HC Deb 20 March 1957 vol 567 cc461-512

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

7.13 p.m.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me at an early stage. I represent the constituency in which is situated the Technical Headquarters of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, the promoters of the Bill. It is fitting that I should, therefore, commend to the House the merits of the Bill which the promoters have, unfortunately, been obliged to present.

Let me say frankly to my hon. Friends and to hon. Gentlemen opposite that I recognise that there is almost universal opposition in this House to the Bill. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) in his place, because he is in this up to the neck. I say with equal frankness that had it not been that I represent the constituency which has a particular interest in the Bill I should have been in the position in which the great majority of hon. Members are. I should have got the circulars about the Bill and I should have taken counsel with my hon. Friends. I should have said, "What's all this about?" and I should have heard from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) that I should be very ill-advised to associate myself with the Bill. Taking it by and large, and with a cursory scrutiny of the evidence, I would have let it go at that, and I would not have touched it.

However, when an hon. Member is invited to take an interest in a matter which has a constituency interest for him he brings to bear a degree of scrupulous scrutiny rather more than he might do if he had no particular interest. My position was that I was invited to consider the merits of the Bill from that point of view, and I did so. Having done so I really must say to the House that I have come to the conclusion, despite the superficial and specious attractiveness of the case against the Bill, that I feel obliged to ask the House to consider very seriously indeed whether hon. Members are not making a great mistake in voting against the Bill, whether the state of affairs which I propose to reveal to the House does not constitute a serious injustice and whether the House would not be very well-advised to give the Bill a Second Reading.

I hope that the House will give me indulgence in deploying what I have come to recognise, over the past week in which I have been studying it, is a very strong case indeed. I may assist the House best if I start by retailing the course of events that has led up to the impasse out of which this Bill tries to find a way.

It all starts with the period after the war preceding the introduction into this House of the Veterinary Surgeons Bill, 1947.

Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)


Mr. Iremonger

The Bill was introduced in 1947. We have to go back to that period. The interested parties, the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, were then considering the problems raised by the Bill. The objects of the Bill were to put the veterinary surgery profession on a proper footing, largely because it was considered to be in the interests of agriculture to have the benefit of a highly-qualified profession of the highest standard, and to put an end to unqualified veterinary practice.

I want to make it clear, and I hope that the House will forgive me if I reiterate it from time to time, that the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals absolutely supports the principles of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948, and that its whole policy is based upon acceptance of those principles. I hope that the "Vets' Lobby", if I may so call it, will recognise that, and that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus and others who jealously guard the rights and qualifications of the veterinary profession, will take it as established that the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals is not a blackleg organisation which tries to get round the provisions of the Act. Its whole policy is based upon the Act. It went into negotiation on the 1947 Bill with that policy firmly in mind.

At the same time it found itself in a certain difficulty. I want to explain what that difficulty was. The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals was faced with the duty of carrying on the work which it had been doing for thirty years of caring for the sick animals of the poor. It was established as a charity. At this stage perhaps I may digress for a moment to ask the House to join me in commending the work which has been carried out by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals and to recognise and to register approval of certain features of that society.

One would want to commend its work in the care, not only for small animals but for that class of animals for which it uniquely caters, the draught animals of the poor—the costermonger's donkey, the pony which draws the cart for the scrap metal merchant, who is the backbone of the steel industry, and the horses of the gipsies. After all, why should not they be properly cared for? These working animals have a special need of care and attention and cannot be cared for and protected so adequately in any other way.

The Society treats very nearly 1 million cases every year. It caters for this very large number of animals and maintains throughout the country, in every area of the United Kingdom, eighty-one dispensaries, which are open twenty-four hours a day for the service of people who call upon it. Apart from that, as everyone knows, these dispensaries are places to which people have recourse—old people who keep pets to comfort them in their old age and young children, with parents who are not well off, who take their pets there to have them looked after and kept in good health. It is right and proper that we should pay respect and regard to that function. I feel that children should be trained at a very early age to look after something or somebody else. The best means of providing that training is by teaching a child to look after an animal. That tends to produce in the people of this nation the character which I think is particularly representative of the British nature.

The Society does all this as a statutory charity and it does it only for people who do not and cannot afford the services of a qualified veterinary practitioner. I want especially to emphasise that. It is sometimes suggested that people go to the P.D.S.A. and get free treatment for their animals when they might well go to a vet and pay a proper fee, but I have satisfied myself by personal inspection of the headquarters in my constituency—to which I paid a visit when there was no special preparation made for me at all and the dispensary was functioning in its normal way—that very special and proper precautions are taken to see that people do not take advantage of the charitable nature of this organisation. I found in the surgery the register which people who come for treatment for their animals are asked to sign. It has the heading: Veterinary Surgeons' Act, 1948 and then the words: I, the undersigned, hereby declare that I am unable to afford private professional service and that my animal is not or has not recently been in the care of another practitioner. I hope, therefore, hon. Members will not think that there is a desire on the part of the P.D.S.A. to poach on the province of the veterinary profession. On the contrary, in the waiting room of the dispensary, there is displayed this notice, which I hold in my hand. It points out that people are not entitled to go there for treatment of their animals if they can afford the treatment fees of a vet and the notice gives prominently the names and addresses of two nearby veterinary surgeons, to whom people who visit the P.D.S.A. should go if they can afford to pay a fee. I hope the House will recognise that and that we shall not have the suggestion made in any way that the P.D.S.A. is taking the bread out of the mouth of the qualified practitioner.

We should also recognise—I hope the House will have this in mind during the remarks I shall have to make later—that the P.D.S.A. is a quite unique institution with forty years' experience of dealing charitably with the sick animals of the poor, that probably the Society knows best how to manage its own affairs, and in its wisdom makes an essential feature of the organisation the maintaining of an open house, round the clock, dispensing. An important point to which I should like the general assent of the House, is that if the Society sees fit to arrange its affairs in that way then that is how it should arrange them—not in any other way.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Is the hon. Member suggesting, therefore, that the Society has more experience than the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has eighty-nine clinics and which was founded and started in 1824?

Mr. Iremonger

I am suggesting that forty years' experience in treating the animals of the poor in these special circumstances is enough to make us take with a proper degree of humility the opinion of the P.D.S.A. as to what is the proper way to run its own business. Others may differ, but I feel we should accept that the P.D.S.A. has a right to its opinion on that matter based on forty years' experience. No doubt others would say that it should run on a part-time basis, but I do not accept that. I ask the House to accept that the Society has been doing this for a long time for a good reason.

I have outlined the nature of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals and want now to explain against that background the particular difficulty which the P.D.S.A. found itself in when negotiating with the Ministry and other interested parties at the time of the introduction of the Veterinary Surgeons Bill in 1947 and in considering the various provisions which should be made in the interim period before that Measure was catering for a fully-established veterinary profession. The whole organisation of the P.D.S.A. is based upon a grade of officer who is constantly in attendance at the various dispensaries and who has been trained—I will develop that point later —by the Society to carry out minor surgery and medical treatment for animals.

It was apparent from the very beginning that these people, vital to the P.D.S.A. organisation, were to be prohibited from carrying on their professional practice by the terms of the Act. The P.D.S.A. accepts the principles of the Act and its intention is that it shall employ 100 per cent. qualified vets., and nobody else, as soon as it can; but it was recognised universally that there would be a transitional period during which it would be necessary to make some provision for P.D.S.A. to employ these people upon whom the whole organisation was based. The Government recognised this difficulty and various solutions were proposed. Among the solutions put forward at that time was what I will call the part-time solution. It was that the Society should employ the services part-time of qualified practitioners and back those services by unqualified lay practitioners who would in fact have no entitlement to perform any surgery or to prescribe medical treatment.

It is of vital importance to the argument which I hope the House will follow and accept that we should get it straight from now that at the time when the Bill was being negotiated this part-time principle was categorically refused by the Ministry.

Mr, Thomas Williams (Don Valley)

That is not so.

Mr. Iremonger

The right hon. Member for Don Valley says that is not ture. I should be glad to let him have what I will call the Ministerial pronouncement of 26th November, 1947, which I have in my hand. It is a note of a meeting with representatives of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals at 99, Gresham Street. No doubt the right hon. Member will recognise that address. That meeting was held on Wednesday, 26th November, 1947, when there were present, for the Ministry, three officials and, for the College and the P.D.S.A. their own representatives. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to study this paper he will see that it is absolute proof that at that stage the part-time principle was discussed and was dismissed by the Ministry as being objectionable. I know they have forgotten about it since; that is the whole point. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Don Valley has been so conveniently helpful as to tell me that he has forgotten about it, too.

I am glad that my hon. Friend is sending his Parliamentary Private Secretary to chase this matter up; I know that he has forgotten about it and I doubt whether he can find it, but I have not forgotten about it and I should be only too glad to let him see this copy. It is a very important point, and I say to my hon. Friend, with all good will, "Please do not come any of this anti part-time stuff with me now, because it is damned out of your own mouth." I do not want to inconvenience his Parliamentary Private Secretary, and there is no reason that he should not take this document from me now. I am not a tainted source. This is the actual document, and I will place it down here in a convenient no man's land; and I will ask the Minister to bend his mind to this paper and to see whether he can get any other interpretation out of it. I have tried and I could not do so. Now that my hon. Friend has the paper, I hope that he will not be distracted from what I am saying by studying it, because what I have to say is important and I want him to understand it fully.

I come now to another cardinal point of my case, which is that, having rejected the part-time solution, the eventual solution adopted was that the full-time dispensary workers who were so important to the P.D.S.A. should be licensed to carry out work which they were carrying out at the time.

Dr. Stross rose——

Mr. Iremonger

I will gladly give way to the hon. Member if I may first conclude this short stage in my argument. I am saying that the eventual solution decided upon was that these people should be licensed. I have a licence in my hand. It provides that they should be entitled without fear of prosecution to give medical treatment or for the relief of pain to perform superficial operations which do not involve amputation of a limb or incision into the body cavities or incision into or removal of any organ. That is the licence which was eventually decided upon as the solution.

