Mr. Jim Callaghan
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will announce the Government's conclusions and intentions on the recommendations of the report of the Inter-Departmental Working Party on Dogs.
§ Mr. Shore
In the light of a wide range of views expressed in response to the invitation to comment which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State gave in his foreword to the published report, the Government accept the main finding of the working party, that the burden of responsibility for control of stray dogs should be transferred from the police to local authorities which should have explicit discretionary powers to run dog warden services.
The Government have also formed the view that, as the responsibility for t1–1,. size and running of these services would become a matter for the local authorities to determine, each in the light of its own individual circumstances, serious consideration should also be given to conferring on them powers to determine the level of licence fees in their particular areas.751W
I would stress that these changes in the system would entail changes in legislation, which, as my right hon. Friend has already explained to the House, is not feasible at present. But I am most anxious that the Government should in the meantime see how the very real problems local authorities are frequently faced with in this area can be helped within existing financial constraints.
I therefore propose to initiate early discussions on all these matters, in particular local determination of licence fees, with the local authority associations as well as with the animal welfare societies and other bodies concerned with the problems of the control and welfare of dogs.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be making separate proposals which will take account of the particular situation in Northern Ireland.