HL Deb 05 July 1988 vol 499 cc236-40

7.55 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Offence of cruel tethering]:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 7, leave out ("or ass") and insert (", ass or mule").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when the Bill was in Committee on 21st June we were in a little trouble. Although Mr. David Amess, the Member of Parliament for Basildon, had scored a major triumph in procedural terms in getting the Bill to your Lordships' House with scarcely a word being uttered on it, we had to give rather more attention to it than we expected. In Committee, horses, ponies and donkeys had broken loose and we had to try to get them together again. The difficulty arose when my noble friend Lord Kilbracken, who I see is in his place, quite properly asked about mules. I can scarcely say that that put the cat among the pigeons; but it put the mules among the donkeys and the horses. We had to find ways and means of bringing the mules in.

Part of the difficulty was that for the purposes of amending the Protection of Animals Act 1911 we could not invent names of species not mentioned there. We had to follow the descriptions of the principal Act. That meant that ponies were horses and that donkeys did not exist at all; or, at least, if they did, they were asses. We were left then with horse, asses and mules. We had to find the necessary, amendments to get this in order. The amendments on the Marshalled List achieve good order and discipline in our animal world. I should say that the solution is the brilliant work of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and his Home Office advisers. They have drafted all the amendments and have put them down in my name, making work easy for me. Although noble Lords are hearing the voice of Jacob, the hand is really the hand Esau. I acknowledge with gratitude their help in the matter.

The amendments are related and I need to speak only once upon them. Amendment No. 1 proposes to leave out the amendment we moved in Committee and insert "ass or mule". In Clause 2 we come to the description of the Bill which ceases to be "Horses, Ponies and Donkeys" and takes on a new title. So we then have to amend the Title of the Bill. I think that this really achieves the purpose of the Bill in the first instance. As I mentioned earlier, it was the outcome of discussions between the RSPCA and the Home Secretary and there was common consent as to what should be done. Mr. Amess went in for the big lottery in another place—from whence all blessings flow in the matter of legislative ambitions and Private Members' Bills—and came out of the ballot and sponsored this Bill. 1 must say that I am most grateful to him for having done so.

What this really means is that we must talk about horses, ponies and donkeys and make everything fit that description. So we have all the animals back in the stables, in their appropriate stalls, and they are: horses, ponies and donkeys—

Lord Kilbracken

Asses and mules!

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, yes; I am sorry. I am getting myself mixed up. They are in fact horses, asses and mules.

As regards the Title of the Bill, noble Lords will notice that we dispensed with the romance of species that we are not able to mention in the amendment to the 1911 Act. So the Bill comes in in a suit of armour, you might say. However, I think that the brilliance of the new Title is that it gives it a sharper point altogether; it gives it its purpose. I hope that it will convince those who have been approaching my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs. I hope that she will be able to convince them that this Bill deals with cruel tethering and is not just an anti-tethering Bill; it is an anti-cruel tethering Bill—which is quite a different matter.

We say that it is protection. Therefore if one wants to use the warning behind the Bill it will be much stronger to say, "You will be in breach of the protection of cruel tethering Act". That will be much more impressive than saying, "You will be in breach of the Horses, Ponies and Donkeys (No. 2) Bill". We have managed to get rid of that little complication of the "(No. 2) Bill" which no one understood, and perhaps I should explain why. It is because Mr. Amess had to withdraw the original Bill and substitute another in order to get the Bill to suit the purpose he had in mind.

The minor triumph of procedure ran into little difficulties. Therefore, at present, I move the amendment to Clause 1; namely, to leave out at line 7 on page 1 the words "or ass" and insert the words "ass or mule". This is the amendment which brings the mule into the Bill. I shall come in a moment to the other amendment formally which is to leave out "Horses, Ponies and Donkeys"—the description of the Bill—and bring in the new description; namely, "Protection against Cruel Tethering".

Finally, in Amendment No. 3, we leave out the words "ponies and donkeys" and insert "asses and mules". I beg to move Amendment No. 1.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, I am so glad that my noble friend has agreed with the point I made in Committee that the mule should be embraced by the Bill. I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Arran, was in fact playing the part of Esau in drafting the wording of the amendment as was suggested by my noble friend, because I should point out that the effect of the amendment is precisely the same as if my amendment had been accepted in Committee. So perhaps the mantle of Esau should more properly fall upon myself? However, I am glad to see the mule included, as he certainly should be, and of course I support my noble friend.

My noble friend did speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, so perhaps I might just say that I agree with him very strongly that the new Short Title brought in by Amendment No. 2 is, in my opinion, a great improvement because it tells the person who sees it what the Bill is all about—it is about tethering—instead of just vaguely being about horses and donkeys. Therefore I think that that is a great improvement, and of course Amendment No. 3 is necessary to conform to the new wording.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, perhaps I may say a word at this stage rather than later. I should like to say first that I too share my noble friend's regret that the poetic ring to the name of his Bill has now been rather sadly diminished. But, in spite of that, I must say that I very much welcome the change that he has made in the Title. As he says, the specific intention of the Bill is now most clear. As I spoke both on Second Reading and in Committee about the anxieties which had been provoked among travellers and gypsies who were most worried that the Bill was merely against tethering rather than against cruel tethering, I must say that I think this change will go a long way towards setting their anxieties at rest. I am most grateful to my noble friend for making the changes, and I entirely support the Bill.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, wherever the mantle of Esau should lie, I think—and hope—that we can all agree that the Bill now is as we want it to be. That applies especially to Amendment No. 1, which is under consideration at the moment. I should briefly say that since the matter was raised at an early stage of the Bill's proceedings, we have looked carefully at the proposed amendment. Bearing in mind the kinds of animals with which the Bill is essentially concerned—namely, those that can be termed equine—and the fact that the mule is included with the horse and the ass in the definition of domestic animal in the Protection of Animals Act 1911, it does not seem unreasonable that the Bill should also refer to mules. We are satisfied that such a reference would include protection for hinnies and therefore there is no need for specific reference to hinnies to be made in the Bill. We ask your Lordships to support the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 [Short title and commencement]:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 9, leave out ("Horses, Ponies and Donkeys") and insert ("Protection aganist Cruel Tethering").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, perhaps I may make it quite clear that this amendment simply rationalises the Short Title of the Bill so that it refers to the purpose of the Bill rather than the animals which are to be affected by its provisions. Ponies and donkeys are no longer referred to as such in the Bill, but in any case it is not necessary to list all the affected animals. The application of the Bill to animals is implicit in the term "tethering". We support the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title:

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 3: Line 1, leave out ("ponies and donkeys") and insert ("asses and mules").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 3 perhaps I may make one comment. I understand that there is a strong probability that when the Bill has completed Report stage it may be taken for its final stage on Thursday. I promise that in those circumstances I will not make a further speech of explanation, as we shall probably be the first business before the debate on the Education Reform Bill takes place. The House will understand that we have completed our effective work on the Bill during the Report stage and there will therefore be no need to comment further upon it.

I am much obliged to all who have co-operated in facilitating the return of the Bill, so it seems, to another place by Friday 8th July. My final word is one of thanks to all concerned, especially Mr. Amess, through whose initiative and good fortune we have the Bill. As the House knows well, one can wait 10 years for one's name to be picked out in the lottery for Private Members' Bills and in fact one may never be successful. Such bits of luck are much appreciated by those who can use their good fortune to purposes of this kind. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.