Dr. Stross

I should be very happy if the hon. Gentleman would help me fully to understand his argument. We are all interested in this matter or we should not be listening to his most interesting speech. Is it his case that the Society will not accept part-time service by veterinary surgeons now because the Ministry, as it alleges, did not like the idea of part-time work in 1947 or 1948? Of is it his argument that the Society itself, irrespective of what the Ministry thought then or may think now, does not like part-time work? Lastly—and this is the important point —assuming that the hon. Member is mistaken and that the Society is mistaken about the view held by the Ministry then, or assuming that the Ministry has now changed its mind or has changed it for some years, would that alter the hon. Member's view?

Mr. Iremonger

No, that would not alter my view. The point which the hon. Member raised is absolutely fair and it is desirable that the questions which he asked should be answered. I have incorporated the answers to them in the course of my remarks. I will deal with the points fully. I must deal with the part-time issue, which is quite crucial, and I think the hon. Member will find that in the course of my remarks I will answer those three points specifically. If I do not, I hope he will clarify this issue. I do not want to dodge it. Indeed, I am most anxious to deal with it exhaustively, but it would not be as convenient to deal with it now as to do so a little later.

I have informed the House that the solution to the difficulty was that these licences should be issued to tide over the transitional period. The issue of these licences was eventually governed by what became Section 7 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act. That is the Section under which all the trouble has arisen. I want to make the point to the Minister—and I hope he will not gainsay me on this—that the insertion of Clause 7 into the Bill was the condition of its unopposed passage through the House. It was inserted in order to solve this admitted difficulty, which, had it not been solved, would have been an objection to the Bill. In putting in Clause 7 and in agreeing to operate it fairly he gained the wholehearted support of the P.D.S.A. I therefore think that it is doubly imperative that he should bend his mind to satisfying himself that he is operating it satisfactorily and fairly. I am afraid that I shall have to raise doubts on that question with the House.

We should note that Section 7 provides that Where … the Minister … is satisfied"— this is most important— that the society … cannot obtain the services of an adequate number of veterinary surgeons"— it says nothing about part-time— the Minister may, if he thinks fit, grant a licence … We have got to the licensing system, and I would ask the House to notice what are the characteristics of the licensing system which the Minister has to operate. At this stage I ought to put on record a letter from the right hon. Member for Don Valley, dated 18th December. 1947, addressed to Lord Amwell, in which occurs an important passage which we should take into account in judging the way in which the Section has been, is being and should be administered. The right hon. Gentleman said this, and my hon. Friend is bound by it: The intention would be that as and when the supply"— nothing to do with part-time supply— of veterinary surgeons improves the number of licences would be reduced"— that is admitted, and the object of the Society is that we should reduce them— due regard being had to any extension of the Society's work to poor districts not already covered. The Minister could not have said more plainly, "We will give you the licences which you need as long as you cannot get these services"—I maintain that he meant only full-time services—"not only to maintain your present organisation but as necessary to expand it." If it would be convenient I could supply a copy of that document, too.

The other point about the licensing system which I think the House ought to take into account is that these licencees were not just casual strangers employed on the spur of the moment by the P.D.S.A. They were fully trained people.

In case anybody has any doubts about it, I have here the curriculum for the training of these people whom the Minister undertook to licence in order to tide the Society over the shortage of veterinary surgeons. Here is the list of the educational staff. There are four permanent staff lecturers, the first of whom is an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and holder of the Diploma of Veterinary Hygiene. The visiting lecturers are two in number—a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, and a Bachelor of Medicine.

To put this curriculum into effect there is a four-year course, in the first year of which the following subjects are covered: anatomy and physiology; first aid; humane destruction; diagnosis and therapeutics; dietetics, hygiene, animal husbandry, histology and homoeopathy. In the second year, the same subjects are covered, with the addition of pharmacy —and so on for the four years of the course.

The time spent on these subjects—and I read them out in the order in which they occur—is as follows: 120, 30, 30, 60, 30, 30, 60, 60, and 24 hours. That is hardly a casual or sketchy arrangement. These are the people whom the P.D.S.A. has, for lack of better material, been training to look after the sick animals of the poor; these are the people whom the Minister promised to licence, and these are the people who are still needed.

At the time of the passage of the Bill through the House it was doubted whether this licensing system would be operated in a reasonable spirit. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore)—whom I am sorry to have seen has just left his place—quite rightly spotted a flaw in the Bill. In Standing Committee A, which considered the Bill, he asked the then Parliamentary Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper, how we were to know whether the Minister was properly satisfied as to whether there were adequate supplies of veterinary surgeons.

I will tell the House what happened. During the Committee stage, my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr moved an Amendment to Clause 7. I shall not weary the House with what it was, because it was just a method of getting clarification and assurance on this very point. This is what my hon. Friend said: It merely means that we would like the Minister to state some definite terms when he considers that qualified veterinary surgeons are available or not. That is exactly the situation in which we are today, and the answer which my hon. Friend got I propose to refer to in the subsequent course of my remarks as the "Belper Declaration," as this was said 'by the right hon. Member for Belper who was then the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry. On behalf of the Government, he said: I hope the hon. and gallant Member will be satisfied with the assurance that we will he reasonable about this, … Earlier the right hon. Gentleman had said: There is no intention of refusing to issue any veterinary licences unless, in fact, the Minister is satisfied that there are an adequate number of veterinary surgeons available for the societies to employ."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A. 24th June. 1948; c. 1482.] I repeat—"employ." There was nothing about their being employed on a part-time basis, or about an adequate number of part-time surgeons. Therefore, when the difficulty which has arisen now was foreseen in 1948 and the Government were challenged with it, they said "Don't worry about that, we'll play fair." It was a gentleman's agreement. It suffered the disadvantage of all gentleman's agreements, that one needs two gentlemen——

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Augus)


Mr. Iremonger

My hon. and gallant Friend says "really", but when he has heard what is to come he will really blush for what has been done in the name of successive Ministers. I am not blaming them. They forget these things. We have already seen one right hon. Gentleman who has forgotten, but the way in which the "Belper Declaration" has been carried out has been little short of scandalous.

Right from the very beginning, as soon as licences were applied for, far from being reasonable the attitude of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has been procrastinating, and obstinate to the point of sheer cussedness.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

A Government Department.

Mr. Iremonger

The hon. Gentleman says "Government Department". I do not know whether that is a query or a clarification, but it is a Government Department for which right hon. and hon. Members are responsible to this House, and for which we as Members are responsible. I am not satisfied with what has happened, and that is why I am on my hind legs now inviting the hon. Gentleman——

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

The hon. Gentleman will not get support by taking this attitude.

Mr. Iremonger

As the hon. Member has already put down his name to the Amendment against the Second Reading, I think that my chance of winning his support is a long one in any event.

I am accusing the Ministry of having administered this Section with an un-reasonableness and an obstinacy amounting to cussedness, and I would not say so unless I was prepared to substantiate my words, which I will now proceed to do.

Matters had run for two years, and this was the state of affairs that prevailed in 1950. I have here a copy of the memorandum submitted by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals following a meeting with representatives of the Ministry and of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on 30th October, 1950, In this memorandum, the Dispensary says: The Council of the P.D.S.A. are strongly of the opinion that an independent public enquiry should be established, with evidence to be taken on oath, the terms of reference to embrace the subject of the employment of veterinary surgeons by animal welfare societies, investigations of methods carried out by the profession and societies in respect of employment, the availability of veterinary surgeons, and when and in what way Section 7 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act should become effective. In fact, for two years there had been so little co-operation and reasonableness that the People's Dispensary was calling for a public inquiry. It was quite obvious that something was wrong, because an inquiry was granted. Therefore, I cannot be so very wrong in claiming that all was not as reasonable as the "Belper Declaration" had led us to hope. The Minister's attitude to the public inquiry was, I think, rather revealing. It was stated through the Chairman of the Committee that met subsequently to consider that memorandum: The Chairman said that he doubted whether the Minister would agree to setting up such an inquiry as envisaged … What was the objection? What inquiry was it that the Minister objected to? He objected to a public inquiry. He wanted a private inquiry. That, in fact, is what he got, and as a result of this representation by the People's Dispensary an inquiry was instituted. A Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East, and it subsequently reported. These were its terms of reference: To examine and advise me upon the problems raised by applications for licences under Section 7"— and so forth; I do not think I need read the rest. The interesting thing is that this private Departmental Committee was set up by the Minister who was not prepared to have a public inquiry. Having seen what happened, I have come to the conclusion that the Minister did not want a public inquiry because if he had said to a public inquiry, "Advise me," it might have taken him too literally. When he said that the terms of reference were To advise me upon the problems he knew that when he arranged to have as Chairman of the Committee his hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East, who subsequently became Parliamentary Secretary of his own Department, his hon. Friend would understand that the advice he wanted on the problem was advice on how to get out of his obligations under the Act.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)

Will my hon. Friend allow me to intervene? He is making very serious allegations, and I think that, in fairness, he should tell the House exactly who were the members of the Committee and something about the things which the Committee eventually reported upon.

Mr. Iremonger

My hon. Friend is anticipating. I hope he does not assume that I am dismissing the Committee in my introductory remarks. I have hardly begun; I have many a rod in pickle for him. My hon. Friend says that I should say who were the members of the Committee. He anticipates me by a short head, because I was about to read out the constitution of the Committee. The Chairman was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derbyshire, South-East. Other members of the Committee were Sir Robert Hyde, Mr. Roche Lynch. Professor Medawar, and Mr. Claud Mullins. It is generally referred to as the Champion Committee. Some people think that is because of the name of the hon. Gentleman who presided, and others think it is because it championed the cause of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The Committee actually sat and considered this problem, and came up with the desired result. It provided the then Minister with a very good way of getting out of granting any more licences. My own view is that the Committee was mesmerised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and that the conclusions it came to were mistaken and grossly unfair to the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. Furthermore, in implementing the decisions of this Committee, successive Governments have done less than justice to the Society. I will go on to show what I mean.

The Champion Committee made, broadly speaking—I hope the House will accept this as being for the purposes of our argument a fair summary—three recommendations, which I now wish to examine in turn. First, it recommended that the Society should employ part-time veterinary surgeons supervising lay officers. The hoary old chestnut about part-time surgeons was brought up again. Next, it recommended that the Society should, and implied that the Society, if it wanted to, could, employ more— indeed, enough—whole-time veterinary surgeons. Thirdly, it made certain recommendations in paragraph 77 of its Report, with which I will deal.

