Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Brendan Clarke-Smith Brendan Clarke-Smith Conservative, Bassetlaw 10:30 am, 4th February 2022

I thank my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell for his excellent Bill and for moving Third Reading today. I have been looking forward to speaking on it, although I must admit that I have very little experience of working with or owning animals. They tell us never to work with animals or children, and I failed miserably on the latter as a secondary school teacher. I suppose that is where the comparison should end, before I get myself into trouble.

Most of my experience with animals is from being out and about delivering leaflets on the campaign trail. I tend to step around driveways like Fred Astaire, trying to avoid various things. This brings back happy memories of the time I lived in Sweden and went on an expedition in the Arctic circle. I was pulled in a sled by dogs, and there were reindeer. My phone suddenly rang with a call from the now Secretary of State for Transport, which I was not expecting. He said, “Brendan, it is very nice to speak to you. Can I ask what you have been doing for the Eastleigh by-election?” There was very little signal and it was quite cold, as Members can imagine, so I said, “I am currently in the Arctic circle being pulled along on a dogsled.” He replied, “Okay, I believe you”—I tried to take a selfie to send to him—“but you could make some phone calls.” That was my job during one of my animal experiences.

Since being elected, I have seen the great success of Westminster dog of the year, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Romford is very passionate. It was a pleasure to see Sir David’s dog there this year. I was lobbied quite heavily, especially by my hon. Friend Lee Anderson for his dog Alfie. I am afraid I must confess that I did not support his dog this year, but he is not here today, so I feel safe in relaying that story.

I have a cat, which is a new thing for me. I am very fond of my cat, and pet owners are attached to their animals. It is an experience I would recommend. My first experience of owning an animal was when I had a white rabbit with pink eyes. If the legislation were reversed, the rabbit would have received many on-the-spot fines for attacking me. My second pet was a terrapin called Gary, who had a red band across his head. He was very similar to a ninja turtle.

Finally, I have the cat. We had to decide a name, and my son, who is five years old, decided on Jerry, supposedly after “Tom and Jerry”. I had to explain that Jerry was the mouse, not the cat, but one cannot argue with a five-year-old, so we called the cat Jerry, who is now one of my best friends. We regularly sit together to watch “Match of the Day”. He sits on my lap, and we discuss the issues of the day such as taking the knee or Gary Lineker’s salary. We have not had a single disagreement, which is fantastic.

Of course, the landmark Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 has come along and introduced five years’ imprisonment, and it is something of which we can be incredibly proud. I remember the fabulous Finn coming to this very building with Dave Wardell, his handler. It was one of our most popular events, which shows how well it went down with the public and with Members, too. The snaking queue was so long that at one point I thought it was an attempt to recreate the “Labour Isn’t Working” poster. I hope that my friends on the Opposition Benches will forgive me for mentioning that.

I am delighted that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Jo Churchill, has taken such a supportive approach to the Bill, as has the House of Lords. Opposition Members have also made some excellent contributions to the debate. Chris Sherwood, the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has said

“Fixed penalty notices are… useful to…combat suffering of farmed animals, horses and animals kept in zoos.”

The RSPCA, he said, was pleased about the proposals for powers of enforcement and tougher sentences. It supports the Bill wholeheartedly, as do I. I think that the United Kingdom can be world-leading in animal welfare, not just through the Bills that we have already introduced, but through excellent Bills such as this. Once again, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford and wish the Bill well.