have come, is liable to prosecution and to a fine of £5.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

There is one further aspect which we must consider, namely, the effect of the proposed new Clause on existing local authority byelaws in regard to nuisances caused by dogs. Many local authorities already have byelaws under which it is an offence for any person to allow a dog to foul the pavement; the dog is expected to go into the road and commit the nuisance in the road, wherein it is not an offence. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to make that an offence if it occurs on the highway. It will be an offence also under the local authorities' byelaws if the nuisance occurs on the pavement. Moreover, the number of trees in any locality has some distinct bearing upon this problem.

The problem is not quite as easy of solution as has been suggested. I agree that something ought to be done to reduce the number of accidents caused by dogs running on certain highways without any control whatever. I think that the better way to proceed is by designating certain areas where there should be a complete and absolute prohibition on dogs. There is no justification for permitting dogs to be allowed to live in areas where they might create a danger of accidents on certain highways. There are, of course, other highways where the traffic is not so heavy and the problem is not so acute.

The Committee considering this matter ought to consider the imposition of a complete prohibition in certain areas. After all, I suppose one must have a certain amount of sympathy with the dog itself. As for the local authorities, the Parliamentary Secretary has said they would be aware of people's habits in exercising their dogs in any particular locality. There, I think, he is placing too big a responsibility on local authorities; they know many things, but I doubt whether they know the habits and customs of all breeds and kinds of dogs, and their owners, the times they go out and what they do.

Mr. Ede

Do they not?

Mr. Sparks

Our inquiry should be carried a little further than the Parliamentary Secretary has indicated. If he is to place the responsibility upon local authorities now for carrying out this function in regard to highways, then we ought to know what reaction that will have upon existing local authority byelaws. As I have said, they now ban the pavement to dogs, and they are to ban the roads as well. It seems to me that the only answer lies in complete prohibition in certain designated areas. Some case can be made for that. Otherwise, I cannot see how this provision will be quite as workable a proposition as the Parliamentary Secretary seems to think it is likely to be.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. R. Bell

We must recognise the difficulty and seriousness of this subject. The trouble is that it is both funny and serious. The Government undoubtedly face an extremely difficult problem in devising a provision which makes sense and will work.

I was shocked when I discovered how high a proportion of road accidents was caused by dogs. When we think of the public indignation which, quite rightly, exists about accidents caused by drunkenness among drivers and compare the number of accidents known to be due to that cause with the immensely larger number known to have been caused by dogs, it is astonishing, and an interesting comment upon the social habits of the British, that no such indignation exists against the owners of dogs which cause accidents on the road. Although the number varies in different areas, it is ten or twenty times as great.

The difficulty is that whereas most of the accidents caused by dogs are in built up areas, nearly all the serious and fatal accidents caused by dogs occur on country roads and usually in relation to motor cyclists. I cannot give exact figures but about seven-tenths of all fatal accidents caused by dogs are to motor cyclists and occur largely on country roads. That is the great difficulty facing us in dealing with this problem. It is a defect which also diminishes the value of the new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page)—"Offences relating to dogs"—which, otherwise, I prefer to the Government's new Clause.

However difficult the matter and whatever ridicule one lays oneself open to, something must be done about this problem. We should make a try. I am not happy about the Government's new Clause. I am disposed to accept it as at least some progress, but I see the difficulty about how people are to know what is a designated road. [An HON. MEMBER: "How will the dogs know?"] It does not matter about the dogs; it is their owners we are after.

The Clause provides for publication in a local newspaper, but that will occur only once and the byelaw will go on for ever. Knowing, as one does, how byelaws against the fouling of footpaths and for keeping dogs on leads are common and extensive, one knows that they are almost entirely dead letters and almost entirely unenforced.

Mr. Ede

It is impossible to do so.

Mr. Bell

Therefore, I am a little sceptical about this apparatus of designated streets in relation to dogs. We would have to paint a green line or something similar along the pavement if we want people to know that a road is designated. It would become somewhat ridiculous.

I am attracted still by the basic approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby to attach responsibility—criminal in the case of my hon. Friend's proposal; it might well be civil—to the owner of a dog which causes an accident. Of course, that would not work if the dog was not caught but, equally, neither would any other provision. Unless the dog is caught, no one know whose it is.

