HC Deb 12 June 1953 vol 516 cc656-60

1.52 p.m.

Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, at the end, to insert: and that he took all reasonable steps in the circumstances to prevent the infliction of unnecessary suffering. The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that the two exceptions which appear in Clause 2 are not enabled to result in the infliction of unnecessary suffering on the animals concerned. If the proviso to Clause 2 is examined, it will be seen that there are two defences which can be raised which would exempt the persons referred to from the effect of this Bill altogether. Without this Amendment, it is clear that there will be no safeguard at all in relation to the two defences in the proviso to Clause 2 if those defences were raised as regards the question of whether there was the infliction of unnecessary suffering to the animal or not. In that way the Bill, which has a very good object, which I personally fully support, could not only be stultified but substantially defeated.

The object of the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner), the promoter of the Bill, is of course to ensure humane killing, and everybody will want that to be so, but the proviso in Clause 2 might, and probably would, produce the very contrary result. What this Amendment seeks to do is to establish the same safeguarding condition as was established in the Act of 1933. In that particular Act, there were also several exceptions, and certain cases were exempted from the operation of the Statute, but these cases were explicitly made subject to the condition that all reasonable steps should have been taken to prevent the infliction of unnecessary suffering, and that is precisely what is sought by the Amendment to be done here. I understand that the Amendment is approved by the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes.

May I accordingly say in conclusion that I welcome this Bill, and that I view it as a progressive contribution to the humane slaughter of animals where slaughter is necessary?

Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I am sure that almost all hon. Members in this House deplore any single case of the infliction of suffering upon animals. We felt, when we considered this Bill, that there was this weakness in it, and it is for that reason that we put down this Amendment. I am sure that we all recognise that, up and down the country, we hear of appalling cases of the infliction of suffering on animals by callous persons.

This Amendment will give the House the opportunity of establishing beyond doubt the fact that this House of Commons takes a serious view of the infliction of suffering on animals, and, therefore, we ought not to lose any single opportunity of demonstrating to the people of the country that the legislature does, in fact, consider it a most serious matter. The insertion of this form of words would not only serve a very necessary purpose and be an essential improvement in the Bill, but would once again establish to all to whose attention the Bill may be drawn that the Legislature considers that no act should be done to animals which would cause unnecessary suffering.

Brigadier Rayner (Totnes)

I cannot help feeling that any infringement of the provisions of this Amendment would be rather difficult to prove, but the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) has pointed out that that would bring the Bill into line with the parent Act already on the Statute Book, which was introduced by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) in 1933, and I am. therefore, delighted to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Brigadier Rayner

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

This Bill has been carefully checked and re-checked by the experts of that fine and efficient society, the R.S.P.C.A., and by other experts of the National Fanners' Union, and it has been not only approved but improved by hon. Members on both sides of this House. I feel that it brings some relief to the consciences which some of us normally carry. There is no doubt that the average Englishman and Scotsman is not by nature a cruel person, rather the reverse, indeed, I am quite certain that from John O'Groats to Land's End, the milk of human kindness flows more freely than in any other country in the world, but there is also no doubt that, in the hurly-burly of modern life many people are inclined to be casual and forgetful. The idea of the Bill is to remind people that animals, and in this particular case, pigs, fear as we fear and feel as we feel, and I therefore hope that the House will accept the Bill.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I rise to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) on his success in getting this Bill through the House and to express my regret that I was unable to attend the proceedings of the Standing Committee which considered the Bill. I also take this rare opportunity of congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food on the public spirit he has shown in supporting and helping through this Bill, and I express the hope that the hon. Gentleman will show similar enlightenment on the wider responsibilities which fall upon him as a result of his office.

Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)

May I add my congratulations to those already proffered to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) on having brought before the House a Bill which I think has the approval of the entire House and of everybody outside?

I take this opportunity to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary one question which he himself raised during the Second Reading of the Bill. He mentioned on that occasion that no reference had been made to the authority which was to administer the Bill when it became an Act, I imagine that his Department will be called upon to see that the Measure is brought into force in the near future, and I wonder if he has yet made up his mind whether it will be the police or the local authori- ties who will be responsible for its administration.

It has been suggested that it would be far more desirable if the local authorities were to be made responsible, because I know that whenever a policeman comes walking towards me I always have a guilty conscience. I think that many people are apt to assume, if they see a policeman entering the premises of a neighbour, that that neighbour might conceivably be guilty, whether he is or not. For that reason, I think that the local authorities—the sanitary inspector, or whoever it may be—would be the right people to see that this Measure is properly carried out. I believe I am right in saying that under the 1933 Act it is the local authorities who are responsible, but I hope that before we finally part with this Bill my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will give us his advice on the subject.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

There were so many words of congratulation from the other side of the House to the promoter of the last Bill we discussed this morning that I think we might be considered somewhat churlish if another voice were not heard from this side of the House congratulating the hon. and gallant Member on getting this Bill through. Indeed, as far as its merits are concerned, I think this Bill is of equally high value as the preceding Bill. Indeed, I am not sure that there is very much difference between the statutory preservation of aldermen and the humane slaughter of pigs. It is perfectly clear that both objects are good, and that both Bills are valuable. That being so, I wish to convey my congratulations, and, I am sure, those of every hon. Member on this side of the House, to the hon. and gallant Gentleman on taking his Bill as far as he has on its journey to the Statute Book.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)

I will reply, first, to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ton-bridge (Mr. G. Williams) in regard to the enforcement authority. The Bill does not specify the enforcement authority, and I am advised that, as a result, enforcement will normally fall to the police. But it will be open to anyone to lay the necessary information. There might be—I will put it no higher than that—some disadvantage in specifying the local authority as the enforcement authority lest the impression be gained that only that authority can take the necessary steps of enforcement.

Secondly and finally, may I join in the congratulations offered to my hon. and gallant Friend for having chosen, when successful in the Ballot, so limited but yet so important a theme for his Bill? I will not claim that he has had a difficult task either in Committee or in the House because both sympathy and support have been widespread, but he has done a really useful job of work and we can all congratulate him on steering his Bill to the Statute Book.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I, too, wish to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend on having got through this Bill which will give a great deal of pleasure to many of his constituents. I, as one of his closest neighbours, think he is one of the best Members we have ever had.