HC Deb 15 December 1987 vol 124 cc932-61

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [14 December], That the clause (Dog Licences), proposed on consideration of the Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), be read a Second time.

(1) The duty charged under the Dog Licences Act 1959 on Licences for dogs shall from the date set out in subsection (5) and subject to subsection (2), be determined by a London borough, or district council, as appropriate at a level of not less that £10 per annum and not more than £20 per annum in any financial year and shall be allocated by the authority to the funding of a dog warden service in its area. (2) No duty shall be charged in respect of any dog which is:—

  1. (a) a trained guide dog kept for the purpose of assisting a blind or partially-sighted person;
  2. (b) a dog kept for the purpose of work in connection with the maintenance of livestock or gamekeeping;
  3. (c) a dog whose owner has attained the age of statutory retirement.
(3) In Section 1 of the Protection of Animals (Cruelty to dogs) Act 1933 (disqualification for keeping a dog of any person convicted of cruelty to dogs), at the end there shall be inserted the following subsection— (5) For the purposes of this section a person shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown, to keep a dog—
  1. (a) if it is found or seen in that person's custody, charge or possession, or in his house or premises;
  2. (b) in the case of hounds, if he is their owner or master."
(4) In section 1 of the Protection of Animals (Cruelty to Dogs) (Scotland) Act 1934 (disqualification for keeping a dog of any person convicted of cruelty to dogs), at the end there shall be inserted the following subsection— (5) For the purposes of this section a person shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown, to keep a dog—
  1. (a) if it is found or seen in that person's custody, charge or possession, or in his house or premises;
  2. (b) in the case of hounds, if he is their owner or master."
(5) this section shall come into force at the end of the period of 2 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.".—[Mr. Rooker.]

Question again proposed.

4.3 pm

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I support my hon. Friends in seeking to maintain the dog licensing system. I shall not dwell on the matter at length because several important points have been made, but it is worth pointing out that, unless we have some system of registration, we shall not be able to detect animal diseases with the accuracy and precision necessary to take remedial action.

With the development of the Channel tunnel and the completion of the internal market by 1992, there is a grave danger that rabies will be a greater possibility in Britain. In the Common Market, rabies is spreading at the rate of 25 miles each year, and the barrier against rabies that the Common Market has attempted to set up through an inoculation process has not stemmed the spread of the disease. Therefore, it is reasonable that we should have a licensing system, because, although one hopes that that possibility will never come to fruition, we should be forewarned.

The National Canine Defence League takes the view that we should retain the dog licensing system. The Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society, which is chaired by Lord Houghton of Sowerby and Lord Irving of Dartford and has as its vice-chairman the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), who is taking her usual interest in the subject, points out: However, the decision to abolish rather than to increase the licence to a sensible level of up to £10 goes against the advice of the veterinary bodies, the welfare bodies, the local authorities, the environmental health officers and the farmers. The present income goes to local authorities helping to fund, in a minimal way, present dog warden services. If there were an adequate dog licence fee, those dog warden services could be made very much more effective in reducing the nuisance of dogs while helping to maintain standards which the vast majority of dog owners seek to maintain. It would provide for a much more effective service.

New clause 4 seeks to give powers to local authorities to draw up a register of dangerous dogs. It is a probing clause. If the Minister says that the definition of dangerous dogs should not be left to local authorities—I am happy to leave it to democratically elected local authorities to examine what prevails in their areas— and insists that there should be a central, universal definition, I would be happy for a clause to give the Minister power to define such categories by means of a statutory instrument.

It is a matter of concern. A newspaper comment on the increase in the category of dangerous dogs states: Strict conditions should be imposed on the sale of giant Rottweiler dogs, says former police dog handler Stephen Allinson. Mr. Allinson, who runs a Rottweiler dogs display team —the Black Devils—billed as 'The SAS of the Dog World', spoke out after last week's attack on a Bradford headteacher who as savaged by one of the dogs as he took a pupil home from school. 'The problem today is that the Rottweiler is a fashionable dog and is getting into the wrong hands' said Mr. Allinson. It went on: Mr. Allinson said the dogs are not necessarily dangerous or ferocious, but breeders were selling them to the wrong people. 'A condition of sale should be that the new owner attends dog training classes until the dog and owner can prove a competent team together.' … Bradford Council's environmental health chiefs have already urged owners of big dogs, especially guard dogs, to make sure that they get their animals properly trained. That is the voice of experience. A man who trains that category of dog regularly and who was a former police dog handler says that there are dangers.

There have been a number of attacks, and I wish to dwell on one which occurred in my constituency and which was mentioned in my previous quotation from the local evening paper. It involved the head teacher of a local school who had a pupil who had suffered an asthma attack, so he kindly and humanely agreed to take the small boy home. When he got the boy home, a Rottweiler dog broke free from its chain when they arrived, hurling itself at … and knocking him to the ground. The owner sought to drag the dog off its victim as it sank its teeth into his arm and other parts of his body. Bradford Council's emergency dog warden team was called in to subdue the animal with special restraining equipment. The two wardens then held down the dog with lasso poles while a vet raced to the scene. When vet Neil Adams arrived, he injected the animal with a fatal shot and Mr. Waterhouse was rushed to hospital. Mr. Waterhouse has been off work for three months, at considerable cost to the local authority and the education service.

The new clause would enable the mounting of some sort of scrutiny of dog ownership. It would enable a register of dangerous dogs to be drawn up and conditions of ownership, such as kennel provision, chaining and fencing, to be checked by the local authority, which would help the owner in that respect. Those who argue against it say that the cost would be too high, but the new clause may well save public expenditure if it can prevent accidents such as the dreadful vicious attack that I described.

We need to consider other consequences, too. There were two Rottweilers at the house where the attack took place. The one that was killed because of the attack was immediately replaced by a bull mastiff, so there are now at least three dangerous dogs at the house. They are not always chained up.

Another of my constituents has a four-month old baby daughter. Can those who criticise the supervision of dogs through licensing, and the closer supervision of some categories of dog, assure me that that four-month-old baby will be perfectly safe if she is left in the garden next to a house where there are two or three Rottweilers and a bull mastiff? Of course they cannot. The parents cannot leave their four-month-old daughter in their garden and enjoy any peace of mind or security. They have erected a fence at considerable expense, but they cannot be sure that one of the animals will not break away, leap over the fence and savage the baby. Given that an adult who was savagely attacked needed hospital treatment and has been off work for three months, one dreads to think of what the dog could do to a four-month old baby.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

Does my hon. Friend recognise that one merit of the new clause is that it would allow the identification and location of the dangerous American pit bull terriers being imported into this country at great cost to facilitate illegal dog fighting?

Mr. Cryer

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is precisely the sort of dog that would fall into the category required to be registered under my new clause. That would meet the objections to the way in which some dogs are cruelly and viciously set against each other in illegal fights.

In addition to the four-month-old baby, a number of young children live around the house to which I have referred. When the dogs are loose, the children have to be kept in. They cannot play in the garden as their parents would like them to. This is not an isolated incident. Several of my constituents have written to me saying that they have experienced similar problems.

The House cannot just shrug off these cases and say, "Well, decent dog owners should and do look after their dogs," and tut-tut a little at those who are not so careful. In the case that I cited, there has been no prosecution. I have raised the matter with the Home Office, which says that the law is adequate and that dog owners vs ho do not control their animals properly can be prosecuted. However, in this case, the police have decided against prosecution, for reasons that are not spelt out in their letter to me.

The new clause is a very modest measure which seeks to minimise accidents. We all know that they happen from time to time, and when they do hands are raised in horror. We can seek to take remedial action and to provide a legislative framework for local authorities to ensure that the number of accidents and of terrible competitions in which dogs are pitted against each other illegally is reduced.

The Minister may say that my new clause is too broadly drawn. I should be happy to accept a clause drawn up by his Department if it gave the same degree of security and supervision. Bradford has a very good dog warden service which has improved the process of rounding up stray dogs. However, that dog warden service is not adequate to protect people against some of these ferocious dogs because it does not have the information necessary to pinpoint the dangers. I hope that the House will support my new clause.

4.15 pm
Miss Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)

I shall keep my remarks brief because I have to chair a Standing Committee at 4.30 pm. I hope that it will be understood that I shall not be in my place for the rest of the debate.

It will not surprise my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to learn that I deplore the Government's decision to abolish dog licences — a decision that goes against everything that I have worked for for 10 years or more. I want the dog licence fee raised to a realistic sum to support a dog warden scheme and a package of measures for the welfare and control of dogs.

I shall support the new clause if the Government cannot give me anything better, although it has certain drawbacks. I believe in the general thrust of the argument of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and would not wish to be too critical of his proposal. I query whether it is wise to have variable licence fees as between one local authority and another because difficulties could arise if adjoining local authorities levied different sums. I query, too, whether it is wise to have quite such a blanket exemption for retirement pensioners. However, I fully agree that we should have a dog licence fee to enable us to go ahead with a package of reforms.

