HC Deb 12 July 1973 vol 859 cc1799-862

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)

I beg to move, That this House shares the growing concern about the conditions under which animals for slaughter are exported, transported and slaughtered overseas; welcomes the recent Government decision to suspend the issuing of export licences for live sheep; and, mindful of animal welfare, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to establish an independent inquiry into this trade, and in the meantime to suspend the issuing of licences for the export of live animals for slaughter overseas.

Mr. Speaker

I should inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister and several of his right hon. Friends, in line 6, at end add: to any country where there is evidence that the Balfour Assurances are not being kept". I have a very long list of speakers.

Mr. Deakins

The House will know of my interest in agricultural matters. But the interest that I have in animal welfare is, I believe, one which is shared by every single hon. Member present today.

The subject of animal welfare is an emotional matter for some people. But on such an occasion as this I think it is best debated rationally. What we lose in heat we may hope to gain in clarity.

Public concern about this matter has been expressed in a number of ways: in the size of the postbags of Members of Parliament, in the volume of Parliamentary Questions, in the three motions on the Order Paper, and above all, in the dedicated work of animal welfare societies and individuals basically responsible for the evidence which earlier this year forced the Government to suspend the operation of licences for sheep exports. These societies and individuals have now produced an even more impressive body of evidence on the cattle export trade—evidence of breaches of the Balfour Assurances.

The evidence is very long and I wish to refer to it only briefly. There is evidence collected by the RSPCA. For example, to Belgium in 1970 calves were being exported under the minimum weight. Calves were being taken more than 100 kilometres for slaughter. Calves were being stunned with a claw hammer at an obscure Belgian slaughterhouse. In 1973, cattle were being taken from Scheveningen to Leeuwarden in Holland, a distance of well over 100 kilometres.

There is evidence from the News of the World in March of this year from Belgium of cattle being taken to Isegem, an approved slaughterhouse in Belgium, by our own authorities and subjected to inhumane treatment and slaughter of a kind which would be found intolerable by any British farmer who sent his stock for slaughter. There are examples of cattle travelling far more than 100 kilometres. There are examples of cattle passing from Belgium into Holland. There are examples of cattle travelling from Zeebrugge to Antwerp, which is not an approved slaughterhouse. There are examples from Holland in 1973 of cattle going from Ostende to Arnhem, well over the 100 kilometres' limit, also involving transit from one country to another, both breaches of the Balfour Assurances.

Finally, there is evidence, which I do not have at my disposal, from the Council of Justice for Animals and Humane Slaughter relating to calves earlier this year which the council has refused to release for the purpose of this debate but which I know to have been for some time in the possession of the Minister. No doubt the Minister will have something to say about this evidence when he replies.

For several months now there has been pressure for an independent inquiry into this trade not only from animal welfare organisations but also from the National Farmers Union of England and Wales. The Government have now given way to this pressure by agreeing finally to an independent inquiry. We must thank them for this.

However, we ought to ask the Minister a few questions on the form and scope of this inquiry. For example, will its hearings be in public? What are to be its terms of reference? Will it be widely drawn so as to include the whole of the export trade in live animals, perhaps taking in the 18 points for consideration listed recently by the Animal Defence Society?

Will the inquiry be able to consider evidence already accumulated? This is an important point, because the trade on the Continent is now far less willing to talk about its activities to strange people wearing Union Jacks.

Will the inquiry be free to make any recommendations whatsoever, ranging from a total ban on the trade to much tighter restrictions—for example, ensuring that sales to the Continent are made on a dead weight and grade basis only, which would give British farmers a genuine interest in the conditions of transport and slaughter of their cattle on the Continent? Will the inquiry be able to recommend the licensing of individual consignments to individual slaughterhouses on the continent?

I turn now, because this is the crux of the debate, to the Government's amendment. Hon. Members on both sides of the House agree on the need for an independent inquiry. It is important to note that the Government's amendment relates only to our proposal for the suspension of licences pending the outcome of the inquiry.

The amendment implies that where there is no evidence of a breach of the Balfour Assurances the trade should continue. But this in turn implies other matters: first, that the Balfour Assurances are satisfactory, and, secondly, that they are being observed unless evidence is produced to the contrary.

First, the Balfour Assurances are out of date. Conditions both in this country and on the Continent have changed substantially since 1957.

Secondly, there is nothing in the Balfour Assurances to prevent the resale of cattle in a market within 100 kilometers of a port and subsequent slaughter anywhere on the Continent.

Thirdly, there is nothing in the Balfour Assurances about bringing them to the notice of Continental buyers and dealers. A large number of Continental hauliers and slaughterers questioned by independent investigators have been unaware of the existence of the Balfour Assurances.

Fourthly, there is no incentive in the Balfour Assurances for foreign authorities to enforce them rigorously. So there has been, and can be, no effective control on the ground. Indeed, this was virtually admitted by the former Minister of Agriculture in the summer of last year in reply to the President of the British Veterinary Association.

The second point on the amendment is that it implies that the Balfour Assurances are generally being observed. First, it is a fact that transit movements from one country to another regularly take place. That is a breach of the Assurances.

Secondly, it is a fact that the 100 kilometers' limit for the journey on the Continent is regularly being exceeded, often to slaughterhouses where the conditions of slaughter and lairage would be illegal in this country.

Thirdly, there is the fact that the evidence on sheep last year and early this year showed breaches of the Balfour Assurances to such a considerable extent that no control was possible, so the Government were forced to suspend sheep export licences. The evidence on cattle shows the same pattern, and rightly so, for the same people are dealing with cattle as were dealing with sheep.

Fourthly, we in this country had official assurances from Continental Governments about the treatment of sheep. These assurances turned out to be valueless. Why should we have any more trust in official assurances about cattle?

In this connection I should like to quote an extract from a letter which the Minister of State wrote to one of his hon. Friends in November 1970 when the matter was first raised: We understand from Dr. Latteur"— who is the chief veterinary officer in the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture— that animals imported into Belgium for immediate slaughter are sent to a specially approved national slaughterhouse and that their movements are controlled by the Belgian Veterinary Inspection Service. The hon. Gentleman clearly stated that there was no possibility of re-export.

Dr. Latteur, in a letter dated 31st January 1973 to a French animal welfare association—I have copies both in English and in French if hon Members want them—said: A report of April 1972 submitted by these same people about a journey from Ostend to Marseilles admits that the sheep were in good condition on arrival at Marseilles. That shows that Dr. Latteur, the head of the enforcement authorities in Belgium, which is one of the main points of entry for British cattle to the Continent, has no idea of the Balfour Assurances because the move from Ostend to Marseilles breaks two points of the Assurances: first, over 100 kilometres and, secondly, re-export from one country to another.

Furthermore, in the same letter he said: No legal provisions, not even the Balfour Assurances, would enable us"— the Belgian authorities— to refuse transit permits". There we have it in the words of the chief official of the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture responsible for trying to ensure that these Assurances are enforced.

The Balfour Assurances have been completely discredited. How often are they to be breached before the Ministry will act?

This leads me to a consideration of what the amendment means by the word "evidence". What kind of evidence would satisfy the Ministry so as to lead to a suspension of licences pending the outcome of the independent inquiry? Does it have to be direct evidence? This obviously cannot be obtained because it is impossible to produce at Whitehall Place a Belgian slaughterman from Putte with a clawhammer in one hand and a signed confession in the other. Animal welfare organisations have no power to compel continental witnesses to come to England. So it cannot be direct evidence.

Is it to be official evidence? How is this to be obtained from other Governments? Foreign Governments do not report breaches of the Balfour Assurances. We in this country have to prove them.

Perhaps the Ministry will accept unofficial evidence. But this puts the burden and expenses on animal welfare societies, which is quite wrong. Also, the Ministry has so far thrown a great deal of cold water on the unofficial evi- dence that has been submitted to it. What assurance is there that the Minister will take such evidence any more seriously from now on? For example, he has suggested that some evidence may relate to Irish cattle. It does not. The evidence from the News of the World about Irish cattle going to Iseghem has been confirmed by both the manager and the sales manager of the slaughterhouse in question. Even if the evidence related merely to Irish cattle, should we not rightly deduce that if Irish cattle are being maltreated by hauliers and drovers and are not being slaughtered humanely, the same must be true of British cattle going on the same routes to the same destinations? Surely hauliers and slaughterers do not vary their treatment according to the nationality of the cattle that they are handling. Therefore, how can we take seriously a promise to consider evidence when such evidence has been available for some months with no action resulting?

The Ministry has been dragging its feet on this issue. For example, it has not accepted the offer by Miss Lawless of the News of the World to give evidence. It has not taken the matter as seriously as we have a right to expect.

If accepted, the amendment will create a muddled and confusing situation. We shall have two inquiries going on into the same subject at the same time. There will be an independent inquiry, which will obviously take some months to gather evidence and report, and there will be an ad hoc Ministry inquiry at the same time into suspected breaches of the Balfour Assurances.

This leads to two conclusions. The first is that the same evidence will obviously be submitted both to the independent inquiry and to the Ministry. That leads to the possibility that the Ministry could accept the evidence and the inquiry could reject it, or vice versa. Would that not lead to a ridiculous situation?

The second conclusion is that if the Ministry gives a verdict on the basis of the evidence submitted to it, it will be pre-judging, if not prejudicing, the findings of the independent inquiry. It is nonsense to have two inquiries on the same subject at the same time.

Basically, the amendment is a device for preventing interim action to suspend all these licences. It merely states what is already Government policy; namely, to look at the evidence and take appropriate action. The evidence has been available for some months, but no action has been taken. We must have action now.

The amendment, in effect, seeks to delete the reference in the motion to the interim suspension of licences. If the amendment is passed, the trade will go on. That must be made clear. Surely it is much cleaner and more sensible, in view of the overwhelming weight of evidence, to make a break, to suspend licences as soon as practicable—we do not expect miracles—and to start the new inquiry and let it decide in what circumstances and with what safeguards the trade should be reopened, if at all. The burden of proof should now be on those who want the trade to continue and not, as at present, on those who want it stopped.

The real issue is the motion without the amendment. We must stop further animal suffering while waiting for the inquiry to report. The Opposition think that the British people and, we hope, the House of Commons will not be satisfied with less.

4.31 p.m.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Anthony Stodart)

I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add: to any country where there is evidence that the Balfour Assurances are not being kept". Though there is much to say, I want to follow the example of the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) and make a short speech in order to allow as many hon. Members as possible to take part in this debate. I agree with the hon. Gentleman when he says that if the size of our mail bags is any evidence, many hon. Members wish to participate in the debate.

I should like to say two things first. I must declare an interest—or at least a possible one—because I sell about 800 store lambs every year and it may be that some ultimately go abroad live.

Secondly, I want to put something on record in reply to those—and there are some—who have said that all that farmers are interested in is the cash which the sale of their stock produces. He is a most unusual farmer who has done a season's lambing, or had the joy and satisfaction of seeing animals bred on his farm grow up, who would countenance cruelty being done to them. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman on this. I believe that all of us here are seeking to prevent or to reduce suffering among animals—not just my animals, not just animals from this country, but all animals—and I hope that that is something that we may all accept despite the differences that may divide us on how that can best be achieved.

A fortnight ago when I told the House that one of the difficulties confronting us about the photographs and the story in the News of the World was that there was considerable uncertainty about whether the cattle had come from this country at all—and I must tell the hon. Gentleman that what he said does not coincide with the information coming to us—I heard one of my hon. Friends exclaim, "They are all cattle" and that is very true.

Irish cattle go to European countries in large numbers, and the Balfour Assurances about resting, feeding and watering, no re-exporting and slaughtering humanely, do not apply to them. They can, and do, travel much longer distances from port to abattoir after having had, in many cases, a much longer sea crossing.

Because of breaches in the Balfour Assurances through sheep being reexported from one country to another, we stopped the export of all live sheep for slaughter as from 1st February, and since then none has left this country. There are those who argue that our carcase trade should thrive instead, but in fact it has shown virtually no change at all from the same period last year. But what has happened is, I suggest, not without significance.

