§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The House is always at its best when dealing with issues that affect the lives of men and women and of animals. Last week, the House gave consideration to a Bill designed to promote the health and safety of men engaged in our mines and quarries, and in the earlier part of this week it gave consideration, on Second Reading, to a Bill designed to control, if not abolish, the persistent practice of night work in the baking industry. Today it is my privilege to move the Second Reading of the Slaughter of Animals (Amendment) Bill.
This Bill is designed to promote measures concerned with the treatment of animals for slaughter, and to ensure that humanity and decency may be expressed in our relations to them. That is as it should be, for politics is not merely a matter of justice between man and man, but also an issue of decency between man and the animals that serve his needs. It is remarkable that Parliament has a long history in the treatment, by legislation, of issues affecting animal welfare, and it is noteworthy that what legislation exists is directly a result of the efforts of private Members of this House and has 2048 emanated almost exclusively from that source.
This is quite natural, because this field of animal welfare is peculiarly suited to the Private Members' Bill. Animals cannot speak; they have no votes, and they cannot organise pressure groups. Someone, therefore, has to enter the lists on their behalf. Since 1911 no fewer than 23 Private Members' Bills have been introduced in this House. Some have become law, others have not, as a result of the organised pressure of groups in those days. Today, when one reads the debates on those Bills, some of them appear to be strange reading, I must confess. I would in that connection, as, I think, the House would wish me to do, pay a tribute on this occasion to the work that was done by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), which led to the passing of the Act of 1933, which is the basic Act of the legislation dealing with animal welfare.
It is remarkable to recall that the first Act of Parliament that was passed in any legislative body was the Act of July, 1822. The Bill was introduced in May, 1822, by a Member of this House, Mr. Richard Martin, who represented the County of Galway. That Act provided for penalties of either fine or imprisonment to be inflicted upon those who were convicted of cruelty to animals. We have a traditional sense of decency towards animals, and the legislation that exists in respect of animal welfare has sought from time to time to give a practical expression to that sense of decency towards the animals that serve our needs.
I think hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will recall the shock they sustained at the amazing disclosures that were made by the "Manchester Guardian" a few years ago, which shocked the nation.
§ Mr. Moyle
They drew attention particularly to the development of this new trade in the provision of horse flesh for the table. It was those disclosures that led me to introduce this Bill today. I at once investigated them through the avenues of investigation available to me, to try to check up on some of the facts disclosed in those two famous articles in the "Manchester Guardian." These are facts that cannot be gainsaid.
2049 No fewer than 50,000 horses are slaughtered each year in this country. Figures available to me show that in 1949 no fewer than 70,000 were slaughtered in this country alone for human consumption. I find that the horse population on agricultural holdings declined between 1939 and 1952. I give round figures to make them easier to understand. In 1939 the population figure was 845,000 and in 1952 it was down to 316,000, a decline of more than half of the horse population on the agricultural holdings in this country in a period of a few years. I am advised that the figures for the horse population of the country as a whole correspond with those I have given.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
When the hon. Gentleman says "this country," does he mean England alone, or England, Wales and Scotland?
§ Mr. Moyle
England alone. I am further advised that the figures I have given are on the conservative side, because the basis upon which the statistics are collected is far from satisfactory. In the County of London, the main centres, so far as the slaughter of horses is concerned, are Acton and West Ham. They are the two main centres for the slaughter of horses in this country. In West Ham alone, I am advised on reliable authority, the average slaughter of horses in the year1951 to 1952 was no fewer than 17,000.
§ Mr. Moyle
I am giving conservative figures. I think they are sufficiently eloquent to drive the facts home. These horses are slaughtered in slaughterhouses and not knackers' yards, and are slaughtered for human consumption. There has grown up today, as the "Manchester Guardian" stated a few years ago, this new trade in horses. Today the horse is worth more dead than alive. The horse is more valuable for the table than for work in the field, because the tractor has taken its place. The traffic in horses has been encouraged by the shortage of other carcase meat.
I would at this stage ask the Government to consider seriously this decline in the horse population of Britain in relation to strategical considerations. What is the alternative to petrol driven machin- 2050 ery in the event of war? One has only to ask the question to see the significance of it. I have no wish to dilate on this issue, but I beg the Government to investigate it.
It seems to me somewhat strange that we can have a close season for pheasants and other game—we can, indeed, have a close season for fish—to prevent their destruction, and not for horses. Does it not strike the House as somewhat extraordinary that there is no close season for horses?
§ Mr. Moyle
It is an astonishing position. When these facts were brought home to me, I undertook to visit slaughterhouses because I wanted to be certain that the facts as represented to me were and could be substantiated. What did I find? I did not find what I had expected—a number of horses which looked as though they were a spent force, with no further use in the fields, or diseased horses. To my surprise, I saw between 60 and 70 fine cart-horses—young, healthy, virile cart-horses—and the rest were the ordinary borough council type of street horse, all in excellent condition.
I saw a number of slaughters in the slaughterhouses, and I must say at once that, generally, the methods of slaughter were humane. I was, however, shocked by the conditions of lairage or, stabling, and I was even more shocked by the conditions in which the slaughter men had to do the work. I am therefore satisfied that the present position calls for urgent legislation to overcome the existing evils.
It is easy, I know, to concentrate upon the horse dealer as the responsible, or irresponsible, person who is dealing in this traffic, but, through the House, I want to put a question to the owners of these horses. Surely the owner has a moral responsibility for the future of his horses after they have finished their service. It was my intention to try to define that moral responsibility and give it legal sanction in the Bill but, after discussion with my advisers, I decided to work upon another basis. It is, nevertheless, obvious that a moral responsibility rests upon the horse owner in this country to see to the welfare of his horses until they have ended their days.
2051 There have been two Committees dealing with this matter—the Rosebery Committee and the Northumberland Committee. The Rosebery Committee dealt with the export traffic in horses and made recommendations which have substantially been implemented by legislation since the Report was issued. That Committee has therefore had the direct effect of killing the export trade in horses from this country to the Continent, and my Bill in no way touches the transport of horses. The other Committee, the Northumberland Committee, dealt, of course, with internal conditions—conditions affecting the treatment of horses awaiting slaughter in this country; and my Bill virtually implements the provisions of the Northumberland Committee.
I propose to deal briefly with the Bill. If I were a lawyer, I should, in explaining the provisions of the Bill, ignore the principles and concentrate upon the details, but as I am a politician I propose to deal with the principles of the Bill and ignore the details—and I know that that will be received with great relief by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are anxious follow me in the debate.
Clause 1 deals with the licensing of premises used in connection with the business of slaughtering animals. The premises include those slaughterhouses used for the slaughter of animals intended for sale for human consumption and knackers' yards. The Clause requires that the premises for the slaughter of horses shall be specially authorised. Secondly, it empowers local authorities to issue separate licences in respect of the lairages; and, thirdly, it permits them to prohibit the grant of a licence unless the premises comply with certain standards prescribed in the Regulations.
Clause 2 deals with the regulations for securing humane conditions and treatment of animals for slaughter and it also empowers the Secretary of State for Scotland to make regulations securing humane conditions and practices in connection with the slaughter of animals. The Regulations will be based upon the conditions set out in the First Schedule to the Bill.
Clause 3 deals with the licensing of slaughter men. When the Bill becomes an Act, the licence for slaughter men will 2052 specify all kinds of domestic farm animals and will also set out the provisions concerning the use of the instruments of slaughter. Provisions will also be made by licence to cover the apprentice or the assistant to the slaughter man, but the assistant will have to work under the direct supervision of the qualified slaughter man. No one under 18 years of age will be allowed to slaughter an animal.
It also amplifies the grounds for refusal by a local authority of an application for a licence or the revocation or suspension of a licence. In all cases, first, an inspection of all premises and slaughterhouses will precede the granting of a licence. Perhaps I might add, following discussions which I have had with my hon. Friends who represent the Jewish community, that I have gone into the question of the ritual method of slaughter which they have always used and I am advised that the Bill in no way prejudices the existing practice. Concerning the position of the local authorities, I will give the matter my consideration and perhaps make some observation on it during the Committee stage of the Bill. Clause 4 extends Section 1 of the 1933 Act to all animals except those slaughtered, as I have indicated, by the ritual method used by Mohammedans and Jews.
Clause 6 deals with powers of entry and provides that veterinary surgeons appointed by local authorities shall be empowered to visit slaughterhouses and knackers' yards, in addition to the medical officers of health and the sanitary inspectors, and, of course, in Scotland, of the meat inspectors. They will be reinforced by inspectors who will be appointed by the Ministry of Food. I can assure the House that the inspectors from the Ministry of Food, as well as the local veterinary surgeons, will know a great deal about a horse, both when it is alive and when it is dead. They will be able to decide what is good fodder and good lairage just as well as they can decide whether the meat is wholesome or not.
Clause 7 deals with the making of regulations under the Bill. They will be "negative" regulations which, if necessary, will be dealt with in accordance with the machinery of the Prayer. There will be a Money Resolution to cover the expenses to which Clause 8 refers. I am 2053 advised that the Ministry of Food will incur additional expenses by reason of the inspectorate, and therefore a Money Resolution will be necessary. I am advised that the Government will bring the Money Resolution before the House between now and the Committee stage of the Bill.
The rest of the Bill deals with technical matters and I do not wish to worry the House with them. The Bill deals with the slaughter of animals and their treatment before slaughter in respect of those covered by the loose phrase "domestic farm animals." Now that this Bill has been set on its career, I hope that when it becomes law it will realise to the full the faith that we have placed in it. I am grateful to the House and to those organisations outside for the good wishes that they have expressed to me, and I am particularly grateful to the Ministry of Food for the help and advice that they have given me during my consideration of the Bill.
I hope that, when it becomes law, the Bill will add another chapter to the history of Parliament's great fight to secure, in so far as it is practicable, a sense of decency and humanity in relation to the animals that serve us. I hope that in so doing we shall still retain the reputation in the world that Britain cherishes and that we shall be still regarded as a Christian, charitable, civilised and kindly people.
§ 11.34 a.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
In seconding the Motion, my first duty must be not only to congratulate the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) on a clear, cogent and delightful speech, but also to say that he has earned the gratitude of hon. and right hon. Members in all quarters of the House, and thousands of electors throughout our constituencies, by giving Parliament such an early and full opportunity of considering the recommendations of the Northumberland Report so many of which, as he has reminded us, are enshrined in this Bill.
In drawing first place in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills the hon. Member enjoyed that special piece of luck which falls to few Private Members and even then, of course, only one at a time. In selecting this subject for the early attention of Parliament the hon. 2054 Member showed that he was not only a good parliamentarian, but that he was following in the best traditions of the British people, touched deeply, as they always are, by matters involving callousness or cruelty in any form. In illustration of that, last week my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) handed to me a petition of 600 signatures, gathered together by the proprietress of a small shop in one ward of his constituency, asking all hon. Members to support this Bill. No doubt hon. Members on both sides can cite numberless illustrations in that form.
In addition, I should like to pay tribute to the Press and, in particular, to the "Manchester Guardian" which, as far back as the summer of 1952, drew the attention of the public not only to the iniquities which had grown up in the search for supplementary supplies of meat, but also to the needless suffering which was going on in slaughter and transit among some of our declining population of horses, ponies and donkeys. In matters such as this, the Press is still inspired by great traditions in its hatred of petty despotism or cruelty, and its cry for reform springs naturally from editorial policy profoundly conscious of its integrity and its power to prevail.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to that summer of 1952. The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen has already directed the attention of the House to the document, "The Traffic in Irish Horses," sponsored by the "Manchester Guardian," and the investigation carried out by its special correspondent, Mr. Patrick Keatley. The public were profoundly shocked by the disclosures in that document. Some of them rested upon hearsay and not on eyewitness evidence, especially with regard to the use of that vile device of an electric pump to create white meat for the meat market under the fictitious label of veal.