The suggestion about part-time veterinary surgeons was meant to enable the Society to carry on its work without the help of the licensees whom it had trained and wanted to license. I want to say categorically that the part-time principle is totally unacceptable to the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals as an alternative to licensees or whole-time veterinary surgeons. It is perfectly legitimate for anybody to dissent from that view, but that is the view of the Society. I object to the Minister, whoever he may be, advancing this as a valid argument, because I maintain that he is damned out of his own mouth, having said it was unacceptable previously. An hon. Member says, "Quite rightly". He may have changed his mind since, because he had forgotten all about it. But all the same, it is quite legitimate. If he has changed his mind, we shall be interested to hear, and hear it with regret.

The second and main objection I have to the part-time principle is this. The whole organisation and structure of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals is based upon maintaining a 24-hour service at dispensaries. To the merits of that service we have in this House already paid tribute, and it would be deplorable if, through failure to carry out the administrative provisions of a Section in the Act which was accepted and implemented in good faith, we should oblige the Society entirely to reverse its policy and reverse the method of organisation in carrying out its duties which it has decided, over forty years, is the one best suited to its purpose.

I am perfectly well aware that what I say is open to objection. I myself frankly say, having considered the matter, that I do not accept that the Minister ought now to turn round and say that he is in favour of the part-time principle; and, whether he is in favour of it or not. I do not consider it right that the P.D.S.A. should have it rammed down its neck whether it likes it or not. The position of the Society is quite simple. For its organisation to continue, it must have an adequate supply of licensees or an adequate supply of full-time veterinary surgeons. The latter is the position, of course, to which it is working and that is what it wants to do.

I now address myself to the second and most important point made by the Champion Committee, which was that the Society ought to employ full-time veterinary surgeons. The question really is, is there or is there not an adequate supply of veterinary surgeons for the Society to employ whole-time? One can apply various tests. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr said that it would be very difficult to decide. We must try to decide it. It is vitally important to the matter we are arguing in the House tonight. Are there enough veterinary surgeons for whole-time work or not?

I propose to call in evidence my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. On 17th May, 1956, he was being pressed to urge local authorities to use the services of veterinary surgeons in inspecting meat in slaughterhouses. This is the exchange which took place. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Sir F. Medlicott) said: Is my right hon. Friend aware that many local authorities would very warmly welcome any assistance that can he given to them by veterinary surgeons? The Minister's reply, which gives me the evidence on the point, was: I agree with my hon. Friend on that, and he will agree with me that there is at present a shortage of veterinary surgeons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May. 1956; Vol. 552, c. 2197.] If, when it comes to inspecting the meat of the people there is a shortage of veterinary officers, there surely cannot be an adequate supply when it conies to meeting the obligations under Section 7 of the Act.

We do not expect from right hon. Members on the Treasury Bench in this House the kind of double standard that we have come to expect from President Eisenhower in the matter of Israel and Egypt. We expect that if there is a shortage one day, there will not be an adequate supply when it suits him on another day.

Do not let us merely accept the words of the Minister; they may have been inadvertent or used in another sense or he may not have wished them to be taken in this way, and I do not want to take an unfair advantage; but I think that we might put it in the scale and put something else in the scale, too. Let us put the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the scale and see, when it comes to proving, if proof there can be, whether there is an adequate supply of veterinary surgeons for the P.D.S.A. to employ whole-time? What do they say? This is from the minutes of the third meeting of the joint consultative committee of the College of the British Veterinary Association and the P.D.S.A., held at the House of Commons under the chairmanship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper. I will read to the House paragraph 3 of the minutes.

Captain Duncan

On what date?

Mr. Iremonger

It was on 17th February, 1955. I am grateful to be reminded about the date because the date is crucial. It is a recent date. Paragraph 3 of the minutes states: In reply to a request by the R.C.V.S. representatives for information concerning salary scales and terms and conditions of employment of veterinary surgeons, the P.D.S.A. representatives said that it had already been agreed that the P.D.S.A. did not intend to start below the Ministry's minimum scale. The commencing figure was £575 which, after three or six months' probationary service, became £600, and then there were three annual increments of £25, after which it was a matter of arrangement. These were the terms being offered by the P.D.S.A.

At that meeting the representative of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons was Professor W. G. Wright. I now continue to quote from the minutes. The next sentence is: Professor Wright accepted these terms on behalf of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. So if we are to use the salary test for determinine whether or not there is an adequate supply of veterinary surgeons, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has gone on record as having said that the P.D.S.A. was paying enough at the time of that meeting, and since then it has raised its scale by 8½ per cent.

Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)

What does that prove?

Mr. Iremonger

The hon. Gentleman anticipates me. I was about to say what that proved.

What we are getting at is whether there is an adequate supply and we are trying to find some measure for an adequate supply. I am suggestng that one of the methods of testing whether there is an adequate supply is whether we can get people for an agreed fair salary. I think that the hon. Gentleman will follow my point.

Mr. Hynd

I understand that that is what the hon. Member is trying to prove, but I could not see that his argument was going in that direction. The hon. Member is being so prolix in his arguments that I am finding it very difficult to focus on one argument.

Mr. Iremonger

The argument is perfectly simple. The crucial point is whether there is an adequate supply and I am saying that the Minister said, "There is not an adequate supply." I am also saying that now that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has proved that there is not an adequate supply, as well as the Minister, because it is agreed that the salaries offered by the P.D.S.A. were fair salaries and the P.D.S.A. still cannot get veterinary surgeons to take on the work at those fair salaries. I think that if we cannot get anything on the market at an agreed fair price it is one way of defining a shortage.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

Would the hon. Member tell the House that from the year 1948, when the Bill was put upon the Statute Book, to the year 1953 the number of qualified veterinary surgeons increased by 800 and now stands at over 4,000, so there is no inadequacy there?

Mr. Iremonger

What the hon. Gentleman says may be true so far as it goes; but it is a fact that if there are 4,000 or 4 million veterinary surgeons or loaves of bread put into the market that does not mean that there is not a shortage. The shortage is determined by how far that supply meets the demand and that is determined by how far the fair price offered will command the supply. Here it does not.

Dr. Stross

Is not there another possible explanation? May I put it to the hon. Member in this way? Is not it possible that veterinary surgeons when they qualify and after qualification are not at all certain in their minds that their work with this particular society would really extend them sufficiently to make it worth their while to offer themselves and that they might prefer work which really extends their knowledge and gives them fuller and more real experience? That may be the case.

Mr. Iremonger

That may well be the case, but if so it is a very serious position indeed because it means that nothing will ever stop this rot. I think that it is accepted on all sides that the solution is that the P.D.S.A. should and will eventually be able to employ whole-time veterinary surgeons at a fair salary. If it cannot, that is a totally different problem and a very much greater and more serious one.

The point that I am making is this. It is no use saying to a man in Germany, for example, in the runaway inflation of the 20's, that if he pays enough he can get a loaf of bread, and saying to him, "You have only to pay 1 million marks; there is no shortage." The fact is that there is a shortage because he has not the 1 million marks to pay for it. I put it to my hon. Friend that there is a shortage in this case. There is not an adequate supply and in giving way to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons he is acceding to an attempt to exploit on behalf of the veterinary profession a shortage and to gain for its members inflated salaries which cannot be afforded by a charity which has the duty of treating free the sick animals of the poor.

I think that is a totally unacceptable position. It is from that difficulty that this Bill which is now before the House tries to extricate the Minister. It removes from him the difficulty of deciding whether he should grant these licences. It recognises that he is in the grip of a kind of Dick Turpin with a policeman's helmet and a parson's collar in the shape of the Royal College, who is saying to him, "There is an adequate supply if you pay an inflated price", and I think that he ought to say no to that, but he cannot say no to it. Let us get him out of that difficulty by this Bill, which provides in Clause 3 that the society should represent to the Minister that it cannot claim the services of an adequate number of veterinary surgeons and that the Minister shall then either grant them licences or submit the question to an independent inquiry. I do not see why the Minister should not take that way out which is a much easier way than appointing a Committee to make a different interpretation of Section 7. I really commend to him that he should use this method of extricating himself from a position which I think it is very undesirable that he should be in and which is inflicting a great deal of hardship on this very worthy organisation.

If the Minister does not do that he will be hampering this charity and penalising the poor in the care of their animals. I know that it is almost impossible for hon. Members, who come into this House on a matter like this, to be generous and to give way. I know how quickly once, one has set one's feet in it the cement hardens. I know that it would be very difficult. But I think my right hon. Friend might say to his hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench, "Let's let up on this and look at it again".

Do not let the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons mesmerise the House. After all this is only the Second Reading of the Bill. It will have to go upstairs to Committee. If, after the Committee has thought it over and perhaps hon. Gentlemen have discussed it with their friends outside the House, they come to the conclusion that justice has not been done entirely, they may let the Bill go through. If they decide I am wrong, they can defeat the Bill on Third Reading. I hope, however, that they will not throw it out without giving appropriate weight to the arguments that have been advanced in its favour just because they are predisposed against it. I am afraid that if they do so, they will be perpetrating an injustice.

Whatever happens, I say this to my hon. Friend. We do not accept the part-time argument. We do not accept that it is possible to get full-time veterinary surgeons. We suggest that my hon. Friend should extricate himself from this difficulty by accepting this Bill. If he cannot do that, will he at least please search his conscience in connection with paragraph 77 of the Champion Report?

I will try to put it so that it will not be necessary to read the paragraph. What has happened is that paragraph 77 recommended that twenty-six licences should be issued to existing employees of the society and, broadly speaking, it made the issue of them subject to two provisos. One proviso was that they should be current for ten years only and the other was that none should be issued after the end of 1953.

Both of those provisos were unreasonable and one of them was quite shocking. I immediately concede to my hon. Friend that he has not accepted the shocking proviso. He chucked it out, and all honour to him. The shocking proviso was that these people should be licensed for only ten years. With great respect to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), who was Chairman of the Committee, what was shocking about it was how he could have put that proviso into the Report of his Committee.

Mr. Champion rose——

Mr. Iremonger

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue, because I have not finished with him yet. How he could put that proviso into the Report——

Dr. Stross

If the hon. Gentleman will give way, my hon. Friend will tell him.

