§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Hugh D. Brown)
My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Home Secretary are considering means of reducing the risk of dogs attacking people, including the preparation of a code of practice for the training and use of guard dogs by security firms. Records kept by hospitals do not provide an effective measure of the total number of dog bites—some hon. Members may laugh, but I know that my hon. Friend does not think that this is funny, and I am treating it seriously—far less the number of bites by guard dogs; and I do not think I would be justified in asking hospitals to adapt their records as my hon. Friend suggests.
§ Mr. Doig
I thank my hon. Friend for the first part of his answer, which is very helpful because it relates to action which is long, overdue.
With regard to the second part of his reply, how can the Government ever find out the extent of this danger unless they are prepared to try to get figures of the numbers involved? I have been told by voluntary workers, who have gone round hospitals for other reasons, that they were surprised at the number of cases they came across of people being treated in hospital for bites from dogs.
§ Mr. Brown
I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern for what I regard as a most important subject, particularly in respect of guard dogs. I am trying to be as helpful as possible to my hon. Friend but he must appreciate that in the generality of things most people afflicted by dog bites would normally go to a general practitioner. Only in more serious cases might there be a need to go to the casualty department of a hospital. I should be as helpful as possible if I thought that any useful contribution could be made by getting the information which my hon. Friend seeks, although it would be extremely difficult.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that these carnivores will at least receive the same licence that the Prime Minister grants to carnivores opposite—that every dog will be allowed one bite?
§ Mr. Brown
I would not attempt to match the hon. and learned Gentleman's frivolity on any subject. I regard this as a serious subject and I am hopeful that by the end of the year we shall be able to make some progress along the lines suggested in dealing with guard dogs. Because of the co-operation of the security firms, this is a matter in which we can make some progress towards preventing unfortunate incidents such as have occurred recently.