§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill seeks to regulate the keeping of boarding establishments for animals and for purposes connected therewith. As the law stands at present, anyone may start a business for the boarding of dogs and cats on his premises irrespective of whether the premises are suitable and in spite of the fact that he has little or no knowledge of animals and may even have been prosecuted for cruelty to animals in one form and another.
This has been a matter of grave concern to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for many years. While there are certainly some boarding establishments which are quite satisfactory, reports from R.S.P.C.A. inspectors throughout the country make it only too clear that there are many others which are quite unsuitable for the housing of animals, with unsatisfactory or no proper kennelling, lack of exercise facilities, inadequate supervision, poor ventilation, and many other unsuitable features.
I have examined the reports of the R.S.P.C.A. inspectors dating from the autumn of 1956 and based on evidence collected from all over the country. In each area there are reports of overcrowding, no proper cleanliness, poor drainage, and few precautions to prevent the spread of disease. In fact, some owners obviously run the business purely for profit with little thought for the comfort or well-being of the animals which they board.
The Pet Animals Act, 1951, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), who is here, I am glad to say, to support me today, has undoubtedly done a great deal to improve the standard of pet shops throughout the country. In a similar way, the Bill aims at improving the standards of premises where dogs and cats are boarded. Huddersfield Corporation was so concerned about animal boarding establishments that in the 1595 Huddersfield Corporation Act, 1956, it included a Section which laid down that all such premises in its area should be registered and inspected. The passing of the Bill would have the effect of extending the improvements of the Huddersfield Corporation Act to such premises throughout the country.
I am glad to say that the Association of Municipal Corporations has expressed its support for the Bill. That very important Association agrees that legislation is needed to provide for the inspection and licensing of all establishments where animals are boarded. I can well understand that after reading the reports of R.S.P.C.A. inspectors, to which I have referred. If the Home Office has not seen them, I should be glad to provide copies. I have been informed, too, that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons would welcome legislation to regulate the provision of accommodation for pet animals, provided that due attention is paid to the professional responsibilities of veterinary surgeons in this matter. I realise that they established that principle in the Huddersfield Corporation Act last year and I should certainly be prepared very carefully to consider their views in Committee.
Under Clause 1 of the Bill all animal boarding establishments must be licensed by the local authority on payment of a fee not exceeding 40s. The local authority has the right to lay down conditions on the licence applicable to the premises in question. Under this Clause, local authorities are given guidance as to the points to be borne in mind when determining the granting of licences. These concern such things as suitable accommodation respecting the size of the establishment, the number of animals kept on the premises, exercising facilities and such items as temperature, lighting and ventilation, cleanliness, precautions against the spread of disease, the supply of suitable food and drink for the animals and the keeping of a register of animals housed on the premises.
Owners of animal boarding establishments who are refused a licence by the local authority, or who are aggrieved by any condition laid down in the licence, are given the right of appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction in the place in which the premises are situate. Such court may give directions in respect of 1596 the issue of licences, or in respect of the conditions subject to which a licence is to be granted. It will be noted that it is proposed that the licence shall remain in force for 12 months, as it is in the case of licences issued under the Pet Animals Act, 1951, in relation to pet shops.
In this way it would ensure that the owners of animal boarding establishments would see that their premises did not deteriorate and that the conditions laid down on their licence would continually be complied with, as otherwise they would run the risk of losing their licence, or being unable to renew it after the expiration of 12 months.
Under Clause 2, local authorities are empowered to appoint one of their officers, or approve a veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner, to inspect animal boarding establishments in their area at all reasonable times, with a view to ascertaining whether an offence has been or is being committed. The Clause also gives local authorities power to order the closing of such premises or part thereof on the advice of a veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner in the event of an outbreak of infectious diseases. It is an offence for the owner wilfully to obstruct or delay any person in the exercise of his powers of entry and of inspection.
Clause 3 is a penalty Clause, under which a person guilty of an offence under Clause 1, for example, running an animal boarding establishment without having obtained a licence, or failing to comply with conditions laid down by the local authority, is liable to a fine not exceeding £25, to imprisonment not exceeding three months, or to both such fine and imprisonment. For obstructing or delaying a person in the exercising of his powers of entry or inspection, an owner is liable to a fine not exceeding £25.
In addition, persons convicted of any offence under the Bill, or any offence under the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act, 1912, or the Pet Animals Act, 1951 may have their licences cancelled, or be disqualified from keeping a boarding establishment for such period as the court thinks fit. There is, however, a right of appeal. Clause 4 explains itself.
Clause 5 is the interpretation Clause which lays down, among other things, that animal boarding establishments shall 1597 include private dwellings which are Often used for such purposes. It does not include premises or part of the premises of veterinary surgeons or veterinary practitioners.
§ Wing Commander Eric Bullus (Wembley, North)
Would my hon. Friend consider including in that provision the exemption of greyhound racing establishments, which are supervised by veterinary surgeons, an exemption which was included in the Huddersfield Corporation Act?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I shall be pleased, in Committee, to consider what he has said, if the Bill gets to that stage.
It does not include the premises or part of the premises of veterinary surgeons where animals are under treatment, nor the part of premises kept by a person under the authority of a licence granted under the Pet Animals Act, 1951. Some pet shop proprietors do, however, also board animals and it is intended that in such instances they should be licensed for such purpose in respect of that part of their business. It will be seen that the expression "animal" in the Bill means any dog or cat, as it is, in general, only those animals which are boarded at such establishments.
Finally, I should like to point out that the Bill is non-controversial. I am heartened to have supporting the Bill the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) who has kindly agreed to second the Motion. I was encouraged when reading the Second Reading debate on the Pet Animals Measure to see what my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Miss Hornsby-Smith) then said. In 1951, after a rather discouraging reply from the Home Office, she talked about their lukewarm attitude to the Bill.
If my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary is feeling at all cold-hearted today, he should remember the words his colleague used then, which will warm his heart. If the House thought it right, in 1951, to pass the Pet Animals Act, I am sure that it would be right to follow that course with this Bill, which has had a wide measure of support not only in the House, but in the country as well. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and that time 1598 will be found to complete all its stages so that it can go to another place and become law before the Session ends and be put into force next January.
§ 11.19 a.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I beg to second the Motion.
The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) has made an agreeable and persuasive speech. When a few years ago I spent some days in Clacton in a vain endeavour to stop the hon. Member being returned to the House, I did not anticipate that the time would come when there would be an issue on which we would be in such complete agreement and on which he would do me the honour of inviting me to second a Motion. I accept his invitation with pleasure. I am very glad indeed to have the opportunity of seconding the Motion in a purely personal capacity and not, of course, on behalf of the Opposition.
About six years ago I had the privilege of seconding the Motion for the Second Reading of the Pet Animals Bill, which was introduced by the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell). I think it would be true to say that this Bill is really a pendant to that Act. In the Act of 1951 the hon. Member for Wembley, South sought to regulate conditions in the case of animals being offered for sale. Now we seek to regulate the conditions in which animals can be boarded in these establishments. As such, I think this is a most valuable Measure, and I hope that the Second Reading will not be opposed.
