§ LORD AILWYN
had given notice of his intention to call attention to:—
and, with a view to remedying these matters, to move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that the charge for a dog licence shall be increased from 7s. 6d. to 20s. 0d.; that dogs shall be licensed at the age of 8 weeks, instead of 6 months; that the penalty for keeping an unlicensed dog shall be increased from £5 to £10; and that Her Majesty's Government shall introduce early legislation to give effect to these recommendations.
- (1) The numbers of road accidents in Great Britain in which dogs are the cause or a contributory cause;
- (2) the vast numbers of stray dogs that roam and overrun the streets and roads of this country;
- (3) the numbers of lost dogs that fill the lost dogs' homes throughout the land;
- (4) the neglect of dog owners in general to comply with the law that all dogs must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed thereon;
- (5) the miserable conditions in which many dogs are kept—underfed, under-exercised, inadequately housed, generally uncared for;
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, moves his Motion may I ask the guidance of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, because I personally should like to keep not only within the Rules of Order but within the rules and customs of your Lordships' House; and I find myself in some difficulty with that part of the noble Lord's Motion which turns itself into a Resolution. Would the noble Earl the Leader of the House give us his guidance on whether it would be fitting for your Lordships to consider a Resolution which has the effect of increasing taxation?
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is a very vigilant watch- 924 dog, and I am grateful to him. I would not for one moment question the right of my noble friend Lord Ailwyn to table a Resolution in the terms he has, still less your Lordships' right to consider such a Resolution and to deal with it in any way you please. However, I think it is not perhaps the best plan to move a Resolution in terms which propose a rise in the level of a particular tax. Might I ask my noble friend to consider whether his obective would not be as well served by substituting for the Resolution at the end of his Motion a simple Motion for Papers? I feel that that might be the best way of approaching the matter, enabling him to deal with all question of the control of dogs without raising any constitutional grounds as by-products.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, it is a little disconcerting to be faced at this last, eleventh, hour with this situation. The Motion in my name has been on the Order Paper since last June, and I should have thought that some of the watchdogs, or others, might have drawn the attention of myself, among others, to it if there was anything out of order in this proposition. Nevertheless, in view of my noble Leader's advice, which I understand does not invite me to surrender a right which all your Lordships and I generally possess, I am naturally willing to accept his suggestion. I agree that this is no Motion on which to raise questions of constitutional propriety or political wisdom; and therefore, if the House will allow me, I shall substitute for the Resolution on the Order Paper a simple Motion for Papers. I can divide the House equally well on the one as on the other, should the reply which Her Majesty's Government make to the arguments which my friends and I propose to lay before them for the better control of dogs not be acceptable, as I devoutly hope it will be.
In rising to move this Motion I should like to make one preliminary observation. I want to make it abundantly clear that I shall be speaking on this matter entirely on my own initiative and responsibility. There is no person, no organisation, no body of any sort at the back of it. I happen to be a member of the Council of the Royal 925 Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That circumstance is entirely fortuitous. That association had no knowledge of my intention to raise this matter in your Lordships' House. Nor, when I tabled the Motion, some months ago now, had I any idea of what their reactions were likely to be. That being so, any brickbats to be thrown should be aimed at my head, and at my head alone. On the other hand, should any bouquets perhaps be wafted in this direction they will be received with due humility and gratitude. At the same time, my Lords, I should say that I have been made aware of a very considerable measure of support in many quarters for the proposals I am about to put forward, a circumstance which fortifies and encourages any mover of a Motion.
My Lords, it is more than 100 years since a dog tax was first imposed in this country, and originally the amount of the tax varied according to the breed of the dog. Ultimately it was fixed at an amount not exceeding 12s., which was the duty in force at the time when the Dog Licences Act, 1867, was passed. This Act reduced the tax to a level 5s. per dog, regardless of breed. Then in 1878 the Customs and Revenue Act raised the tax to 7s. 6d., at which figure it still remains. So much, my Lords, for the history of the dog tax. The fact that over a period of 81 years the cost of a dog licence has remained unchanged, sacrosanct, immovable as the Law of the Medes and Persians, while taxation in nearly every other direction—in every sphere of human endeavour—has increased by leaps and bounds, is remarkable; but is of itself no excuse, of course, for arbitrarily increasing that tax. What I shall endeavour to show, however, is that there are, in my opinion, very strong reasons for increasing that tax at the present time, and that a revision is long overdue and should no longer be delayed.
Before I go further, let me say that, with one exception, there is no intention in my proposals to interfere in any way with the exemptions from duty as laid down in the Dog Licensing Act, 1959: exemptions, for puppies, for a dog kept by a blind person, and for sheep dogs. These proposals would, I hope, remain unchanged. Moreover, it is probable that in order to avoid hard- 926 ship to breeders, which might be caused by the incidence of a higher tax, concessions might have to be made to them in order to safeguard and preserve their legitimate activities. The one exception, my Lords, which I referred to, is this. I feel very strongly that a licence should be obligatory for a dog at eight weeks of age, instead of six months, as at present. An owner seldom, if ever, buys a dog under eight weeks old. He would know, therefore, that on buying his dog, his puppy, he would be bound by law to buy a licence at the same time. Under the existing six months' rule a plea of forgetfulness is plausible, if not invariably true.
Your Lordships will doubtless realise from the wording of the Motion that it is largely to bring a measure of protection to the dog world, and to discourage the irresponsible and lighthearted buying and selling of dogs as toys and chattels, that I am advocating this increase in the cost of a dog licence and in the penalty for keeping an unlicensed dog. It is my hope that such a measure would, among other things, help to reduce the appalling number of road accidents; would help the farming community by reducing their losses from sheep-worrying; and, incidentally but not unimportantly, would serve to improve the conditions and cleanliness of the pavements and roads in our towns and cities, and London in particular. What I am trying to do, my Lords, is to discourage the man or woman who just thinks it would be fun to have a dog but who has no real conception of how to look after it and really care for it.
For some years now I have had forcibly brought to my notice the unhappy conditions in which large numbers of dogs are kept. Tied or chained up in the yard to an all too frequently inadequate and strawless kennel, they are left all day long, alone, while the man is out at work, the woman probably the same, or fully occupied with housework or family—the dog left to its own resources—possibly at long last taken for a little walk in the evening when working hours are over—but by no means always. The owner to-day has a motor car, and likes to take his wife and family for a drive in it. He has a television set, and wants to sit with his family 927 hour after hour with eyes glued to the screen. The dog, meanwhile, longing desperately for human companionship, is forgotten and remains tied up, uncared for, unexercised; or, alternatively, is turned out into the streets to become a menace to traffic, causing endless road accidents, or in the country, as I have all too frequently observed, chasing and worrying livestock. My Lords, if numbers of such cases exist in one small corner of the country that I happen to know well, think of the thousands and tens of thousands of similar cases spread over the length and breadth of the land!
Then, my Lords, there are the strays—the bitches in season, roaming about unwanted, unclaimed; pursued by every loose dog in the neighbourhood; obstructing the roads and streets; causing large numbers of accidents (I will come back to that in a moment), and, in due course, producing a litter of mongrel puppies who go through the same unending cycle until the country is riddled and overrun with countless unwanted mongrel dogs. If any of your Lordships have ever visited the Battersea Dogs' Home you will know that I am not using exaggerated language. To those noble Lords who are unaware of what goes on in the dog population, let me tell them that in 1958 the number of dogs received in the Battersea Dogs' Home was 11,851—an average of over 32 dogs per day. In 1957, the year before, the number was again over 11,000. Three-quarters of these were lost and stray dogs brought in by the Metropolitan Police, while the remainder were brought in by the City Police or were received from other sources; and over 700—that is, nearly two a day—were brought in by their owners to be destroyed. Your Lordships may be interested to know what was the final disposal of those 11,851 dogs last year. Twenty-five per cent. were claimed by their owners; 35 per cent. were sold to new owners; 40 per cent.—that is, 4,740 dogs—were destroyed. That is an average of 13 per day: and this is just one, though admittedly the biggest, of the many dogs' homes throughout the country. The number of dogs that pass through the R.S.P.C.A. homes every year is in the region of 33,000—that is, 90 per day.
928 What I should like to see in connection with this problem of thousands of stray mongrel dogs would be a double or a treble tax on all bitch puppies, to be levied at birth, in order to encourage their painless destruction then and there, and so diminish the potential increase ad infinitum, of mongrel litters. But, alas! I realise the difficulties in this direction: the possible injustice to bona fide breeders in such an imposition, and, furthermore, the extreme difficulty of enforcement of such a measure. So, most reluctantly, I relinquish that idea.
The question of the old-age pensioner is a pertinent one, with which one naturally has sympathy. Some have written to me themselves, others have written on their behalf; and I have looked into this question very carefully. My Lords, is not the answer really this: that it must be difficult enough for an old-age pensioner to maintain himself alone on £2 10s. 0d. a week? Can he really afford to feed a dog properly—and the operative word is "properly"—when it costs at least five shillings a week to feed a small dog and anything from ten to fifteen shillings a week to feed a big one? The £1 a year which I am proposing for the licence is insignificant compared with the weekly bill for food. Anybody who knows anything about dogs knows that they should not be fed on scraps if they are to lead a healthy and happy life, but on proper dog food. If an owner is unable, or is not prepared, to feed a dog properly, then surely he should not keep a dog; and if he is able to feed his dog properly, then he can afford to pay £1 a year—that is, an additional threepence a week, or a fraction under, to what he is now liable for by way of licence.
