HC Deb 04 May 1937 vol 323 cc1022-42

5.3 p.m.

Captain Heilgers

I beg to move, in page 20, line 33, at the end, to insert: Provided that no existing firm of importers of meat shall be the person or persons carrying on the central slaughter-house. I move this Amendment in order to ensure that in this experiment in central slaughtering there will be no control, direct or indirect, by the meat importing firms in the slaughter-houses. As the House knows, there are four or five great meat importing firms to-day, and these meat importing firms have a complete grip of the London market. Seventy-five per cent, of the meat that is eaten in London comes from overseas sources. The situation is, I admit, better so far as home producers are concerned when you get further North, but by their hold in Smithfield these importing firms, which are almost entirely composed of foreign interests, have a dominating influence over the meat trade throughout the country. We are endeavouring by these experiments in central slaughtering to get a higher standard of home production. We are trying to eliminate unnecessary overhead costs. I think that the last thing that these importing firms will welcome is to see the competing home production much on the same lines as those on which they are endeavouring to put overseas meat before the public. These firms have unlimited capital at their disposal. They have in the past conducted meat wars absolutely ruthlessly, and I have no doubt that they will endeavour, by hook or by crook, to gain control of these new central slaughter-houses. I am asking the Minister in this Amendment, therefore, to make sure that these experiments to which we give our support shall be entirely free from the influence or participation of these firms.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I beg to second this Amendment, to which I attach very considerable importance. It is not merely a question of these importers obtaining a monopoly by their own efforts. As a result of the Ottawa Agreements they are now licensed importers, and as a result of that no new person can come into the business. They have not only got a monopoly which has been built up by their own vast financial resources, they have virtually got a statutory monopoly. That these people, who have a monopoly of sale in this country of imported meat, should be able to obtain a monopoly in respect of home-grown meat, would be a most disastrous proceeding. I am not complaining of trusts and combines, provided the law of supply and demand can operate and they can be eliminated where they are found to be redundant. When you have a device by which they cannot be eliminated, they ought not to be allowed to take control of the slaughtering in one of the wide areas under this scheme. Although on two previous occasions my hon. and gallant Friend has begged leave to withdraw Amendments I hope that he will not do so on this occasion, if the Minister is unwilling to accept the Amendment. I am sure he will accept it, however, because he is such a reasonable person. There can be no question as to what an importer is. It is a perfectly well known thing to the law, although it might at one time have been a vague phrase.

5.9 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I hope my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) will not carry into execution his desire to push this Amendment to the extreme. It would not effect the purpose which he and my hon. and gallant Friend have in view. They have talked about the resources and powers and dark ways of the meat importing firms, but it does not require a great deal of ingenuity even for a common person, quite apart from a person endowed with these resources, to evade the provisions of such an Amendment. Supposing I were to accept the Amendment, it would only be necessary for such a firm to form a subsidiary company, call it if you like, "The Central Slaughter-Houses Company, Limited," formed of different persons, and it would not be at all affected by this Amendment.

Mr. H. G. Williams

As these Commissioners would have to approve these people, I am going to assure that the Commissioners would be intelligent persons who would not have the law side-stepped by such a device.

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend is scarcely logical when he admits that the Amendment would have no effect in preventing such devices and in saying then that surely the Commissioners as reasonable men would take into account the merits of the situation, and look behind the legal position. I think the Commissioners will judge a case on its merits whether or not this Amendment is carried. I have urged the House to abide by the principle of a fair field and no favour. Let us get all the schemes and proposals we can from every source, examine them upon their merits, look for their demerits where they are to be found, and then both the Commission and the Ministers who are responsible, and Parliament itself, can express their views. I feel that to start excluding persons at this stage is narrowing the field of persons who may make proposals, and I think that will be a mistake, especially as the proposal here would not have the desired effect. I think the proper course is to let people compete with one another. All considerations will be borne in mind, and the House will have an opportunity in the last resort of expressing its views on any particular scheme.

5.12 p.m.

