HC Deb 18 July 1944 vol 402 cc146-53
Mr. Hudson

I beg to move, in page 6, line 34, at the end, to insert: (3) The powers of the Minister and the Secretary of State under Sub-section (2) of Section two of the said Act to refuse to grant a licence to keep a bull or boar for breeding purposes shall include power Lu refuse to grant such a licence if he is not satisfied by the applicant that the bull or boar—

  1. (a) is registered or eligible for registration as a pedigree bull or boar with an approved breeding society; or
  2. (b) conforms to the standard of type laid down for pedigree bulls or boars of that type by an approved breeding society, and is unlikely to beget progeny which do not conform to that standard.
In this Sub-section the expression "approved breeding society" means a cattle breeding or pig breeding society prescribed by regulations made under the said Act as an approved breeding society for the purposes of this Sub-section. (4) Where a licence is refused by virtue of the last foregoing Sub-section, or by virtue of Sub-section (2) of the said Section two on the ground that the bull or boar in question is of defective or inferior conformation and likely to beget defective or inferior progeny, and the applicant applies for a referee's inspection under Section five of the said Act, the referee shall, in addition to inspecting the bull or boar, consider any information as to its breeding that may be given to him. The Amendment is moved in place of one which was down originally in the name of the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) which would have made it obligatory on my inspectors not to grant licences in cases where boars were not pure-bred. I think that was going rather too far. The Committee will see that we propose to amend the original Act to make it permissive for either boars or bulls to be refused, if they are not registered or eligible for registration as pedigree bulls or boars, or if they do not conform to the standard of type. This power will, of course, be subject to appeal, as set forth on the Order Paper. We think it is in the best interests of the livestock improvement schemes which we hope to get going in the country.

Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)

During the Second Reading Debate some other hon. Members and myself made reference to the Clause, which I think is welcomed by all pig interests. We are appreciative of the fact that the Minister has seen his way to go some distance towards our ideal. We recognise that boar licensing is being brought in for the first time, and that it was rather drastic to restrict it to registered boars. I would impress upon the Minister, however, that this is the ideal for which we should strive. In welcoming the Amendment, I would like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, whom I see on the Government Front Bench, to be good enough to indicate how he expects this matter will operate North of the Border. There may be a little difference, and if he could indicate how it will apply to Scotland, that information will be appreciated by Scottish Members.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

Before the Under-Secretary replies, may I ask him also to indicate, if he can, whether the Amendment now proposed is one that meets the wishes of the Scottish farmers who were apprehensive about the very drastic rules that were being applied without some Amendment of this kind? The apprehension in the minds of the Scottish farmers arose from the fact that they were afraid that there were not sufficient pedigree boars to enable the strain to be kept up, and also that there was need to bring in from outside fresh blood to maintain the virility of the strain in a way that would not be brought about by too fine breeding. I am sure the hon. Member who preceded me will agree that that is a very serious consideration. I am sure many of us must have seen, not only cattle and pigs, but, in my particular recollection, strains of sheep being wasted to nothingness by being bred too fine or too "sib" as we say in Scotland. I am sure the safety valve that is left here now in accordance with the Minister's Amendment is one which will go some way to meet the apprehensions on that score that were expressed by the Scottish farmers. I put the question to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, if he is to reply, whether this Amendment meets with the approval of the Scottish farmers.

Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)

While welcoming this Amendment of the Minister's, I should rather like to know how he proposes to carry it out; in other words, how he is going to interpret it. Frankly, I am not satisfied that the leading breed societies in this country have been following a sound policy in times past. I hope the opportunity will be taken by the Minister to see to it, by using whatever influence he has—he certainly will have more now through this Amendment—that they are acting upon sound lines. There is no doubt that the state of our herds is not what it should be. We have certainly some of the finest cattle in the world, but the general level is not good. I think the Minister will agree. I think that all those who have to do with the industry know that the general level is low. If we take the policy of our breed societies, I am satisfied that they are much more inclined to look to fancy points, show points, than to commercial points and utility. The finest types of cattle being sent abroad before the war were the beef types that went to replenish the herds in the Argentine, but in regard to the dairy types, and the dual purpose types, I maintain there has been no sound policy carried out by the breed societies. They have been much more concerned with the shape of the horns and the colour of the animal than with other really important points. I am not going to say one should consider only the record, only the commercial side—milk records for instance. That is really important, but one must also consider physical points, because they are related to utility. At the end of the Amendment there is this passage: … the referee shall, in addition to inspecting the bull or boar, consider any information as to its breeding that may be given to him. Is that to mean it will be possible for the referee to consider records—milk records? It is extremely important. I was on the Standing Committee of this House which considered the Licensing of Bulls Bill, 1931. That matter was discussed. At the time it was raised we got an undertaking from Lord Addison—Dr. Addison as he then was—that it would. I am not sure whether that has always been carried out by the Minister's livestock officers. The policy varies from district to district, and I hope we may really have now from the Minister a clear indication that he will use his influence with the breed societies to see that we get healthy herds, herds that have the right physical points, those physical points which will be the basis of commercial utility. I hope the Minister will make use of the opportunity which this proposal gives him.

Mr. Turton

I think the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) has been a little unfair to the breed societies. The milk breeds have been guided by what type and conformation give the best milk yield and the beef breeds have been guided by what their customers in the Argentine require there for crossing. If there has been failure to meet the wishes of farmers in this country, it is because the customer in the Argentine was a more willing buyer than the customer at home. I, for one, congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on this Amendment. I do not think that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) has quite appreciated the position. The Bill, as drafted, would have left a wide discretion as to what boars or bulls were chosen. This does tighten up—it is more drastic—in favour of the breed societies. I, personally, believe that that is a very wise and necessary provision at the present time.

I think that in the last year there has been a little disagreement between the Minister and the cattle breed societies and the other breed societies. This will show the breed societies that, if they put their house in order, the Minister is going to back them and to back them in the interests of agriculture. I believe that is a very important aspect of this Amendment. I rose primarily however to ask the Minister one question. What is causing the failure of the Licensing of Bulls Act to-day, I believe, is not whether the livestock officers choose a good or bad bull, but the use to which that bull is put. It is the indiscriminate cross-breeding that is producing the poor stock in the country. I ask the Minister to keep a watch on this matter, and I hope that if he can think of a way to limit indiscriminate cross-breeding, he will introduce a further Measure later on in the Session to deal with that matter.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Chapman)

May I reply to the specific points put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers)? We are anxious to have these powers in Scotland. We only desire them in order to upgrade still further the already high standard of our cattle. I would like to say this to my hon. Friends, which I think covers both the general point raised by the hon. Member for West Perth and the technical points raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow.

So far as Scotland is concerned, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will operate this Clause only after the fullest consultation with the National Farmer's Union, the Chamber of Agriculture in Scotland, and the breed societies. The date at which the powers will be exercised will be determined after consultation, so as best to serve the conditions and interests of breeding and livestock in Scotland. I think that that assurance will meet the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow had particularly in mind.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage (Louth)

As far as this Amendment serves to do away with the old-fashioned scrub bull, to do away with tuberculosis in herds, and also to improve the milk yields in dual-purpose cattle—which I think may do—it is all to the good, and I think it will be generally welcomed through the country. But in Lincolnshire we are always a little anxious about breed societies and people who have the power of licensing taking a dead set against certain kinds of cattle and certain breeds of pigs because they are not fashionable at a particular time. We know the cattle and the breed of pig which are particularly suitable to the soil; it is the same with sheep, but sheep do not come under this Bill. In war-time certain alterations must be made in breeding and in the encouragement of different breeds which are not altogether suitable for certain soil. For instance, when we bring Scottish breeds down to Lincolnshire they do not do well, simply because the soil does not suit them—although that is not always true of the Aberdeen-Angus. Those breeds may be especially fashionable with the licensing people. We do not want the ordinary kind of bull, boar, or ram which has done well in particular areas, to be penalised because of this Clause. I should like an assurance that there will be no penalising of good local breeds which do not happen to be popular in war-time.

Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)

I should like to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in congratulating the Minister, after the passages we have had lately on the Milk and Dairies Bill. I understand that there are several breeds in this country and in Scotland, such as Ayrshires, which have very good strains of non-pedigree cattle. I do not know whether they have a society or not, but they have been bred for many generations, and the farmers who have bred them consider the bulls to be as good as pedigree bulls. Although nobody is keener on pedigree than I am, I think it would be a very bad thing to harm the breeders of those strains in any way. Will they, if they belong to a society or if they form a society, be permitted to continue when this Bill comes into operation?

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

I was very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) made a reservation in favour of Aberdeen-Angus, because he knows that Aberdeen-Angus is the best breed in the world, and that it does well in any country. I got up to thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secre- tary for giving the assurance that, in administering this Amendment he would consult with the breeding societies, the National Farmers' Union, and the Chamber of Agriculture in Scotland. We are all in favour of improving the quality of the breeding stock, but the fear has been expressed to me, in one or two quarters, that if we jump too far at the present time we may get a sort of ring of very high-class pedigree producers to whom the operation of this Clause would be confined. If we are to confine it to pedigree stock, it will have to be a very careful process. Therefore, it was a relief to hear from my hon. Friend that the breed societies, the National Farmers' Union and the Chamber of Agriculture in Scotland are to be consulted at every stage. That being so, I think it is a very satisfactory Amendment.

Mr. Mothers

I want to thank the Under-Secretary for the assurance he has given. In making my remarks I fell into the error of relating them to what I believed to be a much more drastic Amendment that was coming forward to the Bill, and not to the Bill itself. The Amendment, as now proposed, with the assurance that has been given, will meet the wishes and needs of the Scottish farmers.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

If my right hon. Friend wants to stop cross-breeding, he will, sooner or later, find himself bound to license bulls of a particular breed only. Is he prepared to do that, if he thinks it advisable?

Mr. R. S. Hudson

My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) asked if I could do anything to stop cross-breeding.

Mr. Turton


Mr. Hudson

Indiscriminate cross-breeding. That is what so many of our dairy herds are suffering from to-day. This is one step, perhaps the first step, towards that end. I do not think it is possible to prohibit the farmer from using, for example, a pure-bred Friesian on a Shorthorn. To do that would be going too far. We can say that, if the result is a black and white bull, that black and white bull should not be licensed and should not be used. The second step, which is to persuade the farmer that if he has once used a Friesian bull on a Shorthorn he should go on doing it, and not use a Jersey, is a matter of education. That is what I am asking the committees to devote their attention to. We must see what education will do before we bring in any more compulsion. As for the point of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thornbury (Sir D. Gunston), one of the main reasons why I prefer this Amendment to that originally put down by my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) is precisely that it will enable a bull which is pure-bred, but not entered in the book, to be licensed. The danger of the rather more stringent Amendment was that some man might, quite legitimately, say, "I have a perfectly pure herd of Ayrshires; I do not like the Ayrshire Cattle Society, and I am not going to enter my bull." We do think that, so long as it conforms to type, a man ought to be entitled to use it. The last words of the Amendment are: The referee shall, in addition to inspecting the bull or boar, consider any information as to its breeding that may be given to him. They were put in in order to enable the inspectors and referees to take account of the yields of the dams or grand-dams, in the case of dairy bulls, which I think covers the point raised by my hon. Friend.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.