I congratulate my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston on introducing this debate, but we have discussed this issue so many times and now we need action. I rather agree with Angela Smith, in that I look to my hon. Friend the Minister to do something about this issue.
I have had two rescued pugs—a difficult breed. At the moment, we have a French bulldog; my daughter has it at the weekends, and my wife and I have it during the week, so we have the best of both worlds. Of course, puppies are very cute, but looking after them is a huge responsibility.
As we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire, an unintended consequence of the pet travel scheme and the relaxation of EU legislation has been an increase of smuggled puppies into the UK. It appears that those smugglers have easily been able to falsify pet passports and vaccine documentation, because enforcement at the borders is simply not good enough. It would be wonderful if my hon. Friend the Minister could explain how he and the Department intend to deal with the issues we face at those borders.
In 2012, when the rules were relaxed, the number of dogs entering the UK under PETS increased by 61%, and the age at which they could be imported was reduced from about 10 months to just 15 weeks. That has made it easier for smugglers to flout the rules and bring in unvaccinated puppies who are too young to travel.
As we have already heard, we are a nation of animal lovers; let us prove it. Through a simple Bill, we could change the way in which puppies are treated, and dealing with the wicked online behaviour of these crooks and criminals is key to that. We need to hear a strong message from the Minister.