Major Hills

Whatever may be said of the words proposed by my hon. Friend, I believe the House on both sides realises that there is a danger here which those words are intended to meet. This Bill is designed to increase the production of home-grown beef. The more home-grown beef that is produced, the cheaper will beef both imported and home-fed be to the consumer. Against the production of the home-bred article, we have a body of very powerful and highly organised and wealthy importers. I do not wish to say anything in derogation of them, but their whole interest is to increase the imports of beef into this country, because on the imports of beef depend their profits. Ought they to be allowed to control to a serious extent the local production of British-fed and British-killed beef? I am certain, as my right hon. Friend the Minister has said, that he agrees with the objection that was raised by the Mover of the Amendment. I do not think the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) would object to what I am saying. He, equally with myself, wants to increase the productivity of our farms. Would it be a good thing—indeed would it not be a very bad thing?—if it was to the interest of a powerful and highly developed organisation to reduce the productivity of our farms? If they could do it they would, and under the ordinary competitive system under which we live they are entitled to do it.

Would not these words be some guidance to the Commission? I quite agree that there is machinery, such as the formation of a subsidiary company and that sort of device, which might evade the object of an Amendment like this, but would it not be a good thing to have some words in here to show that the slaughter-house ought to be at the disposal entirely of the home farmer, rather than be used for other purposes? The Minister has said he does not see his way to accept these words. Will he between now and the time when the Bill goes to another place consider whether something cannot be done? I do not ask for anything unreasonable. All that I want is to secure that powerful interests who control the imports of beef should not be enabled to use undue means to restrict the sale of the home-produced commodity.

5.15 p.m.

Major Dorman-Smith

I would be in very great sympathy with the Amendment if, in fact, it were possible for the importing concerns, through the central slaughter-houses, to get any control at all of our meat supplies. These slaughterhouses are merely for slaughtering and not for processing at all. They are not to be great distributing centres, and I do not see how it could really benefit the importing firms to take over control, or to try to get control of these slaughterhouses by some ulterior motive. If they were to be distributing centres for beef, they might so arrange matters that beef would be sent out in bad condition and so on and so bring British beef into disrepute. I do not see how these slaughter-houses, as they are at the present moment intended, could be used for any nefarious purpose whatever. If the butchers and those to whom the beasts belong find that the arrangements in the slaughter-houses are bad and that they are not getting proper service from the slaughter-houses, they can appeal to the Commission, to the Minister and to this House, and the Minister has the power to bring the experiment to an end. I do not think that there can be any danger, in this particular Clause, that the importers are going to hurt us. If I thought that they could do so to any degree I would be whole-heartedly in favour of the Amendment, but I do not think that that is possible.

5.18 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

I want to get in a word or two on this Amendment before it is withdrawn. It is obvious that the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) has already made preparation for proceeding upon a wrong assumption. He makes the first assumption that the Minister is a reasonable man, though I do not know upon what basis he forms that assumption, and he makes the more absurd assumption that the Commissioners will be intelligent men. It is quite obvious that an hon. Member who can make use of such loose and unjustifiable language is only putting down Amendments for the sake of wasting the time of this House. So we get the situation that one Amendment after another is discussed and then withdrawn, but it is very necessary to direct attention to the character of this Amendment and what it shows to us. We have, according to the Movers of the Amendment, very wealthy and powerful interests in this country prepared to use their power to destroy the farming interests of this country. It is a very serious charge to make, and I agree that it is justified. We have had many parts of the country already destroyed by those who are concerned only with profits, but when the other side come forward and discuss the areas destroyed by those whose only concern is profit, we have all kinds of sob-stuff. Powerful interests and wealthy corporations have only one concern, namely, to maintain their profits, and they will try to get control over the new institutions, not to develop or to use them in the best interests of the country or of the farming industry, but to destroy the farming industry.

