HL Deb 30 November 1971 vol 326 cc149-238

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Tweedsmair of Belhelvie.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The VISCOUNT HOOD in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Eradication of brucellosis]:

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.1: Page 1, line 8, after ("by") insert ("reasonable")

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No.1. I want to make it perfectly clear that we do not in any way wish to delay action being taken in these particular cases. Our concern is that there may be farmers in remoter areas who may find themselves in some difficulty if in fact they do not receive adequate notice. I had even thought of suggesting a specific period, perhaps seven days or something like that; but having then concluded that the Minister might wish to act very speedily, we did not want to take any steps which would prevent that action from being taken. But we must show some sympathy for the farmer who may be affected in a case of this kind. Indeed, perhaps I may say to your Lordships that whenever I had the job of introducing a Bill, those who then sat on the Conservative Opposition Benches always took occasion to put the word "reasonable" into every clause that we moved. Therefore, I reached the conclusion that the Government of to-day really meant the word "reasonable" to be included, that this in fact was their intention, but that obviously the draftsman had not carried out his duties fully. It is with a fair degree of confidence having made the case for the Amendment that I hope the noble Baroness will think it worth accepting this Amendment.


When I saw this Amendment I thought I could certainly accept it, but those who are more legally qualified than I am informed me that it is not exactly in the right place. Therefore, I wonder whether perhaps I can reassure the noble Lord by telling him that in fact both under the Compulsory Eradication Scheme and under the Voluntary Incentive Scheme we give 21 days notice. I think, perhaps, that ought to cover his point, which we perfectly accept, on the remoter areas.


May I say how grateful I am to the noble Baroness for meeting this point. When she said "21 days" I thought perhaps she was going a little too far, but if the word "reasonable" is not in the correct place I am certain that the draftsman will put it in the right place. I am glad that this has not been overlooked by the Government. Having that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


May I just ask a question here? Am I to understand, then, that if a farmer objects on the ground that reasonable notice has not been given, the Government always regard 21 days as being reasonable?


Yes, my Lords. We have had no complaints on the period of time for which notice has been given.


I do not want the farmer to be given any longer than 21 days. Am I to understand that 21 days is reasonable, and that the Government do not say, "Well, under the circumstances, we will give you another few weeks"—that they stick their toes in?


I entirely agree with the noble Baroness. We think that 21 days is a reasonable period of time. We do not extend it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.2: Page 2, line 22, after ("his") insert ("reasonable")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the second Amendment standing in my name, which refers to the same word, "reasonable". The Minister has the right, under subsection (5), to deduct his expenses. I do not suggest that any Government Department would seek to make a profit out of this particular chore, but perhaps I am a little more trusting than the Opposition were in the days when the Conservatives were the Opposition. I thought it might be as well if we spelled out quite clearly what we meant; that is, that it is right that these expenses have to be met, but that they ought not to be more than "reasonable", so that at the end of the day the person who owned the animal would in fact be getting some compensation. If I could have the same assurance from the noble Baroness—and I do not care whether the word "reasonable" is in the 22nd or 23rd line; for my purpose that does not matter at all—that she is willing to act in regard to this Amendment as she did in the first Amendment I shall be very happy.


The noble Lord will be delighted to hear that I think the Bill would be improved if his Amendment were accepted, because I understand that if this word were inserted in the place in which he has, if I may say so, correctly put it, it would be in line with a similar provision of Section 19 of the Diseases of Animals Act. Therefore I am very glad to accept it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

3.10 p.m.


I wanted to put down an Amendment to cover the proposals I made on Second Reading, but as this is a money clause I find that that would be out of order. However, I should like to ask either the noble Lord, Lord Denham, or the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, whether they will recommend to the Minister the substance of my proposals. I am making these proposals not on my own behalf, but on behalf of the all-Party Brucellosis Committee of this House, and also on behalf of the National Farmers' Union. The National Farmers' Union is very sceptical about how a small farmer in a compulsory eradication area may be affected, and they think—and so do we—that the compensation is entirely inadequate. Therefore, I am asking the two Members on the Front Bench opposite to put the case very strongly to the Minister, and I should like their assurance that they will do so.


Before we leave the subject of brucellosis under this clause, I should like to refer to the sale of reactors. This matter was raised on Second Reading, which I unfortunately missed, when the noble Lord, Lord Denham, replied to a question put by my noble friend Lord Nunburnholme, who asked for some assurance that reactors would not be allowed to be put on sale. His question was: Surely reactors cannot be accepted in the market", and the noble Lord, Lord Denham, is reported to have replied: Yes, my Lords. I understood that reply to mean that they could be accepted in the market. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, then went on to say: The technical answer is that these reactors are not reactors which show that they are infectious from their excreta."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16/11/71; col.642.] From that, I understood that unless a beast showed that it was infectious from its excreta, it was permitted—although it was known to be a reactor—to be offered in the market. If that is the case, surely it is quite wrong. I wonder whether the Government spokesmen can elucidate what exactly is the position with regard to the sale of known reactors.


May I reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, has said about compensation? I think that the present rates of compensation are stopping many people, particularly beef herd owners, from coming into the scheme. I have not had this problem, but I understand that great financial difficulties are caused. Not only do owners have the loss of a cow; they probably have the loss of the calf, the possible loss of the hill cow subsidy, and also the loss of the calf subsidy. So the expense bears very heavily on them if they have to do away with a beef herd. I hope that the Government will look again at this matter.


May I ask one question in connection with valuation, because I know how important it is? Any farmer is going to run into pretty considerable expense and it will be for the Government of the day to decide what compensation will be paid. But subsection (5) states: Where by virtue of subsection (4) of this section the Minister causes an animal to be slaughtered he shall pay any sum received by him on the sale of the carcase. It was said to me only this forenoon that a problem always arises with regard to a sale of this sort. Does the sale of the carcase, technically and legally, include the offal which, I am told, can be quite valuable? Merely to mention the sale of the carcase, without including the offal, leaves some doubt in the minds of those who know their own business. So I should like to be assured by the noble Baroness that when we talk about the carcase, technically and legally it includes the offal.


I should like to thank the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I can understand the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, and of my noble friend Lord Burton, about the level of compensation, but one cannot consider the compensation, which is paid under both the voluntary scheme and the compulsory scheme, without considering the incentives also, which are very important. In the case of the compulsory scheme, the herds—which really means all dairy and beef herds—are all eligible for the incentives. The replacement grant is either £30, if the calves have been vaccinated with S.19, or £15 if they have not, and the owner retains the carcase value.

I should like to refer to this in connection with the question of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, about the sale of reactors in the market. A reactor which has not had an abortion—in other words, a reactor which is not a dangerous contact—can be sold in the market. Due notice is given, a certain part of the market is laid aside, and these animals are slaughtered there. Noble Lords who have spent so much time on the Committee know that, in these circumstances, carcases can be eaten. These three weeks, to which we referred earlier, give the farmer an opportunity to get a better price for his animal, and that money, also, will help him make replacements. But when it is an animal which is a dangerous contact, when it has actually aborted, it has to go direct to the slaughterhouse under very stringent conditions. Therefore one has to take into account the fact that one has the carcase value which, if it is a reactor only, can be much more valuable than that of an animal which goes direct to the slaughterhouse. On top of that, if an animal has been vaccinated with S.19 the grant is £30; and, in addition, one has the incentive scheme. I should also say that farmers are still eligible for the subsidies, which is the point raised by my noble friend Lord Burton. That being so, I think that, taken all in all, it is a fair scheme.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for what she has said. But will she now confirm whether offal is, legally and technically, included?


I am sorry, but I did not write down the word "offal" in my notes. Offal is included in the carcase and, as the noble Lord said, that can be very valuable.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Control of zoonoses]:

3.19 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.3: Page 2, line 39, after ("organism") insert ("which shall include the disease or brucellosis")

The noble Lord said: At first glance, this Amendment appears unnecessary. But as this clause is broadly in the interests of public health, we should like to know whether it makes clear what diseases or organisms are included. I did not have time to look at the 1950 Act, but I have no recollection of brucellosis being in the list there. But as this clause follows Clause 1, which refers specifically to brucellosis, and as that disease will be in everybody's mind, we should like to know what are the Minister's intentions. There is a considerable lobby which feels that brucellosis ought to be treated as an identifiable disease, and when one remembers its effect on even the vets. of this country one realises how important t is. I am bound to draw the attention of your Lordships to the fact that since this Bill has been printed the National Union of Agricultural Workers have said they consider this to be of considerable importance, because in fact their members may well be the people who are going to be affected by brucellosis, and they themselves would like to see it specified in his way. It is because of that that we have put down this Amendment, which I now beg to move.


I should like briefly to support the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy. I think it is very sensible.


As one who has been interested in this subject since it became rather more public knowledge, and without making a speech as one easily could—about it, because as one easily could—about it, because I am quite sure the Minister is aware of the situation, I also want to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend on the Front Bench.


May I say just a word on this Amendment? The noble Baroness may well say that it is quite unnecessary because all organisms are included here, and obviously the organism of brucellosis would be embraced by it. What my noble friend is saying—and I think I agree with him—is that the agricultural workers. who have just been mentioned, have for years been ignorant of the symptoms of brucellosis, and the doctors have found it very difficult to diagnose. Indeed, there has been a general apathy in the world of agriculture about tackling this disease. What my noble friend wants to do, I think—and I agree—is to emphasise the fact that brucellosis will be included, with a view, of course, to focusing attention on this particular disease and, we hope, stimulating people to greater effort, particularly to get it notifiable. Of course, the agricultural workers have for a long time asked for it to be a scheduled occupational disease. This Amendment would ensure that it is kept in the forefront of any information which it is proposed to give to these various people.


I can see that the fact that this Amendment is on the Order Paper has been of assistance to the Committee as a whole, because I think it has been universally supported. But I must say that, as the noble Baroness anticipated, the Amendment is in fact unnecessary, because the clause as a whole covers all organisms, and it would be perfectly possible for my right honourable friends to designate this particular disease. As I think I said on Second Reading, it was thought at the start that we should try to deal only with Salmonellosis, mainly because the disease can be. rather in the same way as paratyphoid, of epidemic proportions. Brucellosis is a very difficult disease and can continue to affect people for a very long time, but it is not potentially of such an epidemic character. However, I should like to refer to my right honourable friend the general feelings which have been expressed by four noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, about this particular disease. As I think my noble friend Lord Denham said on Second Reading, the proposal that this should he made an occupational disease has been referred to the Committee which is discussing these matters.


I should be less than grateful if I did not accept the noble Baroness's offer, and we shall look forward to having a further comment perhaps at a later stage. I would simply add that I have never yet been on a Bill in relation to which the Members opposite did not always assure me that, while it did not add to the Bill, it did not do any harm. If it does not do that, then the Minister ought to have no difficulty in accepting it. But I am grateful for the offer, and I am quite willing to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


There is one point to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention, and it is this. If, as I certainly hope will be the case, brucellosis is made a designated disease (and I certainly think it should be) then it would be as well to include the word "milk" in line 32 of page 3 as being one of the samples that a vet may take on entering a man's land. It would be required if he wished to take a milk ring test to see whether brucellosis was present. So perhaps the noble Baroness would consider the word "milk" being added there.


I have one question affecting three parts of this clause. I first thought of putting down Amendments, but then I thought it might perhaps be better to raise the matter in debate and to have the Minister's opinion about it. On page 3 subsection (3) says: The Ministers may by order make provision for requiring a person who, in such circumstances as are specified by the order, knows or has reasons to suspect… I must say that I find it difficult to see how you can prosecute someone because you have reason to suspect that he might have known something. I should have thought that this was a very dangerous line to be taking. It may be that I am quite wrong, but this is how I read it.

Then, if one goes to line 38, subsection (5)(b) says that a veterinary inspector may require any person on the land who he has reason to believe is the occupier or a servant of the occupier …". I do not need to tell your Lordships how difficult the situation will be for the employee. The employee might get instructions from his master to convey no information at all. The master might even say, "If you do, you will have to bear the consequences of your action", and the consequences might be his removal from work. But this man who is an employee may be prosecuted for not giving certain information, because if your Lordships turn to subsection (6)(b), at the top of page 4, you will see pointed out quite clearly that if these instructions are not carried out then he—that is, the owner or his employee—shall be guilty of an offence. I think that this really is placing a considerable burden on the employee; and while it may be quite all right for the owner of a property who does not give the information required, I think it is taking it a little far to say that the employee of that particular person shall in fact be guilty of an offence. These three points all seemed to link up together, so I did not put down an Amendment to cover them, but I was hoping that the noble Baroness or the noble Lord could give us an explanation as to why they are there.


So far as I can interpret this clause, I understand it to mean that the concrete case of the abortion of a calf does not necessarily mean the disease of brucellosis. It could well be that a farmer or his employee would spot the abortion of a calf—say, that it was coming at an early stage, or something like that—and, on examining the after-birth, conclude to his own satisfaction that it was not brucellosis. But at the same time in that particular case I think he would have reason to suspect brucellosis, and that failure to call in a veterinary surgeon and to have the test carried out could be a means of spreading the disease very quickly. I know from my own experience of keeping a clear herd that we carry out this procedure automatically whenever a calf is aborted. Occasionally, of course, you get a cow aborting in a field but you may not pick up the calf until later on; and then one tries to trace it back. In the long run it is always best to have the test carried out, but I am afraid too many farmers try to cover up.


That is the whole trouble. It is so easy to persuade yourself, to rationalise and say that this is an ordinary abortion, and there is no way of knowing unless you call in the experts. We are trying to focus attention on the importance of telling the farmers, the farmworkers and the veterinary surgeons. They know it, of course, hut they cannot do anything unless the farmer calls them in. We want to emphasise the importance of this, so in no circumstances should we allow the Bill to pass without making every effort to emphasise it.


First of all, if I may refer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. I think that the provision to look at is subsection (5)(a). This is designed so that a veterinary inspector can make whatever tests and take whatever samples he thinks are necessary in carrying out an investigation into an outbreak, or even a suspected outbreak, of disease. It might well he important that one would have to include milk to be tested, and there is nothing in this wording that would preclude milk from being tested, if necessary.

The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, backed up by my noble friend and the noble Baroness opposite, asked questions about subsection (3), subsections (5)(b) and (6)(b). I think I should make it clear that normally, as your Lordships will see if you look at subsection (3), responsibility for making a report will lie with the veterinary surgeon who undertakes the test or submits material for test by a laboratory. Subsection (5)(b), although it says "servant of the occupier", does not really mean that it is the servant who is asked to give information. If the noble Lord will look further on he will see that the servant is requierd, to take such reasonable steps as the inspector may specify for the purpose of collecting or restraining any animals… It is on that side that the servant is asked to operate; to collect the animals. He is not made liable to the considerable offence in subsection (6); therefore it is only if the owner refuses to comply that he would he subject to the last part of subsection (6).

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Application of provisions of Diseases of Animals Act 1950 to further animals]:

LORD KILBRACKEN moved Amendment No.4: Page 4, line 21, leave out ("for") and insert ("after").

The noble Lord said: This is a preparing Amendment for No.5, and I hope it will be for the Committee's convenience that they be considered together. I must say that Clause 3(1) has presented a great deal of difficulty to me. It has the effect of extending to other animals those which may be included in the definition for the purpose of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950. This is an enormously long and complicated measure laying down various rules and regulations towards animals of many different kinds. Where there are not specified in particular it is stated that, the Minister and the Secretary of State … may … by order extend this definition". to any other kind of four-footed beasts besides those that are named. The Government are now proposing to leave out the words, any other kind of four-footed beasts", and to allow the definition to be extended instead to any kind of mammals, except man, and any kind of four-footed beast which is not a mammal…". As soon as I read this I began wondering to what animal the Diseases of Animals Act would apply to which it does not apply at present. I began by trying to think of four-footed beasts which are not mammals—four-footed reptiles such as the alligator, the crocodile and the lizard. Then I realised of course that these are already four-footed beasts and therefore are covered by the existing legislation. Then I set down, rather like two algebraic equations, those animals that are already covered and those that would be covered in future, and by subtracting one from the other I was left with those that would be covered for the first time.

The definition under the existing Act applies to all four-footed beasts whether mammals or not, and the new proposed legislation would apply to all four-footed beasts whether mammals or not, and to all mammals. Subtracting one from the other you find yourself left, perhaps to your surprise, with all animals that have fewer than four feet or more than four feet. As to mammals with more than four feet, I have not been able to think of one, nor has the curator of mammals at the London Zoo with whom I was in communication this morning.


What about the duckbilled platypus?


The duckbilled platypus I think has four feet and two wings—or is it two feet and two wings? This Bill may be invented for the protection or otherwise of the duckbilled platypus. I myself believe that the duckbilled platypus has four feet and two wings and a duck's bill.

