HC Deb 10 June 1991 vol 192 cc606-41

12. Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) shall not apply to this Order.

I can explain quite briefly why the Government have tabled this timetable motion for the Dangerous Dogs Bill, as well as outline how it provides for proceedings on the Bill today to be conducted. I shall not say much about the substance of the Bill—that will be for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State in subsequent speeches.

I made it clear in the course of Business Questions last Thursday, when I announced the timetable motion, why the Government consider it essential to get this Bill through its Commons stages as quickly as possible. Our constituents, the country as a whole, but, most of all, those who have been affected by the menace of fighting dogs, or who go in fear of them, would not forgive us if we failed to get legislation to control those deadly animals in place at the earliest possible opportunity.

The House knows that, following the consultation paper published in June last year, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had made it clear that he would be bringing forward proposals this summer—that is, of course, in relation to other than fighting dogs. It obviously makes sense now to include in the Bill the new offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place, and the power for the courts to specify measures, including muzzling, to be taken to control any dog considered likely to be dangerous. The Bill also provides, in clause 2, additional reserve powers for the Secretary of State to deal with other types of dog that present a serious danger to the public. But it is for the provisions on pit bull terriers and other fighting dogs in clause 1 that speed is so necessary.

We intend that almost all the criminal offences should come into force very quickly after the Bill becomes law. Once the Bill is enacted, it will be an offence to breed those dogs, sell them, give them away, advertise them for sale or exchange or as a gift, abandon them, or let them stray. It will be an offence not to have those dogs on a lead and muzzled. It will also be an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place.

Those are vital parts of the Bill which we need to have in place for the summer, particularly in relation to breeding and having the dogs on a lead and muzzled. That is fully set out in clause 1(2). The Bill therefore needs to pass through all its stages if we are to achieve that by the summer recess.

It is also essential that we put in place as quickly as possible the compensation and exemption schemes so that owners who wish to have their dogs put down and seek compensation and those who wish to retain their dogs, subject to very strict conditions, should be able to do that before the offence of possessing a prohibited dog comes into force on 30 November.

Indeed, I suspect that many members of the public who do not understand the technicalities of these matters may be puzzled and concerned as to why they have to wait that long—till 30 November—before the full provisions of the Bill are in place relating to the putting down of all dogs not licensed, the neutering of those that are licensed, and public protection and compensation through insurance.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Of course, the Government could have acted earlier. Is not it unique for a guillotine motion to be moved by the Government when there is very broad support for the Bill on Opposition Benches? In itself, that is a unique measure. Is not the truth —if the Leader of the House really wishes to be honest about it—that he fears that there is growing support on his side, as well as, obviously, on this side, for a dog registration scheme, which, for some odd reason, the Government are refusing to support?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall refer briefly to the dog registration aspect in relation to the guillotine in a moment, but the detailed issues of dog registration are for a later debate. I will certainly deal with that matter in a moment, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for acknowledging that this is a unique measure and that it has support across the House. That is an important point which I shall address in a moment in relation to the timetable motion.

Mr. Winnick

The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. What I said was that it was unique for the Government to introduce a guillotine motion when there is broad support for the Bill.

Mr. MacGregor

All right. To take up exactly the hon. Gentleman's point, I am grateful that he regards it that way. However, as I shall make clear in a moment, even if there is widespread support for the Bill throughout the House, a timetable motion is necessary if we are to achieve the timetable for the implementation of the Bill that I have outlined. I shall come to that issue at the appropriate point in my remarks.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

As the Home Secretary wants to rush this Bill through, and as people out there with pit bull terriers have told Members of Parliament, including myself, that they cannot get insurance for their dogs, will the Leader of the House have a word with the Home Secretary? If there will not be much time to debate the matter, before the Leader of the House sits down he ought, having had a word with the Home Secretary, to tell the House, in the short time available, which insurance firms are prepared to take on the insurance of these dogs. People out there want to know.

Mr. MacGregor

That is a fair point, but I do not believe that it is one for the timetable motion. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will deal with that matter. There will be plenty of time during the proceedings later today for him to do so, and I am sure that he will.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

My right hon. Friend is appealing to the members of the public, many of whom will be unable to understand why the legislation cannot come into force immediately. Is it not both his and the Government's job to explain to those many members of the public that legislation is best conducted slowly and by the normal rules, and also to explain that that is the way in which the interests of minorities who are affected are best safeguarded?

Mr. MacGregor

I hope to come shortly to that passage in my speech which explains exactly why we are endeavouring to get the Bill on the statute book as quickly as possible, which I am confident is what the public want, and yet provide enough time for debate to ensure that those interests are safeguarded.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

While the Leader of the House goes about explaining all this, will he also tell the general public why it was that, when the provisions that are in front of the House today were in front of the House in March 1990, the Government voted them down? If there is such great enthusiasm for this Bill, why did the Government not support the amendment to the Environmental Protection Bill that would have met all the demands that are now included in this Bill?

Mr. MacGregor

I think that we are now getting to the substance of the Bill. These are certainly points that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will happily take up on Second Reading. I am anxious to stick to explaining the urgency of the Bill and the manner in which we are endeavouring to achieve its implementation, not to go over all the details of the Bill. That, I believe, would he self-defeating.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

Although I recognise the need for speed, I called on the Government to ban the import of pit bull terriers eight years ago. It is a pity that they did not take my advice at that time. Although we recognise the need for speed, it is essential that the Bill should become an effective instrument. A number of people have observed deficiences in it—for example, one in clause 4 that needs to be put right. The need for speed should not remove the need for accuracy in legislation that we pass in this place.

Mr. MacGregor

I had hoped to deal with that point also at the appropriate place in my argument, but let me deal with it now. There will be opportunities in the House, during what will effectively be a two-day debate, to deal with all these issues. All the amendments are in front of us. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has gone through them all. There will also be opportunities in the other place. Furthermore, if necessary, the Bill can return to this place.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

Will the Leader of the House give way?

Mr. MacGregor

Before I give way again—I have done so very generously—may I finish the point that I was raising?

Many members of the public may well be puzzled and concerned about why we have to wait until 30 November before those parts of the Bill that relate to the putting down of dogs and to the introduction of the new system for fighting dogs are in place. Of course, the House understands why we must wait until 30 November—

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

If I may, I shall finish my argument first.

To many people, when they know that these fighting dogs will still be around, 30 November looks a long time away. I do not know what position the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) took when the dogs were first allowed to be imported, but that was when the pass was sold. It was a considerable time ago, under a previous Government.

Two points are worth spelling out in detail so that everyone, not only in the House but in the country, fully appreciates the need for speed. Here I wish to respond to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen).

First, there must be a reasonable period for owners to make their decisions about the alternative course of action that they wish to pursue, then to complete the necessary procedures. That period can begin only when Royal Assent has been achieved. This is based on the assumption that Royal Assent will be given by the summer—hence the need to get Royal Assent as quickly as possible. Otherwise, these provisions may not be in place until the end of February next year. I believe that we would be open to justifiable criticism—

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

The right hon. Gentleman does not believe a word of it.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman obviously does not understand. These are simple, straightforward facts. This is the basis on which the decision has been taken. If the House of Commons and the other place decided to adopt these measures as a protection for the public, we would be open to justifiable criticism if we subjected innocent citizens to the risk of further serious injury for those additional months.

That brings me to the second point: why is it necessary to timetable the Bill this week to meet the deadline of achieving Royal Assent by the summer recess? As I worked the timetable back, it became clear to me that it was necessary to get the Bill to the House of Lords before the end of this week. The reason for that is that it would not be possible to abbreviate the customary procedures in the House of Lords. Given also the possibility—which I must take into account—of further exchanges between the House of Lords and the House of Commons after the Lords have completed their consideration of the Bill, that target of passing the Bill effectively sets itself, if we are to be sure of meeting the target of Royal Assent by the summer recess.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

Has my right hon. Friend taken note of the fact that his arguments almost perfectly match those on the Football Spectators Bill? We were told that there was an imperative need to pass that Bill or terrible things would happen. A monkey was made of the House. Should we not treat this Bill a little more cautiously than my right hon. Friend has suggested?

Mr. MacGregor

If my hon. Friend does not want the Bill to be passed, he can advance his arguments against aspects of it on Second Reading and in Committee. He seems to be doubtful whether we should consider the Bill quickly. I believe that that is not the view that the country will take, that it wants the measure put on the statute book quickly. What is more—

Mr. Harry Ewing


Mr. MacGregor

Let me finish this point.

It was clear during questions on several business statements that I have made in recent weeks, particularly in the exchanges last Thursday, that the Bill has the support of everyone in the House. That is an important aspect of the Bill.

Mr. Ewing

Is the Leader of the House aware that I am angry at the fact that he chose 30 November as the implementation date of the Bill? Is he aware that that is St. Andrew's day? The Home Secretary has made such a dog's breakfast of this issue that we should implement the Bill on his birthday, if only to commemorate his ineptitude and incompetence.

Mr. MacGregor

As one who attended St. Andrew's university, I regard that as a feeble point. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman might be pleased that everything to ensure the protection of the public would be in operation by that date.

Mr. Budgen

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the constant appeals to popular opinion will stick in some of our throats? Is it not his job to explain to popular opinion that the normal legislative procedures give safeguards to everybody who might be concerned, especially in this case, where there is the strong suspicion that the Government might be legislating simply as a result of pressure from popular newspapers? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that there should be a proper gap between Second Reading and Committee stage, so that those who have seen the Government change their position on many occasions will have a proper opportunity to put forward their views and to explain why the Government may be wrong in some details?

Mr. MacGregor

By being as quick as I can, I hope that I shall be able to give my hon. Friend and the other hon. Members who wish to explain their views the opportunity to do so. I totally reject the view that the Bill has been introduced in response to pressure from some popular newspapers. It has been introduced in response to widespread public concern, which is totally shared by all members of the Government, at some of the recent incidents in which innocent people have been injured by pit bull terriers. As a party to the introduction of the Bill and being strongly in favour of it, I have been motivated by the thought that more innocent people—children and adults —might be—

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)


Mr. 'Terry Lewis (Worsley)


Hon. Members


Mr. MacGregor

I thought that we might hear something like that today.

We have a duty to protect the public from fighting dogs. We can all think of what could happen to innocent citizens. Given that that is the decision that we have reached, it seems right to proceed with the Bill speedily, so that we can achieve our objective of protecting the public. That is not only the view of some popular newspapers; it is widespread in the House.

Mr. Michael J. Martin


Mr. Lewis


Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)


Mr. MacGregor

Although I must get on, I shall give way to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who has not yet intervened.

Mr. Maclennan

Does not the Leader of the House recognise that his argument about the need to have the matter concluded before the summer recess would carry some credibility if he had approached the Opposition parties about a sensible timetable motion, instead of simply tabling something without any consultation? The only approach to my party concerned the sensitive question of registration and our attitude to it.

Mr. MacGregor

The Government had to take into account the timetable that I am still outlining. So far, I have dealt only with the point about protecting the public from attacks by fighting dogs. I have two other points to make in relation—

Mr. Michael J. Martin


Mr. Lewis


Mr. MacGregor

I must be allowed to answer. I am halfway through a sentence in response to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. If hon. Members continue to interrupt my speech, I shall not give way to them, because they are being most unfair. I have two other points to make about the need for speed.

In the timetable motion, we have responded to the desire not only of the Opposition but of many hon. Members for another debate on dog registration and have taken that desire fully into account. However, when engaging in discussions with all concerned about not having any timetable motion, I have also had to bear in mind the fact that we all know of the risk that it might not be possible to ensure that everything that has been agreed between the usual channels will be adhered to unless we have a timetable motion. I have been trying to meet what I know are the wishes of the House, while also achieving speed. As we do not want to spend all our time on this point, perhaps I can now be allowed to get on with the arguments with which I should like to finish my speech.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. MacGregor

I am not giving way for the moment. I am sorry, but I must get on.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. As a great many hon. Members wish to participate in the Second Reading debate, it might be helpful if we could now get on.

Mr. MacGregor

There are further reasons why speed is essential. There is clearly a danger that those involved in the breeding of fighting dogs may seek to make the maximum use of any time that remains before the Bill reaches the statute book, so we want the Bill to be enacted as soon as possible, before there are large numbers of additional prohibited dogs.

Another more technical reason for speed concerns the import ban. As the House knows, an import ban on these fighting dogs was introduced when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made his statement to the House. Maintaining an import ban without a corresponding domestic ban would place us in breach of our international obligations. We must therefore underwrite the import ban by putting the domestic controls in place as soon as possible.

Those who sit on the Opposition Front Bench have said that they will co-operate in getting the Bill through the House quickly to meet the deadline to which I have already referred. That, however, does not guarantee the necessary speed. Even if most hon. Members say that they will co-operate in dealing with the Bill speedily, and those who have spoken so far have taken that view, the Government must be sure, in the interests of protecting the public, that the House as a whole meets the deadline.

Moreover, we have other vital business to get through this week, and a Supply day. We have a commitment to the Opposition, and to the House in general, to the number of Supply days in the Session, and I need to find regular time to fulfil the commitment. I have been making it clear to the House for some time that we have a great deal of business to complete before we can rise for the summer recess. As it is, I can hold out no prospect of the House rising as early as I have sometimes seen suggested in the press.

As for the arguments that the timetable motion will prevent adequate time for debate on the Bill, the fact is that the motion provides for broadly the equivalent of two days to consider the Bill. I believe that that achieves the right balance between speed to meet our deadline and the time which would be required, as suggested in the discussions that we have had through the usual channels, to cover the Bill's provisions in sufficient detail. The timetable motion thus provides a reasonable amount of time overall for the various stages of the Bill's consideration.

It may help hon. Members if I briefly explain the motion's main provisions. Paragraph 1 provides for Second Reading to end at 10 pm. Io line with the procedure motion agreed by the House last Thursday, the money resolution that is necessary for the Bill may then be considered. Under normal Standing Orders, that is exempted business for a maximum of 45 minutes, but time not spent on the money resolution will present additional time for consideration in Committee.

Paragraph 2(3) provides for consideration in Committee to conclude at 3 am, so we have provided for a reasonable amount of time to debate the amendments that have been tabled. We have been told already—the point has already been made by more than one hon. Member—that the Bill has broad all-party support, and it has been made clear that most hon. Members are keen to expedite discussion. With the timetable motion, we have provided a framework within which that discussion can take place.

The Opposition made it clear that they expected a debate on dog registration, and we have specifically provided for it. Other hon. Members have said that they want the issue debated, and that is a further reason why we have made separate provision for it in the terms of the timetable motion. Paragraphs 2(1) and (2) make separate provision for new clauses on dog registration.

I must make it clear, however, that the Government's view of dog registration has not changed. The Bill is designed to control and, with the passage of time, eliminate from our society fighting dogs, which represent an unacceptable menace to innocent people. For this purpose, and for the additional controls on dogs of other types which show themselves to be a serious danger to the public, dog registration is irrelevant. The Bill is about eliminating fighting dogs from our society, not about registering them.

Dame Elaine Kellet-Bowman (Lancaster)

Admittedly, the Bill is about dangerous dogs. We all accept that they are dangerous to human beings, and we want to eliminate them. We want also, however, to have some control over animals that are a menace to livestock, and a dog registration scheme would help farmers in dealing with the problem of sheep worrying.

Mr. MacGregor

I do not believe that to be true. What matters are controls on fighting dogs, dangerous dogs and individual dogs, and that is what the Bill is about. There are many instances in which dogs of the sort to which my hon. Friend refers would not be registered. I do not see the relevance of registration. I am saying, however, that the timetable motion allows reasonable time for yet another discussion of the issue.

We have debated dog registration several times during this Parliament. It was debated by both Houses when they considered the Local Government Act 1988. Last year, in the context of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it was debated twice in this place and twice in another place. I do not think that there are any grounds for complaint that insufficient time has been given to the issue in the House, and we are providing for it specifically again today.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Does the Leader of the House accept that the complaint is not about a lack of debate in the past, but that this Parliament passed an amendment to section 37 of the Local Government Act 1988 empowering the Government to act on producing a dog registration scheme? The powers have been consistently ignored from the moment that the Minister responsible said that, even if Parliament accepted the amendment, he would be ignoring those powers. That is outrageous. Hence our concern for a dog registration scheme.

Mr. MacGregor

There is a distinction on many issues between giving powers and deciding that the moment has come to operate or use them. We have made consistently clear all the way through our position on dog registration.

Paragraph 3 of the timetable motion brings Report stage, if amendments are passed which need to be reported, and Third Reading to a conclusion by 4 am. I do not think it is necessary for me to consider all the remaining provisions in the timetable motion.

Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacGregor

Yes, but for the last time.

Miss Hoey

Does not the Leader of the House agree that many members of the public wish to see the Bill approved as soon as possible, but, given our long holidays, they do not accept that we have to debate such an important issue at 4 o'clock in the morning? Is not that nonsense?

Mr. MacGregor

I hope that the hon. Lady is not suggesting that the long recess is a holiday for all hon. Members; clearly, it is not. Every time a suggestion of that kind is made, someone picks it up. I shall respond by pointing out that the vast majority, if not all, hon. Members have pretty short holidays and work on other matters during the recess.

When deciding the date of the recess and considering how quickly we can reach it—I have already warned that it is a considerable time away, and that earlier suggestions in the press were not correct—I have to take into account the pressures, not least from the hon. Lady's hon. Friends, to rise in time to enable hon. Members to go on holiday with their families. If the hon. Lady wishes to check that, she has only to consider the representations that are made to me if and when the House sits into August.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall give way for the last time.

Mr. Dickens

That is generous of my right hon. Friend, especially because he said that he would not give way again.

As surely as night follows day, the timetable motion will be secured. Would we not do ourselves, you, Mr. Speaker, and the ladies and gentlemen of the press a favour if we accepted the opening speech, stayed in our places and voted on the timetable motion? We would save about three hours of our own time if we did that. Would it not be much more sensible for all hon. Members to resist the temptation to make a speech on the timetable motion?

Mr. MacGregor

In response to my hon. Friend's remarks on my generosity in giving way, I was about to say, "How could I resist?" I notice that he has not resisted the temptation or followed his own advice of not speaking on the timetable motion.

I am anxious to reach my conclusion. We want to get on to the substance of the Bill, so I shall not deal with paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 which are fairly technical and straightforward.

Paragraph 8 is the usual provision for disposing of outstanding questions when a knife falls; when that time is reached, the question will be put forthwith on proceedings then under discussion, together with other questions necessary to dispose of the proceedings on which the knife has fallen. Again, as is usual with timetable motions, paragraph 8(3) provides that the putting of such questions shall not be interrupted.

Paragraph 10 is the standard provision that allows the House, should hon. Members wish, to move faster than the timetable motion otherwise provides. I have noted that a number of hon. Members have suggested that they believe that the Bill will go through speedily. In fact, that may occur. I believe that the timetable motion provides a reasonable amount of time.

I have described the principal provisions of the timetable motion. I believe that the motion is necessary for a well-ordered debate on this extremely important Bill, and I commend it to the House.

4.15 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

The guillotine motion is a perfect example of how, when Governments are falling apart, they do stupid things. Rarely has a Leader of the House had to struggle, as the right hon. Gentleman did, to convince even his own supporters of the necessity for a timetable motion for this legislation. Rarely has so thin a case taken so long to expound. Surely the lesson of the past 13 years is that rushing legislation through the House is not a good way to prepare laws that affect so many people. If the right hon. Gentleman had taken any notice of the hon. Member for AldridgeBrownhills (Mr. Shepherd), he would have thought long and hard about the Football Spectators Act 1989 and what happened to that, and about the poll tax and other legislation that the Government steamrollered through the House.

