HL Deb 31 October 1990 vol 522 cc1859-84

.—(1) The following provisions of the Dogs Act 1906 shall be amended as follows.

(2) The amendments made to section 3 by section 39(2) of the Local Government Act 1988 and section 128(1)(a) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 shall cease to have effect.

(3) In section 4—

  1. (a) subsection (1) shall be omitted;
  2. (b) in subsection (2), for the words "so taken to a police station" there shall be substituted the words "taken to a police station in pursuance of section (Delivery of stray dogs to police or local authority officer) (1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990":
  3. (c) in subsection (2)(a), for the words from "his name and address" to "other" there shall be substituted the words "this fact and shall furnish his name and address and the police officer shall, having complied with the 1860 procedure (if any) prescribed under subsection (5) below, allow the finder to remove the dog";
  4. (d) in subsection (3) for the words from "fails" to "section" there shall be substituted the words "removes the dog but fails to keep it for at least one month,"; and
  5. (e) after subsection (3) or, as respects Scotland, subsection (4) there shall be inserted as subsection (4) or subsection (5) the following subsection—
"() The Secretary of State may, by regulations made by statutory instrument, prescribe the procedure to be followed under subsection (2)(a) above and any instrument containing regulations under this subsection shall he subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."'

7E Page 207, line 3, at end insert— '1906 c 32. Dogs Act 1906. Section 4(1).'

7F Page 207, line 5, at end insert— '1982 c. 45. Civic Government Section 128(1).' (Scotland) Act 1982.

7G Page 207, line 6, at end insert— '1988 c. 9. Local Government Act Section 39(2) and (4).' 1988.

Lord Stanley of Alderley rose to move, That the House do disagree with Amendments Nos. 7A to 7G proposed by the Commons in lieu of Lords Amendment No. 7 to which the Commons have disagreed and do insist on their original Amendment No. 7.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion I am more than conscious that I cannot please all your Lordships all the time; perhaps I cannot please any of your Lordships any of the time. As the House will know, on Monday night the House of Commons debated your Lordships' amendment on dog registration which your Lordships had approved by a massive majority of 72. The House of Commons rejected it by only three votes—274 to 271—despite a vicious, if I may so call it, three-line Whip and the summoning of the Government's payroll. The Government normally have a majority of over 100.

The question, therefore, is: what does this House do now? I suggest that your Lordships should decide on two points. First, is the Government's alternative amendment better than the amendment that your Lordships voted for? Secondly, what is the correct constitutional duty of this House? As far as the Government's alternative amendment is concerned, I suggest that it is a case of your Lordships asking for bread and the Government giving us stone. It is up to your Lordships whether, like David, you throw it back to Goliath. However, what is clear about the Government's amendment is that it refuses to acknowledge that, to carry out any control of dogs, two ingredients are essential: first, the ability to tie the ownership of a dog to its owner and, secondly, the ability to provide the necessary funds to carry out the duties spelt out in the scheme—and that includes the Government's scheme.

The government amendment does neither. As was so amusingly pointed out today by Miles Kington in the Independent, it puts the responsibility on the local authorities who, of course, will be forced to put the cost on poll tax payers. I cannot for the life of me, as a dog owner, see why those who do not own dogs should pay for the trouble my dogs cause. Let me make it quite clear that the Government's alternative will cost the local authorities a great deal of money; more or less the same as your Lordships' amendment. The only additional cost that your Lordships' amendment will add is approximately £3 per dog for registration and insurance.

Your Lordships' scheme would not be a charge on local authorities or poll tax payers but on the dog owner. I have no doubts in my mind—I hope your Lordships have no doubts and certainly there were no doubts when this House voted for the amendment— that the Lords amendment is both fairer and better.

I turn to the question of what your Lordships should do if you are persuaded that the scheme accepted by this House is the best. There is no constitutional reason whatever why your Lordships should not ask the House of Commons to think again. Indeed, there is a very strong case for saying that as the Government's majority fell from over 100 down to three it is our duty as a revising Chamber to do just that.

I have, of course, checked the position with the Clerks and, indeed, with all three Chief Whips. I thank them for their kindness and their technical advice; though I have to say that my noble kinsman Lord Denham seemed to be somewhat lacking in enthusiasm, if that is the correct word, for my view. Likewise, I have kept my noble friend Lady Blatch fully informed as to my line of thought. I am grateful for her attention; though again I have to say that she was not able to express complete delight at my particular view. I am therefore completely confident that if your Lordships decide to ask the House of Commons to think again you are within your rights to do so.

However, I would be naive not to accept that some of your Lordships will wish to say that such a course of action is undesirable, stupid or even childish, particularly if it annoys the House of Commons and risks the whole of the Environmental Protection Bill. I cannot agree. I am sure the House of Commons is more than capable of understanding the position without resorting to petty annoyance. Should your Lordships decide to send this amendment back to the other place I give an assurance that there will be no further attempt whatever to try its patience should the Commons again reject the amendment. That will ensure the safe passage of the Environmental Protection Bill.

Therefore, I hope that the debate will concentrate on the merits or, as I should prefer to say, the demerits of the Government's alternative to your Lordships' scheme rather than on the non-existent—they really are non-existent—constitutional issues. I have moved this Motion because I feel that as your Lordships voted for the amendment by such a large majority and the Commons rejected it so narrowly it is correct for me to give your Lordships the opportunity to decide what to do.

Moved, That the House do disagree with Amendments Nos. 7A to 7G proposed by the Commons in lieu of Lords Amendment No. 7 to which the Commons have disagreed and do insist on their original Amendment No. 7.—(Lord Stanley of Alderley.)

3.30 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, perhaps it may be convenient if I follow the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, and explain my Motion in relation to his. He is proposing that we should disagree with the Commons in their amendment. It is an important package in connection with the stray dog. It is suggested that we send back to the Commons, with our insistence, our amendment concerning dog registration. That would be a mistake. In present circumstances I do not think that either House is justified in trying now to impose its will on the other.

The dog registration scheme has been defeated twice in the House of Commons. The last occasion was on Monday of this week when 545 Members of the House of Commons voted. The dog registration scheme, and the acceptance of the pack age which the Government have brought forward, was dealt with by only a margin of three. I do not think that we are justified in sending this measure back to the House of Commons for the third time. I do not believe that the House of Commons can ask us to accept its amendment having regard to the fact that it was published on 17th October after your Lordships' House had dealt with the Report stage of the Bill. The matter was debated in the House of Commons on Monday last. This afternoon we are being asked to take the whole package and make it law. That is not the way to deal with the issue.

