The RSPCA is not the final arbiter on the matter. If we are to have a licensing authority and a licensing system, it must be just and the House must decide to which dogs it applies. We would probably all agree that it should apply to a rottweiler. We are told that there are between 90,000 and 180,000 of those. We would probably agree that is should apply to dobermans. I suspect that people would probably urge us to apply it to alsatians. If I judge correctly, there are several hundred thousand of those. I am sure that a Staffordshire bull terrier would be caught in the net. I remember that my housemaster at school had a particularly beastly one called a hog dog; it was an extremely fierce animal which certainly could not be excluded from the licensing system. Many other dogs would have to be subject to control if one went down that road.
One cannot say that control would apply to three or four well known breeds, because that would not rub. One must enlarge the category for licensing so that a lot of dogs are caught by it; otherwise, it is not reasonable. Once one has gone down that road, one is faced with an absurdity because one is regulating the possession of certainly hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of creatures. One simply cannot impose on any central authority the burden of that type of licensing role.
You may recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, that last year I had the responsibility of dealing with firearms. That was a serious issue and we had to consider whether it was possible for the local constabulary to carry out proper inquiries into the ownership and safe keeping of, for example, large-magazine self-loading shotguns. Many people told me that we were putting an impossible burden on to the police. I never accepted that, but it was said by many, including Opposition Members. If it was considered impossible to have control over a few tens of thousands of shotguns, surely we are talking about a total impossibility in respect of the many hundreds of thousands, not to say millions, of dogs that fall into the category we are currently discussing.