Mr. Iremonger

But the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East has not yet heard the full horror of what he did.

Mr. Champion

Since the hon. Gentleman has challenged me and has named me, the least he can do it to give way. He has read only a part of the proviso. Sub-paragraph (5) of paragraph 92 of the 1952 Report stated clearly: No licences should be granted under Section 7 of the Act of 1948 after the end of 1953 unless the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is satisfied that neither the full-time nor the part-time services of veterinary surgeons are available. If the hon. Gentleman is going to challenge the Committee and its work, let him do it on a fair basis.

Mr. Iremonger

I accept that absolutely.

Mr. Champion

I thank the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Iremonger

I have not started to deal with the 1953 point. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, dear."] I really am sorry that hon. Members think it is a matter of "Oh, dear". I can assure them that it is also a matter of "Oh, dear" for the people concerned. I am sorry if I am detaining the House in trying to do my duty to my constituents, but this is really not good enough.

Returning to the two provisos, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East has challenged my interpretation of the 1953 point. I will come to that. If I may have his attention for a moment, what I said was so shocking was that he should have recommended in the report of his Committee that these licences should be issued for a period of ten years only. If he did not recommend that, I will gladly give way.

Mr. Champion

It was recommended, definitely.

Mr. Iremonger

I have said, and I am prepared to substantiate, that it was shocking that this should have been recommended, and I will explain why. Had the hon. Gentleman taken the trouble to read the Standing Committee Report of the debate on the Bill, he would have found that the then Member for Southall had put down an Amendment precisely to that effect, and that his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), on behalf of the Government, had rejected it. He said he wondered whether the people who put down the Amendment— … have really thought what they are proposing? It means that a society may now employ a man, who will give himself up to this benevolent job, and may in 10 years' time cast him off. It means the society would say, 'You have served us while we have needed you. You have served a purpose. You have done a good job for 10 years. Now your licence has elapsed. Goodbye and God bless you.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 24th June, 1948, c. 1484.] To his credit, that is what the right hon. Member for Belper said in the Standing Committee in rejecting an Amendment making precisely the point which, five years later, the Champion Committee, if I may say so with great respect, had the effrontery to trump up again. That is why I say it is shocking that this suggestion should have been made. In case the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East is inclined to suggest that he has since repented, I would point out that only on Monday of this week he asked, in a supplementary question to a Question which I asked my right hon. Friend: Were the 17 licences which were granted limited to the ten-year period as recommended by the Committee?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1957; Vol. 567, c. 8.] So he confirmed that the Committee recommended it. Indeed, he seemed to take pride in it. He did not even seem to know that the Minister, to his credit, had rejected it, as he was bound to do, and as the Government rejected the idea when the Bill was in Committee.

That is the shocking proviso, if I may so call it. The other proviso was that no licences should be issued after 1953. I will classify that as not shocking but simply unreasonable. I will point out why it is unreasonable, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not try to see any way out of this. Perhaps they will put themselves in the position of the employees of the P.D.S.A., who were the people whose life work was to be conditioned by, and whose training was to be based upon, the assumption that these licences would be issued.

This is the position that has arisen. The twenty-six licences were to be issued by the end of 1953 according to the Champion Committee. After the committee reported, seventeen were issued straight away to people who had been trained. The House has already studied with my help the extent of that training —a four-year course. Those seventeen licences were issued to the people who had been trained. That left a balance of nine.

In the subsequent year, in February, 1953, before the time limit demanded by the Champion Committee had even run out, one man completed his training, and he came then under the recommendation. Presumably because there was considered to be an adequate supply, which I do not accept, the licence was refused. This man, who was promised a licence within a certain period, applied for it as soon as he had finished his training, and was refused simply because the Minister, apparently on some mystical conception, was satisfied that there was an adequate supply of veterinary surgeons. I just cannot accept that. We can let some Ministers, especially those who have as high a place in our regard as my hon. Friend, get away with almost anything, but this will not do. It is a flagrant and open breach of promise in the case that I have in mind.

That leaves the other eight who are now in the position that they have started their training having at one stage had an assurance that on completing their training they would receive licences. They have now seen this man turned down after finishing his training in the promised period. What do they feel? They have lost heart. They have been thwarted halfway through the training for their careers.

The House ought not to take this lightly. I can see no justification for it. I implore my hon. Friend to discharge his debt of honour to these nine men. Although he may find excuses for refusal in eight cases, surely he cannot allow the ninth person to be victimised through this cruel deception. Now I have this off my conscience, I shall give my hon. Friend every possible assistance in putting the matter right. I know that my right hon. Friend will be generous when he looks into the matter. I do not blame the Minister, his predecessor or any other right hon. Gentleman for what has happened. They have been in the position of the people who were playing the piano in the room downstairs. I ask the House——

Mr. H. Hynd

What is the joke about the piano downstairs?

Mr. Iremonger

I do not for a moment think that the hon. Gentleman does not know.

I ask the House to recognise that the carrying out of the undertakings given when the previous Measure was before the House has been a very sorry record. Consequently, I ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill, for I think the promoters are fully justified in putting it forward because of the way they have been treated. I ask the House at least to make the gesture of giving it a Second Reading so that there will be a possibility of remedying a most sincerely felt grievance. It is an injustice which reflects ill upon the honour of the House.

8.23 p.m.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

The marathon speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) shows the weakness of his case. The language which he used on certain occasions about the "Vets' Lobby" and his accusations of cussedness against the Ministry rather spoilt what was in any event a weak case. He never explained the purpose of the Bill.

Mr. Iremonger

My hon. and gallant Friend——

Captain Duncan

I do not wish to give way. I did not interrupt my hon. Friend.

Mr. Iremonger rose——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) must sit down.

Mr. Iremonger

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me categorically to deny what he has said. 1 pointed out that Clause 3 referred licence questions to an independent inquiry.

Captain Duncan

The Bill has two main purposes. It seeks to perpetuate in time and quantity the unqualified treatment of animals. It also seeks to abolish the discretion given to the Minister of Agriculture under the 1948 Act, so that if an independent referee appointed by the Lord Chancellor tells him to give a licence, he then has virtually no discretion to refuse. That is the issue before us.

Before I go any further—I do not want to be anything like as long as my hon. Friend was—I wish to say that I am not speaking as a member of the "Vets' Lobby" or anything like that. All I am seeking to do is to ask the House to refuse to give the Bill a Second Reading on the ground that it is not public policy at this stage in the history of the nation to allow unqualified people to treat animals, whether they be the animals of the rich or the animals of the poor. The overriding consideration must be the humane treatment of our animals in present circumstances and in the future. The bad days prior to the 1948 Act are gone for ever and should not be perpetuated.

I must go a little into the history of this affair. Some years ago a Committee, presided over by Sir John Chancellor, was appointed, and it presented a Report out of which arose the 1948 Act which was passed through Parliament by the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) by agreement. It was a great step forward, because Parliament decided that from that date the treatment of animals should be under-taken only by qualified people.

It was, however, recognised at the time that the step had to be gradual, and that was the reason for the insertion of Section 7, which provided that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries should have discretion to grant a licence under the Section to any person employed or to be employed by any society or institution which was supported by voluntary contributions. That was accepted by the House.

However, it did not work very well, and there were difficulties, mainly with the P.D.S.A. The right hon. Member for Don Valley eventually appointed the Champion Committee, the Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), which went into the whole matter. I will not read the terms of reference, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North has done so already. The Committee devoted a good deal of time and a good deal of space in its Report to the P.D.S.A. position. Two things came out of the Report. The first was that there seemed to be a good deal of overlapping by animal welfare societies, and the second was that it was no longer as necessary as it was originally to grant licences. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East has already read the paragraph, but I think that I should read it again. It is: … no licences be granted … unless the Minister is satisfied that neither the full-time nor the part-time services of veterinary surgeons are available. It is interesting to read the reservation by Mr. Claud Mullins, a member of the Committee, who said: If the steps that we recommend in paragraph 88 are taken by the Minister."— That deals with the overlapping of the societies— the evidence that we have heard convinces me that there must follow a considerable reduction in the activities of licensees. This being so, there should he no need for the fresh licences recommended in paragraphs 75 to 78. The licences were, none the less, given. It was stated that 26 would be needed, but in fact 17 were asked for and granted at that time.

At that time we hoped that things would go on reasonably well, but the P.D.S.A. was still not satisfied. Various conferences took place among the Royal College, the P.D.S.A. and the Minister. This matter of licences was always being raised by the P.D.S.A. At a meeting on Wednesday, 24th March, 1954, Sir George Dunnett, one of the officials of the Ministry in the chair, and the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, the Royal College and the B.V.A. represented, Mr. Bassett, speaking for the P.D.S.A., said that as the P.D.S.A. would not be applying for any further licences under Section 7, it would not be necessary at these joint discussions to consider point by point the report of the Champion Committee. It seems to me that at that time the P.D.S.A. had abandoned the idea of asking for more licences.

Nevertheless, in 1956 it came to light, through a Bill promoted by the P.D.S.A., that four people had been left out. They had been left out for special reasons, the reasons being that the licensees under the Champion Committee's Report should have practised in the United Kingdom. There were four people who within ten years previously had not been practising in the United Kingdom but had been in Tangier, Cairo, one in India and elsewhere. In a special Bill last year, the House granted them the licences and, as far as I know, they are now employed by the Dispensary.

The Bill of 1956 went to a Select Committee presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins). There was the usual cross-examination by counsel and so on which takes place before a Select Committee. I want to give an extract from the Minutes. Perhaps I should explain that the Bill was fairly widely drawn. It was concerned originally not only with the four people but was more widely drawn. Mr. Geoffrey Lawrence, the counsel cross-examining Mr. Bridges Webb, the Chairman of the Dispensary, asked: … I want if I can to understand this Bill. and I am sure that the Committee do, too. Could you tell me first of all what it is your Society really wants by this clause 6 in the Bill? The answer was: It wants to correct an injustice to four of our most senior men, which I have already described, which prevents them going on the Supplementary Register. If their names are put on to that Register, then that is an end of our problem. The Minutes continue: Q. Then I am right in thinking, am I not, that the sole object of this Clause is to secure admission to the Register of these four men? A. That is all. Q. And nothing beyond that? A. Nothing whatever. It seems to me that from the two quotations——

Mr. Iremonger

On a point of order. The Bill which we are discussing deals with the issue of licences under Section 7 of the 1948 Act. The matter to which my hon. and gallant Friend is now referring is, I submit, out of order, because it deals with the putting on to the supplementary register of the College people who are not asking for licences under Section 7 but are a totally different category of people altogether, who wish to go on to the supplementary register of the College. That is quite a different matter, and it is absolutely outside the ambit of the Bill.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think the hon. and gallant Member was out of order.

