§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.56 p.m.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is not a long Bill, but I am afraid it is rather complicated. What we are seeking to do is to modify, without abandoning the basic principles, a body of legislation on this subject which has been built up over quite a long period. I am quite certain that hon. Members of this House are equally keen that our slaughtering facilities in this country should be just as satisfactory as we can possibly make them. By satisfactory, I mean not only adequate in quantity, but in quality as well. I think we are all conscious that there are still many slaughterhouses that badly need to be made much better places than they are at present. Therefore, I think we are all agreed on the general aim of this Bill.
The Bill has been designed to give effect to the policy which we have already described in the White Paper published in May, 1956, and this policy is based on the recommendations of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Slaughterhouses which was set up by my predecessor in 1953. The idea of a central plan for a limited number of slaughterhouses, I agree, seemed sensible and likely in the conditions in the years immediately after the war. The Ministry of Food, during the period of rationing, as the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) will remember, used only about 500 slaughterhouses out of the 12,000 in existence before the war. But when the trade for meat and livestock was restored to private hands in June, 1954, the difficulties inherent in the literal application of a central plan of that kind quickly became apparent.
Certain changes in the pattern of trade, as compared with before the war, became evident. Those organisations of producers like, for instance, the Fatstock Marketing Corporation and other big central organisations of meat traders, began to emerge. These operated over a wide area of the country and needed 1197 slaughterhouses, it seemed, under their own control and management and in the districts best suited to the kind of trade they were doing. So, after carefully considering these emerging developments, the Inter-Departmental Committee recommended a more flexible approach, instead of a rigid plan prepared centrally for siting slaughterhouses all over the country. We consulted the various interests concerned, including all local authority organisations, and as a result we decided that the Committee's recommendations seemed to be the sensible course to follow.
What are the main things we need to do They are firstly, to ensure that there are adequate facilities for slaughtering, not only adequate locally but adequate nationally, too; secondly, to secure the most humane conditions possible; thirdly, to maintain the highest possible standards of hygiene throughout all the processes involved in slaughtering; and, fourthly, to provide satisfactory conditions for those who work in slaughterhouses. I have not put that list in any special order of priority. The Bill will promote all those aims over the next few years. Of course, it is not possible in these things to do everything at once and I want to make it clear that the Bill does not, I am afraid, in any way relax the existing restrictions on local authority capital expenditure which are essential in the context of the present national economic situation.
How does the Bill propose to promote those aims Firstly, it provides for the introduction of new and strict minimum standards for the construction and equipment of slaughterhouses. The Regulations which we believe will be suitable have already been published in draft as standards of hygienic construction and as a guide to those who may want to think out their plans. All new slaughterhouses will have to conform to these Regulations. At present, clearly they have not the force of law and are issued only as a guide.
We shall require existing slaughterhouses to be brought up to the new standards as soon as that can be done in practice in any area without reducing the available facilities below the minimum required. We need not necessarily wait until all slaughterhouses throughout the country have been brought up to the required standards. We can proceed as 1198 soon as it seems safe to do so in each area separately.
The second principle is that the Bill maintains the main lines of the present arrangements under which local authorities are generally and ultimately responsible for slaughterhouse facilities. All private slaughterhouses will require a licence from the local authority. The local authority will continue to have powers to provide public slaughterhouses and if those are adequate for the needs of the area, the local authority will retain the power to refuse licences for private slaughterhouses, but subject to the Minister's consent in each case.
The principle, that local authorities should have power to close private slaughterhouses in their districts on the ground that the public facilities are adequate for the requirements of all traders in the district, goes back to the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. Indeed, some local authorities, I understand, have possessed similar powers for almost a century under local Acts. We considered very carefully whether this power to refuse licences, if the public facilities were adequate, should now be withdrawn, but, as we explained in the White Paper of May, 1956, we decided that the power ought to be retained.
After all, local authorities have the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the provision of slaughtering facilities in their districts is adequate. We felt that we could not fairly ask them to undertake this responsibility for action in default, as it were, while exposing them, without any safeguards, to the risks that public slaughterhouse provision might be rendered uneconomic by the unrestricted building of private slaughterhouses in a district.
That would have been unfair to the local authorities who were spending public money to provide a service in default. Here I pay tribute to the pioneer work of many authorities in providing more up-to-date and better-equipped premises to replace the old and unsatisfactory ones. We intend to provide what is not available at present, a right of appeal to the Minister whenever a licence is refused under that heading.
The third aim of the Bill is to achieve the modernisation and improvement of slaughterhouses which is called for in two 1199 stages. The first stage will be a period in which traders generally will be free to develop slaughterhouse facilities according to their own economic requirements During this period, applications for licences for new or modernised slaughterhouses will be freely accepted, subject, as I have said, to there being no local restriction on the granting of licences because existing public slaughterhouse facilities are sufficient. Any proposal for development will, of course, have to comply with normal town planning requirements and also be up to the new standards required. That first period of almost complete freedom will begin immediately with the passing of the legislation and will end with the submission by local authorities of reports, with which I will deal in a moment.
