§ 10. Mr. Latham
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received regarding the workings of the legislation relating to cruelty to animals and what reply he has sent.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
We are making it clear, in reply to a number of representations that we have received recently, that the Government are wholeheartedly committed to combating cruelty to animals. We support the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway)) to double the maximum penalties under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. We have given careful thought to the proposal that the police 1209 should have a power of entry to investigate allegations of cruelty to animals, but this would not be appropriate. We are looking carefully and sympathetically at other proposals for changes to the legislation.
§ Mr. Latham
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that the proposals put forward by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to modernise the 76-year old Act of Parliament are generally very constructive? Will he give an assurance that these are being seriously considered in the Department with a view to some action being taken on this matter?
§ Mr. Hogg
This issue is of the greatest importance, and therefore the Government are giving urgent and sympathetic consideration to what we can do to improve protection for animals. We are, to start with, considering extending the banning powers. The question is whether we can also extend the protection under the 1911 Act without at the same time putting at risk legitimate country sports. I shall not in any way support measures that will put those at risk. But yes, this is a very important matter.
§ Mr. Heffer
Does that mean that the Government, in looking into the question of cruelty to animals, are continuing to accept that there should be hare coursing, stag hunting and fox hunting? Is that not a contradiction in terms? If it is agreed that we should look into the question of cruelty to animals, surely we should also decide that the time has come to get rid of these so-called sports?
§ Mr. Hogg
I make no apology for explaining my own personal position. I have always enjoyed and participated in country sports, including shooting and fishing. I make no apology whatsoever for that. In a democratic society people have a right to do that and there is no way that I would seek to surrender that right.