§ Mr. Maclean
I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 2, line 4, at end insert`and not more than ten years old, unless with specific written veterinary recommendation'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 14, in page 2, line 9, leave out from 'puppies' to 'and' in line 11.
No. 15, in page 2, line 15, at end insert 'or any potential buyer'.
§ Mr. Maclean
Amendment No. 14 is the most important in the group as it deals with a particular problem. Time is pressing and my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) is keen to explain the content of the amendments, so I shall leave the argument to him.
§ Mr. Clappison
As my right hon. Friend correctly anticipated, amendment No. 14 is important. Clause 2 deals withmatters to which a local authority shall have regard in determining whether to grant a licenceto a breeding establishment. It adds to the matters that are included in existing legislation, such as overbreeding by bitches—something to which I have already adverted and which is a frequent cause of complaint. Subsection (g) refers to bitches giving birth to more than six litters. That matter must be considered.
Amendment No. 14 deals with a similar point in relation to clause 2(2)(h). As the Bill stands, paragraph (h) creates an exception—it allows bitches to have another litter within 12 months of giving birth to the previous onewhere a veterinary surgeon or … practitioner has given written advice that breeding would not be harmful".Amendment No. 14 removes that exception.
I understand that the British Veterinary Association supports the amendment because, in its view, a vet cannot give an opinion on the suitability of breeding in the circumstances that I have outlined. It is obviously inappropriate to leave in the Bill the exception based on the vet's written advice if the British Veterinary Association takes the view that a vet cannot give such an 1256 opinion. It must be right to remove that exception. To do so does not weaken the Bill; in fact, it may well strengthen it.
§ Mr. George Howarth
First, I deal with amendment No. 13. In considering whether to grant a licence to a dog breeding establishment, a local authority is required to have regard to criteria set out in section 1(4) of the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973, and to include such criteria in the licence. The amendment would require that bitches are not mated if they are more than 10 years old, unless on the written recommendation of a vet.
Secondly, although the Bill requires that bitches are not mated if they are less than one year old, the amendment would allow bitches that are less than one year old to be mated only on the written advice of a vet. We understand that the British Veterinary Association's stance on these matters is that the vet cannot give an opinion on suitability for breeding, as anything could happen after clinical examination, which might lead to litigation.
Amendment No. 14 deals with clause 2(2)(h), which requires that bitches do not give birth to puppies within 12 months of a previous litterexcept where a veterinary surgeon or … practitioner has given written advice that breeding would not be harmful".The effect of the amendment would be to remove the exception whereby, on veterinary advice, bitches can give birth within less than 12 months of a previous litter.
I understand that the British Veterinary Association strongly supports the amendment, on the grounds that the vet cannot give an opinion on suitability for breeding. The BVA considers that anything could happen after the clinical examination, and that that might lead to litigation. I therefore believe that amendment No. 14 is reasonable, and urge the House to accept it.
Amendment No. 15 would enable any prospective purchaser of a dog to inspect records kept by the breeding establishment. The purpose of the keeping of records by breeding establishments is to help local authorities and vets to verify that the licensing conditions are being met. Although some businesses may wish to disclose the records to their customers, they should not have an obligation to do so. Some information—for example, on turnover—may be commercially sensitive. Therefore, I do not believe that it would be appropriate to support amendment No. 15.
§ Mr. Maclean
I am grateful for the Minister's words. I am pleased that we are making good progress. It would make sense to pass amendment No. 14. In view of the Minister's assurances, I should be delighted if we voted on it.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment made: No. 14, in page 2, line 9, leave out from 'puppies' to 'and' in line 11.—[Mr. Clappison.]