The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) asked whether the Minister will not agree that some words are needed. Some words are needed, and they should be that any wealthy interests interfering in any way with this scheme should immediately be prosecuted and thrown into gaol. It is all right to say that the number would be small, but when destruction is deliberately conceived and prepared for in order to keep up profits, gaol is the best place for those concerned. These words should be put in, but it is obvious that the only solution of this question is the one put from the Front Bench and referred to already by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). Not only should there be no opportunity for these selfish, greedy, brutal and murderous self-interests to interfere with the rights of the people of this country, but we must see that, when these institutions are set up, they are put under proper control so that none of these people can have any say in the matter and there shall not be the possibility of carrying out sabotage, because that is a thing which is openly discussed here. These men are prepared to sabotage. Do not give the opportunity to any of them. Make these places of public service so that there shall be no danger to the public, or to the farmers of the country, who are concerned with the rearing of cattle.

Amendment negatived.

5.23 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 21, line 4, to leave out from "area," to "except," in line 6.

This Amendment is introductory to or consequential upon the one which follows, to leave out paragraph (d), and perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I deal with them both together, because there is no substance in the first Amendment beyond its introductory character. Paragraph (d) of Sub-section (1) of the Clause provides that a slaughter-house scheme may make provision for exempting any premises in the area of the scheme from the need for approval by the Commission if and so long as the output from those premises does not exceed the average of the output in the corresponding preceding quarters. This part of the Clause came in for a great deal of criticism in Committee, and it was very valuable criticism indeed. I have considered it, and have come to the conclusion that the wording of paragraph (d) is really too rigid. As it stands in the Bill at the present moment, it would mean that, once premises were specified in a scheme, no allowance could be made for changing conditions except by amending the actual scheme, and also, provisions for averaging the output would give rise to very considerable difficulties owing to the variations which take place in the composition and size of the output of small slaughter-houses. Smaller premises are not so well equipped as the larger ones, and I believe that the averaging proposal might give rise to a great deal of difficulty, and also, as was pointed out in Committee, while it might be sufficient to maintain the output of certain premises at recent levels, the effect on an expanding business of the averaging provision under paragraph (d) might actually be restrictive by reducing the output of a certain slaughter-house.

What I now propose to the Committee in the Amendment and the one that succeeds it is to delete paragraph (d) entirely. The general purpose for which it was originally intended was to permit the Commission to prescribe a standstill Order in parts of the area of the scheme more remote from the slaughter-house. The intention can equally well be achieved in paragraph (c) as it stands. I think that hon. Members will agree with me that the powers in that paragraph are quite sufficient to give the Commission all the control required for the success of the scheme. It will enable the Commission to approve premises and to give directions relating to the improved premises as will permit the volume of slaughtering at those premises to continue at its customary level, or to extend a little, if that were possible within certain limits. The Commission will also be enabled—and it is desirable that they should—to vary at any time their directions or to withdraw approval, subject always to the compensation provisions which apply if any loss or damage is sustained.

The purpose of the Amendment is to maintain control over premises in a slightly different way from what was first intended. It was intended to have control by areas; to create a special area in which certain results or restrictions would follow. It is much simpler to have control by premises and not by area, and the people affected in any area will know where they stand. The practical difficulties found by hon. Members, including the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr.

H. G. Williams), of averaging, to which I have given more thought since the discussion, will be entirely eliminated.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. Turton

I agree with the Minister as to the rigidity of paragraph (d), but, on the other hand, I must shed a tear at its passing because another of our safeguards is to be taken away. Throughout the whole of the stages of the Bill there is one class of slaughter-house that I have felt ought to be specifically mentioned in the Bill. When I failed to obtain that degree of security for bacon factories, I hoped that they would be covered by paragraph (d), where there was given exemption for businesses already established. Although I agree that the rigidity might be very hard, I hope that the Minister, as he is taking out paragraph (d) will, in another place, deal with the special position of bacon factories, and realise that by taking out paragraph (d) he is affecting their case very harshly. At great sacrifice and over long periods of time, some of us have fought in order to get bacon factories established in our areas, and if it should come about by chance that a central slaughter-house scheme is established in an area where there is a bacon factory, as this Clause will leave the House to-day, that bacon factory must go unless the Commission approve of it.

