HL Deb 10 July 1991 vol 530 cc1466-503

House again in Committee.

Clause 3 [Keeping dogs under proper control]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Grantchester)

I have to state that if Amendment No. 23 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 24.

The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 23: Page 3, line 16, leave out ("in a public place").

The noble Viscount said: On behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, who is detained abroad today on European duties, I wish to move this amendment. He would like me to declare his interest as a parliamentary consultant to the police federation. He has asked me to move three amendments on his behalf, of which Amendment No. 23 is the first.

The amendment seeks to remove the four words, "in a public place" from the Bill. The police federation is well aware that the amendment it has proposed does not necessarily leave the Bill in a satisfactory state. Nevertheless, as I pointed out at Second Reading, police officers throughout the country are increasingly concerned about the confrontations they have with dangerous dogs when they enter a house or premises for the purposes of a drugs raid and they are met by dangerous dogs as defined in the Bill. In recent days I read of a case in the London area where a pit bull terrier kept police officers at bay and prevented them from carrying out their duties.

That is the basis of the concern behind the amendment, so that with a dangerous dog in what is not generally recognised as a public place, the police will have some redress. I understood from my conversations with the noble Lord, Lord Bethel], that he had discussions with the Home Office on the subject. He anticipates an interesting response from the noble Earl when he replies. I beg to move.

Lord Richard

I understand that Amendment No. 24, to which I wish to speak, is to be taken with Amendment No. 23. It slightly widens the scope of Clause 3(1) so that it would apply to a dog which was dangerously out of control not merely in a public place but, in any other place where it has, or is likely to become, a danger to a member of the public". I believe I need do no more than read out the amendment in order to make the point. It widens the definition of "in a public place" in Clause 3(1). Merely to confine the wording to that phrase, as the Bill does, is too restrictive. In many situations a dog can be dangerously out of control in a place other than a public place where it is or is likely to become a danger to a member of the public. That should be covered by the Bill as well as a dog dangerously out of control in a public place.

I am encouraged not to say any more on the amendment by the temptation that has been dangled in front of us, that we are to have an interesting reply from the Minister. If he is in an interesting condition, who am Ito prevent him giving birth!

Earl Ferrers

I find the information that I was going to give an interesting reply quite fascinating. I thought that all my replies were interesting and no doubt this will be no exception.

The noble Viscount has drawn attention to the definitions of "a public place" and how widely the criminal offence in Clause 3(1) should apply.

The first point to make is that the discussion is solely about the criminal offence in Clause 3(1). The Dogs Act 1871, which is extended under the provisions of Clause 3(4) applies everywhere, both in public and in private places, even inside a house. That means that under the Dogs Act 1871 effective action can be taken against a dog which is dangerously out of control anywhere.

That is different from the criminal offence. The criminal offence in Clause 3(1) is limited to a place to which the public has access. As noble Lords pointed out at Second Reading, that does not cover the event of a dog jumping over a garden fence and savaging a neighbour in his own property. Nor does it cover the eventuality of a dog which is being walked in a public place, or along a street, but which escapes from the owner or the keeper's control, enters a school playground and attacks a child.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, would cover both of these circumstances, but would go wider still so that it would include an accident in the home. That is, if, as unfortunately commonly happens, a dog were to attack a child and bite it so as to cause injury in the home, the parent would have committed an indictable criminal offence. I think that is going too far. Reprehensible as those circumstances are, to make them subject to criminal proceedings in that way would not be right.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, does not reach so far, but may not work because a policeman, a postman or even someone sitting in his back garden may not, in certain circumstances, be properly regarded as a member of the public.

We have tabled an amendment in my name, Amendment No. 28, which I believe will cater for both these difficulties. It introduces into the Bill the notion of an escaping dog, a dog which has entered a place which is not a public place but where it is not permitted to be.

I hope that we have been able to respond to the amendment and to the concerns which Members of the Committee have expressed.

The Viscount of Falkland

I feel sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, will be happy with the reply that has been given by the noble Earl, so far as it goes. He will carefully read in Hansard what was said. Under those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Richard had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 24: Page 3, line 16, after ("place") insert ("or in any other place where it has, or is likely to become, a danger to a member of the public").

The noble Lord said: In the circumstances, after the Minster's previous reply I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 24 not moved.]

8.30 p.m.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 26: Page 3, line 19, leave out ("causes injury to") and insert ("injures").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 26, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 32A, 58 and 59. Amendment No. 59 stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Radnor. On Second Reading there was much discussion about the offence in Clause 3(1) of having a dog which is dangerously out of control.

Some noble Lords expressed the fear that, as drafted the offence might catch the owner of a dog which ran into the road and caused a traffic accident in which people were injured. They argued that the use of the expression "causes injury" in line 19 of page three of the Bill, would have that effect. It was always our intention in drafting this Bill that the offence in Clause 3(1) should apply to the owners of dogs which bit people or put people in fear of being bitten or injured by the dog. It was not our intention to catch the owners of dogs which frightened cyclists or made them fall off their bikes. The theme of this Bill is that of the dog which bites or mauls people.

We did not consider that the drafting would have the interpretation which some Members of the Committee fear. We are nevertheless happy that the expression used in Clause 3 and in other parts of the Bill should make the Government's intention perfectly clear beyond peradventure. The amendments which we have tabled will do this. My noble friend Lord Radnor clearly shares the aim of the Government in making the target of the Clause 3 offence clear. He has, however, gone about it in a slightly different way by pro posing that the reference in Clause 8(4) to "cause injury to" should be changed to "attack". Understandably, I prefer my own wording. Whether a dog has injured somebody or put that person in fear of injury—Clause 8(4) covers that—is a very much simpler test than whether the dog in question has attacked or put somebody in fear of an attack. It would not always be clear when an attack had taken place. I f the test were to be physical contact between the dog and a person, there would be a certain element of subjectivity in judging whether the physical contact amounted to an attack. Most of us can recall occasions on which a dog has run up to us and jumped up while we were out for a walk. Its owners usually say words like, "He is only being friendly", as the dog tries to put its paws on one's shoulders.

One might wonder whether that action constituted an attack. Some would consider that it did. If such an action were taken by the Tosa with which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is acquainted, I would consider that to be an attack. It would be even more difficult to say whether a person had a reasonable apprehension that the dog in question would attack him or her.

In short, I believe the words in the Government's amendments are a better form of words. The form of words is simpler and more direct. I hope that my noble friend Lord Radnor will take the same view. I beg to move.

The Earl of Radnor

I must admit that the word "injures" is much better than the phrase "causes injury to". However, I am not sure whether the word "injures" is perfect in this context. One can think of strange situations, particularly a situation such as that described by my noble friend Earl Ferrers where a friendly dog puts its paws on one's shoulders. If that person i 3, like me, not too steady on his feet, he could, for example, fall into a canal, and if he is unable to swim he may drown. I wonder whether in that case the dog is considered to have injured the human being. I may be splitting hairs. We all prefer our own wording. The word "attack" is completely simple. It refers to a dog that sinks its teeth into a person. There is no problem in identifying that as a nasty act.

However, I am not unhappy with the new way that my noble friend has proposed for approaching this problem in both parts of the Bill that we are discussing. I hope he will respond to the situation where a friendly dog approaches a person and the person suffers some injury as a result. For example, he may fall over. I can imagine that in a court of law the question of whether an injury had been caused by the dog would be tightly argued. I believe it would make matters simpler for the courts if they could consider whether an attack had taken place.

Lord Monson

As the co-sponsor, as it were, of Amendment No. 59, I feel even more dubious than the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, as regards the Government's proposed alternative to Amendment No. 59, which is Amendment No. 58. Let us suppose some toddlers are playing on a beach or in a park and a large totally friendly dog approaches them and enters the area where they are playing. With good reason, the mothers of the toddlers may worry that the dog might leap up to lick the children and knock them over or may even knock them over by wagging its tail. The mothers may well have grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog may cause injury to the children quite without malice. I think it is wrong that a dog should automatically be regarded as being dangerously out of control in such circumstances.

Lord Mancroft

I hope I may add my pennyworth to what has been said. I wish to thank on behalf of the Government the noble Lord for tabling his amendment. It undoubtedly improves the Bill and it makes the position much clearer. However, as my noble friend Lord Radnor has pointed out, there is still a grey area where a dog may knock a child or an elderly person over; and that person may then knock his head on a stone, for example. In an age where people are going to have their dogs insured, one can see that we might encourage a litigious society if we are not careful. People may be tempted to go to court because they know they will gain a certain amount from that.

We know that the purpose of this wording is to legislate against dogs which attack by using their teeth. It is not about boisterous dogs knocking people over. My noble friend's amendment deals adequately with the problem of the dog that runs into the road and causes an accident; but there is still a grey area where a dog may knock someone over and that person may be injured as a result. In that case, dogs may still fall foul of the law; but we know that the purpose of the law is not to deal with that kind of incident.

Earl Ferrers

It is always difficult to give cast iron reasons why one form of wording is better than another. I believe, however, that it is simpler to refer to a dog having injured someone or having put a person in fear of injury than to use the word "attack". As I have said, "attack" implies a specific act. It implies that a dog has to attack a person. Clause 8(4) states: a dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension". The grounds for reasonable apprehension are the apprehension that one will be injured or that the dog will cause injury. I believe that expression is easier to understand than the word "attack".

