HC Deb 14 November 1945 vol 415 cc2121-67

Order for Second Reading read.

3.25 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

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

After many disappointments, and the exercise of a large amount of patience, I have the honour to move the Second Reading of this Bill for the second time. In the last Parliament, this small but, I think, important Measure was presented and received a very warm reception, and I hope it will be found no less acceptable on this occasion. In spite of a good deal of experience of artificial insemination in Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and certain other countries, it is still in its experimental stages here. My right hon. Friend the ex-Minister of Agriculture established in 1943 two experimental centres, one at Cambridge and one at Reading, and these, together with six private centres, have, in the meantime, provided us with very valuable information. However, they have also proved that we have still a good deal to learn about this method of breeding. Many problems remain for investigation, and an ordinary commercial centre is scarcely the right spot for research into them. Such a centre is bound to be more or less preoccupied with the ordinary provision of a constant and reliable service to farmers, so that special research centres are required.

Accordingly, if hon. Members turn to the Bill, they will find that Clause 1 authorises my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself to set up and operate artificial insemination centres, where research and experiments can be carried on and, of course, where practical checks can be applied in the light of experience. These research centres will, therefore, provide a limited service to adjoining farmers. Grants can also be made to private bodies or private persons, and I hope these agencies will be extremely useful for investigation into special problems allocated to them by one or other of the research centres.

Hitherto we in this country have thought of artificial insemination primarily for cows, but in the United States, as my predecessor well knows, a good deal of work has been carried out on bees. That has been largely due to an attempt to eradicate the foul brood disease and I understand that the experiments so far are quite encouraging. It is thought, therefore—and was thought also by my right hon. Friend the ex-Minister of Agriculture—that this method of upgrading our livestock might be useful for other animals and other classes of stock. Therefore we are asking for power to facilitate research and experiment into livestock generally.

The second main part of the Bill comprises Clauses 2, 3 and 4. As hon. Members will appreciate, the establishment of a centre for artificial insemination calls for quite a large sum of capital expenditure and will take quite a considerable time before it gets into full working order, and there may be heavy losses in the initial stages. Losses will be incurred because there are not too many good bulls in this country, and they are not cheap. Clauses 2 and 3 therefore enable the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself to underwrite approved losses in any accounting year for a period of five years, starting with 1st January, 1945, to 31st March, 1950. Also any centre started in the last of the five years can secure cover for its losses during the whole of its first year's working.

I hope it will be generally agreed that the underwriting of these losses in the early stages is in the national interest, because, while there can be obvious dangers in artificial insemination, it certainly holds out great promise and should help us to raise the standard of our livestock in this country. Especially should this be so with small herds where it is almost impossible for the small farmer either to have a first-class bull himself, or to secure its services. On the other hand, although losses for the first few years are to be underwritten by the Treasury, provision is made so that should profits be made the Exchequer may, later on, partially recoup its expenditure. It is proposed therefore that once a profit is reached, two-thirds of it will be returned to the Treasury, one-third being left with those who are running the centre as a sort of working reserve for the periods after Government assistance has finally passed away.

It is generally recognised that the authority to make grants should be confined to centres that are run by producer controlled organisations. With the passing of the 1943 Act, taking control over the use of semen, the intention was to avoid any commercial exploitation of this very delicate operation. Otherwise there were great possibilities of evil. All the various methods of control have been carefully reviewed. Cattle Breed societies were called into the discussions and representatives of the National Farmers' Union and of the Milk Marketing Board, and scientific experts were also consulted. They recommended and I am sure the House will agree that artificial insemination should be developed as a national service.

This requires an orderly plan. No sectional interests or commercial firms should be able to participate. That is why, in general, licences will be restricted exclusively to farmer-controlled organisations such as the Milk Marketing Board, the Cattle Breed Societies and farmer co-operative organisations. That guarantees two things: that the farmers will have a voice in management and that the interests of users generally will be safeguarded. That, I believe, is strictly in accordance with experience in the United States, where farmer co-operative creamery centres are reported to be the most successful. My Department has established a strong advisory committee on which representative bodies are represented plus such technical experts as may be necessary. Similar conditions to this obtain in Scotland.

I think that perhaps the most pleasing feature of all, is that my predecessor was able to persuade the Milk Marketing Board, representing as they do the vast proportion of milk producers in the country, to play such an important part in this new development. I think this is a fine constructive job, and a natural development of the powers invested in this producer organisation. Clause 5 therefore enables the Milk Marketing Board to establish a centre in any part of England or Wales, and, I believe, Scotland, to serve not only registered milk producers within the area, but any dairy farmer who may require the service.

After all, livestock and livestock products are the mainstay of British agriculture. We must, therefore, endeavour to keep abreast of the times, and to take advantage of any new method of breeding. Particularly we should lose no opportunity of helping the very small man who has played such a noble part in endeavouring to increase the milk supply of this country during the period of food shortage. This artificial insemination idea is bound to create a wide demand for first-class bulls. I think therefore it is going to be a great opportunity for breeders, and I hope they will take full advantage of it.

Parliament has approved the principle of controlled and orderly development of artificial insemination. This Bill, therefore, is the logical consequence to the Act of 1943. I have heard of no opposition to it in this House, and I do not think there can be much opposition outside. There is however a case on record where in one large block of offices there are notices indicating the meetings to be held and the subjects to be discussed. One notice was for "Artificial Insemination." On another notice board close by was a second notice. "Scrub Bulls Protest Meeting." That is almost an inevitable reaction to a Measure of this description. However I think that there are great possibilities in this method of attempting to improve our livestock, and I hope the House will give a Second Reading as readily as the previous House did earlier in this year.

3.37 P.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am sure that the House will be glad to see this Bill take its place as the first Order on the Paper, after it has been hanging about at the tail-end of our programme for so many weeks. I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon producing this Bill, upon his appointment, and upon the very lucid and brief speech with which he has re-introduced the Measure. I myself, after so many delays have overtaken this Bill, do not propose to detain the House for any length of time. I would advise my hon. Friends not to vote against the Second Reading, although there are one or two points which it might be desirable to examine in Committee. The facts seem to be that the practice of artificial insemination is now fairly well-established here and in other countries, and it seems to me that it is clearly right that the agricultural Departments should concern themselves in this matter, and should be able to assist and supervise its practice, and also assist in research into its potentialities. That, I gather, is the purpose of the Bill. As far as the financial provisions are concerned, they appear to me to be fair. Under Clause 3 (2), if there is any profit at all, the grants can be reduced by two-thirds of the profits, and Subsection (5) provides that the destination of such profits is to be the Exchequer. It is rather refreshing to see that whatever ideological brain storms there may be in other Departments, the Treasury still sticks firmly to the old-fashioned profit motive.

I welcome sincerely the participation of producer-controlled organisations in this work, and, as an ex-Minister of Agriculture, I think there is substance in what the right hon. Gentleman says on this point. It is a good step forward that these great bodies should concern themselves with an aspect of their common problems such as this. I also think it wise to take into counsel the breeding societies with their long experience and expert knowledge. There are many of these excellent bodies in this country. They sometimes show a tendency to believe that the breeds which they sponsor are the only ones that should be allowed, but they have done a great work in encouraging those breeds.

The main purpose behind the Bill is to assist the breeding of good livestock in this country, and, in the breeding of good livestock, I think I may say with modesty this country has always held a paramount position. Breeders in other parts of the world have often thought it wise to import male animals from this country, to maintain the stamina and purity of their flocks and herds, and in this way a great export trade has grown up in bulls, rams and stallions. I think it is true that it has been a very profitable part of our agricultural industry, and I have no doubt that, from time to time, it has been very refreshing to those in charge of our foreign exchange account. I see no reason why this great export industry, which we have held so long in this country, should be damaged by the provisions of the Bill, or the practice it supervises. But I would make the point that the future development of the practice should be watched by this House to see how it is affecting the export of livestock from this country. In so far as the Bill carries on the process of eliminating our old friend the scrub bull it is to be welcomed, and I hope it may be possible to make good strains of stock available to small farmers cheaply enough to make the attraction of the scrub bull diminish to vanishing point.

It is obvious that these practices will increase the scope and range of the scientific breeder. We may look, no doubt, for advances in the future, beyond the great achievements of the past. I think however that a word of caution is necessary. I am a little sceptical about the balance of good and evil which is sometimes the result of man's interference with natural selection. If one takes the case of dogs for example, I am perfectly certain that the fox-terrier of today is not the dog he was when I was a boy, and I am sure the collie, perhaps the finest of our four-footed friends, bred as he has been for show purposes, is much inferior to what he was, before he got into the hands of breeders for show. Outbreaks of hysteria in high-bred spaniels I think are due to their being bred for show to an extent beyond the tolerance of nature.

It is true that this vice of breeding animals for show is not entirely absent from horse and cattle breeding, yet I think the breeders both of horses and cattle have motives of a more sensible character than the mere enumeration of points in the estimate of show judges. The thoroughbred horse in this country has been bred for speed and stamina, and is, of course, probably the finest horse in the world, and our breeders of cattle in the past have concentrated on either milk production or beef production. There is no doubt that the Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn breeds of today are much better than were their progenitors and there is no doubt in my mind that the British Friesian is a better beast than his ancestors. I sometimes wonder whether, in seeking to attain these ends in milk and beef production, the breeders have given enough attention to the power of the animal to resist disease. Like all of us cattle live in a world peopled by pathogenic micro-organisms, and what the doctor or the veterinary surgeon can order is no substitute for that mysterious inner defence mechanism which destroys the invading germ in the living anmals.

