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We live in the era of an all-powerful Executive. It is said that Parliament is irrelevant, and only there to rubber stamp the Government’s wishes.
Well this week, Parliament has bitten back. Backbench Members of Parliament, by spotting a parliamentary procedure, have clearly shifted Government policy in a big way.
Last Thursday, John Baron and I tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which merely said: ‘This House respectfully regrets that an EU Referendum Bill was not included in the Gracious Speech’.
Without any lobbying, 92 MPs, from the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrat Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, signed the amendment.
The result: a massive shift in Government policy.
Before the amendment, there was no question of the Prime Minister introducing an EU Referendum Bill. Days later, two Cabinet Ministers said they would vote to come out of the EU, Government PPSs were signing the amendment, and the Whips were allowing Conservative MPs to vote to modify the Government’s own Queen’s Speech.
Then on Tuesday, the Prime Minister published a draft EU Referendum Bill, promising an In/Out Referendum by the end of 2017.
The Shadow Cabinet held an emergency meeting to decide how to respond. In the end, they decided to vote against the amendment, which split their party.
On Wednesday, the House of Commons debated the amendment, and it was defeated by 277 votes to 130. Including the two tellers, myself and Philip Hollobone, 132 Members of Parliament voted to amend the Queen’s Speech; certainly unprecedented in recent history.
Not a single member of the Conservative Party voted against the amendment: clearly showing that the Tories are united behind an In/Out Referendum and the Prime Minister’s draft Bill.
This cannot be said for the Labour Party, with a number voting for the amendment.
The results of this vote have forced the Labour Party to show their true colours when it comes to giving the British people a voice on Europe.
They are the self-professed anti-referendum party.
What a difference a week makes.
When Parliament carries out its function, when Members of Parliament do what they were elected to do, and when the Government is forced to listen, real political change occurs.
Parliament has been at the centre of political debate this week, and long may it continue.
Forty years since the United Kingdom joined what was then the European Economic Community, the debate about Britain’s relationship with Europe has seldom been so intense. In January, the Prime Minister set out his vision for the future of the European Union – a positive vision of a “future in which Britain wants, and should want, to play a committed and active part”, but not one shying away from asking the difficult questions.
Public discontent with the remoteness and lack of accountability of EU decisions and EU institutions can be seen in election results and opinion polls right across the Union. The financial crisis and the stresses experienced within the eurozone have highlighted how Europe must adapt to remain competitive in a globalised world and one in which power is shifting to the emerging economies of south east Asia.
Now is the right time to step back and take an objective look at the scope of the EU’s competences (the power to act in particular areas) as they affect the UK, and consider what that means for Britain and our national interest. Last summer the Foreign Secretary launched the Balance of Competences Review – an informed and evidence-based analysis of the impact of EU membership on the UK, where it helps and where it hampers.
An analysis of the impact of Britain’s EU membership has never before been attempted on this scale, and it will take time to do well. It will be robust, objective and analytical, but it is not aimed at making specific policy recommendations. We want the review to inform a constructive and serious national debate. It will look at everything the EU does and how it affects the UK, from the environment to education to EU enlargement and more. The review is an important Coalition commitment and has the full support of both Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of our Government.
The calls for evidence for the first tranche of reports on a range of topics – from the internal market to foreign policy – closed in February and will be published before the summer recess. We were pleased with the positive response. Departments received a wide range of high quality contributions from businesses, interest groups, civil society organisations, think tanks and political groupings.
We are seeking evidence from the widest possible range of experts and interested groups in the UK and beyond. Parliamentarians made a valuable contribution to the first tranche of reports. We will shortly be issuing calls for evidence for the second tranche of reports.
Mark Pritchard was born a Tory. “All my foster family were Labour, and I was always a Conservative. It was quite natural. It was in my DNA,” he says.“I spent most of my life in Herefordshire, but I also grew up in Wales, in the heart of the mining valleys, the Afan valley, from 1976 to 1981. That was a period when Thatcher wasn’t particularly popular. I was really inspired by Thatcher. I suppose you could say I was the only Conservative in the village.
“I spoke to Katherine Jenkins [the opera singer] about this recently. She is a Conservative and I said ‘you must have been the only Conservative in the village, in the valley’, and she felt the same way. She was in the valley just down the road from me, from a place called Pontrhydyfen in Neath, where Richard Burton was born.”