I return again to the example of the Japanese Tosa with which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, became acquainted. The noble Lord was quite happy for that dog to put its paws on his shoulders and to lick him. If that had happened to me, I would have regarded that action as one that caused injury or was likely to cause injury. I would be scared stiff of such a dog. However, I do not believe that such behaviour constitutes an attack. I shall be happy to consider the views that the Committee has expressed; but I believe that on the whole the word "attack" would be too strong and would be more difficult to identify in law than the words I have suggested. However, I am happy to consider the matter further.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 28: Page 3, line 25, at end insert: (2A) If the owner or, if different, the person for the time being in charge of a dog allows it to enter a place which is not a public place but where it is not permitted to be and while it is there—

  1. (a) it injures any person; or
  2. (b) there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will do so,
he is guilty of an offence, or, if the dog injures any person, an aggravated offence, under this subsection.").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 28 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 30, 31, 40 and 41. Amendment No. 28 stands in my name. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, has tabled two amendments concerning that amendment and with the agreement of the Committee I should like to deal with those amendments as well. The purpose of the noble Viscount's amendments is to apply all the offences in the Bill which concern a dog which is dangerously out of control to a dog which injures or causes reasonable apprehension that it will injure a domestic animal.

As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will recall, the Bill is emergency legislation which is designed to deal with a particular problem—that of dogs which attack people. It does not pretend to be comprehensive legislation on dogs. The amendments in the noble Viscount's name would greatly extend the offence of having a dog which is dangerously out of control by making it cover the dog which attacked another animal as well as the dog which attacked a person.

Incidents in which dogs yap, snarl and growl at each other are very common indeed. The noble Viscount's amendment to Clause 8 would mean that the owner of any dog which gave reasonable apprehension that it would injure another dog would be committing an offence with a very tough penalty. I do not think that it is reasonable that the law should apply to such incidents, of which there must be hundreds every day, some of them committed by dogs owned by people who look after their dogs very well and exercise good control over them.

Curiously, the noble Viscount's amendment would not affect the owner of the dog which caused injury while dangerously out of control, but I imagine that that is an oversight. Extending the offence to cover dogs which injure other dogs would be a major step. I do not underestimate the nuisance which aggressive dogs can cause, particularly to smaller dogs. Nor do I underestimate the shock and anger which having one's dog injured by another can cause. But having said that, no incident in which a dog injures another dog can be regarded as being as serious as that in which a dog injures a person.

The dangerously out of control offence which we have proposed in Clause 3(1) carries a tough penalty, including a sentence of up to two years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine for the aggravated offence in which injury is caused. Those who accept that tough penalty in relation to owners whose dogs attack people would find it very difficult to accept for dogs which simply nipped or scratched other dogs. I am sure that we are all aware of incidents in which dogs attack cats. Those of us who are cat lovers would find such incidents most distressing, but I do not think that it would be reasonable for the owner of a dog which ate a cat to face imprisonment, as he would if the noble Viscount's amendment were accepted.

It is right that the Bill as presently drafted encourages all dog owners to exercise control of their dogs when they are in a public place. It is also right that the law should penalise those irresponsible dog owners who do not take steps to control their dogs and whose dogs become dangerously out of control and frighten or injure people. However, to apply the dangerously out of control offences to situations in which a domestic animal is injured, as the noble Viscount proposes, is going too far. I hope that on reflection he will think so too. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 28, Amendment No. 29: Line 7, after ("person") insert ("or domestic animal").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 29 perhaps I may also speak to Amendment No. 60. The noble Earl has already answered some of the points raised by this amendment. During his explanation of his amendment the noble Earl seemed not to make any connection between attacks on domestic animals and attacks on humans. However, the anxiety of animal organisations and people who have been attacked by fierce dogs when they have attempted to protect their own domestic animal has been a powerful force behind the amendment.

Some dogs can become persistent cat killers. In some areas dogs are encouraged by their owners to pursue cats. That is not a pleasant pastime but unfortunately it is a fact of life in some areas. One hopes that the tendency will not grow. Small dogs are often attacked by a larger dog. When intrepid owners try to come between their dog and the attacking dog that may result in injury to the owner.

However, I appreciate the remarks made by the noble Earl and shall not seek to divide the Committee on the amendment. But I believe that it is a subject which needs to be aired. There are many people who live in urban areas who are increasingly nervous about taking their dogs into the streets or into parks because of the likelihood of their being attacked. They are extremely nervous about whether or not they should intervene. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

I am grateful to the noble Viscount for explaining his amendment, to which I referred in my opening remarks. I am grateful to him for saying that he understood the point of view which I put forward.

The amendment in my name introduces into the Bill the notion of an escaping dog—a dog which has entered a place which is not a public place but where it is not permitted to be. It makes it an offence for that dog to have injured any person or to have given grounds for apprehension that it would do so.

As the Committee will have noticed, the drafting of the amendment is slightly different from that of the existing clause, which is an absolute offence. We feel that the public should be protected by the absolute offence. In the case of the much wider range of circumstances in which offences take place not in a public place or a place to which the public have access, there must be evidence that the owner of the dog or the person for the time being in charge of it allowed the dog to injure someone or to give reasonable apprehension that it would do so.

We have to keep a balance in these matters. I hope that the noble Viscount will consider that our amendment is suitable and will not press his amendment.

The Viscount of Falkland

The improvements brought about by the Bill will give some heart to the owners of domestic animals. I hope that they will take encouragement from my words and that that will be borne out in the fullness of time when the legislation comes into effect. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 28 agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 30 and 31: Page 3, line 26, after ("subsection ( 1 )") insert ("or (2A)"). Page 3, line 30, leave out ("that subsection") and insert ("either of those subsections").

The noble Earl said: These amendments were taken with Amendment No. 29. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 3, line 35, at end insert: ("(3A) A person who has been convicted of an offence under subsection (1) who thereafter has any dog in his possession or custody is guilty of an offence except where that person has obtained a permit to keep a dog in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State. (3B) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (3A) above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale. (3C) The power to make an order under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would apply only when a dog's owner had been convicted by a court of having a dog dangerously out of control. That dog will almost certainly have attacked someone and the court may well have sentenced the owner for up to six months' imprisonment, as is permitted in Clause 3(3). We are therefore talking about a dangerous dog owned by an irresponsible person. In order to make sure that neither the dog nor the owner repeats such an offence, I hope that my noble friend will agree that provision should be available to the court to make that owner obtain a permit before keeping a dog again. I am sure that noble Lords will not wish a person who has been convicted of owning a dangerous dog, to become an owner of yet another dangerous dog. The amendment would allow the court to stop an irresponsible person again owning a dangerous dog. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

Under the Bill, as in previous legislation, the courts have clear powers to disqualify offenders from having further custody of a dog. The courts understand those powers and the procedures for dealing with those disqualifications are by now fairly common practice.

My noble friend's amendment introduces a novel concept of a permit. There is no need for that. Disqualifications are applied by the courts at present and are enforced. Those who breach the injunctions face the penalty. Under Clause 4(8), anyone who has custody of a dog while disqualified is guilty of an offence and is liable to a level 5 fine. That is a pretty substantial fine. I hope that my noble friend will agree that that is sufficient and that there is no need for the complications of a permit.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am pleased by my noble friend's remarks. My amendment would give the courts a little more latitude in certain cases, but I understand my noble friend's point. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I now call Amendment No. 32A, which is printed as the second Amendment No. 32 on the Marshalled List. I call the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 32A: Page 3, line 39, leave out ("caused injury to") and insert ("injured").

The noble Earl said: This amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 26. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 33: Page 3, line 40, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 34.

The purpose of these two amendments is to find out whether the word "otherwise" in subsection (4) (b) means that a court would have the power, if it wished, to order a dangerous dog as described in the clause to be neutered or spayed. I hope that that is what it means because the court should have those powers. Again, it does not have to use them, but, as the Committee knows, most attacks by dogs involve breeds other than the American pit bull terrier. Most are carried out by breeds that are usually docile but the particular dogs have developed vicious tendencies. The courts should be given powers to neuter or spay such strains so as to ensure their eventual elimination. I beg to move.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. It is true that, if a dog is neutered, it becomes much more docile. Any vet will tell any owner that and I am sure that the RSPCA agrees. I support the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend's amendment would enable a court considering an application under Clause 3(4) to require that a dog complained of should be neutered or spayed. That would be in addition to the other measures that it could take for keeping the dog under proper control which are set out in Clause 3(4) (b).

The amendment was tabled only this morning and we have therefore had only a limited time in which to consider it. The amendment is probably technically deficient. I know that that is not helpful to my noble friend, who is making a point of substance, but the power set out in Clause 3(4) is a clarification of an existing power in Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871. The Committee will notice that the first line of Clause 3(4) states: It is hereby declared for the avoidance of doubt". Clause 3(4) helpfully makes it clear that the courts can impose specific conditions and that they can impose them on a dog which has not so far injured someone. It could not be said that the Dogs Act of 1871 gave the courts the power to require neutering and spaying already. It could not therefore be said that the inclusion of the proposed paragraph (c) would be for the avoidance of doubt.

Although we could not accept the amendment in its present form, I should like to ask my noble friend for a little more time to consider it. I can see that there might be occasions on which it would be appropriate for the courts to require that a particular dog should be neutered if it had been causing a nuisance. There is some evidence that neutering of male dogs can in some cases render a dog more docile, but it is difficult to see that, if a dog has been aggressive towards a human, neutering it would be the appropriate penalty. Spaying or neutering is quite a serious step. In the limited time available to us we have not had a chance to discuss the amendment with the RSPCA or other experts to find out their views. It is only fair that they should be allowed to have their say. I hope that, with that explanation, my noble friend will withdraw his amendment and allow me to look at it further.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am grateful to my noble friend. Perhaps I may reminisce for a moment. I thought about this amendment only when I was fishing last week. That was why it was tabled so late. The inspiration came to me.

Lord Kimball

Did my noble friend catch anything?

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Yes, I did. I apologise for the cross-examination by my noble friend Lord Kimball.

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for considering this serious matter. I take his point that neutering does not stop the dog attacking human beings, but it probably stops—my noble friend Lord Kimball knows more about this than I do—the dog attacking other dogs and it will stop it perpetuating its strain. I am grateful to my noble friend for his consideration. I shall withdraw the amendment if he will consider it between now and Report stage.