We are suffering appalling losses every year from animal diseases, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree. Although the strongest steps have been taken, and will no doubt continue to be taken by him, as they were by his predecessors, to strengthen the campaign against disease, tuberculosis, Johne's disease and contagious abortion are all exacting an immense toll from the herds, year after year. I may be wrong; I speak merely from personal observation which is necessarily limited—but these diseases seem often to attack the most highly bred and civilised animals. The more mongrel breeds seem to be more immune. I wonder if with all our achievements in cattle breeding we have not omitted in the past to give sufficient attention to this aspect of the breeding problem. It is far better, in my judgment, to lose a few gallons of milk, or a few pounds of beef, if, for that price, you can get an animal more robust, more resistant, and more capable of destroying, by the antidotes which its own system engenders, the host of germs and viruses which surround, and plague it.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned bees as being included within the scope of the Bill. The bee-keeper is plagued with Isle of Wight disease, and other diseases, and already, in the breeding of bees, there is a body of knowledge which enables one to say that some breeds show more resistance than others. The same is true of poultry; and one knows how potato disease has been most successfully encountered. But with all the spraying in the world and anti-fly measures which can be taken, nothing can show quite as good a resistance as the seed potato, which will stand up for itself in the battle of life. Therefore, while welcoming this Bill, and hoping that it will have a good passage, and welcoming the right hon. Gentleman's lucid explanation, I have ventured to occupy a few minutes in turning the attention of those who are to operate it, to what is perhaps the next great step in the scientific study of breeding, namely, the breeding of animals that can resist disease.

3.48 p.m.

Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South-Western)

I welcome the Bill, and also the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison). I think his arguments are very strong in support of the Bill, namely, that if we are to have our herds freer from disease, we ought to choose the sires from herds which have been known, in the past, to be very free from disease. Therefore, the records of the herds, from which we choose the animals to be used for the greater amount of breeding in the future, which will arise from artificial insemination, are of the greatest importance. It seems to me that this Bill is of importance not only of it self, but for the part it will play in the great plans that are to be developed in the improvements in agriculture.

There are two aspects of the matter which seem to me to be of importance. What we have witnessed, in the past, has been the uneven development of British agriculture. Here, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, we have some of the best stock in the world. Indeed, we have been able to export to other parts of the world; and yet, a few miles away from the good stock will be found some very bad stock. That, again, is an argument for this Bill, provided that, in the development of our artificial insemination centres, we cover the whole country, and provide a service for every farmer in the country. If, after the initial development, we find that there are some areas which have not the advantage of this Measure, then, I think we shall still have that uneven development. We should expect, as a result of this Bill, together with the rest of the Government's policy for British agriculture, to see this service developed in such a way that, in the course of the next five or ten years, every one of our dairy cattle shall have been sired by abull which comes from a line of cattle known, both for the great quantity of milk they produce, and the healthiness of their stock.

What we are aiming at, of course, must be to get into our dairy herds—into every dairy herd in the land—thoseanimals which, with the least attention and work, will from a certain quantity of feeding stuffs, make the greatest quantity of pure milk, free from the possibility of disease. That should be the aim of every dairy farmer in the country. If, when this service is provided, there are some who do not take advantage of it to upgrade their cattle, then I think the Minister should have within his power, the possibility of eliminating them from the realm of British farming. After all, what we must aim at, is a very much higher standard, both in dairy farming and in general fanning, of efficiency, and desire to have nothing but the best. I heard an hon. Member say in this House, an evening or two ago, that this country must export or perish. It seems to me, that if we can increase the production of purer and richer milk, this country will be a long while perishing. The more milk, beef, and honey we can produce at home the greater the assurance that this old country will live on; and what will perish will be disease and idleness, and the things which are not beautiful to look upon, in the country side. I, therefore, heartily support this Measure. I hope it will, indeed, be a great scheme for the revival and building up of British agriculture; so that out of this war, we shall see a finer countryside than we have ever known in the past.

3.55 P.m.

Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)

While welcoming this Bill, there are two points which I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. One is whether further investigation will be made into the radius of effectiveness of these centres. It is very important that this should be a uniform system throughout the country. I understand that in Denmark and in South America, the radius that is possible largely exceeds that at present laid down at Shinfield, which is only 15 miles. If the right hon. Gentleman is considering the establishment of other centres, quite obviously, if you can, by research and investigation, increase the range of each of the centres set up, so you will increase the benefits of this Measure for British agriculture.

One more point, in regard to the cows that are used. The agricultural research station at Compton, which happens to be within my constituency, has done most valuable work in inquiry into cattle disease, and the superintendent there has been able to prove, I think, that we have inclined, as the right hon. Gentleman speaking for the Opposition said just now, to look upon cows more as milking machines than animals. The more you raise cattle under artificial conditions, which do not give them the hardihood derived from exposure to the elements, the more you reduce their stamina. I hope that it may be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether, in most of the milking herds of the country, it would not be a good thing when some cows have reached their final stages, to have their last calving exposed outside, instead of within the protection of some yard. A curious thing is, that cows calving in artificial conditions undoubtedly do not have the natural resistance to the elements. They are more susceptible to disease, and the reports of the agricultural research station at Compton, spread over a considerable period, seem to prove this. It would be unfortunate if this great scheme of artificial insemination were not, apart from the proper selection of bulls, to succeed, owing to the cows used not being such hardy animals as they used to be.

I think that the veterinary service of the country ought to be encouraged in every possible way. The House realises that the number of veterinary surgeons, now in practice, is far below what is required for a prosperous agriculture. Unless we are able to encourage young men and women to go into the veterinary profession, it will be very difficult especially with the small man to carry out this scheme, which requires veterinary assistance. I think it ought to be possible for farmers, who are in a small way, to be able to make an annual contribution for the services of a "vet," whenever these are required. Often, the small man does not call in a veterinary surgeon quickly enough, because he does not want to pay the fees.

There was a scheme under the Ministry of Agriculture, I believe, with regard to the examination of dairy herds, based on that principle, with a view to ensuring that expert knowledge should be brought in, at the earliest possible moment. I think that is of very great importance for the success of this artificial insemination scheme; and that everything should be done through the Ministry of Education to make known what great opportunities there are, in the field of veterinary surgery, for improving our herds. A very large number of people in the country today are determined to improve the stamina and general efficiency of British agriculture, and I am quite certain that what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) said, about resistance to disease, is of paramount importance. It is really diagnosis which is necessary. Foot and mouth disease has cost this country a large sum, and if we could concentrate as much scientific attention on the elimination of that disease, as on improving weapons of war, we should have done something to help our country, which would have been very much worth while. I feel that the Ministry of Labour Appointments Board and the Ministry of Education might collaborate with the right hon. Gentleman in making known, to parents and others, the great opportunities that are open for first-class veterinary surgeons.

4 p.m.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

I rise to welcome this Bill, and, in particular, to welcome what the Minister said, in presenting it to the House. If this Bill is going to do any good, it must create a national service, it has to be conducted on an orderly plan; there must be a standing advisory committee, to see to the whole scheme, and to see that its operation is conducted in an orderly manner. I believe that it is tremendously important.

When I first read this Bill I did not like it. That was not because I was afraid that stock produced by artificial insemination would not be so good individually as stock produced by natural methods. Frankly, I think that is pure superstition. The reason why I felt doubts as to whether this Bill would prove effective in improving our stock was this: You do not solve your breeding problems merely by making good bulls generally available. You can breed just as bad stock by using good stock as by using bad stock if you mate your good stock injudiciously. That does not merely apply as between breeds, it applies within them. For instance, if you mate a Derby winner and an Oaks winner, you will sometimes, in fact very often, get an animal that will not win a selling plate. Successful breeding is not merely a question of selecting good individuals; it is not as easy a job as that.

Perhaps the House will forgive me if I give a short explanation of the scientific background of this problem, in so far as we know it. I have been warned that the House hates to be lectured, but if I put this explanation very shortly indeed, I hope the House will not be bored. When two animals mate the process that takes place is that a chromosome from the male comes into contact with a chromosome of the female. A chromosome may be likened to a centipede. It is a thing with legs in pairs down the sides of it. Each of those legs is called a gene. When the mating takes place, one of each pair of these pairs of legs in the male comes into contact with one of each pair of legs in the female, and so you get a new chromosome, from which comes all the heritable qualities of the offspring and which contains one leg or heritable factor from each pair posesssed by each parent. Now, not all those heritable qualities which are inherited from each parent have any visible effect. Some are called dominants, some are called recessives, and it is the recessives which produce the great problem of the breeder.

Let me take a simple example. If you mate the yellow pea with a green pea all your first generation will be green peas, but nevertheless they will all have a yellow recessive. When you interbreed with that first generation, you will get a percentage of yellow peas where the two yellow recessives come together, but the majority of your peas will be green peas. Some will be pure breeding green peas, which is where the two dominant green factors have come together, and some will have a yellow recessive. All will look the same. The real problem of the breeder, if green is the breeding point he is aiming at, is to produce a pure breeding green pea. They all look the same, and the only way you can find out the difference is by knowing the back pedigree and being able to know whether that particular family throws out yellows. That is a simple illustration.