Exports to Europe of live sheep from the Irish Republic during February to May rose from 734 last year, to just short of 12,000 this. And half the number of live animals which leave the United Kingdom for purposes other than breeding travel from Ulster to the Republic across a border which it has always proved impossible for any Government to close. Nor, I believe, is it possible to close that border, considering that, I am told, some farms literally have fields lying on each side of the border, and also realising, without any disrespect. the temperament of the Irish people.

I think that people are alarmed about four particular aspects of the trade—the sea voyage, the road journey in the overseas country, the conditions at the abattoir and the possibility of animals being re-exported from the country to which they are sent.

First, there are regulations governing the conditions under which animals are transported to and from United Kingdom ports. Vessels used for the overseas transport of livestock are regularly inspected by the marine superintendent of my Department, and conditions are laid down about the number of animals which may be carried on each ship and the size of the pens. The regulations also cover proper ventilation, protection of the animals from the elements, and so on. And these same conditions are applied to the boats which take store animals from the Scottish islands to the mainland or from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

The Balfour Assurances provide that the animals must be sent to an abattoir within 100 km. of the port of disembarkation, and this is a most stringent requirement. I remind the House that animals are often carried far further than that in this country, although I entirely accept that they are, as it were, under our control. But even so, if people are worried about the 100 km.—or 60 miles to put it in easier language—from the port at which animals land, I am bound to say that, despite all our regulations, the distances which animals travel from the sales in Scotland to the Midlands of England—and I say this with the considerable experience that I have had of animals from the North of Scotland arriving on the farm—arriving in very good order, makes 60 miles look pretty modest.

We come to the place upon which the main anxiety centres, and I believe rightly, and that is upon the abattoir itself. Without any reflection upon those who work in it, a slaughterhouse is not a pleasant place, no matter how high the level of humanity practised within it. I have visited many, always out of duty, never out of pleasure, for watching animals die is a horrible experience, no matter how clinically perfect the conditions may be. But I go 100 per cent. with every hon. Member in saying that there is no excuse for anything other than the highest levels of humanity. This is what the Balfour Assurances, given by the various Governments concerned, are designed to secure.

Last in this list of points about which people are concerned, and on which the hon. Member touched, is the fear that animals which are sold for slaughter in a country specified on the export certificate are re-exported from that country to another. The hon. Member said that the Balfour Assurances are being broken virtually right, left and centre. There is no evidence, in the way that one would normally interpret the word, that this is so.

Since 1970, four complaints of specific infringements of the Balfour Assurances have been made to the Ministry. The hon. Member referred to them all. One in 1970 involved the transport of calves beyond the 60-mile limit. As a result of our representations, the Belgian Government banned the use of that slaughterhouse for British animals.

Last year reports were received from two or three animal welfare organisations that sheep exported to Belgium were being re-exported to France, and possibly even further afield, totally contrary to the Balfour Assurances. It was clear that there was a loophole in the arrangements. We therefore introduced stricter controls. In order to make it impossible for sheep to be sent on to France without being detected, a new documentary procedure was introduced on 1st November 1972 by which exporters were required to produce, on request, certificates from the Belgian slaughterhouses concerned, countersigned by a Belgian Government official, to show that these sheep were in fact slaughtered in an abattoir within 100 km of the port. None of the exporters concerned was able to comply fully with this requirement and indeed we continued to receive reports of sheep being sent on to France.

My right hon. Friend suspended all licences to export sheep for slaughter or as stores from 1st February 1973. This suspension still applies and it well illustrates the concern of the Government for the welfare of animals and their determination to see that the Balfour conditions are fully honoured. More recently there have been allegations accompanied by photographs of breaches of the Assurances with respect to cattle. Anxiety has mounted, and, I think, understandably. The hon. Member said that Irish cattle were not involved. Our investigations are going on at the moment, as I told the House a fortnight ago they would. What I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that at least at one of the lairages in Ostend, Irish cattle and cattle from this country often arrive on the same day. The Irish cattle are separated out and they are then treated as being able to go to abattoirs further than 100 km because the Balfour Assurances do not apply. The British cattle are sorted out there and treated under the Balfour Assurances.

It seems to me that the divisions between us can be summed up like this. Is the best way of securing the conditions we want to stop our trade with other countries and let animals from elsewhere take the place of ours, or is there another way? I think there is. We should continue to clamp down on any breaches of the Assurances where we are satisfied that these have taken place.

At the same time the Government recognise that public anxiety is now such that the wisdom of an objective committee of inquiry could contribute to the consideration of these problems. We propose to appoint such a committee and to announce the terms of reference and the membership as soon as possible. We shall take most careful note of any views expressed by hon. Members during this debate on these two very important aspects of such an inquiry. I have already taken note of what the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West said. The amendment which I propose would still enable exports of live animals to be suspended where there is evidence that the Balfour Assurances are not being kept.

I hope that the House will agree that it is a fair and practical point to make that, if the committee of inquiry is to investigate this matter thoroughly, its members will want to visit the Continent to see for themselves the way in which our animals are treated, and the measures which are taken to enforce the Balfour Assurances. I have no doubt at all that the Governments concerned would be willing to offer every assistance to the committee in this investigation; but if, in the meantime, we suspend the export of live animals, as the Opposition's motion demands, the committee will have reasons which are far less legitimate for asking the Government concerned for their cooperation, because United Kingdom animals would not be involved. Even if the Committee were to go in such circumstances they could not hope to satisfy themselves as to exactly how the Balfour Assurances were enforced since they do not apply to animals other than from the United Kingdom.

This is why I believe that our amendment is logical, reasonable and in accordance with our obligations under EEC legislation. I therefore ask the House to accept it.

4.47 p.m.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

I welcome the opportunity that has come about as a result of the initiative taken by this side of the House to have at least a half-day debate on this very important subject. My only regret is that I believe that the House should have had this debate on the private Member's motion which was brought forward by an hon. Member opposite earlier in the year and which time after time was killed for the purposes of further debate by one or two other Conservative Members.

This debate takes place against a background of increasing cruelty to animals generally. That should not be forgotten.

Mr. John E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

Surely the hon. Member is referring not to a private Member's motion, which would have allowed the sort of debate that we are now having, in which the full arguments may be deployed, but a motion for the Second Reading of a Bill which would have given the principle on the nod. Surely that would be most objectionable.

Mr. Whitehead

Time after time on a Friday I and other hon. Members listened to that Bill being killed. It could have gone into Committee, where all the arguments of principle could have been aired at leisure and at the disposal of the House. In parenthesis, I do not think that that principle of destroying Private Member's Bills is a very good one and I hope that the House will abandon it in the near future.

I was saying that I think that the difficulty that we face is that this subject is only part of the whole question of how animals are treated, not just by the farming community or exporters, but generally, as they fit into the needs of a vast industrialised society with a great demand for food and not too many scruples about how that food is acquired. Factory farming and all that goes with it has some aspects at least as deplorable as the matters that we are discussing today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) made a succinct and admirable speech. This has been the first time that I have heard him speak from the Front Bench, and I congratulate him sincerely on the reply that he received from the Minister.

My hon. Friend said that in many ways the Balfour Assurances are themselves already to some degree discredited. They are discredited because of at least some occasional examples which have been reported consistently over the last few years, and certainly in 1970 and 1971, as well as this year, by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to the Government of the day, concerning both the distances travelled and, in some cases, re-export.

These infringements occur just as much for cattle as for sheep. As the Government saw fit to alter the conditions for the export of sheep and to ban the live animal trade there, it does not seem to me that the Minister of State made a very convincing case against a similar stoppage in the case of cattle. The Minister of State said—and this is correct—that some animals are transported under our control in this country for very great distances, far further than the 100 kilometers, about 60 miles, which is permissible under the Balfour Assurances once the animals have gone to the Continent. It does not seem that that should give us great cause for satisfaction. That is no more than a debating point. It may well be that, as the road system has improved in this country, we ought to look at the internal conditions in which live animals are transported immediately before slaughter. We ought to be asserting ourselves in that area as well as being concerned about exporting animals to the Continent.

The National Farmers Union and the British Agricultural Export Council have bombarded hon. Members with a great many arguments why both the Private Member's Bill and the principles embodied in the motion today should not go forward. The NFU has been disingenuous in the extreme in the three arguments which it principally advances. The NFU argues, first, that if we were to take the action contemplated in the motion, this would be incompatible with the regulations of the EEC. The NFU argues, secondly—this was an argument on which we heard a great deal from the Minister—that it would increase the sufferings of animals elsewhere. Thirdly, the NFU says that it would cause a slump in fat-stock prices.

In addition, the NFU has submitted to us its survey of one trip from Boston, conducted by its investigators presumably as a counterbalance to the investigation of Miss Maureen Lawless. Let us take these things one after the other. I do not, as hon. Members will know, share the extreme hostility to the EEC of some of my hon. Friends. But we ought to be robust about this matter. We ought to be able to say to the EEC, in regard to its existing regulations, that if we find the conditions of this trade wanting—as we do—we shall stop it, and stop it forthwith.

We are dealing here with a matter which is entirely under our jurisdiction, with animals leaving our shores for export. We would have no difficulty whatsoever, whatever the NFU says in its piece of special pleading, in saying to the EEC that we proposed to ban the export of all live animals to the Continent forthwith. That is the first NFU argument.

The second of the arguments, which was also mentioned by the Minister, is that this will increase the sufferings of animals elsewhere, and that, somehow, the sum total of animal suffering will be increased in the balance if we do something to diminish and ameliorate the sufferings of animals being exported. That argument is the purest humbug. That was the kind of argument that was advanced against the cessation of the slave trade. Over one hundred and fifty years ago people said "If we take action unilaterally against the slave trade and stop this enormous cruelty to these people, we shall drive trade elsewhere. It will be very bad for trade. Bristol will suffer."

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

And Liverpool.

Mr. Whitehead

Perhaps people said that Liverpool would suffer. Perhaps Liverpool did suffer initially. People said "Trade will go elsewhere. Others will lay down more ships and will carry more slaves and do rather better. In total there may well be more slaves carried and suffering at the end of the day than if we had not busied ourselves with this legislation." That argument is a load of rubbish.

The lead given by this country in that matter was followed—sometimes for good reasons and sometimes because the countries concerned were shamed into following it—by every European Power.

On the subject of Irish cattle and the mystical farmers who have one field south of the border and one in the Six Counties, we should be saying to ourselves that, instead of making these sophisticated points about the division of cattle at the point of entry on the Continent, we ought to be thinking of the kind of lead that we could give to the Republic of Ireland. If there is great suffering to cattle exported from the Republic of Ireland and Irish farmers are benefiting because of the increase in the export trade in live sheep from Ireland to the Continent, and if it is feared by the NFU and others that this pattern would be followed if we were to do the same thing in the case of cattle, surely we ought to be working to change the climate of opinion in the Irish Republic.

Many people in the Irish Republic are as shocked by the practices of the exporting industry there as we are by what has happened in some cases in this country. Therefore, this argument does not wash. We should, and can, give a lead. The total effect over time of giving such a lead would be to diminish the aggregate of animal suffering in the entire export business.

Thirdly, the NFU says that this will cause a slump in fatstock prices. My constituents would be pleased to hear that. They would be pleased to hear that the price of beef was falling and that at this sensitive time of the year, when one can have beef on the Sunday table only by getting a building society or something to back it, they would be able to have it reduced to the price that the ordinary housewife can pay.

The arguments about the seasonal fluctuations in fatstock prices which have caused the farming industry in this country to rely upon the Continental buyer, this sensitive buyer who will not take our carcases but only live animals, cannot be justified.

I come finally to the NFU survey, the little voyage from Boston, carried out by two gentlemen on behalf of the NFU. One of them who was called in to do this was Mr. Thompson, the vice-chairman of the NFU's animal health centre. The investigation was concluded on 26th May 1973. Mr. Thompson said that he found no evidence of cruelty, and that at no point did he see handling of cattle, on this voyage or after, which could be described as cruel or vicious.

The House, however, ought to know exactly what it was that was found by the investigators who went on 13th March to Ostend and precisely what photographs were brought back as evidence, which have since been reproduced in the brochure sent to all hon. Members by the RSPCA. These were photographs of animals ankle-deep in blood with limbs broken when they were unloaded from the vehicles in which they had been brought from the point of entry, and animals being forced past carcases and sometimes still living animals suspended with their throats already cut. This is what Miss Lawless said.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

When was the hon. Gentleman last in an abattoir?

