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Bill Wiggin: I am pleased with the inclusion of the provision whereby a person may appeal an order of a magistrates court and be reimbursed for expenses incurred, but I have a few questions for the Minister. Why are the Government using amendments Nos. 26 and 47 to change the term costs to expenses? What is the difference between the two? Why does amendment No. 48 change the word sum in clause 40 to the word expenses? On amendment No. 31, what is the reasoning behind changing the term pay a sum representing in clause 32 to the term reimburse? Why do amendments Nos. 32 and 40 remove the enforcement of the reimbursement away from one imposed on conviction?
Mr. Bradshaw: The amendments are necessary in order to apply the same powers to breaches of disqualification orders made under old or new legislation. The group includes four minor amendments that were necessary in order to correct references contained in the Bill.
Bill Wiggin: Can the Minister clarify whether someone who has been cruel and is disqualified from keeping one species can be disqualified from keeping others? It would be absurd if someone who had been barred from keeping dogs still had other animals in their possession and care. I was particularly worried by the case highlighted in the media over the summer involving a farmer who was put in prison, leaving his herd of cattle to die slowly of starvation. Obviously, cattle are farm animals, but the principle is the same.
Mr. Bradshaw: With leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks and also tell him that he is right in his implication that the motivation for these amendments was indeed the case that arose in the summer, which many people found extremely distressing. They were also frustrated that the Government could take no action, and we want to ensure that we can take action even if someone could have been disqualified under the old legislation and not just under the new provisions.
Mr. Bradshaw: These are minor amendments that correct the relevant references to other provisions as a result of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 recently coming into force and repealing the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912.
This seems to clarify the issues of devolution. Will the Minister tell us what effort the devolved Administrations are putting into drawing up their own welfare codes, and whether their codes will simply be improved versions of our own? Of course
they might run things differentlythat is the nature of devolutionbut on issues such as circus animals, for example, it would be strange if an animal could be kept and allowed to perform in one part of the UK but not in another. Obviously, we hope that the codes will be based on science rather than on local sentiment. If the Welsh Assembly draws up a better welfare code than ours in England, I hope that we will be nimble enough to ensure that we reap the benefits, just as the Assembly will have done from the initial work that DEFRA is putting in.
As this is a devolved issue, I hope that the hon. Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin) will forgive me for not being up to speed with the devolved Administrations on the matter. However, I take his point. Consistency within the devolutionary settlement would seem to make sense. We will try hard to ensure that the various codes and regulations are consistent [ Interruption.] Ah! I have just been advised that the devolved Administrations are involved in our working groups, so I should be surprised if they did not come up with provisions that were pretty similar to ours. However, on tail docking, for example, they still seem intent on coming up with something quite different, which I think will probably cause them all sorts of problemsbut there we go.
Under Lords amendment No. 64, a warrant may authorise persons to accompany an inspector. Will the Minister clarify whether the warrant will have
to specify the names of such people? Will he also clarify whether a person accompanying an inspector will need to identify himself, as the inspector will have to do under sub-paragraph 6(a)? As I understand it, inspectors will have to go through certain processes to get a warrant, and that is right and welcome. However, they will be able to take people with them. I am probing to find out whether those people will be subject to the same rigours as the inspectors, or whether there is the potential for them simply to be there without having gone through that process? Some people are frightened about the implications of these measures. They are frightened that people who are not authorised might turn up at their house accompanying an inspector. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify whether the same rigours that will apply to inspectors will also apply to the people who accompany them.
Functions in connection with entry under section 19.
inspect an animal found on the premises,
remove a carcass
take a photograph of anything on the premises.
However, I do not see a power for anyone executing a warrant to remove an animal thought to be in need of urgent treatment. I assume that that is not covered by the power to inspect an animal found on the premises. There should be a facility to remove an animal for further treatment. Perhaps that is covered elsewhere in the Bill and I have missed it, but it is certainly not included in this amendment. I would be grateful for the Ministers comment on this question.
An application for a warrant shall be made without notice.
Perhaps that is just traditional drafting, but I would have thought that the words may be made without notice would be more appropriate. Otherwise, if notice were given by accident, the warrant might not be granted. That would be rather peculiar. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that point as well.
