I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point, which I was going to comment on later. The Minister kindly afforded a meeting to myself and colleagues, as well as animal welfare groups, to discuss that very issue. We pressed him on the matter; he is clearly concerned about it and the officials were very much on the case. I hope he can give us an update today. DEFRA clearly recognises that there is a problem and has been working on it and making progress, and I seek an assurance from the Minister that that work will continue.
The argument for a ban on pet shop sales was strongly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South, and I am sure the Minister will respond to that case, but will he also comment on enforcement by local authorities? Heather Wheeler said that her local authority is very good, but it will be interesting to hear from the Minister whether enforcement is consistent across the piece—it seems to have been suggested that some local authorities are better than others—and what DEFRA and DCLG are doing to make it more consistent. Could the information supplied to breeders be made clearer?
Several of the briefings I received mentioned the Welsh draft breeding regulations. Does DEFRA regard those as helpful? Does it intend to replicate them, or will the Department wait to see whether they are passed in Wales? How helpful will microchipping be? Concern about the database has been registered. Will the Minister respond to questions about unscrupulous or even illegal advertising of puppies and kittens? I understand that DEFRA supported the voluntary scheme from the Pet Advertising Advisory Group; does the Department intend to go further and make that a regulatory requirement?
Finally in this section of my speech, I wanted to ask about illegal imports and the efforts of DEFRA and the Home Office in that regard.