I remember that when the House was dealing with a Bill concerning dogs and the worrying of sheep, many people said it would never be of value because its provisions could only be enforced against owners of dogs which were caught and that the dogs were never caught. That Measure has now been in force for three or four years and hon. Members on both sides will confirm that it has been most useful and many prosecutions have taken place under it. In fact, if an accident is caused by a dog, the dog is not infrequently caught. In such a case, one could quite properly proceed criminally against the owner.

What right have people to allow their dogs to wander untended in the streets in present-day conditions or untended, for that matter, on or near main roads in the country? People who keep dogs should take them out under proper supervision; they should not turn them out of doors to roam about all day and let what will happen. Far too many people are killed and injured every day as a result of that happening for us to take this matter in a light-hearted way.

Nevertheless, I think that some progress should be made. I would only say about the new Clause that I am not happy about it. I hope that, before the Bill goes to another place, my right hon. Friend will see whether he cannot adopt the principle of my hon. Friend's new Clause, without its limitation to built-up areas, which, I think, destroys much of its value, and see whether, somehow or other, it cannot be shaped into a practicable form so that we may make some progress in this matter.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I think that everybody in the House, whatever may be the merits of the new Clause, must agree that this problem is a serious one which ought to be tackled somehow. I do not know whether it is fully appreciated how many accidents are caused by dogs running loose on the roads, and I should like to give the House some figures which I have been studying while the debate has proceeded.

One can only give useful figures by comparing the number of accidents caused by dogs with the number of accidents caused by other factors. Let us take some of the common factors in causing accidents, and these figures relate to 1954. Failing to afford free passage to pedestrians at pedestrian crossing places caused 1,970 accidents; turning round in the road negligently, 1,054; reversing negligently, 1,839; dazzled by the lights of another vehicle, 1,796; under the influence of drink or drugs, 826. The number of accidents caused by dogs being on a carriageway is much greater than any of these factors. The figure is 2,626. Everyone who motors nowadays must have had experience of the enormous number of near-accidents which take place, when accidents are only avoided by great skill or luck, when a dog suddenly runs across the road.

Mr. Page

Would the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the figure of 2,626 which he has quoted relates only to those accidents in which people have been killed or injured? There is a very large number of other accidents in which dogs are involved, but in these 2,626 cases people were actually killed or injured.

Mr. Strauss

Certainly; I was making a comparison, and I was saying that three times more people are killed or injured because of dogs running across the road than by motorists who were drunk or under the influence of drugs when driving a car.

Therefore, I think that any Government introducing a Bill which is designed to reduce the number of accidents on the roads must do something about this, or try to do something about it. I agree straight away that any Minister of Transport who tries to do anything about this problem faces a very difficult task indeed. It is exceedingly, and any proposal which he puts forward may be ineffective and is certain to be ridiculed. All he can do is to say, "Well, let us try to do something." This is a proposal, which I personally think is the best proposal, which should be tried as an experiment. It may work or it may not, but if it does not work we shall have to try something else. I do not see any better way of dealing with it than this way, and I will give my reasons.

What are the alternatives? One is that put forward by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), which makes it an offence on the owner's part if a dog is responsible for an accident. I do not see that that would be effective. What would happen? If there is an accident because a dog suddenly crosses the road, we take the owner of the dog into court and tell him that he is responsible for allowing a dog to run across the road. What would be his reply? It would be that the dog had never done it before. The owner would say that he could not tell that there would be a cat on the other side of the road, or a dog friend or a dog enemy, that would attract his dog suddenly to cross the road. Of course, there would be no conviction, or, if there was a conviction, it would be only a nominal one.

Surely, the right way to tackle this is, somehow or other, to try to prevent dogs being on roads carrying heavy traffic, to prevent them being allowed to walk on such roads at all except under control. That seems to me the only sensible way of doing it, to say that in certain streets, perhaps certain areas, dogs must be on the leash. It really is not such a terrible hardship to have to keep a dog on a leash in busy streets. Everyone who has a puppy always takes his puppy out on a leash in busy places or in any place where there may be danger to the puppy or to anyone. Therefore, it is not, surely unreasonable to say that certain roads are so dangerous that there dogs must be kept on leashes? By doing that we may save many hundreds of lives a year.

