MPs give backing to dog-fouling Bill

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A Bill giving tougher powers to crack down on dog fouling, imposing fines of up to pounds 1,000, cleared the Commons yesterday after prolonged debate.

The Dogs (Fouling of Land) Bill gained an unopposed Third Reading and now goes to the Lords with Government backing and a strong chance of becoming law. The Bill applies to public open spaces designated by councils. Owners who fail to clean up after their dogs could be fined up to pounds 1,000. Authorities would also be able to operate a fixed penalty of pounds 10 against offenders.

Tory Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke), promoting the measure, stressed during the Report Stage: "The Bill imposes nothing. It makes available to local authorities who wish to use the powers in the Bill the means to tackle a problem."

But Tory Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham Hall Green) said: "When do you recall giving a power to local authorities that they haven't instigated? This is the nanny state gone mad."

Another Tory, Bernard Jenkin (Colchester N), warned: "My concern is that this Bill's bark will be much worse than its bite . . . because of the confusion about what is included and what is excluded."

Mr Hunter said the Bill's powers could not be enforced on private land without the consent of the owner. Dog owners exercising animals in designated areas would have to remove the faeces and place it in specially provided bins or dispose of it elsewhere.

James Clappison, the environment minister, said the powers were "desired by many, many local authorities and many people who are dog lovers and non-dog owners". Labour environment spokeswoman Hilary Armstrong welcomed the Bill, but claimed real change would only come about with a substantial change in attitudes by irresponsible dog owners.