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Lord Rea: I wish to make only one brief point that has not so far been mentioned. It may be the case that in a few years--five, 10, who knows?--the law will change with regard to the admission of homosexuals into the Armed Forces. If so, and the noble Lord's amendment is accepted, then this Bill, were it enacted, would have to be amended and this part of it would have to be repealed. If we do not accept the amendment, that would be completely unnecessary.

Earl Attlee: I rise and declare my interest as a serving officer in the Territorial Army. The hour is late and I support the approach of the noble Baroness to this amendment. However, I look forward to a detailed debate on the topic when the Armed Forces Bill comes to this Chamber. The debate will be valuable and intense and I look forward to taking part in it. But I do not think we should discuss the matter at this hour.

Lord Monson: I am grateful to all those who contributed to this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, contends that the current law protects the services in so far as combat effectiveness is concerned. But we are not only talking about front-line jobs and combat effectiveness. We are talking of jobs throughout the armed services.

I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that abuse of power is deplorable, whoever exercises it and of whatever sexual orientation they may be. My point was that if the ban is lifted I suspect that those incidents may happen more frequently. He suggests also that I must have a reason for the amendment. My reason is that, from everything I have read, the great majority of officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks, are against lifting the ban. I am sure that one can rely on their views. If they feel that they would be less effective as a fighting force to defend this country if the ban were lifted, we should take those views seriously.

It is late in the evening. The Committee is not representative, as I am sure Members will concede, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 6:

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause--

Private households

(" . Notwithstanding section 80(1) of the 1975 Act, nothing in this Act applies to employment for the purposes of a private household.").

The noble Lord said: I cannot believe that anybody will be in opposition to this amendment. Initially, employment in private households was exempted from the provisions of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. However, Section 80 of that Act permitted the Secretary of State to revoke that exemption subject to parliamentary approval.

It would seem that this exemption has been revoked where sex discrimination is concerned, although I am not quite sure when that happened. However, I submit that sexual orientation is a very different matter. I cannot believe that anyone would wish to force people to employ male or female homosexuals as nannies, au pairs, gardeners, cooks or handymen against their will or for that matter to force a homosexual couple to employ a heterosexual in their household against their will. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden: I oppose this amendment. What we are trying to do in the Bill is simply to extend the coverage of the Sex Discrimination Act to people who are homosexuals, lesbians or bisexuals and I see no reason to depart from that. We have already accepted what the Act says about genuine occupational qualifications. Indeed, Clause 3(2) of the Bill states:

    "Sexual orientation is a genuine occupational qualification for a job only where the holder of the job provides individuals with personal services promoting their welfare or education, or similar personal services, and those services can most effectively be provided by a person having a particular sexual orientation".
That exemption clearly covers the issues about which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, seems to be concerned. The amendment would make it legal simply to sack one's cleaner because she was suspected of being lesbian. That would be very unfair and really rather unjust and it would be an issue under which people with a particular sexual orientation were being treated less favourably than they otherwise would be. That is what the Bill is all about and I really cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Henley: Unlike the noble Baroness, I understand why the noble Lord has moved the amendment and I accept that it is a sensitive issue. I agree with the noble Lord in saying that householders' rights have to be considered alongside the general principle which underpins the Bill; namely, that there should be no discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. Having said on earlier occasions--and I reiterate it now--that we do not support the Bill, I can say that we have no

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particular view on this matter. We do not support the Bill but I understand the concerns behind the amendment put forward by the noble Lord.

Earl Russell: I wish to take up the noble Lord's reference to children. Nothing in the Bill does anything to help paedophiles of either sexual orientation. That is a quite separate problem. There is no tolerance for them being suggested and I only wish we knew what to do with them instead of tolerating them.

Lord Monson: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for his support. I am astonished by the noble Baroness's determination to leave the Bill in the state it is so that it actually intrudes into private households in this way. The exemption for genuine occupational qualifications is not really a safeguard because the clause refers to services that can be more effectively provided. I am not talking about effectiveness. A homosexual nanny may be absolutely excellent in her way but not desirable.

As for paedophiles and protecting children, there are young men of between 16 and 18 who are not strictly, by definition, children who might be affected, so I do not think that that is a valid argument.

I shall certainly return to this matter at a later stage but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.

Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

10.35 p.m.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee (on Re-commitment) on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee (on Re-commitment).--(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee (on Re-commitment) accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Discretion of court to deal with dog other than by destruction order]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Templeman: On the Motion that Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill, I understand that this is an appropriate and courteous stage to draw the attention of the Committee to the report of the Select Committee which was appointed to consider the Bill and has done so. I understand also that the Minister is in attendance to give the views of the Home Office and the Government, which, at present at any rate, are adverse to the views

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expressed by the Select Committee. I must therefore spend a few minutes, even at this late hour, outlining the report of the Select Committee. The first thing I must say is how pleased we all are to see the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, back in the House this evening.

Noble Lords: Hear! hear!

Lord Templeman: Secondly, I must express the gratitude of the Select Committee for the oral and written evidence which it received, and in particular to the Home Office which provided all the statistical information on which the report is based. I must also thank the Clerk, Mr. Tom Mohan, and his staff, who were of the greatest assistance to the committee and organised us, and without whose work we would have spent longer and achieved less.

The Bill is a simple one. It does not aim to alter the law at all. What it does is this. Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, if there is a breach of the provisions of Section 1 or Section 3, the owner of the dog in question has committed a criminal offence. He can be prosecuted and, on conviction, he can be sent to prison for six months or be liable to a fine of £5,000. The Bill does nothing to alter that. But the Act provides that when the owner is convicted the dog must be destroyed. It is that which the Bill proposes to alter by substituting for the draconian and mandatory requirement that the dog should be destroyed a discretion in the magistrates' or Crown court before which it comes to allow the dog to live. Apart from that, the Bill makes no alteration.

The Bill arises out of the fact that there have been cases in which the courts have chafed at the Act's mandatory requirement that the dog must be destroyed because courts, in certain circumstances, have been satisfied that it will be safe for the public if the dog is allowed to live. The most notorious case--others were brought before the House on Second Reading--involved the offence of having a pit bull terrier in public without a muzzle, but the muzzle had been taken off because the dog was choking. There have been one or two other cases where the courts have been convinced that the dog was not a danger to the public and, if they had power to do so, they would have allowed the dog to live. The Select Committee concluded that to give the courts discretion in those circumstances would not be adverse to the public interest.

There are three instances in which discretion may be exercisable. First, the Act provided that all pit bull terriers and like types should be eliminated. It did that by making it unlawful for anybody to keep a pit bull terrier unless it was registered and exempted by 30th November 1991. To gain exemption, the owner had to consent to the dog being neutered so that no progeny could result, and obey the rules relating to third-party insurance. More particularly, the owner had to ensure that as long as the dog was in public it was muzzled and kept on a lead. That provision has been successful. The committee was reluctant to do anything that might be against the policy of the Act in getting rid of pit bull terriers. There were 8,600 registered. At the end of 1994, the figure had fallen to 3,600. They have all been

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neutered. Therefore, as far as concerns registered dogs, they will die by natural causes by the end of the century. That has been wholly successful, and nothing in the Bill will modify that situation.

If one of those dogs which is exempted has been brought up as a pet and is docile and yet by an accident gets its muzzle off, or it is found in a public place without a muzzle or lead, the law at the moment is that the dog must be destroyed. The Bill will empower the court to allow the dog to live. But the report is mindful of the very real evils which the 1991 Act was designed to avoid. In paragraph 40 it is recommended as guidelines to magistrates--which no doubt the Home Office will draw to their attention if the Bill is passed--that discretion should be exercised to preserve the life of an exempt dog only in circumstances where the court is satisfied that the protection of the public does not require the destruction of the dog. Thus, if the owner of an exempt dog, far from complying with the Act, allows the dog to roam and takes off the muzzle and lead, without extenuating and mitigating circumstances, no doubt the magistrates will exercise their discretion by condemning the dog to death, not because it has done wrong but because the court cannot trust the owner. The discretion will be exercised if the destruction of the dog is not required because the court is satisfied that, not only is the dog docile, but the owner is responsible and that the breach has taken place by accident. The owner can still be convicted and fined or sent to prison.

I turn to the question of dogs which are not registered. It is apprehended that for a variety of reasons a good many dogs were not registered and have since been concealed. It is impossible to know how many there are. Of course, as long as they are concealed they are not a danger to the public. The minute that such a dog appears in public the fact that it has not been registered and exempted means that the owner can be prosecuted and convicted and the dog must be destroyed. The police say that there are three types of dog which may have been concealed. One is those dogs which criminals have used to terrify the police and security guards. The police believe that as a result of the Act they have disappeared entirely. They have no reason to believe that those dogs still exist. If they do, if any dog appeared from concealment and terrified the police or security guards, no doubt the magistrates would order its destruction. The discretion would not be exercised in favour of keeping that dog alive.