There is, therefore, uncertainty. It means that those who represent bacon factories will have to pester the Commission in order to get their claims considered. There is no reason at all why a bacon factory which is making a specialised produce should be closed because a central slaughter-house scheme is going to be put into operation. There is no proposal that a central slaughter-house scheme should be turned into a bacon factory. Surely the simplest way is for the Minister to replace paragraph (d) in another place with a special Clause dealing with bacon factories.

5.31 p.m.

Mr. Alexander

While I am anxious to secure the position of bacon factories I do not suffer the qualms which the hon. Member appears to be suffering in this matter. After all, the bacon scheme now will depend not so much on the Bill as on the action which will be taken by the Bacon Development Board. I cannot believe that an impartial Commission under the Bill would operate in respect of bacon factories without collaboration with the Bacon Development Board. That is the kind of answer which I should imagine the Minister would give; certainly from my point of view that is the view I should take on this particular question. On the other hand, the action of the Minister in deleting paragraph (d) appeals to me on general grounds. I agree that it takes away a good deal of the rigidity which might be very hampering in the working of the schemes in the future and, therefore, in spite of what the hon. Member has said, we shall support the proposal.

5.33 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

I agree with the right hon. Member opposite, as far as bacon factories are concerned. In a way we suffer from the action of bacon factories in Lincolnshire, and at the same time we are a centre of production. One of the things which stand in the way is the fact that there are so many of these old bacon factories which are protected and cannot be abolished. If the deletion of the paragraph will help to put this position right I shall be glad to support it. At the same time, I do not think the proposal will make very much difference, although it will help in the smooth working of the scheme. In the past we have suffered from legislation which has been too rigid, and I think that on the whole the Minister is justified in taking out the paragraph.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 21, line 25, leave out paragraph (d).—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

5.35 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move, in page 22, to leave out lines 5 to 14.

I am moving the Amendment in order to obtain some information as to the intentions of the Government in regard to compensating owners of slaughter-houses which may be put out of action as a result of the establishment of a central slaughter-house. There are about 16,000 slaughter-houses in the country, large and small. The report of the Commission which was set up to look into the question of slaughtering gave us all the information we required as to the need for a great transformation in the slaughter-house system in this country. We have two kinds of slaughter-houses—the registered slaughter-house and the licensed slaughter-house. The licensed slaughter-house receives its licence from a local authority annually. Any year a local authority can refuse a licence without paying any compensation. I understand that when a local authority proposes to establish a central slaughterhouse and comes to this Parliament for powers it is not called upon to compensate licensed slaughter-houses; they just go out of existence. But this Sub-section fails to discriminate between a registered slaughter-house and a licensed slaughterhouse, and I want to know whether it is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to compensate the owners of slaughterhouses whether they happen to be licensed or registered.

We had a long Debate on compensating workmen who lose their jobs as a result of a marketing scheme. The Minister refused any compensation for the man who was dismissed and lost his job and his wages; and we want to know whether a licensed slaughter-house owner is to be compensated under the terms of the Bill. If we learn that it is the intention that only a registered slaughter-house owner shall be compensated, we might hesitate before forcing the Amendment to a Division.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The hon. Member will realise that these are provisions for the schemes, and that I cannot prejudge the matter in advance, because each scheme will be considered on its merits. You may have local differences. There is a great deal of difference in the treatment meted out in various private Acts in this matter. In general it is true that in private Bills, which give local authorities power to close down slaughter-houses, only the registered ones are compensated and licensed slaughter-houses are not. There is also a condition of affairs in Scotland where no compensation at all is paid. There is a general Act in Scotland, the Burgh Police Act, which gives a general power to local authorities to erect central slaughter-houses, and upon their erection all other slaughter-houses in the area of the municipality simply become unlawful. While I appreciate the point the hon. Member has made, and I am obliged to him for raising it, the only answer I can give at the moment is that, having regard to the wide variations in localities, it will be a matter for discussion later on as to the principles upon which compensation shall be paid. We should try certainly to achieve uniform treatment in the matter, but local conditions are so varied and the provisions in a large number of private Acts are so varied, that I cannot give him an exact answer which would fit all the conditions in the localities that may be concerned.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