No taxation is popular and new taxes are even less popular, as the Government will shortly discover — if they have not done so already. Therefore, I query their wisdom in doing away with a tax that at least has the benefit of familiarity and which people have accepted because it has been in place far as long as anyone can remember. It is an astonishing act to get rid of a reasonable means of obtaining money to do a specific job, and I query it on that ground alone.

Furthermore, as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) said, the concept of a package of measures to control dogs commands a rare degree of agreement among a whole variety of groups, not least the animal welfare organisations. Those groups also include the National Farmers Union. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the National Farmers Union do not always see eye to eye, but on this matter they march as one.

I query the Government's decision to do away with dog licences most of all because of the order that they themselves introduced in Northern Ireland in 1983. I gather that that measure is working well and has done much to reduce the nuisance on which other hon. Members have expatiated. Are the Government so displeased with the scheme that they propose to discontinue it in Northern Ireland? If they do not propose to discontinue it, why is it not good enough for the mainland of Britain? I look forward with interest to the answers to those two questions, even if I am not in my seat to listen to them.

No one would suggest that it would be possible to achieve 100 per cent. enforcement of the increased dog licence. Frankly, it is worth no one's while to collect the miserable and paltry sum of 37p. I believe that if the dog licence fee was raised to a proper level of £5 or £10 that would be an inducement to enforce collection. I gather that there is a fair degree of enforcement in Northern Ireland and we therefore have a practical precedent to follow.

Although my next point goes beyond the scope of the new clause—and I will do no more than touch on it briefly — I believe that dog wardens should be given greater powers than they possess under existing legislation. They should be the enforcement agents for the collection of the licence fee and for the laws relating to dog fouling and other matters. That would go far to deal with the problems that many people who do not love dogs as I love them find so objectionable, for example the dog mess which they find in many places and the danger to children to which reference was made earlier.

The Government have missed a great opportunity. If they do not want to accept the new clause, I hope that they can offer something in its place. A general gesture of good will stating that local authorities will be able to introduce dog warden schemes without giving them the wherewithal to carry those schemes out will not be acceptable. We must remember that the authorities will have less money if the new clause is passed because the money that is collected is used by local authorities.

Even at this late stage, I hope that the Government will reconsider. If they are not prepared to progress on the present basis, will they consider the ever-present threat of rabies entering this country? I am aware that a set of draconian reserve powers exists, which can be implemented if rabies enters the country. However, I do not believe that the Government will be thanked if those powers have to be invoked when it would have been possible to have a far more humane and attractive approach through a good system of licensing and registration and a dog warden scheme. If rabies should enter the country, I will not hesitate to remind my hon. Friends of what I have just said. We cannot shrug off the threat of rabies as something which is unlikely to happen. It is all too likely to happen. It would be far more prudent to have a proper system of dog control in force than the present system, which will result in utter chaos.

I am connected with two welfare societies, the RSPCA and the National Canine Defence League. The societies bear the brunt of dog owners' irresponsibility and the very inadequate controls on the breeding of dogs. They bear that brunt day after day, and it gives them no pleasure to have to destroy dogs when it is not possible to keep them for a variety of reasons. Money is being spent which would not have to be spent for that purpose if we had a proper set of controls. Unwanted dogs that are turned out by irresponsible owners lead a miserable existence. My hon. Friends should look at some of the homes — and Battersea dogs' home is close to the House—and they would see what welfare societies have to deal with every day. Once Ministers had witnessed that they might give more thought to the problem before deciding to do away with the dog licence.

In short, I support the new clause, with reservations, for the reasons that I have given. I am anxious to see that the pass is not sold entirely and that we retain the dog licence as a necessary means of funding a scheme of dog wardens and other control measures. I would like to see a new Act which would bring all the dog laws together. However, I am aware that that goes beyond the scope of the new clause and I will say no more.

Mr. Hardy

I need not detain the House for long, because I share the concerns expressed by many hon. Members so far and not least those expressed by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes).

I believe that the Government have acted with gross irresponsibility. Since the debate started, much has been said about the nature of the problems that are presented by irresponsible dog owners. I do not dissent from the need for the maintenance of the licence. However, the Government's record must be exposed. They have known since 1979 when they assumed office of the need for an improved, fair and effective system of control. The evidence has been available since the mid-1970s. I recall advancing an argument that certain reforms were required in 1975, when I suggested that the first priority was to remove the six-month exemption for the purchase of a licence whereby people getting a puppy do not need to buy a licence until the puppy is six months old. That exemption must he the single greatest cause of the difficulties from dogs that confront society.

While I am delighted that the Opposition have tabled amendment No. 29 which, if it was accepted by the House, would force the Government to reconsider the whole position and perhaps come forward with a sensible arrangement such as that advocated by the hon. Member for Drake I would have been delighted if the Opposition's position rested with that amendment. However, I have reservations about new clause 4. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) will consider my points when he advises Opposition Members in another place.

To many hon. Members and perhaps to the vast majority of dog owners, £10 may not be a large sum of money. Indeed, £20—the maximum set down in the new clause — may not be a large sum. However, to many people who will not enjoy the "most prosperous Christmas" that this country has ever seen, to quote the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) — that means the 8 million on or below the poverty — £10 or £20 is a great deal of money. They would be bitterly resentful if they had to scrimp and save to find the £10 or £20 when they were responsible dog owners.

I hope that I can be regarded as a responsible dog owner. A number of hon. Members have mentioned their dogs. At home at the moment we have a large Irish wolfhound and a young deerhound. Our licences have always been paid on the dot, not because of my efficiency but because my wife insists on it. I strongly suspect that in my area and in all other areas, only a minority of dog owners obtain licences for their dogs. I suspect that, even if the new clause were passed, many people would not pay the £10 or £20. The responsible dog owners whose dogs do not do the kind of thing that we have heard about would be even more angry and bitter.

Perhaps the Government have rather more cunning than some of us would give them credit for. They have failed to act for nearly 10 years despite the weight of evidence and the arguments advanced by Conservative Members, including the hon. Member for Drake. The reason why they have not acted is that they did not wish to incur unpopularity. However, it is no part of the Opposition's job to incur unpopularity. Had the Government any serious and intelligent intentions in this matter, they would have accepted one of about five or six private Members' Bills presented to the House over the past six or seven years.

4.30 pm

As far as I can recall, in every instance the Government used, or wished to use, those private Members' Bills to get out from under and transfer the responsibility entirely to local authorities. I do not think that that is on from a Government who have inflicted rate capping on local authorities. I take the view that, if there is to be a fee, it should be determined centrally, and not left as a means of ensuring that more odium falls on the shoulders of local government. We wish to avoid the ridiculous state of affairs in which people living on one side of the road pay £10, while those on the other side pay £20.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that that is dealt with in new clause 15—tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace)—which provides for a licence fee of £10 per annum? That is the crucial difference between new clause 4 and new clause 15, although the principle is the same in both.

Mr. Hardy

The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that I have sat through the whole debate. While that may be the intention of new clause 15, it is not the only intention that the Liberal party has demonstrated. The Liberal party's position seems to be very draconian. I believe that it would discourage not only irresponsible but responsible dog owners.

That, however, is not my only reservation about new clause 4. I note that, under subsection (2)(b), a dog kept for the purpose of work in connection with the maintenance of livestock or gamekeeping would be exempted from the licence charge. I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr has sought legal advice. I am not a lawyer, but it strikes me that some masters of hounds would be given an opportunity to argue that their packs should be exempt. That is surely not a proposal that the Opposition should contemplate.

Gamekeeping is a reputable activity. But if the gamekeeper is to enjoy such an exemption, what will be the position of the welfare organisations referred to by the hon. Member for Drake? Many breed clubs within the dog fancy also operate their own rescue societies. Will they have to find £10 or £20 for every dog that they Lake into care, which otherwise would probably be roaming the country or causing a general nuisance?

The same applies to boarding kennels. It is to be hoped that dog owners who go away on holiday ensure that their dogs are properly cared for while they are away; I do not consider it reasonable to require dog licences costing a maximum of £20 from all boarding kennel owners. That would inevitably put up the cost, and discourage people from ensuring that their pets were properly looked after. If the gamekeeper — who is serving an important, or established, leisure interest—is to receive a concession, why should not such a concession also be offered to responsible people who are engaged in breeding and showing dogs? Thousands of people in Britain shoot, but I suspect that far more show dogs.

That leads me to a further suggestion. People who show dogs usually value them enormously, and the dogs may indeed be very valuable. Such people will not let their dogs wander about school fields — at least, they certainly should not do so. They recognise that the dogs may be a substantial asset. If those dogs are not likely to cause a nuisance to society, I suggest that their owners should pay no more than one licence fee. Those who own several dogs may be more responsible owners than those who own only one, but do not know how to look after it. I certainly do not wish a system to be introduced that would deter people from enjoying a perfectly sensible pastime in which I occasionally indulge — sometimes with substantial success—with my son's wolfhound.

