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Orders Of The Day

Volume 892: debated on Friday 16 May 1975

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Guard Dogs Bill (Changed From Dogs Bill)

As amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.

11.14 a.m.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your advice before we commence our proceedings on the Bill?

I draw the attention of yourself and the House to the fact that the Bill is so heavily amended that I think the House will have considerable difficulty in clearly understanding its objectives. I am not in disagreement with its objectives, but the Bill is in a confused state I suggest that the Bill should be withdrawn now and redrafted so that we can get a clearer idea of its objectives. I make that suggestion bearing in mind that the Bill may never come into force according to Clause 6.

I submit that this is wasting the time of the House. There is other important legislation which we have to get on with this morning, which I think the Government might wish to see on the statute book. I refer particularly to the Cinematograph and Indecent Displays Bill and to the Rating Reform Bill.

I am afraid I must rule that that is not a point of order. That is nothing to do with me. I cannot order a Bill to be withdrawn. The argument must proceed. If the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) has strong feelings about the Bill he must vote against it at the appropriate time.

As the Guard Dogs Bill is substantially different from the Dogs Bill, which received a Second Reading, and as there are a great number of amendments on the Notice Paper, tabled by the promoter of the Bill, which substantially amend and alter the principles of the Bill as agreed in Standing Committee, may I prevail upon you, Mr. Speaker, to exercise your great indulgence during the course of our debate?

Having read through the Bill most diligently and having considered the amend- ments on the Notice Paper, I have experienced the greatest difficulty in relating one to the other and in finding my way through the complicated proceedings that now face us. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and those who follow you in the Chair, to exercise the greatest indulgence to hon. Members who will be struggling this morning with a most difficult piece of legislation due to the complexity of the amendments that have been tabled both in Committee and at this stage.

I think I can promise that the chair will exercise the maximum indulgence consistent with its duty to the House.

New Clause 1

Restriction On Keeping Guard Dogs Without A Licence

  • '.—(1) A person shall not keep a dog at guard dog kennels unless he holds a licence under section (Guard dog kennel licences) of this Act in respect of the kennels.
  • (2) A person shall not use or permit the use at any premises of a guard dog if he knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that the dog (when not being used as a guard dog) is normally kept at guard dog kennels in breach of subsection (1) of this section.—[Mr. Doig.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    It will be convenient to take also new Clause 2—Guard dog kennel licences:

  • '.—(1) A local authority may on the application in the prescribed form of, and on payment of the prescribed fee by, a person who runs or intends to run guard dog kennels at premises within their area grant that person a licence in respect of those kennels.
  • (2) A licence under this section shall be made subject to the prescribed conditions (if any) and to such other conditions as the local authority thinks fit.
  • (3) A licence under this section shall, subject to regulations, come into force on a date specified in the licence as the commencement date and shall expire at the end of the period of twelve months beginning with that date unless it is cancelled by a court in pursuance of the following subsection.
  • (4)Where a person is convicted of an offence under this Act or the Protection of Animals Act 1911 or the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912, the court by which he is convicted may cancel any licence held by him under this Act.
  • (5) The court may suspend the operation of the cancellation pending an appeal.
  • (6)For the purposes of this Act the Inner and Middle Temples shall be deemed to be in the City of London.
  • and Amendment No. 9, in Clause 4, page 2, line 15, at beginning insert:
    () Regulations may be made—
  • (a) enabling a local authority to revoke a licence and, on the application of the licence holder, to vary the conditions (other than the prescribed conditions) of the licence;
  • (b) enabling appeals to be made to a magistrates' court or, in Scotland, a sheriff court against—
  • (i) refusal to grant the licence;
  • (ii) the conditions (other than the prescribed conditions) of the licence;
  • (iii) refusal to vary the conditions;
  • (iv) revocation of the licence;
  • (c) requiring the payment of the prescribed fee to be made to a local authority on inspection by the authority of premises in respect of which an application for a licence has been made;
  • (d) providing for the continuance or transfer of the licence where an appeal is made, and on the death of the licence holder.
  • (2) Any power to make regulations under this Act—
  • (a) may be exercised so as to make different provisions for different cases or different classes of cases;
  • (b) includes power to make such incidental or supplemental provision in the regulations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
  • (3)'.

    The purpose of subsection I of the new clause is to prohibit a person from keeping a guard dog in the course of business unless he holds a licence in respect of the kennels. The subsection needs to be read in conjunction with the definition given in Amendment No. 13. That does not apply to a person who keeps a dog to protect his own premises. A licence is required only by a person—and this includes a corporation—whose business it is to hire out guard dogs to other people.

    The purpose of subsection (2) is to prohibit a person from using or permitting the use on any premises of a guard dog if he knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that the dog is normally kept at unlicensed premises. That is complementary to subsection (1), and means that it will be more difficult for the unscrupulous owner of a guard dog who keeps his dog in unlicensed kennels to find business. The owner of premises who hires a guard dog kept in unlicensed premises runs the risk of prosecution for permitting the use of the dog knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that the dog was from unlicensed kennels. The maximum penalty for an offence under subsection (1) of keeping a dog without a guard dog kennel licence and under subsection (2) of using or permitting the use of a guard dog kept in unlicensed kennels is a fine of £400 on summary conviction, as contained in Clause 4.

    I turn to new Clause 2. I presume that if there is a vote there will be a separate vote on new Clause 2. The clause relates to guard dog kennel licences. The effect of the clause is to make local authorities the licensing authorities in respect of guard dog kennels. Subsection (1) empowers a local authority to grant a licence provided that the application is made on the prescribed form and that the prescribed fee is paid. The licence will be in respect of guard dog kennels within the local authority area. If a security organization has kennels in more than one local authority area, it will require a licence from each of the local authorities. The form, fee and other details of the licensing scheme will be prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

    Subsection (2) requires a licence to be subject to the prescribed conditions—that is so say, the conditions laid down in regulations—as defined in a subsequent amendment, and at the same time permits the local authority to lay down such other conditions as it thinks fit. For example, the local authority may wish to specify the maximum number of dogs that may be kept in a particular kennels as a condition of the licence granted in respect of the kennels.

    Subsection (3) provides for annual licences. That will enable a local authority to inspect a kennels at least once a year if it should wish to do so. By allowing a licence to run for a year from its commencement, the work load on the local authority will be spread more evenly over the year.

    The purpose of subsections (4) and (5) is to empower a court to cancel the licence of a holder of a guard dog kennel licence who is convicted of cruelty to animals, and to suspend the cancellation pending an appeal. It is usual to make a provision of this kind, and examples can be found in Section 3(3) of the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 and Section 4(3) of the Riding Establishments Act 1964.

    Subsection (6) brings the Inner and Middle Temples within the City of London for the purposes of the Bill. The City of London comes within the definition of a local authority.

    The effect of Amendment No. 9 is to enable the details of the licensing procedures and the conditions of the licence to be prescribed by regulations. These matters have not been included in the Bill because they are matters of detail which are better left to regulations, which can, if necessary, be more easily amended in the light of experience.

    The contents of the regulations would be the subject of consultation with organisations, such as local authority associations, which have an interest in the provisions. The amendment covers all matters on which it seems likely that regulations will be required. At the same time it gives the Secretary of State power to make such incidental or supplementary provision as he considers appropriate. Among the more important matters which may be the subject of regulations are the following.

    It is clearly right that the local authority should be able to revoke a licence if the holder has committed serious breaches of the conditions of his licence. It is usual to provide a right of appeal against a refusal to grant a licence or against the revocation of a licence. The intention is to make the licensing scheme self-financing by fixing fees at levels which will repay local authority expenditure.

    New Clause 2 provides for a prescribed fee for licences, and Amendment No. 15 to Clause 5 defines "prescribed" as meaning "prescribed by regulations". It will also be possible to charge a fee for inspecting premises. An inspection will be necessary before the local authority can decide whether to grant a first licence for the premises. There will also be circumstances in which it is right to require a fee to be paid for an inspection of the premises before a further licence is granted. Where the licence holder dies it would be wrong to bring the business to a halt until a new licence can be granted. Regulations could provide for the transfer of the licence to, for example, the personal representatives of the late licence holder.

    I agree with some of the criticism of the Bill that was made in the form of points of order. The Bill is complicated and difficult to understand, but that is not a unique experience in the House. I have frequently sat on Committees in which I have suffered exactly the same difficulty. Although I sympathise with hon. and right hon. Members who find the Bill difficult, I assure them that I have often suffered this difficulty in the past. I apologise for what has happened.

    I deny that the Bill is drastically changed from its original form. There are only slight changes which became necessary in the light of discussions. The purpose of a Committee stage is to take note of objections, to make allowances for them and to change the Bill in the light of the criticisms. That is what we have tried to do. I agree that the Bill is not simple to follow, but events have shown that it is necessary to improve the present position.

    Does not my hon. Friend appreciate that instead of his original Bill we now have an entirely new one? My hon. Friend started off with a tremendous ambition to deal with dogs generally, but now we are restricted to guard dogs, whatever they may be.

    May I correct my hon. and learned Friend's observations? The only difference from the original Bill is that we have removed the provision to make compulsory the display of a notice outside premises in which a dog is kept. That has been dropped because of the criticisms that were made in the Second Reading debate. It is not a substantial change. We did not set out to cure all the ills and everyone's complaints about dogs, as I made clear on Second Reading.

    Will my hon. Friend tell the house what he means by a "guard dog"? There is a definition:

    "'guard dog' means a dog used to protect premises, or persons or property on any premises".
    Who is to be the judge of that? What does my hon. Friend mean by "guard dog"? Is any person in any house entitled to say that his dog is a guard dog? How is it to be tested?

    11.30 a.m.

    If my hon. Friend cares to look further at the Bill he will find that "guard dog" is very clearly defined. But he is deviating from his first criticism before I have had time to reply to it. His first criticism was that we had departed substantially from the original Bill. This is just not true. Two changes, and two only have been made. The original Bill sought to require every owner of a dog to put up a notice saying "Beware of the dog", to indicate that there was a danger to people when entering any premises or any house in which a dog was kept. We have reintroduced this provision but the difference is that it is now only in relation to guard dogs. I suggest that that is not a substantial departure. It is a very minor departure.

    Secondly, we wanted to introduce in the original Bill a "guard dog charter "recommended to us by various organisations which breed or maintain or control dogs. It was decided, following Government advice to me, that it would be much better to do this in the form of regulations which could cover these points and which, if found to be faulty in the light of experience, could be much more easily changed than an Act of Parliament.

    I deny that there is any substantial change from the original Bill. There are two minor changes.

    I followed closely the Second Reading debate and also, as a member of the Standing Committee, I have tried to follow in detail the various clauses of the Bill and the amendments moved in Standing Committee. I find great difficulty now, in considering these amendments, in seeing exactly what we are left with, and to that extent I have great sympathy for those who feel that this is something close to a new Bill. On the other hand, I feel that the objectives of the Bill are very worthy indeed, and that the House is spending its time well in considering them. If we can iron out some of the anomalies during the course of this stage, we shall have performed some useful service.

    Concerning the points raised two or three times already on what I can only describe as "old Clause 1"—the clause which provided for some kind of notice to be established outside any house where any kind of dog lived that might be dangerous—I think that some of the objections to that are laudable, and that the proposed changes make the message simpler, though in reading through and considering these amendments now I find great difficulty in feeling that the Bill is now simpler.

    Dealing with the new clauses as we have had them outlined, the one substantial point that my hon. Friend might be able to clarify for me—it concerned me greatly in Standing Committee—is that much of the responsibility for the operation of this Bill, if it became law, would be with the police authorities. Reading through all these amendments I see no reference to the police authorities. The registration and regulation procedure is in part the responsibility of the local authority and in part the responsibility of the Secretary of State. It is a delicate balance between the two.

    If I am right in assuming that, it is a very welcome change from the position on Second Reading, and I should be interested in my hon. Friend's comments. I should like to know exactly what moves him now to accept this change in the regulation which, as understand, he did not think desirable before. It is my view—and, I think, that of a number of hon. Members—that whenever the Government have a new function of government that they think needs to be performed at a local level, the assumption should always be that it is given automatically to the democratically elected local authority, and that only in the most exceptional circumstances should it be given to anybody else. If that principle has been conceded I am very pleased indeed about that concession.

    One concession which, as I understand it, has not been made, and which I again think is a substantial and important one, relates to new Clause 1. New Clause 1 still puts a substantial responsibility, backed by penalties, on anyone hiring a guard dog. There is a considerable onus, on anyone who decides to hire a guard dog, to see that the animal he hires and the conditions under which it has been hired are according to all the necessary regulations and prescriptions from the Secretary of State and from the local authority.

    I should like to quote two examples to show why I think that the onus in the Bill for seeing that the safety provisions are upheld—which is really what we are concerned about—should be with the owner of the dog, the person who keeps the dog, or the kennel keeping the dog. The first quotation is from the Sunday Telegraph—a newspaper to which I do not normally refer, except in exceptional circumstances—of 2nd May 1971:
    "For a pound a night or even less, you too can hire a guard dog to protect your property during the small hours."
    This is the part that worries me:
    "Just turn up the Yellow Pages or thumb through the small ads. in your local paner, and there they all are: security companies that represent the most astonishing, perhaps the most worrying, growth sector of British industry."
    What worries me there is that presumably, if this new clause becomes the law of the land, anyone who thumbs through the Yellow Pages—certainly in regard to the hiring of guard dogs—might find himself in all sorts of difficulties unless he is certain that whoever is advertising in the Yellow Pages has complied with all the rules and regulations relating to guard dogs. I am not a lawyer but that seems to me to be an unhappy legal situation. Looking through the Yellow Pages, whether for a restaurant or for a radio equipment shop or a guard dog, all the time the onus is put on us to be satisfied that there is compliance with every regulation concerning the goods offered for sale. That is the substantial point that I wish to emphasise.

    My other quotation, which reinforces my argument, is from The Guardian—a paper which I much more frequently consult—of 27th April 1971 concerning the Port of London Authority and the protection of its warehouses and stores at the time of some reconstruction. How did Willments, the company doing the reconstruction on the Port of London Authority land, pick its security firm? The report states:
    "Mr. Kenneth Kelman, the company secretary, said: 'It would probably be chosen by the man on the site, probably because it was a local firm or possibly chosen from the trade directory.'"
    If the Bill becomes law in its present form almost all responsibilities will fall on people who want to hire a guard dog to protect their property.

    I move on now to Amendment No. 9 and the various provisions proposed therein. I reiterate what for me is a fairly fundamental principle, which is that any job should be given to a local authority unless there are good reasons for doing otherwise. I see that it is proposed to give the licensing system to the local authority, and I am pleased about that. However, the appeals procedure is to be outside the control of the local authority and to be through the courts. If anyone is anxious to keep a guard dog and to have his premises and the animal licensed, I should like to feel that there is some initial procedure within the framework of the local authority to enable him to know on what grounds he is given or refused such a licence and that there is some slightly less elaborate procedure than immediate resort to the courts to enable him to have the position clarified. In the last resort, of course, he is bound to go to the courts, but I should have thought that is was possible to build into the local authority, bearing in mind that we are talking about a fine of £400, some procedure for the initial examination of any objection to the licensing system made by an individual.

    I feel that it should be possible to do this within the framework of the local authority. On certain issues, local authorities have elaborate procedures for appeals, though not on criminal matters, of course. It has always struck me as one of the benefits of our local authorities that these appeals exist. One example which I have in mind is the facility which a student has if he is removed from a course of education. In such a case, the first appeal is to the academic body of the college. Secondly, it goes to the higher education sub-committee of the local authority. Thirdly, it goes to the education committee. Fourthly, it goes to the council itself. In other words, there are at least four stages at which an appeal can be heard, and no doubt, if this were followed to its conclusion, ultimately we should reach the United Nations or some such body at the end of the trail.

    If it is possible for some sort of appeals procedure to be built into the local authority framework, let us not get involved, in the opening stages, in the suggestions which have been made about immediate recourse to the courts.

    I have no doubt that a Home Office Minister will provide all the answers in lawyers' terms, but I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) to think carefully especially about the responsibility of the hirer to ensure that all the regulations are complied with. If these points are answered, I think that we can tidy up the Bill a good deal.

    11.45 a.m.

    If an old dog may intervene briefly in this discussion, perhaps I might make a few criticisms of the new clause.

    I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) has a very laudable object in view. I am certain that there should be some protection against dogs. In his Bill, however, he has erected a tremendous paraphernalia to deal with the problem.

    When my hon. Friend was moving his new clause I intervened to refer to his definition of "guard dog", which is vital to this matter. As we know, whatever my hon. Friend may say about his original Bill, it has been altered very considerably. It has been changed entirely by what has been done in Committee.

    I ask the House to look at the definition of "guard dog" in Clause 5. That says:
    "'guard dog' means a dog used to protect premises, or persons or property on any premises".
    Who is to judge what is a guard dog? Does that definition mean that the person who keeps a dog in the ordinary way may be challenged by authority to show that it is not a guard dog? He may say "I have a dog, but it is a pet. I keep a dog as a pet, but at the same time it is some protection for me." Has it then to be raised to the status of a guard dog? Are we to have litigation? Will there be a prosecution defended by the dog owner, with the authorities saying that it is a guard dog and with the owner saying that it is only a pet, although it is true that it protects him to some extent?

    With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West, one has only to look at the definition of "guard dog" to see how impossible the Bill is. The heart of the matter is what is meant by "guard dog". I venture to say that tremendous difficulties will arise from that.

    This is one of the difficulties that we face this morning. But may I draw my hon. and learned Friend's attention to Amendment No. 13, in which there is a definition of "guard dog kennels "which, when applied to the amended Clause 5, should make the position clearer to those who have a dog for domestic purposes and not for protection.

    The hon. and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) labelled himself as "an old dog". Earlier, Mr. Speaker indicated that he would allow the greatest possible latitude in debate. However, I hope we shall not have too much barking from different breeds of dogs. That is what this debate seems to be degenerating into. If I may say so, the hon. and learned Gentleman looks to me rather like an old labrador.

    I appreciate your criticism of me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have no desire to extend this debate and to become out of order. However, you will notice that the clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West begins with the words

    "A person shall not keep a dog at guard dog kennels unless he holds a licence under section (Guard dog kennel licences)…. A person shall not use or permit the use at any premises of a guard dog …".
    Clearly the definition of "guard dog" is absolutely vital. We cannot discuss this matter in any detail unless we look at the definition of "guard dog".

    My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) intervened to point out the effect of Amendment No. 13. I have looked at that amendment. I know that I shall be out of order if I refer in detail to it now. I have no doubt that later on we can discuss in detail what is meant by that amendment. Bearing that amendment in mind, however, I say merely that it would not protect a person and that there are many cases which might involve prosecution where a person might have to defend himself and would be in great difficulty.

    This is not a light matter. I know that it has been laughed at on occasions, but it is very important. What is more important to me than anything else is that by this Bill we are creating a new criminal offence. A person's liberty is the most important matter that we have to consider. It is even more important than a breach of the law, although it comes within it. By this Bill we are introducing a new criminal offence. We are saying, in other words, that if a person keeps a dog which someone could call a guard dog and which is not kept chained up, or if its owner has not attended to all the details put forward in new Clauses 1 and 2, he will be guilty of a criminal offence and liable to a maximum fine of £400. I deprecate the habit of creating new criminal offences. We should hesitate before we do that. One of the evils of the Bill is that it creates a new offence, tremendous paraphernalia and a new structure regarding guard dogs.