With cattle breeding you have to know the pedigree some distance back to know whether you are going to get the desirable characteristics for which you are aiming or whether you are going to get undesirable offshoots, and when the right hon. and learned Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) spoke, I could not agree with him more as to the desirability of breeding for constitution. Constitution is a point like any other point, but you will not get constitution in a fixed sense, so that it will breed true, by breeding mongrels. You must get a pure breed constitution if you are going to reproduce constitution with certainty. That is the object of the breeder; not merely to breed good cattle—that is easy enough—but to breed cattle which are not only good in themselves but, because they are pure, will pass on their characteristics. The desirable characteristics in a dairy cow do not spring from a single gene, they come from a particular combination or pattern of heritable characteristics, each working on the other, but it is not by any means always the same pattern that produces the same result. Take, for instance, the shorthorn and the redpoll. There you get substantially the same fattening qualities, substantially the same milking qualities, and substantially the same quick maturing qualities, but you get them as a result of a different genetic pattern. So if you inter-breed those two you may be all right in your first generation but, after a bit, you will be getting bad mongrels.

That is not merely confined to where you hybridise two different breeds. It can happen within a single breed. If I may take an example of that let me take the thoroughbred race horse. Different breeders in different parts of the country have achieved the combination which goes to make up a good race horse, but they have achieved it by different breeding methods. That has not been recognised, with the result that these horses and mares, bred on different lines, have been mated. The result is that breeding race horses is the biggest gamble in the world. The thoroughbred breeder today has not the faintest idea of what he is breeding, because he has got his breed so mixed up that he is really encountering all the difficulties which come from breeding mongrels.

There is, I think, only one stud in this country that has concentrated upon developing a single line and thereby continues to get good results, generation after generation, and that is Lord Derby's stud. Lord Derby's stud has succeeded because it has developed the line of Polymelus, and I think every one of the Stanley House stallions is inbred to Polymelus. They have developed a single line, and within that stud they have developed a pure bred line; and apart from those Stanley House stallions we, who are the creators of the thoroughbred, have to a large extent to go to France and Italy for our best stallions. That is what can happen to a breed if you do not develop pure lines within the breed. Very much the same sort of thing happened to the shorthorns, but during the last 20 or 30 years, within various herds, pure bred lines have been developed. And so with the shorthorns which 20 years ago were very nearly as much a gamble to breed as thoroughbred race horses, it is now possible to know what you are breeding—to be sure, for instance, of getting a good milker.

It is on lines of that sort that this problem should be approached. What we want first is that the artificial insemination centres should have not merely good bulls but bulls which are drawn from lines of breeding which are common in the district, so that we will be developing distinct lines of breed, and we want sequences of bulls coming from those same lines, so that in each district we shall be building up a pure line of breeding within the breed. Then we need to co-ordinate with that the bull licensing system. Frankly, there cannot be anything very much more absurd than looking at a bull and saying, "We will license him to be a dairy bull." When you look at a dairy cow and you can see an udder and milk vein you have some clue as to her milking capacity, but when you look at a bull you have not a clue of any sort, and nobody can say, merely from looking at a bull, whether it is going to get good milkers. And yet that is the primary test for the selection of bulls. Indeed, under the 1931 Act the one important thing, which is breeding, does not come into the matter at all. Indeed, the only reason why the 1931 Act has worked is because the livestock inspectors have shown a great deal of good sense and have, quite illegally, considered the breeding of bulls. What we want is to license bulls not on their appearance but according to their pedigree, and to license bulls not generally but for a particular herd, because a bull which may do a great service in one herd will be a menace to another. That is important.

Lastly, with regard to the bull subsidy scheme, I myself would prefer to see the Ministry go in for buying their own bulls and leasing the bulls in a district. That would be a much better way of doing it. On the other hand, if they are going to subsidise, only bulls of the particular breeding line within the breed which they propose to encourage in that district should be subsidised. We do most urgently need a co-ordinated scheme which is going to build up within the breeds and within the districts pure-bred lines upon which we can rely. Here one of the most essential things we must look for, in which I agree very strongly with what the right hon. and learned Member for Cirencester said, is constitution. I was much comforted when the Minister said that this Bill was to be worked within a plan, because when I first looked at the Bill I had fears in reference to the people who were to administer the scheme, because, as regards the Milk Marketing Board, what they are primarily concerned with is to take the immediate produce, good milk from the first generation. That can be got very easily by hybridising. You can get the first generation by crossing breeds and you will probably get the advantages of both breeds because good qualities tend to be dominant, but you will lose the purity of your stock and get your headache on the second generation.

I met in Cumberland a man who was taking some very nice Friesian cross bred heifers from his own shorthorn stock to market. I asked, "What are you going to do?" He said, "I shall sell them. They will sell well, they will produce milk, and I am passing on the headache of the next generation to somebody else." That is what I am afraid might happen here. You will get Friesian bulls introduced, because they will, on the first generation, probably produce the most milk, but if you do that you are going to mongrelise your stock and lay up trouble in the future. Therefore, I hope that very great care will be taken to see that breeding societies do not go into competition to push bulls of their own particular breed; that a long view is taken and not merely the first generation view; and that the whole thing is co-ordinated and worked according to plan. I have a further suggestion and that is that the calves produced by this system should be earmarked, so that we can trace how they are bred, and can know how the things we are doing are working out. There is just one other point, that of range, referred to by an hon. Member opposite. The Cambridge insemination centre is at the moment inseminating cows from Cumberland, a very wide range.

4.16 p.m.

Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)

I rise with great fear and trepidation to address this House for the first time, and I therefore ask the indulgence of the House. This may seem a very curious topic on which to speak for the first time, but I do so for two reasons. The first is because I have the honour to represent a large agricultural area in Cheshire, the Eddisbury division, in which there are many small farmers, who are keenly interested in artificial insemination. Secondly, I wish to speak about this subject, because I have the honour to serve on a committee appointed in an advisory capacity on this subject by the Minister, which he has already mentioned. It seems to me that the chief use of artificial insemination, for the time being, is to help small farmers. Half the farmers in this country farm less than 50 acres. Some 67 per cent. of the farmers in this country own 15 cows or less. Therefore, the vast majority of farmers are very small men, and they cannot afford to keep an adequate bull, so they use any old bull which they can in the district, which is what is known as a scrub bull. We know that a scrub bull costs about £40 a year to keep and maintain. Therefore, it is wholly uneconomic for these bad scrub bulls to be used, when, by artificial insemination centres, a very much better type of bull could be at the service of small farmers.

We know that a vast number of cattle in this country are very badly bred. They are cross-bred and they produce comparatively little milk. The average gallonage per cow at the present time is something like 500 gallons, which is very low indeed. That means that there are very large numbers of cows producing less than 500 gallons, because we know that there are many which are producing far more, say, up to 1,000 gallons. There is no reason why herds should not be established all over the country, and improved to produce 700 or 800 gallons per cow, but it cannot be done on present lines. I believe that as artificial insemination increases—it will have to be done slowly to begin with—very much better bulls and very much better stock will be at the disposal of these small farmers. That is the principal reason why I urge the passing of this Bill.

Reference has been made to disease, which is very great in some districts. It is known that certain of these diseases such as contagious abortion and trichonomiasis can be largely controlled by artificial insemination. At present, the bull is often infected by a cow, and then the bull transmits the disease to another cow. In some districts the spread of disease is so great that the small farmer is having the greatest difficulty in getting his cows in calf. It is known that disease is spread considerably in this way. It is also known that certain diseases can be controlled to a large extent by means of artificial insemination. That is another very urgent reason for increasing artificial insemination centres. I have already said that at present it costs probably a minimum of £40 a year to keep even the worst scrub bull. If a man has a small typical herd of 15 cows, that is very expensive for him. The artificial insemination centres are proposing to charge, for commercial cattle, about 25s. a service for a first-class bull. When I say "a first-class bull" I mean that the bull shall have a milk record behind him for two or three generations. That is of the greatest importance. We know that the influence of milk can be increased by breeding, and if one gets a soundly bred bull, with adequate milk and butter fats behind him, that will be passed on to the progeny, and is much the quickest way of improving the dairy livestock of the country. For those reasons I wish to see this Bill become an Act, because I feel it can be of enormous help to the great body of small farmers in this country.

4.22 p.m.

Major Wise (King's Lynn)

It is my very pleasant duty to congratulate the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) on his maiden speech. I do so more particularly because, being a farmer, I am certain that what he will have to say to us in the House in the future will be helpful. I hope that so far as agriculture is concerned he will voice his views on every possible occasion. Although he has started his course on an Artificial Insemination Bill, I am certain he need have no hesitation whatever in joining our Debates on future occasions. Like hon. Members who have preceded me, I welcome this Bill. It has been a long time coming, but at last it has been born, and I hope that its course through the House will be speedy, and that when it comes into operation it will prove of service to the farming community. I hope there will not be a practice of holding up agricultural Bills. We have seen this Billon the Order Paper for so long. We hope that Bills which will have to come from this side of the House in order to assist agriculture will not be delayed on future occasions in the way this one has been.

The great point about this Bill, which I think must interest all of us, is that whereas during the past few days or weeks we have been talking so much about the science of destruction, here we are introducing a science which, I hope, will create life, although it may be animal life, for the whole agricultural community. In the past, the losses which we have incurred through bad breeding, abortion and the barrenness of cows have been very remarkable. I am certain that if these centres are established throughout the Kingdom, fanners generally will welcome the service which the centres can put at their disposal. As an industry, we are becoming more scientifically minded. We have adapted our methods of production both in regard to the mechanisation of implements and in the artificial feeding of plants and all our other crops. The time has come when the farming industry, as a whole, must decide that our stock producing must be conducted upon scientific lines. If this Bill helps us to produce what has been described as healthy stock, then it will have served a very good purpose indeed. I do not think that as a class we need be afraid of the Bill. It is one of a number of Bills which, I hope, will be helpful to the industry, and, therefore, we must take advantage of it.

One point which has been referred to frequently in the course of the Debate is the selection of the stock bulls. I am most anxious that whatever stock bulls are selected for this purpose, not only should they have a record of pedigree behind them, though I am not unduly disturbed in regard to pedigree, but that whatever bulls are selected they should be, if you like, proved stock getters. Ten or 15 years ago I was concerned in an honorary capacity with the purchase of bulls by the Soviet for the introduction of artificial insemination into that country. Representatives of the Soviet came to this country to purchase a number of our bulls. I was particularly struck by the care and attention they gave to those selections. The bulls were vetted on the farms, they were then vetted at the home ports, and they were again vetted on arrival, and if they did not then meet the standard which the Soviet had set up some of those bulls were returned to this country. The whole process was one of great care and discrimination. I hope that whatever bulls or whatever stock we may use for this particular purpose, the same care and attention which has been part and parcel of the agricultural prosperity and improvement in the Soviet will be used here.

There is one point on which I am not quite clear, and which I wish to take up with the Minister. Clause 1 deals with the question of research, and under that Clause it is possible for the Minister to contribute towards any expenditure incurred by any society or person in the matter of research or experiment. It is clear from that that it will be possible for an individual to carry out research and experiment in artificial insemination. Clause 2 completely ignores the individual who has been active enough or who is prepared to carry out research for the benefit of the industry. He is not able to set up any artificial insemination centre or to receive a grant. Having brought him into Clause 1, I think it might be possible in some way or another to bring him into Clause 2. I may be wrong, but I feel that we do not want to limit artificial insemination. If an individual stockbreeder or farmer is prepared to go to the expense and trouble of carrying out research and experiment in this matter, then I think some provision might be put into Clause 2, to allow him to operate a centre. The inspection and control of the centre will, no doubt, be sufficient. The centres will be licensed and I think there is some protection for the community in that respect. I bring this matter to the notice of the Minister and perhaps if he replies he will say whether my interpretation of these Clauses is right or wrong.

I welcome the Bill and I hope that we may feel assured that in passing it we have added something to the prosperity of the agricultural industry, and the community as a whole.

4.33 P.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Corbett (Ludlow)

The House accepted the principle of artificial insemination during the last Session. I must confess I look on the practice with suspicion and see in it certain dangers. We have managed to breed cattle for a great many years without adopting this practice, and for my part I heartily dislike it. However, medical science has made use of all sorts of dodges to effect cures and I look on this practice as a stepping stone to the improvement of various herds and as giving opportunities to the small man, but not as a method for adoption as a general practice. I think it would be a great danger if we were too readily to extend this practice widely, until we have a great deal more experience of its results.

I have studied the licensing rules drawn up by the Minister of Agriculture for these centres. They seem to me to be very adequate and to cover a great many necessary factors. They make provision against disease in the centres, for the staff being properly qualified and for the keeping of records, which is of great importance. But there are one or two points which they do not cover and which I would recommend to the Minister's consideration. It is important that the cost of this service to the consumer—to the man whose cows are to be served by artificial means—should be as low as possible. It is recommended in the Minister's regulations that a minimum of 25s. for service should be the general fee, or £3 for service if you choose your bull. Provision is also made for more expensive bulls and it is recommended that a service from an expensive bull should be at the rate of one per cent. of the cost of the animal. I hope that the Minister will keep an eye on these costs, so as to provide a service, as liberal as possible, to the poor man and so that this practice is not made a profit-making business. I do not think we want that. If you take, for example, a bull costing £300, his services are available at one per cent., that is £3 per service. It is possible for a bull to serve at many as 1,000 cows. If he does so that bull will mean £3,000 a year and the bull may be used for four years and bring in £12,000, which is a pretty good income. That matter should be watched.

That brings me to the number of cows a bull should serve by this means. There are dangers in allowing them to serve too many. I think the Minister should impose a limit. One hon. Member has said that there is a limit of 15 miles at one centre. I think that at the centres in Reading and Cambridge there is no limit and semen can be sent all over the country. We have already had a dissertation from the non. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on breeding. You may have a bull which turns out to be a complete failure. You have only to look at Derby winners, to see that many do not get good stock. If you allow a bull to serve 1,000 cows you will not know what stock he is producing, at any rate for three years—until the cows grow to maturity and come into milk. I think therefore the Minister should limit the number of cows. Perhaps he would consider whether he should not limit all bulls during their first year, until their calves can be seen. He might make a limit for three years until the stock is known to be good. Proven sires could then be used without restriction. There is, of course, the danger of inbreeding from this method, but that is not a very serious matter at present.

There are no regulations in the licensing rules I have seen, which make it illegal to use bulls for crossing. I think we have sufficient breeds of cattle in this country already. I am not sure how many they are, but I believe there are over 30 and I feel one of the first steps to improve them should be to cut out cross breeding. It has a useful purpose to serve, but, on the whole, I feel it is unnecessary. Most of our bad herds have been produced by indiscriminate crossing. A man will buy a selection of cows of many breeds in the market and then use one bull and then another—a Shorthorn and then a Friesian, and when he finds the milk is the watery stuff which the old-time Friesian used to produce, he might try a Guernsey in order to produce good milk. But he does not do anything of the sort and a thoroughly bad herd is produced. I recommend the Minister to cut out crossing altogether. Crossing has one purpose to serve; there are bad dairy herds, and they should be put to a beef bull and their calves used as stores and sold for fat-stock and nothing else. I recommend that course to the Minister so as to weed out the produce of all bad cows.

I do not, as0 I say, like this practice. I do not think it is really necessary, and I hope it will not be adopted by the leading herds. It is, I feel, a rather "chancy" business, not yet proven and I dislike departing from the natural method of breeding. I look upon it as a medical aid to improvement, and I hope the herd societies will rule it out and not allow calves produced by this method, to be entered.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. Walker (Rossendale)

I feel that I am trepassing into the peaceful atmosphere of a very happy family this afternoon, because everyone seems perfectly agreed on this Bill. I notice in the first words of the Memorandum that the purpose of this Bill is to facilitate the development of the practice of artificial insemination of livestock in Great Britain as a means of better breeding and more efficient production. I hoped not to be speaking on this subject at all, because I am not an agriculturist and I do not represent an agricultural division. Perhaps the only justification I have for taking any part in this Debate is that I happen to be a member of the milk committee of my county council. Of course, a committee of that description has as its primary business to see that the general public gets a good and a clean milk supply. I have been somewhat astonished at these committees to be repeatedly told by certain of the farming community, that it is quite possible for a farmer to produce clean milk, even though it is from cows in a dirty cowshed, but there is one point they always emphasise and that is that if we do want a good and clean milk supply, it must come from good stock.

I have been reading a book recently and by giving a quotation from it I may strike a discordant note in the Debate. The book is entitled "Farming and Gardening for Health or Disease," by Sir Albert Howard, a great authority on soil and soil production. He condemns emphatically the use of chemicals in the soil, and attributes all the evils of agriculture, not only in this country but in countries in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and even America, to the large quantities of chemicals that are being used in the soil. He asserts—to condense all he has to say in one sentence—that if we want a healthy people, we must have a healthy soil. About this insemination he has one very condemnatory sentence, in which he says that insemination is a monstrous innovation that can only end in life erosion. An opinion of that sort coming from a man Mice Sir Albert Howard is, I think, worth being noted. He would not make use of language of that description if there were not some kind of evil underlying this process, this scientific idea of artificial insemination.