We should be encouraging people to enjoy life, and to take part in the various activities that owning a dog can provide. We ought not to insist on a penalty that may make it impossible for poorer people to own dogs. I therefore hope that, by the time that the Bill reaches another place, the Opposition's proposal will be slightly more acceptable to responsible dog owners than it now appears to be.

Many hon. Members — perhaps the majority — consider that the entire cost of a dog warden scheme should fall on the shoulders of those who pay the proposed licence fee. That is entirely unreasonable. Why should responsible dog owners have to bear the whole cost of the irresponsibility of those who refuse to pay? If the Minister, or any of my hon. Friends, maintains that view, we may eventually reach a time when only smokers will be called upon to bear the cost of the fire brigade.

I agree with the view, expressed by a number of hon. Members, that the Government have acted irresponsibly, and should reconsider. In doing so, they may wish to consider a version of new clause 4 amended in the way that I have suggested.

Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green)

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) in urging my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Local Government to consider the new clause sympathetically. Its wording is by no means perfect, but I believe that its principle is right, and that the Government should take it to themselves and bring forward in another place a form of wording that does not suffer from the same defects.

I urge the Minister to do that, because the new clause has an honourable history. I had the privilege of proposing a similar new clause to the Control of Pollution Bill 1974 from the Opposition Front Bench. The principle was the same—that we should give local authorities the power to introduce a dog warden scheme, which they could fund by charging a licence fee. They could then carry out the important measures necessary to ensure that dogs are well looked after, and that the physical environment is well looked after at the same time, so that dangers from rabies, and to children in parks and playgrounds, can be properly dealt with and the risks diminished.

Unfortunately, I was not able to test the then Government's view, because the new clause was outside the long title of the Bill. Nevertheless, it enabled me to have discussions and negotiations which ended in the setting up of a working group which reported in 1976, accepting the principles and urging the Government to introduce legislation of the kind that we are now discussing.

From 1976 until 1979, the Government of the day found excuse after excuse not to legislate. I rather suspect that similar reasons will be given from the Government Front Bench today for not introducing the legislation that the Opposition are now demanding. It is remarkable how being in government and being in opposition tend to change hon. Members' views on certain matters, and this is certainly an example.

Mr. Hardy

The hon. Gentleman will recall that the Government at that time had such a tiny majority—if, indeed, they had a majority at all — that they would have been unable to do anything but what they did. The Opposition would certainly have used any Bill so presented for political purposes far beyond the interests of dogs. In any case, the hon. Gentleman is talking about a period of little more than two years. The present Government have been in power for eight years.

Sir Hugh Rossi

The hon. Gentleman's recollection is at fault. It was then Opposition policy to promote such legislation and, from the Front Bench, I was promoting it on behalf of the Opposition. The Government of the day would have had a good answer, because they could have said, "We now call on the Opposition to support what their Front Bench spokesman has been urging on us."

After 1979 I had the privilege of serving as a Minister in Northern Ireland, and it was no accident that an experiment was tried there with the introduction of an enlarged fee for a warden-controlled system. The problem was that people tended, as they do on this side of the water, to buy puppies for children at Christmas time, but after the Christmas holidays the puppies became a nuisance and were thrown out. They tended to roam in packs and the problem was that those wild packs savaged sheep throughout the countryside. It was necessary to find ways of controlling them.

It may be said that the experience of Northern Ireland has not been all that great; collection of the new enhanced fee is difficult and—I am unaware of the figures for today—possibly about 50 per cent. of dog owners do not pay the licence fee. If my hon. and learned Friend intends to argue that, I shall tell him that the collection by authorities of fees, taxes, rates and rents is generally difficult in certain parts of Northern Ireland. He should recognise the circumstances that appertain there for the collection of moneys by the authorities.

The introduction of the enlarged fee was successful because it gave the means to deal with the problem that I outlined. There has been a substantial reduction in wild dog packs, which were causing much danger to animals and, on occasions, to human beings.

As I understand the new clause, it is proposed to give local authorities the power to set up dog warden schemes. Local authorities already have that power and can do that without the need for further legislation, but they do not have a particular means of raising money for a new service.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), who said that people who keep dogs should not make a contribution to the creation of a dog warden scheme. Contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Drake said, this is not a matter for a national organisation, national apparatus or national levy.

The problem varies from area to area. Some local authorities will find it necessary to use the power and to raise money for a dog warden service. Others may not have that problem or may not wish to have a dog warden service. Some may need only a slender service and therefore would not need to raise whatever the House determines as the correct maximum, whether it be £10 or £20. It would be within the discretion of the local authority to decide, within the parameters of its needs arid with regard to the number of dog owners that lived in its locality, the amount that it needed to charge to run this service efficiently and effectively. We should enable local authorities to do that.

I represent an urban constituency, where dogs can be an enormous problem. There are many guard dogs in my constituency because of the levels of crime in certain areas. Dogs must be walked in the parks and streets, which creates an unseemly and dangerous environment, particularly for children.

There must be the means to encourage the local authority to set up an organisation that will ensure that that nuisance is kept to a minimum. To enable local authorities to employ people to do that, one should not expect them to pay for it out of the community charge —which they will be enabled under other legislation to levy—because £178 per annum per head of population may not be sufficient if we are to add the provision of a dog warden service to the responsibilities of local authorities.

4.45 pm

I ask my hon. and learned Friend to treat this matter with some seriousness. It is a matter which the Environment Select Committee has considered since 1983 —since when I have been privileged to be its chairman. We have looked at the Estimates of the Department of the Environment and, year after year, pointed to the absurdity of the cost of £3 million per year for collection of the national dog licence fee. I can well understand that the persistence of the Select Committee in pinpointing and underlining this absurdity each year, has driven the Government into considering the abolition of the dog licence.

That is one part only of the equation; the other is how one deals with the other problems that must be tackled, and for which local authorities must be given the wherewithal.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

I am a member of the Environment Select Committee. Would it not be true to say that it deliberately tabled a motion, when the report on the Estimates was last considered, with a blatant view to making the Government think about this problem and come forward with a solution not only to the matter of licensing but the wider implications of the control of dogs?

Sir Hugh Rossi

Given my involvement with the subject since 1974, that thought was not far from my mind when the Committee agreed to table that motion. It is a matter of disappointment that the Government did not have the courage to deal with those matters.

The response of the Government will be similar to that which I received from the Government during the 1974–79 Parliament. No doubt they have received advice from the same officials, and the same considerations will apply, but if that is the case I must tell my hon. and learned Friend not to expect me in the same Lobby as him tonight.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I should like to speak specifically to new clause 15—Dog Licences

  1. `(1) Subject to subsection (3) below, the duty charged under the Dog Licences Act 1959 on licences for dogs shall be set at £10 per annum and shall be increased on 1 April of each year in line with the percentage increase in the retail prices index.
  2. (2) The duty provided for in subsection (1) above shall be collected by a local authority from owners of dogs living in its area and shall be used by the authority for the funding of a dog warden service and for other dog control purposes in its area.
  3. (3) No duty shall be charged under subsection (1) above in respect of:-
    1. (a) a dog kept and used wholly or mainly for guidance by a blind or partially-sighted person, if the owner of the dog obtains a certificate of exemption in respect of the dog under this section;
    2. (b) a dog whose owner has attained the statutory age of retirement;
    3. (c) a dog kept and used solely for the purpose of tending sheep or cattle on a farm;
    4. (d) a dog under the age of three months where that dog is kept by the person who at the time of its birth was the owner of the bitch which gave it birth;
    5. (e) a dog kept by such other person or for such other purposes as may be specified, in England or Wales by the Secretary of State for the Environment, or, in Scotland by the Secretary of State for Scotland, by a statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
  4. (4) Where no duty is charged under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (3) above, the owner of the dog shall obtain from the local authority a certificate of exemption from duty in respect of the dog.
  5. (5) In subsection (2) above, "local authority" means a district council, a London borough council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, or the Common Council of the City of London.
  6. (6) This section shall come into force at the end of a period of 2 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.',
and in support of the clauses and amendment that are the subject of this debate.

The debate in Committee confirmed that the Government have but one argument for changing the position that they adopted, on a provisional basis, during the consultations on this matter a couple of years ago. Their Green Paper, which was produced after many years of internal consideration, came to the clear-cut conclusion that the Government would prefer the abolition of the present national licensing arrangements and said that new discretionary powers should be given to districts and London boroughs. Thus, the proposal in new clause 4, proposed by the Opposition Front Bench, is on all fours with the view that the Government took about a year ago.

The Government have not explained their about-turn in response to the weight of the evidence. They have not said what the weight of the evidence was, but if they were to do so it would confirm that 10 of the reputable organisations that submitted evidence, such as the RSPCA and others, came out clearly in favour of a national dog licence, and only two opposed it.