    In Committee the Bill was amended so that local authorities should act instead of the police. Why was that done? Local authorities are burdened with many duties. What will they do in this case? Will they create new departments specifically to look after dogs? What about the administrative cost?

    My hon. and learned Friend is concerned about giving local authorities additional responsibilities. Whatever we might feel about the details of local government reorganisation, at least one of the objectives of the 1972 Act was to enable local authorities to cope more efficiently with their existing burdens and with any additional duties which might be given to them. If we decide not to give this responsibility to a local authority, it will be the thin end of the wedge. This has happened with other Bills in the past, when there has been an erosion of the responsibilities of local authorities.

    With great respect, I take a different view. Local authorities already carry tremendous burdens of responsibility.

    Are local authorities to create new, special departments with special officials to look after dogs? Local authorities have enough problems trying to enforce the law regarding the trouble caused by dogs on the highway. We know that that duty is neglected. Yet it is proposed to place another burden on local authorities. I should prefer the police to deal with the matter. The police know far more about the subject and are probably more capable than the local authorities of dealing with this matter. I suggest that the present intention is wrong.

    The new clauses are unnecessary. By erecting all this machinery and requiring local authorities to supervise guard dogs, however necessary that supervision might be, we are placing an excessive burden upon local government. I emphasise the danger of creating a new criminal offence. I therefore hope that the new clauses will not be accepted.

    I should like to confine my remarks to some of the points raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman), especially those concerning the rôle of the local authorities.

    I am deeply concerned that we should not ask local authorities to take on additional burdens, especially at a time when Parliament is giving them more to do in ordinary circumstances. Part of the difficulty is that the local authorities have neither the resources nor the trained personnel to deal with this problem.

    There has been some argument about the definition of a guard dog. Presumably one of the elements is whether the dog is trained or untrained. If so, the only body with requisite experience in the matter is the police. That is true of the Metropolitan Police. To be realistic and to tidy up the Bill, I ask the proposer to bear that point in mind and to consider whether he is satisfied that the local authorities should be burdened with this responsibility. I believe that the police are in a better position to undertake it.

    There would have to be supervision of training in order to define what constitutes a trained dog. The mere fact that a person says that a dog is a guard dog does not mean that it is a trained dog. It could be simply a ferocious-looking dog, accompanied by a dog handler. That does not mean that the dog has been properly trained in security duties, certainly not as well trained as Ministry of Defence or police dogs. I should like my hon. Friend to say something about the problem of the training of dogs so that whoever supervises their licensing, whether the police or the local authorities, will also be able to examine the degree of training of the dogs involved.

    I should first like to refer to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman). I agree with him on one substantial point. The Bill and the new clause should not be taken lightly. We have only to examine the evidence in our areas and to read Press reports to know that guard dogs, as well as other dogs, continue to constitute a serious danger to the lives, the well-being and the liberty of many of our fellow citizens. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) took the view that the police should be more meaningfully involved in the matter. It is true that the police are the only body with immense experience in controlling and handling guard dogs. That is why I shall be delighted to receive the support of my hon. Friend for Amendment No. 16, which makes that point. The police should be the competent authority under the requirements of the Bill.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) deserves the congratulations of the House. I recall, when my hon. Friend first introduced a Bill of this nature in a previous Parliament, the light way in which some hon. Members received his endeavours. It is a tribute to the courage and persistence of my hon. Friend that this Bill is before us and that it has survived the difficulties which its predecessor encountered. If my hon. Friend shows his customary good will and desire for sensible compromise in respect of some of the matters which we shall discuss, I am confident that the Bill will survive this stage of our proceedings.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West denied that this Bill was different from those which had gone before. The Bill which received a Second Reading contained no reference to the new clauses now before us, even in spirit, let alone detailed wording. The Bill has been changed. Even its title has been changed from Dogs Bill to Guard Dogs Bill. That must meet some of the points made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington, because that has moved the emphasis from the individual dog to the specific requirements of guard dogs used for the purpose of guarding premises and property.

    12 noon

    If he were to seek to make it a major part of his case—I am sure he will not—I cannot believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West could sustain the argument that there is no substantial change from the principles of the Bill, approved on Second Reading in the principles of the Bill as he now seeks to amend it. However, having said that, I want my hon. Friend to know that I join my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott) in saying that the objectives of the Bill are highly desirable and we hope that it will, suitably amended, reach the statute book.

    In passing, I must express surprise—I am sure that this surprise will be shared by my hon. Friends—that in a debate about dogs we do not have the company of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). I should have thought he would be a "natural" for our deliberations this morning, and I may add that English Members sometimes have the characteristic of British bulldogs and cannot easily be put off the right scent even by the activities of Scots terriers.

    New Clause 1 causes me grave concern because it not only presents a difference in principle from the Bill which we thought would come before us but it preempts the consideration promised in Committee on the question which my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth has raised, namely, whether there should be greater involvement of the police as opposed to the local authority. In my view, it would be better if we had a careful balance of involvement here between both the local authority and the police and that is why I shall seek later to reintroduce the police interest, since I entirely share the view that the police are the most competent people to evaluate the ability of a person to manage a guard dog.

    I take serious issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West on the question raised by the new clause of whether the Bill should apply to the dog or, as my hon. Friend would have it, to a dog kennel and the dogs coming therefrom. I have conducted considerable research in this matter. Not only have I studied the reports in the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian but I felt that I ought to follow the good sense of the Government Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), and look up The Times, because not only is The Times a great source of information for us but it has the advantage over all other newspapers of having the exclusive right at present to be maintained in our Library on a Press-cutting service basis. Incidentally I regard that as wrong, and I think that the same treatment should be extended to other newspapers. However, that service being limited at present, I have had to draw only upon The Times.

    Having gone through the reports in The Times over recent years, I find that most of the reported incidents of the savaging of citizens by dogs have arisen not so much from the behaviour of dogs handled by people in the employ of security firms—though there were some—but from the behaviour or individual dogs. Indeed, I believe that the notorious and tragic incident in my hon. Friend's own city some time ago was not related altogether to guard dogs used for security purposes.

    My contention, therefore, is that we should so draft the law that it will deal with the individual dog used for security purposes by an individual owner. I have in mind here what I found in going through the cuttings from The Times. In a good number of cases totters and scrap metal merchants, for example, employ dogs on their premises, each dog being in the ownership of one person, and this situation would not be covered by my hon. Friend's proposal. Going about the country, one often sees that in a scrapyard where quite valuable metals are stacked but where the perimeter fence is not necessarily maintained with full care the owner relies upon a vicious guard dog owned by him. That dog may be on a long lead or, as is common practice nowadays, on a ring lead so that the dog may move over a fairly wide area. My hon. Friend seeks by the Bill to limit that so that the dog should not be able to move freely about the premises unless the handler is present.

    The difficulty is that it is hard to know and to prove that a person is keeping a dog for security purposes. A person may have a dog as a pet, or he may say that he is keeping it to protect himself. How does one prove that it is a guard dog for security? The danger is that a person who has not in fact got a dog for security purposes may be accused of having it for that purpose and thereby be subject to this new criminal offence.

    Before the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) replies to that intervention, may I remind him that if the Bill should become an Act he himself could be committing an offence by addressing as he has the chief Government guard dog—the Government Chief Whip—who is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench below the Gangway and not in his proper licensed kennel.

    My right hon. Friend the Chief Whip often roams far and wide about the premises, and we know from long experience that our chief guard dog's bark is often not as fierce as might be feared. It is a great consolation for us that we have a Cockney guard dog, and we can expect from him some of the Cockney characteristics of genuineness, compassion and understanding. Perhaps if we ever had a Scots terrier our position might be a lot less happy. However, I think that that is a remote possibility because, apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West, most of the Scots terriers are incarcerated in other high posts of great dignity in this Parliament. In that spirit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I say that we are delighted to see you in the Chair.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I listened with great interest to your intervention, but I must point out that, as a result of it, my hon. Friend seems to have forgotten to deal with my intervention.

    I assure my hon. and learned Friend that that is not so. I am not a trained lawyer, and I have difficulty in keeping in mind all the points I wish to deal with, but I am a sufficiently experienced parliamentarian to be able to say that I have not forgotten the point.

    The definition of a guard dog comes later in the Bill, but I shall at once deal with the specific question of a person—to use my hon. and learned Friend's words—who keeps a dog for his personal protection. If I may say so, that is not in some respects an unreasonable description of a guard dog. The danger which my hon. and learned Friend rightly sees is that, if we say in the Bill that the mere keeping of a dog for personal protection should entail the whole process of the Bill, we shall be embarking upon a difficult course.

    I do not keep a dog at present, though I should love to do so. A dog is the most wonderful pet one can have, and I am sure that no one reading our debate today will fail to realise that all hon. Members taking part are animal lovers. We are trying to create a state of affairs in which these dogs may be used with proper regard for the safety and well-being of the citizenry.

    My hon. and learned Friend's point related to someone keeping a dog. I shall not use the word "alsatian". Alsatians have been badly maligned in the general public discussion on guard dogs. They are used quite extensively and have been involved in some unfortunate incidents. I know from correspondence, however, that there is great anger among those who breed and like alsatian dogs as pets that they should be maligned as the most vicious animals.

    When I have finished with this point, I shall be pleased to give way to my hon. Friend. It would be unreasonable for a person who has a single dog for his protection on his own domestic premises to be encumbered with the new law. There is legislation on the statute book regarding nuisance to neighbours and things like that which operates a degree of protection.

    What we seek and what I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West will agree that he seeks to do in the Bill, and what I certainly seek to do through my amendment, is to ensure that premises which are specifically guarded because of their valuable contents should be subject to certain regulations.

    I agree with my hon. and learned Friend, who is about to intervene again and say that that is not what the Bill states. I can only say that we would have been better served had my hon. and learned Friend, with his vast experience in the legal sphere, put down an amendment to make the matter clear both to himself and to the House. I give way to him again.

    My hon. Friend referred to a dog as a guard dog being kept for personal protection. Suppose that an old lady living alone has a dog which barks when somebody is at the door and she is afraid that if she opens the door she will be mugged. Would that dog be a guard dog, or is that open to argument?

    In my view, that is not a situation that the new clause seeks to encompass within its meaning. No doubt if my hon. Friend catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and has the leave of the House to reply to the debate, he will clear up that point.

    I understand that the new clause seeks to remove—in this respect it goes further than I want to go—the involvement of a domestic pet in the Bill and concentrates entirely on guard dog kennels specifically set up for the breeding, training and hiring for profit of dogs trained for security purposes.

    In his first intervention in my brief remarks, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington made a point on which I am in some dispute with him. I want to strike a happy balance between my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington and for Dundee, West. The point I was making a few minutes ago was that people may own dogs not as pets but as security guards dogs.

    For example, an owner might have such a dog in his scrap yard. That would not come into the class referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington—a domestic pet—and it would not be within the compass of the new clause, because it would not be kept in kennels in the sense that the new clause defines kennels. Therefore, we would still have a situation of individually owned guard dogs operating within insecure perimeters. I have observed a number of scrap yards and second-hand car sites which have not had sufficiently and carefully maintained perimeter fencing, the owners of which were using guard dogs owned by themselves which would be outside the scope of the new clause.

    12.15 p.m.

    I could pray in aid—I shall not, because I do not want to take up too much time—many Press cuttings from The Times. They would demonstrate that there are many recorded instances of guard dogs kept by single owners in particular places being responsible for the savaging of innocent passers-by, which we all seek to avoid.

    I hate to interrupt my hon. Friend when he is speaking so well. However, will he deal with the point I made about the training of dogs? This is an important point, particularly if we are asking local authorities to issue licences.

    I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I hope during the course of my remaining remarks, when I eventually get to Amendment No. 9 which is being taken with the two new clauses, to deal with training and the regulations to be made by the Secretary of State when the Bill is passed.

    Having delivered myself of my general observations, I should like to turn to the more detailed matters arising from new Clause 1. I have already said that I am opposed to the loosening of the Bill by relating it to guard dog kennels. Indeed, I put down some amendments—unfortunately they were starred—which set out my view on the matter. However, I should be out of order if I were to expand on amendments which have not been selected.

    New Clause 1 as drafted would extend the area of danger to innocent passers-by because it misses the opportunity of dealing with the particular guard dog. Considering the reports which have been given in the national Press—my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth introduced one—about the growth of security firms employing guard dogs, I suppose my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West is correct to con- centrate on what he sees as the main responsibility.

    The only part of new Clause 1 which I like is subsection (2), which puts responsibility clearly on the hirer of the guard dog. In that respect I support my hon. Friend. I believe that the person who hires a guard dog has an equal—perhaps a greater—responsibility because he is making it possible for the guard dog to be in a particular place at a particular time. Therefore, he has a special responsibility to see that the guard dog that he is hiring comes from a proper source and is under the control of a properly trained person. I am opposed to subsection (1) but would welcome subsection (2).

    On new Clause 2 we have a more difficult situation because it lays responsibility upon the local authority to issue the licences, collect the fees and do other things.

    It is not sufficient for my hon. Friend, in new Clause 2, to say that the local authority may grant the licence and that the form and the fee and the other details of the licensing scheme will be prescribed in regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. We could not possibly allow that to pass unless the Under-Secretary spelt out clearly exactly what was meant by regulations in respect of the form and requirements of registration which her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will lay upon the local authorities.

    I share the view expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington that local authorities already have a substantial burden imposed upon them. Only this morning before we commenced the debate on the Bill we heard petitions presented from ratepayers protesting against the level of rates, and we must, therefore, be careful about what extra burdens we lay upon local authorities.

    I believe that because of the necessity to protect people against attacks by guard dogs and to ensure that these dogs are properly controlled and trained it is right to lay this proposed duty upon local authorities, but we cannot agree to that being done without having some clear idea of what this will mean in terms of cost to the ratepayers. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to give us some indication of what she expects the fee to be and what sort of administration local authorities will have these purposes.

    Subsection (2) of new Clause 2 says that a licence
    "shall be made subject to such prescribed conditions (if any)"
    —I am very much opposed to the inclusion of the words "if any" because I believe that the Minister should make mandatory conditions—
    "and to such other conditions as the local authority thinks fit."
    I want to explore a little further what would be reasonable in respect of those other conditions.

    Before a local authority can even start to consider what other conditions it wishes to impose upon a person who applies for a licence it should have the fullest possible details of the Government's requirements in this respect. Among the "other conditions" which a local authority could lay down, could one be the requirement that the place in which the guard dog is to be used has a secure perimeter fence?

    The perimeter fence argument is important, because if somebody wishes to protect his property—I am talking not about private individuals but about people engaged in a trade, business or profession—his first duty is to ensure that there is an adequate perimeter fence, locked huts within the fenced area and so on. Unless a local authority has the right to insist upon a secure perimeter fence as a term of granting a licence, there will be a continuation of what I regard as the had practice of people having a guard dog because it is a cheaper way of ensuring security for their premises than having proper perimeter fences.

    It seems to me that there is a defect in the drafting of the Bill. We shall come to Amendment No. 1. The requirement that there should be a notice at the entrance to premises where there are guard dogs is spelt out in great detail, but what I consider to be the much more important issue of the security of the perimeter fence is ignored. In case after case involving guard dogs one hears references to insecure perimeter fences. The displaying of a notice is dealt with in the Bill, but the far more important issue of perimeter fences is left to be dealt with later in regulations.

    Order. I assure the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) that the Chair would not be annoyed if he were to allow the time taken by interventions to be added to his brief speech.

    I always try to bear the burden that I have to carry of interventions during my speeches, whether by my hon. Friends or by anyone else. I am always delighted to accommodate them.

    The Minister must give us an assurance before we allow subsection (2) of new Clause 2 to pass because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth said, this is a substantial matter. I shall not follow my hon. Friend into dealing with Amendment No. 1 because I have another brief speech prepared for that amendment when we reach it.

    I now turn to subsection (3), and again I address my comments more to my hon. Friend the Minister than to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West. This subsection deals with the date of commencement of the licence and the need for renewal in 12 months' time. This again will add to the costs that will fall upon local authorities. I therefore want from the Minister a clear indication not only of what the fee will be but also what she thinks about the recovery and other legitimate costs that might arise from the inspection of premises.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West will no doubt be relieved to know that I wholeheartedly welcome subsections (4) and (5) of new Clause 2.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you are leaving the Chair, and as you intervened a short time ago to say that you were surprised I was not in my accustomed place, I think that you and the House are entitled to an explanation.

    I am sitting here for a simple reason. I occasionally think it is right that I should see what Members of my party look like from the other side of the Chamber. At times I am impressed. I have great affection for my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), whose speeches are always good.

    I want to clear up one matter. Reference was made to the fact, somehow relevant to the Bill, that I was evidently the guard dog of this place. I can only say that my experience over the past few months in particular leads me to believe that I am no longer regarded as that but rather as a pet poodle.

    I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I hope he is happy with what he sees on the benches opposite him.

    I say to my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary that we do not regard him as a pet poodle. Everybody holds him in great affection, and I am sure he will understand that I am crawling to him in the midst of all these flowing compliments. Having seen me from a frontal position, and liking what he sees, perhaps he will be kind enough to convey that to the Prime Minister so that he may take a careful look and I can look forward to a more pleasant occupation than I have had in the past.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are always being told that we raise bogus points of order. I think you ought to give the House some protection against Members who are normally on the Government Benches but who seem today to be on this side of the House rising on such points of order, so that we know exactly where we stand.

    I have just come to the Chair, and I undertake to be as good a guard dog as I can.

    May I say in passing that I am indebted to my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary for sitting on the benches opposite, because that means that there are two Members of the House on the Conservative, Liberal, Scottish National and Welsh National benches. It is significant that when, on a Friday, we come to deal with matters affording protection to our citizens, few Members of the Tory and Liberal Parties are present.

    Order. I think that the hon. Member has been let off the lead for long enough. I understand we are debating whether new Clause 1 should be read a Second time.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The debate on the Guard Dogs Bill is interesting, but I should be greatly obliged if we could get on to another more important subject—namely, women.

    12.30 p.m.

    We are debating new Clause 1, but with it we are taking new Clause 2 and Amendment No. 9. Having finished with new Clause 1, I turn now to new Clause 2 and will come later to Amendment No. 9. As for the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun), I have great sympathy with it—

    Order. I hope that the sympathy will go no further, because in fact it was not a point of order.

    Reverting to the point I was making before all the interventions, there is considerable public concern about the use of guard dogs. Many mothers are more concerned with protecting their children from being savaged by guard dogs than with equality between men and women on public boards. That does not mean that I am not sympathetic to equality of the sexes, but any mother listening to, or who may read, this debate should realise that the House considers it right to give proper consideration to legislation which impinges upon the safety of families.

    I welcome subsections (4) and (5) of new Clause 2 but fundamentally disagree with subsection (6), which provides that the Inner and Middle Temples shall be deemed to be in the City of London. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey will agree with me here. I am sick and tired of the House of Commons, in legislation like this, having to waste time taking care of the special position of the Inner and Middle Temples.

    May I declare an interest as a tenant of Middle Temple? It would be very wrong of my hon. Friend to prevent me from enjoying the benefits, such as they are, of the Bill.

    If all the occupants of the Middle Temple were as diligent, compassionate and politically sensible as my hon. and learned Friend, we should all have more consideration for them.

    That subsection carries on a privileged game which is not justified even by the presence of my hon. and learned Friend. In the interests of good will and the Bill's passage, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West will consider deleting it.

    On a point of order. May I make a correction? I think I said that I was a tenant of Middle Temple. In fact, I am a tenant of Inner Temple.