It is unprecedented for a Government to timetable a Bill that has the support in principle of the Opposition. We want the Bill to reach the statute book, not least because we have consistently argued for a series of measures to tackle the problems of stray and dangerous dogs. Even allowing for the fact that the Government decided, on their own account, to guillotine these discussions, it would have been more helpful had the right hon. Gentleman had some discussions about the nature of the timetable motion before it appeared on the Order Paper. The Government are more concerned about disguising their embarrassment and hiding away, in the middle of the night, the opposition of their Back Benchers to what they are—or, more accurately, are not—doing in this legislation, than they are about ensuring careful and considered discussion of the Bill.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Spark brook (Mr. Hattersley) said, the Government have an abysmal record on dealing with dangerous dogs. As he also rightly said, the provisions in this legislation could have been on the statute book more than a year ago if the Government had really wanted that. I share the view of some Conservative Members that the Government are acting now, as they have on other occasions, out of expediency and in response to some of the criticisms of the tabloid press, and that they are failing comprehensively to deal with the problems.

People have been attacked, savaged and bitten by many different breeds of dogs for a very long time. The problem of fighting dogs, and pit bulls in particular, is just the latest manifestation of what has long been a widespread problem. The Bill is inadequate to deal with the whole of the problem because of the narrow way in which it has been drafted.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

It appears that the hon. Gentleman has not read the Bill. Had he done so, he would realise that, under clause 3, it will be an offence if a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place. The problem to which he averted—that is, dangerous dogs of any sort—will come under the provisions of that clause.

Dr. Cunningham

At first glance, the hon. Gentleman may be right. However, the Bill fails to say how dogs in public places are to be controlled, how a dangerous dog is to be defined and whose word is to be taken on what is a dangerous dog. Superficially, the hon. Gentleman may have a point, but further consideration of the proposals shows that the legislation is hopelessly inadequate.

Mr. Michael J. Martin

Criticism comes not only from the tabloid press. People up and down the country are seriously worried about this matter. No matter what mistakes we have made—I include the Government in that —something should be done today. If that means discussing the matter until 4 am, we should do so, because people are terrified in their communities and in their homes.

Dr. Cunningham

No one dissents from my hon. Friend's view that something should be done. Along with my hon. Friends, I have argued for a long time that something should be done. The responsibility for the delay rests not with the Opposition but with the Government. If my hon. Friend is angry about the delay, he should direct his anger at the Government.

As my hon. Friend must know, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook and the shadow Cabinet have agreed to an accelerated procedure for the consideration of the Bill, taking its Second Reading one weekend after publication, because we know that there is a need not only to act, but to act more effectively and comprehensively than we will be able to do under the proposals in the Bill. Therefore, it is nonsense to have guillotined debate.

The Leader of the House has said that, effectively, we have two days in which to debate the Bill. Why should we not have had two normal days in which to debate it? Why push the discussions into the middle of the night and the early hours of the morning? There is no need for that, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it.

The Cabinet is terrified that, as in the past, many Government supporters will vote for a dog registration scheme. That is what the guillotine motion is all about. The Government know—as do people outside the House —that, if there were to be a free vote, the House would vote overwhelmingly to introduce a dog registration scheme. That is the reality, as the record shows.

I say to the Leader of the House, even at this late stage, that if he wants to organise a free vote on the Government Benches on this matter, even if it is in the early hours of the morning, we shall respond. That would be an honest decision by Parliament about what should be done. We shall not get an honest decision from many hon. Members who vote tonight, because they will be voting under the duress of a three-line Whip, again enforced by the Government Whips. We want to make that clear to the public, and I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people understand the procedure very well.

Mr. Cryer

Does my hon. Friend agree that most people understand very well that the Government's opposition to a dog registration scheme means that they are against a scheme that might have helped the young woman in Bradford who was left with a pit bull terrier, and given her proper guidance about the control of such a dog? A dog registration scheme may enable such accidents to be avoided, and might have saved Rucksana Khan.

Dr. Cunningham

I believe that a dog registration scheme will not, of itself, solve all the problems, but it will contribute to their solution. That is the important point. As the owner of a very large but good-natured dog, I know how easily people are frightened by dogs. That is not surprising, considering the lack of control of dogs in public areas such as parks and open spaces. No one has the responsibility for supervision or control. The Government have provided such legislation for Northern Ireland, but, despite the Bill being pushed through today, until we have a registration scheme here, our problems will remain.

The Leader of the House referred to the voting record. He seemed to say with some pride that the introduction of a dog registration scheme had been discussed and rejected. That is so, but on 14 June 1989 it was defeated by only 13 votes because of a Government Whip. On Report stage of the Environmental Protection Bill on 13 March 1990, the scheme was defeated by only 12 votes, and on Commons consideration of Lords amendments on 29 October 1990 it was defeated by three votes when the Government brought Ministers back from the four corners of the globe to vote against it. If the right hon. Gentleman questions whether in reality the House wants a dog registration scheme, let him allow the free vote that many Conservative Members would like, and it would certainly go through with a significant majority.

Mr. Marlow

The Government have a responsibility, as the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, for dealing with problems relating to dogs—and to dangerous dogs in particular. The Government make proposals for that, just as they make proposals in other areas. This is Government legislation. Why does the hon. Gentleman feel that there should be a free vote on this particular Government legislation?

Dr. Cunningham

I well recall the hon. Gentleman urging his friends into the Lobby over many years to support Government legislation that, subsequently, many of them dearly wished that they had never set eyes on. On the poll tax legislation, the hon. Gentleman was one of those who subsequently repented, so I do not accept his argument.

There may not be a consensus on the Government Benches in favour of the dog registration scheme. I hazard a guess that there may be a greater consensus on the desire to muzzle the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). We are concerned that the House should be allowed openly and candidly to reach a decision after proper debate. That is why I believe that there should be a free vote.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I take a rather jaundiced view of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) standing at the Dispatch Box and suggesting that somehow he can organise an agreement across the Chamber. We know that the Opposition cannot deliver on such agreements. How often have they agreed when debates should finish, and how often have those agreements not been honoured? As a Scottish Member, I know how often the Opposition have failed to deliver. That is why we do not trust the hon. Gentleman or his Whips to deliver.

Dr. Cunningham

That was an incredible intervention. If the hon. Gentleman does not understand about delivering on a free vote, he does not understand very much. We are content that all my right hon. and hon. Friends should have a free vote on the Bill. It is not a question of delivering. It is a question of knowing what the House would really like to do, if it was not prevented by the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench.

Limited and weak though the Bill is in some respects, and belated though it is, we want to see action taken—which is why we co-operated in bringing the Bill before the House and why, despite our serious reservations, we will not oppose the timetable motion.

4.28 pm
Mr. Humfrey Malins (Croydon, North-West)

On an occasion such as this, there is bound to be a great deal of indignation—but I venture to suggest that much of it is false, because both main parties have pushed through guillotine motions on many previous occasions.

The Bill is important. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on acknowledging the problem, acting with speed, listening carefully to all interested parties, and bringing before the House quickly legislation that ought to command the support of most or all right hon. and hon. Members. I believe that the British public would also want to thank him.

I support the Bill and the guillotine motion. It is important to pass this legislation quickly. All right hon. and hon. Members will have been shocked and outraged by the reports we have read in recent weeks of attacks by dangerous dogs on children. My own constituency, in Croydon, is a typical built-up south London area. There is hardly a garden bigger than a tenth of an acre, and there are very few green spaces, yet far too many dangerous dogs are kept there.

There is no room in an urban area for rottweilers, pit bull terriers or any other such dogs. The owners deserve criticism; it is no kindness to the dogs to keep them in such a place. The pit bull terrier is an absolute menace, and the same goes for the rottweiler. Many of us—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should relate his remarks to the timetable motion. What I have heard of his speech would be more appropriate to a Second Reading debate.

Mr. Malins

Many of us have had correspondence from constituents recounting problems faced as a result of vicious attacks and urging us in Parliament to act with proper haste, Mr. Speaker.

Only this week, the local paper in Croydon carried an article setting out details of an especially vicious attack, and said that the Government should act with speed. There is undoubtedly public concern, and that means that we should legislate quickly.

Opposition Members ought to support the guillotine motion—[HoN. MEMBERS: "We do."] If Opposition Members supported the guillotine motion, there would be no vote, and the matter would be dealt with quickly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes. So sit down."] I shall sit down in a moment.

The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) said in 1976 how useful guillotine motions were. He felt that, on the whole, speeches in the House were far too long. He said that speeches that lasted 45 minutes should be limited, and could often be cut down to five, 10 or 15 minutes.

A guillotine motion is suitable for the Bill, because it is relatively simple and short. The time that has been made available to debate it is entirely adequate—we have the better part of 10 to 12 hours' debate on a Bill of only eight clauses, and that is enough. In my years in the House I have often listened to speeches of 20, 30, 40 or 50 minutes which could easily have been finished in three, four or five minutes. If one has something sensible to say, one can say it very quickly—[Interruption.] I shall be doing that myself, although no doubt Opposition Members will think my speech neither simple nor good.

My father was a clergyman, and my mother used to say to him, "There has never been a bad short sermon." Until I started speaking today, one could have said that there had never been a bad short speech.

The Bill is simple and fairly straightforward. A combination of the public demand for action and the ability of all Members to make their points briefly and succinctly should mean that there is ample time to finish dealing with the Bill today. That is why I support the guillotine motion.

Mr. Dickens

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I formally move, That the Question be now put?

Mr. Speaker

Not at this juncture. We have a timetable motion in front of us.

4.33 pm
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

Like the other Members who have spoken in the debate, I am strongly in favour of swift action to deal with dangerous dogs. As my hon. Friends have explained and will no doubt explain further during the general discussion, we have been in favour of such action a good deal longer than the Conservative party. If proper attention had been paid to some Opposition speeches on the subject, the matter might already have been dealt with.

No doubt some of those earlier discussions, too, took place on guillotine motions. Some people will have said, "We have got to get the business through," and did not care what the arguments were. That is why a better decision was not made earlier—because the House did not listen properly.

I am also in favour of a House of Commons which is careful about passing any guillotine motions.

Mr. Bill Walker

You should know.

