§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)
I beg to move, "That this Bill be now read a Second time."
This small Bill, which has rather a comprehensive Title, sets out two things. First, it provides for an extension of the period during which payment may be made to farmers for eradicating bovine tuberculosis from their herds, and, secondly, it amends the Horse Breeding Act, 1918, in regard to the licensing of stallions. These two matters are included in one small Bill for the purpose of convenience. They are, of course, separate matters, and, in commending the Bill to the House, I propose to deal with them very briefly as separate matters.
The provision dealing with bovine tuberculosis, contained in Clause r, forms Part r of the Bill, and, if hon. Members will compare this Clause with earlier legislation on the subject, they will see that there is no new issue of policy in it at all. The purpose of Clause 1 is simply to extend the authority to make payments, which was given under earlier Acts of Parliament, and which, if not renewed, would expire on 30th September, 1948. I do not intend to take up the time of the House in going into details about previous legislation, but there are, of course, two landmarks that ought to be mentioned. Payment of a bonus on milk from attested herds was first authorised in the Milk Act of 1934, for a period of four years. However, Section 20 of the Agriculture Act, 1937, extended the period and broadened the basis of 1535 the payments that might be made. It empowered the Minister of Agriculture—and here I quote from the Act—to:pay to the owner of any herd of cattle in Great Britain such sums as the Minister thinks fit to expend for the purpose of securing so far as practicable that the herd will be free from tuberculosis.This enabled the Tuberculosis (Attested Herd) Scheme of 1938, which replaced the earlier scheme, not merely to continue bonus payments of 1d. per gallon and some financial assistance towards qualifying tests, but also to provide, as an alternative to the milk bonus, payments on a "per head of cattle" basis for the benefit of owners of beef herds and other herds from which little or no milk at all was sold. Section 20 of the 1937 Act thus represented a definite change in objective, and encouragement of voluntary eradication of tuberculosis was no longer restricted to dairy herds merely to assure a pure milk supply, but was extended to all herds with the object of eliminating one of the worst forms of wastage in agriculture and increasing the productivity of cattle.
The payment in the form of the milk bonus was continued simply for its convenience. But it should be noted that the purpose of these payments was quite distinct from that of the quality milk premiums payable, originally, under the milk marketing scheme, and since continued by the Ministry of Food. The period for making payments under the 1937 Act was extended by the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1940, until 30th September, 1948. I should mention that the decision to extend the period was actually taken in respect of each herd before the outbreak of war in 1939. It had been hoped in 1939 that, by 1948, the attested herd scheme would be so firmly established as to be able to run on its own impetus. Unfortunately, this hope was frustrated by the war. The scheme was rapidly expanding, but it had to be closed to new entrants, except those holding licences to produce tuberculin tested milk and who wished to proceed to the attestation stage.
Therefore, practically no further progress could be, or, in fact, was made until the middle of 1944, when the restriction on entry was actually removed. However, the increase in 1943 of the quality premium for tuberculin tested 1536 milk, from 2½d. to 4d. a gallon, acted as an indirect incentive to attestation, and there has been a continuous flow of new entrants ever since. Since the middle of 1944—approximately three and a hall years—the number of attested herds in Great Britain has increased by not less than 87 per cent.—from 16,000 to 30,000 herds—while the number of attested cattle has increased by not less than 84 per cent. That, I think, is an achievement carried out by farmers in most difficult times of which they may well feel proud.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
Would my right hon. Friend say what that 84 per cent. represents? Does it represent the total of dairy cattle in the country?
§ Mr. Williams
No, Sir, the increase of 84 per cent. was the increase in the number of the cattle in attested herds in the period from the middle of 1944 down to December, 1947.
§ Mr. Williams
I think I shall be able to give my hon. Friend the figure he asks for in a moment. There are now nearly 1,200,000 attested cattle in Great Britain, or more than one-eighth of the total cattle population. I think we must give Scotland all the medals for making much more progress than was made in Wales or England, although, in three counties in Wales at all events—Pembroke, Cardiganshire and Carmarthen—they have done magnificently. England, unfortunately, lags hopelessly behind.
I said earlier that the 1937 Act represented a change of objectives. It provided means for initiating large-scale plans for the eradication of animal diseases, and, as I understood then and understand still, the intention was to concentrate, first of all, on the reduction of bovine tuberculosis. But the war intervened and we are now, in 1948, called upon to make another start. Preliminary discussions have already taken place on a long-term plan for the reduction of tuberculosis, area by area. An essential feature of any such plan must be the active encouragement of voluntary attestation to secure the maximum voluntary response in prospective eradication areas before compulsory measures are finally applied.
1537 For this purpose it is necessary, therefore, to reintroduce the attested bonus scheme for all types of herd. Clause will continue the power to make such payments. The rate and duration of the payments—and this, of course, is important—will be determined by a scheme requiring the approval of the Treasury and which must be laid before Parliament. It is difficult to say how long it might take to clear the whole of the country of bovine tuberculosis. This will obviously be determined by a number of factors, including the extent to which we can provide ourselves with the necessary veterinary manpower and also with the supply of attested cattle for replacements in those areas. Therefore, it is generally agreed by those who have tried to examine the problem that it cannot take less than 10 or 15 years, or even more, and it would be undesirable, therefore, to place too short a time limit on the authorities to make these payments.
Accordingly, Clause 1 extends for 10 years—that is to say, until September, 1958—the limit of time for making payments, with power to extend for three successive periods of five years, after approval by the Treasury and confirmation by both Houses of Parliament. Personally I think this is a sound, solid, national investment, and any hon. Member who reads the Hopkins Report, 1944, will also agree that any Government has a moral obligation and responsibility to try to cope with animal diseases in this country.
§ Mr. Williams
The scheme as outlined in Clause r will cover all herds, whether they are pure dairy herds, beef herds or herds from which little or no milk is obtained.
Part II of the Bill has been agreed by the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself, since the Secretary of State will be responsible for administering Part II in Scotland. This Part provides for an extension of the provision of the Horse Breeding Act, 1918, following recommendations made by the Ministry's Livestock Improvement Committee which is a non-statutory advisory body including both genetical scientists and practical breeders. Under the Horse Breeding Act, 1918, a 1538 licence was required for stallions which were travelled or exhibited for service away from home, and licences are only granted for stallions which attain a certain satisfactory standard of health, prolificacy conformation and physique. The Act was designed to restrict breeding from unfit or unsuitable stallions and generally to improve the quality of British horses, and I think it will be generally agreed that it has achieved considerable success.
There is, however, a serious gap. There is no control over horses standing at home for stud purposes for service either of the owner's mares or for visiting mares, and no matter how unhealthy, unsuitable or how low the standard may be, they can still be used without a licence. The Government have decided, therefore, to accept the recommendations of the Livestock Improvement Committee and to extend the licensing system to all stallions, subject to certain exceptions which are provided for in Clause 2 (2), which brings it into line with the system already in force for bulls and boars under the provisions of the Improvement of Livestock (Licensing of Bulls) Act, 1931, and Section 6 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1944, respectively. Under Clause 2 (1) it will in future be necessary to have a licence or permit for the keeping of any stallion over the prescribed age—two years at present—even if it remains or the owner's premises. Certain exceptions are provided in Subsection (2) for stallions which have attained the prescribed age before the Bill comes into force, and for thoroughbreds and prescribed breeds of ponies.
The first exception is designed to avoid too sudden a break. It may be perhaps that we are unnecessarily generous. With regard to thoroughbreds standing at home, I think the stringent conditions governing entry into the General Stud Book are ample for this particular purpose; hence their exclusion from the Bill. It is proposed that the exempted breeds shall include hill, forest and moorland breeds of ponies which live in a semi-wild state, where breeding could not by any manner of means be controlled. In considering applications for licences we shall, of course, apply exactly the same standards that are applied to travelling stallions.
The Bill will cover, therefore, broadly all stallions over the prescribed age, with 1539 the exceptions mentioned, including some which do not reach the required standard but which there may be a good reason for keeping entire, for some specialised breeding purpose; we may have some exotic type in a zoological garden which might properly be allowed to mate with its own kind but as to which there is no possible question of it being used for general breeding purposes. If may be that there are other stallions unsuitable for breeding but which their owners, perhaps for sentimental reasons, may wish to keep entire. Then, for instance, there is the type of horse associated with the circus. There is also the type of stallion used for funerals. I understand that this bit of pageantry on the "last trail" gives a good deal of pleasure to mourners in some parts of the country, and that is why they always prefer to have stallions for that kind of work.
To cover such cases, Clause 4 provides for permits, as distinct from licences under Clause 2. The 1918 Act was very simple and easy to administer in order to license stallions which were travelled or exhibited for service. The task of policing premises where stallions are used, however, will be much more difficult. Hence the power which we seek in Clause 6 for the castration or slaughter of those for which a licence or permit is refused. The powers here correspond closely to those already granted by Parliament in Section 6 of the Improvement of Live Stock (Licensing of Bulls) Act, 1931. I should point out to those who feel that there may be hardship here that the power under Clause 6 is to order slaughter or castration, the owner being able to decide which shall happen. I think it will be generally appreciated that when a stallion on a farm is not required for breeding purposes, almost invariably it is castrated at an early age. If it is desired to postpone the castration to avoid interference with the work on any farm for a short period, this can be done by the granting of a permit under Clause 4. In any case, there is no desire to use Clause 5 or Clause 6 in a vexatious manner; but we must have the power as an ultimate sanction in what may be bad cases.
