§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 30.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 94:
Page 29, line 26, at end insert—
("( ) The Audit Commission shall include a report of the use of auditors powers under this section and that Schedule in its annual report required to be published under Schedule 3 of the Local Government Finance Act 1982.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 94, I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 95. It will be obvious to your Lordships that it would not make sense for the audit commission to be required to report annually on the matters which are the subject of the schedule if the commission had no responsibilities for carrying them out. Therefore, Amendment No. 94 refers to the report but Amendment No. 95 is the important amendment. The schedule provides that instead of the existing local authority auditors taking responsibility for the prohibition orders and the judicial review which may follow, it should be taken by the audit commission.
§ I suggest that the normal audit responsibilities of an auditor should not be too closely confused with the function of an auditor as an adjudicator or a quasi-prosecutor. I also suggest that as soon as one has the possibility of a prohibition order, as proposed in the schedule, one begins to change the nature of the relationship between the auditor and the local authority. Working auditors must work closely in the offices of the authority. They must build up a position of mutual trust with the officials of the authority. They must have the power and the duty to draw matters to the attention of the authority and to ensure that they receive all the information necessary to fulfil their responsibilities. However, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, as soon as they are put into the position of judge and jury, in addition to being auditors, one begins to have a potential deterioration in the relationship.
There is a possibility of a conflict of interest and the certainty of problems in the day-to-day conduct of the audit procedures. That was made clear in the Widdicombe Report which states at paragrpah 9.48 that,
there would be advantage in creating greater distance between the job of the auditor on the ground and the job of audit service as
adjudicator under section 20 of the 1982 Act and as quasi-prosecutor under section 19 of the Act".
The Widdicombe Report goes on to state that in many ways the committee prefers the Scottish arrangements whereby the Controller of Audit in Scotland, who is the professional head of the audit service, has the responsibility to put forward a special report to the Commission for Local Authority Accounts where it is considered that there has been illegal expenditure or a loss caused by negligence or misconduct.
§ The Government now propose to increase the powers of auditors. I am not arguing the principle of whether the powers are necessary. I do not dissent from some of the remarks made by the noble Earl during the discussion on the previous amendment. If there have been abuses they should be dealt with as quickly as possible. However, that is not the question at issue. The question at issue is who should carry that out. I am conscious that the audit commission was reluctant to undertake those responsibilities.
§ However, the local authority auditors in England, through their professional body (the English ICA), have challenged the plans for the extension of their responsibilities. They consider that they are unwise and that they raise the possibility of a conflict of interest between their normal audit functions and the new functions envisaged under the new schedule. I believe that those concerns should be taken into acount. There must be a better reason than has been put forward as to why the Government should depart from the Widdicombe recommendations. I beg to move.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, the Widdicombe Committee felt that powers for preemptive action should lie with the audit commission whereas the provisions of Schedule 4 place the powers with the auditor. This accords with the views that the commission itself expressed in response to Widdicombe and in its proposals for changes in audit legislation. This weighed heavily in our consideration. We also took account of the obvious practical difficulties in giving a power for swift action to a commission which normally meets once a month and whose eminent members are busy people with widespread interests who cannot always be contacted in haste. We further recognised that the authority and standing which the commission as a body has established is due in no small part to the unity it has managed to preserve in taking some difficult decisions. I believe it would put unreasonable strain on the commission and perhaps change its nature in an unproductive way if it was required to make decisions to take action against individual councils.
It is the auditor who must assemble the evidence and is best placed to decide whether a case exists to invoke statutory sanctions. I do not believe that these powers are ones which will be of any concern to the vast majority of law-abiding authorities and that therefore they are unlikely to trouble the good relationships between those authorities and their auditors. I shall have more to say about the relationships in our discussions on the next amendment.
I return to Amendment No. 94. Those noble Lords who are familiar with the annual reports produced by 777 the commission will know what admirably clear and informative records it provides of the commission's activities during the year. I am sure that the commission will report at least as fully on the use of the powers as it does in respect of its other functions. I can see no particular reason why we should impose reporting requirements on the commission in respect of this function alone. I feel sure that we can confidently leave the matter to the commission's discretion, as we do with other matters.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's response but not at all satisfied with it. I am a great admirer of the audit commission. In addition to its function fo scarifying local authorities on occasions, it has a good reputation for scarifying the Government, who set it up. I do not say a word against Mr. Davies, because he has been in office for only a short time, but its independence under Mr. John Banham was quite outstanding. The argument about the report is a minor matter.
I find it surprising that the Government are so inflexible about the composition and duties of the audit commission. It meets once a month and that reflects the fact that it is not full-time. Its members are not permanent members of the commission. That does not mean that it could not have a staff of people capable of doing the work. When I moved the amendment I drew attention to the situation in Scotland and to the approval expressed by Widdicombe for the Scottish procedures although Widdicombe fell short of wanting any role for the Secretary of State, as there is in Scotland.
I am not satisfied with the reply from the Minister. I believe that we will have to find some other way of bringing this matter forward and drawing attention to it. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 4 [Sections to be inserted in Part III of Local Government Finance Act 1982]:
§ [Amendment No. 95 not moved.]
§ 4.30 p.m.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 96:
Page 40, line 44, after ("if") insert ("after consultation with the body or officer concerned")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I believe that Amendment No. 96 is a matter of common justice and decency in business procedures. What it says is that a prohibition order (a stop notice on a local authority) shall be served by an auditor only after consultation with the person concerned. Consultation does not mean that the person concerned has any power to stop the stop notice. We will see from later amendments that there could be a possibility of misunderstanding, failure of communication or of the auditor not having the full picture. Surely it should not cause any difficulty. It would be normal practice for anyone taking the strong step of issuing a prohibition order to consult the person concerned before he did so.778
§ I do not believe that this amendment is particularly contentious or that it is outside normal professional practice. I should have thought that it would cause no great difficulty for the Government to accept it. I beg to move.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, while the decision on when to use the new powers will be a matter solely for the auditor's discretion, auditors will be able to look to the commission for advice and guidance. They will also be required to take account of any relevant advice which the commission may include in the code of audit practice. I understand that it would be the intention of the commission to review the code to include such advice following Royal Assent.
Before making any alterations to the code the commission is required to consult the local authority associations and the accountancy bodies and any alterations must be sent to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, who will lay them before Parliament. This means that the House will have the opportunity to see and to consider any guidance which prescribes the way in which auditors should carry out these functions. I would expect that auditors would consult closely with the authority or officer concerned before deciding to take what is a very serious step to issue a prohibition notice.
I am sure that the guidance of the commission will deal with this question and set out appropriate procedures. I do not believe that it would be right to require the auditor to consult. The essence of these powers is that, while they may only be used sparingly, where they are used they may need to be used quickly. There seems little point in giving the auditor a power for quick pre-emptive action and then so tying him down with requirements as to consultation that he is invariably too late for the power to be effective.
That is the reason why we believe that the noble Lord's amendment is not acceptable. He is right to say that it would be normal common courtesy for an auditor to discuss the matter with an officer or an authority, but I am sure he can imagine better than I a situation where it would be necessary for an auditor to act very speedily in order to prevent a local authority or an officer taking an action of the nature which this part of the Bill is designed to prevent.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the Minister has gone some way to setting my mind at ease about this matter. I look forward to seeing the guidelines which will be produced. It is true, as the noble Earl says, that we shall have an opportunity to raise any concerns that we have about the guidelines when they come before us. However, by convention our ability to make changes or to oppose such matters is extremely restricted. In view of that reply I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 97:
Page 40, line 44, leave out ("he has reason to believe") and insert ("in the performance of his duties under section 15 of this Act it comes to his attention").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 97 I wish to speak also to 779 Amendment No. 98. A couple of amendments ago the Minister gave a great deal of weight to the views of the audit commission when we were dealing with whether it or local authority auditors should be responsible for the whole prohibition notice procedure. If he were to agree to Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 he would be acceding to the views of the audit commission which have been expressed to him. I understand that from the press, because I do not have the original documentation. I also understand that that was in response to the Department of the Environment's consultation paper.
As regards Amendment No. 97 the audit commission says:
Auditors should not be expected to 'seek out' potentially unlawful acts beyond the scope of their normal duties. A requirement to take action should therefore only apply to matters which come to the auditor's attention".
§ That is what Amendment No. 97 seeks to provide.
The audit commission goes on to say:
Any action taken should be restricted to those issues regarded as 'substantial' by the auditor, either in terms of amounts of money or general principle".
§ That is what Amendment No. 98 seeks to give effect to. This seems to me to be a common sense response on the part of the audit commission. The Minister will no doubt say that these matters can also be dealt with in the guidelines. I can almost see his brief in front of him. I believe that if he were to say that he agrees on behalf of the Government with what the audit commission has said and that he would expect those provisions to be in the guidelines, that probably would be as far as we could hope to take it. To enable him to do so, I beg to move.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I understand and sympathise with the intention behind Amendment No. 98. I agree that these powers should be principally addressed to substantial breaches of the law. It would not make good sense for the auditor to pursue trivial matters by way of a prohibition notice. The use of the power will inevitably involve expenditure of the auditor's time and costs in obtaining legal and other advice. It would not be sensible to incur expenditure which is disproportionate to the unlawful expenditure or loss likely to be incurred. The audit commission has made it known that it also shares this view, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has just said to the House. I am sure that the commission's guidance in the code will chart a sensible course and, as I have said, your Lordships will have the opportunity of considering it. I hope that that is of some comfort to the noble Lord.
Amendment No. 97 would seek to limit the use of these powers to matters coming to the auditor's attention in performance of his duties under Section 15 of the 1982 Act. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, that refers to matters coming to his attention in the course of the audit.
The difficulty which Widdicombe identified with the operation of Sections 19 and 20 is that these powers are backward looking. The auditor can only take action after the event when the extent of the losses are known and can be certified. That is why we need pre-emptive powers which can be used in anticipation of the accounts and why that effect would not be achieved by tying these powers to the auditors' duties under Section 15.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which indeed I anticipated to a considerable extent. I should prefer the matter to be on the face of the schedule. It would relieve the minds not only of the auditors, but also the local authorities would know, as a matter of statute, the extent to which auditors are likely to impose prohibition orders on them. There may well be cases for some prohibition orders. But, as the Minister said, the fewer cases there are the greater the likelihood that an amicable settlement can be reached without the imposition of a prohibition order.
However, with the assurances given by the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 98 not moved.]
Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 99:
Page 42, leave out lines 28 to 31.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment we move on almost two pages in this complex schedule. New Section 25C states:
No action shall lie against an auditor in respect of any loss or damage alleged to have been caused by reason of the issue of a prohibition order which was issued in good faith".
The exemption from the possibility of action applies peculiarly to auditors; but it does not apply to local authorities. If a local authority has to break or abort a contract as a result of a prohibition order by the auditor, then the local authority is open to damages. However, the auditor is treated differently. He is indemnified if he acts in good faith.
§ I emphasise that a considerable amount of money could be at stake. Some contracts which could be subject to a prohibition order can cost millions or tens of millions of pounds. The temptation could exist for an auditor who is worried but who has not had the time properly to investigate to issue a prohibition order to be on the safe side. That could be extremely dangerous.
§ I do not doubt in any way the professional quality of local authority auditors; that is not what I am here to question. However, I do question the propriety of virtually encouraging a local authority auditor to take what might be precipitate action because he is sure that he is indemnified under the very weak provision that he has acted "in good faith". That does not apply to any other profession of which I am aware and I do not believe that auditors themselves wish it to apply to the auditing profession. I beg to move.
