As a member of the Backbench Business Committee I am pleased that we are debating this subject, and I congratulate Robert Flello on his speech. I agreed with every word.
In this country we have a wonderful record in animal welfare, in contrast with a number of other countries. If the Minister responds in a positive fashion to what he has heard this afternoon, and to the huge number of representations made by constituents throughout the country, I think our stock will grow further. Before this debate, behind the scenes, I tried to do something about this issue, and I had a meeting with the splendid Lord de Mauley. He listened carefully to everything I said, and at the end of the meeting he suggested that I write a letter. I say to the Minister, in a kind way, that I want him to be brave this afternoon. I want him to tear up the speech drafted for him by civil servants, and—unlike my colleagues who feel that we do not need legislation—I want him to respond in a positive fashion to what he has heard. We all know that on occasion civil servants will say, “No, Minister.”
I had the privilege of serving on the Bill Committee for the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which amended the Protection of Animals Act 1911. The 1986 Act was groundbreaking at the time and dealt with a huge range of cruelty that was meted out to animals in this country. Since that time there have been many other attempts, and in my rather ham-fisted way I tried to promote the Dogs Bill in 1989, and the Pet Animals (Amendment) Bill in 1990. I therefore say to my colleagues that although I agree that we as Conservatives are against legislation, we need to do a tidying-up exercise.
I want to praise Clarissa Baldwin of the Dogs Trust, Rosemary Smart of the Kennel Club, the wonderful vet Marc Abraham, and my right hon. Friend Sir Alan Duncan. All those people are judges in the Westminster dog of the year show, and I will be entering—yet again—my two rescued pugs, Botox and Lily. They are somewhat depressed after parading before the judges, year after year, and getting absolutely nowhere. I have now got them into an arranged marriage, so I think the least that they could be awarded would be the prize for best married dogs in the show. I will not mention kittens because I will leave that to my good friend Ann Widdecombe.
I congratulate all organisations that have worked so hard on this issue. The provisions in the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 are inadequate. The wording of the Act is confusing and leaves too much space for individual interpretation. Producing five litters every year is absolutely ridiculous—two is quite enough. I hope the Minister will respond positively to that.