I have seen something of a far more condemnatory nature in a letter which appeared in the county newspaper of my district. The right hon. Gentleman opposite knows the farmer who wrote this letter as well as I do. He uses some terrifically strong language about artificial insemination. With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will read some extracts from this letter. I am not saying that I agree with the opinions expressed in it, but I feel that before we embark on a venture of this description, my right hon. Friend who has introduced this Bill is doing the right thing in setting up these research committees, because we want to know the truth of the matter. We want to know whether artificial insemination is going to be a good thing or an evil thing. I would ask hon. Members to listen to what this farmer has to say. He speaks with a certain amount of authority. I hope my right hon. Friend will not mind the kind of language that this man has used. He says: It is pitiable to think that the present Government are continuing the ghoulish wholesale insemination of cattle, which will ruin all stock—ruin farmers and breeders and England. One of the worries of breeders is that many cattle have not sufficient sex now; in a very short time where insemination is practised, there will be no sex and the stocks will be barren.…No man will be able to afford to bring up bulls if this horrible insemination continues. Wholesale insemination will kill the cattle in time. I mention the following facts solely to show that I know what I am talking about. My herd of pedigree dual purpose Shorthorn cattle (there are over 500 herds) are first in Lancashire for the highest average milk yield for one lactation. I won first prize and two champion cups at the Royal Lancashire Show for the best dual-purpose Shorthorn cow to be judged as conformation, to be milked at the show, quality and quantity of milk to be taken into consideration. There were 46 entries from the leading breeders in England and elsewhere.…I have no axes to grind. I have done my utmost for over half a century for all farmers for the breeding of the best cattle, sheep, Shire horses and show jumpers, and for England, and I ask every farmer and breeder…to put his foot down on the deadly crimes of wholesale insemination and in-breeding. I refused to sell Cark Forest King for 2,000 guineas because I wished to keep it for farmers in the north-west. As I said, I am not an agriculturist, but I am a Member of this House, and I want to know, in view of evidence of that discription, whether or not it is the right thing for us to spend in the next five years £250,000 in research upon this. I do not know if this man's opinion is the general opinion of the farming community, but I know that he is a man of authority and a very sensible farmer, and I know he has won prizes all over the country for the stock he has produced. If that is his opinion, I bow to it to a certain extent, and I think it ought to be listened to. Those are my reasons for speaking in this Debate. We should be very careful in what we do. According to the books and articles I have read, agriculture has suffered very much indeed from scientific interference, especially from the use of chemicals. Because of advertisements of the chemical industries, farmers have been led to think that they can rejuvenate their farms—stock and soil—by the use of chemicals, and now we have the evidence that the use of chemicals is destructive in the very last degree. Therefore, I think we should be careful, and I want my right hon. Friend to be careful, as we proceed in this matter of artificial insemination. If it is a good thing we should go ahead, but if it is an evil thing it should be left alone. We cannot afford to play tricks with our milk and food supplies. What we ought to do is to secure by all possible means a really good food and milk supply so that we can have the joy of seeing a happy and healthy people.

4.50 p.m.

Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)

I gather that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken fears that this method of breeding will, in the course of time, exercise a debilitating effect on stock. I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him more than to say I do not share that view. I had a scientific training, and I see no biological reason at all why it should. Anyhow, it is not going to be universally adopted—not for a long time, anyway—and there will be plenty of opportunity for checking. I have no doubt that veterinary officers will watch it very closely, and personally I have no fears on that score. This Bill is an old friend, and I am glad to see that the names on the back of it have not all changed. The few remarks that I propose to make this afternoon are directed to try and help in its success.

I feel the most vital part about it is the matter of cost. I do not mean the cost of the whole scheme, which is to be £250,000. I mean the cost to the individual farmer. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow), in his very excellent maiden speech, and the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) have already touched on this, and I do not think I need say very much about it. However, I do want to make the point again that the object of the whole scheme is to raise the general standard of our herds, and I feel that the herds which are most vitally affected are the small herds. The farmer who is most vitally affected is the man who keeps a small herd of cows and does not keep a bull, or the man who keeps the cheapest breed of bull that he is allowed by the regulations. The man who has no bull at all is the one whom one meets leading a cow to his friend who has a bull. That man does not go round with a cheque book and a fountain pen. In my part of the country he has usually got a rather dirty pound note in his trouser pocket, and that is the usual fee. I think it is the same in most parts of the country. Therefore, I hope the Minister will do his best to keep these fees down to somewhere like £1 or 25s., and that for a really good bull.

I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow who said that the fees should range from 25s. for ordinary service to £3 for a bull that was chosen by the farmer. I hope it will be a good one, because if it is not the scheme will not work as it should. There should not be a tremendous difference between the two. I know that the man who keeps a cheap bull will get certain advantages which may enable him to pay a little more. He will not have to house the bull or feed it, and on that score I think there will be a certain advantage from the humanitarian point of view, because on small farms very often the bull is the worse treated animal on the farm, ill-housed, seldom exercised and not too well fed. That should be improved, and with certain breeds there will be an advantage in not handling the bull, which is very often a source of anxiety. Certain breeds—Ayrshires, for example—are highly strung animals. The farmer will be quit of that. If the scheme is to be a success, it must meet the small farmer who keeps a cheap bull, and the man who has got no bull at all and who goes round to the farmer with the cheap bull.

I hope the Minister will give us an assurance that he will do his best to see that the fees to small farmers are between 20s. and 25s.—preferably the former. He has the powers. He is able to give grants which, if people will not conform to what he desires, he will be able to withhold. I hope he will not be tempted to get back the £250,000 by increasing those fees, because I think we should have a cheap service.

4.56 P.m.

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)

There has been little criticism of this Bill tonight. In reply to one hon. Member who asked if the scheme had really been tried out, I think it is worth pointing out that, as in some other fields, research work was, I believe, done here in England many years ago. In fact, in Cambridge under Dr. Hammond, the principles and practices of artificial insemination were established before the war, but it fell to other countries to practise it on a large scale before we did. In Denmark, the Soviet Union and the United States very large numbers of cattle and sheep have been bred in this way. A number of generations of cattle have been so bred successfully. When I was a member of a party that represented this House in the Soviet Union last winter we were told that 50,000,000 head of stock had been bred by artificial insemination in that country. This practice is not so very new or revolutionary, and I am one of those of the large majority who welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on getting it as far as its Second Reading at last.

There are, however, some points which arise. One suggestion which was made, that the veterinary officers who would be required at these stations could be of service to the small farmer in ways other than simply dealing with artificial insemination, raises the difficulty that there are already so many different advisory organisations and different officials representing different bodies, helping, advising and to some extent controlling the farmer. I do not know if it would be possible for the veterinary officer who will be attached to these artificial insemination centres, to advise also on other breeding and disease problems for the benefit of the farmers for whom the artificial insemination centres are being run. As has been pointed out in this Debate by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), there is already a very great shortage of veterinary surgeons, and I hope the Minister will be able to relieve that shortage soon. It would be possible to use the veterinary surgeons attached to these stations in assisting farmers in their breeding and other disease problems. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say when he replies whether that suggestion would be possible under these schemes.

Another danger which has been pointed out is the possibility that the centres will concentrate too much upon milk. I hope that that will not be so, and I do not see that it is necesary. The great advantage of these centres is for the small farmer, who can have his milk production a great deal raised before he gets to the 1,000 gallon average, and who is at the present time using a very indifferent bull. I am afraid the great danger is that the standard of health of the cows will be under mined by producing too much milk, but at any rate I hope that some of the breeds used will be those which have good stamina. I do not know that some of the milk breeds necessarily have less stamina than the others. In the North of England, where I come from, Ayrshires have become very popular. They have some very good points and they also have some bad ones. We also have the dairy shorthorn in Cumberland and it is really a breed of my particular county. It has great stamina and some dual purpose, which will help the milk breeds.

At Cambridge, where I visited one of the artificial insemination centres, I was glad to find a bull which had been bred in my own county. It does not seem to me that the danger of overbreeding is very great if the policy of the artificial in semination centres is wisely controlled. I do not want to delay the House—

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

Hear, hear. Let us get on to Tummel Garry.

Mr. Roberts

I would like to ask how many centres there are. There are one at Reading and one at Cambridge and I believe there are other stations already in operation. We were told by the Prime Minister that he envisaged orderly development, and I join with him in so doing. I ask the Minister what he really intends as the number of centres which can be established in the next year or two? What is the orderly plan of development? It will be important for the Parliamentary Secretary to give us answers to those questions and to tell us what administratively can be carried out. What is more important, so far as can be seen at the present moment, is the number of stations and the sort of size of the districts they will cover.

I join with other hon. Members in wishing the Bill success. I believe that it will raise the quality of some of our not-so-good stock. We have first-class pedigree herds but they will not require this Measure, which is for farmers who cannot afford expensive bulls.

5.5 P.m.

Mr. York (Ripon)

The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) had the experience of seeing a Northern bull in a Cambridge centre. I shall wish to take that point a little farther than he did. He touched upon the question of concentrating on dual purpose, but I should first like to issue a very strong warning that this matter is not, at any rate for the moment, a long-term policy. It is a short-term policy, for a definite practical end, and so long as the industry of the country regards it in that light, I do not think that we can come to any harm. To say, as people are saying on extremely weak facts, that this practice of artificial insemination does no harm to breeds, and to call it superstition as did an hon. Member on the other side, is to base one's arguments upon no known facts.

I agree that we have interfered in many ways with human and animal bodies, but interference with the blood stream and the nervous system affects only the body whereas in interfering with the reproductive organs of the body, we are dealing with the transmission of the spirit and the life between one animal and another. When we get down to that depth, we should proceed very cautiously before putting any hopes upon that system. This practice may be of use in upgrading dairy herds and in helping the small farmer to do without a bull. I represent a large and beautiful dale in Yorkshire. In that dale we have a very large number of small farmers. I want to see the Bill benefiting that dale within the immediate and visible future.

For this reason I want to hear something more definite than we have yet heard from the Minister, of his intentions in the setting up of these centres. I want to know whether he intends to leave the entire planning of the operation to the Milk Marketing Board. If so I shall not complain, but I know what action I shall advise my constituents to take, to see that their purposes are served. On the other hand, it may be that he or his Department intend to plan where the centres are to be. In that case, we can apply ourselves, in the normal Parliamentary procedure, to seeing that the interests of our constituents are met.