The articles brought a question to my mind. It should be remembered that the inquiry was directed to the traffic in Irish horses, but I asked myself whether the record in Great Britain was as spotless as it ought to be. My investigations turned quickly from facts and hearsay about cruelty in the transit and slaughter of horses to the legal position that governs the trade and to the various Ministries which are responsible for 2055 administering the law. I found confusion and anomalies. No fewer than five Government Departments at that time were responsible. As the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen has reminded us, many of the recommendations of the Rosebery Committee, which reported in 1950, had been carried out but its most important recommendation—that responsibility for slaughter be centralised in one Minister—had not been implemented.
That prompted me to put down a Question to the Prime Minister on 24th June, 1952. He swiftly gave the assurance that the centralisation in one Ministry of Government functions in relation to slaughterhouses would be considered as a matter of urgency and that a further inquiry would be held. That brought into existence the Northumberland Committee. He also said that public health regulations would be revised…so that any person proposing to slaughter a horse will be under an obligation to inform the local authority in advance and will be liable to penalties if he fails to do so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2036.]That most helpful and workmanlike answer from the Prime Minister led to a transfer of functions Order in January of last year, which centralised in the Ministry of Food responsibility for slaughter, and to the revision of public health regulations.
This Bill sets out to improve the present conditions and no doubt many hon. and right hon. Members read yesterday the leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" which welcomed this Bill and praised those who had made it possible. The newspaper went on to say that…the Bill provides merely the framework of reform. Like so much of our legislation nowadays it leaves the details of some of its most important provisions to be filled in later by the Minister, and issued by him in the form of regulations.Of course, we must always be careful about the House of Commons, which sometimes passes a Bill and declares it as a reform. In the case of this Bill I think a little time will be required after it reaches the Statute Book to see that its best provisions are exercised in full.
In that respect I wish to refer to two Clauses which have been referred to by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen. One of the Clauses which I 2056 think will be an acid test of the Bill is Clause 3, dealing with the licensing of slaughter men and, in particular, subsection (3) of that Clause which empowers the Minister tomake regulations for prescribing qualifications for holding licences, or licences of any class"—either a full licence or a learner's licence.
I took to heart the observations of the hon. Member about the conditions in which slaughter men work. Many hon. and right hon. Members have visited slaughterhouses. The conditions in which those men work in some quarters are absolutely indescribable. It is hard to enshrine every hope and wish in a Bill—it would become too elaborate and too long—but in the Regulations I hope there will be sufficient detail to attempt to uplift and upgrade this trade of slaughter men and put it on a new level providing the men with some of the amenities in the way of washing and cleaning of clothing which are long overdue.
I do not suppose that any hon. Member has actually acted as a slaughter man, except perhaps those who served in the First World War in battle and were compelled to shoot horses—gun horses, riding horses and light draught horses. I recall an experience immediately following the end of that war when I was given a large encampment of which to take charge owing to quick demobilisation. Horses poured in in bad condition with every sort of injury. I was in command, with a few n.c.o.s, and little veterinary service, and we had to decide to kill many horses. Our methods were crude. We had no more than rifles and my pistol in its holster at our disposal. I was compelled to dispense with the carcases to local Belgian butchers and the queues seemed to grow larger all the time. I was compelled to sell the carcases for 300 francs each and pay the money to the field cashier. It was a crude experience of slaughter and from that day I have always maintained some interest in this matter.
One of the early benefits which will flow from the Bill in general, and from Clause 3 in particular, is the special provisions to be made in regard to slaughter men, the holding of a licence and, I hope, the creation of master slaughterers with apprentices or learners who hope one 2057 day to reach a stage of craftsmanship enabling them to become master slaughterers on level terms with other craftsmen. Clause 6, subsection (2) enables officers of the Minister of Food andveterinary surgeons appointed by local authorities,to enter slaughterhouses and knackers' yards to ascertain whether provisions are contravened. That is a most important provision. It brings to my mind a hope which I think might flow from the Bill, that directly under the command of the Minister of Food there will exist a small corps of inspectors who will have powers to act with the veterinary surgeons of local authorities and enter any slaughterhouse that they think should be investigated.
There is another desirable provision enshrined in the Clause. The Ministry of Labour has an excellent factory inspectorate. Recently, I have taken the trouble to go into this system. In the booklet I hold in my hand one may see at a glance all kinds of conditions in factories throughout the country. I hope that a system of supervisory inspection with such powers will be brought into existence with, now the Ministry of Food at the centre, and perhaps later, the Ministry of Agriculture. By that means it would be possible to have a quick method of seeing the conditions of slaughterhouses, if information is required either for the House, the public, or merely to pass on to other Departments. No doubt these powers will fall to the Minister of Agriculture when the time comes completely to dispense with the Minister and officers of the Ministry of Food.
I must say a word about a topic which has arisen in recent months. The B.B.C. made a broadcast before the Christmas Recess under the title of "Horses Cannot Talk." It was a dramatic and shocking indictment of many of the conditions which exist in slaughterhouses and knackers' yards throughout the country. It should be remembered that there are only 56 slaughterhouses in England and Wales and four in Scotland. I do not know the number of knackers' yards. The B.B.C. was taken to task by a number of critics for giving a dramatic account of the use of the electric pump. In fairness to the B.B.C. I should say that all it did from its Northern Studio, 2058 under the direction of Mr. Denys Mitchell, was to bring succeeding witnesses to the microphone to testify on things they had seen in the industry. Mr. Mitchell made it quite clear in the cross-examination of the witnesses at the microphone that the Northumberland Committee's Report found no shred of evidence of the use of the electric pump to produce white meat. I think it a good way of informing public opinion on matters of public interest for the B.B.C. to hold special sessions whereby a few of many witnesses may be interviewed and the public may judge the issue for themselves.
I end on a personal note. In the summer of 1952 I put down certain Questions: to the Prime Minister. A great debt of gratitude is owing to the Prime Minister for the Christian way in which he set about the problem. The Prime Minister grew up in an age when the horse reigned supreme in the social and working life of the nation. Hon. Members may recall the answer he gave to a supplementary question put by the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes):I have always considered that the substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy milestone in the progress of mankind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 24th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2037.]In spite of the monopoly of our roads by sleek motor cars I still think that the well turned out mounted policeman of the Metropolitan Police is a better sight than his successor, sitting in the driving seat of a motor car. I still think that Colonel Llewellyn and "Foxhunter," Miss Pat Smythe, who trains her own hunters and fellow riders like Major Laurence Rook are not the least ambassadors of good will whom we have sent abroad in recent years.
I also think that the opening meet of say a pack of foxhounds in rural England or, in our cities, one of those delightful van horse parades which take place on Bank holidays for van horses and heavy draught horses, are not the least of the pageantry which still survives for us from the past in this mechanical age. We are a seafaring people, a race that conquered the sea, and it says much for the versatility of the British people that they have developed such great traditions of horse-mastership, the breeding of livestock and the perfection of the genus horse. The saddest thing in the Northumberland Committee's Report is the evidence given 2059 in its statistics of the prodigious decline in the horse population of this country in the last 25 years from 1¼ million to 450,000. The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen has reminded us of that danger.
There is also the civic duty resting on all of us that these old and faithful friends of ours—the horse, the pony or the humble donkey—shall no longer be subjected in any way to the risk of the conditions which they have suffered in these last few years. I can only express the hope that the moment will come, after Report and Third Reading, when the provisions of the Bill will ultimately be enshrined upon the Statute Book.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
In rising to support the Bill, I wish first to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) and the hon. Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary) on the fine way in which they have put their case in moving and seconding the Motion. The sympathetic attitude displayed in those two speeches will be appreciated and reciprocated by all hon. Members of the House.
I do not know whether I have ever unconsciously eaten horse meat—probably I have on many occasions—but I do realise the need for animal food and protein. There is a clear indication that nations which take only vegetable food are less virile on the whole, than those which take animal food as well. For three years, by way of experiment, I was what is generally known as a vegetarian, but I was careful to take milk and milk products and eggs, so I found that my health did not deteriorate in any way.
There is some evidence that too much meat is eaten, though most of us feel better for meat and we certainly all enjoy it. But if we eat meat in any form it is clearly up to us to see that the animals which provide our food are properly looked after throughout their life and are killed with as little cruelty as possible.
That leads to the question, what is cruelty? It is very difficult for humans to understand what is going on in the mind of an animal. When an animal sees blood how much does it anticipate its own decease? I do not know, none of us know. It is hard enough, as all of us who 2060 have children know, to try to see into the mind of a child. How much harder to see into the mind of an animal.
I think we can assume quite correctly, however, that domestic animals, with whom we are more closely associated, conform more to our mentality though we must realise that what is cruel to us may not be cruel to an animal and what is cruel to an animal may not be appreciated as cruel by us. As we all know, dogs are able to understand a good deal of what we say and perhaps to read the expression on our faces.
I think it only right to assume that the horse, which is such a great servant of man and spends a good deal of its time with man, probably appreciates our point of view a good deal more than most animals. Certainly, I am sure that the horse is particularly quick in the uptake. In the First World War I was being taught, as a surgeon in the Army, to ride a horse. I found that when the instructor said "Halt" the horse stopped dead long before I had time to hang round its neck. So the horse was certainly a great deal quicker in the uptake than I was.
To be serious, I feel that all of us will welcome the Bill in so far as it tries to eliminate any remaining possibility of cruelty to animals under our legislation. The Bill has been discussed very fully by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen and the hon. Member for Withington. I wish to deal only with one or two of what might be called minor points, but which particularly appeal to me. The first concerns inspection. Clause 6 (2 and 3) deal with that and suggest that not only medical officers of health and sanitary inspectors should be responsible, but veterinary surgeons as well.
Far be it from me to say anything against sanitary inspectors and medical officers of health in connection with the inspection of meat and the slaughter of animals. But their point of view is as to the wholesomeness and lack of disease in animals and meat. I am impressed with the need for veterinary surgeons to deal with this matter, also. The modern veterinary surgeon is very different from what one recognised years ago. He tries to understand the point of view of animals and is a sympathetic individual. It is important to get the modern 2061 veterinary surgeon more closely associated with the slaughter of animals.
Clause 3 (1) provides that there should be a temporary licence for slaughter men. That is very important. Some years ago, when I was doing something to assist in the introduction into the House of a humane slaughter Bill, I made it my business to see a good many animals slaughtered. I was greatly impressed by the skill of the slaughter men and their anatomical knowledge. I watched them take a long knife and enter it through the pig's neck straight into the right auricle of the heart. It seemed to me to be a wonderfully skilful performance. But this skill is not learned at once. Moreover, anatomical conditions vary considerably. The thickness of the skull which has to be shot through in slaughtering animals may vary greatly, and, therefore, I welcome the Clause in this Bill relating to the issue of temporary licences to slaughter men, provided they work with more skilled people.
The same arrangement is made in connection with other professions. In the medical profession a student who has passed through the hospital is given a provisional licence enabling him to work under supervision for a year, and then if he gives satisfaction he obtains a full licence to practice. I do not suggest that there is a great analogy between the two professions, but I think there is something which the slaughter man may learn from the medical profession.
I am in complete agreement with all the provisions of this Bill and my only criticism is that there are some things left out which might have been included and which we might discuss in Committee. The First Schedule refers toParticular matters to be dealt with by regulations under section two relating to horses.The Regulation deals with the securing of humane conditions in slaughterhouses and knackers' yards. But why should it relate only to horses? I know that I shall be reminded that other animals are covered by existing legislation. I have taken the trouble to look carefully at this legislation. The Food and Drugs Act, 1938, provides for byelaws being adopted by local authorities, but does not enforce them. The Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, deals with the question of the prevention of cruelty and not the technique 2062 of building and machinery by which it may be prevented. The Slaughter of Animals Act, 1951, deals with lairages. Why should this useful Schedule deal only with horses? Surely theDisposal of blood, offal and refusemust apply to other animals and theConstruction, equipment and lay-out of premises, rooms or compartments in which slaughter takes place, and conditions to be observed therein at the time of slaughtermust apply to other animals as well as horses. I trust that this matter will be considered in Committee.
As I read the present law, persons who are aggrieved at the refusal to license a slaughterhouse or a knackers' yard have the right to apply to the magistrates court and, on appeal, to the court of quarter sessions, but only if they live outside London. Everyone will agree that no local government authority comes up to the standard of the London County Council, but, nevertheless, I consider it anomalous to suggest there should be much greater difficulties in other areas.
Again, a person aggrieved by the refusal to grant a licence as a slaughterer may, as the law stands, apply to a court of summary jurisdiction. Can such a court give an opinion on this matter? In the case of a slaughterhouse or knackers' yard, where it is a question of considering accommodation and similar matters, a court of summary jurisdiction may be in a position to decide whether Regulations made under this and other Acts have been observed. But can such a court decide whether a slaughterer is capable of doing his work?
There are other points with which I do not wish to detain the House, but which might well be considered in Committee. So far as it goes, I think that the Bill represents a very welcome step forward and I am glad that it has been introduced.
§ 12.7 p.m.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
I was interested in what was said by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) who approached the matter from the point of view of one skilled in medicine, and I have a great deal of sympathy with his concluding words. The time has long passed when we should have a comprehensive Bill dealing with cruelty to animals.
2063 This is an interesting Bill, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), who moved the Motion, and the hon. Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary), who seconded it. This, I think, is the first Bill dealing with cruelty to animals which has not been sponsored by one of the alleged animal welfare societies. This is a product of the House of Commons, and I am glad. That is why I have had no letters about it. In the last few days I have had plenty of letters about the gin trap, about the Bill in another place, and 40 letters about the Bill which succeeds this Bill on the Order Paper, but none about this Bill.
I know that these alleged animal welfare societies are not interested in a Bill unless they have promoted it, in order to secure cash for other purposes. I am sorry to be rude about them, but for two years I was a member of the council of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and I found that the members' love of animals was exceeded only by their hatred of mankind.
The question of my hon. Friend to the Prime Minister a little over 18 months ago on this matter brought the subject very much to the fore. As he said, the Prime Minister has resumed his love of horses late in life—and with some financial success. Some of the propaganda behind it has been a little unfortunate. The story of the pumping of blood out of horses was an unqualified untruth, and the effect of the broadcast to which my hon. Friend referred was to make people believe it was true. It did not explain that it was untrue and that there was no evidence in support of it. And now we have the Report of the Northumberland Committee that the man who started the story said it was only hearsay. I believe that in the broadcast, which I did not hear, it was suggested that the episode happened in Middlesex in 1947. Why were not steps taken to initiate a prosecution, because what was done conflicted with the existing law, as I understand it?
I hope that the Government will sponsor comprehensive legislation for dealing with other aspects of cruelty to animals, because I desire to bring to an end the exploitation of the public which takes place in some of these societies. For example, this Session we have the 2064 Animals (Cruel Poisons) Bill. I have not read that one, but I can guess what it is. We also have the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Bill. There is another—and my name is on the back—promoted by the hon. Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), and called the Protection of Animals (Anaesthetics) Bill.
All these Bills could be made into one Bill, but that would not suit the promoting societies. They have a lot more on the stocks. They do not want them all done at once. I have been in the House since 1924. Every year we see about three Bills on the subject of the protection of animals and cruelty. A lot of these societies do no good service to anybody whatever. Many of them prevent, or do all they can to prevent, human beings from being protected. We all know about the amazing success of immunisation against diphtheria, which is one of the miracles of modern times. The number of cases has dropped from about 70,000 a year in 1941 to less than 500 in 1952. Nearly all of the societies oppose immunisation. They say that it involves what they call vivisection.
The injection of human beings, which is calculated to protect them against ill health, is opposed by the bulk of the societies—not the R.S.P.C.A., because they are debarred by their constitution, but all the others. It is time that we exposed them. We can go to the top of Whitehall and see a shop window full of the most horrid pictures describing things that have never happened in this country. Lots of innocent people empty their pockets in support of the activities of the societies who do no good to anybody whatever. I have been seeking the opportunity to say this for a long time.
I remember many years ago asking a former Prime Minister, Mr. Stanley Baldwin, as he then was, at a time when he was Lord President of the Council about the experiment which had been conducted to protect dogs against distemper. I think that there were experiments on about six dogs and as a result a method of inoculation of dogs against distemper has been thoroughly well established. The method also gives very considerable protection against hard pad. But these societies fought all they could to prevent those experiments. We have got to resist their activities.
2065 I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food to consider, in consultation with his colleagues, the possibility of the Government going into the whole question of cruelty to animals so that a comprehensive Bill can be passed consolidating all the existing legislation and bringing all these matters together, instead of having this piecemeal business which happens so often. Every Session four or five Private Members' Bills are introduced to amend other legislation.
I have spent more time denouncing other people than I have in supporting the Bill. I congratulate its sponsors and I hope that it has a speedy passage. I hope that the hon. Member for Barking will be among those on the Standing Committee which tries to improve it. If the Bill is to be passed, we might as well make it as good as possible. I have no objection to regulations being used. They are a very proper method of making something flexible and elastic. Those who resist the idea of delegated legislation make a great mistake. The vital factor is that we should always retain ultimate control by having powers to pray, and I understand that in this Bill our Parliamentary privileges are completely safeguarded.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
I should like to make one comment in support of what the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has just said. Though probably it was out of order, he probably was very near the line in any event. I should like to support his urge to have something comprehensive done on the question of cruelty to animals. Having said that, I want to turn to the Bill.
If I may be excused in following the hon. Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary), who seconded the Motion, in a personal note—because that is the basis on which I speak at all—it is to say that my mother, besides having nine children, of which I was about centre forward, was also an animal lover. I have, so to speak, followed her reputation, as far as I have been able to do so, all my life. So strong did she feel on the subject that we were never allowed to go to see circuses because she considered the training of performing animals cruel. To this day I have never yet 2066 seen a performing animal except one that one might see in a Punch and Judy show or at a street corner.
It is also a fact that I was born on the same day as a litter of St. Bernard puppies. My father used to say that they drowned the wrong one, but that was by way of pulling my leg. When with my hon. Friends the Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee) and the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) I started on a tour of slaughterhouses a year or so ago, I did so not from the nosy-parker point of view, but with a sincere desire to discover some of the facts, especially those related to what is known as ritual slaughter.
We went to one slaughterhouse in Paddington where we saw what is known as kosher killing. I should like to pay my tribute to my friends the Jews for the very thorough way in which they carry out their ritual slaughter. Provided the instructions are followed, I do not think there is a more humane way of disposing of a bovine animal. There is one important qualification I would make, but which I will not refer to in detail because I am still discussing the matter with my friends. I am bound to say that, so far as their system goes, with the use of a Weinberg pen, which they insist upon, I do not imagine that anything quicker or more humane could possibly be carried out, except for the modern bovine pen which is used for ordinary slaughter.
Here I want to say something about the general slaughter of bovine animals. I hope that the Government will see fit to incorporate in the regulations at no distant date one which insists on the use of a slaughter pen for bovine animals. I do not want to harrow the feelings of the House with descriptions of what I have seen in slaughterhouses. The business of slaughtering, however hard we try, cannot be made very attractive, but there is no doubt whatever in my mind that, whilst the use of the humane killer is the best way of putting the animal out, the methods often employed even in good slaughterhouses today, whereby the animal is got into such a position that the humane killer can be used, leave a very great deal to be desired.
If the use of the Weinberg pen, or something very like it, were insisted upon, as indeed it is in the most modern 2067 slaughterhouse at Guildford, where, in my opinion, the conditions are pretty well perfect, I am sure that a great deal of unnecessary cruelty and anxiety to the animals would be avoided.
The third point I want to make is this. I am not sure what they call the form of killing; I refer to it as Mohammedan killing. I like that least of all, but there is one aspect of it where I believe the Government might, without disadvantage to the people who hold these religious beliefs, do something about it. That is in connection with animals that are taken on board ship for the purpose of slaughter outside the three-mile limit in circumstances over which we have no control of any kind whatever.
I do not like that form of slaughter in any event, but I think that it ought to be laid down that animals that are to be required for food on board ship and have to be killed in that manner should be killed in a properly controlled slaughterhouse, and the meat taken on board ship. They should not be allowed to be left at the mercy of any person who has to carry out the killing in the course of the voyage. That is all I want to say. I wanted to make those three points, to congratulate the mover and seconder of this Bill, and to hope that the Government will see to it that it speedily reaches the Statute Book.
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
First, I should like to join with those who have already spoken in congratulating the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) on moving the Second Reading of this Bill today. This is a subject in which I have taken a considerable interest for over a year, during which period I have had the advantage of a stream of information which has been gathered by a private source at very considerable expense to themselves, with no other object than to serve the cause which this Bill seeks to serve.
There has been working on this project no fewer than five very well-qualified private inquiry agents, and I have their reports in my possession and have their authority to place the documents at the disposal of the Minister if he thinks they would serve any useful purpose. There are literally hundreds of reports from all 2068 over the country which these private inquiry agents have accumulated during the past 12 or 15 months, and every one of them is a fully attested document. Each of the five inquiry agents has signed a form which amounts to a statement upon oath guaranteeing the truth of the report which he has made, and I have copies of those documents in my possession, too.
Inquiries of this kind, to which I shall refer in detail later, seem to me to have two very important applications. The first is perhaps to follow the example of the Duke of Northumberland, and justify the need for this Bill. The second I shall come to in a moment. It would be only fair to say that, in the course of these investigations, many of the individuals and organisations subject to these inquiries have proved to be eminently honest and respectable citizens and organisations carrying on reputable businesses, and, since the electric pump has been mentioned, I should say that these inquiries have found no evidence at all of the existence of the electric pump. Indeed, according to one report of a well-qualified man, these appears to be no reason for the pump at all.
There is, I am sorry to say, evidence that the present regulations are being broken or not properly observed, and perhaps I can best make this point by reading the appropriate paragraph from the attestation of these investigators:From the investigations which I have conducted in this matter it appears that there is inadequate supervision of horse sales and slaughterhouses, and in relation to the transport of horses…conditions appear to be unsatisfactory. The horses appear to be treated with unnecessary cruelty and unnecessary callousness, and there is an absence of proper and reasonable care. In certain instances, existing regulations are contravened or disregarded, and there appears to be inadequate enforcement of these regulations.I have quoted that from one of five attestations made by investigators who have been working on this job, but all five have made similar statements on the question of inadequate enforcement, to which I shall refer again presently.
Obviously, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), I have no wish to harrow the feelings of the House by quoting at length from some of these reports, which, I assure the House, are difficult even to read, but I do wish to refer to one or 2069 two of them. In the course of these investigations, not only slaughterhouses but transport conditions and auction sales have been investigated, and the next quotation which I wish to make concerns a point referred to by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) as to whether, in fact, horses know that they are about to be slaughtered. On the basis of this report, there would not seem to be any doubt about it. During the course of his inquiries, this investigator came upon a black horse which was about to be slaughtered, and he says:…it appeared to be in a terrified or distressed condition. The horse was constantly neighing, blowing, stamping its legs, throwing its head high and its eyes were continually rolling.He goes on to say that the man in charge of the horse, whose duty it was to slaughter the horse, wasrather amused about the horse, and said 'He knows he is for the jump; he can smell it.'There is the evidence, if the House would like to have it, of the attitude of a man whose job it was to care for a horse, but which leaves much to be desired.
Here is a report concerning an organisation interested in the sale of these horses:During the sale, with the following exceptions, no cases of cruelty to the animals were observed. However, in two cases during the 'showing' of the horses, I observed excessive whipping which made the horses rear and prance.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? I should not like it to be thought, because I did not say it, that the persons carrying out slaughter at the yards I visited behaved in a manner such as the hon. Gentleman has now described. The behaviour of the men at the slaughterhouses we visited—the men who have to perform this unpleasant task—left nothing at all to be desired. It was absolutely right.
