83. Mr. Stephen Crabb MP introduced a Private
Member's Bill (Animals Act 1971 (Amendment) Bill) during Session
2006-2007 to clarify the liability of keepers of animals. The
Billwhich was four clauses longaimed to ensure that
responsible animal owners cannot be unfairly forced to pay compensation,
where they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent accidents.
Under current law, owners of animals such as horses and cattle
can face huge compensation claims, even when it is accepted that
an accident involving one of their animals was not their fault.
The Bill, however, ran out of Parliamentary time so was not able
to progress to the statute book.
84. Several witnesses, including the NFU, CLA,
and Ramblers' Association expressed disappointment that Mr Crabb's
Bill was not able to progress to the statute book.
The CLA and NFU both wanted the failed Bill to be incorporated
into the Marine Bill, if possible.
When questioned on this matter, Natural England acknowledged animal
owner liability was a "real issue" that required resolving
in the future, but believed it might be difficult to incorporate
Mr Crabb's Bill into the Marine Bill because of scope.
The Minister, however, appeared more open to this possibility.
He told us he would like Mr Crabb's proposals on the statute book
"whether it is this or other means", and did not rule
out the possibility of changing the Bill's long title to enable
Mr Crabb's Bill to become part of a new, wider Marine Bill.
85. As this is still only a
Draft Bill, we recommend the scope of the Bill be widened to include
amendment of the Animals Act 1971 along the lines of the Animals
Act 1971 (Amendment) Bill of Session 2006-07.