    Whether he is an inner, a middle or outer tenant my hon. and learned Friend is always welcome to our debates. I hope that when he has heard the few words I have to utter on this subsection, leaving aside his own personal interest—I shall not call it a vested interest—he will accept that Parliament's time should not be consumed in preserving these privileges. This is not an appropriate Bill in which to make a detailed attempt to remove them, but I hope that Ministers and future promoters of Private Members' Bills will note that many Greater London Members take rooted objection to the continued privilege extended to the Temple and to the City of London and will seek at some suitable time to end it. We seek to abolish these unnecessary and outdated privileged positions.

    Amendment No. 9 says that regulations "may" be made. I believe that it should provide that they "shall" be made. A later amendment seems to deal with this point. It would be wrong to refer to it in any depth now, and I shall not do so, but our complicated system this morning means that one cannot get all these things clear in one's mind, particularly since we did not know until 10.30 what clauses and amendments Mr. Speaker had selected. Therefore, paragraph (a) should be mandatory. I hope that my hon. Friend can reassure us on that point.

    On paragraph (b) I am entirely in favour of the provision for appeal to magistrates' courts. I do not take the view expressed earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth. The best and established way of appealing against the grant of a licence, against its conditions, to vary its conditions or to revoke it is the local magistrates' court. The people on the bench understand and recognise the local requirements of public safety and security of private premises.

    I shall not go into the Scottish part of this. Scottish law is entirely different and I would not dream of trespassing upon it.

    I am not thinking to preclude the ultimate right of appeal to the courts, which is our only safeguard. I sought only to express the view that there should be greater flexibility in a local authority's own structure, so that there was not an appeal through the legal system immediately a licence was refused. There should be flexibility in local authority structure to review the situation before that stage is reached.

    I can reassure my hon. Friend From personal experience of local authority work I know that if, for instance, a planning application is refused, local authorities are generally willing and anxious to consult the applicant to see whether suitable mutually satisfactory conditions can be agreed. I am sure that that practice would extend to this provision. Most local authorities are sensible. They lean over backwards—sometimes too far, perhaps—to reach an accommodation with applicants.

    I welcome this provision, which was not made clear in the Second Reading draft of the Bill or in Committee when the proposal for an appeals procedure was turned down. Hon. Members will appreciate from the amendments that I tried to deal with that in one of my own amendments, which Mr. Speaker quite rightly did not select because of my hon. Friend's new clause. When I tabled my amendment I did not know the nature of my hon. Friend's amendment.

    I should like some information from my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West on the question of the revocation of a licence. The House is entitled to know a little more about the grounds upon which my hon. Friend thinks that it would be reasonable for a council to revoke a licence once it has been issued. I have already asked my hon. Friend the Minister for details about fees, because it is essential for local authorities that this measure should be self-supporting.

    I turn briefly to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-church in his excellent but brief intervention—namely, the training of guard dogs. I entirely agree that this should be catered for in the regulations and I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West has not provided for this in Amendment No. 9, although I have a shrewd idea that it might be dealt with in some other more appropriate amendment. I have not had a full opportunity to study that. I hone that the Minister of State will take on board the views that have been expressed on this subject. I see that he is rapidly making notes, which I hope he will convey to his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State when she returns. I hope that she will be able to comment on the training of guard dogs, because it is important.

    My final point on Amendment No. 9 concerns the important question of the transfer of a licence when a licence holder dies. This could prove to be very dangerous, because in the event of an appeal on the death of a licence holder it could mean that a daughter or son could have the licence conferred upon them, and they may not have had any experience in the control and handling of guard dogs. Even if it has to be done on appeal—which I assume means that in England it has to go before the magistrates' court and in Scotland before the sheriff court—there should be clearly spelt out in the regulations made by the Secretary of State a definition of the class of persons to whom such a transfer can be made. There should not be a situation in which the court might be persuaded, because of reasons not connected with security, to transfer the licence to people without proper training and experience.

    I am pleased to see my hon. Friend making a note of that for the Under-Secretary, because she should spell this out to the House and give an undertaking that she will advise her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to ensure that the transfer of a licence can be made only to a person who has satisfied a competent authority of his ability to handle guard dogs.

    I hope that we shall be able to make progress on these clauses and that the Minister will deal with the points raised. It is not my wish to see the Bill delayed or defeated, but there are some points of substance on which we are entitled to satisfaction.

    12.45 p.m.

    First, I should like to reply to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott). He wanted to know why we had departed from the police authority and transferred licensing to the local authority. One of the main reasons is that all licensing is done either by the local authority or by a committee of the local authority. In Scotland it was done by the magistrates, who sat not as a local authority but as a semi-judicial committee of a local authority.

    I have also been asked about appeals against the magistrates' decisions. I can only speak for Scotland on this matter as I am not familiar with the laws of England. In Scotland an appeal against a refusal by a magistrates' court, as it was called, to transfer a licence for any subject under its control was made to another body that comprised exactly the same people, with only one or two additions. In other words, the magistrates were the members of the appeal court.

    This has never been considered a satisfactory method. It is one of the reasons why the appeal must be made to a court. If it is to be fair and seen to be fair, the appeal cannot be made to the same people as refused the application. People become dissatisfied if the appeal does not go their way, and they think it is a piece of nonsense that they have to appeal to virtually the same people although under a different title and sitting as a different group. This causes considerable concern and disappointment, and even mistrust, amongst people who have been refused a licence.

    It is right, therefore, that any appeal of this kind should be to a court of law. In the case of Scotland, presumably this would be to the sheriff court.

    There is also the difficulty of defining "police authority". Do we mean the police committee or the chief constable?

    Legally speaking, the police authority is the police committee, which is simply a committee of a local authority. It would be wrong for an appeal of that kind to be made to virtually the same people. To be fair to the appellant, the appeal should be made to a totally different body. If the appellant were refused a licence by a local authority or by a committee of a local authority or by a group of magistrates who were, in a sense, lay judges, the appellant would be less dissatisfied if the appeal were to a different body—in Scotland, the sheriff.

    The matter of penalties in relation to persons who hire guard dogs was raised. New Clause 1 does not put any onus upon a person who hires a guard dog. He merely has to be satisfied that its owner is licensed. So long as he believes that that person is licensed and he does not knowingly engage someone who he knows is not licensed, he is not committing an offence. This is made fairly clear in the clause.

    My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) asked for a definition of "guard dog". The phrase is clearly defined in Clause 5. The Bill would not apply to someone who had a dog for protection in his own dwellinghouse. Clause 5 says:
    "'guard dog' means a dog used to protect premises, or persons or property on any premises".
    It goes on:
    "'premises' means land other than land within the curtilage of a dwelling-house and buildings, including parts of buildings, other than dwelling-houses."
    It is crystal clear that the Bill does not apply to someone who has a dog for protection.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) asked what provision there was for training. There is none. The reason is that it is impossible to lay down a standard to which a dog must be trained. A dog may be of a satisfactory standard when with one handler but unsatisfactory with another. The Bill allows a dog to be transferred from one handler to another. Standards would be difficult to judge.

    However, the Bill lays down that a guard dog must at all times be under the control of its handler. That is clear enough for all legal purposes and much better than trying to draw up a code of training or a set of regulations, which could easily be distorted by the dog being passed to a handler incapable of keeping the dog to that standard. There could not be a training test every time a handler went for a cup of tea and handed his dog over to another handler, as frequently happens.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) said that more use should be made of secure perimeter fences. He thought that that was more important than putting a notice on a gate to say that guard dogs were on the premises. The Bill provides that guard dogs on the premises must at all times be under the control of the handler or securely chained. A secure perimeter fence becomes slightly less important in that context.

    Secondly, however strong a perimeter fence may be, a dog will always find a way out. The tragic case in Glasgow concerned two guard dogs which burrowed under the fence—there was earth below it—and one of them attacked and killed a young boy. However tight the regulations the fence might be cut. That may not be believed, but I know from my experience on my own local authority that it can happen.

    We had a fence built to prevent children from falling into a dangerous river. It was a very good fence and absolutely secure. It blocked a short cut that had previously been used by many people on their way to work. That fence was regularly cut by adults, who thus re-endangered the lives of children. It happened many times and we spent a great deal of money on repairing the fence. We asked the police to watch it as much as they could, but it was a long fence and there was a limit to the amount of time that the police could spare.

    A similar situation would arise if there were a secure fence around premises with guard dogs. Even the most secure fence is no guarantee that someone will not damage it.

    The Bill provides that a guard dog must be under the control of the handler at all times, or securely chained, with the handler still on the premises. The handler may go away for a cup of tea or some other reason, but during the short time that the dog is not under his direct control it must be securely chained, or under the control of another handler. That is much better and safer than having a perimeter fence. Fences are liable to damage and a dog will find a way out even if there is the best fence in the world.

    Not long ago I went to the Lambeth area to look at one of the scrapyards that my hon. Friend mentioned. There were two guard dogs, and whenever the gate was approached the dogs growled and barked. After I had been standing there for about 10 minutes, a lady came out with the two guard dogs, neither of them on a chain. She said that she was going to do some shopping.

    Before she returned, one of the guard dogs returned on its own. What is the good of having a fence if the dogs are secured at night but in the day are left to wander around as much as they like? After all, they are the same dogs. Under the Bill, that would not be permitted. When the lady returned, she had so many messages that she was unable to control the second dog and it was not on a lead. In practice, regulations forbidding that state of affairs would not work, but I am convinced that the Bill will be effective.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford questioned the change from the original title to Guard Dogs Bill and said that the Bill was a total change from the original. Apart from the provision concerning a warning notice on gates, the original Bill was confined to guard dogs. We have dropped the one provision to which there was objection by some hon. Members and by a number of organisations. That provision represented perhaps one-twentieth of the total Bill. The remaining nineteen-twentieths were confined to guard dogs. One can hardly call that a substantial change.

    I was asked why we had not used the police as the most competent authority to judge the training of guard dogs. First, there is the impossibility of laying down standards, as I have said. Secondly, the police have so much to do already that they would find it difficult to make time to enforce this law. The present law lays down that a dog must be under its owner's control at all times, but when do the police enforce that? Day in and day out one can see dozens of dogs roaming about on their own and not under their owner's control by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, sometimes the owners are miles away.

    Even when a dog bites someone and the incident is reported to the police, they do not always take action. During a recent election one of my canvassers was bitten by a dog and had to be taken to hospital. His mates reported the matter to the police, who said that they could do nothing about it unless there was a complaint from the person bitten. That is a rather strange way to carry on. If the police were involved, there would be the utmost difficulty about enforcement.

    Another difficulty is that of identifying the dog. If a person is bitten by a dog so badly that he has to go to hospital, all that he can subsequently identify is the house where the dog came from. That is the best he can do. Some people may think that that is an acceptable means of identification, but I do not think it is, because if the case comes to court a person has to be able to identify the particular dog that bit him. I would defy anyone, other than the owner of the dog, to identify, for example, one alsatian out of a row of 10.

    1.0 p.m.

    It is also unsatisfactory to say that all this extra work should fall on the police, because, although the police have the powers, they do not have the time to deal with the problem adequately. They cannot deal with the existing laws, let alone a whole lot of new ones.

    The question of the Inner and Middle Temples I shall leave to my hon. Friend the Minister, because the Government suggested the clause in which they are mentioned. I am certainly unable to give any explanation.

    Turning to the revocation of licences, I do not believe that we can lay down in advance all the conditions in which a licence can be removed. As with the existing system of licensing by local authorities, when application is made for a licence to be revoked the people who want the licence revoked—in some cases it is the police and in some cases other people—have to show what they consider to be good reason why it should be revoked. It is then up to the committee that issued the licence in the first place to decide whether it should be revoked, bearing in mind the particular circumstances at the time.

    We cannot lay down in advance regulations that would be so good that they would stand the test of time and be fair in all cases. They would have a far worse effect than the present position, whereby it is left to the people or the authorities that want to revoke the licence to give their reasons why it should be revoked. If it is revoked, the person concerned has the right of appeal to a court to challenge the revocation. That is a much fairer, more effective, more reasonable and practical way of dealing with the matter than the method that has been suggested.

    I hope that I have covered most of the points raised. I have certainly done my best. No doubt my hon. Friend the Minister will deal with any points that I have omitted.

    I should like to intervene briefly before we finish our discussion on this group of amendments. I do not wish to delay the House or the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun), who is waiting patiently on the Labour Benches for the Second Reading of her Balance of Sexes Bill. I do not know whether it has occurred to the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) that in his Bill he has not covered discrimination on premises where dogs are kept, but that point might occur to him later.

    Although the hon. Gentleman attempted to clarify the group of amendments which we are discussing, it still seems to me to be a bit of a dog's breakfast. It is difficult to guide oneself through the labyrinth of changes that have been made in the Bill.

    I am not against the Bill, and I do not believe that the Opposition are against it in principle, but it has become extremely difficult to understand. I hope that as the proceedings continue the hon. Gentleman will do his best to clarify further what he is trying to do. We have not had a full explanation of the changes which he has made with regard to the police, who are still involved, because a new criminal offence will be put on the statute book. This will involve the police being alert to the new offences which may be com- mitted, and it will add to all the other responsibilities which they carry. When introducing new legislation we should consider the burden which it puts upon the law enforcement authorities.

    There appear to be three new things which this group of amendments does. One is the licensing of kennels, which is covered by the first new clause. The second is the licensing procedure of the local authorities, which is contained in the second new clause. Amendment No. 9 concerns the revocation of a licence and the appeal procedure. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Dundee, West has given a sufficient explanation why these changes have been made at this stage in the Bill, and what their purpose is.

    New Clause 2 appears to provide that a person who is running a guard dog kennels must apply each year for a new licence. Perhaps that point could be clarified before we pass on to the next amendment. If a person who is running guard dog kennels has to apply for a new licence each year it will probably be very unlikely that anyone will wish to invest in such an establishment or to set up such an establishment, because he will not have any expectation of continuity. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has considered this aspect. Certainly I would not go to the trouble of investing the considerable sum involved in setting up kennels, with all the equipment that is need, if I knew that my licence to keep guard dogs would last for only a year. That is an important point to be considered under new Clause 2.

    Those are the only comments I wish to make on this group of amendments. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary will further clarify the purpose of this new group of amendments.

    Perhaps it will be convenient for the House if I make my general points on the Bill in the debate on Third Reading, when I shall take up many of the points that have been raised on the two new clauses and the amendment.

    However, my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) should be congratulated on his clear and intelligible account of his two new clauses and his amendment. There was only one point on which he was stumped for a reply and that was because the Inner and Middle Temples are not technically local authorities. Therefore, for the purposes of the Bill they are taken to be within the City of London, because the City of London comes within the definition of a local authority.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 2

    Guard Dog Kennel Licences

  • '.—(1) A local authority may on the application in the prescribed form of, and on payment of the prescribed fee by, a person who runs or intends to run guard dog kennels at premises within their area grant that person a licence in respect of those kennels.
  • (2) A licence under this section shall be made subject to the prescribed conditions (if any) and to such other conditions as the local authority thinks fit.
  • (3) A licence under this section shall, subject to regulations, come into force on a date specified in the licence as the commencement date and shall expire at the end of the period of twelve months beginning with that date unless it is cancelled by a court in pursuance of the following subsection.
  • (4) Where a person is convicted of an offence under this Act or the Protection of Animals Act 1911 or the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912, the court by which he is convicted may cancel any licence held by him under this Act.
  • (5) The court may suspend the operation of the cancellation pending an appeal.
  • (6) For the purposes of this Act the Inner and Middle Temples shall be deemed to be in the City of London.'—[Mr. Doig.]
  • Brought up, and read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    Clause 1

    Control Of Guard Dogs

    I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 17, at end insert—

    '() A person shall not use or permit the use of a guard dog at any premises unless a notice containing a warning that a guard dog is present is clearly exhibited at each entrance to the premises.'.
    In the Bill as originally introduced Clause 1 was concerned with all dogs, and it would have been an offence for any dog owner not to display a warning notice outside the premises where he resided and where the dog was kept. Objections were voiced against that provision by hon. Members on both sides of the House on Second Reading. The clause was so widely drawn as to apply to every dog. As it would have been unlikely to be acceptable to the public generally or to dog owners particularly, the original clause was deleted in Committee and the present clause substituted. The Bill then became concerned only with guard dogs and its title was accordingly changed in Committee.

    The purpose of the amendment is to add a new subsection to reintroduce the requirement to display warning notices, but in relation only to guard dogs. The amendment provides that warning notices should be displayed where dogs are being used for the purposes of guarding premises. That is one of the items included in the voluntary code of practice on the use of guard dogs announced by the Government earlier this year.

    The amendment requires a warning notice to be displayed whether a guard dog is owned by the owner of the premises or is hired by him. The offence is to use or permit the use of a guard dog when the warning notice is not displayed. If, therefore, an owner of premises hires a guard dog and no warning notice is exhibited on the premises where the dog is being used, both the owner of the premises and the person from whom he hires the dog could be prosecuted under the amendment. That means that a notice must be exhibited at each entrance to the premises to ensure that anyone approaching the premises at any entrance is properly warned that a guard dog is present. The penalty for an offence in this category is the same as for other offences under the Bill—namely, a maximum fine of £400 on summary conviction as provided in Clause 3.

    The scope of the requirement to display a warning notice is determined by the definition in Clause 5. In the Bill as it stands the definition includes a dog that is protecting a person or any premises. When a dog handler takes a dog with him when he goes with a team of men employed by a security company to collect or deliver money from shops and banks the dog is protecting those persons on each of the premises they visit. The amendment would require a notice warning of the presence of the dog to be displayed at the entrance to each shop or bank even though the dog was there for only a few minutes.

    That is not the sort of case for which the warning notice requirement is designed. Accordingly Amendment No. 13 limits the definition of "guard dog" to dogs protecting premises, property that is kept on the premises or persons guarding the premises. I hope that this makes it clear that the requirement will apply only to dogs which are kept on the premises and which are guarding the premises.

    I think that the hon. Gentleman was very wise to withdraw the original Clause 1 as it stood when we debated it on Second Reading. I am sure that as a result he has a more satisfactory Bill. I suggested to him on Second Reading that he should make this alteration, and as a result I believe that the Bill is far more acceptable. With the reservations that I made at an earlier stage regarding the new complications that have been added, I have no objection to the amendment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 2

    Registration And Licensing Of Owners Of Guard Dogs

    1.15 p.m.

    With this we may discuss the following amendments:

    No. 3, in page 1, line 19, leave out 'a police' and insert 'the local'.

    No. 4, in page 1, line 21, leave out 'circumstances under' and insert grounds on'.

    No. 5, in page 1, line 22, at end insert:
    'and for appeals against such removals'.
    No. 6, in page 2, line 7, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

    No. 7, in page 2, line 9, leave out from 'who' to 'who' in line 10 and insert:
    'offers for hire a guard dog for security purposes and'.

    Amendment No. 2 proposes that we delete Clause 2 from the Bill. The other amendments that we are discussing all relate to changes in Clause 2. The purpose of proposing that Clause 2 be left out is that it is replaced by the two new clauses which we have passed, which provide for a licensing system without a registration system. That was foreshadowed in Committee when I accepted that it was unnecessary duplication in the original Bill for a person to be required to register with the police and to obtain a licence from the local authority as well. I accepted that the requirement of registration should be removed from the Bill.

    I also agreed that the Government should carry out urgent consultations with the local authority associations and other interests which should be given the opportunity to express their views before Parliament decided on the final form of the licensing system. There was not time to complete the consultations when we were in Committee and it has not been possible to move these amendments before today. As later amendments on the Notice Paper providing for a scheme for licensing people who keep guard dogs are complete in themselves, it is unnecessary to retain Clause 2.

    I have already dealt at length with the objections that I make to the removal of Clause 2. I know that the new clauses have been passed and that presumably Clause 2 will have to go, but I want to reiterate my objections. I think that it is wrong to put the burden on the local authorities. They have quite enough to do without being burdened with legislation for dogs. This is a matter which should have been dealt with simply and clearly by police authorities. I oppose the removal of Clause 2.

    In Committee there were a number of aspects of Clause 2 about which I was not happy. A number of the amendments relating to Clause 2 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) reflect some of the feelings that I and a number of other hon. Members had in Committee on the vexed question of the relationship between the police authority and the local authority, whose responsibility it should be, as well as to the circumstances of appeal as regards registration. That relates to the important issue of specifying precisely the circumstances in which someone can have his licence removed.

    I accept that the new clauses, as my hon. Friend has said, deal with many of the objections that have been made. My hon. Friend is accepting a number of the objections that have been made. I am pleased to see the end of Clause 2. I found that the job of making it acceptable proved almost impossible. I shall not mourn its death.

    My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) says that he wants to keep Clause 2 in the Bill because the position that is proposed will impose a burden on local authorities. Several local authorities have written to me and also to the Government complaining that they have insufficient powers to deal with dog problems. I have had representations to this effect from many cities, including Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Luton. Therefore, the local authorities cannot be overworked. It appears that the objection on the ground that local authorities already have too much to do cannot be sustained in view of the attitude of local authorities that has been expressed to me.

    Will my hon. Friend deal with the relationship between the rules which the local authority may make and the rules which the Secretary of State may make? Although local authorities may be anxious to have more powers, the danger of some local authorities operating under entirely different regulations from those operated by other local authorities is a serious one.

    Local authorities have no power other than power that is given to them by Parliament. Regulations laid down by Parliament are binding on the local authority unless the regulations specify that the local authority has power to make further regulations. There is no point in giving a local authority that power unless it has the right to use it. That is a matter for the local authority.

    The amendment will put a burden on someone. Originally there was a burden on the police, and now that burden will be on the local authority. Before we determine the rights or wrongs of the change, perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will give us the benefit of her advice. Has she had consultations with the police and local authorities and ascertained their views?

    I think that we should all be loth to lay an extra financial burden on local authorities. The Bill may be desirable in general terms, but it comes at a moment of intense financial crisis and I am sure that ratepayers would support us in not wanting to add further financial burdens, however small they may be.

    Has the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) ascertained the cost of administering the scheme? Can he tell us what will be the financial burden?

    In reply to the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather), we have had consultations with the police and with local authority associations. As he says, the burden will fall on one or the other. It is a question of which one. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) that many local authorities are asking for more powers to control dogs and various aspects of dog behaviour and that the public are pressing local authorities for action. The Government's view is that the Bill should remain as it is.

    I have not had a reply to my question about the cost of administering the scheme.

    I said in an earlier debate that it is intended that the scheme shall be self-supporting and that the licence fees shall cover the cost of administering the scheme. That is why there is no Money Resolution attached to the Bill. The intention is that the money received for the licences should cover the administrative costs.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 3

    Offences And Penalties

    I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 2, line 14, at end insert:

    'on first offence and on subsequence offences to a fine not exceeding £400 and six months imprisonment'.
    My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) has been unavoidably called away. He has asked me formally to move the amendment, the purpose of which is to ensure that second and subsequent offences are dealt with in a different way from a first offence.

    In Committee it was agreed that there should be a maximum fine of £400 and that it was inappropriate that this offence should carry a prison sentence. The possibility of the loss of a licence would be a serious deterrent. I agree that the maximum fine is £400, but the maximum fine will not necessarily be imposed. I imagine that for a first offence it is unlikely that the maximum fine would be imposed. I expect, in accordance with the usual custom of the courts, that if someone committed the offence a second time the fine would be much steeper, and that if he continued to commit the offence the court would impose the maximum fine, which is a fairly heavy one. There is no need for a further deterrent in the form of a term of imprisonment.

    I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig). There is no need to include an additional penalty of imprisonment. The clause states clearly that the offender is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £400. That is the maximum fine. In addition, the question of revocation of licence may arise. That punishment is quite sufficient, and I hope that the amendment will not be accepted.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) and with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman). The Government do not accept that imprisonment is a suitable punishment for offences of this kind, whether on a first or subsequent offence.

    Amendment negatived.

    Clause 4

    Regulations

    Amendment made: No. 9, in page 2, line 15, at beginning insert—

    '() Regulations may be made—
  • (a) enabling a local authority to revoke a licence and, on the application of the licence holder, to vary the conditions (other than the prescribed conditions) of the licence;
  • (b) enabling appeals to be made to a magistrates' court or, in Scotland, a sheriff court against—
  • (i) refusal to grant the licence;
  • (ii) the conditions (other than the prescribed conditions) of the licence;
  • (iii) refusal to vary the conditions;
  • (iv) revocation of the licence;
  • (c) requiring the payment of the prescribed fee to be made to a local authority on inspection by the authority of premises in respect of which an application for a licence has been made;
  • (d) providing for the continuance or transfer of the licence where an appeal is made, and on the death of the licence holder.
  • (2) Any power to make regulations under this Act—
  • (a) may be exercised so as to make different provisions for different cases or different classes of cases;
  • (b) includes power to make such incidental or supplemental provision in the regulations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
  • (3)'.—[Mr. Doig.]

    I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in page 2, line 15, leave out 'may' and insert 'shall'.

    With this we are to take Amendment No. 11, in page 2, line 15, leave out 'may be made by the Secretary of State' and insert 'shall be made'.

    The object of the amendment is to make it mandatory upon the Secretary of State to make regulations. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) will deal with this amendment.

    I am not clear about the intention behind the amendment. The effect would be to require instead of to permit the Secretary of State to make regulations. Such a requirement would be contrary to normal practice in Acts of Parliament and is in any event unnecessary because the licence provisions could not be brought into force effectively without the support of regulations. The general principle is to prescribe in the legislation the framework within which the Secretary of State is authorised to make regulations but not to bind him absolutely to do everything that Parliament in its wisdom thought it might be useful for him to have the power to do. Perhaps the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott) will clarify the amendment.

    I am simply moving the amendment formally on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved). The objective of Amendment No. 11 is similar to that of Amendment No. 10—that is, to place a mandatory obligation on the Secretary of State to do what the Act prescribes. I shall be interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) has to say.

    1.30 p.m.

    I do not think we need Amendment No. 10. We certainly need Amendment No. 11. Amendment No. 11 is a drafting amendment, and the new provisions about licensing introduce a number of references to regulations. It is convenient, therefore, to define "regulations" as

    "regulations made by the Secretary of State".
    This is done by Amendment No. 15 to Clause 5. Accordingly, Amendment No. 11 takes out the reference in Clause 4 to the Secretary of State because it becomes unnecessary.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Amendment made: No. 11, in page 2, line 15, leave out 'may be made by the Secretary of State' and insert 'shall be made'.—[ Mr. Doig.]

    Clause 5

    Interpretation

    I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 2, line 18, at end insert

    'unless the context otherwise requires'.

    With this we may consider the following amendments:

    No. 13, in page 2, line 19, leave out from 'protect' to end of line 20 and insert—
  • '(a) premises; or
  • (b) property kept on the premises; or
  • (c) a person guarding the premises or such property;
  • "guard dog kennels" means a place where a person in the course of business keeps a dog which (notwithstanding that it is used for other purposes) is used as a guard dog elsewhere, other than a dog which is used as a guard dog only at premises belonging to its owner;
    "local authority" means, in relation to England and Wales, a district council, a London borough council and the Common Council of the City of London, and, in relation to Scotland, an islands council or a district council;'.
    No. 14, in page 2, line 23, leave out 'and'.

    No. 15, in page 2, leave out lines 24 to 28 and insert—
    '"prescribed" means prescribed by regulations;
    "regulations" means regulations made by the Secretary of State.'
    No. 16, in page 2, line 28, at end add
    'and
    "Handler" means a person who has satisfied a police authority that he is capable of controlling a guard dog'.

    This also is a drafting amendment which ensures that the definition in Clause 5 of a term used in the Bill shall not apply where it would be clearly inappropriate. Such a procedure is common form in definitive provisions.

    Amendment No. 13 seeks to improve the original definition in Clause 5 of the Bill:

    "'guard dog' means a dog used to protect premises"
    and so on. After "protect" it substitutes:
  • "(a) premises; or
  • (b) property kept on the premises; or
  • (c) a person guarding the premises …".
  • I raised this point before and I desire to reiterate it as strongly as I can. It seems to me that it will be quite impossible, and will raise all sorts of difficulties, to try to define what "guard dog" means.

    I wish to repeat the illustration I gave earlier. Suppose that an old lady living alone has a dog which barks when somebody knocks at the door. She is afraid of being mugged, and her ordinary kind of dog is kept to protect her. By the words used in the amendment it could be described as a guard dog, and if she is not licensed to keep it she will be liable to prosecution and a maximum fine of £400. As I said earlier the Bill, in putting the matter forward in this way, creates a new criminal offence and raises difficulties which might seriously affect people. I therefore express my opposition to it.

    I understand that we are dealing with Amendment No. 12, and my hon. and learned Friend seems to have wandered on to Amendment No. 13. I have already explained that this Bill in no way affects people who keep a dog as a domestic pet or even a guard dog for their own use. It does not affect them in any way whatever.

    The words of the clause are

    "guard dog' means a dog used to protect premises, or persons or property on any premises".
    Who is to define this? Suppose that the woman has a dog, which she relies upon, which will bark when somebody approaches. Someone may quite properly put forward a case that that dog is a guard dog. Who is to decide?

    If my hon. and learned Friend will look at the next sentence he will see that "premises "is also defined:

    "'premises' means land other than land within the curtilage of a dwelling-house, and buildings, including parts of buildings, other than dwelling-houses'.
    It is quite clear, therefore, looking at the definition of "guard dog" and of "premises", that in no way at all could the objection made by my hon. and learned Friend be construed as being within the scope of the Bill.

    I now turn to Amendment No. 13.

    Is my hon. Friend saying that the Bill does not apply to a dog kept in an ordinary house in the ordinary way, even though it is kept to protect the person in that house?

    Yes, absolutely. I have said this about 20 times in the course of the various stages of the Bill, and it is the third time I have said it this afternoon. I am sorry that my hon. and learned Friend did not hear or understand me on the last occasion. I cannot make it any clearer than it is.

    The definition contained in the clause makes it absolutely clear because it defines "guard dog" and then it defines "premises", and the two definitions must be taken together. It is absolutely clear that it does not apply to anyone keeping a dog in his own house, whether for his protection or as a guard dog in that house or not. Equally it does not apply to farm dogs, for exactly the same reason. I hope that that is now clear to my hon. and learned Friend.

    The first part of Amendment No. 13 redefines "guard dog". The imperfections of the existing definition are revealed by the new subsection added to Clause 1 requiring warning notices to be exhibited at each entrance to premises on which guard dogs are present. Unless the definition were amended, there would be a requirement to display warning notices at the entrance to premises—for example, banks—when money was being delivered or collected by an employee of a security company accompanied by a dog, because the dog would be used in that case to "protect a person". This is unnecessary and is avoided by specifying more precisely the uses of guard dogs to which the Bill applies.

    The basic idea is that the dog is guarding the premises, but it was thought necessary to cover the cases where the real value lies in the property on the premises or where the dog's primary function is to protect its handler. However, the wording chosen failed to limit these additional cases to property stored on the premises—as distinct from property in transit—or to dog handlers protecting the premises or property stored there. The amendment puts this right. The new definition includes a dog being used to protect a person guarding premises or property kept on the premises but does not include a dog protecting a person guarding money being delivered or collected.

    The definition of "guard dog kennels "excludes from the licensing provisions the premises of a person who uses his own dog to guard his premises. Such a person would have to comply with the requirements of Clause 1, unless the dog guarded his master's home, but would not require a licence in respect of the place where he kept his dog provided he did not also hire it out.

    Since the licensing function has been placed on the local authority, it is necessary to specify which local authorities are to exercise that function. It is felt that, broadly speaking, district councils should have the responsibility. The local authority associations are agreeable to this definition of "local authority".

    Amendment No. 13, which defines "local authority", raises questions which have recurred throughout this morning's proceedings. It says:

    "'local authority' means, in relation to England and Wales, a district council, a London borough council."
    Earlier today we approved new Clause 2, subsection (2) of which says:
    "A licence under this section shall be made subject to the prescribed conditions (if any) and to such other conditions as the local authority thinks fit."
    As I understand it, that means that it is possible that there may be different conditions in different local authority areas affecting licences. Although the bulk of the conditions will be laid down by the Secretary of State, there may be modifications from one local authority area to another. If that is correct, it seems that the definition of "local authority" may need to be looked at again as it is defined in the Bill, especially in England in regard to metropolitan areas.

    "Local authority" means a district council. I think of a big metropolitan area like the West Midlands, with which I am familiar, or Greater London. As it stands, the Bill means that there could be substantially different provisions affecting licensing between one district council and another within the same metropolitan area.

    I do not think that this is a serious problem in the non-metropolitan counties because the centres of population are usually reasonably distinct. But where there is one large conurbation, as there is in the West Midlands, there could be different regulations applying in Walsall, West Bromwich, Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley and Warley, which are adjacent to each other and whose inhabitants feel that they have a great deal in common. However, if the district council is the licensing authority, certain problems arise, and possibly the right decision would be for the metropolitan counties in England to be the licensing authorities in respect of this Bill.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 13, in page 2, line 19, leave out from 'protect' to end of line 20 and insert—

  • '(a) premises; or
  • (b) property kept on the premises; or
  • (c) a person guarding the premises or such property.
  • "guard dog kennels" means a place where a person in the course of business keeps a dog which (notwithstanding that it is used for other purposes) is used as a guard dog elsewhere, other than a dog which is used as a guard dog only at premises belonging to its owner;
    "local authority" means, in relation to England and Wales, a district council, a London borough council and the Common Council of the City of London, and, in relation to Scotland, an islands council or a district council;'.—[Mr. Doig.]

    Amendment proposed, No. 14, in line 23, leave out 'and'.—[ Mr. Grocott.]

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 15 in page 2, leave out lines 24 to 28 and insert—

    '"prescribed" means prescribed by regulations;
    "regulations" means regulations made by the Secretary of State.'—[Mr. Doig.]

    Clause 6

    Short Title And Commencement

    On behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved), I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 2, line 30, leave out from 'force' to end of line 33 and insert

    'not later than six months from the date of Royal Assent'.
    The object of the amendment is to ensure that the Bill comes into force as soon as possible after it has received the Royal Assent. Although I had some reservations about this kind of point in Committee, now that much of the Bill is to be self-financing I suggest that this is a reasonable amendment to make.

    The effect of the amendment is to impose a time limit of six months within which the whole Bill must come into force and to remove the provision added in Committee enabling different parts to be brought into force at different times.

    As the licensing provisions constitute a new call on national resources, even though the cost will be borne by those using guard dogs, it must be accepted that some time might elapse before they could, consistent with the Government's economic strategy, be brought into operation. Therefore, a time limit would not be acceptable either to the Government or to the local authorities.

    It appears to me that it would be much better not to accept this amendment on the basis that it will sabotage the Bill to a considerable degree. In other words, there is no reason why Clause 1, for example, should not be brought into being almost immediately that the Bill is passed, whereas in regard to other parts it might not be convenient to bring them into operation for considerably in excess of six months. Therefore, it would be much better not to accept the amendment, and I recommend the House to reject it.

    I wish to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) said. As he pointed out, the licensing provisions constitute a new call on national resources at a difficult time for local authorities, and we have to accept that some time might elapse before they could be brought into operation. A time limit, therefore, is not acceptable to the Government. What is more important, I suppose, is that it was not acceptable to the authorities in the discussions that we had with them.

    I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott) to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 18, in page 2, line 33, at end add:

    '() This Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.'.
    The amendment is required to give effect to the Government's view that the Bill should not be extended to Northern Ireland at present.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    1.46 p.m.

    I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) on reaching the Third Reading of his Bill.

    Over the years, concern has been expressed in this House and outside about the increasing number of attacks by dogs on people. There are no figures of the number of people bitten by dogs annually, and it is not possible to get any reliable figures because incidents of this kind are often not reported. It is known, however, that in the Metropolitan Police District alone in 1971 almost 3,400 people were bitten by dogs. If one in every three cases is reported—and I imagine the proportion of reported to actual cases is a good deal lower than that—a rough estimate of the number of people in England and Wales bitten by dogs annually is unlikely to be fewer than 40,000. That figure is not really surprising since it is estimated that there are between 5 million and 6 million dogs in the country.

    Although a large number of people are bitten by dogs, few of them are seriously injured, but in April 1971 a two-year-old boy was grievously injured by two guard dogs on premises in Islington, and it was suggested that some form of control of guard dogs was needed. Then in July last year there was the tragic incident in Glasgow when a 10-year-old boy was killed by two guard dogs owned by a private security organisation.

    Following the death of the Glasgow boy, my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland decided that urgent action was needed to reduce the risk of dogs attacking people, and a small informal working party was set up to consider what could be done. Since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment had already set up a working party to consider all aspects of the law relating to dogs, it was decided to restrict the review to guard dogs. In considering what action could be taken, there was consultation with the two Associations of Chief Officers of Police, the British Security Industry Association and other organisations, including canine interests. Their help and advice was much appreciated.

    It was clearly inappropriate to consider legislation relating to guard dogs alone while the Department of the Environment Working Party was reviewing all aspects of the control of dogs. Furthermore, legislation takes time and it was important to do something that could be quickly effective.

    The informal working party recommended that the best course of action was to publish a code of practice. This was readily agreed to, and last November I announced in reply to Questions that the preparation of a code of practice for the use of guard dogs by security organisations was being considered. This code, which was agreed by all the organisations consulted and noted with approval by the Department of the Environment's working party, was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in answer to a Question on 6th February. The code is short and to the point, covering all the essentials in a clear manner. It is, of course, a voluntary code, and, since its observance depends on its acceptance, it makes no unreasonable demands. Indeed, the members of the British Security Industry Association who provide dogs for hire have for some years been practising the requirements of the code.

    It is barely three months since the code was made available, through police forces, to security organisations, so it is too early to say to what extent it is being observed and whether it will effectively reduce the risk of guard dogs attacking people.

    It is worth, I think, examining the points in the code. The code says that all persons and organisations who provide dogs for security purposes, for hire or reward—that is to say, those whose business it is to hire out guard dogs—should keep a register of all dogs and a log-book of all hirings, including the names of the dogs and handlers, and be adequately insured against all claims.

    The other parts of the code could be applied to all guard dogs whether they are hired or owned by the persons who use them to guard their premises. Dogs should be fully and properly trained to such a standard that they can be kept under adequate control at all times. They should be kept in a healthy condition and be properly kennelled, fed and watered. They should be used under close supervision at all times, preferably accompanied by a suitably trained handler, and, unless under the immediate control of a handler, they should be used only on premises or in areas that are reasonably proof against escape or unauthorised entry. The vehicles in which dogs are transported should afford adequate protection against escape by the dog, and the compartment for the dog should be separate from that of the driver. Finally, the code says that warning notices should be displayed where dogs are used for guarding premises.