Licences granted under existing legislation are for one travelling season only—that is, each year. It does not seem to me reasonable that owners of stallions, 1540 whether they travel or not, should have to pay for a licence each year. Therefore, the Bill provides that licences should be granted without limit of time, but subject to revocation at any time. It is intended that the annual inspection should continue, and this arrangement, coupled with the number of stallions concerned, will entail greater expenditure from public funds; but we are satisfied that the upper limit of £20,000 allowed for in the Act of 1918 will be more than sufficient to meet the purpose. As hon. Members will appreciate, the lack of control over the quality and fitness of non-travelling stallions has hindered the improvement and affected the quality of our horses. We feel that that gap ought to be bridged. At the same time, the number of stallions in use for service seems to have fallen to a record low level. I understand that at the moment there are only about 1,500 of them, and of those one fifth are in Scotland.
This seems, therefore, the right moment for this legislation, which has the support of all the National Farmers' Unions and Breed Societies in England, Scotland and Wales. Experience of the benefits of similar legislation as applied to bulls and boars should make acceptable the general principles of this Bill. I, therefore, commend it to the House. I apologise for not having gone closer into the details, but I shall be ready and willing to listen to any observations made by hon. Members in any part of the House; and if at a later stage it is found possible to improve upon our first effort I shall be very glad to respond to the right kind of overtures from hon. Members.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman need apologise to the House for the way he has introduced this Bill. It would appear he has done what the House would require; he has given us a clear picture of what he proposes to do by his Measure, and it will be possible at a later stage to discuss any detailed points. As the Minister said, this Bill is divided into two very distinct parts which cannot in any way be connected. In my view, and the view of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, the first part is of great importance to the future of our agriculture.
1541 The Minister explained that the first part of the Bill seeks to amend Sections 20 and 21 of the Agriculture Act, 1937, extended by Section 4 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940. The object of those Sections in the principal Act was the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. Although the Minister did not give us any indication as to the period in which he thought this particular disease could be cleaned from the country, I think we can assume that, as he has taken powers to extend the principal Act for, in all, 25 years—that is, 10 years by Statute and three further periods of five consecutive years by order—he hopes it will be possible to clear the country of bovine tuberculosis in 25 years. My hon. and right hon. Friends approve the action of the Government in introducing legislation for this purpose.
Before asking the Minister one or two questions, I must refer to the Tuberculosis (Attested Herds) Scheme of 1938, to which the Minister referred. I am the owner of a small attested herd, of dairy Shorthorns, and I think it is right that I should inform the House of the fact. That important scheme started with very successful results. On that, I think, we are all in agreement. I think we are also in agreement that there was bound to be, through the war years, a setback in the progress that was made between 1938 and 1939. I cannot, however, agree with the Minister that we should be satisfied with the present position. I agree that since the T.T. premium subsidy was increased in 1943, the numbers in the attested herds have risen from 16,000 to 30,000, which represents, in a cattle population of 1,200,000 approximately one eighth of the cattle population. So far so good. But it is difficult, going round the countryside today, to perceive any sense of urgency as to the importance of making more rapid progress in the matter. After making every allowance for the inevitable setbacks due to the war, to have one-eighth of the cattle population cleaned in 10 years is, in my view, a very small percentage. I urge the Minister to press forward his plans.
I would like now to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two specific questions. Is he satisfied that there are today sufficient veterinary surgeons available for T.T. inspection purposes? I should be in entire agreement that it is of no value to the nation to press forward with this 1542 long-term scheme, which is to divide the country up into areas, unless there are sufficient qualified veterinary surgeons to do the job satisfactorily. The Minister has told us that discussions are taking place in the industry to stimulate voluntary attestation, and that he hopes to introduce his eradication scheme. I do not think it would be right to ask where he proposes to introduce it, but I think it is proper to ask him when he proposes to introduce it, if his plans go according, to the timetable of the Bill. When does he propose to reintroduce payments for attested cattle? If he introduced bonus payments for ca[...]le and attested herds, would he take any action to deal with the present premium on T.T. milk? Or would he leave that as it was? Or would he alter the premium on T.T. milk so as to encourage more herds to become attested? These are specific questions of importance.
My final question on this part of the Bill really refers to a subject which it is not within the power of the right hon. Gentleman's Department to put right; on the other hand, it will be of great importance if this long-term scheme is to be a success. I refer to the disposal of milk from attested herds. I cannot vouch that all my facts are accurate in this regard, but there is a widespread belief—if I am wrong I hope the Minister will correct me—that in many instances this milk is added to the common pool and mixed with unclean milk. Surely, that makes nonsense of the whole thing, from the point of view of encouraging people voluntarily to enter a long-term scheme.
I admit there are great problems in this connection; but how can producers in all parts of the country, far removed from Westminster and the problems of the centre, believe that the Minister and the Government are in earnest when they find their neighbours taking great trouble, very often at great expense, to produce clean milk and become attested—and even when attestation is achieved, it is difficult to remain attested—only to see the milk put into the common pool with milk which may or may not be clean, from other parts of the country? I ask the Minister to see whether some action can be taken so that this glaring defect may be remedied in any long-term scheme which it is proposed to initiate to obtain voluntary entrants into an attested herd scheme.
1543 Although my hon. and right hon. Friends have no objection to the principles in Part II of the Bill, we are not yet fully convinced that there is any necessity for it. The Minister explained the reasons why the Government think it necessary to extend the scope of the 1918 Act, and we agree there may have been a gap; but we are not certain that legislation is necessary to achieve the result the Minister desires. I have studied the 1918 Act, and the diseases which became set out are not actually specified; but I understand that, under common form in that Act, they are recognised as diseases constituting grounds for the refusal of a licence. Is the Minister satisfied that the diseases are all hereditary? Scientific evidence on this point is extremely slender, and is certainly contradictory, and before we pass any new Measure dealing with the licensing of stallions that aspect requires careful examination.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
No, I would not, because I am not a scientific expert. However, I know there is a dispute, and there are various points of view on what is hereditary and what is not.
§ Sir T. Dugdale
I am not prepared to do that this evening, because I think I should be wrong so to do in that it would draw attention to one particular disease. It would not be right in the House to mention any particular disease. It is a point worth examining, and I ask the Government to do so.
The Minister is wise in his exemptions, but I suggest that horses which have already reached the prescribed age—which I understand is over two years—should not be entirely exempted from the provisions of the Bill. In other words—is the Bill really necessary? If the Bill is necessary, and if horses of two years plus are exempted, the operation does not become effective for about To years, as I understand the position. I should have thought some figure such as five years or six years would have been better. I would certainly put a figure into the Bill. No doubt that is something we might con 1544 sider during Committee. The Minister is right, too, in exempting thoroughbreds other than those travelling for purposes of breeding; but there is doubt whether the drafting of the Bill adequately performs what the Minister has in mind, and there seems to be some confusion.
Referring to the descriptions "the owner of a horse" and "the keeper of a horse," as I read the Bill the owner of a stallion might use it on his own premises, without a licence, allow mares belonging to the public to visit the stallion, and still be within the law. However, if the stallion were on a neighbouring owner's premises—as thoroughbred stallions often are—and performed exactly the same function in respect of exactly the same mares, the owner would be contravening the law. That is a small point, and one which we might consider in Committee. I believe it is meant to be covered, but as I read the Bill T am not happy that it is.
A more important matter in regard to thoroughbreds, which certainly ought to be cleared up before the Bill finally receives the Royal Assent, is the question of syndicated stallions. That is an entirely new departure in recent years. Many f these stallions have been bought overseas for very large sums; they do not belong to one owner, but are syndicated. Quite obviously, the Minister does not intend that they should be included within the operation of the Bill, and we must ensure such wording in the Bill as will leave no doubt when it becomes law. Such stallions are syndicated, probably kept at a well-known stud, and anybody wishing to have their services communicates with the manager of the stud. That point is not very clear, and is certainly worth scrutiny.
The Minister referred to what he had in mind in the passage "a pony of a prescribed breed"—namely, the various moorland and similar breeds which are kept in a wild state. Here, the Bill appears to be quite ridiculous—if I may use that expression—because apparently a pony stallion could walk along the road unaccompanied and the owner would be perfectly within the law, even without a licence. However, if somebody took hold of the stallion and, for safety's sake, walked it along the road, the owner would need a licence, or else be deemed to contravene the law. On my reading 1545 of the law, I believe that to be the case, and I suggest that between now and the further stages of the Bill the Minister might consult the breed societies concerned to arrive at a better formula for inclusion in the Bill. It would seem curious that the owner would be within the law were the stallion loose, but would be contravening the law were it led.
I wish now to say a word about confirmation. There is much feeling in regard to who should be the judge of confirmation. It is perfectly right, as far as disease is concerned, that the veterinary surgeon should be the authority. I hope that when the Minister sets up his panel, confirmation will not be left entirely to the veterinary surgeons, but will be dealt with by experts on breeding, and preferably by nominees of the breeding societies. The Minister explained what he has in mind under Clause 4, which deals with permits. It would appear to deal with a very varied range of horses, from funeral horses to circus horses and sentimental horses. I have no doubt that the provisions will be used sparingly, but why, in this agreed Measure, should we have this tremendous dictatorship Subsection, providing that:(2) The Minister may refuse to grant a permit, or may revoke a permit, on any grounds which appear to him sufficient, and may grant a permit subject to any conditions which he may think fit to impose?We have had many arguments with the Minister on previous Bills about this matter, and we have always said that, providing he makes the decision himself, we are satisfied. This Subsection, however, gives tremendous powers to anyone who is acting on his behalf. Is it really necessary to have these powers? We do not think it is. The remaining Clauses follow very closely the Improvement of Live Stock (Licensing of Bulls) Act, 1937, and are for the most part machinery Clauses and I do not think that any comments are necessary upon them. No doubt, many of the points I have raised can be discussed during the further stages of this Measure, but the principles of both Part I and Part II, namely, to clean up the dairy herds and safeguard the wellbeing of our horse population, are, I am sure, in accordance with the wishes of every hon. Member. For that reason, we are prepared to wish the Bill well, 1546 and to give it an unopposed Second Reading.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
I welcome this Bill, which is designed to continue the grants with the object of eliminating tuberculosis among our cattle. I am disappointed at the rate of progress which has already been made. I do not think anyone can contemplate with any degree of complacency the fact that unless much greater progress is made in the future, it will take 25 years before our herds are clear of this disease. Much stronger and more vigorous measures will have to be taken before we can achieve the desired result. I favour the establishment of a State veterinary service. I believe that there will have to be some degree of compulsion before we are able to achieve the progress we all desire. I am aware that this would mean a very large increase in the number of veterinary surgeons, but in this connection I am glad to note that the Minister has already taken steps to increase the number.
I hope that the number of veterinary surgeons will be increased as rapidly as possible, because statistics prove, without any doubt, that there is a very close connection between the incidence of disease among cattle and the proportion of veterinary surgeons to the number of cattle. I have seen figures showing that, with the exception of France, this country has a smaller number of veterinary surgeons than any other country with dairy herds. It is curious to note that this country has, with the exception of France, the greatest amount of preventible diseases.
I was discussing this matter yesterday with perhaps the greatest expert on this question in the country, Professor Bourtflower, who is head of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. He suggested that one step which would have an important effect would be to prohibit any person starting dairy farming unless he held a certificate to the effect that his cattle were clean of disease. I think that much greater progress could be made, if we attempted to deal with this disease district by district and county by county. I believe that that has been done very successfully in the United States, and, as the Minister has said, in certain parts of Wales.
My second suggestion is that owners of known reactors should be prevented from 1547 selling them to other farmers. Owners of cattle known to be affected have sent the cattle to the market without disclosing this information, with the result that disease has sometimes been spread to an alarming extent. I suggest that as soon as possible something should be done by regulation and order to prevent this practice. I regard this Bill as an instalment and only an instalment, of a broad and comprehensive Measure which has for its object the cleaning of all herds in this country of this disease, and ensuring the provision of pure milk to our people.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Hurd (Newbury)
I also wish to welcome this little Bill. Although it is a little Bill, it can lead to great things if the Minister will give dairy farmers and the veterinary service their head in clearing the country of bovine tuberculosis. The present Minister is always cautious. By this Bill he is continuing what has proved to be a good line, and that is giving grants to individual herd owners who can establish a clean bill of health. Some progress has been made, but it is only small. The Minister was good enough to give me some information, in reply to a Question today, on how the different counties are getting on with building up herds of attested cattle.
Under the Agriculture Act, 1937, which we are now extending by this Bill, we have spent £3,500,000. There are 13.9 per cent. of our cattle in Great Britain in the attested scheme. England has not come out too well in the picture, although I was delighted to see that my own county, Berkshire, and the counties of Surrey and Westmorland had topped 20 per cent. in the number of attested cattle in proportion to the total number of cattle in English counties. Scotland comes out much better, with some county figures of 79 per cent., 84 per cent., and, in Zetland, 99 per cent. That is a good beginning towards what the hon. Member for Thorn-bury (Mr. Alpass) and I want to see—a clean area. Wales has a good record—Cardigan and Carmarthen both running well over 60 per cent., but for the country as a whole the figure of 13.9 per cent. is not good going. I, personally, feel that the time has come for the Minister to give a much more vigorous lead in this matter. I am thinking not solely from the farmers' point of view, but of children who are still 1548 being attacked by bovine tuberculosis. This is something which we should tolerate not a day longer than is necessary. We are only tinkering with this problem if we proceed by the cautious stages which the Minister promises us by this Bill.
We need more veterinary practitioners. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Thornbury about the desirability of a State veterinary service. Let us, first of all, see how we get on with the State human medical service before we apply a State service to animals. It is quite clear that we need not only more veterinary practitioners, which means more accommodation in the veterinary schools and better professional prospects. We must now face, too, the problem of providing some compensation for those farmers who are in an area where the majority have clean herds, but who themselves have not managed to get their own herds clean. I know of one case where a man is very keen, but he has met with some bad luck, and it looks as though it will be beyond his financial resources to catch up with his neighbours. There are some areas in Berkshire and Wiltshire, where local farmers would support the Minister wholeheartedly if he said that in a year's time, or two years', he would make a certain area, say, five miles by 10 miles, or whatever size he thought fit, into a clean area. That would be making a start, and the snowball would grow until the whole county, and then a group, would have been cleared.
I am a member of the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society, and from next year we intend to limit entries of cattle at the Royal Show to those from attested herds. There is the backing of the premier of the Agricultural Society in England. I should have thought that the Ministry of Agriculture would be in the van. We shall not have any clean areas by 1949, although the Royal Show will be clean. The Society have now sponsored a trophy to be given each year to the county which makes most progress under the attested herds scheme. I am sure that they would gladly alter the terms of the gift to enable the trophy to be given to the first area that becomes completely clean.
When the Minister was speaking, I asked him whether this new provision for attested farms would cover the upland 1549 farms, where calves are reared not only for dairy herds but for beef herds. I was glad to hear him say that it would, because in my view it is vital, if dairy farms are to become clean, and keep clean, to have reservoirs in the uplands from which they can draw attested young stock which they know are clean and sound. I hope the Minister will give every encouragement to the rearing of more high quality dairy and beef calves under the attested scheme on upland farms. This applies particularly to Wales, as well as to the downland of the South of England.
I would like to say a few words about the second part of the Bill, which deals with heavy horse breeding. We are asked to approve further expenses under the Horse Breeding Act, 1918. We are to bring in licensing provisions to cover stallions that do not travel. The Minister said that this part of the Bill had the support of the farmers' unions and the horse breeding societies. I maintain, however, that the problem of licensing is not the most vital matter today. Horse breeding societies are passing through extremely bleak times, and I doubt whether the expenditure of effort, as well as money, on tinkering with the licensing provisions will really help them. I would like to read a paragraph from a letter which came to me front the secretary of the Tyneside Agricultural Society, which is in Mr. Speaker's Division—Hexham, Northumberland. It states:In common with other societies who travel stallions my committee is now faced with a difficult position. Owners of stallions whom we have approached inform us that they cannot see their way to let horses to the society unless there is a guaranteed adequate return. It will readily he appreciated that with the present grants made by the Ministry, of £30 up to 60 mares, and an additional £10 afterwards, it is impossible to guarantee an adequate return to the owners.This society wrote to the Minister on 4th November, urging him to revise the system of grants to enable them to carry on at the higher costs prevailing today. I have had a similar letter from a member of the Percheron Society, which is very anxious to get good stallions at work, and keep them at work. Horse breeding is on the decline through being unable to put out enough high quality stallions under the terms of the Ministry's grants. The Minister told me today that he was looking at this again, and I hope he will find means of modifying 1550 his grant system to enable these societies to carry on their good work.
Some may think that with the advance of mechanisation heavy horses will not be needed. I may be old-fashioned, and a little cautious in my farming policy, but I still like one or two horses about the farm. I think they earn their keep. If we are to have horses, as I think we shall have for many years to come, let us see that they are good horses, and encourage the work of the horse breeding societies. The Minister was asked about this matter of grants back in November by the Tvueside Agricultural Society. It is now February, and the terms of the grants have not yet been adjusted to meet the needs of these societies. I hope that the necessary steps will now be taken to this end.
I welcome the Bill, and I hope that the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary will give us, in more definite terms, an undertaking that it will be used as a real opportunity to inspire the farming community to get rid of bovine tuberculosis. We can do this in a much shorter time than 25 years, but it will need a more vigorous lead from the Ministry than we are getting at the moment.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Forest of Dean)
It is extremely important that this Bill should continue the good work of the 1937 Act. Like other speakers in this Debate, I am very disturbed that it will take 25 years, at the present rate of progress, before we can clean up the herds of this country. The figure of one-eighth for clean herds for the whole of the country is far too low. It is, of course, not easy to see how a speed up can take place. Suggestions have been made, and I think that the Minister must think out, as soon as possible, how to speed up the rate of progress. I feel that I ought to disclose to the House that I am the owner of a tuberculin-tested herd, and, therefore, I have a personal interest in this matter. I have watched the growth of this slow process of cleaning up our herds for many years. Several false starts have been made. I remember that when we were starting this voluntary scheme a good many years ago we did not have the right serum, and I think that for a time we extended the disease instead of stopping it. We have now the right serum, and there is nothing to prevent us from going ahead.
§ Mr. Price
The trouble is that certain areas seem to be better favoured than others, but I do not think that that is necessarily because the farmers in the cleaner areas are better farmers than those in areas that are not so good. I am afraid that my own county of Gloucester is not very high up in the list.
§ Mr. Price
Wales and Scotland are very good. I think that conditions are better in the mountainous and sparsely populated regions. In the low-lying heavily populated counties of England, with big markets and considerable turnovers of store stock, the contact is very much greater than in the areas where there is less tuberculosis. This evidence inclines one to think that climatic and geographical conditions, are a factor in this case. If that is so, we have to look for a remedy. I know small farmers in Gloucestershire Who have excellent herds with fine milking records, but they dare not go into the scheme because 30 per cent. of their herds would react, and they could not afford to do so. The big farmers are in a different position, and can much more easily stand the burden.
I am wondering whether we shall not have to consider some form of compensation in those areas where conditions are bad. I do not say that it should be on the same basis as that for foot and mouth disease, but that a certain percentage of the value of the animals should be paid to the owners especially of small herds to encourage them to come into the scheme. I do not know if that is workable, but I do not see why it should not be. Something like that would give a fillip, which is so necessary in some areas.
Then there is the important question of the dispersal of reacting herds. The hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) said that we ought to tackle this, and I agree with him. But I do not agree with him when he said that we ought to prevent the owner of a reacting herd from selling. He must get rid of his animals. I think there should be a scheme whereby these reactors should be taken over and disposed of for meat. Do not let us forget that a reactor may be a perfectly good animal 1552 for the butcher. She may not even be giving tubercular milk. She may have tubercular adhesions causing reaction, but may otherwise be a perfectly sound economic animal. There should be some way by which that animal can be put into a pool and sold for meat after inspection. The present situation is most unsatisfactory. The disease is being spread by reactors being flung on the market where anyone can buy them, and they go into herds and increase the disease still further.
§ Mr. Price
If they are put on the market, farmers will get them all the same, and they will go about continuing to spread disease. But, I think that some method of pooling will have to be gone into if we are to have a stepping up of this scheme. I hope that the Minister will give this matter serious consideration so that we may get rid of this trouble much more speedily.
As regards Part II of the Bill, I agree with the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) that we still have need for horses in agriculture. A farmer must have up-to-date machinery, but he cannot do without one or two horses. There are all sorts of odd jobs for which it is cheaper to use horses than machinery. Moreover, the English thoroughbred still has its value, and is likely to have it overseas. There may well be a possibility of earning dollars or other hard currencies by the export of thoroughbred horses, and I know that breed societies are much concerned about some owners of stallions who keep them at home. Some may have disease, and disease is being spread about the country because of this so-called "pirate" stallion system. If it is possible to get stallions licensed, it will be a step in the right direction, and I am glad that the Minister has included that in the Bill.
§ 8.20 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Bury St. Edmunds)
I should very much like to continue the argument which has been joined in by Members on both sides of the House. The point which I should first like to make is that, in my opinion, we are going much too slowly in getting anywhere. I want to speak particularly on Part II of the Bill. I am afraid I cannot agree with my 1553 hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) that this Bill is a step in the direction of progress. It is the other way round, for it is a step backward. It is not only another control on the wretched private owner but, as the Minister has told us, it represents an increased cost to the taxpayer. Not only is the Bill clumsy, but it is extremely untidy and absurd in places.
In the first place, I want to look at the position of our horse population. At the present moment, according to last June's returns, there are 597,000 horses; in 1918 on agricultural holdings alone we had 1,585,000. That is a very nasty outlook. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), I want to see a few more horses back on the farms, but this Bill is not going to help us to get them. We have today very highly organised breed societies, which did not exist in 1918. We have not got nowadays to provide a large number of troopers and light draughts as we had to then. If we are going to make it more difficult now for the owners of stallions we shall reduce the horse population rather than increase it. That confirms my view that by this Bill we are inclined to waste money. The Minister said it is going to cost us more than it has done since 1918. How can it when we had one and a half million horses then and have only half a million now? Surely there should be less work even if there are extra rules.
As regards the clumsy and untidy part of the Bill, I am glad to see that the thoroughbred stallion standing at home is to be excluded. We all know that a thoroughbred has to go through a severe test on the racecourse to prove its worth before it stands in the stud. Why is it necessary to put in the proviso in Clause 2 (2) laying down that if a thoroughbred stallion leaves its owner's premises it has to have a licence? That means that if an owner takes a stallion across the road into a neighbour's yard he has to have a licence for that stallion although it would serve exactly the same number of mares. Do not let us forget that often it is the mare which goes to the stallion rather than the stallion which goes to the mare. Mechanisation enables mares to be brought to where the stallion is standing rather than the stallion travelling round the countryside. At the same time, many stallions do not actually stand on their own premises. 1554 Often they stand at someone else's yard, which is generally nearby, but, as I read the Bill, that cannot be done in future without a licence for the stallion. It seems to me that it is rather a slipshod way of tackling the matter.
The next question I want to ask is, who exactly is in charge of a stallion, the owner or controller? Where there is a thoroughbred stallion standing out is it fair that the stud groom or the small man who is actually looking after that horse should be considered the owner? The horse might be worth something like 50,000 and the stud groom or the small man has to stand all the racket because some particular form is not filled up or because the horse is not licensed. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond said, what about a syndicate owner or management committees that sometimes are employed by these syndicate owners? Generally there are several gentlemen on these management committees. Do they all get fined if something goes wrong? It is a nice way for the Government to make an easy bit of money, but it is not very fair.
The next matter I should like to raise is more of a Committee point but in a genral way it dos arise on the Second Reading. It arises on Clause 4 where it is left in the hands of the Minister to grant or not to grant permits or licences. We all know that the Minister has to take the advice of the man on the spot. It is not the Minister's advice, but advice which is given to him by somebody. Where a thoroughbred is being dealt with a very large sum of money might very well be involved. Is it fair to leave that in the hands of one individual who is a servant of the Minister? Apparently the Parliamentary Secretary does not like what I am saying.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)
I am wondering if the hon. and gallant Gentleman has got it right. The granting of a permit is not the same as the granting of a licence. The granting of a licence is under quite different conditions to the giving of a permit. A permit will not refer to a thoroughbred, standing or travelling.
From the reading of the Bill I thought that was so and if I am wrong, I apologise. The next 1555 point is in regard to the paragraph which says that where a notice is served it will be taken that whoever gets it will be responsible for notifying the owner. It may be given to a wretched fellow who has nothing to do with the horse itself, and if that is so why should he be responsible for a fault of the Ministry? This seems to me to be the most extraordinary pargaraph I have ever read. I hope to get those few points which I have raised talked about in Committee. I still feel that this part of the Bill is quite unnecessary at the present time when our horse population has dropped to such an appalling extent, and that it would be very much better to leave the matter in the hands of the breeding societies who are now working extremely well, have good stallions and have a reliable check on them.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
I have been interested in this subject for the last three years. Like the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Philips Price), I am an interested party. I am delighted that the Minister of Agriculture is continuing the scheme, but one took that for granted. I was sorry that the Minister did not tell us more about his real plans for speeding up the process. Though we may be quite pleased with the progress made since the end of the war, we still have a long way to go, and we ought to be considering how the progress can be increased. Those who have gone into the scheme are the most enterprising people, but as the scheme goes on there will come a time when it will be more difficult to make progress. Because farmers have nearly doubled the number of attested herds during the last three and a half years, it does not necessarily follow that they will double them again in a similar period. There are natural advantages and difficulties affecting different areas.
I come from Cumberland, between two areas which are remarkably free from tuberculosis. One is Westmorland, where 31 per cent. of the livestock are now free. The other is Ayrshire, where 79 per cent. are free. The reasons why they have done so well differ. There is a natural freedom from tuberculosis in Westmorland. We think it is because of the 1556 limestone. It is certainly not because of good housing for cattle in that district. They do not have good housing. In Ayrshire, the Scots got up early in the morning and started this kind of thing before England was awake. In many ways they have improved their Ayrshire cattle very considerably. Long before we had a scheme there were breeders of pedigree Ayrshire cattle who were using the tuberculin test, and long before we had any scheme of attestation there was an area in Ayrshire which was quite free of tuberculosis.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am coming to those. I shall not miss them. In many ways we can claim to be the top county in England. Though we have not got the highest percentage of attested cattle—the percentage is only 17.7—we have the greatest number of clean herds of any county. We have 783 farmers who have cleaned their herds, whereas Westmorland comes next with 616. The two counties together stand very well. Another reason why we do not get on faster in Cumberland is that the scheme applies effectively only to dairy cattle. I would like to know the percentage of dairy herds in the scheme in eaeh county. The information might be obtained from the Milk Marketing Board, which pays out the bonuses, and should know the total number of herds supplying them and the total number of herds which are drawing the T.T. or the attested bonus. I should have thought that the percentage of dairy herds declared must be considerably higher than the percentage of the total cattle in the country, because if we look at the list of counties we see that in the essentially arable counties, where the stock is mainly store stock for fattening, the percentage is very low because nobody bothers with the testing of their store stock.
That is a difficulty we have in Cumberland, a county where not only is dairying carried on but livestock are reared for stores and a certain amount of fattening goes on, and it is quite impossible to find any regular supply of store stock to bring on to an attested farm. Therefore, if one has an attested dairy one cannot within the attested boundary also trade in store stock. There ought to be some greater inducement to those who 1557 rear and deal in store stock to have them tested and to provide a reservoir of attested tuberculosis-free stores so that dairy farmers who are not solely dairy farmers but also go in for fattening can keep their attested dairy stock and yet buy attested stores. That would help to increase the total number of cattle which are free and bring in more farmers who hesitate to come in now because they need to buy stores at some times of the year.
My chief feeling about this Bill is that it still leaves our greatest difficulty untackled. It does not show any real determination on the part of the Ministry to hurry the cleaning of our stock. However, the greatest difficulty and the greatest obstacle in the way of further progress is an administrative one, the multiplicity of authorities which have to deal with all matters concerning dairies. Hardly an authority in the country does not come into it at some point. Suppose one wants to clean one's herd of tuberculosis. One goes to the Ministry of Agriculture and its vets. When one has done that, one wants to qualify for the higher bonus for T.T. milk which comes ultimately under the Ministry of Health. One gets only 1d. per gallon for having one's cattle free from tuberculosis and one gets another 3d. if one complies with the Ministry of Health's ideas about clean milk.
One therefore goes to the Ministry of Health and then to one's local authority. It is the county council which grants the licence, hut it is the rural district council which looks at one's buildings. If the rural district council says that one must improve one's buildings, off one goes to the town and country planning people to get approval for the alteration of one's building and to the Ministry of Supply for permits to get one's licences for the building. If I strayed into that any further, I should be outside the scope of this Bill, but it is relevant to point out that in the chain of procedure for cleaning up the dairy herds and providing a disease-free supply of milk, the wretched farmer has to deal with half a dozen or more different authorities and Ministries.
I am disappointed that when this opportunity for renewing this admirable Act arose, the Ministry, who have been in consultation with everybody concerned for the last two years or more, could not pro? 1558 duce a much more comprehensive scheme to cover these difficulties, to cover the question of the eradication areas, and to point to the time, which has arrived in some areas, when the eradication areas, where a few people may stand in the way, perhaps not because of their fault but because of special difficulties, might be declared.
This Bill is generally an uninteresting repetition of what has been done before. It produces nothing new as far as tuberculosis is concerned, and it is exceedingly disappointing that now, when the agricultural community is on its toes and is showing, by getting results under the old procedure, that it is ready to do this, the Government have not given a greater lead. I believe there is an opportunity to make a great step forward now, and I hope that, in replying, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be able to show that something is going on. Maybe agreement has not been reached, maybe it requires more money than the Treasury want to give at present, but we would like to have some indication that consideration is being given to greater output. If the shortage is of vets, what is being done about providing more of them? Let us be assured that the Government are not quietly sitting back and, having taken power to renew a prewar Act, expecting that this job will take a quarter of a century.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Dye (Norfolk, South Western)
May I follow the line of argument of the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) in dealing with the first part of this Bill as it applies to dairy herds and the eradication of tuberculosis? Could we not expect the Ministry to gather together all those responsible for the administration of this Measure to see if they cannot find a way to hurry up its progress? As has been said already, the county councils come in through their medical officers of health, the rural district councils come in through their sanitary inspectors, the war agricultural committee comes in, and also the Ministry's veterinary inspectors and the Milk Marketing Board. When the Government come along at this time of day only to continue what has been done in the past, and one realises that they have covered only one-eighth of the dairy herd population of the country, it is a disappointment to hon. Members on this side of the House.
1559 Certain parts of the country are almost free from tuberculosis, some have made good progress, others have made very little. What is the reason? Surely the Ministry ought to find out why some areas lag behind? It is true that those lagging behind are areas with a greater density of cattle population, but that is an added reason why those areas should be dealt with much more speedily than at present. Although this Bill deals only with the cattle population, tuberculosis is present also in pigs and poultry, and if the main purpose of the Bill is to eradicate tuberculosis from all animals to prevent it spreading to human beings, we must give attention to all livestock on the farms.
We are told the main reason for the present rate of progress is the limited number of veterinary surgeons available to operate the scheme. I may be somewhat unorthodox to suggest it, but surely it would be possible to train other people, not as veterinary surgeons, but as assistants, who could help carry out the work under the supervision of veterinary surgeons? It does not require a fully trained veterinary surgeon to carry out all the work in connection with the testing of cattle.
I urge the Minister to see if his agricultural executive committees cannot take a more progressive view, at least in some counties of this aspect of their work. Recently, I have drawn the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture to a case in my division of a farmer who has taken over some rather backward pasture land, thoroughly drained it, and cleaned it up, and now wishes to proceed with a dairy herd free from tuberculosis. He asked the committee whether they would give their support to the necessary buildings and cottages, so that a modern dairy farm could now take the place of what in the past has been semi-derelict land; but the committee have stated that they would not give their support to such a venture.
Surely this aspect of dairy farming, and the improvement of dairy herds, should find in the committees and their officers people who are enthusiastic and willing to support every farmer who wants to make progress. I ask the Minister to see if he cannot get the agricultural executive committees and all 1560 other authorities administering the present scheme to devise ways and means of speeding up its operation so that we can have our dairy herds and all cattle clean and free from tuberculosis, and attention can be given to other animals on the farm, as well.
Probably my views on Part II of the Bill differ from those of other hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate. So far as I can see, the decrease in the number of horses on the farms is going on so rapidly that in 10 or 20 years there will be very few draught animals left, or needed, on the farms of this country. There will always be fanciers who want to see a lovely horse, to stroke its mane and ride it occasionally. But, if we wish to increase food production in this country, we should get some experienced people from the engineering industry with tractors and other implements, for those are the means by which we shall increase the production of food from the arable areas and maintain the agricultural population. I do not think the Government are putting their money on the right horse in Part II of the Bill. I would very much rather they backed the steel horse and saw that those who are manufacturing tractors and other implements for agricultural purposes have all the steel they require, and get them on to the farms to enable the farmers to produce a greater quantity of food.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)
I wish to enlarge on some of the remarks made on Part II of the Bill. I agree with the Minister this is the right time to bring in a Bill, because during the war we have got rid of a great many scrub stallions, and we can now start afresh. The Bill as at present drafted, however, is scarcely worth putting before Parliament. I can see a good many flaws in it, and although the Minister says that breed societies have agreed to it—I know they have been consulted—they have not had any time to call meetings and really give it their considered opinion. I was indeed glad to hear the Minister say that he was open to every kind of suggestion that would improve the Bill, and that he would do what he could to include our suggestions. Accordingly, I shall make some.
One of my hon. Friends has asked why only the young stallions are to be licensed.
1561 It seems quite illogical to license the young stallions which will reach the age of two in the future and not all that already exist in the country. No reason has been convincingly given for doing that. The old stallions may go on for 10, 12, it may he 15 years, producing progeny when they themselves are quite unsound. There may be great difficulties in covering the whole of the country. It may even make one or two people bankrupt and cause trouble and concern, but the Minister did not tell us that. Unless he can put forward some weightier reasons, I consider that all animals should be covered by the Bill.
The next weakness is that thoroughbreds are exempt. Thoroughbreds are an important export, and the credit of this country should be upheld by the soundness of its thoroughbreds. Why are thoroughbreds exempt? The temptation to keep an unsound thoroughbred is far greater than the temptation to keep a minor class of stallion because the fees which a thoroughbred can command are much higher. Therefore, the temptation is much greater. One might find a case of a little man in a country village who keeps a half-bred stallion, and who is subject to the requirement of having to license his stallion, whereas his competitor across the road who has a thoroughbred, which may be a roarer, blind in one eye, have spavin and ringbone, does not require to have any licence. Why is that? A thoroughbred which is unsound can cause as much trouble, can do as much harm as any horse or pony in the country.
There is another anomaly about exempting thoroughbreds. Arab horses are entered partly in the Arab stud book and partly in the appendix to the general stud book. That means that the Arabs in the general stud book are to be exempt and the Arabs in their own stud book will require to have a licence. If that is so it seems that something should be done to put the Bill straight. The third weakness is that prescribed breeds are exempt. The reason for that is that it is difficult to catch ponies that are running on the moor and give them a licence, but I wonder if it is impossible? The rams on the Welsh hills are all rounded up each year and are under control, and members of a Welsh breed society think it would be possible to control the stallions there. There are many 1562 scrub stallions quite unsuitable for breeding running over the hills. It would be much better to take them away and vastly improve the breed. The Minister should talk this over carefully with the societies or with anyone who knows the possibilities of controlling these animals. If he thinks it could be done he should bring such a provision into the Bill at a later stage.
If this is not possible, the Bill proposes to prescribe certain breeds which are to be exempted. We understand that those are the mountain and moorland breeds—Dartmoor, Exmoor, Welsh, Shetlands, and so on. Would it not, therefore, be better, instead of prescribing certain breeds by name, to state in the Bill that those animals running wild in their native surroundings should be exempted? There is no reason why, because a man living in the North of England, or near London, keeps a Dartmoor stallion in his stud that it should be exempted from having a permit, any more than any other breed of horse.
The other weakness in the Bill is that licences are to become permanent. At present they are issued annually. A horse very seldom develops a scheduled disease when it is two years old. It is when it becomes an old horse that it goes wrong in its heart, its wind, or eye, or whatever it may be. Once the permit has been given, the Minister has told us that the animal is open to an annual inspection. That is not in the Bill. It merely states that a great deal of money is going to be saved because licences are made permanent, instead of annual. The Minister gave us his assurance that an annual inspection will be made, but that is not enough. Why not put it in the Bill? We should then be satisfied that the licensing system was thorough and the Bill worth while.
The last weakness concerns the list of diseases. The Minister said there was no need to change the list. I am not going to suggest any other diseases which should be included, but I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the next paragraph of these regulations, which says that any horse that "goes in the wind" after it is nine years old is all right, and can have a licence. Because a horse "goes in the wind" when it is nine years old, a licence can be granted, but if it "goes in the wind" when it is eight 1563 years old a licence cannot be granted. I do not know why. It does not make sense.
A great deal depends on the veterinary surgeons who are going to give these licences. I hope the Minister will choose the right men and pay them well in order to encourage the best types to come forward to get on the Minister's rota. I welcome the Bill, if my suggested improvements are included. It is essential that thoroughbreds should be included. It should also be stated in the Bill that there is to be an annual inspection. I hope the Minister will reconsider including all existing stallions, or else give a valid reason for not doing so, and that he will consider what I have said about the mountain and moorland breeds.
§ 8.59 p.m.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
I wish Ito confine myself entirely to Part I of this Bill. Like the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk (Mr. Dye), I suffer from a certain degree of disquiet at the slow progress which has been made in the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. There have been all kinds of difficulties on account of the war, but nevertheless progress has been very slow indeed.
I do not want to say anything contentious about this, but we in Scotland have a slightly better record than exists in England. Nevertheless, I want to give a practical example of the state of affairs in my own county. Recently I had occasion to be present at the examination of 40 heifers. Many of them were shepherd-bred heifers from the hills, not a bit likely to be suffering from bovine tuberculosis. However, of those 40, only 25 passed the veterinary surgeon, eight were declared to be reactors and seven were described as being doubtful. It is probable that the seven doubtfuls were unlikely to pass, from what I heard the surgeon say. Therefore, it may be said that 15 of the 40 failed in the test. That was in an area which is supposed to be one of the best in the country.
That is only the beginning of the story. A heifer when young is far less likely to be a reactor. When she is older she is more likely to be suffering from tuberculosis and to give milk unfit for human consumption. How are we to get rid of this state of affairs? Of course, we have 1564 the system of the attested herd, but we must go beyond that. We must build up a system of attested areas into which no one will be allowed to bring cattle which are non-attested. I know that there are great difficulties in that respect. Probably it would be easier to do that in counties like Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, and the Lowlands of Scotland, than elsewhere. In those parts of Scotland we have a large number of beef-type cattle—black Galloways—which are not normally subject to tuberculosis. Indeed it is very rare for a Galloway cow to be found to be a reactor.
We must try to build up in one part of the country an attested area which will be an example to the rest of the country. We must do that by means of a price differential in respect of attested material. I think that ultimately we ought to put such a premium on the production of attested milk that it will be made worth while to produce it. Next, it must be done with the assistance of the money which it is proposed to spend under this Bill. Finally, it must be brought about by the system of scheduling certain attested areas which we hope will henceforth be free from tuberculosis.
My final point is that it may be that we have been trying to produce in this country cattle which produce too much milk. I believe that that is so. We have been trying to force nature too much. I know that in certain cases it has undoubtedly caused diseases, such as mastitis, when farmers have attempted to make cattle produce more milk than nature meant them to give. May it not be that that suggestion is equally applicable in the case of tuberculosis? What we want to produce is healthier cattle which will not have to be destroyed at the end of two, three or four years. We want to produce cattle which will continue to be useful and which will not be a loss to the farmer. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary would do very well to bear that in mind.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I wish to speak about Part I of the Bill. There is one consideration which should be borne in mind in regard to attested herds. This affects particularly the Jersey and Guernsey breeds. I am interested in the Jersey breed. As far as I know, in the island of Jersey bovine tuberculosis 1565 has been eradicated completely. I am not certain about the position in Guernsey. I have been in touch with people in Jersey who have confirmed that animals which come from a perfectly clean island sometimes react when they get to this country. I believe that climate is in some way connected with this position. I suggest that the Minister might have gone a little further in dealing with this point.
The time is approaching when we must consider the possibility that animals coming into this country from outside should be held for a time in a pool area. Especially will that be true when the Minister establishes his free area, as it will be most essential that he should form an area, where imported cattle can go for a period which I think should be 60 days. I hope he will give that matter consideration, because I believe that it is not always the fault of the farmer when a cow which has come from the islands reacts. It may sometimes be, but more often than not it is the case, when cows react, that it is because the germs have been dormant and have only come out when the cow becomes subject to certain climatic changes. I hope the Minister will bear that point in mind.
There is, of course, no doubt that, however estimable the continuation of Part I of this Bill may be, nevertheless there are other things which are of equal importance in eradicating bovine tuberculosis. I suggest that the Minister should visit some of the attested sales, because, although the rules for running an attested herd may be obeyed in the herd, I do not believe that they are always obeyed at sales. So far as the cleanliness of cattle is concerned, it is most noticeable sometimes that there are, in the sale yard, attested cattle, supposed to have come from an attested herd, in a condition which can only be described as filthy. That is contrary to all the rules and regulations laid down for the production of T.T. milk. One wonders whether, in such cases, the supervision is always as good as it should be.
I hope the Minister will realise the difficulty which confronts the farmer trying to run an attested herd. If he has a large number of cows and is milking them three times a day, and if his labour is short, he will skimp the various things that should be done from the point of view of the production of clean milk. There 1566 is no one factor which would more assist the production of clean milk in this country than an increase in the labour force. There is no doubt that the Women's Land Army has played a very great part in this direction, and I am glad that the Minister is going to continue them. I hope he will realise that manpower is the fundamental problem in this question, and that, however necessary Part I of this Bill may be, it will not achieve its purpose unless the men are there to see that the various rules and regulations are carried out.
So far as the Second Part of the Bill is concerned, I think that every horse in the nation has been covered, except Pegasus on the arms of the Airborn Division and the horses of the Household Cavalry. I believe that the Minister might have paid rather more tribute to the breeding societies than he has done, because I believe they have done very good work. I know that, in my own constituency, they have achieved results which are outstanding in quality. I thought that the Minister's opening remarks tonight rather seemed to imply that these breeding societies have not been able to carry out their job properly in regard to purifying the various breeds. I hope he does not mean that, and that if he does not, the Parliamentary Secretary will clear up the matter when he replies.
I believe that it is right that stallions should be treated equally, whether they serve at home or go out, but all these licences are new forms of control—and I think the right hon. Gentleman has a perfectly good idea of what I think of controls. It is a poor reward for these societies who have shown that private individuals can get together and can purify the breed themselves, without the Minister forcing it down their throats and without compulsion of any sort being used. I resent every increase in compulsion which this Government introduce, and I believe that, in this particular case, it is only equity to bring all stallions under the same ruling. Perhaps, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite so often say, this is a tidier way of doing things. Personally, I believe we shall never make agriculture really tidy, and I am not sure that we shall ever make horse-breeding really tidy. I hope the Minister will realise that the more these societies improve their breeds, the less need there is for any of this. Let us hope the day will come when it will he possible 1567 to lift all these horrible restrictions because of the fact that the societies will be doing their job without any Ministerial threats.
§ 9.11 p.m.
Mr. Boyle (Salford, West)
In a very few words, I wish to make some comments on Part I of the Bill from a different point of view from any that has already been expressed. I shall not refer to Part II of the Bill because, frankly, I know nothing about it.
With regard to tuberculosis in animals, I have to plead guilty, like others before me, of being an interested party. In my case, however, I am at the receiving end, and not the producing end. I am concerned because in the Debate tonight not sufficient stress has been laid on the beef side. I entirely agree that the milk side is a very important one indeed, but I do not think we stress often enough how tubercular cattle affect our beef production and our production wastage. I have had some experience of standing in large abattoirs in this country, and seeing, day after day, bodies of beef hanging there raked from end to end because for generations we have failed to tackle this problem as strongly as we ought to have done.
In the Manchester abattoir, of which I have the greatest experience, hundreds of tons of beef are destroyed every year as the result of the ravages of tuberculosis. This causes great concern, not only to people interested in the sale of beef, but also to the general public who, month by month, read reports in local newspapers of the amount of meat which has been condemned by local authorities. Very often they get the wrong impression because of the colossal figures given in the Press. During the time of control, this has been more evident than it ever was before, because we find that individuals are going round the country buying up cows from the farmers which, in normal times, would only have found their way to the knacker's yard. These dealers are prepared to take the gamble of bringing that type of animal to our abattoirs because of the price being paid by the Ministry. Therefore, people are liable to get the wrong impression as to the amount of meat which is being used today in that regard compared with prewar days.
I am concerned with the pessimism which the Ministry of Agriculture have 1568 expressed in this Bill. When it is contemplated that we may not eradicate this menace for another 25 years, I am astounded. For very many years now we have had what I would call the battle of the scrub bull." This problem has been before the Ministry of Agriculture for a long time, but we are still talking about the probability of wiping it out in 25 years from now. I hope the Ministry will take stronger measures for the reduction of the evil, because I am quite certain that it can be done in much less time than 25 years. I wish to stress that not only is there a great danger from the milk aspect, but that every year hundreds of tons of good beef are being wasted because this problem has not been tackled as energetically as it should have been. My experience has shown me that week by week there are coming into the abattoirs of Britain cattle raked from end to end with disease, which a few hours before were giving milk. I welcome the Bill and I am glad to see this legislation going through, but I hope we shall be able to eradicate the trouble in much less time than is provided for in the Bill.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)
I speak at some disadvantage. Unfortunately, my train was late, and I have not been able to gather the gist of the arguments which have been advanced in the Debate. However, I gather that the main criticism from both sides of the House has been that we are not getting on fast enough with the eradication of tuberculosis. I entirely agree with that criticism. The hon. Member for West Salford (Mr. Royle), who spoke about beef which was raked with disease, will agree, I think, that the beef of which he spoke was probably from old much cows which had been made into beef, and not the beef breed of cattle.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I agree they sometimes are, but usually the beef breeds of cattle are entirely free from tuberculosis.
The Minister must not mark time in his endeavours to eradicate the disease. If he does so, those farmers with T.T. cattle surrounded by other cattle which are not tuberculin tested will gradually give up the battle and go out of the job altogether. I ask the Minister to hasten the eradication of this disease. I know 1569 that one of the difficulties is the great shortage of the necessary veterinary personnel. I hope that difficulty will be overcome in a short time, so that steps will be taken to clear areas. I know that the job cannot be done in a hurry. If we tried to deal with all the milk herds in a period of two or three years, and condemned, the reactors to be sold ac, beef, there would be a great shortage el milk. The position at the moment is rather farcical. It seems wrong that a farmer with a T.T. herd may take his reactors to market and sell them to his neighbour for the purpose of producing milk, but that must be the case anal we can get a sufficient number of T.T. cattle in existence.
Another state of affairs which is rather farcical is that of the farmer with the T.T. herd surrounded by seven or eight neighbours whose herds are not T.T. I know the rule is that the hedges should be double banked, but it is no good double banking the hedges if there is a footpath or a bridle way running through the field with a stile, because if the cattle from the clean herd want to say nice things to the cattle on the other side of the hedge they can easily do so over the stile, and there is no use in having a double fence round the field. If there is a right of way, a cart track or a bridle road through the field, it is rather difficult to put up two gates. I hope the Minister will take account of that matter.
Another matter which requires attention—I do not know whether it has been mentioned in this Debate—concerns the men who milk the cattle. If I were offered milk from a T.B. cow which was milked by a T.B.-free man, I would much rather have that milk than milk from a T.T. cow milked by a T.B. man. If the cattle are to be cleaned up we must see that the men who milk them are free from T.B. as well. I just wanted to say those few words to support those who have urged the necessity for speeding up this job and getting some areas, at any rate, cleared as quickly as possible.
It seems that the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk (Mr. Dye) rather wanted to encourage the Minister to get on with the production of more steel for motor tractors so that horses could be done away with altogether. I hope that doctrine will not be preached. It is entirely wrong to use a great tractor 1570 to draw a light lorry with a hundredweight of hay in it. That is a job that ought to be done with a horse. It is uneconomic to use a tractor for it. I hope the Minister will not discourage the keeping of horses on the farms. I know our young men do not like to put in extra time to look after the horses, and that farmers are consequently driven to give up the use of horses—unless they look after their horses themselves. Some of our young men are becoming too mechanically minded—so much so that I have sometimes told my friends that we shall see them using tractors to take themselves to bed.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh South)
I understand that no one from Scotland has taken part yet in this Debate, and I am induced to enter it only because of some observations made by the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk (Mr. Dye). The Bill deals with two aspects of agriculture, the first of which is the expenditure of some £2,500,000 on the improvement of our dairy herds. Although I myself have recently entered the field of agriculture, it is not on that subject I want to speak. I notice that the second part of the Bill deals with the subject of horses. Some £2,000 rising to £5,000 a year is to be spent by this great country of ours in improving our horses, and that is in addition to the £20,000 which is spent under the Horse Breeding Act, 1918.
The hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk has brought me to my feet because he does not seem to share his fellow countrymen's great love of horses. When once before, one spoke disparagingly of Scotland and flatteringly of horses, referring to the fact that in Scotland oats are fed to people, but that in England they feed them to horses, the reply was: "What men, and what horses!" This old-fashioned regard for the horse, which I thought was characteristic of every Englishman, seems not to exist in the mind of the hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk. He commends the urbanisation of our countryside. He sees a picture, not of horsemen looking after their animals, but a picture of industrial workers from the towns. What he wants to see in England's green and pleasant land is the tractor. While that may he attractive to those who are seeking to 1571 organise industry on trade union lines, it is quite foreign even to my simple conception of rural life.
I put it to the hon. Member—who seems to have left the House—and to the House generally, that there is something more important involved here even than the Englishman's love of horses, more even than our desire to improve and to maintain the use of our horses in this country. If agriculture is, as we believe it to be, the permanent mainstay of our life, our sure anchor in every circumstance, are we to bind our agriculture to imported petrol? If we cannot even obtain basic petrol for our citizens in peace time are we to tie our agriculture to imported petrol? Horses eat no imported food. Are we to substitute in the place of the horse the mechanical tractor that consumes imported petrol? I submit that if there is difficulty—and there is, admittedly, great difficulty in finding petrol in a normal year of peace at least two and a half years after the war is over, there is hound to be difficulty in finding petrol—
§ Sir W. Darling
A little earlier, reference, was made to the fact that we should discard the proposals of the Bill, which favour the extension and improvement of horse-breeding in this country, and substitute petrol-driven machinery. It was that argument, Sir, which I sought to rebut, but if you disapprove I will not pursue that line of argument, but will deal more closely with the Bill. The interest of the Government in this subject is valuable, and is appreciated. My own complaint would be that the sum of £2,000 to £5,000 a year is perhaps too little to maintain and improve the stock of what has been a typical and traditional British animal—an animal associated with our country for many generations, which will, I believe, inevitably and continuously be associated with us as long as we desire a stable, sound and characteristic agricultural industry.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)
We have had a very interesting Debate—not least interesting in its last few minutes. However, the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) 1572 seemed to have his figures, like his petrol, rather mixed up. In Part I of the Bill we provide for an ultimate expenditure, when all our discussions are concluded, of a sum many times that which he mentioned. The figure he had in mind was one which might be involved under Part II. It is not £2,000 or £5,000 in addition to the £20,000 provided in the a 918 Act, as I understood him to say, but only within the limits of the provisions of the 1918 Act. We expect the expenditure to be something of the order of £5,000. However, that is dealt with purely in Part II and has nothing to do with the keeping of cows, which comes under Part I.
§ Sir W. Darling
It was perfectly obvious to me that the sum under Part I, of £2½ million, is connected with bovine tuberculosis, and that the sum of £2,000 or £5,000 dealt with the balance.
§ Mr. Brown
I am glad to have given the hon. Member the opportunity to make himself clear.
We are pleased that this modest Bill has achieved such a wide measure of support in the House. Apart from the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown), who seemed to take a not too high view of some parts of the Bill, it has received general support. However, there has been a tendency to speak as though the Government are lacking in that revolutionary ardour which now characterises the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), or are pessimistic as the hon. Member for West Salford (Mr. Royle) said, because the provisions in Part I merely seek to keep alive powers which would otherwise die later this year. There is no ground for assuming that in regard to bovine tuberculosis the Government are in any way lagging behind other quarters of the House in their sense of urgency. There is a great deal of difference between saying that a lot of revolutionary, exciting and dramatic things ought to be done—and I was glad the lion. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) dealt with one just now—and getting down to practical means of getting rid of reactors, and getting the areas clean. The Government recognise that a good deal of work has to be done and are busily engaged on it.
As the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) mentioned, the theme song generally has been: What are 1573 the limiting factors? Is there any obstacle to going on faster than we seem to be doing under this Bill? Well, there are limiting factors. One is, unquestionably, the supply of veterinary surgeons. A great deal of discussion has taken place between the Government and various responsible bodies to see what can be done to increase the potential supply of veterinary surgeons and folk entering this field, in order to remove that bottleneck. At a later stage we shall hope to be able to present something to the House in that regard. We shall press on with it. Recently, we have introduced a modification of the old testing arrangement, under which, as I understand it, veterinary surgeons had to visit a herd three times in order to take two tests. We have now modified that, so that only one test is required, with only two visits to the herd. That will also help us to push on a bit faster. The supply of veterinary surgenos is unquestionably a limiting factor.
On the other hand, the progress has not been so slow as some have been inclined to suggest. We began the attested scheme in 1935, but in fact it had a clear run only until 1939 It was then in cold storage until 1944. Therefore, it has run for about seven years. In that time, we have gone from 1,400 attested herds in 1935, to well over 30,000 in 1947. We are apt to forget the gap which the war years imposed on us. Therefore, we have made very considerable progress. We agree that we want to make faster progress and we are having discussions in the industry with the farmers' unions and all the bodies involved as to the next steps. We believe that progress with the voluntary scheme, that is the individual herd being attested, is essential. No compulsory scheme could be effective until we have made more progress with the voluntary scheme. We believe that we need the powers in this Bill to stimulate greater progress with the voluntary scheme.
We are discussing with the industry a much bigger scheme—the freeing of areas and the compulsory measures that may be involved. We shall press on just as quickly as we can to get an agreement, and to get rid of these various limiting factors. The point was made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale), which was taken up by other Members, that it would take 25 years to complete this task. Upon 1574 that point hung a good deal of the comments which have been made about slowness. In taking these powers, in the first case for 10 years, and then for three consecutive five-year periods by Resolution of the two Houses, we do not imply that it will take 25 years. On the other hand, we think it is right that we should take the powers for this period. Just how long it will take will depend upon the things I have mentioned.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked when area schemes would be introduced. It is impossible to say in advance of a successful conclusion of our discussions and of the progress we make with the voluntary scheme. I was also asked whether the quality premium on T.T. milk will be reduced. It is our hope and intention, when we introduce regulations providing for attested bonus payments, to make some modifications in the quality premiums paid in respect of T.T. milk by the Minister of Food. This is one of the things we shall have to discuss, and we must bear in mind the balance of the need for stimulation as against any unreasonable State expenditure. As to the disposal of T.T. milk, that is a matter for the Minister of Food. I understand that it is largely a question of transport. It is a matter in which we are very much in agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman also raised the question of the diseases set out in the regulations made under the Horse Breeding Act, 1918. He asked whether we were satisfied with these. As I am advised, that list of diseases was drawn up on very good veterinary advice, and our experts tell us that we have had no complaints about it. If, however, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me have any complaints showing that something is wrong, we shall be glad to look into the matter. As it is, we believe that it commands general assent within the industry.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, and another of his hon. Friends, raised the question of the exemption of the stallion which is aged two years plus at the date of the Bill. We have been told that if we are to make the Bill properly effective we ought to provide for an age of five or six years. On this matter, we shall be very much guided by the view of the House and the Committee on the 1575 Bill. We feel that there is a balanced argument here—on the one side, not to ride roughshod over the people who are involved and, on the other, to be guided by the feeling of Members on the later stages of, the Bill.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Richmond also asked about the syndicated imported stallion. The stallion which is not in the General Stud Book will require a licence. He already requires a licence if he travels for service; if he is not in stud book he will require a licence at home. Into the harmony of the general support for this Bill one or two discordant notes were thrown, particularly by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Richmond, who talked about a "dictatorship" arising under Clause 4 (2). He said that the Minister was taking power, in cases where a licence would not be permitted—perhaps because of something being wrong with the animal—to issue a permit rather than to require the owner to castrate or shoot the animal.
We thought we were trying to be rather more than usually friendly, that we were not being awkward or dictatorial, and I was therefore sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed rather to bite the hand which, though perhaps not quite feeding him, was helping him along the way. The grounds on which a permit will be granted are not those on which a licence will be granted. This is very much an administrative matter. It is difficult to put grounds into the Bill. The animal may be an exotic zoological specimen, the last of its strain, or may be liked sentimentally by its owner. We feel that this kind of thing must be left to the administrative discretion of the Minister.
I was interested to hear the argument, begun by my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass), and taken up by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), about a national veterinary service. My hon. Friend seemed to think that we ought to have a national service, but the hon. Member for Newbury said that we should not have such a service until we had seen how the national medical service had worked in respect of human beings. Do they realise that we have had a form of national veterinary service for the last II years? My hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury, who is usually so far in front in these matters, 1576 and the hon. Member for Newbury, who usually knows the pros and cons, although he may perhaps sometimes fall on the wrong side, did not realise, when they began their little argument, that we have had a national veterinary service for some time—
§ Mr. Brown
We have had a State veterinary service since 1937, composed of some 300 members, who are doing valuable work. I pay a great tribute to the Socialist foresight of the Conservative Government of that day, which set up that service and which we ought not to disown now. The point made about the selling of reactors; their culling or their slaughter is important, but it would be very difficult to deal with it in the cavalier way which was suggested. There would be a catastrophic drop in milk production and in cattle generally if that were done. It must be done as a process.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown) suggested that Part II of the Bill was another control on the "wretched private owner." He seemed to be in splendid isolation, because I gather that the only regret of other hon. Members opposite was that the control is not enough. The cost which we envisage will still be within the limit of the 1918 Act—the £20,000 limit under the Horse Breeding Act—and any loss will be because we are relieving the "wretched owner," as he put it, from having to apply for a licence every year. We are giving him one licence, and I think that the hon. Member will probably thank us for that, because we are helping the people for whom he was so concerned.
With regard to the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), it was by no means the intention of my right hon. Friend to imply that the breeding societies had not done their job. We believe that they have, and we have had the greatest help from them in working out these proposals. I understand that they welcome the provisions of the Bill from the point of view of improving their livestock. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to think that a new liability was being imposed with regard to thoroughbreds which travel. Thoroughbreds which travel have 1577 always had to have a licence under the 1918 Act, and this Bill imposes no fresh liability.
The hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) referred to beef herds, and the powers under the 1937 Act, Section 20, extended by this Bill to make a capitation payment for beef herds if the producer wishes to take it in that form. In general, dairy herds are in the majority in the attested scheme, but there are beef herds in the scheme, and we hope to give a general incentive in that way. The hon. Member for South-Western Norfolk (Mr. Dye) accused us of "backing the wrong horse" and said that we ought to put our money on tractors. Whatever the argument about that, there will be horses for some time yet, and we ought not to exclude any opportunity of making sure that we are getting a better standard of horse as of other animals. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees with me on that.
That brings me to the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) who said that there were flaws in the Bill, and that the breed societies would be having meetings with hon. Members when they would be able to point out the flaws from which I gathered that the hon. Member himself would in later stages of the Bill refer to some of those flaws. I should like to repeat what I said at the beginning and what was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister in introducing the Bill, that we shall be very willing to receive representations from any quarter about this Bill. What we are aiming at is to get the best we can for the industry and for the health of the nation. In achieving those ideals it would be silly to be starchy and hidebound. We shall listen carefully to anything any hon. Member has to say and to consider suggestions which they or anyone else may make for the Bill's improvement. I do not think there were any other points of substance raised during the Debate. A large number of points which I have not covered have been carefully noted and will be considered. They will also be dealt with during later stages of the Bill. With these words I cordially commend the Second Reading to the House.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
May I draw attention to what must appear to many hon. Members to be a serious 1578 matter of drafting in this Bill, namely, the enormous amount of legislation by reference in it? Although I have no intention of opposing the Bill I cannot help saying that it appears to be one of the worst examples we have ever had of the complicated process of legislation by reference. If we are to understand these things in the way we should, it is absolutely essential that legislation should be made clear when dealing with any branch of agriculture. I seriously ask the Minister to consider whether he cannot do something to present Bills such as this in a much clearer way.
I will quote one or two examples of the sort of thing I mean. In Clause 1, (4), we read:Any increase attributable to this Part of this Act in the sum required by sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 1 of the Third Schedule to the Local Government Act, 1929, as amended by Subsection (4) of Section twenty-seven of the Agriculture Act, 1937, to be paid out of moneys.provided by Parliament …and so on. There are other examples which one could find, as for instance in Clause 8, (2),The preceding Subsection shall apply in relation to a contravention of Subsection (2) of Section two of this Act with the omission of the references to a permit.One could traverse every page of the Bill, and practically every Clause, and find a glaring example of this sort of thing. I do not want to delay the House by putting forward any more examples, but I say that in relation to all Bills dealing with any stage of agriculture it is necessary that there should be much more clarity. After watching some of these Bills for some years now, it appears to me that they are becoming more and more complicated. I do not blame any particular individuals in this connection; but it is time a start was made to clear up legislation dealing with agriculture. It must be made clear and clean so that everybody engaged in agriculture can know the law without trouble, for it is quite easy to make a slip if one does not understand what the law is. I ask the Minister to do his best to make the law as clear as possible.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
I am not so much concerned about the wording of the Bill, as about what is in the Bill, and I should like to say a word or two in its favour. As hon. Members know, tuberculosis is the greatest 1579 scourge from which the human race suffers, and in so far as this Bill attempts to deal with that disease along one particular line, it is bound to have the support of myself and of every hon. Member in the House. Although medical science has placed at the disposal of the community the knowledge required to eradicate this disease, and although the cause has long been known and the cure—as far as the disease can be cured—is also known, it is tragic that this disease should be as rampant in this country as it is now. That fact is a disgrace to our civilisation.
One of the lines along which the disease can be tackled is to deal with bovine tuberculosis. On Friday of last week, I received an invitation to go to Shetland where the farmers were celebrating the fact that their cattle had been officially declared 100 per cent. tuberculin tested. It is remarkable that it should be left to the people in those remote islands to lead the van of progress in a matter of this sort, and I take the opportunity of paying the farmers and the crofters there a warm tribute for the wholehearted way in which they have co-operated in achieving that very remarkable result. I also pay an equally warm tribute to the veterinary officers of the Ministry, who have worked hard and long in difficult weather conditions. It must be a cause of great pride to them that their methods have met with 100 per cent. success. I am glad the Bill is before the House and I hope that the results which the Minister has in view will be achieved long before the date provided in the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee.