Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence


Evidence before the Committee (Questions 540-559)

WEDNESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2003

540.  On level three of the standard scale what fine are you proposing?

(Mr Stratton) I am not quite sure.

541.  MR CLARKSON: I am just taking instructions. I think there is a number of areas there. I am not sure how many Corgis there are. Royal Parks, of course, are not involved.

542.  CHAIRMAN: Although it is quite amusing, I do not think we should spend too long worrying whether Her Majesty is going to walk her Corgis through Battersea Park. She probably would not be doing it herself.

543.  MR CLARKSON: I believe she can do no wrong is the technical position.

544.  MR BLUNT:   What does level three mean?

545.  MR CLARKSON: £1,000.

546.  MR BLUNT: Could you assist us by telling us what the other levels are?

547.  MR CLARKSON: I cannot at the moment without taking instructions. The maximum is £1,000 at level three. One, two and three is about £250, £500 and £1000 and four is two and a half times more, which is £2500.

548.  MR BLUNT: I am obliged. Can we confirm that there is actually nothing in here that would be identified as evidence of mischief from multiple dog-walking that you have been able to supply to the Committee?

(Mr Stratton) No, it is the effect that they have on other people.

549.  Even the account from the school is not evidence of someone who had more than four dogs. There is a reference to the fact that one dog was a terrier and another probably a Mastiff, which identifies two dogs, but in this letter from Mrs Pattenden there is no actual evidence that the mischief that her children suffered would be dealt with by what you are proposing here, is there?

(Mr Stratton) No, but it is my view that it was.

550.  That is simply an opinion. You have not been in conversation with Mrs Pattenden to establish what happened here, have you?

(Mr Stratton) No.

551.  Let us say someone had a number of dogs under their control and there was a tragic event like you were referring to, who would be responsible?

(Mr Stratton) The individual who is controlling the dogs.

552.  And the remedy then would be for the person who was responsible for the animal to be sued by that person.

(Mr Stratton) If one of our officers was around and witnessed it they would take action themselves otherwise they would report the accident. We would try to get statements and if there was not a case to answer which would go through our borough solicitor then it would have to be a private case that they would take out.

553.  It is not the local authority in any circumstances, the person responsible is the person in charge of all dogs.

(Mr Stratton) Yes.

554.  As far as the question of fees is concerned for the application of this, I can see the difficulties that private owners will face if they are on the cusp of having four or five dogs or walking dogs for friends, they may be driven away by this process and I think there might be a rather small number of people in the end who would apply for licences. In those circumstances and under the way the clause is drafted at the minute is it not correct that the size of the fees could be very substantial indeed if they are being shared between a few people? Presumably it would be legitimate to charge an element of Mr Clarkson's fees to setting this whole process up or the administrative costs inside your department for managing this. If one were sufficiently imaginative inside the council several people's time could be charged for setting up this whole bureaucracy.

(Mr Stratton) I think that could be the case, but certainly that is not our vision.

555.  The issue at stake here, if this passes into law, is what potentially people are exposed to and not what the policy of one council might be as represented by one of its officers, authoritative as your opinion will be. What is the potential exposure of people applying for a licence there in terms of the costs that could legitimately be charged under this section? It is correct, we are not simply talking about an hour for a dog control officer to walk alongside someone and assess them.

(Mr Stratton) If you are a money making council with flare and imagination and wished to turn this into a moneymaker you could employ people on the back of this, but I would be surprised if that happened.

556.  And I take that with due authority from an authority like Wandsworth Council.

557.  MR CLARKSON: That is just not right, I do not think. This is a usual clause. The council may charge such reasonable fees and that is the fundamental test as to whether a council would be acting reasonably. It is reasonable costs in connection with the administration, which is the paperwork, then the expected cost of enforcing the provisions. Subtracted from that in the event of a successful prosecution would be the cost of achieving the prosecution. So one would hope a sensible prosecution would be successful, so there would be no cost. It is our usual provision.

558.  MR BLUNT: Forgive me, Mr Clarkson, but the council may charge such reasonable fee for a consent taking into consideration any reasonable costs incurred or expected to be incurred in connection with the administration of the provisions of this section, which means if you were in a borough where one person alone applied for a multi-dog walking licence the council would be entitled to charge for the cost of that individual licence the whole costs of setting up an administrative regime in order to administer this and any other costs associated with it.

559.  MR CLARKSON: No, they would not.


 
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