Mode of trial and maximum penalty for certain animal welfare offences

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:30 pm, 23rd July 2019

As I said before, we are pleased to support the Bill and the increase in sentences. It is good finally to see it here and I hope we can get it on the statute book shortly. As I said on Second Reading, we have no intention of voting against it, but would rather seek to improve it where we can through amendments such as that tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar.

As I mentioned, we are concerned about the scope of the Bill and its narrowness, because it applies only to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and therefore does not apply to wild animals. I will come on to that in more detail when we reach new clause 2.

I will not say much, because it is important that the Bill moves forward as swiftly as possible. We welcome the fact that it will increase maximum sentences to five years and the fact that that brings England and Wales more into line with the rest of the UK. The Minister mentioned that Northern Ireland has moved on to five years. Scotland, as we know, has been consulting on doing the same. It is important we are not left behind in England and Wales.

As we have heard, public consultation was an important part in getting the general public and animal welfare organisations to support the work that the Government are doing. I know that Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Dogs Trust, the RSPCA and many others have worked with us and the Government to support the Bill and enable it to come forward. I know that a lot of people have worked very hard to get us to the place we are at now. I thank all those who have worked on this Bill.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s 2016 report on animal welfare referred to the increasing disparity in sentencing powers on a range of offences relating to animals. That report also included the recommendation to increase the maximum sentence for cruelty offences against animals to five years.