I see a grave danger in this matter. I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that conditions do vary in towns, but on the whole it is the generally accepted principle that licensed slaughter-houses are not compensated, and if the words remain in the Bill without any qualification whatever we are going to be dependent on the scheme itself to decide whether compnsation shall be paid in all cases or only in the case of registered slaughterhouses. It is dangerous to allow the Bill to go through in its present form. Could not the right hon. Gentleman accept an Amendment, say at the end of line 14, to insert the words, "any registered slaughter-house." That would cover the point, and should there be any doubt in any individual case in any area the scheme itself would make ample provision without creating a precedent. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept such an Amendment here and now, I hope he will consider it in another place; otherwise we shall have to take the matter to a Division, because we feel that we are conceding what the House does not wish to concede, if they are anxious to establish experimental abattoirs for the purpose of providing a good service for agriculture. If they are going to start with a burden of compensation and a burden of debt the whole thing is a failure before it starts.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. Marshall

The Amendment deals with what I regard as a most important point. Licensed slaughter-houses have to receive their licence annually, and can be closed by the local authority. I myself have been associated with a great local authority which has closed many of these licensed houses without compensation, and if we do not put some Clause in the Bill which distinguishes between registered and licensed slaughter-houses in the matter of compensation, we are placing licensed slaughter-houses in a position which they do not occupy under the law. That to my mind is a very serious matter. At the present moment local authorities have to pay compensation for slaughterhouses which are dirty, in an awful condition, and are in congested areas, and it has always been a grievance that registered slaughter-houses have been placed in this privileged position. If we are now going to place licensed slaughter-houses on the same level as registered slaughterhouses we are taking a very retrograde step. Moreover, if this distinction is put into the Bill, licensed slaughter-houses will be placed in no worse and no better position than that which they occupy today. The position will be exactly the same. I hope that for the sake of the success of the scheme the right hon. Gentleman will leave the matter as it is, so that compensation will not have to be paid to the licensed slaughter-houses. I am sure that would be one of the foundations of the success of the scheme.

5.46 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) will realise that under the Bill as it is, licensed slaughter-houses and registered slaughterhouses are by no means on the same footing as regards compensation. The Bill provides for compensation to be paid to any person who suffers loss or damage by reason of the operation of the scheme. It is clear that when loss or damage is assessed, the security of the tenure that is interrupted will be a very important element. Consequently, as between licensed slaughter-houses which can be closed at any time and registered slaughter-houses which are on a more or less permanent footing, there will be a very great difference in the assessment of compensation. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) did not say that he would be compelled to vote in favour of the Amendment, but if the Amendment were taken to a Division and were passed, there would be no compensation under the Bill. The hon. Member will remember that in discussing this matter in the Committee, he said: I agree with the Minister of Pensions that those who suffer direct loss are entitled to compensation, but many of them who are in business and could not be regarded as suffering loss, ought not to receive compensation." —[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 23rd March, 1937; col. 609.] I agree entirely with that. The difference between the licensed slaughter-houses and the unlicensed slaughterhouses is a new point to me, and I will undertake to consider it between now and the time when this Bill goes to another place with a view to seeing whether there is anything that can be inserted in the Bill. In the meantime, I feel confident that the words which the hon. Member has moved to delete are sufficiently all embracing to enable this matter to be dealt with in the scheme, for the provision reads: Requiring the person carrying on the central slaughter-house to pay, in such class of cases, and according to such principles, as may be determined by this scheme.… Under that one could make a difference between the registered and the licensed slaughter-houses.

Mr. T. Williams

Is it not conceivable that unless the scheme is definite and specific in ruling out a certain category of cases, there may be a multiplicity of cases going to arbitration, with enormous loss of time and at great expense?