§ 4.45 p.m.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, where an order is revoked by the auditor or quashed on appeal, one or more of the parties may claim to have suffered loss which could have been avoided if the auditor had not interfered. Given the great caution which auditors have shown over many years in the exercise of their existing powers, there is every reason to believe that they will use these new powers with the utmost responsibility and that such cases are likely to be very exceptional. However, where they do arise Schedule 4 provides protection for the auditor against claims for damages provided he acted in good 781 faith. Third parties may be able to seek redress from the local authorities.
As I have said, the essence of these new powers is that while they may only be used sparingly, where they are used they may need to be used quickly. In such circumstances the auditor will not always have full information about the action an authority is contemplating and there is the possibility that the authority may deliberately conceal such information from the auditor. Therefore, I am sure the noble Lord will agree that the risk is that auditors would be reluctant to use their new powers to the full if they faced the possibility of claims where a genuine mistake had been made. Also, if auditors were not protected against claims in damages the commission would have to indemnify them and as the only source of revenue open to the commission and the auditor is audit fees the costs would have to be borne by local government as a whole.
In general, the knowledge that authorities may have to bear the costs which may follow from the prohibition order procedures will help to ensure that they keep their auditors well informed of any unusual or unconventional financial decisions which they propose to take. Having said that, I should like to read in the Official Report what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said. I give him no commitment but there were one or two points which I should like to study and give further consideration. However, I repeat that it must be without commitment to come forward with an amendment at a later stage.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the Minister. It is certainly appropriate that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 100:
Before Clause 36, insert the following new Clause:
§ ("Dog Registration Scheme.
§ .—(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the establishment and administration of a dog registration scheme by local authorities, or such other organisations as he may, after consulting with them, designate.
§ (2) Regulations made under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope this amendment will encourage a slightly more relaxed attitude than some noble Lords have so far taken. However, one should not for a moment be misled. We believe as strongly in the rightness and sense of our case as any noble Lord whose amendment has so far been discussed. Fortunately, the problem is non-party political.
§ In Committee, an amendment was moved that had the effect of keeping the dog licence. For better or worse, that amendment was defeated. It is not intended this afternoon that your Lordships' time should be wasted or your patience tried. Nor is there any intention to break the rules in asking your Lordships again to debate the issue. However, I must remind the House that the Government have decided to scrap the dog licence and put nothing—I repeat, 782 nothing—in its place. If I may say so, this is a real case of throwing the baby out with the bath water; or perhaps I should say, the Christmas puppy on to my farm at Easter.
§ This amendment proposes a scheme to replace the scrapped licence and to solve the dog problem. The amendment is remarkably simple, as your Lordships can see. It gives the Secretary of State the power to set up a self-financing registration scheme for dogs which could provide the necessary resources to fund a dog warden system. I hope that we shall convince your Lordships that the amendment will solve problems that all who love dogs (or all who hate dogs) believe need to be solved.
§ First, it would identify the dog with the owner. Secondly, over a period of time, it would drastically reduce the strays problem. Thirdly, it would reduce the problem of dogs fouling our streets and public places. Fourthly, it would return lost dogs to their owners. Fifthly, needless to say, it would reduce if not eliminate the worrying of livestock particularly on land used by dogs.
§ We do not intend to weary the House by repeating ourselves, so I leave the details of how the amendment would achieve those objectives to fellow supporters of the amendment. I should however like to tell your Lordships that there is 100 per cent. support for the amendment from the farming organisations, from the animal welfare organisations and from the Association of District Councils, which I suggest your Lordships should take note of.
§ It is not every day that we agree. Indeed, if my memory serves me right, there have been occasions when I have disagreed radically with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. However, as in 1981 when we agreed on crossbows and airguns, this afternoon I am delighted to say that we are again in total agreement on how to solve the dog problem. I suggest that the agreement between all the organisations that are directly involved with animals, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, should be weighed against any contrary view that my noble friend on the Front Bench might be tempted to promote.
§ My noble friend the Leader of the House said on Second Reading that he would respect the views of those who felt that the control of dogs was in need of overhaul. He understated the case. We are suggesting just that. It needs a major overhaul. Apart from keeping the door open for the Secretary of State to do this, the amendment suggests a practical way forward for dealing with the responsibility that I believe we have for dogs and indeed to society. I beg to move.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, in Committee I referred to the position in Northern Ireland and to the contradictions that exist in government policy. The Government introduced there a dog licence of £5 which today provides most of the money for dog warden schemes that are maintained in every district council in Northern Ireland. In the rest of the United Kingdom the dog licence has been abolished, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, said, nothing has been put in its place.
The Minister said that the Northern Ireland scheme was working well. I believe that he did not tell 783 the whole story. From January 1984 every keeper of a dog had to have a licence. All district councils have dog pounds and dog warden schemes, and there have been very positive trends. Between 1980 and 1983, an average of 47,500 licences were issued annually. Since 1934, licence applications have jumped by almost 62 per cent. The number of stray dogs impounded together with the number of prosecutions for livestock worried, though it peaked in 1985, is now declining. This peak was due to the establishment of the dog warden schemes within district councils.
The decline in the number of strays continued in 1987. Cases of livestock worrying have fallen considerably. The Ulster Farmers Union has commented:Sheep are now being kept in areas close to built-up communities where, for many years past, this would not have been possible due to the fear of attacks from dogs".According to the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are fewer strays roaming unrestrained in Northern Ireland and many more dogs are walked on leads. In the view of the USPCA, the scheme has been a great success. The director says:Not only are dogs looked after better now but far fewer are suffering from irresponsible and uncaring dog owners. I feel personally that the changing attitude towards dogs in this country is encouraging".The general conclusion is that it has been a resounding success which makes the Government's action in abandoning the licence but putting nothing in its place seem quite inexplicable. The licence is not an end in itself. It is the foundation of a system of regulation that has been proved in Northern Ireland. It has improved dog welfare and minimised the problems caused by dogs while costing the ordinary ratepayer very little. We believe that the order in Northern Ireland has proved its worth and should have been copied in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The abandonment of the licence has reduced the sum of money available to local authorities as they will no longer receive the money collected from the licence, and presumably the Government will save £3.5 million which they had to pay in collecting the inadequate dog licence. The Government will gain, local authorities will lose, and in addition they will be expected to find money from already hard-pressed resources for dog warden schemes. As a member of a local authority I know well the pressure on finances for local government. Even when some money was available from the dog licence not every local authority was able to maintain a dog warden scheme. Many had only part-time services and part-time wardens. The chances of local authorities being able to maintain dog warden schemes out of their own resources in our view is very limited.
One of the central difficulties is that, unless one can identify the owner of a dog, enforcement of the 30 Acts relating to dogs is almost impossible. The present requirement that a dog should have a collar is not precise enough proof of ownership to enforce the law against those who are cruel to dogs or those whose dogs worry sheep or even postmen or to enforce the by-laws recently promulgated by the Home Office in respect of the fouling of pavements. 784 It is necessary to know not just the house but the owner against whom action has to be taken.
If there is no dog licence we need a registration system that will give the information clearly. It is hoped that, as in Northern Ireland, the number of strays in these circumstnces and the number of dogs that are slaughtered would be much reduced.
However, this can be done only if there are dog wardens as in Northern Ireland to supervise and enforce the law, to encourage responsible dog ownership by education and to take strays back to their owners as quickly as possible, thus reducing the number of dogs—nearly 1,000 per day—that have to be put down. A national registration scheme backed by law could provide for a once-and-for-all registration fee that could pay for the national register and provide money for a dog warden scheme. It would avoid the necessity for the Governnment to have to spend money and it would raise standards all round.
Under the registration scheme an owner would register with his or her local council and would receive a disc. The details would be transferred by the local council to the register. The details would lapse after 15 years on the assumption that that is the natural life of a dog. Because of the once-and-for-all nature of the registration, it would not need a large bureaucracy as would be the case if there were to be annual payments for this purpose.
The amount of dog licence in Northern Ireland is £5. We are not aware of any real resistance to paying it; on the contrary, responsible dog owners and non-owners have both welcomed the improvement.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, showed real concern on Second Reading about those problems from which it seems the Government are running away. The problems remain and the Government have produced no answer as to how they can be dealt with. They are cruelty to dogs and the prosecutions that should arise on that matter, the worrying of sheep, the fouling of pavements and attacks on postmen. All need the identification of owner before action can take place under the statute or under the by-law. It means also that the vital work of educating people, particularly children, in responsible dog ownership and attention to strays will be entirely neglected. All these we believe can be done with a registration system.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, the amendment seeks an absolute minimum, and I cannot see any reason why the Government should refuse this. As the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, said, it is imperative that there should be some kind of dog warden scheme, but what is the point if one cannot identify the dog?
Dogs are found sometimes on the road a long way from their proper home. I lived a good many years in a rather suburban surrounding and I think that I got to know very well the kind of mentality that produces this problem. These people know nothing about animals. They buy a young puppy to amuse their child, much in the same way as they would buy a child a teddy bear. The child grows a little older and gets tired of the dog and the parents get tired of having to feed it. What is the answer? They take the dog a long 785 way from its home, dump it somewhere on the road and drive away. The dog is left homeless and so wanders about on the road. The number of road accidents caused by stray dogs is indescribable.
Something must be done to combat this state of affairs. A registration system as proposed is in my view the only solution. If the Government refuse it, I cannot think what the alternative is.
Under Amendment No. 101, the Government have ample plans for the seizure of dogs. But, when the dogs have been seized, what do the Government intend should be done if it is not known to whom a dog belongs? Registration is the only solution.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, I should like briefly to support the amendment. I live close to an urban area and we experience a good deal of damage from dogs. There is a dog pound nearby to which neglected dogs are taken and are eventually destroyed in large numbers. All the voluntary bodies support registration, and we have heard how it is effective in Northern Ireland. I find the case for supporting the amendment overwhelming.
§ Lord Dulverton
My Lords, I spoke briefly during the previous discussion. I should like to support my noble friend and noble Lords on all sides of the House who have put their names to the amendment. In rising to support it, I wish only to reaffirm my deep concern about the fearful cruelty to and neglect of dogs which results from irresponsible and almost unthinking acquisition of them by people who have no idea of how to make them (properly handled) the useful and devoted friends that they can and really want to become.
I was sorry when your Lordships rejected at Committee stage the attempted persuasion by a number of us to retain a meaningful dog licence. As I spelt out then, my case was largely based on a desire to evince a real earnest on the part of a dog owner to value his or her assumption of such a responsibility, and of course to prevent cruelty. Only two days ago the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made public its assessment of a great increase (already bad enough in all conscience) in instances of infliction of cruelty on dogs.
My Lords, have you no heart for this disgraceful matter? We must do all that we can to alleviate or prevent it. If you have a heart, do vote in favour of the amendment which could go a long way towards remedying the state of affairs on which I have touched. It may be difficult, but it is not unachievable with the goodwill of the National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners Association, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the members of the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society. It has eight members, including the National Canine Defence League to which I belong.
I know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is not convinced by my arguments. I am sorry, too, because he is also a personal friend. I hope indeed that my noble friend on the Front Bench may persuade him to look kindly on this very humanitarian and practical amendment. We in 786 Britain like to pride ourselves on animal care. How can we do so if we ignore the amendment?
