Clause 1 - Livestock worrying: scope and consequences of offence

Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons am 12:07 pm ar 17 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Ceidwadwyr, Suffolk Coastal 12:07, 17 Mai 2024

I beg to move amendment 1, page 1, line 10, leave out

“clarify the penalty that applies” and insert—

“increase the penalty that may be imposed”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 2.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 2, schedule, page 5, line 29, leave out—

“not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale”.

This amendment increases the fine that can be imposed on a person convicted of the livestock worrying offence. It allows for an unlimited fine to be imposed.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Ceidwadwyr, Suffolk Coastal

It is a pleasure to speak to my own Bill. It has its origins in the topics to be considered on the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, but for a variety of reasons, which I expect we may go into again on Third Reading, this is now a single-issue Bill. I also rise to speak to the amendments.

In Committee, there was considerable discussion on what penalties would be deemed appropriate. One concern I had—I tabled my own amendment—was simply to ensure that we were not in a situation where the penalties could in any way be less than what had been intended in the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. There was no question of that in many ways because the penalty in the original 1953 Act was so small, but it did allow a situation to emerge where there was an increase in penalties or fines against owners of dogs if there had been repeat offences. That is what I sought to discuss with hon. Members, the Minister and officials, to ensure that that was not the case. I was delighted that the Government agreed with that principle and that officials were able to come forward with a different amendment, which I am delighted to be moving today.

Amendment 2 is the substantive amendment—amendment 1 is consequential to it—and if the House agrees to it, the person who commits an offence under the section is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine. There is no limit on that fine; it is an unlimited penalty. This has become a trend in legislation in recent times. That matters because Parliament is not putting in place a cap on what can be done. The flexibility that we can give to the courts is an important way of tackling unacceptable behaviour, such as effectively neglecting the conduct of a dog so that it attacks other animals.

I would still expect the Sentencing Council to issue guidelines regarding what will be appropriate, but in Committee it was deemed important to ensure that we reinstate that element of ensuring there could be an escalation, and not some arbitrary cap where Parliament decides once and for all on what the fine could be, depending on the severity of the offence. In Committee we heard of multiple situations involving either one ewe or lamb, or indeed several. As a consequence, I think it right to allow our courts discretion to adjust the fines accordingly, in line with what the public would expect.

Photo of Jonathan Lord Jonathan Lord Ceidwadwyr, Woking

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this Bill, which I fully support. Will she briefly give a summary of the Bill for those Members who might not have been following its passage as closely as I have?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Ceidwadwyr, Suffolk Coastal

I would be happy to do that, but I think Mr Deputy Speaker might say that is out of order while we are discussing specific amendments. I will make sure that I do that on Third Reading, if my hon. Friend is amenable to that. I am also hoping to get leeway from Mr Deputy Speaker to talk about amendments that we did not table.

Another significant discussion in Committee was about disqualification orders, whether we should be able to apply those, and what legislation was available to do that. The Minister and I both committed to look into the issue further, which we did, and there is a variety of other legislation, including the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which relates to this sort of activity. I am grateful to the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, my right hon. Friend Sir Mark Spencer who responded to members of the Committee who wanted to go further, and discussed why that was not the case.

As I indicated in Committee, I understood that powers were available to undertake such actions, but not specifically in this Bill. I do not know whether that has been shared with the House, but depending on the procedures that are allowed, I would be happy to ask for such information to be placed in the Library of the House. In essence, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 sets out a non-exhaustive definition of when a dog is to be regarded as dangerously out of control, and if necessary a prosecution could be brought under that Act, instead of the Bill. Further legislation even dates back to the Dogs Act 1871, regarding when a magistrates’ court can make a control or destruction order if it appears to the court that the dog is dangerous and not under control. A disqualification order can also be made if the court has decided to make an order for the destruction of a dog by virtue of legislation. That will, I hope, answer some of the questions that I have received from members of the public regarding why certain powers are not specifically included in the Bill.

Although it can be understandably tricky to navigate our legislation, political parties such as the Liberal Democrats seem to excel in ignoring legislation and trying to create it and then accuse others of not doing something when something is already a criminal offence. I want to ensure that it is on the record that we are not ignoring the opportunity for people to be refused the opportunity to own dogs in the future, if they are simply being irresponsible in allowing this sort of attack, it is just that it will not be covered specifically in the Bill. We have basically allowed unlimited penalties to be applied. I think that is good news for aspects of animal welfare, and it will, I hope, be a significant deterrent to people, and encourage them to be more careful with their dogs—we will get into that on Third Reading and discuss why we are doing this at all. The Bill will add strength so that we see a massive reduction in livestock worrying.

Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 12:15, 17 Mai 2024

I congratulate Dr Coffey on her progress with this important Bill. Livestock worrying causes havoc for farmers up and down the country. The vast majority of dogs are lovable and good-natured family pets, and most owners are responsible and would never dream of letting their pet chase down, never mind attack, livestock in fields. However, a small minority of dogs are not kept under control, and run loose and aggressively chase down, attack and sometimes even kill livestock, leaving farmers to deal with the stress of their animals’ injury and death.

We have heard growing concerns in the farming community about dog attacks. Farmers regularly tell me about their personal experiences of dogs chasing or attacking their livestock. A horrific incident was reported to me where someone deliberately set several aggressive XL bully dogs on a flock of sheep, deliberately training them to become more aggressive. The farmer called the police, but they did not consider it a serious enough crime even to turn up—far too often the story with rural crime. There are too many cases like that.

The National Farmers Union found that UK farm animals worth an estimated £2.4 million were severely injured or killed by dogs in 2023 alone—a staggering cost at a time when farmers face a devastating storm of rising energy bills, high personal taxation and the damaging effects of severe and repeated flooding. I am deeply concerned about the emotional and psychological impact of these incidents on farmers, when their mental health is increasingly at risk. We see that in the tragic fact that farming now has the highest suicide rate of any sector in the UK economy.

I am very pleased that the right hon. Member and the Minister have listened to calls made on Second Reading and in Committee for stronger sanctions against owners of dogs involved in livestock worrying. I welcome the right hon. Member’s amendment in response to requests to allow much more severe penalties, but it is a shame that the Bill does not go further on disqualification in facilitating further deterrence. I listened to what she said about disqualification, but as my hon. Friend Daniel Zeichner said in Committee, the fact that disqualification was brought forward in the original Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill suggests that the Bill is an appropriate place for it.

I wonder whether the right hon. Member has looked further into the merits of including a requirement for dogs to be kept on leads when in close proximity to livestock. The Opposition were not convinced by the Minister’s explanation of why he thought the costs outweighed the benefits of doing that. Again, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge argued, it is entirely reasonable to require dogs to be on leads around livestock. At the very least, we should do more to educate dog owners on how to control their pets and stop them escaping and causing havoc while on the loose. We should certainly promote greater awareness of the countryside code.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (AI and Intellectual Property)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent contribution by highlighting the need for dogs to be on leads and the terrible pressures on farmers at this difficult time. Further to the point about education and information for owners, sadly there is a small minority of irresponsible dog owners who have caused terrible problems for farmers. There is a much broader group of dog owners who are responsible, and the point about encouraging the use of leads is important. Would he like further information to be provided to dog owners and families with dogs, to remind them of the importance of having their dog on a lead when they are near livestock?

Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes an important point and perhaps the Minister will address it. In many cases, of course, when a pet dog attacks animals, the owner will say, “They’ve never done that before—it didn’t happen before,” but clearly it can. The more education people have about the risks, the more likely they are to take action that would prevent that from happening.

In summary, the Bill is a big step forward in supporting farmers and protecting their livestock. The Opposition are keen to see the measures in the Bill introduced as quickly as possible, as they are long overdue and clearly urgently needed. We continue to support this legislation and I wish it well as it continues its journey through the House.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is a pleasure to speak on what I consider to be a very important Bill. Not only is it important to many countryside lovers, but it has been very much supported by the National Farmers Union and the National Sheep Association, and it will play an important role in strengthening our legislation to deter livestock worrying. I must thank my right hon. Friend Dr Coffey for her dogged support for the legislation, and those on the shadow Benches for their support; I know the Bill is fully supported.