Mr. Bradshaw: With leave of the House, I should like to respond first to the hon. Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin). I am afraid that I cannot confirm whether a person will need to be named in the circumstances that he outlined. However, under paragraph 3, the warrant holder will have to be named. If I can clarify the matter further by writing to the hon. Gentleman after the debate, I will endeavour to do so.
In response to the question by the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) about Lords amendment No. 66, I think that the provision looks more significant than it actually is. The measure is purely to ensure consistent drafting. It will give inspectors who enter premises in an emergency the powers of search and seizure, but it does not make substantive changes. It will serve two purposes. The first is to ensure that, when an inspector enters premises to search for an animal in distress, he has the power to inspect the animal when he finds it. This is a necessary prerequisite
to exercising all the other emergency powers in clause 18, including the power of removal to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
The second purpose is to give inspectors limited powers to gather evidence. As drafted, the powers to remove carcases and to take photographs are limited to occasions on which the inspector has entered either under warrant under clause 22, which is now clause 23, or to conduct a routine inspection under clauses 25 to 28, which are now clauses 26 to 29. We recognise that, if an inspector has already entered premises using his clause 19 powers, to have to leave and obtain a warrant under clause 22 and return would be impractical and a waste of resources as well as giving rise to the risk of evidence being destroyed. The Lords amendments are intended to ensure that the inspector can exercise limited evidence-gathering powers, even though he has entered the premises primarily for the purpose of alleviating an animals suffering.
The Solicitor-General: We have listened carefully, during the course of debates, to the concerns raised in this House and in the other place about the proposed extension of the conditional cautioning to include punitive conditions. Those concerns centred on the discretion that would be available to prosecutors, particularly with respect to financial penalties. We therefore tabled amendments in the other place to deal with that.
The amendments achieve four objectives. First, they reduce the maximum amount of any required financial penalty from £500 to £250. Secondly, they provide that the financial penalties can be used only in respect of a set of offences specified in secondary legislation. Thirdly, they require that secondary legislation must specify in relation to each offence the maximum penalty for that offence or group of offences. The prosecutor would have some discretion to set a lower financial penalty than would otherwise be attracted by the offence in questionfor example, to take account of the offenders ability to pay. There will therefore be a maximum for that particular offence according to the prosecutors judgment about offenders being able to pay. Finally, the amendments make subject to the affirmative resolution procedure any proposed changes to the maximum hoursset at 20 in the Billthat an offender can be required to attend at a specified place, and to the maximum financial penalty of £250.
Before I do so, may I deal with another matter? On 24 October, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) asked me whether a person could get a conditional caution for burglary. I said that we were essentially looking at petty offences and that it would not be our intention for burglary, especially residential burglary, to be included. That is indeed the case and we do not intend to include commercial burglary either. That remains true, but my officials reminded me this morning that breaking into a garden or allotment shed might, depending on the seriousness of the offence, result in a conditional caution. We noted cases in the pilots where a couple of people were seen walking down a road after removing a bicycle from a shed, breaking a lock in the process. They were arrested and
dealt with through a conditional caution, one of the conditions being to compensate the sheds owner for the cost of the lock. The owner accepted that and was pleased to receive the compensation. The defendants obviously accepted the conditional caution, too. I just wanted to put that on the record before giving way
Mr. Hogg: I am grateful for that clarification, but my question is about a related but different matter. The Solicitor-General mentioned affirmative resolutions, but may I ask him whether the affirmative or negative resolution procedure applies to the designation of offences referred to in amendment No. 5E(1)?
The Solicitor-General: That would be dealt with through the negative procedure. The affirmative resolution would apply to any proposal to increase the maximum hours or the maximum penalty of £250. Negative resolution procedure applies to other matters.
In short, the amendments limit the maximum financial penalty that can be required through the scheme and provide increased parliamentary oversight of key aspects of it. They would nevertheless extend the usefulness of the scheme by enabling it to apply in low-level cases that fall outside its current remit. I commend the amendments to the House.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): It seems to us that an important principle is at stake here that Parliament should upholdthat the police and the Crown Prosecution Service should prosecute and our courts, whether magistrates courts or Crown courts, should try a case on evidence, convict or acquit and sentence where appropriate. Our courts should not prosecute and our police and prosecutors should not sentence. Conditional cautions breach that principle, since they give the power of sentencing to agencies other than the courts. I want to see justice in the court room not at the cash point, and I want the separation between the police, the prosecution and the courts maintained.
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