A substantial number of individuals have also made views known. They have come to believe that it is necessary to get rid of the dog licence for the twin reasons that the present position is clearly ludicrous—there is no dissent about that—and that it is illogical to make responsible dog owners pay for irresponsible dog owners because there will always be people who do not apply for or pay for licences. Indeed, in Committee one of the Minister's hon. Friends admitted to being an example.

The fallacy of that argument is that there are many parallels in taxation policy where people are charged for the use or ownership of something, but where not everybody may pay. The example that comes most obviously to mind is that of the motor car. Not everybody who should do so pays the vehicle excise licence, but it is still the rule that the Exchequer benefits by collecting the money that goes into the pool to allow more money to be available for dealing with issues of transport and road policy. There are other examples.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I put it to the hon. Gentleman that there are even stronger arguments than the one that he is advancing. Most responsible dog owners, indeed all responsible dog owners, are concerned about animal welfare. They love their own dogs deeply and are concerned about those who do not properly cater for or look after their dogs. Most responsible dog owners would be happy to pay a higher licence fee if dogs were generally better catered for and looked after.

Mr. Hughes

I accept entirely the hon. Gentleman's point. I was here when he spoke yesterday, and I commend him for his speech on the subject and for his views. He has the additional merit of speaking from personal experience, which in this case, as in many others, is persuasive. Responsible dog owners are happy to pay the licence fee. I have not received any letters or representations from dog owners to say that they would not be happy about that, even if the fee were to be higher than the amount suggested —£10 is the most commonly quoted figure.

Like the Minister's hon. Friends who have spoken against the Government's view, I ask the Government to change their view, because it is illogical to ask responsible dog owners to pay for the irresponsible. The reality is that the community as a whole will have to continue to pay for dog control exercises, the kennelling of stray dogs and animal welfare. That will always be the case because of the minority of people who are not responsible dog owners.

Therefore, as the Government will argue tomorrow in relation to the poll tax, the fairest way would be a per capita payment. In this case it would be a per dog capita payment for the dogs that are owned, as opposed to a per human capita payment. Each contribution should be spent for the general benefit of the community.

The difference between new clause 15, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and myself on behalf of the Liberal party, and new clause 4, tabled by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) on behalf of the Labour party, is that the latter provides for a national system, but with varying amounts. I agree that there is likely to be some antagonism if, across a border, the amount is different. That will detract from arguments about the principle of the issue. However, new clause 15 argues for a nationally fixed, but locally collected and locally spent, fee. It seems right that local authorities should have the prime responsibility for collecting and spending the money. It is better that they should do so and, indeed, they are willing to do so.

I believe that the Minister accepts the general presumption that local authorities are in, as it were, the front line of dog control. He suggested in Committee that he supported the view that the responsibility for stray dogs, which is a separate but linked issue, should be taken from the police and handed to local authorities. I hope that he will expand on that and state that that is still the Government's view and that they intend to move in that direction soon.

The Government's position would be more defensible if they were to say that they would replace the money that would be lost—small though it is, or much larger as it would be if a £10 licence fee were the norm — by additional money for local authorities specifically to enable them to set up dog warden schemes and the like. However, I have never heard that said and, clearly, the Government have not said it. Local authorities have a right to be suspicious that the little that they receive at the moment will be taken away and that their capacity to deal with what is a major problem in rural and urban areas —often a major problem of environmental nuisance—will be severely diminished.

Ministers may have noticed that even the Kennel Club, an organisation which has, for some time, lobbied for the abolition of the dog licence fee, now says that it favours a tattooing system for the identification of dogs, for which there would need to be a registration system. Once that is in place, an administratively simple and cost-effective way of paying for the registration system would be through a licence fee. The Kennel Club is the only substantial single-interest body that has argued against the view proposed by my hon. Friends, the Opposition and some Conservative Back Benchers. It does not favour a licence, but favours an identification system. Therefore, even that body seems to have a qualified position.

For reasons that seem illogical, the Government have decided to move away from the proper steps which they implemented, by trial, in Northern Ireland and which have proved adequately successful there, of having a system of collecting revenue that would be spent on dealing with the difficult but important issue of dog control and welfare. The Government are sadly misguided. We hope that an amendment, either in the form of the new clause that has been tabled by my party, or in the form of one of the other Opposition new clauses or amendments, will be accepted before the Bill completes its passage through the House.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin: (Weston-super-Mare)

One of the problems with the procedures of this House is that after an arduous period in Committee, when a subject comes back for further debate on Report, some hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) feel that the debate is already over and that there is nothing more to say. It was a good thing that the debate was adjourned, because we have had some good speeches today from Opposition Members, who have promoted the new clause with much greater enthusiasm than did the hon. Member for Perry Barr himself.

In 1979, when I had the honour to be appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I discovered to my astonishment, and that of my fellow Ministers, that for some reason the fee for the dog licence was fixed by that Department, although the Department of the Environment had the local government responsibilities for dog licences and the Home Office had the overall responsibility for all licensing. Eight years later, I believe that the dilemma of the then Government has been resolved in the wrong way. I am not in any doubt that it is a question of a toss of the coin in such matters because I appreciate that, whichever position the Government adopted, they would have some critics.

I remained of an open mind until quite recently when I became persuaded by the continual correspondence that I receive on this matter. It was not just one or two letters. Week after week, month after month, and year after year I have received letters from my constituents, especially those in the urban area, protesting about the complete lack of control over dogs in towns, in relation to dog mess, barking, lack of control over fierce dogs and other aspects. There is a substantial feeling that the issue must be resolved in the immediate future. Some of my councillors would agree that no single issue raises greater passion at local government level in Weston-super-Mare than that of dogs. Therefore, for many people, this is a much more serious issue than it may have sounded when we were debating it last night.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) has made most of the important points, so I shall not tire the House by repeating them. The dog licence is an additional form of taxation which, much to our cost, we have failed to increase year by year. The Government took a weak view on this — many years ago, I accept — and it has become increasingly more expensive to collect, and, in parallel, the problem of outof-control dogs has become worse.

It is rare for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the National Farmers Union to agree on anything. When, for the first time in my memory, they do agree, backed by the British Veterinary Association and other responsible bodies, it is rather disappointing that the Government should take a contrary view.

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In defence of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Local Government, may I say that the minds of the public have been considerably concentrated by the Government's firm decision. It was the announcement of that decision that led many bodies into an opposition in which they had not engaged before. Having done that, they have gathered a considerable amount of public opinion behind them. I fully accept that a more expensive licence of £5 or £10 would penalise the law-abiding dog owner who pays his licence, but I have not had any letters from dog owners saying that they did not think it desirable.

I have just returned from Norway, and the Norwegians have a completely different attitude to dogs. They look upon owning a dog as an exceptional privilege. Indeed, as anyone who has bought food in Norway will know, it is also a costly privilege. The Norwegian people require no further incentives for looking after their dogs. If they did, it would become a matter of national behaviour. A case of dog cruelty achieves headline status.

I shall listen with great interest to the argument about Northern Ireland dogs. My hon. and learned Friend will no doubt adduce some devious argument about why an Ulster dog is different from an English or Welsh dog. I recall clearly that when the decision on that was made there was a sharp intake of breath at such courage from the Government. In fact, the measure went through with no difficulty. Licence fees are paid relatively well and, as has already been said, that is not so usual for Northern Ireland. It has enabled the proper control of dogs and wild packs no longer roam.

I cannot support the new clause in its entirety for the reasons that I have given, but I shall vote for it because the Government have gone the wrong way. I join my hon. Friends in saying that I hope that in another place they will give further thought to this. I have not yet heard a speech in support of the Government's view.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

I do not want to repeat all the arguments about the desirability of a dog licence because they have been well and truly made. However, I have an interest because Scunthorpe borough council was one of the pioneers of the dog warden service. That service was introduced in response to local demand and the enormous problems caused by dogs.

All hon. Members who have spoken so far have conceded that dogs can be a considerable nuisance. It is evident from the letters that I receive from my constituents that dog owners favour a licence on the terms set out in the new clause. Just as all smokers are often blamed for the failings of the irresponsible minority of smokers, responsible dog owners are blamed for the failings of an irresponsible minority of dog owners. The dog licence is a measure of control which is much needed, particularly in urban areas. It also gives some protection to the dogs.

As has been mentioned, Christmas is traditionally the time when people buy puppies on the spur of the moment without taking into account the commitment that any pet requires. Indeed, some people collect dogs like others collect stamps, until they end up with a house full of them and that causes a nuisance through noise, smell and the problems in the streets. A properly funded dog warden service, with money going to local councils to fund it, is one way of tackling that problem.

All the responsible organisations are in favour of a dog licence. I have before me a letter from the National Farmers Union, which adds its weight to those organisations. The letter was also sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies). The NFU argues strongly for a dog licence and points to the problem of livestock savaged each year by pets that are allowed to roam.

