§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Dogs bred for fighting]:
Lord Kilbracken moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 10, leave out ("dog") and insert ("type").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to substitute the word "type" for the word "dog" on line 10 of page I. It is a minor amendment which would not have any effect on the operation of the Bill. It would mean that Clause 1(1) (c) makes real sense, which must be meritorious.
Clause 1(1) sets out the types of dog to which the rest of the clause applies. Paragraph (a) deals with the type known as the pit bull terrier; paragraph (b) with the type known as the Japanese Tosa; and paragraph (c) with dogs of any type that may be designated by the Secretary of State. It is the type that he designates, not the dog. The Bill tells us that such a type must be a type,
appearing to him to be bred for fighting"—
that is all right—
or to have the characteristics of a dog bred for that purpose".
§ The point that I seek to make is that it is the type that has the characteristics, not the dog. The order made by the Secretary of State relates to the type. The Bill should therefore read, "being a type appearing to him to be bred for fighting or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose". A type cannot have the characteristics of a dog. It is the other way round. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, was good enough to write to my noble friend setting out the thinking behind the amendment that he has put forward. It is a drafting amendment and does not affect the sense of Clause 1(1) (c). Clause 1(1) (c) enables the Home Secretary to make orders to prohibit certain types of fighting dog. We had an interesting debate on the question of what constituted the characteristics of a fighting dog when we discussed an amendment in Committee in the name of my noble friend Lord Radnor.
Although the sense of the present drafting of Clause 1(1) (c) is clear, the noble Lord is probably right in suggesting that, for consistency, the Bill should refer to the type of dog, rather than dog, throughout. I am therefore happy to accept the noble Lord's amendment.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Viscount. I do not like to say what a surprise this is because on previous occasions I have found that 282 Ministers have been prepared to accept my little, perhaps pedantic, amendments. I therefore have nothing more to say.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 11, at end insert ("and upon which an import ban has been or is being imposed").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment does not add anything to or subtract anything from the Bill. It seeks to clarify the position. The position is already clear, but my amendment would put it beyond any doubt.
§ Clause 1(1) (c) refers to the type of dog designated or bred as a fighting dog which may be added to the list of dogs in paragraphs (a) and (b). That may be done by the Secretary of State. He may do that under subsection (9) on page 2 by statutory instrument, subject only to the negative procedure. That means that it takes effect unless annulled and does not require the positive approval of both Houses of Parliament.
§ I understood from previous debates that the powers of the Secretary of State under Clause 1(1) (c) are intended to stop other dogs coming into the country which might be regarded in his opinion as fighting dogs or such dogs as are stated in paragraph (c). It does not extend to dogs already here —for example, Alsatians or other breeds such as the Staffordshire bull terrier—and not classified as fighting dogs in the Bill. Clause 1(1) (c) therefore applies only to newcomers. It cannot be extended to Alsatians or any of the other breeds that are here. They are not classified under subsection (1) and it is not intended to classify them under subsection (1). It therefore refers only to newcomers.
§ I understand that two South African dogs have already been named and are the subject of a ban. If they are the subject of a ban, they must also be subject to internal prohibition. We have established that point. One cannot ban imports without making the product, the item, the animal or whatever it is unlawful. That is why, in order to ban for example the Japanese Tosa, it is also necessary to make the Japanese Tosa unlawful, even though there is only one in the country. That is what the Bill does. It lists one dog. He is the showpiece. He stands for the breed throughout the world. There is only one here. That is how, technically, it comes to be where it is.
§ I want to make sure that Clause 1(1) (c) relates to an order to be made by the Secretary of State for dogs which might otherwise come in, but of which no existing examples in this country are known. He will extend subsection (1) by statutory instrument to include the newcomers specified for an entry ban. If that is clear, the two breeds of dog about which we have read recently and which are to be excluded from this country will have to be added to subsection (1) by statutory instrument by the Secretary of State in accordance with Clause 1(1) (c). He cannot have the ban without the dogs being in the Bill. That is the simple point. That will therefore restrict the extension of subsection (1) to those cases that I have described.
§ When I come to Clause 6, I want to clarify an associated point, but I shall not deal with that now. It 283 is important to understand beyond any doubt what the Secretary of State may do by statutory instrument under the negative procedure. It will be necessary, when we come to Clause 6, to be clear what the Secretary of State may do by statutory instrument requiring the affirmative procedure—the positive approval of each House of Parliament. That is what is required under Clause 6, but it is not required under Clause 1.
§ I hope that I have made the position clear and that I shall receive a clear answer. The best way of dealing with the situation is to accept my amendment and then there will be no doubt whatever about it. I beg to move
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, I should like to rise in support of my noble friend. My only complaint is that his amendment does not perhaps go far enough. We had a good assurance from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in Committee that this subsection would not be applied to dogs of any breed or type that are in this country at present. However, that was a verbal assurance and we all know how little a verbal assurance means when it comes to the administration of the law in a few years' time. I would far rather see that provision stated in Clause 1(1). If my noble friend had extended it by making it quite specific, I should have supported him in that too.
My Lords, I understand the intention behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. He has fully grasped that one of the strengths of Clause 1 is that by allowing a domestic ban to be put on particular types of fighting dog it is possible to sustain an import ban on such dogs. However, we should not wish to limit the types of dogs which can be designated under Clause 1(1) (c) to dogs on which an import ban has been imposed. There may be circumstances, however unlikely, in which people in this country breed or seek to breed a particularly dangerous new strain of dog. They may do that by cross-breeding existing strains or by systematically selecting an aggressive offspring of a currently biddable ordinary breed of dog.
For that reason, the noble Lord's amendment would be an unacceptable restriction on the kind of fighting dogs which can be designated under the order. I urge the House not to accept the amendment.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, it seems to me that the noble Lord has confirmed my interpretation of subsection (1) (c). I understood him to say that the subsection will be used to prevent a new strain of dog coming in. Is he saying that a new strain of dog created within our own dog society would come under paragraph (c)? Or would that have to be dealt with by primary legislation? I want to have clear what will need a new Bill and what the Secretary of State may do without a new Bill in this respect.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is absolutely right. If a new strain of dog, particularly a nasty, vicious and dangerous dog, was created by some form of genetic engineering or cross-breeding, that would certainly come under Clause 1(1) (c).
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
I am not clear as to what refinement of dog production could or could not be dealt with by the Secretary of State under this clause. However, if it is not necessary to have the words inserted in the clause in order to make clear the limited powers of the Secretary of State under subsection (1) (c), then I am satisfied.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 13, at end insert:
("( ) Keep such a dog unless there is in force in relation to the keeping of the dog by that person a policy of insurance providing adequate cover against third party risks.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, last week Members from all sides of the Committee tried to persuade the Government of the merits of making third party insurance compulsory for the keepers of all dogs. They were unsuccessful, although the matter was not pressed to a Division. I remain far from convinced by the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, against the proposal. This amendment is not, however, a repetition or slight variation of last week's amendment. It is very much more modest and confines compulsory insurance to the exceptionally dangerous breeds covered by Clause 1.
§ The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, suggested in Committee, at col. 1480 of Hansard, on 10th July that compulsory insurance for what might be called Part I dogs would almost certainly form part of any exemption scheme. I am sure your Lordships believe that it should certainly form part of any such scheme and should therefore be written into the Bill. If written into the Bill, an insurance scheme can become compulsory before the fine details of an exemption scheme are finalised. The sooner the better, as I am sure noble Lords agree.
§ The provisions for muzzling and keeping a dog on a lead in a public place already appear on the face of the Bill. Why not also the compulsory insurance proposals? After all they are much more important, given that they would apply not only when a dog, with the knowledge of its keeper, was in a public place but also when a dog escaped into a public place without the knowledge of its keeper and was therefore unmuzzled and by definition not on a lead. They would apply too when the dog was on private property, whether on the keeper's private property or a neighbour's private property. The injuries which those breeds can cause are very severe.
§ One must not forget that at present someone who suffers terrible injuries as a result of an attack by a pit bull terrier, which has an exceptionally strong bite, can be in the position of receiving hardly a penny in compensation—unless the owner of the dog can be traced and that owner happens to be a millionaire—apart from what the general public in its generosity may care to subscribe. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, these Benches support the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, in Committee we argued for third party insurance to cover all dogs. We also debated the noble Lord's point about the right of people who are 285 attacked by dogs to claim compensation. The Minister did not agree with the amendment that we put forward.
It was made very clear by my noble friend, Lord Richard, that someone who had been attacked by a dog had no way of gaining compensation either through insurance provision or from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. In order to ensure some kind of help for such unfortunate people, I too support the amendment.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, I support the amendment. No doubt the Government are aware that the RSPCA, which is a highly responsible organisation, would like to see this provision included in the Bill. The opportunity should not be missed. It is true that those who sustain terrible injuries cannot collect compensation either from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board or from elsewhere. Money cannot in fact compensate but at least it helps through what can be a terrible ordeal.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, keeps telling noble Lords that there is one Tosa in this country. I have received two letters from different addresses—they are perhaps from friends of the noble Lord—one of which refers to my criticism of his "dear little Tosa". I can only imagine that the gentleman has an unfortunate sense of humour. The other letter is about six pages long and asserts how harmless and kind the dog is. How do we know that there is only one of them? I believe that we must assume that there are more than we realise. The RSPCA wish particularly to see this amendment included in the Bill.
§ Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes
My Lords, in case my noble friend is minded to reject the amendment—I hope that he is not—one of the arguments that would not be acceptable in opposing it is that the cost of keeping these horrendous dogs would be made too expensive for some owners. If that proved to be the case and the owners were therefore not able to keep the dogs, I for one should be delighted.
§ Lord Milne
My Lord, unfortunately I was unable to be present at Committee stage but I spoke on this matter at Second Reading. The amendment refers to Part I dogs. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, gave an undertaking when he said that the necessity for insurance would be—he did not say "would probably be" as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said—in the regulations.
The amendment seeks to incorporate that assurance in the Bill. There is a later amendment: I am not too concerned whether the provision appears in the regulations or in the Bill. Later on it becomes a general principle of insurances which I hope will be raised again.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, I support the amendment. I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, for stating in reply to an amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that the Government have included in Clause 1 various other cross-breeds designed for fighting. Have Her Majesty's Government also considered certain other types of 286 dog which are in existence in this country? I refer to fighting dogs, such as the Akita—a Japanese fighting dog which is very popular in this country—and the Alaskan Malamute, which is a very big and difficult animal. There is also the Neapolitan mastiff, which is commonly known as the Mafia dog. There is obviously the Rottweiler, and the Bouvier des Flandres—a dog used in Germany as well as Belgium and France as a police dog. Those are very large dogs and worthy of consideration under Clause 1. I refer also to the Staffordshire bull terrier.
I hope that one dog will be referred to time and again. It is the soft-coated Wheaten terrier—a dog which only a few years ago tore the arm off a 70 year-old man in the Plymouth constituency of Dame Janet Fookes. There is also the Glen of Imaal terrier. I hope that the Government will consider all other dogs which bear the green star award, an award given in Eire to dogs which are capable of pulling a badger out of a pipe. I shall be grateful if the noble Earl will consider that issue before I move my Amendment No. 9.
My Lords, I do not believe that there is much between us. As the noble Lord, Lord Milne, said, the amendment refers only to Clause 1 dogs. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, goes rather wider. My noble friend Lady Oppenheim-Barnes will be glad to know that I shall not ask your Lordships to reject the amendment on the question of cost.
The amendment places a requirement on the face of the Bill for all owners of Clause 1 dogs to ensure that they are covered by third party insurance. The noble Lord, Lord Milne, was quite right to remind the House that I stated that we intend the third party insurance requirement to be one of the conditions of the certificate of exemption. In other words, if people keep pit bull terriers after they have gone through the various processes, they must have an exemption certificate, and that certificate will require them to have third party insurance. I do not believe that there is a great deal to be said for agreeing to place the provision on the face of the Bill when it will already be there in another form, albeit in an order which will be made under Clause 1(5).
I am, of course, aware that the condition of the certificate of exemption will not apply for the interim period before the prohibition offence comes into force and that owners will therefore not be required to have their dogs insured until 30th November. I do not think this should cause us too much anxiety as those dogs will already have to be muzzled when in a public place and therefore it will be unlikely that they will injure. Furthermore, it is only fair that we give people time to make the necessary arrangements for getting their dog insured. It would not be reasonable to expect them to do so without adequate notice. One of the purposes of the interim period until 30th November is to allow people time to make just such arrangements.
The amendment also mentions that the insurance cover should be adequate. I am advised that typical home contents policies—which are the way most dogs including pit bull terriers are covered—already provide cover for at least half a million pounds and 287 often for substantially more. I am furthermore advised that most policies which are specifically taken out to cover Clause 1 dogs will give at least that level of cover.
For all those reasons, I hope that noble Lords will agree that it is not necessary to put on the face of the Bill a provision which will be included in an order.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who—with the exception of the Government Front. Bench—have spoken in support of the amendment. I am disappointed with the noble Earl's reply. Some countries—for example, Denmark—require all breeds of dogs to be insured. I ask for much less than that.
In his reply the noble Earl corrected me. He emphasised that his prediction that the certificate of exemption would require compulsory insurance was a certainty rather than a guesstimate. That I accept. However, we are talking about a four-month gap. I believe that if the amendment were to be accepted we could require insurance to be compulsory within one month: that is, three months earlier than would otherwise be the case.
The noble Earl says that as dogs will be muzzled in public, they are unlikely to injure anyone. However, the dog that so terribly mauled Mr. Frank Tempest of Lincoln was not in a public place when it escaped. It jumped over a high fence and did the most terrible damage. Therefore, it is not true to say that refusal to accept the amendment nevertheless ensures that no one will be injured in the interim period.
A number of other amendments on the Marshalled List refer broadly to insurance. I believe that the best procedure is to see how these amendments are received before deciding what to do on compulsory insurance. When we have heard what the Government say about the other amendments dealing with strict liability, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board proposals and so on. we can then decide what to do at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 2, line 14, at end insert ("or such later date as may be fixed by the Secretary of State in the exceptional circumstance. of particular cases").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am almost alone in your Lordships' House in defending the dog owner. Most of the amendments to the Bill have related to compensation, injury, insurance, tightening up of provisions and so on. Nobody is speaking up for the owners of dogs. After all, owners are citizens and have rights This Bill takes away the civil rights of many dog owners.
§ I know that it can be said that we need not waste sympathy on the owners of vicious pit bull terriers. We need not waste much sympathy on IRA terrorists, drunken drivers, rapists, burglars, criminals or anyone who is at war with society. There is no reason why we should waste sympathy on them. However, there is every reason to give them justice. I believe that one of 288 the cardinal principles of our British constitution is justice for all. The harshness of the Bill can be felt throughout the procedure.
§ We are undergoing an ordeal of frustration on giving attention to the Bill because of the manner in which it was introduced and the circumstances surrounding its introduction. The ethos of the Bill has been applied by the Government to the procedure. First, they muzzled the Commons, and now they have the Lords on a lead. It is difficult to break through the limitations—especially time limitations—which they have placed on amendments to the Bill.
§ This Chamber is the only place in which the Bill has been considered in detail. The Commons passed all stages of the Bill before three o'clock one morning with scarcely any reference to the Bill. They devoted a lengthy period of time resurrecting the old war horse of dog registration. Indeed, someone raised the question of adding another category of dog to Clause 1. That is the sum total of what was done in the House of Commons in respect of the Bill.