§ Mr. Price
I have already said that, in a very large number of cases which these investigators dealt with, that was the case, but there was a large number in which the reverse was the case. The investigator whose report I have just quoted also declared that:the stables were in a filthy condition, with dirty and waterlogged straw on the floor. There was dirty fodder, which the horses and ponies were eating, and in none of the stables was any water provided.2070 That is clear evidence of a contravention of the existing regulations.
The next case concerns a man with a long criminal record, a man who can neither read nor write his name on a cheque. He had left his wife and was living in sin with another woman. It is hardly surprising that this man, who was making a substantial weekly income by the slaughter of horses, was conducting that business in the most undesirable manner it is possible to imagine. The investigator's report covers three pages, and this is one of the cases I had in mind when I said that some of these documents are difficult even to read. If the Minister thinks they will serve any useful purpose, may I repeat that I am authorised to place these reports at his disposal, and I suggest that some of them at least might well serve as a basis for prosecution.
I want to say something now about the question of inspection. In the course of the investigation of yet another case, the investigator, referring to one witness who had been employed for 18 months at a slaughterhouse which was the subject of an extremely critical report, says this:I inquired if the slaughterhouse was inspected by the police and the R.S.P.C.A., and the witness said it was, but 'the owner always knew when they were coming, and everything was ship-shape,' and the R.S.P.CA. inspector was 'no good.'The quality of the R.S.P.CA. inspector may have been irrelevant since, however good he might be, it would be quite easy for the man responsible for running the slaughterhouse to put everything ship shape and hide the evidence which might otherwise have been found of his contravention of the regulations if he had advance notice of the inspector's coming.
It is easy for this House to pass a Bill, but there is no point in doing so unless we ensure that its requirements are acted upon and that the provisions of the Bill can be enforced. If we are to enforce any regulations that the Minister might make, the first essential is an adequate and efficient system of inspection. It is obvious to me that up till now this has not been the case in the enforcement of existing regulations. The Bill proposes to strengthen the system of inspection, but I doubt whether it goes far enough. I urge upon those who are promoting the Bill and those who will have the good 2071 fortune to serve upon the Committee after the Bill gets its Second Reading—which I hope it will get today—to pay special attention to this business of inspection, because there is no doubt that the existing regulations are being contravened all over the country.
I believe that this contravention is less prevalent now than it was immediately after the war, but it still exists and is widely practised and it is anathema to those who believe in the English tradition of love for animals and fair play to those who have served us well. These animals deserve nothing less than the best possible conditions we can provide for them when the time comes for them to cease their service to man. It is up to this House to see that they get it.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
I want to make a very brief intervention in this debate, as I understand we shall try to get another Bill, which deals with another form of slaughter—the slaughter of the innocents. I shall speak as an old cavalry man. I may not look like one, but I can assure hon. Members that I looked very much like one when I was in the riding school many moons ago.
As an old yeoman I want to tell the House that anybody who thinks that horses cannot talk wants to get that idea out of his mind. Horses cannot speak as such, but they can convey to human beings a lot that they want human beings to know. Make no mistake at all about it. A man has only to try, after a charge, to get a horse out of his position and to prevent him from getting back to where he belongs, and the horse will soon show him. Horses understand words of command much better than do some of the human beings who are attempting to ride them. One has only to watch the milkman's horse on his round. We can send to the Ministry of Labour for a new assistant and put the assistant in charge of the milk cart, and as sure as light follows dark that horse will see that the milkman calls at every one of the customers. The horse knows the round. One can sometimes see horses moving through the traffic with the wagoner fast asleep. They know their way round, and in many, many ways they are akin to human beings.
2072 I confess to the House that the only time that ever I wept was in connection with my horse. There were many occasions when I could have done so, but the only time I really did weep was when we were embarking at Southampton and my horse, because she had been injured in transit, was taken away from me, I wept like a child. The same thing was seen when the men were returning from Gallipoli, at their reunion in camp at Cairo with the horses from which they had been parted for a couple of years. To see that was to know what kind of understanding there was between them.
I am now only concerned about the conditions in which horses are slaughtered. Some of the conditions are very good, some are extremely bad and some are atrocious. We are discussing this matter on a Friday, which has become a sort of Humane Day, when we discuss things that are of common benefit to all. I remember the Wagoners' Battalion being formed in Yorkshire and seeing the men and their horses going off to fight, as one of the sinews of war of our country. I often hear the Prime Minister referred to as "an old war horse"; it is a term of reverence because of the service that the Prime Minister has given to this nation. One may not like his politics, but one has to admire the service he has given to the nation.
Without the horses in the 1914–18 war we probably would not be here today. I say that definitely, for without the cavalry the Turkish Army would not have been beaten. The troops sent from Egypt to France would not have been used in France without the horses, and the balance might have been tipped against us. The horse has served mankind better than any other animal I can think of.
I want to close on a point that has not been mentioned. If a person in this country takes the life of another person, he is destroyed, in the presence of the prison governor, the doctor, the chaplain and others. Every precaution is taken to see that he is disposed of humanely. That is in the case of someone who has taken someone else's life. I know of no horse who has ever taken anybody's life, although horses have retaliated by giving somebody a kick in the pants. Whatever the merits or demerits of the Bill 2073 may be, if there is a horse in this land which has to be slaughtered in the future for any purpose whatever, it is incumbent upon this House to see that as the horse has been a friend of man, man is a friend to the horse and gives it the best possible treatment in the course of its destruction.
§ 12.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)
I wish to add my welcome to the Bill and to congratulate my hon. Friend—I think I can call him that on this occasion—theMember for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), who moved its Second Reading. I do not want to cover points which have already been made, but I congratulate the hon. Member on his excellent explanation of the Bill, which I think we now all thoroughly understand.
I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity of saying a word or two. One hon. Member said he had not had any correspondence on the Bill; well, I have. I have had most horrible tales told to me about the slaughter of horses, most of which I do not believe. It occurs to me that as the Bill will give power to the authorities to inspect slaughterhouses and knackers' yards, they must also be able to inspect places of suspected slaughter. The stories that have reached me of horses being slaughtered just outside my own constituency I do not entirely believe, but people's minds are obviously not at rest about what they hear is going on. If the authorities are to be able to inspect actual slaughterhouses they must also inspect places where it is suspected that illegal and unauthorised slaughtering is taking place.
I am glad that the Bill includes all animals. The horse holds a high place, as has been made clear during the debate, but I am glad that the Bill includes other animals as well. It will enable licences for slaughtering to be tightened up. I wonder how we are to do it, and whether the Bill will fail, because, if the places are unfit for the proper slaughtering of horses, how are we to make them fit?
It is suggested in the Northumberland Report that the Minister should introduce regulations for the provision of separate stalls, at least one loose box, proper hay-racks, fresh water, and so on. In many of the slaughterhouses and lair-ages which belong to them at present these conditions just do not prevail. 2074 Under this Bill, the people who run them will not get a bigger traffic in horses, their profits will not go up, and their turnover will not increase. From where are they to get the money with which to bring their premises up to the required standard? Are they to go out of business, or are they to be subsidised by the Government? What is to happen?
The Government have gone into the whole policy of slaughterhouses, and I believe that a committee has reported to the Government, although I understand that the Report has not yet been made public. I urge the Government to get on with that and to have a proper policy for slaughterhouses with compensation where necessary which will, I hope, make this Bill a really practical proposition.
Hon. Members have referred to the transport of horses. To my mind, the transport of horses to the slaughterhouses is more important than what actually happens when they get there. We have heard horrible descriptions of horses being brought to this country from Ireland, some of them being smashed together during a rough crossing, and arriving here in terrible condition. Here, again, I do not know whether all these stories are true, or whether some are exaggerated in order to obtain funds for various societies. But there is an element of truth in them. Surely, that is something which could be overcome very simply by killing the horses in Ireland and having them shipped to this country as carcases.
I am told that the Irish will not agree to this. But, surely, we have only to say that we will not take live horses from Ireland which are intended for slaughter in this country, but will only take them in carcase form. I hope that the Government will consider what I now have the opportunity of suggesting to them. Transport was not included in the terms of reference of the Northumberland Committee, but, nevertheless, it was mentioned in their Report. They suggested that it should be made illegal to transport horses to knackers' yards. I should like to see that included in this Bill.
Another thing that I should like to see dealt with in the Bill is the question of the time that a horse may be kept before it is slaughtered. No time limit is suggested in this Bill—it may be laid down in regulations—and perhaps my right 2075 hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Food will think it worth while laying down a period of time beyond which a horse may not be kept where he might smell blood, even if conditions are good, prior to its actual slaughter.
Another thing I wish to urge upon my right hon. and gallant Friend—we have dealt with hay, water, and so on—is the question of rugging. Every hon. Member who is at this moment suffering from the cold spell will be well aware of the suffering which a horse may undergo if in cold weather he is kept without proper rugging for three or four days before being slaughtered. I hope that when the time comes such a requirement will be laid down in the regulations.
I suppose that the question of the slaughtering of horses in foxhound kennels is already covered, because they will be able to get a licence like anybody else. What I am worried about is how we are to be able to kill our old friend the horse on our own premises. In my time, I have sent horses to the kennels, but I have always had them killed on my own property first. When one has an old favourite, one wants to make sure that, at the end, it is properly slaughtered. Such a course will not be possible under this Bill. The animal will have to go to a licensed slaughterhouse. Perhaps this is a matter which might be worth considering when we reach the Committee stage.
Clause 6 (2), I am glad to say, has been mentioned by several hon. Members. It would appear from Clause 6 (1) that the medical officer of health and the sanitary inspectors are the people who will really be responsible for the inspections. I do not deny that veterinary surgeons also have the right of access, but I would point out to my right hon. and gallant Friend that it is the "vets" who know the conditions in which horses should be. It is they who know whether the hay is good or bad, how much straw the animal should have, and how they should properly be kept.
A sanitary inspector may have a good idea about these things, but it is not the same as a "vet" carrying out the inspection. Therefore, I would urge the Government to see that the "vets" do this. I know that the Ministry of Agriculture have not a very large staff of 2076 veterinary surgeons, and that may be the reason for their objection to this course. They may say that their "vets" have got enough to do already and cannot do any more. But so have the sanitary inspectors; they have a tremendous job to do. If somebody has to do this job, then let it be done by someone who knows the ante-mortem rather than the post-mortem side of the matter.
The sanitary inspector understands hygiene and good food, and all sorts of things, but what we really want to do in this Bill is to protect the live horse. Therefore, it is the "vet," who understands the ante-mortem side, who should carry out these inspections. In Scotland, as hon. Members know, such meat inspections are carried out by the "vets" in order that they may look after the horses as well. I ask the Government to consider bringing England into line with Scotland on this matter.
I welcome this Bill. I have mentioned one or two Committee points which have not been ruled out of order, and I trust that during the Committee stage we may be able to improve the Bill, which, I hope, will get its Second Reading this afternoon.
§ 12.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
I rise to support this Bill, which I think is a humane and useful Measure. I do so particularly because my constituency of West Ham, South has the somewhat sombre distinction of being the place where more horses are slaughtered than anywhere else in the country. In a different place I have been concerned in efforts made by the West Ham Council to use its limited powers with regard to this matter. Quite frankly, the community which I represent do not like this distinction of West Ham. The slaughtering of masses of horses in places situated within a few yards of homes and schools is something which the people do not like.
This Bill will not, of course, affect the siting of slaughterhouses and I do not suggest that there is any evidence that the conduct of the slaughter men themselves in the slaughterhouses in West Ham is other than proper and in accordance with regulations. I do feel, however, that this Bill, which gives added powers of inspection—and I hope inspection without notice, because inspection with notice is futile indeed—and which will also 2077 result in more ample machinery for inspection, can do nothing but good. It is also useful that there are added penalties for infringements of the regulations governing horse slaughter.