Earl Ferrers

Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, I should point out that he has let the cat out of the bag when he said that neutering stops a dog from attacking other dogs. That is not the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to stop dangerous dogs attacking human beings. I shall consider his amendment, but I recommend that he does not go fishing too often.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My main aim is to eliminate that strain of dangerous dogs. That falls in line with the aims of the Bill. If one neutered that strain, one would eventually get rid of it. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw—

Lord Monson

Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, perhaps I may leap to his defence using another argument. If neutering prevents a dog from attacking another dog, it indirectly helps humans. It is human nature to try to intervene to prevent two dogs tearing one another to pieces. Humans are quite likely to be injured in the process of separating two dogs. I believe that the noble Lord's amendment would have a beneficial effect so far as concerns human beings as well as animals.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monson. He has made an absolutely valid point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

9 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 3, line 43 at end insert: ("( ) A person shall not keep a dog unless there is in force in relation to the keeping of the dog by that person such a policy of insurance in respect of third party risks. ( ) A person shall not cause or permit any other person to keep the dog unless there is in force in relation to the keeping of the dog by that other person such a policy of insurance in respect of third party risks.".

The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to extend compulsory third party insurance to all breeds of dogs. This subject was discussed at Second Reading. The amendment has the support of both the RSPCA and the Union of Communication Workers. Perhaps I may rehearse the main reasons why we should like this amendment to be accepted.

To begin with, we believe that it is quite logical to extend third party insurance to all breeds. Surely it is illogical to make it compulsory for some dogs but not for others. That does not happen with motor cars and one could draw out the likeness to this case.

Secondly, we think that it would be a good move to extend the insurance to cover all breeds because that would also cover the specially dangerous dogs of Clause 2. It would mean that there was a power in the Bill to impose the third party insurance.

Thirdly, the insurance clearly would establish a link between the clog and the owner—something which for those of us who no longer dare to mention registration was one of the objectives of registration; namely, to establish the link between owner and dog.

Fourthly, a very important reason is to provide against damage owing to accidents caused by dogs. One must not forget the number of road accidents which Are caused by stray or loose dogs which run into the road. The driver of a vehicle instinctively tries to avoid the dog and can thereby cause an accident or injury to a person. Third party insurance would cover such cases. 1t must be remembered that all dogs, however small or big, have the potential to cause an accident.

Lastly, this amendment is put forward from the point of view of the postmen and postwomen. The statistics showing the number of postmen and postwomen who suffer dog attacks are astounding, the more so in that the numbers are rising. In 1985 there were 5,500 attacks and in 1990 there were 7,500 attacks. Clearly it is a serious and continuing problem.

It would give some consolation to postmen and postwomen to know that there was compulsory insurance on dogs. It would offer some certain financial redress in the event of an attack on them which took place on private property as well as on a public footpath.

I commend this amendment to the Committee and hope that the Minister will understand and accept the arguments that I have put forward. I beg to move.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, repeats the most logical recommendation for the most assured public safeguard arising from the debates on this Bill. All dogs, including dangerous dogs, reflect the mannerisms of their owners. Despite the Minister's comments earlier, they reflect the mannerisms of their owners and keepers. One must expect them to express their exuberance, nervousness and even cruel behaviour on certain occasions, just as children do and as we ourselves do. It is sad that the Minister restricts this legislation to dogs that attack and injure people by direct assault.

At the Second Reading of the Bill it was made clear that dogs' behaviour can result in traffic accidents. We have just heard that argument again. There can be direct attacks on human beings which are sometimes fatal, the worrying and killing of farm livestock, and mangling of other more fragile members of the canine or feline world.

Responsible car owners insure their vehicles, which cost more than dogs and certainly are more costly to repair. This Bill is not an excuse for party political insistence. Rather, it is an opportunity to further personal and property insurance. Irresponsible drivers cause accidents and crippling injuries which sometimes prove fatal. Irresponsible dog owners cause deaths and injuries. A responsible government would insist—as do most dog clubs already—on third party insurance cover for all dogs, as a separate insurance policy from household contents cover. To give some incentive they could offer financial assistance, along with, let us say, the Kennel Club.

The Kennel Club receives an enormous amount of money. Perhaps I may read out to the Committee certain so-called facts, which I am sure people can double check. The Kennel Club is paid £6 to register a pedigree pup. When the pup is sold, the Kennel Club is paid another £6. Therefore within seven to nine weeks the Kennel Club will receive £12. In order to have a prefix for a particular breed one has to pay the Kennel Club £45. Those are two instances by which income from the Kennel Club could help—just as the Government could help—to establish this sensitive and caring provision that all dogs should be covered by third party insurance. I support the amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Monson

I strongly support the amendment and make no apology for returning to the case of Mr. Frank Tempest of Lincoln who, as the Committee will recall, lost his nose in its entirety and half of one ear, as well as sustaining many other terrible injuries, as a result of an attack by a pit bull terrier.

Most commendably, the local newspaper, the Lincoln Echo initiated an appeal for the victim. Most commendably, the people of Lincoln and the surrounding district have, as of three o'clock this afternoon, raised a total of £18,100 for him and his family, which will be extremely helpful. However, the Committee cannot deny that had the owner been covered by an insurance policy the amount paid to the victim would be at least three times greater, if not a great deal more. If this terrible attack had occurred in the United States, the victim would have received at least 1 million dollars, if not 2 million dollars. We do not go to the opposite extreme in this country. But I think the Committee will agree that, while the amount raised by public subscription is extremely welcome and to be praised, it is not right that victims should have to depend on this form of compensation for the terrible injuries that have occurred. It seems quite wrong that there should not be a substantial sum of compensation for the terrible injuries, which will persist so far as one can tell for the remainder of the victim's life. For that reason I strongly support the amendment.

Lord Addington

On these Benches, we support the idea of third party insurance for all dogs, especially large and dangerous dogs.

Earl Ferrers

I know that this is an issue about which many noble Lords feel strongly and I understand why. I accept that on the face of it compulsory insurance for all dogs seems an attractive proposition. However, there are a number of drawbacks. To begin with, compulsory insurance requirements are highly unusual. I am advised that other than in the case of motor car insurance, our proposed insurance for Clause 1 dogs, making insurance compulsory, is virtually unheard of in this country. That is because the Government have preferred, at least in this area, to allow market forces to work in the realm of insurance services.

Our decision to impose a compulsory insurance requirement for Clause 1 dogs was made in the most exceptional circumstances and in the knowledge that they will have died out within 10 to 15 years. We thought it imperative to ensure that until we rid ourselves of the menace of those dogs all of them should be covered by insurance. That is because recent incidents have shown that pit bull terriers can attack ferociously and without warning and we wanted to make sure that owners of such animals faced up to the full responsibility of keeping their dogs.

However, compulsory insurance for all dogs is quite another matter. It would, as I have mentioned, break new ground in introducing a requirement across the board for anything but a car. In addition, it would in many cases be unnecessary as many dogs are already more than adequately covered by their owners' household policies. Moreover, to be effective it would involve the creation of a new structure for monitoring compliance and implementing enforcement procedures where necessary. Otherwise we should be in the position where, as usual, only responsible owners complied with the requirement and the very dogs which might be most likely to injure others would still not be covered.

For those reasons I am not persuaded that compulsory insurance for all dogs is the right way to tackle the underlying problem of dogs which injure. The proposed solution would just bring a new set of problems to the surface. I hope that with all the recent publicity about how dangerous dogs can be, responsible owners will check to see whether their dog is insured and will take steps to insure it if it is not. Other than in case of fighting dogs, which are covered by Clause 1, where there is good reason for making insurance compulsory, this is a matter best left to the individual owner to decide.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

I ask your Lordships to look back at what was said on the 25th of last month. With regard to motor insurance, we have been told that there were 25,000 cases last year of people being paid compensation when they suffered injury as a result of a vehicle accident when the other party, who was to blame, had no insurance. We have been talking for almost the whole debate about people. It is essential that we have insurance cover. Surely it must be understood by the Minister that there must be insurance cover against an accident caused by any dog.

Lord Morris

Public liability insurance is included in most people's household contents insurance. If it is not, an additional small premium on the policy would cover the circumstances. I sincerely believe that the Minister is right in pointing that out and that this provision is not necessary.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Monson

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is aware that not everybody has a household insurance policy. That is the trouble. It is the irresponsible, not the responsible, people whom we are trying to get at.

Earl Ferrers

I fear that they are precisely the ones whom we shall not get at. Of course we are concerned with people. There is a misapprehension here that provided you are covered by third party insurance you are all right. That is not so. What one needs to do is to stop the dogs which bite people, and the best way to do that is to get rid of fighting dogs. That is what we are doing. Therefore, we say that those people who continue to keep fighting dogs should cover themselves by insurance.

The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, said that everyone should have insurance cover on their dogs. With the greatest respect, that is a totally different matter. This Bill is solely in respect of fighting dogs. To invite everyone who has a poodle, a dachshund, a chihuahua or anything like that to cover themselves automatically with insurance is taking it too far. I see the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, shaking his head. He is entitled to do so—but I would prefer it to go up and down instead of sideways.

Who will check this? The good people who would comply are probably covered under their house insurance anyhow, as my noble friend Lord Morris said. It is the people who do not have cover, the people who do not bother, who are probably the people who keep the bad dogs. One would then have to set up a regime to monitor whether people had their dogs insured.

I can only come back and ask your Lordships to address your minds to the problem. We are dealing here with fighting dogs; we are not dealing with all types of dog.

Lord Richard

I am sorry, but the Minister slightly provokes me. Clause 3 of the Bill does not deal only with fighting dogs. That is precisely what it does not deal with. Clause 2 of the Bill does not deal with the fighting dogs covered in Clause 1. It specifically gives the Government power to enlarge the coverage. Under Clause 3 one could perfectly well have a dangerous chihuahua out of control in a public place. Why should that not be insured?

