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Dog Registration

2.57 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Carter: My Lords, the Kennedy Advisory Group on Quarantine did not consider a national dog register to be a necessary requirement for the proposed changes. The Government are sympathetic to the advisory group's proposals for the ending of quarantine in certain circumstances. After the public consultation, which runs until 31st December, the Government will decide what action to take.

The Government received a number of representations on the question of dog registration and have yet to take a decision on the way forward. Speaking personally, as Chief Whip I am all in favour of systems of licensing and even more in favour in some cases of the withdrawal of licences.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. But is he aware that he gave the impression that the Government are backing away from a dog registration scheme? If I misunderstood him, will the Government speed up the process by supporting a Private Member's Bill in the next Session of Parliament? I am sure the noble Lord realises that such a scheme would be of enormous benefit in regard to the

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marking and chipping of cattle and sheep. At the same time, could not the dog wardens which would be needed also be litter wardens?

Lord Carter: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, electronic identification of farm animals can be carried out now on a voluntary basis. Cattle, sheep, pigs and goats can be tagged by electronic means. At present, boluses and electronic tags are the favoured approach. With regard to the possibility of government support for a Private Member's Bill, I cannot at this stage forecast what will happen in the next Session, but it is an idea that we could look at. A number of representations have been made regarding a dog registration scheme. The Government are considering those representations, but a widespread consultation period would be necessary before any action was taken.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a national dog register may help to deal with the malpractices and horrible stories that emerge from so-called puppy farms? If dogs were registered there would at least be a responsibility to try to get rid of the evil side of puppy farms.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I believe that powers already exist to deal with that matter. One does not need a system of dog registration to deal with it. There are statutory powers to set standards, and a consultation exercise is about to start on the implementation of those standards through parliamentary order. We hope that that will take place some time next year.

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, does my noble friend recall that this House expressed a firm view a few years ago that there should be a dog registration scheme and the idea was overturned by another place for reasons of which I am unaware? I am quite sure that had one been introduced implementation of new quarantine regulations would have been a little easier. Is he aware that the cost of dealing with stray dogs alone is some £38 million? That represents the cost of livestock damage, traffic accidents, dog wardens and the cost to the police. Is it not time that the Government took these factors on board? In particular, now that the technology is so advanced it would be a good deal easier to do.

Lord Carter: My Lords, it is important to understand that dog registration is not relevant to the question of quarantine. It is estimated that out of a total dog population of 6.9 million there will be a maximum of a quarter of a million cats and dogs exported and imported back to the UK which will subject to quarantine. One does not have to register 6.9 million dogs in order to catch the maximum 250,000 dogs that will be caught under the proposals referred to in the Kennedy Report. As to dog wardens, under Section 149 of the Environment Protection Act 1990 each local authority is required to appoint an officer for the purposes of dealing with stray dogs in its area.

Baroness Fookes: My Lords, as I had the support of the then Labour Opposition when I sought in vain to

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introduce a dog registration scheme on two occasions in the other place, I am disappointed by the apparent dragging of feet by this Government in the matter. Why have they changed their mind now that they are in government?

Lord Carter: My Lords, this happens sometimes. It is correct that the Labour Party was in favour of a national dog registration scheme when in opposition but there was no commitment in that respect in the manifesto. All of us in this House know how important manifesto commitments are. Any scheme is likely to require changes to primary legislation and Ministers will need to consider a number of wide-ranging issues, including cost and enforcement. No decision has been taken on the need for a registration scheme, but we are prepared to consult and consider the merits of the issue.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many noble Lords in this House have pressed for some time for a dog registration scheme and that one of the points made persistently by the previous government was that such a scheme was unnecessary because people who handled dogs irresponsibly would be unlikely to register? Can the noble Lord say what the Government would do to police a registration scheme if they decided to introduce one? Incidentally, how many dogs does the Minister believe there are in this country; and how can they be counted without a registration scheme?

Lord Carter: My Lords, I have already answered that question. It is estimated that there 6.9 million dogs in 5.4 million households. I have now forgotten the noble Viscount's first question.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, has my noble friend considered the possible cost of the introduction of what he considers to be a feasible scheme? Will he bear in mind that should he introduce one there is every likelihood that the European Commission will claim competence in this field, which I believe will be a considerable embarrassment to some dog owners in various parts of the country, not least in this House?

Lord Carter: My Lords, there is no European Union legislation on the import of pets. The Commission regards this matter as a single market issue. But there is as yet no sign of any attempt to introduce legislation or a directive. If there were such a directive it would be subject to qualified majority voting.

United Nations: US Debt

3.5 p.m.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to persuade the United States to pay the money it owes to the United Nations.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we have made it clear to the United States that we expect the

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United States to pay its United Nations arrears and future contributions promptly, in full and without conditions. We welcome the inclusion of the 475 million dollars for United Nations arrears in the budget agreed by Congress and the White House on 15th October, last week. But this is far short of what the US owes, and we have serious concerns about the conditions attached. The relevant legislation still contains unrelated abortion provisions which the Administration has said would cause President Clinton to veto the whole legislation.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, while I thank the noble Baroness for what she has just said-- I very much agree with it--is it not true that the 475 million-odd dollars that the United States has agreed to pay is only just sufficient to keep the US with a vote in the General Council? Further, is it not ironic that at the very moment when President Clinton is working so hard to broker a renewal of the Middle East peace talks the United States is itself 1.6 billion dollars--four times the figure for Russia--in arrears to the United Nations, which endangers peace-keeping operations all round the world? Can the noble Baroness use all her influence in Downing Street to persuade the Prime Minister that, if he has the close relationship with President Clinton of which the spin-doctors tell us so much, he should use it to get the United States to pay its dues to the United Nations?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I should like to make an important point about the budget agreed last week. There are two parts that are relevant to the financing of the United Nations. The first is legislation to authorise payment of a further tranche of the 1998 dues. That is likely to be enough for the US to avoid the operation of Article 19 in January 1999. We welcome that but only as far as it goes. The second matter is the bill to which I referred in my initial response. That is an appropriation of 475 million dollars of arrears to the United Nations. It is that payment which remains tied to the "abortion" language.

The noble Lord asks how much the United Kingdom is able to bring pressure to bear on the United States on this matter. We have used our European Union and G8 presidencies to press for payment of all the arrears, not only those of the United States considerable as those are. The Foreign Secretary has raised the issue with Madeleine Albright. I have raised the issue on a number of occasions. The subject is raised frequently by Sir Christopher Meyer, our ambassador in Washington, and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our Ambassador to the United Nations in New York. No one is left in any doubt about that. But it is not a matter of exerting influence upon Mr. Clinton. If Mr. Clinton had a free hand in such matters he would not be unwilling to make the prompt and unconditional payment that we all wish him to make. It is a matter of Congress using this as a vehicle for some of its other preoccupations to try to exert pressure elsewhere.


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