HL Deb 11 November 1969 vol 305 cc527-43

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I am conscious that it is a Bill which will affect a large number of people and that it is controversial in the sense that it affects them in different ways. The question is: what should be the legal relations between those who keep animals and those who may be killed or injured or damaged by those animals? Therefore, while many people are interested in and concerned with such a subject they are concerned in different ways because, manifestly, the interests of those who keep the animals are different from, and indeed opposed to, the interests of those who may be killed or injured or damaged by them.

Nearly all our law in this field is common law; hardly any of it is statutory. It can only be found in the decisions of the judges going back over the centuries. In this law there are many anomalies and matters of doubt and it is, I submit, no longer appropriate to have our law in this form. Much of it was decided in days when the social and economic conditions were entirely different from what they are now, and it is one of the inevitable disadvantages of a law which is based on precedents that precedents may so harden that the judges are themselves unable, although they might wish to do so, to alter previous decisions. So I submit that the time has come for us to state this law in a modern form and by Statute.

It is very well known to all lawyers what an unsatisfactory branch of the law this is. In paragraph 1 of their Report, the Law Commission remind us that in their very first Programme they said this:


It is widely recognised that this branch of the law is in an unsatisfactory state and that it continues to apply rules and draw distictions which make little sense in modern conditions. Following the Report of the Committee on the Law of Civil Liability for Damage done by Animals, the Goddard Committee, there has been repeated public discussion of the matter, but none of the proposals of the Committee has yet been implemented. Realising that reform in this field is controversial, the Commission nevertheless takes the view that modernisation and simplification are necessary. They recommended that a study of this subject should be made.

The subject is one which conveniently divides itself into what are four separate branches of the law. It is part of our general law that in ordinary circumstances people whose conduct may affect others owe them a duty to go about their business with reasonable care. If you are a surgeon, you are under an obligation at common law to operate with reasonable skill and care; if you are a motorist, you have a duty to drive your car with reasonable care—or, for that matter, if you are a pedestrian putting up an umbrella on a rainy day on the pavement. If you leave your car with a garage to be repaired they are under a duty at common law—it is not written down anywhere—to carry out the repair with reasonable care.

This is a wide branch of the law which lawyers call negligence. Negligence consists in breach of that duty to use reasonable care which obtains in most walks of life. There is a well-known passage by Lord Atkin in his speech in the case of Donoghue v. Stevenson in which he spoke in this way: The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer's question, Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be—persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.

Apart from our general law, exceptions have been made in four specific fields which are really quite different and which I think I should take separately. First, the question affecting general liability for injuries and damage done by animals. Our law at the moment divides animals into animals ferae naturae, which I suppose one may translate as "wild"; and animals mansuetae naturae which one may call "tame" or "domesticated". The law is this. If you keep an animal which is ferae naturae you do so at your peril. This is what the law calls strict liability. It does not matter whether you took care or not, you are liable for the injury and damage that it does. However, in the case of a species which is mansuetae naturae you are not liable, in strict liability, unless, while the species is a tame one, the particular animal that you have you know to be vicious, in which case there is also strict liability.

This may be a sensible division, but it has given rise to a great many difficulties. In the first place, is the categorisation the best that can be made? In this country, most rabbits and pigeons are living in the wild state but they are not dangerous. Under our law, elephants and monkeys belong to animals ferae naturae. though whether they are particularly dangerous or not I do not know. But camels and bulls are said to be domesticated and therefore not dangerous. It is open to question how far in deciding whether a particular species comes within the class of wild animals you pay attention to its conditions abroad or look only at the position in this country. When you say that a particular animal is dangerous, do you mean dangerous from the point of view of injuring human beings or also as one liable to cause damage? And difficulties have arisen as to exactly who is liable, the owner or the person who has it in possession.

