HC Deb 07 May 1954 vol 527 cc750-60
Mr. Moyle

I beg to move, in page 8, line 31, column 2, at the end, to insert: (c) in subsection (4) for the words "as, to any similar licence" there shall be sub stituted the words "as to any licence in respect of a slaughterhouse or knacker's, yard"; (d) in subsection (5) after the words "grant or renew a licence under this section" there- shall be inserted the words "or to grant a licence expressly authorising the use of the premises in question for or in connection with the slaughter of horses, or to renew a licence with such an authorisation as aforesaid"; (e) in subsection (6) for the words from "A person aggrieved" to "under this section" there shall be substituted the words "A person aggrieved by any such refusal of a local authority as is mentioned in the last foregoing subsection. In section ninety the following words shall 'be added at the end of subsection (1): — The reference in this subsection to refusing a licence includes, in the case of a licence under section fifty-seven of this Act, a reference to refusing to grant or renew a licence with such an authorisation as is mentioned in subsection (5) of that section. This Amendment is due directly to the provisions, to which I referred when discussing the first Amendment, for specifying clearly the legal rights of any aggrieved person to resort to the courts against any decision on the part of a local authority in refusing a licence.

Mr. Ross

I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In line 44, column 2, at end, insert: (whether or not it also authorises him to slaughter or stun other animals).

In line 45, column 2, after "force," insert "only."— [Mr. Moyle.]

Mr. Moyle

I beg to move, in page 10, column 3, to leave out lines 21 to 23.

The Amendment is designed to provide that the prevention of cruelty to animals must 'be a matter for regulations and not, as at present, bye-laws.

Mr. Ross

I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: in line 31, column 3, at end, insert: In section sixty, in paragraph (a) of subsection (2), the words ' and for preventing -cruelty therein'."— [Mr. Moyle. ]

12.54 p.m.

Mr. Moyle

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

In moving the Third Reading of the Bill, I know that I may claim your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, in making acknowledgements for the help I have received during the consideration of the Bill. I should like to refer, first, to the hon. Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary), who has taken a keen interest in the Bill and was its seconder. I regret that illness has prevented the hon. Member's attendance today, a fact which we all deeply regret. I sincerely hope that he will soon be restored to good health and back at the House. He was good enough to send me a telegram with his best wishes for the success of 'the Bill today.

I should like also to acknowledge the excellent work that has been done by the Ministry of Food, and to refer especially to Mr. W. J. B. Hopkinson, a Principal, and Parliamentary Counsel, and also to the Parliamentary Secretary. During my association with the hon. Gentleman since I selected the Bill, I have found him most enthusiastic and co-operative. This has done much to efface from my memory those less fragrant memories when he bloomed and boomed as "The Radio Doctor."

I should like also to refer to Sir George Cockerill, the President of the International League for the Protection of Horses, who has been most helpful to me and whose judgment, particularly on the welfare of horses, has been of great value. I should further like to express thinks to my two colleagues the hon. Members for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey).

It gives me great pleasure to reach the Third Reading of this important Bill. It has been subjected to various Amendments, but taking it as a whole I think that, on balance, it is now a better Bill than on Second Reading. For this reason, I am grateful to my colleagues, on both sides of the House, who have rendered every encouragement and co-operation in seeking to get the Bill on to the Statute Book, including, notwithstanding his speech this morning, the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon).

The Bill provides for two things: first, that regulations shall be laid down by the Minister to ensure humane and decent conditions of accommodation and slaughter for all animals to be slaughtered; and second, that for the first time the slaughterhouse-keeper and the slaughterman have to render public accountability for their actions in the slaughtering of animals. No person will be able to engage in this work without a licence.

What is more important, is the strengthening of the inspectorate, not only the inspectorate of the local authorities, which has been reinforced by the power that the Bill confers upon them to appoint a veterinary surgeon, but the appointment of a central inspectorate by the Ministry of Food. From the assurances that I have received from the Minister. I can inform the House that every effort will be made, in co-operation with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, to ensure that the inspectorate will be both competent and effective to enforce the provisions of the Bill.

Secondly, I refer to the slaughtermen. As I said on the occasion of the Second Reading debate, the conditions under which slaughtermen work in the slaughter of horses appal me as much as, if not more than, what I experienced in the actual slaughtering of the animals. I am glad that I have been able to make some contribution to the welfare of slaughtermen by making the conditions of their work subject to licence.

I sincerely hope, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary will share that hope, that the Food and Drugs Bill, which is now under consideration, may reach the Statute Book before the summer Recess so that the welfare conditions which I have discussed with the Departments may be put, as it were, on the legal Scoreboard, and that for the first time proper welfare conditions will govern their work—welfare, not merely for the sake of hygiene but for the sake of humanity as well.