    As I have said, the code of practice was not unreasonable. Some people may consider that it did not go far enough. This Bill goes further, and I congratulate my hon. Friend, the Member for Dundee, West on the skill and determination with which he has piloted it through its various stages.

    I would not be honest if I did not confess that the Government had some misgivings about the Bill when it was first introduced. Indeed, we urged my hon. Friend to withdraw it—but not because we opposed it in principle. The publication of the code of practice made clear our concern over attacks on people by dogs, but we were reluctant to support the Bill because it seemed to be more prudent to await the report of the Department of the Environment's working party. We also felt that the Bill as originally drafted was not entirely satisfactory. There is, however, no need to go into the defects of the original Bill because they have been put right and I should like to pay great tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West for the readiness with which he accepted advice and help. I must also put on record that the Government have been greatly indebted to the local authority associations, the British Security Industry Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers and canine interests for the help they have given.

    The Bill has two objectives—first, to provide for the control of dogs and the exhibiting of warning notices, and, secondly, to provide a licensing system. The first objective will be achieved by Clause 1, and we can see no reason why that clause should not be brought into force without delay. In our consultations it was generally agreed that it was wrong to use a guard dog without a handler, and this view was expressed by leading security organisations. On the other hand, we were urged to permit the use of a guard dog without a handler in buildings from which the possibility of the dog escaping was so remote that it could be discounted. There is some force in that argument, and I am aware that there may be some small firms which feel unable to afford the expense of a handler. This may mean some premises which are now protected by an unattended guard dog may be more at risk. None the less I think it right—and it was a difficult decision to make—that a guard dog should never be used without a handler in attendance. This we feel is necessary in the interests of trying to safeguard the public against possible attacks by dogs which are being used for protecting premises.

    The second objective of the Bill is to provide a licensing system in respect of guard dogs kennels in which guard dogs hired out to others are kept. As I pointed out earlier, the responsibility for licensing has eventually been placed on local authorities—with the concurrence of their associations, which is an important point. It will, however, be some time before it is possible to introduce the licensing system. The resources of local authorities are stretched to the utmost and it would not be right to impose a further burden on them in these difficult times. The licensing system will, of course, be self-financing but there are administrative and manpower considerations involved, and I am sure that local authorities will wish to ensure that the licensing procedure is as economic and as efficient as possible.

    It will also be necessary for regulations to be brought into operation before the licensing provisions can come into force. With regard to these regulations, I assure hon. Members that it will be necessary to have wide consultation, particularly with the local authority associations, on the matters on which regulations will have to be made.

    I am confident that the effect of the provisions of the Bill and the requirements of the code of practice on the use of guard dogs will go a long way to reducing the risk of guard dogs attacking people, and that is precisely what the Bill sets out to do. Once again I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West on his Bill, and I am sure that he will be well satisfied with what he has achieved.

    1.58 p.m.

    I, too, should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) for his work on the Bill at all stages. I am anxious to do so because I have been critical about a number of its provisions. I am more satisfied now that I know that there is no intention of applying the provisions of the Bill to a dwelling-house in the ordinary way, but only to business and industrial premises where security is needed.

    I still feel that there are difficulties with regard to the definition of "guard dog". An undue burden will be placed upon local authorities. Therefore, I hope that consideration may be given to these matters in another place so that the Bill may be further improved.

    I congratulate my hon. Friend.

    2.0 p.m.

    We have had a good deal of discussion on the Bill, but I fear that some of our debates will not make particularly edifying reading, and anyone seeking guidance on the thinking behind some of the clauses and changes in the Bill will not get much help from reading the account of what we have said. However, the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) has made a sincere and honest attempt to introduce legislation on a matter calling for legislation, although I have to tell him that there are those of us here today who will not agree with the precise way in which it has been done, and certain doubts still remain about some parts of the Bill.

    The Bill arose mainly out of two tragic cases—the two-year-old in Islington and the 10-year-old in Glasgow who met their death as a result of being bitten by a guard dog. If I may think aloud for a moment, it seems to me that, with what is now Clause 6, the Bill may never come into force in its present form. It will be upon the statute book, but there is no obligation on the G3vernment to bring it in at any time, and I suspect that, if such a measure is ever to see the light of day and have the force of law, it will probably emerge in a form rather different from what is before us today.

    I said in my speech that I could see no reason why Clause I should not be brought into force without delay.

    Clause 1—yes. I was referring to the Bill as a whole. I was about to sit down, but I am grateful for that intervention by the hon. Lady, and I have taken due note of it.

    2.2 p.m.

    I thank all hon. Members who have taken part in the progress of the Bill for their tolerance towards me, and I express special thanks to the Minister for the great assistance which I have received from her. However carefully I arranged my notes in the correct sequence, from time to time—it happened again today—they somehow or other got mixed up and the Minister came to my rescue. I am very grateful to her for that, and I am extremely pleased that the Bill is now likely to have its Third Reading.

    I am sure that what we are doing now is an improvement on any voluntary code. Voluntary arrangements are very good, but we all know that there are those who will ignore them, and it is far better to have an Act of Parliament than to rely on a voluntary code.

    Finally, I thank the House for treating this Bill far more seriously than it treated the first Ten-Minute Bill which I tried to introduce in 1968, which, I am sorry to say, was treated with great hilarity.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

    Balance Of Sexes Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    2.4 p.m.

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

    I am extremely glad to have an opportunity to bring the Bill before the House today. I was, I fear, beginning to think that the guard dogs had taken over, but I suppose someone had to—because where have all the Members of Parliament gone?

    —practically everyone is absent today is that Members were under the impression that the debate on guard dogs would be a filibuster, the unfortunate intention, it was thought, being to prevent the hon. Lady's Bill coming before the House. I think that that is the reason why the benches on this side are empty.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for that explanation. I had no idea of the discreditable intentions of my Government. As I listened to what I thought was the excruciatingly boring case deployed on guard dogs, however, the more I heard—I must say this in fairness to my hon. Friends—the more I realised that it had some validity. I hope that I have not been unkind in calling it excruciatingly boring because it has, in fact, taught me a lesson. Perhaps we should come in more often on a Friday to listen to the debates. I admit that I was in the end glad that I was present, since the more I heard the more I realised that I supported my hon. Friends in what they were doing.

    I hope my hon. Friend appreciates that we did not have equality of the sexes in the debate on the Guard Dogs Bill.

    The idea behind my Bill is not original. It is one that I had no hesitation in borrowing from Bernard Shaw, who warned the suffragettes, after they got the vote, that unless a Bill was introduced to make it compulsory for men and women to be on public bodies and boards in equal numbers they would never get very far. He said also, at the time of the first General Election after women had the vote, when not one woman candidate was returned, that

    "first-rate women candidates were defeated by mere male nobodies".
    That situation often persists even today, but it is a matter quite separate from the Balance of Sexes Bill, and it is up to the political parties represented in the House to deal with it.

    My Bill is designed positively to discriminate for women, to
    "Ensure that appointments to the boards of public bodies and corporations, to certain committees, panels and tribunals, and to juries and the House of Lords, shall consist of women and men in equal numbers."
    Writing to me in March about the Bill, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said:
    "A requirement of equal numbers of men and women on public bodies would in effect define a person's sex as a relevant and justifiable basis for different treatment."
    The Home Secretary is a thoughtful and helpful man with a very friendly attitude towards women's aims, and I have not the slightest intention of trying to score political points off him, but his remarks took my breath away, because our present situation is one in which the constitution of public appointments is decided on a sex basis—the male sex. It may be wrong—I agree that it is wrong—but that is the reality of the situation. That is why I am here today, in this almost empty Chamber, seeking to remedy it.

    We have been assured that the Sex Discrimination Bill is a great step forward for women, the great opportunity that women outside have been waiting for. Surely that Bill is not now to be used as a weapon against us when we try to promote our rights. The Sex Discrimination Bill will not correct past discrimination against women. Moreover, as a member of the Standing Committee on that Bill, I am not at all sure that it will correct future discrimination against women, certainly not unless it is radically amended to give it real meaning for working women. Indeed, we had a simple amendment the other day in Committee about the constitution of the Equal Opportunities Commission. That amendment, if it had been accepted by the Government, would have assured the aim of the Balance of Sexes Bill—that 50 per cent. of the membership of the EOC should be women.

    In the Sex Discrimination Bill, above all other recent legislation for women, it was a vital amendment. What did the Government do? In effect, they said Trust us. We will not write anything into the Bill, but we are sympathetic". I am sure they are. I do not doubt that for one moment. Unfortunately, sympathy does not carry much weight on the statute book.

    We in Parliament, who believe in making life better for women and that they should be the legislators as well as the makers of cups of tea, believe that our aims must be translated into laws which will be binding not merely on the present Government but on future Governments. That is what I consider I am here for.

    It is significant that today there are more public jobs on boards, corporations, councils and commissions within the gift of Ministers than at any other time in Britain's history. It is also significant that nearly all the 4,500 jobs that I have discovered are jobs for the boys.

    In the breakdown of those jobs one comes up against the statutory woman. But, of course, "statutory "is the wrong word. "Nominal "is a more accurate description of the women who serve on those committees. Women are not on those committees by statute they are on them by grace and favour. The Bill seeks to remedy that situation.

    It is intolerable to women that in 1975 half of society is not properly represented on these committees. Women have simply been excluded. Are we to believe that that exclusion, to date, is because there are not enough women in a nation in which there are more women than men? Are we to believe the arguments of some of my hon. Friends who have spoken to me about the Bill—for example, "Your Bill is impossible. It is an impossible situation that you wish to create because there are not enough women"? Or is it, as is far more likely, that women have been deliberately excluded because the authorities which have made the appointments prefer men?

    I should like to take some examples of the situation as it exists. I will spare the House the ordeal of listening to a breakdown of each of the public bodies affected by my proposed legislation. According to my count they total no fewer than 174, although there could be even more.

    Only the other day I discovered that there was an advisory board on pop festivals. It seems grossly unfair that there is not also one on string quartets.

    There is a Committee on Bird Sanctuaries in the Royal Parks. It has eight men but no women.

    There is an Office of the Umpire, which has absolutely nothing to do with either cricket or tennis but concerns something much nearer to the heart of this House—the law. The umpire, is, of course, a man.

    I shall not be drawn into dealing with the more recherché areas of ministerial patronage. I shall merely draw the attention of the House today to some of the everyday bread-and-butter bodies that affect everybody's lives. For example, the Sugar Board has five men and no women. The Agriculture Training Board has 27 men, no women. Is it to be said that the only rôle of the woman in agriculture is that of the farmer's wife?

    The Committee of Investigation for Great Britain has seven men, no women. I cannot think how Great Britain can be investigated without the help of women.

    The Covent Garden Market Authority has six men, no women. I do not know whether that authority was responsible for the environmental damage in Covent Garden. If so, it might well have been improved with some women on the board.

    The National Bus Company has seven men, no women. Of course, women do not travel on buses. Neither, apparently, do they travel on trains, because the British Railways Board has 12 men, no women.

    What about the 14 male members of the Building Research Establishment Advisory Committee? Surely they need a little help from their friends. I suspect that there is one thing we can say for them. They obviously do not believe that a woman's place is in the home.

    Among the 24 members of the Advisory Panel on Arms Control and Disarmament there are no women appointed, yet surely disarmament and arms control is a subject very much of interest to women. They ought to be there and they ought to be having a say. Or does the world of men still believe that
    "They also serve who only stand and wait"?
    I must confess that all is not entirely bleak. I was delighted with the appointments made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, whose Department has just set up the National Consumer Council with 13 women and five men. That is something for the Guinness Book of Records. I suspect that it is the only Government-appointed body with a majority of women. My right hon. Friend has followed through in her Department her belief in women's ability. How I wish that other Secretaries of State—indeed, other women Secretaries of State—would use their powers to set up balanced committees, but they do not do so and they are not balanced.

    It strikes me that the illustration just given by my hon. Friend is not a balance of the sexes. There seems to be a complete preponderance of women in that illustration.

    In that case my hon. Friend should be cheering.

    All that I have said so far relates to Clause 1, subsections (1) and (2), but I am aware that immediately following the introduction of such legislation there will be a period when it will be difficult to find sufficient women to fill all the places created by the Act.

    I am reminded of a comparable situation in 1922 when the Labour Party, to its great surprise, found that it was in the position of forming the first Labour Government and there were not enough people—or so Ramsay MacDonald thought at the time—to fill all the Government jobs. The Labour Government resorted to the practice of inviting Liberals, and even Tories, to fill some positions, with the most disastrous results Were I to advocate a similar line of conduct over my Bill, I should say that the remaining unfilled places should be filled by men, also with a rather pointless result.

    Instead, therefore—this is the point of Clause 1(3)—I am proposing that these places shall be left vacant until the women come forward in their multitudes, which I am certain will happen if the thousands of letters I have received from women throughout the country are serious, and will undoubtedly happen if the men cannot fill the places except by seeking women to fill them. This applies particularly to political parties. If they have to find women to fill jobs on Government bodies, they will find them.

    I now propose to say something about the rôle of the Women's National Commission because I understand that, together with the Civil Service Department, it has developed a new nomination form and procedure for women who wish to put themselves forward for what is called by the Government the "central list "but is commonly called the "list of the great and the good".

    That central list is kept and held in the Civil Service Department and made available to all Government Departments. The Home Department tells me that the improved nomination form, together with the publicity which the Women's National Commission is giving it, should both encourage more women to put themselves forward and give greater scope for describing the particular contribution which these women feel they can make.

    As a woman Member of Parliament I am not entirely satisfied with what is being done. I have not had any sight of any publicity, any sight of the improved nomination form or any sight of the central list that is held in the Civil Service Department.

    I should like the Minister to tell me whether there are other ways of accepting nominations. I am thinking, for example, of women who do not work within the traditional organisations and yet have so much to contribute to life as it is lived today. I am thinking particularly of the younger women in the women's liberation movement and in the women's rights campaign. I cannot speak in this debate without paying tribute to the work that the women's rights campaigners have done over the Sex Discrimination Bill, working night after night to improve it and make it more meaningful to women. They have done a first-class job in briefing some of the Labour women Members on the Committee.

    The Minister might also give consideration to attracting Women in Media and the National Abortion Campaign. These women would not necessarily support the traditional political parties, but they generally have a lot of intelligence, creativity and ideas. They genuinely care about other women, and if they could be persuaded to contribute to the traditional committees and commissions they would have an overwhelmingly valuable contribution to make towards making life better for women everywhere. I, as a British woman Labour MP, want to see the Labour Government make a real effort to attract women who work creatively outside the political parties and women's groupings.

    I believe very sincerely that the women's liberation movement is the best thing to have happened to women in this country since the suffragettes. It is significant to me that the liberationists have had such a bad Press and that the communications media generally—and men in particular—have been so frightened of them that they have constantly sought to downgrade them, even in the eyes of other women, with sexist jokes about burning bras and the other rather emotional and destructive things that have been set up in the media.

    I should like our public committees to draw part of their membership from women working in communes, in self-help medicine, in the battered wives' situation and in pressure groups such as Gingerbread and Sapho. They would work alongside the national Labour, Tory and Liberal women's groupings, townswomen's guilds, women's institutes and Co-operative parties. I commend this idea to the Government and ask them to find some way of extending the central list to welcome—indeed persuade—these women to contribute to the life of the country which is reflected in the work done by these Government Departments.

    I suspect that the present central list is narrow, rigid and very conforming and does not adequately reflect either a balance of men and women or a balance of creativity and ideas which exist in society outside this kind of hot house of selectivity and the kind of thing that the Government set out. Committee structures need conforming people, but they also need, if they are not to die—and many of them must be dead now anyway—young people whose ideas are of now and whose message is that reforms are needed now.

    What we really want, I suppose, is a fundamental change in public attitudes by both men and women. I believe that women should not have to prove that they can make a contribution to public life. Men do not have to do that, and women start with a disadvantage if they have to prove that they are capable of making a contribution. I shall be very much happier when women get to the position which men hold where they do not have to justify their interest and capability in public life, when it is taken for granted. But that is not yet.

    I am often asked, always by men, mostly by men television commentators, what kind of contribution women can make in public life. The answer is a contribution as varied in its quality and validity as any man can make. We have not come very far since Horace Walpole called Mary Wollstencroft a "hyena in petticoats". For centuries in this country there has been the idea that women must be restricted to their own areas of development and that they must be excluded from the privileges which are automatically available to men.

    I often wonder what the early campaigners for women's rights, such as Millicent Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst, would think of women today. Would they be disappointed at the huge number of women who are persuaded by magazine articles that intelligence would rob them of their charms? Would they be dismayed at the number of housewives—though, thank goodness, it is decreasing—who still have no time for politics and who vote according to the wishes of their husbands? Would they be upset at the huge areas of complacency that still exist among traditional women's organisations? I believe that they would. Most women are still content to be treated like children handed out a few presents from man's wealthy hoard. Man has been accumulating this hoard of privileges for thousands of years and it is only in the last generation or two that women have ever been allowed to covet them.

    Two battles face women today. One is to hold on to what they have won and the other is to get a better share of what they have not yet won. The Bill, I hope, is a contribution to both battles. It enables society to take a closer look at the present situation and provides a true and distinctive strategy for advance. I shall look forward to hearing the views of the House, though I regret that Conservative Members may not be making a contribution to them.

    2.31 p.m.

    I welcome this modest Bill and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) on bringing it in. I am one of its supporters, not only because its enactment would be further recognition of the due right of women to play their rôle in our public institutions but because it is an attempt to open up the establishment, that particularly secretive power group whose selection is hidden from view. I therefore see the Bill as treating of both the women's rights issue and the issue of who has a say in public policy.

    The organisations whose controlling bodies we are seeking to alter are part of the luxuriant undergrowth of public administration. They run to hundreds. In fact, no one knows how many there are. About 120 are listed in the schedule, but in answers to Questions that I have put down over recent months, Ministers have admitted making appointments to about 350 public bodies. Some estimates of the number of quasi-public bodies over which the executive exercises patronage have identified as many as 700.

    I am disturbed as to the extent of the public accountability of all these public bodies. Although they may be subject to what passes for a State audit in this country—a mere check on the book-keeping—none seems to be subject to an audit of its efficiency or value. Further changes in that direction must await the development of an effective State audit, but that is a matter for another debate.

    The appointment of people to these bodies—they must run to about 10,000—is done in secret by the Civil Service, which I understand maintains a list of the great and the good—worthies who appear to be sound enough to warrant reward by service to the State. The effect of that system can be seen in the composition of these bodies—overwhelmingly middle-class, middle-aged, white, male and, I suspect, public school and Oxbridge. In other words, the Civil Service selects in its own image. The establishment gratefully selects the establishment and we have a self-perpetuating sytem which is rich in amateurism, poor in imagination and innovation and out of touch with ordinary working people.

    The Bill is concerned with the gross under-representation of women and seeks to redress the balance, but other sections of our community are also underrepresented—people who work in clerical and manual occupations, professional managers and blacks, for example. In all these bodies, decisions are being made which affect the lives of everyone in the community by men from the inner circle of privilege who rarely understand the preoccupations, concerns, attitudes and aspirations of the other 99 per cent. of our community.

    The low representation or absence of women has a direct effect on the quality of decision making in these organisations. First, the bias in selection fails to make use of the available talent, experience and skill represented by women. There is no evidence that women are in any way unfitted for service but their absence gives rise to a self-fulfilling prophecy that they cannot be found for service.

    Second, I believe that women, because of their place in our society, have an extra contribution to make. Since most of them spend most of their time running homes, they are better able to see the effect of decisions made by bodies like these on the family, the neighbourhood, the immediate community, children, schools and the family budget.