Similarly, there are still some dogs--not many--kept by their owners as fighting dogs. They are travellers and difficult to track down, but if they are tracked down, I cannot conceive that any magistrate would exercise discretion to maintain the life of a dog which had been trained to fight and was clearly a danger.

Then there are dogs which are kept because they are docile, notwithstanding the fact that they are pit bull terriers. They are pets and they are docile. They are concealed because their owners are attached to them, and they are terrified that if they bring them out into the open they will be ordered to be destroyed. In that case, the magistrates would have a discretion to exercise. They would have to be satisfied, as the courts were satisfied in certain instances, that the dog was docile and

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not a menace. Under the Bill, they would be obliged to register the dog and to have the dog neutered; in other words, the dog would be subject to the same conditions and restrictions as were imposed on dogs under the Act.

Again, we think that no harm can result, and, again, the committee has recommended that discretion should be exercised only where the court is satisfied that it can trust both the dog and the owner; in other words, it would have to be proved to the court that, notwithstanding that the dog is a pit bull terrier, and has been concealed, the attachment between the dog and the owner is such, and the evidence is such, that the court believes the owner to be responsible; that he would keep the dog muzzled and on a lead; that the dog is docile; and that the dog as well as the owner can be trusted.

In Clause 3 there is a provision which applies to all dogs, and not merely to pit bull terriers. That clause provides that if any dog is in a public place, out of control, and causes personal injury, it must be destroyed. That offence can be committed in relation to any dog. Again, the owner can be convicted of an offence, and can be punished. In addition, as the Act now stands, the dog must be destroyed.

The difficulty about having a mandatory sentence which no one has the discretion to alter is that that never allows for extraordinary and mitigating circumstances. Let us suppose, for example, that a dog is provoked. The dog's master or mistress may be attacked and the dog goes to defend its master or mistress. Or let us suppose that someone may be foolish enough to take a bone away from a dog when he was enjoying British or foreign beef. That would not be the dog's fault, and the court could be satisfied that the dog presented no danger to the public.

The committee recommends that there should be the discretion, set out in the guidelines to the magistrates, that the court should not exercise the powers proposed by the Bill unless the court were satisfied that in the result the public would be adequately protected, and that the destruction of the dog in question would be unnecessary and unfair. It is in those cases where unfairness results in the future, as it has resulted in the past, that discretion would be exercised.

The Home Office's objection, as I understand it, is that the Act was a good thing; it had a good effect on pit bull terriers. With all of that, the committee agrees. The Home Office takes the cautious view that any alteration in the Act's provisions weakens its operation. With respect, I do not agree.

Let us take the case of an exempt pit bull terrier. At the moment, if the pit bull terrier appears in public without a muzzle and without being on a lead, the dog must be destroyed. Under the Bill the magistrates would have that limited discretion to allow the dog to live.

The owner of the pit bull terrier will know that if he produces his dog in public unmuzzled and not on a lead, the magistrates have power to order its destruction. He will know that unless there is a very good excuse, the dog will be destroyed. It will be the duty of magistrates to destroy the dog in circumstances in which, in effect, the owner was flouting the law. The owner will know that it will be only in the extraordinary circumstances

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which I have mentioned and which could happen again--namely, that without fault of the owner, the dog has lost his muzzle or the muzzle has broken away from the lead--the magistrates have a discretion, but even so they might not exercise it. The discretion will be narrow and will be narrowly construed, and in the unanimous view of the Select Committee there will be no weakening of the provisions of the Act.

The Home Office courteously sent me a letter dated today. It stated that the Act would be weakened because the exempt dogs would not disappear at the rate now contemplated. As I have said, the number of exempt dogs fell from 8,000 to 3,000-odd by the end of 1994. All exempt dogs have been neutered and so if one or two were kept alive, they would die in the normal course of events and would die out by the end of the century, as is now provided.

The Select Committee considered that it was not contradicting the views of Parliament expressed in 1991; that the Bill does not undermine the efficacy of that Act; that it does not increase the dangers to the public; but that it would be right to have a discretion which would be exercised when fairness ever required that the dog should not be put down. Those are the views of the Select Committee which I had the honour to chair.

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