Earl Ferrers

That is perfectly true. What the noble Lord is saying, if he is going along with the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh—it would surprise me if he did—is that all dogs should be compulsorily insured. I am trying to persuade your Lordships to realise that that is quite foreign to British law. Other than in the case of motor cars it does not happen. In the majority of cases people have their dogs insured anyhow. But to try to make this compulsory would not be the best way forward.

Lord Monson

Can the Minister say exactly where Clause 1 requires the owners of dangerous dogs, which the clause covers, to take out insurance? I have looked through the clause several times and cannot find it.

Lord Borthwick

I should like to talk about insurance. We have had trouble in Scotland on some housing schemes. Some of the housing schemes we have on the edges of Edinburgh were full of dogs. They were worrying sheep and causing a lot of trouble, particularly at lambing time. We complained to the police and they could not do anything about it because they were not there to catch dogs. We could not even shoot them. The killing went on for a long time. They turned out to be wild dogs living in the village, being fed by the people but not belonging to anybody. We have got rid of them now, but it took a long lime. I do not know how one would handle that situation in regard to insurance.

The other point is that if you have a dog which likes you and you leave it to guard the front hall and an intruder breaks in—the dog will attack him because it is the dog's property; it is his territory and he must protect it. Will insurance cover that situation? How will the system work? Dogs will attack if strangers come into their private property.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Perhaps I may utter a word of caution to my noble friend. One cannot press an important matter such as this in this Bill and at this hour. We are dealing with fighting dogs; we are not dealing with all dogs. We must be careful how far we go.

There is no doubt that the Bill already contains a packet of trouble. Enforcement will be a nightmare because there will be so much resistance. Let us deal with this dangerous dog business first. If we are to consider a universal insurance of dogs and other matters relating universally to the dog population in our midst, then we shall have to consider wider issues relating to 7 million participants and their way of life. That requires careful consideration as to the burdens we intend to place upon them.

Universal compulsory insurance is a form of taxation. We must be concerned about the impact on large sections of the community who own dogs. We must hear in mind that there are two kinds of people who own dogs who cannot be ignored. We must treat them with great respect. One is the elderly who want company. Our social services have created more elderly, lonely people in Britain than ever before. They have never lived alone before. They have always had to live with other people—friends and relatives who would take them in. There are more old people living independent though lonely lives today than ever and we must concede them the right to have a companion dog and not load them up with obligations to the rest of the community.

The other section of the community to which we must pay regard is those who are afraid. There is now a fashion in this country of fear of dogs. The fear of dogs varies according to the amount of publicity that certain grievous occurrences produce. There is not the slightest doubt that when a baby's or child's face is shown on television with grievous injuries and stitches galore people do not think it is one child in millions; they think it is millions of children. The impact of television with spectacles of that kind is terrific.

Members of the Committee must realise that we must take care of those who are afraid. Many people say, "I must get a dog; not one of these fancy things but one that can defend me". That means that they will obtain a dog which has teeth. It is no good going on like this. We will soon have a reaction. The Government are in a parlous condition already as regards their prospects of being returned to office. They are worsening those prospects every day. I can tell them for sure that there are no votes in this Bill. In those circumstances we should let them off and consider universal insurance on another more suitable occasion.

Earl Ferrers

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, was speaking some very wise words. Unfortunately he corkscrewed downwards into the dust towards the end of his speech when I thought his words were less sound than usual.

The noble Lord was saying that enforcement will be a nightmare. I agree with him; if this provision were to be included in the Bill enforcement would be a nightmare. It is a wonderful idea and a wonderful concept but it must be enforced. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, would not be the first to accede to the expression that, Politics is the Art of the Possible". One must do what is possible.

It is right that we should make those who own pit bull terriers insure them. To go further than that would be going too far. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that the provision is not on the face of the Bill, and that is perfectly true. It would be part of the exemption scheme. If a dog is exempt from being put down, various things have to be done, one of which is to neuter it and the other is to take out third party insurance. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that the prospects of the Government are rising higher every single day. I am quite sure that the Bill will raise their prospects even higher.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

I am sure that the Minister was grateful for the rather unusual support which he had from my noble friend Lord Houghton. Nevertheless, what he said about the problems involved was true. I do not believe that he responded to some of the important points that were made in favour of compulsory third party insurance, the main one concerning accidents. The number of accidents is quite frightening. They are created by non-dangerous dogs just as much as by dangerous dogs. I believe that the Bill would have been a perfectly good framework in which to bring in this extra security against accidents.

Nevertheless, it is true that enforcement would be difficult. It has been made quite clear by the RSPCA and Pet Plan insurance, who say that it would be perfectly simple to provide cover, but the enforcement could only come through dog registration and dog wardens. Perhaps this is a matter that will have to be deferred until there is a better framework in which to place it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mancroft moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 3, line 43, at end insert: ("(4A) A person shall be guilty of an offence if, without lawful excuse, he interferes with the control of or attempts to exercise control of a dog in the charge of another person. (4B) It shall be a defence in any proceedings under subsection (4A) above for an accused to prove that his interference with the control of a dog in the charge of another person was accidental. (4C) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (4A) above is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment brings forward a new offence. It is designed to make unlawful the activities of hunt saboteurs who deliberately set out to interfere with the proper control of hounds. An offence would be committed by any person who, interferes with the control of or attempts to exercise control of a dog in the charge of another person".

Safeguards have been built into the offence to ensure that justifiable accidental interference with somebody else's dog will not be unlawful. The offence specifies that interference must be without lawful excuse. A defence is allowed for any person who can show that his interference was accidental. For instance, if a person tries to rescue a dog from another person who is beating it or who mistakenly distracts another person's dog when walking in a park, it is highly unlikely in either case that an offence will be committed. The offence is only triable summarily and with a maximum fine of level 4 on the standard scale.

For some years the level of violence in opposition to hunting has been rising. One of the methods that hunt saboteurs use is to blow hunting horns. In a pamphlet put out by the hunt saboteurs, they recommend: To confuse and distract the hounds by using whistles and calling the hounds by name. Pretend you have seen the fox and 'hollow'. This will often bring … the hounds over. Use a hunting horn to bring some or all of the hounds over to you and away from the huntsmen. Used in conjunction with hunting calls … this is often very effective".

The only reason for blowing a horn while out hunting is to call the hounds. Inevitably on occasions a few hounds, not realising that it is not the huntsman who is blowing the horn, go to the sound. More often than not the hornblower is standing on the verge of a road and thus hounds are called onto the road which risks their lives and can cause accidents. Hunts have in fact lost hounds in this way. But do not think that motorists have been injured. Out of the 250,000 injuries caused on our roads last year not one was caused by hunting.

In the event of an accident, even though it was not caused by the owner of the dogs, the owner is liable. It will be of comfort to the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, to know that all hunts have third party insurance and have had for many years. These incidents do happen not infrequently. There were 425 incidents in the past year and there have been 15 incidents of a similar nature since 1st May of this year with the mink hounds, which are the only hounds hunting at the moment. During the course of the last season, apart from the usual abuse, trespass and general rowdy behaviour, there were arson attacks, bomb attacks and assaults. Last season and for the first time, there was a death when a saboteur fell from the top of a moving vehicle and under its wheels. This is not a rarity: it has occurred, as I have said, 425 times out of the 21,400 times that hounds were out last year. It averages 15 demonstrations every single Saturday. It may or may not be a coincidence that the only day when that average lowered to one demonstration was on 31st March. That was the day of the poll tax riots. Presumably the saboteurs were occupied elsewhere.

Having said all of that, the amendment is not about whether one agrees or disagrees with hunting; it is about using dogs as a method of making one's point; it is about an attempt to exert one's influence over somebody else's dog in a way that is potentially harmful and certainly frightening to the dog and could cause accidents on the roads and to innocent bystanders. The amendment makes (I quote from the Long Title of the Bill): further provision for securing that dogs are kept under proper control; and for connected purposes".

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said earlier this afternoon that there is criminality in the background of every part of this Bill. There is criminality in attempting to interfere with somebody else's control of their dog. I hope that the Government and the Committee will support this amendment.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Kimball

I should like to support my noble friend Lord Mancroft in this amendment. It may be that when he comes to reply my noble friend will say that the amendment is not correctly drafted. That is as may be. The whole point about this amendment is to seek assurance from the Government that they understand the problem which was raised at Second Reading that we do not want to give the hunt saboteurs another weapon with which to beat the hunting community. Our anxiety is that without this amendment we are giving them this weapon. I hope my noble friend appreciates, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft has already said, that these people are set to make it impossible for the hounds to go out. One has only to read Archangel (the magazine of the Animal Liberation Front) to make it perfectly clear that its main aim is to seek the disbandment of all the packs of beagles in this country. They are rapidly making it nearly impossible for some packs to go out. In Surrey and around the London perimeter there are violent demonstrations every time the hounds go out. On many occasions it is essential that the children who are out have to go home because the whole situation becomes so violent and extremely unpleasant.

I do not think it is the intention of my noble friend Lord Mancroft to press this amendment. However, we seek an absolute assurance from my noble friend the Minister that he understands the problem and our anxiety; and that he will bring forward at Report stage an amendment to meet the point.

Lord Boardman

I support the amendment, and not because I happen to support the practice and sport of fox hunting. It is in the interest of public safety alone that I support the amendment. The amendment provides that if someone tries to usurp control over a pack of hounds and thereby causes injury, it should not be the nominal owners of the pack of hounds, but those who usurp their control who should be responsible. I believe that all the arguments that have been given by my noble friends are valid and right. I hope my noble friend will be able to give encouraging remarks in support of the amendment.