Pritchard, who has been MP for The Wrekin since 2005, is best-known for two things: animal welfare and what he calls his “arch Euroscepticism”.
He rejects the label of ‘rebel’, preferring ‘independent-minded’.
“If I believe something and I have convictions, then I should stick to those convictions and try to persuade people to my point of view and hopefully people will agree with me,” he explains. “I came into politics to try and change things for the better – I did not come into politics to be popular.”
He rejects the suggestion he has a temper. “I would say that I get impatient from time to time.”
Pritchard says it “just so happens” that when he disagrees with the Government it has been on high-profile issues. “My view is that I hopefully speak sparingly, although some might say I speak despairingly, and choose my moments. Timing is as important in politics as the issue, and if I was commenting on everything all the time that would do me harm and be unhelpful.”
Pritchard scored a significant victory with the ban on wild animals in circuses. He led an impassioned campaign, and in a speech to the House in 2011, claimed Downing Street had offered him a “pretty trivial job” if he agreed to drop the Commons motion calling for a ban. He didn’t back down, the House supported him, and two years later the ban was finally agreed by the Government.
In October last year he joined forces with Mark Reckless to pass a rebel amendment calling for a real terms cut in the EU’s budget.
“The Government was defeated on that, but the Prime Minister was empowered. He went to Brussels and actually got a real terms cut. It was a huge triumph and achievement for him as a person.”
Pritchard says David Cameron “looks the part, sounds the part, and is getting better at being Prime Minster”. “Perhaps it is inevitable, but not always I suppose, that a prime minister is better three years in than on day one, so he has learnt a lot in the last three years. The Coalition is in a stronger place today than it was 12 months ago or even 24 months ago.”
Pritchard also hit the headlines in January 2011 when he had a spat with John Bercow. His riposte to the Speaker – “you are not fucking royalty” – caught the public imagination and was reported across the world.
However Pritchard dismisses it as “a misunderstanding” and is full of praise for the Speaker. “He is doing an excellent job. He has strengthened Parliament, he has enabled backbenchers to have more of a voice. That is good for democracy and good for MPs’ constituents.”
Was his outburst a reaction to privilege, an issue much discussed as Cameron fights off suggestions he has surrounded himself with a public school cabal?
“I don’t have an issue with privilege,” Pritchard replies. “I would have loved to have gone to Eton and I would love to wear a golden frock to work every day, but there is only one golden frock in the House and the Speaker wears it.”
Pritchard’s early years were markedly different from his party leader’s. For the first five years of his life he was brought up in an orphanage in Hereford and was later in foster care.
“I don’t have a single bad memory from my time in the orphanage, from six months to five years old, and all credit to those who surrounded me with love, care and affection.
“In fact this year I am hosting all of the ‘aunties’ for a dinner here in Parliament to say thank you for what they did. I am also getting a picture framed of the orphanage where I grew up, which was a huge, beautiful Victorian house. Why should I be the only Conservative without a picture of a large house in my office?”
Pritchard reveals he did trace his birth parents – both of whom are now dead.“I never met my father who died some years ago of cancer, I did meet my mother a few times.”
This natural-born Tory first got involved in party politics in 1988: “I was living in Oxford and I was asked to stand for Wood Farm, a Labour heartland, as the Oxbridge folk in this place will know.
“I was actually living in Woodstock at the time but working in Oxford. I noticed in the qualifications that you needed to have lived or worked in the area for six months and I did not qualify. I was encouraged by somebody, now deceased, to not worry about the rules, and that no one would ever know.
“But I did not feel it was necessarily the right way to start off my political career, although some people allegedly have gone on to become prime minister without worrying about those rules.”
Before he became an MP, Pritchard worked as a marketing consultant, advising companies in the leisure and commercial sectors on entry into new markets, including in the emerging Eastern European and Soviet states. Does he have any advice for the Tory party on how it can reach out to new voters?
“I defer to Lynton Crosby who is very good and very able and a great Australian. I think his guidance and advice is already being felt in a positive way in the party.
“I wouldn’t dare to try and share my advice, but I would say that I don’t think you can repeat a message often enough. We need to be better communicators as a party.”
He predicts that his party “can still win” in 2015. “I think David Cameron will lead us into the next election. Eventually he will move on, all prime ministers do, but there is no other person who I think can manage the Coalition in the way he does.”