I would point out other practical dangers which may arise in the administration of this Bill. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) mentioned one point about a certain disease, trichonomiasis, and I want to know whether it is a fact that artificial insemination is a way of reducing that disease. I do not know and I should like to be informed upon the matter. Does the actual sperm which is transferred carry the disease with it? We ought to have information on that point, so that, apart from testing the bulls for other diseases, they might be tested frequently in order to see that they have not this particular disease. The other danger is with regard to proven bulls. I think the Minister is aware that we are very short of them. If one sets out to buy a proven bull it is almost impossible to do so. If he goes ahead with this scheme, he will find that there will not be enough of those bulls to go round and that a large number of second class bulls will be used. I would ask what estimate the Ministry have of the number of those bulls which will be required in each successive year, according to the plans of the Minister and those of the Milk Marketing Board? What steps does the Minister intend to take, if there is likely to be a shortage, to bring the number up to requirements?

A third danger is that of cross breeding. Let it be clearly recognised by all concerned that artificial insemination is the direct road to the most widespread cross breeding that the country has ever seen. There is nothing to prevent a farmer who has a shorthorn, wishing to have the service of a Friesian bull, or a farmer with Friesian cattle the service of an Ayrshire bull. Unless we are careful we shall see cross breeding on a scale such as this country has never known. I was interested in the point made by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), though I disagreed with his conclusions. He said that we should try to line breed within a region. That is a very good idea but the practical difficulties are enormous. It would mean that, for each region, the committee, or whatever body will run artificial insemination centres, would have to make sure first that all its own bulls in succession from year to year carried on the same blood lines, and secondly that cattle were not brought in from outside, and crossed with this line. Therefore I say it is impracticable to do as he suggests.

The fourth danger is that of increasing some of the breeds which we know to be, or think to be, not so desirable. I admit that I have a prejudice against imported breeds. I feel it is of very great importance that the country should not be swept away by the present fashion to go for nothing but huge supplies of milk. There is one breed in particular, which has shown itself to be of doubtful advantage, and that is the Friesian breed, in that it has a history of very low butter fat. I should not like to see that lowering of butter fat content, brought into the Shorthorn areas of the country.

The fifth danger is the elimination of dual purpose cattle. The Ministry of Agriculture are accused, and in my opinion very rightly accused, of wishing to specialise. Some of their officers have a one-purpose cattle complex, and to try to push that complex wherever their influence may extend is a very dangerous thing. We want to see cattle which, when they are sold at the end of their life, have a good carcase, cattle which will breed good carcases in the unwanted heifers. To use a phrase of that eminent agriculturalist, Professor Engledow "the inherent agricultural characteristics of this country" demand a dual purpose type of cattle. Artificial insemination will put all the emphasis upon milk, and unless the leaders who take charge, try to direct the operations of these committees we shall see the milk strain becoming more and more apparent and the carcase qualities of the beasts disappearing altogether.

Mr. Paget

With regard to the Shorthorns, that certainly is not so. So far, the Shorthorn bulls which have been selected for artificial insemination have been selected because they do have these dual characteristics.

Mr. York

I would agree with the hon. Gentleman so far as my experience goes. I have only seen one centre, at Cambridge, and there they had two very likely bulls, both of which have real dual purpose characteristics.

Mr. Paget

That is the policy of the Society.

Mr. York

It is the policy of the Committee, not of the Society, which matters.

Mr. Paget

It is the policy of the Shorthorn Society with regard to artificial insemination bulls.

Mr. York

The difficulty is that the Shorthorn Society has no say in the running of these centres. Though it is arguable that they should have, they will not have in fact under this Bill, because the Milk Marketing Board will run the centres. The result will be that a committee will be formed of local people. With a bit of luck shorthorn breeders may be on the committees, and will be able to look after the point I have mentioned.

The last danger is in regard to the smaller breeds. We have, in this country, three or four superlative small breeds—Jersey, Guernsey, Redpoll, and Lincoln Red—all of them first class in their own particular type. We know that the centres will, as a general rule, have Friesian, Shorthorn and possibly Ayrshire bulls, but whether there will be one of the smaller breeds is extremely doubtful. The smaller breeds will not be selected, first of all because they are very scattered, and secondly because the majority of them do not really setout for a 2,000 gallon yield. They go for a herd average of, say, 800 or 900, and try to make a good constitution. Above all, they go for quality in the animals and the milk. It is my submission that we do not require large numbers of 2,000 gallon cows. From my own experience they very rarely breed true. It should not be the aim to try to breed 2,000 gallon cows throughout the country. What we do require is to up-grade all the cattle in the country so that in, say, five years' time, herd averages may rise to 700, and in another five years to 800, and with that rise in quantity we want to see an equal rise in constitution.

It may be said that the smaller breeds can obtain their semen by post. I have not a great deal of experience of that, but the experience I have goes to show that this is a most unsatisfactory way of carrying out artificial insemination. Perhaps now and again there may be a run of luck, but generally speaking it is a very unsatisfactory way which will lead to many disappointments amongst the smaller breeders. I have, therefore, two concrete suggestions on points which I would like the Ministry to watch in the administration of this Measure. The first is that they should see to it that there is a bull of the smaller breeds in those areas where there is the greatest concentration of herds, and the second is that in regional centres—perhaps amongst a group of centres—there should be as far as possible a total range of bulls of all the breeds of which there are herds in that region.

I have one or two further direct questions to put before I sit down. I have asked the Minister to tell us his intentions in regard to the organisation of the centres. I want to know also the areas to be covered by each station. I want to know how the centres are to be run, and whether the Ministry itself will operate any centre or not. I also want to know whether the Ministry itself will conduct research into the various aspects of artificial insemination. I have already mentioned the estimate of the proven bulls which I require. I do not think that this Measure is as easy and certain of success as would appear on paper. I have issued my caution, and I hope that not only breeders and farmers but the Minister of Agriculture will heed my warning before we do any irreparable damage to the cattle of this country.

5.22 p.m.

Mr. Collins (Taunton)

In rising to take part in this Debate somewhat late in the day, I desire to join in the chorus of welcome which has been accorded to this Bill, although that welcome has thinned out rather among the later speakers. In particular, I would express the hope that this Measure is not regarded as a small one. It may be a little Bill, but I think it can, and should, have very considerable results. Quite obviously, it must be of very considerable benefit to the small farmer, but if, as the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) suggested, it should be confined within small limits, then in my view it is doomed to failure. Some of the other suggestions which were made by various speakers were, to my mind, made because of inadequate examination of the proposals of the Bill. A number of questions have been addressed to the Minister which are already made clear and are implicit in the provisions of the Bill. A good deal has been said about the dangers of this system of artificial insemination. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Walker), quite obviously, was unaware that this system has already been tried to a considerable extent, and indeed with considerable success, in Russia and the United States of America. There has been a considerable measure of success in this country also.

Reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) to the effect of modern conditions, on certain breeds of dogs. In my view, in that case the breeder achieved certain show points which he wanted, and, in achieving that objective, other things happened to the detriment of the breed. It was said, too, by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that the breeders of race horses, when mating, say, a Derby winner with an Oaks winner, did not know what they were doing, or had very little idea. I feel quite certain that most owners of eight cows and a scrub bull know far less, and this Bill will be a means of assisting them very considerably.

The hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) made some reference to the various centres. We already know that the two main centres are at Reading and Cambridge, but there are other private centres already functioning such as are intended under the Bill, and one of those is at Ilminster. It will be interesting to hon. Members to know of the provisions made at that centre to ensure that the dangers of which hon. Members have expressed their fears do not arise. After all, the Minister drafts a Bill and creates, in effect, the framework, but it is for the industry to see that the thing works, and if the Minister were to include too large a number of Regulations farmers would feel far too cabined and confined in the matter. At Ilminster the committee resolutely refused to allow cross-breeding. When farmers agree to have their cows served by artificial insemination; they are asked to put down in writing their breeding plans, and, of course, they are given advice and help in so doing. They are not allowed to alter those plans, but must adhere to them, and if they wish to change or to cross-breed they must get the approval of the war agricultural committee under the "Livestock Im- provement Scheme." To my mind that is a very considerable, and, I would indeed say, sufficient safeguard, because after all farmers have a good deal of commonsense, and if they receive advice, if the dangers are pointed out to them, and if, above all, they tabulate a real breeding scheme and have to adhere to it, quite obviously it must be far more successful that the present ordinary methods, which are very frequently haphazard. There is no difference in essence between cows served by artificial insemination and those served in the ordinary way. There is simply no difference, there cannot be, and, therefore, many of the imagined dangers do not exist.

Mr. York

The hon. Member said categorically that there was absolutely no difference between normal methods of reproduction and those used in artificial insemination. Can he prove it?

Mr. Collins

I think my exact words were that there was no difference in essence—in other words, no difference in conception by artificial and natural means. Many of the speeches that we have listened to would lead one to believe that there was some essential difference. The only difference is the obvious one.

Another very important point that has been mentioned is the advantages which are likely to accrue in the fight against disease. The general public is very much interested in this matter. People are interested in increased milk production, and since it is unlikely that there will be any considerable increase in the labour force available to agriculture for a long time, this method is the one that is most likely to permit of an early increase in milk production, as it will enable farmers with a low average gallonage to increase their average. Many people fail to understand why strict milk rationing is necessary. They are perhaps unaware that approximately half of our milk goes to one-quarter of the population, the priority consumers, and that the other three-quarters of the population are left with the other half of our milk production. It is interesting to note this important change in the system of priority that has taken place during the war and which is generally approved. The general public is very keenly concerned about the question of animal diseases, and I suggest that artificial insemination can prove very helpful in this matter. For instance, in respect to contagious abortion, which is a very big deterrent to milk production, the Ilminster centre made an experiment with 21 sterile cows. After treatment by the iodine irrigation method, the 21 sterile cows were treated with artificial insemination, and 18 of them were got in calf. That is an extraordinary tribute to this system. I would also point out that there will be a considerable saving in keep as the result of the reduction in the number of bulls.