It must be left to local authorities to take the initiative in the matter and to designate those roads which they regard as dangerous in their areas. It may be that local authorities will be slow to act in the matter because they may not want to incur unpopularity by preventing people from exercising their dogs unleashed, but I hope that many of them will have a sufficient sense of responsibility to pass byelaws insisting that dogs shall be kept leashed in busy streets. They can ask their people to co-operate with them, and they can see what happens. Perhaps, they may not be successful, but I do not see why.

Of course, people can ridicule the idea. They may say that, despite byelaws, a dog may run out of a house, of which the door has inadvertently been left open, and run into the street and be the cause of an accident. None of these schemes can be 100 per cent. perfect, but it does not follow that they cannot achieve beneficial results. Of course, there can be circumstances in which an unleashed dog may cause an accident, but its owner may have a sufficient excuse for not being in control of the dog at the time, and no prosecution would take place.

A prohibition on the permitting of dogs to run about uncontrolled in busy places can be reinforced by propaganda explaining to the public the need for the byelaws, and that propaganda would have an effect on people's consciences, so that they would desire to co-operate with the local authority in seeing that dogs were kept under control, at least in designated streets.

At least, the new Clause will mean that a very great number of dogs on designated roads will be kept leashed on those roads, perhaps 90 per cent. and, maybe, 90 per cent. fewer accidents will occur than would have occurred but for the new Clause. One hon. Member has said today that byelaws against dogs fouling pavements have been ineffective. Of course, those byelaws are not 100 per cent. effective, but I am certain that they have some good effect. In Kensington, they have had a substantial effect in making dog owners much more careful. The proposal of the new Clause is easier to enforce. The offence is easier to check, because if a person takes out a dog unleashed on a designated road he is liable to be summoned.

Upon all these road safety matters we have expressed personal views, and they are non-party matters, and, personally, I fully support the Government in the proposal they are making. I understand their difficulty, and I realise that their proposal may not be a success and may be unpopular, but it appears to me the most effective way of attempting to deal with this very serious problem. I know of no better way, and I give them my wholehearted support. I hope many local authorities will pass the requisite byelaws —in agreement with the chiefs of police, though that in some cases may be difficult to obtain—to see whether the high rate of casualties in accidents caused by dogs wandering about the roads can be materially reduced by this proposal of the Ministry.

Mr. Page

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) for drawing out the seriousness of this problem. I am grateful to the Minister, too, for the new Clause, which is the result of a new Clause I introduced in Standing Committee and of the very interesting and thorough discussion which this subject received upstairs.

The figure quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, of 2,626 accidents caused by dogs in 1954, in each of which someone was killed or injured, went up in 1955 to 2,848. It has been estimated that as many as 75,000 dogs a year are either killed on the roads, or so badly maimed that they have to be put to death—that is, about one-fortieth of the dog population. Therefore, those who are animal lovers can see the tragedies that occur to animals on the roads and those who have in mind the interests of human beings can see the seriousness of the problem when it is realised that 3,000 accidents are caused every year by dogs and that human beings are either killed or injured as a result.

9.0 p.m.

In a great proportion of the London parks a byelaw requiring that one must have a dog on a lead is severely enforced. I know, because one of the parks is directly opposite my house. If I take a dog into the park, and it is off the lead, I am immediately called to order by the park-keeper for doing so. It is amazing that we have this byelaw for the protection of plants in parks and we find some difficulty in enforcing a similar byelaw for the protection of life on the roads.

In the Metropolitan area alone, 19,000 stray dogs are collected every year by the police. The police have no difficulty in taking up these dogs, and 6,000 of them are claimed by their owners from the police station. Therefore, a third of the owners of stray dogs are traced by the police themselves. The remainder of the dogs go to Battersea Dogs' Home or some other home where more of the owners claim them. I cannot give the figure for the proportion in that case, but from these figures it will be seen that it is not difficult to trace the owner of a stray dog. I do not think that it would be difficult to enforce a byelaw of this sort. If a dog strays off the lead on a road designated by the local authority it should not be difficult for the police to take action.

I cannot help feeling that a proposed new Clause on the Notice Paper in my name, dealing with offences relating to dogs, is better than this Clause. In that Clause I endeavour to impose a penalty on those who allow their dogs to stray so as to be a danger or obstruction to traffic on a bus route in a built-up area. People would know where they had to keep their dogs on a lead in that case, but I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the present Clause. I support it as going some way towards meeting the very serious problem which the dog presents on the road.

