HC Deb 11 March 1920 vol 126 cc1677-83

Order for Second Beading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This is a very short Bill. It is produced on behalf of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which is the only college for veterinary surgeons in the kingdom, They have no invested capital of their own of any consequence, and have to depend for their income on the examination fees, and on the fees for registration of those who pass the examinations. The examination fees are limited to the four examinations to 20 guineas. In fact, the college is out of pocket on the examination fees. They have an average of 70 or 80 admissions to the Veterinary College every year, and their income is not anything like sufficient to pay expenses. They are only able to carry on by voluntary contributions. There are 2,300 members on the register and 1,100 of these give a voluntary contribution of one guinea a year, and that enables the college to carry on, but nothing more. The proposal in the Bill is that there should be not merely an admission fee but also an annual fee of one guinea. That would not come into force for about four years. So far as the present students of the College are concerned, they have entered on the assumption that they should only pay one guinea for admission. The College sets a standard for the knowledge required for veterinary surgeons, and if it is allowed to pass out of being it would be very bad for the Veterinary science of this country.

In Clause 4, there is a provision which has aroused the suspicions of the irregular veterinary practitioners and is the cause of opposition to the Bill. Apart from the thousands of members and fellows of the Royal Veterinary College there are a large number of unqualified men practicing as veterinary surgeons and I believe doing very well. These men, so long as they do not call themselves veterinary surgeons—and there is no reason why they should—cannot be touched by the College; but it seems a very curious thing that if three or four of these men club together and call themselves a veterinary dispensary or a veterinary hospital—thereby practically calling themselves veterinary surgeons—they cannot be touched, because the original charter only spoke of "person" and not "persons." Clause 4 is to give power to prohibit even a company from, forming themselves into a veterinary dispensary or hospital. Any irregular practitioner who does not pretend to be a graduate of the college is not touched. The trouble arises because some veterinary surgeons who have a very large practice have an unqualified assistant. So long as that assistant acts under the qualified veterinary surgeon he cannot be touched, but some of the veterinary surgeons with large practices and who are greedy will put an unqualified man into a practice, put their name over the door of the surgery, will have nothing to do with his practice, but will give him a salary of £200 or £300 a year and pocket the rest of the profits. Those men are carrying on, a fraud. The Veterinary College has bye laws under which it can prosecute, veterinary surgeons who are guilty of such a fraud. They do not prosecute the, unqualified man, but the unqualified men—there are not many of them, I am told there are only 20 or 30—are afraid of losing their practice. What is desired on the part of the Veterinary College is not to injure them in the slightest degree but only to prevent their own graduates from committing fraud.

Brigadier-General COLVIN

I beg to move to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

10.0 P.M.

This Bill has been, brought on rather unexpectedly. On the face of it it looks very innocent and apparently only designed to raise funds for the Royal Veterinary College. I had hoped that the Bill would not have been brought on until a later date, and that the objections which are raised by the unregistered practitioners might have been settled and the Bill passed without any objection. The unregistered practitioners object to the Bill, particularly on Clause 3, which includes the enforcement of a bye-law which renders it penal for any veterinary surgeon to employ an unregistered practitioner. The unregistered practitioners have very large practices throughout the country, and without their assistance the farmers and other owners of stock could not possibly get on. Of course they have not had the advantage of education as veterinary surgeons, but they have spent their whole lives in practice and acquired a considerable amount of skill and science, and though occasionally you will perhaps find here and there a man who uses a rusty knife, yet as stock gets more valuable and more expensive the employment of these men becomes scarcer. The unregistered practitioners hope that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons will admit into the college, as they did in 1881, those men who have been in practice for, say, five years and can be recommended by responsible persons. Then they feel that their position will be safe. But there is a fear that the Veterinary College will endeavour to repress the unregistered man, and consequently a vast number of these men will be thrown out of employment. In most veterinary practices unregistered men are employed as assistants by veterinary surgeons. Frequently these businesses are sold and the unregistered practitioner has been included in the sale. There are instances of one brother who is a veterinary surgeon and has another brother working with him who is unregistered. Bye-laws have been in existence for some time, but have not been enforced for many years, but if they are enforced then the brother will be turned out, and it will be very hard on many of these people suddenly to be turned adrift after spending many years at the business.


I rise to second the rejection of the Bill. It is true that the Bill in itself is reasonable and logical, and has a great deal to commend it to everyone interested in science, and in the scientific advancement of veterinary work throughout the country. Still, at the back of the Bill there is a suggestion of compulsion being put upon a large class of men to join in the working of a college which they are incapable of doing for want of previous education. There is in this country a large number of men of comparatively small education who have learned from their fathers before them how to deal with animals and animals' diseases. Anyone in those country districts well that those men often are called upon in sudden emergencies to perform operations which are singularly skilful and singularly successful. But these operations are performed by men who are unable to pass examinations, and probably never will be able to pass them. Rightly or wrongly, there is a strong feeling among the farming community that these men should not be pushed out of practice in the country districts. From the wording of the by-laws of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, there seems to be a tendency more and more to exclude them from the work which they have performed for generations. I object to the Second Reading of this Bill from the point of view of a class much larger than has been suggested. We have had the figure of 1,500 men who would be affected. Taking even half that figure, it still leaves a very large class of able, successful and useful people in the agricultural community.