May I point out that the Bill does not deal with the horses that are transported from another country to this, nor indeed does it deal with horses in transport here. As I tried to say, it deals entirely with the slaughter of animals, ensuring two things—decent conditions for them while they await slaughter, and that only the most humane instruments of slaughter and methods of slaughter known to science may be used in the slaughter of animals.

I am conscious, as we have reached the Third Reading, of the many people up and down the country—I suppose many hundreds of them—who have written to me to wish me well. I am grateful for their good wishes. When the Bill goes to another place, I am satisfied that the noble Lord who will pilot the Measure through the other place on my behalf will bring his great experience and good judgment to bear for the good of the Bill. I sincerely hope that when the Bill reaches the Statute Book all our hopes, and our faith in the Measure, and those of the people in the country who have expressed their faith in, and good wishes for, what we have sought to do, will be fully justified.

1.3 p.m.

Mr. Ross

I beg to second the Motion.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) takes an active interest in the subject of the next Bill down for consideration today. If he does not, I suggest that the sooner he starts to do so, the better. This is the second time in the past few years on which he has had his name drawn early in the Ballot and has been enabled to move a Private Member's Bill. I believe that in the past two weeks he has twice been fortunate in the Ballot for the Adjournment.

He seems to be a lucky man. Good luck can, however, be squandered, but my hon. Friend has chosen well in using his Parliamentary good luck on this occasion to introduce this Bill, which for the first time makes possible a national code to cover the subject and seeks to perfect humane conditions not only in slaughterhouses but also places where horses, tucked away out of sight of the public altogether, may be awaiting slaughter.

From time to time this nation has been shocked with exposures of really cruel conditions in relation to this matter. The public is quick to think and act but very often public outcry is spent on impassioned letters to editors, some frank exposing articles and denunciatory speeches, and the work of carrying on the campaign is left to a persistent few or a society such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. On this occasion my hon. Friend has taken the opportunity of introducing a Bill to bring to fruition the work of the Northumberland Committee and of all those people interested in the matter. My hon. Friend is to be congratulated upon the way he has handled the subject.

The Bill is by no means perfect; in fact, the meat of it really lies in the regulations. That is why I agree that it was an important point that the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) raised, although I am very glad that he saw fit, in the end, to withdraw that Amendment. If the Bill is really to achieve the object that we all seek, it will depend, first, on the Minister in making these regulations, and, secondly, on the local authorities in carrying them out. I am sure from what we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, that he certainly has this subject very much at heart. I am also perfectly sure that the local authorities, now empowered to act, will not fail in their duties.

Once again, I express my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen, and I trust that we shall see the Bill very quickly on the Statute Book.

1.7 p.m.

Sir T. Moore

Horses everywhere, and all those who care for them, will owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), who sponsored the Bill. Also, as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, the public conscience, which has been very troubled over this matter of slaughter, will be greatly eased as a result of the efforts of the promoter of the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman omitted to pay proper tribute to the Duke of Northumberland, who was mentioned by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. But for the Northumberland Committee and the wise recommendations which it made on this subject, and the anxiety of the House to see that they were implemented, we might perhaps still be somewhat shocked at some of the conditions described by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I should like to reinforce what the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen said about our old colleague, Sir George Cockerill. It has been his life work to see this Bill on the Statute Book.

The Bill is limited. As we know, it does not deal with the transport of horses, but there are already Regulations in force which, if properly implemented, should cover that point. This Bill deals with a somewhat limited subject but one which has caused the people of this country a great deal of unnecessary anxiety, which the Bill will remove.

There are three points that need special attention and which will help the effectiveness of the Measure. One is, of course, the licensing. I imagine that when the fruitful results of the Government's decision to deration meat come into being, there will have to be a large increase in the number of slaughterhouses. Before the war there were 16,000; now there are about 600. I cannot imagine that there will not be a great necessity for a big additional number. It is very important that when those slaughterhouses come into being they should be properly licensed and should conform to the requirements laid down in the Bill.

The second thing which I think is very important again concerns the regulations. May I express my appreciation to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) for his courtesy and good will towards the Bill in withdrawing his Amendment. I am sure that his fears were right, but I feel they will prove to be entirely unjustified. I certainly hope so. This applies also to the lairage, and it is important that Regulations be issued regarding that. The sense of smell of animals is even more sensitive than that of humans. The mere smell of blood is sufficient to cause a preliminary fear which is almost as great as that of the actual act of slaughter.

It is no use licensing premises unless the men who use them are also licensed, and I applaud the decision to include a provision for the general licensing of sluaghtermen. It takes some time for a man to acquire the skill to slaughter, especially with the many new developments in humane killing, and it is wise that a man should not be allowed to take on this responsible duty unless he is properly equipped to do so.

I would refer finally to the power of entry. We in Scotland were ahead of England in this respect, but this Bill, while it does not go so far as the Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act, 1928, contains a list of those local authority representatives and other officials who have that power. I think, therefore, that we can rely on them to make certain that the conditions laid down are observed. I commend the Bill to the House and thank the hon. Gentleman for introducing it, and so skilfully and tactfully directing it to its present stage.

1.12 p.m.

Mr. F. Willey

I wish to support the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) whose interest in these matters is appre- ciated throughout the country. In thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Old-bury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) for the great public service he has performed in promoting this Bill and piloting it through the House, may I say that he has done so with great persuasiveness? I think that it is a credit to all of us that, regardless of party, we have combined to expedite the passage of this Measure.

I wish also to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food and his Department, who, I know, welcome this Bill. As I have repeatedly said, the Ministry of Food is as anxious as anyone to ensure that the conditions in which animals are slaughtered in this country are as humane as possible. I am at present endeavouring to draft a few Amendments to a similar Bill and, with apologies to the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), I wish to voice my appreciation to the Parliamentary draftsmen for assisting my hon. Friend to make sure that this Bill expressed his intentions.

The Bill is opportune at this moment, as it is being considered contemporaneously with the Slaughterhouse Bill and with the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill. When these three Measures become law, we shall have made very good progress in ensuring that slaughtering conditions are as humane as possible. I welcome the assurance of the Minister; given a few days ago, that the Government will do all they can to endorse a policy of moderate concentration of slaughterhouses as soon as they obtain the report of the inter-departmental committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen and his "Parliamentary private secretary," my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), have performed a real public service. I hope that everyone, including the local authorities, will co-operate to ensure that the provisions of this Bill are carried out.

1.15 p.m.

Dr. Hill

May I join with the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey)—indeed the opportunity is too good to be missed—in commending the initiative and industry of the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle). The hon. Gentleman has been generous in his tributes. A good deal of work has been done in my Department, but it has been a pleasure to co-operate with someone who has thrown himself so energetically into the prosecution of his task.,

The House may take it that when this Bill arrives on the Statute Book, my right hon. Friend will do his utmost to give full, proper and energetic effect to its purposes. The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen had his opportunity, and he took it. Speaking for the Government, I wish warmly to congratulate him on what he has done and on the way in which he has done it.

1.16 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I should like to welcome this Bill which I feel is particularly timely, because it deals with those horses which are not so fortunate as to be killed in the Grand National. On a question of this kind, one has almost to consider whether one-is being sorry for oneself or for the animals. Where four horses at the height of their power and fitness are killed in front of a great crowd, they die very quickly. The circumstances surrounding their death are similar to those which many of us would choose—and certainly my father chose—as being the sort of death to be preferred above all others; though we are horrified because it happens before our eyes. But we forget about the things which do not happen in our presence—the gin trap, for example; the most horrible and deliberate spreading of rabbit disease; and what happens in slaughterhouses.

We do not think of the fate of those other horses on the racecourse whose death we do not see. A very few of them go to stud, but the vast majority will find their way to the slaughterhouses. That will be a far less happy fate for them than breaking their leg during the full excitement and enjoyment of what they are doing. Nature does not provide beds for its denizens. Ordinarily, indeed universally, their fate is either death by violence where they are eaten by their enemies, or death by starvation when they become too weak to survive. When we domesticate animals and make them our friends and servants, we have an opportunity to mitigate the cruelties of nature.

This Act depends upon the regulations that will be made, and if they are administered properly we can mitigate the natural cruelty suffered by those who are our friends and servants. For many such animals death in these slaughterhouses is the normal, if not the universal, fate as it is for those horses which serve us and which race for our enjoyment.

1.20 p.m.

Mr. Simon

Although I came into these proceedings at a late stage, I should not like the occasion to go by without taking the opportunity to add my voice to the congratulations which have been showered so rightly upon the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) for his conduct of this Bill, and upon those who supported him in piloting it through the House. I say that especially in view of the very courteous, although negative, way in which he dealt with my Amendment today. I still regard it as unfortunate that he should have entered into a conspiracy with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) to flout the strictest constitutional proprieties. But it is perhaps a slight blemish on an otherwise admirable Bill; and I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen most sincerely.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.