Sale of Puppies and Kittens

Part of Backbench Business – in the House of Commons at 1:28 pm on 4th September 2014.

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Photo of Geoffrey Robinson Geoffrey Robinson Labour, Coventry North West 1:28 pm, 4th September 2014

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It is very welcome, coming as it does from such a distinguished intellectual quarter of the Conservative party. It was up to his usual high intellectual standard.

Joy Yeates then urged me to attend this debate. I am pleased to be here and to give the point of view of those who want practical steps to be taken.

Although he is not present, my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick has been foremost in saying that a huge strength of organisations are in support of us here. There have been a string of legislative attempts to tackle different aspects of the problem. Those have all been made with the best of intentions. Those of us who took part in the debates on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 know that. I am pleased to say that I had a role in that. It is not easy to legislate in this area, and I caution against early legislation—certainly primary legislation. I know that my hon. Friend Angela Smith, who will speak for the Opposition today—although there is no party divide on this issue—agrees with me about that entirely.

There is a lot that we could do by looking at the series of legislation and guidance, and at the responsibilities as they are currently defined within local government. We could bring together and simplify the plethora of different and sometimes not wholly complementary sets of guidance and regulations to ensure that we know who is responsible for pursuing each aspect of the problem.

I do not expect the Minister to be able to say much about my next point. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South insisted that he did not want to get distracted by the internet, but we have to face the fact that if we succeed in bringing breeding under control, the internet will become the problem. My experience, in both north Wales and Clacton, was that the breeders were very responsible. Twelve weeks was the minimum period for which the puppies stayed with their mothers, so those were very good breeders. However, if we manage to do all that we are setting out to do, the internet will still be there and it will become ever more attractive as the other sources of puppies and so on are stopped. If the internet is as viral as I expect, in the sense that it attracts so much attention and demand—I hope that it will not be—we will have to find ways of dealing with it. That might mean having some mandatory restrictions on websites. I will leave that with the Minister, as well as the other problems.

I look forward to hearing from the Minister a coherent, clear-cut set of proposals that have been worked on, which will deal with the problem in a practical and sensible way, with minimal additional fuss and bother in terms of paperwork from the Government. I am very pleased to have taken part. Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker.