'Each island and district council shall have powers to pass bye-laws for the specific purpose of appointing persons or firms with acceptable qualifications who will undertake the duties of catching and removing to a compound stray dogs or dogs causing a nuisance or annoyance to the ratepayers, and subject to section 43(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1961 the costs of such services shall be met by an increase in the amount of duties levied in respect of dog licences by the local authority. No increase shall be made on the licences for guide dogs, work dogs, and dogs owned by persons over the age of sixty years.'.— [McQuarrie.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.I add my view to those aired by the hon. Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey), that those of us from Scotland have no stomach for further discussion of the Bill at this time. However, as we have been assured by the Leader of the House that the Secretary of State for Defence will come to the House this evening to make a statement, it is only fair to endeavour to proceed, in spite of the fact that there is nothing less important on our minds than the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Bill, and the amendments and new clauses to it. So until the Minister arrives, it is only fair that the House should endeavour to continue. New clause 4 stands in my name and is supported by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. It gives each island and district council
The control of dogs is causing serious concern in almost every local authority in the country. Similar expressions of concern have been made by the many organisations dealing with animal welfare. The House will be aware that local authorities have certain powers under section 56(5) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and that police officers have powers under section 3 of the Dogs Act 1906 to seize stray dogs, but recent history suggests that the attempt to control dogs has failed. That is borne out by the fact that the RSPCA has said that, on average, it destroys 160,000 stray dogs a year. The clause will give local authorities the power to take more positive steps to remove this nuisance and to ensure that dog control becomes effective. I ask my hon. Friend to accept the new clause. It will not increase the number of civil servants, because the local authority can appoint firms or persons who have undergone a period of training in dog warden duties and who have set up a small business for the purpose to carry out all the dog warden duties within a local authority's area. This person, or firm, would report to the director of environmental health for that district, which would not involve the local authority in any great expense. That leads me to the operating costs of the dog control system. There is already power available to the local authorities under section 43(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966. My right hon. Friend, as Secretary of State for Scotland, has power under the Dog Licences Act 1959 to fix the amount payable for a dog licence, notwithstanding the terms of section 43(3) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966. It must be borne in mind that the existing licence fee is 37½p, which has not been altered for many years. Any attempt to operate a dog control system must of necessity mean raising the existing duty so that the ratepayers and the local authorities do not have to bear the burden. The clause makes provision for no increase for guide dogs used by the blind, work dogs and dogs owned by persons over 60 years of age. The clause will enable local authorities to by pass byelaws for dealing with the many problems caused by dogs. One of the worst features is the fouling of pavements and open spaces used by the public for leisure purposes. There is no need for me to elaborate upon this problem, as there is hardly a street in the country which at some stage during any given day is not fouled by a dog, which is often under the control of a person who has no thought or concern for the users of the pavement. Another problem which could receive the attention of the local authorities is the control of dangerous dogs and dogs which are not under their owner's control. If my hon. Friend will accept the clause, many other byelaws could be made by local authorities to deal with entry into food shops, identification tags, the raising of dogs, the use of veterinary officer services by dog owners, general human health risks, attacks on people, road safety and livestock worrying. As the Minister for Defence has now entered the Chamber, I do not wish to detain the House any longer on this subject. It is sufficient to say that the clause will be widely welcomed by all local authorities in Scotland, where the need for dog control is continually under discussion. It will give the authorities the powers that they require to deal with the matter much more fully than is possible under existing legislation. It is a much needed system which will also be welcomed by the public at large and should cause no offence to genuine dog lovers. I ask my hon. Friend to accept the clause, which I commend to the House."powers to pass by-laws for the specific purpose of appointing persons or firms with acceptable qualifications who will undertake the duties of catching and removing to a compound stray dogs or dogs causing a nuisance or annoyance to the ratepayers, and subject to section 43(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1961 the costs of such services shall be met by an increase in the amount of duties levied in respect of dog licences by the local authority. No increase shall be made on the licences for guide dogs, work dogs and dogs owned by persons over the age of sixty years."
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) has raised a matter of considerable interest and concern. I hope that in the light of what I say he will consider withdrawing his new clause.My hon. Friend is a member of the Committee considering the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill. Clause 130 of the Bill gives powers to local authorities to appoint people to assist the police to round up stray dogs. Licence fees can be increased without primary legislation by an order made under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966. I hope my hon. Friend will agree that any action on that must be on a British basis, not a purely Scottish basis. Licence fees for dog fouling nuisances are dealt with in clause 50 of the Civie Government (Scotland) Bill. I have no doubt that we shall have ample opportunity to consider these points in Committee on that Bill, and on that basis I invite my hon. Friend to withdraw his new clause.
In view of the Minister's comments and the fact that I serve on the Committee dealing with the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill, where I shall have a further opportunity to elaborate and enlarge upon the speech that I have made tonight and which, unfortunately, has not been heard properly due to distressing circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, and clause, by leave withdrawn.