§ Lord Ezra
My Lords, I too should like to lend my support to the amendment which was so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. In doing so, he drew attention to the five objectives which would be achieved by the acceptance of the amendment. I should like to refer specifically to this third objective, which is to limit the fouling of pavements. I do so as president of the Tidy Britain group.
We are about to launch a major campaign—with, I am glad to say, full Government support—to try to make another attempt to deal with the litter problem in Britain. This seems to be the wrong time to be allowing one form of litter to continue untrammelled. After the withdrawal of the licensing system I feel that there will be a need for the owners of dogs to be faced with some degree of responsibility for their pets. The question of fouling is an important aspect of that.
Many dog owners are careful in this respect; but some certainly are not, as any visual inspection of a normal London pavement will show. For that and for all the other reasons given, I very much hope that the Government will accept the amendment.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, I apologise to the House because I was not able to take part in the debate at Committee stage. However, I heard the final speech of my noble friend the Minister, and of course I have studied it since. I strongly support this amendment because it is the last chance to get something done to carry out the desirable objective to which many speakers have referred.
I feel that the Minister brushed aside (possibly on instructions from above) the very reasonable concerns put forward by responsible and important groups such as the National Farmers' Union, the RSPCA, veterinary surgeons and the various other authorities which, as the noble Lord who moved the amendment has pointed out, have urged that dogs should be registered. It is possible that noble Lords will ask me what I know about it. If they will look back at Hansard over the past few years they will see that I have taken part in moves by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and others to bring about the proper care and protection of animals.
As a boy—as a child almost—I was mixed up with research into animal ailments. Throughout the years I have been a dog owner and have taken a great interest in them as a result. I have been involved with hounds. I bred a pointer which won a red ticket at Crufts—an experience which I found a most moving one. I think it is the only occasion on which I have wept in public. I suddenly found myself with a red ticket for a pup I had bred myself. Throughout my life I have had a great deal to do with animals and with dogs.
As I am a member of the Kipling Society, I keep thinking of what Kipling wrote:Binkie's the same as the 'First Friend' was,And I am the man in the cave".I wonder whether the Government really appreciate the part that a dog plays in the life of thousands of families. I urge the House to support an amendment put forward by reasonable and responsible people. I 787 feel that full weight should be given to the views expressed by the important associations to which I referred.
One reason why I feel qualified to press for registration is that on one occasion in India a terrier of mine picked up rabies and eventually bit me. My friends said that it was biting me which killed it; but the fact remains that,the man recovered of the bite [thanks to Pasteur]. The dog it was that died.If that does not go to prove my personal interest in the matter, I should like to conclude by saying that we cannot afford not to pass this amendment. As was pointed out by the previous speaker, the money can be obtained. The noble Lord, Lord Irving, indicated that the £5 fee in Northern Ireland provides adequate funds for local authorities to carry out a sensible and strict watch over dogs. I think that £10 is too much. I have taken the opinions of many dog owners with whom I am friendly. They say that although most people dodge the present 37½ pence dog licence fee, they would really run away from £10; but £5 would do it. Suitable registration would resolve many of the difficulties to which previous speakers have referred. I shall not repeat the many appeals that have been made. I urge—indeed I beg—the House to pass the amendment. Let us not lose it. This may be the last chance to clear up the matter for goodness knows how long.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I shall speak for three minutes on this matter. I have already spoken on it twice: once at length on Second Reading, and once in Committee.
The amendment is a good one. I hope to heavens that its movers will divide the House upon it. The Government must accept it. My noble friend talked about making your Lordships weep. I cannot remember what it was that he was trying to make us weep about. If your Lordships want to weep, I can tell the House of two instances where in the Highlands, sheepdogs of mine, through their power of reason, working in pairs, saved the lives of two shepherds. If that does not make your Lordships weep, then what will?
We have an opportunity to solve the problem of appalling cruelty to dogs. We have 6 million dogs in this country. They are chucked out on the motorways. About 500,000 stray dogs have to be put down every year. I have said all this before and I shall not repeat it.
I have certain connections in Northern Ireland as I am Deputy Lieutenant of Antrim. I can assure your Lordships that the dog scheme in the north of Ireland has been a great success. I understand the Government's reluctance to accept amendments in Committee regarding the collection of an annual fee of £5 or £10, but they have no excuse now not to accept the amendment. We are talking about one payment only for the registration of dogs. Dog owners can then be traced. The sooner the matter goes to a Division, the better.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence and rather nervously to make a point which I suspect will make me unpopular in what has been a one-sided debate thus far. I do so for this reason. I have every sympathy with all the points that 788 have been made. I agree with what has been said about some of the problems caused by the existence of dogs. I have listened with great attention to each speaker, but no one has convinced me that registering a dog, or buying a licence, will resolve the problems. I cannot see how it can.
One has only to think of some of the practical problems. For example, registering a dog will not stop a dog worrying a sheep or fouling pavements. It will not stop cruelty and will not stop someone being irresponsible and dumping the dog on the roadside, which is what happens.
The identity of ownership is a particular problem. If it were as simple to buy a dog as it is to buy a television set in a shop, then it would be merely a matter of registering the dog and the owner's identity would be well known. Many thousands of dogs in this country are acquired by a variety of means. Someone may arrive with a litter of puppies which they found in a back road somewhere. Who then becomes the owner? Is it the little girl who arrives home with a puppy in her arms and says, "I have just been given this puppy"? The answer is that the mother, father or someone else has then to go out and register the dog and put a sum of money on the table. If the parents or the adults in the family refuse to do that, the chances are that the little girl is left standing there with the puppy. Who then is the owner of the puppy?
There are hundreds of practical difficulties about that scheme, which I mentioned previously. I shall not go into much detail again on the subject. It involves a layer of bureaucracy that we could do well without. As for the warden schemes about which many of your Lordships have talked, there is nothing now to stop local authorities from having such schemes—in fact, many do, and they operate well. Obviously there are different solutions for different areas of the country. The problems vary from one part of the country to the other. It would be a matter for the local authorities to determine a scheme that is right for their area.