A dog licence is not the automatic solution to all the problems with stray dogs, but it is a step forward in tackling that problem. It is certainly a better solution than that proposed by the Government, which is no solution at all. The Government are missing an important opportunity to put the matter right and to tackle the problem. If they take that opportunity in the Bill they will have the support of all responsible dog owners and the majority of the British people.

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)

It is not uncommon for some major issues to pass calmly through the House, if not on the nod, certainly without the heat and light generated by this topic. But mention dogs, and calm goes out of the window and emotions — on both sides of the debate — take over. Last night confirmed that fact, even if the late hour was some excuse.

One accepts the need to protect livestock in rural areas, but I am not sure whether a licence is the way to achieve that. The problem is largely one for the urban areas. Let us agree on common ground. There is a need for a warden service to deal with strays and the public have a right to clean pavements and parklands free from dog soil. Both those objectives are, rightly, the responsibility of local government which needs the power to enact the necessary byelaws to meet that public demand and to enforce penalties where necessary.

Why should that general provision, unique among other general needs within local authorities, require a special licence which needs a bureaucracy to police it in order to provide the resources to pay for it? We pay for many general services through our rates which we never use, and, perhaps because of our age, will never use, but we pay none the less. That general rule should apply in this case.

I am puzzled why the Opposition should have tabled the new clause in this form, for deny it though he may, the heart of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was not in his speech last night, except for the customary passion for taxing everything that moves. None of the situations that he described would be diminished or solved by the imposition of a dog licence.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I said that, but the hon. Gentleman was asleep.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

No, that is precisely my point. The hon. Member listed what he objected to and then admitted that the dog licence was no cure. Why on earth, then, put in for a licence?

Mr. Rooker

The point was that the licence provided the revenue to fund the dog warden scheme which would assist in dealing with those problems.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I thought that the hon. Gentleman had clearly said that it would not, but perhaps we had better study Hansard again.

The Opposition have realised that the 7s 6d tax is nonsense and have chosen anything between £10 and £20 to replace it. However, as they are fearful of adverse reaction, they seek to make some exclusions for the elderly, which is fine at first sight, but it means quite a few hon. Members can keep a pet free. Are the disabled, the unemployed, the family on a low income and the single parent any less in need of the comfort and protection that a pet can give? Are they less deserving than those people mentioned in the amendment or than some Members of this House?

The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) pointed out the inadequacies of the exclusions in the new clause. By the time he had finished speaking, I was convinced that he had convinced himself that the clause would not deliver and that he would probably join the Government in the Lobby tonight. When one goes down the exemption route, there is no end. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) said last night, the cost of policing the system will make the policing of the banded community charge or local income tax a piece of cake.

The abolition of the existing licence brings savings to the public purse. The immediate abolition means that the public service will benefit by about £3 million. If that is so, may I suggest to my hon. and learned Friend that some of that saving could be paid as block grant to the PDSA, the RSPCA and other bodies which do a wonderful job and would not necessarily be helped by the kind of licence fee mentioned in the clause.

Many daft things are done by local authorities up and down the land, but the provision of wardens, clean pavements and clean park space would have universal support from ratepayers, whatever the ultimate system of local taxation. However, a separate dog licence would not have such support.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I wish to declare an interest and say that, although I do not have a dog, I have a parrot and two tortoises. As far as I am aware, no proposal has yet been made to license such pets, but if such a proposal were made, I would pay the licence with great pleasure.

I have received a number of letters about this subject. All have protested about the abolition of dog licences and that is why I want to intervene briefly. I cannot follow the Government's logic in respect of their proposals and that is why I support the new clause. The licence fee is too small and not worth collecting. In addition, too many dog owners fail to pay the licence, so the proposed solution is to scrap the licence.

If we apply the logic of failure to pay, we can see the ridiculous situation that would develop. We do not know the precise number of people, although it is quite large, who fail to pay their taxes. They fail to pay their television licences. That includes the Prime Minister who has, as I understand it, 13 television sets in No. 10 Downing street, yet she does not have to pay any licence fee. That is not failure to pay, but she has been given a discretion so that she does not have to pay. Many people do not pay the television licence fee or the road fund tax for their cars. I have yet to hear any Conservative Member say that, because of failure to pay, we should scrap those taxes. The Government are in a difficult position when it comes to logic.

5.15 pm

I am raising this somewhat sniffy subject because, in the east end of London, many people keep dogs as pets. It is a tradition and, if anyone looks around the parks in the east end at weekends, he will see how many people keep dogs. They do so for a number of reasons, including companionship and protection of their property. The many burglaries, car thefts and street crimes in the east end encourage people to keep dogs not so much as pets but as protectors. That is why we have so many large and somewhat vicious dogs in the east end, but most of them have responsible owners. They are certainly far more responsible than the Earl of Leven.

I refer hon. Members to early-day motion 432, tabled by several Labour Members, in respect of the conduct of the Earl of Leven and the sentence imposed by Inverness sheriff court, which states That this House condemns the conduct of the Earl of Leven J.P., Lord Lieutenant of Nairnshire and Chairman of the Governors of Gordonstoun College,"— I understand that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales went there, so I hope that he did not learn anything from the Earl of Leven— who fractured the skull of a terrier dog which had wandered onto his grouse moor, attacking the animal with such force that the instrument used, a walking-stick, broke; deplores the leniency of sentence imposed by Inverness Sheriff Court; believes that £75 fines are unlikely to deter thugs and hooligans; and calls for the Earl of Leven to be stripped of all public offices. I am sure that dog lovers on both sides of the House will warmly endorse the words of early-day motion 432.

Fortunately, the dog owners and the people of Newham do not follow such vile practices. The dog owners of the east end are responsible, but, unfortunately, problems arise from keeping dogs as pets. The immediate problem in an urban environment is the dog mess produced in car parks, streets, open spaces, parks and many other areas where children play and people go. That is very distressing.

I find it distressing when I am walking to my newspaper shop in the morning to get my copy of The Daily Telegraph.[Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh, but it is a serious point. I like to know what the Government are saying from morning to morning, so I buy a number of other newspapers. When I walk, to the newspaper shop just around the corner from my home in the London borough of Newham, I spend most of my time with my shoulders stooping and my eyes on the pavement. That is not merely because of the problems that I bear on my shoulders as a representative of an inner-city area. It is also to avoid stepping in all the piles of dog mess on the pavement. It is a serious problem which is accepted by Members on both sides of the House. I shall step lightly, as they say, on this matter, but it is a serious problem which brings many complaints to me, as the local Member of Parliament, and to local councillors.

There are some advantages in having one's eyes transfixed on the pavement in an attempt to avoid the dog mess. The other day I found 1.20 on the short walk to the newspaper shop. When I reached the newspaper shop, I put that money in the box for cancer research because it is the only way that cancer wards and the Cancer Research Campaign will receive adequate funds. The Government will not provide the funds needed for cancer research. In this country, we rely on charity to deal with the serious aspects of society. When it comes to such matters as defence, there is no such thing as charity appeals or flag days —[interruption] I understand what you are indicating to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

There was an occasion when I walked round the corner and was faced with the terrible dilemma of seeing a £1 coin embedded in a dog turd. I was left with a problem. There was a natural, primitive, capitalist, acquisitive instinct and a need for hygiene. As it happened on that occasion, hygiene won. But I managed to find a small boy who, for a crack of 50p, was prepared to retrieve the coin. He washed his hands in my house, and we put the money in the cancer box.

We know that 4,000 stray dogs are registered every week. That is appalling. We talk about being a nation of dog lovers. We are actually a nation of dog killers. Hon Members on both sides of the House will find that appalling. At any given moment, there are 500,000 stray dogs on British streets. About 200 stray dogs are destroyed every week. We are coming up to the Christmas period. Parents will be buying presents for their children. Unfortunately, regrettably, lamentably, many parents will buy puppies as pets for their children.

Hon. Members who represent constituencies outside London, particularly constituencies with motorways going through them, know that I speak the truth when I say that dogs are literally thrown out of cars on motorways. They are abandoned at the side of motorways. That is a tragedy, and it should make us all feel ashamed.

We cannot just walk away from the problem. We cannot just say that, because people fail to pay the licence fee, we should abandon it. We should establish a properly funded dog warden scheme that is paid for by the licence fees that are paid by responsible dog owners. The new clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) would bring in only a fraction of the annual costs of keeping a dog. Therefore, no responsible dog owner would refuse to pay the licence fee. It would enable us to fund a proper dog warden scheme. Therefore, I ask all hon. Members to support the new clause.

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) demonstrated the paucity of the anti-licence argument when he described stray dogs as an urban problem. If they are an urban problem, why is the NFU so opposed to abolition? I gently suggest to him that any hon. Member who has had the sad opportunity to see a flock of sheep being savaged by a wild dog knows that strays are not simply an urban problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) and the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) touched on the possible rabies problem. Hon. Members who were present in the Chamber late last night heard my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) give perhaps one of the most moving pieces of personal testimony that the House has heard for a long time. He described how his own child was affected by a parasite that was picked up from dog mess and, as a result, is now blind in one eye.