Pritchard, despite his reputation as a thorn in the side of the establishment, hankers after ministerial office: “I would like to do it, whether I am asked we will wait and see. I would like to serve in Government and hopefully I would be able to make a minor contribution and give a different perspective. I will wait and see – there is a lot of competition out there, a lot of hugely talented people in the party and we have got some very able ministers.”
As for the EU, Pritchard wants to renegotiate but is pessimistic about the outcome. “It is only a matter of when not if the United Kingdom leaves the EU,” he claims.“It is right that we should try and reform Europe, it is in the interests of Europe that it reforms. Britain can be good consultants on the European project and how it can reform. But I personally don’t believe the scale of reforms that are required politically within this country, and would be acceptable, would be delivered by Brussels.”
Pritchard wants a bill on EU membership “to come before Parliament in six or seven months’ time – it will be too late after the European elections”.
In the meantime, his next project is to end the practice of keeping primates as pets.
“There are about 12,000 primates in this country who are often kept in cruel and cramped conditions,” he says. “I believe that while we regard ourselves as superior to the animal kingdom, we have responsibility to look after animals and our planet. I was an environmentalist long before climate change as a term ever came into use, and I just think we are leaseholders of this planet not freeholders.”
Pritchard is an intense presence, so it is surprising to find out his hobby is writing comedy: “I am a failed comedy writer! In fact years ago I used to submit lots of sketches to Spitting Image. I am working on a character-based comedy series which I hope to complete early next year. I was asked to write something about the life of a constituency MP but I felt that was bit close to home.”
He also plays tennis “very badly” and enjoys jazz. His other great love is canine, but he has suffered tragedy of late.
“It has been an annus horribilis this year as I lost both my miniature schnauzers – one was 16 and he died in our arms in front of the fire at home, a nice way to go.
“Pebbles was 12 and she died unexpectedly by vets not doing their job properly. It took me six months to get over it. I am comforted that they both are buried in my garden in Shropshire. It was touching to be able to bury them, wrap them in their favourite blanket and with their favourite toy. I said a little prayer and reading and sent them off with a proper Christian dog burial which you would expect from an Englishman who is an animal lover.”
David Amess is Conservative MP for Southend West
It is not easy to make a quick assessment of the UK fishing industry. At times, the big figures can seem gloomy; the industry has never been smaller. In 1938 there were 47,824 fishermen in the UK and as of 2010 there were 12,703. Certain fish stocks seem seriously depleted, such as the cod stock in the North Sea. Thankfully this is not the full story.
The story on the ground is quite different. When I speak to fishermen in my constituency, Southend West, they tell me that fish stocks are high and market prices are low. They point to the Celtic Sea cod stock, which has grown rapidly in recent years, and the North Sea haddock stock, which is also strong; statistics taken from the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) annual report support their assertions. Plaice seems abundant all over the place, and there seems to be enough sole to feed many souls! Just this week in my local paper there was an article highlighting the renewal of shrimping in the area, something which has not happened for 12 years. This has been a “massive boost” to the local area according to The Leigh Times, diversifying and boosting business; especially helpful following on from restrictions in the cockle fishing business.
Our brief survey of the industry begs the question as to what steps need to be taken to strengthen the industry further. Thankfully I know that in Richard Benyon we have an excellent minister who is always willing to listen to different opinions, who fights for the rights of UK fishermen and who cares about sustainability looking forward.
I would suggest that current EU-dictated policy is too inflexible. Fishermen are not able to react to changes in fish stocks and have their hands tied by rigid quotas which are, at times, out of date. Giving more responsibility and freedom to local fishermen would only benefit the industry. In a similar light, giving a quota to fishermen to enable them to land some stock which is currently discarded would be an excellent step forward; 1.3 million tonnes of fish are discarded each year in the North Atlantic which is a travesty. I am delighted that discard is set to end within six years, but a ‘landing quota’ may be a solution for the intervening years. Quotas are a controversial topic and the local fishermen I know feel that they are not currently shared out fairly between the fleets, with the under 10-metre fleet in particular being dealt a poor hand. This certainly needs to be addressed at the highest level.
Finally, I feel strongly that we need to be advocating the benefit of eating fish in the UK. People need to know that fish is back on the menu and that it is a very healthy choice. Promotions such as Sainsbury’s ‘Switch the Fish’ campaign are an excellent idea and I would like to see Government partnering with retailers, suppliers and the industry more widely to promote fish as a cheap and healthy alternative to meat.