Mr. Whitehead

If the hon. Gentleman is wanting to say by that remark that all conditions in abattoir are as horrific as these, he is wrong. He is certainly wrong in that concerning those in my constituency.

Mr. Wiggin

The hon. Gentleman is putting words into my mouth. I merely asked, if he was such an expert on the conditions in abattoirs, when he had last been in one.

Mr. Whitehead

I do not think that the intervention of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) helps the debate. I have not been in this abattoir for the very good reason that I was not a member of the investigatory team, but I believe that it is evidence that should be laid before the House and that most hon. Members will wish to hear it.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I can help my hon. Friend slightly because one of my responsibilities as an official of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers was to look after work-people in abattoirs. There is no British abattoir that I know, certainly in the region that I covered, which was Birmingham and Mid-Wales, that would produce evidence of the kind of cruelty to animals to which my hon. Friend is referring.

Mr. Wiggin

I agree.

Mr. Whitehead

Therefore, I do not see why the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare wasted the time of the House with his intervention.

I shall simply read to the House what Miss Lawless found: Some animals fell shot in the head. Others not so fortunate were shot in the ear, the cheek or the top of the neck. The cattle behind them fell over the dead and injured bodies into the blood which was inches deep. On injured beast somehow crawled away and wedged itself under some bars in the corner. As shot animals were falling down or trying to stagger away, they were hauled up by a chain attached to one hind leg and were left to have their throats cut in full view of the other beasts. One steer with a wound in its cheek was hanging up by one leg kicking and struggling and bellowing for minutes fully conscious before one of the men walked over and actually cut its throat. I have lived in a farming community, next door to a farm and in a farming village. There is a slaughterhouse in the nearest town. I have never seen conditions of that kind in any British abattoir. I do not believe that they exist. If they exist, it is within our competence to do something about them.

As this evidence has been laid before us as to the conditions of this slaughterhouse on the Continent, I submit that it is material evidence when we are considering the very moderate call made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West for a committee of inquiry. I would welcome it. I note the reservations that the Minister of State expressed. However, I hope in view of the evidence we have already heard, and in view of the specious nature of the arguments against a ban on the export of live animals, that one of the recommendations of the committee of inquiry will be a total, continuing and permanent ban on the export of live animals from this country.

5.2 p.m.

Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I shall make a very brief speech. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State—I declare the same interest as he, as a farmer and a livestock breeder—not to press the amendment. For one thing, it is meaningless. Secondly, it would be a great pity to divide the House, which is in general agreement, on an issue which I do not think is realistic.

The requirement of the amendment is that there should be evidence that the Balfour Assurances are not being observed. What is the evidence? There is abundant evidence. People can come forward who have been on the continent and seen in certain cases that the Balfour Assurances have not been observed. We can take the Putte case of 1970 or the more recent cases raised by the RSPCA.

Only a year ago when we were talking about sheep the Minister said, "We have no evidence. We are not going to change. We are not going to stop the exports." Then a small body of men went out to Belgium and had the most exciting experiences, rather like a James Bond story. They were arrested four times. They were chased from market to market. They returned with a film. Then, like Saul on the road to Damascus, the Minister was converted. Must we go through that every time before we get a change? This is the difficulty about the amendment.

The British Veterinary Association, which believes that this trade has got to be stopped, passed this resolution last June: That unless assurances are received that proper policing of the Balfour Agreement is possible, this Association will be opposed to the export of live food animals for slaughter. The Ministry, in reply to the association, could give no such assurances.

If that is so, what is the meaning of the amendment? We can bring any amount of evidence, but my right hon. Friend may not accept that evidence. Does the amendment mean "acceptable evidence" or just what it says—evidence? That is why I fear that the amendment is a subterfuge.

I make one appeal. I am convinced that, whatever view we may take on the larger question, the annual export of 20,000 calves for the veal trade is abominable and should be stopped at once. For one thing, the regulation says that the calves should be only 50 kilograms. They are often very much less, but that figure should be much higher.

I ask at this time, when there is a shortage of good beef store animals, for the Minister to suspend that calf trade, whatever view he takes on the larger matter. He has gone some way. I congratulate him on agreeing to an inquiry, for which we have pressed for a long time. For a long time the Government resisted the idea of an independent inquiry.

I congratulate the Government, too, on their conversion to the suspension of sheep exports, though I regretted my hon. Friend's saying, "Look at what happened. We stopped sheep exports. Exports from Ireland rose from 734 to 12,000." My hon. Friend did not mention that the number going from this country before the suspension in 1972 was 212,000 a year. If he had put that in the proper perspective, the point he made would not have been quite so telling as he intended it to be.

I regret that I could not possibly support this meaningless and illogical amendment and I hope that the motion will be passed.

5.7 p.m.

Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)

I, too, shall make a very short speech, though rather in the contrary sense to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton).

I have, as hon. Members know, three perhaps separate interests here. I am a member of the British Agricultural Export Council. The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) complained that he had been bombarded with documents from the BAEC. We sent one. I noticed that the hon. Gentleman said that the RSPCA had kindly circulated hon. Members with its views. There must be an obvious distinction.

The BAEC is interested solely in the export of sheep and cattle for breeding. We are obviously aware of what goes on in the fat cattle market, but this is not part of our concern. I am very worried that if we start a principle by which the export of all animals for slaughter is banned, it is impossibly difficult for anybody, even perhaps the Almighty, to be certain that the animals exported for breeding will be bred from.

In markets in Scotland large numbers of cross-Aberdeen Angus heifers are sold in the autumn. Probably 98 per cent. of them will finally go for slaughter. But there will always be some farmers who will say "I like the look of that beast. I will keep her and breed from her." It will clearly be exceedingly difficult for anybody to differentiate between which heifers are going for breeding purposes and which are going for slaughter and to operate such a control. It would quickly turn into nonsense.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Noble

No. It is better if we each make our points quickly and simply.

The welfare of animals exported for breeding purposes is clearly vital to the work of my council and its members. We are selling abroad animals which are often worth hundreds and even thousands of pounds, and we, therefore, know something about the transportation of valuable livestock over infinitely greater distances than those we are discussing here. We care very much that this transportation is properly carried out, and we have to care because if the animals were in poor condition the customers would not accept them.

A few weeks ago we thought it would be wise to try to call together all those people who are in the fatstock export business to see whether the council and the NFU could arrive at a proper code of practice and get it accepted by the exporters. We ran up against a snag, however, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry told us that the list of people dealing in the export of animals was confidential and that we could not have it. One of the ways in which we shall be able to reduce suffering in the export of animals is by a proper control of the people who deal in this trade, and I should like to see that approach carefully considered.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Noble

Perhaps I could make my speech in my own way.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain exactly what he means?

Mr. Noble

I mean that there are without any doubt certain people on the fringe of this business who are not as careful about the regulations as they should be. I wish to say no more than that. I should like the Government to be in a position to say to such people that if they misbehave their licences will be revoked and they will never handle this trade again. It is a simple point but it could he effective.

The Balfour Assurances have gone a considerable way—not the whole way by any means—towards improving conditions for the export of animals. One positive step that my right hon. Friend the Minister might consider is to say to our Friends in the Republic of Ireland that if they are determined to flout the rules and have nothing to do with the Balfour Assurances we might have to consider stopping the import of Irish sheep and cattle into Britain. There is no doubt that in stopping the trade of live sheep we have ensured that more sheep are exported from Ireland and most of the rest are exported from Bulgaria and other places in Eastern Europe, so that the total suffering has been considerably greater. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton said that my hon. Friend the Minister of State had not made his case fully. He did not because he probably did not have time.

My second interest is simply as the Member of Parliament for Argyll. I listened with a certain amount of concern about the Balfour Assurances and the 100-km or the 60-mile limit. With the exception of my farm, which is on the extreme edge of the county, I do not believe that there is a farmer in Argyll who could send any sheep to a slaughter- house within 60 miles of his farm. In the case of the islands the sheep have to make a sea crossing which is much greater than the Channel crossing. But that represents an enormous improvement on conditions of 50 or 60 years ago when these animals had to walk and swim the journey.

Mr. Heffer

I should hope so.

Mr. Noble

So would I. Since the war I personally have sent at least 100,000 sheep to market, and the number that have died or suffered broken legs can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Enormous care is taken by all sheep transporters, and I put that on the record for the sake of people who believe that because sheep are put into lorries they are automatically maltreated.

The farming community takes enormous care and effort to look after the welfare of its sheep and it wants to be able to continue the trade which is not causing suffering to animals. Therefore, the inquiry must establish the facts. If the practice is cruel, the Government can say so and it can be stopped. If it is not, this trade, which has continued for a considerable time with few abuses, should be allowed to continue.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

I shall not delay the House for more than two or three minutes. I rise simply to clarify the position of the Liberal Party. I welcome the Opposition motion and congratulate them on their willingness to give time for discussion of it. My hon. Friends and I will certainly be in the Lobby with them at the appropriate hour. We shall vote against the Government amendment for reasons which have been outlined by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton).

I was a little surprised at the Minister's statement that no evidence was forthcoming to indicate that certain requirements were not being met. I should have thought that there was abundant evidence to indicate ill-treatment of animals on their export to the Continent and that the evidence available to the Government—such evidence as is presented by the RSPCA, for example—was sufficient to warrant not merely a committee of inquiry but the suspension of the export of live animals until that inquiry has reached some conclusions.

5.17 p.m.

Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

I, too, shall endeavour to be almost as brief as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cyril Smith), although that might be difficult.

As the Minister of State commented in opening his speech, it is common ground between everybody who has taken part in the debate that they would wish by some means to ensure a reduction in whatever amount of cruelty might now exist. The only difference of opinion might be about the means to be adopted to achieve that end. The hon. Member for Rochdale said that there was evidence of ill-treatment, and the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) has drawn attention to the evidence we have all received from the RSPCA. Other evidence has been brought to our attention.

The questions to be answered are whether the number of such cases of cruelty would justify a total ban on this export trade, and what effect that ban would have. It is difficult to understand how we shall reduce the totality of cruelty by banning the export trade in this country, because we know full well that many other countries do not adopt the same standards of inspection which we have here.

The point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) about transport of farm animals, particularly sheep, is a valid one—and particularly in his part of the world. I declare my interest as a farmer in his constituency who every year has to transport cattle from one of the islands to the mainland. Those cattle are travelling in a ship, not a very long journey but one that is often made in roughish weather, a journey which cannot be avoided, because I, like other rearers of cattle in the area, am not in a position to fatten them there and they have to be carried elsewhere. It would be a very brave man who tried to claim that animals in transit anywhere within the United Kingdom were never subject to some unwitting cruelty.

Therefore, we cannot pretend to put on a white sheet, although I am convinced that the overall standard is as high as is practically possible and that all farmers will always do their best to ensure that that is so, as will the carriers. Unfortunately, unwitting occurrences of cruelty sometimes happen.

I am sure that the same is true in the slaughterhouses. The hon. Member for Derby, North referred to an article about slaughterhouses by a journalist and the vice-chairman of the NFU livestock committee, who went to Belgium to inquire into conditions there. The journalist, Mr. Peter Bell, commented: The general standard of the abattoir was about level with the UK average. It would be wrong to draw general conclusions from particular cases, but I do not accept that the example he saw was so very different from the average in Belgium.

The motion welcomes the suspension of the sheep exports. I have no doubt that the Government were right to ban that export trade, although we must learn from the ban the lesson in the figures of exports from Ireland and parts of Eastern Europe. The sheep experience emphasises the need to consider the effect of any ban on exports from this country.

Then the motion calls for an inquiry into the trade, but after it has been stopped. That is a rather pointless exercise. The Government amendment makes rather more sense of a broadly acceptable motion. It is too facile a solution to impose a total ban on exports forthwith. If we do so, in all likelihood we shall merely export the potential for cruelty from this country to others.

Mr. William Price (Rugby)


Mr. Morrison

I am drawing my speech to an end, and many other hon. Members wish to speak.

In all likelihood a total ban would increase the sum total of cruelty, because of the possibility of still allowing journeys for animals from other countries and because in many cases those animals will be subject to less oversight and inspection than our own.