Mr. Champion

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) made a very powerful case for doing something about this problem, though not necessarily in this way, when we discussed the matter in Standing Committee. He received very strong support from my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds. West (Mr. C. Pannell), who reminded us that he had campaigned long, and he hoped that eventually it would be with success. for something to be done about the danger caused by dogs straying on the roads.

The hon. Member for Leeds, West is not here tonight to welcome this new Clause, so I am doing it on his behalf. I understand that my hon. Friend is in America, where I hope they appreciate to the full the flavour and humour of the remarks which he makes from time to time. I remember that in commenting on the matter with which this new Clause is concerned he once used the phrase that the dog was the sacred cow of the British way of life.

Certain it is that this straying of dogs on the roads is a matter which it is right that we should tackle, and perhaps tackle in this way. I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) who said that this Clause was being ridiculed, as was the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act, 1953. In fact that Act has had a measure of success, though not a complete success. The week before last the Minister of Agriculture told me that he was not wholly satisfied with the operation of that Act but nevertheless it was working fairly well. It so happened that last week I went to my local court. There I found that two dog owners were being prosecuted for permitting dogs to trespass after livestock. They would not have been prosecuted had it not been for the fact of that Act being placed upon the Statute Book. It brought home to dog owners the seriousness of the offence.

When I drive a car there are three classes of road user of whom I am much afraid. They are the wobbly cyclist, the straying sheep, particularly in Wales, and the dog. I am very much afraid of those three road users.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

And other drivers.

Mr. Champion

Perhaps I may add to that interjection, that my wife occasionally suggests that I am not too good myself.

We ought to do everything in our power to encourage local authorities to use the powers which the Minister now proposes to give them. In addition, I hope that the road safety committees will themselves press the local authorities with which they are associated to use these powers to designate roads in order to try to reduce the number of accidents on the roads caused by dogs.

Mr. Frederick Malley (Sheffield, Park)

This proposal seems to me to be merely shunting a difficult problem on to the local authorities. I was much impressed by the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) and of the hon. Members for Crosby (Mr. Page) and Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell). This problem will not be solved by the mere passing of this Measure, which gives the local authorities the delicate and difficult job of designating areas and then puts the onus on dog owners to keep their dogs on leads. In fact, many dog owners who do not have their dogs on leads have them much more under control than others who have their dogs on leads.

This proposal does not solve the problem, and I ask the Minister to consider the form of words. We want to do something to mitigate the danger of dogs on the roads, but I ask the Minister not to take the simple way out of merely saying that a dog must be on a lead. I prefer the form of words indicated by the hon. Member for Crosby, which specify some point of danger or obstruction to traffic. Alternatively, the word "control" should be incorporated in the Bill.

It seems to me that dog owners who take the trouble to train their dogs, and keep them effectively under control, should have that point recognised. A constable who is looking for a few easy prosecutions can charge a dog owner with a technical offence who has his dog at heel, because it can be said that the dog is not on a lead, although he is completely under control, whereas the person who should be charged is the owner whose dog is on the road and causing danger.

Therefore, this new Clause seems to me to he unsatisfactory. When the Minister replies to the debate will he tell me whether the phrase "designated road" includes the pavements on each side of it? I suppose it is a point I should know. If it does not include the pavements, the difficulty may arise which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Acton, that if a dog wants to respond to the call of nature its owner can be charged with committing an offence under this Measure or one under the byelaws of the local authority. From my experience, anyone who can time the inclinations of a dog in these matters in relation to designated streets has his dog under such control that the use of a lead is completely superfluous.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)

I had intended to say almost precisely what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has said.

I want to make a very strong plea to the Minister about the word "lead". Either the Canine Defence League or the R.S.P.C.A. has been campaigning for a considerable time, trying to teach people how to control dogs without having them on leads, and considerable success has been achieved. It would be very sad if the day came when, by law, people were not permitted to exercise control over their dogs in a way in which it can well be done if they know how to do it. I have done it all my life. I know quite well that my dog is under better control when I have not got him on a lead. Any dog on a lead is a sitting target for another dog. A first-class way to start a row between dogs is to have one's dog on a lead. If one's dog is under proper control, walking at heel, there will probably not be a row if another dog is encountered.

I hope that the Minister will be able to delete "lead" from the Clause and insert "under proper control".