It is a problem of control. The Government appear to recognise that fact. In their Green Paper, they said that they had carefully weighed the arguments, that the principal aim of abolition should be to promote responsible dog ownership, and that abolition would not best serve that purpose. In the words of the National Farmers Union, choosing abolition would be to throw away the means of financing proper dog control, the obvious way of tracing the owner of a stray, the potential deterrent to casual purchases, and, indeed, all hope of improvement in dog control in the future.

The legislation envisaged by the Government would provide for registration schemes to include mandatory fee exemptions for guide dogs for the blind and working sheep dogs and discretionary exemptions and part-exemptions for other categories such as dogs owned by the elderly. Were that legislation being proposed by the Government, I and, I suspect, most of my colleagues and many Opposition Members would support it.

The new clause porposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) will have my support. Opposition Members were kind enough in Committee to give me their support when I invited my hon. and learned Friend the Minister to put forward his own proposals. I do not support all aspects of the proposed new clause. The exemptions are too wide and I am not certain that allocating all the revenue solely to a dog warden service is the right priority. I firmly believe that the prerequisite of any dog control system must be an efficient registration scheme. When we raised the matter in Committee, my hon. and learned Friend said: It is already a legal requirement that a dog should wear a collar with a plate or disc showing the owner's name or address while on a highway or in a public place… … There is provision for local authorities to make byelaws relating to the fouling of pavements and grass verges and to ban dogs from certain beaches and parks. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is also prepared to approve byelaws requiring the person in charge of a dog to clear up the mess deposited by the dog in certain places — the so-called poop-scoop byelaw …Roads on which dogs must be kept on leads can be designated. None of those provisions is dependent on licensing. Again, there is comprehensive legislation to afford the farmer protection under which he can gain redress from the keeper of the dog and, indeed, if it is the only way to stop an attack, as a defence, he may shoot the dog. Again I stress that that is entirely independent of licensing. In Committee, I challenged my hon. and learned Friend. Every one of the regulations that are presently available is dependent upon identification of a dog. Without an efficient registration system, it is not possible to identify an animal, and it is therefore not possible to bring a successful prosecution. I put that point in Committee. My hon. and learned Friend, who has established in this House a reputation for intelligence, courtesy, and, particularly, for precision, said: I do not entirely accept that". [Official Report, Standing Committee A, 8 December 1987; c. 1196.] If my hon. and learned Friend does not entirely accept that, being the precise gentleman that he is, I suggest that, by implication, he must accept part of it. The laws and byelaws upon which the abolitionist case has rested are worthless without a proper means of registration. Many reputable organisations have been named. They are wholly opposed to abolition. Apparently, only one organisation is in favour of abolition, and that is PRO Dogs. Speaking on its behalf last night, my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) said that licensing was not necessary and that, to control dogs, we need "identification and fines."

How does one identify an animal and the owner of an animal without a registration system? The British Veterinary Association, the National Farmers Union, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals favour a licensing scheme. The latter society is particularly relevant. In a letter which I suspect that most hon. Members will have seen, its director stated: so far the new licensing scheme"— which this Government introduced in 1983— has been a great success. Not only are dogs being looked after better now, but far fewer are suffering from the actions of irresponsible and uncaring owners. I personally"— this is, the director of the Ulster society— feel that the changing attitude towards dogs in this country is very, very encouraging. 5.30 pm

In support of that sentiment, the National Farmers' Union says that it would like to see the extension to the rest of the United Kingdom of the véry welcome and successful measures which the Government introduced in 1982–83 to control dogs in Northern Ireland, including a licence fee of £5.… We do earnestly believe that the Government has made the wrong decision on this matter and would urge you to assist in seeking a change of mind. That is what the NFU has written to many hon. Members, including members of the Standing Committee.

It was made plain in Committee that at this stage the Government have no desire to change their mind. There is a growing and very responsible body of opinion that believes that registration is not only necessary but possible. Tattooing has been mentioned. The British Veterinary Association has given a clear undertaking that its members could carry out painlessly the tattoing registration process and supply the necessary documentation to a central register, be it controlled by Government bureacracy or, as I would prefer, by the BVA itself or the Kennel Club.

The hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) thought that the fee proposed in the new clause was too high. In the context of the £200 to £300 that it costs to keep a dog properly fed and in receipt of proper veterinary care an additional £10 licence fee is not a great deal to pay in return for the service that would be provided by registration. Considerable distress is caused to even the most responsible of dog owners whose animals go astray. Dogs go after bitches in heat and the families live in considerable anxiety, often for some time, not knowing where the dog is, although it may be in safe care but unidentified. Registration would be a control factor and would also be of considerable value to dog owners. That is recognised by dog owners, of whom I am one.

I said in Committee that I would table a new clause. I studied carefully the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Perry Barr. As I have said, I do not believe that it is perfect, but it is worthy of support from both sides of the House. This is not a party political matter. The new clause has sufficient meat in it to enable my hon. and learned Friend to think again and come back with suitable amendments. I hope that in another place the noble Lords will consider what has been said in this debate and in Committee and will introduce the necessary amendments. I look forward to supporting those Lords amendments when they come to this House.

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Michael Howard)

This has been an extremely interesting debate. The House has benefited particularly from the historical perspectives that were brought to our consideration of the issues by my hon. Friends the Members for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) and for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin), who gave us the benefit of their experience, drew to the attention of the House the shifting sands of the different policies that Governments and Oppositions of both political parties have adopted on the matter in the past, and spoke of some of the surprises that they encountered when they first took on their responsibilities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, who has explained why he cannot be with us, was a little unfair when he said that the Government were guilty of the same sin as the Labour Government in their consideration of the matter. He reminded the House that he, from the Opposition Benches, had espoused a policy similar to that espoused by the Opposition during our deliberations yesterday and today, but the Government then had refused to take action. That accusation cannot be levelled against this Government. We have decided to take action. We have decided to do away once and for all with the nonsense of the existing system, which has not found any friend on either side of the House during the debate. It is true, of course, that we have not achieved unanimous support for the action that we propose, but one cannot have everything.

There is far from being unanimity amongst our critics. In Committee there were at least four different proposals as to what the Government should do. I judge that during the debate almost as many alternatives have been advanced as there have been hon. Members who have spoken. We have heard proposals for a national system, a "Swansea for dogs", as it was aptly described by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden). The Opposition propose a system under which local authorities would be free to determine the licence fee within prescribed limits. We have had the idea of local schemes, with a nationally determined licence fee, index-linked. We have also heard about what was described as a simple system, with licences and tags on sale in corner shops and post offices.

None of those proposals addresses two fundamental points. The first, which is crucial to consideration of the issue, is that we do not need a licensing system to have an effective body of law covering the control and welfare of dogs. I shall not weary the House by listing again the various elements that exist in the present law. Indeed, a large number of them were put before the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), to whose persistence and diligence in the pursuit of his campaign I pay tribute. None of the extensive range of legislation in existence, and none of the need for action to be taken, depends in any way upon licensing.

Mr. Andrew Bowden

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that if the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) were brought into operation, with the exemptions that it allows, approximately one third of dogs would not need a licence? Therefore, the whole basis of what the hon. Gentleman is trying to achieve would fail. What we need is an effective identification scheme, not a licensing scheme.

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend's estimate sounds reasonable, but I cannot confirm it precisely. His point is accurate. Of course, there is an identification scheme in the law as it stands. Under the Control of Dogs Order 1930 a dog must wear a collar with a plate or disc attached, bearing the owner's name and address, when it is on a highway or in a public place. The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of up to £2,000. So the law is there. What no one has yet been able to establish during the debate is why a different law, designed to achieve the same objective, will be any more effective.

Mr. Tony Banks

I do not understand. The Minister has said that if a dog in a public place does not have the necessary identification, a fine of £2,000 is applicable. If the dog does not have any means of identification, how can the law be enforced?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman, with his customary shrewdness, has identified a difficulty in enforcing the present law. It is not a difficulty that is unique to the present law. That difficulty would be unique to any system of registration and licensing. If a dog that was found did not carry any means of identification, the very same difficulty that the hon. Gentleman has so shrewdly identified would arise, regardless of the system in force.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Does the Minister accept that if resources are available it is likely that fewer dogs will be left unregistered and that the consequential activities could be carried out more effectively? If no money is derived from a licence, no such resources will be available.

Mr. Howard

I believe that that is a highly optimistic assessment. It is unrealistic to suppose that the resources that would become available—especially as a result of the new clause tabled by the Opposition, and subject to the limits that were pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown — would he anything like sufficient to provide an effective system along the lines suggested by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hughes

The sum of £40 million would be raised.

Mr. Howard

I do not accept that estimate. One must bear in mind the limitations described by my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown.