Mr. Morrison: That is possible, but it would be specified in the scheme. This is a new point to me, and I shall look into it again and see whether there is anything that can be done. My feeling—and I hope the hon. Member will agree with me—is that the scheme can provide for any differentiation of compensation as between one place and another. It is also provided that loss or damage is the criterion. Therefore, I think we may defer this matter until we come to the scheme, and I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment.

Mr. T. Williams

Is it not the case that when the scheme comes before the House, we shall have no opportunity to amend it? Once the Bill leaves here, we have to accept the scheme whether it be right or wrong, and so we lose all Parliamentary control in this matter.

5.50 p.m.

Sir Joseph Lamb

I understand that the Minister proposed that these questions should be considered when the scheme comes forward, but he also said that he would consider the matter again. I hope that if he decides to include something in the Bill, he will also see that there is some definition of slaughter- houses. A person might create a slaughter-house after the passing of the Bill, but before the scheme was brought forward, which would rank for compensation. There ought to be some definition as to when a slaughter-house becomes one which is eligible for compensation.

Mr. Marshall

A person could not do that, because it would be necessary to get a licence from the local authority.

Mr. T. Williams

As the right hon. Gentleman has said that he will consider what is to him a new point, between now and the time when the Bill goes to another place, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I beg to move, in page 22, line 25, after "meat)," to insert "or the hides, skins or pelts of livestock."

Hon. Members who were present at the proceedings in the Committee upstairs, will remember that there was a good deal of discussion on the question of defining what a butcher is to be entitled to retain. The argument in favour of central slaughter-houses, is that the processes of killing would be carried out more efficiently than is the case to-day, and that certain of the products from killing would be used collectively better than they are used to-day. Whatever may be the merits of that argument, it is desirable that we should know clearly what are the products of which the owner of the beast will lose control. In the Committee, the Minister said: Under the operation of this Bill the only right that can be conferred upon a body conducting one of these schemes is to come into possession of what I have called the unidentifiable offals. I have been cross-examined and asked for further and fuller particulars of what these are. Quite shortly, they are blood, horns and hooves, occasional fat scraps, glands, and offals of condemned meat which are not to be used for human consumption. These have all got very curious uses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C) 18th March, 1937; col. 381.] Following on what was said, this Amendment seeks to add to butchers meat the identifiable offals, so that what will be left will be the unidentifiable offals; that is to say, the Amendment seeks to put into the Bill what the Minister has already declared to be his intention. From what I have heard there would be a good deal of relief in some quarters if the Minister would agree to have inserted in the Bill what, by inference, he told us in the Committee, was his intention.

5.54 p.m.

Mr. Rostron Duckworth

I beg to second the Amendment.

If this Amendment is accepted it will make clear that the butchers will be entitled to retain everything except the unidentifiable offals. I think that is extremely desirable from the point of view of administration. This is a matter which is receiving the very serious consideration of those connected with the trade relating to the products from slaughtering.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Marshall

I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) in moving the Amendment, but I cannot agree with him that the people owning the centralised abattoirs should be excluded from purchasing any of these offals. This is a limiting Amendment which would allow outside private enterprise to get a good hold on the various activities which are to be carried on by the abattoirs. Moreover, it would place local authorities under a very severe handicap. I would inform the hon. Member for South Croydon that some local authorities are now doing what he is seeking to prevent them from doing by this Amendment. Many abattoirs throughout the country are already acquiring some of these by-products.

Mr. H. G. Williams

Are they acquiring them compulsorily?

Mr. Marshall

By agreement. Under this Amendment, as I understand it, they would not be allowed to acquire them even by agreement. The Amendment would place a restriction on the activities of the board which is to control these abattoirs. If that restriction was allowed to creep into the Bill, it would make the scheme futile. The Government would not get the experience they are are seeking from these experimental slaughterhouses, and after having obtained the experience that could be gained from the restrictive Clause, they would have neither the competence nor the information to apply any general scheme to the country. The Amendment seeks to make the centralised places merely slaughtering establishments. If that is all the Bill would do, it would not be worth spending £250,000 of the ratepayers' money on it. I can indicate places where centralised slaughtering is already in existence and are doing the job very well.