    Third, I believe in positive discrimination in favour of those who have never held an appropriate place in our power structure. Women are one, but only one, such group, and to that extent the Bill seeks to remedy a flagrant injustice. Clearly, the selection of people to these public bodies must be based on ability to contribute, but women will increase that ability only if they are in the selection field in the first place.

    Discrimination against, or the refusal of equal opportunity to, women is a deep-seated feature of our society. A few years ago I carried out a study of the personnel management of a large multinational corporation. There were about 70 women out of 5,000 in the middle management in that company, which prided itself on its enlightened paternalism. No woman had ever reached departmental manager or assistant manager level. They never received the training, the job rotation, the foreign assignments, the experience, to fit them for higher posts. When I made a report pointing this out, the power group in that company quickly shelved it, and so far as I know it is still gathering dust, because it told them a truth that they did not want to know.

    I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is present because I have here the latest computer print-out of staffing in the Home Office. That shows that at under-secretary level there are one female and 20 males and at assistant secretary level there are four females and 53 males. That is the top management element of the Home Office itself. However, among middle management, from which all that talent is supposed to be coming, at executive officer level—that is typically the area of the Civil Service from which future top management comes, or at least, post-Fulton, it should be—there are 560 females and 895 men. So, from a proportion of around half as many women as men at middle management we go in the top management to a ratio of one female to 20 males.

    Choosing a further example from the Home Office, the Department which is supposed to be the vanguard of the attack on discrimination, I select one specialist class. It is one for which on the face of it women are as well fitted as men—the psychologist class. At senior psychologist level there are 18 men and 16 women, but one grade above that, at principal psychologist level, there are two women and 12 men.

    I should have thought that that kind of balance in my hon. Friend's Department would make it summonable before the Equal Opportunities Commission, as soon as it is set up, on prima facie evidence of discrimination. My hon. Friend might care to reflect on the prospect of having herself to appear before the commission charged with being a discriminatory employer.

    I am glad to see, however, that each succeeding generation of women is less willing to put up with this situation. The denial of equal opportunity is an offence to justice and in this case a grave loss of ability and of a unique kind of experience to the design and implementation of policy and decision making in public institutions much concerned with the quality of life.

    I hope that the Bill becomes law and that women's organisations will exploit its provisions to see that the smug, discriminatory world of establishment appointments is opened up to a wider spread of recruitment.

    2.40 p.m.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) mentioned the Guard Dogs Bill. I presume that in that Bill "dogs "includes "bitches", although that was not made clear.

    My hon. Friend's aim is wholly laudable and understandable, although the schedule shows some of the difficulties. It seeks to be fairly comprehensive, but it shows the dangers of seeking to deal with this problem by piecemeal legislation. I may be wrong, but having looked carefully through the Bill I cannot see mention of the BBC. The BBC is probably the most important medium of communication in the United Kingdom. The annual report of the BBC shows that throughout the hierarchy women are discriminated against. These appointments are made by Ministers right from the top and fairly well down through the hierarchy. That is a surprising omission.

    There is the example of bishops of the established Church. That is an important medium of communication. Britain is supposed to be a religious country. The appointment of bishops is within the patronage of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is invariably a male and he invariably appoints males as bishops. Both bishops and the BBC are omitted from the Bill. However, provision is made to add to the schedule from time to time.

    There is no mention of the House of Lords and the creation of life peers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North was speaking, I took my Labour Party diary from my pocket. There, sure enough, we list first the peers, and the House of Commons comes second—even in our own diary. Therefore, there is discrimination in our own diary between elected Members of this House and non-elected Members of Parliament. Although the figures may be out of date, according to my diary there are 126 Labour peers, of whom 11 are women. It would probably be unchivalrous if I said that I doubted whether more than one or two of them were under 60, including the mother of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. It is the quality that counts, I suppose, rather than quantity.

    I mention these points to show the enormous difficulty of dealing with matters such as these in this way, except as a method of airing the problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton. North is absolutely right to air the problem, but the suggestions that she makes in the Bill could easily be incorporated in the Sex Discrimination Bill, now in Committee.

    There were some quite amazing proceedings in the course of the discussion on that Bill. I have with me the report of the Second Reading debate. Prior to that Bill coming before the House I went up and down the country addressing meetings, mostly of women. I always asked whether they would be agreeable to having a man as a midwife. Invariably, most of these meetings comprised a mixture of middle-class and working-class women. They agreed that they would not mind having a man delivering their children. I do not think we could call him a midwife; I do not know what we could call him. I do not believe that anyone who goes into an operating theatre would mind the sex of the surgeon who was doing the job as long as he knew where he was cutting or what he was doing—or, perhaps I should say, what she was doing. That is the most important thing.

    The Under-Secretary said on Second Reading of the Sex Discrimination Bill, on the question of midwives:
    "There are potential problems. We recognice that a patient should have a right—this has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services—to choose a female midwife if that is her wish. That right will be retained. It is also accepted that in many situations chaperonage of male midwives will be necessary."
    If there is to be a male midwife, he must be chaperoned. I made an interjection:
    "Will the chaperone be a man or a woman?"—[Official Report, 26th March 1975; Vol. 889, c. 613.]
    The Under-Secretary made no reply.

    In Committee on that Bill one of the most ardent feminists, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) voted with the Tories to prevent that from happening. She voted against the principle. As a consequence of her vote, the Government were defeated. She said that in no circumstances must men be allowed to train as midwives.

    There was another occasion when lady Members voted to preserve some kind of female domain. The lady Members on that Committee voted against the principles to which my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North is drawing attention today.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett) quoted figures about the Home Office. They did not prove anything. Figures depend upon the scope for training and for promotion and upon the initial nominations for entry into the Civil Service. To play the numbers game does not get us very far. This is one of the greatest criticisms of the Bill. To play the numbers game, we have to provide back-up facilities to enable women to take the opportunities that are presented. We have to provide social service facilities such as nursery schools and créches to enable women to get these jobs. If this Bill were put on the statute book and those facilities were not provided, it would have no effect at all because, for one reason or another, women are so tied by other problems that they could not come forward. In this case the Ministry would be in the invidious position of seeking to try to implement a Bill for which there is no enforcement provision. There is no provision in the Bill for enforcement.

    Let us suppose that a Minister were to choose seven men and three women to serve on a commission of 10. Who would take the Ministry to court? There is no provision whatever for enforcing the pro- visions of the Bill. Moreover, if a commission is to be comprised half of men and half of women, it would have to be an even number. We could not have commissions of 3, 5, 7 or 21; we would have to have them of 2, 4, 6, or 8 and so on. To try to approach this problem by arithmetical formulate is a superficial way of dealing with a real problem.

    In saying that, in no way do I denigrate from the aim of my hon. Friend. It is a good aim, but this legislation would not achieve very much if it were put on the statute book.

    2.50 p.m.

    I should like to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) on the modest and sincere way in which she has put forward her Bill. The House listened to her with close attention.

    However, one has only to look round the Chamber to see that hon. Ladies have made a considerable impression and impact on the House. The hon. Lady the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) is here as spokesman for a Government Department, and we wish her well in her career and wonder to what dizzy heights she may eventually succeed. I do not know whether there is any jealousy on the part of the hon. Lady, but on our side of the House the leader of our party is a woman, a fact of which we are proud; it has nothing to do with sex but entirely to do with merit.

    Merit certainly does not come into the Bill. The hon. Lady the Member for Northampton, North mentioned women's institutes and townswomen's guilds. I wonder what their attitude would be to the Bill. Although they support the objectives of the Sex Discrimination Bill in general terms, perhaps their attitude to this Bill might be ambivalent.

    Is it the right way? The hon. Lady said that what was required was a change in public attitude. I do not think that this type of Bill is the right way to make the change that the hon. Lady so desires. Rather it might militate against the cause that she supports because of the way it discriminates.

    The Sex Discrimination Bill, which is now going through Parliament, is based on equal opportunity. That is a principle that this Bill denies. The hon. Lady quoted the Home Secretary saying that sex as a basis for separate treatment was not acceptable. That view will be generally accepted on both sides of the House as a fair way to approach the problem.

    This Bill discriminates against men. The hon. Lady has given us a list of Government boards and Departments with a preponderance of men. As the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) said, the hon. Lady can play the numbers game to her heart's content, but the right way to set about this matter is to allow the Sex Discrimination Bill to get on the statute book and to allow its effects to work through the system.

    If the hon. Lady wants a change in public attitudes, a Bill of this sort will not have that effect. The change needs to be brought about differently, and there are many different ways in which to achieve it.

    2.53 p.m.

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) on the able and enthusiastic way in which she has pressed her case. I am in favour of doing everything I can to further equality of the sexes and to put forward the claims of women in this respect. Were this a Bill that did simply that, I should support it in every way, but it is not.

    I would agree with it if it dealt with the qualifications for the job on the part of the sexes, or if it encouraged equality of opportunity. I am all in favour of equality of opportunity for women in every possible direction, but that is not what the Bill proposes.

    My hon. Friend is to be congratulated on a wonderful effort, particularly on the long list of public bodies that she has accumulated in her schedule. However, she must agree that, practically, the Bill is impossible. For example, Clause 1(1) says:
    "Subject to the provisions of subsections (21 and (3) of this section, appointments to the bodies listed in the Schedule to this Act shall be so made as to ensure that the membership of those bodies comprises men and women in equal numbers."
    One example is the British Railways Board. There may be a case for putting some women on that board, but surely the qualification for membership ought to be whether a person, male or female, is best fitted to serve as a member.

    I note with interest the example of the Gaming Board for Great Britain. I do not know whether it is suggested that women might play a special part there, but again the qualification should obviously be whether a person is best fitted to serve.

    I am very interested in the Law Commission. The Law Commission comprises a number of judges. Are we to be precluded from having men serve on the Law Commission because an equal number of members ought to be women? From where would the women be taken? There are women judges, but whether those women judges would be fit to be members of the Law Commission I do not know. There are other examples—the Post Office, the Pensions Board, the Restrictive Practices Court, and so on. In each the test for membership of the board should be whether the person has the qualifications.

    To add insult to injury, so to speak, in subsection (3) the hon. Lady says:
    "Where a vacancy has occurred which, under the foregoing provisions of this section, would fall to be filled by the appointment of a women but for the time being a suitable appointment cannot be made, the vacancy shall be left unfilled until such time as a suitable appointment can be made in compliance with the foregoing provisions of the section."
    What does my hon. Friend contemplate? When the Gaming Board or the Law Commission has a number of vacancies, are those vacancies not to be filled until a suitable woman is available?

    It is a very good Bill and a worthy effort, a wonderful idea in its way, but to command support the Bill should have supported equal opportunity for the sexes to get different jobs in different spheres. As the Bill has been put forward, however it is impracticable.

    2.57 p.m.

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) on her success in the Ballot for Privates Members' Bills and on giving us another opportunity to debate the important subject of the position of women in our society today.

    I totally agree with a large part of my hon. Friend's analysis and survey of the subject. This is an extremely significant year for women. Not only is it International Women's Year, but the many events which are being held in this country and abroad indicate that Governments and other bodies are taking their responsibilities seriously in this field. We all hope that 1975 will see further developments advancing the equality of the sexes all over the world.

    In this country in particular this year will include several most significant advances. We shall see the Equal Pay Act finally take full effect. There will be important developments in social security through the Social Security Pensions Bill. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services this year sees the introduction of the Child Benefit Bill. Above all, it will see the Sex Discrimination Bill becoming law. That Bill will make discrimination on the ground of sex unlawful for a wide range of activities and situations. Hon. Members will recall the debate on Second Reading of the Bill. I think I can fairly say that the view of the great majority of Members present on both sides of the House was that the Bill presented a comprehensive, constructive and positive approach to tackling a long-needed reform.

    Altogether, the present Government have a record to be proud of in their efforts to achieve equality for women in our society. We are fully aware that much remains to be done and that legislation alone, although it has an essential part to play, will not bring about that essential change in attitudes which we wish to see. However, it can create a climate of opinion in which prejudice finds it harder to thrive and flourish.

    I share my hon. Friend's concern about the extremely important aspect of women's rights which she is emphasising in her Bill. As she knows, I have spent a large part of my political life concerning myself with the very issues about which she has spoken. We all agree that women should have a greater opportunity to play a full and equal part in public life. My hon. Friend has rightly drawn attention to the serious problem of the under-representation of women in one particular respect—the holding of public appointments. Nobody who has examined the relative number of men and women appointed to public boards and bodies can fail to detect an extreme numerical imbalance of the sexes. But it is not a numerical imbalance by legislation, and in my view the remedy should not be a numerical balance by legislation. My hon. Friend's approach in her Bill is in my view unacceptable, because it is inconsistent with the approach in the Government's Sex Discrimination Bill, as shall show.

    What would my hon. Friend's Bill do? It is concerned with appointments to public bodies and to juries. Its object is to require that future appointments to the bodies listed in its schedule, most of which are set up by legislation, are made in such a way as to secure that an exactly equal number of men and women are appointed. It would impose the same requirement in respect of all ministerial appointments to bodies other than those listed in the schedule—for example, to the commissions, committees and working parties. It would impose the same requirements in respect of the selection of jurors. There is a reference to the House of Lords in the Long Title, but this is not pursued in the Bill. The Bill is an attempt to reach an equality of representation between the sexes throughout a huge area.

    I shall deal first with public appointments. The Bill's approach has its attractions. Women comprise a little more than half the population, yet such appointments have gone overwhelmingly to men. On some public boards there are no women at all. The White Paper which lists members of public boards of a commercial character as at 1st April 1974 shows that there were no women members on the British Railways Board, the British Transport Board, the British Waterways Board, the National Bus Company and the National Freight Corporation. There are many other boards where women constitute only a small minority. Hon. Members have been confronted with evidence of the under-representation of women in the making of appointments on various occasions.

    My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has pursued this matter with great vigour and energy for a number of years. He succeeded in eliciting information from Ministers of the previous Conservative administration as well as from this administration We are fully aware of the stream of Questions on the matter that are tabled by many hon. Members.

    I must assure the House that the Government are in no way complacent. As I shall indicate, the Government are taking positive steps to tackle the problem at its root. However, I must put some of the issues in perspective. I make the obvious point that the reason for making appointments is that there is a job to be done. Public boards have responsibilities for running nationalised industries. A Royal Commission or a departmental committee is established to consider and report on a particular subject of public concern. Such bodies are fulfilling a public duty for the benefit of the public. The primary reason for selecting a person to serve on a public body is and must be that he or she is a person whom the appointing Minister thinks can make a valuable contribution to the work of that body.

    Although it may well be desirable to secure some balance of knowledge and experience on a particular body, there is the overriding need to choose people who are likely to make the greatest and most valuable contribution as a result of their knowledge, wisdom, experience or other personal qualities. The moment that Governments lose sight of that principle, they will get into difficulties. The emphasis then shifts to some characteristic other than personal qualities. If we start imposing quotas, there is no obvious reason for imposing quotas based on—

    Does not my hon. Friend accept that this country, which has been run by men for generations, could not be in a worse position than it is today?

    That is an extremely sweeping statement. I believe that this country has been in many a worse position than it is in today.

    But that has nothing to do with what I am trying to explain. If we start imposing quotas, there is no obvious reason for basing them on one characteristic rather than another.

    The characteristic on which selection is based at present is merely whether a person is on the list of the "great and good"—namely, of sufficient prominence to catch the attention of the Civil Service. That is one characteristic, but that does not necessarily have anything to do with ability.

    Perhaps my hon. Friend will listen to me. There is no obvious reason for imposing quotas based on one characteristic rather than another.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North is concerned about the under-representation of women. Other hon. Members may be equally concerned about the under-representation of other groups. For example, they may be concerned about the unequal representation of the regions on different bodies or about industrial or educational experience on other bodies. They may want quotas based on age or on political parties. Once we start on the principle of quotas based on sex, we shall have other people wanting race quotas, age quotas and every other sort of quota. By imposing quotas we would be imposing structural rigidities on appointments to certain bodies. The principle would be extremely difficult to maintain and pursue. I believe that to most hon. Members it would be an unacceptable principle.

    Of course, we are all agreed that we want men and women to be appointed or selected on grounds of merit or ability and not on the basis of sex. I thought that was commonly agreed. To legislate for a sex quota is totally contrary to that principle. If the Bill became law it would mean that the most essential consideration when making appointments would be the sex of the person to be appointed—so as to maintain the statutory requirement of the sex balance. Merit, ability and experience would be secondary considerations, and they are not statutory requirements under the Bill.

    The law would require that for every woman appointed there would have to be a man appointed, and vice versa, regardless of whether for a particular post there might be available many more suitable women than men or many more suitable men than women at any given time. The sex balance would have to be maintained even, on some occasions, at the expense of not appointing the most suitable person.

    For instance, I imagine that when appointments are made to the National Dock Labour Board there will be far fewer women than men with experience of the docks which would qualify them for appointment to the board.

    I agree with the hon. Lady in what she says about a quota system, but she might consider as an alternative whether it might be better for the next leader of the Labour Party to be a woman. Has that idea occurred to her?

    I am surprised that it was not included in the Bill. It shows the difficulty of trying to proceed by way of quotas.

    On another board it might be found that on grounds of experience and ability many more women than men were qualified to serve. Under the terms of the Bill, half the appointments made to the National Dock Labour Board must be men and half must be women. On other boards there must be exactly the same proportion, regardless of considerations of merit and ability.

    I did not include in the Bill a provision that the leaders of political parties should be women because of the experience of the right hon. Lady, the Leader of the Opposition, who, having reached that position, failed to appoint women to her Shadow Cabinet in suitable numbers and therefore let down the rôle of women in society. Having achieved a high and important position, she still appointed very dull men.

    Does my hon. Friend wish the quota of 50 per cent. men and 50 per cent. women to be a statutory requirement for the Shadow Cabinet or the Cabinet? We should get into a very difficult position.

    I note the difficulties which the Minister finds in a rigid 50–50 split. Would her objections be modified if there were, say, a 60–40 split?

    I am sorry that the theme of my speech has been lost on my hon. Friend. I am saying that the whole principle of fixed quotas on grounds of sex, age, race, religion or anything else is wrong and is an impracticable way of making appointments, much as we all wish to see the end of discrimination on grounds of sex.

    As the Minister is so keen on ending discrimination on grounds of sex, will she comment on the over-discrimination in her own Department and the likelihood of its being brought before the Equal Opportunities Commission?

    I was about to deal with this subject. I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) when he pointed out that we all know that there are far too few women Members of Parliament-26 women, 635 Members. We know that there are far too few women in the higher grades or even the middle grades of the Civil Service, a matter to which I shall return in more detail a little later. We know that there are too few women senior trade union officials, and too few women managing directors. This is common knowledge to every hon. Member. But the Bill, which would impose a 50 per cent. sex quota on public appointments, has really nothing to do with this, as my hon. Friend pointed out.

    I deplore the fact that there are too few women at the top levels in the Civil Service, not only in the Home Office but, I am sure, in most other Departments. My hon. Friend's Bill, as I read it, would not remedy that situation, but our Bill, the Sex Discrimination Bill, in the immediate future, in the mid term and especially in the long term, will do very much to alter the attitude of the community in general to the sort of career women can take up, the sort of career that hitherto they have been conditioned to avoid or have felt they cannot attempt to enter. This is a completely different aspect of the problem, and the Sex Discrimination Bill, which will introduce equality of opportunity over a wide sphere of jobs, will remedy this situation.

    That does not mean there are fewer able women than able men to take the jobs mentioned in my hon. Friend's Bill, but we must remember that perhaps there are fewer women emerging to take the jobs because they feel that they do not have the relevant experience. This is not their fault. Here again we hope that the Government's Sex Discrimination Bill will make it easier for them to acquire this experience.

    My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, in response to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) about appointments to public bodies and committees concerned with overseas development, said:
    "It is certainly my aim that they should have more women members. My hon. Friend will appreciate that women with experience and qualifications in these overseas and specialised fields are not easy to identify, for few women in the past have rarely had the opportunity to acquire them."—[Official Report, 17th March 1975; Vol. 888, c. 290.]
    It may be that the traditional catchment areas for selection undervalue the distinctive contribution that women can make, and the Government are continuing their efforts to identify women whose qualities may not have come to notice in the traditional way. But to the extent that selection for some of these appointments is drawn from people who have already proved their competence in some aspect of public life, the right way to tackle the problem is to improve opportunities for women generally to make a full and equal contribution to all aspects of public life.

    The way to tackle the problem of the under-representation of women on public boards is not by imposing quotas but by attacking the root cause of the inequality, in the way we are doing in our Sex Discrimination Bill. My hon. Friend and the Government are at one in wanting to create equal opportunities and to remove the barriers which exist against women achieving their full potential in public life. We think that the best way of helping women, who are obviously the disadvantaged sex at the present time, is to remove distinctions based on sex; not to reinforce them, which is what the proposed quota system would do.

    The philosophy in the Government's Bill is that, save in certain carefully defined circumstances, sex is an irrelevant and unjustifiable basis for treating one person less favourably than another. Our approach is perhaps not as spectacular as that of my hon. Friend, but I am convinced that it is fairer as between individuals, that it is far more likely to be effective, and that the results will prove lasting.

    My hon. Friend mentioned the statutory woman, though, rightly, she preferred to call her the "nominal "or "grace and favour "woman because she is not statutory. But we do not want to substitute for the patronising concept of the statutory woman blocks of statutory women and blocks of statutory men, as my hon. Friend's Bill would. At the same time, I believe—this is entirely in line with the philosophy of the Sex Discrimination Bill—that we should not be so blindly loyal to the principle or form of legal equality as to ignore the actual and practical inequalities between the sexes, still less to prohibit positive action to help men and women to compete on genuinely equal terms and to overcome an undesirable historical link.

    The Bill recognises that special steps are necessary and desirable to encourage women to apply or to become trained for jobs which traditionally have been the preserve of men.

    I shall mention various practical steps which the Government have taken to correct the imbalance. Whenever a vacancy occurs, the Government are considering suitable women candidates extremely carefully. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the Women's National Commission has developed with the Civil Service Department an improved procedure for women who wish to put themselves forward for the list of people suitable for appointment to public bodies. The final selection is in the hands of the Minister concerned. I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. She illustrated her argument by referring to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection and the situation in her Department, although that example is not exactly a balance of the sexes, as I pointed out, but rather a tilt the other way. As my hon. Friend said, it makes a pleasant change.

    Let me give my hon. Friend some other examples. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is cochairman of the Women's National Commission. Her Cabinet colleagues are in no doubt as to the part they can play in ensuring that the contribution women can make is recognised fully. As a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends have indicated, they welcome information about potential candidates who have the appropriate experience and qualifications.

    The Department of Employment has taken an initiative in two specific cases to increase women's representation on public bodies. The first is that of the industrial tribunals. In seeking nominations last year from the CBI and the TUC, Ministers emphasised the need to increase substantially the proportion of women members. The result has been that now 20 per cent. of the members are women compared with 11 per cent. before.

    The second case is that of district manpower committees. Here, appointments are made by the Manpower Services Commission and the Employment Service Agency. But my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment wrote to the chairman of the commission drawing attention to the desirability of women members and members drawn from any local immigrant population being appointed to the district manpower committees.

    In the Home Office—I do not want to boast, so I have left myself to last—we are trying to follow the same principle, and I personally am doing this in appointments to boards of visitors and to the Parole Board. I assure my hon. Friend that this is a principle which is being followed actively throughout Government Departments. We are looking at the practices which are adopted in making these appointments and considering what we can do to increase the proportion of women.

    Any change of emphasis takes time to work through the system, because the more usual case is that only a few appointments on the standing bodies change hands each year. But we are making a good start. I can assure the House that the will and the spirit to make the changes are there.

    I come to the Government's Sex Discrimination Bill for one moment. Special provision is made in Clause 75 for persons in the service of the Crown, since most such persons, including civil servants, have no contract. Clause 75 extends the Bill's protection to persons in the service of the Crown whose relationship with the Crown is, in substance, an employee- employer relationship, like civil servants. But the Bill goes further than this. It will in some instances cover appointments to commissions and committees or inde-independent offices where these are made by or for the purpose of Minister of the Crown or of Government Department.

    I have dealt so far with the principle of my hon. Friend's Bill. We do not think that it is right to legislate for a quota where we are dealing with the power of a Minister to appoint the person he thinks is best fitted for the job. That is incompatible with our own Bill. However, I would like to mention two detailed points which were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central.

    According to my hon. Friend's Bill there must be equal numbers of men and women. If we look around for a suitable woman and we cannot find her, either we are forced against our better judgment to appoint somebody less suitable or we leave the vacancy unfilled—which seems wrong. What is the position to be if there is a statutory requirement that there shall be X number of members on one body, yet because of the Bill we can achieve only X minus 1 because we cannot find the right person of the right sex to fill it?

    I now come to the question of juries. That is an important subject. I should have found it difficult to justify the lack of women on juries one year ago. I am pleased that the situation has greatly improved. When the departmental committee on jury service considered these matters in the 1960s it reported that the effect of the requirement that a juror must in general be a householder was that women formed only 11 per cent. of the total number of available jurors. It understood, as indeed we would expect, that on this basis it was rare to find more than two or three women on any one jury. When I used to visit the Old Bailey I was struck by the fact that serving on juries were rows of men. Often there were no women serving on juries. The position is, happily, different today. The departmental committee accepted the point put forcefully by several women's organisations.

    Perhaps I might quote a short passage from the argument:
    "The contribution which women can make as jurors to the administration of justice is no less valuable than that made by men. It is in our view inherent in the very idea of a jury that it should be as far as possible a genuine cross-section of the adult community, and we think that a system which has the effect of arbitrarily restricting the number of women jurors is indefensible."
    That was one of the two major considerations which influenced the committee to recommend that the basic qualification for jury service in England and Wales should be citizenship as evidenced by inclusion in the electoral register as a parliamentary elector.

    The Criminal Justice Act 1972 gave effect to the committee's recommendation. The provisions came into force at the end of March last year.

    I should like to echo what the Under-Secretary said. I had the good fortune to be a member of the departmental committee which made those recommendations. Women are just as much entitled as men to serve on juries if they appear on the electoral register. The suggestion in Clause 3 is that the numbers of men and women on juries should be equal. That would be impossible to achieve with juries because members of juries are picked out by chance. If it were laid down that there should be an equal number of men and women on juries, it would be impossible to hold fair trials.

    I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. There is at present a random method of selection for juries, and many people apply to be excused if they are selected, but I believe that overall this makes it a fair system, because there may then be some juries with more women than men, some with equal numbers, and some with more men than women. I think that the present position is extremely satisfactory, in the light of the Criminal Justice Act.

    The Government are fully aware that women are under-represented on many public bodies. We want to see more women on public bodies, and I hope that I have shown that we are actively taking steps to achieve that end. We are at one with my hon. Friends in our objective, but her methods and ours to achieve it are fundamentally incompatible.

    The philosophy of our Sex Discrimination Bill is that, as a general rule, sex is an irrelevant and unjustifiable basis for treating one person less favourably than another in the situations and activities to which the Bill applies. A statutory requirement of equal numbers of men and women on public bodies runs counter to that philosophy, since it defines, in effect, a person's sex as a relevant and justifiable basis for different treatment.

    The proposals in our Bill, the initiative we are taking to seek out more women for public appointments and the climate of opinion which this will generate will ensure that women, on the basis of their individual qualities, and without regard to their sex—the same considerations as apply to men—will participate much more in all areas of public life. Inevitably, this will take time, but I do not believe that it would be right or in the long-term interests of women if the process were to be artificially shortened by an approach such as that in my hon. Friend's Bill, which would in obverse form reinforce the very kind of discrimination which we are seeking to eliminate.

    3.32 p.m.

    As a young child, I was advised to keep out of disputes, and I was advised also that it is expedient to keep out of disputes and fights involving two women. I am in the invidious position of having to support neither party to the present dispute—neither my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) nor my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), the Under-Secretary of State.

    Then side with the Whips and sit down.

    I remember reading some years ago some advice given in a book by that distinguished political philosopher Machiavelli—"Be careful—avoid being neutral"—because, he said, a man who commits himself to one side at least has friends on that side and will incur the wrath only of the other, whereas by being neutral or failing to commit himself to either party he incurs the wrath of both. I fear, therefore, that when I have finished I shall probably be hotly pursued by both.

    I declare an interest. I speak as a former male chauvinist. I changed my view over a period of years, unlike the religious leader Calvin, who said:
    "As if by a sudden ray of light I recognised the abyss of sin and the profundity of filth into which I had hitherto been plunged."
    In my case, it was no Pauline conversion but a conversion over a period of years.

    I believe that what the Government are doing in their legislation dealing with sex discrimination and in creating equality between the sexes is commendable. We have gone a long way in the past five years, even though few women's organisations will believe, even when our sex discrimination legislation is on the statute book and implemented, that this will be the opportunity to sit back and say "We have done what we set out to do". Obviously, this legislation is but one further step on a lengthy, protracted journey towards final female emancipation.

    The Bill calls attention to a number of problems on which I wish to dwell. One is the process by which appointments are made to public bodies. The Bill focuses attention, as does other legislation, on the way that British society is dominated by the principle of discrimination, and not just discrimination against women. I want to broaden what I am talking about. There is discrimination against other groups, against ethnic minorities and against those whose position on the social scale is rather low. Surely as Socialists we must concern ourselves not only with the rights of women but with the rights of the disadvantaged.

    I am talking about the disadvantaged.

    I want first to discuss the principle of appointment to public boards. The process of selection is mysterious. Winston Churchill described the Soviet Union as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The appointment to public bodies is equally mysterious.

    The way that individuals are invited to hold authority is of vital concern to politicians, to students of politics and to the public at large. We have been elected by our constituents. Whether that process can be improved upon is a matter of debate. We have been elected to positions of authority but not, as Mem- bers of Parliament, directly to positions of power.

    The bulk of positions of authority and power within this country are held by people who owe their positions not to election but to appointment.

    There are four methods by which people are selected to hold public office. The first is the principle of heredity, which I wholheartedly deplore. The second is as a result of competition or election. The third is the result of patronage. The fourth is the element of chance, which I could spend a great deal of time elaborating.

    Patronage is a feature of authoritarian régimes. There are many societies in which every office is based on the principle of patronage. Democracies have reconciled themselves to the existence of patronage. Indeed, many democracies, like Britain and America, enjoy within their systems a degree of patronage and appointment which tends to make a mockery of the democratic process. I look round and see a society in urgent need of reform—a society characterised by injustice, inequality and discrimination and in which a tiny portion of the nation's population concentrates in its hands a degree of wealth, power and influence which makes a mockery of the democratic process. Whilst we profess democracy, we operate on the principle of appointment and patronage.

    "Patronage" is an emotive word. It is associated in the public eye with corruption. I am not talking about the corruption of political life in this country. Patronage can operate within a framework of legality and justice. Patronage can operate within the principles of the public interest. I am not suggesting that patronage is necessarily corrupt in a financial sense, but it is corrupt in one respect mainly, and that is that people are put into positions of authority to make decisions when they otherwise would not be.

    There is a great deal of talent and experience which lies unharnessed in our society. I am not talking about the way in which we have failed to mobilise the talent of half the population namely, women. I am talking about the other strata of society which the Government do not normally consider sufficiently when they are thinking of appointing people to public office.

    Patronage is extensive and the Bill focuses attention upon patronage in government. Far from declining in importance, it is increasing. The scope of patronage is enormous. There are appointments to political office, to membership of administrative boards, to advisory bodies, and to benches of magistrates. If ever there was an area of life that was worthy of drastic alteration and amendment it is the principle of appointment of justices. We are talking not about a national elite but about the creation and perpetuation of a local elite. To my mind appointments to magistrates' benches are the perpetuation of the dominance within a local society of certain groups of people.

    Patronage extends to appointments to administrative tribunals. The Prime Minister has it within his gift to make appointments to the Church, and to confer honours. These are the areas in which patronage has a grip on our political, economic and social life.

    It is true that in any walk of life decisions have to be made by people with experience, but such people are not to be found only in certain sections of our society. If we want to utilise to the full all the experience within our country the Government must look to areas which have hitherto remained largely untapped.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that if the provisions of the Bill were enacted patronage would still be there with regard to men and women equally?

    I was going on to make the point that appointments will still have to be made by one process or another but I should like to see the catchment area broadened. I am not rigidly opposed to the quota system referred to by the Minister. I am thinking of an important institution within the French political system called the Economic and Social Council. It is a kind of parliament, an advisory body, which compartmentalises society into groups. It fills its office with representatives from well-defined areas of society, and there is provision for a quota of women to be appointed.

    I repeat that I am not opposed to a quota system, but, having listened to the Minister, I feel that the Government are not committed to this proposed legislation. Nevertheless, I refer again to something said by Machiavelli in his advice to statesmen. He said that being a statesman is like being an archer, and added, to paraphrase, "You should aim beyond what you feel you can naturally reach as a result of pulling back the string of your bow".

    If the Bill dies the death at four o'clock—some might say that it died the death the moment that I got up—it has pointed out deficiencies within the system of patronage and appointments. I suspect that it will not reach the statue book, but at least it will have achieved some objectives—

    I say in jest, that my hon. and learned Friend had better not say that outside.

    I heartily welcome the sex discrimination legislation which will shortly become law. It is not a final pronouncement, but women can feel that this Government's decisions have furthered their interests. This Bill is positive discrimination carried to its illogical conclusion. It goes much further than I would like.

    I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife Central (Mr. Hamilton) has left, because I want to talk about sex discrimination as it relates to the Monarchy, which is not included in the Bill. That is a fundamental criticism of the Bill, which deals only with public bodies.

    The principal upon which one succedes to the Monarchy is that of heredity and descent. That discriminates against women. The last thing I want to do is set myself up as the promoter of the interests of Princess Anne—I am sure that that is the last thing that she would want—but it is fundamentally unfair that legislation going back to 1700 means that Princess Anne, although second-born, is only fourth in line to the Crown. If we are to have a Monarchy—the demand for its abolition seems limited—it should be based on the principles of the present sex discrimination legislation. The accession should be based on the normal principle of heredity, without discrimination in favour of males. I am sure that if this proposal were adopted. two little boys up the road might view me with some displeasure, but I am talking about principle, not individuals.

    We are talking about legislation on male dominance which may have been justified in a feudal era. This principle was created because if a woman ascended to the Throne in medieval times, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North might say, there was an inherent danger of domestic unrest and chaos.

    In the modern era, the law relating to the succession should be brought within the scope of sex discrimination legislation. I should not have thought that the principle on which the Monarchy has been based would be undermined or destroyed by a few speeches or articles. I feel it is worthy to raise this issue because it is very much a question of encouraging others. If we can see that the Monarchy is being brought into line with principles of equality and of opportunity among the sexes, this will act to encourage people who are living in rather less exalted situations. We are talking not merely about legislating to change behaviour. We are talking about a gradual change of attitudes and of behaviour which can be brought about as a result of examples being set.

    If the Home Office could consider altering the law relating to the Monarchy, this would be an enormous boost for female emancipation. I am not an avid reader of "Burke's Peerage" or "Debrett", but the law relating to the acquisition of titles exhibits the same principles of discrimination about which I have been talking.

    My support for the Bill is not absolute. The Bill has performed a number of useful functions—not only this afternoon. I hope that it will not die the death completely, because it shows that there is discrimination against women. It also shows that there is discrimination against other groups within our society. We are living in a society in which people who happen to enjoy certain positions within our social environment dominate almost every institution of decision making within the community.

    I hope that this proposed legislation, if not implemented, will at least burn itself into the minds of the Home Office Ministers. If they will not say that we can create quotas legally, perhaps when they are making appointments to the hundreds of offices within their competence they will accept that, although there is no legislation compelling them to do this, they can appoint people to these official bodies, if not legally, at least by the implementation of unofficial quotas.

    In response to requests from my colleagues, I shall desist from discussing the Bill further.

    3.53 p.m.

    To rise to my feet during the debate on this Bill seems to be the only way in which I shall be able to address the House this afternoon. As my Bill was to be next in the batting order, perhaps I shall be allowed to make a few remarks upon the piece of legislation that is currently being debated.

    It is obvious beyond a doubt that the Government, with the Whips scurrying hither and thither, have been conducting one of those rather disreputable Friday afternoon exercises to keep out a very necessary piece of legislation. I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mrs. Colquhoun) agree with me. I should like to pay tritribute to her for the moderate way in which she has introduced her Bill and for the fact that although she obtained a place in the Ballot which I was not lucky enough to have, she did not speak at inordinate length. She made her points with precision and conviction. She would not expect me to agree with everything she said, but she did not attempt to take up the time of the House unduly.

    I should also like to pay tribute to the hon. and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman), to the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), who has left the Chamber, and to the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett). They all had points which they wished to make, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather), but they made them briefly and succinctly.

    Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the rambling, turgid, philosophical discourse of the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George). He occupied the time of the House far too long this afternoon. We had a perverse illustration of the tact that brevity is the soul of wit because we had exactly the opposite at inordinate length. Although there are parliamentary occasions, such as the all-party committee on widows and one-parent families, when the hon. Gentleman and I share certain interests, this afternoon I thought he was less than fair, either to the subject under discussion or to the subject matter of the Bill which I was hoping to propose to the House.

    The substance of the address of the hon. Member for Northampton, North was the inequality of the sexes. Although there can be differing interpretations and differing degrees of emphasis, I do not think anyone would dissent from the basis of her argument that, indeed, for far too long there has been far too much unfair discrimination. Without being out of order, I should like to indicate that in the Bill that I was hoping to commend to the House this afternoon we were attempting to propose a real solution to some real discrimination, because many of the women who are discriminated against most particularly are elderly women ratepayers.

    The hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) says "Like me". Far be it from me to comment on her rateable status, but chivalry is not yet dead and I entirely dissent from her proposition that she is elderly, because her frequent and valuable and vociferous contributions to our debates reveal an alacrity of spirit and youthful enthusiasm that would not be possible if combined with an elderly frame.

    I revert to the elderly ratepayers, particularly the elderly female ratepayers. There will be throughout the length and breadth of the land a great outcry that the subject of rating reform has not been debated today. In the past two years, when we have had the rates explosion, one of the features that has impinged on our consciences more than anything else has been the inequitable way in which the rate burden has been thrust on so many widows and elderly spinsters who see themselves living in properties adjacent to those occupied by families with three or four wage earners and yet paying the same rates.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Would he say what is the number of elderly women on rate assessment panels?

    I am sure that the hon. Lady and I could conduct a joint investigation that would enlighten the nation as well as the House, but at three minutes to four on a Friday afternoon, Mr. Deputy Speaker, neither you nor she would expect me to come up with the answer, though I accept the general gravamen of the hon. Lady's charge that probably the answer is "Not enough".

