Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) on his success in his first ever private Members’ Bill ballot and on having chosen a subject that is obviously dear to the hearts of so many of our constituents and to those of so many hon. Members.
Sometimes, Madam Deputy Speaker, people say that a Bill that has universal support and nobody opposed to it ought to be allowed to go through on Second Reading on the nod, but as you know, I have always been against that proposition. Today demonstrates why that is a bad proposition, because however good or popular a Bill is, it is always better for it to be properly debated and scrutinised on Second Reading, and that is what is happening today.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) thinks that the fact 32 Back Benchers are wishing to speak on this Bill has something to do with the Government not being too enthusiastic about some of the Bills later on the Order Paper in my name. I am assured by the Government Whips that that is not true at all. Indeed, if one looks at the Bill that is due to follow this one—the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (Amendment) Bill—it is actually four-square in line with Government policy. It would be very interesting if the Government actually oppose a Bill that they are already committed to introducing when there is parliamentary time. I mention that because if some of my hon. Friends think they are doing the Government’s bidding by speaking for unnecessarily long in this debate, all I can say is that I am not sure that is actually what they are doing, because the Government have assured me that they support the provisions of the second Bill, but leave that as it may.
My daughter is a vet. I obviously take a lot of parental responsibility, and we must have been very good on animal welfare when we were bringing her up. As we have, she, with her husband, also has rescue dogs. They are rescue Staffies, which seem to be among the worst breeds for the suffering they often undergo in their lives.
It is important that we do not mislead the public and raise expectations beyond what is reasonable. That is why I made the intervention I did on my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset. In the correspondence we have received from the animal charities and in their campaigning, they are almost implying that there are people who are against this measure, but I have yet to find anybody who is against it. Those animal charities seem to be using this as a means to try to raise money for their own causes, and that is fine—they can raise money if they want to—but to raise expectations that this will somehow be a panacea for improving animal welfare is going slightly over the top.
Indeed, half of my hon. Friend’s speech was about all the things that he could have put into his Bill, but it is implicit that he did not put them into his Bill because he was told by the Government that if he did so, his Bill would not get Government support, and I sympathise with him on that.