I know there are criticisms of some of the provisions of the Bill, to which the hon. Member for Harwich has very properly referred. For example, I understand from my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who at one time was Minister of Agriculture, that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has misgivings about some of the provisions of the Bill. I think there might well be some force in the criticisms which it makes. I therefore welcomed the conciliatory references in the speech of the hon. Member for Harwich and also in his reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing-Commander Bullus). I think, however, that all these points of criticism are essentially Committee points. Some 1599 of them are not dissimilar to those we had to thrash out in the case of the Pet Animals Act, 1951. I am sure that with reasonable good will on all sides they can be cleared up during Committee stage to everyone's satisfaction.
The hon. Member for Harwich referred to reports drawn up by inspectors of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I remember that when I was a member of the Council of that Society we felt great concern on this score. Our anxiety was not allayed by the fact that the inspectors have no right of entry to these premises. I understand that no one has right of entry unless it can be proved that there is ill-treatment sufficient to constitute cruelty or neglect under the provisions of the Protection of Animals Act, 1911. In consequence, the efforts of R.S.P.C.A. inspectors are frequently frustrated.
One of the inspectors in Kent wrote on 1st October, 1956, about a boarding establishment in his area:… this woman is very peculiar in her ways, and never allows an owner of a dog she is boarding to enter her premises. She always meets the dog at the end of the farm lane, and returns it to the owner the same way. The premises as a whole are in a filthy condition. …Of course, if she takes that attitude to the owners of the dogs, she would not be likely to co-operate very enthusiastically with inspectors of the R.S.P.C.A. Another inspector reported on 24th September, 1956, about an establishment in North London that the proprietress:… will not allow any person whatsoever to enter her kennels, so I cannot report on their suitability, …The reports of inspectors, therefore, are necessarily inadequate, but in my view they are sufficient to create some proper apprehension that things are not always exactly as they ought to be in these establishments.
The hon. Member for Harwich has referred in rather general terms to the reports of the Society. I wish to mention one or two specific examples to illustrate his general thesis. The first example I give is about bad conditions in one of these establishments. It comes from a report made by an inspector of the R.S.P.C.A. in North Wales, on 26th September last year. He describes the premises as follows: 1600… The kennels are inside brick buildings which at one time must have been used for stabling horses. The walls are infested with rats and mice, and the premises are very dirty. The insides of the buildings are very dark and no electric lights are available (oil lamps or candles are used). There are no precautions taken to prevent the spread of infectious disease or fire. During the summer months there is a tendency to overcrowd. …The report adds that the proprietor:has been warned several times. There is very little room to exercise the dogs in the yard, and at no time does he exercise them in the streets or fields. …Another example comes from Nottinghamshire and is taken from the report of an inspector on 1st October, 1956. He describes an animal boarding establishment in this way:… His kennels consist of a converted stable with about 12 dogs pens built round the side, some 3' × 6' in size—lighting is poor—ventilation is poor—the place is dirty, no lime wash or paint—littered with rubbish—feeding dishes were rusty and dirty—drinking bowls were not provided, he claimed that the dogs went out in the yard and drank from a trough —a large courtyard is there for exercise—straw bedding was wet and dirty.…A third example relates to the unsuitability of some of the people who are at present responsible for running these establishments. This example is one which was provided by the R.S.P.C.A. inspector in Sussex on 20th September last year He described the premises by saying:The whole premises are very unsanitary, no lighting, and no precautions regarding the spread of disease. Three dogs have escaped from these kennels within the last month, and no attempt has been made to recapture the dogs. The kennels are run by a girl of about 16 years … I think she is totally unsuitable to run such an establishment …It seems to me to be wholly wrong that it should be possible to set up an establishment for boarding animals with no regard to the suitability of the premises or the character or competence of the person setting them up. I think that is just as wrong in the case of boarding establishments for animals as in the case of pet animal shops.
Six years ago, thanks to the hon. Member for Wembley, South, Parliament decided to end one abuse with regard to pet animals. I hope that today we shall extend still further the protection we give to animals and that, thanks to the persistence of the R.S.P.C.A. and the enterprise of the hon. Member for Harwich, today we shall write a new page in the history of animal welfare.
§ 11.27 a.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I very much welcome this Bill. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) on introducing it, and to thank him and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) for the kind references they have made to the Pet Animals Act, 1951, which, through good fortune in the Ballot, I was able to introduce in this House. I think that Measure has done some good. As has already been pointed out, this Bill continues into boarding establishments for animals the work which that Measure did in relation to pet shops, pet stores and market stalls.
I think there is a clear case for this Bill. I know that some people will say that we have to prove that legislation is needed before introducing a Bill like this and that this subject can be covered by the Protection of Animals Act, 1911. I think it is quite clear, from the examples quoted by the hon. Member for Rossendale—and I could quote some more but do not want to detain the House unduly —that that Act does not go far enough to stop abuses of this kind. What we want to aim at is prevention rather than cure. That is exactly what is aimed at here.
I hope that on this occasion my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State to the Home Department is going to be able to give the Bill his blessing and to do everything possible to help it through the House. On the previous occasion I very well remember that the then Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), made what I thought was a very lukewarm speech and left us rather with the impression that the Home Office was not very enthusiastic until Mr. James Hudson, the then hon. Member for Ealing, North, described the Home Office as… the great refrigerator of all warm-hearted movements.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 592.]I have a feeling that that taunt rather goaded the Home Office into taking a different attitude. After that, as I think will be agreed, we had nothing but help and co-operation from the then Under-Secretary in getting the Bill through Committee and, finally, through Third Reading. Therefore, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to give 1602 enthusiastic support to the Bill today and all possible help to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich in piloting it through its remaining stages.
There is another reason why, in these times, it is very desirable that we should consider a Bill of this kind, especially when one considers the crimes that go on in other countries. As we know only too well, some countries still practise slavery. There are others which practise the brutal torture of human beings. Therefore, I think it shows us up in a better light when, instead of having to consider things of that nature, we can turn our thoughts to the prevention of cruelty to animals, a subject which I am sure is of the utmost interest to most countries of the Western world. On the whole, great strides have yet to be made in certain parts of the world before they reach anything like the lengths to which we in this country have gone in the prevention of cruelty to animals.
In taking this further step and in removing cruelty and unsatisfactory conditions in animal boarding establishments, we are doing a good thing for the country and for civilisation as a whole. I hope there will be no question about the Bill getting a Second Reading and that it will not be long before it is on the Statute Book and in operation along with the Pet Animals Act.
§ 11.32 a.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I, too, should like to add a word of welcome to the Bill and to express my thanks to the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) for bringing it forward. If I may comment on what the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) said about my right hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), I think it would be true to say that, but for the great help which we received from him during the Committee stage of the Pet Shops Bill, the proceedings might not have been as harmonious as they were. If I recollect aright, they were concluded within just over an hour and we were able, with the help of my right hon. Friend and that of his Department, to get the Pet Animals Bill through all its stages. It is now an Act of which we are proud. If I had had any luck in the Ballot ahead of the the hon. Member for Harwich, I should have chosen this Bill to introduce.