Mr. Rooker

There are 6 million dogs.

Mr. Howard

I do not believe that the hon. Member for Birmingham Perry Barr, (Mr. Rooker) understood the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown.

Local authorities are free to appoint dog wardens, and many of them do so. I am happy to confirm the undertaking that I gave in Committee. In fact, the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) did not get it right when he reported it to the House this afternoon. I did not undertake to take powers away from the police and give them to local authorities. I gave an undertaking to consider giving local authorities additional powers parallel to those that the police presently hold. We are considering that undertaking, and if we come to the conclusion that that would be a sensible thing to do we shall take the appropriate steps in another place.

If we consider the examples that were given by the hon. Member for Perry Barr during the debate yesterday evening, we can appreciate that the system that he has advocated would not get to grips with the problem. The House will recall that the hon. Gentleman gave us a vivid example of the postman who, having been bitten, had to return to the house to deliver a letter of complaint to the householder. In those circumstances, there was no difficulty in identifying the owner of the dog. I fail to see how things are improved if, in addition to having to return to the house to deliver a letter of complaint from the head postmaster, the postman has to make another visit, either before or after the incident—indeed, it may provoke a further incident—to deliver the licence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) described, with an emotion that was more moving for its restraint, the effect on his child of toxicariasis. No one would seek to underestimate the significance of that disease, which causes about. 50 cases of eye damage every year. The risks can be reduced by regular wormings of dogs and the exclusion of clogs from children's play areas. Local authorities have the power to impose such a ban. Here again, the problem is not affected by the existence of a licence.

The second fundamental point that the alternative proposals fail to address is enforceability and the consequence of a large increase in the licence fee. We can reasonably assume that the responsible and caring owner would buy a licence. However, it is by no means certain, to put it mildly, that there would be a significant effect on the irresponsible and careless owner. Presently, that latter group do not pay a fee of 37p, and it seems rather optimistic to suppose that they would more likely to pay a fee of £10 or £20. That assumption is at the heart of the various new clauses that have been tabled.

Mr. Marlow

With respect to my hon. and learned Friend, he must decide whether he is the chicken or the egg with regard to this argument. If a scheme is set up on the grounds advocated by the Opposition Front Bench there will be the necessary resources to pay for a system of dog wardens. That system of dog wardens would enforce registration, licensing and the collection of the fees. Therefore, the money would be available to ensure that those who do not pay the licence fee would be required to do so in the future.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Look at Northern Ireland.

5.45 pm
Mr. Howard

I can only return to the answer that I gave earlier. I believe that it is wildly optimistic to suppose that the dog wardens who might be appointed in the circumstances that we are presently discussing would be able to clean up the dog mess, which has proved so tantalising to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), deal with dangerous dogs, which have bitten postmen and others, deal with stray dogs, and deal with those owners who do not license their dogs.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey referred to Northern Ireland, but I believe that experience in the Province has demonstrated that the licensing fee has not had any significant effect on the number of stray dogs that have been found and impounded. The experience in Northern Ireland does not support the argument.

Mr. Marlow

I know that my hon. and learned Friend is defending a prepared position, but before he reaches any conclusion about what measures to introduce in another place will he consider the scheme that is employed in the Medway towns? My hon. and learned Friend said that the dog wardens would be unable to cure all the ills and problems, but in those towns, which have an effective system of dog wardens, those problems have been resolved. It can be done.

Mr. Howard

If such problems can be resolved in the Medway towns without the imposition of a licence, I do not see why they cannot be resolved elsewhere without such a licence.

The local authorities are perfectly capable of dealing with the matter. If they have the necessary money as a result of economy in other areas—this is the case with councils in the Medway towns and there is no reason why councils elsewhere should not practice similar economies — they can use such available resources as are considered appropriate by their residents and voters to deal with that problem.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Does the Minister believe that the objectives for which he has expressed support and which are commonly supported by the House—cleaning up dog mess, rescuing strays and the advancement of animal welfare—would be more, or less, likely to be advanced by the collection of £10 per dog? That collected sum could be £40 million. Are the objectives more, or less, likely to be advantaged by that available money?

Mr. Howard

That is not by any means the only question, because a question of fairness enters into this matter. The real question is whether the burden of paying for the necessary measures to deal with the problems should rest upon all ratepayers or community charge payers in an area, or simply upon those dog owners who are responsible enough to pay and who therefore shoulder the burden that those dog owners who are sufficiently irresponsible not to pay are not prepared to shoulder.

Mr. Simon Hughes


Mr. Gale


Mr. Howard

I have given way twice to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey and I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North.

Mr. Gale

A few moments ago, in response to a sedentary intervention, my hon. and learned Friend referred to the situation in Northern Ireland and suggested that there had been virtually no reduction in the number of strays. I am certain that my hon. and learned Friend would not wish to mislead the House. Therefore, he should consider what the director of the Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said: In the years following the new legislation in Northern Ireland, the number of dogs licensed increased by almost 60 per cent. over the years immediately preceding the changeover. Significantly, the number of dogs destroyed has also decreased considerably. There are generally far fewer strays roaming the streets". Is my hon. Friend saying that the director of the Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is wrong?

Mr. Howard

I am saying that the information available to my hon. Friend is different from that with which I have been supplied, so I cannot take that aspect of the matter further. What happened in Northern Ireland, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North will know, is that, when the working party was set up in 1976, it examined various matters and came to the conclusion that there was a particular problem in Northern Ireland which was much more serious than that which existed in the rest of the United Kingdom, so special measures had to be taken there.

It is easy to identify, to wax eloquent upon and to be extremely witty and amusing about the various aspects of nuisance which have been, and are caused by, dogs in this country. That has played a prominent part in the speech of every hon. Member who has taken part in this debate, but it is not really the issue before the House, which is: given that local authorities have powers to deal with this matter and that we are prepared to consider extending those powers, should the resources that may be necessary to deal with it be provided by all the people of the area concerned, or by responsible dog owners, who are at present a minority of dog owners? There is no great positive basis for supposing that the number of people who would take out a licence if the fee were increased would increase. I invite the House to take the view that this would be an undue burden to place on responsible dog owners, which is why I ask the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Rooker

The Minister's response at the end of his speech was interesting. He rehearsed the argument about whether dog owners should fund the dog warden scheme, and contradicted the whole thrust of the Government's view on introducing charges for services — that those who use a service should pay for it. That argument is implicit in the Opposition's new clause, yet on this occasion the Government are rejecting it. So they are contradicting their stance on other matters.

There is no requirement for the whole dog warden service to be funded by the licence. The new clause states that the money raised shall be allocated by the authority to the funding of a dog warden service". The point is that all the money from the licence must be used for funding the dog warden service, which does not stop a local authority adding to that money from its own resources. We would not want money from the dog licence to be used on other local authority services if there was no adequate dog warden scheme. I have made the point, as has every hon. Member on both sides of the House who has supported the new clause, that having a licence will not of itself solve the problem. The discussion has been about how to obtain the resources to assist in solving what is, by common consent, a major problem.

I accept that—with the exclusions—we would not obtain, say, £10 per dog for the 6 million dogs in this country. We are not looking for £60 million. About 2 million dogs might be excluded, which would yield £40 million. If half the dog owners pay the licence, we will end up with £20 million. That is a lot more than the £900,000 that we get from today's dog licence, which represents a negative cost because one has to pay £3.5 million to collect it.

Mr. Cryer

The Minister put the curious argument that an increase in the cost of a dog licence would not affect those who evade payment. The Government never use that argument against increasing the television licence fee. I have never heard them argue that the television licence fee cannot be increased because that will not encourage people to pay the licence. It is absurd.

Mr. Rooker

That is right. This is an area in which the Government have abdicated their responsibilities. The Minister's speech showed that. He admitted that the Government had no answer. He tried to come up with an answer — that dogs will still require collars in public places under the law, and that failure to wear them will attract a fine. So the next time we find dogs in public places, we will tell them that they are not supposed to be there without collars, or they will be subject to fines. It would be better if the dog warden took the dogs in hand, being funded to do so by those who paid the licence.

The new clause is not a perfect solution. I said in Committee that we should return to the matter on Report so that the House could make the decision. When the Opposition propose what is, by any stretch of the imagination, a substantial increase in taxation, it is an unwise Government who do not accept that gift and realise that they can, perhaps, obtain something from it. However, that is the Government's problem.

I do not accept the Minister's argument—I have said this before, and I shall keep on saying it—that there is justification in having a dog warden scheme that is wholly funded by the poll tax. That will be the result if the dog licence is abolished. I hope that the other place will examine the matter and give us another opportunity to debate it.

Having or not having a dog licence, at whatever cost, is not by any means a central plank of Government economic policy. The seriousness of the problem caused by dogs, which was illustrated last night and earlier today, has warranted a few hours' discussion. The House has spent fewer than three hours on the issue, and all that time has been warranted. What is not warranted and will not be understood by the public is the fact that we must have a whipped vote. I sincerely believe that if there were a free vote and the House could decide this matter, we would vote to impose a dog licence of some sort to run a dog warden scheme of some sort, and I should he delighted at that.