§ The Bill then came to this House. I believe that the Government considered that they could not tamper with our procedure as easily as they could tamper with that of the Commons. There they could impose a guillotine, vote on the Bill and get it through before breakfast. That cannot be done in this House. I inquired anxiously about whether any moves were being made by wicked men and women to suspend our Standing Orders or to vary them in order to curtail discussions at the various stages of the Bill through this House. Happily, no such move has been made. We dealt with the Second Reading at the proper time. There was a proper interval between the Second Reading and the commencement of the Committee stage. We are now on Report after the approved interval since the Committee stage and the Bill will have its Third Reading next week. I have no complaint about that.
§ The difficulty in getting amendments to the Bill agreed has nothing to do with their merits but with whether there will be an argument when the Bill returns to the other place. The Government want to be in a position to move in the House of Commons that all the Lords' amendments be approved. They want to get the Bill through without argument and send it for Royal Assent. That is the programme. That puts arbitrary restrictions upon the reality of the various stages that we are going through. The amendments which have been agreed so far are those tabled by the Government. As the debate continues we shall see what progress other amendments make.
§ Amendment No. 4 deals with Clause 1(4) relating to the immunity to be given to dogs in the course of export. Some dog owners may feel that the compensation given under the Bill for the loss of their dogs is paltry and they may wish to sell their dogs elsewhere. In particular, that arises in the case of the talisman breed—the Tosa—which is now in London. It is a valuable dog. I am now receiving many letters from the United States deploring what the British Parliament is doing to the Tosa dog. That is not an 289 issue at this moment but it shows that elsewhere the Tosa dog has a repute in marked contrast to that imposed upon it in this country.
§ For the sake of candour I must add that I have made representations to the Japanese ambassador in London drawing his attention to the fact that Japan is the only country mentioned in the Bill. In a derogatory sense it is associated with a fighting dog. There are no fighters in this country; there is only an 11 month-old puppy. It has a brother and sister in America which are competing for prizes in obedience classes. The Americans have an entirely different attitude to dogs of that kind.
§ Most noble Lords are old enough to remember the posture that Britain struck when John Bull faced the world. He did so behind a Union Jack wrapped around the middle of a rather overweight farmer. In front of him was a ferocious-looking British bulldog. The bulldog was the British outlook on the world and we were proud of that. Now we are cringing before a few bites by pit bull terriers and hastening this Bill through Parliament as if the whole population were about to be bitten on the ankles within the next few weeks. The whole episode is plainly ridiculous and I believe that retribution will come. Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad, but in politics Ministers and governments have only to make themselves look ridiculous. The Government have certainly done that in respect of this Bill. The time will come when Ministers opposite will no longer have responsibility for this matter. There are no votes to be gained from this Bill.
§ The easement in the treatment of dogs which are being contemplated for export abroad is arbitrary in nature—that they shall have immunity until the appointed date and not beyond. My amendment seeks to give the Secretary of State a little leeway. The provision cannot be used as a kind of kennel door but can apply only to dogs in exceptional circumstances. An owner of a dog worth thousands of pounds will not wish to see it mutilated and written down in value by retaining it in this country. He will wish to do his best to export it for the sake of the dog, apart from his own sake. That applies to the Tosa dog. There is not the slightest reason why it should undergo the mangling process which is specified for a dog which seeks a permit to stay in Britain. Those negotiations may take longer than between now and the appointed date which, I understand, will be 31st October. I wish to give the Secretary of State a little elbow room. The amendment asks for no commitment but releases him from the statutory condition of Clause 1(4) which restricts the time limit to the appointed date.
§ This will be a test of how reasonable the Government can be. I assure them that there is not the slightest reason why the amendment should stir controversy in the House of Commons, which they are desperately afraid of doing. Surely it will appeal to some Members who have had a few weeks to think about the matter since the famous night shift in June when the Bill went through the other place. The Bill is going further than protecting the public; it is the beginning of a war on dog owners. They have rights; 290 they are lawful citizens going about their lawful business with lawfully-possessed dogs. If by the end of October when the Bill comes into force the owners have not complied with some unpleasant conditions under which the dogs may stay in this country they will join the criminal classes. They will be liable to have their doors burst open by a police officer or an officer appointed to carry out the task. The officer may say, "I understand that you have here a dog prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act and I want to know more about it".
§ I have already described the hypothetical carnage that might occur in houses where there is an enforced entry in order to remove a dog. The entry may occur not merely to discover whether the dog is there but to seize it under the terms of the Bill. Some noble Lords might be shocked to be present during a seizing process. I am sure that a great deal of violence is lying behind the Bill. Such treatment is not the way to obtain the co-operation of dog owners.
§ This is not the moment to go further over the general aspects of the Bill. At Third Reading, and as the author of more dog legislation than any noble Lord sitting on the Front Bench opposite, I shall have a few words to say about the catastrophe of this Bill, which lies in the complete political misjudgment by both sides over the registration issue. That is where the whole mischief lies. Both sides were unaware of the political consequences of what they were doing. However, I shall go into that in more detail at another time. I beg to move.
My Lords, I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that many of your Lordships are dog owners who also fully support the Bill. The noble Lord has so far championed the cause of the dog, and other noble Lords do not wish to be left out. The noble Lord said also that the Japanese Tosa is an 11 month old puppy. Last time he spoke he said that it was able to put its paws on his shoulders. If it is that size at 11 months, one is rather concerned about what size it may be at 24 months.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has said on several occasions that he intends to champion the cause of the Japanese Tosa. It occurs to me that the intention behind the amendment is to provide the owner of this dog and possibly others with extra time in which to make arrangements for their removal from the UK.
The force of Clause 1 is to rid ourselves of the menace of pit bull terriers and other types of fighting dog as soon as possible. We recognise that in the interim period, before the prohibition offence comes into force, we should make it possible for owners to export their dogs without falling foul of the selling and making a gift provisions of Clause 1(2). That is the purpose of Clause 1(4). We would however expect all owners to have made the necessary arrangements by 30th November when we are proposing that the absolute ban or prohibition will come into effect.
This gives people almost four months in which to sort out whether they wish to have their dog destroyed or exempted from the prohibition ban or removed from this country. That is more than enough time to make the necessary arrangements and I can see no 291 reason why we should make provision to extend the time available in certain circumstances. Pit bull terriers and fighting dogs are valuable because they are fierce and wish to fight. Do we really wish to encourage people by giving them extra time to collect more money? In my view it is much more sensible to give all owners adequate time to make suitable arrangements for their dog and to expect all owners to comply with the requirements within the time. To do anything else would be to muddy the waters considerably and to bring an element of subjectivity and possible confusion into what is essentially a straightforward matter.
It is right that after a date which has been widely publicised, and which will be further publicised, there should be a ban on the ownership of fighting dogs unless they have been exempted. To allow some dogs to be sold or given away after this date would confuse the situation and represent a significant shift in policy. There is no reason to believe that owners will not be able to make the necessary arrangements for the export of their dogs in the four months available to them.
I cannot therefore agree to the amendment and hope that the noble Lord, having listened carefully to our views, will feel able to withdraw it.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I have a great respect for the noble Viscount. I am sorry therefore to use more harsh words regarding what he said. Would your Lordships credit that some 12 months ago the same Government were telling the House of Commons that there was no problem of dangerous dogs? When they were forced to do something last October to fend off the pressure for a registration scheme, what did they do? They did not deal with dangerous dogs; they dealt with stray dogs. They added on to the Environmental Protection Bill page after page lifted from the discussion document published a year ago last month. Dangerous dogs were not dealt with.
Matters were examined and opinions canvassed about remedies for dangerous dogs without any admission that a real problem existed at that time. The Government gave everybody concerned until 15th November last year to submit their comments. This would be guidance for the Government who were most anxious to know what the citizenry had to say about the problem. But did they wait until 15th November? Of course they did not. The representations which they received were all put in the waste paper basket. Certainly, the Government did not wait for al the responses because on 31st October last year they added the stray dog chapter from their discussion document to the Environmental Protection Bill.
The Government now speak as though the dogs under discussion have been creating havoc for a long time and that the draconian conditions being imposed are long overdue. The amendment proposes a small let-up for people who seek only easement to be able to get the dogs out of the country. The Government refuse that. What is the justification for that discipline?
292 The Bill is the product of an elective dictatorship. Its jackboot rests upon the legislation. That is what is so disgraceful. There is no give. The Government, rattled by the vilification of the tabloid press, have surrendered to it hook, line and sinker. They wish to place the Bill on the statute book so that they will not be vilified at the next bite. That is the humiliation of Her Majesty's Government, after 20 years of attempts to achieve reforms as regards dog control and welfare. They are a failure—a damned failure.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 2, line 23, at end insert ("provided that a person being the owner of the dog who is aggrieved by any decision reached in respect of that dog by the agency acting under this subsection shall have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State or to such tribunal as he may appoint for the purpose").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, at least in a boxing match one gets a break now and again! Amendment No. 5 deals with the agency of which I have the deepest suspicion. We do not yet know what it will be. I understand that tenders were invited for carrying out the task of issuing permits to distracted owners who must come with certificates of castration in their hands while undertaking to keep the dogs in secure places, muzzled and on leads. The dogs have been spared execution but, goodness me, they have been sentenced to a life of captivity. Permits will be needed if the life of the dog is to be spared. The agency is entrusted with that duty.
§ The conditions under which licences are to be granted will be set out in the statutory instrument. However, we shall not see that statutory instrument until the House has risen. The conditions under which one may seek annulment of anything in the statutory instrument are extremely irksome at this time of year. The agency will not be a government department; in fact, it may be a commercial enterprise. For all I know the agency may be profit-making. It may be an adjunct of Marks & Spencer or any other commercial undertaking which wishes to extend its activities. It may be a combination of organisations, reputable or not quite so reputable, which believes that it may carry out that task for the benefit of the canine world. We cannot press the Government at present as to who it will be because they have not yet made up their minds.
§ Surely, it is an elementary right of the citizen that if he must go to an outside agency, which will presumably be under the control of the Secretary of State, and he has a grievance against the treatment by the agency, he should have some right to go to the Secretary of State and say, "I believe that this is wrong and I am not being justly treated." The situation may not arise but the right should exist. If it exists it should be acknowledged in the Bill so that the citizen is aware of it; otherwise we place dog owners in the position of being second-class citizens where the dog is a sign of some kind of social inferiority or delinquency. That is not a satisfactory state of affairs.
§ I thought that your Lordships' House knew all about dogs, horses, fishing and shooting. Where is the dog element today? What has made your Lordships go quiet? Has everyone been told that the 293 Government do not want amendments tabled because they want to push the Bill through before the House rises? Parliament must go on holiday. Is that the point? It is not an emergency; it is a parliamentary programme. The Government want to stuff this matter into the later stages of the programme. That is what it is all about. They dare not go into the Recess giving the tabloid press the opportunity to condemn them the next time a grievous injury is caused.
§ I may be pleading in vain. At least I am satisfying something in myself about a problem which has deeply troubled me. It may be a mistake to become emotionally involved in matters with which one is concerned in Parliament. Some of us have devoted an enormous amount of time and study to problems, the solutions to which have been rudely shattered. The whole fabric of dog control and welfare has been thrown into smithereens. How can it all be brought together? If the Government had made an appeal to owners to keep their dogs in and said, "Let us have no more of this", we should probably have obtained a better response to the situation.
§ For the time being that will have to do. I sincerely hope that the Minister will say that the right of appeal exists; that no citizen shall find his fate or that of his dog finally settled by the agency without being given an opportunity to go to the Secretary of State, who is answerable to Parliament, to see justice done. I beg to move.
§ Lord Milne
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, may be surprised to find that he has one champion. I am sympathetic to the amendment, but not in this position nor quite in these words. The amendment applies to Clause 1 dogs. I can see a clause of this order referring to dogs under Clauses 1 and 2 in slightly different wording and coming at the end of the Bill around Clauses 7 or 8. That would be a reasonable clause in view of the valid dictatorial orders that can be made by the Secretary of State.
My Lords, while I have some sympathy with the intention behind the amendment I am not entirely persuaded that it is necessary and I hope to convince the noble Lord to withdraw it.
We are as concerned as anyone that the agency appointed to administer the certificate of exemption and compensation schemes acts fairly and in accordance with the legislation. We will provide the agency, which we hope to select in the next week or so, with clear guidelines on how it should operate and stress that it should contact officials at the Home Office if it is uncertain on any matters of principle. We hope therefore to ensure that few people will feel that the agency has not acted properly with regard to their application.
It is almost inevitable that some owners will not be happy with the decision reached by the agency in respect of their dogs, and of course that is most likely to be the case on occasions when the agency decides that it cannot issue a certificate of exemption. However, I do not think that we need to establish a specific appeals procedure to deal with those cases. 294 For one thing, we do not expect the situation to arise too often and in any case we already have in place well established avenues of appeal for aggrieved citizens.
It will be open to anyone who feels that the agency has not acted properly to raise the matter direct with the Home Office or through their MP. I can assure noble Lords that all such correspondence will be dealt with sympathetically and thoroughly and that the Secretary of State will, where appropriate, be able to direct the agency to reverse its decision.
Bearing all that in mind, it is not necessary to establish the appeal procedure proposed in the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will accept my assurances that we will look carefully at any complaints against the agency brought to our attention and that we will take action where necessary. I ask, therefore, that he withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, until the Minister spoke I was not inclined to support the amendment. However, the noble Viscount's response raises in my mind a number of questions that I hope he can answer.
The Minister says that if somebody is aggrieved by a decision of the agency in respect of a specific dog, representation can be made to the Secretary of State. To what kind of decision is he referring? On what basis will decisions be made? Is it suggested that an owner of a pit bull terrier may go to the agency and ask for exemption, which I understand the agency can administer? Are rules to be drawn up to distinguish between one pit bull terrier and another? If so, what kind of rules? Who will decide the basis upon which decisions will be made by the agency?
The idea that the agency can be run in a transparent way merely by guidelines and advice from the Home Office, and that there should be no right of appeal to anybody except via a Member of Parliament or by direct representation to the Secretary of State, is somewhat disturbing. My noble friend Lord Houghton may be surprised to see me on my feet; I had no intention of supporting the amendment. In view of what the Minister said, I believe my noble friend Lord Houghton has a point. There are matters which need to be cleared up.
My Lords, I do not know what the reasons for appeal may be. The owner of a pit bull terrier may decide that he has been mistreated. The agency may decide that it cannot issue a certificate of exemption because the various requirements needed for the certificate to be issued have not been fulfilled. That seems to be fairly simple. It is not related to a specific dog. It relates to the requirements necessary for a certificate to be issued. I should have thought that that was fairly clear.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I am sorry to hear that reply. I am not disposed to withdraw the amendment and I shall test the feeling of the House.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Aylestone)
My Lords, the Question is that Amendment No. 5 be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; to the contrary, "Not-Content". Clear the Bar.
Tellers for the "Contents" have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 51. A Division there 'ore cannot take place, and I declare that the "Not-Contents" have it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, before we move to the next amendment, perhaps I may say that I have the advantage of sitting next to my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I know that it was not his intention to press the amendment to a Division, but that he was content to allow it to be negatived. Unfortunately, he was deprived of that opportunity because the Deputy Speaker did not say "I believe the 'Not-Contents' have it", but proceeded immediately to ca 'I a Division. I hope that that will not happen again.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Clause 2 [Other specially dangerous dogs]:
Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 45, after ("apply") insert ("nevertheless").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns another small point of clarification. The clause deals with "other specially dangerous dogs". Clause 2(l) states:
If it appears to the Secretary of State that dogs of any type to which section 1 above does not apply present a serious danger to the public he may by order impose",
and so forth. As regards dogs which are not fighting dogs, but notwithstanding are regarded as a danger to the public, the powers of the Secretary of State are set out in subsection (5) of that clause. That requires the Secretary of State to go to both Houses of Parliament for approval of a statutory instrument which brings any breed of dog into the provisions of Clause 2.