While I have a farming-linked remit within DEFRA, I am also the access Minister, and the legislation is important in terms of access to the countryside, as well because it will give added awareness to people who are going out with dogs. We are encouraging people into the countryside for many reasons—the health and wellbeing benefits and all that—but, as the shadow Minister mentioned, we need to raise awareness of the countryside code. Taking one’s dog out into the countryside is a wonderful thing, but respect and understanding must be given to the farming community and to all the responsibilities that lie therein for dog owners walking their dogs. This is important legislation and it will help.

I will speak briefly to the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal. She has listened very carefully to the comments in Committee, which is why she has tabled these amendments. They seem to make complete sense and I know they have had a great deal of support. She wants to be sure, as do others, that the courts have the appropriate discretion to impose a higher fine where it is warranted. The current maximum fine that might be imposed is a level 3 fine not exceeding £1,000; increasing the maximum fine to an unlimited amount would serve to provide an additional deterrent and help to reduce the likelihood of livestock worrying.

My hon. Friend for the Minister for Water and Rural Growth committed to supporting this amendment in Committee, and I reconfirm that support today. Just to clarify, as was mentioned in the Committee, the maximum fine available will be determined by this legislation and will not depend on the sentencing guidelines. Sentencing guidelines are developed by the independent Sentencing Council for England and Wales, in fulfilment of its statutory duty. As an independent body, the council decides its own priorities and work plan for reviewing guidelines to reflect any legislative changes.

A comment was made about dogs on leads, which I know was discussed in Committee. The 1953 Act does not make it mandatory for a dog to be kept on a lead around livestock, although a person does commit an offence under the Act if the dog attacks or worries livestock on agricultural land. I am pleased to say that the offence includes roads and paths nearby. However, there are often signs stipulating when to put a dog on a lead or where it would be helpful to do so, for example, if there is livestock in the field or in particular where there are cows with calves.

I personally would not go into a field where there were cows with calves, because a cow with a calf attacked me when I was a child, but that is a decision for people to make. If a dog owner keeps their dog on a lead, that can sometimes attract cattle to the dog, so the Committee’s view, which I support, was that, in certain specific circumstances, there is a risk to the owner of keeping the dog on a lead. I think my right hon. Friend agrees with that; perhaps she will add some comments shortly. For those reasons, the Bill is not proposing to go down that road. On that note, I urge all hon. Members to support the Bill.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Ceidwadwyr, Suffolk Coastal

With the leave of the House, I wish to respond to the comments made by the shadow Secretary of State, Steve Reed. I am aware that, in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, there was a much greater element of rewriting lots of law. I am conscious that this is a private Member’s Bill with five clauses and a schedule that is already reasonably comprehensive. I looked at the issue very carefully and I am satisfied that it is perfectly straightforward to get the control disqualification orders necessary through existing legislation, without needing to legislate further.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied that the police already have the necessary powers. We will come to the substantial changes in the Bill shortly, but these amendments are about ensuring sufficient financial penalties. Provisions to have a dog destroyed or to disqualify people from owning a dog are already covered. On his point about keeping dogs on leads, there is a variety of situations in which people will have a dog with them. In addition, people can put a dog on a lead but still not be in control of it. Ultimately, that is what this is about.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment made: 2, in the schedule, page 5, line 29, leave out “not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale”. —(Dr Coffey.)

Third Reading.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Ceidwadwyr, Suffolk Coastal 12:26, 17 Mai 2024

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is pleasure to be able to give a short summary of the Bill. The 1953 Act already provides legislation on the subject, but the Bill seeks to make it more straightforward for the police to do their job. In particular, it will allow them to seize dogs to take samples, dental impressions and the like. At the moment, being able to do that relies on the good will of dog owners.

The Bill extends the scope of the provisions, so they do not only apply to a field that a farmer may own where livestock are kept. It recognises that agricultural practices mean that animals are often transferred from one field to another. For example, current legislation does not apply when animals are crossing a road and a dog is out of control, so the Bill extends the scope to cover such situations.

It is important to ensure we have the power of entry. An application to a justice of the peace is still required to get that. The Bill is all about trying to ensure the police have appropriate powers and to make it more straightforward to prosecute the owners of dogs that are not behaving responsibly.

Right hon. Members and hon. Members have rightly talked about what the Bill is really about. It is not about penalising people who want to enjoy the countryside on casual walks, which I fully encourage. It is important for people to have access and awareness of nature and to enjoy the countryside responsibly, but they need to recognise that a living, thriving and working countryside provides many farmers with their livelihoods, which is why livestock need protection.

Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Ceidwadwyr, Bolton West

A few years ago, I was delighted to welcome my right hon. Friend to the Smithills Estate to plant the first tree in the 15 million tree-strong Northern Forest. One of the key parts of the visit was when children from St Peter’s Smithills Dean Primary School helped to plant those trees. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the importance of education? We want more people from all backgrounds to enjoy the countryside and to know about how to keep livestock safe.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Ceidwadwyr, Suffolk Coastal

I agree very much with my hon. Friend, who is right to recognise that. There have been particular concerns since covid that the training of dogs can often be challenging. The NFU and others have led me to believe that dogs left at home can often break out. The owner will not even know anything about an attack or livestock worrying, but the consequences can be significant. It is not simply that a dog will bite or kill a ewe or a calf; it is important to recognise that even just dogs running around can cause ewes and pigs to have abortions and so on.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

My right hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I thank her for bringing forward this Bill. She is a true champion of the farming community in Suffolk and across the country, and she talks about the NFU. She will know that it is not just about the individual cases but about the scale of this problem, which I am happy to say does not exist in Southend. The NFU Mutual data shows that the value of claims for dog attacks on farm animals rose to more than £1.8 million in 2022. I did not know before preparing for today’s debate that, as she points out, it is not necessarily about when a dog comes into contact with a sheep. Just having dogs chasing sheep can cause a pregnant ewe to die or miscarry—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Lady that interventions are interventions, not speeches. If she wishes to speak on Third Reading, she will have the opportunity to do so.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Ceidwadwyr, Suffolk Coastal

I hear what you say, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think my hon. Friend was getting so passionate about this issue that her intervention may have gone on a little too long, but she is right to point out the financial cost and to say that it is about not simply the attack but potential injury and stress, which can have consequences. She is right to highlight that.

I recently held a roundtable about this issue in my constituency, and I spoke to farm managers and shepherdesses about the situation. Members may know that, without any consequences, a farmer or landowner may shoot a dog that is causing worrying, although often farmers do not want to go around shooting other people’s dogs. Indeed, beyond the impact that it would have on them, not all farmers are licensed to do that, which is the situation in which some of the people at my meeting find themselves. They simply want people to have better control of their dogs, which does not necessarily mean that dogs should be on leads. As I have already mentioned in responding to the amendments, dogs can be on leads that are not even attached to the owner. It is control and recall that really matter, but leads are important for people who are unfamiliar with walking in the countryside or who cannot control their dog, for whatever reason. Leads are vital in that regard, and they are a way for us to make sure that people have responsible access to the countryside.

This is the fourth Bill before us today, and I am conscious that those on both Front Benches would like to see further progress on other legislation before the House. I want to thank Tim Pratt, Tilly Abbott, Will Pratt, Ed Hawkins and Heidi Crick, as well as Ella Thackray and Jen Cox from the NFU, who came to speak to me about this issue. I have had multiple representations from right around the country. This Bill extends to both England and Wales, in line with the original 1953 Act, but other legislation is already in place in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where different legal systems have evolved over the years. I believe that this Bill is a straightforward way to make sure that we help our farmers, whose primary role is to grow food to put on our plates and should not be about worrying—literally—about other people’s animals worrying their livestock.

The measures in this Bill were originally included in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. I am pleased to say that we are starting to see other elements of that proposed legislation going through. Just this week, the ban on live exports received Royal Assent, and there have been regulations on other aspects of that issue. It was explained at the time why the Bill was split up, but I am pleased to have played a part and to have fulfilled my commitment to get this legislation through the House.