If the Minister wants only slaughtering experience, it is already to hand, and there is no need to spend one halfpenny of the ratepayers' money on it. In Glasgow, there is a centralised slaughter-house system which serves 1,250,000 people; in Liverpool there is one which serves 750,000 people, and in Sheffield probably 700,000 people are served by the central slaughter-house system. If all these opportunities of purchasing the by-products are to be taken away from the owners of the centralised slaughter-houses, what need is there to spend £250,000 of the ratepayers' money in order to get experience which is already to hand? If that is the tendency which the Bill is going to take. I could indicate to the Minister a better way of preparing a Livestock Bill. I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will resist this Amendment with all his force.

I have often wondered what was in the Minister's mind with regard to this scheme. I have read the Boys Report, and I understand it suggested that 12 or 13 huge factory abattoirs should be placed in 12 or 13 convenient places in the country, where all the slaughtering, preparation for sale of the by-products and marketing of the meat would take place. If that be the idea in the mind of the Government, I can see that their attitude with regard to these experimental stations is consistent. It is consistent if they have in their mind that these experimental stations will have a very wide scope, with no restrictions placed upon them, and that when they have passed the period of experimentation, they will be able to give the Government the wide and comprehensive experience which is necessary in order to build up a system of factory abattoirs in the country.

I suggest that we cannot go half-way in this matter. If now, at the instance of private enterprise, we are first to eliminate one possibility from the scheme by excluding by-products from it, the whole scheme will be rendered futile. Let me give an illustration from my own ex- perience. I remember a certain abattoir where the blood used to run down the drains. Blood is a very valuable byproduct, and in some parts of the country is being made into very valuable fertilisers. Owing to a dispute between the butchers and the local authorities, that blood was allowed to run down the drain. I expect that the hon. Member for South Croydon would say that blood ought to be excluded.

Mr. H. G. Williams

If the hon. Member takes the trouble to read the Amendment, he will see that it i3 perfectly clear on that point, and that blood is one of the things not excluded.

Mr. Marshall

I have read the Amendment and it appears to exclude the pelts or skins which are very important byproducts of slaughtering. We on this side say that if the Government are going to establish experimental slaughterhouses, they ought to do so on a comprehensive scale. If they are after experience, let them get the whole of the experience and let them not subject themselves to these pettifogging restrictions. I sincerely trust the Government will resist the Amendment.

Sir J. Lamb

I believe that if these abattoirs are to be successful, there will have to be processing plants with them. One of the advantages would be that they would have an assured through-put which is necessary for the success of any processing operations, and this would add to the usefulness of the abattoir as a whole.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The purpose of the Amendment, I take it, is to prevent any undue interference with the hide and skin trade being caused by the creation of these three experimental slaughterhouses. I do not think there should be any apprehension on that point. The schemes will have to detail with sufficient precision, what processing is to be carried out, so that any objection which is made in any locality will be heard and will receive careful attention. But it is impossible for me to say that in no circumstances should hides and skins be processed at a central slaughter-house. That work is done now in many central slaughter-houses without remark or rebuke. Indeed, the processing that goes on now in those slaughter-houses is in the interests of the skin trade. It would be difficult to find a form of words which would state how much or how little processing should be done. For example, the cooling, the cleaning, and the salting of the hides are operations conducted very largely at public slaughter-houses to-day, and upon the prompt performance of these preliminary functions depends to a great extent the subsequent value of the hide and its usefulness for the trade. I was interested in a speech made by Alderman Pearse of Leicester, the chairman of the abattoir committee of that corporation. I learn on his authority, though I have not inquired independently, of one important consideration. He said: I was informed in the Leicester hide and skin market that nearly 50 per cent. of the hides received there were classed as 'seconds' owing to bad flaying, and I estimate that that item alone costs Leicester butchers some £1,400 a year. I do not make myself responsible for that statement, but it is interesting as coming from a responsible member of that corporation. If that be so, a great deal of loss is caused in the trade at present, by failure to carry out prompt and thorough methods of treating the hides, and it would be unreasonable to say that in no circumstances whatever could some degree of processing be applied to hides at the central slaughter-house.

