§ 3.14 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill and hope that your Lordships will understand the difficulty I am in whether on balance I should go into the Bill in 523 detail or, in view of the fact that your Lordships have heard the story on three previous occasions, I can indulge in perhaps a discourteous action in not speaking for any length of time at all. The Bill has been before your Lordships on three previous occasions as I have just said and has in fact passed a Second Reading, unopposed, in the House of Commons. If I may say so, the sponsors, including myself, are not surprised that there is so little opposition to a Bill of this description. We are not attempting in any way to protect any vested interest and we hope that no vested interest will try to interfere with the passage of the Bill through both Houses as speedily as possible.
There are some very serious and justifiable complaints about the treatment of animals in our zoological gardens. I do not say that it is the fault or desire of those who run the gardens but unwittingly, as well as in some cases with knowledge, there are a tremendous number of complaints which the public themselves have raised and which the authorised bodies who look after the protection of animals feel should not only be investigated but also avoided. In other words, in addition to doing the right thing it should be quite apparent to the public that the right thing is being done. That can only be done, in our view, by having a statutory body, in the same way as there is a statutory body for other professions. The medical, the dental and even the hairdressers' profession have their own statutory bodies which have been set up so that the people concerned shall be protected against any abuse of the positions which they hold or the professions which they carry out.
That is in essence the purpose of the Bill. I hope your Lordships will agree that it is couched in fairly reasonable language—perhaps I ought to say with the assistance of some of our friends in the previous Government who I am sure will not change their view in relation to it at the present time. Therefore, I do not propose to go into the provisions except to say that we are asking that a Council of the right type of persons should be set up. The actual choice will remain with the Ministers and there can be no question of any vested interests interfering with that choice. The Royal Society of Veterinary Surgeons will have two 524 appointments, otherwise the set-up of the Council will be under the supervision and direction of the Ministry.
May I give two illustrations? First, I should like to repeat what has been said before, and I think we ought to take it into consideration when dealing with a matter of this sort. I should like to explain one or two things which are in my mind although they have been referred to before. In 1960 there were 30 zoos in this country. As everybody knows, the most outstanding zoological garden perhaps in the world is our own great zoological garden in London. It is admired wherever one goes and it serves an admirable purpose. In 1967 there were 72 zoos; in 1972, there were 96, but in 1974 there are 167, so it is obvious that commercial interest has grown greatly in so far as zoological gardens are concerned. I think that those who are running these commercial enterprises should consider that they must afford to the public an assurance that the animals are being properly dealt with.
I should like to refer to a statement made quite recently by a keeper who had been employed in one of the zoos. He said that in his first month he saw a cheetah freeze to death. The animal had an injured leg; he thought it was broken. A veterinary surgeon set it, but then it was put in a shed isolated from other cheetahs to let the leg heal. They had forgotten that cheetahs crowd together at night and create a great build-up of body warmth but this one had no communal heat to keep him warm. He was alone in an unheated shed in the middle of winter and he died from hypothermia—that is, cold—in spite of the fact that they took him up to a house and tried to warm him up. Even the water dish that had been left with him in the shed was filled with solid ice.
Many other things disturbed this keeper. For example, he said that the baboons live in bunkers entered by wide-gauge sections of sewage pipes embedded in the ground. They are appalling things, often filled with water because they are partly below ground. I could, of course, go on. I should just assure your Lordships that I have gone very thoroughly into the complaints that have been made. I have no doubt in my mind at all, as I said before, that, either wittingly or unwittingly, there is a considerable 525 amount of harm and injury done to animals kept under these conditions. Of course, it is very important, as your Lordships will no doubt agree, that the public themselves should be kept free from care, in so far as animals are concerned, when they are visiting zoological gardens. If I may say in passing, the very fact that rare species are becoming extinct can, to some extent, be remedied at the same time by proper conditions in a zoological gardens where they have been kept in proper circumstances and surroundings. As I have said before, I do not want to keep the House unduly. If there are any questions that your Lordships wish to raise I shall be very happy to answer them at the end of the debate, which I do not anticipate will be a very long one. I repeat that it is my pleasure to commend the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Janner.)