Perhaps I may raise a fastidious point of clarification. If the word "nevertheless" were inserted so that subsection (1) reads:
If it appears to the Secretary of State that dogs of any type to which section 1 above does not apply nevertheless present a serious danger",
that would distinguish them from those dogs to which Section 1 of the clause does not apply. It may be that the sentence can be read as drafted without raising any doubts. However, the amendment would make it quite clear that the type of dog referred to in Clause 2 is distinct from the type of dog covered by Clause 1. That is important if only because different powers rest with the Secretary of State for different types of dogs. For the non-fighting dog the Secretary of State has to go to both Houses of Parliament. However, for the fighting dog, under the conditions that we discussed earlier, he can add it to the list. I am sure that the whole edifice of the Bill will not fall if this single word of clarification is imposed. It may be a test of my confidence in the Government. I beg to move.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I warmly support this desirable amendment. I am heartened by the fact that 296 just over an hour ago the Government, in the person of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, helpfully accepted Amendment No. 1 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. That was a similar example of a seemingly minor but valuable grammatical improvement. To improve the grammar of a Bill is not just a matter of being pedantic or of aesthetics and sounding more euphonious; it is a question of making legislation easier for members of the general public and also for members of the legal profession to comprehend. After all, why should not lawyers be given a helping hand from time to time?
As subsection (1) of the clause stands, it is just about grammatically correct. But it is by no means readily comprehensible. To insert the simple word "nevertheless" immediately clarifies the Government's intentions as well as making the wording sound better. That is all to the good. I find it very hard to believe that the Government can resist it.
My Lords, I think it fair to say that the noble Lord's amendment is no more than a drafting amendment, but it is difficult to see how it would improve the drafting of Clause 2. It may be that by placing the word "nevertheless" between the phrases "does not apply" and "present a serious danger" he intends to emphasise the difference between Clause 1 and Clause 2 of the Bill. If so, he is right to point out the difference between the two clauses. We have constantly emphasised the distinction between fighting dogs, which are covered by Clause 1, and other types of dogs, which might be dangerous and which are covered in Clause 2. His insertion of the word "nevertheless" seems simply to emphasise that point.
Whenever I discuss amendments on Clause 2 I find myself saying that it is a reserve power. There really is no comparison between the powers available to the Secretary of State under Clause 1 and the more modest restrictions which he can impose under Clause 2. Under Clause 2, he is restricted to applying the measures set out in Clause 1(2) (d) and (e) to particular types of dog. The process of consultation which he has to go through before making orders under Clause 2 are set out in Clause 2(4). The way in which Clause 2 is drafted recognises that there may be some types of dogs which, in the future, turn out to present a serious danger to the public and, in that situation, the Secretary of State would want to do something about it.
The provisions in Clause 1 are equally clear and are clearly separate from those in Clause 2. The provisions of Clause 1 allow the Secretary of State to take quick and decisive action if we are ever faced with a situation as terrible as that which we face in tackling the pit bull terrier today. We do not really need the insertion of the word "nevertheless", put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, to remind us of the difference between the powers in Clause 1 and Clause 2. I recognise that he has reservations about the powers in Clause 1, as indeed he has reservations about the powers in Clause 2 and no doubt reservations about some of the other provisions in the Bill. In this particular instance I am not convinced that his amendment adds anything to the drafting of Clause 2, 297 unlike the first amendment which I was able to accept today. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, a civil servant has spent half an hour writing all that out. I am sure it is a very worthy effort. Nevertheless, I am not satisfied. However, a moment or two ago I put noble Lords to a lot of trouble—quite unintentionally —so to save any ambiguity this time, notwithstanding what I have said, I shall withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Radnor moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 3, line 18. at end insert:
("( ) This section shall not apply to—
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is specifically to exclude three types of dog from Clause 2; namely, guide dogs for the blind, police dogs and military dogs. Perhaps "types" is the wrong word in the context of the Bill. As I said both at Second Reading and in Committee, although Clause 2 is not nearly as severe as Clause 1, it gives the Secretary of State very wide-reaching powers. The checks on him are, to put it at its best, somewhat vague. My noble friends fall back and say that the orders come to both Houses of Parliament. However, I do not think that that is very satisfactory. It is a bad habit for governments to get into to have too much done by regulations and by orders. Occasionally we should ask for a little more detail to be put on the face of the Bill. In this case I have kept the detail as narrow as I can.
§ Your Lordships will be aware that the kinds of dogs that might be designated under Clause 2 are possibly just those dogs that help mankind in one way or another; either because they are used by the police and the military for their attacking qualities or for their high intelligence and initiative for leading blind people. The Alsatian, or German shepherd, whichever one prefers to call it, is a case in point. I am told by the association concerned that that is a very vital dog because it shows the initiative and skill in an urban situation which is not held by the Labrador and other breeds that it uses.
§ I have kept to these three classes of dogs. I could have included dogs for the disabled and dogs for the deaf, but these are not so common and the relevant associations have not been in existence for so long. I thought it would be more acceptable to my noble friend if I kept within these three very important 298 brackets. I have also narrowed it down to make it as acceptable as possible by not including puppies and —what is more important—dogs that have retired. The dogs must be either in training or in work. I know dogs do get retired eventually; they do not always work on until they die. However, a retired dog of this type might become a danger; it would not be with its handler or with the blind person whom it was used to guiding.
§ I believe that in this broad clause it is reasonable to ask my noble friend Lord Ferrers to look at this matter extremely closely and sympathetically and, if he possibly can, to accept the amendment. It would certainly put many minds at rest among the blind. The noble Lord, Lord Hayter, is not in his seat but he brought out very clearly at Second Reading that the police were not at all happy about this clause. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, nobody could dispute the motive of my noble friend Lord Radnor in moving this amendment. However, it does not seem to me to be necessary. There is nothing in Clause 2 or elsewhere in the Bill which prevents dogs being trained as guide dogs for the blind, or for police or military purposes. If we are to mention those three categories specifically there are other categories which perhaps we should also have mentioned, such as the training of sheep dogs, gun dogs and so on. Although one admires the reasons which my noble friend has put forward, I doubt whether from the point of view of enforcing of the law or of enabling the right type of dog to be trained for the right purposes it is necessary to have an amendment of this kind.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, as I understand it, Clause 2 would only apply when the Secretary of State comes to the conclusion that a particular breed of non-fighting dog which is covered by Clause 1 would represent a serious danger to the public. Therefore, the first hurdle that has to be overcome before the powers of Clause 2 can be invoked is the concept that the dog presents a serious danger to the public.
I think it unlikely that it would occur to the Secretary of State that a guide dog for the blind, a police dog or a military dog trained to guard a military establishment, would prima facie represent a serious danger to the public. Secondly, even if he were to come to that somewhat strange conclusion the restrictions that he can then place upon the dog which he has concluded represents a serious danger to the public, again as I understand it, are only those set out in Clause 1(2) (d)No person shall … allow such a dog o which he is the owner or of which he is for the time being in charge to be in a public place without being muzzled and kept on a lead".I find it very difficult to believe that a military guard dog is going to be let loose in a public place other than being on a lead and muzzled. Having said that, I say to the noble Earl who moved the amendment that if there are serious misgivings, particularly on the part of the institutions for the blind, as to the effect of Clause 2 then it would seem to be desirable that the Minister should at least clear up those ambiguities and clarify 299 the position, certainly at the Dispatch Box, though I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that it is probably unnecessary to put it into the Bill.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, I find myself in agreement with what the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, wants to do but like the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I am not satisfied that this is the best way to do it. The noble Earl said that he had restricted the amendment to these three categories to make it easier for the Minister, but named some other categories where it might be equally reasonable for exceptions to be made. As I look at the Bill as it stands, Clause 2(2) reads:An order under this section may provide for exceptions from any restriction imposed by the order in such cases and subject to compliance with such conditions as are specified in the order".It seems to me that everything that the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, wants, and perhaps others that he would have liked but which are not specified in the amendment, can be done by the Secretary of State by virtue of this power. Am I right in thinking that?
My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy for the points which my noble friend Lord Radnor is trying to achieve in his three-pronged amendment.
As I understand it, looking to the time when a Home Secretary of the future might wish to make an order under the reserve power in Clause 2, my noble friend wishes to provide a number of exemptions. He clearly wishes to ensure that no Secretary of State can use Clause 2 powers in a way which affects guide dogs for the blind, police dogs or dogs used by the military.
The sympathy which I have for paragraphs (b) and (c) of the amendment even extends to the point of putting down a similar protection for police dogs and dogs used by the military in relation to the "dangerously out of control" offences in Clause 3. All those who admire and support the magnificent work done by guide dogs will see what my noble friend is getting at in paragraph (a) of his amendment. It was with just such exceptions in mind, that we included the power to make exceptions which is contained in Clause 2(2).
I do not therefore think that the amendment is necessary. Even if a future Home Secretary who was contemplating using this reserve power concluded that the particular type of dog used by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, the police and the military constituted a serious danger to the public, he would then have to consider whether it could reasonably be argued that in the particular use by those three organisations they constituted such a danger. It is inconceivable that any sensible person would reach that conclusion. Even if the Home Secretary were to reach such a conclusion, he would have to put his proposals to the body of experts set up by Clause 2(4) and then have his draft order approved by your Lordships and another place. If no suitable exceptions were contained in the order, then the good sense of your Lordships, if not another place, would ensure that the order was thrown out.
We are talking about a hypothetical situation. I do not think it is necessary to write these exceptions onto 300 the face of the Bill. The Secretary of State of the day has the power under Clause 2(2) to tailor the exceptions so that they fit the order which he makes; but it is surely right that the order is the place to make the exceptions, rather than the Bill itself. There are checks and balances built into Clause 2 to ensure that no Secretary of State can use the power oppressively.
I hope that my noble friend will therefore accept that the safeguards already in Clause 2 will prevent the Clause 2 powers from being brought to bear on dogs which provide such sterling service as those which he has in mind. I hope that he will not press his amendment.
§ The Earl of Radnor
My Lords, I do not intend to take the matter any further. The amendment stemmed from the fact that the matter will be dealt with by order. The Home Secretary will be advised by people whom he has chosen, according to the Bill. The order is then brought before both Houses of Parliament. As I said at a previous stage in the Bill, in practice, orders are seldom thrown out and cannot be altered.
What is important is what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said. Perhaps my noble friend will tell us at what type of dogs he envisages the Home Secretary pointing his finger. The clause does not say whether it is breeds or individual dogs. It contains no description. It mentions merely "any type". That was one of the points that prompted me to move the amendment which brings three important categories of dog to the attention of my noble friends on the Front Bench, so that we can be certain that they will not be penalised under Clause 1(2) (d) and (e).
My Lords, we have made it clear more than once that Clause 2 contains a reserve power. The Home Secretary would have to consider whether it could be argued that a particular use of a dog constituted a danger. A guide dog for the blind, when being used for that purpose, is hardly likely to constitute a danger to members of the public. I can only try to reassure my noble friend by telling him that Clause 2 is a reserve power.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 [Keeping dogs under proper control]:
The Earl of Radnor moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 3, line 22, leave out ("injures") and insert ("attacks").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is not a drafting amendment. It is one that I moved in Committee upon which we had a short debate. My noble friend Lord Ferrers came some way in this direction by moving from "cause injury" to "injures". Having read Hansard, I am sure that the correct word to be used is "attacks". It is worth remembering that as a result of a dog that "injures" or "attacks" a severe penalty might follow. It could be a fine or imprisonment.
§ A dog can injure someone in a variety of ways. It could injure a person by attacking him or her; by advancing on him or her playfully, and knocking the person over; by tripping him or her up or something 301 of that type, none of which is in keeping with the Bill's title or spirit. It is the Dangerous Dogs Bill, and it is directed at dangerous dogs.
§ I can cite an example which my noble friend might say is way out, but he has produced a way-out example today. Being an honest person I have to say that it related to a cat, but it could just as well have applied to a dog. Let us pretend that this cat was a dog. It was on the 14th storey of a tower block in Wandsworth. It liked to lean out of the window. One day it saw a cat or a bird below. It took a step too far and fell all 14 storeys, expunging its nine lives. It landed on the pavement just in front of someone. A dog could do that because they like to lean out of windows. Someone might accidentally nudge it. That dog could have injured the person and would probably have killed him. Is that to be a crime for which someone may be sent to prison or fined heavily?
§ It is far clearer if we use the word "attacks". It is in keeping with the Bill. A dog has to attack viciously. People can far better describe an attack by a dog than an accident. That could cause a great deal of trouble in a court of law. I beg to move.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, my noble friend has made a serious point which should engage our attention. A dog can attack without injuring and cause great fright—that should be prevented and forbidden—or injure without attacking. I remember an occasion many years ago when a young Labrador became excited and knocked over a small girl. Luckily it did not injure the girl. It was not my dog. I felt that the dog's owner should have had it under better control, because the girl might have been hurt. My noble friend wants to cover attacks only, but with great respect to him I say that attacks and injuries should be covered. I believe that this is a matter which, on this occasion, my noble friend may wish further to consider. We must realise that a dog can injure someone without attacking and attack someone without causing injury; but both ways ought to be prevented.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, this amendment has been grouped with Amendment No. 26. I willingly attached my name to the latter, but I was hesitant about doing so in relation to this amendment. I should like to explain why that is so. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, said that the inclusion of the word "injures" in Clause 3 is inconsistent with the Bill as it stands because the legislation concerns dangerous dogs. However, Clause 3(1) refers to a dog which,is dangerously out of control".A dog which is not inherently dangerous but which is dangerously out of control—a point which, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, was making—is, in effect, dangerous, even if only temporarily so.
We all know of dogs which are overgrown puppies, in effect, even though they may no longer technically be puppies. They are full of enthusiasm and leap about. If they are small dogs it does not matter, but in the case of big dogs they can easily knock over children or even an old lady who is walking along the street on two sticks thereby causing her to fall on the 302 pavement and possibly fracture her skull resulting in very serious injury. The owner of such a dog knows its characteristics. He knows that it is not essentially a vicious dog but merely an over-enthusiastic one. However, I believe that the owner has a moral duty, not to muzzle it, but to keep it on a lead. If he does not do so and the dog leaps about knocking over elderly people or children, it is dangerously out of control. Therefore, I think that the word "injures" in Clause 3 is about right.
However, Clause 9 is a different matter, which is why I added my name to Amendment No. 26. That clause provides that,a dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person".In my view that provision goes too far. Someone could reasonably suppose that a dog in a public place might knock down and hurt a child. It is an unfounded supposition but it could happen. If one is talking about a toddler of just over a year old who is about ready to walk, one could not really argue, in such a case, that the mother was unreasonably worried that a dog might, even by wagging its tail, knock over the child. However, I believe it is quite wrong that someone should risk being sent to prison for six months, presumably because someone reasonably suspected, rightly or wrongly, that the dog might inadvertently knock over his or her child.
The noble Earl is absolutely right to be firm about pressing this amendment to Clause 9 where we are simply talking about "apprehension". However, so far as concerns Clause 3, I think that on balance the Government are right.
The Earl of Harrowby
My Lords, as we are concentrating on personal anecdotes, what happens if the injured party is the owner of the dog, as was the case with my sister who ended up in bed with concussion for four months? Is she liable for a prison sentence or a fine?
