HC Deb 21 October 1982 vol 29 cc490-1
6. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many sheep have been killed as a result of sheep worrying during the last 12 months.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Peggy Fenner)

There are no figures for the last 12 months.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Minister agree that one of the most sickening sights in the countryside is that of sheep that have been killed or savaged by packs of dogs? Why has the Government's only contribution to the problem been to stop collecting statistics rather than solving the chaos with the licence fee? Why do they not embark on a campaign to make all dog owners responsible for what happens in an effort to ensure that this practice ceases?

Mrs. Fenner

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first concern about the damage that can be done. He has no doubt seen the graphic poster that we have produced as part of our publicity. The hon. Gentleman will know that we stopped collecting statistics because they were unreliable. Many incidents were not reported. We believe that education and publicity offer the most realistic solution to the problem, and our considerable efforts in that direction will continue.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

In considering any legislative measure for the control of dogs, will the Government bear in mind the importance of all parts of the United Kingdom moving together in this regard, as there is obviously an important fiscal aspect in which there should be no differentiation between one part of the country and another?

Mrs. Fenner

I note the right hon. Gentleman's concern, but there might well be different physical attributes.

Mr. Henderson

Is my hon. Friend aware that recently in my constituency there was a grisly incident of sheep being murdered by dogs? In addition to the ghastly experience of the farmer having to clear up the aftermath, no compensation was available to him despite the fact that the dogs' owner was convicted of failing to look after them properly. Will my hon. Friend consider creating conditions under which a dog licence must be accompanied, either under the householder's comprehensive insurance or other insurance, by insurance against third party risks?

Mrs. Fenner

The Government have at present no plans to increase the dog licence fee. Compulsory third party insurance is a matter for the Lord Chancellor.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Minister aware that this is a special problem in the Lakelands and that the National Farmers Union, both in the Lakelands and nationally, has asked the Government to increase the penalties? Will she make a statement on those increases?

Mrs. Fenner

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the question of penalties is for the Home Office.