It is a disturbing thought that in this present century there has probably been more deliberate, cold-blooded slaughtering of men and of horses than ever before in human history. I well remember the vivid impression made on me when I went on an official mission to Poland in 1946 with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross). One of the many tragedies which the Polish people had to face was that, as the German armies retreated, the Germans deliberately slaughtered all the horses they could not take with them. The result was that two-thirds of Poland's horses were destroyed. The same thing happened in many other countries. For military reasons in those days, this mass slaughtering went on. For digestive reasons in this country this mass slaughtering of horses has also been going on, on an enormous scale.
This Bill will not prevent the slaughtering of horses for human consumption, but if this slaughter must be allowed, then let it be done as humanely as possible. I believe that callousness towards animals often reflects itself in brutality towards human beings, and we in this House need not apologise to ourselves—and the people of Britain will certainly not want us to apologise to them—for spending time on this Bill this Friday morning.
§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
Representing, as I do, the capital of a county famous for its moorland ponies, many of which during the last few years have found their way to slaughterhouses prior to being consumed as food, I should like to add my congratulations to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), who introduced this Bill, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary), who seconded it.
One point which I found rather difficult to follow in the opening speech, was when the hon. Gentleman, who is not now in his place, referred to the very large drop in the number of horses today compared with before the war. We just have to accept that the horse has not 2078 such an important position in our economy now. It is not used on farms to anything like the pre-war extent, and I can see no point in the suggestion that we should try to build up the number of horses in case we should find supplies of petrol cut off in time of war. I think it is the redundancy, if one might call it so, of horses in agricultural and other work that has led to the great increase in slaughtering, because the fact that they had no other useful purpose made their owners, in many instances, prepared to hand them over to slaughterers for use for human consumption.
I believe that it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) who first referred to the horse anticipating something unpleasant about to happen to it when in a slaughterhouse. The Northumberland Committee, as most right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will recall, inquired into this and stated that it shared Professor Ottaway's view that the horse did not, in fact, anticipate that it was in danger and likely to suffer something unpleasant.
I must say that I share the views of the hon. Member for Barking and other hon. Gentlemen that the horse does anticipate that something very nasty is to be done to it in a very short time. I do not believe the opinion expressed in the Report, that horses are naturally nervous of any unusual circumstances in which they find themselves, is altogether correct. When on horseback I have been confronted with some very unusual situations, but I have not seen the same sort of fear that one sees in animals in slaughterhouses. We should persevere, during the next few years, to ensure that, in places where all animals—not horses only—are slaughtered, they are despatched in a place different from that in which they are to be cut up.
As the House will be aware, there are sales of ponies at certain times of the year at Dartmoor, Exmoor and, of course, in the New Forest and I am told by people who have attended sales—although I have not been to one myself for a great number of years—that some cruelty still attaches to some of these sales, particularly where unweaned foals are concerned. In the New Forest such foals will not be accepted for inclusion in the sales, but I should like to be satisfied that this practice will be completely prevented in 2079 future by a provision in the Bill that no foal under the age of four months shall be accepted by any slaughterhouse for human consumption. The practice of unweaned foals being taken from their mares and transported over large distances with little or no food before being killed would thus be prevented.
Clause 3 describes the types of instrument which can be used for horse slaughter, but I hope that in Committee it will be amended so as to prohibit the use of the rifle. Nobody who has seen a rifle used to destroy a horse can be anything but very chary of accepting it as the normal weapon for use in a slaughterhouse. It is extremely clumsy. The horse, if in pain or frightened, is inclined to move about as aim is being taken, and it is very easy to miss and to put the bullet through the poor animal's jaw, or knock its eye out, or something like that. I have never seen a horse shot by the technique used in the normal slaughterhouse where a weapon known as the captive bolt pistol is used, but I believe that to be the best weapon. It is easy to handle, and it is not so apparent to the animal that something is coming towards it as it is with a rifle.
I believe that Clause 6 is the most important in the Bill. Would it be possible to amend that Clause in Committee so as to give the police also the power to enter these slaughterhouses and knackers' yards? Of course, if the police suspect that the law has been broken, I presume that they can get a warrant to go into the premises. It would be a great advantage in country areas, where inspectors have long distances to go and the local policeman is usually looked upon as the friend and guide of everyone, if he could go into one of these places to ensure that the provisions of this Bill—which we hope will soon be law—are being carried out. I am very pleased that this Bill has been introduced, and I hope that we shall see it passed through all its stages before this Session of Parliament ends.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
I should like to add my word of congratulation to the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), who introduced this very valuable Bill. It will go a long way towards dealing with an evil which is of grave concern 2080 tohon. Members on both sides of the House. My own view is that it does not go far enough. If I criticise the Bill in any way, I am sure that if the hon. Member does me the honour of reading my few remarks he will appreciate that I am not finding fault with anything which is contained in the Bill.
I feel that certain things have been left out which might have been included. In any event, the question of cruelty arising from the slaughter of horses and other animals will not be satisfactorily dealt with until something is done to define the conditions governing their transport. I know that in the Report of the Northumberland Committee, inevitably, nothing was said about that question. It was the weakness of that Committee that it was excluded from its terms of reference.
A great deal has been said as to how much horses know, and whether they realise what is to happen to them. I have had a lifetime's experience with horses and I find it impossible to make up my mind one way or the other. Some horses undoubtedly know what is about to happen, but I am equally certain that others have no idea, and go straight into the slaughterhouse to be killed. It is impossible to be dogmatic on this question, but the fact is that some do know, and that is enough. I agree with what the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) said about horses knowing a great deal more than we suppose. I was interested in his illustration of the horse going round with the milk cart.
In Canada, a friend of mine sometimes used to have a little difficulty in finding his way home, for certain reasons, but his horse always brought him back. All that had to be done was to put him on the horse, and he arrived home in due course. I am sure that the hon. Member for Rotherham will appreciate that if horses know a good deal about working to rule with a milk float it is also possible that some of them, especially race horses, know much about going slow.
I do not want to detain the House for long. There are just three points I want to make, quite briefly. The first concerns Clause 2, which is too vague. I have no doubt that the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading has looked into this matter, but I wonder whether it would be possible to say something rather 2081 more definite about the construction of slaughterhouses and lairages, and not deal with the question entirely by regulations. That may not be possible but, without going into detail, certain minimum standards might well be set down.
My second point concerns Clause 5 (3). This thought was inspired in me by reading the article in yesterday's "Manchester Guardian." I agree with that article, and I hope that the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen will look into this matter. When a person is convicted of an offence under this Measure the Clause provides that the court may cancel his licence. I consider that the cancellation should be automatic.
My third point is the main one, and it has been made in one way or another by other hon. Members. Clause 6 (2) deals with inspection. I doubt whether its provisions provide adequate safeguards. Quite apart from the question that nothing is said about unlicensed and illicit slaughterhouses and knackers' yards, of which there are more than many people suppose, there seems to be a division of authority between local authority officials and the officers of the Ministry of Food.
I agree that veterinary surgeons are eminently suited to carry out inspections of slaughterhouses and to supervise the whole business, but I doubt whether local authorities will find enough of them to make adequate inspections of all the yards. They are very busy people, and it will be difficult to find enough who will be able to give anything like adequate time to the inspection and supervision of slaughterhouses. It would be better to leave the authority to deal with matters concerning public health, and to look after the slaughterhouses—as regards the disposal of the carcases and general cleanliness—as it has in the past, and appoint a number of full-time inspectors to work under the Minister and be responsible for the treatment of animals.
I do not think it is possible for sanitary inspectors and medical officers of health to supervise the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses adequately. We know that they are already very busy, and when the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill becomes law they will have even less time to attend to this matter. I think it would be better to appoint a number of full-time inspectors. Their duties should 2082 cover such matters as the inspection of the animal when it arrives at the place where it is to be killed; the supervision of unloading from the lorry, truck or train; certainly, its care and feeding while awaiting slaughter; and the actual leading to the place of slaughter, which is important. Brutality is sometimes involved in that. They should also be there to see the killing of the animal, and to make sure that its remains and its carcase are taken out of sight before the next animal comes in for slaughter.
The Northumberland Committee came to the conclusion that the work involved in doing this was not sufficient to justify the appointment of full time veterinary inspectors. I am not suggesting that a veterinary surgeon should be in charge of every slaughterhouse, but it should be possible, and it is certainly desirable, to have a corps of full-time inspectors, who would not necessarily be veterinary surgeons, but people with practical experience of horses—such as ex-cavalry men and retired farmers. They would do this job very well. I should have over them, in charge of a district, a qualified veterinary surgeon.
Nothing short of this will be effective. It is not very satisfactory to leave the matter so much in the hands of local authorities because, without finding fault with them, it is true to say that they have not been particularly successful in using their powers of supervision in the past. This Bill has my whole-hearted support, and I hope that the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen will find it possible, in its later stages, to strengthen it on the lines which I have ventured to suggest.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I rise for only a few minutes, first of all to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary) on introducing this Measure. It will be generally accepted that the protection of horses, which is the main object of this Bill, is something which should be very carefully provided for; and that such steps as are necessary to avoid suffering shall be taken in that regard as in others.
Contrary to what an hon. Gentleman opposite said, I think work done by societies that watch this kind of thing is 2083 of great value. I think the provisions of the Bill in the main will be welcomed by the country as a whole, and that the Bill will give satisfaction to people generally, since its purpose is to give effect to some of the reforms that have been suggested from time to time for the removal of abuses in the slaughter of horses and in the trade in horse flesh.
I am grateful—and I think I speak here on behalf of and reflecting the views of a section of the community, the Jewish people of this country—to my hon. Friend and others for having pointed out that there is no intention to interfere with provisions that were made in the Act of 1933 for the carrying on of ritual slaughter of animals by the Jewish community. Indeed, the tribute that was paid by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) to what is being done throughout the country in this regard to avoid any suffering to the animals that are slaughtered will be generally acceptable. That method was acknowledged as humane in 1933, when I had the privilege of serving on the Committee which was dealing with the Slaughter of Animals Bill, and when several other hon. Members visited the slaughterhouses to see it in operation. They were satisfied as well.
I have examined the Bill very carefully, and in my view there are some Clauses which will have to be watched and probably amended in Committee. I appreciate, in view of what we have heard, that they have crept in quite unwittingly, but I think that in some respects they open up the possibility of misunderstanding. For example, certain powers are given to the Minister to make regulations. We know the difficulties that occur with regard to delegated legislation. It is not so very easy to alter regulations once they are made.
I appreciate that the present Minister would not dream of making regulations that would interfere with this particular method of slaughter. Nevertheless, one can never tell what future Minister may try to utilise a possibility of that nature, without having to have direct recourse to Parliament. There is the question also of local authorities having the right, when granting licences, to make certain conditions. Possibly these conditions could be set aside in law, but it might be diffi- 2084 cult to set them aside. I am certain that no one in this House wants the Bill to be enacted eventually in such a form that these possibilities, remote though they may be, or otherwise, could arise.
I myself am anxious to see distress caused to animals stopped. We have read very serious reports about the cruel treatment of horses. I think the House is to be congratulated on the fact that the hon. Members who introduced the Bill have taken the opportunity of taking steps to remedy that wrong.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
I hope that the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) will forgive me if I do not follow him, except to say that I, too, was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) make his observations upon what is known as ritual slaughter. Many Jewish friends of mine have always been very worried indeed about the wrong impression that is given about this matter, sometimes, I regret to say, purposely for bad and base motives. I congratulate the right bon. Gentleman on his remarks on that score.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) pursued a line which I, too, want to follow. While fully supporting this Bill, I do not think it goes anywhere near far enough, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us that the Government will look into this matter, to deal with it on a more comprehensive basis. I would add my congratulations to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary) who followed him. It was impossible to listen to them without being very deeply moved.
I would make a somewhat paradoxical remark. On these occasions, particularly when we are dealing with cases of cruelty and callousness, it is the duty, in my humble submission, of every hon. Member to bring the limelight to bear on any individual case of cruelty of which he knows, but I feel, also, that there is a danger in that respect. I am sorry that 2085 my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. A, Price) is not in his place now, because I am quite sure he would agree with me that there is a danger that it may go out to the world that the House of Commons feels that the traditional kindness of the British people to their animals has now changed.