Mr. Foot

I certainly know, and I have told hon. Members who want those simple history lessons explained to them the reasons why there have been differences of view about the nature of guillotine motions. However, I have always made it clear that it would be dangerous for the House if we agreed to them. Governments would like it and more and more of them would be introduced in the extremely improper way that this one is being introduced today.

Even those hon. Members who recall those earlier occasions when I introduced some guillotine motions, will be able to recall easily the difference between them and the motion that the Leader of the House moved today. The Leader of the House knows very well that this measure was not included in the Conservative party manifesto. He knows very well that there has been no lengthy discussion of the issue previously. Therefore, the motion is very different from many earlier guillotine motions. All the motions that I properly put to the House and that it voted involved measures that had been extensively debated in the House and in the country, and I was asking for a decision. Even in those circumstances, I tried to urge the House to be very careful about proceeding with guillotine motions in a flippant manner. The hon. Member for Croydon. North-West (Mr. Malins) seemed to talk as though it did not much matter.

The simple question is whether we will get a good Bill to deal with this matter. One reason why some of us urge caution about guillotine motions is that a very bad measure may result. The more that discussion is abbreviated between Second Reading and the other processes of the Bill, and the less time that is made available for considering amendments which may he tabled from different parts of the House, the less likely one is to get a decent Bill in the end. Those of us who want a decent Bill to deal with the issue have every right to put that case now, and I support it.

This Government, of all Governments in our history, should be the most eager to recognise that argument. They should recognise that they have put more measures through the House under guillotine motions than any previous Government. Indeed, I think that they have tabled more guillotine motions than have all the previous Governments this century.

Mr. Dickens

The right hon. Gentleman holds the record.

Mr. Foot

The hon. Gentleman is as wrong with his arithmetic as he was in giving dancing lessons. I do not hold the record; it is held by the Government, who have introduced more guillotine motions than any Government in history. They should be a little careful, because some of the very Bills that were guillotined are the ones that are causing the greatest disturbance and trouble in the country today.

The Government pushed through the poll tax under a guillotine motion, and that is one reason why it is such a shoddy measure and they have had to withdraw it. Another example is the measure for dealing with so-called football hooligans that the hon. Member for AldridgeBrownhills (Mr. Shepherd) mentioned—they have had to withdraw that. If they had listened a little more carefully, even though the Bill was being guillotined, they would have understood what was being said in the country and they would not have had to suffer that indignity. If only they had listened more carefully when the health service legislation was also forced through by guillotine.

The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors forced through one guillotine motion after another, and four or five years later they had to come here and say that they had to review the legislation in question and take more parliamentary time to see whether they could do it a bit better. Now the Government are attempting to do it again. by methods and means that will rebound on them. Nobody is assured that the Government have a proper way of dealing with the problem.

I was not in the House when the Prime Minister made his announcement. I was at home because I was ill, but my dog—dogs have a stronger telepathic sense than others —protested most strongly. When I woke up and discovered what was happening. I realised that he was protesting about the measures that were being introduced.

The Prime Minister made such a fool of himself on the matter. He said that he would act the next morning because he had all the means of doing so, but a fortnight later we discover that he will not carry out the measure that he threatened because, rightly, it must be subject to proper examination and discussion in the House.

The Leader of the House advanced a feeble case. He did not deal with the central question of how the Government will ensure that the Bill has a chance to be investigated and considered by people who know something about it. The Government, who have rejected proposals to deal with dogs more persistently than any other Government, say, "We shall abbreviate discussion; there will be no chance for representations to be made between Second and Third Reading and the passage of the Bill." That is a disgraceful way to treat the House.

The Bill will have serious defects and within a few months the Government will say to the House, "We have made a botch of this," just as they made a botch of the many measures that they pushed through under the guillotine.

I hope that the Leader of the House, even now, will listen to what hon. Members say. He was told that the House would accept a general measure because it is widely believed that there should be such a measure, and the more he understood that, the greater was the obligation on him to secure the general agreement of the House. If he tried to do that, he would get a better Bill than by rushing it through under the guillotine.

4.42 pm
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, fairly, that there is a consensus in the House that action should be taken against dogs that risk lives or cause serious injury to human beings. We are united on that concept, but we must remember, too, the purposes of the House. As the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot)—the former Leader of the Opposition—and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said, the House wants good legislation. We want to be able to attest to our electorates, first, that we have considered legislation appropriately and, secondly, that we have heard the arguments taken around the track.

The guillotine is moved in the context of a previous guillotine, which was designed to limit discussion on the point at issue today—the licensing of dangerous dogs. In the past, we were assured by the Government that that was not possible because of the difficulty of distinguishing between a pure breed and a mongrel. I do not wish to pursue the Government's difficulties in drafting the legislation, but I appreciate the point that they made recently, which no doubt will be repeated today, that this is extremely difficult legislation to draft correctly.

Having said that, I am concerned that, in one sense, the arguments that were adduced by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House were a bit of sophistry. He is saying that the imperative is such that, as dogs will be on heat in the summer months, the Bill must be passed before they have their day by the end of July.

Mr. Dickens

They are at it all year.

Mr. Shepherd

My understanding is that dogs are busy at it all the year round.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House believes that the Bill must be terminated by the end of July. Such arguments were adduced on the Football Spectators Bill. We were told that, unless it was enacted by a specific time, there would be mass murder on the terraces, and my party was drummed into supporting a guillotine motion to enact the Bill. Fortunately, the wisdom of Back Benchers, quietly spoken, was such that the Government acceded that the legislation may depend on the views of a judge. That is an outrageous way of approaching legislation. It does us great damage in the country and in the House and it does little credit to my party and to the Government, whom I support.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

Despite my hon. Friend's criticisms, does he feel sufficiently strongly to divide the House on the timetable motion?

Mr. Shepherd

I am a Member of Parliament. I was elected by my constituents to argue causes, to put reasoned arguments, if I could, to listen to them and to judge as best as I am able. The imposition of a guillotine is wholly unwarranted and it could lead to bad clauses that cause much difficulty to us and to the reputation of the House. I shall most certainly oppose the guillotine motion, if I can find hon. Members willing to be Tellers.

With the assistance of the Clerks Office, which is always available to hon. Members, I am able to correct some misleading information that I was given. It touches on a concern about the use of the guillotine and I shall refer to how it has been used.

Between 1945 and 1950, there were three guillotines. Between 1950 and 1960, there were six guillotines. Between 1960 and 1970, there were 13 guillotines. In that quarter of a century—when the greatest social revolution of this century, the inception of the welfare state, occurred—we had a total of 22 guillotines.

Under my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), between 1970 and 1974, there were eight guillotines, and under Lords Wilson and Callaghan, between 1974 and 1979, there were 21 guillotines. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] My hon. Friends may say "Ah", but the horrors are yet to come.

In the 1970s, there were 29 guillotines. Under my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), we rose to a crescendo of respect for the House. Between 1979 and 1983, her first Government—in order to show that we were more productive that the Labour party—imposed 30 guillotines. Between 1983 and 1987, her second Government, which some would say was her most successful Administration, showed more caution and imposed only 10 guillotines. Her last Administration, between 1987 and November 1990, with the ill judgment of "guillotine-Jones" in the Whips Office, imposed 28 guillotines. Under the right hon. Lady's Government, we had a total of 66 guillotines.

There was a change of Government in 1990, and I wish the new Administration well. I had hoped that they would have learnt the lessons from the hubris that brought about the nemesis. I regret that they have introduced two guillotines, of which this is the second, and both seem to have a new tendency. They are now used when the House seems to be of the same opinion—a new, unhappy and unsatisfactory development.

The first guillotine was imposed on the Community Charges (General Reduction) Act 1991. I did not know many hon. Members who wanted to deny their citizens a £140 reduction in poll tax, yet a guillotine was used on the measure because urgency was considered a critical factor. The House also seems united on the central issue of curtailing dangerous dogs, and a guillotine has been introduced supposedly to ensure the good will of the House.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend agree that, when an Opposition are faced with a large majority, their only weapon and tool is time? That being so, they keep the show on the road in Committee so that later clauses and amendments are not properly discussed and the Government ultimately have to apply a guillotine to get the legislation through the House. That does not apply to the legislation under discussion, because the Opposition have made it crystal clear that, although they are reluctant to do so, they will support the guillotine to further the Bill's progress. Therefore, the fewer speeches that are made the better.

Mr. Shepherd

In the end, we may need a guillotine. Unfortunately, this Government's predecessor, under my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley, used to introduce guillotines even before Second Reading. That leads me to a worrying point. Often, the processes of debate enable us to identify relevant issues. I gave the example of mongrels and I envisage that it will be difficult when I face a constituent with what looks like a brute, with the eyes and ears of an alsatian and a doberman pinscher, only to be told that it is a cross between a chihuahua and some other benign dog. No doubt my right hon. Friend —I was going to say Dr. Pangloss—the Secretary of State for the Home Department will be able to steer us cautiously through the difficult tests involved.

The 21st edition of "Erskine May"—in which standards have slipped—states that guillotine motions may be regarded as the extreme limit to which procedure goes in affirming the rights of the majority at the expense of the minorities of the House, and it cannot be denied that they are capable of being used in such a way as to upset the balance, generally so carefully preserved"— although the evidence of recent years is that the balance has not been carefully preserved— between the claims of business, and the rights of debate. We are citizens representing other citizens and all that we can do is attest that our fellow citizens bear what we are passing as legislation.

Burke's general injunction is a fair one, which we, as Conservatives, should remember. A majority does not simply mean the total number of Members divided by two plus one, but involves the processes by which we achieve that majority. It is terribly important that we enable everyone to make comments and observations on the details and difficulties of legislation. At best, we aim for consent and, at the very least, we aim for acquiescence. Too much of the legislation that has been drummed through the House has reflected to the disadvantage of the Conservative party, my hon. Friends and the Government whom I support.