Captain Duncan

For those reasons, it seems to me that in 1954, the idea was that no more licences were required.

I now turn to the question of the accuracy of the statements made with regard to the number of veterinary surgeons. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) in an interruption, referred to some figures. I want to bring those figures up to date. At the end of 1949 there were 4,929 veterinary surgeons on the United Kingdom register, but at the end of 1956 the figure had risen to 5,980. That is a 20 per cent. increase.

As far as I can make out from my connection with the Royal College, there should now be no difficulty at all—provided the salaries offered are sufficient—for the P.D.S.A. to employ, either upon a whole-time or a part-time basis, fully qualified surgeons, and thus do away with the need for any more licences.

Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)

When the hon. and gallant Member began his speech, he said that he was not from the "Lobby" of the Royal College.

Captain Duncan

That is right.

Mr. Dodds

A few seconds ago he explained his connection with the Royal College. Will he explain from where the document from which he has quoted comes, and whom he is representing, so that we shall be able to appreciate the value of his speech?

Captain Duncan

I thought that the hon. Member knew that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and I were appointed by the Privy Council to be members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons under the 1948 Act. I am in exactly the same position as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray), who is the House of Commons Privy Council representative on the General Medical Council. There is no normal vested interest in this matter.

I want to say a word about the position of the Minister. Under Section 7 of the 1948 Act the Minister has complete discretion—and he uses it—in the matter of granting or refusing licences. I am quite prepared to say that if the Minister chooses to license additional people for work in the P.D.S.A. it will be found that the Royal College will co-operate. But to threaten, as the P.D.S.A. does in the Bill, to take away the discretion of the Minister and leave to an independent referee, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, seems to me to be an insult to the Minister. In those circumstances, I submit that we should refuse to give the Bill a Second Reading.

I hope, therefore, that in moving, That the Bill be read this day six months, I shall receive the support of the House on the general grounds of humanity, and because, in this day and century, we should seek to ensure that in the future no one who is not properly qualified shall treat animals, whether for the poor or for the rich. I know that it is easy to make a sentimental appeal, and I concede that. But I believe it wrong, as was stated in the Report of the Champion Committee, that there should be for a day longer than necessary the possibility of unqualified people, however willing they are, treating animals and, perhaps, treating them wrongly. I do not believe that would meet with the wishes of kindly people.

I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."

Mr. Iremonger

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I apologise to you for not raising this matter earlier, but I did not want to intervene during the peroration of my hon. and gallant Friend. It seemed from his closing remarks that my hon. and gallant Friend was under the impression that he was moving, That this Bill be read upon this day six months. I thought he was speaking to the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman was moving, That the Bill be read upon this day six months.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Williams (Don Valley)

I intervene only for a few minutes to second the Amendment for the rejection of this Bill. The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) supported the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill in such a brief speech and in such a kindly and gentlemanly manner. So far as I can understand, from some of the things he said during the hour and fifteen minutes he was speaking, the bon. Member considers that he is the only gentleman left in the Chamber. That is very nice so long as he thinks it—perhaps he is the only one who does. I wish to restate the view I expressed in 1948, which has since been strengthened by subsequent events.

It was perfectly obvious that the hon. Member for Ilford, North knew very little about the Bill. He relied largely on abuse of individuals, Government Departments and others to make the case he tried to put to the House. I think he failed lamentably to gain the support of hon. Members who might possibly have been inclined to support him. The hon. Gentleman is the best destroyer of a Bill that I have listened to for a long time.

In 1948, I was responsible for introducing the Veterinary Surgeons Act, and I had, at the same time, to deal with this problem of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. There were at that time —there had been for a long time before the Bill was introduced—acute differences between the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the P.D.S.A. I happened to know something about the difficulty of trying to get those two bodies together to see sweet reason, and to approach the problem in a spirit of compromise, and, ultimately, to find a solution to something which already had been examined by a committee to which I shall refer in a moment.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, not unnaturally, wished to put an end to the practice of veterinary surgery by unqualified persons, and the P.D.S.A., not unnaturally, took the totally opposite view. In the end, though after very long discussions—sometimes carried out in a modest and gentlemanly way and on other occasions in the way we have witnessed this evening—the not unusual policy of compromise was adopted.

As has already been stated, Section 7 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948, gave the Minister of Agriculture discretionary powers to grant licences to employees of animal welfare societies; that is, if he was satisfied that the society making the application could not obtain the services of an adequate number of veterinary surgeons. I shall leave the hon. Member for Ilford, North, who spoke in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill, in the hands of the Parliamentary Secretary, who will perhaps tell him whether or not the Department ever disagreed with the employment of part-time veterinary officers.

The licences that were granted permitted the owners to give certain treatment to animals, in spite of the general prohibition on the practice of veterinary surgery by unqualified persons, and there were two very good reasons for this. First, even the Royal College itself recognised and were not hesitant at all to make a statement to that effect, that the sudden cessation of unregistered practitioners might temporarily react against the activities of the P.D.S.A. Secondly, there was definitely a shortage of veterinary surgeons at that time, and a part of the intention and purpose of the 1948 Act was to make arrangements whereby there would be more veterinary students and, ultimately, many more veterinary surgeons.

Therefore, despite the strong recommendations of the Committee presided over by Sir John Chancellor, which recommended that in the national interest, in the interests of the veterinary profession and for humanitarian reasons, veterinary practice by persons without the requisite training and qualifications should be brought to an end, we provided in Section 7 of that Act the appropriate bridge between that sudden cessation of this form of activity and doing what was done previously by unqualified dentists, unqualified ophthalmic surgeons, or whatever they happened to be. The appropriate bridge was provided, and, since that time, the veterinary graduates have been qualifying at two new veterinary departments at Bristol and Cambridge Universities. As has already been said by the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan), the number of veterinary surgeons on the register today is 1,000 in excess of what it was in 1949, or 20 per cent. more.

Therefore, it is quite clear that the situation is changing. Speaking on the Second Reading of the 1948 Bill nine years ago. I said: I want to make it clear"— and this was not challenged— and this will anticipate questions, perhaps— that this is a purely temporary expedient. As the number of veterinary surgeons increases, automatically the number of licences granted will be reduced, until finally, of course, the time will come when no licences will be granted at all."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 4th June, 1948; Vol. 451, c. 1503.] The hon. Member for Ilford, North suggested that when a certain Committee was set up it was for the purpose of the Minister being able to dodge the column, to get round his own publicly made statements. Clearly that could not be correct, and if the hon. Gentleman is the gentleman he thinks he is, he would not hesitate to apologise for some of the observations he has made.

Initially, after the passing of the Bill, licences were issued in quite considerable numbers to the P.D.S.A., and some were granted later. At present, no less than about 80 licences still exist for employees of the P.D.S.A., and one other animal welfare society holds six similar licences. It is true that discussions took place over a long period of time between the Ministry, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the P.D.S.A., and they were designed to provide ways and means, in a gentlemanly, courteous and appropriate mariner, to bring to an end the issue of licences. It did not matter to me whether it was in 1953, 1957 or 1991. I wanted to find an appropriate and agreed policy which would ultimately lead to an end of the licensing system.

There was no possibility of agreement, because the P.D.S.A. never intended that these licences. So in June, 1951, the there should be an end to.the granting of Committee was set up which was referred to by the hon. Member for Ilford, North, and it was presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion). I shall leave it to the chairman of that Committee to deal with the Committee's findings. All I would say is just this.

From the very first this compromise did work, so long as the P.D.S.A. would allow it to work. Ministers issued licences wherever they could be justified. It is now nine years after the passing of the Act which I suggested was only a temporary expedient. The P.D.S.A. now comes to this House with a special Bill to take away the discretion of the Minister, and not only that, but to provide that, in the words of the Bill, if application is made for licences, the Minister shall"— no "may" about it— either grant such licences or shall refer the matter to an independent referee. When the referee has examined the situation he shall be able to decide how many, if any, licences are to be issued, and the Minister must comply with what the referee suggests.

If that is not a derogation of Parliamentary decencies, I should like to know what it is. The Bill is not only almost biting the hand that fed the P.D.S.A. in 1948; it is a piece of colossal cheek on the part of those who produced the Bill, almost equal to that of the hon. Member who spoke to the Second Reading.

8.53 p.m.

Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)

I am grateful for the privilege of speaking a few words on this Bill. I would also like to make it clear that, in spite of my long association with the R.S.P.C.A., I am not speaking as an official of that body. I have been on its Council for more than a quarter of a century, and I think I know its feelings and views on the various subjects touching animal welfare, but I am not being asked by it to speak, and I speak only because I think it is right in this case to say what I have to say.

Anyone with any connection with the R.S.P.C.A. knows that that great society would never seek to criticise any other body working for the same humane causes. We all know that the P.D.S.A. does very good, useful and fine work, and I would not like in any way to minimise that work. I knew the founder of that society, Mrs. Dickin, and I had a great admiration and regard for her and for her noble ideals. I hope that the House will not think for a moment that I would seek to diminish or lessen the respect I have for the work of the P.D.S.A. and its founder.

Now what are the purposes of the Bill? I want to get away from all the examination of previous Acts, previous Bills and previous negotiations, and get down to the basic facts. What is the purpose of this Bill? It is to secure our authority, the authority of this House, to allow the sick animals of this country to be cared for by people professionally unqualified, despite whatever their intentions, or good will, or tender-heartedness may be. That is the purpose of the Bill.

I would stress the words "poor people". Immediately one feels compelled to ask, why should the pet animals of poor people be discriminated against like this? Why should they only have to suffer unqualified treatment whereas the well-to-do can take their pets to fully qualified veterinary surgeons? I think there is something undemocratic about this Bill which the House inevitably must reject.

