HC Deb 05 March 1919 vol 113 cc390-2
25. Lieutenant-Colonel RAYMOND GREENE

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can give the number of Army horses to be disposed of in France, Italy, Belgium, and the East, respectively; whether they are to be sold by public auction to the highest bidder; and whether any precautions will be taken to ensure as far as possible that these horses will be humanely treated by their new owners?


The number of surplus animals still to be disposed of in the various theatres of war are in round figures as follows:

Horses. Mules.
France and Belgium 100,000 50,000
Italy 4,000 1,000
Salonika 7,000 35,000
Egypt 14,000 12,000

Mesopotamia; 60,000 animals are surplus at present, but it is not known exactly how many of those will return to India. The animals it is decided to sell will be sold by public auction to the highest bidder, subject to a substantial reserve price. As regards the last part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question, I would refer him to the answer given to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Rye on the 25th February. To the reports from Italy, Egypt, and Mesopotamia already circulated I can now add a further report regarding the measures taken in France and Belgium to ensure proper treatment which has since been received. I will have it circulated with the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The following is the Report referred to:


At the time of sale each buyer signs a certificate, which is handed over to the British authorities, that—

(a) He is in a position to feed adequately and care for the animals purchased by him,

(b) That all animals shall be open to inspection from time to time.

The certificate contains sufficient particulars to enable the animal to be traced.

A reserve price, not below butchery price, is fixed. No really old animal is sold. The fact that an average price of some £40 is being paid is in itself a guarantee that the purchasers will set sufficient value on the animals not to ill-use them. The need for animals in France and Belgium for the purpose of cultivating the land is very urgent.

In the event of sales in districts badly provided with forage, the necessary amount of this, varying with the needs of the situation, is handed over, against cash payment, with the animals in order that temporary hardship may be prevented.

Colonel C. LOWTHER

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Question 28, which shows the specific need of the agricultural industry for horses in this country, and could not many of these horses, especially from France, be brought over to England and sold to British farmers who would treat them humanely? Is it not a notorious fact?


The hon and gallant Gentleman has already asked three supplementary questions.


I will deal with some of those questions when we get to 28.

28. Major BARNES

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will extend the facilities for obtaining horses which have been granted to the agricultural industry to other industries in the country to which the supply of horses on such terms would be of assistance?


No special facilities for obtaining horses have been granted to the agricultural industry. A number of mares selected for breeding purposes have been loaned to certain persons under conditions laid down by the Board of Agriculture, but this arrangement was made solely with a view to the breeding of the right stamp of horse, and not with a view to favouring any individual persons or industries. I may, however, inform my hon. and gallant Friend that a scheme has recently been approved, and is about to come into operation, whereby a large number of light draught horses will be hired out on advantageous terms to suitable individuals, business concerns or corporations.

Colonel C. LOWTHER

Could not some of the horses from France be sold to British farmers, and are not the French peasantry notorious for their ill-treatment of horses?


I do not think we need go into that part of the question. I should very much regret if the House lent itself to any expression of opinion of the kind. It is much too sweeping. But we are bringing horses over from France as fast as ships can carry them. I am perpetually pressing the Shipping Controller to give us more ships to bring over horses from France so that they can be utilised for all sorts of reconstructive work in this country.