1603 I have in my constituency, a lady, highly qualified, who keeps a model cattery. I took advantage of that fact to ask for her comments on the Bill. She is an expert on matters of this kind, and she extends a very great welcome to the Bill. I hope that I may be permitted to draw attention to some of the points which she made to me in order that the hon. Member for Harwich, and perhaps the Home Office, may take them into account before the Committee stage of the Bill. I speak as though that stage were a certainty, because I am sure that the Home Office will not object to the Bill and that the House will do all it can to facilitate its passage.
The first point made by this lady was that she feels that a veterinary surgeon ought to be consulted in case of illness. That rule applies in her establishment, and I think it is a very wise precaution. Whether we can include such an obligation in a Bill of this kind, I am not sure, but perhaps its promoter will consider the point.
Clause 1 (2) states that the fee for granting a licence may be any amount up to but not exceeding 40s. I wonder whether it would be more practicable for a specific amount to be inserted in the Bill. Clause 1 (3, b) refers to animals being exercised daily. On that, my constituent says:I think you will appreciate that cats could not as a rule be exercised in the same way as dogs, except in so far as the housing quarters are of a size to enable them to exercise at will.
§ Mr. Hayman
This lady has a very great knowledge of Siamese cats, which I do not share. We have not kept any pet animals for many years simply because we thought that it would be cruel to them as we have to be away so often. The lady goes on to say:We ourselves find shelves for vertical movement of great importance in cat pens.On Clause 1 (3, c) she says:Adequate isolation facilities will certainly be interpreted differently by different authorities, and in the case of feline infectious enteritisthe prevention and the control of the diseasewould hardly be possible without very special precautions and equipment not usually used by vets.1604 With regard to Clause 1 (3, f) my constituent says:As far as the Bill is concerned, what would be the advantage of keeping a register, and who would have the powers to inspect it?I would certainly want to see a register of animal boarding establishments, and I presume it would be inspected by an officer of the local authority. Whether the police would have that right, I do not know. That is a point which, perhaps, the hon. Member for Harwich will take into account. With regard to Clause 1 (4) this lady asks:Can a local authority have costs granted against them in the event of a successful appeal?That, again, not being a lawyer, I do not know. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will tell us when he replies. On Clause 2 (1) she says:I suggest the officers of a local authority entitled to enter premises for inspection should be more carefully specified, or it should be left to the veterinarian appointed by them.Would the public health inspectors assigned to this job, if they were so assigned, have any special qualifications for the task?
On Clause 2 (2), which deals with an outbreak of infectious diseases, my constituent asks whether it is possible for the diseases to be specified. That is a point that might well be considered, because, in a Bill of this sort, it is desirable for the terms to be as precise as possible. On Clause 5 (1), the lady asks:Why would not the Act apply to veterinary premises where animals are kept for treatment for more than twenty-four hours? Is this already covered by an existent Act? Such premises are often without any but the most primitive means for quarantine and isolation and this might undo the provisions of Clause 2 (1).I think that my constituent probably speaks with some knowledge on this point, and, therefore, in spite of what the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may say in criticism of the Bill, perhaps that body might comment on this lady's criticism of this provision in the Bill. Clause 5 (2) is, I think, the definition Clause. On that, my constituent says:'Animal' should surely apply to any bird or mammal, since parrots and monkeys are often boarded under inadequate conditions.I am not competent to speak—
§ Mr. Hayman
This is a Bill which I should have thought the hon. and learned Member would have taken seriously.
§ Mr. Doughty
I do not think this is a serious Bill, and if I succeed in catching Mr. Speaker's eye I propose to treat it with the ridicule which I think it deserves.
§ Mr. Hayman
The hon. and learned Gentleman can make his own speech when the time comes, if he succeeds in catching your eye. Mr. Speaker.
I am informed that the Cats Protection League is in process of making a model boarding home for cats, and I think that that fact might be brought to the notice of the promoters of this Bill. I hope that we may rely on the support of the Minister, because without it the Bill will founder, and I am hopeful that the precedent set by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln in 1951 will be followed.
An old friend of mine who was a magistrate—he has now passed on—once said to me, "When a person is convicted of cruelty to a child or an animal, I fine him hard, because neither a child nor an animal can act or speak in defence of itself." I think that expresses the feelings of the vast majority of people in Britain, and for that reason I support this Bill.
§ 11.42 a.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I hope that on a Friday, or, indeed, at any other time, I shall not be accused of jeering when addressing this House. I fundamentally disagree with almost every word of this Bill, and I cannot congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), who ordinarily speaking is so sensible in everything he does, on having sponsored this Measure. When they look at the Bill with a little more care, I am sure that hon. Members will treat it with the ridicule which it so richly deserves. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I hope they will, but hon. Members may speak as they please.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
While appreciating what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has to say, may I point out that he did not come into the Chamber when I was making my opening speech? He did not hear the point. I made, when introducing the Bill, that one of my reasons for doing 1606 so was that the Huddersfield Corporation thought fit to introduce a Measure of a similar kind in 1956; and that, secondly, it has the support of the Association of Municipal Corporations. I hope my hon. and learned Friend will consider that before he talks about ridiculing this Bill.
§ Mr. Doughty
I was about to say that I did not hear the first few minutes of my hon. Friend's speech, but I heard the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood). I am sorry if I disagree with the Huddersfield Corporation, but I shall not sleep any less soundly by reason of that. Nor indeed was I the least impressed by the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), who talked about cruelty to animals. It is always easy to arouse sympathy in that way, as indeed did the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman). But when we talk about it we must be certain that the matters we are discussing have some relation to the statements we are making.
Although I did not hear the first few sentences of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich, I did hear the speech of the hon. Member for Rossendale, and I listened with care for any reason which he could put forward to show that there was the slightest necessity for this Bill. The real objection seemed to be that inspectors of a private society could not enter private premises to make their own inquiries. The hon. Gentleman referred to one or two reports over the whole country, I think there were three in all, to show that there were cases and incidents which had been reported to him, through the society, of where there had been undesirable boarding. "One swallow does not make a summer," neither do two or three incidents make a case.
§ Mr. Russell
There are many more examples which could have been quoted, but we did not wish to detain the House.
§ Mr. Doughty
When one is bringing in a Bill it is important to give some grounds to show the necessity for it. I am pointing out that there are no grounds for this Bill.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Has my hon. and learned Friend bothered to acquaint himself with the contents of the report of 1607 the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the evidence contained in it?
§ Mr. Doughty
I have not read the report, but I listened to the excerpts given by the hon. Member opposite. I read the Bill, and it did not impress me in the least.
So far as I know—here I am open to correction—if anyone wishes to keep a boarding establishment for human beings —unless they wish to sell intoxicating liquor and thus bring themselves within the ambit of the licensing laws—they can do so without the slightest difficulty. If anyone living in a residential neighbourhood by the sea wishes, during the summer months, to let two rooms to anyone and board them for a holiday period, they can do so. Yet, if this Bill becomes law, if they wanted to board a cat or a dog, they would have to get a licence from the local authority. Are we not becoming a little over-sensitive? Shall we not make ourselves look ridiculous if we pass this Bill to protect dogs and cats, and, as the hon. Member opposite said, canaries and elephants—
§ Mr. Doughty
—when we are not doing the same thing for human beings? Just think what would possibly happen, according to the wording of this Bill. Suppose three or four people were going away on holiday and they knew that Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith round the corner, for some reason, was not going away—
§ Mr. Doughty
We can call him anything we like—call him Mr. Smith.
These people who are going on holiday go round to Mr. Smith and say, "Look here, we are going away on holiday and Fido will be alone. Will you put him up? Will you put up Tibbles as well, because they hate to be parted?" Then there might be six or seven animals all boarded in a private house and the 1608 owner would be fined for doing his neighbours a kindness.
Of course, it would have to be done for gain, I realise that. But there is no reason why people should do it for nothing, and so it is done for gain. Because this man has obliged a few of his neighbours, for gain, he is guilty of an offence; whereas, had he put up the son or daughter of his neighbours while they went on holiday, he would not be guilty of any offence at all. And so I ask hon. Members to treat this Bill with the ridicule it so richly deserves.
Think of the position of local authorities. Upon them is put the burden of carrying out the provisions of this Bill. Are they to hold council meetings to decide whether animals of the same sex are to be exercised together? That is what the Bill says. Or are they to decide whether the animals should be exercised every day; or whether a pet poodle requires more exercise than a collie; or whether mongrels are fit to associate with thoroughbred dogs of ancient lineage? The thing becomes ridiculous.
Are people who have been elected to the council, because of their knowledge of local affairs—whatever their politics may be—and because they know what the neighbourhood requires, how streets should be lit and roads swept, solemnly to decide whether reasonable precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of infectious diseases among animals? Goodness me, the whole thing becomes ridiculous. They would merely consider a report from a veterinary surgeon who had been sent round to investigate, and he, in fact, would be the arbiter of these questions.
I am not surprised to hear that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is against this Bill. Veterinary surgeons would not like to take on any such work.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. and learned Friend, because I have great sympathy with his views. But I cannot find any reference in the Bill to the question of how animals should be exercised. I wonder whether my hon. and learned Friend would develop that side of his argument and draw the attention of the House to the part of the Bill which covers that point.
§ Mr. Doughty
It was something which the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne said. He was talking about exercising. I will read all the things which have to be done.
It was "exercising facilities." Whether "exercise" would be included in "exercising facilities—
§ Mr. Ridsdale
The hon. and learned Member said that he is not surprised that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is against the Bill. It has made certain proposals, but it is not against the Bill.
§ Mr. Doughty
I hope that its proposals are such as to wreck the Bill.
Again, upon appeal, magistrates' courts are to be burdened with questions of whether appropriate steps have been:… taken for the protection of the animals in case of fire or other emergency.What does that mean? I ask as a lawyer. One would have to go into court and discuss with the magistrates whether adequate facilities were provided against fire. Does that mean a fire escape for the animals, and buckets of water for them to throw upon the fire? What does it mean? It has no meaning at all as applied to this type of premises. If we are to have this at all, why confine it to dogs and cats? Let us not burden local authorities and veterinary surgeons with this wholly unnecessary duty. Let us leave matters where they are.
Generally speaking, right throughout the country, establishments of this kind must be carried on reasonably well, because owners are interested in their pets. If they are interested enough to pay for their keep, they are interested to see that they are reasonably well maintained. Let this House reject the Bill on the ground that it is unnecessary and pettifogging. We shall make ourselves somewhat of a laughing stock in the country if we allow the Bill to go even to Standing Committee.
§ 11.52 a.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
First, I wish to commend the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) and to say that I am glad that he sought the sponsorship of my hon. 1610 Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), whose work in animal welfare is well known and whose support of the Bill gives it quite a respectable all-party look.
I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) and to that of the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), who spoke, I thought, somewhat testily. It was most unusual for him. I am bewildered as to the ground upon which this testy feeling is based. I can explain it only in terms of Lewisham, North. That might have had a most unusual effect upon hon. Gentlemen opposite—an effect which does not in any way inflict itself upon me.
To return to the Bill, the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East mentioned elephants. I thought that he was making a humorous comment, but he appeared to take it quite seriously, so let me tell him that elephants are subject both to licence and to inspection in accordance with the provisions of the Performing Animals Regulation Act, 1925. Usually, they are not kept as pets so much as for the purpose of performing before the public. It is not usual for the House of Commons to do, in 1957, what has already been done in 1925, and I expect that the hon. Member for Harwich had that in mind when he drafted the Bill.
§ Mr. Doughty
May I assure the hon. Gentleman that neither towards him nor any other Member, still less towards you, Mr. Speaker, do I feel in the least bit testy. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that what he says may well be true of performing animals, but that it would not include elephants kept as pets or those kept in zoos, small or large?
§ Mr. Moyle
I will now resume the line I was trying to follow.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is an eminent lawyer and I am glad that the hon. and learned Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is present to keep what I hope will be a friendly eye on the Bill. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will agree with me when I say that, since you assumed your high office we have had a whole series of Bills which have dealt with varying 1611 aspects of animal welfare. I would suggest to the Under-Secretary that it would not be a bad idea if, in the spare time available at the Home Office, he were to consider doing for animal welfare what has already been done about Income Tax, to prepare a consolidation Bill so that we may have a consolidated Act of Parliament covering all aspects of legislation on animal welfare.
As I understand, the Bill asks that those who run boarding establishments for cats and dogs for gain should be subject to licence and inspection. Those hon. Members who took part in the Second Reading debate of what is now known as the Pet Animals Act, 1951, urged an extension of that Measure to cover the establishments now under discussion. Those with knowledge of rural districts know that that is where most boarding establishments exist. There are relatively few in the large towns.
If one consults any provincial newspaper one finds certain people advertising for sale a whole series of different breeds of dogs and cats. Why? These people buy them up when they have a chance and they hold them in boarding establishments and then advertise to get a ready sale. I have seen some of these places. I have seen dogs—not cats—penned up without any evidence of either water or proper lairage conditions, while the owner has been away for the whole day. I have tried to ascertain the conditions under which some of these places are run, and I have satisfied myself that there is a strong case for subjecting them to some kind of law and provide licensing, under certain prescribed conditions, and inspection.
I have not the slightest hesitation in supporting the Bill. I wish the hon. Member for Harwich every success in his effort to place it on the Statute Book.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I want to take up some of the points that have been made by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle). I was surprised to hear of his experiences in examining kennels and animal boarding establishments and finding that they were not maintained at high standards. I know several boarding establishments for animals in Devonshire, but none like 1612 those to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I have always found them maintained in the highest condition. The people who run them are real lavers of animals and usually know far more about the proper maintenance of animals than do the owners themselves.
I oppose the Bill, which is quite unnecessary. I have a dog. I have to put the doe out to a kennel establishment sometimes when my duties compel me to attend the House of Commons. I have put my dog into several kennels in the vicinity of my constituency and have always found him extremely glad to go there and almost unhappy to come home again. Whether that is a reflection on my handling of him I do not know. I have never seen any sign of my dog being miserable when going to the kennels.