When we come to consider those mammals that have fewer than four feet, I have been able to come out with a list. The existing mammals, so far as the curator and I could list them, are the whale, which has no feet—and with the whale we included the dolphin and the porpoise—and then there are bats, which eluded me for a long time. Bats are mammals and have two feet and two wings. Finally, there is the pintailed tree shrew of Borneo. And then monkeys. I was in some doubt about monkeys. I could not make up my mind whether they had four feet or four hands, or two feet and two hands. When I asked the curator about this he was not at all certain. He said that in so far as monkeys used their limbs for walking they were legs, and in so far as they used them for eating, they were hands. So I do not know whether monkeys would be covered, but it is a very fascinating subject. The Encyclopœdia Britannica seemed to indicate that they were mostly two-footed. For instance, the gibbons do not run on all fours but hold the body erect, raising their long arms above the head. The orang-outang is extremely specialised for arboreal life using the suspension grasp of the hands and feet. This seems to indicate that monkeys would be covered for the first time.

If the Government want to extend the provisions of the Diseases of Animals Act to whales, bats and the pintailed tree shrew of Borneo and two-footed monkeys. I suppose they are at liberty to do so, but it seems to me that the wording that they have used can lead one into some rather complicated labyrinths and that the wording I propose, while not affecting, I think, the meaning of the Bill, would be simpler to follow, and in the interests of simplicity I beg to move my Amendment.


I should like to support the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. When they come to an Agriculture Act which deals with animals, the Parliamentary draftsmen inevitably put their feet into it. They seem to be incapable of getting a systematic description. A very good description of the law regarding animals and their definition was made in the great Animals Act about a hundred years ago. Since then most of the Acts have been perfectly clear and based on definite zoological classifications. It is only in comparatively recent times, and more particularly with the Diseases of Animals Act 1950, that there has been introduced this dreadful attempt at classification using "four feet" which is completely and utterly illogical. One would have thought that when they came to deal with this clause the Parliamentary draftsmen would at least by now have decided to use a proper zoological classification. Lord Kilbracken's Amendment is a definite improvement and I hope it will be taken up. In view of the complexities of the examples given by Lord Kilbracken, I wonder whether the Government might not just take this matter as avizandum and see whether it could not be re-drafted in a more logical form.


I think we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, for introducing some light relief into these proceedings. I cannot say that at the end of his speech I felt the matter was any simpler. I fear that I shall be unable to accept the Amendment for the reason that I think the present wording of the clause is much better, and I will explain why. Perhaps neither the noble Lord nor my noble friend realises that the effect of this Amendment would be to put in doubt the application of diseases control measures (for example, zoonoses) to some four-footed creatures which are not mammals. That these powers are needed, I am sure the Committee accepts. An additional reason for retaining the clause as it stands is that the actual wording of the Amendment is very repetitive of that in the 1950 Act.

When I saw the clause I also felt it needed a little explanation in order that I might be quite clear on what it was designed to do. Therefore I too had a little research made and I think the best thing I can do is to see whether I can make the matter as clear to the Committee as it now is to me. Section 84(1) of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950 defines "animals" as cattle, sheep and goats and all other ruminating animals and swine". There is a proviso in that section which allows the Minister to extend this definition by order so that it will cover any other kind of four-footed beasts". In other words, it would cover the horse family. In the present Bill, Clause 3(1), removes the reference to "four-footed beasts" in Section 84(1) and substitutes two things: first, "any kind of mammal, except man"—which covers warm-blooded animals like lions and tigers and, as the noble Lord will recognise, the aquatic animals like seals, dolphins and whales. It covers also apes and bats which I think he would agree it is doubtful to describe as four-footed beasts. The second substitution is: "any kind of four-footed beast which is not a mammal". Again, the noble Lord is correct, because this covers four-footed reptiles such as crocodiles and tortoises in pet shops. While on the subject, I may say that the later reference in this Bill to coldblooded creatures of any species other than fish, reptiles and crustaceans covers amphibia such as frogs, and molluscs such as snails, oysters, cuttlefish; and also insects. I felt that we had to extend this definition much further in order to control the zoonoses, which is the object of the clause as a whole. I hope I have made it clear. Perhaps I have not done so; but I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw his Amendment.


I have no intention of forcing a Division on this point, but I must say that I do not quite follow the noble Baroness in all her remarks. It was certainly not my intention that my Amendment should change the sense of the Bill. If the wording in the Bill is retained, then the definition of "animal" may be extended to cover any kind of mammal except man and any kind of four-footed beast which is not a mammal. If my Amendment were accepted, the definition could be extended to mean any other kind of four-footed beast and any kind of mammal except man. I do not ask the noble Baroness to agree on the spot that those definitions cover exactly the same sort of animals, but I think that if she looks at it afterwards she will find it does and that my wording is perhaps clearer. I do not intend to take this point any further, and beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.46 p.m.

LORD KILBRACKEN moved Amendment No.6: Page 4, line 31, leave out ("comprise") and insert ("include").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No.6. This is purely a matter of semantics. In the new paragraph to be inserted the Minister and Secretary of State may by order extend the same definition so that it shall "comprise fish, reptiles, crustaceans" and so on. I know that the word "comprise" can occasionally have the meaning of "include" but I suggest that the word "comprise" more usually means "consist of". Therefore, the fish, reptiles, crustaceans and all the other cold-blooded creatures would be the only ones covered by the definition. I draw the Committee's attention to the fact that "include" is the word used in a similar context in line 20 on the same page; and because I think "include" is more accurate I beg leave to move this Amendment.


Like the noble Lord, I. too, am very interested in words. I suppose that one could say that between the word "comprise" and "include" there is not all that difference. The reason why we have used the word "comprise" deliberately is because it makes the wording of the clause consistent with Section 84 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950 in which it is used several times. I am advised that to use the noble Lord's word would not have any advantage. Moreover, I feel that a certain consistency in legislation is important for otherwise people may think it means something quite different. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.


I think that is the first disappointing reply that we have had from the noble Baroness. Regarding the argument about consistency I only wish that she had listened to her right honourable and honourable friends in another place during discussions in Standing Committees when it was argued by the Government, "We are being consistent in doing this. The word appeared in Acts in 1901,1907 and 1950 and if we changed it now it would cause such a reaction that the courts will not know where they are". Against that it was argued that that is what Members of Parliament are for, that is what Parliament does. If the Committee feel that "include" is a much better word than "comprise" we are entitled to insist on that word being used, or at least to divide on the matter—not that I am suggesting we should do so. But we have to remind ourselves that the power lies with us.

I think that there is a great difference between the two words, and I agree with the interpretation of them given by my noble friend Lord Kilbracken. He said that if we talk about something being "comprised of" we could then specify, which is something quite different. My noble friend is saying that in this instance it should be made clear and that the word "include" should be used instead so that there shall be no doubt about the definition. From that point of view the word "include" is much better than the word "comprise".


I think that the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, comprised some with which I did not agree at all. If being consistent is such a virtue may I suggest that the word "comprise" should also be used in line 20 of the clause instead of "include". If it is a matter of such importance to remain consistent that does not provide a very good example. However I do not think that I could carry this matter through the Division Lobbies and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.7: Page 4, line 32, after ("species") insert ("and birds").

The noble Lord said: It has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, and others that this clause adds two-legged mammals, fish, and shellfish to the definition of "animals" in the 1950 Act. I have not checked whether birds may be covered in any other Statute but we thought it as well to put down this Amendment. Epidemics of fowl pest have played havoc with the poultry industry all over the country, and for this reason we put down the Amendment so that we may be assured that birds are included. I beg to move.


I think that the purpose of the noble Lord's Amendment is to secure an assurance, and I am very glad to reassure him that by Section 84(2) of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950 Ministers are empowered to extend "for all or any of the purposes of this Act" the definition of poultry to other species of birds. That being so, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.


I am certain that your Lordships will be grateful for that explanation. Many people have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds because of fowl pest, and we arc grateful for the assurance which has been given. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Seizure of milk etc. liable to spread disease]:

3.57 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.8: Page 4, line 46, after ("cream") insert ("powdered milk, cream and eggs").

The noble Lord said: On the whole we support this clause. It is in the interests of public health. It may well be that the bacteria is all destroyed in the process of conversion to powder, but I am not sure about that. I have no doubt however that, as a result of putting down the Amendment, whoever is to reply from the Government Front Bench will be able to assure the Committee about what it does. I think it as well for the Ministry to make the clause perfectly clear, and we should be grateful for an assurance. I beg to move.


Can the Minister say whether there is any need for yoghurt and cheese, especially cream cheese, to be included in this list?


We were not sure, but we assumed that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, was referring to powdered cream and powdered eggs. I have tried to get advice about where powdered cream is used. I must confess I have never heard of it and I have been unable to find out. But I think that I can satisfy the noble Lord, because although it is likely that the bacteria would be destroyed by powdering, presumably these substances would be kept on a farm only for use as feeding-stuffs and they are already covered in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1963. This provides for the seizure and destruction of and the payment of compensation for, contaminated feeding stuffs. I would bring to the attention of the Committee the fact that this clause applies only to passing on diseases to animals and not to a risk to the health of human beings. Any substances such as yoghurt or cheese which might give rise to risk to human beings is covered by section 9 of the Food and Drugs Act 1959.


I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Denham, said about powdered cream, because when I travelled by air to Scotland last week—the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, may have had the same experience—I was served with powdered cream with my coffee.


I hope that the noble Lord suffered no ill-effects.


I was beginning to accept the answer by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, until my noble friend Lord Royle intervened to point out how wrong he was. I have enjoyed powdered cream frequently when travelling by aeroplane and I am certain that the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, has—or maybe she does not travel by the best service. But this is not a great point, and I will accept the reply which we have heard and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Furnishing by milk marketing boards of information derived from tests of milk]:

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.9: Page 5, line 34, at end insert— ("( ) The Minister will pay the board a fee for any information so obtained.")

The noble Lord said: From inquiries I have made, I understand that the whole of Clause 5 has the agreement of the Milk Marketing Board. One has to consider their view, even from the point of view of covering oneself in your Lord ships' House, because there are some noble Lords who play an active part in the Board. The Board, after very careful consideration, have agreed that this clause is all right. However, the Minister may ask the Board to undertake a considerable amount of work—and work which might well prove to be expensive—to provide them with information. While I do not want to fall out with the Minister, maybe the Board are a little too reticent about making a claim, and it seems to me in fairness that if the Minister asks the Board to undertake investigations and to supply him with information, some reasonable provision ought to be made for compensating the Board for the work they have had to do.

I put down this Amendment in the hope that the Government would think it reasonable. The Board might have to undertake work quite frequently and might find themselves involved at the end of the year in a considerable amount of expense. The Government might like to give us their opinion of what the expenses are likely to be and, as a result of having this matter drawn to their attention, they might be prepared to accept the Amendment. Even if the wording is not correct, if they are prepared to accept the content of the Amendment I shall be happy. I beg to move.


I can assure the noble Lord that the Milk Marketing Boards will not be greatly out of pocket as the result of furnishing this information. Much of the information needed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and by the enforcement authorities in Scotland is already available to the Boards for their own purposes. The cost to the Boards of supplying it is therefore unlikely to be sufficient to make charges worth while. However, if experience proves this to be necessary, there is power under existing legislation to reimburse the Boards for any additional costs which they may incur. It is a question of seeing whether there is any vast additional expense or any noticeable additional expense to the Boards. My right honourable friend has agreed with the Boards that if there is this sort of expense, it will be made up to them under his existing powers, and I repeat that undertaking to the noble Lord to-day.


I am grateful for this information, because it was not available to any Members of your Lordships' House and not even to the Milk Marketing Board. I am certain it is correct, but when the noble Lord says that there are powers under existing legislation to make these payments and that this has been accepted by the Milk Marketing Board, surely it is for the noble Lord to tell us under what existing legislation. so that we may be as fully informed as the Board.


Yes; the existing legislation is Section 126(1) of the Food and Drugs Act 1955, so far as England is concerned, and Section 211 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947, so far as Scotland is concerned. But I should like to make it clear that the point is that if the noble Lord's Amendment were accepted, it would be necessary for the Boards to be paid. They might be out of pocket by a very small amount, and in order to make a claim they might have to go to a great deal of work. The Minister and his Department might also have a great deal of work to do to agree it with them, whereas under existing legislation only if The amount is of a notable size will they apply to my right honourable friend and the Secretary of State; and the undertaking has been given that this application will be favourably received.


I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

4.7 p.m.

LORD DULVERTON moved Amendment No.10: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause:

Grey Squirrels

"( ) In the proviso to section 8 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911, after the word ('vermin') there shall be inserted the words ('including grey squirrels')."

The noble Lord said: In moving the Amendment which stands in my name I have first to say that the Public Bills Office have asked me to explain that owing to some misunderstanding my name has been joined with that of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe. This was a mistake, and I should like to take the opportunity to apologise to the noble Lord in absentia for any inconvenience it has caused to him. Before speaking to the Amendment itself I should draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that if this Amendment is accepted, Amendment No.20 will be consequential upon it and will amend the Title of this Bill to include the amendment to the Protection of Animals Act.

The clause in the Protection of Animals Act is one that deals with the use of poisons against animals and prohibits them except in the case of certain poisons which may be used against insects and other invertebrates, rats, mice and other small ground vermin. When that Act was first drawn up in 1911—it was amended in 1927—the grey squirrel problem had not emerged. It was not with us. As many of your Lordships will know, the grey squirrel was an introduction from North America. It was released from a number of zoos and private collections and became established in this country in a wild state in the early part of this century. It gradually spread over the Midlands and during the late 'twenties and the 'thirties its spread became more marked. The grey squirrel now has a territory extending right through England up to the far North and across the Border into Scotland and over the Border of Wales, whence it has ousted the native red squirrel, which has now become an extinct animal except in distant parts of the North and in some parts of Wales.

It ousted the red squirrel in fact by cold-blooded murder, because it disembowelled the red squirrel. By its introduction from America, the balance of nature has become upset and it has adopted anti-social habits in which it did not appear to indulge in its native America. Apart from the fact that it has extinguished the red squirrel in large parts of the country and is still spreading its territory and encroaching into the territories still held by the native red squirrel, it causes damage to a number of birds, taking their eggs and their young; and particularly, some people think, with good reason, it is responsible for the gradual disappearance of our three species of native woodpecker. They nest in hollow trees and are being ousted from their nests by the grey squirrel But by far its worst crime is that it is attacking our younger hardwood trees all over the country. It attacks them by stripping off the bark of the tree, either at ground level or anywhere up the trunk—because of course it can climb the tree. I move this Amendment because it climbs the tree. If I may return to the phrasing of the 1911 Act, it refers to, rats, mice and other small ground vermin", and one might have thought that grey squirrels could be described as such; but because they can climb up trees it has been held that legally they are not "small ground vermin". I wish I had known of Lord Kilbracken's interest in the distinction between feet and hands before to-day, because I suppose that when the grey squirrel climbs a tree it is open to argument whether it has four hands or four feet. Anyway, it is excluded from the interpretation of that section. It is damaging the young pole stage trees of the species of beech, oak and sycamore. This has become a phenomenon which has increased markedly over the last decade or so: so much so, that it is really a much more serious problem than the elm disease of which we have heard a lot recently. I believe that some of our native species of hardwood could be doomed to extinction over another hundred years or so unless something far more effective is done about the grey squirrel than we have been able to do up to now. And it is extending its attacks to other species than the three that I have named.

Of course it is hardwood trees that the public want to see planted. The conservationists and the amenity societies are clamouring that the Forestry Commission and private growers should plant more hardwood trees. Well, many hardwood trees are being planted, but I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships to what happens when you plant them. For the first few years all is well, but when the tree reaches what foresters term the "pole stage", which is a height of about 20 to 30 feet, and is between the age of 15 and 25 years, the grey squirrel goes for it. He eats off the bark, and this either ruins the tree as a timber tree or, in many cases, actually kills it, because if the cambium is removed from all round the tree, the tree of course dies.

The Timber Growers' Organisation, to which I belong, were so concerned about this that about a fortnight ago they sent out a questionnaire to selected members of the organisation to try to collect facts and figures about the extent of the damage that is going on. Unfortunately, there has not been time to get all the answers back, but those that have been received reveal real and widespread concern. Many of them are couched in much the sort of words that I have just used to your Lordships. I cannot give your Lordships many actual figures, except that the National Trust have told me that I may reveal that they estimate that they lost over 100,000 young trees during the last forest year. They have also authorised me to reveal that their bill for vermin control—which they themselves confess was not entirely successful—amounted to £8,000 in one year. That gives the background of the problem as it affects forestry. I can give your Lordships one further figure, if your Lordships will bear with me, in regard to one particular estate with which I am intimately connected. We took sample plots last week to check up the exact figures of damage, and we found that in our medium-aged beech 72 per cent. of the trees were damaged, in the sycamore 77 per cent. were damaged (of course many of them, though not all, will die) and 32 per cent. of the oak.

Trapping and shooting are the only means we have of controlling these animals at the moment, and it is ineffective and expensive. The Paper produced by the Forestry Commission in 1967, called The Grey Squirrel—Its Control, says that normal methods of trapping and shooting are ineffective: and one knows that that is the case. Yet one goes on trying, although one is fighting a losing battle. There is one means of control which is legal in Scotland and has proved effective and helpful there, and it is the use of the rat poison which is sold under the trade name of "Warfarin". It cannot be used in England because of the wording of the Act to which I have referred. The Bill before us to-day provides a possible vehicle for making legal the use of Warfarin against grey squirrels in England and Wales. I am aware, as your Lordships may be aware that the Forestry Commission have been carrying out trials with the use of this poison for about 18 months to two years under the direction of Miss Rowe, and I understand that they are very close to completing the trials and publishing the results. Therefore it is, to some extent, premature to move this Amendment. On the other hand, as I have said, this Bill provides a vehicle, and if we do not seize the opportunity to-day we do not know how long we shall have to wait for another opportunity to amend the legislation. It is on that account that I decided to put the proposal before your Lordships to-day.

I would add that I have consulted with the Country Landowners' Association, the Timber Growers' Organisation and members of the National Farmers' Union and I think they are all completely behind the general purpose of what I am asking your Lordships to consider. I have spoken also to the Deputy Director of the Nature Conservancy, who has expressed his grave concern over the ecological problem created by the grey squirrel, and also to the officials of the Forestry Commission, who, as is well known, are most concerned about this problem. Finally—I am afraid it has taken me a long time to explain this, but I felt that it was necessary to do so fairly fully—the very existence of future generations of our hardwoods is at stake. I hope we can preserve sentiment (because sentiment there is about grey squirrels) to our native red squirrel. Apart from the measure that is before us this afternoon, I would ask the Government seriously to consider devoting funds to the National Environmental Research Council, the Forestry Commission and others, to make a concerted attack upon this whole problem of grey squirrel control, because it is of that order of importance in our countryside. I very much hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to give me some encouragement over this matter. I beg to move.

4.20 p.m.


I rise to support my noble friend, who has left the Chamber, in no doubt at all of the seriousness of this pest to forestry. Shooting grey squirrels, and poking out their nests, has over a number of years totally failed to keep them in check. Here there is no distinction between agriculture and fores- try. Sometimes I have heard it said from the Front Bench, when either a Forestry or an Agriculture Bill is being discussed, and an Amendment which goes over the boundary between forestry and agriculture is moved, that it is the wrong place or time. I hope that no noble Lord on the Front Bench is going to say to-day that this is the wrong place for this small Amendment. There is no distinction between agriculture and forestry because the grey squirrel does substantial damage in orchards to fruit trees and fruit, as well as widespread harm to our native hardwoods, beech and sycamore.

My noble friend mentioned a number of societies who would like to see this Amendment included in the Bill. I think I can say that I have been a member or a member of Council of all of them, if I am not still a member, and of one more—the Royal Forestry Society—of which I am now Vice-President. The Royal Forestry Society is concerned not only with trees for the production of timber, but also with our forests from the point of view of amenity. Foresters are charged all too often with failure to pay sufficient regard to amenity: that is, to plant our native hardwoods in sufficient quantity. To-day they find in many counties of England that when they try to establish hardwood plantations, particularly beech and sycamore, and to a lesser extent oak, in appropriate soils they will meet extensive damage against which they have no effective defence, and they can even run into total failure.

There is nothing very novel in this Amendment. What my noble friend is asking for is already allowed in Scotland, where the problem is much less acute. There are many differences in the law between England and Scotland, as I well know, living on the Border. Some are historic, and some have constitutional bases which we should not like to see changed, certainly not without good reason. Others have no apparent reason, and here is one example. Why should a grey squirrel that lives in Dumfriesshire be exposed to this poison, when others a few miles South, with a home in Cumberland, arc not so exposed? In this particular instance the law is an ass, and my noble friend is trying to introduce some sanity.

Those with a good memory will remember a Question that was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on May 18 last year—unfortunately he is not in his place to-day. He asked the then Government to introduce legislation to permit the lawful use of Warfarin to control grey squirrels. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in his reply, said: My Lords, my right honourable friend, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is currently conducting field experiments to develop a safe and efficient method of presenting Warfarin to grey squirrels without risk to other wild life. If these trials are completed successfully, Her Majesty's Government will be better placed to consider the desirability. or otherwise, of introducing appropriate legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,18/5/1970; col.891.] They have had 18 months in which to carry on these experiments and to consider the results, and I think that is a sufficient time. I therefore sincerely hope that when my noble friend comes to reply he will be able to say that, after all the experiments and all the consideration, he has decided to extend the law as it now is in Scotland to be effective South of the Border—that is, into England, too.


There are squirrels at the bottom of my garden. They are a great joy to me; they make my day when I see them gambolling along from branch to branch, and from tree to tree, as I stand at my bedroom window each morning and gaze over the forest. I have a kind heart. I am not a farmer or forestry owner, but I sympathise with those who are and see damage caused to their property. Noble Lords who have supported this Amendment want us to poison these pretty little creatures. They want these little' creatures to be seen writhing in agony at the foot of the trees where they have their homes. It is inevitable that that should be so if they are given rat poison. It has been said that the squirrels have probably exterminated the woodpecker. When I lived in a house in the country I used to have woodpeckers and squirrels running about the lawn at the same time. I agree that this is an animal, pretty, delightful, charming though it may be, a source of joy to many young children, that probably does some damage to trees and crops. If that is so, and if it is felt that they must be exterminated, or drastically reduced in number in the interests of our national food supplies, then let us shoot them. Let us kill them humanely, quickly, suddenly, at a stroke, and not leave them writhing about in agony until the poison does its work.


I want to congratulate my noble friend Lord Dulverton, and thank him for his initiative in moving this Amendment. I am President of the Timber Growers' Organisation and I am happy to join with my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, who is Chairman of the Forestry Commission, in supporting this Amendment. At the moment, approximately 4,000 acres of hardwoods are being planted de novo each year, and approximately 90,000 acres of conifers. The low proportion of hardwood being planted is a matter which depresses people. Quite apart from the slow growing nature of hardwood, one of the great inhibitions which prevent people from planting hardwood in the Midlands and the South is the damage which is done by grey squirrels, and the enormous cost of replacement.

These foreign animals, which were introduced from North America some time ago, have, as the Nature Conservancy will tell you, ousted the native variety, the red squirrel, which people are more fond of than the foreign North American animal. The grey squirrels are much more akin to rats, and that is why they respond to Warfarin, which my noble friend is seeking leave to introduce as a control measure in England. The Pests Division of the Ministry of Agriculture has determined that there has been a cycle of increasing numbers and declining numbers since their introduction some 40 or 50 years ago, and each time there is a cycle of increase in numbers the peak gets higher, and the average number in the countryside gets greater. This is a problem which is getting more and more acute.

Many of your Lordships will know of the efforts of four county councils in the Chilterns to establish a pattern of perpetuation of hardwood beech crops on the Chilterns in the interests of amenity and the Chiltern countryside. Timber growers are happy to go along with this voluntary plan on a voluntary basis, but they ask for some help in controlling grey squirrels. Without their control it will be impossible to achieve the desires of these four Chiltern county councils. In the forests and woods around Windsor, there are 3,000 acres of hardwood, and 4,000 acres of soft wood. The Crown Commissioners, out of a staff of about 70 who are engaged in those forests, employ something like three men trapping grey squirrels constantly. Something like 8,000 grey squirrels a year are trapped. The Crown Commissioners are perpetuating crops of hardwoods in the forests of Windsor with great success, but the cost is enormous. The trapping and shooting methods which they use are inadequate, and the help that they get from the general public surrounding the Windsor forests is not as good as it might be. With the addition of the measure that my noble friend is suggesting, it may be much easier to perpetuate hardwoods in this country in the future than it now is.


May I point out that, while I support this Amendment very warmly—because anyone who tries to grow, say, sycamore trees knows that when they reach about 10 ft. high the grey squirrels come and strip them from the top; and in fact one cannot grow sycamore trees because of grey squirrels—nevertheless grey squirrels do some good from the point of view that they take pigeon eggs and therefore to a certain extent keep down wood pigeons. If we do away with all the grey squirrels we shall probably get a lot more wood pigeons. We cannot have it both ways, and on the whole I would rather do without the grey squirrels.


I join with my noble friends on this side of the Committee in supporting my noble friend Lord Dulverton in his desire to see the end of the grey squirrel. He has made out a very powerful case and produced many statistics which prove his point admirably. However, I personally am very allergic to poison—or, should I say, the use of poison? Warfarin, I have been told, does not harm anything other than rats. I do not believe it for a moment because I lost a big dog which I believe died from it. Therefore, I should like to know from my noble friend how it would be proposed to use Warfarin, and whether the results in Scotland have proved it to be really effective.


I rise to support my noble friend Lord Dulverton but I would disagree with him in one respect. He says he feels that this legislation might be premature; I feel that it is well overdue, not premature. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, referred to the forest in front of his house. But is he not looking to future generations in whose time there could well be no forests if these pests are allowed to continue? These animals are killing the hardwood all over the country.


Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? These squirrels have been there for a long time; the trees have been there for hundreds of years. The squirrels and the trees seem to get on wonderfully well together.


The very old trees will not succumb to them in the same way, but these trees have an inevitable end to their life sooner or later. What has been pointed out by several noble Lords already is that the young hardwoods that are coming on are the ones which are being killed, and if there are no trees to replace the old trees, sooner or later we shall come to an end of hardwoods in this country.

Recently I went on an excursion to Shropshire and I was horrified to see there how acres were being planted with softwoods because they could not plant hardwoods from a practical point of view because it was known that they would be killed by these pests. Another point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, about Warfarin. He spoke about these animals, attractive little creatures—indeed they are—writhing in agony. This is not what happens with Warfarin. Warfarin is what is called an anticoagulant and affects the blood in such a way that the animal dies quite painlessly after having eaten a quantity—I think it has to eat practically its own weight of the poison before it is affected. I believe that that is why some rats have become immune—because they have been given insufficient poison. It was said that this substance might be dangerous to other creatures, but I know of a farm worker who found a packet of this stuff and, thinking it was oatmeal, made his brose for his breakfast out of it, and suffered no ill-effects.


I can hardly believe that we are to accept that last story, but it made a good peroration. May I ask one question before I say anything further? I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Dulverton—he will correct me if I am wrong—say, I think, that while Warfarin could be used in Scotland, it was prohibited in England. Is that what the noble Lord said?


The answer is that it is legal to use Warfarin against grey squirrels in Scotland, but not in England, because the law in Scotland is worded in such a way that there is no question, such as the one I have just explained, attaching to the wording of our own Animals Protection Act.


I should like whoever is going to reply for the Government—possibly the noble Lord, Lord Denham—to explain how the situations differ; I am sure it would interest your Lordships to know. Warfarin is used in Wales and other parts. This is how we tried to attack the rat problem. Because of this (not because of the reason which the noble Lord, Lord Burton, gave) we created a rat resistancy to the use of Warfarin. If this preparation may be used in Scotland, and certainly used in Wales, why is its use in England confined to the destruction of rats? I am sure that your Lordships' Committee would be grateful for an explanation.

4.36 p.m.


As my noble friend Lord Dulverton said, it is illegal to use poisons against grey squirrels because, as dwellers in trees, they are not included among the rats, mice and other small ground vermin which poisons may be used to destroy under the English Acts for the protection of animals. Her Majesty's Government are well aware of the damage that grey squirrels do to our woodlands, particularly young plantations of hardwood, deciduous trees. My noble friend went into this point extremely thoroughly. The importance of having effective means of controlling them cannot be disputed, and I do not think it has been disputed to-day, even by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. In spite of what noble Lords have said, the traditional and legal methods of control by shooting and trapping are effective—the Forestry Commission have a pamphlet on it: Pamphlet No.31, which I think noble Lords should have a look at—but they require much labour. The employment of suitable poisons, if this were to be permitted by the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Dulverton, could prove a valuable additional weapon to the armoury for squirrel control. However, as the Committee will readily appreciate, the Government would be reluctant to agree to the extension of the use of poisons in the countryside unless they were satisfied, after full discussion with the interests concerned, that this could be done safely.

My noble friend particularly wishes to legalise the use of Warfarin, the standard rat poison, against grey squirrels. However, his Amendment is drafted much more widely than that and would also open the door to the use of other poisons which might be more dangerous to wildlife, to domestic animals, or even to people. Even though Warfarin has proved itself as a comparatively safe rat poison, we must be satisfied that it could be used safely in the particular kind of circumstances attending its employment against squirrels, and that this would entail the minimum of risk to wild life, before even this one poison could he sanctioned. My noble friend Lord Allerton asked in what form this preparation would be fed to squirrels. This is one of the difficulties that is being looked into at the moment, in that it must be in a form which is attractive to this particular animal. This is one of the important points, because Warfarin is so readily available at the moment for controlling rats and mice that, if this Amendment were accepted, Warfarin could well be widely employed before suitable formulations, accompanied by the right kind of safety precautions printed on every container, could be made available. Thus, it would be premature to legalise squirrel poisoning at this particular moment.

If any poisonous chemical is used in the countryside to control a pest there is some risk that harmless, or even desirable, species of mammals and birds would be harmed. But such is the importance of squirrel control that, as your Lordships have heard, the Ministry of Agriculture arranged some three years ago for research to be done by scientists in the Ministry and in the Forestry Commission to see whether a safe and efficient method could be found of presenting Warfarin to grey squirrels without significant risk to other wildlife or domestic animals. I understand that these efforts have met with some success and my right honourable friend expects to receive a report on the work very soon. I think one noble Lord suggested that we should have heard about this before now. Three years is not in fact a long time for a research programme involving the study of animals in their natural haunts, which presents a certain amount of difficulty. After the report has been considered, the Government will be better placed to judge the desirability of introducing appropriate legislation.

As my noble friend Lord Inglewood said, there is not always consistency between English and Scottish law. No doubt a considerable list of differences could be drawn up. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked how this difference came about. As regards the law on squirrels and poisons, the difference in the texts is such that the English Act, the Protection of Animals Act 1911 as amended by the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1927, does not preclude the use of poisons against small ground vermin, whereas the corresponding Scottish Act—the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912—omits the qualifying adjectives "small" and "ground". Thus, while in Scotland there is no express prohibition of the poisoning of squirrels as such, it would be for the courts to decide in any given case whether the squirrels in question could be regarded as "vermin". To the best of my knowledge this issue has never been tested, so the difference between English and Scottish law on this point may not be so great as has been alleged. Nevertheless, if effective safe methods for controlling grey squirrels come out of the research soon to be reported, the Government would doubtless wish to consider whether any desirable revision of the law should be made to apply equally throughout Great Britain.

Her Majesty's Government believe that this Amendment is too sweeping in its scope, in that it would legalise not only Warfarin in any—and perhaps in an unsuitable—form, but also other poisons that might be too dangerous for squirrel control. After the Government have received the report on the search for a safe method of using Warfarin for squirrel control, and after they have consulted with the interested organisations, the possibility of an appropriate amendment of the law will be most carefully considered. I hope that my noble friend will agree not to press this Amendment to-day.


Can the noble Lord explain why it is that Warfarin is perfectly safe for rats but not for squirrels?


It is not actually very safe for rats. It is put up for rats in such a form and with such warnings on the labels of the container to explain to people so that its use may be effective in the safest possible way.


I think everyone in the Committee will have been impressed by the very strong case made by my noble friends who have spoken on this subject from very great knowledge indeed. Undoubtedly we are dealing with a great pest. I agree with my noble friend Lord Denham that one has to be exceedingly careful about poisons, and I realise that the Government want to wait for the result of this piece of research, and that research takes a good long time. However, I did not seem to detect quite the note of urgency in the Minister's reply that I believe this pest justifies, and I hope that as soon as the Minister can move he will make his consultations as speedy and as short as they can possibly be and will produce some positive action which will at least go some way to deal with this menace.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Dulverton, replies may I ask two questions? As I understand it the issue is concerned with Scotland, and while we have had some words about how it has affected National Trust property in England and Wales there is of course the National Trust of Scotland. I wonder whether there are any figures available from the Scottish Office as to what has happened in their area. I also want to know whether there has been a trial with Warfarin in the woodlands belonging to the National Trust of Scotland, and if so, to what effect? I think I heard it said that some area had been used for an experiment of this kind, but that is not of much use unless we know the result of the experiment.