Let us consider the crescendo reached in 1988 when there were 13 guillotines in the course of a year, including those used on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, the Water Act 1989 and the Official Secrets Act 1989, on which we had a three-hour guillotine motion to decide on a one-hour debate. Ministers were no longer able to explain the provisions of their own Acts. Let us consider the nadir, involving the Home Secretary's original proposition—the poll tax. If Ministers had allowed a debate, they might have realised where the sensitivities of the arguments lay and we might have obtained better legislation or even done away with the central principle. In that lamentable year, the Football Spectators Act 1989 required two guillotines and is now an ineffective piece of legislation. Did we serve our interests well?

The arguments adduced by the Leader of the House did him no credit and showed that he knew none of the history and had no sympathy with what is happening. The House should pause to reflect that, from the three guillotines necessary between 1945 and 1951—when there was a huge social revolution and great changes—the number has risen to give an incredible assault of guillotines, rising to the crescendo of 13 in 1988. Can we honestly say that the quality of legislation and our arguments in the Chamber are better now?

Mr. Michael J. Martin

The hon. Gentleman must agree that the use of this guillotine is different: if we do not do something today, we shall have to do something tomorrow or the week after. Something must be done to protect the people in our communities.

Mr. Shepherd

It is fair for the hon. Gentleman to raise the fact that the issue under discussion is very much alive. Something must be done to stop these horrific incidents happening. I accept the general contention of his argument, but legislating in haste often means repenting at leisure, and the purpose of our parliamentary processes is to safeguard the quality of the rule of law. If it is discussed in a proper parliamentary fashion, legislation is more likely to have merit, stand the test of time and better meet the needs of the electorate. If that takes a day or two longer, it is the price that we must pay.

We were assured that the Football Spectators Act had to go through quickly because, if it were not dealt with swiftly under the injunction of a guillotine, hundreds if not thousands of people would be killed in football grounds. Fortunately, that dire prophecy did not come about. The Football Spectators Act is not functioning, because a judge decided that it should not do so, but it is on the statute book. Would it not have been better if we had paced our discussions on that legislation and taken note of the recommendations in the judge's report, which have now been implemented and which contained proposals that had the support of the entire House?

I had not intended to speak for so long, but I feel fiercely about the abuse of parliamentary procedure. A guillotine motion involves the denial of free speech—that is the bottom line. We have enough difficulties in the House because, with 650 Members, it is difficult to catch Mr. Speaker's eye on matters of great import to the country. Perhaps there are too many of us. Today, we are imposing a guillotine motion on legislation on which the House has the ability to reflect.

4.57 pm
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

What a good speech. The House will have listened with great respect to the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and recognised in the hon. Gentleman someone who is prepared to defend the liberties of the House and of our people, not only by words but by actions. He is right to be prepared to vote against the motion tonight, and he will certainly have the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Lobby if he chooses to exercise that right.

It is not good enough simply to say, as did the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), that the matter has been handled badly and incompetently. He was right —it has been handled with the incompetence which is becoming a characteristic of the declining years of the Conservative Administration. But if the Government are so incompetent, cannot we as a House do something to restore order into the consideration of our legislation? Cannot we exercise the power of discussion with Ministers about how Bills should be timetabled to enable them to pass through the House in accordance not only with Ministers' perception of what is needed but in accordance with our perception of what is necessary to hold a proper debate?

At issue is not only our amour propre as Members of Parliament, but the ability of the people we represent to make their views known. We are not discussing merely the broad principle of acting speedily to determine how to deal with attacks by so-called dangerous breeds, but how the language of the law will improve the situation.

The difficulty with the Minister's approach is that he takes his gesturing at the Dispatch Box for sufficiency of argument. The reality is that the courts will have to consider the language of the eight clauses. Some 21 amendments or new clauses are to be considered tonight, and some are of great importance. Some of them may make or mar the effectiveness of the Bill.

Mr. Budgen

The hon. Gentleman referred to the courts. Does he agree that, in recent years, the doctrine of judicial review has been extended, and that, to a large extent, that is because the courts recognise that Parliament does not carry out sufficiently its duty of properly considering the detail of legislation? As a result of procedures such as the motion today, the courts are taking from Parliament some of the powers that are really parliamentary.

Mr. Maclennan

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I welcome the extension of judicial review, because I recognise the defects of the legislative process. Constitutional arrangements for the scrutiny of Bills, even when there is broad bipartisan support for the measure, as there is in this case, are wholly inadequate and produce a statute book that is a disgrace. That statute book leads to uncertainty in the law and frequently has to be amended by further legislation in areas that have been precisely, although not adequately, considered by Parliament a short time before, as is the case with the Bill.

During the passage of the Environmental Protection Bill and in 1988, there were opportunities to put right the matters that we seek to put right today. The Home Secretary and the Leader of the House sloughed off such considerations. The urgency arises from an earlier dereliction of Government duty and from inadequate attention to the detail of what was proposed by sensible people outside the House who have direct experience of dealing with the problems of dangerous dogs and other dogs. If the voices of, for example, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had been listened to —never mind the voices of the political parties, or the many dissenting voices in the Conservative party—we should have had substantially better legislation.

The Government have been in office for too long. The right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), when Prime Minister, said that she thought that it was appropriate to dispense with argument within Cabinet. Her view was, "Why waste time listening to different points of view?" She told her colleagues that she wanted action. She said that she wanted only one or two like-minded people around her with whom to decide what would happen. She believed that matters would sometimes be decided in Cabinet Committee and sometimes in corners. That view has now been translated from No. 10 Downing street to the House of Commons. We are being asked to behave like a rubber stamp.

The motion has not been tabled in the interests of speed. We should have accommodated the necessary speed if we had been asked and if there had been any discussion. That was not the approach. There were no questions about how to accommodate the necessity for speed. The precise amount of time through the middle of the night which will be devoted to the whole of the Bill has been slapped down on the Order Paper.

The simplicity of the subject may be deceptive. I do not believe that, because the Bill has only eight clauses, it is an easy Bill. It contains matters of considerable contention. What is the real reason for having the central debate about the effectiveness of dog control, which will turn on the question of registration, in the middle of the night? I venture to predict that the Press Gallery will be almost empty when that debate takes place. Registration will not be reported in the first or even the later editions of the press tomorrow. If some Conservative Members decide to speak out against some of the provisions, the Government's discomfort will be covered up to an extent. That is not what Parliament is about. Dissenting voices should be free not only to speak but to be heard. They should not be wrapped up in a debate in the middle of the night when most sensible people are in their beds.

If the public have a view about the way in which we handle matters, they think nothing of debates in the middle of the night. They think that we are pretty close to insane to discuss serious matters in the middle of the night when there are two weeks of time ahead of us. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) was right. She has her ear to the ground. I have never met a constituent who was prepared to defend the idiocy of late-night debates. The fact that the Government force through guillotine motions is not a sign of strength; it is a sign of weakness. I and my right hon. and hon. Friends object to Parliament being treated in that way. Although we agree with the substance of the Bill, we wholly disagree with the Government's handling of it, and we will vote accordingly.

5.5 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks)

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) both spoke against the timetable motion. I take the opportunity to express my support for it. I shall do so briefly in view of the obvious cross-party support on the matter.

I welcome the Bill and I believe that it was right to introduce a guillotine motion to ensure that it becomes law as quickly as possible. Most of my constituents want the Bill to become law as quickly as possible. In the past two years, the House has discussed the regulation of dog ownership on many occasions. The fear caused by dangerous dogs has been an issue on which many of our constituents have expressed great anxiety. In my experience, it has caused more letters to flow into our postbags than any other matter, with the possible exception of what should be done about the welfare of pigs.

The public anxieties have become acute following recent attacks, with which we are all familiar and which have been highly publicised by the press. News of the planned importation of huge fighting dogs from Japan has also worried the public, and not surprisingly. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) said earlier, we should not underestimate how frightened some people are by the dogs living in their street. The Government are right to do something about that, and it is right that it should be done before the House rises for the summer recess.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at Question Time on 21 May: it is clear that such dogs have no place in our homes. The Leader of the Opposition replied: I strongly support what the Prime Minister just said about fighting dogs."— [Official Report, 21 May 1991: Vol. 191, c. 776.] With that unusual degree of political consensus, it should be possible to pass a relatively simple and well-balanced measure with the considerable speed that the public have every right to expect.

For a number of reasons, I believe that it is entirely appropriate to introduce a timetable motion. The first and most important reason is that the provisions governing the ownership of fighting dogs need to be introduced as soon as possible so that further attacks, such as the attack on Rucksana Khan in Bradford, are avoided. The sooner the Bill is passed, the sooner the 30 November deadline is clear and the sooner the offence of dogs being dangerously out of control applies, the sooner it will be necessary under the law to muzzle and leash dangerous fighting dogs. What would our constituents think if we were to dilly-dally and shilly-shally, taking days or weeks to debate a short Bill and spending much of our time debating matters such as the registration of all dogs, which is peripheral to the problem in any case? What would they think if, during that time, there were further attacks which might have been prevented? We have a duty to put the measure on the statute book as soon as possible.

Mr. Budgen

Surely our constituents would understand that, if the Bill does not come into effect until 30November, there is plenty of time to have a decent interval between Second Reading and Committee stage? That would allow those who feel that they may be treated unjustly to make representations about Second Reading. It is all very well to say that our constituents want this legislation to be bashed through, but they understand that passing legislation is not a matter of knocking things through a sausage machine. Rather, it involves trying to evoke some consent among those who may be affected by legislation.

Mr. Hague

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) had better have another look at the Bill. He will then discover that some clauses will come into effect immediately the Bill is enacted. My colleagues on the Front Bench will correct me if I am wrong about that. The provisions relating to muzzling and leashing will come into force on enactment. Throughout the summer it is important that the public are reassured that such a provision exists and that dangerous dogs on our streets are muzzled and leashed. Such provisions should be introduced straight away.

Another reason why we should approve the timetable motion is that there are only six or seven weeks left before the summer recess. We should not let the Bill rest in limbo over the summer recess and enact it in October or November. There is sufficient cross-party agreement that urgent action should be taken to justify a timetable that will lead to Royal Assent before the summer.

