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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I was present at the Second Reading, as were a number of noble Lords. Some of us expressed concerns about various aspects of the Bill, including the fact that it would have to be taken rather more rapidly than would be desirable. But I do not think that it is appropriate for a noble Lord who was not present at Second Reading to make a seven-minute Second Reading speech. Some of us who are not able to be present at the proper time deny the House the benefit of our wisdom.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the noble Lord makes me regret that I did not put down the amendments that I have here.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I rise only to reassure the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that the Bill does not apply to a boy of 16 who has sexual relations with a girl of 15, as he will see if he examines Schedule 1 closely.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, first, perhaps I may accept the earlier rebuke by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I have used the word paedophilia on more than one occasion. The main reason that I used it was simply that that was where our concern began. Our concern was about sexually abusive behaviour, in particular to children.

However, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is absolutely right. By these measures we seek to discourage sexually abusive behaviour to children and/or adults.

All I can say to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is this. First, I thank him for his complimentary remarks. However, I have looked again at the offences set out in Schedules 1 and 2. We regard them as sufficiently serious for these measures; they justify this Bill. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.

On Question, Bill passed.

Police and Firemen's Pensions Bill

6.54 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill was introduced in another place in January as part of the Government's commitment to helping public service employees who may have suffered loss as a

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result of being mis-sold a personal pension to have that loss made good by the personal pension provider concerned. As the House may know, there has been concern that between mid-1988 and mid-1994 a number of members or potential members of occupational pension schemes may have been incorrectly advised by financial advisers or by personal pension providers to leave or not to join their occupational scheme and to opt instead for a personal pension.

In view of that, the public service pension schemes have agreed to restore current employees to the position they would have been in, had no mis-selling taken place and had they not left their occupational scheme, on receipt of an appropriate payment from those responsible for mis-selling. Unlike the other public service pension schemes, the police and fire pension schemes cannot be amended by means of secondary legislation alone to enable the police and fire authorities to participate in the review at no cost to the public purse or to reinstate pensionable service where mis-selling has taken place.

The Bill, which extends to England and Wales and to Scotland, amends the Police Pensions Act 1976 and the Fire Services Act 1947 to enable the relevant secondary legislation containing the provisions for police and fire pensions to be amended in two ways. First, the Bill enables provision to be made for police and fire authorities to reinstate in their occupational pension schemes police officers and firefighters who have been mis-sold personal pensions. This is to be done by means of Clause 1 of the Bill.

Secondly, the Bill paves the way for police and fire authorities to recover the reasonable administrative costs of dealing with inquiries made by personal pension providers when conducting their review of the pensions they have sold to police officers and firefighters. The Bill also enables police and fire authorities to recover the costs of reinstating a person's occupational pension rights where a personal pension was mis-sold. These measures are contained in Clause 2 in respect of police pensions and in Clause 3 in respect of fire pensions.

I also believe that the Bill will be equally welcomed by the insurance industry, since I know that a good number of personal pension providers are keen to get on with their reviews of the pensions sold to police officers and firefighters and to settle the cases where mis-selling is found to have taken place. This Bill will enable police and fire authorities to play their part in making progress with the review.

The Bill is not a controversial measure. It was welcomed in another place, and I commend it to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Baroness Blatch.)

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is clear that the Bill is necessary. As the Minister indicated, it had support from my friends in the House of Commons. Because it is necessary to put the issue on the statute book indicates that this is the tip of an iceberg. I am slightly surprised that the Minister says that this is welcomed by the insurance industry. The insurance

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industry seems to me to have been noticeable in its determination to delay the proper compensation to those who have been the victims of mis-selling of pensions over a very much wider range of occupations. That blame must be laid not only on the insurance industry but on the Government who provoked the industry into that action.

On Question, Bill read a second time: Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 18th March), Bill read a third time, and passed.

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

[The page and line refer to Bill 71 as first printed by the Commons]

6.57 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(The Viscount of Falkland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


Clause 1, leave out Clause 1.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. With the permission of the House, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 to 11.

There will be few in your Lordships' House who will not be familiar with the general principles of the original dangerous dogs legislation; and few noble Lords will not remember the powerful speeches made over a number of years in your Lordships' House by the late Lord Houghton of Sowerby. Sadly--I think that it would be a happy day for him--he is not here to see enacted at least part of what he sought to amend in the original legislation.

I do not intend this evening to be critical of that legislation. Many years have now passed. I am perfectly prepared to accept the findings of the Home Affairs Committee, which had a great influence on the noble Baroness's department--I hope that she will support that view--in bringing about the acceptance in principle that some amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act was required. The amendments introduced by the Government go at least two-thirds of the way to meet the concerns which prompted the introduction of the Bill which I had the honour to present to your Lordships.

The principal changes wrought by the Commons amendments fall into four groups. First, they limit the courts' discretion--we sought that total discretion should be given back to the courts--in relation to destruction to ensure a presumption in favour of destruction unless exceptional circumstances could be

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demonstrated. As I said, the Bill as originally drafted gave unlimited discretion. I believe that most noble Lords would agree that that is a fair compromise in the traditions of British parliamentary democracy. I am personally happy with that.

