How were you involved with the Animal Welfare Bill?
I'm chairman of the all-party animal welfare group, which has been trying to encourage the Government to introduce legislation for some time. We have had several meetings with Ben Bradshaw, minister with responsibility for animals, and included a number of suggestions for the draft Bill.
We have been lobbying heavily for the past three years.
Why is this Bill needed?
The various laws on animals can cause confusion, so we want to see them consolidated into a single piece of legislation. Existing law falls down in two ways: no action can be taken until suffering has actually taken place; and, even if a prosecution is brought, you have to prove it was the person's intention to cause cruelty, which is difficult. This is probably a reflection of the way society was in 1911, when the last significant act was passed.
What was the breakthrough in getting the Bill accepted?
The creation of Defra. Before that, animal welfare was split between three different departments. With one department responsible, it makes sense to have one piece of legislation.
Are there any bits of the Bill with which you disagree?
I agree with the general principles that will enable intervention to take place before there has been suffering and will introduce a duty of care. I am also pleased about the inclusion of regulation for animal sanctuaries.
I'm not so sure about the proposed exemptions for certain breeds of dogs from the tail docking ban.
What will happen when the Bill goes through Parliament?
It will receive a lot of support. The Animal Welfare Group covers all parties and both houses.
Will the Bill be passed before the General Election?
We don't know when the election will be, but we are trying to secure a pledge from all parties that it will be picked up again afterwards.
I think it will be passed sooner rather than later.