If we ban exports we shall lose our power to influence other countries' standards. I disagree with the hon. Member for Derby, North about giving a lead. I do not believe that if we opt out we shall be able to give a lead to anyone.

I admire the RSPCA for highlighting the whole issue. It has helped to ensure that the Ministry has been properly kept up to the mark and has been even more energetic in its endeavours to reduce the total amount of cruelty. But I am not prepared to indulge in the self-satisfaction of a total ban on exports when I know that that could mean still greater cruelty to exports from other countries. Therefore, I hope that the House will support the motion with the Government amendment as a sensible compromise between everyone's desire to cope with the problem and practical reality.

5.24 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I had hoped that the debate would not be on party lines. On such matters as we are dealing with the House is always at its best when party influences are not introduced.

I was greatly surprised when my hon. Friend the Minister said in his opening speech that if cattle do not go from this country there will be more cruelty, because they will go from other countries. Has he thought that if the Balfour and other regulations are so onerous other countries will not take cattle from here but will take them from the other countries anyway? His argument was ridiculous.

I turn to the question of cattle for breeding. The Ponies Act, the passage of which through this House I was partially instrumental in securing, raised the price of ponies so that it was uneconomical to buy them for slaughter abroad but people overseas would be willing to pay more for breeding and riding animals. I believe that the same thing could be done with regard to cattle.

There was obviously grave concern about the conditions in which cattle from this country were exported and slaughtered abroad for many years, otherwise the Balfour Assurances would never have come into force. The Balfour Assurances, which were regarded as the minimal conditions in 1957, were not mandatory. They were adopted by the countries concerned in the form of a regulation in full for pigs and cattle and sheep by Belgium, Holland, Italy and West Germany. France agreed only in the case of cattle. Therefore, at no time should British sheep or pigs be going to France. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will give an undertaking that they have never gone to France since the Balfour Assurances were introduced.

It is all too clear that many undertakings given by the countries concerned to abide by the Balfour Assurances were worthless. In many instances there has been a total disregard of the maximum distances laid down, and many animals are slaughtered in conditions that are abhorrent even to people with only the slightest concern for animal welfare.

The Government fully accepted that there was unacceptable cruelty to sheep when they suspended all licences for the export of those animals for slaughter. If for sheep, why not for cattle and pigs? Are we expected to believe that sheep have been specially singled out for cruelty, that that cruelty was sufficient to prompt the Government to suspend their export, but that in some peculiar way cattle and pigs are given greater consideration, and that there is, therefore, no reason to ban their export? I just do not believe that. There is evidence that that is not the case, and that cattle, too, are subjected to long journeys and are slaughered in conditions completely unacceptable to the ordinary people of this country.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) has referred to the News of the World report. Even if some right hon. and hon. Members, the NFU and others say that there was considerable licence on the part of the News of the World investigators and that they exaggerated, they surely cannot say that the report was a complete figment of the imagination. Those investigators would have had to have had a most extraordinary imagination and would have been completely corrupt reporters. If there was the slightest validity in what they reported, I am sure that there is ample evidence for bringing this trade to an end.

There is no doubt that there are a great many people in Britain who believe that there should be a complete ban on the export of live animals for slaughter. I am unable to compromise, and I believe that that should be so. I remind the House that no fewer than 165 hon. Members signed a motion which I tabled calling for a complete ban on this trade. In addition, 67 hon. Members signed a motion tabled by the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) and no fewer than 154 hon. Members signed a motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman). The hon. Members who signed that motion agreed that there was grave concern about the way in which cattle were slaughtered on the Continent.

The Government can have no doubt that the trade is unacceptable to a considerable cross-section of hon. Members which goes right across party lines. They can have no doubt that it is unacceptable to the mass of the public. It is unacceptable not to fanatical animal lovers and vegetarians but to ordinary decent people who, while accepting that farm animals are inevitably exploited to satisfy human needs, will not tolerate their unnecessary suffering, especially if they think that that suffering is motivated by human greed.

The majority of people with any humane feelings are appalled at the evidence that animals bred and reared in Britain are sentenced to undergo the stress, strain and suffering imposed by long journeys prior to meeting what the facts show to be an end which is sometimes brought about in conditions of agonising brutality. Human suffering and death is the daily experience of the medical profession. The training and knowledge of medical men is such that they are neither sentimental nor squeamish in their approach to suffering and death. The same is just as true of the veterinary profession. Its views on animal suffering and slaughter must have equal authority.

The last sentence of a letter sent out on 10th July by the British Veterinary Association says: We do hope that the debate will force a ban on the export of all live food animals. That hope can be put forward only on the ground that the British Veterinary Association believes that there is unacceptable cruelty in the trade. There can be only one reason for pressing for the continuation of the trade—namely, that the export of live animals for slaughter brings economic benefit which outweighs all other considerations. I do not accept that argument in relation to human beings or to animals. If it were accepted, the slave trade would still be in evidence in America, children would still be in the mills and on the assembly lines of British factories and we should not now be at variance with the Governments of Rhodesia and South Africa.

Even if there are great economic advantages if this trade is continued, its continuation will not benefit the British housewife, who, with the public at large, will not be convinced that it is sensible to export farm animals for slaughter from Britain when the total output of meat falls heavily short of our basic needs. The public see no sense in selling British meat abroad and having that meat denied to them or having to have it replaced by meat brought from abroad at the expense of foreign exchange. The economic arguments do not hold. Even if they did, I am sure that the case against the trade is so overwhelming that the majority of British people would wish it stopped.

The evidence which has been produced has been so good and so factual because it has been obtained by people who have worked anonymously. I welcome the fact that the Government have said that they will set up an independent inquiry. Of course, those who are in the trade will be forewarned and there will be a clearing up. There will be window-dressing. I hope that the inspectors will be asked and advised to meet and have discussions with those who have already looked into the trade. I hope that the inspectors will take their evidence. Enough evidence having been found to suspend the shipment of sheep, I believe that the House and the country will demand an undertaking to suspend the export of cattle.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Before I call the hon. Member for Gloucesteshire, West (Mr. Loughlin), I should explain to the House that Mr. Speaker felt, owing to the special nature of the subject which we are discussing, that hon. Members should be heard for or against the motion irrespective of any party affiliation. The result is, as hon. Members can see for themselves, that it is necessary to call two from the Government side to one from the Opposition benches.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I shall not detain the House long because this is an issue on which there is so much agreement across party lines that I am hoping that the House will be able to forget party affiliations. I know that we cannot expect Ministers to do so but we can expect back benchers, on issues of this kind, to do so.

I must express an interest because it might be argued that if there is a cessation of, the exporting of live animals members of my organisation might benefit in that the animals would be slaughtered in Britain and, therefore, they might enjoy a pecuniary advantage. I am an official of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which represents the abattoir workers in this country.

This is a simple issue. Sufficient evidence has been adduced to show that the export of live animals has resulted in cruelty substantially higher than a large section of the community will tolerate. The hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes) tabled a Question about this matter, and a supplementary question which I asked resulted in me receiving letters from all over the country. Those letters expressed agreement with my call for an immediate ban on this trade.

The situation has been reached—it is no good the Government trying to hide the fact—when the number of people opposed to this trade is so high that it cannot possibly be ignored. I know that figures can he bandied about. It might well be argued, as had been attempted this afternoon, that if we stop exports of cattle in the same way as we stopped exports of sheep the exports would continue and we would transfer the cruelty from British animals to animals from other countries. But which countries are likely to export live animals to the exten that we are now exporting them?

I know that the difference cannot be quantified but I question very much—as did the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) when he controverted the Minister's use of statistics about sheep exports—whether there is a transference of cruelty. The cruelty to animals which we have seen as a result of evidence that has been submitted to us all is absolutely intolerable. I hope that every hon. Member who takes my point of view will accept that this is not a major issue which will bring down the Government.

If the Government were defeated over such an issue there would be no political significance in it. This is an issue on which back benchers can come together and say "Enough is enough; we are not tolerating it any longer. The Minister must act and stop this trade in animals, because it is the type of cruelty that we ought not to tolerate."

5.41 p.m.

Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)

May I at the outset declare that I am involved with an animal welfare organisation: namely, the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—no relation whatever, other than in name, to the organisation with which my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) is involved. In common with other animal welfare organisations, the USPCA deplores the export of live animals for slaughter.

Some years ago I was fortunate enough to obtain the leave of this House on two occasions under the Ten-Minute Bill procedure to introduce a Bill aimed at preventing the export of animals for vivisectional research abroad. The argument I sought to deploy on that occasion is exactly the same as the argument which is relevant today: namely, that it is wrong for animals bred in this country to be sold to places where the travelling, lairage, feeding and the conditions of slaughter are different from standards appertaining in this country.

Regrettably, so often discussions on animal welfare matters are overlaid, indeed debased, by sloppy sentimentality, in consequence of which good arguments are not infrequently lost in a welter of emotion. With great respect to the documentation that some hon. Members have sought to advance in this debate, I must point out that I have been badly scarred in the past through placing reliance on photographic evidence allegedly purporting to be valid only to be told subsequently that it was 20 years out of date. I am not making that charge with regard to the document mentioned by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead). I do ask people to be careful about attaching credence to photographic material espousing animal welfare causes.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether he doubts the written statement that these photographs were taken on the dates mentioned by the RSPCA?

Mr. Pounder

I was careful not to make any point against the RSPCA documents which I have seen. I accept its validity, coming from such an authoritative and responsible organisation. The point I am trying to make is that sometimes photographic material is used to support a case which is not altogether reliable.

There is obviously the humanitarian argument, and we are all aware of the grisly incidents which have occurred from time to time in the export of live animals for slaughter abroad. In that context I commend wholeheartedly the action of the Government in banning the export of sheep in consequence of some distasteful experiences suffered by consignments of sheep destined for slaughter abroad. Although the Government are, rightly, firm in insisting that the only countries to which cattle can be exported are those which observe the Balfour Assurances, there is inevitably the question of ascertaining that the importer does not re-export those animals to countries which are not signatories to the assurances. With the best will in the world, it is virtually impossible to develop an adequate policing system which will ensure that no animals get through the net. This is a matter of considerable concern for me.

I am also an Ulsterman. The repeated references in the debate to the cross-border traffic with the Irish Republic have not made my enjoyment—if that is the right word—of this debate any greater. I utterly deplore some of the appalling instances which have occurred, particularly with the exportation of sheep from the Irish Republic to the Middle East. There is a considerable volume of cross-border traffic. The fact that it has gone on for a long time does not make it any more palatable to me. I realise that there is no point in asking the Government to take steps to curtail this cross-border traffic because everyone conversant with the border knows that it would be virtually impossible to stop it. If the Irish Government have not been able to stop terrorists moving across the border there is small hope of their being able to stop the traffic in cattle.

I would not for a moment object to some form of pressure being applied to the Southern Irish authorities to dissuade them from their habit of exporting live cattle to countries to which this country would not for a moment be prepared to send its animals. I seem to recall that some years ago, when there was a great scandal, rightly so, about the exportation of old horses from Eire, it was the weight of public opinion, on this side of the water as well as on the Irish side, that managed to terminate that unattractive trade.

There is another problem. Apart from the humanitarian aspect there is the economic argument, and it is fair that in such a debate as this we should pay proper attention to it. In the main, agricultural areas are areas of low employment opportunities. It is interesting to discover the economic potential of the establishment of slaughterhouses in agricultural regions.

We in Northern Ireland have been doing this and have opened six or seven in the last year or so. Not only does this avoid the weight loss and all the other things that happen as a result of the transportation of cattle, but we also create ancillary industries based on hides and on bones used for making fertiliser and so on. There is a valid economic argument here.

I realise that often—it is no use hiding this point—a number of slaughterhouses, indeed most in the United Kingdom, do not fulfil international requirements. This apparently is due to the fact that at stages of the slaughtering process the carcases and the offal cannot automatically and easily be identified. That, coupled with the double veterinary inspection system required for the international markets, means that many of our slaughterhouses do not fulfil the requirements of the export trade.

Mr. Burden

But 41 do.

Mr. Pounder

I would have thought that the amount of money needed to bring our large abattoirs up to that standard would be an investment well worth making. That would considerably assist in the economic argument of the dead meat trade. I very much look forward to the day when there will be no such thing as the export of live animals for slaughter abroad.

The meat processing industry in this country should be able to carry out all the tasks required of it. I hope that I have made my case perfectly clear. I have strong feelings on humanitarian and economic grounds on this subject, but I believe that the Government's amendment is an honest endeavour to reach the decision we all want. For that reason I am prepared to support the Government tonight.

5.50 p.m.

Sir Clive Bossom (Leominster)

I must declare that I do not own a farm, I have no stock, and I have no connections with auctioneers, but I am President of the Anglo-Belgian Union, which seeks to promote better understanding between the two countries. However, the Belgian Government have no influence on me, nor am I financed by Belgian butchers. I make these points because I have been accused on all these counts in the last six months.

I have an interest in the welfare of not only British animals but any animals. I have always argued in Herefordshire that in time the carcase trade was the right and proper method of exporting animals to the Continent. In the past five months I have argued that a Private Member's Bill is not the appropriate vehicle with which to impose a blanket ban on the export of live animals to Europe, for I am absolutely convinced that, instead of reducing cruelty, such a move would increase it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) made the point that if there was a ban the trade would automatically find other outlets. As has been pointed out, the trade would switch to Ireland and buyers in Europe would go to Bulgaria, Romania, Czechslovakia and other Eastern countries. This happened when licences for the export of heavy weight sheep were rightly suspended on 1st February, and it would happen again with cattle.

It is a poor argument to say that if we banned the export of live animals it would be a shining example which other countries would automatically follow. Human nature being what it is, I do not, sadly, believe that that would be the case. We would be the losers all round and other countries would not be shamed into following our example.

Some welfare organisations and Sunday newspapers have run a colourful campaign in the last few months. In some cases there have been exaggerated reports. It is easy to paint a picture of beastly foreigners manhandling poor British animals, and this impression has been given. I do not deny that there may have been cases of cruelty, but the cruelty angle can be, and has been, overstressed.

What I find fascinating is that I receive dozens of letters about cruelty to animals and not a single letter about cruelty to children, which also exists. One or two of the highly emotional reports, by reporters of both sexes, have been written by people with no experience of cattle transportation or slaughter methods, in this country. As the Minister has said, it is never a pleasure to watch animals die. Any slaughtering is a grisly affair, especially in the eyes of those, like the reporters, who have not previously seen it. I think, therefore, that some of their reports are biased.

The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) mentioned the reports in April by Mr. David Parker, chairman of the NFU livestock committee, and Mr. Peter Bell, of the British Farmer and Stockbreeder. He gave the impression that the reports were suspect and biased, but to be fair, at least with their background knowledge and experience, the authors were able to judge between the procedure adopted by Belgian slaughterhouses and that adopted by slaughterhouses in this country. I have found that in Belgium the standards of meat inspection are as high as, or even higher than, in this country.

It seems that animal welfare organisations have double standards. They complain about animals being bled on the Continent without first being stunned, yet they are prepared to accept lamb from New Zealand, where sheep are not pre-stunned before slaughter.

The economic factor has also been mentioned. It is clearly the feeling of the House that this is not the most important factor involved. But this trade is worth about £20 million a year. The relatively small volume of exported cattle provides farmers in areas such as Herefordshire with additional incentives to continue to expand home production. A good proportion of the cattle we are exporting are old cows which it would be difficult to sell in the United Kingdom.

I welcome the proposed independent and unbiased inquiry which will enable us to ascertain what changes are needed in the European code. Perhaps further secondary legislation such as new regulations is required. I am disappointed that the Government did not propose an inquiry five months ago. I pressed them to set up such an inquiry. I am sorry that they have decided to institute an inquiry only now. While we are awaiting the findings of the inquiry, the Government should immediately introduce licences for exporters. They could rigidly control any unscrupulous exporter and revoke his licence for a breach of regulations. The Government should also get together with the Belgian Government and arrange for all our welfare requirements to be written into importers' licences. If there was any breach the Belgian Government would revoke the importer's licence.

I put forward those two positive proposals which could be further safeguards which we are awaiting the findings of the inquiry.

5.56 p.m.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Some of the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir Clive Bossom) were unworthy of him. For him to say that he had received letters on this matter but not on cruelty to children was a red herring.

There is a great deal of concern among my constituents, and particularly among the young people, about this trade. It is a heathy sign that young people should be concerned about the question of cruelty. They are concerned because they believe that there is an economic motivation behind the cruelty. They think that it stems from the profit motive and not from psychological causes and that therefore something positive can be done about it. They are urging politicians to take action about this trade, which they deplore. Young people will not accept the economic argument. They will not accept cruelty done in their name even for the sake of £20 million. Nor will they accept the argument that because other people engage in cruel practices, so should we. They reject that standard.

I do not wish to use the argument that there is a trade for beef in this country. There is no necessity to take beef to the Continent. However, if it is taken to the Continent, it will not lead to economic disaster in Manchester, for example, if the cattle are killed in this country. I am aware from questions asked and contributions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) and for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) that there is in Manchester a municipally-owned, modern and effective abattoir, opened in 1966, which because of under-use is losing money and must be paid for by the ratepayers. It is not reasonable that we should encourage the export of live cattle to the Continent from, say, Cheshire or North Staffordshre when they could be slaughtered under more humane conditions in Manchester.

The argument seems partly to concern the question of proof. I have looked at the RSPCA document which reproduced the photographs taken for the News of the World. I accept the evidence of those photographs. I admit that it is possible to produce photographs which are 20 years out of date, but I do not believe that that is the case with these photographs. I accept the report of the News of the World reporter and the authenticity of the photographs. The onus of proof rests on those who wish to continue this trade. If they could demonstrate that the photographs were 20 years old and that the News of the World report was false and exaggerated, I should have second thoughts about voting against the Government's amendment.

However, I believe the News of the World report to be true because there seems to be so much secondary evidence, particularly the evidence relating to sheep, to support it. If that evidence is true, there can be no doubt in the mind of any person who detests cruelty but that he should support the motion and oppose the amendment. That emerges clearly from representations made by the RSPCA to the effect that if it was given time any inquiry undertaken by the Government would be less effective. There can be no moral argument for the continuation of cruelty while the inquiry takes place.

On the basis of television reports, the News of the World report and the inquiries undertaken by the RSPCA, we have adequate evidence on which to act. People will expect us to act. They expect us to say that in the name of the British people we will end the cruelty to animals and that we expect the Government to take action to ensure that it does not occur again.

6.4 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) made great play of the letter which some of us have received from the British Veterinary Association. It should be placed on record that the association represents under 70 per cent. of the practising veterinarians. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has made no pronouncement on the matter. The association is the vets' trade union and does not represent the authoritative view of the whole profession.

I hope that the House will proceed with great caution in this matter. The debate is taking place at a time when a large number of grass-fed cattle are coming on to the market and the market is in a delicate situation.

The House does not appreciate that if a bullock weighing over 12 cwt. is taken to market there will be no buyer from the home market. The only people who will buy that bullock are representatives from the Kosher killing organisations or foreign buyers. Continental buyers are taking off the home market cattle which the home market is not prepared to pay for and slaughter. It does not make sense to say that if the cattle stayed here they would be available on the home market and the price of meat in this country would be reduced.

The House has a great responsibility in this matter. The real trouble lies with the Slaughterhouses Act 1958. Hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches did not vote against that Bill. We missed the opportunity then to ensure that England had a complete system of municipal slaughterhouses, as has Scotland. We also missed the opportunity to ensure overall meat inspection in every slaughterhouse because at that time the House felt that many butchers wished to continue slaughtering in their own back yards.

In England our standards of meat inspection are lower than those of five out of six of the continental countries to which we are trying to export. Continental countries insist that the offal continues with the carcase right through to the retail stage where it can be inspected a second time.

The hard commercial fact is that a substantially higher price is obtained for selling a large, overweight bullock or an old cow on the hoof because of the problem of meat inspection in this country and the better utilisation of offal and byproducts that is practised on the Continent. I hope—as I think does the whole House—that eventually the sheer economics of shipping, transport and handling will result in this trade being entirely on the hook. To achieve that, we must have in this country an improved system of EEC-approved slaughterhouses, our meat inspection must be brought up to continental standards and our slaughterhouses must have much better lairage facilities.

The House today has been concentrating mostly on cattle and sheep. We should not overlook the problem of the export of horses and ponies. The minimum valuation provisions do not give horses and ponies proper safeguards. Insufficient incentive is provided to ensure that full slaughtering facilities are set up in this country so that the horses and ponies do not have to go abroad.

The position today is that the trade must be allowed to go on under the proper safeguards. One of the greatest safeguards is the value of the commodity that is being handled. Most farmers want to get their cattle to the slaughterhouse in the best possible condition with the minimum of bruising and the minimum of stress. A fat beast is almost like a ripe peach and needs careful handling. I am certain that that is the view of the farming community.

Until slaughtering can be carried out entirely in this country, the House should accept the assurances of my hon. Friend the Minister of State that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has adequate supervision at the port of export to ensure that all animals going abroad are suitable for export and capable of travelling. The NFU report suggests that the documentation of animals going abroad is not adequate and that it should be in at least three languages to make certain that the people who handle the cattle know that they are cattle from England and are covered by the Balfour Assurances.

I am satisfied that the conditions in the ships in which cattle are exported—particularly from Boston docks in Lincolnshire—are better than those in many of our most modern dairy units. The conditions on the Belgian shipping line are excellent and are far better than those in ships operating from the Scottish islands to the mainland.

There is evidence that the methods employed by the RSPCA and other bodies in their investigations have not been conducive to improving the standard of animal welfare on the Continent. I hope the House will accept that our present safeguards are working and that the debate will reinforce everyone's intention to see that they do work—

Mr. Burden

Before my hon. Friend resumes his seat, will he declare whether he has an interest?

Mr. Kimball

I am sorry. I declare an interest as a producer of fat cattle and store sheep.

6.10 p.m.

Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

As chief sponsor of the Export of Animals (Control) Bill which is before the House I support the motion, although it goes further than the Bill in including "other animals" besides cattle, sheep and pigs. Like many of my colleagues, I have over a long period been urging a complete ban on the export of cattle, sheep and pigs. This view is supported by a great number of people from all over the country, as we all know from our mail. I have had thousands of letters, petitions and telephone calls in support of my Bill, and they are still coming. We should take note of this great expression of opinion throughout the country.

This cruelty has gone on for far too long, and it must be stopped pending the inquiry. I am glad that the Government have consented to set up the inquiry. The only way to prevent this cruelty is by stopping the traffic in live cattle, and I am glad that this has been done in the case of live sheep. It is no good relying on the Balfour Assurances which cannot be enforced.

We must remember that some continentals—I will not say all—are not animal lovers. They do not care how animals which are exported from this country are treated. Their attitude is that, as they will die anyway, it does not matter if they suffer en route, even if they have to travel 1,000 miles across France. It is no good expecting people like that to honour the Balfour Assurances.

I once tabled a question on animal welfare in the Council of Europe. The answer I received from the chairman of the day in rather sarcastic tone was "This is an emotional issue". Of course it is an emotional issue, and rightly so. Animals feel emotion just as we do and we should, therefore, take all the trouble we can to see that they do not suffer.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State said that there had been four complaints of violation of the Balfour Assurances and suggested that that was not many. Those cases were taken at random by the organisations concerned and each resulted in cruelty being proved. That suggests that if 10 more cases had been taken cruelty would also have been found in those 10 cases.

I also pay tribute to the tremendous work done by the RSPCA, the ISPCA, the News of the World and other organisations in showing up the breaches of the Balfour Assurances which have occurred with sheep as well as with cattle. But for them this cruelty would not have come to light. I want to see trading in carcases instead of live animals, and I hope that the Government will always work towards that goal.

If the members of the committee of inquiry visit the Continent, I hope that they will go incognito. It is no good announcing that they will land at Ostend on a certain day. On that day there certainly would not be any cruelty to be found or any breaches of the regulations. Farmers and officials would not violate regulations under the noses of members of such a body.