The proposals in the Commons amendment raise important questions of civil liberties and the rights of the citizen. The proposals invent a new offence of the straying dog. It is nothing more than a lift from the discussion document The Control of Dogs which was published only in June. The document explains the proposed new offence of the straying dog and other matters relating to the powers of local authorities concerning the seizure of strays and the conditions under which they can retain or dispose of the dogs. The discussion paper gives the public and all concerned until 15th November to send in representations, opinions and suggestions. However, before that date we are being asked to legislate into law an important part of the recommendations. I do not think that is fair. It is not fair to the House or the public.

The dog registration amendment, which the noble Lord is asking us to reaffirm this afternoon and send back to the Commons, was passed in your Lordships' House last June. The Government had the whole of the Recess to consider their response to something which they do not like. They did nothing. The House re-assembled on 8th October and we began the Report stage of the Bill. There was simply a tidying up of the amendment to make it more presentable in terms of procedure and order. The period was extended from one year to two years during which the Secretary of State was to produce a scheme. The Government did not say a word about their intention to obstruct this revised amendment when it came before the House of Commons.

As soon as we had got rid of the Bill at Third Reading the Government then produced their amendments for the Commons. Those were published last week and debated on Monday. They are now before us. The provisions constitute a Bill in themselves. They represent a very big slab of a comprehensive Bill on dog control which should receive careful consideration at a Committee stage of your Lordships' House. This afternoon we are being asked to choose between two courses of action neither of which has been adequately discussed in this House or in another place. The dog registration scheme has not been discussed in detail in your Lordships' House or in the House of Commons. The alternative sent to us by the Commons has not been discussed. That is a reflection on this House. I believe that we made a mistake in June by introducing dogs into this important Bill. We need a comprehensive Bill concerned with dogs: they should not be smothered in the Environmental Protection Bill.

Therefore, the best course of action, leaving honour on both sides, would be a goalless draw in which we would not insist on our amendment and would ask the Commons not to insist on its. Then, in the next Session, we can have a comprehensive Bill on dog control and deal with the matter in a sensible way. We are not being fair to the public or to the reputation of this House by seeking to resolve the matter on narrow margins of difference between the two Houses. It is quite unsuitable that either House should try to prevail over the other. If I do come to my Motion I shall not have to repeat what I have said.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I support the spirit of the Lords Amendment No. 7 in the long-term interests of the welfare of the public, the safety of children and in the interests of dogs. I wish that another place had been able to accept it. It will take a considerable amount of time for the proposed registration scheme to become effective. For immediate purposes the new clause will go quite a long way to meet all interests to which reference has been made. I hope that it may appear reasonable to your Lordships to give the new clause a fair opportunity to see how it works. In that context, are voting statistics wholly relevant when there is no constitutional conflict? I shall support the amendment for the reasons I have given although I appreciate there is no obligation on any noble Lord to do likewise.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I wish to support the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, in his Motion to send the matter back to the House of Commons once more for the reasons which he gave. There are two main reasons why the Government's alternative amendment fails. It does not provide any finance for the scheme put forward. Local authorities simply do not have spare money at the moment to deal with this kind of situation. When the noble Baroness responds I wonder whether she can tell us if the announcement made today concerning the poll tax for next year included the Government's calculation of the cost of their proposed amendment? It will be quite expensive to carry out the Government's proposals whereas the scheme we put forward was self-financing. It would not only have covered the cost of registration; it would also have given us the wherewithal to have a good and effective dog warden system across the country. That would have brought enormous benefit. The benefits would have come quite quickly and certainly no slower than under the proposal in the Government's amendment.

I hope that this House, having said twice very clearly that it wishes to see a dog registration scheme, will now give the Commons just one more chance. I support what the noble Lord said. If this House decides to send the matter back to the Commons and if the other place still rejects what we propose, we on this side of the House will certainly not attempt to take the matter any further.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Stanley and I hope that his amendment will go back to the Commons once more. I am sure that he is right about the constitutional position and right that the Bill will in no way fall. Quite apart from factors such as nuisance and so on which we debated last time, I strongly support the amendment because in my opinion the Government perpetually miss the bus. They go on producing more and more laws—and very probably these matters should be put into a separate Bill on the control of dogs—while they completely fail to make the connection between the dog and the owner. After all, it is not the dog's fault if it makes a mess where it should not. One has to be able to get to the owner in the end. Registration is probably the only way to do it. It may not work too well to start with but its effect will be cumulative. If it had a rocky start many noble Lords would look back after a while and say that they had done right and that it was the only way to deal with an ever-growing difficulty and an ever-growing dog population.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, I wish strongly to support the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, in respect of this matter. I shall address only for a moment the so-called constitutional problem. I do not believe that it exists. I should simply like to remind your Lordships of what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as Leader of the House, said on the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill on 11th November 1975. We were dealing with an amendment which this House had passed but which had been rejected by the Commons. The discussion concerned whether it should go back to the Commons. The noble Lord said: Can it then properly be argued that, because our own reform was rejected by the House of Commons, we cannot now do our constitutional duty and use those powers specifically given to us by a Labour Government in our unreformed condition?… If now we decide to use that very limited power, we are not thwarting the will of the people for, in so far as it is represented by the House of Commons, it will and must prevail in a comparatively short time. We shall be using those powers for the purpose for which they were given to us —that is, as an opportunity for further consultation, for second thoughts before this legislation inevitably reaches the Statute Book and because we did not want the Second Chamber to be associated with what the Government are doing".—[Official Report, 11/11/75; col. 1742.] As the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, pointed out, there was an overwhelming majority for your Lordships' amendment in this House. The majority against the amendment in the other place has been steadily whittled away. It is a clear sign that the Commons have been reflecting and having second thoughts. That is the very purpose of this Chamber. If the Commons reject it and it comes back here tomorrow, then their will will prevail. But it is our duty in these circumstances to give them the opportunity.

Lord Colnbrook

My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating my noble friend Lord Stanley on his achievement. Let him not misunderstand me; I am against him. But I congratulate him because he has done something which few of us are able to do. By his persistence he has persuaded the Government to do something the Government did not want to do. That is no mean achievement. I congratulate him upon it but I am against him for this reason.

He argued, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has just argued, that there is nothing constitutionally wrong in our sending our views back to the Commons. I would not quarrel with that for a moment. But I believe that we should not, and I will tell your Lordships why. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said that our business is to get the Commons to have second thoughts. They have voted on it twice already. My noble friend Lord Stanley advanced in support of his argument the fact that the last time the Commons voted on it the majority was only three. I wonder whether I could cast noble Lords' minds back to the 28th March 1979

At that time I was the Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Commons. A Motion was moved that the House had no confidence in the Government lead by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff. The outcome of that vote was a majority of one. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, did not say, "Oh, I think perhaps the Commons ought to think again about this". The noble Lord, if I may say so with respect, quite correctly immediately took that vote as being the will of the Commons. Parliament was dissolved and a general election followed with the result that all of us know, to the disappointment of the noble Lord and some other of my old friends opposite.