§ Lord Mancroft
My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment in a very cautious manner. I should like to begin by reminding your Lordships that my noble friend Lord Ferrers brought forward in Committee a government amendment which strengthened this area of the Bill. Moreover, when the Bill started its passage through this House it contained the words "causes injury". After representations, I believe that the Government realised that this was much too wide. Therefore they narrowed down the wording and removed the word "causes" which was a step in the right direction.
However, it has to be said that the amendment moved by my noble friend today is probably even more accurate; it narrows down the wording even closer. Indeed there could be a case for saying that the words "inflict injury" would be even better because they would denote that the dog deliberately caused an injury.
The problem with the current wording is that a dog could, so to speak, inadvertently cause injury by knocking someone over, especially an elderly person or a child. That is a danger. I know that the Government are keen to ensure that that does not 303 happen. Everyone realises that this part of the Bill is concerned with a situation where a dog bites someone. Let us face the fact that, when a dog attacks or injures someone, we are talking about it using its jaws and teeth on a person and not knocking him or her over or running down the street and knocking someone over. That is what we want to avoid.
It seems to me that even the word "attacks" shows more deliberate intent on the part of the dog. It is slightly better. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that tae Bill has already been improved in this area. It will be interesting to hear the Government's response now to see whether we can improve it still further.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I find the concept of the deliberate intent of the canine fascinating both philosophically and legally. But I do not know whether one could ever define it in terms which a court of law could begin to construe. Surely the essential point about this amendment—and indeed about this clause of the Bill—is that one has to start off with a dog which is,dangerously out of control in a public place".If the dog is not dangerously out of control in a public place, then nothing applies. However, if it is, then I have lo tell the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, that, for the life of me, I do not see why the owner should not be responsible for what—to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft—might be injury which was not caused by the "deliberate intent" of the dog but which was caused, perhaps, by the accidental intent of the animal; or, alternatively, was caused because the dog was behaving in a way which was potentially dangerous but had not actually bitten anyone.
It seems to imply that, in all those circumstances, the injury which the dog would have occasioned—to use a neutral phrase—is one which ought to be laid at the door of the owner for allowing his dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. That is the offence. If the dog is dangerously out of control in a public place, certain consequences will follow. Further, if, as a result of the dog being dangerously out of control, someone is injured, it becomes an aggravated? offence. Frankly, in my view, to alter the word "injures" to "attacks" does not improve the the subsection. Indeed, in some ways, it makes it rather worse.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Radnor has returned to the point he raised in Committee. I am bound to say that this has been a fascinating debate which has taken a course that I did not anticipate. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, questioned whether it is really the case that someone could be sent to prison for having a dog which knocked over a child. I think that he is extending his imagination a little too far for everyone's good. I do not believe that the Crown Prosecution Service would be likely to consider that that was a case worthy of taking to court where the incident occurred as a result of playful action. My noble friend Lord Harrowby posed the bizarre position which happened to his sister and asked whether she would be sent to prison or be fined for having a dog which caused her to hurt herself. Again, 304 there has to be a case to answer. But I doubt whether the Crown Prosecution Service would think that that was an appropriate case to pursue.
I do not think there is much difference between what my noble friend Lord Radnor and the Government seek to achieve in this connection. It is very nearly a question of semantics, although I accept that that is not wholly the case. I have received some letters about this question of whether we have got the wording right. I have also taken into account what my noble friend said.
I believe that the form of words favoured by the Government is a better bet than that suggested by my noble friend. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and my noble friend Lord Mancroft talked about dogs which were so large or boisterous that they unintentionally injured children. If one is the owner of a dog, one has the responsibility of keeping it under control in any public place where children happen to be. That is the real point. In such a situation, I am not sure whether it matters if the key word is "injures" or "attacks". If a dog knocks a small child to the ground and causes that child serious injury, I do not think that the owner could expect any protection if the Act mentions "attacks" rather than "injures" in the definition of the Clause 3 offence. In other situations, I believe that the word "attacks" would be more nebulous than the word "injures".
I have looked again at what I said in Committee at col. 1469 about the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and his Japanese Tosa. I was concerned about what my reaction would be if the Tosa rushed up to me as it did to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, put its paws on my shoulders and became playful. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said that he thought that a fine experience. I think that I was right to say that I would be scared stiff.
I believe on reflection that it would be easier for me to prove that an attack had taken place rather than that the dog had caused injury. The dog, whether well intentioned or ill-intentioned, might have knocked me over. It is not a happy prospect to contemplate. If one were knocked over by a 17 stone juggernaut of a dog, I do not think that I would have much difficulty, nor would anyone else, in claiming that one had been attacked. If the only thing that was wounded was one's pride, I think one would find it much more difficult to prove that one had been injured. That is for the simple reason that an injury is tangible and capable of proof while an attack is subjective and open to a variety of interpretations.
My noble friend Lord Radnor referred to the remarkable example of a cat which fell 14 storeys and was killed. My noble friend asked what would have happened if it had been a dog which had hit and injured a person on the way down. That comes under the terms of public liability. If a person is killed as a result of your dog falling from the 14th floor of a block of flats to the ground, I do not see that you should have any more redress against the owner of that dog than you would against the owner of a scaffold pole, or indeed a flower pot, which also might have fallen 14 floors and hit you on the head.
305 One can think of all kinds of hypothetical situations to back up one's choice of words. All things considered, I remain of the view that the word "injures" is a simpler and clearer way of getting at the real target, which is the dog that bites and mauls someone. There are bound to be borderline cases where the word "attacks" fits some situations and the word "injures" others. I believe that one must rely on the good sense of the police and the prosecution authorities to exercise a sensible discretion in relation to such cases so that trivial or vexatious cases do not come to court.
We shall certainly ensure that the guidance issued when the Bill becomes law reflects the sorts of considerations that we have discussed and the sorts of concerns put forward by my noble friend and others, but I hope that on reflection my noble friend will agree that the word "injures" is better and more appropriate than the word "attacks".
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down I wonder whether he has contemplated that in effect what he has said is this: if a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place and, shall we say, attacks an old lady and tears some of her clothing and then knocks over a child, even though neither of them was injured, no offence has been committed. Surely that is the kind of thing that should be forbidden?
My Lords, with the leave of the House, if the dog gets hold of an old lady and rips her clothes to pieces, I reckon that that would fall under the expression "attacks".
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down for the second time, may I say that he misunderstood me. I was broadly supporting him on the amendment. What I felt was draconian was the provision in Clause 9 whereby the fear of being knocked over, as opposed to being attacked, by a boisterous dog can nevertheless in theory result in imprisonment or a fine. Despite the noble Earl's assurance that the Crown Prosecution Service would use its discretion, I wonder whether he agrees that Clause 9, as it stands, is too draconian and that Amendment No. 26 of the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, might be accepted?
My Lords, again with the leave of the House, I think that for the reasons I have given the word "injures" is better than the word "attacks". One can always find hypothetical cases that suit one's arguments better, but we are trying to get at the dog that actually injures somebody. To come back to my noble friend Lord Renton's point, I think that the tearing of clothes is a reasonable ground for apprehension that it would injure. That apprehension, my noble friend will remember, is one of the parts of the Bill that allows a person to take action.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Earl of Radnor
My Lords, I must admit that despite everything that my noble friend has said there is still, after 21 minutes of debate, some confusion, to put it mildly, about the difference between the two 306 words and the effect they will have when the Bill becomes an Act. I have heard a number of views. There is no doubt at all that your Lordships are not by any means all on my side. However, I still feel most strongly that the word "attacks" is better than my noble friend's word "injures" and that that is what the Bill is about.
This type of debate can go on for ever. The shorter the amendment, the longer the argument. Obviously, Members of your Lordships' House are not absolutely happy with "injures"; equally obviously, a number are not absolutely happy with "attacks". I hope that my noble friend will examine the matter again. I shall do likewise, and I reserve my position to bring it back again at Third Reading should I feel that that is the right thing to do. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 3, line 45, at end insert:
("(4A) It shall be an offence for a person to keep a dog unless there is in force in relation to the keeping of that dog such a policy of insurance that will cover the legal liability of the owner for the amount of not less than £1 million.
(4B) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (4A) shall be liable to be disqualified, for a period which the court thinks fit, from having custody of a dog.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, one is pleased that two prior amendments have mentioned dogs other than those specifically thought of in Clause 1. I have had the opportunity to read out some, but should like any dog, from the Akita to the Scottish terrier, when crossed with the American pit bull terrier, and the Scottish terrier on its own to be considered dangerous should it run across the road and cause a car accident or should it tear at the face of a child who teases it.
§ The matter was discussed in Committee. I hope that your Lordships will consider the poor gentlemen mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. Since the Committee stage I have undertaken some research, and, with the blessing of Mr. Frank Tempest of Lincolnshire, I have talked with his sister-in-law. Mr. Tempest is at present receiving attention and has received attention once a week—paid for by the National Health Service—at either the Lincolnshire or the Leicestershire infirmary. He receives attention from a nurse once a week and is given physiotherapy for his hands once a week. His wife bathes his face and eyes five times a day.
§ The RSPCA has given a figure of £7 million per annum for the costs incurred by the National Health Service as a result of dog attacks. When is it envisaged that the National Health Service will cease paying for Mr. Tempest? When will he have to go on to private medicine? Were it not for the Lincolnshire Echo, which has raised £20,000 from local people who care for him, he would not be able to pay for it. I wonder whether noble Lords have grandchildren. He does. What does his grandchild think of his grandfather? It is not pleasant.
§ I know that on the previous occasion when the matter was brought up by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, it was dismissed by the noble Earl, Lord 307 Ferrers, because it would be difficult to implement. Her Majesty's Government are ensuring that by a certain date certain breeds of dogs must be muzzled and that certain breeds have third party insurance cover.
§ On the previous occasion the noble Earl said that insurance companies would find it difficult. I shall quote from one particular pet insurance company, Paws. and I have spoken to the other body advising the Government, Pet Plan. The insurance companies say t -tat they would find it easier if all dogs were covered. In a communication following a telephone conversation with me the insurers said that there is a complication as a result of the definition of "dangerous dogs". I have brought up various other names and I know that the noble Earl spoke at Committee stage of two dogs—the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Braziliera—which are to be added to the list with the American pit bull terrier and the Tosa. I believe that others should be considered under that provision in Clause 1, but the insurance companies would find it far more practical if all dogs were included. The insurance companies add that they are fairly concerned about the definition of a "dangerous dog": whether a dog is wild by nature or tame by nature, and the identification of the pit bull terrier, if classed as a cross-breed.
§ In the past I have made a slight error in saying that the pit bull terrier is a cross-breed. It was originally, but now there is a pure breed of pit bull terrier. It has been crossed with other dogs innumerable times. Would all cross-bred dogs need to be classified as dangerous dogs? With an estimated 8 million dogs in the United Kingdom, a high percentage of which are cross-breeds, compulsory third party insurance and complete dog registration would seem the likely answer. That opinion comes from an insurance company.
We have discussed that point sufficiently and I shall go no further on it. I turn to subsection (4B) which states:
A person guilty of an offence under subsection (4A) shall be liable to be disqualified, for a period which the court thinks fit, from having custody of a dog".
That will have more effect than saying to a person, "You will be fined £100. Make sure you look after the dog correctly".
§ We are privileged to own shotguns but we have to have licences for them. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, brought up the point on the previous occasion that we are privileged to have the opportunity of owning a car. Many people insure their cars. As the noble Earl said, it is an obligation. We cannot have a licence—and again licences have been mentioned—for a car unless it is insured. I remind the noble Earl that many people do not insure their cars. In a previous part of the debate, on the Bill I mentioned that 12 million vehicles in the country are not insured. Irresponsible drivers are banned. Why should not irresponsible dog owners also be banned? Finally, a dog reflects its owner's character. It is only fair to say that the underlying cause of a dog's neurosis is its owner. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, at Committee stage on this amendment we spoke in favour of third 308 party insurance. We have certainly not changed our position on that. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, has now again put forward strong arguments in favour of the principle that people who are injured should be compensated and that owners of dangerous dogs should be discouraged.
Although I am not sure about the shape and the wording of the amendment, or whether the level of liability of £1 million is correct, nevertheless, we support the principle of third party insurance for all dogs. Therefore, we support the amendment.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clifford is to be commended on the powerful way in which he introduced the amendment and the extensive research that he has obviously carried out since Committee stage. He spoke in a moving way about Mr. Tempest of Lincoln and his family. Like the noble Baroness, I support the principle of the amendment and if it were to come to a Division I would vote for it. The trouble is that the Government, having resisted my far milder amendment which would cover Clause 1 dogs only, I suspect will hardly be inclined to accept the principle of this amendment.
However, the amendment gives me an opportunity to raise a valuable point revealed en passant by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in his comments on Amendment No. 7 introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Radnor. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, reminded us that under Clause 2(1), in the event of the Secretary of State coming to the conclusion that other breeds of dog represented a serious danger to the public, all he would be able to do is to order them to be muzzled and kept on a lead in a public place, and try to prevent the owners from abandoning them. He would not, as Clause 2(1) stands, be able to require them to be compulsorily insured. That is a great and serious gap in the Government's defences, as surely any dog that the Secretary of State, after due deliberation, considers to be a serious danger to the public —I emphasise the word "serious"—should be compulsorily insured. This consideration makes me all the more determined to revive my amendment to Clause 1 at the next stage and to table a consequential amendment to Clause 2 to provide that, where the Secretary of State discovers another breed of dog to be dangerous, not only should those dogs be muzzled and kept on a lead in a public place but they must also be insured. It is no use confining the provision to dogs which are presently covered by Clause 1. It must be extended to dogs that are discovered in the future to constitute a danger to the general public.
I apologise for that digression but it is essential to get this point across. Although I strongly support the principle of Amendment No. 9 and I shall follow my noble friend into the Division Lobby if he presses it, realistically I think it is probably better to concentrate upon returning at the next stage to the earlier amendment to Clause 1 and the consequential amendment to Clause 2(1).
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Milne
My Lords, I support everything that has been said on this matter today and in previous debates. I particularly support the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. I realise that the drafting of the amendment is not ideal. It is probably better to withdraw the amendment now and return with a better drafted amendment at a later stage. The arguments that have been put forward have been discussed on a number of occasions and I shall not discuss them again. I support an amendment that requires all dogs to be insured.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, referred to the case of Mr. Tempest who was mauled by dogs. Everyone who has witnessed the effect of that attack was horrified by what happened. Mr. Tempest was mauled by two pit bull terriers. That is one of the reasons that that breed of dog is now being banned. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has said that it is unfair to ban those animals but they are being banned precisely because of the attacks they have committed. If those dogs are kept in future, the owners will have to comply with certain requirements. One of the requirements is that the dogs will have to be insured.
This country differs considerably from the United States in that the Americans allow pit bull terriers to remain in private possession in spite of the fact that those dogs have killed 34 people there. The whole rationale behind this Bill is that we should only allow those dogs to be kept when their owners have met certain requirements in relation to the dogs, including insurance. The arguments that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, put forward are, on the face of it, enormously attractive. However, we must think carefully before we insert provisions into statutes. We must consider the implications of those provisions, whether they can be enforced, and if so, how.
As I said in Committee, compulsory insurance requirements are so unusual that they do not really exist in any case other than motor car insurance. They are unpopular with the industry and, frankly, are almost impossible to enforce. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, said that it is a well-known fact that not everyone insures their motor cars. He used that as an extraordinary argument for saying that all dog owners must be made to insure their dogs, in the full knowledge presumably that a lot of dog owners will not do so. Frankly, I do not think that that argument holds an awful lot of water. That is why the Government have agreed to compulsory insurance only in the particular case of the relatively small number of exempted Clause 1 dogs. To go further than that would be to extend the effect of the Bill too wide to too many households.