I accept the point about the squirrels climbing up trees in England but apparently running along the ground in Scotland, so that we are able to use Warfarin on them there. I should like to ask whoever is going to reply, how much of this poison has been used in Scotland, if in fact it has been used on these properties controlled by the National Trust of Scotland, and whether there is any lesson to be drawn. The Committee mentioned by the noble Lord has apparently been sitting for three years, and when he says that it will be reporting "soon" I am bound to agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, who said that if it has been sitting for three years it might be speeded up a little. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Denham, could be a little more forthcoming about the meaning of "soon", because soon another year will have departed. Is he in fact saying that the Committee has now got on so well, after three years, that before Christmas this report will be available to your Lordships?


Before the noble Lord replies may I explain the situation in Scotland? North of the Tay all the original grey squirrels became extinct as a result, I think, of the depredations of the pine martens and the buzzards, and they were re-imported from Scandinavia. The red squirrels that were imported were not the same as the English red squirrel; unfortunately, they are slightly larger and slightly more destructive and it may well be that they would hold their own against the grey squirrel. However, in Scotland we have planted many more softwoods than hardwoods, and consequently the numbers of grey squirrels in Scotland are very much smaller. This I noticed around Fife and particularly round Dunfermline, where I believe some were let out. It might be possible to get some figures, but it is not so easy to give the figures for Scotland which are required by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy.


It seems to me that the whole point of this matter is one of considerable urgency. We arc now going to have the results of the experiment and the consideration which has been going on. I gather that this will shortly be reported to the Government. What worries me about this is that it takes a long time for legislation to be brought in; to find a little slot into which one can slip a miscellaneous agricultural provisions Bill is an extremely difficult thing to do. I wonder whether it would be possible for us at a later stage to insert some enabling provision which will permit the Minister to bring in by regulation something which will cover the point which might emerge from the considerations which are now going on. I rather hope that this might be done in order that a regulation might be made. Quite clearly such a regulation would have to be under the Affirmative Resolution procedure in order that everybody who might be knowledgeable about the matter could thoroughly consider it. I rather think that such a power would be advantageous to the Minister, and certainly to the interests that arc involved in this matter.


Perhaps I may just reply to the few questions I have been asked. To confirm what my noble friend Lord Burton has said, I am afraid it is difficult to give figures for Scotland. In fact I have no records, and I think my noble friend Lord Burton has explained that matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked what "soon" meant, and asked when the report would be available. I understand that it will be a month or two, but I cannot go further than that. Obviously it is no good hurrying the publication of the report if it is not going to be right. We must have the right report. But this is of course a matter of urgency, and that fact is appreciated by Her Majesty's Government

My noble friend Lord Amory and the noble Lord, Lord Champion, asked me to urge my right honourable friend to deal with this question as urgently as possible. Of course I will pass on those comments. I think it is very unlikely that it would be possible to do anything to the present Bill while it is on its passage through Parliament. But it would be quite possible to put something into a Home Office Bill, because the control of poisons is a Home Office matter, or an Agriculture Bill or a small Bill on its own, if it were so decided. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, asked why we do not have an enabling clause now. There would have to be discussions, including consultations with interested parties, before the Minister would wish to take powers of this kind. The result of the research should be available before this took place; but if squirrel poisoning ought to be legalised, enabling powers, rather than the kind of Amendment put down by my noble friend, might be suitable, since they could allow the Minister concerned to specify permitted methods of use. I am grateful for that suggestion, and, without any commitment, I will certainly convey it to my right honourable friend, and also convey to him the extreme interest and concern which your Lordships have shown in this matter. I hope that, in view of what I have said, my noble friend will not press the Amendment.


I am sorry to intervene after the Minister has spoken, but I still do not see why in. this Bill there should not be an enabling clause. I quite understand that the Minister might not want to do anything about it when he has received his report. But surely it would be perfectly possible, at the next stage of this Bill, to insert an enabling clause.


This was the point I undertook to consider.


Before I go on to say anything else, may I address the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, particularly, in the matter of his worry about not having nice little grey squirrels hopping about outside his windows. I suggest to him that if he could create the circumstances where he saw the far more beautiful and native red squirrels hopping about, that would be better.


Does not the noble Lord fear that if he puts down this poison, with the intention of encouraging grey squirrels to eat it, his beautiful red squirrels also might eat it?


That is the point; we have to get rid of the grey squirrels before we can get the red squirrels reintroduced.

I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Amory for the words he said, because I share with him the feeling that perhaps the Government are not giving this matter quite as much urgent attention as we should have liked. I believe that such organisations as the Timber Growers' Association, the C.L.A. and the National Farmers' Union would feel the same. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for suggesting another way of attacking the problem. I am sorry that my noble friend has not been able to give greater assurance that this might be done. I do not wish to press this Amendment, and I will let it rest, with the leave of the House, on such assurance as we have received from my noble friend on the Front Bench: I can only say that I wish it were a stronger assurance. I hope that he will not let the matter rest and that the aim of my Amendment really will be achieved before the next growing season, by which I mean May, June, July of 1972. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 [Repeal and amendment of certain enactments relating to slaughterhouses in England and Wales]:

4.53 p.m.

LORD ROYLE moved Amendment No.11: Page 6, line 18, leave out from ("that") to ("and") in line 25 and insert ("the following conditions are satisfied:—

  1. (i) that the requirements relating to slaughterhouses, of regulations under section 13 of the principal Act, of construction regulations under section 4 of the Slaughter of Animals Act 1958 and of byelaws, if any, made by the authority under section 68 of the principal Act are, or within a reasonable time will be, complied with in respect of the premises, and
  2. (ii) the slaughterhouses facilities available in the district of the local authority are not adequate for the time being having regard to the reasonable requirements of persons making use of such facilities and that additional facilities are required".)

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Hoy and myself. We are coming now to the slaughter of a different type of animal from the grey squirrel, and, if I may use the term, so far as I am concerned we are getting to the meat of the Bill. We regard this as a very important Amendment. May I begin by apologising to the Government Front Bench for the fact that they are faced with a Starred Amendment? This is due to the fact that at weekends my noble friend Lord Hoy goes to the distant parts of the realm while I am closer to London, and therefore all contact is lost. It was only late this weekend that I was able, on his behalf and my own, to put down this Amendment.

I am very conscious of the fact that the Amendment I am now moving is not sufficiently comprehensive; it was prepared in a hurry. But in substance this Amendment is a re-enactment of part of Section 76 of the Food and Drugs Act 1955, and therefore I am relying on the words of that section to press the Amendment which I am now moving. The two items which appear in the Amendment are conditions as safeguards, safeguards against a reversal to the situation which applied before legislation was passed in the 1950s on the question of slaughterhouses. If I may say so. in round terms my main objection to the present clause is that there ought to be a detailed study of the future pattern of the meat trade and of meat inspection and slaughterhouses, including consideration of what goes on after we join the E.E.C. Their needs might be very different indeed, and we might be face to face with a very different question altogether from the one that now applies. Therefore I should have thought it inadvisable that a Government should be proceeding at this moment to legislation of this kind in regard to slaughterhouses and slaughter of food animals before we know full well what will go on if and when we enter the Common Market. These overall decisions, the ones in Clause 6 as it is before your Lordships at the moment, in my view should not have been come to at this stage.

It may well be that we—my noble friend and I, and perhaps some other noble Lords—might be tempted, when we get to the Question, That the Clause stand part, to say something of a wider character than I will have to say at the present time on this Amendment. But for all that, this is a complete reversal of the policy of more than one Parliament. It has been under consideration by Labour Governments and by Conservative Governments. I recall the hours and hours that we spent in Committee Rooms of another place discussing these important questions of charges, to ensure that in the future hygiene should be highly regarded, that there should be none of these back-street slaughterhouses that could not possibly be visited by the meat inspectors and the veterinary surgeons; they were engaged in the larger places, and therefore there could always be neglect of the smaller and more remote ones.

Following the experiences of the last war, the opportunity was taken to provide that butchers who wanted to establish their own slaughterhouses, in much better conditions than had previously applied, should have an opportunity over a named period of making application for these slaughterhouse licences, under proper conditions, which would be approved by local authorities and by Ministers. That has been established by the previous legislation, and to-day we are asked to go back completely on everything that was done in that regard. I want to know why the change should come about now. We members of the Labour Party are often accused of being doctrinaire, but it seems to me that in this present Parliament, and with the present policies of this Government, it is they who are doctrinaire. They are constantly turning back the pages—pages which have been written for the benefit of the people of this country. Even the Liberal Party, in the days gone by, have given up laissez faire, but it seems to me that the policy of the present Government is getting back to laissez faire.

What is the demand for the change that is now being proposed in this clause? Who has made the demand? May I ask the noble Baroness what evidence she can produce that there has been any demand at all from people who are interested in these matters that the clock should be set back, and that we should go back to the pre-1958 situation? The 1958 Act has proved to be a great success. Private traders who wanted their own slaughterhouses had plenty of time to open new slaughterhouses or modernise their existing ones, and this they have done. There is no need at all for power to be given for the opening of unlimited numbers—because that is what this means—of slaughterhouses. Why establish at this time a free-for-all; a free-for-all to the detriment of the municipal abattoirs? This is a very important point.

As a result of the 1958 Act, and before that time, Governments pleaded with local authorities to establish good municipal buildings where the conditions of slaughter were perfect, and where traders could go, if necessary, and hire floor space to kill their own cattle. The one I obviously know best, with this accent of mine, is in the place that I come from, Manchester. Manchester complied with the desire of the Ministry, and have built what I believe is the largest and perhaps the best abattoir in Europe. At the moment it is under-occupied, and the Town Clerk of Manchester tells me that they are losing something like £400,000 per annum in the running of that slaughterhouse, and that they could use it more and more. Yet the Government are suggesting that more slaughterhouses might be established in the area, which would take away more and more from the Manchester Corporation. And what applies to Manchester applies also to quite a number of other municipal authorities in this country.

I am concerned about consultation. I had the temerity to ask the noble Baroness, when she introduced the Second Reading of this Bill, what consultations had taken place with local authorities. She confessed in reply to me that several of them had expressed their concern about the provisions of Clause 6. Discussions did take place with Mr. Stodart, the Under-Secretary, on these matters, but he never gave the people he was talking to any assurances that what they were saying would be either seriously considered or put into effect; and I have read some of the correspondence relative to those talks. I am suggesting to the noble Baroness that it is the bigger companies, the big people, who want to open large slaughterhouses up and down the country who are making this effort to get the Government to go back to the situation as it was prior to 1958. It is not the small man, the man who wants to kill his own cattle in his own slaughterhouse. These people are fixed up; they have done their job, and do not need any more slaughterhouses.

The new buildings suggested in the Bill are subject, at the moment, only to planning consent, and the very minimum hygienic standards. I suggest that this is not sufficient. We arc living in an age when we must protect our people in a fully hygienic way, and we should not allow slaughterhouses to grow all over the country. Let us limit them. There has been a tremendous limitation since 1958, and those that are in existence are good. Do not let us open a door for something which is not nearly so good. I beg to move.

5.6 p.m.


I rise to support my noble friend. I feel rather sad about this, especially as in another place over a number of years I spent many hours in Committee discussing the problem of slaughterhouses, and it was then more or less agreed on both sides that in these days of vast conurbations and huge increases of population we needed first-class conditions for our slaughterhouses, and first-class hygienic conditions for the marketing of our meat. We read here quite blatantly in Clause 6 that it repeals certain provisions in the Food and Drugs Act 1955, so that local authorities in England and Wales will be relieved of any duty to secure adequate slaughtering facilities in their districts. I think that just that piece of phraseology in itself is devastating. The Minister will no longer have power to require the alteration of charges made for the use of public slaughterhouses, and certain virtually inoperative provisions regarding the restriction by local authorities of the number of private slaughterhouses will be removed.

The clause also amends the Slaughterhouses Act 1958, so that local authorities will no longer need to seek the Minister's approval of the grant of new licences for slaughterhouses. Those sentences alone are devastating so far as the future of the meat trade is concerned. I will be brief, because on both sides of the House there are many noble Lords here who are occupied in agriculture, occupied with food production, and in this plastic age of artificial colouring matters of all kinds slipping into the food we consume it really is a retrograde and atavistic step to relax the regulations on one of the most essential products of mankind—fresh, clean, and good meat. My noble friend used the word "doctrinaire". This is a doctrinaire retreat to laissez faire in the meat trade. It is going back to the 1910s. I do not want to go too wide, but I do not want to see again what I saw in the streets and in the butchers' shops and slaughterhouses of South Wales in the hungry 1920s and 1930s. Sweat meat sold in the market at 11 or 12 o'clock at night in Cardiff, or up the valleys, to people who walked miles to buy 3d. or 6d. worth of meat that had been produced under the worst kind of conditions. I do not want to paint too lurid a picture and suggest that we could get back to that situation, but unless we keep these regulations, there are "Johnny come latelys" who will come into the business and who will not be concerned with the decency of production. I really and truly believe that this is giving an impetus to speculation of the worst kind in this trade. I shall finish there, because I do not want to bore the House by reiterating platitudes and obvious facts. I shall end with this appeal. Please do not let this arid clause go forward like this, unamended. I beg the noble Baroness on the Front Bench, who ticks as humanely as any of us, to take note of the Amendment put down by my noble friends.

5.10 p.m.


I have certainly taken very careful note of the Amendment, because I could see during the Second Reading debate that the noble Lord, Lord Royle, was not at all happy about this provision, but I have to say to him that I cannot accept the Amendment, because it does the opposite of what we intend to do under Clause 6. This is really a question of policy. The noble Lord was quite right to ask why we are making a change now when, so far as he knew, the 1958 Act had worked well and when there had been great problems at the time in trying to devise the right policy to undertake. I think I owe it to the Committee to try to explain as briefly as I can why Clause 6, and the corresponding one relating to Scotland, are in the Bill, before I refer specifically to the Amendment itself.

Looking back over all those years since 1958, your Lordships will remember that that Act was introduced because it was thought that it would create the right balance between public and private slaughterhouses and would also prevent the proliferation of too many unhygienic slaughterhouses. It is interesting to note that in 1956 there were 4,500 slaughterhouses in England and Wales, while there are now only 1,734, so in that respect the Act has done its job. But the point to make here is that not only have slaughterhouses been disappearing quite rapidly, but there have been very few applications to build new ones of any kind. The applications which are made are to change and modernise existing slaughterhouses. The difficulty is that for some reason or other—and it is very hard to find out why—many of the local authorities operate their own slaughterhouses at a loss. Of course there are private slaughterhouses which are very much in need of modernisation, and because it costs about £60,000 to build a new slaughterhouse up to modern standards the applications are for modernisation.

We have introduced this clause because we feel that, instead of the Minister, or the local authority, having the final responsibility to control the new licences, which also includes control over the granting of licences to premises which are being enlarged or renovated, we should take the better course which is to free licensing from control. I suggest that if we accepted the Amendment and left the power in the hands of the local authority, the authority would be in a very difficult position. If the owner of a private slaughterhouse asked the local authority for a licence to renovate and modernise, it would be very difficult for it to have to refuse the application, because the authority would be in the position of refusing a competitor the right to modernise his own premises. That is why we believe that this responsibility should not be placed on either the Minister or the local authority, and why we should revert to the free market, whereby the local authority will grant a licence subject to planning permission and subject to the necessary hygienic qualifications. I did not agree with the noble Lord when he said that the hygienic qualifications are not sufficient. I should have thought that in this country they were in this field pretty high.

The fact that there are fewer slaughterhouses is, I think, a good thing. If, as we propose under Clause 6, control of this nature is removed, it will mean that local authorities whose slaughterhouses are operating at a loss will consider whether to go on operating them, or whether to lease them to a consortium or to one operator, as the noble Lord suggested. The point is that the local authority ought to have as much freedom as anyone else to do what it thinks fit. The noble Lord mentioned Manchester, in particular. I do not know whether the one at Glasgow is bigger, but I can assure him that a very good slaughterhouse is due to start operating there next year. It is not that one does not understand these problems, but we feel it is fairer to give local authorities freedom to lease, to sell or to go on operating slaughterhouses, than to put this very difficult duty upon them. I cannot accept the Amendment because it merely substitutes the Minister's authority for that of the local authorities.