Finally, we should approve the timetable motion because the Bill is relatively straightforward. The more complex far-reaching matters that some of my hon. Friends and others would like to add to the Bill have already been debated exhaustively during this Parliament. The Bill will, in effect, eventually make pit bull terriers extinct in Britain, but it will do so in a relatively humane and considered way. There is overwhelming support in the House for that proposition. In the meantime, those dogs must be muzzled and leashed in public places. There is overwhelming support for that proposition, too.

The Bill also creates a new offence of permitting a dog of any breed to be dangerously out of control in a public place". There is overwhelming support for that proposal. The Bill also gives my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the power to extend the provisions of the legislation to other breeds of dog not specifically mentioned in it. There must be overwhelming support for that provision as well. Almost every feature of the Bill commands widespread support.

The difference between hon. Members rests on whether a registration scheme for all dogs should be added to the Bill. I an not in favour of an all-embracing registration scheme. We are considering the problem of dangerous dogs. I do not believe that it will help us deal with dangerous dogs to insist on the registration of every spaniel, Scottie or chihuahua in the land. Whatever we think about the merits of such an idea, the continuing debate about is should not be allowed to obstruct and delay the passage of this Bill. It is therefore right to allocate a fixed time for the debate about registration.

No one can claim that the House is not fully familiar with every debating point, representation, argument and nuance for and against a registration scheme. To my recollection, we have voted on the idea three times in the past two years and this timetable motion will allow another vote. We do not need to spend many hours rehearsing arguments with which every hon. Member must be extremely familiar. Moreover, in all probability there will be a further vote on a registration scheme if the other place inserts a requirement for such a scheme, so no one can say that the proposed rapid passage of the Bill prevents the House from passing judgment on that related but different matter.

The Bill provides for a range of measures which, I believe—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must refer to the allocation of time motion. I am afraid that he is making a Second Reading speech.

Mr. Hague

I have advanced arguments in favour of the timetable motion, which makes it possible to place a highly desirable measure on the statute book before the summer recess. The issues that other people would like to debate more extensively have already been exhaustively debated both within and outside the House. We know that we need to act, and we should do so tonight.

5.13 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I was surprised that the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who clearly favours the Bill and the timetable motion, should tell us at great length why we should approve the motion. That might have happened more quickly had he not bothered to speak.

I am opposed to the timetable motion and the procedure by which the Bill will be passed in the short space of time that the Government are proposing. The Bill is knee-jerk legislation. If a pit bull terrier or a rottweiler was hanging on to one's ankle, that might be a very good reason to jerk one's knee.

I imagine that there is support inside the House and in the country at large for the central measure in the Bill. However, this is not a national emergency, nor is it an issue about which we need to take such a quick decision. We need decisive action, but the Opposition have been urging the Government to take action for well over 12 months. Only after the popular newspapers carried pictures of the Home Secretary on their front pages and demanded that he stop dithering, and only because the Prime Minister wants to act decisively after being accused of dithering all the time, do we see legislation rushed through the House.

The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) made a principled speech and that makes him one of the most endangered species on the Conservative Benches. As he said, as a result of this timetable motion we are likely to get bad legislation. There is agreement across the House about the need to deal with fighting dogs and there is no question of the Opposition trying to trip up the Government or to talk the measure out or delay it. That is all the more reason why we should approach the issue in a measured way.

The best way to achieve that would have been to have a normal Second Reading today and then a Standing Committee stage and then to return to the House. There could have been an agreement between the two sides through the official channels about an unofficial timetable. That would have been all right because we are not trying to stop the legislation. However, the timetable motion is an insult to the House and we will end up with bad legislation. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will not be able to consider all the nuances proposed in the Bill. No doubt, if more consideration was given to that, hon. Members would be more informed.

Mr. Budgen

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the really important gap of time is that between Second Reading and the Committee stage? It is not just hon. Members who want to consider the Bill's principle. The Government have changed their mind on several occasions and it is important that the various interested parties, some of which are in the minority, should be able to consider the Bill and make representations to their Members of Parliament. Hon. Members do not encompass the whole wisdom of the nation; nor do the Government. If we are to be a proper representative body, we must hear the representations of the people and consider them between Second Reading and Committee. It is wholly unnecessary to introduce legislation in this way. It makes a mockery of the House and it gives the impression that the Government are acting in an ill-considered way.

Mr. Banks

On this occasion, I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. He repeated some of the points that I have made. I said that we should have a Second Reading debate today and then have a Committee stage which would not last very long, but which would at least enable hon. Members to consider the Bill in detail.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said that the Government have already changed their position on several occasions. If I remember correctly, the first proposal to emerge from the Home Secretary was the destruction of all pit bull terriers. That was met by a great cry of outrage from hon. Members on both sides of the House and from responsible pit bull terrier owners. The owners wanted to know why their dogs should be destroyed. I believe that there is no such thing as an irresponsible dog, only an irresponsible owner. If we had rushed legislation through at that stage, who knows what would have been enshrined in it? I have received a great wodge of letters about this from my constituents and they are still pouring in. I should like to be able to consider those letters and raise issues in Committee—if I was lucky enough to be a member of a Committee. Most owners of those dogs would not consider the way in which we are approaching the matter as a responsible way for the House to conduct its business.

The timetable motion is inappropriate, unnecessary and undemocratic, as many such motions are. I am disappointed that the Opposition Front Bench will not force a vote on the timetable motion. However, as I understand from my very good friend on the Front Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), if there is to be a free vote, I shall be in the Division Lobby opposing the timetable motion.

5.19 pm
Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

I support the timetable motion. I have some sympathy with the argument of my hon. Friend for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). I too, agree that excessive use of the timetable procedure cannot ultimately be conducive to good parliamentary Government and can also be counterproductive.

Equally, I understand the argument of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who spoke against excessive use of the guillotine procedure. His words would have had slightly more credibility had he not been such an enthusiastic user of the procedure when he was in Government.

I agree with the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) that it is curious, to say the least, that we are to debate such matters at three or four o'clock in the morning. However, that comment relates less to the use of the timetable procedure and more to the need for reform of parliamentary procedures which seem to be mooted in theory but rarely proposed by the Leader of the House or his shadow counterpart.

We have an obligation to move forward quickly with the Bill. There is no doubt that we have bipartisan support for the principles in the Bill and support within the country not only for producing it but for getting on with it very quickly.

As the father of a son aged four and as the previous owner of bull mastiffs, mastiffs and Irish wolfhounds, I understand that there is a necessity for legislation that not only deals with fighting dogs but allows muzzling powers so that magistrates can deal with large or potentially threatening dogs that may cause problems for parents with young children. It is significant that the Metropolitan police say that, out of 468 dog attacks on human beings in 1990, no fewer than 111 were committed by American pit bull terriers. Any responsible Government would need to introduce such legislation.

Mr. Winnick

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the issue is not that such dogs are dangerous and that measures must be taken to deal with them? That is not likely to divide the House of Commons. The issue is the manner in which we debate and decide on legislation. If, for example, the original proposals had been put before us in a Bill to slaughter dogs—that may be right or wrong; we have our own views—no doubt the hon. Gentleman would make the same speech as he is making now. There has been time for some reflection. All that we are saying is that, between Second Reading and Committee, there should be some time for the House of Commons perhaps even to strengthen the measure along the lines that the hon. Gentleman mentions. In some respects, the measure is not as strong as some of us would like. All that we are asking is that the House of Commons give due consideration to the measure.

Mr. Coombs

Given the consensus behind the legislation, any responsible Government should ensure not only that the measure proceeds as quickly as possible to protect innocent people but that it proceeds at all. The shadow Leader of the House said, "Yes, we will deliver on a guillotine motion." Several hon. Members than said that they would not support it. If we did not have a guillotine motion, there is a strong possibility that the measure would be filibustered out of existence, and therefore an important piece of legislation would not reach the statute book.

Mr. Budgen

Will my hon. Friend please answer one point? One of the most dangerous occasions is when the House of Commons and its Front Benches appear to agree. One of our duties as Members of Parliament from time to time is to put forward unpopular views and to ensure that the House considers them. It is very authoritarian and dangerously populist to say that, simply because the consensus in the House is in favour of something, the proper process of consideration and debate should be truncated. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will have a very distinguished ministerial future. However, is there not still, however despicable, some role for Back-Bench Members of Parliament from time to time to put forward minority views?

Mr. Coombs

I would agree with my hon. Friend if the timetable motion did not genuinely give enough time for debating what is in the Bill. The trouble is that, without a timetable motion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) said, we would spend most of our time debating what is not in the Bill, and that is a dog registration scheme. For that reason, there is adequate time for developing the arguments that we need to develop and to propose an important piece of legislation that will save lives and prevent children from being disfigured, because that is what it is all about.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)

I hear the hon. Gentleman's arguments for the timetable motion. If he casts his mind back to the previous Session, he may remember the Broadcasting Act 1990 and its various stages. There were 165 clauses, I think, and heaven knows how many amendments. Although we fiercely opposed what the Government are doing, there was no guillotine.

Mr. Coombs

There was no guillotine because hon. Members on both sides were committed to acting in a way that addressed the issues in the Bill rather than issues that were not in it. As a result, there was a consensus that the Bill should be on the statute book within a certain time. In this case, if we did not have the guillotine, we would find that hon. Members in favour of dog registration—let us face it, they already have three out of five hours to consider that subject in Committee, at whatever hour of day or night it may be—would frustrate the consensus of Parliament and of the vast majority of people to introduce this legislation. We saw a hint of that this afternoon. In view of their avowed aim to frustrate the legislation, the guillotine motion is not only necessary but desirable, and I support it.

5.27 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I make it abundantly clear that those of us who are critical of the guillotine motion support the Bill. We want to extend it and make it more effective. We do not want to make it less effective; we want to improve it. We are all subject to the pressures of our constituents, and quite rightly so. The accident involving Rucksana Khan occurred within a mile and a half of where I live in Bradford. It is not a question of wanting to oppose the Bill, talk it out or generally sabotage it. In any case, if the Government felt that there was the slightest hint of that, they have plenty of Members such as the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) to come to the House for a closure motion, to maintain the required 100 hon. Members, and get the measure through. There is no question about that.