Graeme Morrice is Labour MP for Livingston
I have long supported increased animal protection in the UK and spoken out about maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader on animal welfare standards.
Like other MPs, I recently signed the House of Commons motion (EDM 951) expressing concern over the issue and calling on the Government to bring forward legislative proposals for the mandatory installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) in British slaughterhouses.
I find it abhorrent that, in this day and age, animals are kicked, punched, beaten, thrown, goaded and burned with cigarettes, and thousands go to the knife having been stunned inadequately – a situation that is virtually unthinkable for the UK, but it happens…
I have joined the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and animal welfare organisations in recognising the positive role that CCTV can play in protecting and monitoring animal welfare in slaughterhouses.
Independently-monitored cameras could act as a security measure and deter or detect hygiene and contamination breaches. CCTV also provides other benefits, including acting as a tool for training for slaughter staff, vets and meat hygiene inspectors.
Research supports the case: in eight of nine slaughterhouses filmed using covert cameras, breaches of the welfare laws were found. Despite the fact that the FSA’s official veterinarians (supplied and paid for by the industry and taxpayer) are in all slaughterhouses whenever animals are being stunned and killed, legal breaches and additional suffering are not being detected and stopped.
One reason is that vets are not actually present at the time of stunning or slaughter. By law, the vet must only be on the premises, not necessarily where the animals are being ‘processed’.
The current regulatory approach does not protect animals, but CCTV could help vets to detect these breaches. It could also help prosecute those who do break the law.
Sometimes people ask who would see the film. I agree films from CCTV should be made available to an independent panel, including an animal welfare representative and an independent vet, as well as the FSA’s enforcement and legal teams.
I believe that CCTV in slaughterhouses can play a substantial role in safeguarding and further developing high consumer confidence in our excellent British produce, both at home and abroad.
And I am not alone. My political support mirrors the mood of many of my constituents who want the Government to make CCTV mandatory for all slaughterhouses, and the 10 largest supermarkets – Morrisons, Waitrose, the Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Iceland – have agreed to deal only with slaughterhouses that have independently monitored CCTV cameras installed.
So what can be done? The first step is for the Government to stop pretending significant abuses are not happening. I appeal to the Government to listen to the arguments in favour of compulsory CCTV, recognise the strength of feeling in Parliament and in the wider population, and take the appropriate action – before even more animals suffer needlessly.
Sarah Newton is Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth and a member of the Science and Technology Committee
Since childhood I have been fascinated by bees, from collecting them to more recently learning how to keep a hive, something driven not only by a love of honey but also by the understanding of the vital role they play in our natural environment and the valuable service they provide to our agri-food and drinks industry.
The agri-food and drink sector contributes £85bn a year to the UK economy, provides employment for 3.5 million people and is vital for national food security. Without a strong workforce of pollinators we will not be able to fully realise the potential of this sector in the coming years. Bees pollinate better than anything else in our ecosystem. It is estimated that manual pollination, which is the only option if a catastrophic decline in bee numbers takes place, would cost British farmers up to £1.8bn every year.
The evidence is clear: managed and wild bee populations are declining fast in Britain. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has done much to try to understand why. The department is implementing the healthy bees plan, working with beekeepers to provide training and to respond to pest and disease threats. Within that plan, DEFRA’s national bee unit provides inspection, diagnostic and training services to beekeepers.
Responding to the increased demands on our farmland for homes and businesses, renewable energy, water management as well as more and affordable food for a growing population, farming practices have changed over the years leading to loss of habitat for bees. Changes to our climate are an important factor too. While work under the “Biodiversity 2020” banner aims to deliver more and improved habitats for all pollinators, it is time to introduce a holistic bee strategy across Government. Local authorities and communities have a major role to play in protecting and enhancing habitats.
DEFRA has joined some of the UK’s major research funders to fund projects aimed at researching the causes and consequences of threats to insect pollinators with the aim of identifying the best possible action to support the species. The initiative’s total spend is up to £10m over five years, to which DEFRA has contributed £2.5m with the results of those studies expected over the next two years. Given the EU’s recent decision to ban the use of neonicotinoids that protect cereal crops such as winter wheat, and the likelihood that farmers will have to use alternatives such as pyrethroids or organophosphates to keep the price of a loaf of bread affordable, it is vital that there is a step change in investment into this research.
