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There is growing evidence of a plague of rats across the UK, a Conservative former minister has claimed, as MPs backed moves to ban the use of glue traps to catch rodents.
The Glue Traps (Offences) Bill would make it an offence to set a glue trap for the purpose of catching a rodent, as well as a handful of other connected offences.
Anyone found guilty will be liable for either a fine or imprisonment.
But the Conservative former environment minister, Sir Christopher Chope, labelled the measures a “rodent protection Bill”, adding that the Government should not encourage people to see rats as “friends”.
Moving the Bill, Conservative MP Cherilyn Mackrory (Truro and Falmouth) argued it is “crucial” to ban the use of glue traps to catch rodents “in all but the most exceptional circumstances”.
She described them as “primitive” and “inhumane”, and said they “pose a risk to other animals”.
But Sir Christopher, MP for Christchurch, told the Commons: “I think it’s quite difficult to explain to our constituents that we need to protect rats through legislation.
“Rats carry disease, particularly Weil’s disease. Weil’s disease is a form of bacterial infection, also known as leptospirosis and it is carried most commonly in rats.
“It can be caught by humans and it is caught by being in contact with the urine (and) faeces of rats. There are a significant large number of cases of Weil’s disease in our country every year.”
The Tory backbencher also said rats breed incredibly quickly, adding: “The figures are that brown rats can have 2,000 babies in a single year, and it’s common place to have 22 in a single litter.
“And it is for that reason that I think we should take very seriously what seems to be growing evidence of a plague of rats across large parts of our country.”
He concluded: “Why are we bringing forward a legislation which is effectively designed to try to make people think of rats as being friends rather than enemies?
“They are enemies to our public health.”
While the environment minister, Jo Churchill, agreed that having rodents coming into your property is “quite revolting”, she insisted “there are plenty of other more humane, effective, inexpensive rodent traps that are already widely available”.
On what the Government is doing to reduce rats and mice, she said: “We are working with pest control companies and so on to ensure that they have all the tools at their disposal to make sure we can keep the population of both rats and mice down.”
Confirming Government support for the Bill, Ms Churchill added: “I know that both I and my officials will do whatever we can to support this Bill and hopefully to see it on the statutory book.”
The Bill received a second reading and will undergo further scrutiny at a later date.