HC Deb 12 December 1996 vol 287 cc387-8
1. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his policy with respect to the Province's dog licence scheme. [7315]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Ancram)

The Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 provides for the licensing of dogs, the collection of strays and the control of dogs on land and on certain roads. It also provides controls on guard dogs and breeding establishments, and creates offences for allowing dogs to attack people or livestock.

Mr. Brown

Is the system accepted in Northern Ireland? If so, what justification is there for having one policy in Northern Ireland and a different policy in the rest of the United Kingdom? If my right hon. Friend agrees that the system is good and well respected, should he not make representations to the Home Secretary to ensure that the law of the land is the same throughout the kingdom?

Mr. Ancram

It appears that the system is accepted, because there is no great pressure for change. When we are asked why things happen in Northern Ireland, we often say that it is because it is different. On this occasion, I can say that with some authority, because the report of the UK interdepartmental working party on dogs, which was published in 1976, acknowledged that Northern Ireland had a distinct and more serious dog control problem than Great Britain, specifying in particular stray dogs and sheep worrying. For that reason, a different system applies.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker

Will the Government give more latitude to magistrates in the implementation of the order, particularly in relation to destruction? Will the Government also consider the provision of a free licence for senior citizens?

Mr. Ancram

The last subject is a matter of some contention. This is not the first time it has been raised, but I am sure that my noble Friend Baroness Denton of Wakefield will have heard the hon. Gentleman.

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I understand that the order gives no latitude. The destruction of dogs is required where a dog has attacked a person or another animal.

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