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The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 1.

Division No. 194
[9:21 pm


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh A. J.
Bercow, John
Bradshaw, Ben
Bryant, Chris
Burnett, John
Burnham, Andy
Burt, Alistair
Cairns, David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Carmichael, Alistair
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Chaytor, David
Chope, Christopher
Clapham, Michael
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Colman, Tony
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Crausby, David
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Forth, rh Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Gerrard, Neil
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
McIsaac, Shona
MacShane, Denis
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Michael, rh Alun
Moore, Michael
Morley, Elliot
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Olner, Bill
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ward, Claire
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, John
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Paul Clark and
Charlotte Atkins


Weir, Michael

Tellers for the Noes:

Pete Wishart and
Hywel Williams

Question accordingly agreed to.

7 Jun 2004 : Column 115


7 Jun 2004 : Column 116

Greyhounds (Welfare)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Jim Fitzpatrick.]

9.32 pm

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) (Lab): Mr. Speaker, may I say at the outset that it is a privilege for us, at such a late stage in the evening, to see you here, having made your way from your chambers to listen to an Adjournment debate? I just wish that some of our colleagues in this place would follow your example, because tonight we are debating an important subject—the welfare problems in and around the sport of greyhound racing.

As many hon. Members are aware, I have taken an interest in this subject over a very long period. I attempted to argue the case for a greyhound levy as far back as the 1980s, and I was a member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs that held an inquiry into that subject and came out in favour of that. Regrettably, that idea has not made much progress and there has been no improvement in the years since I have become interested in the sport. Even though much has been attempted in greyhound racing—second only to football as the most popular spectator sport in the United Kingdom—it is still far from satisfactory from a welfare point of view.

My speech today is not intended to harm the industry in any way. I accept that there are those who want to ban the sport, but that is not my aim. I simply feel that something must be done to improve greyhound welfare for the sport to move forward and prosper—indeed, for its very survival. It is particularly galling to me that there is a lack of funds to provide for proper retirement provision for greyhounds when the industry is not short of money.

Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green) (Lab): What does my hon. Friend estimate the cost of such a provision would be?

Mr. Meale: Frankly, it would be peanuts in relation to the amount of money in gaming. For instance, the bookmakers make an incredible sum from the industry: more than £2 billion was bet on greyhound racing in the past year alone. The comparison with the amount that is given in horse racing, even under the new proposals for greyhounds, shows a stark contrast. Perhaps £6 million will be given in greyhound racing, compared with about £80 million.

I welcome the increase in funding that Lord Lipsey, a colleague and friend, negotiated with the bookmakers: a rise to 0.6 per cent. of turnover on greyhound betting by 2006. I note that it remains voluntary and I am sure that the British Greyhound Racing Board will work hard to persuade all bookmakers to collect all the money, but there will remain quite a few—at the present level, about 20 per cent. of the bookmakers that make money from greyhound racing—who will not pay and will do everything in their power to avoid paying. Nevertheless, the money will move the debate forward, although it does not provide the full solution for all the tracks and the greyhounds that race on them.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism deserves credit and the thanks of the House for his part in gaining the agreement, but his Department
7 Jun 2004 : Column 117
has now passed the issue to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in particular in the form of responsibility for the proposed animal welfare Bill. The only way of guaranteeing that the extra money is put to the best possible welfare use is to ensure that the Bill sets out strict standards of welfare that greyhound tracks and owners must abide by, and that must be on a statutory, not a voluntary basis.

While I welcome the recent increase in funding that the British Greyhound Racing Board has managed to secure, as the Minister no doubt does, it is important to remember that none of the money is proposed to go to independent greyhound racing tracks that are not within the BGRB's remit. That is, I firmly believe, the single most important reason why further delay is unacceptable. The greyhounds racing on the 21 independent tracks need Government intervention now and it cannot be left to the industry and internal reform. That will not be enough. We have had no satisfactory guarantee so far on how much of the money will be spent of welfare. Worse still, there is no guarantee that everyone will pay.

As the Minister has often pointed out, animal welfare Bills come around only once every 100 years, so necessary welfare improvements must be in the new Bill to make the most of the opportunity.

We are all aware that there are welfare problems before, during and after a greyhound's racing career. The League Against Cruel Sports, for one, has recently recognised that and has launched a worthy campaign to improve greyhound welfare, which I urge hon. Members to support. There is clearly strength of feeling in the House for welfare improvements in the sport, as shown by my recent early-day motion, which has so far received 249 signatures from hon. Members of all political parties.

My first concern is about the breeding of greyhounds. Recent figures show that every year in the United Kingdom about 5,500 greyhounds are bred for racing, yet around 2,000 dogs across the UK and Ireland vanish before even being registered as racing dogs. It is believed that most are killed because they are surplus to requirements. At the very least, we can all agree that if that is true it is very wrong. Indeed, it is disgraceful to over-breed greyhounds simply for sport, and it must be stopped. We need a proper statutory licensing system for all greyhound breeders that would involve registration and the full publication of statistics. Breeders would have to accept full responsibility for all puppies born. Those who overproduced and subsequently abandoned puppies would be dealt with and, if convicted, their licences would be removed.

All too often, greyhounds are seen by the unscrupulous in the sport simply as commodities. For that reason, insufficient consideration is given to their welfare needs during their careers. As with their human athletic counterparts, racing dogs often have very short careers, not least due to the stress caused by repeated minor injuries. Those who, like me, take an interest in greyhound racing are aware that the majority of serious injuries to greyhounds happen on bends. The smaller the bend the greater the centrifugal force exerted on the dog's joints as it runs, which in turn leads to joint problems and injuries. Mr. Paddy Sweeney, MRCVS—
7 Jun 2004 : Column 118
the father of a former Conservative Member of Parliament and Britain's best-known greyhound racing vet—has recognised that factor. He argues that the only way to guard against such injuries is for tracks to have a much larger radius—at least 80 m—to enable greyhounds to run upright round bends. As I hope the Minister will appreciate, the really sad part is that despite that simple logic, money for such research and help in establishing such tracks is almost non-existent.

Of course, that is not the only factor that causes injuries: track and kennel standards must also be good. Indeed, there have been several cases of poor track or kennel standards leading to greyhounds dying or being seriously injured. One example is the truly scandalous death from heat exhaustion of the dog "Football Focus" at Catford stadium in August 2002.

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