What is the answer to that question? The answer, according to the Bill itself, is that despite repeated and persistent advertising the P.D.S.A. cannot get an adequate number of qualified veterinary surgeons to deal with its clinics. With all due respect to the P.D.S.A., that is sheer nonsense. The R.S.P.C.A.—I hope the House will forgive me quoting the R.S.P.C.A. but I know so much about its work—employs something like 300 to 400 part-time and full-time veterinary surgeons to cover all its 200 or 300 clinics. It has never found the slightest difficulty in getting a veterinary surgeon to meet its requirements. Why is that? It is because it pays adequate salaries and gives acceptable conditions of service, which the P.D.S.A. does not.

Mr. Dodds

Will the hon. Member expound that a little further because many hon. Members are trying to find whether they are for or against this Bill? Will he explain what the P.D.S.A. has done which does not make veterinary surgeons respond to its advertising?

Sir T. Moore

The hon. Member will have to ask the veterinary surgeons; it is they who will not respond to the advertisements of the P.D.S.A. They will not accept the conditions of service or salaries which the P.D.S.A. is prepared to offer.

Mr. Dodds

The hon. Baronet does not know what they are?

Sir T. Moore

I will not be led into qualifications of my remarks. Ask any veterinary surgeon, ask the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, or the veterinary profession as a whole, why they do not respond to the advertisements of the P.D.S.A. They will tell the hon. Member that without my taking an hour and a quarter in doing so.

Everyone in this House and outside knows what a magnificent contribution the veterinary profession makes to the care of sick animals in this country. Very often they give their services voluntarily and very often unpaid. They do so because of the pride they have in their profession. They are opposed to this lowering of the standards of care for animals to which their lives are devoted. I have heard one of them say that they would bitterly object to the animals which they are qualified and trained to care for being "mauled about" by unqualified and untrained people. I agree with them.

I ask only one question of any hon. Member who may have any doubts about the Bill. If his wife or his children were in grave danger, grave illness and grave need of hospital or doctor's attention, would he have an unqualified man to attend them or would he seek the best professional advice he could get? Of course he would seek advice and professional, trained, skilled attention for those he cares for. That is exactly what we ask for the animals, and I do not think it is an unfair request. I think the Bill is neither fair to the animals nor fair to the owners of those animals all over the country, and I hope that we shall have support for the request that the House should reject the Bill.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. A..J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) have, I think, adequately dealt with the background leading up to the appointment of the Committee of which I had the honour to be chairman, and I will therefore not attempt to touch on the background beyond the point at which I received this appointment.

Let me say straight away that I think the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) did himself less than justice when he made his scathing remarks about that Committee which was set up by my right hon. Friend. It is fair that he should attack me. I am a politician and, therefore, I must be open to attack from whichever quarter it comes. I do not object to the fact that he attacked me personally, but I reject absolutely, completely and entirely, all his references to the remainder of this Committee.

It was an honour to be chairman of that Committee. It was an honour for men of great eminence in their professions and in public life composed the Committee, and they gave generously of their time and services. I have never sat with people who, in my opinion, were better from that aspect. It appeared to me, I must say, that they brought an independent judgment to bear upon the problems presented to them, and their conclusions and recommendations were arrived at on the evidence submitted to them by the various bodies.

If I may say so—and this does not apply to me; I am talking of the rest of the Committee—they were painstaking in their examination of the memoranda and evidence submitted to them. They were patient in the hearing of witnesses and scrupulously careful in the preparation of their Report. To call this Committee a white-washing Committee is to do grave disservice to people who gave so generously of their time and knowledge. It is a good thing for this country that men of their calibre will voluntarily give services, and it will be a sorry day for this country when similar men will not. But if they are talked about as they have been talked about tonight it will act as a serious deterrent.

The main conclusion upon which the recommendations of the Committee were founded is to be found in paragraph 92 of the Report: So long as the licensing of employees of animal welfare societies under Section 7 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1948, continues, the animals of the poor will not receive the best diagnosis and treatment. It is in the public interest, and in the interests of the animal, that the objective of the Act—to bring to an end the practice of veterinary surgery by unregistered persons—should be achieved as soon as practicable. That conclusion was based mainly upon the Report of Sir Thomas Dalling, then the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry who reported to us. We summarised his Report as follows: A report furnished to us at our request by Sir Thomas Dalling, Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, on the training given by the P.D.S.A. to its employees expresses the opinion, with which we agree, that the tuition given, while suitable and adequate for certain limited purposes, falls far short of that given to a veterinary student. Without labouring the point unduly, a person who is not a fully trained professional man is liable to make mistakes in diagnosis which, with more thorough training and greater knowledge, would be avoided. An incorrect diagnosis may involve unnecessary suffering to the animal or its premature destruction as incurable. This was the conclusion which we arrived at, based upon the Report of a very eminent man in the profession; a man who was not, I would say, at that time beholden to his profession for advancement or anything else. He went down, examined the training, and brought back a report which we immediately accepted.

Having accepted that conclusion, the Committee then turned its mind to the ability of the animal welfare societies concerned to obtain these services of veterinary surgeons——

Sir T. Moore

Before the hon. Gentleman goes further, could he help me on this point? Was any evidence given as to the methods of treatment offered to animals. Was there, I mean, any evidence of a difference in attitude towards the scientific method of treating animals produced before the members of the Committee? Is it a fact that some evidence was produced that homœopathic methods were favoured by the P.D.S.A., and that anti-biotics were not used without laboratory section or test of the particular organ concerned?

Mr. Champion

It is, of course, well known that the founder of the society believed in the homœopathic treatment of animals—whatever that might mean. It is certainly very difficult in relation to animals. But that was the view of the founder of the society, who is now dead, and I do not want to introduce prejudice into the arguments I am now advancing.

The fact is that it was no part of our job to try to bring the activities of the P.D.S.A. to an end. That was not our objective, and certainly we hoped not to achieve such an end as that. But we were quite satisfied, in early 1952 when we presented our Report, that provided, even at that time, the veterinary surgeons who were available were properly used there would have been no need to grant further licences. That was our conclusion. Indeed, we felt that provided, as I say, proper use was made of the material which was at that time available, the problem was capable of immediate solution but in order to tide over difficult times, as quite obviously there were, and in order to give the society concerned reasonable time and opportunity in which to work out the use of part-time surgeons in this connection, we made our recommendation.

Our recommendation was that, until 1953, the Minister should be permitted to go on granting such licences as we had made a recommendation about, but that beyond that period, only if the Minister was satisfied on certain points, which I have read out already, should that practice be continued. Therefore, we recommended that there should be a period of years during which the practice continued, but that, after that, the Minister should not issue any more licences unless he satisfied himself that neither the full-time nor the part-time services of veterinary surgeons were available.

It has to be remembered that the Committee had before it the evidence submitted by the R.S.P.C.A., and here I have to support the point of view of the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore). The R.S.P.C.A. has consistently refrained from lowering its standards of treatment. It has said throughout that the diagosis of animal sickness should be in the hands of qualified surgeons, and it has stuck to that principle. Indeed, it told us that it had obtained the full number of veterinary surgeons necessary for certain of its clinics in London and many in the provinces, and that it had no difficulty at all in obtaining the part-time services of veterinary surgeons for the rest of its services. At that time, going back to 1951–52, it had no less than 500 veterinary surgeons giving part-time service in the various R.S.P.C.A. schemes, which, in my opinion, rather tends to destroy the point made that it is impossible to obtain veterinary surgeons for this job.

Since the presentation of our Report in 1952, there have been added to the list of veterinary surgeons in this country no less than 650 qualified persons. Even if we were wrong in 1952, the addition of this further 650 must have destroyed any argument there can be that there was not or is not available a sufficient number of veterinary surgeons to do the job.

I do not wish to say anything against the P.D.S.A. I recognise that it is doing a useful job, and I should be the last person to try to destroy the work it is doing. But if the R.S.P.C.A. can give to the animals which are brought to it qualified and proper treatment, it should be possible, providing the P.D.S.A. were really willing, for it also to give qualified treatment to the animals of the poor brought to it.

Mr. Dodds

I should like to follow my hon. Friend's argument. Would he say why the people who now go in great numbers to the P.D.S.A. do not go to the R.S.P.C.A. where there are qualified persons? Is he saying that the P.D.S.A. does not do enough good work?

Mr. Champion

I am not saying anything against the work of the P.D.S.A., except that it does it by unqualified people. It should do it by employing qualified surgeons.

Mr. Dodds

Would my hon. Friend deal with the question I put? If the R.S.P.C.A. does it by qualified veterinary surgeons, why then does he think people still go to the P.D.S.A.?

Sir T. Moore

Might I answer that? It is simply because the people who take their animals to the P.D.S.A. do not know that they are being looked after by unqualified people.

Mr. Champion

That is the answer, and I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for helping me out in this connection. I should have remembered that point.

What does the Bill propose? It really seeks to take a power vested in the Minister to grant licences under Section 7 of the 1948 Act out of his hands and place it in the hands of some independent referee so called. I believe that that would be quite contrary to the express intention of Parliament in 1948. It would be taking away from the Minister a power which properly ought to reside with him.

In this matter, as in many others, the Minister should be answerable to Parliament. It is right that we should have been able last Monday to question him as to his issuing or not issuing licences under Section 7. I want to be in a position always to be able to put down a Question and to get the Minister to the Dispatch Box and answer me as to why he has granted or has refused to grant licences to the P.D.S.A. or to anyone else. We cannot have the Minister shelving his responsibility by being in a position to say at the Box, "I do not really know why we have not granted—or have granted—these licences. The independent referee has taken a decision, and I do not quite know why he did it." That would be a quite false position for us to be in, and it would be quite contrary to the decent traditions of this House.

Inevitably, this is a matter which is represented and accepted by some in this House and elsewhere as a question of the animals of the poor against the vested interests of a well-to-do profession. It is not my purpose to speak for the profession, and I cannot do so. It is capable of doing that for itself. What I see in this whole question is: Are we in favour of animals, whether owned by rich or poor, getting the best possible treatment by those qualified by education and training to give it?

I am a member of a party which, since its inception, has struggled to ensure that people should not he treated by unqualified practitioners. I do not believe that human beings should be treated in sick-ness by people who have not been properly trained to treat them. At tremendous cost to the nation, it has now secured that rich and poor should receive treatment by qualified people, and it is right that that should be the case.

I would say that we ought to ensure that animals are placed in a similar position as soon as it is humanly possible to bring that about. Despite any immediate difficulties and the appeals to our sympathies, this House must encourage the Minister to stand firm against the con- tinuance of the unqualified treatment of animals, and it must, in the interests of decent Parliamentary practice, reject the Bill.

9.17 p.m.

Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)

I rise to at least support the Second Reading of this Bill. That does not mean that I could really get up and defend every provision of the Bill. What I am trying to bear in mind is that I am certain that there are not many hon. Members of this House on either side who know very much about the arguments for or against the Bill; in fact, I was very interested to read the list of Members on a circular sent out by the British Veterinary Association and the names of hon. Members who support the Amendment that the Bill should be read six months hence.

In my efforts to try to come to a conclusion, I spoke to one or two hon. Members to find out more about the Bill. I was astonished to find how little some of them knew about the arguments for and against the Bill. I hope that the House will at least give it a Second Reading so that in Committee all these points can be hammered out.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)

There is only one operative Clause in the Bill. How can all these various points be hammered out? There is only one to hammer out.

Mr. Dodds

If the hon. Member will be patient I shall be able to put my point. I have been much more patient than he has been. I have been here since the beginning of the debate. He must not lose his patience yet.

While this may be, as the hon. Gentleman has suggested, a very narrow Bill, I would suggest that the arguments for and against might be put in Committee when many of the difficulties which have been raised here could be thrashed out.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger), as he admitted, has a very big interest in it. He is a Member of Parliament and represents the main constituent that is behind the Bill. I have no vested interest, and what I am trying to do is to see fair play in this House. It is very difficult to come to a conclusion and to a fair testimony on the Second Reading on one side or the other. Why I ask that the Bill should be given a Second Reading is that I was a Member of the Committee which considered a Private Member's Bill upstairs in the 1955–56 Session when there was a dispute between the Royal College and the P.D.S.A.

It was most enlightening to have these issues thrashed out. I will not say which way the battle went, but I will say that from my own contact with this subject I often wonder whether the P.D.S.A. would not get a better lobby if it were called, say, the Royal College of the P.D.S.A. In other words, I feel that the case for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is put over more strongly in this House than that of the P.D.S.A.

That is why I suggest that it would be much easier to come to a conclusion in a Committee where time would be available to thrash out these points.

Sir T. Moore

Qualified or unqualified—that is the only point.

Mr. Dodds

I will deal with that point as well, but I want to make my points in my own way even if I am not able to do so as well as the hon. Gentleman. Since he has interrupted me, however, I will say that he has made it difficult to come to a conclusion because at the beginning of his speech he praised the work of the P.D.S.A., even though it has operated with unqualified veterinary surgeons. He cannot have it both ways. He should bear in mind that my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) said that it was not the object of the Committee over which he presided to bring the P.D.S.A. to an end. I accept that but, from what I have seen of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, I am certain that it would not shed one tear if the P.D.S.A. came to an end.

Captain Duncan

I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to say that, because it is not so at all. The Royal College has always attempted to co-operate and, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said, is still willing to co-operate in this matter.

Mr. Dodds

What I am saying, I believe. It may be that I am wrong, but, because the hon. and gallant Gentleman contradicts me, it is not necessarily the case. Much more than that interjection will be needed before I alter my opinion that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons would not shed one single tear if the P.D.S.A. went out of existence tomorrow. If the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) read what took place upstairs, he would find that even when the P.D.S.A. had an excellent case for the licences, the hostility of the Royal College had to be seen to be believed, so I would take a lot of convincing.

The point is that, whether the animals belong to the poor or the rich, I would feel much happier if I knew, just as in the case of humans, that the people who are to operate have the qualifications and training which most of us think necessary under all the circumstances. We do not differ on that point. What I have to be convinced of is that there are sufficient veterinary surgeons available. The point was made that if the P.D.S.A. paid the money, it would get them. That is where my difficulty lies. The evidence that I have does not suggest that it is as easy as that. As someone hinted earlier, it might be a matter of the P.D.S.A. being a type of society with which a qualified veterinary surgeon would not have anything to do.

The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) made a point about salaries. I can speak only on the basis of the evidence that I have. That is why I should like to see such matters thrashed out in Committee. When one is sincere and wishes to see fair play, it is not fitting to come to a conclusion on the basis of hon. Members merely rising and saying that it is so or is not so. My evidence is that since 1954 the society has advertised regularly in the "Veterinary Record", the national publication for veterinary surgeons, and the terms offered for the employment of veterinary surgeons are those which were agreed between the society and the R.C.V.S. In fact, the salary offered has since been increased above that recommended by the R.C.V.S. I should very much like to have the matter thrashed out in Committee, and whether I should be for or against the Bill would depend very largely upon whether it was decided that that was correct or incorrect. At all events, it is a question which needs to be answered.

It has been stated that, notwithstanding such continuous advertising, the society has been able to secure the services of only five veterinary surgeons during a period when the total loss of staff due to death, retirement and so on was twenty-one, comprising five veterinary surgeons, ten veterinary practitioners and six licensees. The society points out that if this situation continues, many of the branches of the P.D.S.A. will have to close.

I have been told that the R.S.P.C.A. has been able to obtain qualified people. That is an important point. It has been suggested that the R.S.P.C.A. will in some cases take part-time people although it really wants full-time staff. I am puzzled to know why the P.D.S.A. cannot do similarly. It has been said that the P.D.S.A. maintains a twenty-four hour service and consequently requires a full-time staff. I should like this matter to be thrashed out in Committee because I cannot understand why the P.D.S.A. must have full-time staff. In asking the House to give the Bill a Second Reading I give an assurance that if these questions are not answered satisfactorily I shall not support the Bill in its further stages.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley, spoke of the difficulties that he had in getting the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the P.D.S.A. to come to any sort of agreement at all. From what I have seen in a private committee, I accept that. There is unnecessary hostility. That is why I am speaking tonight.

It has been said that there are 1,000 more veterinary surgeons today than there were in 1949. That is a very important factor, but those of us who are laymen require that to be put into its proper perspective in relation to the need for veterinary surgeons. Answering a Question on 17th May, 1956, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that there was at present a shortage of veterinary officers. If the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food says that, I believe him, for he is a man to whose utterances high respect should be given.

In weighing the evidence, I must take note that as late as last year the Minister said that there was a shortage of veterinary surgeons. That supports the claim of the P.D.S.A. that, despite offering a salary agreed with the R.C.V.S., and even in excess of it, it cannot get the men. Surely we all know that there are vested interests even in the professions, and I should have thought that on this side of the House especially we should have taken extra care. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East, in supporting the Amendment, gave us some explanation about what we on this side of the House have been fighting for and one of his points was that vested interests should be broken up.

This does not mean that I think the Bill should go on the Statute Book, but it is impossible for hon. Members on the testimony advanced to say whether the Bill should have a Second Reading or not. It should have a second chance so that in Committee many of these points can be thrashed out. I ask in the name of fair play that, no matter what undertakings hon. Members might have given, there should be fair play between the two organisations. I do not believe there can be fair play simply by rejecting the Bill on Second Reading.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

Does not my hon. Friend agree that there is more fair play with this Bill which is being debated on Second Reading than with the Bill dealt with earlier tonight, which was rejected on Second Reading without a debate?

Mr. Dodds

I fully accept that, but I must differ from my hon. Friend if he thinks that that is a justification for rejecting this Bill.

9.32 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I assure the House that I shall be brief, as it is getting late. I have carefully studied both sides of the case and my own conclusion is that the P.D.S.A. is mistaken on one point. It is a crucial point—its absolute refusal to employ qualified staff part time. This has been made clear. It was made clear in the speech of the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) who declared on his own behalf and on behalf of the P.D.S.A. that it will not accept part-time servants, however well qualified they may be.

Indeed, it is said very plainly that not only is that not acceptable to the organisation, but that the use of part-time veterinary surgeons would destroy the character and purpose of the society. However, no one has explained what that means. We are left somewhat in the dark about why having fully qualified men serving part-time would destroy its character and its purpose. It has become abundantly clear that the R.S.P.C.A. does not feel that there is any threat to its character or its composition in employing part-time veterinary surgeons. I appeal to the society, which has sponsored the Bill, to think about this matter again.

I asked a question about homeopathy. That was not to create prejudice. I succeeded to a homeopathic practice in Stoke-on-Trent and I believe that Hahneman's dictum, similia similibus curantur may not be entirely wrong. I also accept that the whole basis of bacteriology—that is the use of vaccines as a treatment in which a little of the disease is injected into one to cure the disease—may well be evidence in favour of homeopathy. I was not attempting to bring any prejudice into this discussion. I am not a homeopath and I should not like any animal, child or other human being to be denied the most scientific modern usages such as the use of antibiotics or injections of penicillin, which we know are so effective. I would not debar any animal from having such treatment upon ideological grounds.

If, by any chance, the P.D.S.A. is prejudiced against such modern methods of treating animals, I beg it to think again, for this may explain why it does not want veterinary surgeons.

Mr. Iremonger

The hon. Member misrepresents the intention of the P.D.S.A. which, as I understand it, is to employ full-time veterinary surgeons as soon as it can. If it were given the chance tomorrow it would not hesitate to do so, all other things being equal.

Dr. Stross

That argument does not hold water. It does not appeal to me. It is not logical, and I cannot accept it. The P.D.S.A. has five officers. All this time it has refused to accept part-time veterinary officers. It has said for years that it will never agree to employ them. It has only five veterinary officers, and it has had only five all this time. It tends not to get young men, or people with experience of small animals. Instead, it gets administrators and men of the ex-Army type, who have dealt with large animals.

I find myself in a quandary in this matter. I appeal to the P D.S.A. to think again and not to reject modern science purely upon what I feel may well be ideological grounds. There is a great deal of room for the P.D.S.A. There is room for everyone who wants to help the sick, whether they be animal or human. If the organisation brings prejudice into the field because of certain preconceived ideas it must not think that it can tell the House its business, insult our Ministers by implication, and expect us to support it.

9.37 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)

I am sure it will be the wish of the House that I should state briefly the view of the Government upon the Bill. Whenever the House discusses problems of animals, it always has very acutely in mind the desire not only of hon. Members but of all the people in the British Isles to see that the very best possible treatment is given to them. It is a national characteristic of which we should be very proud.

We have had a useful discussion, and there are one or two points with which I should like to deal, which have been raised by two Members in particular. But, at the outset, I must say that I regret the note upon which the discussion was started by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). It was quite out of character with the rest of the debate and, if I may say this to him, I do not think that it did the cause he was advocating very much good. He said one or two things that I feel I must take up.

My right hon. Friend and I think that the P.D.S.A. has done a great deal of good in the country, and is continuing to do so. Nothing I say here tonight is designed in any way to detract from that. I merely want to look at the Bill upon its merits, and I certainly do not wish to say anything critical of the way in which the Society tries to help the animals of the poor.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) quoted one or two passages from the excellent Report of his Committee, and there is one which I wish to quote straight away in order to emphasise the way in which I am trying to look at the matter. In paragraph 17 the Committee says: Our conclusion is, therefore, that so long as the licensing system continues the animals of the poor will not receive the best diagnosis and treatment. That is probably the most important aspect of the whole matter. It is the treatment of animals which should weigh most with us. In paragraph 72 it says: We see no reason why animals of the poor should be deprived of professional assistance available to others merely to avoid some slight inconvenience to their owners or because a veterinary surgeon does not happen to be at a dispensary when the owner calls. I think that is the tone which was reflected in most of the speeches we have heard tonight, and that is the way in which I prefer to regard the matter.

The P.D.S.A. was in a difficult position at the time of the passing of the 1948 Act. That was recognised by the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) who was the Minister at the time. The provisions of Section 7 of that Act went a long way to meet the genuine difficulties which the Society was then experiencing. Unfortunately, despite the provisions of that Section, difficulties did arise, and so the right hon. Member for Don Valley appointed the Champion Committee. That Committee reported after my party had come into office and the then Minister of Agriculture accepted the Report; and in the line they have taken the Government have been largely guided by the recommendations of that Committee.

I think it important to remember in relation to this Bill that it was in recognition of the value of the work done by the P.D.S.A., and the difficulty in which it was placed by the prohibition of unregistered practice, that special arrangements were made in Section 7 of the 1948 Act; for this was the only animal welfare society which it was expected would require a considerable number of these licences. Six were allotted to another society, but apart from that number the great bulk of the licences, over 100, have been given to the P.D.S.A., which is the body primarily concerned.

Several hon. Members have spoken about Section 7 of the 1948 Act, and I do not wish to pursue the matter further, except to emphasise that it has always been accepted that it was intended to be a temporary provision. The right hon. Member for Don Valley made that clear in the quotation which he gave from his Second Reading speech.

The object of this Bill is to alter the policy regarding the issue of licences which was adopted by the Government on the advice of the Champion Committee. I must inform hon. Members that the Government object to this Bill on two grounds. First, the effect of Clause 3 would be to take away from the Minister discretion regarding the issue of licences. That has been criticised by several hon. Members, and I think that they were right to do so.

In my view, it is wrong that such discretion should be taken from the Minister. We feel that the prohibition of the practice of veterinary surgery by unregistered persons was an important act of policy, and any power to grant partial exemption by way of licence under Section 7 of the 1948 Act must remain vested in a Minister of the Crown who is answerable to this House. It would be undesirable that one organisation—for that is what it amounts to—just because it is dissatisfied with the way in which a public Act is administered, should be able by means of a Private Bill to take power out of the hands of the Minister and out of the control of Parliament. I wish to emphasise that because I consider it very important.

Clause 3 of this Bill also provides that licences should be granted unless the P.D.S.A. is able to obtain the full-time services of an adequate number of veterinary surgeons. That is the crux of the dispute, and it was made clear in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North, who spoke at considerable length on the subject of part-time veterinary surgeons. The view of the Champion Committee was that by the end of 1953 there would be sufficient veterinary surgeons available to meet the needs of animal welfare societies, if they made use of the part-time services of veterinary surgeons where possible; it hinged on that. The Committee examined the difficulties that this might cause to the P.D.S.A. and came to the conclusion that they were not insurmountable. The Committee recommended that no further licences should be issued after the end of 1953 unless the Minister was satisfied that neither the full-time nor part-time services of veterinary surgeons was available. The Government of the day accepted this recommendation, and we are therefore concerned here not purely with a matter of full-time employment, but with part-time employment as well.

Having heard the arguments put forward this evening, I remain convinced that the Committee was right in the view it took that the P.D.S.A. should make use of part-time service. In any case, what is the alternative? The evidence of the P.D.S.A. to the Champion Committee showed that there were some 167 employees of the society engaged in treating animals, of whom only three were veterinary surgeons. If, therefore, it is the aim of the P.D.S.A. to employ no one but veterinary surgeons in its full-time employment on treating animals, it means that the society must be aiming at a total strength of well over 150 full-time veterinary surgeons.

I suggest to the House that, quite frankly, this is wholly unrealistic. If anything like a reasonable salary is provided for this number of professional men, the cost would be very great indeed. In fact, I believe it has recruited scarcely anyone since 1952, although the total number of veterinary surgeons on the roll has risen in the time since the publication of the Champion Report, by some 700. That is the measure of the P.D.S.A.'s failure to implement the policy which it has set itself, and, if in fact it has been unable to do this, it is quite clear that it must try to readjust its policy to present conditions.

I think one or two hon. Members have touched on the fact that it is quite unrealistic to try to get whole-time veterinary surgeons. The type of work the society is offering does not attract the best type of veterinary surgeon on a full-time basis, because it does not give enough scope to the fully trained man. In any case, it would be a tremendous waste for trained personnel to be doing all the jobs which the P.D.S.A. is carrying out.

I think I ought to deal particularly with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North when dealing with this question of part-time veterinary surgeons. He made great play with a document which he very kindly passed on to me. I find some difficulty in using this document, although my hon. Friend quoted from it, because I find that at the top it is headed "Confidential." I think it is rather unfortunate that my hon. Friend did quote from a confidential document, and I therefore do not propose to comment directly on anything in it, or quote from it, except to say that, having read it, I do not find that his argument that the Minister of the day in any way opposed part-time veterinary surgeons is at all conclusive.

In any case, I have in front of me a copy of a letter sent from Sir D. Vandepeer, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry at the time, to Mr. Bridges Webb, the Chairman of the P.D.S.A., on 4th July, 1952, in which he dealt very clearly with this point. I will not bore the House with the whole letter, but will read the relevant section. He says: If our understanding is correct, it would seem that there is a substantial measure of agreement with the recommendations of the Committee except in regard to the part-time employment of veterinary surgeons. On this latter point, the P.D.S.A. appear to have mistaken the Committee's recommendation and the Minister's acceptance of it as part of the whole scheme. The recommendation turned down by the Ministry in 1947 was as stated in the P.D.S.A. memorandum that unregistered or unlicensed practice could be made legal by mere supervision. The present recommendation from the Committee is that unregistered or unlicensed persons should be confined to work which does not require registration or licence, that there are useful functions of this kind for unregistered and unlicensed officers to perform, provided that they can call in a registered or licensed practitioner, employed whole time or part time by the Society for work which they could not lawfully carry out themselves under the Veterinary Surgeons Act. That really deals with the point; the position was made abundantly clear to Mr. Bridges Webb at that time, and I am very sorry to read at this date that the P.D.S.A. claim that the Ministry has changed its view on this matter. It is clear and was clear in 1947—this document I have read, which I do not propose to quote, does not change my view of the matter—that the Ministry saw nothing wrong with the part-time working of veterinary surgeons. What it did not see was that the presence of a veterinary surgeon made it necessarily right that the officers of the P.D.S.A. should carry out the work themselves, under supervision. That is a thing that we are not prepared to agree to and is quite a different point from the one raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North.

The matter has now been pretty adequately dealt with by hon. Members, and I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the matter in detail. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] A point I would mention is the question of the 26 licences; the 17 that were issued were all that were asked for at that time. I see, therefore, no question of breach of promise. The time factor is relevant; I do not think that the present position is at all comparable with what it was at that time.

Mr. Iremonger

I cannot get over the point about the one which was applied for within that period. The one who qualified within that period was asked for as one of the 26, and was still turned down again.

Mr. Godber

Yes, I realise the point, but it does not alter the argument I have used. There is, as I have said, the time factor and the fact that more full-time veterinary surgeons were becoming available all the time, added to the fact that the P.D.S.A. still found it impossible to use part-time men. That made it almost impossible for the Minister to grant any more of these licences.

That is all that it is necessary for me to say on this issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that I have the House with me. There is, however, one point which was raised by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds). He wanted to send the Bill to Committee. I do not think it is necessary in this case where the issues are so clear, and I am sure that the House is ready to reach a decision on this matter without sending the Bill to Committee. Had the matter been as complicated as the hon. Gentleman sought to find it, there might have been something in that point. I honestly do not think he made out a case. He made the point that the Minister said that a shortage existed in 1956. That is a perfectly fair debating point, but it was in a very different context.

I do not deny, nor does my right hon. Friend, that there is not an amplitude of veterinary surgeons at the present time, but there has been an increase of 1,000 over the last few years. It is extraordinary, if the P.D.S.A. is determined to have full-time veterinary surgeons, that it has not been able to recruit them. If it is wedded to the full-time system, it must be able to offer sufficiently attractive terms of service to get them. If it cannot, then the only practical thing is for it to go on to the part-time basis, which is the system that other organisations find perfectly suitable and which would give satisfactory results for the animals of the poor people; that is what matters.

We want to see this work go on, and we are convinced, in spite of all that the P.D.S.A. has said, that if it will only try the system of part-time veterinary surgeons, that is the right way. The Ministry will help all it can. The Bill is not the answer and I ask the House, without any question whatever, to reject it.

Question, That "now" stand part of the Question, put and negatived.

Proposed words there added.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.