Reference has been made to 1976 and my saying that guillotines were desirable to cut out debate. We were in an entirely different situation. We had a minority Labour Government and we were being harried by an Opposition who had recovered from the shock of an election defeat and were proving to be extremely effective. If anybody asks me about the pattern of behaviour that I follow in this Parliament to try to stop Conservative Government legislation, I will tell them that I follow the pattern of behaviour of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) when he was in opposition and supported by the late Ian Gow. At that time, they were harrying us very successfully.

However, I have changed my mind to a considerable degree about guillotines. Debate helps to improve legislation. As I have been in the House for 14 years, I do not believe that it is a criminal offence to say that that process can improve legislation.

Mr. Budgen

I support the hon. Gentleman's point. At least it can be said about those measures that were got through under the guillotine by the then Labour Government that, in broad outline, they had been considered by the electorate at the preceding general election. The great criticism of this measure is that it has been thought up quickly, that the central argument has been changed at least twice—some say, three times—and that there has been little public debate about the principle of the Bill on Second Reading. I am proud to have voted against the guillotines introduced by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), but this Bill is the weakest possible case for a guillotine.

Mr. Cryer

I entirely share the hon. Gentleman's view, but I was clarifying my position. I am flattered that people look up the speeches that I made in 1976, so I want to make my position clear—that I do not apply double standards, something that I hope all hon. Members are concerned about. Moreover, this Government have an overall majority of 100 and a majority of 150 over the Labour party.

The guillotine allows three hours for Second Reading. We might be able to add on a little bit, if the guillotine debate does not take up the full three hours. There is pressure on us to do that so that we can add on few extra minutes to the miserly three hours that have been allowed for Second Reading. The two new clauses that deal with a dog registration scheme will not be debated at any hour, as the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) said. They will be debated between 10 pm and 1 am. Three hours, under the guillotine, have been allowed for a very important principle.

The Leader of the House says that there has been plenty of time for debating a dog registration scheme. Time was indeed devoted to debating the subject. The House decided that there should be a dog registration scheme. However, due to the Government's reservations in 1988, they inserted a clause in the Local Government Bill that provided that a dog registration scheme may—not shall —be introduced. That clause has not been implemented.

The new clause 1 and new clause 5 debates, between 10 pm and I am, will give me the opportunity to say that, if Ministers had implemented the decision of this House in 1988, in all probability Rucksana Khan would not have been attacked by an American pit bull terrier in that grossly savage and intensely disfiguring way. However, they did not do so. I do not intend to develop that theme, because we are debating whether there should be a guillotine. The argument has many ramifications, but we have been given insufficient time to follow them up. New clause 1 and new clause 5 are to be considered in Committee, when they ought to be dealt with in great detail.

A crucial element is the classification of dogs. Between I am and 3 am—two hours—the House is to consider a total of nine groups of amendments, chosen by Mr. Speaker. That does not work out at very many minutes each. They include amendments to cover breeds such as rottweilers. The majority of serious dog attacks mean that people have to be taken to hospital with massive injuries. During the last three months, one person has lost his life as a result of such an attack. He was attacked, however, not by a pit bull terrier but by an alsatian. We ought to be given sufficient time in which to consider how the Secretary of State's powers can be extended to include all types of dogs that potentially can cause harm to human beings. The first group of amendments out of the nine that are to be debated during that period of two hours is devoted to that subject. We know how long that subject could take up.

Mr. Hind

I have been following the hon. Gentleman's point very carefully. In the light of what he has said, does he not think that it is time to end this debate now and deal with the substantive issues before the House?

Mr. Cryer

That is an example of the way in which the guillotine brings pressure to bear on the House of Commons. It is outrageous. I wish the hon. Gentleman had said that when we debated the measure that introduced the poll tax. Had he done so, the embarrassment in which his party is now shrouded would have been considerably reduced.

May I deal with a few of the other items in the nine groups of amendments that we are to consider in that two hours? I refer to the conditions in which potentially dangerous dogs are kept and also to the question of affirmative orders. I tabled that amendment because it would provide greater accountability to the House if more orders were subject to the affirmative rather than to the negative resolution procedure. I am the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. It is a minority occupation and the media do not give much publicity to the work of that Committee. However, it does important work, and I should like to explain why I believe that orders should be subject to the affirmative rather than the negative resolution procedure. However, due to the guillotine, the likelihood is that we shall not have time to discuss that amendment.

The Home Secretary recognises that there will not be enough time under the guillotine, because he has not devoted time and attention in the House of Commons to discussing these orders. However, when he announced that he intended to introduce the Bill at a press conference, he devoted a considerable time to outlining the way in which the orders that the Bill gives him the power to make will operate. I regard it as a very great pity that he did not bother to consult the House when elaborating on what the orders should cover. That would have enlightened our discussions. Although the Bill is supported by the Opposition, the fact that the Government have decided to impose a guillotine, in conjunction with the Home Secretary's elaboration of these matters when speaking to the press but not to us, shows remarkable contempt for this House.

The last matter that is to be debated within those two hours is new clause 3, which deals with an application to the Criminal Inujuries Compensation Board when somebody is injured by a dog whose owner cannot be traced. That is not an unreasonable new clause. It is an important matter for that minority of people who may find themselves in that position. The House should show reasonable care for minorities, but almost certainly we shall not reach new clause 3, due to the guillotine.

The guillotine is misplaced. It has been criticised by both sides of the House. I hope that the House will vote against it and will register the fact that the House feels deeply unhappy about the way in which the Government have abused the Opposition, who time and again have said that they were willing to help and co-operate. There should be a demonstration about the Bill so that, when the Bill turns out to be a dog's dinner and the Government have to produce amending legislation, they cannot turn around and say, "You failed to vote against the guillotine."

Mr. Budgen

Would not any decent Opposition have opposed the guillotine?

Mr. Cryer

That is what we are doing.

Mr. Budgen

I accept that. If one takes Mr. Disraeli's dictum that it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose—

Mr. Skinner

We do not need Disraeli to tell us how to oppose. He was a Tory.

Mr. Budgen

I dare say the Opposition do not. It is a rotten day for the Opposition if they cannot muster a vote against a guillotine of this sort.

Mr. Cryer

I would not entirely share that view. Members of the Opposition have different views, but the Government will find that the Opposition are working well today.

5.40 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I shall be brief. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) clearly demonstrated my reason for saying that one should support the Government's guillotine motion. If Ministers had tried to reach an accommodation of views so that the Bill could be passed in time to meet the requirements, which were clearly spelt out by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, there is no doubt that the Labour Whips could not have delivered. That is the experience in this Parliament. That is why I believe that it is right to pass the guillotine motion. The Opposition say that they can agree something, but it rarely happens—one need only examine Scottish business to see that.

5.41 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I came into the Chamber feeling that, although the guillotine motion was not necessary—I intervened during the speech of the Leader of the House—I would probably go along with it. I have changed my mind. I shall vote against the motion as, I hope, will other hon. Members.

I have no doubt that action is necessary to deal with the dogs in question. On that issue, there is no dispute between the two sides of the House. Hon. Members rarely agree that legislation is necessary. Few, if any, Conservative Members would argue that legislation is not necessary to deal with these dogs—although I do not know the view of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen). There is a consensus.

Perhaps I should not admit this in the House of Commons—one should never admit to any form of cowardice—but I suppose that I have spent most of my life in fear of some dogs. I imagine that I am not in a minority of one. I have the greatest sympathy with postmen who have to deliver letters regardless of ferocious dogs. I am a dog lover, and I should not like people in my constituency to think otherwise.

Is the guillotine motion necessary or desirable? Governments, whether they have a large majority or not, introduce guillotine motions because they fear filibustering and delay, and the actions of Members who oppose controversial legislation. That is part of the House of Commons, and there is no reason to apologise for it. It is the job of hon. Members—certainly of the Opposition—to oppose controversial legislation.

There is a consensus on this necessary Bill. It is unlikely that any hon. Member will filibuster to delay it. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) that no one who sees on television the injuries inflicted on a child by a dog could doubt that action is necessary. If there is any criticism of the Government, it is that action was not taken earlier.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

It took two years.

Mr. Winnick

Indeed. If action had been taken, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South said, a child might not have been injured. Bearing in mind what has happened to people, particularly children, the Bill is certainly necessary.

The Bill could be better if the House of Commons had sufficient time to debate matters, rather than rushing it through as the guillotine motion intends. Why could we not have had a two-day debate? Why have controversy over the guillotine motion when it could have been avoided if the Government had said, "Here is a two-clay debate and the House has agreed that action is necessary"? Instead, once again, we have a typical Government guillotine motion.

At the risk of repeating what others have said, I should have thought that, given other Bills which have been guillotined—particularly the poll tax Bill—and which have been shown to be totally wrong, the Government would be reluctant, to say the least, to have a guillotine on this subject, especially when there is general agreement that action is necessary.

I am one of those Members who have changed their minds. One rarely admits that in the House. We listen to a debate and make up our minds accordingly, and I have done so. Several hon. Members, not least the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), have persuaded me that it would be wrong to go ahead with the motion. For that reason, a number of us will go into the Division Lobby to express our view in the usual way in which we oppose motions with which we disagree.

5.46 pm
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

I shall speak briefly because, like other hon. Members, I wish to move on to the substantive motion. I wish to make one point to correct the central thesis of the speech by the Leader of the House which was echoed by the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs), who is not now in his place—having read the speech put into his hand, the hon. Gentleman has left the Chamber.

I wish to make it clear that the argument for the guillotine, which is based on the need to complete consideration of the Bill today and tomorrow morning, is wholly false. Had there not been a guillotine, I have no doubt that the Bill would have concluded all its stages today. There would have been a good chance that it would have concluded all its stages more quickly. The only difference is that we would have had sensible consideration of difficult points.

The arithmetic is obvious. Had we not spent three hours on the guillotine—

Mr. Budgen

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hattersley

Not for the moment.

