It is a pleasure to speak today and to congratulate my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell on bringing forward this piece of legislation. He is a Member of this House who has long been a passionate advocate for his love of animals—as well as, I like to think, spotting Conservative talent, because when he saw me before I was elected to this place he thought I had a chance of winning. He may regret that now, having seen what I am like in the Chamber, but I appreciate his kind words. I also appreciate what he is doing for animals across the United Kingdom.
I did not have a Spike or a Buster before I got elected; I now have a Bella and a Bailey. I like the idea of Union flag waistcoats, and I will try to replicate those as I go around Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke at the next general election. Perhaps I will get a few nice tweets rather than the ones I have been receiving recently for being overly zealous in the Chamber in my support of the Prime Minister.
Coming back to the Bill, this is exactly the type of legislation that organisations such as Greyhound Gap, which works in the Kidsgrove area, or Baddeley Green Hedgehog Rescue, which also does fantastic work in the constituency, want to see: showing respect for our beloved animals and ensuring that those who seek to persecute, take advantage of or simply be cruel to an animal are held to account. There is no excuse, as a human, to ever be cruel to an animal. Those people who think that that is right or is something they can do should absolutely feel the full force of the law.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend Jerome Mayhew, who said, accurately, that by introducing fixed penalty notices we will free up court time, speeding up the process of punishing those who have clearly and evidently broken the law and ensuring that they feel the wrath financially—which is often where animals are mostly taken advantage of. I am proud to support this fantastic piece of legislation.
We should not forget that this affects not just our pets, but our zoo animals and livestock. I know my hon. Friend Greg Smith will talk passionately, as he has in the past, about those farmers who do a lot of really good work and look after their animals appropriately, and the tiny minority who sometimes bring a slur on the wider profession. It is important that we remember that many of our farmers do the right thing, but those who do not should be held to account, because they are ultimately profiteering from the animals they keep.
The fact that the fixed penalty notice
“may not exceed whichever is the lesser of—
(a) £5,000, and
(b) the maximum fine for which a person convicted of the offence is liable on summary conviction”,
is fantastic. I like to see big, hefty fines for such people. I have introduced my own private Member’s Bill, relating to rogue landowners who destroy history and heritage, and I want to see that fine go from a £1,000 cap to being unlimited, to allow a judge to use their discretion and expertise to determine the seriousness of the damage done. This case is similar, and that hefty fine will be a deterrent to those who seek to break the law.
I am also delighted to see the partisan—[Interruption.] Apologies, I am used to being partisan—the bipartisan way the House is approaching this issue, as has been the case with many animal welfare and animal rights issues, as well as the issue of waste. I note Ruth Jones, the shadow Minister, has talked passionately about north Staffordshire and Walleys Quarry and many other issues. I know she is backing the “Stop the Stink” campaign and I am grateful for her support, as the issue also affects my constituents. It is good to see that we are all working together.
It is a shame that what my hon. Friend the Member for Romford has done over his career has never been rewarded with a ministerial post. Perhaps the rumoured great reset will finally put him on the Treasury Bench, where he belongs. He is a fantastic advocate for animals and for our United Kingdom, and I am proud to support his Bill today. I look forward to hearing the following contributions.