Skip to main content

Control of Horses: Instruction

Volume 588: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2014

I beg to move,

That it be an instruction to the Control of Horses Bill Committee that it has power to make provision in the Bill about the powers of owners or occupiers of any land in England in relation to horses which are on the land without lawful authority.

The Control of Horses Bill sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) was supported by the Government on Second Reading and enjoyed support from across the House. I congratulate him on bringing this Bill forward.

The Bill amends section 7 of the Animals Act 1971 with respect to the process for managing horses present on land without lawful authority and applies to England only. In the case of fly-grazing, horses are often abandoned or deliberately placed on another person’s land without permission to do so. The Bill reduces the time that a landowner or a local authority is required to detain a horse before disposing of it from 14 days to four working days, and also creates alternative ways to dispose of horses, other than through sale at auction.

During the debate, the Government also accepted my hon. Friend’s request for this motion. The instruction is needed because the long title of the Bill provides for dealing with horses in public places only. With this instruction it will be possible for the Bill Committee to consider amendments to the Bill to extend its provision to private land. Should the Committee agree to those amendments, the long title of the Bill would then be adjusted accordingly.

This is an important Bill. It has cross-party support, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing it forward and commend the motion to the House.

I join the Minister in congratulating the hon. Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) on bringing forward the Bill. The Opposition support this motion. I will not repeat the points that we made on Second Reading about why we are where we are, because we just have to deal with the situation as it is. We are pleased to see the Government correcting their position by including private land in the Bill’s provisions and in the title of the Bill.

We are committed to seeing this Bill go through the legislative process as quickly as possible. In fact, the sooner we can get it on the statute book the better, because it is about not just the welfare standards of horses but the significant resource being absorbed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and by local authorities in dealing with the issue.

I thank the Minister and, through him, the Secretary of State for tabling today’s instruction. I will, if I may, speak very briefly in support of the instruction and about the comments that have just been made by the Minister and the shadow Minister.

It is absolutely essential that we crack down on illegal fly-grazing across England. As was stated by the Minister, the shadow Minister, many Members and me on Second Reading, it is important that that happens not just on public land, but on private land. It would be perverse if private farmland were to become an unintended refuge for suffering and abandoned horses, with landowners ill-equipped to alleviate the animals’ suffering. A true refuge would be for the horses to be rescued and re-homed with a loving family or in an animal welfare sanctuary, and that power is proposed under this Bill. I would like the House to be in no doubt of the potential dangers of fly-grazing or the scale of the problem. Since Second Reading last month, abandoned horses have yet again been causing safety issues on Stockton lane in my constituency. It is simply not acceptable for road users and local residents to be put at risk because irresponsible owners have abandoned their horses near the roadside.

Horses require daily care and attention, and today’s instruction will empower private landowners to prevent such neglect, which jeopardises the safety of families travelling on the roads. If we fail to act, it is only a matter of time, sadly, before someone else is seriously injured or killed. I am pleased that there is cross-party support for this motion to allow the Bill to apply to both public and private land, and for the Bill to proceed into Committee and, ultimately, to deliver the powers to end the suffering of abandoned horses and help to prevent any further tragedies.

Question put and agreed to.