I am absolutely certain of this—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) will agree—that there is still an enormous majority of the people of this country who loathe and abhor every form of cruelty. The people who are carrying out this distasteful and, in many ways, most difficult occupation as slaughterers are men who are really genuinely trying to carry out their difficult task in the best way, and with the utmost of humanity.
Having said that, I want to address myself to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen. I do not think he need be unduly pessimistic about the growing number of horses being slaughtered, or about the number which will be slaughtered in the future. This growth in the number of horses slaughtered has developed largely as a result of rationing in the Second World War and the shortage of carcase meat since the war. Once we get our agriculture back to a proper basis and increase the slaughter of bovine animals, I think, and I sincerely hope, that the enormous slaughter of horses taking place today will progressively decline.
The hon. Member also struck a somewhat pessimistic note when he suggested that horses were going out of agriculture. Horses are still very largely used in my constituency and there are a number of farmers in that constituency who appreciate that while the horse is doing the job of ploughing or harrowing, or whatever it is, he is also, from the nature of things, enriching the soil.
The principal point which I want to make is that, in my opinion, this Bill does not go far enough. What is the good of doing everything we can for the animal during the last few hours or the last day or two days of its life when we still allow terrible cruelty to take place between the time when the animal is earmarked for slaughter and the time it is transferred to the place where it is to be killed? It is not only horses which are affected in this way. From time to 2086 time recently I have seen prosecutions for cruelty to sheep or cruelty to cattle, or other cases of cruelty, in transit.
I remember a case, I think at the Brighton Magistrates' Court, in which British Railways were prosecuted for cruelty to sheep. I am not trying to make any party point here, or to say anything for or against nationalisation; it does not matter whether it is British Railways or the shareholders of a private company. What good is done by fining a corporate body like that for cruelty? It seems to me that we should be able to extend this Bill or to introduce further legislation so as to see that such cruelty is so heavily punished that it does not occur in the future.
Considerable reference has been made to the Northumberland Report. As both the mover and seconder of the Motion said, this Bill is based on that Report. I want to make one or two comments on some of the deductions contained in the Report. They come under the heading of "The Evidence Summarised," on page 17. The first sub-heading isThe Slaughter of Horses in Slaughterhouses in England and Wales.May I underline the words, "England and Wales," because I shall return to that point in a moment. The Report reads, in paragraph 68:The evidence about the structure and conditions of premises used for the slaughter of horses in England and Wales indicated that most slaughterhouses were old, in a poor state of repair and generally unsuitable for the purpose for which they were used.The word "most" is a terrifying word, and I think it must be an overstatement. During the war—I think it was 1941 or 1942—an instructor at one of our commando schools in the North of England had the idea that he would make young soldiers more battle worthy by taking them into a slaughterhouse and showing them the shambles and the mess there. I believe that the matter was raised in the House and, as a result, that sordid practice was stopped. I should like to see our slaughterhouses so much improved that the Brigade of Guards could be marched through to see them as examples of spit and polish. When we have reached that state, and when all the shambles and the mess and the blood has been cleared away, we shall be able to say that this Bill, by then an Act of Parliament, is beginning to be a success.
2087 A question raised by many hon. Members, particularly by the hon. Member for Rotherham, was whether horses know what is to happen to them. Many years ago—I admit that it was many years ago—I was engaged in horse breeding, in the process of bringing horses into this world; and anyone who has been engaged in that work must, I feel, have a duty to see that when horses are dispatched it is done without any brutality whatever. The horse has for centuries been capable, through a small piece of steel in its mouth, not only of knowing the ability of the man on its back but also of knowing his character.
The horse immediately knows more than merely whether the man is capable of looking after it. We have only to put the worst rider in the world on the quietest horse to have a safe bet that in a short time the horse will be prancing all over the place and, shortly afterwards, will bolt. The horse knows a man's character. If it knows a man's character, simply through this piece of steel in its mouth, then it also knows the type of man with whom it is dealing when he takes hold of the rope.
We know what happens, often, with a thoroughbred horse in a racing stable. We find one stable-boy who is a decent sort of boy, the right type of young fellow; when he goes to the horse it is quite docile. Another young fellow may go in and do nothing at all, and yet within a few minutes the horse's hooves are kicking out. I do not know whether that always applies in the case of some of the sterner squadron sergeant-majors.
§ Mr. Gough
When I deal with the Bill itself I shall elaborate that point, but that is why it is essential, in our new slaughterhouses or our improved slaughterhouses, as far as possible to see that the horse has as little inkling as possible of what is to happen. I am certain that a horse can smell blood; its nostrils dilate and it is immediately frightened. The evidence of Professor Ottaway may have been scientific; he may have been able to find a certain amount of evidence from theoretical research. But, from practical evidence I am sure that at least some horses are very conscious indeed not only of what 2088 is to happen to them but of the character of the man, and the type of man, who is to carry out the slaughter.
This brings me to the next point—the importance of licensing slaughterhouses. I am glad to see that provision in the Bill. I said earlier that I underlined the words "England and Wales." In fact, there is another paragraph in the Northumberland Report—paragraph 85—which is headed,The Slaughter of Horses in Slaughterhouses in Scotland.I shall not read the entire paragraph; it says that premises and equipment need to be modernised, but on the whole it gives the impression that conditions in Scotland are not as bad as those in England.
If that is the case, I should like the House to consider Clause 5, which has not been referred to specifically in this debate. Clause 5 (1) deals with the penalties for infringements under the Bill in the United Kingdom. It says that any person guilty of an offence under the Bill isliable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.That is the case in England and Wales, but Clause 5 (4), which applies these provisions to Scotland, states that those found guilty will be liable toa fine not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both.When the Northumberland Report clearly states that the condition of slaughterhouses is, if anything, better in Scotland than in England and Wales it seems rather incredible to me that a rascal on the English side of the Border can only get a maximum of three months or a fine of £25 or both when a man north of the Border can be imprisoned for six months or fined £50 or be both fined and imprisoned up to those maxima. That seems paradoxical.
The conclusions and recommendations in paragraph 96 of the Northumberland Report refer to reports of the use of the electric pump. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Withington is in his place, because I was one of the Members who supported my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H.Williams) in remonstrating against the 2089 B.B.C. broadcast on that subject. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Withington, because throughout my constituency it was accepted by a very large number of people that this electric pump was being freely used throughout the country and I was taken to task in good round terms for having supported my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East. I am glad that it has now been placed on record, though it was already on record in the Northumberland Report, that this horrible electric pump is not being used at all, as far as anybody knows.
I should like to have a little more information about the Bill itself. Although I appreciate the fact that under Clause 2 the Minister may make regulations, I should like to have something more explicit inserted in the Bill during the Committee stage to prescribe the lowest possible denominator of room for slaughtering. In other words, there should be some method of defining the keeping of horses so that they shall be unaware that they are about to be slaughtered.
Clause 3 (1, b) deals with the types of instruments which may be used for slaughtering or stunning. Many years ago I had a good deal to do with the slaughter of horses. We were miles and miles from any veterinary surgeon and we had to carry out the slaughter. In the early days I experienced the awful business of doing it with a pistol. It is one of the most horrifying and nauseating jobs that can be done, especially when one knows the horse and one has ridden it for some years. I had a little experience some time ago of the use of the captive bolt pistol. I understand that it really does the job properly and expeditiously.
It is clear from the provisions of the Bill that when it becomes an Act it will not apply to Northern Ireland. As hon. Members have said, the whole of this matter of the slaughter of horses was brought to light as a result of the articles in the "Manchester Guardian." Those articles were principally directed against the traffic in horses from Southern Ireland. That traffic comes to this country very largely when the horses are in transit when, after suffering terrible privations in many cases, they are taken to the Continent of Europe where they are dis- 2090 patched and where we have no control over them.
In many other cases the horses are only taken as far as Northern Ireland and are dispatched there. I do not see, therefore, why this Bill should exclude Northern Ireland. There may be a good reason for it of which I am not aware. I do not see any representative of Northern Ireland in the House at the moment, but I am quite sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent Northern Ireland constituencies would be the first to welcome the extension of the Bill to Northern Ireland. As I have said, it was the document on the traffic in Irish horses that, more than anything else, made the operation of this Bill necessary.
I support the Bill, but I feel seriously that it does not go nearly far enough. I am very concerned indeed about the feelings of the animal, and particularly the horse, because I am sure that, far too often, horses know what is coming to them. If, as is too often the case, the slaughterhouse is badly organised and in a terrible condition there can be very serious cruelty to the horse before it is dispatched.
I ask the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen to consider whether it will not be possible to put in the Bill clearer definitions to ensure that horses are segregated as far as possible from the final despatching pen. I hope, also, that the case of Northern Ireland will be reconsidered. I cannot understand why these territorial distinctions are made, why Northern Ireland is excluded from the Bill and why in Scotland which, according to the Northumberland Report, has a better record than England and Wales, the penalties for exactly the same offence under this Bill are twice as severe.
§ Mr. Gough
I am very grateful to the hon. Member. He was not in his place when I made the point earlier, but I am glad that I made it and that I placed it on record because as a result the Northern Ireland Parliament may be induced to think in similar terms and to do what we are doing today.
2091 I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen and the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington on moving and seconding the Motion to give this Bill a Second Reading. I hope that the Bill will reach the Statute Book and I wish it every possible success.
§ 1.40 p.m.
§ Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)
I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) on his luck and wisdom in bringing this Measure before the House. I ought to say at the beginning that I represent one of the large trade unions interested in this business and that we welcome the Bill. I have been through many slaughterhouses and I know that the testimony given here today about conditions of slaughtering and the actual operation and conditions of the men concerned leave much to be desired. Therefore, we of the trade union movement welcome this step.
I wish to point to the immensity of the task, which is described in figures issued by the Ministry of Labour for 1951 when the following were slaughtered in slaughterhouses: cattle, 1,864,000; calves, 1,188,000; sheep and lambs, nearly 5¼ million; pigs 1¾ million. During that year about 54,000 horses were slaughtered, half of which were for human consumption. That is the background. We have all heard of conditions under which slaughtering is done, and on both sides of the House we realise that steps must be taken in this matter. I think this Bill takes us in the direction we want to go.
However, I want to support some of the contentions made by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), who pointed out that the Bill does not go far enough. In particular, I am concerned with the first three Clauses. I think there should have been something more definite in the Bill about the building and layout of slaughterhouses and conditions in which slaughtering has to be done. I certainly think there should be something more specific about the conditions of the slaughter men with reference to lavatories, washing facilities, protective clothing and the like. Whilst this is not in the Bill, I hope that in Committee my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading will remember these points and that they will receive attention.
2092 I commend the Bill to the House, and I hope that it will get a Second Reading and that in Committee we shall improve the matters of which I have spoken.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
As one who has been interested all my life in horses and who still likes to ride them—although hon. Members may be sorry for them—I welcome the opportunity of saying a word or two in hearty support of the Bill and of the mover and seconder on the Motion for its Second Reading. I am sure that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will prove of benefit to the horse.
I have the honour of having been President of the British Horse Society and also of being connected with various breed societies. It seems particularly appropriate, Mr. Speaker, that you should being the Chair on the day of this discussion for, although I do not remember seeing you actually partaking in the sport over the fences in your youth, I know that you have been interested in horses all your life. The horse still plays a very important part, not only in agriculture—particularly on the hilly lands—but also in certain weather when it can be the only sure means of transport. When the going is very bad, it can still beat various mechanical means of transport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) regretted that the Bill did not include Northern Ireland, but I think I am right in saying that on these matters we are not empowered to legislate for Northern Ireland and it is omitted for that reason. No doubt when people there have read the words of wisdom spoken in this House, they may see fit to consider the position in that country. The great point about the Bill is that it lays down minimum standards for lairages and conditions in slaughter-houses.