I echo the plea made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) not to press the amendment. The motion as it stands is acceptable to many Conservative Members, and I urge the Government to accept it.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

It is an appalling state of affairs that in 1973 the Opposition have had to table this motion. The hon. Member for Leominster (Sir Clive Bossom) referred to the tremendous correspondence which he had received from his constituents on this issue compared with his correspondence about cruelty to children. Everyone is moved by the appalling scale of cruelty to live animals, and I see nothing wrong in the great animal lobby—in fact, I am glad that it exists.

The one complaint I have about the Opposition motion is that it does not go far enough. The motion should have emphasised the need to bring all our slaughterhouses up to the necessary standards within the shortest possible time and should have insisted that this vile trade in the export of live animals should be brought to an end.

Before I became a Member of this House my work involved frequent visits to the slaughterhouses in Railway Street, Newcastle. I was a member of the city health committee and because of what I say in those slaughterhouses I pressed hard for the building of a new abattoir in Newcastle. There is now a first-class abattoir in the city. I am glad to know that no animals are now suffering as they suffered in the old slaughterhouses.

On more than one occasion when I visited slaughterhouses in Newcastle I have seen the tailboard of a wagon dropped to allow pigs and sheep to run down the ramp, and I have then seen slaughterhouse attendants carefully draw out the dead carcase of a pig and put it smartly into a scalding tank before anybody noticed it or had the opportunity to call in an RSPCA inspector. I often called the attention of an RSPCA inspector to the fact that there was a dead animal in the back of a wagon and also animals in an advanced state of suffocation. That happens in this country because of the transportation of live animals in extremely cramped conditions and because care has not been taken. But if that is what happens on short hauls in this country, one is appalled to think what happens on the extremely long hauls of live animals on the Continent. This was clearly brought out in the recent television documentary on this subject.

The Government's amendment completely exposes the hypocrisy of Government thinking on this topic. If there had not been such a big profit in the rearing of animals for sale, the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball)—who has now left the Chamber—would probably have advocated the hunting of sheep, pigs and cattle. No matter what the hon. Member said about the British Veterinary Association representing under 70 per cent. of vets in this country, the fact is that the Ministry of Agriculture could give no satisfactory assurance to the BVA that the Balfour Assurances can be properly policed. This exposes the hypocrisy of the Government's Amendment.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I wish to say straight away that I fully support the Government's amendment to the important motion which we now have before us. I am convinced that all those who are genuinely and constructively interested in the welfare of animals are prepared to wait for the outcome of the full and independent inquiry which is to be set up into the export of live animals for slaughter rather than risk throwing away all the agreements and arrangements which have been secured by the United Kingdom over the years in the treatment of livestock. I believe that the present safeguards would be put in jeopardy by any premature ban on the export of live animals for slaughter or by a temporary blanket ban on the issue of licences.

If the continental buyers cannot purchase animals on the hoof for slaughter from the United Kingdom, they will undoubtedly turn elsewhere for their requirements. They will turn to Eire or to Eastern Europe, and this will not be to the advantage internationally of the welfare of animals. Obviously, if they go to Eire and to Eastern Europe, this will result in much longer journeys for the animals about which we are all concerned, and which we wish to see much more humanely treated. They would then be taking animals from countries which have no agreements concerning the health, welfare and treatment of animals. Far from there being any advantage to the livestock, hasty and ill-considered bans would only remove the protection which animals now exported from the United Kingdom possess, and as a nation we would be powerless to influence the treatment of animals in the world at large.

My initial reaction when representations were first made to me by my constituents—and I have had many hundreds of representations from people genuinely concerned about animals—was to urge the Government to ban the export of live animals for immediate slaughter abroad. I pressed this upon the Government not only because I was deeply concerned, and I still am deeply concerned, about the treatment of animals and livestock—if we slaughter them in our own abattoirs we can ensure maximum standards and minimum suffering—but also because I believe that the United Kingdom would benefit from the allied trades in hide, hoof and offal.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will confirm the fervour and passion of the representations I made to the Ministry on this subject. I did not hesitate to append my name to the early-day motion on this subject promoted by the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). However, every issue has two sides to it and, because I felt so strongly about this subject, I decided to contact those involved in the sale of livestock for slaughter abroad. I contacted some of my local farmers, and I have a constituency which has a very important beef industry. I contacted the local branch of the National Farmers' Union and a firm of auctioneers which runs a livestock market in Congleton in my constituency.

The farmers made it clear that they are as concerned about the treatment of animals as any animal welfare organisation or as any Member of this House. Animals are part of farmers' lives and farmers will not readily sell their animals to a buyer with a reputation for ill-treatment and cruelty. The NFU position is abundantly clear. It is deeply concerned about the treatment of livestock in transit and humane slaughter methods. The NFU has requested—and I am delighted that the Government have agreed to this—the setting up of an independent inquiry into all the facts. The NFU does not believe that fair and objective decisions can be reached on the basis of emotive statements or sensational Press reports.

I can speak first hand about the treatment of cattle in Congleton market from which weekly livestock exports to the Continent run into many thousands of pounds. The conditions in that market and the treatment of animals there are excellent. I wish to make the point that a majority of the trade that goes to Europe on the hoof is in heavy cows and bulls which are not bought by the English butchers. Therefore, this trade is not taking supplies off the United Kingdom market. The auctioneers advise me that livestock is a very valuable commodity at today's prices, and the British housewife will no doubt vouch for this.

Any stress, strain, cruelty or ill-treatment caused to an animal will result in loss of weight and, because of the consequent loss in weight, loss in value. It is to the advantage of the buyer in Europe to ensure that his stock is not subjected to any harsh treatment.

There are niggers in any woodpile, and niggers in the woodpile even in the United Kingdom. If the proposed inquiry shows that animal welfare standards need to be raised to the benefit of all livestock I believe that the best, most effective and constructive proposition lies in internationally-agreed arrangements and not in hasty emotive and unilateral action by this country.

I am making arrangements with an auctioneering firm in my constituency to accompany a consignment of livestock from the cattle market in Congleton by cattle truck and boat to the abattoir in Amsterdam to see for myself the conditions which the animals will experience. I hope that as many right hon. and hon. Members as possible who have agricultural interests and farming communities in their constituencies will make similar arrangements. If this is done, a much more considered judgment can be made on this important issue.

6.27 p.m.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim (Gloucester)

There is grave concern among many hon. Members on the subject that we are debating. Equally and among the people of this country there is acute and widespread anxiety and even anguish. Much as I support the principle of the Opposition motion, much as I acknowledge that many hon. Members opposite feel as deeply and as sincerely as I and many of my hon. Friends, I cannot help feeling that it would be a great mistake if this debate degenerated into a political affair.

In fact, there is not much to choose between successive Governments, Labour and Conservative, on this issue. I can claim that the present Government are ahead by a nose because, while the Labour Government did nothing in their six years, in three years we have managed to impose a temporary ban on the export of sheep. Credit is due to the Government for that action.

I do not intend to qualify my support for the Opposition motion because I find myself unable to do other than support it. Try as I will, I am unable to accept the Government amendment because I cannot believe that the Government have the way or the means of collecting evidence of infringements of the Balfour Assurances before thousands of animals have suffered. This is a most important aspect to consider.

It is often sneeringly said by foreigners that we in this country care more for our animals than for our children. This misconception is based on a misunderstanding by foreigners who are unable to comprehend that we have sufficient capacity to care deeply for the welfare of children as well as that of our animals. That being the case, it is almost impossible to over-emphasise the disgust, horror and repugnance felt by the people of this country at the scandalous way in which animals exported live for slaughter have been treated in transit and following their arrival at foreign ports. I do not intend to rehearse all the horrifying examples that are available to the House—these are only too well known to the country—save to say that, if only one of those reports were true in the smallest respect, we should immediately ban the export of animals for slaughter.

Assurances have been given time and time again, and time and time again those promises have been broken. Equally familiar and almost as unacceptable are the arguments and excuses put forward by successive Governments in the past 10 years for doing nothing about the situation. Although the Government have placed a temporary ban on the export of live sheep which is admirable and for which my right hon. and hon. Friends deserve great credit, I have no confidence that assurances in the future will be honoured by people who have already made it abundantly clear by their past records that they look upon cattle as a mere commodity rather than as a form of life.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) raised this matter in an Adjournment debate on 8th March. He spoke of the conflicting views he had received from Ministers in the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. He said: one Department has the power but not the will to deal with the matter, and the other Department has the will but not the power. If that is the case, the sooner the two Departments get together and show a little will power, which is long overdue, the better.

I intend now to refer to a matter which I am amazed no one so far has mentioned in this debate. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford in that Adjournment debate, most of the argument of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was based on the interpretation of her Department of Article 34 of the Treaty of Rome, which prohibits any quantitative restrictions on exports between member countries of the Community, and Article 36, which is a qualifying article allowing these restrictions on the grounds of public policy, morality and the need to protect the health and welfare of animals. If ever there was any justification for invoking Article 36, I beg the House to agree that we have it here.

In that same Adjournment debate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said: a complete ban on the export of live animals would be a quantitative restriction that we could not expect to justify under Article 36. Clearly there are two important points of interpretation: does this quantitative restriction specify a certain number or a certain quantity? If not, does it refer to the scale of exports? Those are the two points which my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford made. Furthermore, do Articles 34 and 36 anywhere refer to the fact that exports must be live? Are we not playing with words?

If Article 34 refers to the scale of exports, why does it not say so? If it refers to the quantity of exports, there is no specific quantity mentioned, and in theory we could ban the export of all but two live animals. The word "live" is not contained in either of the articles. The view put forward by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, though not in these words, is that this is a matter of definition and there are clearly established precedents in this country that two different categories of exports exist—the export of live animals and the export of carcase animals—and neither in theory can be reduced.

I hope the House will agree that there is something of an interpretative jungle to be cleared in this matter. I hope, too, that my right hon. Friend the Minister will accept that there are two issues. One refers to our position with regard to the Treaty of Rome, which must be clarified, and the other to morality, humanity and conscience. The former could be done by means of a test case before the European Court, and that could be precipitated by immediately suspending the export of live animals for slaughter.

I turn to the latter issue of humanity, conscience and morality. The strongest case for banning the export of live animals for slaughter was put by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the Adjournment debate when she said in respect of animals exported for fattening: It would be unrealistic to expect any Government to keep track of exported animals throughout their lives, and to apply special conditions t0 them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March 1973; Vol. 852, c. 728–36.] This is the whole point. Of course it is unrealistic. Of course it is impossible to keep track of live animals once they reach a foreign port, whether they are exported for fattening or for slaughter. We have no control over the situation whether or not promises have been made under the Balfour Assurances.

A further aspect which has been criticised is the journey itself. Examples have been given of terrified, hungry and thirsty animals herded together in intolerable conditions despite inspection at British ports and despite the fact that the boats probably are of modern standards. In many cases their journeys have been intolerably long. With all due respect to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who showed great sensitivity in his opening speech, it is no parallel to speak of animals travelling from the Orkneys to Aberdeen, because they are landing at a United Kingdom port where we still have some control over the situation.

With regard to the loophole of getting aver the border to Ireland, as my hon. Friend will be aware there are two exceptions to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1970. The exceptions are made in respect of two categories, those being pedigree animals and animals exported from Northern Ireland to Eire. Therefore, it would be easy to replace this statutory instrument with another one imposing a restriction.

I have farmers in my constituency, although there are only 22 of them. For that reason, however, I am aware of the views of the National Farmers' Union. Much as I sympathise with the farming community in the difficulties and uncertainties that it faces, I believe that the ban on live animals would soon be replaced by a carcase trade plus a trade in offal of almost equal value both to farmers and to our exports.

I have neglected to declare my interest in that my husband and I are both tenant farmers. However, whether it would be for or against our financial interests, I could be never other than a supporter of a motion of this kind. I am supported in my attitude by my husband and children whose financial interests are involved.

We tell our children of the dreadful cruelties perpetrated against human beings in our earlier history and more recently in Nazi Germany. Then we boast somewhat optimistically about how all this has been changed by progress and civilisation. But how are our children's children to judge us when they read of the degree of cruelty to animals that we were prepared to tolerate and by our own inaction to condone?