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) for missing his opening remarks. I am not satisfied that the need exists for amending the law. Clause 1 (3) sets out the conditions for the granting of a licence by the local authority for the keeping of a boarding establishment. The first condition is:That animals will at all times be kept in accommodation suitable as respects size of quarters, number of occupants, exercising facilities.What does that mean? If a cat in a boarding establishment is ill and the lady running the establishment decides that, in the interests of the cat, it will be best to take it into the house or possibly to keep it in her bedroom to have it under observation, she will lay herself open to prosecution for so doing, and be liable, under Clause 3,on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds.She might also have her livelihood taken away from her, or her licence suspended. That is rather heavy going against an unfortunate woman who, in the kindness of her heart, takes an animal into her house from the cage or kennel in which it is normally kept. Why she should thus offend against the law and bring its whole majesty against her is something I cannot understand.
Reference has already been made to "exercising facilities". My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey. East (Mr. Doughty)—I was sorry I had 1613 to intervene in his speech—mentioned the difficulties experienced by animal boarding establishment keepers when this kind of animal protection is carried to extreme lengths. Should poodles be exercised with retrievers or spaniels with tame elephants? Some people may wish to keep a tame elephant as a pet. We are the centre of a large Commonwealth and some of its inhabitants look upon elephants as desirable pets. I understand that some of them keep pet elephants and certainly do not look upon them as animals who merely perform at the circus.
Clause 1 (3, a) refers totemperature, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness.What does this mean? Is the person in charge of a boarding establishment to have a list of the temperatures at which various animals are to be maintained? Must a snake be kept at one temperature and a monkey at another? In point of fact, the people who make use of these establishments take great care that their animals are properly kept. They would not take a monkey to an establishment that had no facilities for looking after it. Monkeys have to be kept in a fairly warm temperature. They cannot run around in the yard when there is snow on the ground. It is not necessary for such matters to be defined in regulations issued by local authorities.
Subsection (3, b) of Clause 1 proposesthat animals will be adequately supplied with suitable food, drink and bedding material, exercised daily, and (so far as necessary) visited at suitable intervals;What does all this mean? Does anyone suggest that people in the business of looking after animals will not support them with suitable food, drink and bedding materials? How long would their businesses last if they did not? Nobody would board animals with them and they would be out of business very quickly.
More than that, they would be liable to civil action by the persons making use of their establishments, and if an animal had been treated cruelly there are sufficient powers under existing laws for action to be brought against those responsible. I cannot believe that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would allow anyone to get away with that sort of behaviour.
1614 Subsection (3, c) proposesthat all reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent and control the spread among animals of infectious diseases, including the provision of adequate isolation facilities.That is a reasonable suggestion but in most boarding establishments for animals the first thing to do is to try to make certain that animals taken in have no infectious disease.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Does not my hon. Friend appreciate the extreme difficulty of ensuring that a dog, for example, is not carrying the germs of some acute infection when it is taken in? It is sometimes impossible for a kennel keeper to ascertain an animal's condition.
§ Mr. Williams
I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised that point, because it enables me to develop the argument that it is not always practicable for a veterinary surgeon to make sure that an animal has not some incipient disease when it is left at the establishment.
All I am saying is that if, in the course of its stay in the kennels, the dog, the cat, or the elephant, starts to develop a complaint, to protect himself the keeper of the establishment would either have the animal removed to the veterinary surgeon, with whom such people already work in close contact, or he would have isolation facilities in his own establishment to which the animal would quickly be removed. He knows that if he gets a wave of infectious disease through his establisment, the first thing he would do would be to have trouble with his customers. If my clog came back with mange, I would not be likely to send it to the same establishment again in case it got pneumonia, hard pad or any other complaint.
Next, what is meant byappropriate steps will be taken for the protection of the animals in case of fire or other emergency"?Everybody takes appropriate steps for the protection of his or her property. I live in the country, a long way from the fire protection facilities that are enjoyed by townsfolk. Indeed, in the part of Devonshire where I live, if my house caught fire, it would be extremely difficult for it to be put oat if I relied upon the fire brigade from Exeter, or some other city, because there is no water and no 1615 powerful hydrant which can be connected. As a result, I have a liberal supply of fire extinguishers in my house. That is the normal precaution that any person of intelligence takes.
Surely the person who is in business, trying to exist by making—I hardly dare mention the word sometimes—a profit, would not be so silly as to run the chance of his whole business being destroyed because he had not had the sense to visit one of the well-known companies, whose products can be seen lying around the Palace of Westminster, and purchase a few fire extinguishers. So I do not believe that that provision is at all necessary.
Then we come to the usual bits of interference with the liberty of the subject under paras. (e) and (f) of subsection (3), thatat no time shall more animals be kept on the premises than are provided for in the licence.When a person has kennels for large dogs like Great Danes, and, possibly, each kennel is suitable only for one Great Dane, if a friend comes to ask whether the proprietor could take in his two fox terriers and put them in the same kennel, the Clause would prevent this in case the number of animals throughout the whole establishment exceeded the number specified on the licence.
Then we come to the proposalthat a register be kept.Anyone in business keeps some form of register. He has to keep in touch with his customers. He might want to circulate them with a Christmas card and he would not be likely to lose touch with the people who provide him with his livelihood. It is quite unnecessary to bring into a Statutethat a register be kept containing a description of any animals received into the establishment (including sex and approximate age)"—I do not know why that is included—date of arrival and departure, and the name and address of the owner, such register to be available for inspection at all times".
§ Mr. Doughty
Is my hon. Friend aware that such requirements are not necessary even in the register at the Ritz?
§ Mr. Williams
I do not make frequent use of the Ritz. It is an expensive hotel to which Socialists with expensive tastes can afford to go.
§ Mr. Williams
I am quite certain that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East is right in saying that under the Bill more particulars would be required about a cat in an animal boarding establishment than are required of any person making use of the facilities of any hotel throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. That is making heavy weather of it.
I do not think we want this sort of statute embodied in our legal system. I am certainly not satisfied, from the evidence I have heard adduced so far in this debate, that the need for such legislation exists. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) is getting a little nervous, but I have almost finished.
§ Mr. Williams
I am not satisfied that there is need for such legislation where animal boarding establishments are concerned. I hope, therefore, that the House will not give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 12.16 p.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I support the Bill and am proud to have been one of its sponsors. I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) that I am not at all nervous, because I am not an animal, but if I were an animal and my future rested with my hon. Friend, I should certainly be nervous. My only other comment about his speech is that, having heard him, I can now understand why his dog is always so anxious to go to a kennel and so reluctant to come home.
I was much more interested in the speech by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), although I must agree with an hon. Member opposite that my hon. and learned Friend was a little testy and, indeed, at times venomous, and that his speech rather lacked humour. Any humour that there was fell very flat and the testiness was unnecessary. I thought that the case made by him as a learned member of the Bar was a very bad one.
My hon. and learned Friend said that there was no evidence whatever of cruelty to animals in boarding establishments and my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter 1617 said that the boarding establishments which he had visited were well run. If that is so, those managing them have nothing whatever to fear. My hon. and learned Friend then drew a parallel between the boarding of human beings and the boarding of animals. I considered it an extremely bad comparison. I have never yet known of any human being who goes to a boarding house for holiday or any other purpose who is unable to free himself entirely and to walk out of the front door if he so wishes. It is, however, quite impossible for any animal confined by human beings in a boarding establishment, in a kennel, in the hold of a ship or any other place, to free itself from the evil surroundings in which it might be penned by the human beings who send it there.
§ Mr. Williams
My hon. Friend says that if the establishments which I have visited were properly run their owners would have nothing to fear, but they have two things to fear. One is the constant, unnecessary irritation of inspection and the second is the provision that they must pay 40s. a year, which, in my view, is unnecessary.
§ Mr. Burden
My hon. Friend speaks of "constant irritation". Does he really imagine that a constant stream of inspectors from the local authority would be visiting establishments every day? That was a rather foolish statement by my hon. Friend. Furthermore, my hon. Friend made a strong point of the ability of people to run these places at a profit, but now he suggests that the payment of 40s. a year would break them. If that is the case, and if they do suffer hardship in finding 40s, then my hon. Friend himself has made the strongest possible case for their inspection.
§ Mr. Williams
My hon. Friend misunderstands. Numbers of people keep boarding establishments for animals as sidelines. A man's wife may, perhaps, keep kennels for, say, half a dozen dogs. It could be a burden to her to have to pay 40s. as proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. Burden
Now my hon. Friend is submitting that animal boarding establishments are kept as sidelines and not really as businesses. I wish he would make up his mind whether the keeping of an animal boarding establishment is a business or whether it is not.
1618 Whether or not the animal boarding establishment is run as a sideline the person keeping it is dealing with animals which have feelings. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter laughs. He appears to think it funny that animals should have feelings. That makes it all the more evident that I was quite right in writing off his speech by ascribing to it only one valuable piece of evidence, that the action of his own dog justifies the action proposed by the Bill.
§ Mr. Burden
My hon. and learned Friend laboured the question of children and said that, although we were asking for these powers for the licensing of people who care for animals, people could send their children to boarding establishments which are not subject to such examination as we propose for animal boarding establishments. The answer to him is that parents and children would very quickly react if the children were not cared for properly.
Another argument against the Bill is that if the keepers of animal boarding establishments did not properly feed and water the animals left in their care, they would very soon be out of business. Hon. Gentlemen who take that line show an utter disregard and lack of knowledge of the treatment which is sometimes accorded to animals by people who profit by it. They should know that it is possible to send animals on a long sea journey, as has recently been done, without proper feeding, without proper watering and without proper accommodation.
§ Mr. Doughty
That observation is quite irrelevant to this Bill. Those animals are not sent in boarding establishments. Whether my hon. Friend be right or whether he be wrong, that question of the transport of animals is now the subject of an inquiry ordered by the Government. Is it right for him to prejudge the findings of that inquiry before he knows whether its findings will be in accordance with what he has stated. The matter is sub judice.
§ Mr. Burden
The Minister has already said that he is very greatly concerned by that question. I am merely reiterating what my right hon. Friend said. I am 1619 surprised that my hon. and learned Friend should so readily spring to his feet with that suggestion, which would imply, of course, that he has very little concern for the feelings of animals. I am rather surprised at him.
§ Mr. Doughty
My hon. Friend has no business to say that at all. It is not a question of having no feelings for animals. I have not said anything of the sort. I said two things, and I remind him of what they were. They do not justify his remarks. The first was that what he said about the transport of animals had nothing to do with this Bill, which does not deal with the transport of animals. The second was that that question of the transport of animals is now sub judice.
§ Mr. Burden
I would remind my hon. and learned Friend that the question about the treatment of animals, the question of how they should be treated—because people profit by it—was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter. I feel myself to be on perfectly sound ground in rebutting those arguments against the Bill and in pointing out the evidence that is available at the moment. I would ask my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East not to become so testy. He is getting really very testy.
§ Mr. Doughty
I admit I was testy just now, but I was testy on that occasion only, and my hon. Friend will realise why I was. It was because he made an accusation against me that could not be founded upon my remarks. I reminded him of what those remarks were.
§ Mr. Burden
If I have misunderstood my hon. and learned Friend and have given offence, I of course apologise most sincerely.
Then it was said that the local authorities would be against the Bill because it would involve them in the cost of examining kennels and other animal boarding establishments, that they would not wish to do it, and that council meetings would be taken up in determining whether or not a boarding establishment should be licensed.
I would inform hon. Gentlemen of circumstances that arose in my own con- 1620 stituency. Some boarding kennels had been established there for quite a considerable time. They were established long before the area in which they were sited was developed. Houses were built there afterwards. When that area had become more residential there were complaints that the animals were causing inconvenience to the residents. It was said that because of the area in which they were sited the kennels were causing a considerable amount of nuisance. Petitions were brought before the local council and a great amount of the council's time was taken up in deciding whether or not those kennels should he allowed to remain where they were or should be removed.
One of the advantages of this Bill is that it empowers local authorities to ensure that kennels are sited acceptably lo the local authorities, and then the owners or occupiers of the animal boarding establishments, provided they ensure that the regulations are kept, can be assured that they will have local authority support in carrying on their animal boarding establishments where they have been placed.
I would remind my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East that the Association of Municipal Corporations, speaking on behalf of the local authorities, welcomes the Bill It has said this of the Bill:The Bill, which is due for Second Reading on Friday, 15th February, proposes the licensing by local authorities of boarding establishments for animals and closely follows the provisions of the Pet Animals Act. 1951. The Association is in favour of the introduction of this legislation, and I shall be grateful if you will, if possible, help to ensure that the Bill receives a Second Reading. The Association has a number of particular comments to make for improvement of certain of its provisions, but these do not take away from the general welcome which the Association gives to the Bill.My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey. East and my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter would be on much better ground if they were to give the Second Reading of the Bill their blessing and then, in Committee, to put forward Amendments to improve or to delete parts of it which they consider to be unnecessary or unwise.
Eminent members of the veterinary profession whom I have consulted generally 1621 give the Bill a welcome. They consider it a wise precaution which is justified in present circumstances. Of course, they think—and I have no doubt my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State will have something to say about this—that the 15 quarantine kennels which are run by registered veterinary surgeons, and which are inspected, which are open to inspection by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, should not be interfered with. I think that we who have sponsored this Bill readily accept that there are some such small points which require further consideration. There are some difficulties, of course.
Here I can produce evidence which largely destroys the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter. I have received a report from my veterinary friends that one difficulty is that a great many people, because the boarding establishments are not registered, and because they are not under supervision, prefer, when they go away from home, to ask veterinary surgeons to board their animals, because they are sure that the animals will be really cared for by the veterinary surgeons.
Another point is that registered breeders accept some dogs for boarding. These are all matters which can be thrashed out in Committee and I hope that, having expressed his views so forcibly, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East, and my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter will assist us in making this a really good Bill and not do their utmost to destroy it at this stage.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)
I should like to join in the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) on his good fortune in securing a place in the Ballot and on what seemed to me the excellent speech with which he introduced the Bill. Indeed, the debate generally has been a very useful one, with the arguments on each side put well, cogently and temperately.
The purposes which animated the promoters of the Bill will command general sympathy and assent, not least among those who have spoken against the Bill. It is intolerable that animals which have 1622 been domesticated by man, which give him faithful service and devotion, and which perform such useful functions for him, should be, at the hand of man himself, the subject of neglect and suffering.
The welfare of animals has been for many years the subject of much legislative activity on the part of private Members. Indeed, this is a subject which is peculiarly suitable for private Members, because the emotions aroused by cruelty to animals are common to all Members of the House. Almost all the statutes on cruelty to animals originated in legislation initiated by private Members, and that includes the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, and several Acts which have amended that main Act, some quite recently, including, the Pet Animals Act, 1951, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member far Wembley, South (Mr. Russell).
There are also a number of other Acts dealing with particular problems. The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) referred to the desirability of consolidating that legislation. I will certainly draw his observations to the attention of my noble and learned Friend, who is concerned with that aspect of legislation.
The fact that there has been this legislative activity and that the purposes which animate the Bill command general assent, does not mean that Parliament is prepared to look at animal welfare Bills uncritically. The number of Acts which have reached the Statute Book is small compared with the number of Bills introduced. The reason is a perfectly proper one. Strong as are the emotions aroused by any thought of the ill-treatment of animals, the House is not prepared to surrender its reason and judgment in this or any other matter. If draw attention to certain disadvantages in the Bill, the House will recognise that this is done for the purpose of assisting the House in arriving at a reasoned and balanced decision.
Reference has been made to a speech by my predecessor, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) on the Pet Animals Act, 1951. It was described then and described again today as lukewarm and, on one occasion, as even refrigerating. I know that that was not 1623 put forward as a serious criticism, because the House will recognise that the Home Office, of all Departments of State, is specially concerned with the liberty of the subject. That aspect must also be emphasised and the fact that it is put forward to the House does not denote any lack of sympathy with the aims of the promoter of the Bill and his supporters.
The Bill is concerned with people who, for gain and as a matter of business, provide accommodation for animals; and nobody has suggested today that there is anything discreditable in that. On the contrary, these people perform a useful service. That is not to say that it may not be, as any other useful service may be, the subject of abuse and that abuse in this sphere should not be the subject of scrutiny by the House.
As things stand, there are no restrictions on people who undertake this sort of business, except the restrictions imposed by the general law, which includes the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, and a corresponding Scottish Act, which make it a punishable offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal by wantonly doing or unreasonably doing or omitting to do any act. That largely covers, though in general terms, the objectives which the promoters of the Bill have in mind.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), and my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) in a very effective speech, claimed that the general law is not sufficient. A similar claim was made when the 1951 Act was introduced. It can fairly be said, as it has been said, that to establish the commission of an offence under the 1911 Act it is necessary to prove to the court that suffering has occurred and that the aim, the very proper aim, of the supporters of the Bill is to ensure that public authorities may be in a position to step in where there is any neglect, or where there is risk of neglect, before the actual suffering occurs.
The Government accept that there is a substantial degree of truth in that fact. On the other hand, I must point out that the Bill would place onerous re- 1624 strictions on people who keep animal boarding establishments. At present, they are free to carry out their occupations subject to the general law, including the Protection of Animals Act, but if the Bill were passed they would be able to carry out their occupation only by permission of the local authority and under conditions—
§ Mr. Burden
This is a rather important point. They will be able to carry on only under the authority of the local authority, but is it not true that if there is an objection to a boarding establishment on the grounds of inconvenience to other people in the area the local authority at present can bring pressure to bear through the courts because of nuisance and can have that boarding establishment closed down? That has happened in my constituency, whereas if the local authority has the power which the Bill proposes it will ensure that the establishments are so sited that they do not cause inconvenience, while giving security of tenure to the applicants.
§ Mr. Moyle
There is another aspect of the same point. The Under-Secretary said that these people could carry on their business only with the permission of the local authority. I do not read the Bill in that way. Their present right would remain intact. The only condition is that they must subscribe to certain conditions of the licence, laid down by the local authority in accordance with the Bill. Their right remains as intact under the Bill as it ever did.
§ Mr. Simon
May I reply, first, to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham. It is, of course true, and this a point that I have already made, that at present there is freedom to carry on these activities, subject to the general law, which includes the law of nuisance. Whereas now they can carry on their lawful avocations, subject only to the fact that they must not carry them on in such a way as to create a nuisance to their neighbours, under this Bill they can only do so if licensed, and that brings me to the point made by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen.
I think I am right in saying that these activities can only be carried on by permission of the local authority, because all these establishments under this Bill are only lawful if they are carried on under 1625 the authority of a licence granted by the local authority.
§ Mr. Hayman rose—
§ Mr. Simon
I will certainly give way later, but I think it may well be that I shall be answering the points proposed to be made in due course.
I have said that the local authority has a power under this Bill to licence, and the conditions which are set out and the fulfilment of which may be the subject of the licence, may involve a good deal of trouble and indeed of expense to the licence holder. I am not only referring to the 40s., but to the expense that would be caused in many cases in fulfilling the conditions laid down in the Bill.
Before agreeing to the imposition of such restrictions, the House would require to be satisfied that that course was justified. I think that that is so in the case of any infringement of a liberty which, up to now, has been enjoyed by Her Majesty's subjects. The Home Office has received no complaints from the public alleging unsatisfactory conditions in these boarding establishments. On the other hand, the House will have heard the evidence that was given by my hon. Friend in moving the Second Reading and also the cases given by the hon. Member for Rossendale and by other hon. Members who have spoken in support of the Bill.
That evidence has been offered to the Home Office before the debate this morning, but I am not in a position either to support or deny it, because there is simply no way of checking it. At the same time, it is produced by gentlemen who are experienced in obtaining and assessing evidence in this matter. This is a matter on which the House will have to make up its mind whether it is satisfied on the evidence that has been placed before it that a case does exist to justify the restrictive nature of the Measure which it is being asked to pass into law.
If the House decides to give the Bill a Second Reading, it is the view of the Government that the Bill provides an apt way of dealing with the problem, and that, subject to examination of its details, to which I will come in a moment, it would provide workable machinery for the object which my hon. Friend and other promoters of the Bill have in view. The licensing procedure is similar to that in the 1951 Act, and, as no complaints 1626 have been received by the Home Office about the operation of that Act, I think it can be assumed that the Act is functioning smoothly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham gave examples of matters of detail which would need attention, and I would only refer to two matters which, though they are really matters for the Committee stage, might usefully be discussed at the moment. One of them was referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Doughty), and concerns the definition of animal as cat or dog, and, if the House decides to give the Bill a Second Reading, I agree that it might be a matter for scrutiny.
I could not help noticing that at the time monkeys were mentioned, the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) left the Chamber. I hope that it is not only in the North East coast area where the story is known which involves the history of the monkey washed up at The Hartlepools and which was immediately recognised as a Napoleonic spy. I think that there is a case, and the House might think there is a case for examining this, for seeing whether that definition may not be unduly restrictive, although I readily concede that the special problem is that of the cat or dog boarded out.
There is one other matter to which I should refer, and it is the definition of "officer" asany person appearing to a local authority to be specially qualified by his character and experience to carry out the functions assigned;I do not know whether that is intended to cover the officers of the various voluntary societies, but if it does it is a new principle, not only in this legislation, but in all types of legislation. Similar proposals have been made in similar Bills in the past, including the 1951 Bill when it was before the House, and they did not find favour with the House. That, however, is a Committee point, and if the Bill does receive a Second Reading now it will require to be covered.
§ Mr. Hayman
I am not sure, but I rather think that that point was discussed when the Protection of Birds Act was before the House, but perhaps that debate might be examined to see whether any reference to officers was made in it.