The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, said that in his experience insurance companies would welcome compulsory insurance for all dogs. However, my advice contradicts that view. My understanding is that compulsory insurance for all dogs would not be welcomed either by the RSPCA or by the British insurance industry.
310 As I explained in Committee, in practice many dog owners are already automatically covered by the third party indemnity section of normal household policies. It may well be that as a result of this legislation dog owners will review their insurance requirements and take any steps that they consider necessary to increase their cover. If that were to occur, it would doubtless be a wise step. This Bill places additional burdens on all dog owners and they would be well advised to make sure that they have the necessary insurance cover.
However, to go down the road of having to ensure that all dog owners have insurance; specifying what that insurance should be and how it should operate; and checking that it remains in force would be an onerous task. The amendment does not merely propose that big, offensive or difficult dogs should be insured; it proposes that every dog, that is all Labradors, Spaniels, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Shih-tzus and others must be insured by law. That is not the purpose of the Dangerous Dogs Bill. This Bill states that certain breeds of dog should not be kept because they are dangerous. The Bill contains powers to cover the case of any breed of dog that is found to be of a bad character at a later stage. The Home Secretary of the day can take certain powers against such a breed. I suggest that if we accept this amendment we would be taking matters too far. It would make the law completely impossible to enforce. I advise your Lordships not to accept the amendment.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I hope I may correct him on one point. He said he thought the RSPCA was opposed to compulsory third party insurance. However, this afternoon I received a briefing from the RSPCA which states:The RSPCA is emphatically and enthusiastically a supporter of compulsory third party insurance".
My Lords, the noble Lord obviously has received a different briefing from mine. Perhaps the briefing which he has received was written by someone who had different information from that held by the author of my brief. I of course accept that the noble Lord has received different information.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I wish to emphasise that the briefing of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, was provided by the RSPCA. I have the same briefing as that held by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. The RSPCA has also stated that it had envisaged third party insurance as part of a dog registration package. The RSPCA added that point to its enthusiastic support of third party insurance.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, I am grateful for the support I have received. I am a little worried that the briefing provided by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—I say this in full as one Coldstreamer to another, we prefer not to abbreviate—appears to be slightly different from the one held by the noble Earl. I am sorry that the Government are not willing to ensure that a provision is included in the Bill that complies with the will of the people whom the Government represent. Some 92 per 311 cent. of people in this country would like to see some form of registration introduced which would include a form of insurance covering legal liability.
I believe it would be worthwhile for the Government to reconsider carefully the amendment I have tabled. I admit that the Government may wish to redraft the amendment. As I am not a qualified lawyer, I have not drafted it in the correct legal fashion. However, I wish the Minister would accept the principle of the amendment. If he will confirm that he accepts that principle, I shall be quite happy to withdraw my amendment.
My Lords, perhaps I may have the leave of the House to speak again. Noble Lords may have received briefing from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals indicating that it was in favour of compulsory insurance. However, my information is that the RSPCA was in favour of compulsory insurance provided there was registration. There is not going to be registration. Therefore, one comes back to the question which I ask your Lordships to consider; if every single person and every single dog is to be covered by insurance, how on earth is that to be enforced? It will be very difficult to enforce.
In the context of the Dangerous Dogs Bill, it is an absurdity to require Chihuahuas, Shih-Tzus and other unfortunate little animals which will not do any damage at all to be insured. That is an argument which one could understand being put forward in a general dogs Bi11; but there are many reservations against that. In the context of the Dangerous Dogs Bill, I suggest that if your Lordships were to accept the amendment that would go way beyond the purpose of the Dangerous Dogs Bill and would be exceedingly unpopular and impossible to enforce.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, the noble Earl is overlooking the fact that Clause 3 begins with the words:If a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place".The noble Earl seems to envisage that every dog in the country is potentially out of control in a public place. There may be many others which are contemplated in this Bill but they would have to be out of control before the noble Lord's amendment would apply.
My Lords, I contravene the customs of your Lordships' House yet again, but I do so only in an attempt to be helpful. The amendment states quite simply that:It shall be an offence for a person to keep a dog unless there is in force in relation to the keeping of that dog such a policy of insurance".If it will be an offence "for a person to keep a dog", that means all dogs.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, perhaps I may point out that is only an offence if it relates to the first line of the clause which reads:If a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place".
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, I think that we have gone far enough with this particular 312 amendment. Later amendments deal with compensation and insurance, and there is also an amendment which relates to moneys given to local authorities to oversee the implementation of the Bill.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, asked how on earth my amendment would be implemented. I have spoken to dog wardens in Plymouth. Before the Environmental Protection Bill comes into effect next year they hope to have a place to train people to become dog wardens. They also hope to encourage people in other parts of the country to become dog wardens.
There is a way to check, and if the Government were not to give up so easily they would see it implemented. I should like to hear an answer on that point. At the same time, I am very grateful that the noble Earl considers that there is a possibility of another dog Bill in the future. If that is the case, I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 4, line 5, at end insert:
("(6) If it appears to a court on a complaint under section 2 of the said Act of 1871 that the dog to which the complaint relates is a male and would be less dangerous if neutered the court may under that section make an order requiring it to be neutered.
(7) The reference in section 1(3) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989 (penalties) to failing to comply with an order under section 2 of the said Act of 1871 to keep a dog under proper control shall include a reference to failing to comply with any other order made under that section; but no order shall be made under that section by virtue of subsection (6) above where the matters complained of arose before the coming into force of that subsection.").
§ The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 10, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 11 in the names of my noble friends Lord Radnor and Lord Stanley of Alderley.
§ At the Committee stage of the Bill, I undertook to look further at the point which is the substance of my noble friends' amendment. Your Lordships are now familiar with the fact that, under the Dogs Act 1871, before it was amended by this Bill, a court could order that a dog should he kept under proper control, but there was doubt as to whether it could say how that should be done. Clause 3(5) of the Bill clarifies the court's power to make orders by allowing the court to say how a dog could be kept under proper control. The examples given are by muzzling, keeping on a lead, or excluding it from specific places, or otherwise.
§ My noble friends' amendment seeks to add powers to the courts to be able to order that a dog is neutered or spayed. The amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrers has the same effect. The only substantial difference between the amendments is that, in the case of my noble friends' amendment, a court can order that a bitch be spayed.
§ The purpose of the Dogs Act 1871 is to keep dogs under proper control and it does not seem to us an argument that spaying a bitch is a way of keeping a dog under proper control. By contrast, neutering a male dog may cause it to be less aggressive or, in other circumstances, may cause it to stray less and therefore be more controllable.313
§ That is why the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrers is restricted to male dogs. It has been suggested to us that the problems of straying and of attacks are almost solely confined to male dogs. On that basis, I can reassure my noble friends that the force of their amendment would not be lost if they were to withdraw it in favour of the government amendment.
§ My noble friends' amendment is therefore technically faulty and although I have sympathy with the intention behind the amendment, I am sure that they will understand why the Government cannot accept it but have offered an alternative.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Radnor
My Lords, perhaps I may speak to both of the amendments in turn. First, I should like to thank my noble friend for bringing forward his amendment, which is technically better than the one put down by me and my noble friend, Lord Stanley.
The amendment stemmed from a debate in Committee, when, unfortunately, I was out of the Chamber and therefore cannot remember vividly what was said. My understanding, from reading the 1871 Act, was that dogs had to be kept under control or had to be killed. Those appeared rather extreme ends of the punishment scale and therefore it appeared that to add the alternative of neutering to make a dog less aggressive was desirable.
Having said that, there was a doubt in my mind, which has now been allayed having been told the purpose of the 1871 Act. whether it was reasonable to include the spaying of a female dog and whether neutering might have applied to both. The reason for including spaying was that a bitch could pass on her had temper through her blood line. However, as the Act deals with particular dogs which are tiresome that is probably superfluous. I should be happy to accept my noble friend's amendment and not to move the amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Stanley.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I have had experience of the neutering of dogs and the spaying of bitches. In my experience neutering stops the male dog from straying but it does not necessarily stop him from fighting. In the case of bitches, after spaying they obviously cannot have puppies. I have found that spaying does not stop them from being very territorial. I have a greyhound bitch which is spayed. At home she is very territorial and will go for any dog of either sex who is on her own territory. If she is not under control and she sees any other dog on what she considers to be her territory, she may attack it. I wanted to make that point. Neutering is certainly good with regard to preventing male dogs from straying.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, this government amendment, Amendment No. 10, appears to be eminently sensible. It fills a gap in the powers that can be exercised under the Act of 1971 and we on these Benches support it.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 11 not moved.]
§ Lord Mancroft moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 4, line 5, at end insert:
("(5A) 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.
(5B) It shall be a defence in any proceedings under subsection (5A) above for an accused to prove that his interference with the control of a dog in the charge of another person was accidental.
(5C) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (5A) above is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I brought this amendment forward in Committee and reserved my position at that time. I now bring it forward again.
§ Many points were made in Committee. The point that told most with me was, rather unusually, that made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who, I suspect, is probably not the most enthusiastic fox-hunter in the House. He said with regard to my amendment that the point being made was a good one. That comes from someone who did not agree with what I was attempting, as it were, to protect in my amendment, but he agreed with the principle behind it.
§ I do not want to bore your Lordships by going through all that is entailed in my amendment, as I did in Committee. Briefly, it prevents people—there is no hiding of this fact—particularly those who wish to disrupt hunts, not from disrupting a hunt or from demonstrating legally against it, but from attempting, as they frequently do, to lure hounds on to a road where they may either cause an accident to a passing motorist or be killed, as has happened on several occasions.
§ Even my noble friend Lord Ferrers, in rejecting my amendment at that time, was extremely understanding of the point that I made. Most members of the Committee agreed with the principle of the amendment, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, who has never, I believe, claimed to be greatly knowledgeable about or interested in hunting and country matters. There is no reason why he should be. The main reason why my noble friend Lord Ferrers and the noble Lord, Lord Richard, rejected my amendment, or spoke against it, as it were, was that it fell outside the Bill. It certainly does not fall outside the Long Title of the Bill. Over the years many things have slipped into Bills that were not necessarily originally intended for them, but, as an afterthought. have found an easy resting place within a Bill. I suspect that my amendment is one of those cases.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, made another and an extremely telling point. He said that my amendment brought to a head the divisions or the lack of understanding between those of us who live and work in the countryside and those—the vast majority—who live and work in the towns. As I understood him, he said that the interests of those who live in the countryside and the interests of those who live in the towns often come to a head in debates. We have attempted for many years to put off defining the role of the countryside in the future of our country as it becomes becoming increasingly urban.315
§ The Bill is a classic example of that because it is, if I may so describe it, an urban Bill. It deals with an urban problem—the problem of dangerous dogs. There are very few dangerous or fighting dogs that attack people in the countryside, probably because people in the countryside know better how to look after their dogs. The Bill is designed to deal with a problem that is found in towns. My amendment is a countryside amendment. It might be said that my amendment is necessary because town people come to cause trouble in the countryside. I made the point in Committee (and I shall reiterate it now at the risk of boring your Lordships) that last season the hounds were out in England on 21,400 occasions. On the Saturdays that they were out, there were on average during the season 15 violent incidents in the hunting field involving saboteurs with the exception of one Saturday in the season—31st March—when there was only one incident. It may be coincidence, but that was the day of the poll tax riots. The hunt saboteurs were presumably employed elsewhere.
§ I suspect that the real reason why the Government do not like my amendment is that they worry, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said earlier this afternoon, about getting it through the House of Commons. There is a worry that it might he rejected by another place. That may he true, but your Lordships do not need protecting from another place by the Government or by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. After all, we are used to having our more important amendments rejected by another place. You can tell whether an amendment is a good or important one: it is automatically rejected. It is only the less important ones that slip through.
§ More important than that is the prospect that the Members in another place may not understand the amendment because they too represent the vast number of urban dwellers in this country and have little understanding—indeed, decreasing understanding—of the rural way of life. That in itself is a sad thing. It would be understandable if the current Government were a Labour Government, unlikely though that may be, as the Labour Party has never set itself up as a great champion of country activities, but a Conservative Government always did so. Is it not a sad indictment that a Conservative Government cannot understand an amendment that relates to country matters?
§ Those are not reasons for rejecting the amendment. All those noble Lords who spoke in the debate in Committee, including my noble friend the Minister, understood the point behind the amendment. They appreciated the problem which is a problem of violence. It is a problem of coaxing dogs into a situation where they may be killed, as they have been in the past, or where injury may be caused to innocent passers-by by road accidents.
§ Therefore, the only acceptable reason for me to withdraw the amendment today would be that the Government, having accepted that the problem exists, came up with a better solution to deal with it. I agree that this is not a perfect solution. It may not even be in a very good place, but no one else has come up with a solution. It deals only with part of the problem, but 316 at least it does that. The problem exists and it is becoming worse. I would therefore have to press the amendment if my noble friend could not advise me or show your Lordships that there was another and better way of dealing with the problem. I beg to move.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I have some sympathy with my noble friend Lord Mancroft because he is right that it is an urban problem and many people do not understand the countryside at all. However, I see a great danger if there is no law to control saboteurs. In many universities at the weekend you see notices on boards offering sandwiches if students attend hunt meetings at certain places. I do not know whether they received 10 shillings or a pound, but they were given sandwiches. Those people are told where the meet is and it often happens to be at a pub in a village where there is a tarmac road. Those saboteurs can interfere with the hounds.
I said that the saboteurs interfere with them. But packs of hounds vary according to the whippers-in. Some packs are extremely well controlled. If saboteurs annoy hounds, they can cause incidents. Perhaps a horse will shy. One or two may fall down on the tarmac and somebody might be badly injured or even killed. I believe that there should be some form of law to prevent saboteurs from interfering with hounds at a meet. As I said, it can cause considerable harm to riders when their horses shy.
Perhaps I may just illustrate how times have changed. At the end of the 19th century even trains used to stop to allow hounds to cross the railway line. I believe that something ought to be done about hunt saboteurs, certainly at a meet. When there are tarmac roads and traffic nearby, they ought somehow to be controlled. Perhaps I may just tell the House a little story. It happened only about two years ago in Kent. A friend of mine had a pack of bloodhounds and a meet was advertised. Saboteurs turned up. They saw the bloodhounds and followed the hunt. To their amazement they came up with the quarry (which was a man running) and saw the bloodhounds licking him all over. They were completely astounded. I thought that I should tell that story to add a little lighter note.
§ 6 p.m.
§ The Earl of Radnor
My Lords, I should like briefly to support this amendment with which I have much sympathy. It is unfortunate that this has become a hunting and hunt saboteurs amendment. As someone who has enjoyed hunting very much in my life, I see no reason why this provision should not be of great use in the Bill. I shall not bore your Lordships with any more anecdotes, but there have been many occasions when the actions of a dog have been interfered with by a party other than the owner when the dog was thought to be acting dangerously or could cause injury. Let us not just think that this provision has something to do with hunting and saboteurs. When my noble friend comes to think deeply about the matter I am sure he will realise that it concerns many other things as well.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I hope that the Government will not accept this amendment. Perhaps 317 I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that the division into town and country, so that by definition anybody brought up in the country must appreciate the joys and virtues of foxhunting and therefore should support the amendment, is absolute rubbish. In fact I was brought up in the country and not in the town. When I was a boy I used to go on foot following a hunt. It engendered in me very considerable sympathy for the fox. Therefore I do not support foxhunting. I do not particularly object to it. If people wish to ride around with packs of hounds in the countryside in red coats blowing trumpets, so be it. The idiosyncrasies of humankind are immense. I do not wish to interfere particularly with hunting but on the other hand I do not support it either.