Clearly, we must make sure that traders who wish to erect new slaughterhouses or improve present ones have sufficient time to prepare their plans. The Bill provides that that period should in any case be no less than nine months. In most cases it will in practice be a great deal longer—I should say certainly something between one and two years. With the submission by local authorities of reports on existing and proposed slaughtering facilities, the main foundations of the new policy will have been laid.
After that point we believe that it will be desirable to reintroduce some measure of control over the granting of licences. We propose, however, that in that second and long-term period no local authority will be able to refuse or grant a licence without first obtaining the Minister's consent. The Minister will have to grant the licence unless he is satisfied that the existing facilities provided are fully adequate both for local needs and for the wider needs of a wider area. The fourth aim of the Bill is to take steps to secure the safety, health and welfare of workers who are employed in slaughterhouses and in knackers' yards.
I want now to deal with the detailed provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 deals with the granting and renewal of slaughterhouse licences. I am sorry if the phrasing appears at first sight to be somewhat abstruse. Some hon. Members may even have to read the Clause twice before they fully understand its intention.
1200 The main changes from the present position are as follows. First, as I have said, the power of local authorities to restrict the granting of licences simply on the ground that adequate private facilities are available will be repealed. I think that is the right course. On the other hand, the power to restrict licences where the local authority provides a public slaughterhouse will remain unchanged, subject to an appeal to the Minister. As I have said, except where the local authority restricts a licence on the ground that the public provision is adequate, the Bill provides freedom for a limited period which may be in practice, one to two years during which licences will be freely granted, provided that the new slaughterhouse or the improved slaughterhouse conforms to the standards of hygiene and prevention of cruelty which are laid down in the Regulations. After that limited period, applications will be granted only if the Minister's approval has first been obtained.
Finally under this Clause, local authorities "must"—instead of "may"—refuse licences if the slaughterhouses fail to conform to the hygiene and construction standards which have been laid down. At present that power is permissive on local authorities, and clearly it ought to be mandatory.
I turn to what happens to someone who wants to put up a new slaughterhouse in an area where the local authority provides a public slaughterhouse and, in consequence, has restricted the issue of new licences. That is dealt with in Clause 2, which provides the right of the applicant to appeal to the Minister. The local authority can itself put the application to the Minister; if not, the applicant can require the authority to do so, and the Minister must then consider the whole case. He will hold a public inquiry, if he considers it necessary, and he must grant the licence unless he is satisfied that the need does not exist. I am sorry that I have said that four times, I think, in my speech, but it is a complicated matter and it is also rather important.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
What are the conditions which will encourage or persuade the Minister to grant a licence for a private slaughterhouse in an area where there is a public slaughterhouse and where the local 1201 authority is unwilling that a licence should be granted for any further private slaughterhouse?
Clearly, if the Minister felt that a case had been made out for it being reasonable for an additional slaughterhouse to be provided—it might be that the public slaughterhouse for one reason or another did not reasonably fill the requirements of a particular trader—he might find himself in disagreement with the view of the local authority.
Clause 3 requires each authority to submit a report to the Minister within a limited period about the slaughterhouse facilities in the area. The intention is that this review should give details of all existing slaughterhouses and all applications for new licences which are outstanding when the report is submitted. Authorities will also be asked in that report to include a review of the probable needs of their areas, as far as they can see them, for new provision, and also to say what in their opinion would be a reasonable date by which the new standards could be applied to existing slaughterhouses in the area. These reports will enable the Minister to decide when the new standards can reasonably be brought into force.
The period of freedom in the Bill to which I referred—stage one—will end with the submission of that report to the Minister, and Clause 4 provides that once the report has been submitted, new licences for which application is made afterwards require the Minister's approval.
Clause 5 deals with certain reasons which might lead to applications for licences being refused. If, following the acceptance of an application for a licence, there has been no progress in putting the project in hand within a reasonable period, the licence can then be cancelled erased from the report. The applicant can appeal to the Minister, and he Minister would no doubt have regard to whether the conditions during the period have been such as to enable the building work to proceed. For instance, the incidence of the credit squeeze would be the kind of factor which it would be right to take into consideration.
I come to the provisions of the Bill safeguarding the safety, health and welfare of the workers, and here we are largely breaking new ground, as at present 1202 relatively few slaughterhouses, mainly those attached to bacon factories, fall within the scope of the Factories Acts. The others which do not come within their scope fall mainly into two categories—first, those small slaughterhouses which are attached to small retail premises and, secondly, the bigger abattoirs which are used separately as slaughterhouses.
