HC Deb 22 February 1951 vol 484 cc1455-8
56. Mr. Peter Freeman

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to a shipment of 71 horses and other animals sent from Limerick to Birkenhead early in February, of which 18 collapsed, died and were thrown overboard during the sea voyage, three more were found dead on arrival at Birkenhead, seven others had broken legs and other serious injuries and had to be destroyed on arrival, another collapsed and died on the quayside and two goats were found to be dead on arrival; and, in view of the fact that repeated cases of this kind have been brought to his notice, what steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence.

48. Sir William Darling

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the circumstances in which a number of aged horses were shipped from Limerick to Birkenhead on 3rd February last, which resulted in 18 dying en route, three being found dead on reaching Birkenhead and eight having to be humanely slaughtered on arrival owing to the injuries they had suffered on the voyage; and whether, in view of the fact that these were horses imported solely for the meat trade, he will take powers to prevent such importations henceforward unless prior satisfaction can be given that the transport, unloading and subsequent slaughter will be carried out with due regard to avoiding unnecessary cruelty.

59. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the cruelty caused to certain horses in transit from Ireland to Birkenhead on 3rd February; and if he will make a statement as to the steps which are being taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

60. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether his attention has been called to the circumstances in which a number of aged horses being shipped from Limerick to Birkenhead in the early part of this month suffered severe injuries, resulting in their death in consequence of their infirmity and the unsatisfactory conditions of their accommodation, and that a further number had to be slaughtered on arrival as a result of the extensive bruising and exhaustion from which they were suffering; and whether he will take steps to review the regulations relating to the transport of horses in merchant vessels, with a view to ensuring that such extensive and unnecessary cruelty shall be avoided.

Mr. T. Williams

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) on 19th February.

Mr. Freeman

I have seen that answer, but is it not a fact that in these cases my right hon. Friend informed me that these journeys would not take place if the weather was bad? Is it not a fact that gale warnings were given on the day previous to the sailing of the vessel and That the vessel was delayed for four hours? Is he aware that I have a signed statement by the captain saying that he delayed his vessel for six hours in the Shannon and that the vessel took four days and nights to do the journey from Ireland? Is he further aware that at this time of the year the weather is always bad?

Mr. Speaker

This is giving a lot of information and not asking for it.

Mr. Freeman

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a public inquiry?

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend has suggested that repeated cases of this kind have been brought to my notice. This is the first case affecting imported horses that has been reported. I understand that the "Clarina" was inspected before sailing by Irish Government officials, who certified that the horses were fit to work and to travel and that the fittings of the vessel were up to their usual standards. The large number of casualties on this voyage is attributed to the exceptionally heavy weather experienced.

Brigadier Medlicott

Is the Minister aware that while we are continuing to import horses for slaughter from Ireland, we are also exporting horses for slaughter in Belgium? Should we not cut down these exports and reduce the overall volume of this traffic?

Mr. Williams

The hon. and gallant Member is in error. We are not exporting horses for slaughter to Belgium.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Mr. Tom Tweed, of Manchester, the man to whom most of these unfortunate animals are consigned, is a man with an extremely bad record? He has at one time or another received a sentence of three years' imprisonment, has been fined £2,000, has had his butcher's licence revoked and has been fined for cruelty to animals. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the regulations are adequate to ensure safe transportation of these animals and to prevent them falling into the hands of someone like Mr. Tweed when they arrive?

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend knows much more about this person than I do. I said in my original reply, on 19th February, that I am considering whether to make an order under the Diseases of Animals Acts for the better protection of horses during their transit to this country, but hon. Members will appreciate that I will have to consult both the Eire Government and the Government of Northern Ireland.

Sir R. Ross

Is the Minister not aware that the horses to which these Questions refer came from Eire and were shipped under the sovereignty of the Irish Republic? [Laughter.] What is funny about that? No horses which suffered in this way were shipped from Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hastings

Is my right hon. Friend aware that all people of goodwill in this country are looking to him to prevent such atrocities?

Mr. Williams

The House will be aware that I cannot prevent atrocities of this kind if the regulations are made by the Irish Republic. I have already said that we are looking round the situation to see whether or not anything can be done, but we are not responsible for any kind of suffering.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Is it not quite clear, whatever the record of this gentleman in Manchester or of Eire in relation to these unfortunate animals being shipped in these circumstances, that this ship should not have been permitted to sail in view of the weather report? Is not that the whole point?

Mr. Williams

It is not the responsibility of the British Government to decide whether or not the boat should sail.

Mr. Poole

Is it not a fact that the subsequent veterinary examination revealed that many of these horses were knocked down and trampled to death, and will my right hon. Friend, in consultation with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, inquire whether there was correct supervision on this vessel, which, after all, does sail under the authority of the Minister of Transport?

Mr. Williams

I shall be very happy to consult with my right hon. Friend, because I am just as anxious as anyone to prevent any unnecessary suffering anywhere.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We cannot proceed any further with this matter.