I do not believe that a Bill on dangerous dogs is a place to have a sensible discussion or produce a sensible piece of legislation on foxhunting. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has chosen to turn this debate into what is almost a referendum of this House on whether it supports foxhunting or hunt saboteurs. I have to say that I support neither and therefore do not support the noble Lord's amendment.
My Lords, I am not quite sure where the last observation of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, lands us. My noble friend Lord Mancroft is nothing if not persistent. I always feel some modest discomfort when I find myself in disagreement with my noble friends and in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, opposite. It is only modest discomfort. It is not that I am unhappy to be in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Richard. That is a delightful experience. That certain discomfort derives from the contrast with the views expressed by my noble friends behind me.
There is a perfectly good reason for that. As one who was brought up in the country, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, ought to know that people do not go round blowing trumpets at hunts. That is the kind of thing one does in an orchestra, not when chasing hounds.
My noble friend Lord Mancroft discussed with me his worries about the activities of anti-hunt protesters. He also discussed them with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I hope that what my right honourable friend was able to tell him on that occasion will convince him—he takes a lot of convincing but I hope that he will be persuaded—that we share his anxiety about the activities of those who seek to disrupt what is a perfectly legitimate and legal activity.
Frankly, it is intolerable. It is one thing to have a genuine dislike of hunting and wish to protest against it. It is quite another to protest in such a way as to disrupt the perfectly legal pursuits of others, to pay cohorts of people and give them free lunches in order to join in the fracas. If my noble friend Lord Massereene believes that they are paid 50p, I must tell him that that is not at all the going rate. It might have been the rate about 35 years ago, when my noble friend was younger and when hunt saboteurs did not operate, but they are now paid a great deal more than 50p.
318 We have gone a long way to meet my noble friend's points. My noble friend Lord Kimball was concerned at Second Reading that the expression "cause injury" in Clause 3 of the Bill might render the person in charge of hounds liable to the Clause 3 offence if an anti-hunt protester lured the hounds across a motorway and an accident occurred in which injury was caused. The amendment which I moved at Committee stage and which was approved substituted the word "injures" for "causes injury" in Clause 3 and met the point exactly.
My noble friend Lord Mancroft would want us to go further. I am afraid that even in its revised form the amendment which he tabled continues to give me cause for considerable concern. His amendment is, as he pointed out, quite clearly directed at the hunt. But it would not apply only to the hunt, the hounds and the anti-hunting protesters. It would have application everywhere. Perhaps I may give your Lordships one example of its possible application away from the world of hunting.
Many householders have had the unpleasant experience of looking out of their windows first thing in the morning and seeing a large dog using the pavement outside for purposes for which that pavement was not intended. Dog-fouling of footpaths is an absolute menace. Often dogs which foul the footpath are being taken for a walk, off the lead, by their owners, who turn a blind eye to what the dog is doing.
I happen to think that a householder who rushed out of his front door and chased the dog off would be acting perfectly reasonably in doing so. Most of us would have enormous sympathy with him. But, in that situation, where the owner of the dog is with it and turning a blind eye to what it is doing, the householder who chased the dog away would be caught by my noble friend's offence. It is doubtful whether he could claim that he had lawful authority to act in the way that he did, which is the defence in the amendment. The pavement outside his house does not belong to him. He could not claim that his interference with the owner's control of the dog was accidental, which is the other defence proposed. The householder who shooed the dog off the pavement into the road and found that the dog was hit by a car might find himself in trouble. Whether or not an accident occurred or anyone was injured, the owner could well report the matter to the police and the police could decide to prosecute. I believe that it would be undesirable to have an offence on the statute book that could be used in that way.
My noble friend's problem relates to enforcement of the law. His principal anxiety during the Committee stage was the blowing of horns as opposed to trumpets by the anti-hunt protesters. As my noble friend is aware, the law already catches the blowing of horns in certain circumstances. There have been successful prosecutions for such activities under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. Therefore I do not believe that he can argue that there is a gap in the law which ought to be filled in that respect. However, my noble friend's real and understandable worry is that the procedures 319 to cope with hunt saboteurs vary throughout the country. He would like the procedure made more uniform.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has told my noble friend Lord Mancroft that the Home Office will be discussing this area of the law and how it should be enforced at a meeting in September to which representatives of the British Field Sports Society and other organisations with an interest in hunting will he invited. A very senior representative of the Association of Chief Police Officers will also attend. I believe that that is the right way in which to deal with those difficulties. It is the right way for those who have an interest in protecting the right to hunt to make their point strongly to the Home Office and indeed to the police. It is after all the police who are responsible for enforcing the law.
I hope that my noble friend will accept that that is the best way to set about the problem. I recognise that it is a difficult and highly vexatious one. I believe that that method is right as opposed to putting a provision in the Bill.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I am not a foxhunting man, but the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has a point. I am rather surprised that the noble Earl rises for the first time to express some leniency over dangerous dogs. I have been furnished with a list of the accredited cases of foxhounds committing offences of trespass, invasion of the privacy of households, killing cats, eating pork pies off the kitchen table and many other irregular deeds because they had broken loose. I believe that something should be done to keep foxhounds under control.
I heard a rumour at one stage that a plea would be made that foxhounds be given complete immunity under the Bill. That would not have surprised me in the least. However, there is a serious point. Dogs in packs, unless under control, can be extremely dangerous, cause serious accidents and terrify people. I was born in the country and taken to fox hunts at a very early age. The relative with whom I stayed was a farmer and a saddler. Unfortunately he had a double interest: he was not in favour of the hunt, but he wanted business from the huntsmen. At every hunt he indulged in a practice known as turning the fox. He seemed to know where to hide behind the horses and how to turn the fox in the direction which the hunt did not wish.
On the serious point, I am vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports. I am a subscriber to Hunt Saboteurs. That may surprise noble Lords. However, a great many young people altruistically and through ideals take the risk of going into the hunting field during the winter to express their discontent with foxhunting. They may be ill advised. They may be wrong. But at least they do so for no gain to themselves and at considerable risk. I am therefore ready to stand by young people who want money to get them out on bail or money to pursue the hunt as a result of injuries which a number of them receive after a good swipe across the face by a man on horseback who uses the stock end of his whip. Many such cases occur. However, I would publish the list of intrusions into people's privacy, in homes and 320 gardens, over the past 10 years for the discomfiture of any huntsman at any time. It is a fully verified list of known cases.
Whatever the hunt saboteurs do, they should not interfere with the control of the foxhounds. That only adds to the greater risk that already exists. I understood that the amendment intended to make it an offence to seek to seduce the hounds from the huntsmen by uttering false cries on a hunting horn, leading them astray and giving the hounds the impression that they are wanted elsewhere. They would then get into difficulties. I do not believe that that is the best way to conduct one's campaign against hunting.
In any case, we are told that the next Labour Government will consider the question of hunting with hounds. The day may come when a referendum asks the people of this country what they think about hunting as a field sport.
The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and I are mutual back scratchers. He helped me on my Badgers Bill and I shall help him on his adventure today. If he calls a Division, honour bound I shall vote for him.
My Lords, perhaps I may make one comment, with the leave of the House. I realise that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, was to thank my noble friend Lord Mancroft for having helped him over the Badgers Bill. He did not do that with any degree of seriousness. The noble Lord said that if he went into the Division Lobby it would be with my noble friend Lord Mancroft. It is very rare for the noble Lord to be in error, but he is on this occasion. He stated that I had risen for the first time. I did not think I had; I have risen several times. I believe that he meant in defence of dangerous dogs. He said that he and others had known plenty of occasions when packs of hounds had gone into people's gardens, killing cats and eating pork pies. The noble Lord has a vivid imagination but I am sure that he would not say that unless he had chapter and verse to back it up.
If such events were to happen, they would not be an offence under the Bill. Clause 3 states quite simply that,If a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place the owner … is guilty of an offence, or, if the dog while so out of control injures any person".It does not refer to consuming cats or eating someone's pork pies. Therefore the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, really should not go into the Lobby with my noble friend.
§ Lord Mancroft
My Lords, this has turned into an interesting debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for his support. It was a slightly double-edged sword. Nevertheless it was kind of him. I do not believe that there will ever be a law in this country which forbids dogs to take pork pies off tables. It would be difficult legislation to place on the statute book.
As I said earlier, on the 21,400 occasions when huntsmen hunted last year they did not succeed in causing one of the 250,000 road accidents that injured people. I do not believe that anyone can claim that they are dangerous in any way. One only has to meet 321 a pack of hounds to realise that they are friendly dogs. I have never heard of anyone being injured by them, though perhaps the foxes would not agree.
The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that this was a fox hunting amendment and as such he could not support it. In fact the amendment forbids people to riot, to be violent and to demonstrate not in a peaceful way, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, described hunt saboteurs being bashed on the head by huntsmen. During the past two or three years a variety of prosecutions have been brought against hunt saboteurs and many have been convicted. I have heard of one prosecution of a hunting person but I have heard of many hunt saboteurs being convicted of trespass. This year a major trespass case involving hunting would not have been heard had the noble Lord's organisation, the League Against Cruel Sports, not footed the legal bill. Had the organisation not offered to do so the case would not have been brought. The argument of trespass and violence involving hunts does not apply because the amendment does not relate to that. It is an attempt to prevent violence.
My noble friend Lord Ferrers said that it was rare for him to be in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Richard. Earlier this afternoon a noble Lord said to me, "When the Government oppose an amendment you have a pretty good idea that the amendment is right. When the Opposition and the Government gang up to oppose an amendment you can be absolutely sure that the amendment is right". I suspect that I am more right today than I have ever been, but we shall see.
I was pleased that my noble friend was able to explain to your Lordships some of the measures that the Government are taking. It appears that the Government have taken the problem on board and are beginning to take it seriously. He told the House that under the auspices of the Home Office a meeting has been arranged in September between the sporting groups, the various hunting organisations and the Association of Chief Police Officers to discuss how levels of policing can be improved in the future. At present they vary enormously from area to area. It appears that in future the Home Office will take a more careful interest in what happens with a view to dealing with violence in the countryside. At a meeting held earlier this week I asked my noble friend whether we could reconvene at the end of the season to see how successful the action has been, and I hope that we shall be able to do so.
I am grateful to my noble friend for the trouble that he, his right honourable friend and the department have taken in order to deal with the problem. I hope that he realises how seriously other noble Lords and people outside the House take the problem. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 4, line 5, 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 Animals Act 1971.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I moved a similar amendment in Committee, but I wish to point out that a drafting error in the amendment has occurred because the Bill was changed in Committee. The case of a dog causing personal injury is no longer appropriate. If necessary I can correct my amendment at a later stage.
§ The measure goes to the heart of the issue of compensation for people who are bitten by dogs. The Government have argued strongly that compulsory third-party insurance is not acceptable and that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is not the proper mechanism for compensating those unfortunate enough to be attacked by dogs. Therefore, it is fundamental that when the Government introduce a Bill which answers public concern about dangerous dogs following serious attacks on children, postmen and others we should deal with the compensatory mechanism.
§ Anyone bitten or attacked by a dog falls in an anomalous situation under the Animals Act 1971. Although the Act protects livestock it does not offer immediate protection to human beings. Section 2(2) of that Act introduces what has the deceptively attractive description of the "first bite concept". It means that if a dog having once bitten someone then shows a tendency to attack and bite people there is a strong liability on its owner to ensure that it does not do so again, otherwise he will he subject to heavy compensatory damages. I have not had a confrontation with a pit bull terrier but I am told that if such a dog bites someone it is extremely difficult to make the dog let go. Serious injuries can result and the dog may have to be rendered insensible before releasing its grip. Many people are being attacked by all kinds of dogs and they rarely receive compensation. Indeed, they rarely seek compensation because it is extremely difficult to obtain help through the civil law.
§ On the last occasion the noble Earl said that he understood my point but that the whole question of liability is extremely complex. He said that even if the Bill is the right measure to deal with the problem, which it is not, a more elaborate provision would be required. Such is the problem of attacks on people and the resulting injury and damage that some provision, even if it is elaborate, must be introduced. Why cannot the Government introduce a provision at Third Reading to meet those anxieties?
§ The problem will not go away. Figures published in 1989 show that about 5,000 postmen are attacked by dogs each year. Indeed, of all the working days lost by the post office, dog attacks account for about 15 per cent. Children on their way to school, old people in parks, and many others are also vulnerable to such unpleasant attacks. People who are attacked are advised that it is extremely difficult to obtain compensation. They say, "Too bad, it's just one of those things. Let's hope that it doesn't happen again".
§ The situation has long been sufficiently serious for the Government to address the problem of liability. Perhaps the noble Earl will indicate that the 323 Government recognise that compensation is an important part of dealing with dangerous dogs. I hope that he will also say that the Government are considering ways of dealing with the problem even though it requires the tabling of an elaborate amendment at the next stage of the Bill.
§ I should add that under the present circumstances, the maximum which magistrates can impose in terms of compensation for anyone who is injured is about £2,000. For the kind of injuries which people suffer, described graphically by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, £2,000 is derisory. It is totally inadequate when one thinks of some of the recently publicised cases in which horrifying injuries were sustained. I should have thought that we should be thinking more along the lines of compensation of £20,000 or even £40,000 rather than the present limit of £2.000. If one is successful in a county court, the amount of damages can be considerably greater but in that case one is up against the Animal Act 1971 and the ubiquitous "first bite" concept.
§ This is a serious matter which needs attention. I believe that the noble Earl recognises that it is a serious matter but he believes that it is so difficult and complex that, in view of the speed with which the Government wish the Bill to reach the statute book, it will be impossible to deal with it. I beg to move.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am rather concerned about the amendment although I understand and sympathise with the reasons for it. We are concerned not with an especially dangerous dog but with any dog which happens to be dangerous because it is out of control. Therefore, as I understand it, it is a proposal of universal application that could apply to a female poodle which runs across the road to find a male poodle, causing a horrible accident in which a person is killed. That is not unknown.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, the error of drafting in my amendment may have misled the noble Lord. I am not concerned with the causing of injury but with the direct result of an attack by a dog on a person. I am dealing with a dog which bites somebody and not the causing of an accident such as the noble Lord described.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I accept without qualification what the noble Viscount says; I always do. However, I am not sure that the scenario which I suggested tentatively could not still exist. I do not argue with the noble Viscount. Perhaps he is right and I am wrong. However, I am rather worried.
The. other problem is that irrespective of the context the noble Viscount is importing strict civil liability. That goes a long way beyond the criminal provisions contained in the Bill and the broad intendment as can be obtained from the Long Title. It is importing a totally new concept of strict civil liability which, if it is to be done, should require a report from the Law Commission. It would have to consider the matter and its importance in the context of dogs which are not especially dangerous but dogs which are dangerously out of control. In that civil context, with the greatest 324 respect, I do not believe it reasonable to ask the Government to legislate and to change the existing common law and case law on this aspect of the matter in a Dangerous Dogs Bill which is concerned only with criminal liability.
I say nothing about the merits. I have admitted that I sympathise with what the noble Viscount said.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway because he put into words of legal substance my views on the matter. I appreciate the anxiety which underlies the noble Viscount's amendment: we all do. When the noble Lord, Lord Richard, spoke to a similar amendment in Committee, he said that the matter was complicated. I do not believe that the Bill is the vehicle in which to vary significantly the complex law on civil liability. That is what the amendment would achieve.
I have looked carefully at the arguments put forward by the noble Viscount in Committee in support of the amendment establishing in law a strict liability for dog attacks and I have listened carefully to the points raised today, all of which are wholly understandable. I have great sympathy with the aim of ensuring that it is easier for the victims of attacks by dogs to claim from owner's insurance.