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ LORD ZUCKERMAN
My Lords, as I rise to support my noble friend, Lord Janner, on the Second Reading of this Bill, I am reminded of the fact that I did precisely the same thing two years ago. As I did on that occasion, let me straight away declare an interest. I happen to be the honorary secretary of the body which has received the plaudits of the noble Lord, Lord Janner, in his speech. We in the Zoological Society of London regard ourselves as a body of great responsibility, a body which sets standards for the keeping of animals in captivity throughout the world. It is regarded to-day as the premier society and the premier custodian of zoos in the whole world. I am extremely sorry that I was unable to be in your Lordships' House on the occasion of the previous debate, when I should have been able to declare a different type of vested interest, since I note in Hansard that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, suggested that we obtained large subsidies from the taxpayer. I only wish that were true, my Lords. If, in your benevolence, your Lordships do on some occasion support a Motion to that effect I can assure you that the Council of the Society, of which I see at least two fellow members present, will be more than grateful. I might also say, now that I am on my feet, how much I regret not having been 526 here on the previous occasion when this matter was debated, when my noble kinsman, Lord Melchett, made his maiden speech.
This is a vitally necessary Bill, my Lords. In the interval between its introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and to-day, I have it on good authority that the United States have introduced legislation to control their zoological collections. It is more than time that we in this country afforded wild animals which are held in captivity the kind of protection which we afford to dogs. Let me also say that the Bill seems a mild Bill. The Zoological Society of London accepts much wider responsibilities in the maintenance of its collections than any that are going to be imposed should this Bill ever become law. I think it is absolutely essential that zoos and zoological collections are licensed.
One clause of the Bill to which I attach enormous importance is the clause demanding a proper keeping of records. Your Lordships would be amazed at the difficulty which those of us who are concerned that the keeping of animals should be done in a proper and responsible way run into when we try to obtain records of what has happened to animals which we know have been imported into this country. This clause is one that I trust will be carefully adhered to should the Bill become law. I trust, too, that the clause relating to inspection will in due course be properly implemented. From previous discussions I am aware of the fact that both sides of your Lordships' House have supported this Bill. I think there is no need for me to do more now than once again say how grateful I personally am to the noble Lord, Lord Janner, for having persevered in seeing that this Bill goes through your Lordships' House. In the knowledge that a Bill of this nature has already received a Second Reading in another place, I trust that your Lordships will give it your full approval.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Janner has said, this subject is not new to your Lordships' House. I think probably the only new feature is that I find myself participating for the first time from this position on the Second Reading of a Bill. The House well understands the deep care and 527 interest that my noble friend Lord Janner has shown in this matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has said, he has been both determined and persistent. My Lords, we have listened also to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, with appreciation for the support that he has given to the Bill. It is, indeed, the fourth time that this House has been asked to give a Second Reading to a Bill for the control of zoos.
The Bill we are considering to-day is, indeed, identical to the one we had before us earlier this year, which was lost on the Dissolution of Parliament. Since then the Government have changed. I have to say that the attitude of the present Government towards this Bill does not differ in any material manner from that of the previous Government. As is customary in animal welfare matters of this sort, the attitude of the Government towards the principle of the regulation of zoos, which is embodied in this Bill, is one of neutrality.
As I think the House well knows, two bodies represent zoos, and most of the major zoos belong to one or the other of them. At present these organisations, the Federation of Zoological Gardens and the National Zoological Association, undertake inspection of their members' premises and animals; but if it is the wish of the zoo industry to put this control on a statutory basis, and if the House endorses this proposition, then the Government would certainly not wish to object.
I have read the Reports of the previous debates in your Lordships' House on the earlier Bills, but in what I have to say this afternoon I shall try to be nothing other than helpful. In the last Second Reading debate on January 28, the noble Viscount. Lord Colville of Culross, speaking for the Government, sounded a note of caution about the financial and administrative structure of the Zoological Gardens Council which the Bill proposes to establish. I have to say that I, too, am not altogether happy about these matters. Clause 2 requires the Council, not less than two months before the appointed day, to set up and maintain a register of zoological gardens and to enter thereon particulars of any zoo which applies for, and is eligible for, registration. Clause 3 prohibits any zoo which 528 is not so registered from making a charge for admission after the appointed day. According to the definition in Clause 13, the appointed day is 12 months after the date on which the Bill is passed, and this seems to impose a fairly tight timetable, and there is no provision in the Bill which would allow this date to be altered or to suspend the operation of the requirements of Clauses 2 and 3.