Mr. Ede

We are all anxious to limit the number of accidents on the road. I do not like the new Clause tabled by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) because in that case the accident appears to occur first and then the dog gets into trouble. I prefer the Minister's Clause, although I believe it will be completely unworkable. [Laughter.] That is not so humorous as it might sound. Subsection (5) gives the secret away.

The Clause will be workable only if the police undertake its enforcement. I gather from the subsection, after having some experience of negotiating byelaws and so on, that the police have asked to be relieved of the responsibility for enforcement. The police will be on the highly trafficked roads, and if they see such a dog they ought to treat it as they do stray dogs, for which they have the responsibility to which the hon. Member for Crosby referred.

The responsibility is in many cases put on county district councils. Small urban district councils and rural district councils in areas in which there are a number of villages with narrow, highly trafficked streets will not be able to afford to have on the roads servants looking for such dogs. If it is to be left to the local authorities, the provision will be unenforceable and unenforced.

I hope that the Minister will consult the Home Secretary. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is sitting beside him, and therefore, he can easily make an arrangement for an interview at very short notice. Perhaps he can bring some influence to bear on the police authorities so that if local authorities make byelaws—they have to be made after consultation with the chief constables of the areas concerned—they will undertake a substantial share of the enforcement.

9.15 p.m.

I share the feelings of chief constables who do not want fresh duties put on the police who have to control road traffic as part of their duty. The presence of dogs on the roads makes that task more difficult than it would otherwise be. There are not merely cases where an accident occurs. I know a lady who had had a leg amputated when a dog ran across the road and the driver of the car pulled up sharply and the lady was thrown from her seat. That sort of thing frequently happens through dogs being on the road, and there are no statistics about it.

Mr. R. Bell

The number of accidents in the published statistics which are described as due to dogs immensely exceeds the number in which death or injury resulted.

Mr. Ede

I am not trying to minimise the problem, but to point out the very serious inconvenience caused to people and the injuries which are sometimes not reported. If someone hits his head on a partition in a car, he does not run along to the police station to report it.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) has said about the importance of this matter. I am pleading with the Minister to get the police interested in the matter and to persuade them to accept a large share of the responsibility for securing the enforcement of these byelaws, wherever they are made. Without that, I am certain that, although we pass a law, it will not be effective. With police help and support it can be made effective. Subsection (5) is an indication that up to the present the police have expressed the decided view that they will keep out of it.

Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)

The tenor of the debate has indicated that all who have participated in it agree that the Clause will be completely unworkable. Hon. Members have been talking about the menace caused by animals trespassing on the road. Apart from the Minister, I have heard no one argue in favour of the Clause that it would be effective for the purpose for which it is designed. If that is the case, and if there is a problem of straying animals on the road, why is not the Minister sufficiently courageous to deal with that problem?

Why should only dogs be given a bad name? There are other animals which stray and which cause damage and injury. If any animal causes injury and damage, then the owner of that animal should be punished for it. I see no reason why a penalty should be restricted to one particular type of animal. All animals which are allowed to stray on the public highway and cause damage should come within the scope of the Bill.

Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)

What animals has my hon. Friend in mind?

Mr. R. Bell

What my hon. Friend has in mind is the sheep which came down and ate the cabbages on the allotments in Pontypool three years ago.

Mr. West

They ate them three years ago and they are eating them today. They are still trespassing and causing considerable damage in the area from which I come. The Minister should tackle the problem of straying sheep.

There are other parts of the country where this problem of straying animals occurs. In the New Forest and in towns around the New Forest straying ponies cause considerable damage, and there are notices on the roadsides warning motorists of the danger of straying animals. The problem of such damage is one which the Minister should attempt to tackle.

What is the Minister doing in this new Clause? Whom does he propose to catch? Is it the owner? In my respectful submission, the owner is not the person who will be caught. If a dog is trespassing on land and chasing a chicken and the owner of the chicken drives the dog off the land on to a designated roadway, he in fact has caused the dog to be on the roadway and he is the person who is to be convicted under the Clause. That is an utter and complete absurdity.

If it is the owner whom it is intended to catch by the new Clause, why does not the Minister say that it is the owner? I suggest, as all other hon. Members who have spoken have suggested, that the new Clause has not been thought out, that it is completely unworkable and that the Minister should withdraw it and have second thoughts about it.