I have listened to what the noble Baroness has had to say, and I must say that I find her answer extremely disappointing. She said that local authorities will be free to do as they like, to operate slaughterhouses themselves or to sell to a consortium or a private entrepreneur, and that that will be all right. That argument has no logic at all. As my noble friend behind me has just said, it is a kind of take-over bid from a local authority. One must remember the capital that has been invested in slaughterhouses at the behest of central Government amounting to something like £20 million over the last 15 years. It was not that the local authorities decided that they were all going to have new abattoirs, but that, because of the appalling conditions, the Government of the day thought it right to get rid of a considerable number of the small slaughterhouses. I am certain that during his Ministerial period the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, supported the abolition of considerable numbers of small slaughterhouses and their replacement by much larger ones with good hygienic conditions. The food consumers, at least, were then assured that they were going to be supplied with meat about which they need have no doubts; in fact, the quality would be superb. It was the Government of the clay, and successive Governments, which persuaded local authorities to make this change. The noble Baroness said that the slaughterhouse at Manchester is big. I think that Manchester spent some £4,500,000 on providing a service.

It is no use the noble Baroness saying to us, "If they put the prices up they will solve their problem", because, as I said on Second Reading, if the prices have to be put up then someone, somewhere, has to pay those increased prices, and if it is in this particular field the only way in which these increases can be reflected is in the price of meat purchased by the housewife. There is no other way out; and to suggest that this is a way of solving the problem does not impress me, and I am certain that it does not impress my noble friends.

We might perhaps go a little further into it when we come to the Question, Whether the clause shall stand part?, because then we shall be able to deploy all the arguments about it. But I tell the noble Baroness that we do not accept what she has said. What she says is, "All right; let us have a period of laissez faire. Let us have a free market; let everybody do as they like; and out of this morass will come some kind of order". The noble Baroness does not believe that. I know her too well; and, like her, I have had to read these briefs. I have no doubt at all that on the brief she has just read there is written the name of my noble friend and the number of his Amendment, and typed in the left-hand corner there is one word, "Resist". So it does not matter what argument we put forward: the noble Baroness has received her instructions; she is not free to take any other line. But I say to her quite seriously that, because of that, I would say to my noble friend that we shall do less than justice if we do not divide your Lordships on this Amendment.


I rise only because the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, has mentioned my name. I have been trying to think back to the dim past, about 15 years ago, to the days when I no doubt wrote "Resist" at the top of a brief. I remember the circumstances then. The situation was that there was a tremendous number of very poor slaughterhouses indeed, and we had to do something about it. At that time private enterprise did not show any inclination to come along with the capital investment required to put those slaughterhouses in the condition in which they should be, so we welcomed a reduction in their number and a situation in which the existing slaughterhouses would be capable of dealing with the situation and would be of the right standard. That, I think, came to pass, and it has worked pretty well.

As I understand the present proposals, they are that the situation will remain as it is at present, with the local authorities fulfilling their responsibilities, unless private enterprise comes along with proposals and the necessary capital investment to operate these slaughterhouses at the right standards. There will be no question whatever, I am sure, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, hinted there might be, of lowering standards and of going back to the lamentable conditions of the past. I could not agree with him more that that would be absolute disaster, and I know that my noble friend the Minister would not dream of putting forward proposals if he thought they might have that effect. Therefore, I think that the proposals are not dangerous at all. If any projects are brought forward by any private enterprise source, supported by the necessary capital and with the assurance that they would operate under the standards that are absolutely essential, then good luck to them, and perhaps the result might be that some of the municipal slaughterhouses which are today operating, or appear to be operating, at a very heavy loss might find some way to avoid that loss. If I felt that there was any danger to the consumer or unfairness to the trade in these proposals, I would be very much against them, but I do not think I see that danger or unfairness in them.


I hate to be in disagreement with the noble Baroness because (I say it with bated breath in the presence of her husband) I like her so much, but on this matter she has not given us any satisfaction at all, and I am most disappointed. May I make one or two comments on what she has said? First she tells us that there are very few applications for new licences. If there are so few applications, why on earth are we legislating? We do not need any more slaughterhouses. This has been proved by virtue of the fact that people are not applying. On her point about hygienic conditions being very high at the moment, we are in complete agreement there. But the Bill repeals several provisions which ensure those hygienic conditions. That is what Clause 6 is doing. With deep respect, I would say to the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, that he must have forgotten that under the terms of the Bill the Minister would not have the powers referred to by the noble Viscount. He tells us that the Minister would be certain not to allow us to go back to those bad conditions; but under the terms of the Bill the Minister has no power to do anything about it, and it is to get that power that we want these terms. I am sorry (I do not want to go on arguing; I made my arguments in my opening speech) but I agree with my noble friend Lord Hoy that we just cannot let this go, and I would therefore ask noble Lords to go into the Lobby with us in support of the Amendment.


Perhaps I may reply to the noble Lord, because I do not want there to be any misunderstanding arising between us, for I know that he is a great authority on all these matters. All I meant by my reference to the Minister was that the standards of hygiene would be maintained and supervised. I think that that is the most important thing of all, and if there were any slipping there I should certainly oppose the proposals.


May I ask a question? My noble friend Lord Royle says that the standards of hygiene would not be maintained: the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, says that they would be maintained. Can the noble Baroness tell us, with the full authority of the Government, whether the standards of hygiene would be maintained or not?


Yes, I am very glad to have this opportunity to assure noble Lords, including, above all, the noble Lord, Lord Royle, who takes such an interest in this subject, that they will be maintained. What the clause does is to remove from local authorities the duty to provide adequate slaughtering facilities, that means, in the number of premises that they have to ensure are in a particular area. It does not in any way alter the duties which they have at present for meat inspection, which is of course their responsibility, and which are carried out either by public health inspectors as part of their general responsibility for food hygiene or by authorised meat inspectors. They will remain as they are now.


If I may have just one more word, I am sorry but the very repealing of some of the previous legislation means that the noble Baroness cannot possibly guarantee that the present standards will be maintained.

5.29 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No.11) shall he agreed to?

5.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?


I do not intend to take up much of your Lordships' time. Clause 6 we find quite unacceptable in every way. It is very difficult to understand how any Government, having had all the benefits we have had of concentrating our slaughterhouses, could reach a decision to go back to the pre-war position. Before the war we had thousands of slaughterhouses. Indeed, the noble

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 43; Not-Contents, 81.

Airedale, L. Henley, L. Royle, L.
Archibald, L. Heycock, L. Segal, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.] Shackleton, L.
Beswick, L. Hoy, L. Slater, L.
Blyton, L. Hughes, L. Snow, L.
Brockway, L. Kilbracken, L. Stocks, Bs.
Buckinghamshire, E. Leatherland, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Burntwood, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller.] Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Byers, L. Wade, L.
Champion, L. MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Maelor, L. Williamson, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Milner of Leeds, L. Wise, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Moyle, L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Gaitskell, Bs. Nunburnholme, L.
Henderson, L. Phillips, Bs. Wynne-Jones, L.
Aberdare, L. Derwent, L. Long, V.
Albemarle, E. Dulverton, L. Mansfield, E.
Allerton, L. Dundee, E. Mar and Kellie, E.
Alport, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Margadale, L.
Amory, V. Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Auckland, L. Falkland, V. Merrivale, L.
Balerno, L. Ferrers, E. Milverton, L.
Barnby, L. Ferrier, L. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Beauchamp, E. Fortescue, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Glasgow, E.
Berkeley, Bs. Goschen, V. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Birdwood, L. Granville of Eye, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Green way, L. Oakshott, L.
Brecon, L. Gridley, L. Poltimore, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Rankeillour, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Reigate, L.
Burton, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Carrington, L. Harvey of Prestbury, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Hood, V. St. Just, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Howard of Glossop, L. Sandford, L.
Conesford, L. Ilford, L. Selkirk, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Tnclewood, L. Sempill, Ly.
Cottesloe, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Courtown, E. Jessel, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Craigavon, V. Kemsley, V. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
Daventry, V. Killearn, L. Vivian, L.
de Clifford, L. Lauderdale, E. Windlesham, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lindsey and Abingdon, E.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Baroness, in the last debate on the Amendment, pointed out that, whereas we had 4,350 slaughterhouses in 1956, we had only some 1,700 to-day, and she was saying that this is all to our credit. This is what she was claiming credit for—and rightly so. Yet this proposal by the Government seeks to reverse that completely, because if no more slaughterhouses are to be built, the noble Baroness would not want to make provision for them in Clause 6. If there is provision in a Bill, surely it must mean that the Government expect more slaughterhouses to be built; otherwise they would not bother to take the power. This seems to me to be simple in its logic. If they do not expect it why take the power at all?

I think what is quite wrong about this is that the noble Baroness, in replying to the, last Amendment, said that local authorities will still have the power to supervise. One might think this was an honour that the noble Baroness was conferring on them. In fact, of course, they have that power at the present time. The noble Baroness is saying something other than that. She is saying, "We propose to allow slaughterhouses to be set up. We propose to do nothing about it. Let them build slaughterhouses wherever they like." All this clause does is to say, "The only duty which we will place on the local authorities is the duty of supervising them after they have been built". In other words, expenditure in this connection will have to be carried by the local ratepayer. That is the only privilege which the noble Baroness is conferring on the local authority: the right to spend the ratepayers' money to see that hygiene is maintained in these additional slaughterhouses. I can find no justification for it.

I should like to have the answer to one question. As I have already said, some £20 million has been spent by local authorities in providing these abattoirs; this money has been spent at the request of successive Governments. The noble Baroness says that the Manchester abattoir was big but that the one for Glasgow will be even larger. I think those were her words. To save time on the next clause (which applies to Scotland what the noble Baroness perpetrates on England and Wales) perhaps she can tell us how much the Glasgow local authority will have to spend. What is going to be the total expenditure in connection with that abattoir, an abattoir built at the request of the Government—and the Ministry is "up to its neck" in this—because of the conditions that prevail in Glasgow and the West? The Government said to Glasgow, "You must do this job". They having done it, the Government now propose to desert them. Perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us what is going to be the cost to the people of Glasgow.

I cannot think of a single reason to support this clause. It is an appalling clause. I hope that we shall show our distaste of it in the only way left open to us; but I will say to the noble Baroness in conclusion (and I am not saying it to her personally; we have known each other for too long) that if the Government think they can get this through easily, they are wrong. Some noble Lords opposite appear to have departed since pleading the case of timber—all the "timber merchants" have gone. But I can assure the noble Baroness and I can assure those noble Lords in absentia (which I suppose is the phrase to be used) that it will take a very long time to get this Bill through its Committee stage; and when it gets to another place there will be one or two Scots there who will have a word or two more to say than I have said so far. Perhaps they will keep it going long enough for us to have the Report that the Government expect in the next few months; so that there will be plenty of time in which to put down Amendments. And in regard to this clause in another place, I could not estimate the time that will be required for the Government to put it through. That is the way we feel about it. I said this on Second Reading and I repeat it now to the noble Baroness. This is not for us in any circumstances!

5.43 p.m.


I do not want to say much more in regard to this matter; but I should like to ask the noble Baroness for an assurance now that before the Report stage she will consider putting into the Bill wording to ensure that the local authorities in considering slaughter licence applications shall, first, have full regard to hygienic as well as to constructional requirements; second, be sure that there is proof of inadequacy of slaughterhouse facilities within, say, 30 miles of any proposed new slaughterhouse; and third, see that there are consultations between themselves and neighbouring local authorities with the latter point in mind. I think that this is important for, otherwise, one local authority may grant a licence for a slaughterhouse which would deeply affect an area next to them. Effective consultations between the two authorities could prevent the establishment of a slaughterhouse which was against the policy of one of the authorities. If the noble Baroness could give an assurance that this might be written into the Bill, then I should be happier than I am at the moment.


It is not my intention to delay the progress of the Bill, but there are three points which should be noted. As my noble friend Lord Hoy has pointed out, the local authorities will have to bear the financial burden of inspecting; but there is something else to be taken account of. As one who dealt with these problems locally some years ago in a slum area—though I hate to use the word "slum"—I should like to assure noble Lords that when slaughterhouses were scattered like mushrooms in the field the approaches to them were distressingly unhygienic. The passage of the cattle through the streets, and their droppings, made this so. The cost of cleaning these approaches was borne by the local authorities. Who is going to pay when these new "mushroom slaughterhouses" spring into being? They cannot be put up anywhere, willy-nilly. There are the problems of drainage and the disposal of blood and offal to be considered. The cost will fall on the ratepayers and a problem will be created for the sewerage authorities. All this has not been thought about.

I hope I have not been dogmatic in what I have been saying. I may be wrong; and I have tried to check the facts. Are we sure that the same regulations will apply—even with the modern, first-class lorries which are in use? Who is to have the responsibility to see that these vehicles are hygienic and are proper instruments for the carriage of good clean food from the farm gate to the slaughterhouses? This factor alone is enough to cause us to say, "Let us not have this political atavism! Let us look into it!" We beg the noble Baroness to impress on the Minister the feeling on this side of the Committee (and even perhaps on the other side) that there is a constructive case to amend the arid rigidity of this clause.


I do not want to detain your Lordships any longer than is necessary, but there is one point that I should like to raise. My noble friend brought up the case of the cleanliness of the lorries from the farm gate to the slaughterhouse. I should put it the other way: from the slaughterhouse to the farm gate. I should like to see facilities for lorries to be washed down hygienically at the slaughterhouse after they have discharged their load.


I realise that I cannot satisfy noble Lords opposite, because they feel this is a very mistaken act of policy. I can only try to explain, perhaps better than I have done, the reason behind it. First, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, that we do not expect a very large number of applications for new slaughterhouses. Since the 1958 Act came into force there have been only 123 applications, of which only 10 have been for new slaughterhouses. What matters is that the present facilities, many of them of high standard, are well used and properly used. This, of course, applies to the local authority slaughterhouses, which in many cases are under-used. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked who pays for everything. The local ratepayer is paying for the losses on the slaughterhouses and local authorities have this obligation regarding hygiene. I could not agree more with what has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Hoy, Lord Davies of Leek and Lord Nunburnholme, about hygiene being absolutely vital. But, as I think I said earlier, this clause in no way alters the hygiene regulations which local authorities have the duty to enforce. On the contrary, it states that in approving licences local authorities shall have full regard to the regulations—that is in subsection (2)(a).

The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked how much the Glasgow slaughterhouse would cost. I think that altogether it will be about £3 million. The real problem is that if slaughterhouses which are not up to standard the kind of slaughterhouses we are trying to remove from the country—are brought up to standard, and a license is approved for them, they will be in direct competition with local authority slaughterhouses—for example, those at Glasgow or Manchester. The more licences that are approved, and the more existing slaughterhouses are improved and modernised, the more competition will he created. The removal of the duty on local authorities to provide adequate slaughtering facilities means that if they wish they may lease their premises, or they may see whether they can operate the premises successfully themselves. I do not expect that local authorities even if they are given the freedom to do so, will raise their charges more than those of the private operator, because obviously, if they did so, the capacity of local authority slaughterhouses would be even more under-used, and that is the last thing they want to happen. I think, therefore, that the fears, though genuinely expressed, have no substance.

One has to take into account that the meat trade is changing in character, as is well known by noble Lords who have taken a personal interest in it. Many companies slaughter and process on the same premises, and they have the highest standards of hygiene. I realise that I cannot persuade noble Lords opposite, but I ask them, since they have been very

Resolved in the affirmative, and clause 6 agreed to accordingly.

fair to me, to consider this question as it appears to the Government and to see whether they do not think there may be something in our view. I realise that they are not happy with this clause, but I hope that I have managed to explain the thinking and the reasoning behind it.


I should be less than courteous if I did not say that we on this side of the Committee are grateful to the noble Baroness for the explanation she has given. The fact that it does not convince us is no reflection on her; it is just that this is a bad clause. And because it is bad we shall divide on it.

5.53 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 6 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 38.

Aberdare, L. Derwent, L. Killearn, L.
Albemarle, E. Dulverton, L. Mar and Kellie, E.
Allerton, L. Dundee, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Amory, V. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Merrivale, L.
Balerno, L. Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Barnby, L. Falkland, V.
Beauchamp, E. Falmouth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Beaumont, L. Ferrers, E. Oakshott, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Ferrier, L. Poltimore, L.
Berkeley, Bs. Fortescue, E. Rankeillour, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Glasgow, E. Reigate, L.
Brecon, L. Goschen, V. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Greenway, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Gridley, L. St. Just, L.
Burton, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Sandford, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Selkirk, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Sempill, Ly.
Courtown, E. Hood, V. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Craigavon, V. Howard of Glossop, L. Thorneycroft. L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Ilford, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Daventry, V. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
de Clifford, L. Jessel, L. Vivian, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Kemsley, V. Windlesham, L.
Archibald, L. Heycock, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]
Beswick, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Raglan, L.
Blyton, L. Hoy, L. Royle, L.
Brockway, L. Hughes, L. Shackleton, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Jacques, L. Slater, L.
Burntwood, L. Kilbracken, L. Snow, L.
Byers, L. Leatherland, L. Stocks, Bs.
Champion, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Crook, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Wade, L.
Davies of Leek, L. MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Maelor, L. Wise, L.
Henderson, L. Milner of Leeds, L. [Teller.] Wright of Ashton under
Henley, L. Nunburnholme, L. Lyne, L.