The common theme that runs through all that has been said is how one finances the scheme. The amendment does not resolve the financing because we are talking here of a one-off payment. That payment would bring in one sum of money. Thereafter, local authorities would be left with an annual difficulty of how to fund a warden scheme, and so forth.
As regards the licensing scheme, we all know that unless it is substantial it will not properly fund the scheme. However, if it is substantial, the first thing we shall do is jump up and down and say, "Is it not dreadful for old people to have to pay the licence"? Then we shall have exemptions for old people, one-parent families and many different people. But what happens when it is children who own the dogs? Many children own dogs, not the mother or the father. What can be done about small children who do not have the wherewithal to buy a licence?
Those are the practical problems in supporting the amendment and a licensing system. I suggest that we get rid of the bureaucracy and the cost of collecting the money. As we all know the present scheme brings in little money but it costs a lot to collect. We should then, in our different ways use our energy and resources and turn our minds towards solving the 789 problems which have been outlined so emotionally by your Lordships. Those problems are very real. We should try to resolve them in a way that will genuinely tackle the difficulties and will not merely prop up a system that will satisfy our consciences, but which will do little in a practical way.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, I have listened to the speeches from all sides of the House, and I am grateful for the support. I am astonished at what it would take to convince the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I should have thought that the arguments adduced have been devastating. They have been backed up by practical examples. I shall not repeat the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford; but if the noble Baroness heard it and was not convinced that it supported the amendment, then I am amazed. I admire her resistance to facts.
All sides of the House feel that the Government have become convinced that the problem is insoluble. the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell (who was a Minister and has great experience) made a speech in Committee in which he catalogued the number of times this matter had been discussed. It has been discussed so often that a practical solution has evaded the Government and they now regard it as an insoluble problem.
Cash is the solution to the problem. All members of local authorities know how strapped they are for money and how they find it enormously difficult to fulfil their existing obligations. The Northern Ireland and foreign experience shows that if the money is available, great advances can be made in the problems (which we have all detailed) and in the appalling inhumanity caused to animals because of a lack of control. I think that the amendment is good. It enables the Government to choose how they will do it. It does not lay down exactly what will be done; it gives them plenty of scope. I beg the Government to accept the amendment. I beg them to do so with the humility for which I am well known.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, it is a very practical matter, causing enormous concern in the House and throughout the country. I hope the Minister will be able to accept the amendment.
§ Lord Margadale
My Lords, I hate to disagree with most people in the House, but I very much concur with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I have never spoken to her before but I agree with what she said. I wonder how many people in the Chamber this afternoon have read the next amendment. I suspect rather few. I feel that if we have a vote in favour of the amendment, many local authorities will have lots of different rules which will be muddling and they will get into great confusion before matters go very far. The next amendment, if noble Lords read it, lays down much more what is to be done, leaving matters fairly fluid at the same time. I hope very much that the noble Lord on the Front Bench in answering this amendment will say a word about the next amendment, which I think is better.
§ The Earl of Malmesbury
My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question. I find myself in sympathy with everybody who has spoken, but what happens when a dog dies? Will the register get bigger and bigger? There must be some means of reporting that fact.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, before I reply perhaps I may take the opportunity of answering the noble Earl, Lord Malmesbury. If noble Lords vote against this clause this afternoon there will not be such a register.
As the afternoon has proceeded, I feel that I belong to a smaller and smaller minority since I am a dog-owning farmer who does not agree. At the Committee stage the noble Lords, Lord Stanley and Lord Irving, argued that the most important issue concerned the identification of dogs—being able to relate a particular animal to its owner or keeper. As they have made clear today, like so many other noble Lords, they see a registration scheme or schemes as the method of securing this objective. The noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, also did so.
I can understand the reasons why this amendment has been tabled. I can appreciate how attractive the idea of registration must seem to those who are dedicated to the welfare and care of dogs. But I am afraid that, as I indicated when dealing with this subject in Committee, I do not think that the concept has really been thought through.
I then pointed out that the logic of the idea required that each animal be permanently and uniqely marked. I drew attention to the problems of creating and maintaining the necessary data-base. I pointed to the costs that would arise, costs for which it would be impossible to make exemptions for blind or needy owners. Above all, I asked how such a scheme could be enforced. Even the most sophisticated and expensive system would still be liable to evasion by the irresponsible, the very people who cause the problems which noble Lords are trying to address this afternoon.
The reservations which I then expressed remain. The clause before us does not address any of them. It implies that some kind of registration would be a good thing, and leaves it to the Secretary of State to solve what I believe to be the consequent insoluble problems. I do not think I am being unfair in paraphrasing it as, "We can't think of a way but we hope the Secretary of State can".
I do not think that this is a satisfactory basis for legislation and I am under no illusions about your Lordships' reaction if the Government were to table such a clause. It would give the Secretary of State quite wide and ill-defined powers. It makes no mention of costs or how they might be met. The implication is that local authorities, or whoever runs a dog registration scheme, would make a charge for registration. I think your Lordships will agree that if local authorities, or anyone else, are to be empowered to make a charge on the public, that power should be enshrined in primary legislation. The nature of the duties to be imposed, the basis on which charges should be levied cannot be left to be decided by regulation.
791 I repeat that I do understand the purpose and intentions of those who have tabled the clause. I recognise and indeed can applaud their wish to improve dog control. But the clause being considered will lead us into an expensive and ineffective blind alley. We have already made it clear that we will work with others to try to find practical improvements. But they must be practical and workable.