Moreover—and this is important—there are societies other than the R.S.P.C.A. which assist in defraying the cost of a dog licence in cases of extreme hardship: the Blue Cross, the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, the Canine Defence League, the National Dog Owners' Association, and the Tail Waggers Club. I have letters from all of them here. So, my Lords, we have to be realists in this matter. It is surely possible to temper the compassion and sentiment that we all feel towards the pensioner with a sense of values. I hope 929 I have now disposed of this myth of hardship to the old-age pensioner.
With regard to road accidents, which I mentioned earlier, the number in Great Britain involving loss of life or personal injury where a dog was the cause, or contributory cause, has remained remarkably constant over the last seven years, the average annual number being 2,691. That means that every day over the last seven years—on every single day—seven persons have been either killed or injured as a result, or partial result, of dogs on the road. The increased tax will, I submit, in reducing the number of stray and mongrel dogs, play its part in reducing the appalling numbers of road accidents which we were discussing only a short time ago in your Lordships' House. Here I should say that the figures I have just given refer to cases where the dog was the primary cause and not only a supplementary cause. If I had added in those cases as well, the numbers would have been very much larger.
I come to the question of collars. The Control of Dogs Order of 1930, a copy of which I have here, lays it down that:Every dog while in a highway or in a place of public resort shall wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed on the collar, or on a plate or badge attached thereto: Provided that this requirement shall not apply to any pack of hounds, or to any dog while being used for sporting purposes, or for the capture or destruction of vermine, or for the driving or tending of cattle or sheep.I think it would be true to say that this requirement is observed mainly in the breach. I believe it would be equally true to say that no real effort is made to enforce it—for the reason, doubtless, that the police are fully occupied at the present time. It is a difficult matter, but I suggest that an almost universal evasion of the law such as this brings the law into disrepute; and it would appear that if enforcement is considered to be impracticable then the regulation should be rescinded. I think, on the contrary, that if this law were enforced, as it most certainly should be, and suitable penalties inflicted for infraction, this, too, would play its part in reducing the numbers of unwanted dogs.
There are those who say that if the tax is increased many owners will keep their dogs until the tax is due—that is, at six 930 months' old at present—and then throw them out into the streets to avoid licence liability. Whilst not rejecting this possibility—for there is little doubt that this practice exists to-day with the present rate of tax—there is nevertheless, I suggest to your Lordships, a very strong possibility that with the higher tax and earlier licensing date—a combination of the two—mongrel bitch puppies would be destroyed at birth; and this, as I said earlier, would be a highly desirable result. Certainly no dog lover could act with such cruelty and callousness, and I firmly believe that the genuine dog lover will not only have no objection to the higher tax but will welcome it as a small step along the way towards easing the lot of the mongrel dog world.
My postbag has brought me numbers of letters from many people in varying walks of life. Their content has varied from approval and regret that I have not gone far enough, to disapproval and resentment that I should have gone as far as I have. Their sentiments have been expressed in varying ways, ranging from the kind and generous and sympathetic and understanding, to the abusive and violent and vituperative, and in one case vitriolic. I extend my warmest thanks to all my unknown correspondents. Many of their letters, in both categories, have been most helpful and revealing. Some of my most bitter critics hazard the opinion that I have never owned a dog; that I dislike dogs, and that I know nothing whatever about dogs. They have no means of knowing that over the whole of my married life one of my main preoccupations at home has been to restrict the number of dogs there to single figures. I am glad to say that the approving letters have outnumbered the disapproving ones; and I think this fact is significant, for it is usually the disgruntled who put pen to paper rather than the contented ones.
Well, my Lords, there it is. The noble Earl Lord Dundee, who is to reply, whose persuasive charm is well known by now to your Lordships, and to whom I have listened in days gone by when we were doing a little job together in China, weaving his spell and enticing into his web of enchantment his audiences, large and small, with the same felicity 931 and versatility that he exercises here in your Lordships' House, my noble friend, I am confident, cannot help but be wholly sympathetic to the theme which I have endeavoured to place before your Lordships this afternoon. This is, of course, no Party question. Rather is it a social, economic and humanitarian problem. I have made no attempt to appeal to the emotions of your Lordships: but rather to your sense of justice and fair play. It would have been easy to harrow your Lordships with stories of cruelty that alas! are all too prevalent. Your Lordships can read of such things for yourselves in the so-called popular Press, of which I myself am no avid reader; but I am far from ignoring or belittling the good that some of them do in publicising the worst horrors. Take this one, for example:Murder, The saddest note of summer: a staggering number of people discarded their pets when setting off on holiday. The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals who had to destroy more Than 100,000 cats and dogs, called it the 'Summer of mass murder'.I think that perhaps one can discount that number as being strictly accurate—I would not be sure; but suppose we divide by half and put it at 50,000. No self-respecting country should tolerate such figures without taking some action. Just lately, also, one organ of the Press has been doing good work in publicising what they call, "The scandal of the pet shop". I think the newspapers perform a useful public service in ventilating these abominations.
I have tried to marshal my arguments fairly and clearly and constructively, and to put the case to your Lordships for the need for legislation in this matter. To sum up, in the whole animal world there is none to compare with the dog in its affectionate craving and yearning for human companionship. My wish is to try to discourage any potential owner who does not appreciate to the full his responsibility in acquiring one of these animals, and who is not prepared to control it and cherish it to the full. I believe that my proposals, if accepted by Her Majesty's Government and embodied in fresh and up-to-date legislation, would not only be the means of ensuring a happier life for the dog world in general, 932 but would contribute towards a reduction in the deplorable number of road accidents; would help the farmers, would clean up the streets, would reduce the numbers of stray and lost dogs that haunt our roads and streets and housing estates, and would bring benefit to all and sundry. My Lords, it is upon this note that I confidently appeal to Her Majesty's Government and to Your Lordships' House. I beg to move for Papers.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House, Papers relating to:
- (1) The numbers of road accidents in Great Britain in which dogs are the cause or a contributory cause;
- (2) the vast numbers of stray dogs that roam and over-run the streets and roads of this country;
- (3) the numbers of lost dogs that fill the Lost Dogs' Homes throughout the land;
- (4) the neglect of dog owners in general to comply with the law that all dogs must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner inscribed thereon;
- (5) the miserable conditions in which many dogs are kept.—(Lord Ailwyn.)
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, in 1958 there were three times as many people killed and injured on the roads of this country in accidents caused by stray dogs as there were by drunken drivers of motor vehicles. If the noble Lord who has moved this Motion—if he will permit me to say so, so movingly and eloquently—wanted any justification for putting it before your Lordships, I submit that he has it in that one figure. The noble Lord gave the figure as an average. In 1958, there were 2,731 accidents due to stray dogs, which resulted in death or injury, and there were only 949 accidents resulting in death and injury due to drunken motor drivers. I have said on many occasions in your Lordships' House, both from this Dispatch Box and from the other one, that the man who drives a motor vehicle while under the influence of drink is committing a heinous crime. But is it any more heinous than allowing a dog to roam with freedom over the highways of this country?
933 The unfortunate part about it is that the road accidents which are caused by stray dogs generally prove fatal and cause injury to a certain class of road user—namely, the cyclist and the motor cyclist. When a four-wheeled vehicle hits dog, dog generally gets the worst of it; but when a two-wheeled vehicle hits dog, very often it is the rider of the cycle or motor cycle, or of one of these new contraptions called scooters—the most dangerous vehicle on the roads of this country to-day and multiplying themselves by legion every month—who get the worst of it. These are the figures. Of the 2,731 accidents due to stray dogs, all but 518 were caused to cyclists and moped riders. Your Lordships know what "moped" means. It is a horrible name. It is a pedal bicycle actuated by a motor on the back wheel. To show what a menace this is becoming, I would inform your Lordships that in the first nine months of this year, in comparison with the first nine months of 1958, the accidents, fatal or otherwise, involving mopeds went up by 79¾ per cent.; motor scooters by 23¼ per cent., and motor-cycles by 28½ per cent. That increase was not altogether due to dogs; the percentage goes up because of the increased number of these particular vehicles on the roads. The noble Lord might like to know that during this period in 1958 the authentic figure is that just under 100,000 dogs were killed or so badly injured that they had to be destroyed. Surely the most serious aspect of what the noble Lord has said this afternoon is that accidents, causing loss of human life or injury, are happening at an average rate of 2,700 every year.
May I take your Lordships' minds back to 1954, when the Road Traffic Act was going through your Lordships' House? I tried very hard then to get legislation passed to control dogs, to make it an offence to allow dogs to stray on the highways in built-up areas. I was not successful. As a matter of fact, the then Leader of your Lordships' House, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, took me severely to task. He said that I was the only Member of your Lordships' House who was at all disturbed about the problem and wished to bring about the control of dogs. But, as always happens, in the 1956 Act the Government brought it in as their own 934 idea. There is a section dealing with the question of dogs, to which I will turn in a moment. With regard to all the other sad and distressing facets of this problem which the noble Lord has mentioned so eloquently this afternoon, I say to him, with the greatest respect, that I do not think his solution would have the slightest effect. I do not think he will do what he wants to do by raising the taxes or the licence fees. I doubt whether 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. of the entire dog-owning population to-day, other than those who keep game dogs, have paid the licence fee. A noble Lord came up to me outside your Lordships' Chamber and asked me if it was a fact that you had to pay for a dog licence. He said, "I have never done so "—and he is not the only one.
In my view, there is only one way in which the noble Lord will succeed in doing what he wants, and in which I shall succeed in doing what I want, and that is by a stricter enforcement of the existing law. I know very well that propriety and etiquette demand that I should address my remarks on this score to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, who is going to reply as Treasury spokesman—your Lordships have unwittingly torn his brief up, because he will not be able to deal with the taxation question—but I cannot help casting a sidelong glance at the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, if he will forgive my saying so, because it must cause him the gravest concern to know that the law on this subject is brought into such disrepute by non-enforcement. I doubt whether there are any provisions in a Statute which are held in greater disrepute to-day than those contained in the Road Traffic Act.
Section 15 deals with this matter. It says:Any person who causes or permits a dog to be on any designated road without the dog being held on a lead shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds.Subsection (2) says:… the expression 'designated road' means a length of road specified by an order in that behalf of the local authority in whose area the length of road is situated.Before a local authority can make an order they have to consult the chief of police, and then it shall not have effect unless confirmed by the Minister. If that is not woven about by a lot of obstacles, I do not know what is. I want to ask 935 the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, whether he can tell your Lordships how many local authorities have put that section of the Road Traffic Act into operation since 1956, how many chiefs of police in those local authorities have asked the local authority to do it, and how many orders the Minister has had to confirm. I do not know whether he can give me that information, but I should think that the number is infinitesimal.
What I want to ask the noble Earl is this. Who can instruct a local authority to operate this section of the Road Traffic Act, which makes it an offence for dogs to be allowed to roam loose over the roads? Who can instruct a chief of police to see that this obstruction on the roads is not allowed? We have heard a great deal recently about the relationship of the police to the public. Is it the Government's intention to set up either a Committee or a Royal Commission to inquire into this subject? The sins of commission are nothing like the sins of omission in the enforcement of the law. I would suggest to the noble Lord that with regard to all his points, with perhaps one exception, there is adequate legislation on the Statute Book to do everything he wants to do. We shall never cure this problem which the noble Lord is seeking to cure until there is a more vigorous application of the law to what the noble Lord so rightly said is one of the scandals of our time.
The noble Lord said that any bouquets that were to be handed out were to be handed to the Society of which he is a member. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has done an outstandingly good job in this country. I think that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has also done an outstandingly good job. But when you get people so callous as those described by the noble Lord there is only one cure for such people, and that is prosecution. What kind of a clog-lover can you call a man who will leave his dog without food or water while he goes away for a holiday? What kind of a dog-lover can you call a man who will leave the dog locked up in a motor car, with the windows closed, for hours on a hot day? What kind of a dog-lover can you call a man who will turn the dog out and let him loose on the roads? They 936 are not dog-lovers. They should never be allowed to have a dog at all. If they keep one when they have their licence withdrawn, they should be prosecuted for having a dog without a licence.
It is no good being mealy-mouthed about this matter. What is the good of cluttering up our Statute Book with enactments that are not enforced or cannot be enforced. We learn to-day—because the Order has been laid—that about 8 million motor vehicles on the roads of this country are now to be compelled to have their statutory lighting equipment in perfect order during the day, as well as during the night. How in the name of all that is good can you expect our police force to stop any one of your Lordships in the middle of the clay to see whether all your lights are working?—because it is now going to be the law. In the past, you could statutorily be compelled only to have lights that were working during the hours of darkness; now you must have them during the hours of daylight. In 1958 there were 1,200 accidents on the roads of this country which the police attributed to faults of lighting equipment—I have the booklets here, almost a volume of regulations. And yet we can do nothing about a total of 2,700 people killed or injured on the roads of this country through stray dogs.
My Lords, why do we not get a sense of proportion? Until we do, there will be endless discussions in your Lordships' House on problems such as this. I beg the Government, and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, who carries this tremendous responsibility today for seeing that the law is not brought into disrepute, to do something. I do not believe that it is impossible to enforce these laws. When we see to-day these youngsters going about the country on these motor-cycles doing 100 miles an hour, trying to dodge dogs, do you wonder that the road accidents are going up apace? I see that the Chief Constable of Hampshire said that out of 53 fatal accidents in Hampshire last year, 30 involved motor-cycles and 29 of the motor-cyclists were killed. They were very likely boys of tender years.
The noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, has brought up this question at the most appropriate time, and I know that he will forgive me if I have centred my remarks upon the dreadful danger of our traffic in its congested state because of 937 the number of vehicles that are coming on the roads to-day, with the criminal waste of life that is going on. And we will not act. We put Statutes on the Statute Book, but they are forgotten and nothing is done. I should like to ask the noble Earl who is going to reply on behalf of the Government what he proposes as an alternative. Do not say that the noble Lord's ideas are wrong. I do not agree with them. I have put forward my suggestion as the alternative, the strict enforcement of the existing law. Perhaps the noble Earl who is going to reply will have a better idea. If so, I shall be very glad to hear it.
§ 3.38 p.m.
THE EARL OF NORTHESK
My Lords, I rise with great diffidence to speak to-day in view of the very short time that has elapsed since my election to your Lordships' House as a representative Peer of Scotland. My excuse must be that for many years I have been a member of the committee of the Kennel Club, the ruling body in regard to pedigree dogs in this country. I am also chairman of an animal welfare society, which is concerned with the care and welfare of pets in general and of dogs in particular.
While I am fully in sympathy with the reasons which have prompted the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, to bring this matter before your Lordships' House, I cannot agree that any increase in the fee for a dog licence will provide the solution to any of the problems that he has put forward. In fact, I would suggest that in some cases it might even act in reverse and worsen the present position. The noble Lord has referred to old age pensioners. I should like to add to them a large number of elderly people of slender financial resources. A great number of these people have a dog as their only companion throughout all too many hours of the day, and they are hard put to it to find even the present licence fees. But they do; and they stint themselves to see that their beloved pet is adequately fed and looked after. Any increase in the licence fee, even a fairly small one, would cause these good people a great deal of distress and hardship.
May I turn to rather more material matters? There are in this country to-day a great number of people—it is hard to estimate exactly how many, but I think I am safe in saying something 938 over 50,000—who are breeding pedigree dogs of a type that are the envy of the world. If the licence fee is increased, many of these breeders, for economic reasons, may well have to cut down their breeding programme, and so produce fewer pedigree dogs. To-day there is a tendency amongst the general public to buy a pedigree dog instead of a mongrel. I think that the excellent television programmes on dogs which have appeared from time to time, the programmes on pedigree dogs in particular, have had something to do with this; but the fact remains that while the number of dog licences is decreasing slowly annually, the number of registrations of pedigree dogs is increasing by leaps and bounds every year. This year, from the figures already available, they will exceed last year's registrations by something over 20,000 dogs.
Coupled with this is the fact that Great Britain is the greatest dog exporting country in the world, and, thanks to the quality of the dogs that our breeders are producing, I think we shall maintain that position for a long time. In 1947, 577 dogs were exported from this country. This year I think it is safe to say that the figure will be well over 5,000. Our greatest importers are first, the United States of America, and secondly, Canada, both dollar countries. The dollars earned by dogs exported from this country last year exceeded a quarter of a million pounds. I am sure your Lordships would agree that anything which stopped the present trend of breeding and curtailed that excellent export figure in any way would be inadvisable.
In regard to boarding kennels, again, an increase in the licence fee would result, I think, in a great many of them closing down. As your Lordships may be aware, if you keep boarding kennels for, say, thirty dogs, you must have a licence for every dog under your care, regardless of the fact that its owner also holds a licence. A licence is issued to the owner of the dog, not to the dog. If a number of these boarding kennels were closed down, the situation with regard to strays just before the holiday period would be accentuated. A great number of people cannot take dogs with them on their holidays, as they might wish, because they are not acceptable in lodgings or in whatever accommodation 939 they may have, and they send them to boarding kennels. If these cease to exist, many more of these poor dogs would be destroyed or cast adrift.
I would now briefly turn back to the reasons which prompted the noble Lord to bring this matter to the attention of your Lordships' House. First, as regards the number of accidents caused by dogs on our roads, I would suggest that a great number of the accidents attributed to dogs are not, in fact, a result of the dogs' actions. I am afraid that a great many inexpert drivers who are driving without care and attention when a dog happens to be about, jump at the opportunity of blaming the dog for an accident, when in fact it was due to their own lack of experience, lack of attention and lack of concentration. And as to the number of dogs in dogs' homes, I think that the noble Lord would agree that the peak periods during which these homes are so full coincide with the months just after Christmas and the months just before the annual summer holidays.
Now, as regards the ill-advised parents who buy their children dogs or who give in to the children's plea for a live toy, I would agree with the noble Lord that too many young puppies are bought as live toys and not as pets. I do not feel that an increase in the dog licence is going to diminish this sad state of affairs. I think that if the licence were imposed at a lower age, this might help. But think of the difficulty of administering such a regulation. The young puppy need not leave its home at all after the age of eight weeks, for weeks or even a month or two. Its physical needs can be coned with in the home. How is the ownership of a puppy going to be checked? I suggest that the administrative difficulties are almost insuperable.
Finally, the noble Lord made reference to the miserable conditions in which (I use his own words), "many" of the dogs of this country are kept. To me the word "many" suggests the majority and I would not accept that. I think that in Britain we have always been renowned for our love for and care of animals. While, regrettably, there are a few cases of neglect and ill-treatment of logs, they are not so many that they cannot be coped with by the existing 940 animal welfare societies and by the police, who do a magnificent job in this respect.
§ 3.48 p.m.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to welcome a new Member to your Lordships' House. To me it is a special pleasure because the noble Earl who has just spoken is an old friend and I have known him for a great many years. I am sure it would be your wish that I should congratulate him on his maiden speech. He spoke with great knowledge of this subject. As he has already told you, he is a member of the Kennel Club. Possibly modesty may have restrained him from saying that he has just concluded a tour of Australia and New Zealand, judging in the chief dog shows of those two Commonwealth countries. He is also known to some of us possibly as an engine driver. There is a little railway in Wales where I understand he drives the engine very well. He is also known to at least one of your Lordships—who is not here to-day—the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, because the noble Earl held the record for the Cresta run some years ago. He is a man who has spoken to us with great knowledge of this particular subject, but I am certain that, as a man of the world, he will be able to speak on many other subjects in days to come, and I congratulate him very much indeed.
