It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair again, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston on securing the debate. It is a testament to the hard work of my hon. Friend and many other Members, and to public concern, that so many are present. I am grateful for his work and his active communication.
Since my appointment as Minister, it has become increasingly clear to me that we need to tackle the abhorrent puppy smuggling trade from end to end by looking at both supply and demand. I have spent a lot of time working with officials on the issue. Like all other hon. Members who have spoken, I have zero tolerance for the unscrupulous dealers and breeders who are simply abusing the pet travel scheme—we need to put an end to that.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend—no, my hon. Friend; I am elevating him before his time, but I am sure that his time will come—for highlighting such an abhorrent case, which brought home just how awful and how illegal puppy smuggling activities are. We need to do everything we can to protect animals, their potential owners and other humans who may suffer from the health risks. We must tackle the issue as best we can and with real urgency.
Along with 137 other Members of Parliament, I have pledged to be part of the Dogs Trust’s campaign to end puppy smuggling. I stand by that commitment fully, and I am very grateful to the trust for its hard work on this really important issue. We must also respect the important work that the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home do to shine a spotlight on the issue.
DEFRA’s overall comprehensive approach to tackling puppy smuggling encompasses international engagement, enforcement, tighter regulations and public communications. We have been doing a great deal of work on all those fronts since the last Westminster Hall debate in 2017.
The Government continue to raise the issue of puppy smuggling at an international level. My hon. Friend Neil Parish, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, raised that issue today. International engagement is particularly important in the wake of intelligence such as that mentioned by my hon. Friend, which suggests that puppies from non-EU countries such as Serbia are being illegally imported into the UK with EU passports and microchips, to make them appear EU-bred. Our chief veterinary officer has written to Serbia and Hungary, which is one of the potential receiving countries, to highlight our concerns.