Despite cuts in public expenditure, the Government has rightly recognised the power of British universities’ science and technology expertise in working with industry to create new solutions for today’s problems – in the process generating new jobs and prosperity – by ringfencing an annual science budget of £5.9bn. What better investment can there be than new bee-friendly crop protection products and technologies that will have large export potential.
from: Huw Irranca-Davies
sent: 11 May 2013 18:19
Let me start with microchipping.
Microchipping of dogs appeals to many owners. It can help reunite a much-loved dog with their owner, and with tens of thousands of dogs lost or stolen or every year it is already a popular choice for many. But to date that’s been voluntarily undertaken, albeit with a small fee. Now it will be compulsory for all dogs (and by implication for all law-abiding owners). That changes the whole dynamic.
But whether microchipping will deal with irresponsible ownership, and ultimately help reduce attacks by dogs, is a moot point. It partly depends on whether the Government sees microchipping as an aid to re-unite dogs with their owners, saving on the emotional and hard-cash costs of kennelling and euthanasia for the hundreds of thousands of stray, abandoned, lost and stolen dogs every year.
Or does the Government sees this as a way to identify and possibly take action against owners of dogs involved in attacks on people and other animals, dog-fights, and abuse and mistreatment. In short, will microchipping not just bring owners face-to-face with their missing pet, but potentially face-to-face with the magistrate?
Which brings me back to the question of “law-abiding owners”: what about those who avoid their responsibilities through ignorance (“I never knew I had to”), cost (“I couldn’t afford it, and didn’t want to give up my pet”) or outright criminality and desire to evade the law? What about the back-street breeders, the internet peddlers and the weapon-dog breeders who stick two fingers up at the law?
Many questions indeed, but compulsory microchipping is broadly welcome as it will help promote responsible ownership. But alone it won’t stop a single injury or death. That requires preventative measures, and this is where the Government’s current proposals fall badly short.
from: James Gray
Sent: 13 May 2013 14:50
Dear Huw, There is of course a real utility for microchipping of dogs in reuniting lost dogs with their owners, reducing the number which have to be put down, and in cutting the costs of dog control and identification. But irresponsible or criminal dog owners don’t microchip now; and unless there is a massive policing operation, it is hard to see why they will do so if it becomes compulsory. Horse Passports are compulsory, but only 50% of horses are recorded!
What’s more, the compulsory regime will be bureaucratic and burdensome. Even if it was possible for the UK’s 8m dogs all to be chipped, who is to force owners to pay a fee to have the details of ownership changed if the dog is sold, moves home, or dies? In a short time the database will be crammed with details of dead or missing dogs. Compulsory ID cards for humans have been dropped, yet now we are planning to do it for dogs!
Anyhow, if you’re a drug baron using dogs as weapons, how likely are you to trot down to the Dogs Trust to get your vicious animals registered? If you’re a street corner thug using your dangerous dog as a status symbol and to help you mug old ladies, how worried are you going to be about the new Defra regulation? If the problem the Government is trying to tackle is the use and ownership of dangerous dogs, the solution lies elsewhere in the Criminal Justice System. Microchipping will not only be wholly ineffective, but worse will give the illusion “that we have done something about it.”
from: Huw Irranca-Davies
Sent: 14 May 2013 12:35
Dear James, Microchipping is not a magic bullet, but it is definitely helpful as part of a package which promotes responsible ownership. Yet as I say, the Government have yet to make clear if they see microchipping as a simple “lost and found” service for owners, or something more. Moving from voluntary to compulsory chipping suggests a bigger agenda, but we’ll test the Government’s thinking as the proposals emerge. But the even bigger issue is how to actually reduce the numbers of strays and abandoned, to reduce the crippling kennelling costs for councils, police forces and charities, and end the scandal of thousands of euthanised dogs every year. This means tackling irresponsible dog breeding, as well as dog ownership. Taking action to curtail the supply-chain of back street breeders, illicit puppy-farms and internet traders is vital, otherwise we’ll be microchipping dogs just to kennel and destroy them.
