Thank you very much, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] Well, I think we are all on the same page in the Conservative party and singing from the same hymn sheet.
We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and I am continually building on this. We plan reforms to pet sales and licensing, to live exports, and to welfare at slaughter, and we are considering some other animal welfare measures as well.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Like many colleagues in the House, I have received huge volumes of correspondence on this issue. Will he commit to consulting closely with environmental and animal welfare groups when establishing these new regulations?
Absolutely. May I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend not just on her election to this House but on her brilliant maiden speech yesterday? Consultation with environmental and animal welfare groups has been at the heart of the approach that DEFRA has taken, and it has also been central to developing the new policy agenda that I hope to take forward.
I am very concerned about the potential impact on animal welfare in Dudley of illegally dumped waste at the Rowan Oak site in Shaw Road. Local businesses are furious about the amount of time it is taking the Environment Agency to deal with this. Will the Secretary of State look at this personally, talk to the Environment Agency, and help me to get this matter sorted out?
The hon. Gentleman is a doughty champion for his constituents, never more so than in raising this case. I have already talked to the Environment Agency about the increase in the number of illegal waste sites and the damage that that does to human and, indeed, animal health and welfare. We are reviewing how we investigate and prosecute the criminals behind this activity.
I am actively reviewing this matter. As my hon. Friend knows, I am not someone who will automatically reach for stronger criminal sanctions as the only route to dealing with a problem, but there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions in order to ensure that the very worst behaviour is dealt with using the full force of the law.
Across the country, complaints are still frequently made to the police concerning the killing and chasing of foxes and hares by hounds as part of organised hunts. What steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure better enforcement of the Hunting Act 2004, which clearly represents the will of the British people?