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Norman Baker: Are game birds kept in cages regarded in law as protected animals to be covered by the new Bill or as farm animals?

Mr. Bradshaw: They are regarded as protected animals and will be covered by the new Bill, not as farm animals.

I know that there is much public support, including from many animal welfare organisations, for an immediate ban on electric training aids and shock collars, but some argue strongly that electric shock collars can be useful training mechanisms in the last resort. They also argue that the alternative is euthanasia for the animal which, I hope, most hon. Members would not support. We are keen to conduct more research on the issue, because there is an absence of good research on electric shock collars. We are trying to get that research underway as quickly as possible and we have the power to address the issue through regulation-making powers.
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Mr. Gray: Does the Minister acknowledge that there is a difference between electric shock collars and electric fences, which define the limits in which a dog may travel? They are quite different; electric shock collars surprise the dog, the fence is something that they can get used to and expect.

Mr. Bradshaw: I am not quite sure what point the hon. Gentleman is making, but of course I accept that there is a difference.

Several Members raised the issue of tethering. Under the Bill, there is no intention to ban tethering, which can be an acceptable short-term method of animal control, but we expect to introduce a code on tethering, outlining best practice to ensure good welfare, in the first tranche of regulations in 2006 or 2007.

The Bill has been the result of long gestation—of two elephants, as my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) pointed out—and careful deliberation. The Government have listened carefully to all those with an interest in animal welfare and we believe that the Bill we have produced is in tune with the views of the public. I am pleased that it appears to enjoy strong cross-party support in the House. It places a new responsibility on animal keepers and owners, without intruding too much into the lives of the vast majority who already provide good care for their pets.

Bill Wiggin: Will the Minister consider issuing written warnings before prosecution for failures under the duty of care? Otherwise, there could be a huge escalation in prosecutions.

Mr. Bradshaw: There is nothing to prevent the issuing of written warnings. We are simply keen not to dictate to the RSPCA and others that they should take that course. In a serious case, they may want to move straight to prosecution, but nothing in the Bill prevents the issuing of a written warning. In fact, the whole ethos of the Bill is to try in the long run to avoid so many prosecutions, to prevent cruelty in the first place and to reduce costs to the courts, the RSPCA and the taxpayer, as well as improving animal welfare.

The Bill provides greater protection for animals while ensuring that enforcement authorities are better able to enforce welfare standards. It is ambitious but proportionate, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No.83A (6) (Programme motions),

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Question agreed to.


Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

Question agreed to.


Animal Welfare

9.32 pm

David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab/Co-op): I present a petition initiated by the Animal Protection Agency, based in my constituency. The petition contains more than 15,000 signatures.
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The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Domestic Heating Units

9.33 pm

Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North) (Lab): It is nice   to have a second chance to speak this evening, Mr. Speaker. The petition is from my constituent, Mr. R. McQuillan.

The petition states:

The petition, which is signed by 67 people, then goes into great length to lay blame as to how the situation it describes has come about. I made my views plain last night, so I shall go no further.

The petition concludes:

To lie upon the Table.
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Sarah Lynch

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

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