It seemed to us that the most satisfactory arrangement would be to treat these two categories differently. The conditions in slaughterhouses in the bigger abattoirs—those which are not attached to small butchers' shops—are, broadly, comparable with those which already fall within the scope of the Factories Acts, and we are therefore providing in the Bill that the Factories Acts should be extended to them, with the responsibility for inspection following the same lines as under the present Factories Acts.
The position is rather different for the slaughterhouses attached to small butchers' shops. They are usually quite small, and slaughtering is often carried out there much less regularly than in the bigger abattoirs. We therefore propose to make regulations in these cases which the local authorities should enforce. We have been led to that decision by the fact that local authorities' officers already visit these small premises to enforce the hygiene Regulations and the regulations for the prevention of cruelty to animals. It therefore seems sensible not to duplicate the inspection of those premises.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
Before the Minister leaves this Clause, which we very much welcome, may I put to him a point arising out of it? The Clause gives regulation-making powers. When we turn to the draft Regulations which the Minister has kindly afforded us, we find that in the introduction to these Regulations it is stated thatthe necessary Regulations cannot, however, be made under existing powers and enabling legislation will be introduced as soon as the Parliamentary timetable permits.Where in the Bill do we find the authority which apparently was felt to be lacking when the present draft Regulations were drafted I raise the point only because we are now dealing with a provision for making regulations in respect of the specific purposes of the Factories Act and of the health, safety and welfare of the 1203 workers. I wondered where in the Bill the regulation-making powers are provided.
I believe that I am right in saying that the authority is here in this Bill, but I will look into that point, and if that explanation is not accurate, as it may not be, I will ask my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to refer to it.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
Can the Minister say whether or not the new regulations will abrogate, or rescind the Public Health Acts now operated by the local authorities as to offensive smells, nuisance to neighbouring people and so on?
No, I think not. I think that those fall under the heading of nuisance Regulations, and they will stand exactly as they are at present.
Clause 7 and the Second Schedule make a few changes in the Acts which deal with the slaughter of animals. We think that those Acts really need consolidation, and the Second Schedule consists entirely of minor amendments aimed at tidying up. But Clause 7 makes a more important change about which I should like to say a word or two.
The law in this country has for some years required animals to be stunned instantaneously, but the scientists have now produced an alternative humane method of rendering animals unconscious—I hope that I am not rendering human beings unconscious with a speech on this Bill. This alternative method is already in use abroad for pigs, and consists of anaesthetising them with carbon-dioxide. I have had this process investigated with great care, and so has the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, which think that it is a good method if properly controlled. Other satisfactory methods of anaesthetising animals may, of course, be devised in the future, so in the Bill we propose to take power by regulation to permit such methods, after consulting the animal welfare societies and other interests concerned.
Clause 8 confers on officers of my Department powers to enter slaughterhouses in order to see that the hygiene 1204 Regulations are enforced. Enforcement is the duty of the local authorities, and the last thing that I want is to duplicate work by the officials of the central Government. But I believe that this question of slaughterhouse hygiene is so important that it is very desirable that we should have means of keeping in touch with the progress that local authorities are making with a task that is by no means always easy. I have been strongly urged to adopt this course by the Food Hygiene Advisory Council, and I hope that local authorities will feel that we desire to help, and not to hinder them, by occasional visits from officers who are chosen for their experience in slaughterhouse work. This is a point that we shall no doubt discuss in Committee.
This is really an England and Wales Bill. It is intended that later there shall be a separate Slaughterhouses Bill for Scotland to deal with conditions there. But Clause 13 provides that the provisions of Clause 6 (1), extending the Factories Acts to slaughterhouses, shall apply to Scotland for the same classes of slaughterhouse as in England and Wales.
I hope, but I am not sure, that I have been able to give a reasonably clear, if extremely prosaic, picture of what we set out to achieve by this Bill—
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Before the Minister leaves the other point, would he say why it is necessary to put this Scottish provision into this Bill when we are, in fact, to have our own Slaughterhouses Bill?
It is due to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour's responsibilities under the Factories Acts extend north of the Tweed and, therefore, it is convenient to deal with it all here. I understand that that is the position.
The White Paper published last year was, I believe, favourably received by the very great majority of the interests concerned, and this Bill just gives statutory effect to the provisions outlined in that White Paper. I think that all hon. Members will be as glad as I am that it has been found possible to bring this much-needed Measure to the House so early in the Session, and I invite the House to give it a Second Reading.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
It is a little ironic that one of the first Measures the Government should introduce should be a Slaughterhouses Bill. I should have thought that the Government themselves were a sufficient shambles to feel some embarrassment in such action. But I will exercise some restraint, and acknowledge at once that we are much obliged to the Minister for responding to pressure, and for implementing the promise he made to bring forward, as soon as he could, a Bill to improve the conditions in our slaughterhouses. I would at once acknowledge, too, that he is, in fact, endeavouring to do something to improve those conditions.