The difficulty is that everyone in your Lordships' House and throughout our country is distressed when they see the effects of bad and irresponsible ownership, and strays. The fact of the matter is that if seven shillings and sixpence was not a deterrent I see no reason why a higher fee should be. I urge your Lordships to reject this clause.
§ Lord Moyne
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether there is any contradiction between the two amendments. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, is permissive. It gives an extra weapon which the Government may decide in due course to use. But the Government amendment is also helpful. Is there any objection on the Government's part to having their amendment as well as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley?
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, if my noble friend is not going to reply, perhaps I can finish this debate, because I am sure we want a decision. I think I must answer one or two questions. First of all, there is the question of money. Yes, it will cost money. We are suggesting that it could cost £15 once and for all. That does not sound much, and the reason for that is the help which we shall receive from the RSPCA, which is horrified at the amount of money it has to spend doing the horrible task of putting down unwanted dogs.
I must turn to some of the criticisms by my noble friend Lady Blatch. As regards registration, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has said, the whole point is money. We are going to get money from this registration fee. It will be good money because it will be subsidised by privatisation, with the RSPCA helping. That is where we will get the enforcement and how we will get it all done. The reason it is not done now is that there is no money to do it, as was clearly pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Irving.
Then there is the question of bureaucracy. We dealt with this last time. I do not think my noble friend Lord Hesketh could have read what I said, in much the same way as I do not read what he says when I do not like it. But he is not as old as I am. I have children who are 20 years old. I cannot understand computers, and I am permanently made to feel small by the children when they play with or use their computers.
It is perfectly easy to do this job and to cope with all the problems which the noble Baroness mentioned, such as exempting old-age pensioners. That is perfectly easy. I am too old and ancient to understand these wretched computers, but my children can and they could teach her. I ask the noble Baroness to come along to my farm and have a lesson next week and maybe she will understand it, as I could not yesterday.
792 Finally, I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Margadale, who referred to the next amendment. In principle I like it, but it is a little like my Dutch barn after last week's storm: it is riddled with holes. Believe it or not, my Lords, the holes are finance. Just wait until the local authorities see it; just wait.
I have said enough. If noble Lords believe that nothing needs to be done over the dog problem they can follow the Government into the Not-Contents Lobby. We have produced an outline plan of how the dog problem can be solved; but much more important, we, the promoters of this amendment who represent the views of the farming and animal welfare organisations as well as the local councils, have the enthusiasm, the will and indeed the expertise to put this work into principle. That is a principle that those of us who have been soldiers may remember. The important thing is the intention, not the method. Perhaps younger noble Lords among us have not had to serve but that is the important thing in life.
If noble Lords believe that problems are no problem either to themselves, society or indeed farm animals, then they should take the Government's view and go into the Government Lobby. However if noble Lords believe like us that something should be done they should follow us into the Content Lobby and give another place time to think again. The choice is for noble Lords.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 100) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 112; Not-Contents, 88.793
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Abinger, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Greenway, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Gregson, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Grey, E.|
|Ardwick, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Attlee, E.||Hampton, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Basnett, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Henderson of Brompton, L.|
|Birk, B.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Irving of Dartford, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Kearton, L.|
|Carter, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Killearn, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Kilmarnock, L|
|Craigavon, V.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Croft, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|David, B.||Listowel, E.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Longford, E.|
|Diamond, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Dulverton, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L. [Teller.]|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||McNair, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Mais, L.|
|Falkender, B.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Falkland, V.||Mayhew, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Meston, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Minto, E.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Molloy, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Monson, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Morris of Kenwood, L.||Serota, B.|
|Moyne, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Mulley, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Somers, L.|
|Newall, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Northfield, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Peston, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Phillips, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Prys-Davies, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Rankeillour, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Rea, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Rippon of Hexham, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Roskill, L.||White, B.|
|Rugby, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Seear, B.||Wise, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Joseph, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Kimball, L.|
|Arran, E.||Kitchener, E.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Layton, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Long, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Luke, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Lyell, L.|
|Braye, B.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Margadale, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Marley, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Merrivale, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Coleraine, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Colnbrook, L.||Moran, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Morris, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Munster, E.|
|Crickhowell, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Deedes, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Orkney, E.|
|Derwent, L.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Renton, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Rochdale, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Rodney, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Selborne, E.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Elton, L.||Southborough, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Havers, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Hives, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Holderness, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.38 p.m.
Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 101:
After Clause 36, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Control of stray dogs.
§ (2) Section 3 (seizure of stray dogs) shall be amended as follows for the purpose of conferring upon a duly authorised officer of a 794 local authority the same powers as those conferred upon a police officer by that section—
- (a) in subsection (1), after the word "officer" there shall be inserted the words "or a duly authorised officer of a local authority";
- (b) in subsections (2) and (4), after the word "behalf" there shall be inserted the words "or a duly authorised officer of a local authority";
- (c) in subsection (6), after the word "area" where it first occurs there shall be inserted the words "and the local authority for an area" and for the words "in that area" there shall be substituted the words "by the officers of his force or, as the case may be, by the local authority's officers";
- (d) in subsection (7), for the words from the beginning to the word "section" there shall be substituted the words "A dog seized under this section shall not be disposed of"; and
- (e) after subsection 9 there shall be inserted the following subsection—
- "(9A) In this section and section 4 below, the expression "local authority" means a district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly."
§ (3) Section 3 shall be amended as follows for the purpose of extending the powers of seizure and detention of stray dogs to those found on land or premises other than highways or places of public resort—
- (a) in subsection (1), after the word "resort" there shall be inserted the words "or on any other land or premises"; and
- (b) after subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsection—
- "(1A) The powers under subsection (1) of this section shall not be exercised in relation to a dog found on any land or premises other than a highway or place of public resort unless the owner or occupier of the land or premises has consented to such exercise."
§ (4) At the end of section 4(1) (delivery of stray dogs to police) there shall be inserted the words "but this subsection shall not apply where the finder is a duly authorised officer of a local authority".