Clause 7 [Repeal and amendment of certain enactments relating to slaughterhouses in England and Wales]:

6.0 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?


Clause 7 does for Scotland what the Committee have just done for England. I regret to say that we shall not be taking this clause to a division, although with the encouragement of the figures on the last two votes, perhaps we should try a third time to see whether we are lucky. However, we shall resist that temptation. But though we shall not divide the Committee over this clause, we feel about it with exactly the same seriousness as we did about Clause 6, and no one should accuse us of agreeing to it just because we are not taking it to the Division Lobby.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Amendment of law relating to improvement of live stock]:

6.2 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.12: Page 9, line 1, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: In Clause 9, the Minister is taking power to withdraw the licensing of bulls and retain the licensing of boars. Personally, I am not confirmed in my view about this. I have listened to a number of people, one of them, the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, may like to know, was one of our up-and-coming geneticists in his area. He said that you should get rid of licensing together. because it now plays no part; it has played a useful part, but the stage has now been reached when we can get rid of it.

It is a little difficult to understand why the Minister has made two decisions in one. Many will argue that if one system of licensing ought to go, both ought to go. The Minister is really having an "each way" shot, like a racing bet. If he has it each way, he might end up by winning something. This is a weak position for any Minister to take. It has been suggested that his advisers have said to him that he should take a certain course and he has gone against their advice. I do not know; it is not for me to say. But if this is so, he has to give good reason why he refused to accept their advice. It is also said that this is due to the tremendous strength of the breed societies in this country, who have told the Minister that it does not matter what is good for the industry as a whole, to remove the licensing of bulls will create a great deal of trouble for the breed societies. As a consequence they insist that whatever the Minister does in the pig world, he must retain bull licensing in the cattle world. This may be so.

I put down this Amendment so that noble Lords who are well informed in this matter may have a word or two to say about it and so that the Government might make an explanation of why they have split their decision down the middle. I am sure that they will be grateful to us for giving them the opportunity. I beg to move.


May I intervene at the beginning of the debate, because this is a subject with which I have been concerned most of my working life. I am an animal geneticist. Indeed, I was the only cattle geneticist in the country and was consulted as such by the Department of Agriculture and by the Ministry at the time of the bringing in of the 1931 Act. Therefore I have come to regard the Act as one of my particular preserves, and I have watched over how it has grown and has become more useful up to a certain point.

At the time of that Act, consideration was given to the licensing of boars as well, but they were not included, partly because of the cost and partly because the need then was not nearly so great. However, when the Small Pigkeepers' Scheme proved so important during the war and was so successful, under the presidency of a Member of another place, Sir Cedric Drewe, and with him Mr. Hobson, it became necessary to ensure that proper boars were distributed throughout the country and they were included under the scheme of compulsory licensing as a war-time measure.

A great deal of scientific water has flowed under the bridge since then. Whereas at the time when this legislation was passed there were large numbers of herds from which the sires for future generations—not just for that generation—were taken, it has now come about that throughout the industry only a very small proportion of the boars and bulls that are required for a subsequent generation are in existence: in other words, the use of bad bulls or bad boars works itself out almost at once.

It is because of that (it could be expressed in more scientific terms, I feel) that the present generation of geneticists believe that all sire licensing should be done away with, and almost without exception have so advised the Government. I do not find myself altogether in agreement with this younger generation, but I think that they definitely have a point as regards boars.

The difference between the boars and the bulls, so far as meat is concerned, is this. Some years ago the Pig Industry Authority was set up, and they have established (it is now part of the Meat and Livestock Commission) progeny and performance testing stations. The whole of that industry is now looked after by these progeny and performance testing stations, and all the testing is paid for by the industry, with the result that a completely new set of ideas has come into being. The reason for having the Act was, in a way, the same as for having the Weights and Measures Act namely, to see that the purchaser of the stock got value. But now, with the certificate of quality of live weight gain, as well as the quality of the carcases, which can be obtained only through animals tested at these stations and their recorded progeny, immediately the necessity for the licensing is removed, because the licensing, which is done by the inspectors, bears little or no relation to the economic factors of the efficiency of food conversion or the quality of the meat afterwards. So this constitutes a step forward.

This argument does not apply to cattle. The beef stations are still only in their infancy; they are not out of their teething troubles, and it is a much more difficult and slower process to have testing stations for beef cattle. There is a great deal of difference between the two. The inspection of the boars costs quite a bit of money, and I think the Government are thoroughly justified—in fact, I think they would be wilfully negligent if they did not do it—in removing boar licensing and so saving the amount of money that is expended, because it is doing no good for the future of the industry.


Much to my surprise, nobody has mentioned the pedigree cattle of this country, which are very much dependent on the licensing of the bulls. If you remove it a big disaster will occur among the big pedigree herds of Herefords, Friesians and all herds that are dependent on the licensing of their bulls. The bull will not be passed by the licensing authority now, even if its pedigree is as good as it possibly can be, unless it measures up to the conformation and the standard they require. This applies particularly to beef, but it applies also to the Charolais milk cows. I think it ought to be mentioned in this debate that the licensing of beef stock in the cattle line is very different from the licensing of pigs.


In view of what the noble Viscount has just said, I find myself in a somewhat difficult position, because my Amendment No.13 refers to bulls and the licensing of bulls. In view of the fact that they were included in the remarks of my noble friend Lord Hoy, I was wondering whether to make my observations now or to wait until the next Amendment. I decided to wait until the next Amendment, when I hope that the question of bulls will be considered.


I was about to say to my noble friend Lord Daventry that if he would speak on the next Amendment he would have an opportunity to deploy his arguments about bull licensing to greater effect, because we are now on a limited Amendment which, as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said, he put down in order to try to find out why the Government have felt it necessary to give the breeder the right to choose the boar which he needs rather than to have a strict licensing regulation, as has previously been the case. I am advised that the application of selection techniques—I think this was referred to my noble friend Lord Balerno—has made a great deal of difference, because these techniques are based upon performance, and they have advantages, in particular, for a very prolific species such as the pig. I understand that these techniques are widely used in pig breeding. That being so, it has of course reduced the importance of assessment on the basis of conformation on which licensing is based. This is the reason which has really removed the need, and indeed the justification, for having statutory licensing arrangements.

We had consultations with the industry earlier in the year, and the National Pig Breeders' Association were prepared to agree that boar licensing should end. I will try to keep off the question of bull licensing at the moment, and merely say that, so far as pigs are concerned, I understand that the British Lop Pig Society, the British Landrace Pig Society and the Association of Pig Breeding Companies were all represented. There was some opposition, notably among the British Landrace Society but, generally speaking, the National Pig Breeders' Association agreed that boar licensing should end. The National Farmers' Union thought that it would be necessary to see what voluntary arrangements could he made "to safeguard the commercial pig breeder". But I think the whole question was put much more ably than I could put it by my noble friend Lord Balerno, from his personal experience. I think we are right to remove the licensing of boars.


In view of that explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.18 p.m.

LORD KILBRACKEN moved Amendment No.13: Page 9, line 4, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: We now turn from boars to bulls. I should like to go briefly into the history of bull licensing. It was first introduced in 1931, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has already referred to that Act. That Act stated, in Section 2(2): The Minister may refuse to grant or may revoke a licence in respect of a bull, if the bull appears to him to be—

  1. (a) of defective or inferior conformation and likely to beget inferior progeny; or
  2. (b) permanently affected with any contagious or infectious disease; or
  3. (c) permanently affected with any other disease rendering the bull unsuitable for breeding purposes."
That was the situation until 1944, when it became more difficult to get a bull licensed for breeding, or indeed for other purposes. The law then stated that the Minister had to be satisfied—this also applied to boars, but I do not want to complicate matters by including them—if the bull was registered, or eligible for registration, as a pedigree bull with an approved breeding society, or conformed to a standard of type laid down for pedigree bulls of that type by an approved breeding society, and was unlikely to beget progeny which did not conform to that standard.

Then, in 1963, under an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, the Minister was enabled to refuse to grant a licence if he was not satisfied that the bull conformed to such standards of suitability for breeding purposes as might be prescribed. The position for the 40 years since the 1931 Act has been that it has been more and more difficult to get the calf licensed as a bull. Quite apart from that, the standard required in a calf, even if it satisfied those requirements, has consistently been getting higher and higher. Those of your Lordships involved in breeding cattle will remember that ten years ago some inferior calves which to-day would not get a second thought, used to receive licences. That has been the trend of the licensing that I am considering.

Many of us who are involved in pure bred breeding have wished that restrictions of this kind could be applied not only to bulls but also to heifers. If you had a pure bred heifer you would simply notify the Society that she had arrived. You could breed from her and have progeny, pure bred cattle, and she would not have to be examined or passed in any way. If the Government would introduce measures to make it more difficult to use cattle in general for breeding purposes, a great many of us would approve. We should like to see the number of heifers that can be used for breeding purposes reduced by legislation. Instead of that, the Government have gone in completely the opposite direction. They have not gone quite so far as they might because although my noble friend has been complaining about the inconsistency of licensing, in the case of bulls I understand that it had been the Minister's wish to end licensing altogether. He has not gone so far as that. He has gone back to the position as it was in 1931. He is saying that bull calves must still be licensed, but the requirements are those laid down in the original legislation. In other words, when the bull is examined—and I understand this is to be done by veterinary officers—the breeding of the calf does not enter into consideration. The vet would not be entitled to consider the calf's genetic background.

If the calf was the kind of cross-breed that most of us do not like to see—a Jersey Hereford, or something of that kind, that happened by accident—so long as the calf was of suitable conformation and was healthy, then the vet would not be able to refuse a licence for that bull. I cannot help feeling amazed at this and wonder what the Government's reasons are for going back to the 1931 situation. I might be able to understand such a change if all farmers were good. For example, I can understand that some people would like to have a three-quarter Charolais and breed from him. I would never do that because I believe that the bull should be pure bred. Already, under existing legislation, if a farmer wants to do experimental breeding with a crossbred bull, or rear bull beef and not to castrate his bull calves, then he is able to receive special authority to do so. That is not the situation that I am worried about. I am worried about the bad farmer who wants o save a few pounds and, instead of spending £150 or £200 guineas on a reasonably good, or even reasonably bad, pedigree bull, he is going to rear a scrub bull for his own use. Presumably he would not hope to sell it.

Consider a farmer who rears heifers, and wants to get them in calf to sell as springers at 2½ years old or thereabouts. It is going to be a great temptation for him—particularly if one of his Jersey cows get crossed to a Hereford by mistake, and gets one of those bad bull calves which at present one cannot sell in the market for £1—to rear the bull and put him up for licensing. So long as the bull has the right appearance and health, then the owner can get a licence for him. He will be able to run the bull with heifers and sell the heifers when they are seven or eight months in calf. A person buying them would suffer because he would assume that the heifers were going to be in calf to a decent bull. I feel that this is something that is going to get worse as the standard of calves falls. You will get the second generation when the mongrel progeny are being used on the original mongrel progeny, and you will get a double mongrel. I do not know whether the Government feel that any financial saving is going to be involved. I do not see how there can be any saving; if anything, more bulls are going to be licensed and therefore more licensing to be done. I wonder whether the Government have considered the experience at the outbreak of war. Temporarily the licensing of bulls was suspended but, after a short interval, officials reported that all over the country scrub bulls were being used on such a scale that the licensing rules were reintroduced. It seems strange, when we are on the verge of trying to join the Common Market, at a time when the three major countries of the E.E.C., France, West Germany and Italy, are preparing to introduce the licensing of bulls and have greater control over the size of breed in general, that Britain should be allowing the licensing of mongrels.

When I was considering what I should say to your Lordships to-day I felt that I should declare a personal interest, because the breeding of pure bred Herefords is now my principal farming activity, but, after consideration, I came to realise that, if anything, the reverse was the case. It would suit me financially far better if this Bill were to become law as it stands, because I am farming in the Republic of Ireland. This Bill as an Act would not apply to Northern Ireland and there is no intention of introducing similar legislation in the Republic. This means that the demand for pure bred heifers in Ireland is hardly going to be affected, because very few are exported to Britain; but also, of course, it will mean that the demand for, for example, spring heifers and store cattle, which I also produce from my part of the Realm, will, I believe, be far higher, because breeders in this country will know that if they go to Ireland to buy spring heifers they are going to obtain a decent quality. Perhaps that very fact will recommend my Amendment which is in front of your Lordships. I beg leave to move.


I rise to support my noble friend Lord Kilbracken in his Amendment, but on a rather different line. I feel that pedigree animals make a big difference, but performance combined with a pedigree is much the most important point. This autumn I attended a sale of Sussex bulls at Maid-stone and the best prices were obtained by those young bulls that had the best live-weight gain. I cannot get away from that fact. Of course, Lord Kilbracken's Herefords may have marvellous live-weight gain; and I think that that must be taken into consideration. I do not like the idea of these scrub bulls being licensed. If we license them, we are setting ourselves back in this country as cattle breeders of the best cattle in the world. There is not much more to add to what I have said already, except that I should like to see the licences of Peers extended to pedigree as well and the abolition of Life Peerage!


I have a good deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, and with his Amendment. There is one particular aspect, however, which, if I have the meaning correctly, means that licensing will be clone by one's own vet. I am not sure, but if this is correct I think the position of the vet is rather invidious. We already have the position under the Riding Establishments Act whereby one's own vet licenses a riding establishment. It is jolly difficult for him to come in and say, "This establishment is not up to standard" if he is one's own veterinary officer. I do not like the look of this and I hope that the noble Baroness will give this matter further consideration.


I support the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. I agreed with everything he said. Nobody seems to realise the importance to this country of keeping these big Hereford, British Friesian, Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus herds absolutely tip top. I have heard from several breeders of these big pedigree herds how terrified they are of the licensing of the scrub bull. The whole value of the herd is at risk. Foreigners can come over here and buy them at big sales at Perth and such places, and they would not touch one that was contaminated by another crossbred animal. I should like to register my support of what the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, said.


I have some sympathy with this Amendment, but may I allude to what my noble friend Lord Burton said. He compared the situation with one's vet coming and giving one a licence, when the vet obviously would not want to disappoint his client. One might equally refer to a motor-car. When you have to obtain a test certificate you go to a local garage, and it might equally well be said that it is rather awkward for the local garage to refuse your car a test certificate. I do not think the example was a very good one.


I believe that the testing of motor-cars has already proved highly disastrous.

6.36 p.m.


There is one major factor which has appeared since the 1943 Act, which is where the clause we are considering abolishing comes in. It is a very important factor in the whole of the cattle breeding industry, and if we fail to take it into account we shall get into a muddle. It is one of the reasons why the scientists are virtually unanimous in advocating total abolition of sow licensing. It is artificial insemination. I have not the figures with me, but at the present moment well over 50 per cent. of the cattle of this country are sired by artificial insemination. That applies to both dairy and beef cattle. The hulls used are very highly selected indeed. As regards the dairy bulls, they are used to any extent only after a number of their progeny have been tested and evaluated for milk production quantity and quality, and after the confirmation of their daughters. So the dairy cattle breeding industry is in quite a different position from the position it was in when the 1943 Bill was introduced.

As regards beef, as soon as adequate measures are available for testing the beef bulls only the best bulls will be used at the artificial insemination stations. The work that the Milk Marketing Board has done already for the dairy bull, and what it is doing now in the way of pioneering work for the beef bulls, is of the very highest order and regarded most highly by people in other countries, including North America. It puts a completely different view on the whole position of cattle breeding in this country. A very much more productive set of females are being introduced.

One of the main reasons for wanting to extend beyond the pedigree bulls is the fact that the hybrid bull has now been shown to have very definite value. It has not to my mind as yet been completely evaluated on a large enough scale in this country, but if we take the lessons of other countries where the hybrid bull is being used, then we see that we ought not to deny ourselves the same possibilities in this country. The hybrid bull undoubtedly has greater hardiness, greater reliability, greater vigour and perhaps also greater sexual vigour, and is therefore of great use where animals are run on the hill or, as in America, on the range. As I have said, we have still to get more detailed information about it for this country, but it will have to be done on a fairly large scale.

The hybrid bull is utterly and absolutely dependent and can only exist if the parent breeds are bred pure. If the parent breeds are not of the top quality there will he no value whatsoever in the hybrid bull, and the hybrid bull that should be used is one that comes from strains that are tested for their meat. In discussing the hybrid bull I am considering it in relation to meat: the hybrid bull for dairying is a completely different possibility.