When I first saw the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, on the Order Paper—as he said, in June—I was horrified and did not agree with him at all; nor did I agree with him when he put it down again this time. But having listened to him speak today, I feel that there is not so much between us. I agree with so many of the things he has said—in fact, with all five points to which he drew our attention to-day. It is true that dogs are a cause, or a contributory cause, of a number of road accidents in Great Britain. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, with his great knowledge, has already spoken about this; so, too, has the noble Earl, Lord Northesk. But, like the noble Earl, I believe that there are many cases in which the poor dog is used as an excuse. I am not by any means saying that dogs do not cause accidents—they do. But I have asked police officials about this, and in no case will 941 they say that dogs cause a large number, or even the majority, of accidents.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, the figures I quoted are taken from the official Ministry of Transport report. These are factors regarded by the police as contributing to accidents. It is not the opinion of the drivers of cars; it is the official police opinion.
I agree with the noble Lord that he has the statistics. I leave it like that. I said that we know that they cause accidents. However, I am certain that we must get this matter in perspective. I do not believe that the majority of people who own dogs let them run about all over the place and get out of control. It is the small percentage of people that we want to catch, if I may use that expression, and punish and so keep dogs off the road. As has already been said to-day, surely there is more need to keep the existing laws in mind and carry them out than to put up the cost of a dog licence.
I am certain that we must pay attention to the vast number of people who do look after their dogs. The old age pensioner has already been mentioned. Probably I shall be misquoted if I say that in England we talk of "the old man and his dog". But surely that is true. It is as true of the old lady as of the old man, who has his dog as his one pet. The noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, found it difficult to believe that these old people would be able to feed their dogs sufficiently, but I believe that the old people's dog is so much a friend and companion that, whatever else they do, they will see that their dog is looked after. These are the people who we really need to help. The people who buy dogs as pets constitute a very different problem.
I agree with what has been said in regard to the dog and its collar. It seems rather a small point, but in truth it is not so small. In some countries—I think it is done in South Africa—when a dog owner gets a licence, he also gets a tag to attach to the dog's collar. I rather think that this is also done in other Commonwealth countries. This might help the police. After all, the police are the people whom we have to help. We have to bring forward suggestions for the Government to act on, so as really to help the police who have the task of keeping dogs off the roads. Unless we do this, the task will be an impossible one for the police.
942 I do not agree with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, that dogs should be licensed at two months. We are now told by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, that it is the owner who is licensed, not the dog. Whichever way it is, I do not agree that it should be done when the dog is two months old. The police simply could not operate on that basis. I myself have a puppy of about eight weeks and three days old for which I have a licence. It would be difficult for any policeman who may see me walking down the road with that dog on a lead, to tell how old the dog was. The suggestion to bring the licence age down to two or three months would not give the police a chance; and if they are going to spend all their time looking at a dog's "puppy teeth" and things like that, what other tasks are they going to be able to perform? I do not think that such a suggestion can possibly be implemented and I suggest that it is not the real way of keeping down accidents and the number of stray dogs.
There is the question, emphasised by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, of those who breed dogs. He has rightly pointed out that this nation is now a great exporter of dogs. We wish to encourage that. If the licence limit is brought down to two months, it is going to cost the small breeder a lot of money, because I imagine that the majority of dogs are not exported until they are rather older than two months. So I do not think that this will do the job.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, has two real points that he wants us to think about: first, how to prevent dogs walking about our roads so that they cause accidents; and secondly, how to prevent dogs being badly kept and ill-treated. I believe that the only way we can do that is to tighten up the present laws and to make certain that those who have to deal with these laws, the police, have a comparatively easy task—it is never going to be an easy one—and not to make it an impossible one by bringing in difficult methods, such as bringing the licensing age down to two months. Nearly everyone in England has a dog or has had one at some time or another, and most of us take enormous care of our dogs. Why should we have to pay an extra tax for our dogs—because after all, it is an extra tax—just to deal with a minority who do not take enough trouble to give 943 their dogs proper care. Let us tighten up the present laws, and leave the rest as it is.
§ 3.59 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to give my unqualified support to the proposals put forward so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn. I do so principally on the grounds which he mentioned in his speech. He said first that his proposals were largely aimed at bringing a measure of protection to the dog world. At a later stage in his remarks he said that he appealed to a sense of justice and fair play, both in your Lordships' House and outside. It was my privilege and good fortune, when I was in the House of Commons, to have a little to do with proposals and legislation to remove cruelty of various types from animal life. I got through another place, and eventually through this House, with the assistance of a noble Lord whose name I am afraid I have for the moment forgotten, a Bill dealing with the export of worn-out horses, which was designed to ameliorate the conditions of the dreadful traffic in old horses with the Continent; and I am glad to say that that Bill, when it became law, achieved what most of us desired to see it achieve. Then at a later date I was fortunate enough to get the Plumage Bill passed through Parliament—I hope the House will forgive me for going into these personal details. That Bill prevented beautiful ladies—and some not so beautiful—from wearing in their hats the feathers of birds which were either becoming extinct or had been taken from their nests and otherwise by cruel means.
The last Bill that I had the good fortune to get through both Houses of Parliament was a Bill to prohibit the coursing of hares and rabbits in enclosed places. It was a common custom at that time, in the North of England particularly, to course rabbits in enclosed spaces, the space being a small field round which was put wire netting. Under the law as it stood, as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack knows quite well, and will remember, no coursing of that nature could take place unless the rabbit or hare had a chance of escape. What was the chance of escape given to these wretched animals?—a small hole, about 1 ft. square, in 944 some part of the wire netting. The result, of course, was that the rabbit or hare never escaped. All my Bill did was to insert the word "reasonable" in front of the word "chance". That Bill became law, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at once brought cases before local magistrates' courts. Time and again the magistrates gave a verdict in favour of the plaintiff, and that horrible whippet coursing ceased to exist. This seems to me to be a further stage. From cruelty to horses, birds and rabbits and hares, these proposals will, in my humble judgment, do much to mitigate cruelty to dogs; and it is from that angle that I support it.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has put forward a plea that all the objects which the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, has in view can be achieved by a stricter enforcement of the existing law. I have had some experience of enforcement of law. Some 30 years ago, when I was in another place, I prevailed upon the then Home Secretary to introduce an order to prohibit open cut-outs on motor-cycles. There has been no enforcement of the law in that respect, and there is never likely to be, as we all know. The noise from motor-cycles to which we are subjected to-day is worse than it was in those days; and if the order which was issued in those days was necessary, how much more necessary is it to-day! I have no faith at all in expecting any stricter or more adequately strict enforcement of the law in this case than in the case which I have just cited, and I therefore hope Her Majesty's Government will give most earnest consideration to the proposals of the noble Lord. If I may, I would conclude my speech to-day by repeating the remarks that I made in another place on the conclusion of the speech with which I moved the Second Reading of the Bill dealing with the export of worn-out horses:I earnestly hope that the Minister will give his support to these proposals, and in doing so he will be conferring inestimable benefits on dumb creatures unable to speak for themselves.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I rise to give general support to the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, and to 945 ask the favour of your Lordships' consideration of two practical suggestions. The first of these has already been mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen: that we should adopt a rational system of dog licensing, such as exists in Canada and, I understand, South Africa, and almost certainly other countries. In those countries the licence does not consist of a flimsy bit of paper which can be easily mislaid but is a brass tag, of a different shape each year, which is attached to the dog's collar. This enables a policeman, or anyone else concerned, to see with great facility whether or not the dog is licensed. It is the principle which we use in the licensing of motor vehicles, and there would seem to be great public advantage and gain to the Treasury if we adopted the same system in respect of dogs.
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl for a moment, I understand that it is the owner and not the dog who is licensed. Would the owner have to wear the tag round his neck?
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, in Canada it is the dog who wears the tag, but no doubt if it suits my noble friend one could say it wears it on behalf of the owner. The other suggestion arises from our general agreement that the dangers and inconveniences which arise from the keeping of dogs are the product of ignorance and carelessness, rather than of any ill-will I cannot help thinking that good would result from the issue of a Dog Code, something on the lines of the Highway Code or the Country Code, and the requirement that an applicant for a dog licence should be asked to declare that he has studied that Dog Code. Such a code might be drawn up officially, after consultation with authorities on animal welfare. It might contain advice on the minimum requirements for giving the animal a happy life—of which many people are ignorant—and (another important point) instructions for the protection of the bitch on heat. It might also draw the attention of the dog owner to laws, bylaws and laws of courtesy which should prevent a dog from being a great nuisance in the community. I would also suggest that the applicant for a dog licence should be compelled to state 946 whether he possesses, and whether he will in fact provide, at least the minimum accommodation that a dog requires for its well-being.
Finally, my Lords, I would beg my noble friend Lord Ailwyn to persevere in this matter. He has already overcome the great disappointments of the postponement of his Motion. I would ask him to stick to his guns, and if he fails to get a satisfactory answer this time to reintroduce this important topic at frequent intervals. He and I remember the days in the 1930's when Lord Cecil of Chelwood raised again and again the question of road accidents. Finally, after much discouragement, and after the rejection of many of his own favoured suggestions, he moved for the appointment of a Select Committee of your Lordships' House to sit on that subject. And it was that Select Committee, of which I am proud to have been a member, which originated—and it is as well the House should remember this—the Road Research Board. My Lords, I would suggest, in view of the great interest that noble Lords have shown in this subject by their attendance to-day, that if there is any need to enforce our views upon the Treasury Bench we might move for the appointment of a Select Committee of your Lordships and bring the weight of opinion, much of it very expert opinion, as in the case of that of the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, to bear upon the subject. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, will continue pertinaciously to bring the matter to your Lordships' attention.