If such is the view of a Commons majority, even of one, on so important a matter with such far reaching consequences, how can anyone say that a majority of three is so small that we ought to ask the Commons to think again, particularly when they have thought twice? I do not think we should do it.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, for his remarks, but reflecting on what has happened over the past 11 years, perhaps I should have asked the Commons to think again. I have not the slightest doubt, and have never been in doubt any more than the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, has, about the necessity for the Commons to be supreme in these matters. If, for example, there were no more time for the Environmental Protection Bill to go through, your Lordships having passed the amendment, I would have no hesitation in voting against it and saying that the will of the Commons must prevail. However, I understand that there is more time for the amendment to be considered and for the Environmental Protection Bill to go through, either with the Lords amendment or with the Commons amendment or, as my noble friend Lord Houghton suggested, with neither amendment. In those circumstances it seems to me that there is absolutely no constitutional reason why, if noble Lords wished to adhere to their original view, they should not send it back. That is clearly the constitutional position if there is time. If there were no time I would say that your Lordships should give way gracefully and immediately.

I am bound to say that, having listened to my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, not for the first time I am deeply impressed by him. I take off my hat to him in every way, as I have done so often in the past. When one reflects on some of the other amendments to which I must not refer and sees that we have to make room in the Title, to make provision for a scheme for the registration, identification and control of dogs", one realises that there was no intention originally, as the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, has made clear, to have any reference to the matter in the Bill. If we have to agree a further amendment on this subject in connection with the Title, it seems to me that there is large merit in what my noble friend Lord Houghton has said. I am quite happy to vote for either amendment. If one were defeated I would certainly be happy to support his amendment—in order to give the Commons an opportunity of thinking again—and to send the Bill back with neither amendment in it. There is much merit in what he said. Let us have more time to think about it without creating these clashes. If he pursues his amendment, I believe that your Lordships would be entitled to pass it and to send it back.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, I continue to be of the same opinion as I was in the original debate though on that occasion I was in a minority. I will come to the merits in a moment because I do not want to spend my time arguing at great length about the constitutional proprieties. I would just say that ever since the 17th century the Commons have asserted their right in financial matters. This House has in practice conceded it except on a few very unfortunate occasions.

My noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley claims that we are putting a charge on the poll tax. Matters of local taxation have always been claimed by the Commons as their monopoly. What my noble friend proposes in subsection (2) of the Lords amendment is to put a poll tax on dogs payable by the dog owners. If that is not messing about with taxation, I do not know what is.

Of course there are merits over and above that aspect of the matter. I believe that the Lords amendment is, and always was, unjust. I believe that it is unworkable and counter-productive. The proposal ought never to have been put into the Bill, not only for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, but also for those which I have just outlined.

What is proposed is unjust because it puts a penalty on the owners of dogs. I seem to remember that the last time we debated the subject I put the cost at £25 and my noble friend on the Front Bench told me that that was an under-estimate. It would hit those who need to own dogs much more than those who do not need to own them or who have plenty of money to pay the fee. I do not altogether disregard that consideration.

The proposal is unworkable and counterproductive because it would lead to more and not fewer stray dogs wandering about. It is totally incapable of enforcement. I should like to give the House a short anecdote about the mother of my dog. The animal was found without a collar in one of the places on the motorway where petrol is sold. It was wandering about, having strayed from or having been jettisoned by its owner—I know not which. However, let us consider how much better off I would have been if the Lords amendment had been in force. I say that because no one by the wildest stretch of the imagination could possibly have traced the owner of the dog. Therefore, the non-registration of the dog, or the straying of the dog, would have been totally incapable of enforcement.

There is a fundamental flaw in the registration scheme; it is hopeless and crazy because it cannot be enforced. But, worse still, it is counter-productive because the effect of the charge—the poll tax on dogs which is proposed—would be to cause more people, not fewer, to jettison their dogs. That outcome must be obvious to anyone. Therefore, I trust that either the Motion of my noble friend or that of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will be agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I hesitate to intervene when the noble and learned Lord clearly feels very strongly on the matter. I shall not in any way go over the ground of the argument, except to say that I think his anecdote goes against his own case. I say that because if the dog had been registered the owner could have been found and the problem would have been solved.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, I am sorry but I must interrupt the noble Lord. The point I was trying to make was that the dog was not in fact registered, although registration was not then in force and is not in force now. However, if such a scheme had been in force, whether or not the dog was registered, it would still have been impossible to trace the owner because the dog was not wearing a collar.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I think that if the noble and learned Lord examines the impact of what he is saying, he will find that he is puzzling Members of the House on this issue. I intervene again to make a different point. He quite rightly said, as I said earlier, that we should not seek to intervene in taxation matters. However, surely the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, would reduce public expenditure rather than increase it. It would mean that registration was paid for by individual dog owners out of their private pockets instead of a very complex series of proposals to be paid for by the poll tax payer.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, it really is a most extraordinary occurrence that we should be in the process of having a constitutional discussion on dogs. The real answer, if I may interpret the working of Parliament, is that both Houses have agreed that we must do something about this matter. That is more fundamental than the points made by the noble Lord. The strong point made by my noble friend Lord Stanley is that it would be for the Minister to work out how best this can be done. We are all doubtful about how it should be achieved. There is only one way of settling a doubt and that is to do it; we should try it out and see what happens.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

Another way is not to do it!

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, that may be the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, but I do not necessarily think that it will be the way that the Secretary of State, whoever he may be and whatever party is in power, goes about solving the matter. I am told that practically all countries in Europe have rules on the subject of dogs. We stand pretty well alone in not having any. Most people will agree that we have got into trouble because of the situation; trouble as regards dangerous dogs and trouble in respect of trespassing dogs.

We should make such rules and hold firm to them. I believe that we should do that and accept the proposition. There is no real problem here; indeed, the House of Commons has already said that it wants to do something. However, how it is done is a matter to be decided. I believe that we should support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley so as to ensure that something is done.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I should point out to my noble friend Lord Selkirk that this has been tried out. It has been tried out in Northern Ireland and has been successful. I admire my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley. He has done a very good job. I was about to say that he has been just like a terrier on a rat, but that is not a very good way of expressing what I mean.

