HC Deb 22 June 1951 vol 489 cc873-7

11.18 a.m.

Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, to leave out "in the lairage."

It might be for the convenience of the House if I dealt also with the subsequent Amendments to the Bill.

In Committee doubts were expressed whether Clause 3 was sufficiently narrowly drawn to prevent any evasion of the intentions of the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food very kindly offered the Committee and myself his assistance in re-drafting and providing a Clause to avoid the defects of Clause 3, which we now seek to delete. I was delighted to get his offer, and I had the advantage of meeting the Parliamentary Secretary in his Department and enjoying the services of the Parliamentary draftsmen. Our object in re-drafting has been to draw more narrowly the provisions relating to the last 24 hours of the life of the animals and to make their enforcement more easy.

There is no doubt that these Amendments will meet the desires of the Standing Committee, and they are both reasonable and practicable from the point of view of the management of a slaughter house or knacker's yard. We have made it abundantly clear that the watering requirement is separate from the requirement for feeding.

In Committee it was argued that feeding was a comprehensive term which included water as well as food. This was not so, and it was not intended that an animal should be without water even during the last 24 hours of its life. Secondly, instead of once in 24 hours, as appeared in the principal Act, or once every 12 hours, as in the Bill, a more easily enforceable and more reasonable and practicable solution has been found, mainly, requiring that the animal should be fed at least once during the 12 hours before midday each day and once during the 12-hour period following mid-day.

This makes the matter quite precise and avoids going back to the time when the individual animal is brought into the establishment. The Amendment provides for the animal to have two feeds each day, and gives the person in charge of the animal the maximum freedom in meeting this requirement. Moreover, my second Amendment further improves the Bill by throwing on to the person having charge of the establishment the burden of proof that it was intended to slaughter during a specific period in any place where normal feeding requirements have not been complied with. That was the main point raised by various Members on both sides of the Committee. I have been advised by the Parliamentary draftsman that the words "in the lairage" should be omitted, but this is a point of drafting.

Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Amendment arises largely from the considerations set out in paragraph 18 of the Rosebery Report, in which reference is made to the previous Act, which said: Every occupier of a slaughter house or knacker's yard shall cause every animal brought to such slaughter house or knacker's yard for the purpose of being slaughtered to be provided with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water and, when it is necessary, to confine any such animal for a period exceeding twenty-four hours with a sufficient quantity of wholesome food. Anyone who has read the Appendix to the Rosebery Report will find that there was more compliance in the breach than in the observance, because the report goes on to say that there are a number of places where this rule is not carried out and that the licensing authorities should exercise supervision. The report continues: Supervision is rendered more difficult by the fact that in many cases the lairage is at some distance from the slaughter house. In these cases the occupier only brings the horse to the slaughter house just before it is to be killed, so that even if he starves the horses while in lairage, he achieves a technical compliance with Section 2. The Report went on to say that paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule to the Slaughter of Animals Act should be amended to provide that where animals are kept in any place occupied in connection with the business of a slaughter house or knacker's yard, they should be provided with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water and, when it is necessary to confine the animal for more than 24 hours, with a sufficient quantity of wholesome food. The Report continued: If the Section is amended it would be as well to lay it down that where the animal was to be provided with the food this should be done at intervals of not more than 12 hours. All of us in the Committee were conscious of the real drafting difficulties, and I join with the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) in expressing appreciation for the help given by the Ministry of Food.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I see the intention of the Amendment, but is it adequate for the purpose? The hon. Member said that this lays the onus of proof in the matter of feeding on the occupier of the lairage when there is no killing of the animals. But what is to be the nature of that proof? Subsection (3) says that in the case of animals where it is proved that it is intended to slaughter them for butcher's meat the occupier shall not be guilty. So it means that a person can neglect to provide the food laid down in the Bill and then, when someone comes along for inspection and discovers this, the occupier can say that the animal is to be killed within the next 12 hours.

Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member seems to be addressing his remarks to the second Amendment on the Order Paper.

Mr. Speaker

I allowed the mover of this Amendment to refer to both his Amendments because they hang together.

Mr. Ross

That was my impression too. I should be happier if the hon. Gentleman could give us some idea how to avoid that difficulty. Judging by the present condition of some lairage, it is a point we have to watch carefully; otherwise the purpose of the Bill will be refuted.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Colegate

I beg to move, in page 1, to leave out lines 9 to 11, and to insert: shall cause it to be provided with a sufficient quantity of wholesome food in each morning and each afternoon during which it is in confinement (including that in which it is brought into confinement): Provided that no person shall be liable for a contravention of the requirement as to the provision of food hereby imposed—

  1. (a) in the case of any animal, by reason of its not having been fed in the morning or afternoon in which it is slaughtered, or
  2. (b) in the case of an animal which is slaughtered in any morning or afternoon for butchers' meat, by reason of its not having been fed in the preceding afternoon, or in the preceding morning, as the case may be, or
  3. (c) in the case of an animal as to which it is proved that it was intended that it should be slaughtered for butcher's meat in a given morning or afternoon, by reason of its not having been fed in the preceding afternoon, or in the preceding morning, as the case may be.
In this provision the expressions 'morning' and 'afternoon' mean the periods of twelve hours ending and beginning respectively with mid-day.

Mr. Pannell

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. H. Brooke

I should like to congratulate and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) for taking so much trouble about this Amendment, and to confirm what was said a few minutes ago that we got into difficulties in Committee because it appeared that the Bill, as drafted, although it was done with the best intentions, left a loophole whereby a man could with impunity leave an animal unfed for 35 hours before the time it was slaughtered. Clearly that was not the intention of this House and, speaking as a member of the Standing Committee, I should like to assure hon. Members that the matter has been put right by this complicated Amendment which I hope will be agreed to.

Mr. Ross

I should be glad if I could have an answer to the question I asked.

Mr. Colegate

If I may answer that point, Mr. Speaker, I think the difficulty is not a real one. In any case one would have to prove an offence of this kind, and we could build up a most elaborate machinery in the hope that no offender could get past it. However, that is not practicable and, after consultation with the Ministry of Food and the Parliamentary draftsman, this appears to be the best solution in the circumstances.

11.30 a.m.

In that connection I would remind the hon. Member that there are many people interested in this matter, that there is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals amongst others, which maintains many inspectors. I have ascertained from my constituency that inspectors constantly work in liaison with the police authorities. They keep a very careful watch and, although I am not a lawyer and have to depend to some extent on the advice of hon. Friends, I think that this will bring about a very much needed improvement and that it will not be very easy for an offender to get away with any act of cruelty when this Measure becomes an Act.

Amendment agreed to.