I quite sympathise with the feelings expressed by the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken and the Mover of the rejection of this Bill. No doubt there may be certain objections to the Bill on the part of a small class of unqualified practitioners who feel that their position is somewhat undermined. I think they are unnecessarily alarmed. Surely we as a House of Commons have some duty higher than that of merely attending to the interests of a small class of unqualified practitioners. We must have regard to the fact that much cruelty might be caused to animals by such practitioners. The Mover of the rejection of the Bill spoke lightly of the occasional use of a rusty knife. Does he not think that the creature on which a rusty knife is used may suffer as much as a human being? What does it weigh that a few men who have gathered a sort of unskilled casual habit of practising upon these animals should be for a certain time deprived of their means of perpetrating further torture on those animals? Surely in all these things what we should aim at is the highest possible amount of skilled and trained work and scientific knowledge. We perform certain operations on animals. Surgeons are accused of being cruel and of neglecting the interests of animals when they carry on the experiments necessary in the interests, not of humanity only, but of the lower animals themselves. Here we are told: "Do not mind about the interests of the lower animals; do not mind if a rusty knife is occasionally used."

Brigadier-General COLVIN

I did not say anything of the kind.


Surely what we ought to do is to endeavour as far as we can to bring the highest skill and greatest knowledge and manipulation to operations on animals. It is for these reasons I would urge that this Bill, moderate as it is, should be passed. There is no desire on the part of the veterinary surgeons to stop these unqualified assistants if they are working under the due and proper supervision of a qualified man. If the qualified man is there to see that nothing very serious is wrong I that is all, and there is no desire to prosecute those people or those who occasionally employ the assistance of these unqualified men. What is desired is that awkward practitioners should be stopped from acting independently.

Lieut.-Colonel RAW

I rise to support the Bill. I think there is a little misapprehension in the minds of some hon. Members with regard to the real object of the Bill, which is to put the veterinary service on a higher plane if possible than it is at present, and to improve the status of veterinary surgeons throughout the whole country. I do not think the question of the unqualified man arises. The members of the Royal Veterinary College are asked to subscribe a certain sum per annum with a view to improving the Royal Society of Veterinary Surgeons, and in that way to confer a great boon on animals on which veterinary surgeons have to perform.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 106; Noes, 51.

Division No. 58.] AYES. [10.17 p.m.
Ainsworth, Captain Charles Green, Albert (Derby) Raeburn, Sir William H.
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Ratcliffe, Henry Butler
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Gregory, Holman Raw, Lieut.-Colonel N.
Barker, Major Robert H. Gritten, W. G. Howard Redmond, Captain William Archer
Barlow, Sir Montague Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Reid, D. D.
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)
Barnett, Major R. W. Hamilton, Major C. G. C. Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Barnston, Major Harry Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Royden, Sir Thomas
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Betterton, Henry B. Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central) Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland Hopkinton, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster; Simm, M. T.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Jesson, C. Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Brown, Captain D. C. Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey) Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.
Bruton, Sir James Kellaway, Frederick George Stephenson, Colonel H. K.
Buchanan, Lieut. Colonel A. L. H. Lane-Fox, G. R. Strauss, Edward Anthony
Casey, T. W. Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales) Sturrock, J. Leng
Cautley, Henry S. Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd) Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'st'r)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston) Lloyd, George Butler Taylor, J.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Lloyd-Greame, Major P. Thomas-Stanford, Charles
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin) Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Chadwick, R. Burton Lorden, John William Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Loseby, Captain C. E. Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely) M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W. Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Courthope, Major George L. Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian) Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Curzon, Commander Viscount Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Waring, Major Walter
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Malone, Lieut.-Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.) Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Dean, Lieut. Commander p. T. Marriott, John Arthur Ransome Whitla, Sir William
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Mitchell, W. Lane Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Falcon, Captain Michael Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox) Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)
Farquharson, Major A. C. Neal, Arthur Wilson-Fox, Henry
Fell, Sir Arthur Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Forrest, Walter Oman, Charles William C. Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Gange, E. Stanley Pollock, Sir Ernest M.
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Pulley, Charles Thornton TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sir W. Cheyne and Sir H. Cralk.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Dawes, James Arthur Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
Baldwin, Stanley Donnelly, P. Grundy, T. W.
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. M. (Devizes) Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Hartshorn, Vernon
Bromfield, William Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M. Hayday, Arthur
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Finney, Samuel Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Burdon, Colonel Rowland Forestler-Walker, L. Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Cairns, John Fraser, Major Sir Keith Hinds, John.
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield) Galbralth, Samuel Hirst, G. H.
Coats, Sir Stuart Glyn, Major Raiph Irving, Dan
Cope, Major Wm. Gould, James C. Jephcott, A. R.
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln) Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)
Ken worthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M. Roundell, Colonel R. F. Williams, Lieut.-Com. (Tavistock)
Lunn, William Sexton, James Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Spoor, B. G.
Morgan, Major D. Watts Swan, J. E. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Myers, Thomas Wallace, J. Brigadier-General Colvin and Mr.
Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L. Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince) Jodrell.
Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

The remaining Orders were read and postponed.