I feel deeply that this debate is not only one involving the consciences of individual hon. Members. It is one which involves the conscience of the nation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) said in the European Parliament, In future years we shall be judged not only by our expanded wealth and technological achivements but also by the moral standards that we set in relation to all forms of life. I submit that by continuing this trade we debase those standards and ignore the dictates of conscience.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Ted Leadhitter (The Hartlepools)

I shall be exceptionally brief in following the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim) who has made an extremely useful contribution to the debate.

The Government must address themselves to the national concern and certainly to the common sense of the Opposition motion. They have already accepted the suspension of licences regarding sheep. Therefore, the corollary is that they should accept an independent inquiry into the trade as a whole and, because of that, agree that the suspension of licences for the trade generally is a natural step.

We in this House do not need proof of cruelty to determine the situation. We must decide what is right. Is it right, in conditions which we believe cannot be satisfactory, to continue the practice of the export of animals for slaughter? The answer must be that it is not.

There is overwhelming evidence from people who have close contact with this trade that suggests that action is required now. The House of Commons has already learned that all Governments have fallen short in finding an answer to this problem. But the function of Parliament, which is paramount, always reaches a point where it seeks to provide the answer that the country wants. It seems that Parliament for once can urge upon the Government that that time has now been reached. I suggest that the Minister, from the example relating to sheep and the nature of the wording of the motion, should follow the natural course and indicate that the Government will take the initiative and bring this foul trade to an end.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. John E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

I must declare an interest as a farmer who sells cattle, some of which may go to Europe. I must also declare that I have served on the Agricultural Com- mittee at the Council of Europe and am presently serving on the Agricultural Committee at the European Parliament.

Animal welfare is being progressively discussed in Europe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim) has just said.

People's ideas on cruelty vary strangely. For example, most people do not think that fishing is cruel. Indeed, there are no regulations in this country dealing with the welfare in transit of cold-blooded animals. Curiously, it is the lack of regulations to protect these animals which, as I understand it, prevents Britain ratifying the European Convention on the Protection of Animals in International Transport. This interests me, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) is a keen fisherman. Therefore, as I said, views on these matters vary.

We are making steady progress in the European Parliament in getting more attention paid to the standards of animal welfare. I think that a ban would be utterly counter-productive. It will be said that the British have not got a monopoly in humane feeling, and it will make it much harder for us to take part in the discussions and to build upon what has already been achieved. Furthermore, it will rob us of influence to suggest cooperation with the independent inquiry so that it could reveal any malpractices which may exist. We have a responsive commission, and many member Governments and parliamentarians are keen to make progress in this sphere. Therefore, I beg the House to accept the amendment and not make it more difficult to improve standards in Europe.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. David Clark (Colne Valley)

We are coming to the end of what has been an important, serious and, at times, very moving debate. I think most hon. Members who have sat through the debate will agree that it has shown this House at its best. It has been a mixture of both passion and reason. It started with a very fine and compelling speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Waltham-stow, West (Mr. Deakins), and most hon. Members who have taken part have followed his high standard.

The subject of the motion has aroused intense emotion and interest throughout the country. The Minister of State earlier acknowledged this. Many animal welfare organisations have shown great interest in this subject, and that interest has been shared by the general public. It is my firm belief that the overwhelming majority of British people are concerned about reported incidents of cruelty which have resulted from the export of live animals for slaughter.

The Opposition recognise that if the motion is passed we cannot expect immediate action. We could not expect the export of live animals for slaughter to cease tomorrow. However, we submit that within the expiry period of the present licensing system this could be achieved.

I have taken great pains to look at the evidence of those bodies which oppose the motion. I have looked at the evidence of the National Farmers' Union and of the Scottish National Farmers' Union because they have been extremely concerned about this trade. I realise that they have taken a great deal of trouble to finance inquiries to try to ascertain for themselves the exact position. We know only too well that farmers in this country are deeply concerned about the welfare of their animals. I think that hon. Members on both sides will agree and acknowledge that no single group in this country is more concerned about the welfare of animals than the farmers.

The NFU reported that it was satisfied from its investigations that the Balfour Assurances were being adhered to. However, the general public and many hon. Members still remain unconvinced by the NFU's argument and are disturbed that this trade is going on.

I do not want to reiterate what has been said today. However, I believe that there are many instances where the Balfour Assurances have been and are being broken. The RSPCA has reported that in eight weeks in 1972 it counted 132 breaches of the assurances.

Reference has been made to the evidence obtained by the News of the World, which in this matter has represented some of the best campaigning traditions of journalism. The information and photographs submitted by that newspaper are convincing. I think that Miss Lawless and the News of the World deserve a pat on the back for the way they have tried to expose this trade.

I am not suggesting that every shipload of beasts receives the type of treatment about which we have heard. It is quite plain that there are many instances where the Balfour Assurances are observed. There are some fine slaughterhouses and honourable people connected with the trade. Nevertheless, there is a growing section of the trade which permits cruelty and hardship to animals.

I should think that all hon. Members have not only received letters from constituents about this trade but have sent sympathetic replies. Activity in this House has been intense. We have had a Private Member's Bill presented and three early-day motions signed by many hon. Members on both sides of the House. One of those motions, headed by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) which is in stiff and strong terms calling for the present export of live animals for slaughter to be replaced by a trade in carcase meat, has been signed by no fewer than 65 hon. Members on the Government side and 100 hon. Members on the Opposition side.

I hope that when we go into the Lobby tonight at least 63 of those who signed that motion will join us. Two hon. Members who signed the motion have said that they do not feel able to support us. I am sorry about that because this matter is not confined to one side of the House or the other. That has been made clear during the debate, and I am sorry that not all the 65 Conservative Members who signed that motion intend to support us tonight.

The motion has assured us of some success, I welcomed the Government's decision two or three months ago to take action with regard to sheep, and nearly every hon. Member who has spoken today has agreed with that. We welcome the Government's acceptance of the need to set up an independent inquiry. The time for that is ripe, and we are glad that the NFU and amenity and animal welfare bodies are to back us. That will be a great help, and we accept that what the Government are proposing to do is a step forward.

The difference between the two sides is not great. I hope that the Government will not see fit to press their amendment, because it seems to me to be inconsistent and I do not think that it will work. It says that we would stop sending animals to any country if there was evidence that the Balfour Assurances were not being kept, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West said, there are insurmountable difficulties in the way of finding such evidence. My hon. Friend referred to the difficulties surrounding the inquiry. The point to bear in mind is that we are inquiring not only about whether the Balfour Assurances are being kept but also about whether lairage, abattoir, stunning and transport facilities between here and the Continent, and on the Continent, are satisfactory for our cattle.

Many of us have seen the evidence put forward by the British Veterinary Association. The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) quoted from it with clarity and thought. The association has stated categorically that it wants this trade to be stopped. What is important is that the association carefully considered the matter and reluctantly came to that decision.

In 1972 the association asked the Minister of Agriculture for an assurance that the Balfour Assurances would be kept, and in all honesty the Minister replied that he could not give it. To be more specific, the Minister of State said in answer to a Question: Once animals are disembarked in another country, our regulations cease to apply and a check on their welfare is then a matter for the importing country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 18th December, 1970; Vol. 808, c. 454.] That makes it clear that we in this country have no legal right to try to ensure that the Balfour Assurances are kept.

To add credence to that view, there is the statement by Dr. Lattour that No legal provisions, not even the Balfour Assurances would enable us to refuse transit permits. It is therefore clear—I think that Ministers accept this—that we have no say in how the Balfour Assurances work on the Continent.

The Balfour Assurances cannot work and it seems to me, therefore, that the amendment cannot work either. I hope that the Government will not press the amendment to a Division but instead will see fit to withdraw it. We have already achieved some success from the motion, partly as a result of the pressure that has been building up through early-day motions, Questions and letters to the Minister, and partly because the motion is supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

This is one of those rare occasions when hon. Members, speaking with the overwhelming support of their constituents, can turn to the Government and tell them that they are not omniscient, that they do not know everything, that the people want an investigation and that, while that is going on, they want the trade stopped. This is not a party political issue, and I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House will, if necessary, support us in the Lobby.

6.56 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Joseph Godber)

I should like to start by congratulating the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) on what I think was his first appearance at the Dispatch Box. We were all glad to listen to him. The speech of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. David Clark), by its moderation and clarity, has helped and not hindered the debate.

What has emerged clearly from the debate, and what is recognised by every hon. Member, is the deep concern felt by the people of this country on any issue where cruelty or suffering is involved. Traditionally, British people are animal lovers, and I do not think that there is any hon. Member who does not share the genuine feelings of concern about unnecessary cruelty to animals.

I claim to be one of those who share that concern. I do so on my record in the House. Perhaps I may remind hon. Members that I was Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry when the Balfour Assurances were brought in. I participated in bringing them in, and at that time I believed that they proved effective. I was also one of the main architects of the Slaughterhouses Act 1958, the prime purpose of which was to protect animals against cruelty in slaughter. I can claim to have had long experience of this matter, and I ask the House to bear that in mind.

The debate is not about motives but about methods. We all want to stamp our cruelty wherever we can, and there are two aspects that we have to consider. One is cruelty during transport, and that is largely what the Balfour Assurances are about. The other is cruelty at the point of slaughter and the way in which the animal is handled at that time.

It seems to me that the difference between the motion and the Government's addendum is that between action taken on the existing evidence, such as it is—it has been referred to many times today—and action that will be taken after a thorough investigation by an independent inquiry. The motion asks for an independent inquiry. The Government have accepted that, they are glad to do so, and I give the assurance that the inquiry will be set up quickly and will be asked to look fully into these matters.

Hon. Members are usually ready to judge an issue on the facts, but in this case we are asked to prejudge the issue if we are asked to establish a ban now. The Balfour Assurances have been in operation since 1957. For the greater part of the time since then they have provided a valuable safeguard against unnecessary cruelty in transport. It is only during the last two or three years that criticism has arisen and any claim has been made that they are being evaded. So far as they exist, if they are being carried through, cruelty in transport is being kept to the absolute minimum, and, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State reminded the House earlier today, animals in this country are transported over much longer distances than the minimum laid down.

The criticism is not against the Balfour Assurances themselves but arises because of allegations of failure to observe them. These allegations were proved to be right in the case of sheep, and the Government acted at once as soon as we were satisfied that those allegations were right. No allegation has been made about pigs and they have not been mentioned during the debate, but they are covered by the assurances, just as cattle are.

As for cattle, there have been these allegations, none of which up to this time has been proved. It is not unreasonable to ask the House to agree that action such as is proposed should be withheld until there is evidence against a particular country.

The basis of the arguments today has been the News of the World articles and the RSPCA report. At least half of the cases concerned have been traced to cattle of Irish origin, on which no action in this House could have any possible effect. As for the others, the investigation is still proceeding, but no proof has yet emerged of any breach of the Balfour Assurances involved in those allegations. I suggest that there is some anticipation, to put it no higher, of the correctness of those reports. Hon. Members should weigh that matter in their minds.

There must be no mistake: merely to ban exports from Britain would not necessarily reduce the animal suffering in the world or in Europe, as has been said today. My hon. Friend the Minister of State gave figures of the growth in exports of live sheep from the Republic of Ireland to the Continent. It is true that my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) took him up on his figures, but he was not, of course, giving figures for a whole year—only for four months.

As for the sheep, there is fairly conclusive evidence of substantial imports of live sheep from Eastern Europe, over, of course, much longer distances; therefore, the possibilities for cruelty could be greater. Thus, we took specific action where there was proof, but we see what could be the results of it. The implication, if the ban is extended to cattle and pigs, is, whether we like it or not, that it could lead to the transport of both cattle and pigs for longer distances, with possibly greater cruelty.

This leads me to the centre of my approach to the problem. I have said that I am as concerned about cruelty as any other hon. Member, but my approach is that cruelty to animals is not merely a national but an international matter. Thus, when my hon. Friends the Members for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) and Gillingham (Mr. Burden) first came to discuss this matter with me earlier this year, I told them that, while I was as concerned as they were about cruelty to animals, I could not support their Bill because I was seeking to deal with the problem in a different way.

I know that many hon. Members opposite and one or two on this side are opposed to our membership of the European Community. It will therefore be difficult for them to accept the argument that I now want to put, but it is nevertheless right to put it.