After the Bill had been passed, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State would have to consult appropriate interested bodies about appointments to the Council, and subsequently secure some nine persons who are willing to accept, and be suitable for, appointment as members of the Council, one of whom would be the chairman. When he had done this my right honourable friend would have discharged his responsibility under the Bill. The Council from their own resources would then have to engage such staff as was necessary to set up the machinery to run the Council, and make the necessary rules about registration, et cetera, in time to meet their statutory obligation set out in Clause 2; to have the register open and ready and to receive applications for registration not later than 10 months after the passing of the Bill—that is to say, two months before the appointed day.
I am a little concerned about what would happen should there be any hitch in these processes, and if the Council did not succeed in getting themselves in business in time to make registrations before the appointed day. In such an event the operation of Clause 3 would mean that no zoo could charge for admission. Zoos, large and small, would have to close their gates to the public. Clearly, this is something which could not be allowed to happen; but if the Bill becomes law, and the Council failed to become operational by the appointed day, this is exactly what would happen. There is no provision in the Bill to enable any action to be taken to prevent it. It is important that this point should be fully appreciated.
It is essential, therefore, that the House be reassured that plans for the establishment of the Council are ready to be put into operation without delay if and when the Bill becomes law. I trust that my noble friend Lord Janner will accept that these remarks are made in a spirit 529 of helpfulness and co-operation, and that he may feel able to give the House such an assurance, either to-day or at some later stage in the Bill's progress, should your Lordships agree that it should go forward. The former attitude of the Government towards the principle of the previous Bill is one of neutrality. We are content to leave it to your Lordships to decide whether the Bill should be given a Second Reading to-day.
§ 3.35 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, for the manner in which he has supported this Bill, and also to my noble friend Lord Garnsworthy, although his attitude is a little difficult to understand. May I say to him, with the greatest respect, that zoological gardens are not going to close down, if it becomes necessary for them to pay a reasonable fee in accordance with the number of attendances, because they will not provide the initial expense that is necessary to set up the Council. Some of those in the new organisation, such as the Federation of Zoological Societies, are institutions which have been operating for many years. As soon as we started work on this Bill we found that ladies and gentlement who are in this business for commercial reasons formed an organisation of their own. I do not claim to be a great financial expert, but I can hardly believe that, if this Bill becomes an Act, any of them are going to say: "We are prepared to close our doors because the Council has not been set up." On the contrary, we shall find that their subscriptions will be forthcoming and they will be falling over each other to make sure that their gates shall not be closed.
So far as I know, it is not an unprofitable business, otherwise we should not have had sixty or seventy people coming on the scene in recent years and finding it a pleasurable occupation. They probably also find it a profitable occupation. So, may I assuage the anxieties of my noble friend. I think he will agree with me eventually that there should be no difficulty in this connection. I do not know what happened in the case of the British Medical Association, and other organisations, but I can hardly think that a medical practitioner would have gone out of practice willingly if his colleagues could not find the neces- 530 sary money in order to provide a proper statutory body.
The matter is an extremely serious one. I did not want to occupy the time of the House to deal with it at full length because the matter has been debated in this House previously. But I hope that my noble friend will reconsider it from the point of view I have put forward and, instead of saying that he is prepared to give it neutrality, will give it benevolent neutrality. That is what I am looking for and I am sure it is what the other sponsors of the Bill were looking for. However, I think that by the time the Bill has gone through its stages here and in the other place we shall have been able to iron out the one point he has raised. It is a serious matter. I hope my noble friend will not mind my saying, although I dare say the Treasury will, that even if the Government had to supply the money in this connection, I would still say it is an absolute necessity at the present time. But I am quite convinced that no claim is likely to fall upon the Government themselves. For those carrying on the business it is a justifiable expense. They should carry on their business in a proper way so that the animals, and the public, are protected. Those organisations which, like the London Zoo, are carrying out a useful service, a voluntary service—after all, there is no profit to be considered in so far as this type of service is concerned—should surely be encouraged to continue. They themselves (and this is one of the main features to remember in dealing with this Bill) are prepared and anxious to be brought into this kind of supervision. They do not really need it, nor do the Federation, from the point of view of the protection of the animals or those who visit the zoos, but they realise that they should fall into line in order that the situation as a whole should be protected. That is consistent with the kind of venture which has brought such pleasure, and I think I may say such pride, to our country in consequence of their actions.
I hope that in fact the Government will support us fully by the time we proceed with this venture. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Garnsworthy will agree with me eventually that not only should it be encouraged by them but they should give us time, which is so important in 531 regard to a Private Member's Bill, in order to get it through as soon as possible.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.