Clause 31 - Destruction order upon conviction under section 26

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 16 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Clause 31 introduces a power for the court to order that a dog be destroyed after a person has been convicted of an offence under clause 26, if the court is satisfied that there is a risk that the dog could attack or worry livestock again. The offender and the owner, if different, have the right to appeal against a destruction order to the Crown court.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

We are working here with a series of proposals to deal with these very difficult cases. No one wants to see a dog destroyed.

My question is about whether any work has been done to consider how many control orders the Government anticipate being used under these proposals and how many destruction orders might follow. When we come to discuss the orders in future debates, in Westminster Hall or wherever, people may be rightly concerned that the orders have led to too many dogs being destroyed unnecessarily. Possibly it will be the other way round: perhaps the orders will not have been used strongly enough to deter people from behaving irresponsibly—if that is the purpose of this legislation, which I hope it is.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Destruction orders are, of course, already available to the courts in relation to dogs that are dangerous and not kept under proper control, including in some cases—through other legislation that is already enforced—when a dog has worried livestock. It is important to remember that we are designing these changes with proportionality very much in mind. The ancillary orders being brought under this legislation would be available to a court only post-conviction. The courts will of course need to consider proportionality when making any control, disqualification or destruction orders.

The Bill gives additional powers to the police—particularly in the collection of samples or DNA, for example. That will help them prosecute these serious crimes.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I apologise for my lack of detailed knowledge about the complex interrelationship between existing laws and the new proposals. I suppose what I am trying to get at is the problem that the Government are seeking to solve through this new legislation given that, from my limited understanding, there is already legislation that could be used to achieve something that looks broadly similar.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:30, 16 Tachwedd 2021

As the hon. Gentleman has said, legislation has been in place since 1953. It was amended substantially in 1981 and is operable at this point. The new legislation, following our close work with the police, works on ways to make things easier and on modern tools and technologies, such as DNA sampling, to ensure that the police can prosecute the offences. As we have seen, the police will have that power, having had the authorisation of a JP to enter and search a premises in order to take a sample from or, where necessary, seize a dog.

This part of the Bill is designed to make existing powers more operable—easier and better to prosecute, giving the police extra tools to use in the prosecution of their duties. Yes, that is true of many of the powers, including the power to destroy a dog where necessary, although rehoming is also very much on the cards in many cases. Destruction, where that is decided to be necessary, however, is already an option. Such options remain in place, but this part of the Bill will help the police go about the course of their duties.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

That is a helpful explanation, but only up to a point. I am left concluding that the Government seem not to be taking away the existing legislation and necessarily improving it, but adding additional legislation, which creates potential confusion. I understand the need to collect samples or use new technologies—absolutely right—but I am not clear why the destruction orders in particular need to be added to with this extra legislation in the Bill. I am not objecting; please do not—

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I might be able to help. I am trying to find the right clause, but I reassure the hon. Gentleman that one of the clauses repeals the 1953 Act. Much of the wording is the same, but the Bill will replace the 1953 Act. The legislation has been put into this Bill. I hope that is clear. While I am on my feet, the other thing I should have said earlier is that we have extended the meaning of “livestock” in the Bill to include species that were not kept routinely in 1953, but now are, such as alpacas.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful. It was clause 41—I am sure we are not expected to commit these things to memory. I was aware of that, but I am still not entirely clear whether all the existing legislation stems from the 1953 Act. In this case, I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to pass judgment on that, but I suspect that it may not be, so my continuing concern is that when we look at other things, such as the Dangerous Dogs Acts 1989 and 1991, we will find overlapping and duplication that it might have been a good idea to sort out in general. As a general proposition, the clause provides a framework for dealing with livestock worrying, and we support that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 31 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.