All the countries of the Community have legislation in one form or another concerned with cruelty to animals. There is also now the European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport. That convention is expected to be ratified by other EEC countries in September; the United Kingdom has, of course, signed it and will be ready to ratify at that time.

But within the nine countries of the Community, there is an opportunity to improve standards of prevention of cruelty. I should like to see a harmonisation of standards both of transport and of slaughter throughout the Community in a form which would make any act of cruelty to animals an offence punishable by law. Even before I saw my hon. Friends' Bill, I had taken preliminary steps in Brussels to promote this approach. Since then, there has been discussion between United Kingdom officials and representatives of the Commission, and I have discussed my desire to raise standards throughout the Community with several of my ministerial colleagues, from whom I am getting substantial support.

I have announced my intention of raising the matter in the Council of Ministers in Brussels. I would want there to stimulate support to enable us to improve standards not only between Britain and the Continent but throughout the Community. This is my objective, and to the extent that we can make progress with it the opportunity to make a major impact, in avoiding cruelty to farm animals is very real.

We all want to get rid of cruelty to animals but I want to spread our endeavours wider than just this country and wider than the debate has gone today. Hon. Members on both sides, I think, would support that objective, and I ask them, therefore, to study the matter from that point of view. If we pass the motion in its present form, the implication is clear enough—that we do not trust these other countries to abide by the Balfour Assurances and that we believe their standards of slaughter to be lower than ours. This is not the way, I suggest, to help me to create the climate of co-operation that I want to achieve with my colleagues on the Continent.

Mr. Christopher Woodhouse (Oxford)

What difference would it make if the Government's amendment were agreed? Can my right hon. Friend name any country to which exports would continue to be allowed under the Government amendment?

Mr. Godber

Exports would be able to continue to those countries to which they are going at present—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—until such time as proof that there was cruelty were brought and caused us to ban them, as we did with regard to sheep. What I am saying is that one should wait until there is clear and irrefutable evidence before we take that decision. This is the only fair way in which to decide any issue. In this House, above all places, I should have thought that that would be self-evident to all hon. Members.

The way in which to make progress is through activity in the Community in the way that I have described. If at the same time we have the committee of inquiry, which would go forward at a time when conditions were the same as they are now, and which would have the best opportunity to succeed as a committee, that would reinforce the Government's activities and would help us to alleviate cruelty over a much wider range than many of the speeches today have been concerned with.

Where there is default and this can be proved, the Government have already shown their willingness to act. We acted at once over the sheep. We continue to be willing to do this, but if we attempt any additions without the necessary evidence, we shall be making more difficult the task that I have undertaken in Brussels. I undertake to set up the committee of inquiry as speedily as possible, and I believe that it can play an important part.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. John E. B. Hill) mentioned tightening up export licensing. The cause of trouble—certainly this was the case with sheep—is that some licences have been issued to people who were careless at the very least and probably unscrupulous as well. I undertake that, if the amendment is accepted, I will ensure that there is a strict tightening up of the licensing so as to ensure that there can be no possible case of a licence being given to someone who will not act properly and we will immediately withdraw such a licence. That, I believe, is a very big assurance to give to the House. Taking it with my other comments, I think I am entitled to ask the House to consider the amendment. It does not seek to nullify the effect of

what the House wants. It seeks to develop it in a way which will help us all, which will help the European Community to come into line, I hope, and will ensure that we can all achieve the same high standard. This is what the people of this country want—not a narrow, nationalistic interpretation of getting rid of cruelty, but a much wider one. I therefore ask the House to support the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 264, Noes 285.

Division No. 199.] AYES [7.10 p.m.
Adley, Robert Digby, Simon Wingfield Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas Howell, David (Guildford)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Hunt, John
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Dykes, Hugh Iremonger, T. L.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Astor, John Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) James, David
Atkins, Humphrey Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Awdry, Daniel Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Jessel, Toby
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Emery, Peter Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Jopling, Michael
Batsford, Brian Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Kaberry, Sir Donald
Bell, Ronald Fortescue, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Foster, Sir John Kershaw, Anthony
Benyon, W. Fowler, Norman Kimball, Marcus
Berry, Hn. Anthony Fox, Marcus King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Biggs-Davison, John Fry, Peter King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Blaker, Peter Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Kinsey, J. R.
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Gardner, Edward Kirk, Peter
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Gibson-Watt, David Kitson, Timothy
Bossom, Sir Clive Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Knox, David
Braine, Sir Bernard Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Lamont, Norman
Bray, Ronald Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Lane, David
Brewis, John Goodhart, Philip Langford-Holt, Sir John
Brinton, Sir Tatton Gower, Raymond Le Merchant, Spencer
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gray, Hamish Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Green, Alan Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Bryan, Sir Paul Grieve, Percy Longden, Sir Gilbert
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Loveridge, John
Buck, Antony Grylls, Michael Luce, R. N.
Bullus, Sir Eric Gurden, Harold McAdden, Sir Stephen
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) MacArthur, Ian
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray & Nairn) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. McCrindle, R. A.
Carlisle, Mark Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maclean. Sir Fitzroy
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Harrison, Brian (Maldon) McNair-Wilson, Michael
Channon, Paul Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Chapman, Sydney Haselhurst, Alan Maddan, Martin
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hastings, Stephen Madel, David
Chichester-Clark, R. Havers, Sir Michael Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Churchill, W. S. Hawkins, Paul Mather, Carol
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hay, John Maude, Angus
Cockeram, Eric Hayhoe, Barney Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Cooke, Robert Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Mawby, Ray
Cooper, A. E. Hicks, Robert Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Cordle, John Higgins, Terence L. Meyer, Sir Anthony
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Hiley, Joseph Miscampbell, Norman
Cormack, Patrick Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)
Costain, A. P. Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Critchley, Julian Holland, Philip Monks, Mrs. Connie
Crowder, F. P. Holt, Miss Mary Monro, Hector
Davies, Rt.Hn. John (Knutsford) Hooson, Emlyn Montgomery, Fergus
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Horden, Peter More, Jasper
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen. Jack Hornby, Richard Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Dean. Paul Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.
Morrison, Charles Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Tebbit, Norman
Murton, Oscar Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Temple, John M.
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Roberts Wyn (Conway) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Neave, Airey Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Nicholls, Sir Harmer Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Rost, Peter Tilney, John
Normanton, Tom Royle, Anthony Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Nott, John St. John-Stevas, Norman Trew, Peter
Onslow, Cranley Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Tugendhat, Christopher
Osborn, John Scott, Nicholas van Straubenzee, W. R.
Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Scott-Hopkins, James Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Waddington, David
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Shelton, William (Clapham) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Peel, Sir John Shersby, Michael Walker, Rt. Hn Peter (Worcester)
Percival, Ian Simeons, Charles Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Pike, Miss Mervyn Sinclair, Sir George Wall, Patrick
Pink, R. Bonner Skeet, T. H. H. Walters, Dennis
Pounder, Rafton Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Ward, Dame Irene
Price, David (Eastleigh) Soref, Harold Warren, Kenneth
Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Speed, Keith Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Proudfoot, Wilfred Spence, John Wiggin, Jerry
Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Sproat, Iain Wilkinson, John
Quennell, Miss J. M. Stainton, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Raison, Timothy Stanbrook, Ivor Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Woodnutt, Mark
Redmond, Robert Stokes, John Worsley, Marcus
Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Rees, Peter (Dover) Tapsell, Peter Younger, Hn. George
Rees-Davies, W. R. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Ridsdale, Julian Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) Mr. Walter Clegg.
Abse, Leo Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Galpern, Sir Myer
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Crawshaw, Richard Gilbert, Dr. John
Allen, Scholefield Cronin, John Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Armstrong, Ernest Crouch, David Gorst, John
Ashley, Jack Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Gourlay, Harry
Ashton, Joe Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Atkinson, Norman Darling, Rt. Hn. George Grant, John D. ([...], E.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davidson, Arthur Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Barnes, Michael Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hall, Sir John (Wycombe)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Baxter, William Davies, Terry (Bromsgrove) Hamling, William
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Deakins, Eric Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Hardy, Peter
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Delargy, Hugh Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bidwell, Sydney Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Bishop, E. S. Dempsey, James Hattersley, Roy
Blenkinsop, Arthur Doig, Peter Hatton, F.
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Dormand, J. D. Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Body, Richard Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Heffer, Eric S.
Booth, Albert Douglas-Mann, Bruce Horam, John
Boothroyd, Miss B. (West Brom.) Driberg, Tom Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Duffy, A. E. P. Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Bowden, Andrew Dunn, James A. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Dunnett, Jack Huckfield, Leslie
Bradley, Tom Eadie, Alex Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Edelman, Maurice Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Brown, Robert C.(N'c'tle-u-Tyne,W.) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Ellis, Tom Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) English, Michael Hutchison, Michael Clark
Buchan, Norman Evans, Fred Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur (EdgeHill)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Ewing, Henry Janner, Greville
Burden, F. A. Faulds, Andrew Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Fell, Anthony Jeger, Mrs. Lena
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Cant, R. B. Fisher,Mrs.Doris(B'ham,Ladywood) John, Brynmor
Carmichael, Neil Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Fookes, Miss Janet Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Foot, Michael Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cohen, Stanley Forrester, John Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham,S.)
Coleman, Donald Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)
Concannon, J. D. Fraser, John (Norwood) Kaufman, Gerald
Conlan, Bernard Freeson, Reginald Kelley, Richard
Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Kerr, Russell Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Kinnock, Neil Murray, Ronald King Spearing, Nigel
Knight, Mrs. Jill Oakes. Gordon Spriggs, Leslie
Lambie. David Ogden, Eric Stallard, A. W.
Lamborn, Harry O'Halloran, Michael Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Lamond, James O'Malley, Brian Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Latham, Arthur Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Lawson, George Oram, Bert Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Leadbitter, Ted Orbach, Maurice Stott, Roger (Westhoughton)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Orme, Stanley Strang, Gavin
Leonard, Dick Oswald, Thomas Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Lestor, Miss Joan Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Padley, Walter Sutcliffe, John
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Paget, R. T. Swain, Thomas
Lipton, Marcus Palmer, Arthur Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lomas, Kenneth Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Loughlin, Charles Pardoe, John Tinn, James
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Tomney, Frank
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Pavitt, Laurie Tope, Graham
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Torney, Tom
McBride, Neil Pendry, Tom Tuck, Raphael
McCartney, Hugh Perry, Ernest G. Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
McElhone, Frank Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Urwin, T. W.
McGuire, Michael Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Varley, Eric G.
Machin, George Prescott, John Wainwright, Edwin
Mackenzie, Gregor Price, William (Rugby) Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Maclennan, Robert Probert, Arthur Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Radice, Giles Wallace, George
McNamara, J. Kevin Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Watkins, David
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Weitzman, David
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Rhodes, Geoffrey Wellbeloved, James
Marks, Kenneth Richard, Ivor Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Marquand, David Roberts, Albert (Normanton) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Marsden, F. Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Marshall, Dr. Edmund Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Whitehead, Philip
Marten, Neil Roper, John Whitlock, William
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Rose, Paul B. Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Mayhew, Christopher Rowlands, Ted Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Russell, Sir Ronald Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mendelson, John Sandelson, Neville Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Millan, Bruce Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Miller, Dr. M. S. Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Milne, Edward Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Moate, Roger Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Woof, Robert
Molloy, William Sillars, James
Money, Ernie Silverman, Julius TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Skinner, Dennis Mr. James Hamilton and
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Small, William Mr. John Golding.
Morris. Charles R. (Openshaw) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Moyle, Roland

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House shares the growing concern about the conditions under which animals for slaughter are exported, transported and slaughtered overseas; welcomes the recent Government decision to suspend the issuing of export licences for live sheep; and, mindful of animal welfare, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to establish an independent inquiry into this trade, and in the meantime to suspend the issuing of licences for the export of live animals for slaughter overseas.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of the decision of the House, which I believe is also the decision of the people, may I now receive an assurance from the Government that they intend to implement this as rapidly as possible?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. That is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)

Every precedent in the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker—if you want the precedents quoted, we will do so—enables a representative of the Opposition who is intimately concerned with a subject to put a question, and we are entitled to an answer from the Government Front Bench.

Mr. Godber

I would certainly not wish to shelter behind any ruling. I recognise your position in this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. All I wish to say to the House, if I may have permission to do so, is that, naturally, the Government accept the decision of the House. We shall have to consider is implications, and we will make a decision in due course.

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