This is an issue full of complications. I am advised that if we wished to go down the route of strict liability we would need a rather more elaborate amendment than the one we are considering at the moment. To extend the cover more widely we would need to change the legal basis on which animal related liability is based and this would involve amending parts of the Animal Act 1971. We would not wish to do that without considerable thought and, as I said, I am not at all persuaded that major changes to the law on civil liability would sit comfortably in a Bill which up to now has been confined to the control of dogs and certain criminal offences.
What is more I do not think that we need to contemplate such significant changes in the context of this Bill. After it 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.
As noble Lords will appreciate, one of the things which the Bill does is to create a clear criminal offence in Clause 3(1) and Clause 3(3). As a result, a court can make a compensation order in any case where it wishes to do so. Clause 3(5) allows courts to take action to require any dog to be better controlled. The owner of a dog which bites a postman more than once is clearly liable in civil law for the damage caused.
For the first time in this Bill, victims of attacks by dogs should be able to gain immediate redress. That may provide the best answer to the noble Viscount's anxieties, which I understand. However, the amendment would make quite severe inroads into the legislation relating to civil liability. Therefore, perhaps the noble Viscount will be content with my assurances.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, my name is attached to this amendment and I have not yet had a chance to 325 speak to it. I appreciate what the noble Earl said, but I must take him up on one point. He says that the Bill is concerned mainly with the dangerous dogs specified in Clause 1 and potentially specified in Clause 2. However, in London only 23 per cent. of serious attacks were carried out by pit bull terriers which leaves 77 per cent. of attacks carried out by other dogs.
It is fine to take action against the 23 per cent. but that still leaves open a huge field of attacks on people who suffer severe and enduring injury and receive no compensation. It may be that the amendment is imperfect and we may have to return with something different at the next stage. However, it is not sufficient for the Government to say that they have dealt with the pit bull terriers and the Tosas, with one or two other helpful improvements in Clause 3 which have been mentioned, and leave it at that. We must address the injuries suffered by people in attacks from all kinds of dogs and not simply the dangerous dogs specified in Clause 1.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. I appreciate that my amendment may be inadequate to deal with the larger problems which it brings out. Again, I should like to consider the matter. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, for his intervention. I always respect what he says. He firmly supports the noble Earl in that this is an area which requires careful attention and this may not be the place to introduce it, at any rate in this form.
I accept the assurances given by the noble Earl and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 14 not moved.]
§ Lord Richard had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 15:
§ 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.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this morning I received a letter from the Minister dealing with the specific point raised in Amendment No. 15. I should like time to consider all its implications. It appeared to be pessimistic on the issue and I should not like to mislead the House that there was any great meat in it. I shall not move the amendment at this stage but shall revert to the matter perhaps at the next stage.
§ [Amendment No. 15 not moved.]
§ [Amendment No. 16 not moved.]
§ Clause 4 [Destruction and disqualification orders]:
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 4, leave out line 38 and insert ("treated for the purposes of enforcement as if it were a fine imposed on conviction.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 17, I shall speak also to 326 Amendments Nos. 18 and 19. These are largely technical amendments but respond again to the anxieties expressed in your Lordships' House at Committee stage. As I said then, the formula adopted in the Bill of recovering as a civil debt the costs of destroying a dog and of keeping it has been followed in a number of pieces of animal legislation hitherto. Unfortunately, with this formula, there are difficulties in enforcing the recovery of those costs, particularly in Scotland and lower courts in England and Wales.
§ We therefore brought forward these amendments so that the recovery of costs is enforceable. Amendment No. 17 does the trick for England and Wales. Amendment No. 19 similarly works for Scotland, where civil diligence is the proper formula. I urge your Lordships to accept the amendments which fully meet the anxieties expressed at Committee stage. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 5, line 20, leave out ("and").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 5, line 20, at end insert:
("(bb) for subsection (5) there shall be substituted—
(5) Section 411 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975 shall apply in relation to the recovery of sums ordered to be paid under subsection (4) (b) above as it applies to fines ordered to be recovered by civil diligence in pursuance of Part II of that Act."; and").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5 [Seizure, entry of premises and evidence]:
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 5. line 37, at end insert:
("(1A) The Secretary of State shall within three months of the coming into effect of this section lay before Parliament a statement that he is satisfied that the resources available in the first relevant financial year. or years, to police authorities and local authorities are sufficient to secure the effective implementation of their duties in relation to the control of dangerous and stray dogs, including duties arising under subsection (1) above.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we moved an amendment at Committee stage which was along the same lines as Amendment No. 20. The reason we are bringing it back is that we are still worried that the level of resources being made available to police and local authorities to carry out their duties under the Bill is insufficient.
§ The AMA survey of its authorities suggests that it makes little sense to separate out the functions of dealing with dogs under this Bill from the wider duties of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It believes that the categories under this Bill are dangerous and therefore it is wrong not to include it with the EPA. For example, it is possible that local authority animal welfare and dog wardens may be called to deal with an incident which proves to be a dangerous dog matter. It will initially involve duties under the EPA because the dog is or appears to be untagged and a stray. In that situation who takes responsibility and pays the price for whatever initial work has to be undertaken?327
§ At Committee stage the Minister said that £250,000 will be sufficient to cover incidental expenses that the police and local authorities will incur in enforcing this legislation. I remember he estimated that the cost would be at a rate of around 10 dangerous dog cases per local authority per year. We will be grateful to learn on what basis that figure was arrived at and how the cost was calculated. It. is at variance with what the AMA believes to be the case.
§ The AMA believes that local authorities and the police service will be faced with complex calls upon time and resources both under this legislation and under the EPA. It believes that an integrated approach is required not least because legislation has raised a great deal of public expectations. Placing some aspects of the Government's non-registration scheme out to an agency will also complicate the matter further. It is an area under the Bill about which we know very little.
§ Local authorities take the view that an integrated service, based on the fact that most authorities have an animal welfare service, will provide the best approach. It is possible that the Government, with their usual feeling for local government, failed to recognise the importance of providing a service which people understand and is acceptable to the public.
§ Finally, perhaps I may say that we do not believe the sums needed will be very high. Therefore an annual report on resources plus consultations with local authorities will easily settle disputes over the effectiveness of the service. Under the Bill as presently drafted a major problem could develop with no clear guidance on who takes the lead or counts the cost. The amendment asks for clearer guidance to be issued to the police service and local authorities covering dangerous dogs and the EPA provisions. The amendment will in no way disadvantage the Bill. There can be few objections to it and it will provide the assurances needed. I beg to move.
My Lords, I was interested by what the noble Baroness said in regard to the costs which will result because of the Bill. Without any disrespect to her, I believe that she is making a meal of the matter. I am sorry that the explanation that I gave at Committee stage regarding the financial effects of the Bill did not satisfy the noble Baroness. I shall try to do better now.
The amendment is framed in terms of the general duties of local authorities and police authorities for the control of dangerous and stray dogs. It therefore includes matters which go much wider than the Bill. It includes the enforcement of the Government's Action on Dogs package, which is due to come into force on 1st April 1992. That may or may not involve more resources. Whether it does so is extraneous to what is required under the Bill.
The Government are obliged to take into account any new duties which might fall on local authorities when they set levels of rate support grant. The Action on Dogs package clearly contains new duties for local authorities to round up, detain and dispose of strays and to enforce the collar and tag legislation. Those duties are set out in Sections 149 to 151 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
328 I understand that the Department of the Environment, which is responsible for the Action on Dogs package, met the local authority associations yesterday to discuss the new duties which will fall on local authorities next year. The local authority associations have told us that they are likely to spend £15 million or more a year on the extra duties which will fall on dog wardens as a result of the Action on Dogs package so they should have resources available for the seizure of dangerous dogs. I can assure your Lordships that the financial implications for local authorities under Clause 5 are only a very modest part of the duties which will fall to them generally.
In making sure that there are resources to cover additional burdens of this sort, it is very important that central Government and the local authority associations should get together to discuss the details. That is the process which is going on at the moment. It is up to the local authorities to make their case and for central Government to respond accordingly.
We have discussed with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Metropolitan Police the duties which will fall to the police service under the Bill. The police service in general has welcomed the powers which the Bill gives them to tackle dangerous dogs. It has also welcomed the fact that, as I have made clear to your Lordships, the arrangements which we have devised for administering the exemption and compensation schemes will ensure that police involvement in that aspect is kept to the absolute minimum. That is desirable both on grounds of cost and of efficiency, so that the police are not involved in processing paperwork but are able to do more productive things.
As regards the Bill, the task of the police and local authorities is relatively small. It is mainly seizing pit bull terriers and prosecuting their owners who break the terms of the certificates of exemption. The task also involves the seizure of dogs which are dangerously out of control and the prosecution of their owners. That is already done under the Dogs Act legislation. Under the terms of the Bill I do not believe that any of these measures should be expensive.
I can assure your Lordships that the usual processes are taking place already by which local and police authorities set their budgets in order to take account of any new burdens which might be placed on them. The Department of the Environment has already met the local authority associations to discuss all these matters. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will be satisfied. Although she may be concerned about the position of local authorities as regards the Action on Dogs package, the effects of the Bill on financial resources are quite slender.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the position so clearly, and also for telling us about the consultations which have taken place with the local authority associations. He did not say whether they have agreed that the estimated costs of their involvement under the Bill will he as low as the sum mentioned. However, I can only hope that the local authorities are satisfied. Having heard the Minister's explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 6, line 11, at beginning insert ("(a)").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 22 to 24. They all stand or fall together. Amendment No. 23, subject to your Lordships' view, cannot be put to a Division in its present form because Amendment No. 1 to Clause 1 (1) (c) must substitute "type" for "dog" in Amendment No. 23. Therefore, my amendment is defective and cannot be put to a Division. I am assuming that that is the case.
§ The effect of the amendment is to mitigate the rigours of the statutory regime under which there is an absolute offence created under Clause 1(2). There the Secretary of State designates a dog of a type which appears to him to have the characteristics of a type bred for fighting, notwithstanding the difficulties to which my noble friends Lord Radnor and Lord Peyton of Yeovil. referred.
Clause 5(5) presumes that the dog is a prohibited dog unless the accused shows to the contrary. My amendment is entirely fair and reasonable. I am not trying to alter the presumption. I am saying that,
a duly qualified veterinary surgeon who has examined the dog … shall identify the type of dog … the characteristics of a dog or the type of dog which presents a serious danger".
There are three categories and these can be shown on a certificate. That is not very onerous. As a matter of courtesy, I had a word with my noble friend the Minister. He wrote me a letter which I have just received. I hope that it is in order for me to refer to it. There was argument which I shall not go into at the moment. In the letter he says:
The British Veterinary Association have told us that there should he very little difficulty in proving that a dog is not a pit bull terrier".
We are not only concerned with pit bull terriers. There are three categories of dogs in the amendment which have to be identified. If there is any difficulty in proving that something is not something, it must be far easier, in a sense, to prove that it is something. I cannot see any form of reason or logic in this approach. There are three types of dog involved. Why should not the vet identify the types? Then the accused, 99 times out of a 100, will admit the veterinary certificate, as I said on the last occasion. That would be a reasonable resolution.
§ I shall be grateful to any noble Lord who is willing to spare a moment to comment on this matter because, for the reason I have mentioned, I do not believe that I am in order in putting the issue to a Division although I have given notice of the intention to do so. I beg to move.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, I do not know whether Amendment No. 23 is defective in another respect beside that mentioned by the noble Lord at the beginning of his speech. I notice that it refers to a "trial", and Amendment No. 24 refers to the "hearing". I take it that these two words mean the same thing. In that case, it is always a good idea to use 330 the same word if you mean the same thing because it stops people arguing that Parliament must mean different things if it uses different words.
However, more important than that, Amendment No. 24 states that if the accused wishes to rebutt evidence given by the prosecution, he has to give notice,not later than 5 days prior to the hearing".In most cases, the hearing is on an uncertain date. There may be a fixed date for a criminal trial; but usually the case is part of a long list and it is expected to be reached by a certain date. However, some of the cases in front of it in the list will take longer than expected, and others will collapse unexpectedly. It is quite uncertain what is to be the date on which the hearing is to take place. Would it not be much more sensible to start with the date when the accused is summoned to appear before the court, to go forward from there and say that if the accused wishes to rebut evidence he must give notice to the prosecution within so many days after the certain date upon which he is summoned to appear before the court? I submit that doing it in the way that the amendment suggests is unfair to the accused.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am bound to say that I have some sympathy with these amendments. I shall deal first with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. Those of us who practise in the courts know only too well that it is very true that one cannot guarantee the date upon which a trial will take place. On the other hand. I have not known of any case in which a trial has taken place in advance of the date for which it was fixed. What inevitably happens is that one does not get on on the date that one expects. Therefore, the hearing is postponed.
If someone is under an obligation to give five days' notice in advance of a hearing and a date is fixed for, say, 1st November, if the defendant gives his notice five days before and the case is then adjourned then no damage is done. The only damage would be if the defendant gives five days' notice before 1st November and the case is heard on 27th October; then he may find himself out of time. Therefore, I do not think that the practicalities of the argument justify the criticisms made by the noble Lord.
I am bound to say that I find in this package of amendments that my lawyer's instinct and my anti-dangerous dogs instinct to a certain extent seem to conflict. I do not like the situation in which the onus is placed firmly upon a defendant merely on the say-so of the prosecutor. As Clause 5(5) stands that is its effect when the prosecutor alleges that,a dog is one to which Section I or an order under Section 2 above applies it shall be presumed that it is such a dogunless the defence is in a position to disprove it.
There is something to be said for an amendment in which the discharge of that responsibility by the prosecution is spelt out in perhaps more detail than merely the rather balder provision in the Bill, which is that all the prosecutor has to do is to make an allegation. To that extent I find attractive the general thrust of the approach of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, in which 331 he specifies that there has to be some veterinary evidence upon which that presumption is to be based in the future. I do not quite understand why in his last amendment he has picked five days as opposed to 14 days Dr 21 days, which is what the clause at present states. I suppose that figure has been plucked out of the air. If it were 10 days that would give the prosecution plenty of time if it wished to try to rebut the defence evidence. I think that might be an improvement.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway was kind enough to write to me to let me know the reasoning behind his amendments. He was good enough to speak to me about them as well and for that I am grateful. As he quite rightly said, I wrote to him about the matter. I am only sorry that the letter was so late in arriving.
We all share the obvious anxiety behind the amendment, which is that we should be as fair as possible to those accused of the criminal offences in Clause 1 of the Bill. In order to secure that aim my noble friend would place the burden on the prosecution to prove that the dog in question was a pit hull terrier rather than on the accused person, where it lies at the moment, to prove that the dog in question was not a pit hull terrier.
The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that he found that his lawyer's interest was in conflict with his dangerous dogs interest.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl. I do not think that the effect of the amendment is technically to put the onus upon the prosecution. The onus under subsection (5) would remain on the defence but the prosecution would be able to make its allegation merely by the production of a vet's certificate. That is how I understand it.
My Lords, whatever the niceties, the fact is that my noble friend's amendment does raise a very serious point.
As I have said during earlier stages of the Bill, there is no precise scientific way of defining a pit bull terrier in law. It is a cross-breed dog. However, we can meet my noble friend's concern to protect innocent people from injustice by making a simple adjustment to the wording of Clause 5(5). I shall come to that point in a moment.