Had we not spent three hours on the guillotine, as we shall, the Second Reading debate would have begun at 3.30 pm. I have no doubt that that debate could have been concluded, by arrangement, some time before 10 pm. We would then have gone on to registration. The hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who is also not in his place, does not seem to understand that point, but it is relevent to the Bill. The prepared speech which was put in his hand persuaded him to suggest that the Bill was entirely about tosas and pit bull terriers—

Mr. Budgen


Mr. Hattersley

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is characteristically overenthusiatic. If he will contain himself and be patient, I promise that he will have a moment before I finish.

The hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks talked as though the Bill was entirely concerned with pit bull terriers and tosas, but many of the clauses deal with dogs in general. I urge Government business managers who prepare speeches for Back Benchers to do the job more accurately.

Had we not spent three hours on the guillotine motion, we should have got on to registration well before 10 o'clock. Almost certainly, we would not have taken three hours to discuss that. We should then have gone on, in some of the small hours of the morning, to discuss amendments in Committee. The Bill would have been considered more quickly. The only difference would be that we would have come to a vote on registration not in the small hours of the morning but at a reasonable time of night when Conservative Members condescended to be here and when the newspapers reported our deliberations.

To maintain the equilibrium of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, I now give way to him.

Mr. Budgen

On reflection, does not the right hon. Gentleman feel rather ashamed of the Opposition? Is it not the duty of the Opposition to oppose and, in opposing, to uphold the minority interest and give it an opportunity to be heard? In their anxiety to pander to what they believe to be the overwhelming public view, are not the Opposition denying the rights of the minority, which should be preserved by parliamentary procedure?

Mr. Hattersley

The slogan about it being the duty of the Opposition to oppose is the most trivial view of politics that it is possible to imagine. It is the duty of the Opposition to support those things in which they believe and to oppose those things with which they disagree. As I am basically in agreement with the contents of the Bill and I am anxious to get on to a proper discussion of it, I propose to sit down so that the Home Secretary can make an equally brief speech and we can begin to spend our time doing something worth while instead of making the House look ridiculous, as this guillotine motion has done.

5.49 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

I sense that the feeling of the House is to move to a decision on the motion—[Interruption.] I notice that the hon. Members for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) have been snapping and snarling throughout the debate. Snapping and snarling is not unparliamentary, but such behaviour comes under the description in the Bill of being dangerously out of control in a public place".

Mr. Skinner


Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman will be lucky not to fall within the provisions of clause 3.

Mr. Skinner


Mr. Baker

I shall continue, if I may, because I wish to reply to the debate briefly. It would be a discourtesy if I did not reply to the points that have been raised. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins), for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) and for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) for their support for the timetable motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and I have been involved in many debates on major Bills and in their Committee stages during the past 10 or 12 years and he knows that I respect his views. He spoke on the grounds of constitutional propriety in which he has always believed. He has opposed not only this guillotine, but all guillotines and has never been afraid to express that view both in opposition and in government.

I was a little more surprised by the views of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). That was a case of a Daniel come to judgment. Those of us who have been Members of the House for some years may remember the day when five tumbrils were summoned to the foot of the guillotine by the trumpet that he blew. Now, however, he is against all guillotines. I suppose that evening brings repentance.

I should like to repeat a point made earlier by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. The real problem is that we have had to act quickly on pit bull terriers, the tosa and other clause 1 dogs. The public demand such action and Members in all parts of the House accept the need for it. I am glad that the Opposition have said that they will support us in that, and I am grateful for their support. I do not need to emphasise to the House the importance of getting such legislation onto the statute book, our aim being to make the Bill law by the end of July.

In an uncharacteristically misinformed intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) expressed the belief that the Bill would come into force on 30 November. Several important measures will, however, be implemented from 31 July, such as the muzzling of pit bull terriers, and the ban on their breeding and their being given or exchanged.

Mr. Budgen

Even with the first part of the Bill coming into effect on 31 July, there would still be time for a proper gap between Second Reading and Committee stage.

Mr. Baker

On such matters, I must take the advice of the managers of Government business. Their clear advice was that, if the Bill is to proceed to the House of Lords, it must finish its passage through this House by the end of this week. I have some sympathy with the feelings of those hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Bradford, South and for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), who have said that we should debate several of these matters at greater length. However, it is ironic that even in this debate on the guillotine motion, in which the Opposition Front Bench have said, "We will co-operate and we will not vote against you," in the two hours in which we have debated the motion, several Opposition Members have said, "No, we shall not accept that advice." I do not criticise that attitude—it is the prerogative of hon. Members—but it is none the less a reflection of the fact that it is difficult to contain debates, especially on such difficult matters.

Mr. Cryer


Mr. Baker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way to him. The House wishes to move on to Second Reading and he and I will spend much of the rest of the evening debating these matters, in which I know that he has a particular interest.

I very much hope that we can now proceed with the Second Reading debate. It is important that we do so. There is no question of the Government wishing to avoid a vote or debate on the question of registration. Such a debate and vote is inevitable whenever the question of dogs arises. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hatterlsey) asked about that in our short discussion and I said that I would ensure that we could have such a debate and vote under any procedures that were introduced. The guillotine motion allows for that to take place first.

No hon. Member has been more eloquent than the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) who intervened twice to say that the country expects nothing less than that we proceed with this matter—he used the word "immediately"—so that the Bill can pass through this House tomorrow. I agree with him.

Question put:

The House divides: Ayes 280, Noes 56.

Division No. 160] [5.55 pm
Adley, Robert Boswell, Tim
Aitken, Jonathan Bottomley, Peter
Alexander, Richard Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n)
Amess, David Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Amos, Alan Bowis, John
Arbuthnot, James Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Ashby, David Brazier, Julian
Atkins, Robert Bright, Graham
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Baldry, Tony Buck, Sir Antony
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Burns, Simon
Batiste, Spencer Burt, Alistair
Bellingham, Henry Butler, Chris
Bendall, Vivian Butterfill, John
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Carrington, Matthew
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Cash, William
Body, Sir Richard Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Boscawen, Hon Robert Chapman, Sydney
Chope, Christopher Janman, Tim
Churchill, Mr Jessel, Toby
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Colvin, Michael Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Conway, Derek Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Key, Robert
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Kilfedder, James
Cope, Rt Hon John King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Cran, James Kirkhope, Timothy
Currie, Mrs Edwina Knapman, Roger
Curry, David Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knox, David
Devlin, Tim Latham, Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Lawrence, Ivan
Dicks, Terry Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dover, Den Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Durant, Sir Anthony Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Dykes, Hugh Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Eggar, Tim Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lord, Michael
Evennett, David Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas McCrindle, Sir Robert
Fallon, Michael MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Favell, Tony MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Maclean, David
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey McLoughlin, Patrick
Fishburn, John Dudley McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Forth, Eric McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fox, Sir Marcus Madel, David
Freeman, Roger Major, Rt Hon John
French, Douglas Malins, Humfrey
Gale, Roger Mans, Keith
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maples, John
Gill, Christopher Marland, Paul
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Marlow, Tony
Goodlad, Alastair Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gorst, John Mates, Michael
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Maude, Hon Francis
Greenway, Harry (Eating N) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Gregory, Conal Meyer, Sir Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Miller, Sir Hal
Grist, Ian Miscampbell, Norman
Ground, Patrick Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grylls, Michael Mitchell, Sir David
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Moate, Roger
Hague, William Monro, Sir Hector
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moore, Rt Hon John
Hanley, Jeremy Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Morrison, Sir Charles
Harris, David Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Haselhurst, Alan Moss, Malcolm
Hayes, Jerry Moynihan, Hon Colin
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Mudd, David
Hayward, Robert Neale, Sir Gerrard
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nelson, Anthony
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Neubert, Sir Michael
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Nicholls, Patrick
Hind, Kenneth Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Holt, Richard Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hordern, Sir Peter Norris, Steve
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Oppenheim, Phillip
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Page, Richard
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Paice, James
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Patnick, Irvine
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, Rt Hon David Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Portillo, Michael
Irvine, Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Jack, Michael Price, Sir David
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Rathbone, Tim Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Redwood, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Rhodes James, Robert Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Riddick, Graham Thompson, Patrick (Norwich i
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Thorne, Neil
Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy) Thurnham, Peter
Roe, Mrs Marion Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Tracey, Richard
Rost, Peter Tredinnick, David
Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela Trippier, David
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Trotter, Neville
Sackville, Hon Tom Twinn, Dr Ian
Sayeed, Jonathan Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Viggers, Peter
Shaw, David (Dover) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Walden, George
Shelton, Sir William Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Walters, Sir Dennis
Shersby, Michael Ward, John
Sims, Roger Watts, John
Skeet, Sir Trevor Wells, Bowen
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wheeler, Sir John
Speller, Tony Whitney, Ray
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Widdecombe, Ann
Squire, Robin Wiggin, Jerry
Stanbrook, Ivor Wilkinson, John
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wilshire, David
Steen, Anthony Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stern, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Stevens, Lewis Wood, Timothy
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Yeo, Tim
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Stokes, Sir John Tellers for the Ayes:
Sumberg, David Mr. David Lightbown and
Summerson, Hugo Mr. John M. Taylor.
Alton, David Johnston, Sir Russell
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Jones, leuan (Ynys Mon)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Kennedy, Charles
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Kirkwood, Archy
Bellotti, David Lambie, David
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Lamond, James
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Lewis, Terry
Budgen, Nicholas Livsey, Richard
Campbell-Savours, D. N. McAllion, John
Carr, Michael McCartney, Ian
Cartwright, John McKelvey, William
Cohen, Harry Maclennan, Robert
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Meale, Alan
Cox, Tom Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Butt
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Douglas, Dick Patchett, Terry
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Ross, William (Londonderry E
Fearn, Ronald Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Sillars, Jim
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Gordon, Mildred Wallace, James
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Wigley, Dafydd
Hardy, Peter Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Hood, Jimmy Winnick, David
Howells, Geraint Wise, Mrs Audrey
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Tellers for the Noes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Bob Cryer and
Janner, Greville Mr. Dennis Skinner.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved. That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Dangerous Dogs Bill