Animal Cruelty Crimes: Sentencing

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 17th January 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham

When he plans to bring forward legislative proposals for maximum five-year sentences for the most serious crimes of animal cruelty.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge

When he plans to bring forward legislative proposals for maximum five-year sentences for the most serious crimes of animal cruelty.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury

The Government will introduce the necessary legislation to increase the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from six months’ imprisonment to five years’ imprisonment as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham

I am grateful for that answer, but the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs called for five-year maximum sentences in 2016, Ministers promised it in 2017 and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said last June that it would be in place by the end of March this year, but there is still no sign of it happening. Why has there been such a long delay? Can the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs give us a firm, reliable timeframe for when this much-needed change will actually take place?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury

I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that we are moving as fast as we can on this. We need to find the right legislative vehicle, but it is our intention to take this forward, as I told yesterday’s Public Bill Committee on Finn’s law.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge

Can the Minister confirm whether any DEFRA Minister, including the Secretary of State, has had any discussions on five-year sentencing with either the Leader of the House or the Chief Whip in order to secure parliamentary time for this measure?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury

A very active dialogue is going on to determine the right vehicle, involving the usual channels within the House; those conversations have taken place.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Can the Government get out of crawler gear and get into first or second, because we have to bring about this five-year sentencing? At the moment, someone who pleads guilty to a horrendous crime of animal cruelty gets a maximum of four months, because they get an automatic 30% reduction. It is crazy that huge amounts of animal welfare abuse happens and we have such short sentences. So please get on with it.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury

We will get on with it. We take animal welfare seriously; we have introduced a third-party ban on sales of puppies and kittens, and we are working on this very actively.