The Northumberland Committee was a comprehensive body of men who were sound and knowledgeable in their various walks of life. We owe them considerable thanks for the trouble they took and for the very considerable travel they undertook in order to produce the Report the findings of which have resulted in the makings of this Bill.
The electric pump has been mentioned, but, so far as I understand, a false impression has been gained by some mem- 2093 bers of the public with regard to its use. I deplore the use of the electric pump, but I think my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham will agree that the B.B.C. discussion on this matter may have led people up the garden path and into thinking that it was used widely. Although an impression is abroad that in unfortunate cases it may have been used, it is a very rare occurrence. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree with my hon. Friend that it would be a great pity if people in other countries thought there was any cruelty to the horse here. As my hon. Friend said, we all regard it as a cherished possession of those who work with, who know and who handle horses.
§ Mr. Gough
My hon. Friend said there had been a few cases of the use of the electric pump. I wish to draw his attention to the Report of the Northumberland Committee, which says:We have made the most diligent inquiries both in committee and of individuals but have found no evidence of the use of an electric pump…I think that should be made clear.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am very glad that my wording has been corrected on that point. I was trying to make clear that a false impression had been given to the public and that, as regards the evidence given to and the inquiries made by, the Northumberland Committee, the case was not as some members of the public thought.
I wish to refer to a point in Clause 9 of the Bill in which it is said thatthe Minister means the Minister of Food.We are very glad to have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food here to take part in the debate. It might be thought that the Minister of Food—although in the present individual instance he may have intimate knowledge of live horses—might not be the best possible person to examine a live horse to see that all was right and that there were proper conditions for slaughtering. No doubt that matter will be discussed in Committee. Without any disrespect to the Minister of Food or his Parliamentary Secretary, my view is that a veterinary surgeon of the Ministry of Agriculture would be a more appropriate person to see that a horse was properly fed, watered and looked after and in a proper 2094 condition because those dealing with the food aspect of it are apt to be concerned with it when it is no longer alive.
I do not wish to take up more of the time of the House, except to say that I welcome very much the opportunity to give my full support to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), if I may so describe him on this occasion.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I intervene, I hope only briefly, to join the general chorus of congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) for the public-spirited work he has done in seizing his opportunity, on being successful in the Ballot, to introduce such valuable legislation, which would not have reached the House with such speed had it been left to the Government of the day to introduce. I should like also to congratulate the Duke of Northumberland's Committee and its secretary, Mr. Hopkins on, on its Report. It is, as has been said, because of the workmanlike manner in which the Committee approached the problem that it has been possible to implement its Report without difficulty.
Also, I should like to say—this is the second time this week, I must be careful—a few kindly words about the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. I regret I can speak kindly of him only on matters of animal welfare. I only wish he would treat his fellow citizens with equal compassion. It is clear—I say this in spite of the deep respect I have for the drafting ability of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen—that he has received, as he said, every help, advice and assistance from the Department, and we can anticipate the Parliamentary Secretary saying that the Bill will receive his encouragement and support. It is clear that that has already happened.
Last Session, when we discussed a Bill dealing with the slaughter of animals, my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Frietas) and I referred to "Animal Farm." We said that although we supported the Bill, we were a little critical of Napoleon and his colleagues at "Animal Farm." There is no criticism in any quarter of "Boxer." We remem- 2095 ber that "Boxer" ended his life at the horse slaughterer's. I am sure it is a very good thing that not only "Napoleon" but that fine character, "Boxer," is being catered for in this Bill. We can also be proud that, in the tradition of "Boxer," this Bill is not only in the interests of horses but deals with the slaughter of animals generally.
There is one thing I should like to make quite clear; it has been mentioned in the debate today. I wish to make it clear because it means that the effectiveness of the Bill will be much more appreciated. The Northumberland Committee did not expose any cases of cruelty. In fact the Committee said that, so far as its inquiries went, the allegations which had led to its being set up were largely unfounded. I mention that because it means that if this Bill becomes legislation and is effectively implemented, the public can rest assured that our slaughterhouses will be in proper condition and as humane as it is possible to make them.
What the Northumberland Committee exposed was the unsatisfactory conditions in those slaughterhouses. It also showed, as I think we shall find when later in the Session we discuss clean food, that what is necessary is to establish definite standards. If those standards are recognised, we can rely on the people operating the slaughterhouses to conform to them. Very often the cruelty, where it exists, is because the standards are not recognised. Once the standards are pointed out, I am certain that the men who are doing the job, apart from the exceptions that occur everywhere, will do their best to conform to the standards.
One of the very good things in the Bill is the establishing of a status for the slaughter man, which will lead, I believe, to a general acceptance of the standards which the Ministry of Food, over the past years, has been gradually introducing—I hope there has been no deterioration, I have no reason to suspect it—in the slaughterhouses of our country and making a considerable improvement. The Bill is very largely giving legislative form to the endeavours and practices of the Ministry of Food and ensuring that they apply to all slaughterhouses.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to say, if he can, that it is the 2096 intention of the Government to implement fully the recommendations of the Northumberland Committee generally so far as they are capable of implementation through regulations; or, if that is not to be the case, to give us an opportunity now of knowing what the Government think are not capable of implementation. I mention that because it will give the Parliamentary Secretary an opportunity to provide us with an effective background to our discussions when the Bill goes to Committee.
By and large, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen can claim to have implemented, by this Bill, the recommendations of the Northumberland Committee. He is not seeking to do everything, but when one considers the Committee's recommendations one realises, on second thought, that some of the recommendations would not be helpful if precisely implemented.
I have read the Report with care, and I think that a very thorough effort has been made Wholly to implement it. In some regards, however, it is obviously left to regulations to implement the specific recommendations. It would be helpful if the Parliamentary Secretary could indicate whether there are any of the recommendations which we might expect to be implemented by regulations which, for reasons that he can give us, he thinks ought not at present to be implemented.
Having dealt with the recommendations generally, I now wish to mention one or two of them which it is clearly not sought to implement by the Bill, again so that we may have the opportunity of the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary and of my hon. Friend who is to wind up the debate on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen. The first is that the Northumberland Committee felt that the grant of a licence for new horse slaughtering premises should be subject to Ministerial confirmation. I can anticipate reasons why that recommendation should not be followed, but it would be helpful if the Parliamentary Secretary could give us his views about it.
Again, there is the question of the automatic revocation of a licence following conviction. That is a recommendation which does not commend itself to me, because when such a provision is made there is often a flouting of the law 2097 by courts which feel that if they convict the sentence will be too heavy in view of the circumstances.
Another recommendation which is not followed enheartens me. The Ministry of Agriculture is kept out and the Ministry of Food is kept in. That is right in principle, because it is better, as the hon. Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary) has clearly pointed out to the House, to have a single Minister responsible. It is far better from the point of view of knowing who is responsible and who to approach in order to get things done and put right.
I am very heartened that it is the Minister of Food and not the Minister of Agriculture. I hope that means that the Government are thinking again about the future of the Ministry of Food and that they are realising that that Ministry, after all, even under a Conservative Administration, can serve a very useful purpose. Within the Ministry of Food there has been built up over the past years a well-qualified expert personnel, equipped to deal with all questions of food hygiene and allied matters. I for one am glad, therefore, that the Ministry of Food should be the responsible Ministry. These are the main recommendations.
I could touch on other matters of detail where the recommendations do not appear to have been implemented. I am not criticising that. I think the Bill is strengthened because these matters have been reconsidered and I hope that if in Committee points of view are put forward strengthening the Bill, my hon. Friend, with the assistance of the Parliamentary Secretary and of the Government, will support them. I will mention only one. I appreciate the technical reasons for the difference in the penalties in England and Scotland. It is a question of multiplicity of offences. But, generally speaking, I do not think that the penalties are high enough.
I do not like—no one likes—to ask for increased penalties, but this is a matter on which the public conscience is very much alive. If it is the general view of the Committee—I am speaking only personally—I hope that the penalties will be revised. The fact that Measures of this sort come before the House as Private Members' Bills every year shows 2098 that, in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), there is a lively public interest in this matter. The penalties, although they are increased, should, I think, be increased still further, I will say no more now because these are matters which can be more fully discussed in Committee, when I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to extend his benevolence still further.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) is right in his anticipation that this Bill has the full support of Her Majesty's Government and will receive every possible facility. It is my pleasure to express our appreciation to the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) who took advantage of the opportunity provided by his success in the Ballot to promote this Bill. I confess that it has made it possible for legislative action, giving expression to recommendations contained in the Northumberland Committee's Report, to be taken earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
I would also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary) whose initiative, 18 months ago, in putting Questions to the Prime Minister paved the way for the creation of the Northumberland Committee. I join in the expression of thanks to the Committee for their work but we must put first the efforts of the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen, whose work made this Second Reading possible.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North asked to what extent the recommendations of the Northumberland Committee had been accepted in this Bill. Perhaps it would be simpler to state to what extent they have not found expression here. The hon. Member himself referred to one, that there should be ministerial authority for the opening of new premises. It is thought that some central control of the opening of new slaughterhouses will be an essential part of the new policy of moderate concentration, and that the same end may be secured in a different way when we come to take any legislative or other step necessary as part of that policy.
2099 The hon. Member referred to the fact that the recommendation regarding the automatic revocation of licence had not been accepted. With that I agree, and I notice a nod of approval from the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). Reference has been made to another recommendation of the Committee, that the services of veterinary officers—I think they are called veterinary superintendents—of the Ministry of Agriculture should be utilised for the purpose of inspection. It will be recalled that the essential part of the Prime Minister's reply, about 18 months ago, was the need for the concentration of responsibility in one Minister. The Minister of Food was selected and I think it follows, therefore, that this recommendation cannot be accepted.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) mentioned veterinary officers. As I see it. the reference to veterinary officers of local authorities as new officers for this purpose is to remedy a defect in the 1933 Act which left them out, and my reply refers to the central responsibility for inspection by central officers. One other recommendation has not been referred to today. It is that the slaughter of horses should take place in the field and not in the knacker's yard. For reasons which may be elaborated later that recommendation was not accepted. For the rest, they have been accepted and expressed either in the Clauses of the Bill or will be expressed in the regulations yet to be made.
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) drew attention to the limiting character of the First Schedule. It seemed a fair reading of what appears here that the matters to be dealt with by regulation under Section 2 related only to horses. I am glad to assure the hon. Member that is not the case. Particular emphasis is laid on horses to make it plain that this was giving expression to the recommendation of the Northumberland Committee. If the hon. Member will consult Section 2 he will find there is power to make regulations governing the slaughter of all animals.
I wish to make only one other point which has not been brought out today. This is a slaughter of animals Bill. Although the publicity and investigations have concentrated on horse slaughter this Bill will make an important change in 2100 regard to the slaughter of animals generally. The 1933 Act gave no protection to sheep and lambs unless the local authority passed a resolution to include them. Goats and kids were not included unless there was a specific resolution to that effect.
The effect of Clause 4 of the Bill is to make a common standard for all animals slaughtered within the slaughterhouse or knacker's yard. I add those qualifying words because hon. Members will recall a recent Bill dealing with pigs promoted by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) which was passed into law. That governed the slaughtering conditions outside and inside the slaughterhouse as well. The opportunity has been taken by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen not only to give expression to recommendations contained in the Northumberland Committee Report, but to make a substantial change in the conditions relating to the slaughter of animals generally.
It is natural on such occasions as this for hon. Members to say "Cannot we do more?" But I think it well for us to realise that very considerable progress has been made by this Bill. There may not be consolidation, but there is the creation of a common standard for all animals involved. I want not only to thank the hon. Member most sincerely, but to offer him all the co-operation we can give him. As a token of that the necessary steps will be taken to put down the Money Resolution before the Committee stage begins. I hope, and I have no doubt, that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading today.
§ Mr. E. Johnson
I should like my hon. Friend to clear up one point. He referred to it not being possible to accept the recommendation about slaughtering horses in the field. What will happen in the case of a horse which breaks a leg on a racecourse or which is damaged out hunting, or what will happen even to one's own horse which one wants put down by a veterinary surgeon?
§ 2.11 p.m.
§ Captain M. Hewitson (Hull, Central)
I should like to take up the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), which was also referred to by an hon. Gentleman opposite, about the slaughter of horses for the Jewish community. There are suggestions in the Bill which counteract the1933 Act. I hope that one of my hon. Friends will be able to assure the House that in Committee appropriate words will be introduced in Clause 3 (1) to give assurances to that community that their rights will be safeguarded.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) on bringing forward this Measure. Those of us who are countrymen have a strong regard for the horse. In the countryside the horse and the dog are the two companions of man. When we hear of the harrowing experiences of some of these animals, our dumb friends, it makes us wish that the penalties for ill-treatment were somewhere in keeping with some of the more severe penalties in the criminal law for bodily assault by one person of another.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. A. Price), who condemned the voluntary organisations which make the welfare of dumb animals one of their main activities. He created the impression, although another hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head—
§ Mr. H. A. Price
It was not the hon. Member for Lewisham, West—myself—who said that, but my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams).
§ Captain Hewitson
I apologise. It was the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams),who is not in his place. If he were in his place, he would probably have been on his feet by now. I see that he is beyond the Bar of the House. I hope that he will listen from there. The hon. Gentleman cast a smirch on these organisations which spend a lot of time, patience and effort in the safeguarding of dumb animals. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the thousands of people who spend their time on committees, raising funds and so on, are all wrong; that they do not know what they are doing and, to put it in ordinary 2102 factory language, that they are a bit "puggled" when they do these things? They are usually men and women of high moral standards prepared to make every effort and to contribute financially to further these objectives.
Professor Ottaway said that the horses did not really know what was going to happen. They were merely going into strange surroundings and did not know what was about to happen. Apart from a slight fear, there was nothing of any consequence. Those who know horses know that they have feelings. We saw horses in the First World War within the sight of other wounded horses. They worked themselves into wholesale panic. Anyone who has seen a horse in what we call a black sweat knows that the fear is there. If one looks closely at the horse in the slaughterhouse, in most cases one sees that it is in a black sweat. That demonstrates that the horse has knowledge of what is about to happen.
I am pleased to note that the Bill proposes that the slaughtering pens must be separate from the cutting and hanging pens. But when one sees the inside of the slaughterhouse with the blood flowing across the floor and carcases hanging, one realises that a partition could mean a piece of brattice cloth. The sides of a hanging pen could be made of cloth separating the carcases from that section of the slaughterhouse in which the animal was to be killed. I hope that we can tighten up this provision during the Committee stage and that some of these difficulties will be tackled in a practical manner.
I am sure that the sponsors of the Bill will do everything possible to accept some of the practical suggestions to try to strengthen the Measure. It has been said by some that they would like a Bill with more in it, a Measure which went further and incorporated other legislation. I know my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen and his humility in most things. He promotes the Bill with sincerity and in the hope that it will increase the protection given to some of our dumb friends.
There is one animal—[Interruption.] I suggest to some of my hon. Friend that they should not be impatient. I am a countryman and it is unknown for me to hurry. I have never been known to hurry.
§ Captain Hewitson
We can talk on that subject on another occasion, and, if the right hon. Gentleman requires any advice on greyhounds at any time, he will know where to apply for it.
There is one animal which has not been mentioned in this Bill, and that is the donkey. It is surprising that we have not talked about donkeys, when we know that there is a traffic at the present time in importing donkeys from Ireland for slaughter. What happens to them? I am informed that, when one buys escallop of veal in some cities and in some parts of the country, one is having sliced donkey, and I am also informed that a large part of that meat goes into so-called pork sausages. On another occasion, perhaps, it would be interesting to put down a Question to the Minister of Food to ask how much slaughtered donkey is sold in restaurants as escallop of veal, and what proportion of these imported donkeys goes into the so-called pork sausages; but that, again, would be a question for another occasion.
It is suggested that inspectors of the Ministry of Food should inspect these slaughterhouses under the moderate concentration of slaughtering, a scheme for which is being drawn up at the present time. We can see the development, in the future of slaughtering, of a scheme that will place the control absolutely in the hands of the Ministry, and, while at first blush one would think that we should have the Ministry of Agriculture veterinary inspectors to inspect these slaughterhouses, on second thoughts it will be found to be much better to keep that inspection in the hands of the Ministry of Food, so that the whole question of inspection and examination is controlled by one unit.
We are told that we have 409 knackers' yards in England and Wales, and another 21 in Scotland, making a total of 430, and that there are 70 slaughterhouses, which brings the total of establishments to be inspected up to about 500. Under the Factories Acts, a factory inspector has an average allocation of 500 benches, and it would not be too much to suggest to the Minister of Food that, when they have produced their scheme of moderate concentration, they might appoint a small 2104 number of inspectors whose duty it would be to inspect these slaughterhouses, because, with the qualifications which these officers would have, many of the safeguards for which we are now asking would be provided.
In conclusion, I should like again to congratulate my hon. Friend who introduced this Measure, and the hon. Member who seconded the Motion, as well as to welcome the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. We all hope that this Bill will go through all its stages quickly and be passed into law at a very early date.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Colonel Ralph Clarke (East Grinstead)
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, Central (Captain Hewitson) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks very closely, but I should like to say how much I appreciate his very sympathetic attitude to this question. I thought that when he began his speech by saying that, in the country, the horse was regarded as one of the family, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had the same feeling about the matter as I had, and I was pleased that he developed this speech in the same sympathetic vein.
When the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking he called attention to the fact that slaughter in the field, as recommended in the Northumberland Report, had not been accepted. I hope that that point will be reconsidered, because I believe it is really a mistake, and that, from the point of view of horses, will make the Bill much less popular than it might otherwise be with a large number of people. After all, I am speaking now of horses that are slaughtered not for food, but because they have broken down, been injured or something of that kind, and which are not likely to recover, and the sort of case in which they have to be destroyed as a kindness.
They are mostly horses belonging to private owners and riders which have had good homes, but there may, of course, be farm horses as well. At any rate, they are horses which have been treated with affection, and whose owners wish to spare them any unnecessary pain, mentally or physically, because I believe that horses can know about these things. It certainly seems to me that it is infinitely kinder to have a veterinary surgeon destroy a 2105 horse in the field than to have it collected by a knacker's cart and taken to his yard while still alive. I was disappointed to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary that there appeared to be an attitude of resistance to any suggestion of that kind.
I should also like to comment on one other remark by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison), who thought that this Bill would possibly be better sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture than by the Ministry of Food. Later in the debate, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) suggested the opposite view, because he felt that the provisions about the slaughter of horses appertained more to the Ministry of Food because of the expert knowledge which it possessed. I think there is much to be said for both views. I think that both Ministers should be involved, if that is possible, and I am strengthened in that belief because I do not know for how long we are to have a Ministry of Food.
When I first read the Bill and saw that the Minister to be responsible is the Minister of Food, I wondered what would happen when the Ministry of Food has been abolished, which, I understand, from what I read in the newspapers, will not be so very far off.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) and the hon. Baronet the Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary) must be very pleased with the reception that the Bill has had. They have little need to worry. The debate has shown the concern there is on this matter both inside and outside this House. The lively concern shown here today faithfully reflects the wide public feeling. More than that, the determination so recently exhibited in the Northumberland Report showed that something must be done about the matter.
There has been emphasis on publicity. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary made it clear that this matter goes very much wider, and that the Bill is in many ways an Animals' Charter. There has been some constructive criticism which I am sure the promoters will have welcomed, and if it takes the form of Amendments to be considered in Committee the Bill may be made even better. 2106 We have for the first time a national code in the matter of the construction and inspection of slaughterhouses, and I am glad that we are seeking power to regulate the actual lairage which may be far away from the slaughterhouse out of sight, and little interest be taken in it. This is one of the very good points in the Bill. We cannot hope to get speedy progress in this matter unless we get what in many cases is wanted, new and better slaughterhouses. In the meantime we shall have to make do with what we have, although the conditions can be considerably improved.
I am surprised that we have not heard more reference, and a little congratulation, to Scotland, because of the fine record we have in the control of slaughterhouses. In Scotland there are about 88 slaughterhouses, of which 86 are under the control of the local authorities. Therefore, we have ready power of inspection and control. In those general slaughterhouses, not one horse is slaughtered. There are only four slaughterhouses in Scotland where horses are slaughtered. They are at Lornhead, Edinburgh, Denny and Kilsyth in Stirlingshire and Glasgow. The position is that meat inspection in Scotland does not come under the Ministry of Food but under the Secretary of State for Scotland. He has laid down that the slaughtering of horses for human consumption must be done in a licensed slaughterhouse. The four slaughterhouses are licensed and under control.
We have a two-tier system of control in Scotland. The Parliamentary Secretary has given considerable time to the study of the Bill, and he will confirm that there is a detention officer, a layman with considerable veterinary knowledge and a veterinary officer, meaning that there is access by a veterinary surgeon to every slaughterhouse in Scotland, and not just occasionally. In carrying out his duties, he has more or less always to be there. From that point of view, it is easy to understand why the position in Scotland is better than in the rest of the country.
I am very glad that in this consolidating Measure we shall bring the law of England and Wales into line with the law of Scotland. Reference has been made to the Act of 1933, which was proposed in this House by the hon. Member 2107 for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), who is my own representative in this House. Five years before that, in 1928, he put forward another Measure calling attention to this problem. I differ from the hon. Member for Ayr in many ways, but I must pay my respects to him for the work he has done in connection with the matter we are now discussing.
Having listened with great interest to the hon. Member's speech, may I ask him whether he will say why the penalties in Scotland are twice as much as they are in England?
§ Mr. Ross
That is a simple legal matter. In England we may charge a man with only one offence at a time, and fine him 10s. In Scotland we can charge a man with a number of offences, on each of which he may be fined 10s., making the total penalty greater.
For the first time, even in Scotland, we are to have a national code about slaughterhouses, which are at the present time governed by local byelaws which vary from place to place. If we are to get proper control, we must have this national code and the ability to prescribe minimum standards of decency for the treatment of animals prior to slaughter. It is good that a Minister is to be responsible to the House for the carrying out of the regulations. Reference has been made to the fact that regulations are not actually in the Bill, but those who have been objecting on this point are going a wee bit far. There is a limit to what can be put into a Bill. The regulations will have come before the House, so the position is reasonably satisfactory.
In dealing with the licensing of slaughterhouses, the Bill goes greatly in advance of the present practice. Once again we are applying to England and Wales what we have in Scotland. The licence will be for one year, for an area covered by the local authority. I agree 2108 with the Parliamentary Secretary about not giving power automatically to cut off a licence. There should be reasonable scope for a person who is being charged, and it is far better to leave the power permissive to remove a licence rather than make it automatic. Clause 4 gives a comprehensive cover of all animals, and not just the horses. Control of humane slaughtering is something that we have lacked for a long time.
Much of the effectiveness of the Measure will depend upon the Ministers concerned. The House can be assured that regulations will come forward. Afterwards, it will depend upon the local authorities and the inspectors to see that they are carried out. Judging by the speed with which the Bill has gone through and the way in which the Government embraced it, we can be reasonably satisfied that public opinion on this matter is going to be met. This is the result of long years of work by sincere and devoted people, and I am perfectly sure that, in giving this Bill a unanimous Second Reading today, we shall be meeting the problem in a typical and traditional way, in a sense of decency and of rightness which the people of this country expect.
Finally, I want to say that in my view no Bill could be more fitting to end a Burns week. Burns himself, when considering the question of a mouse which he had startled, was able to say:I'm truly sorry man's dominionHas broken Nature's social union,An' justifies that ill opinion which makes thee startleAt me, thy poor earth-born companion,An' fellow-mortal!That range of understanding and sympathy is in many ways the understanding and sympathy which we today are showing in bringing forward this Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.