There is a great deal of variation of sentiment about this matter. In some places they like to have these operations performed to a considerable extent in the slaughter-house. In other places, I presume because there is a private firm close at hand which does the whole thing, there is not the same feeling, and I suppose that in some localities it might be viewed with apprehension and dislike. But surely in these circumstances it is best to follow the language of the Bill and to leave these matters to be considered when a scheme comes up for discussion. Under the Bill whatever activities of this kind are proposed must be indicated in detail in the arrangements submitted to the Livestock Commission under Clause 23 and all who are concerned will examine the scheme closely after the Commission have announced their intention of submitting it to the Minister. That would be the time when these variations in local practice could be dealt with, and when it would be possible to judge on what was definitely proposed. But I feel certain that it would be an unreasonable attitude for the Government to adopt in setting up these experimental slaughter-houses to say that in no circumstances at all should it be possible to do anything in the slaughter-house to the hide, skin or pelt except to tear it from the animal's back.

Amendment negatived.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Ramsbotham

I beg to move, in page 22, line 38, after "slaughterhouse" to insert "other than the central slaughter-house."

This Amendment with three others which follow it arise out of an undertaking given by my right hon. Friend in Committee. Some apprehension was expressed lest the Commission might, by means of a slaughter-house scheme, obtain information with regard to secret processes carried out at slaughter-houses other than the central slaughter-house. It is not our intention that a scheme should be or could be used for such a purpose. We were of opinion that the words: to furnish such … information … as the Commission consider necessary for the operation of the scheme. would be sufficient to prevent the utilisation of a scheme for the purpose of getting secret information on particular processes. But in order to make sure, these Amendments are proposed. They draw a distinction between information which is obtained from the central slaughter-house and information from other slaughterhouses in the area. The effect will be that the other slaughter-houses will be required to furnish the information necessary in connection with paragraph (c) of this Sub-section. Paragraph (c) deals with approval of premises and control of the classes and number of animals and so forth, and in no conceivable circumstances, could the Sub-section as amended enable the Commission to obtain, by means of their schemes, information in regard to secret trade processes. I think the Amendments are reasonable. I do not think the House would wish schemes to be used for such a purpose as I have indicated, and this Amendment and the others which go with it will make assurance doubly sure in that respect.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Ramsbotham

I beg to move, in page 22, line 38, to leave out from "applies," to the first "to," in line 39.

This Amendment is consequential on the elimination of paragraph (d, i).

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 22, line 43, after "of," insert "any provisions of."

In page 23, line 1, after "scheme," insert "having effect by virtue of paragraph (c) of this Sub-section."

In line 3, leave out "further."—[Mr. Ramsbotham.]

6.11 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 23, line 15, to leave out from "slaughter-house," to the end of line 21.

I have the happiness to find myself, on this Amendment, in the company of hon. Members opposite with whom I am not usually associated, and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and I are in agreement upon it, will show the House that this is something, at any rate, upon which it is very difficult to differ. The necessity for the Amendment arises in this way. It is necessary to permit the officers of the Commission to enter the premises of approved slaughter-houses in order to see that the provisions of a scheme are being carried out properly. When the Bill was being drafted it was thought that if those officials had to go into the slaughter-houses, it might be a good thing to arm them with the powers of local meat inspectors so that they might have carcases condemned. The matter was discussed at some length in Committee and fears were expressed that if that course were followed, there might be overlapping and perhaps friction between the inspectors of the Commission and the meat inspectors of the local authorities. On reflection, I have come to the conclusion that those criticisms are well founded, and the Amendment proposes to delete the power to which I have referred. It will have the effect of preventing any overlapping between these officers of the Commission and of local authorities in the inspection of meat.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 24, line 20, to leave out Subsection (3).

This Sub-section contains a definition of the word "quarter." As that word has now been removed from the Bill the definition is no longer necessary.

Amendment agreed to.