Lord Richard

As I understand the position, at Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, raised the point, which was dealt with by the government amendment earlier, as to the difference between "injures" and "causes injury". That was the real thrust of his argument. He was then confident that the Government would take that point on board. Indeed, judging by what has emerged this evening, they have taken that point on board.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has nothing to do with the Bill. Perhaps I may make two points. If ever there was a Bill in which it was not appropriate to raise the issue of hunting or not hunting or, so to speak, to bring up the issue of whether people should be allowed to attempt to prevent the hounds from going out and whether that should be an offence, this is that Bill. To bring that into this arena is totally inappropriate.

I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Is it seriously suggested that blowing a trumpet should become a criminal offence in this country which will render someone liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding Level 4 on the standard scale? With great respect, the suggestion is absurd. One could go on about this issue. The point I really want to make to the Committee is that hunting and its pros and cons are not appropriate matters for this Bill. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, say that his noble friend Lord Mancroft intended to withdraw the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

The amendment is aimed at those who disrupt hunting. If one wishes to protest about hunting one should do it by peaceful and reasoned debate and not by strong-arm tactics or by attempting to interfere with the activities of the hunt or its dogs—

Noble Lords


Earl Ferrers

Hounds, hounds, hounds! That only goes to show how irrelevant hounds are to a dangerous dogs Bill. That is why I had the word "dogs" on my mind.

I have no brief for the hunt saboteurs. Their actions are quite intolerable. They go out to disrupt life. They go out to disrupt other people's sports. It is total humbug because in many cases they give people a sum of money and a free lunch and tell them to go out and have some good sport by disrupting other people's sport. That is intolerable and I sympathise wholly with both my noble friends for trying to "squizzle-in" an amendment to protect hunts from that anxiety.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that such matters are not appropriate to this Bill. He is of course quite right, but then he slightly dismissed the whole issue by asking whether people would really be fined for blowing a trumpet. Well, quite frankly, if one blows a trumpet with the deliberate intention of messing up somebody else's sport and of diverting hounds in an unacceptable way, perhaps one should not do so. However, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, cannot dismiss it by saying that someone innocently blowing a trumpet in his back garden could find that a whole lot of effects which he never expected suddenly came about. That is slightly naive.

One must accept that the Dangerous Dogs Bill is emergency legislation. It deals with a particular and urgent problem —dogs which attack and viciously injure people. I do not think that this is the time—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard—or the place for a specific amendment which is intended only to protect dogs, or hounds, which are used in connection with hunting, and not to protect the public.

During the Second Reading debate my noble friend Lord Kimball mentioned that hunt saboteurs tried to lure packs of hounds across motorways and thereby cause accidents. He went on to say that incidents on the road were rare. I am sure that all Members of the Committee would think that any incident like that in which a hunt saboteur tried to lure a hound into danger was utterly irresponsible and totally unacceptable.

The amendment would not apply only to foxhounds. As drafted, it would apply to all dogs. There might be situations in which interference with someone's control of a dog would be a good thing. If it appeared that a vicious dog was about to attack a child because its owner was not exercising sufficient control of it, the public spirited citizen would be quite right in making an attempt to bring the dog under control himself rather than to risk injury to a child. My noble friend's amendment would make a complication for that kind of public-spirited bystander.

The real point is that we have agreed to vary the phrase "cause injury" to "injure". Therefore, any need for this additional provision is removed. I would not suggest for one moment that foxhounds, however diverted, injure people directly. Moreover, I do not think that my noble friend would make such a suggestion. However reprehensible the circumstances in which they are enticed onto a roadway, the behaviour of the hounds would not give rise to an offence under the Bill.

I understand the wholly legitimate concern of my noble friends Lord Mancroft and Lord Boardman about the activities of hunt saboteurs. However, I do not think that this is an appropriate part of the Bill to be amended in the way suggested.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

During the past hour, at least 12 matters have been discussed which could have been referred to my advisory committee that never was. Here we are, yet again, trying to go into much detail on the wider issues concerning dogs. In my view it is a mistake to get away from the subject of dangerous dogs. We have been drastic enough with them. We should be careful that we do not stray too wide from the main point.

The point being made now is a good one, but I doubt whether this Bill is the place to deal with it. The noble Earl pointed out a moment ago that, as we have deleted the words "causes injury" and replaced them with the more positive word "injure", we are now in a weaker position for dealing with this matter. I wish there was a different way to deal with this movement against hunting. I believe that it is another topic for another day, when I am sure we shall have to discuss these other matters.

We have much to consider in connection with the use of the countryside. It is coming upon us rapidly. My home is now surrounded by about six new golf courses which are all disturbing badger setts. This golfing business is a nightmare; it is now replacing agriculture. A new area of opportunity and anxiety is about to come upon us. We should wait for that time. We should not, at present, enjoy all the fruits of future discussions.

Lord Mancroft

I am, as always, most interested to hear the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I agree with him that his advisory council does not yet exist. Therefore, we are stuck with the Committee of this Chamber. In reference to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, about blowing a trumpet, I must admit that it does, on the face of it, sound a bit ridiculous to stop people blowing trumpets. However, perhaps I may refer him to an article which appeared in the Essex Chronicle on 6th January 1989 and which read: A hound was killed after being attracted onto a road by the horns of anti-hunt protesters during a New Years Eve hunt. It ran into the path of an oncoming car, and was badly injured … a vet put it down … An anti-hunt protester said: 'The hounds arc the responsibilities of their owners. They have not got them under proper control.' That is the offence of blowing a trumpet; that is where it gets you.

On a more serious note, I should stress the fact that the amendment is not about hunting; it is about law and order and about controlling dogs. I thank my noble friend for his sympathy in this area. However, he, too, said that the proposed provision is somewhat wide of the parameters of the Bill. Perhaps I may draw the attention of Members of the Committee to the second part of the Long Title, which states that one purpose of the Bill is, to make further provisions for securing that dogs are kept under proper control; and for connected purposes". My amendment reads: A person shall be guilty of an offence if, without lawful excuse, he interferes with the control of or attempts to exercise control of a dog in the charge of another person". The noble Lord, Lord Richard, and my noble friend the Minister may think that that is outside the parameters of the Bill. However, after very careful consideration, parliamentary counsel told us very clearly that it was within the parameters of the Bill. It is, indeed, a very far-reaching piece of legislation. The amendment is about control and the Bill is about control.

I believe that it is worth pointing out on a side note —as we seemed to become a little frivolous earlier—that we are talking about the largest group of large dogs in the United Kingdom. It is a group of dogs which has been the subject of a voluntary registration system for almost 100 years; which has been identified for almost 100 years; by which an attack on an individual has never been recorded; but the dogs are treated by some illegal groups as toys to be played with and creatures to be manipulated to the extent that, as the Committee will remember from what I have just read, they are killed on the roads. That is why we are asking for the amendment to be accepted.

My noble friend the Minister rightly said that that behaviour was unacceptable. Unfortunately we are forced to accept it, because as yet the Government have been unable to bring forward legislation to prevent those public order offences—riots almost. One of the reasons my noble friend gave for not liking the amendment was that it might leave open to prosecution someone helping a child who is about to be attacked by a dog, or something of that nature. The amendment makes it clear that: It shall be a defence in any proceedings under subsection (4A) above for an accused to prove that his interference with the control of a dog in the charge of another person was accidental". The first subsection provides that the person will be guilty of an offence if he interferes with a dog without a lawful excuse. Saving a child from being bitten would probably amount to a lawful excuse. To stand by and allow the child to be bitten might be unlawful.

We have had an interesting short debate. My noble friend did not give a satisfactory answer. He gave the one given by the noble Lord, Lord Richard—that the amendment was wide of the Bill. I do not agree with that. I accept the view of parliamentary counsel that it is within the Bill's parameters. He has given no reason why the amendment is not acceptable in principle. I shall therefore read carefully what my noble friend has said. I may return to the matter on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.45 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 3, line 43, at end insert: ("( ) Where a dog causes personal injury to human beings in a public place the owner of the dog is strictly liable for the damage done notwithstanding the provisions of the Animal Act 1971.").

The noble Viscount said: The amendment seeks to introduce strict liability where a dog causes injury to human beings. It makes the owner strictly liable for the damage done, notwithstanding the provisions of the Animal Act 1971. As most Members of the Committee will be aware, a higher degree of protection is given to livestock than to human beings in the event of an attack. An attack on a human being is actionable only under Section 2 of the Animal Act 1971. The plaintiff has to establish the keeper's liability by showing that the animal has abnormal characteristics which are known to the keeper; in particular, that the dog has a predisposition to commit aggressive attacks. That is generally known as the "first bite" concept and has nothing to do with the seriousness of the attack.

Until strict liability for dog attacks is established in law, the cost of third party insurance will remain low, even for fighting dogs, because compensation payments will not often be made and when they are they will be low. That is obviously why insurance companies have said that they are willing to insure Clause I dogs. They expect that major pay-outs, as in the tragic case when a young actors face was damaged appallingly, will be infrequent.

With strict liability for dogs introduced, owners will be we11 advised to take out third party insurance, whether or not it is compulsory. The concept that dogs are a non-dangerous species will be proved by the level of premiums set by insurance companies. If they agree that (logs are a non-dangerous species the premiums will be low. and, as was mentioned on a previous amendment, will probably be included with household insurance. I hope that the Minister and the Committee will agree that the introduction of strict liability fits into the Bill. It throws light on the subjects discussed under Amendment No. 35.

I hope that the noble Earl can tell me whether this meets with the approval of the Government or whether it is too complicated. I do not intend to press the amendment at this hour. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

I appreciate the worry of the noble Viscount; but the Bill is confined to the control of dogs and certain criminal offences. I do not believe that it is the vehicle to vary the complex law on civil liability.