Secondly, the court needs to be satisfied that an owner of a pit bull terrier that was born before 30th November 1991 had good reason for not registering the dog originally. The Bill that I introduced in this House did not include a "good reason" test.

The third major amendment lifts the mandatory destruction provisions contained in Section 5(4) of the 1991 Act. The original Bill that I introduced left the mandatory destruction provision intact.

Finally, Clause 3 also provides for cases where a dog is in custody but no further proceedings are envisaged to be considered by the courts. Those cases could not have been addressed by the Bill as originally drafted.

To go into a little more detail, Clause 1 of the Bill as it now stands provides the courts with a limited discretion in favour of destroying a dog for a Section 1 offence--that is, an offence that involves a pit bull terrier to all intents and purposes--or a Section 3 offence, which involves aggravated attack by any dog, unless the court considers it safe not to order destruction. That reflects the recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee that the court shall order the destruction of the dog unless it is satisfied that in the circumstances it would be safe not to do so. Therefore there is a change of emphasis. However, I do not believe that any of us would quarrel with that change of emphasis.

The Bill requires owners of Section 1 dogs born before November 1991 to show that they had good reason for not complying with the registration scheme. In effect, there would be a judgment before they could be registered. The court would need to be satisfied that the dog would not be a danger to the public. For those dogs born before 30th November 1991 there would be a second test. The court would need to be satisfied that there was a good reason why the owner failed to register the dog in 1991. I should have thought that any court in our land, using its discretion, should be able to establish what was a good reason for an owner failing to register a dog.

Clause 2 is essentially a matter of tidying up the drafting of the original Bill. It addresses two unrelated issues concerning, first, unregistered pit bulls and, secondly, dogs of any type which are out of control. The first part of the clause amends the 1991 Act to allow a court to order that an owner of an unexempted pit bull terrier can register the dog. That is an important change.

At present, the Index of Exempted Dogs, as it is known, is closed, and has been since 30th November 1991. This clause is a consequence of Clause 1. Clause 1 allows a court in certain circumstances not to order the destruction of an unregistered pit bull. It follows, therefore, that if ownership of the dog is to be legitimised, the Index of Exempted Dogs must be re-opened in order to allow the dog to be registered.

20 Mar 1997 : Column 1141

Owners will have two months to comply with the requirements of registration. They are: that a dog shall be neutered, tattooed and microchipped; that third party insurance shall be obtained; and that the appropriate fee shall be paid to the Index of Exempted Dogs.

Where an owner fails to comply with a court order to register the dog, the court has the power to order the destruction of the dog or, in its discretion, to extend the period of two months to complete the registration process. The second part of this clause relates to any type or breed of dog, not merely to pit bull terriers.

In cases where a person is convicted of an offence under Section 3 of the 1991 Act, which relates to any dog which is dangerously out of control, the court may specify the measures to be taken by the owner for keeping the dog under proper control, such as muzzling, keeping it on a lead or, in some cases, both. If the owner of the dog fails to keep it under control, the court may in future order the destruction of the dog. There is no change to the substance of proposals in the Bill that I introduced into this House. It is essentially a matter of tidying up the drafting.

Clause 3 amends the Bill to address two quite important issues. First, it lifts the mandatory destruction provisions contained in Section 5(4) of the 1991 Act; and, secondly, it provides an opportunity in certain cases where there is an impasse for dogs to be registered.

On the first point, Section 5(4) of the 1991 Act provides that where a Section 1 dog--perhaps I may remind noble Lords that that is a pit bull terrier to all intents and purposes--is seized by the police and no person has been, or is to be, prosecuted for an offence under the Act, either because he or she cannot be found or for any other reason, the court must order the destruction of the dog. The amendment gives the magistrate limited discretion as to whether to order the destruction of the dog, to be consistent with the proposed discretionary provisions contained elsewhere in the Bill.

The second matter that the clause seeks to address is that of cases where proceedings have been either dismissed or discontinued and the dogs have not been returned to the owners, either because a court has decided that the dog is a pit bull terrier or the police believe it to be an unregistered pit bull terrier. Ownership of such dogs is already an offence under the 1991 Act.

The amended Bill will ensure that where no person has been convicted of an offence under the 1991 Act but the dog cannot be released to the owner because it is in effect an unregistered pit bull terrier, the court can order, subject to certain safeguards regarding public safety, that the dog be registered. In the case of a dog born before 30th November 1991, the owner would also need to satisfy the court that he had good reason for the dog not being registered in 1991.

Clauses 4, 5 and 6 essentially tidy up the original Bill and no changes of substance have been made. Clause 4 relates to providing a power to make regulations in connection with re-opening the register for pit bull terriers.

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I am personally very happy, and I hope that my colleagues who have assisted on the Bill are happy, now that we have improved the dangerous dogs legislation to the extent that it will be less onerous, cause less distress to owners and their pets and, quite importantly, result in less money being wasted unnecessarily in keeping pit bull terriers and other dogs in kennels for long periods of time awaiting appeals and other matters. I congratulate the Government on their prompt action after the findings of the Home Affairs Committee. I, at least, at the end of this Parliament end on a high note. I hope that Lord Houghton of Sowerby, although he might have spoken for somewhat longer than I have to your Lordships this evening, would be as satisfied as I am. I commend the amendment to the House.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.--(The Viscount of Falkland.)

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