The hybrid bull, which may be a first cross or, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken says, three-quarters Charolais, or it may be a blend of three or even four breeds, but possibly not more than that, is unquestionably the animal that makes the greatest contribution towards cheapening our beef production in the future. One cannot get the necessary information merely by restricting it to that nice clause which the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, pulled out of the 1931 Act. I can remember getting that clause specially drafted; it came down from Scotland and was inserted in the Bill as it went through Parliament.

I am not worried about farmers using scrub bulls. If a farmer is working in any way to keep his head above water financially he will be gradually increasing his herd. The herds in Britain are now of average size—very much bigger than the herds on the Continent—and from that point of view therefore they are rather more efficient. In the old days we had small herds, but they are now almost out of existence. No farmer with a herd of over 60 cows could afford to use the scrub bull of the type that was in existence before the 1931 Act. His neighbours would know, and the type of bull that he was using would be known when he came to sell his stock, and their bad value would show in the shape of the animals.

There will still be inspection of bulls. I am very glad that the Government have done this, because this is a matter on which I would be in some disputation with the majority of the young scientists. The inspection of bulls will remain so that bulls of the mongrel or nondescript kind would not get licences in the future. I believe this to be a definite step forward, taking account of the developments in animal science throughout the world, lessons from countries like Australia, especially, as well as North America; and I think it would be a great pity if your Lordships did not support the Government in this matter.


Before the noble Baroness replies, although there is nothing much more than I can add, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. I have in fact spoken with several of the leading herd owners in my own locality, and I think they arc fairly unanimous in their opinion that it would perhaps be a backward step to ease the existing regulations. They seem to think that we have gone to considerable lengths to reach the present high standard of breeding which we now have, and that it would be wrong not to continue. This is especially so in dairy breeds. It must be insufficient to rely entirely upon the colouring and conformation of the beast, and it is essential to know something of its breeding background and the records of its parents and ancestors. I think we should seriously consider this Amendment.


May I say one word to support the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, in his defence of the scientific approach? The breed societies have, of course, done a great deal in a rather roundabout way to include cattle, but the business of having a number of criteria which are irrelevant to performance is only now beginning to be eliminated. If you have however beautiful a Hereford with a black nose it will get nowhere, and I believe that this House in 1971 ought to stand firm against any form of the licensing of bulls which depends at all heavily upon inspection by eye.


If the bull has a black nose he will not get a licence.


Why not?


Because he is not of sufficiently good appearance.


Exactly; and that, with respect, is ridiculous.


I think we all agree that we have had a fascinating debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, can be quite content because he has had a good deal of support. But there has also been almost the same number who have held the opposite view. He has been supported by the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, my noble friend Lord Daventry and the noble Lord, Lord Wise, but I am happy to say that everybody else who has spoken was in favour of the provision as it stands in the Bill. We seem to have these two divisions of opinion: the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, seems to think that we have gone too far, and many of my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, think it is about time—or at any rate it is the right mean. I remember very well on Second Reading my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford saying that it was quite time that we abolished bull licensing completely. We have tried to get a right balance.

The Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, really perpetuates the current arrangements under which cross-bred bulls are not licensed for breeding, but the Government believe that this ban on cross-bred bulls should end, so that the breeder may have more freedom to select a bull which he thinks fits his particular purpose, whether it be pure-bred or cross-bred. On the other hand I should like to give an assurance to those noble Lords who have questioned the results of these arrangements. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and his colleagues have had full discussions with bull breeders about these proposals on bull licensing, and the bull breeders accepted that the modified bull licensing arrangements will provide the necessary safeguards against damage, which of course everybody recognises might otherwise be caused by the use of bulls with inferior conformation or with hereditary defects, or indeed diseased bulls. Here I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, that in the course of these consultations an assurance was given to the breeders that if any crosses gave rise to serious abnormalities or defects the Ministers would refuse to license them; and they have powers under the Improvement of Livestock (Licensing of Bulls) Act 1931.

The noble Lord asked about the implications of our joining the European Community. No doubt he will know that there is not as yet any agreed policy, or, as they would put it, any harmonisation of livestock improvement policies. In the present Community there are very wide differences in livestock policies. For example, Belgium, France and Germany have bull licensing arrangements, but Holland, Norway and Denmark do not. The noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, gave a very fair view, I thought, when he said that one wanted to get the right mean between pedigree and performance; and this is really what we are trying to do in this clause. He then, unfortunately, if I heard him correctly, said that he would like to see the abolition of Life Peers, which would be a fearful affair, if we take only the number here at the moment.

My noble friend Lord Burton thought it would be an embarrassment if one's own veterinary officer had to come along and say that one's own premises were not hygienic enough. This point is being discussed with those concerned; we have realised that there is a point here. I thought my noble friend would like this assurance. My noble friend Lord Balerno spoke in a very learned way on what he would technically call hybrid vigour, which is the common term used, and I am sure that he is right. He was the only speaker in the debate who drew attention to the enormous advances which have been made in artificial insemination. It is because the circumstances are changing all the time that we feel that we have tried to get the right balance between those who would have no alteration in the present arrangements and those who would like to have entire abolition of licensing. I hope that in these circumstances the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. I must admit that I took slight exception to the fact that, having listed three or four noble Lords who had spoken in my favour, she then said that everyone else was opposed to this proposal. Everyone else consisted of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and my noble friend Lord Donaldson, so that the "everyone else" was two in number, unless you consider the noble Lord, Lord Burton, who is rather sitting on the fence, perhaps more in my favour than against me.


I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but if we count them, there was first the noble Lord, Lord Balerno. Then I understood the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to be in favour of this, as was my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard. My noble friend Lord Burton was not against it; and, of course, there is me, too.


The noble Baroness had not spoken at that moment, and her noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard did not voice a very positive opinion on the matter. However, let that pass. To take what one or two noble Lords said, Lord Nunburnholme was talking about the great desirability of having not only pedigree, but performance combined with pedigree. I certainly agree that that is desirable wherever possible. If I am buying a bull, as I shall in February, one of the main things I look for is size and bone, particularly size; I want a large bull. This is a factor that an inspecting officer should certainly take into account when deciding to license the calf or not. He will see what size it is and if he thinks it is not big enough he should certainly refuse to give a licence on those grounds. Unfortunately, it is not possible—except when we are talking about artificial insemination, which I will come to in a moment—to know what the bull's performance is going to be, what his progeny is going to be like, at the moment when a decision about a licence has to be taken, because if it is a thoroughbred this will not be known for three or four years, and by then it will be too late.

But this is not the case with artificial insemination, because the semen can be stored indefinitely. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, raised the question of artificial insemination. It is very important; it has altered breeding habits a lot. I do not like it, for various reasons. I find that my heifers do not look for the bull so quickly when they are on their own, and also the bull knows better than I do what is the right time for service to take place. I find that the females, apart from being much more satisfied with the bull, get into calf more quickly and do not turn to the bull as often. I do not really follow what was the noble Lord's purpose in bringing up the question of artificial insemination, because I do not think he is saying that semen from crossbred bulls should be allowed for artificial insemination; and therefore pedigree cattle are still as important, or more important than ever. Apart from that, and the fact that the existence of artificial insemination makes possession of a bull less important for a number of breeders prepared to use insemination, I do not quite see the relevance to my point of his remarks about artificial insemination.

The noble Lord also alleged that the mongrel bull really badly bred would not be given a licence. On this point I must draw the Committee's attention to the wording of the 1931 Act, and the noble Lord must be already well acquainted with it because he worked on it. This is the Act to which the industry will now be returned. The Act is quite specific; it says that the Minister may refuse to grant a licence for three very particular reasons: … if the bull appears to him to be of defective or inferior conformation and likely … not "or likely" but "and likely"— … to beget defective or inferior progeny, or permanently affected with any contagious or infectious disease, or permanently affected with any other disease rendering the bull unsuitable for breeding purposes. Therefore, if it is a healthy animal, so long as it is not of defective or inferior conformation the inspecting officer may not refuse the licence. Those are the only grounds on which the licence may be refused.


Surely the inspecting officer will be something of a genius if he can really tell whether an animal is going to breed badly. Nobody else can. Most of the really lethal characteristics are not observable in any way. It is a lot of nonsense.


Does my noble friend mean the Act of 1931?




This is the Act to which the Government are determined to return; after all the progress of 40 years they are determined to return to the Act of 1931. If the noble Lord thinks that it is nonsense to do what the Government are proposing to do, he should have been supporting me and not opposing me.


Is the noble Lord telling me that if I say that the suggestion that an inspector can tell whether a bull will breed well or badly is nonsense, I am supporting the noble Lord? I thought he was in favour of keeping this inspection, which I thought the Government were diminishing without altogether abolishing.


The Government are setting up different criteria for deciding whether a bull should be licensed or not. If it is a healthy bull, the only thing that the examining officer may consider is whether in his opinion it is of defective or inferior conformation and likely to beget defective or inferior progeny. That is what the Act says. I did not write it.


I think it is ridiculous, whether the noble Lord wrote it or not.


That is the ridiculous Act, to which my noble friend is referring, to which the Government now wish to return. Despite the wide support that I have received from all parts of the House, I feel that it would be more profitable for me to return as soon as possible to my Herefords. I therefore do not propose to press my Amendment, and beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.0 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.14: Page 9, line 27, at end insert ("and after examination by a qualified veterinary surgeon").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No.14. This particular subsection makes provision to allow animals to be imported into Great Britain and to be landed without being slaughtered if they are intended for exhibition or for other exceptional purposes. And it says: after the words 'exceptional purposes' there shall be inserted the words 'or, in the case of cattle, sheep or swine, intended for use in breeding'". We propose to add, and after examination by a qualified veterinary surgeon". We realise of course that when these animals come in there is a check on landing. Here again I do not need to stress the importance of safeguarding against any further outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, or indeed brucellosis. In addition to the words in the subsection we thought it right to add that they would of course have to be examined by the veterinary surgeon, in order to prevent any further spread or introduction of either of these diseases.


What about tuberculosis'?


Of course this applies to tuberculosis as well. If the veterinary surgeon is carrying out the investigations laid down by this clause and discovers any of these things, we think this would help to preserve the health of our own cattle population. Certainly it would prevent the introduction of any of these diseases, if in fact the animals were found to be so suffering by the veterinary surgeon. I hope that the Amendment commends itself to the Government. I beg to move.


The Amendment commends itself in the sense that it is unnecessary because the requirements are already there. Inspection is required under the Animals Importation Order 1930, which requires that they should be inspected by a qualified veterinary surgeon before landing; and every import of animals under Section 27 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950 has to be, and will continue to be, authorised by separate Order made by Ministers and providing for all necessary veterinary requirements. I am glad that the noble Lord has raised the point, because he has given me an opportunity to give this assurance to the Committee.


We are grateful for the explanation. If it does no more than this, it draws attention once more to what in fact are the rules. This is very necessary in connection with this part of the industry. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

7.5 p.m.

LORD BURTON moved Amendment No.15: After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:

Amendment of Law relating to agricultural tied cottages.

"Section 99(2) of the Agriculture Act 1970 (which, subject to certain conditions, allows the owner of an agricultural tied cottage to obtain possession as against an occupier under a former tenancy) shall cease to have effect."

The noble Lord said: I apologise for the late date at which I tabled this Amendment. It is in fact a Scottish matter. Prior to 1970 there was very little trouble over service cottages in Scotland. Over many years' experience I have never heard of a case of hardship. However, in the Agriculture Act 1970 the last Government saw fit to alter the law. There was a substantial debate in your Lordships' House on this matter, but unfortunately, in spite of the strongest arguments against any alteration of the law, the Government of the day saw fit to makes the changes at present ruling. Several noble Lords can now say to the Opposition, "I told you so. I told you it was going to be bad legislation".

During our debate last week on the Scottish economy I drew attention to this problem, for since the 1970 Act I have no fewer than five men no longer employed by me who have refused to leave my properties. I stress that I may have been unlucky in this matter, but the fact remains that I have had considerable difficulty. I need scarcely stress the disorganisation which this can cause on farms and estates. Indeed, the disorganisation has spread beyond my own property, because I was unable to house a man who was to come to the neighbouring estate. Apart from disorganisation of employers' work it is causing considerable inconvenience to employees.

I have had cases in two different sheriffdoms conducted for me by two different lawyers. Both lawyers have emphasised that the law has been tilted in a quite unwarranted manner against the employer. I should like in particular to draw attention to the word "shall" in the 1970 Act. The Act says, the court shall suspend the execution of the order", which I gather ties the sheriff's hands. I know that the Act has not been long in existence, but, as has been foretold, it has been proved to be bad legislation. I hope that the Amendment will be accepted to allow us to revert to the situation which existed previously for very many years with, so far as I am aware, practically no ill effects. Just now there was moved an Amendment to a clause in which the Government wished to return to the position under the 1931 Act. I wish to return to the situation as it was in 1969. I was grateful to the noble Baroness for her remarks about the position of veterinary officers and bull licensing. I hope that she can be as kind over this Amendment. I beg to move.


I support this Amendment. My noble friend spoke of five or six late employees of his who remained in their houses and of the fact that he could not employ others to do the work. This bears extremely hardly on a small farmer who perhaps employs only one or two men. If the man he is employing suddenly gives in his notice and sits on in his house for six months, as he can, or even eight months, it is almost impossible for the small farmer to farm his land. Of course you eventually get the man out of the house, but that may take a year. Then he can appeal against eviction. He may appeal twice, He can appeal against the order. This process can also be very expensive for the farmer if he has to pay the court fees. Therefore, I support my noble friend in his Amendment.


I hope the noble Baroness will not accept this Amendment, and I will tell your Lordships why. I am always surprised, when we come to clauses of this kind, that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, produces at least half-a-dozen cottages and people who want to occupy them. The last time we discussed this subject on Scottish employment last week, he was telling us that he could not get people. One of the great surprises of his life, with all the unemployment, was that he could not find workers. If he cannot find workers, he cannot possibly find occupants for the cottages. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, is also always producing people of this kind, and all within six months or a year of the Act having been passed.

I would remind noble Lords of some of the iniquities that people who were employees and who were tenants had to suffer. Indeed, just over a year ago—and this case, I think, had a considerable bearing on the Government of the day, in leading them to take this action—a farmer and his wife and son who farmed a tenanted farm in the North had improved the farm beyond all bounds. In the course of their tenancy they had worked so hard that they had converted what was merely bracken into good arable land. It was a first-class job in every way and there was no complaint. Then the father died, and even before he was buried the owner was saying, "Get out" to the son and the mother. This cannot be denied, as it was in the Press. So they were left without any protection at all. I know that there are people who will abuse certain rules, but I beg noble Lords to believe that love can produce evidence of hardship of this kind, and that is why action was taken. I am not arguing that there are not one or two people who will take advantage, and will take over a tenancy under the pretext of doing a certain job and then not do it. But I am certain that in the past many people were the victims of the masters who employed them, and what happened was absolutely unforgivable. That is why the Government took action to give those persons some protection under the law.


I have to say to my noble friend Lord Burton that I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment. I think he will agree that it is not very long since the 1970 Act was passed, when there was a great deal of discussion about this matter, both in another place and in this House. At the end of the day a compromise was arrived at which sought to take into account the problems about which my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, have told your Lordships. My noble friend Lord Burton admitted that he tabled this Amendment rather late. I must ask him to be so good as to withdraw it, not for that reason, or because this is a very difficult question, but because I do not think the 1970 Act has had long enough to work.


The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, is on a completely wrong tack. He was talking about tenanted farms as opposed to service cottages, which is a completely different subject. However, I am most disappointed at the reply of my noble friend because, although the Act has been in operation for only two years, I thought I had made absolutely clear what enormous difficulties it has caused, as was foretold before it became law. Therefore I hope that before Report stage—because I understand that it may be difficult to get some legislation on this matter in the near future, and because this is a matter of urgency—the Government will consult the industry, the Scottish Landowners' Federation, the National Farmers' Union and, indeed, the legal fraternity to see what complications have already arisen over this matter. There is also no reason why they should not get statistics from the Agricultural Workers' Union, though I doubt whether they could produce very good ones. I hope my noble friend will do that. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Conditions applicable to land where amalgamation or boundary adjustment has been assisted by a grant or loan]:

7.14 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.16: Page 13, line 12, leave out ("five") and insert ("ten").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment relates to cases where land transactions have taken place. During the Second Reading of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, rather twitted us about the changes in time that have taken place, and he went on to say how he and some others had pointed out the difficulties. I am bound to say that as we made the changes they always met with the approval of both sides of the House. The Government now propose to substitute five years for 15 years, and we wonder whether this is the correct period. There is always a great temptation to speculators to develop land; they might even want to hold on to it for five years and then dispose of it. Perhaps the Government have a very good reply to this argument, but if they have not maybe they will look again at this matter. Can they assure us that there will be no danger if these changes are made, and that we shall not have a series of troubles from speculators? I beg to move.