I invite Conservative Members to join us. This is not an issue on which the Government will fall; it is not a matter of confidence. It is not like the poll tax; it is not a massive issue that will cause trouble with the Whips. I ask Conservative Members for once to do something to benefit their constituents. The new clause is not perfect, but it will force the Government to re-examine the issue in another place.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 229, Noes 286.

Division No. 113] [5.55 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Eastham, Ken
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Allen, Graham Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Alton, David Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Anderson, Donald Fatchett, Derek
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Fearn, Ronald
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Ashdown, Paddy Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Ashton, Joe Flannery, Martin
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Flynn, Paul
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Fookes, Miss Janet
Barron, Kevin Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Battle, John Foster, Derek
Beckett, Margaret Fraser, John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Galbraith, Samuel
Bermingham, Gerald Gale, Roger
Blair, Tony Galloway, George
Boateng, Paul Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Bowis, John Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Boyes, Roland George, Bruce
Bradley, Keith Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Godman, Dr Norman A.
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Gordon, Ms Mildred
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Gould, Bryan
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Buchan, Norman Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Buckley, George Grocott, Bruce
Caborn, Richard Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Callaghan, Jim Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Haynes, Frank
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Heffer, Eric S.
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Henderson, Douglas
Clay, Bob Hinchlifle, David
Clelland, David Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Home Robertson, John
Cohen, Harry Hood, James
Coleman, Donald Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Corbett, Robin Howells, Geraint
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoyle, Doug
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cox, Tom Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Cummings, J. Hughes, Simon (Southward)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Dr John Ingram, Adam
Dalyell, Tarn Irving, Charles
Darling, Alastair Janner, Greville
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) John, Brynmor
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dewar, Donald Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Dixon, Don Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Dobson, Frank Kennedy, Charles
Doran, Frank Kilfedder, James
Dover, Den Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Dunnachie, James Kirkwood, Archy
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Lambie, David
Eadie, Alexander Lamond, James
Leighton, Ron Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles) Reid, John
Lewis, Terry Richardson, Ms Jo
Litherland, Robert Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Livingstone, Ken Robinson, Geoffrey
Livsey, Richard Rogers, Allan
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rooker, Jeff
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Loyden, Eddie Rossi, Sir Hugh
McAllion, John Rowlands, Ted
McCartney, Ian Ruddock, Ms Joan
Macdonald, Calum Sedgemore, Brian
McFall, John Sheerman, Barry
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McKelvey, William Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McLeish, Henry Short, Clare
McTaggart, Bob Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Madden, Max Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Marek, Dr John Snape, Peter
Marlow, Tony Soley, Clive
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Spearing, Nigel
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Steel, Rt Hon David
Martin, Michael (Springburn) Steinberg, Gerald
Martlew, Eric Stott, Roger
Maxton, John Strang, Gavin
Meacher, Michael Straw, Jack
Meale, Alan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Michael, Alun Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Thomas, Dafydd Elis
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Turner, Dennis
Moonie, Dr Lewis Vaz, Keith
Morgan, Rhodri Wall, Pat
Morley, Elliott Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe) Walley, Ms Joan
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie Wareing, Robert N.
Mullin, Chris Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Murphy, Paul Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Nellist, Dave Wiggin, Jerry
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wigley, Dafydd
O'Brien, William Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
O'Neill, Martin Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wilson, Brian
Parry, Robert Winnick, David
Patchett, Terry Winterton, Mrs Ann
Pendry, Tom Wise, Mrs Audrey
Pike, Peter Worthington, Anthony
Prescott, John Wray, James
Primarolo, Ms Dawn Young, David (Bolton SE)
Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, Giles Tellers for the Ayes:
Raffan, Keith Mr. Ray Powell and
Randall, Stuart Mrs. Llin Golding.
Redmond, Martin
Adley, Robert Bevan, David Gilroy
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Biffen, Rt Hon John
Allason, Rupert Blackburn, Dr John G.
Amess, David Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Amos, Alan Body, Sir Richard
Arbuthnot, James Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boswell, Tim
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Bottomley, Peter
Ashby, David Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Aspinwall, Jack Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Atkins, Robert Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Atkinson, David Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Baldry, Tony Brazier, Julian
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's
Batiste, Spencer Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Bellingham, Henry Budgen, Nicholas
Bendall, Vivian Burns, Simon
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Burt, Alistair
Benyon, W. Butler, Chris
Butterfill, John Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Carrington, Matthew Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Carttiss, Michael Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cash, William Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Irvine, Michael
Chapman, Sydney Jack, Michael
Chope, Christopher Jackson, Robert
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Janman, Timothy
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jessel, Toby
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Colvin, Michael Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Conway, Derek Key, Robert
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Kirkhope, Timothy
Cope, John Knapman, Roger
Cormack, Patrick Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Couchman, James Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Cran, James Knowles, Michael
Critchley, Julian Knox, David
Currie, Mrs Edwina Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Lang, Ian
Davis, David (Boothferry) Latham, Michael
Day, Stephen Lawrence, Ivan
Dicks, Terry Lee, John (Pendle)
Dorrell, Stephen Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dunn, Bob Lightbown, David
Durant, Tony Lilley, Peter
Eggar, Tim Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Emery, Sir Peter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lord, Michael
Fallon, Michael Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Farr, Sir John Macfarlane, Neil
Fenner, Dame Peggy MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Maclean, David
Forman, Nigel McLoughlin, Patrick
Forth, Eric McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Fox, Sir Marcus Major, Rt Hon John
Freeman, Roger Malins, Humfrey
French, Douglas Mans, Keith
Fry, Peter Maples, John
Gardiner, George Marland, Paul
Gill, Christopher Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Glyn, Dr Alan Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Maude, Hon Francis
Goodlad, Alastair Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mellor, David
Gow, Ian Miller, Hal
Gower, Sir Raymond Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Monro, Sir Hector
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Greenway, John (Rydale) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Gregory, Conal Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Grist, Ian Moss, Malcolm
Ground, Patrick Moynihan, Hon C.
Grylls, Michael Mudd, David
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Neale, Gerrard
Hampson, Dr Keith Nelson, Anthony
Hanley, Jeremy Neubert, Michael
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Newton, Tony
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Nicholls, Patrick
Harris, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hawkins, Christopher Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Hayes, Jerry Onslow, Cranley
Hayward, Robert Oppenheim, Phillip
Heathcoat-Amory, David Page, Richard
Heddle, John Paice, James
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Patnick, Irvine
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Patten, Chris (Bath)
Hill, James Pawsey, James
Hind, Kenneth Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Holt, Richard Porter, David (Waveney)
Hordern, Sir Peter Portillo, Michael
Howard, Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Price, Sir David
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Sumberg, David
Rathbone, Tim Summerson, Hugo
Redwood, John Tapsell, Sir Peter
Renton, Tim Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Rhodes James, Robert Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Riddick, Graham Temple-Morris, Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Thornton, Malcolm
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Thurnham, Peter
Roe, Mrs Marion Townend, John (Bridlington)
Rost, Peter Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Rowe, Andrew Tracey, Richard
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Tredinnick, David
Ryder, Richard Trotter, Neville
Sackville, Hon Tom Twinn, Dr Ian
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Waddington, Rt Hon David
Scott, Nicholas Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Shaw, David (Dover) Waldegrave, Hon William
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Walden, George
Shelton, William (Streatham) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Waller, Gary
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Walters, Dennis
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Ward, John
Shersby, Michael Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Sims, Roger Warren, Kenneth
Skeet, Sir Trevor Watts, John
Skinner, Dennis Wells, Bowen
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wheeler, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Whitney, Ray
Soames, Hon Nicholas Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Speller, Tony Wilshire, David
Spicer, Jim (Dorset VI) Wolfson, Mark
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wood, Timothy
Squire, Robin Woodcock, Mike
Stanbrook, Ivor Yeo, Tim
Steen, Anthony Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stern, Michael Younger, Rt Hon George
Stevens, Lewis
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N) Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

Question accordingly negatived.

  1. New Clause 6
    1. cc961-5
  2. Clause 1
    1. cc965-84
    2. DEFINED AUTHORITIES 10,464 words, 1 division
  3. Clause 2
    1. c984
    2. DEFINED ACTIVITIES 324 words
  4. Clause 7
    1. cc984-5
    2. THE CONDITIONS 93 words
  5. Clause 8
    1. cc985-6
  6. Clause 17
    1. c986
  7. Clause 18
    1. cc986-7
  8. Clause 20
    1. c987
  9. Clause 27
    1. cc987-1038
  10. Clause 31
    1. c1038
    3. cc1039-43
    4. Local Government Bill 2,734 words, 1 division
    5. cc1044-65
    6. Rate Support Grant (Wales) 12,073 words
    7. c1065
    9. c1065
    10. Liaison Committee 71 words
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