Monday 28th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) for leading this debate for the Petitions Committee; it is particularly good to see him here. I also thank the Minister, both for being here today and for recently visiting my North West Durham constituency; it was great to see her there.

Spice, Sam, Tess and Cookie were the pets that I grew up with at home when I was a child. It is quite clear that pets are far more than just animals; they are family members, too. That was attested to by my visit to Bishop Ian Ramsey Primary School in Medomsley on Friday, when I spoke to the children in year 6 there about this very issue.

I will not regurgitate too much of the speeches from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), or my hon. Friends the Member for Bosworth (Dr Evans), for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson), and for Bury North (James Daly), who have all hammered home the key points that need to be made. However, I will pay tribute to the Farplace animal rescue centre in my constituency, which does so much good work.

On Fern’s law, the situation seems pretty clear to me. We have compulsory microchipping, so compulsory scanning is the obvious next step, because without it we do not have compulsory checking and therefore we have a weak system. Without compulsory scanning, how can we possibly move towards the compulsory microchipping of cats? It is an absolute no-brainer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North said. Clearly, compulsory scanning should be made obligatory as quickly as possible.

Regarding Tuk’s law, it was particularly nice to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North talking about his own 16-month-old dog, which is the same age that Tuk was when he was put down. It seems absolutely sensible for there to be a compulsory scan before destruction. Although the strengthened guidance is welcome, I would like the Government to consider what else can be done in this space.

As many Members have said, it is quite clear that lockdown has made this issue even more important, with the cost of dogs being driven through the roof over the past few months. Coming out of lockdown, when we might also see the destruction of dogs, is also important. It is quite clear that lockdown has made the situation even worse, which is why it is so important that the Government act. I hope they will speak to my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green about what can possibly be done.

It is also clear that the 16 different databases that currently exist are not fit for purpose. If we have just one system for cars, we should have just one for people’s animals, which mean a lot more to them than their cars or so many other things in their lives.

I will conclude by saying that I really welcome these petitions; they are about issues that are hugely important to many of my constituents. In addition, pet theft has been a major issue. Durham Constabulary has raised it with me personally several times over the last few months during lockdown, so I really hope that we get some action and some positive words about it from the Minister today.