§ 4.12 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, for signifying his agreement that I should intervene for two or three minutes before him. I do so for only one reason, and that is to congratulate my very old friend the noble Earl who has just made his maiden speech, Lord Northesk, on his performance. It is not easy for people like the noble Earl and myself, with no experience in another place, as so many of your Lordships have, to come to your Lordships' House and, after quite a short period of time, address an audience of this sort with any degree of confidence. But the noble Earl, as your Lordships will have heard, succeeded with great 947 aplomb to-day. He was audible; he did not bother at all about his notes; he said what he meant to say, and it was quite clear to us what his views were: a very good basis for any speech—and not always the case In fact, my Lords, had he been addressing us from the Tory Front Bench in another place after years in the Cabinet I should not have been at all surprised. He gave us what he had to give with tremendous confidence, and I should like to congratulate him on a remarkable maiden performance. I would also express the hope that he will not confine himself to matters which, though important to those who are interested in them, are perhaps not of world-shaking importance, and that in due course he will give us his views on other matters.
As regards the Motion itself, may I say what I think about the three points in the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, put forward for consideration? First, I cannot agree with the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, that an increase of 12s. 6d. per annum for a dog licence could really be said to constitute a hardship to a dog owner, unless he owned a great number of dogs; and then, of course, it would be proportionately more of a hardship. But 12s. 6d. an animal for the kind of old lady, or old gentleman, who has his companion—the kind of person the noble Earl referred to—would not go very far with that dog's feeding. So I feel that that point is not a strong one.
The second point, about licensing dogs at eight weeks, instead of six months, was referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, who pointed out that it would be virtually impossible to enforce such a thing, since one has only the word of the owner of the dog regarding its age. It seems that it would be a point very difficult—not impossible, but difficult—to enforce.
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Lord's most interesting speech. The whole idea, or one of the principal ideas, of the licensing at eight weeks is that not one man in 10,000 buys a dog under eight weeks, and therefore when he does he should buy the licence at the same time.
Then it is a question that the licence at the time of 948 purchase of the dog is important, as opposed to the point concerning the breeder. There seems to be some difficulty about that. Is a man who breeds a dog under obligation to make a note of it at the time or to inform anybody? The next point, however, I would agree on. If anybody is in fact caught in the act of keeping an unlicensed dog, then by all means fine him, as the noble Lord suggests, £10 instead of £5. He is wrong to do such a thing; he knows it to be against the law, and in any case ignorance of the law is no excuse. If he does not know the law, he should. There I would agree with the noble Lord: that to increase the penalty would probably have some considerable effect towards doing what the noble Lord would like—that is, to ensure the greater care of dogs and, secondly, to keep them off the roads where they do constitute a contributory cause of motor accidents, though the same is not so with cats. Your Lordships will know, of course, of a well-known contemporary author, Peter Fleming, who once invented the expression "crypto cat lovers". I unashamedly belong to that class of person and I always think it remarkable that drivers swerve to avoid a dog, endangering their own lives and others, where they will drive quite happily over a cat. Perhaps it has something to do with the licensing!
Before I resume my seat, I would say that I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is not here, because he confined his remarks largely to the question of road safety; and it is of some interest that the noble Earl who has just made his maiden speech, on which I congratulated him, here has a foot in both camps in some ways; because although he is now a very distinguished breeder of different types of dogs (I believe mainly of dachshunds; or it was so at one time), he was at one time a distinguished driver of racing motor cars. So he has seen this matter from both sides, and I should like to congratulate him once again most sincerely on his maiden speech.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, has rendered a public service in bringing forward this matter for consideration 949 to-day. I am not going to repeat anything which has been said about dogs causing accidents by straying in the public highways. I think that that point is well known and the gravity of it is appreciated. But I want to point out the amount of nuisance which is caused by dogs wandering in the streets and depositing their excrement on the pavements. Every morning, in residential districts in London and elsewhere, you get up to find fresh deposits of offence right through the street. I think that that is positively disgusting and insanitary, and that active steps ought to be taken to check it.
Now what is the remedy for this trouble? First of all, a number of local authorities have by-laws which prohibit dogs from being in the public thoroughfares unless they are upon a lead. That ought to be made of general application, and not left to the initiative of local authorities to make by-laws. It ought to be a general requirement: and, if my memory serves me rightly, I believe that there is already upon the Statute Book power which would enable a regulation to that effect to be made. That is the first step which ought to be taken.
Secondly, it is already the law of this country that every dog while on a highway should wear a collar. If a dog is found without a collar it can be treated as a stray dog and an officer of police can seize and detain it; and if the owner wants to claim it, he has to pay the expense which has been incurred by the police. No doubt it will be said that the police are already so busy looking after other matters that they have not any time to enforce this law. However, it is also the case that any person who finds a stray dog upon a public highway is entitled to take it and deliver it to the nearest police station. I do not suggest, of course, that the ordinary citizen can be expected to perform this public duty but there is no reason in the world why local authorities, who have a responsibility for seeing that the streets are kept free from offence, should not employ people to perform this function and, if they find stray dogs in the street, take them and hand them over to the police.
I know that there may be a difficulty about determining whether a dog is a stray dog or not. If it has not got a collar on it, there is already a presump 950 tion that it is a stray dog; and I should have thought that any dog that was roaming the streets was a stray dog. I know no means by which anybody could say that it was not. Therefore, I consider—but, if there is any doubt about it, it ought to be made clear by legislation—that it is quite within the powers of any local authority to employ somebody for the purpose of taking dogs who are found in the street and of handing them over to the police. If that were carried out systematically, there would soon be no dogs roaming about the streets not on a lead, and the danger to traffic and the offence to pedestrians which is caused at the present moment could be abolished completely.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ LORD DOWDING
My Lords, this subject has been so adequately covered that there is little left for me to say. I have just two points to make. One is in connection with the dog that is brought home when a puppy as a toy for the children; and then, when it reaches the age of six months and has lost a good deal of its charm and the head of the household is not prepared to pay 7s. 6d., is turned out of the house and left to shift for itself. I have been told by the manager of a dogs' home that a great percentage of the dogs that come to them have become strays in that way. I have only this to say: that if the head of the house is not prepared to pay 7s. 6d. for a licence, he will not be willing to pay £1, and so this particular suggestion might result in an increase rather than in a diminution in the number of strays.
The other point I should like to make is that, whatever regulations are decided upon in this connection, it is going to be extremely difficult for the police to enforce them. So far to-day nobody has mentioned the experiment in the Borough of Slough, where the local authority made an enactment that every dog which was on the streets must be on a lead. I think that that order was issued something less than a year ago. However, in the Borough of Slough it has reduced very considerably the number of accidents in which dogs were involved. In the year ended September 13, 1958, there were seventy-nine accidents in which dogs were involved. This year, to the end of September, 1959, that number had been reduced to twenty, which is a very remarkable decrease.
951 There is also this advantage in such a system: that the police would immediately know which dog was a stray and which was not. Even if it has a collar on and the owner's name is on the collar, is perfectly capable of causing a motor accident. If all dogs which were not on a lead were instantly recognisable as strays, then I think that the work of the police would be very much reduced. Of course, it would be rather a cruel thing to suggest that such an order should be made universal: after all, dogs must have some freedom to run about. But if the order were confined to a town limit, I think that that might be a useful suggestion. It certainly seems to have worked very well in the Borough of Slough.
§ 4.29 p.m.
My Lords, the subject has certainly been covered very thoroughly, as the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, has just said, and there is not a great deal that I can add to what has been said. However, there are a few points which have been raised by other noble Lords that I should like to question. There is no doubt that my noble friend Lord Ailwyn has raised this question at a very necessary time. This is a problem that should have been dealt with many years ago, because not only one class of misfortune has been the result. We have had road accidents, and also the unhappy conditions of many dogs. As your Lordships have heard, the road accidents have been round about the 2,700 mark for several years, and, I am told by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, have hardly varied. Although it is true that one cannot say that all those accidents are due entirely to dogs—some of them are certainly due to the carelessness of motorists—it is none the less true that many of them are unavoidable unless one happens to be driving at such a slow pace that one can pull up practically immediately.
Then there is the question of dogs that are wantonly destroyed or cast out into the open as strays. I feel that a more responsible attitude towards dog ownership is necessary. The noble Lord's suggestion of raising the licence fee, together with the putting forward of the date of licensing—and to me that solves the question of my noble friend Lord Dowding about the increase being 952 against the point rather than for it—would, in my view, provide a solution because there is no doubt that nobody will buy a dog that requires a licence of £1 a year unless he really wants it.
I believe that the question that has been raised about the hardship on breeders and the owners of breeding kennels and boarding kennels could be solved perfectly well by providing that the licence should start, not from eight weeks or any given period like that, but from the date on which the dog is sold by the breeder. The breeder ought not to have to license the dog until perhaps the end of one year, or possibly not at all; but the moment the dog is sold it should be licensed. In other words, the buyer should bring a dog licence with him in order to be given charge of a dog. I think that the idea of the dog licence worn on the collar is an excellent one. Other pets, our cars, wear their licences on the left-hand corner of the windscreen, and I do not think that a dog would suffer much by wearing it on its collar. So far as boarding kennels are concerned why should the owner of a boarding kennel be obliged to license every dog which he takes in, when the dog is already licensed by its owner, any more than a garage which takes in your car should be obliged to license that car? It seems to me a perfectly parallel case, and I do not see that boarding kennels should suffer from this at all.
There is no doubt that there are a great many irresponsible people who buy these live "toys" for their children. Some noble Lords have decried this and said that they consider that we, as a nation, are very responsible about our dogs and that the numbers of those who ill-treat them are few and far between. I cannot agree with that view. Those of us who are more educated in animal welfare are certainly very responsible about all animals that are in our charge, but there is a vast section of the population which is completely ignorant about everything to do with them, and simply feel that it would be rather amusing to have a live toy for their children. Perhaps they have never had anything to do with dogs before and have not the faintest idea of how to feed them, or what is necessary in the way of exercise: they merely buy the dogs and then, when their children get tired of them, cast them out into the streets. I have known 953 only too many painful cases of dogs that have been taken out into the open country in a car, dumped out of the car and left. Those cases, I regret to say, are not few and far between. I think that the noble Lord's suggestions are extremely timely in helping to prevent that sort of thing and I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will give serious consideration to them.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, I came down to the House this afternoon because of my interest in the Motion that my noble friend has seen fit to move. I am delighted that he has done so, and the attendance in the House shows clearly the wide interest in this matter. This is not unnatural, because we are all lovers of animals, and lovers of dogs and are all equally concerned about the situation in the country. We have had a most interesting debate; and we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for his opening remarks which brought to us the reality of the lack of powers of this House. So many different aspects have been put forward already that I do not propose to take up the time of the House in dealing with them, but will confine myself to general matters.
There is an urgent need for something more to be done. My noble friend Lord Northesk, in his admirable speech, on which everybody who gets up will wish to congratulate him, showed an intimate knowledge of the subject. There are difficulties from every angle, but if we look at the Motion and study its points, surely there cannot be any objection to raising the fee, which has not been changed for a hundred years: it would not do any harm, and might well do some good. The point that affects all of us is the great number of mongrel dogs that are running about the country. We are proud of the position this country holds in breeding and doing an export trade in pedigree dogs. But with regard to this problem of mongrel dogs, I do not know whether it is worse here than it is in the Eastern countries or, for instance, in the Argentine. I believe it is a good deal worse there than it is in this country.
Those of us who have been accustomed to have intimate ownership of dogs all our lives—and there are many of your 954 Lordships who have had intimate contact with many sporting dogs, packs of hounds, and so on—feel sympathy with the Motion. I cannot say that I found myself in agreement with the objections put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, as being valid against a higher tax. His reasoning did not appeal to me at all, though he used his usual persuasiveness in putting it forward.
I hope that the noble Earl, in replying, may be able to give us some information as to the relationship of the cat population to the dog population. Some figures were published in the Press quite recently and, if my memory serves me correctly, the cat population is double that of the dog population. Since the Act was passed setting the price of a dog licence at 7s. 6d. there must have been an astonishing change in the number of dogs in the country. I feel particular sympathy with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, that if a dog can be kept, the cost of keeping it emphasises that the burden of increasing the tax could not be great. I think that that is an important point.
I promised that I would not take up the time of the House, but I should like to say one thing in regard to the Mover's strength of character. Having had the privilege most of my life to know his gracious Lady and her affection for dogs, I admire the strength of his discipline. I hope the noble Earl in reply will give us some encouragement to believe that the Government share the feelings of my noble friend that something needs doing. The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, was particularly correct in saying that what we want is more assistance from the police to enforce the rules that already exist. That does not apply only to dogs; it applies to goodness knows what offences. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport knows that he has to enforce the law. But in this important matter it is difficult to decide whether a dog has a licence or not, or to see that the dog has a proper identification disc on his collar. Whatever be the circumstances, I hope that my noble friend will give us some encouragement that this matter is not going to be lightly dismissed, but that serious thought will be given to deciding what improvements can be introduced.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ LORD COLWYN
My Lords, I slept very late this morning, having stayed up very late last night writing a long speech, but unfortunately everything I was going to say has been said by somebody else. I am going to put two points about which I feel very sincerely. We were talking about old age pensioners. I should like to see people who hold an old age pension being allowed to have a dog, which is part of their life, without having to pay any tax at all. They may wander down to the local pub, talk to the dog on the way, have their glass of Guinness, and feed the dog well. To them 7s. 6d. is quite a lot, and £1 would be even more.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is a cat lover, and so am I. I go out into St. John's Wood at night, and take two dogs and four cats with me. They all come for a walk with me, and they are trained to sit on the pavement. The other night my dog went out after a bitch in season that somebody had let out. I pay due respect to the police, because they found him within twelve hours. He had a name tag on, of course. The noble Lord who introduced this Motion said that he would like to have all mongrel bitches destroyed. But sometimes bitches make greater friends than dogs. I think that the people who should be fined are the men and women who own bitches and who, when they are in season, allow them out in the street.
§ 4.46 p.m.
LORD DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, at this late hour I hesitate to intervene, but I should like to thank the noble Lord for bringing forward this Motion. I most heartily agree with almost everything which he said, but I cannot agree with his solution. After many years in the Army I dislike orders that cannot be enforced. At the present moment there are many laws with regard to the licensing of dogs which are quite unenforceable, and which are broken every day by the most reputable people. The dog industry is a very big industry, as the noble Earl so rightly said in his maiden speech. It is one which would be most heavily penalised if an increase in the tax on dogs were put forward. Of course, as has been pointed out, we must bear closely in mind that the dog licence 956 is not a licence for the dog, but a licence for the person who keeps the dog. If anyone has three dogs and buys three licences, nobody can say at any one time which licence refers to which dog.
I feel that the whole law as regards the keeping of dogs, and the licensing of dogs, is, to put it mildly, out of date. It wants to be the subject of a general study in order that we may have something which is enforceable by the police. The standard of keeping dogs in kennels is not as high as it should be on some occasions. From my own knowledge, dogs which are kept as boarders are chained to stairs and barrels, in all sorts of places. I think we want a reputable society to lay down a standard by which kennels and boarding kennels should be controlled, or at least a standard at which they should aim. I have the utmost sympathy with people who breed and own their dogs, and who are doing their best. But you cannot keep up with the law as it stands at the moment—it is quite impossible.
I would therefore ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will not seriously consider having a rationalisation of the law, and, when they are going into this matter, whether they could not, in order to prevent road accidents, consider extending the law generally to provide that dogs should be on leads in built-up areas. I think it is impossible in country districts to insist that farmers, who use their dogs in their work, should keep them under control all the time. But I cannot see why we cannot do it in urban areas.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, my excuse for speaking in this very interesting debate is that for many years I have had retrievers which I have entered in field trials, and I have even had a prize given me for handling them. I am devoted to dogs, and therefore I do know something about this question. I heartily agree with what my noble friend, Lord Ailwyn, has said. Yesterday I was shooting in Hampshire, and a remark which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was illustrated in the last stand we had. It was a covert above a road; in the position in which we were the road was behind us. It was not a main road. A lot of the birds that were shot fell on the 957 road, over the road and this side of the road. That was all right. Then when the drive was over we began to pick up. There must have been ten or a dozen Labradors and spaniels picking up. I saw coming down the road a fellow in a car going at least fifty or sixty miles an hour. He could not have failed to see what was happening. He never pulled up. Any dog that happened to be on the road got no chance with this fellow.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred to the fact that sometimes it is the driver of the car who causes the accident and not so much the dog. I should like to see included in the Highway Code a paragraph stating that on seeing a dog in the road it is just as important to be careful as when seeing children about. I think that that illustrates what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth said. It is a terrifying thing, if you are fond of dogs—particularly the retriever type of dog, which is very intelligent, a dog of great merit and probably with far more brains than the fellow who is driving the car—to see a driver crashing along with total disregard to his superior being, the dog, who was sniffing about trying to find a very fine cock pheasant I had shot. I most heartily support the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, and I hope he will pursue this matter. It is evident that the greater part of the House is in favour of something drastic being done to try to reduce this mortality among dogs. Incidentally, if you do that, you will save a good many individuals' lives, because you will be punishing drivers if they do not take as much notice of a dog on the road as of children. I heartily support my noble friend.
§ 4.53 p.m
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I rise to make a suggestion as to how we can achieve the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn. First of all, may I say this to him? He said that he did not appeal to emotion. But as I listened to the quiet manner in which he made his speech he very much appealed to my emotions and, I think, to those of noble Lords throughout the House. I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, on his maiden speech and hope that the cool wisdom he brings from Scotland will be heard on many other occasions.
958 My Lords, surely the problem of the dog is one of man's making. It is that the people who own dogs do not carry out their responsibility to the rest of the community and to the dog. The result is the dog that fouls the footway, the dog that is a nuisance in traffic. I should like to make a suggestion to the noble Earl who is to reply. I cannot expect him to agree to it at this late hour, but I would ask him if he would put this suggestion before the appropriate Minister. At the present moment, as I understand it, a person applies and buys a licence which permits him to have a dog. The dog itself is not licensed. I would suggest to the noble Earl that we adopt a system whereby the dog itself is licensed for a period of twelve months; that the dog is issued with a tag instead of the normal piece of paper which the dog-owner obtains from the post office; that each year a different tag is issued, and that on that tag should be a reference number issued by the local authority. The dog would have to wear the tag on its collar.
What that would mean is surely this: that if the police see a dog in a distressed condition physically, and it has a tag upon it, it is easy for them to trace the owner and give him the necessary warning. If, in their opinion, the dog has been subjected to cruelty, they can take the appropriate action. Again, if a dog is running around the streets, a danger to passing traffic, the police, if they are able to catch it, will be able to trace the owner of the offending dog and give the necessary warning. If a dog is a stray, and it has no licence tag, the authority can dispose of it as they do to-day. If it has a tag, the owner can be very quickly traced and the dog returned to the owner. The authority could well charge a small sum for that service. It strikes me that the present system is not satisfactory, because the police have no means of tracing the owner of the dog that has strayed. I know that the system I suggest works very well in a number of countries, where the police and the R.S.P.C.A. have always been able to trace the owner of a dog that has a tag. I recommend this idea to the noble Earl. I believe that after the first administrative difficulties had been overcome, it would make things a great deal 959 easier for the authorities, and would certainly be for the welfare of the animal world.
§ 4.58 p.m.
My Lords, I waited until this moment, the earliest possible moment for me to make a protest against the changed form of the Resolution which my noble friend now proposes and the doctrine put forward this afternoon by my noble friend the Leader of the House. It has long been laid down—I was myself in the House and heard it laid down by the late Lord Donoughmore, in terms that would have received acceptance, not only from every experienced Member of your Lordships' House, but from every experienced Member of the House of Commons—that there is no limit on anything that your Lordships decide to do in debate. You may debate any question; you may move Resolutions of a financial nature you may amend Bills financially. The time when the Parliament Act comes into operation is when there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses, and not till then; and it is obvious from that that to move a financial Amendment to a Bill against the will of the Government is a stupid and nugatory proceeding and one that is likely to make your Lordships' House seem foolish, and that is the reason why we have privilege clauses.
The late Lord Donoughmore is, I am sorry to say, dead and not able to come to my support. But I was in the House again on the 11th December last when my noble friend Lord Killearn asked a Starred Question which dealt very lavishly with money matters. It dealt with compensation payable to British subjects from Egypt. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, tried to say that the question raised serious constitutional issues. He had to abandon that line of argument—I think Sir Francis Lascelles, induced him to abandon it. I am very glad that my noble Leader has returned to the House. I was protesting against the doctrine he put forward this afternoon, and saying that your Lordships' House was free to pass any financial Resolution, and even to amend a Money Bill, and that the only time the Constitution came into play was if the two Houses disagreed.
It has happened that your Lordships have amended a Money Bill, and the 960 Amendment has been accepted by the Government; and indeed, they have been very glad of it. I cannot call the occasion to mind, but the Clerks of the House probably can. That is why I very much regret that my noble friend Lord Ailwyn consented to vary the terms of his Resolution. Perhaps I may go on with an illustration. This House is very much strengthened, and I am always very glad when it gets strength from the House of Commons, but it is not right for the noble Lords who have come from the House of Commons to try to re-fashion this House to suit the ideas of the House of Commons. When I was a young man there was an old steer in the Chicago stockyards who used to have an immortal life because he was the one put there to make friends with the other steers. He led them up the gangway. He, being the first, was let go, and the others met the fate due to them while he went off and brought up another lot of steers. I should be very sorry if my noble friend became a leader of that kind.
I am very grateful. There is one other thing I want to say. I should like to refer to the very fine export trade which my noble friend Lord Northesk mentioned. It may be strange news to your Lordships that that trade is very largely due to stringent Government regulation. When I was a child, in the year 1890, it was as much as a dog's life was worth to stray out of any district in London, except close on the heels of its master. Dogs had their territories in London just as, I believe, they have in Calcutta. Then the Government, amid a ferocious outcry and great opposition, introduced on account of rabies the muzzling order. I think it was for three years, from 1893 to 1896, that dogs all went muzzled. When those muzzles were taken off everybody said "Now we are going to have all the dogs going for one another". But not a bit of it. Being muzzled the dogs had learnt manners, and they have retained those manners ever since. You do not have dog fights now, and big dogs setting on little dogs, and it is all due to that Government regulation. It is all due to that muzzling order; and so I hope that my noble friend will persist with his Motion and that it will be carried.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, as many of your Lordships have done, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Northesk on his well-informed and well-delivered maiden speech. Besides what the noble Earl told us about his interest in the Kennel Club, I understand that he is also chairman of Cruft's annual dog show, so that he could hardly have chosen a better subject on which to address your Lordships for the first time. I should also like to congratulate him on his election as a Scottish Representative Peer in your Lordships' House, particularly as he had bad luck in the last two elections; but perseverance has won the day. Although many of your Lordships may not like the results of the Election in another place, I am sure that your Lordships would all agree that changes of composition among those of your Lordships who are elected to your Lordships' House are greatly to be welcomed.
I do not know whether any of your Lordships have read the leading article in yesterday's Guardian about your Lordships' debate to-day. It begins by saying:There are few things that excite a Peer more than dogs".It goes on to assert that Lord Ailwyn's Motion on dogs has provokedmore of their Lordships to put down their names to speak than have supported any other debate this Session".It concludes by saying thatThe Earl of Dundee will have the unenviable task of replying for the Government and trying to placate so many noble dog lovers.I have always had a great respect for every thing said by my noble friend Lord Ailwyn, ever since he and I were sent, together with my noble friend Lord Teviot 17 years ago, in the middle of the war, on a Parliamentary Delegation to China, where dogs are used for an even wider variety of purposes than they are here. I know that your Lordships are grateful to my noble friend Lord Ailwyn for putting this Motion on the Paper. I am particularly grateful to him for putting nearly the whole of his speech on the Paper, too, so that we could all know in advance what he was going to say. As for the alteration which he has been kind enough to make 962 in his Motion to meet the views of some of your Lordships, I think that my noble friend the Leader of the House made it perfectly clear that there was no objection whatever to his Motion as it stood on the Order Paper, and the only reason my noble friend Lord Ailwyn agreed to alter it was that the words "move to resolve" might create some misunderstanding in the minds of the public. But it is not the main purpose of the Resolution. I am sure that in meeting your Lordships at the last moment the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, did not mean to detract from the rights of your Lordships' House.
After the interesting and full debate we have had, I think that all your Lordships would wish me to do would be to give a few relevant figures or comments on the five points in my noble friend's Motion and, finally, to say a little about the three specific proposals which he makes, although they are no longer part of the Motion. I hope that I shall be able to give the Government's views on these proposals without exciting my noble friend too much, either in an adverse or in a favourable sense.
The first thing which my noble friend wishes to call attention to is the number of road accidents in Great Britain in which dogs are the cause, or a contributory cause. Many of your Lordships who have spoken have been most interested in this part of the Motion. In regard to the number of road accidents in Great Britain in which dogs are a cause or a contributory cause, I have here the figures for the last five years—I will not give them all, just the first and the last figures. In 1954, the total number of accidents in Great Britain was 195,716. The number caused by dogs was 2,626: that is 1.3 per cent. In 1958, unfortunately, as your Lordships are aware, the total number of accidents, went up from 195,000 to 237,000. The number caused by dogs, or in which dogs were a contributory factor, has remained much the same. It is now only 1.1 per cent.—that is to say, the proportion has slightly decreased.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, asked me if I could say whether local authorities have made any use of their powers under the Road Traffic Act. 1956, to designate certain streets as areas in which it is an offence to let a dog run 963 loose. I can say that 130 orders designating certain streets have been made and approved; six more will very soon come into operation and in addition another 34 orders of that kind are under consideration. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, referred to Slough, which, I think, is the only authority that has imposed a blanket order on all the streets in its area. As the noble and gallant Lord rightly said, the figures for Slough are impressive. He gave the number of accidents in which dogs were involved in the year ended September, 1958, as 78, which was reduced to 20 last year. The number which resulted in dogs being killed or injured has come down from 61 to 15, and the number involving injury to persons from 8 to one.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, if the noble Earl will allow me, I would point out that he said that the number of orders was 130. Does that relate to 130 different local authorities or 130 designated streets?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
They are 130 different orders. Some of them may have included more than one street, and more than one of them may have been made by the same local authority. But I will get the figures analysed, if the noble Lord would like that to be done.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
If I put down a Question for Written Answer, would the noble Earl provide the details?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Yes, certainly. While the figures for Slough are impressive, they do not necessarily invalidate the argument of those noble Lords who have pointed out that careless motorists may seize upon the excuse provided by the fact that a dog is somewhere about or has got mixed up with the accident to represent it as an accident caused by a dog. Naturally, if there were no dogs allowed in the streets, the opportunities for doing that would disappear. But still, I think the figures are interesting and impressive. On M.1, the new road, no dogs are allowed at all. No animal is permitted on the motorway except in a vehicle, and the animal has to stay in the vehicle. The penalties for infringement are considerable. For a first offence there is a fine not exceeding £20, and for subsequent offences it is £50.
964 Then my noble friend calls our attention to the vast number of stray dogs roaming the countryside and overrunning our streets and roads, and the number of lost dogs that fill the lost dogs' homes. He gave a figure from the Battersea Dogs' Home, I think for 1957. If I heard him rightly, his figure does not quite correspond with the figure which I have here. I have figures from the Battersea Dogs' Home for the last ten years, since 1948, and I am glad to say that they show a steady reduction in the number of stray dogs taken in by the Home from 23,600 in 1948 to 9,800 in 1954; and after that it is fairly constant, with a slight reduction until 1958. It looks as if the number of stray dogs now is not quite so numerous as it was ten years ago. In order to make sure that this was not just something which applied to London, I made inquiries from Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds, and the dogs' homes there all show corresponding reductions since 1951 in the number of stray dogs which have been taken in.
My noble friend also called attention to the disregard of the law that a dog must wear a properly inscribed collar. I think it is probably the trouble as much as the expense which causes many owners of puppies to put off getting a collar engraved with their name and address. I do not know whether or not all of your Lordships who own dogs have your names engraved on their collars. The noble Lord opposite mentioned that he had seen one of your Lordships before the debate who was not aware that he had to do it. But in case any of your Lordships may find it more convenient, I might point out that the Battersea Dogs' Home has been engraving medallions or collars for dogs for the sum of sixpence to help the public comply with this branch of the law. As for the miserable conditions in which many dogs are kept, the R.S.P.C.A. last year obtained 245 convictions in England and Wales for cruelty to dogs. Persons found guilty of cruelty to dogs may be disqualified from keeping a dog, and comparatively severe penalties are prescribed for failing to comply with a court order made under the Protection of Animals (Cruelty to Dogs) Act, 1933.
But perhaps the point in this Motion which has created most interest and some controversy is the suggestion, which we are perfectly free to discuss although my 965 noble friend has been good enough not to include it in the Motion, that the licence fee should be raised from 7s. 6d. to 20s. It has often been urged by many people in this country that dogs should be taxed to a greater extent in order to prevent there being too many dogs, although in fact the taxes which have been imposed on dogs have generally been imposed for the purpose of revenue. I looked up the history of this in Dowell's History of Taxation and Taxes in England. The agitation in favour of dog taxes seems to have begun in the eighteenth century.
After two Petitions from the electorate of the counties of Worcester and Leicestershire, a private Member, named Mr. Dent, introduced a Bill to reduce the nuisance caused by the excessive dog population in 1796. But, unlike my noble friend Lord Ailwyn, his overstatement of the case provoked a reaction amongst Members and the Bill was done to death by ridicule. However, soon afterwards William Pitt brought in the financial part of the proposals by imposing a tax on dogs of 5s. for a sporting dog, 3s. for other dogs owned by persons dwelling in a house assessed for house and window taxes, and £20 for owners of a pack of hounds. It was a sumptuary tax, almost entirely on wealthy owners of dogs, for the purpose of raising revenue. The tax had increased by 1853 to 12s. and, I believe, was widely evaded. In 1867 it was brought down to 5s. and in 1878, which was the date of the last change, it was put up to 7s. 6d., at which it has remained ever since. But, for some reason, in 1908, in England (though not in Scotland) the revenue was transferred from the Treasury to local authorities. In Scotland this tax still goes to the Exchequer, while in England it is collected through the Post Office and paid to the revenue accounts of local authorities.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, has the noble Earl any idea of what tax evasion is going on at the moment as far as dog licences are concerned?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No. The number of dog licences now being paid for is between 2½ and 2¾ million. I have no reason to think that the number of licence evasions is very large, but in a moment I shall give your Lordships figures of the number of prosecutions 966 for having a dog without a licence. There are other taxes of the same kind which have not been changed since 1870. Gun licences, game licences and licences to sell game have all remained at exactly the same figure since that time.
I believe that the reason why my noble friend and some of your Lordships are in favour of increasing this duty is not so as to raise more revenue but to give people a greater sense of responsibility in owning a dog. Some of your Lordships have supported that, others have resisted it on several grounds of which, I think, the principal one has been the hardship to elderly people of slender means to whom the companionship of a dog means a great deal. I believe that there would be a certain hardship to people of that kind, although, as my noble friend rightly pointed out, a good deal more than £1 a year must be spent on keeping even a small dog if it is to be properly kept; but the cost may not be more than a few shillings a week in the case of a small pet dog which is given some scraps as well.
People do not think nearly so much of paying even a few shillings a week as they do of having suddenly to pay an additional 12s. 6d. all in one lump sum, and that, I believe, is what they might find it difficult to pay. There are exemptions for blind people who need a dog to lead them about, but there is no exemption for those who cannot afford to pay the licence fee, although this is sometimes paid for the owner by associations which are charitably minded. There is one dog-owners' association which is paying the dog licence fee for 1,500 old age pensioners, and if the duty were to be raised, those associations, as well as old age pensioners, would be hit and would suffer hardship.
The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, has mentioned difficulties which would result to dogs' boarding-houses, but I do not think that any of your Lordships have mentioned the effect on packs of foxhounds, which, in these days, are very difficult to finance and to keep going. I believe that a sudden increase of duty on a large pack of hounds might have a considerable adverse effect on sport. In any case, I could not, of course, anticipate anything that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer might do in his Budget. I 967 would only suggest to my noble friend that if he were to prevail in this matter, he might have to face hostile demonstrations from quite a number of interests which do not always co-operate with each other—like foxhunters and old-age pensioners—and it would not be popular with anyone except English county councils who would like the duty raised because they would get more revenue. My noble friend would not get the support of the Scottish county councils because they do not get any of this revenue. Perhaps it should be said in the case of the English county councils that they have been given this revenue only since 1908, and that if the Treasury and Parliament were to decide on a very large increase in this tax, they might not necessarily decide to go on passing that revenue to the English county councils.
With regard to penalties, there are two points in my noble friend's case: the general increase in the penalty and the lowering of the age at which a licence must be taken out and paid for, from six months to eight weeks. On the point of age, it is very easy to get confused about reasons for doing this, or not doing it. I have inquired about the number of cases in which the age of the dog has been pleaded as a defence against a prosecution for having a dog without a licence. I am told that no record can be found of the age of a dog having been advanced as a defence. I am informed that what always happens is that where a person is warned that he is to be prosecuted and states that the dog is under six months old, the police simply defer the prosecution until there is no doubt about the age of the dog; and that long before that time the owner of the dog always takes out the licence so that no prosecution is then necessary.
If I interpret my noble friend's argument rightly, I gather that his reason for wishing the age to be lowered was that possibly it would prevent people from accepting a small puppy, intending to keep it only until it is old enough to need a licence and then throwing it away after six months—which is certainly something which it would be very desirable to prevent. However, I am told by the Royal College of Veterinary Sur- 968 genos that until a puppy gets quite big it is extremely difficult to prove its age and to say whether it is younger or older than eight weeks. And, as many of your Lordships have rightly said, to enforce payment of a licence for puppies between the age of eight weeks and six months would impose almost insuperable difficulties on the police, for they have just not got enough staff, or enough time, for them to carry out this duty properly.
With regard to the possibility of raising from £5 to £10 the penalty for keeping a dog without a licence, as suggested by my noble friend, this is being reviewed by the Criminal Division of the Home Office as part of a general review of penalties fixed before 1914. A great many of these have remained the same for a long time, although the value of money has completely altered, having been divided by three or four. The Home Office are reviewing all these penalties in order to see whether they should not be increased so that the real value of the fine which can be imposed now will be the same, in terms of purchasing power, as it was before 1914; and they are certainly considering the penalty for keeping a dog without a licence. I do not think, however, that legislation could be expected until the Session of 1960–61.
My noble friend Lord Ailwyn was very ready and willing to meet your Lordships in altering the wording of his Motion. If I understand the position aright, the Motion now before the House is to call attention to the first five paragraphs, numbers (1) to (5), in the Motion as printed on the Order Paper, and theme to add the words, "and to move for Papers", the last paragraph being now omitted. As my noble friend has been so ready to do this, I do not see why I should not advise your Lordships to accept my noble friend's Motion as it now stands, provided that it is understood that the Government are not agreeing to raise the cost of the dog licence although, of course, like all other financial possibilities, it is a thing on which they must always keep an open mind.
With regard to the raising of the penalty, that is a matter which must be considered together with the other penalties now being reviewed by the Criminal Department of the Home Office.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl what Papers the Government are going to provide if we accept this Motion?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I think the noble Lord had better wait and see. But I have consulted my noble friends, and I see no reason why we should not advise your Lordships to accept the Motion of my noble friend, who has been so willing to adapt it to the suggestions made by your Lordships earlier on. In any case, I should like to thank my noble friend for the very great trouble which he has taken over so long a period, since last June, in putting all these considerations before your Lordships, which I think has been proved well worth while by the interest which your Lordships have shown in this subject.
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I just say that I quite agree with him about the difficulty of judging the age of a young puppy. But does he not think it might be a workable idea to adopt the system which I suggested, of making the licence coincide with the purchase of the dog?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, was the noble Earl going to give some information regarding the number of prosecutions, or were we to hear his observations about prosecutions?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I only made some general comments on the question of prosecutions, but I have figures here. I am glad the noble Lord has reminded me. I shall not weary your Lordships with more than one or two figures, but here they are. Before the war the annual average of offences concerning dog licences dealt with in magistrates' courts was 21,333; in 1955 it had come down to 8,270; in 1956 to 7,685; in 1957 to 6,232. At a time when we are all so worried about the increase in nearly every kind of crime, I think it is perhaps a matter for satisfaction that this particular crime, at all events, appears to be decreasing.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, has the noble Earl any figures for prosecutions in the designated streets he mentioned?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, if I include that point in my Question, will the noble Earl try to give the information?
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for his full, careful and courteous reply. I should also like to extend my grateful thanks to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, nearly all of whom, in various quarters of the House, have been good enough to support the Motion. Perhaps I might here be allowed to offer my own warm congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, for his very interesting and able maiden speech. I hope that we shall often hear him again.
I should naturally have been happier if I had been able to move my Resolution as I originally phrased it. I quite understand—at least I think I do—the reason why I was not able to do that. I do not propose to go into the different remarks that have been made by various noble Lords. I feel that this has been an extremely interesting debate, and that all points have been well covered. I believe that there is still an element of misunderstanding about the raising of the cost of the licence. It must be realised that the raising of the cost should be in conjunction with the earlier licensing date, and that makes all the difference in the world. Men and women do not buy puppies aged under eight weeks; and if this change became law, in buying a puppy they would buy a licence at the same time. I am grateful to all noble Lords and to my noble friend for accepting the Motion as it now stands.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty-two minutes before six o'clock.