I like the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I cannot understand why the Government cannot bring forward legislation to register dogs in the next Session. I know that their great fear is that it will prove too expensive. However, when one considers the expense they do become involved in—some of it, in my view, is unnecessary —I do not believe that the expense of a dog registration scheme would be too great. It would certainly solve the problem of stray dogs. I believe that at some time in the near Future we shall need some law to control stray dogs.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord really believes in his criteria regarding what is a workable Bill. He said that what is proposed is unjust and that people would not be able to pay. However, that argument did not stop the community charge going through both Houses of Parliament. That is proving unworkable: it is unfair; and it is unjust. What is proposed here is very simple. The example of stray dogs has been given. We must all have a licence for a television set. Of course there are some people who dodge the law, but the majority keep it. That is how this scheme would work.

I turn to the suggestion that some people would not be able to afford the registration fee. You only have to think of the cost of dog food in this respect. Anyone who can pay for that can certainly pay a little extra for registration. Good dog owners would welcome what is proposed. We are concerned to catch the people who sell little dogs—especially as Christmas approaches —to those who do not really care about them. The scheme would prevent such things happening.

I should like to follow on from the remarks made by a previous speaker. We cannot just sit here and let the situation continue forever. What is proposed is a simple proposition, but it has been made complicated by arguments which really do not stand the test of investigation.

4 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I should like to take up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, that the proposal of my noble friend Lord Stanley does not involve taxation.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, it was my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I apologise to both noble Lords. The proposal of course does involve taxation directed against dog owners. The fact that it will be dog owners only who will pay the tax does not prevent it being taxation. If the constitutional point has any validity, the noble Lord is wrong: this is a proposal for taxation. It is taxation which would fall severely upon certain types of people. The old widow who has a dog for company will find herself compelled to pay £20, £25, £30 or whatever it may be, per year, and will find that a hardship. The fact that taxation is discriminatory and causes hardship does not prevent it from being taxation.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, on this matter of taxation and the proposed registration schemes for dogs, is it not true that there are many matters before the House which relate indirectly to taxation without them being taxation matters? With regard to the other point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is it not also a fact that the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, contains no details of how the registration scheme would be financed, whether the tax would be a flat rate, and whether there would be exceptions? All that remains to be worked out.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, perhaps may ask him whether he has looked at the Marshalled List and seen Commons Reason 3A? It is not merely the direct charge of a tax over which the Commons claim superiority of jurisdiction; it is an increase in the revenue. This proposed tax is a local one. If the right reverend Prelate will consult Halsbury's Laws of England, in which I must declare a certain interest, under the title "Parliament", he will find the answer to that point.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, an enormous number of red herrings are being dragged across the Bill by the dogs. Every single clause that we have discussed costs money. We are not saying how the scheme should be implemented; we are sending it back to the Commons who will decide.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, was not up to his usual level of coherence when he said that we should oppose one amendment and accept the other, because we had talked about one too much and had not talked about the other sufficiently. The arguments for registration have been rehearsed frequently in the House and in the other place, but they are real. They have been backed by the vast majority of professional and caring bodies which believe the scheme to be necessary before any of the measures proposed by the Government can be effective.

The point about registration made by the noble and learned Lord was not entirely correct in that two years after they increased the registration fee in Northern Ireland to £5 in 1984, registrations increased from 28,000 to 84,000. The Government have two years in which to work out the scheme for control. It works on the Continent and other places. We have discussed this matter. It is a serious point. With all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, Chief Whips never lose their authoritarian feeling that the Government are always right.

Lord Colnbrook

My Lords, on the occasion to which I referred, I must remind the noble Lord that I was the Opposition Chief Whip, and I thought that the Government were wrong.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I have noticed that even in our party Chief Whips become a little authoritarian.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords—

Noble Lords


Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, it is a good job that I do not stand any higher. The Commons have clearly demonstrated that this is a point which they would like to reconsider. A majority of three, with the payroll vote off, means a majority in the other place.

The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and your Lordships are being entirely reasonable. The point will return to the Commons tonight. It will not hold up the Bill. If your Lordships decide that the clause should remain but it is rejected in the other place, that is an end to the matter. That is fair. The point is wholly constitutional. One cannot compare this with a vote of confidence. It is a technical matter and one upon which your Lordships should pronounce. If your Lordships believe it to be right, you should vote for it.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, perhaps I may make a point on registration, especially in answer to the beguiling tones of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. It is represented to us that the registration scheme would be self-financing. That would be attractive if it were to relieve local authorities of any addition to the poll tax; but experience in Northern Ireland has not proved that 100 per cent. registration is achieved. There registration is only between some 30 per cent. and 50 per cent. With our 7 million dogs it would probably be even less. The idea that a registration scheme would be self-financing sounds attractive, but like other attractive ideas everyone is in favour of them but no one practises them. It is rather like the Church of England. Everyone is in favour of it but no one practises.

Registration is becoming a Holy Grail for those who support it. It will not finance itself. It will add substantially to the cost of enforcement. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, are relevant. There must be strong powers to make dog legislation effective. Inspectors would have to enter houses to check whether there was a dog inside. Such powers, which come into the field of liberty of the subject, lend strong support to what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said. It is a Bill that would require much more thought than we have so far been able to give it. It would need a full Committee stage. The proper thing to do, as he suggested, would be to accept his amendment and let the other place accept that neither side has it right; and then to start again with a new Bill which could take care of every aspect of this tricky subject.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he mentioned my earlier contribution. Is he aware that the Northern Ireland scheme is not a registration scheme? It is a different scheme. Is he aware that even in the troubled conditions of Northern Ireland, the scheme is deemed to have been a success? There has been a great reduction in the number of road accidents caused by stray dogs, and other improvements. In Northern Ireland it is felt that the scheme is successful.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I apologise if I did not do the noble Baroness justice. There is a strong point here. Responsible dog owners are well aware that they will be carrying the burden of the majority. Two large petitions from dog owners against registration have already arrived in the other place. They realise that they are in danger of being clobbered for those who do not pay.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I have been having various cynical discussions with my four-legged friends and acquaintances. They agree with me that on balance the Commons amendments are more attractive to them than the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Stanley whom they formerly supported. They agree that while caring and loving owners like myself and others of their acquaintance would be the first to register their canine friends, there might be other wilder and rougher elements of the dog population which do not have the benefit of tender and caring owners who have their best interests at heart. In short, while they might be properly registered there might be many that would not be.

The proposed legislation seems to my doggie friends a fairer way of proceeding, although they hope that there will be strict clauses preventing the unauthorised intrusion by dog wardens into the privacy of their homes and gardens. They would also like to know whether they have to wear identifying collars when travelling in their own mobile kennel or, as we would call it, car.

The other point that my friends wished me to make is that they do not like the implication of violence in the word "seize", spelt with a "z". If it were spelt with an "s", it might be thought to be a modern version of the term "take seisin", which simply means to possess. "Seize" seems to them and to me to imply violence; "apprehend" or "collect" would surely be better terms. Would noble Lords like it themselves if, whenever they stepped outside the Palace of Westminster without a coronet, robe or other identifying garment, they were promptly seized for being improperly identified in a public place? My friends would therefore like me to support the Commons amendment.

Lord Boardman

My Lords, the longer the debate goes on the more convinced I am that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is the one which I find most attractive. It is quite clear that there are substantial divisions within the House, as there have been in the other place. I dislike the registration scheme of my noble friend Lord Stanley for the reasons which have been given by those opponents of it in this House, although they were in a minority. I also dislike—although slightly less so—the amendment proposed by the other place which is supported by the Government.

It seems that these clauses have been tacked on to an environmental Bill and amended at the 59th second of the 59th minute of this Parliament. It is unfortunate that we should decide issues of such importance in so short a time when they may come forward in the next Session after November 15th. As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, quite rightly says, that is the closing date on information and opinions on dangerous dogs. A Bill should be brought in then with a wider concept than seems possible today. After further consideration, it could cover many of the points raised here. I am in favour of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby.

4.15 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I am not only deaf but I must be blind because I genuinely thought that he had turned to sit down. I was enjoying listening to his speech. I have had a little trouble in stretching my legs and I apologise sincerely to him.

Unlike my noble friend who has just spoken, I am a supporter of the principle of dog registration as proposed so cleverly and persistently. We congratulate my noble friend Lord Stanley on the way in which he has done this. I believe that, having done our stuff and asked the other place to think again, that is as far as your Lordships ought to go at this time today on the subject. It is not a matter which I believe passionately is of national importance or is an enormously important parochial issue. Of course there are times in your Lordships' House when we should take a firm stand on such matters. I draw your Lordships' attention to a time many years ago—one of the few occasions that I can recall in 24 years of being privileged to be a Member of your Lordships' House—when we insisted on an amendment to the Felixstowe Docks Bill. Noble Lords of the Party opposite wished to nationalise those docks. I well remember my colleague the late Lord George-Brown sitting in the seat on my right. I can see him now waving his membership card at the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, saying, am a member of the trade union, the TGWU. I have been lunching today with the senior steward and I can tell your Lordships that they do not want the docks nationalised." On that basis, we insisted on our amendment and the other place had the graciousness to accept our insistence.

However, on a subject like this it must be somewhat over-egging the pudding if we insist. Perhaps my noble friend on the Front Bench, while not pre-empting or disclosing what may be in the gracious Speech which we shall hear next week, could give my noble friend Lord Stanley an indication that the point that has been clearly made should be debated and looked into much further. If that indication could be given, I ask my noble friend whether he considers it right and proper to move his amendment. If he does press it, I venture to suggest that it would be quite improper for us to support it.

We should follow the suggestion in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, with whom for once I find myself in total agreement. His experience in these matters is enormous. The noble Lord's keenness on the issue of the curtailment of ownership of dogs is well known. I find his suggestion even more remarkable. It is because it is so remarkable that there must be an element of sense in it. I hope that the matter will be looked at again during another Session, instead of your Lordships being asked to consider four pages of a draft amendment when noble Lords have not had the opportunity of looking at the small print.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, it seems to me that we are being asked to choose between a scheme that has been carefully thought out, debated and discussed in great detail and another scheme which has hardly been thought out at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, reminded us, we have barely had the chance to study it. The Government's alternative scheme seems to me to have grave defects. I wish to put one question to the noble Baroness; perhaps she will answer it when she comes to reply. As I understand the Government's proposed alternative scheme, under subsection (6) if a noble Lord and noble Baroness possess a dog and go abroad on holiday, and they persuade a friend to look after the dog, and if while the noble Lord is abroad the dog escapes, it may subsequently be seized by the appropriate local government officer. Unless that dog is claimed within seven days it can be destroyed. Therefore, the noble Lord who has taken great care to see that the dog is left carefully looked after may find that, having gone abroad after making the proper arrangements, he returns to find he has no dog at all. Is that a proper understanding of the Government's alternative? If it is, I do not think that it is satisfactory.

As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said, it may be better to have no scheme at all than a bad scheme. However, if today we say that we will have no scheme at all, we shall never have a scheme. We have an opportunity to produce a scheme which has been carefully debated and thought out. I believe that we should choose that scheme rather than one that has not been discussed in detail and which is clearly defective.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, and take issue with a number of my noble friends who have been beguiled by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I do not know how many of your Lordships have tried to get a dogs' Bill before Parliament with some prospect of it being passed. I tried six years ago. I had a policy approved for the registration scheme but I failed dismally to persuade my colleagues to put it into the programme.

There have been a good many subsequent attempts to try to get legislation concerning dogs into the legislative programme. They have all failed until now. We are invited by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, to put the proposals back and trust that, as we approach an election, some future government will be able to find time and space for them in their legislative programme.

I have a great deal of respect for the noble Lord but I do not think that what he proposes can be the right answer. We all know there is a serious problem with stray dogs. Untold harm and damage is caused by stray dogs, particularly by stray packs o r dogs in some of our inner cities. The essential course is to make more strenuous efforts to control them. I have no doubt that both the alternatives before us would be a vast improvement on what we have at present. The question therefore comes down to which alternative we should choose. I have always been a supporter of the dog registration scheme because I believe it has one overriding advantage; namely, that it generates the finance to pay for itself.

My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham suggested that both alternatives would involve taxes whether a registration charge is levied or the cost is added to the poll tax. I prefer to call it a tail tax. I would prefer a tail tax to a poll tax for the overriding reason that if one provides a local authority with the revenue to carry out a new and demanding task imposed on it by Parliament, there is an infinitely greater chance that a local authority will carry out that task than if it has to find the money out of its budget in competition with all the other demands on its, expenditure.

I wish to address a question to my noble friend Lady Blatch on the Front Bench. She was kind enough to let me have a copy of the explanatory notes which state: There will be a small cost to local authorities, partly defrayed by fees. Authorities will be consulted about resources". I genuinely have not yet made up my mind on this issue, but I shall certainly vote against the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. Whether the registration scheme or the Commons scheme is adopted, the most important issue is how the measure is to be paid for. If my noble friend cannot give me a pretty firm assurance that resources will be found to pay for the Government's scheme so that local authorities will not have new duties imposed on them without the extra resources needed to fulfil those duties, I shall support the proposal of my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, as I think the registration scheme fulfils that requirement. However, if my noble friend on the Front Bench can give me an assurance on resources, that might tilt the balance. I shall listen with great interest to my noble friend's speech.

Lord Renton

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Jenkin has pointed out that the main problem is that of stray dogs. Surely he must realise that the people who have owned strays are the irresponsible ones who will not register them. Therefore the registration scheme does not deal with the major problem.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, although it has been rightly said that the Northern Ireland scheme is not on all fours with the registration scheme embodied in the amendment of your Lordships' House, the fact is that despite a modest level of compliance that scheme has markedly reduced the number of strays on urban streets and has markedly reduced the incidence of sheep worrying in rural areas. It is no objection to a registration scheme to say that it would not be 100 per cent. effective. It would not of course be 100 per cent. effective but it would be a great deal better than nothing. From the point of view of resources, the registration scheme would be much better than a measure which imposes new duties on local authorities but fails to provide them with the resources to carry out those duties. I hope the House will reject the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. We must do something. Either scheme would do well. I shall listen with the utmost interest to the speech of my noble friend on the Front Bench.

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I should say from the outset that I have no disagreement whatever with my noble friend on the rights of this House to exercise its legitimate duty to ask another place to think again. However, I shall discuss the reasons why I believe we should not follow that course a little later.

There is much that unites your Lordships and Members of the other place on this vexed issue of dogs. There is widespread agreement that there is a problem associated with irresponsible dog ownership and indeed with stray dogs without owners. The problem is more acute in towns and cities. Today our task is to determine measures to resolve the issue. Therefore our debate will properly concentrate on the means by which the objectives can be achieved.

The two options are, on the one hand, a registration scheme which works indirectly and, on the other, a package of measures to deal directly with such matters as identification, straying and dog fouling. The Government remain opposed to registration. An attempt to register all dogs would, I suggest, be expensive, bureaucratic and would dissipate energies and resources without tackling the actual problems. Various costs have been bandied about during our debate. However, the RSPCA's own figures assess the cost of registration at £20 million per year just to run and administer the scheme. Not one penny of that £20 million is designed to do anything practical about the dog problem.

Dog wardens, kenneling and practical enforcement measures could be provided for the same amount of money. That would be money well spent and would represent a better use of resources. Registration fees of £2.50 to £3 have been mentioned in another place. That is wholly unrealistic. When one takes into account stray dogs with no owners that will not be registered, and irresponsible dog owners who will not register, the take-up of the scheme will fall well short of 100 per cent. The RSPCA last year commissioned a study by the London School of Economics and, assuming 60 per cent. compliance rate, which is an optimistic assessment, the study revealed that a one-off fee of £ 121 was deemed necessary. The costs of non-payment and exemptions for low income owners, children or maybe pensioners, or for working dogs would also have to be met. Therefore whether one accepts one-off or annual fees the costs would be considerable and would fall, as is so often the case, on the law abiding, responsible dog owners.

Unless there is a rigorous and effective system of deregistration, in a few years' time the register would contain details of thousands of dead dogs and would quickly become defunct. Who, for example, is going to deregister the many dogs found dead on our highways and byways? Costs would also need to cover publicity campaigns to encourage people to register, the chasing and tracing of owners, updating of records, the employment of scribes, bureaucrats and finance officers, and the provision of computer networks all of which would be unproductive in tackling the real problems which are being experienced in many of our towns and cities. That remains our view of a national dog registration scheme.

However, like all noble Lords, the Government acknowledge that there is a problem which must be tackled. That is why my honourable friend in another place has responded positively to the many concerns expressed in both Houses. I must disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and with many other noble Lords. I believe that my noble friend Lord Boardman said that this package of measures was tacked on at the 59th minute. The package is, however, based on proposals which featured in the consultation paper Action for Dogs which was published last year. The proposals were widely disseminated and they received widespread support. Legislation was promised. Perhaps I may add that the RSPCA responded most favourably to that paper. The proposals were originally outside the scope of the Bill. However, thanks to the help of my noble friend Lord Stanley, the Long Title has been amended, which makes it possible to accept the amendment today.

My noble friend Lord Mountgarret asked whether I could give an assurance that we shall come to this subject again in Parliament. The answer is a very definite yes. We shall come to this subject again because your Lordships will have noticed from the amendments on the Marshalled List that we have not dealt in detail with the subject of dangerous dogs. There is another consultation paper out at this moment and it would be wrong and improper for me to pre-empt the result of that consultation process. The paper, Control of Dogs, will inevitably bring the discussion back to this House, but at this moment I cannot pre-empt what may be contained in the gracious Speech.

I shall now briefly describe the content of the new clauses. They place duties on district-level local authorities to collect stray dogs, detain them for seven days and either return them to their owners, find them a good home or, in the last resort, put them down. Local authorities must keep registers and may charge fees on top of the cost of kennelling. The clauses provide for the handing in of strays by the public to the authorities. They also place duties on local authorities to enforce the collar and tag requirement.

In addition, we arc dealing with dog fouling through the provisions on litter and street cleaning in the Bill and our proposed revision of the bye-law-making powers which have just received publicity. As I have just said, we are dealing with attacks by dangerous dogs through the control of dogs consultation paper.

Proponents of dog registration have said that they like our proposals, but want registration as well to help with identification. I question their reasons. It is easier for the public, without access to scanners and computers, to link a dog to its owner through the tag than through an implant or tattoo. A central registration scheme does absolutely nothing to improve on the collar and tag scheme.

I also question the enforcement of any registration requirements. It is fairly easy to spot dogs without a tag —that point was made by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham—even when they are out with their owners. There is no obvious way to spot unregistered dogs when at home and with their owners. Do we intend to spend vast sums of money on bureaucrats chasing those dogs which are unseen, unrecognised and unregistered? By the time an unregistered dog is picked up as a stray, it is almost too late.

There is a range of problems requiring a range of measures. I strongly believe that registration would be an unnecessary diversion. Analysis of the debate of recent days convinces me that those who seek registration do so more as a mechanism for raising money than as a tool for resolving the problems.

To respond to the question put by my noble friend Lord Jenkin, I must point out that, if the registration scheme is to be used as a mechanism for fund raising to implement an action package for dogs, which is not contained in the amendment of my noble friend Lord Stanley, the fee would have to be at least twice as much as that hinted at. We are talking of about £40 to £50 annually.

Why establish elaborate machinery for raising resources only to deploy them on the registration of dogs of predominantly law-abiding owners, chasing and tracing the more elusive or recalcitrant owners and administering the difficult task of keeping a current register when resources could be deployed on doing something about the real problem with dogs in a practical way?

A number of points have been raised during the debate. Perhaps I may deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, about leaving a dog with a friend. I hope that I can assure him that there is no problem. If a dog owner is responsible enough to leave a dog with a friend and the dog goes missing, it will be clear where the people can go to look for the dog. It will only be if the dog has been impounded that the seven days will count. If the dog has not been impounded, it will be on the loose somewhere else and will not be subject to the measures in the Bill until it is picked up, but it will be possible for the person who is made responsible for the dog to go and collect it.

My noble friend Lady Strange asked about dogs in transit or in cars. Dogs in cases, carriages or baskets in transit or in cars are not on the public highway and do not therefore need to wear the collar.

A number of people have raised the problem of finance, including the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and my noble friend Lord Jenkin. The Government package provides sources of finance because the new clause enables fees to be charged over and above kennelling and other expenses when a stray dog is collected. However, the Government have also made it clear—my noble friend Lord Jenkin should know the mechanisms for this —that, when we impose a new duty on local authorities, there will have to be discussions with the local authorities and new legislation will have to be taken into account in the PESC round for expenditure. It would not be introduced during the coming financial year because we would have to give time for that new duty to be taken into account. However, it must also be said that there is nothing to prevent any local authorities— many already exercise much of what is contained in the package—from implementing and building on what they are already doing as regards the measures in the package.

I said that I would return to the point about sending the matter to the other place to be reconsidered again. I have said clearly that it is the prerogative and the legitimate and constitutional right of this House to do just that. However, I must remind the House that this amendment was conceded at Committee stage in the other place. It was defeated on the Floor of the House not once, but twice. It has therefore been well considered over a long period and we should not send it to the other place again tonight.

The House was prompted by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, to do something about the problem of dogs. That point has been echoed around the Chamber and more time has been spent on the constitutional issue and on whether we do something than has been spent on talking about the merits of registration.

Registration by itself adds nothing. Registration coupled with a package of action, such as our action package, will be prohibitively expensive because we shall have to raise two tranches of money—the £20 million to fund registration and a further comparable sum of money to implement a package. I believe that the Government's package will prove an effective way and will make good use of the resources. It enforces identification. It acts directly to remove stray dogs from our streets. It penalises the irresponsible owner and it achieves that without the need to link every dog with a computer.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I believe that I have a right to reply. I am sure that your Lordships will wish me to conclude quickly so I shall not reply to any specific point, not out of disrespect to any of your Lordships, particularly my noble friend Lady Blatch, but because we have been over this course once or twice or thrice before.

Just because the House is in a good temper and there has been a lot of humour about, make no mistake: those of us who support my Motion believe in it very firmly and strongly. However, I should like to make it clear that we are talking about dogs. If your Lordships' discussion on dogs has diverted attention away from such matters as the single currency, the CAP or even that evil man Saddam Hussein, that is a good thing and it is a thoroughly British thing to do here.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, if this little matter has drawn the Government's attention to the fact that they must start thinking carefully not just about what we do about dogs, but t hat they must consider the worries—I speak personally here—of farmers, doctors, lawyers and industrialists, that is no bad thing.

Finally, if the Government's attention is drawn to the fact that the situation in which we find ourselves today is in part caused by overcrowding the legislative programme and by sloppy and careless Bills coming before your Lordships, that also is no bad thing.

It is up to your Lordships to make a choice, but, if I read my crib correctly, I must ask the House to disagree to the Commons Amendments Nos. 7A to 7G in lieu of Amendment No. 7 and to insist on the original Lords Amendment No. 7.

4.40 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, the Question is that the House do disagree with Amendments Nos. 7A to 7G proposed by the Commons in lieu of Lords Amendment No. 7 to which the Commons have disagreed and do insist on their original Amendment No. 7.

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 139; Not-Contents, 158.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Knutsford, V.
Adrian, L. Lauderdale, E.
Ailesbury, M. Lawrence, L.
Airedale, L. Leatherland, L.
Ardwick, L. Listowel, E.
Attlee, E. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Aylestone, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Barnett, L. Longford, E.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Birk, B. Lyell, L.
Blackstone, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Blease, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. McNair, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Manchester, Bp.
Bridges, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Broadbridge, L. Meston, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Mishcon, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Buchan, E. Monkswell, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Monson, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Carter, L. Morris, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Mulley, L.
Craigavon, V. Nelson of Stafford, L.
Cross, V. Newall, L.
Cudlipp, L. Nicol, B. [Teller.]
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Northfield, L.
David, B. Ogmore, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Oram, L.
Derwent, L. Phillips, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Ennals, L. Plumb, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Falkland, V. Pym, L.
Fitt, L. Quinton, L.
Flowers, L. Radnor, E.
Foot, L. Rea, L.
Gallacher, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Galpern, L. Rochester, L.
Gisborough, L. Rodney, L.
Gladwyn, L. Ross of Newport, L.
Glenarthur, L. Russell, E.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Sainsbury, L.
Greenway, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Grey, E. Seear, B.
Hampton, L. Selkirk, E.
Hanworth, V. Serota, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Shackleton, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Shannon, E.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Sharples, B.
Hirshfield, L. Stallard, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Stanley of Alderley, L. [Teller.]
Hooson, L. Stedman, B.
Howie of Troon, L. Stodard of Leaston, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Strabolgi, L.
Ilchester, E. Strathcarron, L.
Jeger, B. Strathspey, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Swinfen, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Terrington, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Teviot, L.
Kearton, L. Tryon, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Underhill, L.
Kirkhill, L. Varley, L.
Wallace of Coslany, L. White, B.
Walpole, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Whaddon, L. Winstanley, L.
Wharton, B.
Abinger, L. Hertford, M.
Aldington, L. Hesketh, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Holderness, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Hooper, B.
Ampthill, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Arran, E. Howe, E.
Astor, V. Hunter of Newington, L.
Auckland, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Balfour of Burleigh, L. Ironside, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Beloff, L. Joseph, L.
Belstead, L. Kimball, L.
Benson, L. Kinnoull, E.
Bessborough, E. Kitchener, E.
Birdwood, L. Knollys, V.
Blake, L. Layton, L.
Blatch, B. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Blyth, L. Long, V.
Boardman, L. Lothian, M.
Borthwick, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Brigstocke, B. Macleod of Borve, B.
Brookeborough, V. Manchester, D.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mancroft, L.
Butterfield, L. Margadale, L.
Butterworth, L. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Byron, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Merrivale, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mersey, V.
Carnarvon, E. Middleton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mills, V.
Carnock, L. Mottistone, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Mountevans, L.
Chichester, Bp. Mountgarret, V.
Chorley, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Munster, E.
Coleraine, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Colnbrook, L. Nelson, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Norfolk, D.
Cottesloe, L. Norrie, L.
Craigton, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Orkney, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Orr-Ewing, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Oxfuird, V.
Dilhorne, V. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Eccles, V. Peel, E.
Eden of Winton, L. Pender, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Faithfull, B. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Porrit, L.
Faringdon, L. Prior, L.
Ferrers, E. Reay, L.
Flather, B. Renton, L.
Forte, L. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Roxburghe, D.
Gainsford, L. Saint Albans, D.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Salisbury, M.
Grantchester, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Sandys, L.
Gregson, L. Seebohm, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Haden-Guest, L. Sherfield, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L Shrewsbury, E.
Shuttleworth, L.
Halsbury, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Hanson, L. Slim, V.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Somerset, D.
Havers, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Hemphill, L. Southborough, L.
Henley, L. Stockton, E.
Strange, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Strathclyde, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. Westbury, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L. Wilberforce, L.
Thorneycroft, L. Wise, L.
Trefgarne, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Trumpington, B. Yarborough, E.
Ullswater, V.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.

4.50 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby rose to move, That the House do disagree with Amendments Nos. 7A to 7G proposed by the Commons in lieu of Lords Amendment No. 7 to which the Commons have disagreed; but do not insist on their original Amendment No. 7.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I still think that my amendment is the best solution in this turmoil, this cauldron of discontent and disapproval. If we proceed to a Motion to approve the Government's package we are being manipulated. Had it not been for the Government's need to have an answer to the registration scheme in the House of Commons, they would never have produced this package last Monday—last week. Why otherwise did they by-pass the Report stage of your Lordships' House on this Bill? They were not ready; they had not made up their minds what to do. The Government allowed Amendment No. 7 to go through with no hint that they were going to make up their minds to block it if they could in the House of Commons.

The Government blocked it in the House of Commons. We have a Motion before us for a package deal which in a vote by 545 people in the Commons was passed by three votes. That is not the way to legislate. Whatever noble Lords do, I believe that there will be regrets for the action taken.

We made the mistake of putting this issue into the Bill. The dogs issue should have been kept out of the Bill. It is open to the House now to support an amendment which proposes to take it out of the Bill. Let us legislate for dogs separately. If noble Lords ask me the way forward I say, "Get the dogs out of the Bill and have a Select Committee of your Lordships' House to consider the problem as speedily as possible."

We have a genius for solving impossible problems of legislation and of policy, as we have shown over the abortion Acts in the past years. I believe that we could find an answer to this problem if we were left alone, not barked at, not shown pictures of heaps of dead dogs, and if we were free from being lectured by the canine organisations. They seem to think that we have nothing to do but obey their wishes.

The dogs issue is a big social problem. I warn your Lordships that there are millions of people—lonely pensioners, widows and others—who cherish their dogs. We have to be very careful that we do not impose intolerable hardship, difficulty and unhappiness upon them. We are being rushed by propaganda into regarding registration as the solution. We have devoted all our attention to that issue.

The Government came forward with practical proposals only when they were afraid that registration was going to carry the day. Registration is now out of the way. Even if we had passed a Motion on registration, that Motion would shelve the matter for two years. Before then there will be a general election. However, they now say that they can put forward practical suggestions and proposals. They had no idea of prematurely bringing in proposals on this matter in advance of the last date for public discussion.

If there is sufficient support for my amendment, I shall be prepared to test the feeling of the House in a Division. However, I do not wish to press an amendment if there is not a considerable body of support for it. I therefore beg to move my amendment and leave it to your Lordships' House to indicate your degree of support for it.

Moved, That the House do disagree with Amendments Nos. 7A to 7G proposed by the Commons in lieu of Lords Amendment No. 7 to which the Commons have disagreed; but do not insist on their original Amendment No. 7.—(Lord Houghton of Sowerby.)

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, there is not one noble Lord in this House who would argue over the enormous amount of work that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has done in promoting the cause of animals, and with his concern for animals. On this occasion the Government appear to be legislating for animals in a way in which he disapproves. I hope that I am able to disabuse the House of that view.

First, it was not the Government's intention to tack on to the Bill a clause about dogs. However, the issue was raised at a particular stage and we responded. I believe it is to the Government's credit that we did not respond negatively to that request. We felt strongly, for the reasons that I expressed a moment ago, that a registration scheme would not work and that a registration scheme coupled with an action package would be prohibitively expensive. We therefore gave some very positive thought to what we should do. Had we simply tacked on those amendments, I believe that we would have the right to press the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and to carry it.

However, a consultation paper was published last year. It was very widely discussed. It was extremely detailed. The package of measures has been designed specifically on that consultation paper. In addition, since the moment that the dog amendment was placed on the Table, this subject has been discussed ad nauseam. I was asked by not one but by many noble Lords in the previous debate to do something because we all believe that there is a very real problem. The package of measures deals with straying and strays, identification, and irresponsible ownership of dogs. It deals with those problems in a very practical way. I believe that it gives some promises to your Lordships about mechanisms for funding that package, albeit that we must wait for the negotiations and consultations between the Government and local authorities.

It is for those reasons that I ask noble Lords not to throw out the package and not to wait for another day to bring all these matter back to another place. My view is that they are thought out. It is a good package. It is not on-the-hoof policy. I most strongly ask the House to reject the proposal that we take these measures out of the Bill. I ask the House to support wholeheartedly the Commons amendments because I believe that it is the wish of all noble Lords on both sides of the debate to see something practical and effective achieved by these dog measures.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I can only say that this is not the House's most glorious hour. I believe that we are being manipulated. We are being asked to legislate under pressure and even duress. The Government never thought that this package would be brought forward in circumstances in which we have to swallow the lot in the next half hour without further investigation, inquiry or debate. It is part of the stratagem to defeat the scheme of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. The Government were determined to defeat the registration scheme by hook or by crook. They thought out this idea of bringing forward practical measures rapidly. and putting them before the House as though in the ordinary course of business. That is the sop that they threw out to the House of Commons last Monday. The House of Commons nearly did not fall for it; it is now brought to this House as the answer to the dilemma caused by the raising of the dog issue in this Bill.

I much regret the situation in which we are placed. I can only say what I said before with regard to the attitude of the House towards the amendment. There are regrets to come, my Lords; of that you may be sure. I commend the Motion standing in my name on the Marshalled List.

On Question, Motion negatived.

5 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, the Question is that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 7 to which the Commons have disagreed but do agree with Amendments Nos. 7A to 7G proposed by the Commons in lieu thereof.

On Question, Motion agreed to.