I am very grateful to our Clerk, Anne-Marie Griffiths, who has given excellent guidance along the way. I really want to thank the officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as the Ministers and the shadow Ministers. I also thank my team, as well as my hon. Friend Rebecca Harris and Holly Lynch, who have helped through the usual channels to progress this piece of legislation, which I think will be welcomed across the House. Once it gets through the Lords, it is intended that the Act will commence automatically—three months after Royal Assent, I think —so that it is well in place in 2025. I thank Mr Deputy Speaker and colleagues who have spoken in today’s debate, as well.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Ceidwadwyr, Crewe and Nantwich 12:35, 17 Mai 2024

I will begin by talking about two principles: first, we want people to be able to enjoy the countryside. We are lucky to have it. It can help us keep well, both physically and mentally; it supports wildlife; it is beautiful, of course; and it is world-renowned. I have always been someone who enjoys the countryside—a countryside walk is a fantastic way of clearing one’s mind—but so much of it is accessible and available for us to enjoy only because farmers maintain it. I have previous and current family members who own farmland and keep livestock, and we all benefit from the work and effort that goes into that.

That brings me to the second principle, which is that enjoyment of the countryside has to be respectful. That is why I welcome the Bill that has been introduced by my right hon. Friend Dr Coffey, undoubtedly using a wealth of experience gained from her distinguished service as the DEFRA Secretary of State. She has always demonstrated a common-sense approach when it comes to balancing issues such as this.

One of the features that so many people enjoy about our countryside is seeing farm animals, such as sheep and cows, grazing peacefully as they pass by, but of course we are a nation of dog lovers, so many people are not enjoying the countryside alone. Sadly, not everyone who takes their dog with them manages to do so responsibly, which can have terrible consequences. As has been mentioned, NFU Mutual data shows that claims from dog attacks on farm animals rose to more than £1.8 million in 2022, and behind those financial claims are distressing stories of killed, injured or frightened livestock and farmers seeing animals for which they care deeply suffering unnecessarily. There is existing legislation aimed at tackling this issue—the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, which we are amending today—but as the figures I have mentioned demonstrate, more needs to be done. The NFU and others have long called for reform of the legislation, and it is welcome that we now have the opportunity to do that.

Let me now talk about some of the things in the Bill that are particularly welcome. First, it widens the scope of the 1953 Act to include, for example, roads and paths. The movement of livestock along our country roads is another particularly welcome feature of our countryside—many people have a funny story about being stuck behind a moving herd of cattle. That is something that we enjoy about our countryside, and it would not be the same without it, so the law should protect livestock in those circumstances as well. Secondly, the Bill allows the police to seize a dog that they believe has been involved in an incident when the owner is not present. That is the kind of common-sense reform that is long overdue. Thirdly, the Bill allows samples and evidence to be collected from dogs and livestock. Although policing in urban areas increasingly makes use of CCTV, that sort of evidence is not often available in the countryside, so police need to make use of other evidence to prosecute people successfully.

I am also pleased that, when enacted, the Bill will enable any existing cases to make use of the new powers we are introducing—that is an additional positive feature. I know from my time as a volunteer policeman that so often a small minority of people are responsible for most crime, and I am sure that it is no different in this case. Most people enjoy the countryside responsibly, and most farmers understand that it is important that they get to do so, but we have to protect our countryside, and the farm animals that live in it are a fundamental part of it. As an MP who represents rural areas and farmers, I particularly congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing this Bill. I have really welcomed the opportunity to speak, even briefly, in support of it in the House today.

Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Ceidwadwyr, Sleaford and North Hykeham 12:38, 17 Mai 2024

I rise to support the Bill, and to congratulate my right hon. Friend Dr Coffey on having brought it forward. I am very lucky to live in and represent a lovely, beautiful area of Lincolnshire that has gorgeous countryside. Like many people, I like taking my dog, Bonnie, for a walk through the countryside, but as a farmer’s wife, I also recognise that it is a working landscape—that crops are being grown for food, and that livestock is being looked after, too.

Dog ownership has increased since lockdown. Although most dog owners are responsible and most dogs good-natured, research suggests that dogs are now more likely than before to be left off leads or out of sight. The natural behaviour of all dogs is to chase. Many people are unaware that if their dog chases a sheep, it may cause that sheep distress. They may not be aware that even if the dog does not catch the sheep, the simple fact of being chased can cause a pregnant ewe to miscarry her lamb or to die. Not only does that have an emotional effect on sheep by causing them to suffer, but it causes an emotional and financial stress for the farmer, as we have heard, so I welcome these steps to strengthen the law.

