HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1169-71
7. Mr. Ronald King Murray

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now institute an inquiry into the use of guard dogs to protect private property with a view to introducing legislation to control their use and to protect the public from unnecessary injury.

The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

This matter was very fully considered last year when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the then Home Secretary concluded that special measures of control would not be justified. This has been examined again following the distressing case in the hon. and learned Member's constituency, but my right hon. Friends still do not believe legislation would be justified.

Mr. Murray

I must express dissatisfaction at that reply. Ministers are aware that a six-year-old Leith boy had to have over 60 stitches for injuries done to him by untended guard dogs in a timber yard. The dogs were destroyed for doing what they were trained to do. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in general, guard dogs should not be left untended on premises, and, if he does so agree, will he take the next logical step and accept that statutory safeguards ought to be introduced? If he considers that they should not be introduced yet, will he at least accept that there is urgent need for an inquiry into this matter so that the public may be safeguarded and, indeed, justice be done to dogs, which are often very helpful to people?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I appreciate the hon. and learned Gentleman's concern on this matter. As I said in my original answer, we went into it very fully, and the action we took was taken only after consulting the police and other interested organisations. One should put the problem in perspective. In 1970, out of 1,856 incidents involving dogs, only 69 concerned guard dogs, and in 1971 the figure was 53.

Mr. Murray

Still far too many.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

One must keep the matter in perspective.

Mr. Eadie

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that he bears some responsibility here, since the matter was raised on the Floor last year by some of my hon. Friends and myself? Will he concede that the figures he gave cannot be regarded as acceptable since, if his Government's confidence is justified and there is more industrial activity in Scotland, we shall in consequence have more guard dogs? Will he accept the case for an immediate investigation into how guard dogs should be used, since, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, they certainly should not be allowed to wander around buildings and premises without any control whatever?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We had an inquiry into the matter and examined it very closely a year ago. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that, as was very clear to the House then, the firms associated with the British Security Industries Association have taken certain action on it. There is another line of action which follows certain suggestions made by the hon. and learned Gentleman a year ago, which are being looked into by the Scottish Law Commission in relation to the law of obligation. I hope to be able to write to the hon. Gentleman on that point.

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