I can assure the noble Viscount that we have looked carefully at this issue. It is full of complications and I am advised that, for instance, in so far as home contents policies generally cover damage caused by domestic pets, liability under them presumably will arise only on the basis of the current law, which is the Animals Act 1971. It must be doubtful whether existing contents policies would therefore cover damage caused without fault on the part of owners, if the la x were to be changed to provide for this, as envisaged in the amendment. If we wished to go down this route, we would need something rather more elaborate than the noble Viscount's amendment.

I am not persuaded that it is necessary. After the Bill becomes law, the dogs about which we are most concerned, fighting dogs like pit bull terriers, will all be muzzled and the risk of accident or injury must significantly decrease. To change the law in relation to all other dogs seems to me to be going too far at this stage.

The Viscount of Falkland

I thank the noble Earl for his remarks, I agree with much of what he said. I wish to re-examine it when I read Hansard and will come back to it if necessary at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 38:

Page 3, line 43, at end insert: ("( ) No proceedings under subsection (1) shall be commenced where the dog was a police or military dog in operational use and in the charge of its designated handler.").

The noble Viscount said: The amendment deals exclusively with dogs used by the police or military personnel. As the Committee is aware, these dogs are usually—indeed always in my experience—well disciplined, since I have seen them operating under quite severe circumstances. However, it has been noted by animal organisations and others that in riot or difficult crowd control situations the most well-trained dog can become over-excited or fearful and even attack its own handler, let alone members of the public.

Obviously, the police take great care to ensure that the animals are trained to the highest standards, and such incidents would be treated seriously. In the previous amendment I dealt with strict liability, and the prospects of paying out substantial compensation, regardless of the prosecution of the individual dog handler, would be an incentive to avoid such accidents which have a damaging public relations effect for the police. This is an area which gives rise to anxiety. Again, I do not seek to press the amendment but I look forward to hearing the remarks of the noble Earl. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor

I fully understand the noble Viscount's anxieties. His amendment confers a kind of Crown immunity on operational dogs. There is nothing wrong with that. No one is suggesting that a dog which apprehends someone who is seeking to avoid arrests should, if it injures someone, give rise to a criminal charge against his handler. That would clearly be nonsense.

There are I think two main points for the police. The first is, as the noble Viscount has said, their worry about possible prosecution. Although that may appear to remain a theoretical possibility without a specific exemption for them in the Bill, there are straightforward and well known procedures for preventing vexatious prosecutions from succeeding.

The second anxiety of the police is that if a prosecution were to succeed, however unlikely that may be, because the destruction of a dog is mandatory following conviction of an aggravated offence, the cost to the police could be considerable. The investment in training in a single dog can be as much as £10,000, and all this would be wasted if a prosecution were to succeed and the dog had to be put down. But, as I have said, we regard that as most unlikely.

I note the noble Viscount's points. As I have said, I do not consider that under this Bill there is a specific need to exempt dogs used by the military, the prison service and the police.

The Viscount of Falkland

I thank the noble Viscount for those helpful remarks. I shall carefully read his comments and I am sure those who are worried about this area will also read them. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Richard moved Amendment No. 39: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:

("Right to claim compensation

. Persons who suffer injury from dogs dangerously out of control, whether in a public place or elsewhere, and whose injuries are attested to by a general medical practitioner or other suitably qualified medical person, and a police officer, shall where the owner of such a dog cannot be identified or traced, be eligible for compensation upon application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in respect of such injuries and damage.").

The noble Lord said: In a sense this amendment represents the other side of the coin from the issue we debated a few amendments ago; namely, whether there should be compulsory third party insurance in respect of dogs. The Government have said that there should not be such insurance in respect of dogs. That is the Government's position and we understand it. We hear it but we do not agree with it and we may return to the matter at some stage in the future. But there still remains the matter of a person who has been severely injured by a dog that is dangerously out of control.

The amendment that stands in my name on the Marshalled List is narrowly and, I hope, carefully drawn. It is not designed to give an automatic right of compensation to everyone who is injured by a dog that is dangerously out of control. It is only designed to give compensation where the owner of such a dog cannot be identified or traced. In those circumstances, I propose that there should be recourse to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in respect of such injuries and damage.

The scheme that is administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board allows people, under paragraph 4 of the scheme, to apply for compensation if they sustain personal injury that is directly attributable to a crime of violence. At the moment we are talking about a dog that is dangerously out of control as a result of which injury has been caused. One can also apply to the board for compensation if one sustains injury while one is trying to stop someone from committing a crime. One can imagine circumstances where a dog that is seriously out of control may be attacking someone or is engaged in a dog fight. Someone may intervene to stop that in the same way as one may try to stop another person committing a crime. The thrust of the rules of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board seems to me to be perfectly capable of accommodating this limited right of compensation which is contained in Amendment No. 39.

I do not think that the strictures which were levelled at those of us who proposed third party insurance can apply to such a modest proposal as that contained in Amendment No. 39. We are not here considering a grandiose scheme for third party insurance for all dogs or anything of that kind. We are merely saying that people who have been injured in the circumstances I have described should have recourse to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. I hope that the modesty of that proposal will appeal to the Minister and that he can give us an accommodating reply. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Monson

I strongly support the amendment, all the more so because, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has pointed out, it is evident that the Government are determined to resist any revival of Amendment No. 35 in any form.

As the noble Earl told the House in reply to a Starred Question of mine, criminal injuries compensation legislation can already take effect if someone is attacked by a dog as a result of the dog being provoked by its owner to do so. There is also a grey area where, for example, a farmer whose sheep are attacked by dogs, which is itself a criminal offence under existing legislation, tries to drive the dogs away and is attacked by those dogs.

The further extension of the criminal injuries compensation legislation, as suggested by the amendment, would not involve any appreciable increase in calls upon public funds since the criminal injuries compensation legislation is very strict. One has to be quite badly injured to benefit. The unfortunate postman who is nipped on the leg by a corgi when delivering a letter would not be able to benefit from the amendment.

Perhaps I may return briefly, for the third and final time today, to the case of Mr. Tempest of Lincoln. The plastic surgeon who treated his injuries reported to the press that the victim's injuries were the worst he had come across in 21 years as a plastic surgeon. Either he or another doctor at the same hospital said, as someone who had practised in the East, that the injuries received by the unfortunate man were consistent with the injuries received by the victim of a tiger attack rather than of a dog attack. In such a tragic, but happily comparatively rare, case acceptance of the amendment would help.

I said at the outset that I support the amendment in principle. Now that Amendment No. 35, proposing compulsory insurance for all dogs, is not to be accepted in any form it is essential to delete from this amendment the qualifying words: where the owner of such a dog cannot be identified or traced". Unless that is done, people who are badly injured by a dog belonging to an identifiable but impoverished owner—a man of straw, in popular parlance—will not receive any compensation whatever. I am sure that the Committee will agree that that is wrong and undesirable. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will not press the amendment to a Division this evening but will come back with a revised version next time, bearing in mind that there will be no revival of Amendment No. 35. I should like to see the amendment enlarged to include not only those who are attacked by dogs whose owners cannot be traced but also those who are attacked by dogs whose owners can be traced but who have no funds with which to compensate the unfortunate victim.

Earl Ferrers

I have every sympathy with the wish to see people who are injured by dangerous dogs properly compensated for their injuries. I agree with the implication of the new clause that when the owner or person in charge of the dog can be identified it is right to pursue him for damages. Although I understand the wish to provide a fall-back where that remedy is not available, I see serious objections of principle and practice to trying to extend the criminal injuries compensation scheme in the way proposed.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is not yet on a statutory footing. There are provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, but we have not yet brought them into force while the board is striving to tackle its backlog. It would be better to avoid further statutory provision at present.

What is proposed in the new clause is not compatible with the present scheme. The essential basis for compensation is a crime of violence. Dog attacks will already he covered if they fall within that description—for instance, if the person in charge of the dog sets it on to someone intending to cause injury, or if he is criminally reckless. The scheme is not designed to cover crimes which may cause injury but where the crime itself is not violent. If we were to go down that path, it would mean that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board might be expected to pay compensation when, for example, an employee was injured because his employer had been criminally negligent in the way in which he ran his factory, or to someone who suffered injuries in an accident caused by dangerous parking. The scheme is intended to benefit the victims of violent crime, not the victims of crime generally.

I invite the Committee to consider also the practical implications. Medical evidence may show that an injury is the result of attack by a dog. However, unless the police happen to witness the incident, which will be rare, how will they be able to say whether or not the injuries were caused by a dog dangerously out of control? It would be difficult for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board or for anyone else to decide the question except by going through something like a court process and hearing evidence. The outcome would be that the CICB, which is just beginning to master the very large and increasing number of claims made upon it, would be deluged by many new claims arising, from dog bites in private and public places which would be difficult to assess fairly, and which might well lead to a decision that the injuries were not so serious as to warrant an award above the lower limit of £750. The outcome in these cases would often be unsatisfactory and the effect of trying to cope with them would be to delay other applications from victims whose entitlement under the scheme is not in question. For those reasons the amendment would not be a good addition to the Bill.

I might add that the drafting of the clause appears to be defective. It refers, first, to compensation for injury, but then to compensation for both injury and damage. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Monson

Perhaps I may intervene before the noble Earl sits down. If the Government are determined to reject both Amendment No. 35 in any form and this amendment in any possibly revised form, and subsequently people are not simply injured but severely injured by dogs whose owners have no resources whatever, what redress are the unfortunate victims to have?

Earl Ferrers

For the reasons that I have given I do not think that it is suitable for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to take into account that kind of matter because it is not designed for that. It is designed to deal with crimes of violence and not with all crimes. I understand the point that the noble Lord has in mind, but this amendment would not be the right way out.

Lord Richard

That was the thinnest explanation that the noble Earl has given us during our proceedings on the Bill. The noble Earl is entitled to take my comments in the spirit that they are offered.

