London Local Authorities Bill [HL]
Wednesday 19 February 2003
720. MR HOUSE: I am the lead officer on that so it
will be April 2004 or I will not be the lead officer any more.
721. LORD ELTON: Thank you very much. I asked the
right question of the right chap. The other question I think probably
you will tell me you have answered already but I wonder if you
could condense it into a couple of sentences. What would be the
adverse impact on metropolitan policing of granting the powers
requested by the Promoters of this Bill to their parks police?
722. MR HOUSE: In all honesty I do not think there
would be a great amount of adverse impact on the Metropolitan
Police Service, that is not where I am coming from. I am coming
from an overall policing and public perception in London. My view
would be the danger would be confusion amongst the public of numerous
agencies, communication between numerous agencies, you are growing
the number of police agencies instead of shrinking them, which
is the way that we believe it should be going.
723. In terms of would it cause us a problem, quite
possibly not because we would simply draw an even stronger line
around the parks than we already have and you would see police
officers not being involved as much in the parks. Personally I
believe that is bad for London because the Metropolitan Police
Service delivers a service for all Londoners no matter where they
are in London, unless they are in the City. It is not an impact
on ourselves, in some respects you could say it might make life
easier for the Metropolitan Police Service but I do not think
that is where we are coming from, we are talking about policing
for the public.
724. LORD ELTON: I would like to ask the Promoters
a question in this area. You are asking for powers of stop and
search and you are doubtless aware that has been a highly controversial
and high profile issue on a number of recent occasions and it
is the subject of policy direction in London as a whole by the
Commissioner. Would you be seeking to keep in step with the Metropolitan
Police and, if so, how?
(Mr Ausling) My Lord, yes, we would indeed.
Stop and search of course is a very emotive subject and we obviously
would want to keep in step with the Metropolitan Police and any
other Home Office force with regards to the legislation and rules
and guidelines that are set down. I personally would seek the
assistance of the Metropolitan Police in a way to enhance the
training that is currently given to the parks police service to
work together as a partnership, a working together concept, in
and around this emotive area.
725. Thank you very much. Have you actually talked
to the Metropolitan Police about how this would be done?
(Mr Ausling) As yet I have not spoken to anybody
from the Metropolitan Police with regard to this issue, my Lord.
726. LORD ELTON: Thank you.
727. LORD TORDOFF: I have not got any questions but
I really would like to thank Mr House for coming today. It is
impressive that someone of his standing has come to the Committee
this morning and we are most grateful, thank you.
The witness withdrew
728. CHAIRMAN: Thank you all very much indeed for
that. We will move on now. As I see it we should now be able to
take the one remaining clause before lunch. We will then break
for lunch during which time my colleagues and I will come to a
conclusion on Clause 32 and we will report after lunch on that.
Thank you all very much. Mr Lewis, we now move to multiple dog
walking, with no disrespect to anybody.
729. MR LEWIS: From the ridiculous to the sublime.
My Lords, Mr Stratton remains seated to my right because, again,
this is very much a Wandsworth sponsored clause. This clause provides
a consent regime which is intended to deal with the problems and
potential problems caused by the increasing number of people who
walk groups of dogs in public places. As Mr Stratton can explain,
the problem has increased in recent years with the trend towards
professional dog walking whereby people pay for others to walk
their dogs for them.
730. It is important to note that the clause does
not ban multiple dog walking, it merely provides a consent regime.
The council is able to place conditions on the granting of a consent
and the types of condition which may be placed are set out in
subsection (2). These include, in paragraph (e), conditions as
to the number of dogs which may be walked at any one time. As
you will see from subsection (9), which is now contained in an
Addition Apart ----
731. CHAIRMAN: Yes, we have that.
732. MR LEWIS: The consent provisions will only kick
in when more than four dogs are being walked at any one time.
The consent regime set out in the clause is familiar and well
precedented and enables the council to revoke the consent, charge
a reasonable fee and withhold the consent. The clause will apply
to any area within the council which is designated by the council
in accordance with the procedural provisions set out in Schedule
2 to the Bill.
733. It is important to note that the person who
applies for a consent and is refused or is not happy with the
conditions of the consent, or has his consent revoked, may appeal
to a magistrates' court.
734. My Lord, that was all I was going to say by
way of introduction. Mr Stratton is able to answer any of your
queries. It might perhaps be useful if I just ask him the general
question of what is the problem which we are seeking to address.
735. CHAIRMAN: I was wondering quite what the problem
was that you need a clause of more than a page in a Bill like
this. You say that what one might call commercial dog walking
has grown, and I have noticed once or twice myself, but what problem
is it actually causing to members of the general public who are
in the park at the same time?
(Mr Stratton) My Lord, I think considerable.
I would just like to say that our council is wholly supportive
of responsible dog owners. We have the largest dog control unit
certainly in Greater London with six regular officers and four
part-time currently. The statutory requirement is one. One or
two authorities have two. I believe one is thinking of a third.
We have six. Last year we prosecuted more people for allowing
their dog to foul and not clearing up after the dog than the rest
of Greater London put together but we still go in for responsible
dog ownership, that is our goal. We educate people in the parks
and open spaces, we have teams who go out to schools, it is all
about responsible dog ownership. About four years ago, it may
have been five years ago, there was a lot of professional dog
walking that took place in Wimbledon Park and on the Putney open
commons. As a result, professional dog walkers were coming in
from all over London and there were very, very large numbers of
dogs. They effected a bylaw which restricted the number of dogs
allowed to be walked to four unless a special licence was given.
That was an avenue down which I was very prepared to go because
of the increasing problem that we have. However, I realised that
as the problem was getting bigger in our area, if we imposed the
same bylaw they then would go elsewhere until finally the last
borough in London would be inundated with packs of dogs.
736. About three years ago I started noticing the
problem really quite seriously in that two professional dog walkers
were walking their dogs in a small park that we call Banana Park,
Falcon Park. It is a fairly small area but because they got together
and there were 20 dogs there, nobody else would use it. So the
regular users were driven out of their park, regular residents.
These dog walkers were coming in from outside, one was from inside
the borough, one was from outside the borough. In Battersea Park
there was always, that I know of, one local person who walked
local dogs in Battersea Park; there are now probably eight or
ten different professional dog walkers in Battersea Park. In our
borough we have at least 20 professional dog walkers. These are
people who are coming in with ten and in excess of ten dogs.
737. My concern is not only are these dogs taking
over the park but the dog walkers, despite my exhortations to
the contrary, have ignored the plea to keep separate and keep
apart and do not use channels that canalise them in the park,
instead they do meet up and you get three, sometimes four, dog
walkers together so you can have 30 dogs. It is only a matter
of time before the pack instinct will take over and some child
or an adult will get mauled or even worse. We regularly have other
local residents walking their dogs and reporting to me that their
dogs have been mauled by a pack. That is not a daily episode but
it is a regular episode.
738. In my view we would be irresponsible as a local
authority if we just let it go on as it is. What we were trying
to do, if we are not successful today, is have a bylaw that applies
to us. As I said, Lambeth would be the next borough that suffers,
they have one or two large open spaces and all that will happen
that the people will move there. They already have professional
dog walkers in Lambeth, to triple it with another 20 professional
dog walkers would just be desperate as far as Lambeth are concerned.
739. Just going back to what I said at the beginning,
we do accept that people do want to buy dogs. We are a very green
borough, 23 per cent is open space, and by and large the majority
of people who live in Wandsworth are in the age group of 25 to
40, there are only 10 per cent over 60 and there are a fair number
of young people.