It’s these “upstream” measures to restrict the breeding of ultimately unwanted or unloved dogs that are missing from current proposals. Let’s have dogs which are bred responsibly, nurtured and trained well, and go to loving homes – not the free for all which currently exists. Do you agree?
from: James Gray
Sent: 14 May 2013 17:17
So what’s Labour’s policy on all this? Come on, Huw. You’re a nice fellow, and we agree on most things. But no-one would disagree with the woolly words in your emails so far. My argument is clear and blunt. Compulsory microchipping of dogs is a bureaucratic, ineffective and interventionist solution to a problem which instead demands the full weight of the criminal justice system. The database will not work; criminals will be unaffected by it; old ladies will still be mugged, postmen paid danger money and hoodlums gain status from snarling cross-breeds foaming at the mouth on studded collars and chains. But ministers will be able to sleep easy on the false promise that ‘they have done something about it’.
Microchipping has a real utility, and will always be done by decent law-abiding responsible dog owners like you and me. The RSPCA in Bath will always be grateful for their microchip as any of my seven dogs shows up there as they do from time to time. But that is my choice. And if I chose not to do so, there would be no legal compulsion. I don’t want to have to carry a personal ID card, although I do so to get me into Parliament; I don’t want to have to have a passport for my horse, but choose to do so because it allows me to take part in competitions; and I want the right to choose to have my dogs microchipped.
Woolly thinking and a vague hope that we are doing the right thing and that we need to be seen to be doing so is a poor basis for lawmaking. And it is no substitute for laws which will truly address the problem – in this case prohibitive criminal sentences for the use of a dog as a weapon.
from: Huw Irranca-Davies
Sent: 14 May 2013 23:12
Dear James, I think you’re a lovely chap too, but I’m afraid the only woolly thinking is in the heads of Government ministers. Whilst some proposals are welcome (especially after waiting three long years!) others just don’t go far enough. Creating a type of ASBO for dogs is not welcomed by police, home visitors, the RSPCA or anyone frankly: DOGBOs are a pretty sad excuse for not bringing forward powerful new Dog Control Orders which could prevent attacks by putting restrictions on dogs and their owners. To make it worse, the plan to abolish the existing Dog Control Notices are – perversely – a step backwards.
The Government has nothing to say about early intervention, education and awareness-raising to change the behaviour of dog owners, as demanded by all the campaigners who have waited so long for this Government to act. As for proposals to tackle irresponsible dog breeding which I raised in my last email, I simply ask, where are they? Extending the ability to prosecute owners for attacks which take place on private property is something we campaigned for alongside the CWU and others, so we’re delighted to see it. Likewise, making an attack on another dog an offence is welcome.
Now James, there’s something to get your teeth into! I know you’re a great guy, with some lovely dogs which you look after well. I’m sure they are chipped and pampered, their vets bills are paid and they behave impeccably well in company. But not all owners – nor their dogs – are always like that. So don’t get too hung up on microchipping as the be-all and and-all. Think more widely how we protect people and other animals from attack, and how we promote responsible ownership to everyone. That’s where the Government needs to think a bit harder.
All the best,
from: James Gray
Sent: 15 May 2013 08:22
Dear Huw, Some ministers are the woolliest of the lot. And most go to lengths to try to find – or be seen to be finding – solutions to problems, even if it’s the wrong one. And guided by Sir Humphrey those solutions are nearly always bureaucratic – like the national register of eight million dogs which they are proposing.
I absolutely agree with you about Dog Control Orders to muzzle the worst potential offenders alongside tough penalties for criminal activity. And allowing prosecutions for attacks on private property makes good sense so long as we are also very careful to avoid unnecessary breaches of civil liberties. And let us not forget that most attacks, for example on postmen, are by dogs which are normally perfectly harmless. Most of the very serious attacks on children have been by their own, or very often neighbours’ or relations’ dogs. We are not talking about vicious dogs here – it’s perfectly ordinary household pets. So we must beware of the law of unintended consequences, or perhaps Gray’s law of ministerial dictat wholly missing its target.
As to promoting responsible dog ownership, again I wholly agree with you, although believe the onus of responsibility for that should be on the animal charities. Perhaps the RSPCA should spend more of its time doing that sort of thing instead of idiotic and politically motivated prosecutions which are abandoned at the last minute at vast cost to their members and to the public purse.
Huw, disappointing as it may be to the confrontational and tribally inspired readers of the House magazine, we’re pretty much on the same side on most of this – so you can expect my general support across the Chamber the next time it comes up.
All the best,