You start off on the basis that you rule out totally any third party insurance as regards dogs. You then make it a specific crime, as Clause 3 does, to have a dog dangerously out of control in a public place. You then say that it is an aggravated offence if the dog that is dangerously out of control in a public place injures someone. Then, having said all that, you say, "We're terribly sorry. We do not think that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is appropriate". For the life of me, I do not see why. The board is admirably suited to dealing with that narrow class of crimes, because they are crimes. They may not be crimes of violence in the sense of violence against the person, but under Clause 3 it would be a crime to have a dog dangerously out of control in a public place and it would be an aggravated crime if the dog injured someone. The Government do not say, "But that is neither here nor there. The fact that someone has been injured does not give rise to a claim under the CICB". It does not do so at present, but it should do so in the limited circumstances of the clause. I am disappointed that the Government cannot at least move some way towards accepting the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I may just encourage the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I should like to do so at this hour of the night. For the reasons I gave—I believe that they are genuine reasons—the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board would not be the right avenue, but the courts are entitled to make compensation awards and that will he discussed later in Amendment No. 46.

Lord Richard

The court is entitled to make compensation awards if it can find the owner. Under the Dogs Act of 1871 it is the owner of the dog who is liable. We have already discussed this point in the course of the debate. The problem is that, if someone owns a dog and at the time when the dog is dangerous he is the owner but at the time when the case comes to court he has disposed of it, then the court cannot do anything against the original owner. The court has to look around and find the person who is the new owner in order to try to make some kind of order against him. So the 1871 Act does not provide for a proper civil claim.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board was set up specifically to deal with a situation in which there might not be a valid claim for compensation or damages by going through the civil courts, particularly if one ended up with a claim against a defendant who was totally insolvent at the end of the day.

My proposed amendment, which has offended the noble Lord, Lord Monson (I can understand why) does not go even that far. It provides that in circumstances in which one cannot in fact find the owner and where the whole matter is in limbo, there ought at that stage to be some claim on the CICB. I say again that I am very disappointed with the answer.

Earl Ferrers

I do not wish to prolong this discussion. The noble Lord has made a genuine point. I should like to consider it and see whether there is any way of getting round the problem. I cannot at the moment say whether in fact there is such a solution, but I am prepared to look at the matter.

Lord Richard

I shall write to the noble Earl. In the circumstances that is a handsome concession. I look forward to seeing what emerges from his further consideration. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Destruction and disqualification orders]:

Earl Ferrers: moved Amendments Nos. 40 and 41: Page 3, line 44, at end insert ("or (2A)"). Page 4, line 3, at end insert ("or (2A)").

The noble Earl said: I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 29. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 42 to 44 not moved.]

The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 45: Page 4, line 29, leave out ("above") and insert ("shall be recoverable as costs via the court making the order").

The noble Viscount said: This is the second amendment which I move on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell. It deals with the problem of costs which are incurred when dogs are destroyed. I understand that the Police Federation is concerned that these costs will be pursued as civil debts and think it would be better if they were dealt with as court costs. That is the sum total of the matter. I beg to move

Viscount Astor

The Government are obviously at one with the noble Lord's argument that the costs resulting from court proceedings should be paid by the defendant. That is why we included in the Bill the formula which has been followed a number of times previously in animal legislation; namely, that the costs should be recoverable as a civil debt.

However, we accept that the formula currently in the Bill is not ideal and that, for reasons of enforcement and handling, it would be preferable to allow these costs to be recovered as if they were, in effect, a fine. This is in the spirit of the noble Lord's amendment and, if the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, will agree to withdraw this amendment, we will come forward with the appropriate words at Report stage, including the proper formula to cater for the slightly different position of the courts in Scotland.

The Viscount of Falkland

I thank the noble Viscount for those encouraging remarks. I look forward to Report stage as I am sure does the noble Lord, Lord Bethell. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 46: Page 5, line 14, at end insert: ("( ) A magistrates' court shall be empowered to make a compensation order against the owner of a dangerous dog for any injury or consequential costs.").

The noble Viscount said: This is the last of the amendments which I move on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell. It is a means of giving a magistrates' court the power to make compensation orders against the owners of a dangerous dog for an injury or consequential costs. We discussed the matter at some length on Amendment No. 37. I look forward to any further comments the noble Viscount may have on Amendment No. 46. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Monson

I welcome the amendment so far as it goes. It enables the postman about whom I spoke earlier on Amendment No. 39 to recover the cost of his torn trousers and so on. That is welcome. It is thoroughly desirable to compensate people for the cost of minor injuries.

However, the amendment does not help badly injured people. There are few people with the financial resources to compensate those who are badly injured. I refer to the issue once more to show how defective the Bill will be if it does not include some provision for compensating those who are badly injured. I do not refer to those who are slightly injured; such provision is thoroughly to be welcomed. However, there are relatively few dog owners who, without insurance, can afford the thousands of pounds necessary to compensate those who are badly injured. That gap in the Bill needs to be rectified. But I welcome the noble Viscount's amendment so far as it goes.

Viscount Astor

It is right that the courts should be able to make compensation orders if they consider that appropriate. By virtue of Section 104 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, following any criminal conviction, including therefore any under this Bill, courts are required to consider compensation orders in any appropriate case. The noble Viscount's amendment would, therefore, add nothing to the current position and I can reassure him that he does not need to press it.

The Viscount of Falkland

I accept the noble Viscount's assurances. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Seizure, entry of premises and evidence]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 47: Page 5, line 15, leave out ("authorised officer of a local authority") and insert ("officer of a local authority authorised by it to exercise the powers conferred by this subsection").

The noble Viscount said: I speak also to Amendment No. 54.

These are technical amendments seeking to specify more clearly which local authority officials may exercise the powers set out in Clause 5. I understand that the form of words currently used in the Bill ties the definition of authorised officer to Section 149 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. As this section has not yet been brought into force, the form of words consequently has no meaning in law. The amendment gets round the difficulty by defining local authority official without reference to the section in the Environmental Protection Act. Consequently there should be no confusion as to which officers will have powers of seizure under Clause 5. I hope that the Committee will feel able to agree to these drafting amendments which do not alter the substance of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I am concerned about the amendment. Indeed I am concerned about involving any officer of the local authority in this distasteful and dangerous job. I do not know whether the provision has been cleared with the National Association of Local Government Officers. It is not an entry to see whether people are paying their poll tax but it order to seize a dog on a warrant. Will a warrant be given by a magistrate to a civilian officer of the local authority to go in and seize a dog; and with what consequences?

Let us consider my Amendment No. 50. The Committee will understand my fear. It is that there will be a very rough house in many cases if a constable, and still more so a civilian official, seeks out a dog to seize it. Local authorities already have their plate full with resistance. People will not pay the poll tax and no attempt is being made to compel them to do so. The remainder of us have to pay the deficit in the poll tax.

What will the relations between local authorities and their citizens be if they are given such a task? It is the most distasteful task in the business. I urge recons deration of exactly what "entry" will mean.

There are some people who will refuse to give up their dogs, and to seize them force would have to be used. I should like to know how they are going to be seized. The defaulting citizen will say, "I am not going to deliver my dog. If you want to get that dog you can get it from here and I am not going to help you; you may get badly mauled in the process". Then somebody will say, "But we have brought a dog catcher with us. We have all the equipment ready to get hold of your dog and take it out". He will say, "You are not going in there". How is that situation to be met? And while this is happening all his loyal friends on the housing estate will come round and say, "Shame! This dog has done nobody any harm. You are bursting into our pal's house and we are not having it. Go home". Then there is a row.

I doubt whether the Government have seriously considered the social consequences that can arise from a Bill such as this. They may think that it will be easy going, but it will not be. People do not easily give up their dogs, whether or not they are alleged to be dangerous. So if one gives a warrant to anybody to go in and seize a dog, it must be to a constable and not a civilian, who has no power of arrest. A constable might feel that it is his duty to arrest if there is assault or obstructing the police. Is there such an offence as obstructing the authorised officer of the local authority? If not, how does he proceed with his business? —because people will stand in the way and say, "You are not coming by here".

I ask the noble Earl and particularly those who have moved the amendment to consider this. A lot of what we have been dealing with tonight will be unenforceable. Some local authorities will not appoint an officer to do this, and nobody can compel them. As far as I know, there is no statutory duty on local authorities that they must appoint an authorised officer to go in and seize dogs.

The Government have already had a strike by the local authorities, and they have had a strike by the police. Yet they still wish all this onto somebody. Who will it be? It is necessary to reconsider the matter.

Earl Ferrers

I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, can tell us when we had a strike by the police? I think I missed that.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I believe that was on another matter. Very soon, when we come to Amendment No. 49, a little probing will be necessary into where the resources are coming from, but I ask your Lordships to be careful.

Viscount Astor

This provision has been in the Bill since it was first introduced. This is purely a technical change. As I said before, it had no meaning because the section of the Environmental Protection Act had not been brought into force. It is obviously right that under the Bill some enforcement will fall to local dog wardens, but they will not enter houses or homes. That will quite properly be a matter for the police.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 48: Page 5, line 24, leave out ("to") and insert ("of").

The noble Viscount said: This amendment seeks to correct a grammatical error which has found its way into the Bill. It does not change the substance of the subsection at all. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs moved Amendment No. 49: Page 5, line 29, at end insert: ("(1A) The Secretary of State shall within three months of the coming into effect of this section (and in each of the three financial years thereafter), lay before Parliament a statement that he is satisfied that the resources available in that financial year to police authorities and local authorities are sufficient to secure the effective implementation of subsection (1) above.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 49 seeks to ensure that sufficient funds are made available to police and local authorities to enable them to carry out their tasks under Clause 5(1). It relates to the seizure, entry of premises and evidence which has just been discussed.

Local authorities are concerned about the additional resources required. They point out that under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 new responsibilities were laid on local authorities and the police service to ensure that the public were protected from dangerous dogs. The Bill adds to that responsibility and the consequent costs.

A survey by the AMA revealed that significant additional expenditure is expected by local authorities in the financial year 1992–93. They believe that that expenditure will be needed if they are to meet the new obligations placed upon them. A preliminary analysis of the result suggested that an additional £4 million would be needed by the metropolitan authorities. The ADC authorities also made an estimate and they see a requirement of £11 million.

By asking the Government to bring forward a statement on resources on Clause 5(1), Parliament has provided the opportunity for a review of police and local authority activity in controlling dangerous dogs. It will focus both on the work set out as a joint responsibility and also on dog control measures which are set out in the earlier legislation. They stress that the two need to be looked at together from the point of view of the resources required.

It is of enormous importance that the fears of the local authorities are heard. They are clearly convinced that the funds offered at present will not be sufficient. The amendment is a good way of ensuring that the resources they need will be provided. I beg to move.

The Viscount of Falkland

I just want to say that I support what the noble Baroness has said. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places new responsibilities on local authorities in regard to dogs and this legislation will add to that burden. There is anxiety, and the noble Baroness mentioned the estimates given by the metropolitan and district council authorities. It is obviously something that needs to be looked at extremely urgently.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I am sorry to delay the Committee for a moment. At the same time as he examines the resources necessary to administer and enforce the Bill, perhaps the noble Earl will do something about the organisation of his own department. It too needs resources.

For the past 18 months or two years the work concerning dogs has been carried out by a staff which also looks after the complicated machinery of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The report of the procedures committee, which was scheduled for publication this month, has apparently been deferred because the staff are not available. They are working on matters connected to dogs and will be doing so indefinitely.

That is the problem with the Home Office. So much work is thrust upon it; it is a jack of all trades. It must shift staff around. There is a curious combination of duties at the Home Office which links dogs with, for instance, butter control—not exactly butter control but certainly with incompatibles. It believes that as one matter surges up work on the other will reduce in intensity. I am told that the procedures committee set up under the 1986 Act is seriously in arrears with its work. This week its secretary is doing work concerning dogs and last week was doing work which related to badgers. It is becoming a matter for serious concern. I have two friends on the procedures committee and they are most anxious about the work situation. I believe that they are making representations to the chairman about it. It is a matter which has to be watched. The Home Office cannot continue taking additional work at this level—there is a great deal of it—without doing something about the staff.

10.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

That is always a problem. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is quite right when he says that the Home Office is inundated with work of all sorts and varieties and from all quarters. I mentioned earlier today the 5,000 letters about pit bull terriers. The actual business of opening the letters is a tremendous task. If one does not take that on, the work which has to be done cannot be done. We believe that it is right to produce the Bill, and because of that we receive a great many representations about it. I am grateful for the sympathy of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I cannot guarantee that the Home Office will take on a great number of extra people because once that is done, the public expenditure costs are wrong. We do the best that we can.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, was worried about the finances as they affect local authorities. The cost of this legislation has been declared in the Financial Memorandum at £250,000. I do not believe that that is a significant amount, but then one would not expect it to be. As regards pit bull terriers, we do not know how many owners will wish to continue to keep them as pets. I doubt whether there will be very many of them. There will be relatively few; probably about 5,000. That number can only diminish as time passes. It will not be long before there are only about 2,000 of such dogs. If there are 375 local authority areas, that represents between 10 and 20 dogs per area.

At every stage of the scheme the Government have endeavoured not to make it bureaucratic, but to make it simple, effective and to keep costs down. In terms of local authority and police finance, the scheme for the control of pit bull terriers is a relatively small item. As regards the other dogs, the costs of enforcement are likely to be no more than slight. There should be relatively few unexempted or unmuzzled pit bull terriers to be apprehended under Clause 5(1) (a). We view the powers under Clause 2 as reserve powers so it is not sensible to attribute costs to Clause 5(1) (b) at this stage.

The only remaining costs covered by the amendment are under Clause 5(1) (c) which is the seizing of dogs which are dangerously out of control in a public place. That is a task which is not a new one. It is already performed under existing legislation. We all hope that incidents like that will decrease in frequency in future. That is one of the principal purposes of the Bill. The provisions of the Bill should greatly simplify the task of the police and, in time, that of the local authority dog wardens as well, in controlling any incidents involving dogs. The Bill does not give rise to very significant foreseeable expenditure. I hope that the noble Baroness will be content with that thought.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

I do not believe that the local authorities and the police will be very content with the Minister's response because their forecast of the resources needed is very different from that of the Minister. It is important to stress, as they have, that the resources needed under the Environmental Protection Act and this Bill should be seen together. That makes it very much more significant than the Minister has made out. It is a pity that he did not give an assurance that he will think about the matter a little more. It seems very sensible that each year there should be a way of checking the needs and resources and amending them accordingly. As my noble friend Lord Houghton said, the enforcement of the Bill is extremely important. The authorities are going to carry out a very delicate aspect of the Bill. Therefore it is disappointing that the Minister has given us no possible hope. We shall think about this and discuss it with a view to bringing the matter up again. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 50 to 52 not moved.]

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 53:

After Clause 5, insert the following new clause:

Muzzling and leads

(".—(1) In this Act—

  1. (a) references to a dog being muzzled are to its being securely fitted with a muzzle sufficient to prevent it biting any person; and
  2. (b) references to its being kept on a lead are to its being securely held on a lead by a person who is not less than sixteen years old.

(2) If the Secretary of State thinks it desirable to do so he may by order prescribe the kind of muzzle or lead to be used for the purpose of complying, in the case of a dog of any type, with section 1 or an order under section 2 above; and if a muzzle or lead of a particular kind is for the time being prescribed in relation to any type of dog the references in subsection (1) above to a muzzle or lead shall, in relation to any dog of that type, be construed as references to a muzzle or lead of that kind.

(3) The power to make an order under subsection (2) above shall he exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.").

The noble Viscount said: The new clause is aimed at ensuring that dogs covered by Clause 1 and any which might be the subject of orders made under Clause 2 are securely and humanely controlled when they are in public.

First, in subsection (1) (b) we have added a requirement that a person must be 16 years or over to have charge of a Clause 1 dog in public. My noble friend indicated at an earlier stage that we were considering this change. I hope that Members will welcome it. I think it would be most undesirable if we allowed a situation to arise in which young children were able to take exempted pit bull terriers for a walk. They could not possibly keep such dogs under proper control or act with sufficient speed or physical endeavour to rein in the animals if they started to misbehave.

The second thing which this new clause does is to enable the Home Secretary to make an order specifying types of muzzle or types of lead to be used on Clause 1 or Clause 2 dogs. Clearly the principal requirement, which is recognised in subsection (1) (a) of the new clause, is to ensure that the muzzle is a secure one which prevents a dog from biting people. We also wish to ensure that dogs are muzzled in the most humane way.

Giving the Secretary of State the power in subsection (2) will enable him to specify the best type of muzzle for a particular dog. Certain types of dog require a specific kind of muzzle in order to ensure that they can drink or pant. It is clearly right for humane reasons that such a muzzle should be used. In deciding this point, the Secretary of State would of course consult the experts before taking any action.

The new clause therefore provides an additional element of protection for the general public and gives the Home Secretary the power to ensure that any muzzling or leashing requirement is exercised in a way which takes the welfare of the animal fully into account.

I hope that noble Lords will support the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

This is a very interesting statement to make. I thoroughly approve of what has been said with regard to the age of the individual. The age of 16 years is perfect—just as long as that 16 year-old is fit and able. I am sure the noble Earl will agree. That is an essential point. It is no good a person in a wheelchair for instance, whether he is 16 or 26, taking a dangerous dog out on a lead.

The correct muzzling of a dog—I understand a certain amount of research has been put into this—is not done just so that the dog can drink, but so that it can breathe. According to certain vets it is essential that the dog's snout is not cramped to such an extent that its breathing is impeded. The muzzle must be designed to prevent the dog biting anybody and at the same time the holes in the muzzle should be too small to allow people to put their fingers through and have them bitten.

A further point which ought to be raised is that, if there is a ring at the nose of the muzzle, there must also be a check chain—it used to be called a choke chain. Dogs with heads of a certain shape or with smooth skins and small ears can very easily pull off such a muzzle. I know that some research has been put in to determine the correct type of muzzle, but if a muzzle were to come off there would at least be a check chain. That will be a perfect way of ensuring that that dog will not get away from the 16 year-old. I beg that some consideration be given to ensuring that check chains as well as muzzles are used on dangerous dogs.

Lord Richard

On this side of the Committee we support the new clause. It is sensible to have the age restriction of 16 years. The Committee will recall that Amendment No. 56, which we discussed earlier, also included an age limit of 16 for someone who owns a dog or has it in his possession. I understand that the RSPCA is greatly concerned that muzzles and leashes should be adequate on animal welfare as well as on safety grounds. I am grateful for what the Minister said in his speech about that. There is a worry that inappropriate and possibly home-made muzzles and leashes may be used to conform to the permit requirements. I hope that the powers which the Secretary of State is taking under Clause 2 of the Bill will be used in an effective way.

Viscount Astor

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Clifford, for their remarks. I said that we shall take the welfare of the animal fully into account. The Secretary of State will consult with experts before taking any action.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 54: Page 6, leave out lines 26 to 28.

The noble Viscount said: This was spoken to with Amendment No. 47. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 55: Page 6, line 31, at end insert ("and includes the common parts of a building containing two or more separate dwellings.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 57: Page 6, line 32, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Viscount said: This amendment was taken with Amendment No. 53. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 58: Page 6, line 38, leave out ("cause injury to") and insert ("injure").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 59 and 60 not moved.]

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 61: Page 6, line 40, leave out ("This Act shall come into force on") and insert ("Except for section 6, this Act shall not come into force until").

The noble Viscount said: This is largely a technical amendment to do with the fact that it is desired to extend the provisions of the Bill to Northern Ireland at the earliest opportunity. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.