Mr. Molson

As a matter of courtesy to the House, I ask leave to reply very briefly to what has been said. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) has surely demonstrated to the whole House how impossible it is to satisfy some people. He asks that the Minister should have the courage to deal with all cases of animals upon the highway. We have done what we can about animals in the New Forest. We have had a conference there and it has been quite impossible to solve the problem of the wild animals which come on to the roads there.

We have confined ourselves in the new Clause to dealing with the special problem of dogs. As has been said, about 75,000 dogs are involved in road accidents every year. One-seventh of all the road accidents that take place are, to a greater or lesser extent, caused by dogs. I should like to express my appreciation of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss), who has said that he feels that in view of the rate of accidents of that kind no Minister of Transport introducing a Road Traffic Bill to try to reduce the number of accidents could fail to include a Clause which attempted to deal with this cause of such a very large proportion of accidents.

The speeches during the debate have been of most diverse kinds, but perhaps about half of them came down in favour of the Clause and about half were against the Clause. Those hon. Members who were against the Clause were usually against it on the ground that they feared that it would be ineffective. They were not usually able to put forward any suggestion of what other steps could be taken that would be more effective.

Mr. Sparks


Mr. Molson

My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) preferred his own Clause, which attaches criminal liability to the owner of a dog where actual damage or injury results from its action. But, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) pointed out, the effect of that would be entirely capricious. It would mean that the penalty would fall upon the owner of a dog who probably had had the misfortune to have his dog killed or injured, and a very large number of people who were even more careless in looking after their dogs which did not happen to involved in any accident would be free from any liability.

From the logical point of view, it is far better to legislate to keep dogs under control than to penalise the owners of dogs after accidents have occurred.

We believe that the best way to deal with the problem is to leave it to the experienced discretion of the local authorities. That was the suggestion originally made by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall. After the most careful consideration a special sub-committee of the Departmental Committee on Road Safety arrived at the same conclusion. After listening to our debate tonight, I must confess that no new suggestion has been advanced which would make me think that any alternative proposal would be more effective.

Of course, a great deal will depend on public opinion. I believe that the fact that Parliament has legislated in this way to give power to local authorities will have some effect on public opinion. But it will depend, first, upon the willingness of the local authorities to avail themselves of the powers given to them and then on the power of public opinion to ensure that any offenders against the byelaws are fined by the local magistrates. I do not make any exaggerated claims for this Clause, but I believe that, on the whole, it is the best proposal which we can put forward. I believe that it will have a beneficial effect on public opinion and if we are supported by public opinion, it will result in a substantial reduction in road accidents.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Can the Joint Parliamentary Secretary say a word about the very important point raised regarding the degree of police cooperation which may be expected in instituting prosecutions, and the fear that, without that effective police co-operation, this Clause may be ineffective?

Mr. Molson

Opinions among the police are divided, as they are among everybody who has considered this matter. It may be that in some parts of the country the police will be more active in enforcing byelaws of this kind than in other parts. In fairness, since I have been asked the question, I feel bound to say that some chief constables take the view that at a time when their forces are not at full strength it would be impossible to devote much time or manpower to enforcing byelaws of this kind.

For that reason, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly deduced, we included subsection (5) in the Clause. We thought it reasonable and logical, since no local authority is under an obligation to enforce regulations of this kind, that responsibility for enforcing them should be placed on the local authority.

Mr. J. Harvey

I have already raised one point about possible convictions, but may we be told whether, for the purpose of this Clause, a bitch is, in fact, a dog?

Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)

Frankly, I am not happy about this Clause and I hope that the Minister will look at it again before we arrive at a further stage in the proceedings on this Bill. In Buckinghamshire, we have had experience of local authorities, with the assistance of the police, creating byelaws overnight, and without due public notice criminals are made of ordinary people the next morning.

I should like to see this Clause amended so as to include something to the effect that due notification must be given in the local Press about these matters. I should like to see inserted in this Clause something to the effect that there must be adequate public notice given about any road being designated as not a dog area in the future.

Clause read a Second time.

9.30 p.m.

Captain Duncan

I beg to move, at the end of subsection (3) to insert: and (without prejudice to the generality of this subsection, the said subsection (1) shall not apply to dogs proved to be kept for driving or tending sheep or cattle in the course of a trade or business, or to have been at the material time in use under proper control for sporting purposes". This Clause has as its object safety on the road and my Amendment has the same object. Three special considerations are involved. First, in Scotland and England there are at certain seasons of the year large congregations of lambs brought together. They are usually brought to the towns and it really would create complete chaos unless those lambs, sheep and ewes were controlled by sheep dogs, which are the first class of case that this Amendment seeks to exclude from the provisions of the new Clause.

The next class of case relates to the cattle markets. In my part of the country cattle are coming in to the various local towns two or three times a week. Very often they come by train and are then driven to the auction market. There, again, there would be complete chaos in the streets of these local towns unless the sheep dogs, the collies, which are trained to work with cattle, were allowed to herd them.

The third class of case I have in mind is mainly an English one, although it does happen in Scotland—the meeting of packs of hounds in the local town square, where it is quite a picturesque and popular local custom for the hounds to meet. I believe that they have a thing called a stirrup cup and that afterwards the hounds, under proper control, proceed to their normal duties in the countryside.

Those are the three classes for which I seek exemption from the provisions of this new Clause, and I think that the need to exempt them is self-evident. I have had discussions with the Ministry about this and I gather from what my hon. Friend has already said in the previous debate that he is willing to accept the Amendment.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Would the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) explain just exactly what he means? We all understand that it is desirable to have these dogs excluded while they are performing their function of herding sheep and cattle. I, too, belong to a country town, and I know that after the dogs have done their job and reached the cattle market they are still on the roads, like any other dogs. Surely the same legislation should then apply to them as applies to other dogs.

Captain Duncan

If the hon. Member reads the Amendment—

Mr. Ross

I have.

Captain Duncan

—he will see that it says that subsection (1) shall not apply to dogs proved to be kept for driving or tending sheep or cattle in the course of a trade or business,

Mr. Page

I beg to second the Amendment.

It is obviously beneficial to the cause of safety on the roads because the sheep dogs and collies to which my hon. and gallant Friend has referred do organise that movement of sheep and cattle along the roads and are themselves no danger to traffic. They are well trained for traffic on the road.

Mr. Molson

I think that this is a most useful Amendment and I hope, therefore, that the House will be willing to accept it.

Mr. Champion

I agree, of course, with the purpose of the Amendment, but I am a little worried about its actual wording. If a dog is kept for this purpose it does not seem necessarily to follow that the dog will always be driving cattle and sheep under control on the road. There must be occasions when the dog will not be under control despite the fact that it is kept for that purpose. Any exception of this nature should apply when the dog is actually being worked and used for this purpose.

The Amendment seems to give a wide exception to dogs kept for this purpose and would cover them at all times even when, quite obviously, they would not be under proper control and, in fact, driving or controlling animals on the roads. I think that the Minister is accepting an Amendment which is very wide and would exempt many dogs in circumstances in which they should not be exempt.

Mr. Ross

I want to strengthen the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion). What happens when shepherds come into the town having performed their job and are in the town for the rest of the afternoon with their dogs? The very fact that the dog has been designated as a dog kept for this purpose puts it outside the provisions of the Clause.

As the Amendment is acceptable to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, I can only appeal to a higher authority. Will the Lord Advocate tell us how this will work in Scotland? How will people who are owners of dogs which are well trained and have their dogs under control view this provision when they see a dog not on the leash because it has come into town with a shepherd herding cattle and that dog can wander where it likes and the owner not be subject to penalties? This is complete nonsense. I am surprised that a Minister with a Law Officer sitting beside him should so gaily accept this Amendment.

Mr, G. R. Strauss

Are we to have a reply on the point made by my hon. Friends? They have made an effective point which requires a reply. There may be a good answer, but we have not had it. There may be a case in which a dog is normally kept for herding sheep and the farmer may take it into town on a Sunday when he visits relatives, but then the dog has nothing to do with herding sheep. In those circumstances, surely the dog ought to be under the same control as any other dog which is taken for a walk along a designated street.

I suggest that the Minister should look at this question. He certainly cannot leave it as it is without giving a reply. Either the arguments put forward by my hon. Friends call for some reply or the Minister should agree to look at the question to see whether something can be done.

Mr. Molson

I will certainly undertake to look into the matter. It was not entirely new to us, but, in view of what has been said, I will look at it further in the light of the speeches we have just heard.

Mr. Ross

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the statistics we had from an hon. Member opposite, who referred to the fact that most of these accidents take place in the countryside?

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.