There are one or two suggestions I wish to make for the consideration of the Minister. It is most important that the Central Advisory Committee should get down to the job of planning the centres according to geographical factors and cow density. They should take out the map and decide where the centres are to be on the basis of geographical factors and the number of cows in the areas. I do not mean that they should proceed immediately to the erection of these centres, but that they should decide that the centres will be put up in certain places. They should avoid over-concentration in certain areas, such as the places where there are Milk Marketing Boards. It is likely that there will be a tendency for centres to be set up in certain areas where they may be unnecessarily competitive, whereas if they are planned geographically they will be accessible to all, and we shall get over the difficulty which has been mentioned by several hon. Members.

I suggest that there should be comparisons between the results obtained at the centres at Reading and Cambridge and the centres elsewhere, and a general pooling of all information and ideas. It is necessary that the results should be published as widely as possible, since obviously, both in the House and outside, there exists a good deal of prejudice against this idea which, I think, is largely the result of insufficient knowledge. For example, there are farmers who, although they are convinced of results in their own area and in Russia and the United States, still think they would rather wait another 10 years and see whether any freaks develop. I do not know whether they feel that the lack of parental influence is going to lead to a lot of wayward daughters or unruly sons, but there is a feeling that it would be as well to wait for another 10 years. If that feeling prevails, the success of this Measure and its help to agriculture will be very small indeed. I hope the Minister will also consider ways and means of raising standards for the registration of ordinary bulls. We must retain only the best animals, and I feel that many which are now registered ought not to be used for breeding purposes. The Bill also covers other livestock, and extends to horses and pigs. It certainly offers a means of speedily increasing the number of pigs and a means of assisting in the breeding of a standard type, or standard types, of pigs in order to build up a bacon industry, which is very badly needed in this country, and which can be successfully achieved only if we breed a suitable type of pig. In that matter the Bill can help. It is a small Bill which, if properly used, can have very far-reaching results, and I welcome it as a valuable contribution to an increase and an improvement in the food production of this country.

5.37 P.m.

Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)

I feel that something ought to be said in this Debate about an industry which is brought into Clause 1 of the Bill quite incidentally, namely, bee-keeping. Very little is known about the bee industry, although many people keep bees. Perhaps I may be allowed to speak for the industry, because for several years, at the request of the late Minister of Agriculture, I have been a member of the Bee Diseases Advisory Committee. This Committee is directing its efforts mainly to eradicating disease in bees—such as foul brood and acarine disease, but in addition it does what it can to advise the bee-keepers of the country. It is hardly necessary for me to point out the merits of bee-keeping from the point of view of honey production and the improvement of orchards. I think this subject was referred to in the last Parliament by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith). A great deal has been done, and a great many improvements have been made, but the Committee has always felt that at some time or another it will be absolutely essential to have registration of bee-keepers, because two or three scrub hives which are diseased may undo all the good that the Bee Diseases Advisory Com- mittee does in trying to improve stocks and keep them clean.

The Committee is advised almost entirely by Professor Butler of Rothamsted, and I wish to pay a great tribute to the work done by him and those who work with him. His fame is not restricted to this country. When I was in Moscow recently, I met the professor of bee-keeping of the U.S.S.R., and he was full of praise for the work done by Professor Butler and Rothamsted. But all this work requires money. I am, therefore, very glad that the Minister has included bee-keeping in this Bill. When I was at Rothamsted, I saw the miserable premises in which this research is being done, and it was impressed upon me how very necessary it is to improve the premises there. It may be advisable to make other centres, and certainly to increase the staff. I am grateful to the Minister for having included bee-keeping under the Bill, and I am certain that what is proposed, if it is done fairly lavishly, will be for the good of the industry and of the community in general.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Kenyon (Chorley)

I wish to make one or two practical points. I share the fear of the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) that the smaller breeds may be kept out. We have in this country a variety of land and climate to which certain breeds are peculiar, and I feel that there may be a danger of milk producers concentrating upon a heavy milking breed, such as the Friesians. Therefore, I hope that in the artificial insemination centres there will be bulls of all the breeds for which this country is noted, as well as those which have been imported.

Like some other hon. Members, I feel that unless the charge to the farmers is made much lower, it will act as a deterrent. At the present time charges are not heavy, but there is a large number of milk producers who run what arc known as "flying herds." The flying herd is a very great danger, because there is no continuity of breeding policy in that herd. A cow is simply brought into the herd, milked out, and then sent back into the market. The man with a flying herd does not care what kind of a bull he gets; all that he desires to get, and does get in the main, is a cheap bull. Unless the fee for artificial insemination is lowered, the man with the flying herd will not use it, and will not take advantage of the scheme. Therefore, the flying herds will not be improved. It must be remembered that the calves from these flying herds enter the market just like any other calves. They are picked up by rearers, who very often judge them on the outward signs, the physique of the calf, its good colour, or its good shape. They know nothing whatever about its breeding or about its dam's production. I feel that unless the charges for artificial insemination are decreased, the large farmers who run flying herds will take no notice of it.

There is another thing that must be followed up. When you have calves coming from artificially inseminated cows, and you have the advantage of good bulls, there ought to be some scheme whereby the calf could be followed to the rearing farmer. Otherwise its dam or its sire will not be known. One of the advantages of this scheme will be completely lost unless the history of the calf can be followed. The Ministry would be well advised to see that some calf scheme is set up following upon the extension of artificial insemination. There is another point that we ought to watch. I feel that many of these schemes will fail unless there is a greater extension of milk recording. Milk recording is necessary, because, no matter how good a bull you get, in the finest herds you have always some cows that are failures. It is necessary, in introducing good bulls into any herd, to be able to eliminate the cows that will always be failures, otherwise we shall continue to have the old difficulties. I put forward these suggestions to the Minister, and I welcome this scheme. There are great possibilities in it, but it needs to be followed up, especially in regard to the calves and in eliminating not only the bad bulls, but also the bad breeding dams.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. Hurd (Newbury)

The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) has put forward some valuable suggestions and with particular force, because he comes from an area where there is great scope for the benefits which artificial insemination can bring. I do not want to add to the good advice and the warnings to the Minister on the Bill, but there is one point I want to make. We are a long way behind other countries in the use being made of artificial insemination for cattle improvement. We are behind America, which I had an opportunity of seeing last autumn, behind Russia, and certainly a long way behind Denmark. This Bill makes some financial provision for the Government to cover the Milk Marketing Board and other producer-controlled organisations which set up artificial insemination centres against loss. That is desirable. How many of these centres will be set up in the next year, and indeed, over the period of the guarantee, and at what cost does the Minister expect these centres to be erected? I have heard that the Milk Marketing Board, which has grown up to have rather grand ideas about buildings, is proposing to select first-class building sites, with electricity and water supplies and sewerage facilities, on the outskirts of towns, for the erection of buildings which are to house these artificial insemination centres, and some of them will cost £5,000, £6,000, and indeed, up to £12,000. If the Milk Marketing Board and other producer-controlled organisations are being encouraged by the Government to go in for grandiose building schemes in connection with insemination centres, we shall not get the full benefits of this Bill, because the money will not go far enough.

I had the opportunity yesterday of talking to a Warwickshire fanner, Mr. Clyde Higgs, who has just returned from Denmark. He told me that there artificial insemination has gone ahead fast in the war years and that today there are 60,000 members of the farmers'associations which run artificial insemination and that the 400,000th cow has now been inseminated. These farmers in Denmark are well satisfied with the results they are getting. They have arranged the job for themselves very economically. They are not putting up the elaborate buildings which are apparently contemplated by the Milk Marketing Board, acting under the cover of the Government guarantee. I would like an assurance from the Minister that, in these days, when building labour is scarce and we want to see every possible building operative engaged in putting up houses for human beings, that the Government will not allow extravagance in putting up palaces for bulls, when they can be housed much more simply. I hope that we shall follow the example of Den- mark and of America and get ahead fast with the provision of a nation-wide service of artificial insemination of cattle, but we must not unduly waste our precious building labour and materials when we want them so urgently for the housing of human beings.

5.51 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. Collick)

The Debate has confirmed our anticipations that there is no serious opposition in any quarter of the House to the proposals of this Bill and, therefore, I think it will suit the general convenience if I reply very briefly to some of the more relevant points that have been made in the discussion and to some of the questions that were raised. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison), who followed the Minister in this Debate, made the point that he is a little sceptical as to the balance of good or evil in the processes of artificial insemination, and it was obvious during the Debate that there were other speakers who, to some extent, shared that view. But it is worth observing that, despite that element of doubt, every one of the speakers was whole heartedly in support of the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

My point was not that I cast doubt on the merits of the Bill itself or the process which it legalises, but I ventured to doubt whether, on the whole, some of the breeding activities of dogs did dogs any good.

Mr. Collick

I appreciate the point which the right hon. Gentleman made, but I am sure he will readily appreciate, too, that the major purpose of the Bill is not necessarily for show purposes of cattle but is essentially much more designed for utilitarian purposes. I can well follow the line of his reasoning and I am not at all unsympathetic to what I gather to be his main point, which was that, in the whole of the development of the practice, a very close observation should be kept upon what developed from it and that Government policy should be guided from time to time in the light of accumulated knowledge derived from the experiments going on and its practices. I suppose that the whole House would agree that there may be reactions to what, after all, is a relatively new process.

When on entering upon my present office my attention was first drawn to this Bill I had certain opinions and I have exercised my own critical faculties in giving consideration to it. I have had consultations with the Minister's advisers about the whole matter. I can whole heartedly assure the House that the Government will keep the very closest watch on developments. There will be intensive research and we shall be guided, obviously, by what develops from those researches. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned that he might have some suggestions to make on the Committee stage of the Bill, but he gave us no indication what precisely was in his mind, but, naturally, if a case is made out in Committee in this or that direction the Government will give consideration to it in the usual way.

We have listened to some particularly good maiden speeches on what I rather presumed was not a most easy subject upon which maiden speeches could be delivered, and great credit goes to the hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House who have contributed to our discussion. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), recognising in advance that it was undesirable to lecture the House, proceeded to get very near to that stage—he certainly gave us the benefit of his advice in the science of genetics, and we proceeded from that science to talk about green peas. The House listened with the keenest possible interest to his discourse on that matter, and I shall welcome the contributions he may make in this House from time to time on subjects of this character. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) raised the point as to the radius in which the centres presently operate, and the real answer to that is, that there is no arbitrary line about this matter. At the moment it has been found economical and desirable to limit the radius to 15 or 20 miles but with the development of stations that will go on when this Bill is passed, the Ministry has something like an open mind on the matter. If a case can be made out for an extension of the radius, there is no reason, as far as I know, why that should not be reasonably considered. It has been, as I understand it, rather a matter of what is sensible economy in the radius covered and that is the real reason why the radius is what it is.

Sir R. Glyn

I understood that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) mentioned that the Cambridge centre went as far a field as Cumberland. I live 20 miles from Shinfield but was informed that we should be out of it and that nothing could be done.

Mr. Collick

I would like to look into that matter more closely, but as I understand there is no service of this kind over long distances like that. It may well be there might be some exceptional case for experimental research purposes in which that was done, but, by and large, it is not the practice to give the service over long distances.

Mr. Paget

It was an exceptional case, and it was in regard to Mr. Jackson's herd in Cumberland that they wanted to breed a special bull.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

As my constituency has been mentioned, may I express the hope that this service will not be discontinued?

Mr. Collick

Be that as it may, it confirms the point I made, that, generally speaking, there is some justification for the radius as at present. Another point which the hon. Gentleman made was as to whether there could not be some development of the veterinary service under the scheme for the small men. I am certain that everybody in this House who is interested in agriculture and kindred industries, is only too familiar with the general shortage of veterinary surgeons and I do not want to go too far, but I think I can say that the Minister is having consultations with the parties properly concerned in that matter, and is trying to find some way in which the veterinary services can be developed in the country. I think I know his mind sufficient for me to say that if, in the course of the development of the centres, it becomes possible to include any facilities in that direction, having regard to the importance of animal health, he would obviously only be too willing to give the most reasonable and sympathetic consideration to it.

I perhaps ought to say something in regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Northampton about cross-breeding, although I do not want to enter at all into the technicalities, and this applies to several other points which hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have made. The Minister in this matter has the services of a most competent advisory committee, the members of which are of the highest standing. They are, I think, certainly the most competent body to advise the Minister on this subject. Several hon. Members have made points on this question of breeding, cross-breeding and in-breeding, and, here again, I would say that the Minister will pay the closest attention to any recommendations or advice which comes from his expert Advisory Committee.

The hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) asked us to see that this does not become a profit-making service. I thought it most delightful, if I may say so, to hear an hon. Member on the opposite Benches talk like that, and I should say at once that the Government are naturally concerned to see that this does not become a profit making service. As a matter of fact, one of the aims of the Bill is to see that it does not become a matter of commercial exploitation. That is why the producer-controlled societies are specially provided for in the terms of the Bill, and I can assure the hon, and gallant Member that the Government will keep a very close eye on the cost of the service. It is the fact, at the moment, that the cost in the stations at present operating runs from 22s. to 25s., and one, I think, is £1.Judging by what the hon. Member below the Gangway said about the cost of maintenance of a scrub bull for a year, I think it would be possible to make out quite a good case that the present basis of the cost of the service is very satisfactory, having regard to the fact that the service rendered is from the highest quality bull.

Several other hon. Members made the point that they hoped that the provisions of this Bill would be of great help to the small farmer. I wholeheartedly endorse that suggestion and I would say that one of the real objects of this Bill is to give special assistance to the small farmer. It is one of the main aims which runs right through the Bill, because it is recognised that the present arrangement is not at all satisfactory. The smaller type of farmer at present, is unable to afford the capital cost which a good bull involves, and, therefore, this arrangement of artificial insemination centres will enable him to have the best possible service.

The bon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Walker) treated the House to a very entertaining and interesting speech, and he quoted the opinion of an eminent gentleman that it was awful that this ghoulish practice should be allowed to continue, that many cattle have no sex now and spoke of the terrible things that would develop if this continued. All I would say is that, if many of the cattle have no sex now, it certainly is not due to artificial insemination. I do want to say that one has become fairly used, in dealing with experts, to finding that the advice of one sometimes cancels out the advice of another. It is the job of experts to give advice, and the job of lay men to determine whether that advice is generally sound or otherwise.

I understand that there may be certain people who hold the contrary view and are unfavourable to the aims of this Bill, but I think it can be said, by and large, that there are other countries going ahead in this matter. Science, in its diverse forms, goes on, whether it is genetics or any other form of science, and the one thing which we would not wish would be for this country to be left behind in the development of this practice. One of the aims of this Bill is to ensure that we are not left behind, as, I am afraid, this country has been left behind in many instances which we could quote. It is because the Government are satisfied that this is a matter which should be developed that this Bill has been introduced.

The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) asked if the Government could give any indication of its policy in relation to the number of centres that will be developed. Here, again, as I know the hon. Member will appreciate, we must be guided by the advice of competent people. The main consideration which determines the opening and development of these centres is, first, the cow population in the area, and the extent to which it can be established that, for that cow population, bearing in mind the number of small herds and the like, it is desirable to have a centre more speedily than in another place; also there is the question of the incidence of disease. One hon. Member got himself tied up, and I shall probably do the same, with the pronunciation of this word trichonomiasis. On the question of that disease, I can say that there is evidence that artificial insemination has lessened its incidence. One of the centres which has been opened in the North Wales area has lessened very considerably the incidence of that disease, and that gives special point to the remarks of an hon. Member opposite on the relative value of good and evil. We shall be guided by experience in this matter. I also want to tell the hon. Member, who referred to an orderly plan, that this makes a great appeal to this Government. An orderly plan in this matter is no less important than in the general economic policy of the Government, and I can assure him that we shall have an orderly plan.

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts

Will the Minister give a little more specific information of what that plan is? Does he propose to open 100 centres, 50 or 25, in the next two years?

Mr. Collick

The answer is—and I am sure the hon. Member will readily appreciate it—that we are not wholly the masters in this matter. Building is the chief factor, but there is a plan, and there are two orders of priority—first and second—listed in relative importance, as determined by the Advisory Committee. I think that, when building labour becomes available, together with the other ancillary people whose labour is necessary, the hon. Member can rest assured that that plan will be developed in an orderly way.

Mr. York

Can we have any more details of how many centres?

Mr. Collick

I did not want to bother the House with unnecessary details.

Mr. York

We want them.

Mr. Collick

I can see the hon. Gentleman obviously desires them and I will try to be helpful to him. I will give an indication of those on the first priority list, though I hope we shall not have any competition between hon. Members staking their claims. Cheshire is on the first priority, obviously on account of its dairy herds, and Durham, Devon, Shropshire, East Suffolk, Wiltshire, Yorkshire and Carmarthenshire. Those are on the first list.

Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)

Can the Minister say anything about Scotland?

Mr. Collick

I am in the closest touch with my colleague in the Scottish Office, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary for Scotland will be only too pleased to give the hon. Member information on that. The hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) also asked about the availability of proven bulls. We are not anticipating any difficulty in getting bulls of the requisite quality to stock the centres, and I am quite sure that we shall have stock of the highest quality for meeting that demand. The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) made reference to the fact that the policy of the Milk Marketing Board may be to have rather elaborate premises. He knows, no less well than any hon. Member of the House, that the Minister, by a process of Rules under which these centres are managed, has certain ways in which he can have supervision in that regard. I am quite sure that this Government, which is anxious to get houses built for ordinary people, will be quite unwilling to have palaces built for bulls. I think the hon. Member need have no fears that the Minister will exercise his powers in that respect.

Mr. Hurd

Will the Minister review some schemes already in an advanced state of preparation, because it does appear that they are perhaps on rather extravagant lines?

Mr. Collick

I can assure the hon. Member that we are in consultation with the Milk Marketing Board and that we aim to keep down prices, because, obviously, they will affect the price of the service. I would conclude by saying that I commend this Bill to the House. We are satisfied that it will be of service to the farming industry, and that it will be of particular service to the owners of small herds, and we shall watch the whole development with the closest attention.

Question put, and agreed to.

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