§ (5) Any enactment in any local Act which amends section 3 or confers powers on a local authority (within the meaning of that section) in relation to that section as it applies to the area of the local authority shall cease to have effect.
§ (6) This section shall come into force at the end of the period of two months beginning on the day on which this Act is passed.
§ (7) This section extends to England and Wales only.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the introduction of this amendment with the consequential Amendment No. 105 I believe shows the Government's concern about the problem of stray dogs—one of the main areas of concern expressed during the extensive debates on Clause 36 and other amendments put down for consideration. Stray dogs can be responsible for sheep worrying or attacks on postmen as well as generally creating a dirty environment. Those which have owners are more likely than not to have irresponsible owners who neither license nor care for their pets. If the owner cannot be traced then society has to deal with the strays.
§ At present, in England and Wales, it is mainly the police who deal with stray dogs. Under the Dogs Act 1906 they have powers to seize, detain and dispose of stray dogs. Where this happens the police normally take the dog to a local kennel from where it may be claimed if the expenses are paid. Those that are not claimed in a week are either destroyed or sold to members of the public.
§ I said that in England and Wales it is mainly the police who must deal with strays. In Scotland, local authorities do have similar powers to the police by virtue of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. And about 100 local authorities in England have seen fit to take the same powers by means of local Acts. 795 The Government have decided, after due consultation with the associations representing local authorities in England and Wales, to introduce this clause into the Bill in order to enable all local authorities to appoint officers with the powers to deal with stray dogs. Where they consider the local problem justifies the appointment of such officers, they will be able to provide these without needing first to pass primary legislation. The police will retain their powers to deal with stray dogs; this is necessary because there are areas such as motorways where it is only the police who are in a position to take any necessary action.
§ The new powers are permissive, not mandatory. It will be for authorities themselves to decide whether and to what extent they choose to use them, taking account of their own priorities and the resources available. The provision of dog warden services is, par excellence, a matter for local choice and decision. We do not think that it would be right or necessary to treat such a service any differently from the many other local services financed by the rates.
§ The powers which will become available to local authorities will enable them to appoint dog wardens to seize stray dogs found on highways or in public places and in other places with the landowner's permission. The local authority will be able to detain the dog until the owner has claimed it and has paid all the costs incurred in its detention. If a dog's owner can be identified, he must serve a notice on him in writing saying that the dog has been seized and that it will be liable to be sold or destroyed if not claimed within seven days. If a dog remains unclaimed after seven days it may be sold or destroyed in a manner to cause as little pain as possible.
§ In addition those local authorities which choose to exercise this function will be required to keep a register of stray dogs they seize containing a brief description of the dog, date of seizure and disposal details. The register will be open to members of the public for inspection at all reasonable times. Thus this simple clause will be a significant step forward in dog control measures by enabling local authorities, which are in the best position to judge local needs, to take action in parallel with the police to deal effectively with stray dogs. I beg to move.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, in view of the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Margadale, in speaking to the previous amendment in which he suggested that this amendment is a far better one than that which the House in its wisdom has accepted, I wish to make it clear that it is concerned only with stray dogs and solves none of the other problems which we have been talking about.
I and a number of animal welfare organisations are very disturbed about the amendment for several reasons. The first is that power is divided between the police and the local authority. Who is ultimately responsible? A number of animal welfare organisations will be worried that they will be left holding the baby—or, more accurately, the dog—and may well be responsible for maintaining such dogs for the statutory seven days.
Secondly, once again there is nothing in the Bill about funding. Last year it cost £1.7 million to deal with stray dogs. That came from the police fund. Can 796 the noble Lord say whether the expenses involved, whether those of local authorities, police or others, in dealing with such dogs will come out of the police fund? If not, where will the money come from? We accept that local authorities could and indeed should take the responsibility. However, the amendment is defective in the way which I have suggested.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, before my noble friend replies, I should like to reinforce one point made by the noble Lord. Lord Irving. Where is the £1.7 million to come from? Can my noble friend say whether it will be funded to the local authorities? If he cannot say that today, I sympathise with him and perhaps he can tell us the answer at Third Reading.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, on the point of substance, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Irving, or any other noble Lord need worry about the fact that the police are having their powers added to. Local authority officers can also do that work. There are many precedents. Law enforcement is often shared between local authorities or indeed other authorities and the police. In any event, the police have a general duty of law enforcement. With great respect, there is nothing in that point.
I wish to refer to a matter of drafting. For once, I should like to commend the draftsman. Twice in this clause we are told the purpose of the amendments. We find in subsection (2) that the section is to be amended:for the purpose of conferring upon a duly authorised officer of a local authority the same powers as those conferred upon a police officer by that section".There are then sensible, brief textual amendments. The alternative would have been to repeal the whole of the previous clause and re-enact it as amended. That would have taken up a lot of space. This is an easy and accurate way of accomplishing the same thing. In subsection (3) we find the purpose of the other amendments stated. I need not read them out. For once I am happy to commend the draftsman.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for his commendation of the draftsman. As regards the police and their relationship with a local authority, they will have to keep their existing responsibilities in the case of motorways. As I pointed out, they are the only people who will be able to deal with dogs which are on motorways.
As regards funding, that will come from the rates, which, as I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Irving, receive a substantial contribution from the central government.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 102 not moved.]
§ Schedule 7 [Repeals]:
§ The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 103:
§ Page 52, line 28, column 3, at end insert—
|("In section 20, in subsection (1 ), in paragraph (a) of the definition of "development body", subparagraph (iii) and the word "and" at the end of subparagraph (ii).")|
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ In the Title:
§ [Amendment No. 104 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 105:
Line 12, after ("licences") insert ("and stray dogs").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The sitting was suspended from 5.47 p.m. to 5.52 p.m.]