Perhaps it would be helpful if I said a few words about the reason why, in drafting the Bill, we placed the burden of proof on the accused. It is very widely known, particularly among those who breed and deal in fighting dogs, that the Government are taking action to prohibit the pit bull terrier. Everyone knows that. Those who trade in these dogs have had good notice of what the Bill will do. The offence of possessing or having custody of a fighting dog will not come into effect until November. Those who own these dogs will therefore have some three months to ascertain, in cases where there might be a doubt, whether or not the dog which they own is a pit bull terrier. That would surely be the first step taken by any sensible person who wished to take advantage of the exemption scheme and where he thought there was 332 any doubt. He would consult a veterinary surgeon or some other expert for his opinion as to whether the dog was a pit bull terrier and whether it would therefore be caught under the Bill. The British Veterinary Association has told us that there should be very little difficulty in proving that a dog is not a pit bull terrier. In many cases, therefore, those who own these dogs will at an early stage know for certain that the dog which they own is a pit bull terrier. That is an important point.
Perhaps we could consider what the burden of proof means. It centres on a simple fact. Is the dog in question a pit bull terrier or is it not? In that respect, the Clause 1 offences are somewhat different from other criminal offences in the general law in which the burden of proof which is placed on the accused person goes beyond a simple matter of fact to questions of intent or motivation. The requirement in Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which requires a person to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having a knife with him in a public place, is a good example.
There is nothing comparable to that in the Clause 1 offences. There is no question of proving a person's intent or motivation. I do not think that there would be an injustice inherent in requiring the owner rather than the prosecution to prove the question of fact. My fear is that if it were up to the prosecution to prove it, it would greatly add to the complexity of criminal proceedings and to the time taken by the courts to deal with what should be a straighforward question. The prosecution would have to prove on each occasion that the animal in question was a pit bull terrier.
I appreciate that my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway is anxious to be fair to those accused of offences and I share his aim. I have studied the points which he raised at Committee stage and the points which he has made to me in person and in writing. I hope that we can be helpful in some respect. I accept that if the burden of proof is to remain on the defendant—as I strongly believe that it should—then it is only fair to give the defendant a reasonable time to bring forward his own evidence on the simple question of fact. At present there is a requirement in Clause 5(5) for him to bring forward evidence no later than 21 days before the trial. It would he reasonable in the circumstances to allow the person to have a little longer, and I am happy to bring forward on Third Reading an amendment which would give an accused person longer and enable him to bring forward evidence up to 14 days before the trial. I made that point in the letter that I wrote to my noble friend. I hope that he will agree that that concession goes at least some way towards meeting his anxieties. I hope that he will be content with the assurance that I have given him.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken and my noble friend the Minister for his concession which, as he said, goes some way towards dealing with the procedural rigours and the unsatisfactory sense of oppression which arises for the defence; but it does not deal with the main problem with which your Lordships are concerned. The Government propose that the accused 333 person shall be convicted on the say so of the Crown without proof by a veterinary certificate. One can never get away from that fact.
It is easy to produce a veterinary certificate, as my noble friend says in his letter. In all fairness, those advising my noble friend must have misunderstood the position, because we are not just interested in pit bull terriers; we are interested in three categories of dog. Clause 5(5) relates to a dog:to which section I or an order under section 2 above applies".Clause 1 has, as we all know, within it two types of dog. It relates to pit bull terriers and the adorable Tosa. They are in one category. It then relates to dogs which have the characteristics of a type, or the other way around, which appear to the Secretary of State to be bred for fighting. There are two categories. Those characteristics are not so readily identifiable unless they are specified, as I have sought to suggest in the amendment.
The matter does not even end there, because my noble friend the Minister says, "Pit bull terrier, pit bull terrier, pit bull terrier", and refers to no other dog or dog having the characteristics of a particular dog or type of dog; but there is the other type of dog—the especially dangerous dog. Surely the accused is entitled to be told, by a veterinary certificate, whether the dog, which is a dog to which an order under Clause 2 applies, is within the category of a prohibited dog because it is especially dangerous.
I shall not go into this matter at greater length. I am grateful to your Lordships for your indulgence and assistance. I merely wished to put the logical objection to the Minister's presentation before the House so that consideration might be given on the next occasion to the problems that arise. I did take "5 days" out of the air, as suspected by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I thought that there would be an adjournment and that five days seemed fair enough. I accept that when the matter returns, the provision should be 10 days. At this hour your Lordships would not wish me to respond to the most helpful suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdrawn the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 not moved.]
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 25:
§ After Clause 5, insert the following new clause:
§ Offences by young persons
§ (" .—(1) Where a person who is less than sixteen years old commits an offence under—
- (a) section 1(2) (d) or (e) above or any corresponding provision of an order under section 2 above; or
- (b) section 3(1) or (3) above,
§ (2) In subsection (1) above the reference to the commission of an offence by a person who is less than sixteen years old includes a reference to conduct which, but for that person's age, would constitute the commission by him of that offence.334
§ (3) In the application of this section to Scotland for the reference to the head of the household of which the person in question is a member there shall be substituted a reference to the person who has his actual care and control.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, raised the question of the owner and keeper of a dog and how we should take account of the fact that children and minors may own or keep dogs and yet cannot, or should not, be held accountable for them in the same way as their parents.
We have looked carefully at the question of the use of the word "keeper". I have a number of letters from people who believe that "keeper" is the better word. There are indeed a number of precedents for using it and I understand why the noble Lord raised the point he did in Committee. However, we still feel that the phrase which is used throughout the Bill of,
the person for the time being in charge of the dog
is the right one. That is the phrase used repeatedly throughout the Bill. In Committee I gave the example that if I were walking my dog and it slipped its lead and galloped over a meadow, there could be a doubt as to whether I was its keeper. However, I should be:
the person for the time being in charge of the dog".
There can be no doubt about that. That phraseology is a simple concept which works better and more generally than the term "keeper" in the particular circumstances of the Bill. I do not believe that there would be any advantage in using the word "keeper" and there may be disadvantage.
The amendment goes on to pass to the head of the household liability for the actions of a young person under 16. That also reflects concerns expressed by your Lordships. However, in our enthusiasm to meet those concerns, I am afraid that we may have gone too far. The amendment as drafted would extend criminal liability to the parent of a boy who did his neighbour a good turn by taking his dog out for a walk. We do not consider it right that the boy's parents should be so included. That should not be a problem in practice. The Bill is drafted to give discretion to prosecuting authorities to choose whether to bring charges against, for instance, the owner or the,
person for the time being in charge of the dog".
In the case of the boy taking out his neighbour's dog and an offence having been committed, it would be perverse of the prosecuting authorities to use this amendment to choose to prosecute the boy's parents rather than the dog's owner. I am sure that it would not happen in practice.
§ Nevertheless, I believe that we should take the opportunity of Third Reading to correct the drafting. The amendment should probably not go wider than covering the case where the youngster is the owner of the dog for which his parents should also accept responsibility. In any other case, the Bill already provides that the owner can be held accountable.
§ I hope that your Lordships will accept the amendment on the understanding that on Third Reading I shall make a further amendment to cover that point. I beg to move.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I listened with great interest to what the Minister said. Would it not be better if he took the clause back and returned with it, as amended, on Third Reading rather than we pass it 335 now, so to speak, blind and then see what amendment the Government might wish to introduce on Third Reading? I make that suggestion because it seems to me to fit the position rather better than the one made by the Minister.
§ Lard Kilbracken
My Lords, I wonder whether I might ask the Minister a couple of questions. Can he say who the head of the household is in an ordinary family? Does not that lend itself to a certain amount of argument as to whether it is the father or the mother where it is not established by legislation? The second point is: what will happen in the case of a child who is at boarding school or staying with friends or relations 300 or 400 miles away from his house? It seems rather unfair that if a child commits one of these offenses when he is at a boarding school the head of the house in which he is living 100 miles away should be in any way responsible. In the same way, if he leaves England and goes to stay with friends in Scotland and the event happens there, how does the head of his household, who is back home in England, have anything to do with it?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, put forward a few examples. I am still trying mentally to run along with him to see whether I can give him the correct answers. If I may, I should like to consider what he said and contact him later. The main point is that there should be reference to the person who is in charge of the dog at the time. Obviously, if the person concerned was under the age of 16, the responsibility may be placed not on him but on the actual owner of the dog. However, as I said, I should like to study what the noble Lord said with more care.
As regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, I thought that it was important to table this amendment because it meets the concerns of many people. However, having put it down, we then realised that we would be meeting the concerns of your Lordships if we were to amend it still further. Therefore, I thought it would be convenient to explain what was in our minds and to point out that we shall amend it further at Third Reading.
However, I am entirely in your Lordships' hands. If noble Lords would prefer me to withdraw the amendment now and produce another on Third Reading, I am content to do so. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, nods his head in assent. Of course, I am always willing to be helpful. If that is the case, I shall withdraw the amendment on the basis that I shall return at Third Reading with a similar one appropriately amended. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 26 not moved.]
Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 7, line 9, at end insert ("but references to a dog injuring a person or there being grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will do so do not include references to any case in which the dog is being used for a lawful purpose by a constable or a person in the service of the Crown.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in bringing forward this amendment I was much influenced by the 336 points raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, in Committee. He was concerned about a point originally raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, on Second Reading. The amendment recognises the sort of issues my noble friend Lord Radnor had in mind when he moved his amendment to Clause 2 earlier. I do not think that, in the great majority of cases, the police or the military need fear falling foul of the "dangerously out of control" offences in Clause 3. The noble Viscount was right to make the point in Committee that animals used by the police are trained to the highest standards and are controlled with consummate skill and professionalism by their handlers.
§ However, no one can guarantee that there will not be incidents in which police dogs injure people. That may be for a very good reason; for example, an action by a police dog to stop a criminal making good his escape from lawful custody. It is not impossible that accidents will happen. In any event it seems entirely right, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, suggested, that the police and those who use dogs in the service of the Crown should be given protection if their dogs cause "reasonable apprehension" of injury, or injure people.
§ We both had the same idea but the credit for the amendment must go to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, who has been concerned about this matter for some time. I beg to move.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, I should just like to say how grateful I am to the noble Viscount and, indeed, to the noble Earl for their full response to the concerns which I expressed in Committee. Those concerns have borne fruit in the Government's amendment. I received a telephone call this morning from the chief inspector who is in charge of dogs for the Metropolitan Police area. He was overjoyed with the amendment because he was most concerned—as, indeed, were other police officers—about the problems they may have faced had such an amendment not been tabled by the Government. I am extremely grateful. I assure the noble Viscount that all those who are concerned with dogs that come within the ambit of the amendment feel likewise.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, while I agree that the amendment should be included in the Bill, there is no doubting the fact that the legislation will raise questions as to what dogs the police will be permitted to use. At present, so far as I am aware, the dogs being used by the police are not prohibited under the Bill. For example, I am not aware that the police are using pit bull terriers, and they are certainly not using Japanese Tosas.
However, the moment the police are allowed to use dogs that are prohibited—that is, if such a situation ever occurs—the issue arises as to whether the police should be allowed to use dogs which are so fierce and dangerous while the public citizen may never have one for his own protection. Having come into contact with police training of dogs and having witnessed a demonstration at Crufts by the police of their dogs, 337 there can be no doubt that, for sheer ferocity and danger, they are a very formidable form of police protection. They will even attack in riot conditions.
I believe that we may have to raise the question of using live animals in riot control. It is a savage way of dealing with alleged rioters. In many cases, people are not rioting; they are merely being crushed and swept along with the crowd. I utter the warning that I think the issue of the use of dogs by the police, in view of the terms of this Bill, may well arise in a future criminal justice or police Bill. For the present, we can leave police dogs out of the matter.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 7, line 14, at end insert:
("( ) The operation of this Act shall be subject to review not later than 30th November 1993.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the final amendment to be considered on Report. It is a peculiar Bill. I say that because it may not be an ongoing Bill. Its purpose is, in due course, to bring the dogs provided for in the Bill under control, to prohibit breeding and to encourage euthanasia. As I said, it is not an ongoing Bill; it is a Bill which will shortly have exhausted its purpose.
§ Unless new breeds of dogs are brought in which have a population within our boundaries, there will be no work for the Bill to do. The ban and the prohibition for the future can remain, but its operation among citizens will be redundant. None of us can foresee how the Bill will work in practice, how enforcement will be made possible, what problems will arise if enforcement is difficult and what problems may arise if there is a considerable amount of passive resistance.
§ All those aspects raise question marks over the future of the Bill. Therefore, it is important that it should not be allowed to linger on. Although I do not expect noble Lords on the Benches opposite still to be occupying those Benches in 1993, I think that they may nevertheless take and interest in the appropriateness of the Bill undergoing review. Quite apart from all else, by 1993 I shall be 95 and it will give me a purpose in life. I should like to see the end of this wretched Bill. If I can possibly survive to 95 to see it reviewed and abolished I might even live a bit longer. In those circumstances I have a personal interest to declare. I want to be here when this Bill is finally discontinued because it is of no further value to the nation. I beg to move.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I am bound to say that I was not in favour of my noble friend's amendment, but I regard his final argument as a clincher.
My Lords, I liked the noble Lord's final argument too. We all hope that he will be here in five years' time, but not to see the end of this Bill. He might not be here in five years' time if he goes on hugging Tosas. It really is a dangerous occupation. I somehow got the impression throughout this Bill that 338 the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is not greatly enamoured with it. It is a good Bill. It has a fairly limited effect, which is to try to deal with dangerous dogs.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, says that it will be finished in five years' time. Of course that is not so. Clause 1 deals with fighting dogs, and it may be that it will have had its effect. The reserve powers of Clause 2 will still exist for use in the future, should it be necessary that certain dogs ought to be muzzled or kept on a lead. Clause 3 refers to all the powers for keeping dogs under control. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would like to see all that go. I think the noble Lord was in error to think that Clause 3 would be of no use five years' hence.
His method of dealing with it is to write into the Bill a requirement that the Government would review the operation of the Act by 1993. Of course the noble Lord does not say what the Government should do once they have reviewed the Act. I suppose he has in mind that they should let your Lordships know the outcome of the review. Of course the noble Lord knows very well that the Government keep all Acts continuously under review, and if he wants to know what is happening he can, as he knows only too well and as he does only too well, put down Questions to find out the position.
It goes without saying that we shall be keeping the operation of this Bill under close scrutiny. In doing this we are aware that at any time your Lordships can put down a Question and ask the Government to report on the operation of this or any other piece of legislation. That is the best way to ensure that the operation of the Act is kept under review. I can tell the noble Lord that we shall collect statistics of the prosecutions—we are great collectors of statistics—for the various offences under the Act, and we shall review its operation.
In five years' time if the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, cares to—and I do not invite him to do so —he can put down a Question as to how the Act is operating, and I hope that I shall be able to be here to tell him how it is working. I think that that is the best way to deal with it, and not to have his amendment in the Bill.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I do not know where this five years comes from, because 1993 is not five years' time, it just happens to be my 95th birthday that year.
My Lords, if I may say so, that was the confusion. The noble Lord used the number five in his argument, and that was why I inconveniently thought that it was five years' time, but of course it was the noble Lord's 95th birthday.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment, because I think that in all the circumstances I can take steps to get the workings of the Act reviewed before 1993 probably just as effectively as if I included it in the Bill. I agree that the amendment does not say what the Government should do. Usually when you ask somebody to review something they understand that 339 you want to take stock of how far it has gone, its purpose, how it is working, and then come to some conclusion about the future.
However, I can excuse the noble Earl for having no particular concentration on this item; he may well be a Member of your Lordships' House but I doubt whether he will be sitting where he is now. Anyhow, there is no ill feeling anywhere on either side as to who will survive to review this Act. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.