HL Deb 22 June 1972 vol 332 cc371-3

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the review of all matters concerning the licensing of dogs, which was being carried out in January, 1971, has now been completed and when the result may be expected to be published.


My Lords, there has been progress in the review to which the noble Lord refers, but a decision on the future of dog licensing needs to be made in the wider context of measures for the control of dogs generally. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will shortly be consulting the Local Authority Associations on this latter aspect.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. This review appears to be lasting even longer than the inquiry into the matter of the Consumer Council referred to by the noble Baroness. Can we look forward to some early Statement as to when this decision is likely to come?—because there is a great demand for it, particularly in the rural areas, where there is a considerable amount of sheep-worrying.


My Lords, my noble friend may look forward to it, but I cannot tell him exactly when in fact it will be.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us whether, when the whole question of dog licences is under review, consideration will be given to increasing the cost of licences for dogs in urban areas, such as residential London areas, where the fouling of the pavements by dogs is becoming a serious problem?


My Lords, that is doubtless one of the points that is being taken into account.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that over the years we have received similar answers from the Government Front Bench of both Parties on this point? For example, in 1959, after a full debate in this House on the question of licensing, we were assured by the noble Lord who answered for the then Conservative Government that this matter would receive urgent attention. Ten years later we had another full debate on this subject, when the Labour Government were in office, and we had a still fuller assurance from the Minister that the matter would receive immediate attention. Can my noble friend perhaps be a little more expansive on the likelihood of our getting a reply in the next year or two?


My Lords, the problem is still receiving immediate attention. It is merely over the conclusion that the delay occurs.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that Merlin, the Welsh wizard, had a corgi that he taught to read and write? With a little care these Welsh dogs are very intelligent, and the noble Earl would probably get over the trouble by teaching them to read and write.


My Lords, that is a fascinating piece of information of which I was not aware.


My Lords, does my noble friend recollect that in the two debates to which reference has been made it was reported that the dog population exceeded by some 2½ million the number of licences taken out? Can he now do anything to damp the hopes of those who evade obtaining dog licences, and have been doing so for a long time?


My Lords, there is no official estimate of the number of dogs in the country, but the R.S.P.C.A. have quoted approximately 5 million at the present time. Slightly under 3 million licences have been taken out.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that while many local authorities have imposed by-laws prohibiting the fouling of pavements by dogs, it is remarkable how slow they are in enforcing them? Will he have a word with his right honourable friend to see whether it would be possible for the appropriate Department to send out a circular drawing the attention of local authorities to this matter, so that they will be a little more stringent in their attention to it?


My Lords, local authorities have many pressing problems, and I suppose it is a question of whether this comes high up in the list of priorities. Some local authorities have introduced dog wardens.


My Lords, is the noble Earl not aware that, despite the fact that notices about the fouling of footpaths are posted upon lamp-posts, the dogs are unable to read them?


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he has any information about the number of dog licences that will be cancelled by the Leader of the Opposition in another place by the time the Common Market Bill is through?


My Lords, I am afraid that I am completely unable to give my noble friend the answer to that question.


My Lords, does not the noble Earl agree that the licence fee ought to be kept uniform as happens with motor cars, where the old form of taxation, in which the licence fee depended on the horsepower of the car was changed?


My Lords, all these matters are being taken into account with regard to not only the cost of the licence, but who should claim it and what should be done with it. This is one of the points which I am sure will be taken into account.


My Lords, would it be a good idea to plant 5 million trees?