HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1176-9

In the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973

(a) after the word "breeding" in each place where it occurs, except in sections 5(2), 6 and 7, there shall be inserted the words "or rearing";

(b) in section 5(2) (interpretation), for the definition of "breeding establishment" there shall be substituted the following definition—

"'breeding or rearing establishment' means any premises (including a private dwelling) where more than two bitches are kept for the purposes of breeding for sale or where a business of rearing puppies for sale is carried on'; and

(c) in section (6) (transitional), after the word "Act", where secondly occurring, there shall be inserted the words "or the date when it first applied to the rearing of puppies" and after the word "breeding" there shall be inserted the words "or, as the case may be, rearing.".'

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 188.

Mr. Stewart

Amendment No. 187 extends the scope of the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 in so far as it relates to Scotland to cover puppy farms—that is, establishments where puppies bred elsewhere and brought in are reared for commercial sale. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) raised this in Committee and I am glad to be able to respond so positively.

Amendment No. 188 enables local authorities to provide financial assistance under the repairs grant scheme towards the cost of such proportion of repair work carried out in tenemental properties as is attributable to a commercial proprietor where the works are necessary to rectify defects specified in a notice issued by the authority under section 24(1) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1969. This has been a long-standing anomaly and a source of concern to a number of hon. Members.

I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr. Dewar

This is a most remarkable grouping. I say that in no uncharitable spirit, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Indeed, perhaps there should be the odd surprise package in every selection. The connection between breeding bitches and suckling puppies and the problems of tenement properties in Glasgow is certainly not immediately obvious.

On amendment No. 187, I intend, mercifully, to say nothing, except to welcome the proposals, which are culled from section 19 of the report of the working party on dogs to which reference was made earlier, although I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) will be following me in.

I shall, however, delay the House for a few minutes on the very last amendment—No. 188. As the Minister has said, it deals with a proposition of considerable importance. It is vital that we understand exactly what is being done and how far the Minister is prepared to go.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) has been in correspondence with the Minister. A letter from the Minister dated 22 July sets out at least some of the matters covered by the amendment No. 188. In so far as I can understand it, the proposal is that repair grants will now be available to the proprietors of shops in tenement property. I agree that that is a matter of real importance..I wish to understand this fully. Am I right in saying that it does not extend to improvement grants?

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Like many other hon. Members, I have a housing association in my constituency. One of the banes of the housing association is that it has a housing action area with a improvement programme within it where it is taking old tenements and knocking them into shape—perhaps converting three flats into two and producing decent living units—but the costs of doing so are extremely heavy. They are largely financed by the Housing Corporation, or, if there are owner occupiers, among the flat occupiers, those owner occupiers are entitled to receive improvement grants which help a great deal with the burden of the costs.

Those who own the shops may find that the have to bear a large percentage of the cost because it may be calculated on a rateable value basis. The rateable value, as commercial property, will be extremely high. Therefore, it can happen that a number of shopkeepers—perhaps not men of substance because not all shops are banks or multiple chain grocery shops, but small family businesses—cannot face the expense of contributing their share to the improvement programme. This is a problem on which many a scheme has foundered, as I know from personal experience and from talking to many people working in housing associatons.

Am I correct in thinking—this is important—that that problem will not be dealt with by amendment No. 188? If not, why not? I do not say that in a hostile spirit. I appreciate that the Minister is giving a welcome and important concession but if he could go that little bit further or at least promise to consider dealing with the problem, he would be doing something of real value to the housing association movement, and, equally important, to a large number of small shopkeepers who are caught in the embarrassing position that I have described.

The final paragraph of letter to which I referred stales: What will not be possible under the provisions in the Bill will be for grant to be paid to non-residential proprietors at the usual rate of 75 per cent. which applies to housing improvement and repair works in the housing action area. The reason for this is quite simply that the payment of any grant in such cases is generally contingent on the houses reaching the standard specified in the housing action area resolution, a standard which, by definition, a non-residential property cannot attain. That seems to be a technical impediment. I should perhaps be relieved that the Minister did not say that the Government could not afford it. He has not said that; he has relied on the technicality that a shop cannot reach the proper standard because, by definition, it is a shop and therefore it is disqualified from reaching that standard. That is daft and an almost Alice-in-Wonderland position. I hope that the Minister will not think it ungracious if I press him hard on this issue and ask him to consider going beyond the present narrow concession which is merely for repair grants which can amount to 50 per cent. and which will help many shopkeepers. But if he can go a litle further to include improvement grants and get over the technicalities to which I have referred. Perhaps it would be thought too undiscriminating and that people who did not need that type of financial aid would benefit from it—banks, multiple shops and so on. If so, it should not be beyond the wit of man to include a screening process, or a discretionary element in the payment of the grant that would take care of that point.

We have important schemes where crumbling tenements that can be saved and should be saved and where there is a willingness to save them, are being placed in continuing jeopardy because of the genuine and fundamental difficulties of the small shopkeeper situated in the block. This was a splendid chance to tackle that problem. It appears that the Minister has not taken it. I hope that he will be prepared to reconsider.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Before I call the next hon. Member, I note the comment of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). It is a rather strange grouping. Would it be for the convenience of the House if we took the amendments separately?

Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Then let us dispose first of No. 187.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 188, in page 127, line 44, at end insert—