Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:11 am on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud 10:11 am, 4th February 2022

I commend my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell. It is quite an achievement to secure a Bill with no amendments and cross-party support, and with everyone smiling here today. He is right that this country is united by a love of animals. I have had that reinforced in particular when campaigning on the pet theft laws that the Government are bringing in. It matters a lot to people in Stroud, where we have an amazing rural crime team. The police in particular have asked for increased protections, and the Bill will help with that among the array of tools that the Government are providing. The Government have an excellent track record in protecting animals and increasing welfare standards, and I look forward to hearing from the hard-working Minister—this is my second debate with her this week, so I know that she is always on her feet.

Stroud has an excellent track record on animal welfare and taking care for animals. We have a range of well-loved organisations set up to care for animals, including: Teckels; Cotswolds Dogs and Cats Home; Wild Hogs Hedgehog Rescue; Help a Hedgehog Hospital; Nailsworth Donkey Sanctuary; and Scrubditch Care Farm, just outside my patch, with which I have worked a lot. They are all fantastic organisations, and there are many more.

Yesterday, I was at SGS Stroud College with the skills Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Alex Burghart—where we met animal welfare students busy bathing guinea pigs, which was a complete novelty for the Minister. When we talked to the students and apprentices, we learned that they want to take these qualifications so that they can go on to university and become vets or perhaps go into rescue centres. They will certainly welcome the early intervention measures offered by the Bill.

I am a cat person—my brother bought me a mad cat lady action figure—but my marriage and this job stop me from having a house full of cats. I love all animals, and I know that if I ever lose this job, I will have a house full of animals—that keeps my husband campaigning to keep me in the job.

It is clear from listening to colleagues that we need the steps that the Bill brings, because relying on prosecutions, the police and the courts will not be enough—we know about the delays and pressures on our courts—and it will also not be a deterrent for people who cause problems for and are cruel to our animals. The Bill will speed up penalties for issues relating to animals and should act as a deterrent. We should all be focused on preventive action and early intervention, so I welcome that. I also note that leading lights and trusted charities such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home have said that they broadly support the contents of the Bill and that they really welcome using fines for technical and low-level breaches. The Bill is good enough for organisations such as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and brilliant for my local amazing charities and organisations in Stroud: it will protect our furry friends; it has cross-party support; and I am incredibly pleased that the Government are supporting it. Well done to my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell.