I thank my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston for securing this debate, because it is good to keep our concentration on the issue of puppy smuggling. I am also delighted to see the Minister here; we are expecting great things from him, because as my hon. Friend Sir David Amess said, it is time for action, not just words.
The statistics show that there are between 9 and 11 million dogs in the country. If a dog has an average life of 10 or 12 years, we can work out that we probably need somewhere between three quarters of a million and a million puppies every year. From the statistics on what we breed in this country and what is bred in Ireland, we know that there is a huge shortage of puppies, which is being filled by illegal gangs. It is relatively easy to falsify veterinary certificates and all sorts to get puppies through the border. When a person comes to the border, it is largely the paper trail that is checked, rather than someone looking into the vans and vehicles and finding where those puppies are. We need to be much stronger. It is not just about a paper trail; we have to actually get into the vans and find out what is happening.
I admire what the Dogs Trust has been doing. The evidence it has given the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that puppy smuggling is a real problem. Our Committee released its “Animal welfare in England: domestic pets” report back in 2016-17, and one of our recommendations was that the Government ban third-party puppy sales. At the time, the Government were not sure whether they wanted to do so, but since then the Secretary of State has looked into the issue and announced a ban. If we could bring that about, we would at least be able to work out exactly where puppies come from. They would be with their owners, and we would buy them from those owners and from proper breeders. It would be more difficult for people to smuggle puppies in and pretend that they have come from wherever. We will never stamp out all puppy smuggling, but we can stamp out a lot of it.
I ask the Minister to please take action, because this cannot go on. This is not only about the misery caused to individuals, but about diseases potentially being brought into the country. These puppies are far too young and not properly socialised, so I look forward to the Minister’s actions.