Then this question has arisen: suppose this species is not dangerous in an ordinary sense but this particular animal is known to its owner to have a dangerous infectious disease; in what category ought that to count? Questions have arisen as to what defences to an action there should be. Should it be a defence if what happened is entirely or partly the plaintiff's own fault or if there was what the lawyers call an "Act of God"? Ordinarily, a man may voluntarily undertake a risk and therefore disable himself from having a legal claim. What, for example, should be the position of the ordinary farm hand who is gored by a bull? Ought we to say that he has voluntarily undertaken the risk, or ought we to say that it was for the employer to decide in what conditions the bull had been kept and that was a thing in which the farm worker had no say? What should be the position if what happened was really the fault of some third party? And suppose the person injured is a trespasser on the land of the person who has the animal?

There being all these difficulties, it has been thought right to reform and, in a sense, codify this branch of the law, and that is what the Bill does. Clause 1(1)(a) says: The provisions of sections 2 to 5 of this Act replace the rules of the common law imposing a strict liability in tort for damage done by an animal on the ground that the animal is regarded as ferae naturae or that its vicious or mischievous propensities are known or presumed to be known. So that gets rid of the existing law. Clause 2(1) says—I am hoping that your Lordships will think that this is a Bill which is written in English so that ordinary educated people can perfectly well understand it: Where any damage is caused by an animal which belongs to a dangerous species, any person who is a keeper of the animal is liable for the damage, except as otherwise provided by this Act. Subsection (2) states: Where damage of any kind is caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species, and—

  1. (a) the animal has such characteristics that it is likely, unless restrained, to cause damage of that kind or that any damage of that kind that it may cause is likely to be severe; and
  2. (b) those characteristics are known or treated as known to a person who is a keeper of the animal; that person is liable for the damage, except as otherwise provided by this Act."

Your Lordships may say, "That sounds all right, but, of course, we want to know what you mean by 'keeper', and what you mean by 'dangerous species', and what you mean by known'—and, for that matter, what you mean by 'damage'". Clause 11 provides that: 'damage' includes the death of, or injury to, any person (including any disease and any impairment of physical or mental condition) As to "keeper", Clause 6(3) provides: Subject to subsection (4) of this section, a person is a keeper of an animal if—

  1. (a) he owns the animal or has it in his possession; or
  2. (b) a member of his household under the age of sixteen owns the animal or has it in his possession"—
so we shall be responsible in law for our children's animals— and if at any time an animal ceases to be owned by or to be in the possession of a person, any person who immediately before that time was a keeper thereof by virtue of the preceding provisions of this subsection continues to be a keeper of the animal until another person becomes a keeper thereof by virtue of those provisions. So if a dangerous animal escapes you are liable until somebody else becomes keeper. Then as to dangerous species: A dangerous species is a species—
  1. (a) which is not generally domesticated in the British Islands; and
  2. (b) whose fully grown animals normally have such characteristics that they are likely, unless restrained, to cause damage or that any damage they may cause is likely to be severe."

What defences there may be are provided by Clause 5(1) which says: A person is not liable under sections 2 to 4 of this Act for any damage which is due wholly to the fault of the person suffering it. Subsection (2) says: A person is not liable under section 2 of this Act for any damage suffered by a person who has voluntarily accepted the risk thereof. But this has to be read with Clause 6(6) which says: Where a person employed as a servant by a keeper of an animal accepts a risk incidental to his employment he is not treated as accepting it voluntarily. Then Clause 5(3) states: A person is not liable under section 2 of this Act for any damage caused by an animal kept on any premises or structure to a person trespassing there, if it is proved—

  1. (a) where the animal belongs to a dangerous species, that it was not kept there to deter or cause damage to trespassers;
  2. (b) where the animal does not belong to a dangerous species, that it was not kept there to cause damage to trespassers."
My Lords, this is a simplification and modernisation of the law, so that instead of having to search through innumerable reported cases going back over decades, and, indeed centuries, anyone who wants can read it, and I hope that that part of the Bill may commend itself to your Lordships.

The next question is: what ought to be the law about dogs killing or injuring livestock? There has always been a liability on the owners of dogs who do this, and laws by which, if it is necessary, farmers can shoot the dogs; but there are doubts as to who is liable and doubts as to the circumstances in which farmers can shoot. My Lords, none of us likes the idea of dogs being shot, particularly, perhaps, if we are not countrymen, but no one with a knowledge of this subject thinks that any other course can be taken, mainly for three reasons: first, because experience shows that once dogs develop a liking for killing and injuring sheep or poultry they are vitually impossible to cure and will go on doing it; secondly, because if there is a stray dog—I mean an unaccompanied dog—facing a farmer and his flock, it is no good the farmer saying, "Excuse me, sir, but would you mind telling me who you belong to?", because if he does not know who is the owner of the dog he cannot deal with that; and, thirdly, because of the extent of the mischief. In 1961–66, in England and Wales there were over 54,000 sheep killed or injured by dogs, and in the same period over 71,000 head of poultry. Here again, the object of this Bill is to simplify and clarify the law.

Clause 11 defines livestock as follows: livestock' means any animal of the bovine species, horses, asses, mules, hinnies, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry, and also deer not in the wild state; 'poultry' means domestic fowls, turkey, geese, ducks, guinea-fowls and pigeons …

Once again, Clause 1 begins by clearing away the present law, part of which is statute law. It says that: The provisions of sections 2 to 5 of this Act replace … (b) subsections (1) and (2) of the Dogs Act 1906 as amended by the Dogs (Amendment) Act 1928 (injury to cattle or poultry) … Clause 3 of the Bill provides that: Where a dog causes damage by killing or injuring livestock, any person who is a keeper of the dog is liable for the damage, except as otherwise provided by this Act. Clause 5(1) creates the same defence, if the matter is entirely the fault of the owner of the animal, and Clause 5(4) says: A person is not liable under section 3 of this Act if the livestock was killed or injured on land on to which it had strayed and either the dog belonged to the occupier or its presence on the land was authorised by the occupier. In other words, it is no good complaining if you allow your sheep to stray on to the dog's land, because you cannot blame the dog for defending its own land. Anyway, you have no business to be shooting on somebody else's land.

Clause 9 deals with what farmers may do in any civil proceedings against them. It says: In any civil proceedings against a person (in this section referred to as the defendant) for killing or causing injury to a dog it shall be a defence to prove—

  1. (a) that the defendant acted for the protection of any livestock and was a person entitled to act for the protection of that livestock; and
  2. (b) that within forty-eight hours of the killing or injury notice thereof was given by the defendant to the officer in charge of a police station."
Subsection (2) says: For the purposes of this section a person is entitled to act for the protection of any livestock if, and only if—
  1. (a) the livestock or the land on which it is belongs to him or to any person under whose express or implied authority he is acting; and
  2. (b) the circumstances are not such that liability for killing or causing injury to the livestock would be excluded by section 5(4) of this Act."

That is the one about sheep straying on to the dog's land.

Subsections (3), (4) and (5) say: Subject to subsection (4) of this section, a person killing or causing injury to a dog shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to act for the protection of any livestock if, and only if, either—

  1. (a) the dog is worrying or is about to worry the livestock and there are no other reasonable means of ending or preventing the worrying; or
  2. (b) the dog has been worrying livestock and is not under the control of any person and there are no practicable means of ascertaining to whom it belongs;
but shall be so deemed by virtue of paragraph (b) of this subsection only while the dog remains in the vicinity or is making off. (4) for the purposes of this section the condition stated in either of the paragraphs of the preceding subsection shall be deemed to have been satisfied if the defendant believed that it was satisfied and had reasonable ground for that belief. (5) For the purposes of this section—
  1. (a) an animal belongs to any person if he owns it or has it in his possession; and
  2. (b) land belong to any person if he is the occupier thereof."

Again this is a re-statement of the law, clarifying various doubts which have arisen in the course of the years in this branch of the law and, I hope your Lordships will agree, putting it in ordinary English words that ordinary people can understand.

The third branch is the subject of cattle trespass. Anyone who owns cattle has always been liable for any damage which the cattle do when they trespass, but here again there are a number of difficulties about the existing law. It is all case law and lawyers have to rummage about among the decided cases to see which case fits their own action and there is some doubt as to what may be done. For example, if cattle invade your farm or garden and you have asked Aunt Maud to lunch and she has come over in her car and the cattle make rather a mess of Aunt Maud's car, has she got a claim? Then there is still some doubt whether, apart from the claim for damage to land, there is a claim in respect of any personal injury the cattle have done. Up to recent times, owners have thought that the law applied only to damage to property but it seems from a more recent case, that this also extends to personal injury, though it is not very clear.

If cattle stray on to land, the existing law provides a remedy by a special action called distress damage feasant. Under this law you can impound the cattle or take them to the nearest public pound, and the virtue of possession is that you are not going to give up possession until you get paid for the damage that has been done. But as the result of difficulties about this law it is virtually obsolete. At the time that law was made, there were public pounds all over the country for straying cattle, a common occurrence. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will know better than I do whether there are any public pounds left, and no doubt he will be able to tell us. But I have never seen one myself.

The next difficulty is that the law did not give the person who impounded cattle any right to sell; and of course all animals in pounds have to be fed and watered. This is a continuing expense. If nobody turns up, what can the impounder do, because he cannot sell? The Bill clears away all these difficulties. Clause 1(c) says: The provisions of sections 2 to 5 of this Act replace … (c) the rules of the common law imposing a liability for cattle trespass. Then Clause 4 provides:

  1. "(1) Where livestock belonging to any person strays on to land in the ownership or occupation of another and—
    1. (a) damage is done by the livestock to the land or to any property on it which is in the ownership or possession of the other person; or
    2. (b) any expenses are reasonably incurred by that other person in keeping the livestock while it cannot be restored to the person to whom it belongs or while it is detained in pursuance of section 7 of this Act, or in ascertaining to whom it belongs;
    the person to whom the livestock belongs is liable for the damage or expenses, except as otherwise provided by this Act.
  2. (2) For the purposes of this section any livestock belongs to the person in whose possession it is."

Clause 7 is a modern equivalent of the obsolete law on distress damage feasant. It says this:

  1. "(1) The right to seize and detain any animal by way of distress damage feasant is hereby abolished.
  2. (2) Where any livestock strays on to any land and is not then under the control of any person the occupier of the land may detain it, subject to subsection (3) of this section, unless ordered to return it by a court.
  3. (3) Where any livestock is detained in pursuance of this section the right to detain it ceases—
(a) at the end of a period of forty-eight hours, unless within that period notice of the detention has been given to the officer in charge of a police station and also, if the person detaining the livestock knows to whom it belongs, to that person; or secondly, when such amount is tendered to the person detaining the livestock as is sufficient to satisfy any claim he may have under section 4 of this Act in respect of the livestock; or thirdly, if he has no such claim, when the livestock is claimed by a person entitled to its possession. Then, subsection (4): Where livestock has been detained in pursuance of this section for a period of not less than twenty-one days"— and here is a point where the Government have ventured to differ from the draft Bill of the Law Commission. It was represented to us by many interests affected that the period of 14 days contained in the draft clause of the Royal Commission was too short, and we have made that 21 days. Where livestock has been detained in pursuance of this section for a period of not less than twenty-one days the person detaining it may sell it at a market or by public auction, unless proceedings are then pending, for the return of the livestock or for any claim under section 4 of this Act in respect of it. Subsection (5) lays down: Where any livestock is sold in the exercise of the right conferred by this section and the proceeds of sale, less the costs thereof and any costs incurred in connection with it, exceed the amount of any claim under section 4 of this Act which the vendor had in respect of the livestock, the excess shall be recoverable from him by the person who would be entitled to the possession of the livestock but for the sale. That is common sense. You may deduct from the net proceeds of sale the amount of your claim, and the balance is due to the original owner. Then subsection (6) says: A person detaining any livestock in pursuance of this section is liable for any damage caused to it by a failure to treat it with reasonable care and supply it with adequate food and water while it is so detained. Then, under subsection (7): References in this section to a claim under section 4 of this Act in respect of any livestock do not include any claim under that section for damage done by or expenses incurred in respect of the livestock before the straying in connection with which it is detained under this section. That, too, is only common sense. Here, again, I hope the House will agree that this is a clear and sensible amendment of the law, so far as the law needed amendment, and otherwise a re-statement in a clear form.

I do not believe, so far, that any of these three Parts of the Bill are controversial. But the fourth Part to which I am now coming, undoubtedly is: that is, the question of animals straying on to a highway. This relates only to animals straying; it is perfectly lawful for anybody to take his animal on to a highway. Obviously, sheep have to be driven along the highway, and people take dogs along the highway, but, in those circumstances, the law now is that you have to exercise reasonable care. The man who has a flock of sheep in his charge has to exercise reasonable care; the person who takes a dog along a pavement has to exercise reasonable care: whether not putting the dog on a lead is a breach of that duty or not no doubt depends on the dog and the facts of the case.

The existing law in this field—and it is very peculiar—is that there is no liability whatever on those who own animals to take the slightest step or exercise the slightest care to stop them from straying on to the highway. If this seems extraordinary, one should perhaps remember that originally we were an agricultural country. Before the days of the internal combusion engine and before the days of the railway train all goods had to go by road in carts or in wagons; passengers travelled in coaches and men rode horses: and if you came across a horse or any kind of animal, there was no reason why this should cause a danger. So a great many years ago the decisions of the judges were to the effect that one who owned animals, even on land adjoining a highway, was under no obligation of any kind to take the slightest step to stop his animals from getting on to the highway. Of course, conditions to-day are entirely different.

Unfortunately, no modem statistics on this subject are kept by the Home Office or by anyone else, so the Law Commission have had to make their own inquiries. They have only been able to find some from the county police authorities —though, of course, any lawyer knows that these things do occur. We have all in our time had to advise in tragic cases: some animal crossing the highway has resulted, perhaps, in a coach overturning and there are 20 dead and 30 injured; and some of those injured may be injured for life so badly that they can never work again and will be condemned to living on public assistance for the rest of their lives. One has to tell them, and the widows, that English law provides no remedy for this; that in law nobody is responsible, and they are not entitled to a penny.

The inquiries made (this covers the years 1961 to 1965) show that in Car- marthen and Cardigan the total number of highway accidents was 12,534 and the number of accidents in which animals were involved, 2,048: that is, about one in six. In Cornwall accidents were 40,277, and cases where animals were involved 4,792: that is, about 10 per cent. In Devon and Exeter, the accidents were 47,214, and cases where animals were involved 4,870: that is, about 11 to 12 per cent. The statistics for cities, of course, are different, and one would expect smaller proportions. In the city of Portsmouth, the total number of accidents was 18,592, and those where animals were involved 1,474: that is, about one in 15, or something of that kind.

All these cases are tragedies, and the judges have been pointing this out for half a century. About a quarter of a century ago Lord Greene, Master of the Rolls, said in the Court of Appeal: In my opinion this court is bound by a rule of law which I dislike, but which has been stated or assumed to exist in several pronouncements of this court. The rule appears to be ill-adapted to modern conditions. A farmer who allows his cow to stray through a gap in his hedge on to his neighbour's land where it consumes a few cauliflowers is liable in damages to the neighbour, but if through a similar gap in the hedge it strays oil to the road and causes the overturning of a motor omnibus, with death or injury to 30 or 40 people, he is under no liability at all. I scarcely think that this is a satisfactory state of affairs in the twentieth century. This was so well known that a Committee was appointed some 18 years ago under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, to review the subject. They reported that the law on this point obviously needed amendment. But nothing was done. The reason why nothing has ever been done is, as I understand it, the difficulty of any Government in getting the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Agriculture to agree what exactly the liability should be.

There are obviously powerful vested interests in the matter, and particularly, of course, the National Farmers' Union. In paragraph 40 of their Report the Law Commission say on this point: We have reached the conclusion that the case for changing the principle behind Searle v. Wallbank" that was a case in your Lordships' House where, somewhat reluctantly I think, it was found that this old law of there being no obligation to take the slightest care to stop your animals from getting on the road was so old that it could not now be changed by the judges— is overwhelming. The expanding needs of society as a whole must from time to time require some adjustment of the rights and duties of particular interests within that society; in the present context this means that the balance between the interests of the keepers of animals and users of the highway which was struck in the past under very different conditions cannot be wholly maintained in the twentieth century. We recognise however that any such readjustment must take account of the economic and social importance of the keeping of animals and of the burden and practical difficulties which may be involved in ensuring that they do not cause damage on the highway; but against these considerations must be weighed the danger to life, limb and property of those who use the highway. We turn therefore to the nature of the change which should be made to the law as laid down in Searle v. Wallbank. Almost all whom we have consulted would seem prepared at least to accept as a general rule a duty to take such care as may be reasonable in the circumstances.

Scotland has not followed us. There there is a duty on those who keep animals to take reasonable care to see that they do not escape to the highway. What is reasonable care must depend on all the facts of the case. The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to follow us in our law, and so has the United States. In most of the civil law countries the whole of the subject is very much simplified because there is strict liability for everything animals do. If you keep animals, and any injury or damage happens to anyone or anything it is your fault, and they deal with it in that way.

I confess that I should have been happy to see a simple statement that those who keep animals owe a duty to take reasonable care to see that they do not escape to a highway. I remember a time when the common law as to the liability of occupiers towards people who come on their premises was extremely complicated. The law said that it depends, first of all, whether such people are invitees or licensees or trespassers. Although you might think that if you asked somebody to dinner he would be an invitee, the answer is "No": the invitee is a person in whom the owner of the land has a financial interest in having him there. So the dinner guest is only a licensee. To the invitee you owed a duty to take reasonable care to see that he suffered no injury. To the licensee you owed only a duty to warn him of any dangers of which you knew but he did not. To the trespasser you owed only a duty not to set a trap.

The law books are littered with cases on this subject, many of them being cases to decide whether a particular man in the circumstances of a particular case is an invitee or a licensee. There was always some difficulty, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simonds will remember, in stating with precision exactly what was the duty owed to a licensee. A good many years ago now, when I was a member of the Lord Chancellor's Law Reform Committee, we were asked to consider this matter, and we said that the law with regard to trespassers was sound but that, as to the rest, there ought to be a simple duty to take reasonable care towards those who come on your premises, and that whether there is a breach of that duty or not must depend on all the circumstances of the case. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock (as he now is), made a dissenting Report. He said that that is so vague that people will not really know where they are, and that too many cases will have to be brought to decide how a judge is to say whether or not, in all the circumstances of the case, the defenddant was taking reasonable care. In point of fact that has been implemented in the Occupiers' Liability Act which, if I may say so, is a model of clear draftsmanship by our present First Parliamentary Counsel, and I think there have not been more than two or three cases in all the years that have followed which have had to be brought to construe that Act.

Clause 8 of the Bill, which deals comprehensively with this subject, says: (1) So much of the rules of the common law relating to liability for negligence as excludes or restricts the duty which a person might owe to others to take such care as is reasonable to see that damage is not caused by animals straying on to a highway is hereby abolished. So that gets rid of the existing law. The matter might have been left there, that it depends on all the circumstances of the case, but the National Farmers' Union were very anxious that some guideline should be given to a judge, although every case differs in its facts. So the advice of the Law Commission was to include the following—and I quote now from subsection (2): The following matters shall be included among those to which regard must be had in determining whether any damage caused by animals straying from any land on to a highway was wholly or partly due to a breach of the duty to take care:—

  1. (a) the nature of the land and its situation in relation to the highway;
  2. (b) the use likely to be made of the highway at the time the damage was caused;
  3. (c) the obstacles, if any, to be overcome by animals in straying from the land on to the highway;
  4. (d) the extent to which users of the highway might be expected to be aware of and guard against the risks involved in the presence of animals on the highway;
  5. (e) the seriousness of any such risk and the steps that would have been necessary to avoid or reduce it; …
and a person shall not be regarded as committing a breach of the duty to take care by reason only of placing anmials on any common land or town or village green in any case where it is lawful for him to do so.

The reference to common land is built on a simple fact that while commoners may have a right to graze their cattle on common land, they have no right to put up a fence. With this provision, in the form in which it left the Law Commission, the National Farmers' Union were still dissatisfied. They said: "How can we be sure that a judge will, for instance, say, where there is a road going over a farm in Cumberland, that the farmer ought to have fenced the whole thing?". Well, my Lords, many of the decisions which our judges have to make every day are very much more a matter of common sense than anything else. I do not think it was really ever necessary to tell them to take any particular things into account. Circumstances vary, and the question was: "What would a reasonable man do in the circumstances of the case?"

Having had further representations made to me by the National Farmers' Union, I have, to please them, added on some words in paragraph (e) of subsection (2), so that it will now read: the seriousness of any such risk and the steps that would have been necessary to avoid or reduce it, and, where it could have been avoided or reduced by fencing, the extent (if any) to which fencing is the normal practice in the area in which the land is situate; That, I hope, has met their point.

My Lords, this is a serious question for many people. It is only right to make it plain that it affects dogs as much as it affects cattle or other animals coming from farms. Every year 500 people are killed or seriously injured in accidents in which dogs are involved; that is to say, every week there are about 10 people dead who would have been alive or who are seriously injured when they would not have been injured. There is a common general liability policy for third-party risks. It covers one against miscellaneous matters of this kind, and the last time I looked at mine I think the premium was 10s. a year. I think that the fear of the National Farmers' Union that a great deal of money is going to be involved is probably erroneous. It is, of course, a question of insurance, but I understand that all farmers have a policy of insurance which covers them against third party risks. If an additional third-party risk arises the question really is: What will be the additional premium to be paid? I will express no opinion about that, and no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will give us his opinion about it. However, in Scotland. where the law is as the Bill proposes, there is, as I understand it, no higher level of farmers' insurance premiums than obtains in England.

Clause 10 refers to how far contributory negligence will be relevant and periods of limitation; that is to say, the periods within which actions under the Bill must be brought. Clause 12 provides:

  1. "(1) This Act binds the Crown, but nothing in this section shall authorise proceedings to be brought against Her Majesty in her private capacity.
  2. (2) Section 38(3) of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 (interpretation of references to Her Majesty in her private capacity) shall apply as if this section were contained in that Act."

Clause 13 provides that the Bill, if your Lordships think fit, should come into force on January 1, 1971; and it does not apply to Scotland or to Northern Ireland. The reason why it does not apply to Scotland is that there was a Scottish Committee, which was the equivalent of the Goddard Committee in England. Nothing followed from that Committee, either, but my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland wants the Scottish Law Commission to consider the whole matter in the light of the Report of that Committee and of the Report of the English Law Commission. I understand that the Scottish Law Commission, who are already reviewing the law of obligations, as the law of tort is called in Scotland, will be doing that.

My Lords, this is, for the reasons which I have ventured to give, a contentious matter, but it cannot be right—can it?—that every year, every month and every week, people should be killed or injured or suffer damage, not because some unreasonable burden has been put upon those who own animals but because, quite exceptionally to the whole of the rest of our law, those who own animals need not pay the slightest attention or do anything at all to stop their animals from crossing on the highway. I hope, for the reasons which I have ventured to give, that your Lordships will approve the principle of the Bill, and pass it into law. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)