As others have mentioned, education on the countryside code is important, and it should extend beyond the Bill to include littering and the closing of gates to keep livestock safe. I welcome the steps to detect where crimes has occurred, as well as the unlimited nature of the fine, which will help to deter people from committing the crime in the first place and encourage them to look after their dogs. I hope that the publicity that my right hon. Friend has generated for the Bill will serve to provide educational opportunities.

Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 12:40, 17 Mai 2024

I do not think that I need to add to the comments that I made on Report. We think this is an important piece of legislation and we wish it well as it continues its progress through the other House with wholehearted support from both sides.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 12:41, 17 Mai 2024

I must start, of course, by congratulating my right hon. Friend Dr Coffey on guiding the Bill through the House, and by thanking her for all her detailed work, including the holding of roundtables with farmers and country people in her constituency, which was absolutely the right thing to do in order to hear about the matter from the horse’s mouth. I also thank the Opposition for supporting the Bill—it is great to sing from the same hymn sheet once or twice—and everybody else who has contributed today.

We have heard really useful inputs from Members, who have used knowledge from their own constituencies. My hon. Friend Dr Mullan mentioned countryside access, which is such an important point, as I said on Report. The Bill will also help to educate people and give them an understanding about how to respect the workplace of farmers while enjoying the countryside.

The workplace of farmers was mentioned by our own farmer’s wife and doctor, my hon. Friend Dr Johnson. She said, importantly, that this is not just about the straight slaughter of animals; it is about the frightening, terrifying situation that can arise among a flock of sheep, say, which might later abort or die. That is covered in the Bill through particular references to the situation at large in relation to dogs and sheep.

To summarise, we know that livestock worrying and attacks on livestock can have terrible impacts. I do not think that a week goes by when I do not open Farmers Weekly or Farmers Guardian and see a ghastly picture of such incidents. I am especially proud to be the Minister responding today, because I was co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on animal welfare, which did that first report about livestock worrying in 2017. I think that a lot of the data has gradually fed into the legislation as we have moved it along. The APPG reported then that 34,000 livestock worrying incidents occur every year, so it is a significant problem. Not only is it terrifying in terms of animal welfare, but it has a big economic cost: an estimated £2.4 million a year is lost through destroyed animals killed by dogs.

That is why the Bill is so important. It will support our commitment to ensure that new powers are available to the police so that they can respond effectively to the worrying or attacking of livestock by dogs. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal said—she did so much on this when she was at DEFRA—the Government are absolutely committed to the animal welfare agenda outlined in our 2021 action plan. We have a proud record of delivering on that agenda through a raft of measures brought through in a range of ways. We have increased penalties for animal cruelty, extended the Ivory Act 2018 to include more endangered species, passed the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022, introduced microchipping for cats, banned glue traps, introduced new powers for hare coursing, banned the trade in shark fins and protected service animals via Finn’s law. There is a whole list, and people in this Chamber have been involved in many of those pieces of legislation. It is a very proud record. The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill has just passed Third Reading in the House of Lords, and we are supporting Bills that will deliver a new offence of pet abduction, and cracking down on puppy smuggling.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Loud cheers from behind me. We are making great progress on delivering so many of those measures that were originally intended in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. I think the record shows, as does today’s Bill, that the Government are dedicated and committed to improving animal welfare. Indeed, we have the highest welfare score of the G7, according to the World Animal Protection index. That is something of which the Government should be proud. I know that Mr Deputy Speaker is a great animal lover as well, so this is very pertinent to him.

We have given the Bill a thorough review today. It will give much added protection to our valuable livestock, and will send important signals to the public regarding access to the countryside with a dog.

Nothing more remains than to thank everybody involved—all of the officials who have worked so hard on the Bill and helped to guide it through both House, and the Opposition for their support. More thanks also go to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal. I am delighted to support the Bill, and I look forward to seeing it on the statute book.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal on taking her Bill through the House.