    Throughout this land of ours, in my constituency and in Croydon, where 17,000 people signed a petition that was presented to the House this morning, there are millions of elderly women who live—I had better not say cheek by jowl—side by side with families in which there are several wage earners and yet whose rate assessment is exactly the same. That is most unfair. It is discriminatory.

    It is a parliamentary scandal of the highest order and the first degree that the scurrilous scrurryings of the Whips should have prevented proper discussion'of rating reform this afternoon when it was obvious beyond peradventure that the commendable proposals of the hon. Lady could have been voted upon and her Bill allowed either to proceed to Committee or to fall by the wayside. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr), who interrupts from an antipodean posture, as he frequently does, will not be allowed to prevent me from completing the essential stages of this afternoon's proceedings, because I always have a fundamental distaste for and dislike of hon. Members who talk out the legislative endeavours of their colleagues, and I shall now sit down so that the hon. Lady the Member for Northampton, North, if she wishes, may call a Division.

    With the permission of the sponsor of the Bill, I beg to move.

    That the debate be now adjourned.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Debate to be resumed upon Friday 18th, July.

    Rating Reform Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    I am afraid that it is too late for "Now, Sir."

    I was hoping that, with your customary generosity, you would allow me, Sir.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday next.

    Cinematograph And Indecent Displays Bill

    Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Second Reading [ 31st January].

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could it be pointed out that the Government Whips are not only objecting to rating reform but favouring indecency?

    Debate further adjourned till Friday next.

    Protection Of Mentally Retarded Persons (Evidence) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 11th July.

    Housing (Shorthold Tenancies) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 11th July.

    Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 13th June.

    Cancer Screening (Education) Bill

    Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Second Reading [ 9th May].

    Abolition Of Cohabitation Rule Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 13th June.

    Companies Bill

    Order for Second Reading read.

    Second Reading deferred till Friday 11th July.

    Adjournment

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Pavitt.]

    Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital

    4.3 p.m.

    This afternoon I raise briefly the subject of the future of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in my constituency. I much appreciate the presence of hon. Members on both sides, because I want to make it clear that there is a large measure of agreement about the necessity to ensure the survival of this hospital. If because of the shortness of time I must do less than justice to the subject, I hope that the House will forgive me.

    The continuing uncertainty about the future of this hospital is demoralising to the staff and unsettling to the patients. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will welcome the opportunity to tell the House something of his plans.

    I start by referring to the Early-Day Motion which has now been signed by 45 hon. Members from both sides of the House. In it we say:
    "That this House, appreciating the unique historical traditions and special services of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, regrets the threatened attempt to close it, having regard both to the wishes of women patients from all over the country and to the oppor- tunities for women doctors to reach consultant status in this hospital; and asserts the principle in the reorganisation of the National Health Service that small may be good."
    The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital was founded in 1872 by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, to serve women patients. It was also a place where pioneer women doctors, who were often excluded from other hospitals because of prejudice, were able to work. It remains one of the few hospitals where women can be sure of being treated by women. Some people express surprise that in these liberated days there should still be a demand for such a hospital.

    The interesting fact is that the demand is by no means declining. All age groups are represented, together with many Muslim and other women from overseas who have special reservations. Luckily I do not share those reservations. Whenever I have needed the attention of a doctor I have not minded whether it was a man or a woman. I know that my husband's women patients were happy with him, but that does not entitle me or anyone else, least of all the Minister, to interfere with the freedom of choice of patients who wish to be certain of seeing a woman doctor.

    The small proportion of women consultants throughout the National Health Service makes it difficult in general hospitals for the wishes of patients in this connection always to be met. In Committee on the Sex Discrimination Bill on 6th May, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), said:
    "Fortunately, as quite a lot of women doctors are available, many women are able to choose to see a woman GP, or to go to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. Such choice is a factor in NHS medical treatment and it will continue to be."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 6th May 1975; c. 252.]
    I am sure that my hon. Friend would not have given such a categorical undertaking in Committee without consulting her hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security.

    The demand for the hospital is indicated by the fact that there has been a petition signed by over 20,000 patients. Continuing need is also indicated by the fact that 73 per cent. of the patients come from outside the area. They often travel long distances because they specially want to go to this hospital.

    The geographical spread creates an administrative difficulty. The hospital is in the Camden Health Authority area, and it is clearly difficult for Camden to use a disproportionate share of its local budget to finance such a large proportion of patients. However, I am sure that some system of capitation fees or central funding could be worked out. Of course, if the patients did not come to this hospital they would have to go to a hospital elsewhere.

    I know that a serious problem has arisen because of the withdrawal of recognition by the General Nursing Council for nurse-training purposes, but I would have thought a more constructive response to the problem would have been to consider the difficulties that the General Nursing Council found and to try to put them right. I understand from the hospital that many of its criticisms have already been met.

    It is not surprising that when a hospital has been left for years in a state of uncertainty it may not be up to top-class standards in every respect. In the old days many of the nurses used to go to the Seamen's Hospital to get other parts of their training. However, because of the rigidity of divisions, that hospital happens to be in another area. I am sure that some peripatetic arrangements could be made, as happens in many other hospitals. I am always in favour of a positive response to criticism rather than negative acceptance.

    In Early-Day Motion No. 45 we sought to assert the principle that small may be good. I share the feeling that is felt by many others that the real problem as regard the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital is that it does not fit on the Procrustean bed of the bureaucratic ideal of the National Health Service. It is a small hospital, having 107 beds. It is special and it untidies the pattern.

    Business has taken over in too many spheres. Our new hospitals are mostly too big, our new blocks of flats are mostly too tall and our new office blocks are usually too large. Patients from the small, shabby Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital—I am sure that no one will argue about that adjective—may not necessarily want to go to the enormous, shiny, new Royal Free Hospital. In fact, I know that many do not. There is a growing reaction against the concept that bigness is a virtue.

    The onus should not be on those who want the hospital to prove why it should continue. It is for the authorities to prove why it should not continue. Unless there is a totally undemocratic and authoritarian régime in the Department, which I am sure there is not, the future of the hospital must be assured. Some of us still think that the purpose of the NHS is to look after patients and that patients have a right to join in decisions about the NHS.

    The machinery of the new community health councils was supposed to ensure some element of democracy in the reorganised NHS. I quote briefly from a minute of the Camden Community Health Council, which I am sure the Minister will take into account. It is dated 19th January 1975 and reads as follows:
    "So long as there exists a demand for certain facilities to be provided by the National Health Service, however irrational, inconvenient or restricted such a demand may seem, it is the duty of the administration to take such a demand seriously and not to dismiss it lightly. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that considerations of conventional economics should not take precedence over the happiness and wellbeing of the patient."
    In conclusion, the South Camden Community Health Council asks for an assurance that the hospital will continue to provide full services at the highest possible standard and that the district should meet the increased cost of nursing resulting from the loss of student nurses.

    I close my brief remarks by asserting that, as has been made clear, the patients want the hospital to continue, the staff want the hospital to continue and the local community health council is looking forward to its survival. I look forward to hearing good news from the Minister today.

    I understand that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) has agreed that the two other hon. Members should participate in the debate. I know that the Minister wants to reply so I hope that they will be brief.

    4.13 p.m.

    I am grateful to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) and the Minister for giving me the opportunity to endorse almost every word the hon. Lady said. It is utterly inconceivable to me, as a member for the London borough of Camden, for this hospital to be closed in International Women's Year. Indeed, I think that the Secretary of State has a moral duty to ensure that she does not sell the pass in this year.

    Many of my constituents work in the hospital and many attend it. I have had many representations about its closure. I hope that the Minister will tear up his Ministry brief, which I know will be extremely long and extremely informative. I wish he could read it into the record and tell us that he, as a humanitarian and doctor, will put the patients first and will be happy to upset the nice tidy minds of the civil servants in Alexander Fleming House. The hon. Lady has mentioned the South Camden Community Council. My wife is a member of the North Camden Community Health Council, and I shall make my views strongly known to her. I hope that the bipartisan approach may persuade the Minister not to accept the closure if the area health authority is foolish enough in the end to recommend it.

    4.14 p.m.

    I congratulate the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) on the eloquent and forceful way in which she has put the case, and I thank her, as did my hon. Friend, for allowing each of us a moment to take part.

    I have a personal concern in this subject, coming from a medical family, one member of which was on the staff of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, altogether for about 30 years. She began as a student and liked it so much that she returned to junior posts and ultimately returned as a consultant and acted in that capacity for over 20 years. She has remarked to me today about the friendliness, the enthusiasm and the skill of the staff at all levels. This is shown, incidentally, by the fact that the last class of nurses who were trained there had a 100 per cent. pass rate.

    The General Nursing Council withdrew recognition of the hospital for training purposes. There are a number of reasons why this took place. It was partly because of physical conditions—now remedied—partly for administrative reasons—though these were not expressed—and also because there was not a complete training available. That argument is equivalent to saying that it is no good training anybody at Great Ormond Street Hospital because training is not available there in geriatrics. The staff problems at the hospital are now entirely due to the threat to the future of the hospital and the effect of the withdrawal of student nurses.

    I wish to speak for three reasons almost symbolically. First, I am a man. Second, I speak from the Opposition side. Third, I represent a constituency in the Home Counties. Following the Balance of Sexes Bill, we should have a balance of support from both sides, and understand that this is not just an exclusive feminist lobby. Equally, there is concern in all parts of the House, shared by my hon. Friend. Equally, too, there are constituents of many of us many miles from London who have benefited from this hospital and express great regard for it.

    Are we, then, with this admirable hospital, founded by the first woman doctor for the exclusive treatment of women, with women staff and women consultants, in a constituency represented by women, in International Women's Year, under a Secretary of State who is a woman, now to witness its closure or demise? Here are seven good, womanly reasons for reconsidering it before we reach some sort of inverted feminine apocalypse. I hope the Government in their own day of judgment in this matter will be suitably mindful of the case for preserving this long-established, widely-regarded, much-loved, uniquely constituted and consistently successful hospital.

    4.16 p.m.

    Has the hon. and and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) sought agreement to participate in the Adjournment debate?

    Perhaps, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I might just say that I have received many letters from constituents expressing their tribute to the work of this hospital and expressing very great apprehension at the possibility of closure. I therefore support every word that my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) has said, and I hope that the Minister will deal with this matter in a successful way.

    4.17 p.m.

    In responding to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger), may I say that there are few people whose views I respect more on the health services in the area of London that she represents, with her long history and also the history of her late husband serving in that area. I would therefore be bound to listen very sympathetically to what she has to say.

    As I have said before in this House, I am no advocate of size for size's sake. I have been one of the strongest critics of the very large district general hospital. I believe that, even on its merits, there is a very considerable case, let alone the financial stringency, which is forcing us to reduce the size of hospitals.

    However, I should also like to say that this is not an issue involving civil servants or bureaucrats in Alexander Fleming House. This issue has hardly come to the Department at this stage. This is a matter which has been currently discussed by the area health authority. The devolved National Health Service has a considerable element of democracy, and I should like it to have a greater element of democracy. I must, however, put to the House that neither my Department nor the Camden and Islington Area Health Authority is in any doubt whatsoever of the historic nature of this hospital or of its widespread support from women's organisations and from individuals of both sexes. The letters which I have had emphasise this.

    I have repeatedly emphasised in letters that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State well recognises the hospital to be of a special character, and has therefore reserved the right to approve or disapprove any proposal affecting its future, so that the ultimate decision will come back to the Secretary of State, and she will be answerable for any decision in this House. I also emphasise that there has been constant discussion in relation to closure. Closure is one of the options that the area health authority has to look at. There are many other options.

    The circumstances surrounding any hospital change are due to changing times and circumstances, and that is the case with this hospital. Changed circumstances require reappraisal of the need and of the available resources. We are in the situation in this House where everyone always resents any form of change of use, or closure or even examination.

    We shall have to look at many hospitals up and down the country. Some will close. Others will not close. Some will change their use. Others will have no change made. We have to get away from the situation where, just because we open a process of consultation, everyone immediately leaps to the conclusion that that inevitably means closure.

    What are the circumstances which have changed? The hospital is now no longer recognised by the General Nursing Council for the training of nurses. The General Nursing Council is an independent statutory authority with an obligation to maintain standards of education, and I am assured that the GNC's committee of investigation examined the matter with the greatest care. However, I understand that the Council of the British Medical Association received representatives from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital on 2nd April when this decision was discussed, particularly my hon. Friend's complaint that the decision was reached without consultation with the nurses and doctors of the hospital. The council has agreed to refer the matter to the Central Committee for Hospital Medical Services, which is a sub-committee of the British Medical Association, for investigation.

    There are now only seven student nurses at the hospital, and they will finish there on 9th June.

    At present, the staffing of the hospital is being maintained by increasing the number of trained staff employed, including some 22 full-time equivalent agency nurses. This will cost an extra £60,000 in a full year, and the area health authority has agreed that the extra cost should be met until such times as the present uncertainty surrounding the future of the hospital is resolved. We are preserving the status quo and not pre-empting the options.

    Secondly, the hospital's maternity home now stands some few hundred yards from the new Royal Free Hospital, which is one of the most modern in Europe, whose recent opening with excellent maternity facilities inevitably poses serious questions about the continuance of the home in its present form. Whatever my hon. Friend may say about new hospitals and about what her constituents may feel, this involves considerable sums of money in central London, and there are many other places in the country which would like a hospital like the Royal Free established in their areas.

    Lastly, a not inconsiderable sum of money will be required to refurbish the present building of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital to maintain and modernise its facilities. The site of the hospital is restricted, and, therefore, there are limits to what might be achieved on its present site, even if some of the ward space were to be sacrificed.

    In the light of these altered circumstances, I believe that it is wholly reasonable for the health authorities to be looking at the options. The Camden and Islington Area Health Authority is the authority which administers the hospital. It is now examining the situation before making proposals to the Department through the regional health authority.

    Is any thought being given to the problem confronting the area health authority in having to look after so many patients who come from a wider catchment area? That is the nub of its difficulty.

    I am happy to deal with this point. Although the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital is often claimed to be a national hospital on the ground of the national nature of the service that it provides for women, there are undoubtedly too few women doctors, and my right hon. Friend and I are strong proponents of getting more women doctors. However, regardless of the national character of the hospital, the service that it provides is far more regional. Although only 27 per cent. of its patients may come from within the Camden and Islington area, 84 per cent. come from London postal districts, with the overwhelming majority from north of the Thames. In fact, 98 per cent. of the hospital's patients come from South-East England. Here, I emphasise that the current resource allocation takes into account the provision by the health authority of the hospital's services to those coming from outside its own boundary. So it is not financial pressures alone which make the authority feel that it must close or make a change of use.

    I should like to explain the steps that we envisage being taken to bring the current discussions to a satisfactory conclusion. Informal discussions were held. The area health authority has now advertised widely for opinions to be expressed to it. Invitations have been addressed to the medical staff of the hospital itself, the South Camden Community Health Council, the staff associations and unions involved, Members of Parliament, the district management team and the London borough of Camden, amongst others. Replies have not yet been received from all those canvassed. However many opinions have been expressed to my right hon. Friend, and I am aware of the motion on the Order Paper and the pleadings of members of another place. The area health authority will also be aware of these opinions. This process is the first step in what is a detailed and democratic decision. I now expect the area health authority to consider all the opinions which have been expressed and to make recommendations.

    It is obviously better that in the first instance an attempt should be made to reach a democratic conclusion acceptable to the constituents of the hon. Gentleman, to the staff of the hospital and to the area health authority. They may be able to resolve the issue amongst themselves before it needs to come either to the regional health authority or to me. If my right hon. Friend receives proposals—I do not think they are likely to appear until the late summer—consideration can be given to the effect of them in the light of the level of overall national resources.

    My right hon. Friend knows well the serious economic difficulties in which the country finds itself and the problems facing health authorities. We are trying to make difficult choices. I cannot exempt one hospital without at least allowing the area health authority to examine the proposal first. I think that it would be wrong for me to say "Hands off this hospital "if an area health authority wanted to look at the option seriously. I am not prepared to do that.

    In the present climate of opinion we must look at all the options. It is not only a closure option which is being considered. The most ambitious option would be a complete rebuild. The restrictions on what can reasonably be afforded in the years ahead are of great concern to Ministers. We must weigh the balance of special facilities, historic hospitals and the real affection and understanding which the EGA has evoked in the minds of many of the people who have made representations to us. It is against that background that we shall assess this decision.

    I should like to enlarge on the question of treatment of women by women. I confirm that the statement in Committee was made as a result of discussions between the two Departments. The complexity of medical care and the ever-increasing recognition of the interdependence of the various branches of medicine in the treatment of individual patients have dictated an emerging pattern of hospital services where single-speciality hospitals are tending to be replaced by a district general hospital complex operating from a single building or at least from an integrated complex of separate buildings.

    The most appropriate treatment and care of the patient, combined with the most economic use of precious resources, does not always mean large hospitals. It means looking at hospital facilities as a complex.

    It is not possible to guarantee in the National Health Service that patients being admitted to hospital can designate the doctor who is to treat them. Nor is it possible to guarantee that such a patient can be seen by a doctor of one sex. To attempt to achieve that would mean discriminating between the sexes in appointments to hospital posts, and it would require doctors of both sexes to be constantly available to deal with emergencies. Nevertheless, efforts are made to meet the susceptibilities of individuals or groups in so far as that may be done. Of course, we must try to give as much degree of choice as possible. Of course, if there are women doctors of the relevant specialty and patients want to see a woman doctor on conscientious or other serious grounds they would normally be given every possible facility to allow them to do so. That is nowhere near as easy as in a hospital which is specialised and where it is made clear that it will be staffed by women doctors and women staff.

    Similarly when demands come from religious or ethnic groups or from women's organisations, the health authorities will no doubt be willing to consider notifying such groups of the names of hospitals within their districts which have women doctors and notifying general practitioners of the names of hospitals having women consultants to whom women patients can be referred if they so wish.

    I want the utmost variety of treatment to be offered in the health service. Some time ago I championed in debate the cause of privacy in the health service. I cannot champion the cause of the ability to choose our own doctor, because one of the resources which we must nationalise, I fear, is scarce skills.

    Some time ago the question of the Bearsted Memorial Hospital was raised. There were special ethnic and religious factors involved there. We tried to deal with that difficult problem as sympathetically as possible.

    With regard to the provision of special single-sex hospitals for women, we are aware that the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital provides a unique service to women who wish to be treated by women only. However, it has only 107 beds and the service that it provides is almost entirely restricted to London and the South-East. Within that framework it provides a facility which is clearly much valued.

    I have explained the balance which will have to be set. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is most sympathetic to the aspirations of women. Indeed, in this International Women's Year she is co-chairman of the Women's National Commission, and she champions the interests of women. However, she does not champion the interests of women to the exclusion of any rational discussion of the problems faced in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital or in any other area. Indeed, I think that we should do a disservice to women's interests if we were so sensitive as not even to be prepared to look at the issues in a rational and sensible way.

    That is all that is being done at present, and I am confident that a solution will be found which will balance the needs of women in the area, the historic position of the EGA and, above all perhaps, the requirement of the National Health Ser- vice to try to reflect as much diversity of treatment as it can afford.

    Those are the problems we face. The representation made in this debate will be one of the factors which I shall draw to the attention of the area health authority. But I counsel a certain forbearance, and I think it reasonable for me to ask that the authority be given time to look at the matter in a sensible way, without anyone thinking that decisions have already been made or that any preconceptions will influence the eventual choice.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes to Five o'clock.