§ Mr. Simon
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, whose suggestion is a valuable one. If the Bill does receive a Second Reading, the point would undoubtedly be found to require scrutiny.
I have tried to balance the arguments, and the House will carefully examine the arguments which have been put very ably on both sides. If the House thinks that, on the evidence before it, there is a case for the Bill, I can undertake to give such help in Committee as I can to shape the Bill into a proper instrument to carry out the purposes which my hon. Friend and the other hon. Members who have spoken in support of it have in mind.
§ 12.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I came here with an open mind, quite willing to be convinced either way about this Bill, but I do hope that the few visits that some of us make to the House on Fridays will not give the impression, which to some extent this Bill has given, that unnecessary laws can be brought into being because private Members are allowed to use Fridays for this purpose.
It appears to me that it is so easy now to be a breaker of the law. We have so many laws that it is impossible to know whether one is breaking the law or not. One has only to drive or walk outside this House half-a-mile and see many lawbreakers because of the thousands of pedestrian and traffic orders that are in existence. Now we are suggesting that we ought to have the same sort of thing in respect of people who look after animals.
I am an officer of a very strong branch of the R.S.P.C.A. As president of the Birmingham area branch, I would have thought that the Association would have made strong representations to me on this Bill if it had thought for a moment that it was necessary for the protection or the well-being of animals. The Association is diligent in looking into such matters, but I have heard nothing from it.
§ Mr. Hayman
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, I will only say that from my experience—even though I am not an officer of the R.S.P.C.A.—when the time for the Ballot on Private Members' Bills came along I received a questionnaire, which I thought was general, asking whether I would be prepared to introduce 1628 this Bill if I should be lucky in the Ballot.
§ Mr. Burden
My hon. Friend says that he has had no letters about the Bill, but I do not think that he would deny that the Rent Bill is an extremely controversial one. Will he say how many letters he has received about that one?
§ Mr. Gurden
I think that I have had about seven letters on the Rent Bill, some in favour and some against. I know that the Rent Bill would not put the animal lovers off writing to me. They are very strong in Birmingham on such matters and it surprises me that they have not written to me. I am not denying that hon. Members may have received some representations from animal lovers or, indeed, from the R.S.P.C.A., but it surprises me greatly that the Association has not seen fit to ask me to support the Bill if it thinks it necessary.
§ Mr. Doughty
If the R.S.P.C.A. was fully behind the Bill, it could have addressed itself to private Members, and I have not heard from it.
§ Mr. Gurden
That is precisely my point, that in Birmingham there is a very strong branch of the R.S.P.C.A. I may not be doing it justice; it may have thought that I would automatically support the Bill.
§ Mr. Burden
I am sorry to intervene again, but there is an all-party animal welfare group and a notice was put on the Whip that it was meeting. The R.S.P.C.A. officials were there and they naturally assumed that those who would wish to speak on the Bill would come to the all-party meeting to hear the pros and cons of it.
§ Mr. Gurden
That may well be. I should make it clear that I am speaking for the Birmingham branch, which is a strong branch covering an area of well over 1 million people. While the representatives of the R.S.P.C.A. who came to the House may well have supported the Bill, it does not seem to me that the general body of members of the Birmingham branch are very worried about it. I am not suggesting that they would oppose the Bill; I am only saying 1629 that they are not worried about it and do not think that it is necessary.
Furthermore, for my sins or otherwise, I was chairman of the Council of Birmingham's Markets and Fairs Committee, and there we have a large body of veterinary inspectors working for the corporation. Those inspectors were in the habit of inspecting the animal establishments in the city, particularly stables and riding schools. It was a well-known fact that the inspectors were so good at their job that they would report any cruelty or misdemeanour on the part of animal keepers. I was serving on that committee for nine or ten years, and never at any time do I remember a veterinary inspector reporting trouble from people who boarded animals. This also leads me to believe that there is no real necessity for the Bill.
Now I come to the other point about which I am unhappy but which possibly could be dealt with in Committee, that is the type of person who is willing to take in a neighbour's dogs or cats. I happen to make use of these people. It is of great concern to me that my animals should not only be well boarded and cared for, but happy. So I frequently take them to friends who keep a number of other animals. Some of these people are not always wealthy and I try to pay them generously, knowing that they are doing me a favour and will do it to the greatest advantage of the animal. As has been said earlier, such people do not provide elaborate boarding kennels. They take my dog into the house and see that it is happy with the other animals.
I am sure that this Bill will prevent me from taking my animals to be looked after to the best advantage, and this will apply to many thousands like me. I cannot imagine that these good people will run the risk of breaking the law. I cannot imagine that they will go to the local authority and pay 40s. and build kennels.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
If I may interrupt my hon. Friend, I think he realises that I am absolutely in agreement with what he is saying. May I point out that those unfortunate friends of his will also be subject, if this Bill becomes law, to a fine of £25 or a term in prison not exceeding three months?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I can assure my hon. Friend that the points he has raised will be dealt with sympathetically during the Committee stage. It is a matter of being tolerant in these cases. We want to be sure that people are not keeping the kind of boarding establishments of which we have heard from the R.S.P.C.A., which are very bad indeed.
§ Mr. Gurden
I thank my hon. Friend for that interruption, because it is encouraging to know that if this Bill should receive a Second Reading we should be able to make useful Amendments to it.
Continuing on that point, may I refer to my hon. Friend's statement that other animals may have to be brought in? That concerns me even more, because my children's ponies are in the care of a neighbouring farmer. We are happy about the arrangement, but I am sure that it would not pass the local authority. That farmer would not allow me to put my animals into his field if he had to get a licence and have a veterinary inspector examining the place. There are also the penalties, which have been referred to, if he should be in breach of this Measure.
On the whole, I feel that this is one of those cases where there may well be a reason for looking into the position further, for having a full investigation made over a period of twelve months by local authorities who have veterinary inspectors, afterwards telling us the facts in the case and whether or not such a law is really necessary. As I said earlier, I do not think we should use Fridays to bring in laws which we could well do without.
Finally, no one should interpret my remarks to mean that I do not wish to do everything possible for the welfare of animals. I should be shot at in Birmingham by the R.S.P.C.A. members if they thought for one moment that I had missed doing something which I could have done today for the benefit of animals. However, I have yet to be convinced that the Bill would serve any useful purpose. I throw out the suggestion, for what it is worth, that a long-term investigation should be carried out to ascertain whether or not it is necessary.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ Bill accordingly, read a Second time.1632
§ The House divided: Ayes 45, Noes 5.1631
|Division No. 63.]||AYES||[1.2 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Neave, Airey|
|Benson, G.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Partridge, E.|
|Beswick, Frank||Hayman, F. H.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Body, R. F.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Redmayne, M.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hunter, A. E.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Bryan, P.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Keegan, D.||Wigg, George|
|Campbell, Sir David||Lagden, G. W.||Willey, Frederick|
|Cunningham, Knox||Lipton, Marcus||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.(Nantwich)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mikardo, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)||Mitchison, G. R.||Mr. Ridsdale and Mr. Russell|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Pott, H. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gurden, Harold||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Mr. Doughty and Mr. Dudley Williams.|
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).