It is very difficult to get the period of years exactly right. As the noble Lord said earlier, the original period was 40 years and this was reduced to 15 years. It is really a matter of judgment whether the period should be 10 years or five years. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, was worried about speculators, but should have thought they would be able to operate just as well after 10 years as they would after five years. A period of five years is probably just enough to allow an amalgamation to settle down. After all, five years is quite a long time if one thinks of it in terms of one's lifetime, and a great deal can happen. Although I recognise that it is a matter of judgment, I think that five years is about right in view of the experiences which we had earlier.


I do not want to press this Amendment, but I was not consoled by the noble Baroness's argument that 10 years are the same as five years. As she well knows, a lot can happen in five years. In that time we came from another place to this House, which may have been an epoch-making event for this place or for the other place. I do not accept the noble Baroness's argument, and I do not believe that a restraint of five years is the same as a restraint of 10 years. But in the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Increase in advances to Agricultural Mortgage Corporation Ltd.]:

7.18 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.17: Page 14, line 11, leave out ("five") and insert ("ten").

The noble Lord said: I hasten to assure your Lordships that it is millions of pounds that we are discussing under this Amendment. It would be interesting to have some recent figures showing how much the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation have had voted to them by the Government, how many applications they have had for loans, and how they have been able to meet them. I understand that there has been a great demand for cash. Indeed, I have never been to an agricultural debate when I have not been assured that we can get expansion only if farmers can get their hands on some capital at reasonable terms of interest. The Government have asked the whole of the farming community to prepare for the changes which may have to take place if we enter the E.E.C., and considerable sums of money may be required if the farmers are to equip their farms to meet the new challenge. If this is so, we want to know whether £5 million is enough. It may well be that it is, but we should be better able to judge if we could see what the demands had been over the past five years and how they have been met.

The Government have laid down the figure of £5 million. We simply take the figure, but we should like an explanation of how it has been reached. We have a feeling that if we are going to develop, if we are going into the E.E.C., it may well be that £5 million is not enough, and that £10 million would be a better figure. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Champion was saying a little while ago, this is pretty much the same argument, "five or ten", but whether one is right or wrong is, of course, a matter of judgment. However, we thought that £10 million might be a better figure in this connection. After all, we shall not get too many Bills in the course of this Parliament, because if we go into the E.E.C. obviously a considerable part of the legislative time is going to be taken up in dealing with Bills required for that purpose. So in all the circumstances we thought that if we made provision for £10 million it would take us over the period during which we should be entering the Market. I beg to move.


I think I can give the noble Lord the figures he wants. Since 1967 the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation has been advanced £7 million by the Government, and now we are talking about another £5 million, which the noble Lord wants tentatively to make another £10 million. That £5 million will enable the A.M.C. to raise about £67 million on the market; and £10 million would enable them to raise about £140 million, or a little less. The sort of figures which have been lent out over the past few years are: 1966– 67, £19 million, or nearly £20 million; 1967– 68, just over £21 million; 1968– 69, £31 million; 1969–70,631 million; 1970– 71, £24 million. We reckon that the £5 million, which will enable the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation to raise about £67 million, will last them about three years. I am not sure whether the noble Lord's Amendment has been set down because he does not think that £67 million will be enough for the period of about three years, or whether he thinks that we should lend them enough to raise money which will last for a longer period of time. Ten million pounds would last them for about six years. The reason why we want to provide enough money to last three years is twofold. First, there may be changes as a result of our going into the Common Market; and, secondly, because the Wilson Report on Capital and Credit for Agriculture is expected at the end of the year. For this reason we feel that the right sort of figure is £5 million.


I like the last part of the noble Lord's reply better than the first. I think it is a very good thing to be said, if somebody is working on a subject like the Wilson Report, that we can expect it within that short period of time. We are grateful for the information that it is going to come so quickly, so we do not need to make long-term provision. If it had not been for that, I should have wanted to argue a little further, because as I counted up the sums given by the noble Lord they amounted to something like £127 million over the years he mentioned, so we should be running things pretty narrowly if we did not make changes. However, I accept the explanation. I am grateful for the concluding part of the noble Lord's reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Increase of fines]:

7.25 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.18: Page 14, line 20, leave out ("one hundred") and insert ("five hundred").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment deals with penalties in connection with pollution and poisonous substances. It is not very often that I move Amendments to increase penalties, but on this occasion I do so because we all know we are faced with an ever-increasing problem, the problem of pollution. The Government say, "All right; we will face it. For anybody guilty of causing pollution we will increase the fine from £50 to £100". It seems to me that to put it up to £100 as from 1972 does not meet the situation at the present time, and I am fortified in my opinion by an article which appeared in the Observer on Sunday—a couple of days ago—on the rise in river pollution. This is what it said: River pollution by oil and pesticides is rising sharply. A survey of 28 of the 33 river authorities in England, Wales and Scotland reveals that the average number of reported incidents of oil pollution rose 12-fold between 1959 and 1970. Pollution by pesticides rose five-fold. These figures, I think, are taken from a report, but it is a survey by Mrs. Pauline Marstrand of the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University, so I do not think the figures are in question.

This is the size of the problem with which we are confronted, and it seems to me, therefore, that a fine of £100 is not going to deter a man. I take the opposite view to this particular article. Here, the lady was producing a report and saying, "We are spending so much on pollution, whereas we should be spending it on research to prevent it." But in fact we could be preventing the pollution itself. It seems to me—and we know this—that people carelessly take an insecticide tin and simply chuck it in the river, and the damage it can do is enormous. if you multiply it two or three times, it is even more enormous. So all we are saying in this Amendment is that perhaps we ought to increase the penalty, not from £50 to £100 but to a maximum of £500. It does not mean that every time an offender appears the man on the bench is going to impose the maximum fine; but we consider that it is rather curtailing the remedy when you say that, no matter how bad the case is, the offender will never be allowed to be fined more than £100.

May I bring in two other arguments to support my case? Quite recently the Government have produced legislation—the Oil in Navigable Waters Act—in which they took considerable powers, and I can tell your Lordships that some of the fines for which they have made provision are really frightening. As against that, I would say that our figure is far too small. I do not know what attention the Government have given to this matter, but it seems to me that £100 as a maximum fine is too small for the purpose. I beg to move.


Before the noble Lord's Amendment is formally put, may I point out that as I understand it this particular clause does not refer to pollution but to offences about safety on the farm.


Perhaps I have taken the point too early; I am sorry if I have. I am dealing with Clause 14. This matter concerns the Agriculture (Poisonous Substances) Act and the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, which provide that a person guilty of an offence under either of those Acts shall be liable to a fine. I was saying that a person could be fined up to only £100. I do not want to take up too much time over the matter, but if a man took an empty tin which had contained a pesticide and committed a certain act, then he would be guilty of this offence and he would not be deterred by a fine of that size. When he behaved in this way the fine should be a maximum of £500 in place of £100 suggested by the Government.


I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, will not press his Amendment on this point. We feel that there are good reasons why a figure of double the existing fine would be right. As your Lordships are aware, the two safety Acts, and the regulations made under them, give rise to a considerable number of possible offences whose effects range from the relatively minor to the very serious. For example, at one end of the scale we have the offence of failing to provide in the first-aid box every single item of the dressings and other equipment specified in the regulation. At the other end we have such offences as failing to guard very dangerous machinery. While the gravity of the latter offence may make it a likely candidate for the maximum penalty, it would be contrary to the established practice to identify the minor type of contravention with the kind of malpractice which may call for a deterrent in the £500 range. I should say that a £500 maximum would not in any case be possible, because under Section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 the maximum fine which may be imposed by magistrates in England and Wales on summary trial of an indictable offence is £400. That is a minor point.

The noble Lord may think that we should have some form of sliding scale. It might be possible to have some variation in maximum penalties, but if any of the penalties were set at a really punitive level he might contend that there should be further differentials in respect of offences by workers and by employers, both of whom have responsibilities under the legislation. All this could add up to a very complicated structure of fines, and its introduction would undoubtedly involve protracted discussions with the farmers' and workers' unions and other interested parties. Noble Lords are doubtless aware that the Roberts Committee on Safety and Health at Work is investigating all aspects of the safety of workers in all industries, including the agricultural industry, and its Report is expected to be available next year. We do not think it right for the Government to introduce major structural changes in the penalty provisions for safety offences before the Committee reports and before its recommendations have been considered by Ministers.

Moreover, the noble Lord's £500 ceiling soars above the maximum provided for the most serious offences under, for example, the Factories Act, where the upper limit for an employer is £300 and for a worker £75. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that agricultural offenders should not be chastised so much more heavily than those who commit comparable offences in other sectors of industry. Equally the Government are convinced that the present level of the maximum fine is too low and that it would be wrong to wait any longer before doing something positive to redress the situation. The increase from £50 to £100 under both the Acts dealing with agricultural safety proposed in the Bill will restore the penalty to something like the original value when those Acts were introduced nearly twenty years ago, and will also bring penalties for offences in agriculture more into line with those for safety offences in other industries. I can assure the noble Lord that the agricultural Ministers regard farm safety and the enforcement of the safety legislation as very important matters on which we need the wholehearted support of all sections of the agricultural industry. I think we can fairly claim that all parties concerned, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, would go along with the 100 per cent. increase we are proposing, although the farmers' organisations would probably prefer something less and the workers' organisations something more. This in itself strengthens me in the view that we have probably struck the right balance, and I hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord will agree.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. I do not always like taking an average, and saying that as the employers want less and the workers want more, I have got in between and therefore I must be right. However, I accept the explanation of the noble Lord arid beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

We are grateful to the noble Lord for intimating the date when we are going to have the Report of one further Committee. If we have done nothing else to-day we have provided a lot of information for the agricultural world which they have failed to get otherwise.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Abolition of requirements that dealings and returns relating to corn must be in hundredweights]:

7.35 p.m.

LORD HOY moved Amendment No.19: Page 15, line 29, after first ("order") insert ("but which shall not exceed the weight of one hundred and eighty imperial standard pounds").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No.19. I do not know who will reply to this Amendment. The noble Lord will not be surprised to see it on the Order Paper. I raised this point during Second Reading because it was one raised by the National Union of Agricultural Workers. At present, there is a limit laid down as to what they might be allowed to lift. I have had an explanation from the noble Lord by correspondence, for which I am grateful, but I would say that it is the feeling in the Agricultural Workers' Union that we might again be laying down a weight if changes are to be made, and it is solely for that purpose that the Amendment has been put down. I beg to move.


The purpose of Clause 17(2) is purely to enable Ministers to prescribe that statutory corn returns shall remain in units other than in the hundredweights used at present. The reason for the change is that trade usually takes place in units larger than hundredweights. The dealing is in say, tons, but the returns have to be expressed as 20 hundredweights rather than one ton. One hundredweight has become inconveniently small and results in unnecessarily cumbersome figures in these statistical returns.

The Amendment proposed would restrict the new unit to a maximum of 180 lb. and would defeat the object of streamlining these returns so that they can be made quickly and efficiently and in accordance with current trade practice as to weights of units of sale. I am aware that in proposing a weight of 180 lb. the noble Lord has in mind the maximum weight, as he explained to your Lordships, that an agricultural worker may carry. I should therefore like to assure him that there is no connection between this piece of legislation and the Agricultural (Lifting of Heavy Weights) Regulations 1939. The corn returns unit is prescribed solely for the purpose of these paper returns and in no way affects sacks of grain which agricultural workers have to carry and which will continue to be governed by the Regulations to which I have referred.

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, has in mind that at present most sacks are about the hundredweight weight, and perhaps he feels that if a larger weight than the hundredweight is dealt in people may probably find it convenient to have sacks which will hold the larger weight. It is very unlikely that if a larger weight is specified, such as a ton, it would be anything approaching the sort of weight which any man could begin to move by himself. I can assure the noble Lord that there is no intention of the 180 lb. limit being increased in any way.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. I promised the Agricultural Workers' Union that I would raise this point. They have given it considerable thought. It was only recently that they were awarded this protection under a weight-lifting order. I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said. It gives the union the assurance they have asked for, so I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to. Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Abolition of agricultural executive committees etc.]:

7.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 19 shall stand part of the Bill?


I wish to raise a point on Clause 19. This clause abolishes the agricultural executive committees. One thing which surprised me was the enthusiasm with which this proposal was greeted by noble Lords opposite. I raised some objection at the time because I felt that, while their work had diminished considerably, they still established a useful contact for the Minister in the areas spread throughout the country. In fact, in a way the agricultural executive committees could convey to the Minister what the areas were thinking. I then raised the question of the liaison officers because I have always felt that whatever else might be said of the work of the committees, the liaison officers were doing a first-class job. I was told that the Minister proposed to set up regional panels. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Denham, for sending me the list of regions and of those designated as chairmen of these regions.

I want to know how the panels are to be set up. While this clause takes the power to abolish the committees, it does not take power to set up these panels. Will legislation be necessary, or has the Minister the power to do this and to make the appointments? It seems to me that if he is going to set up regional panels he must have some power to do so. If he does not have the power, here is an admirable opportunity to put in another clause in this Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to give him that power. Unless he does that we are in a vacuum; the liaison officers will have gone and the panels cannot be set up. I shall be grateful to know whether it can be done without legislation.


I can tell the noble Lord that these panels will be non-statutory advisory panels and that there will therefore be no need for legislation to set them up.


I must say that that does not create a great deal of confidence in them. However, we will look at that reply and perhaps at a later stage I may come back to it. I am not altogether sure that that reply is going to give these panels which are taking the place, in a non-statutory capacity, both of the agricultural executive committees and of the liaison officers, any strength at all. It is the first time that we have had that answer. We do not know quite what it means; but we accept it for the time being and reserve the right to come back to it.


May I ask what is the position regarding the brake that the agricultural executive committees previously put on planning authorities, particularly where housing was concerned? This is worrying to the agricultural communities in relation to the withdrawal of the agricultural executive committees.


I will look at that point and write to my noble friend. At the moment I do not have the information he wants.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Abolition of agricultural wages committees in Scotland]:

On Question, Whether Clause 20 shall stand part of the Bill?


This clause abolishes agricultural wages committees in Scotland. I raised this question on Second Reading and since then I have been in touch with the trade unions concerned. The Government decision displeases them intensely. These wages committees serve a very useful purpose; but the Secretary of State, for some reason that I do not understand, has decided to abolish them. May I say to the noble Baroness that I am grateful for the letter; but even with that explanation it is not very good from the workers' point of view. Here was one point of contact between the workers and the Minister. The noble Baroness says—and I think that what she says should be spelled out in public—that certain functions will be left behind that will be transferred to the Secretary of State and that he will carry out the functions previously carried out by the wages committees. I am certain that those noble Lords from Scotland—and, as I said last week, we are not only good speakers but good listeners—will be grateful to hear from the noble Baroness exactly what the Secretary of State will be taking over from the wages committees after they have been abolished.


I think I can do no better than I did before. I tried to put it briefly and in writing to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, who raised this question on Second Reading. The agricultural wages committees in Scotland have three main functions. First, that of investigating applications for permits of exemption from the statutory minimum rate in respect of handicapped workers; second, that of recommending for a tied house a different value from that laid down in a board's wages order as its cash equivalent as part of a minimum wage; and, third, that of approving an agreement for a premium to an employer in respect of an apprentice or learner. So far as the recommendations for a tied house are concerned, applications have been extremely rare; and cases of approving an agreement for a premium to an employer in respect of an apprentice and learner have been nil. Therefore, the main function which remains is the investigation of applications for exemption permits and the issue and review of those permits. If an employer and an employee, for example, cannot be brought by the inspector to agree over permit rates, the Inspectorate will consult local representatives from both the worker's and the employer's unions and carry out with them such local farm visits as are necessary.

The wages and safety Inspectorate of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (of which there are nine district wage and safety inspectorates) will take on the functions of this Committee. I should like to say that the wages board has been broadly representative of the various interests of the industry and its members are drawn from most areas. The board will continue to be under a statutory obligation to publicise in the Press and otherwise proposals for new wages orders and to consider any recommendations before the order is made. I should have thought that there were plenty of opportunities for expression of local views but it is generally thought that however valuable people's services have been—and I pay a tribute to the services that have been made—there comes a time when the situation changes. It is for this reason that we felt it was perhaps wise to do it in this way.

Clause 20 agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendment.