Victory as fly grazing bill clears Commons

Conservative MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy.
Conservative MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy.
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A Bill to give greater power to local authorities and landowners to remove abandoned horses from their land has cleared the House of Commons.

The Control of Horses Bill was brought by York Outer MP Julian Sturdy whose constituency is one of several ‘flygrazing’ hotspots in Yorkshire.

Mr Sturdy hopes the Bill, which will now be scrutinised in the House of Lords, will be approved before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election.

If successful, the legislative change will dramatically shorten the time it takes to rescue abandoned horses from over two weeks to 96 hours. The Bill has been extended to cover horses on private as well as public land, and rescued horses will be able to be gifted to animal welfare sanctuaries for the first time.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Sturdy said: “Animal welfare forms the backbone of the Bill, which, in its amended form, will go a long way towards improving the existing legislation on fly-grazing.

“Clearly, we need to tackle fly-grazing consistently across the whole of England, on both public and private land, and that is the Bill’s aim. If we do not do that, this mobile problem will continue to move from farm to farm, and from council to council, with no respite in sight for the horses involved.”

The MP gathered evidence on the problem with the help of the National Farmers’ Union.

A previous attempt to change the rules in a Private Member’s Bill by the now Farming Minister, George Eustice, five years ago was unsuccessful.

At present, horse owners in England have 14 days to come forward to claim abandoned horses before local authorities can seize them and pursue their disposal.