Personally, I would also like to thank him for affording us, in advance, the draft regulations. This was done in the case of the Food and Drugs Bill, and was very helpful to us in discussing its provisions. I am happy to note, further, that the Food Hygiene Advisory Council has been consulted, and I understand that the provision of powers of entry contained in Clause 8 follow representations made by that Council.
The right hon. Gentleman, too, obviously seeks some consolation in the fact that he has in support the Inter-Departmental Committee's Report, but I say at once—and will, perhaps, cause him a little disappointment by saying it—that that is not a satisfactory Report at at all. I think that everybody in the House recognises that the Committee was not properly constituted for the work it eventually performed.
What it was asked to do wasTo prepare a plan recommending in what localities, subject to a policy of moderate concentration, slaughterhouses (other than in bacon factories) should be sited…to recommend an order of priority of new works…to make recommendations on the general principles of siting and…facilities…to report on the changes that may be necessary in existing legislation to secure the central regulation of siting and design of slaughterhouses.That is quite a proper thing to refer to civil servants, but that is not what the Committee has done and what is not proper is to leave questions of policy to bureaucrats. Here there has been a change of policy which has been determined by the bureaucrats—
Not finally determined by officials, but accepted by the Minister. That is quite disturbing, because in this House we have felt, certainly ever since the Suez crisis, that the Government have lost their morale and has leaned far too much on civil servants. In passing, I would just say that we know that very shortly the Minister is to bring before us further legislation scrapping Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1947. We know that he has not been so advised by any responsible body in the agricultural industry, but that he has been so advised by his bureaucrats.
I say again that it is disturbing that under the present Government we are getting far too much reliance upon bureaucrats for policy. Bureaucrats should do specific work within the terms of policy, but here we have another case, where, in fact, they have determined policy. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to conceal that this Report, instead of being a Report for the implementation of a policy of moderate concentration, has become the basis for the abandonment—or, at any rate, the postponement to the very remote future—of any such policy. This is a matter of policy, and I very much regret that we have not had the Minister announcing to the House a bold programme to implement the policy of moderate concentration for our slaughterhouses.
I want to say a word or two about the policy which the Government, implicitly, are now abandoning. Before the war everyone concerned with slaughterhouse policy believed in a policy of moderate concentration. There had been exhaustive inquiries. We had marketing reports in respect of beef and in respect of mutton and lamb and a report on the slaughtering of livestock. We also had a report on the marketing of fatstock in Scotland, and a report on abattoir design. All those reports supportetd, either overtly or by implication, a policy of moderate concentration. Thus, all enlightened opinion before the war accepted the desirability of such a policy.
Then we had our experience during the war when we reduced the number of our slaughterhouses to 700, and by the end of control the number was less than 500. I would remind the House what the position wag about those slaughterhouses. 1207 Successive Ministers of Food had continuous representations made to them about the unsatisfactory condition of some of those slaughterhouses. The Inter-Departmental Committee on Meat Inspection reported in 1951, saying, in effect, that we could not have effective meat inspection in the conditions of our slaughterhouses at that time. In other words, the conditions in the 500 slaughterhouses then operating were so bad that we could not have effective meat inspection.
I make only one quotation from the Report, which will be known to most hon. Members. I would emphasise the use of "present". The Committee reported:The present deficiencies are often due to slaughterhouses being too small, badly constructed and inadequately equipped. In such circumstances it is impossible to secure the observance of reasonable standards of hygiene.Today, those slaughterhouses are among the best in operation. Those were the slaughterhouses which had been operated by the Ministry of Food and upon which considerable sums had been spent by the Ministry while it was responsible for them.
It was for this reason that a building programme was begun in 1951, when, in addition to the slaughterhouses at Fareham and Guildford, we decided to build seven model slaughterhouses. That is the last effective step which has been to improve the conditions of our slaughterhouses.
I would remind the House that as we approached the prospect of decontrol the Minister set up seven area advisory committees. They were committees not of bureaucrats, but of representatives of the meat trade, the farmers and the slaughterhouse industry. But what did the Minister of Food tell us on 25th April, 1952? He said:It has been found that less than a dozen could effectively be brought into use."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1952; Vol. 499, c. 41.]Those were the circumstances at the end of control. The problem had been examined before the war and we had had the experience when the Government were responsible during the period of control. It is not surprising that the late Mr. Maurice Webb should have said that the Labour Government were committed to a policy of moderate concentration. As 1208 he pointed out, that did not mean that there would be public responsibility for all slaughterhouses. He said expressly:Many slaughterhouses are owned and managed by local authorities, Co-operative societies and private traders. The Government hope that this will continue and will do what they can to encourage the building of new ones by local authorities…This is very important in view of the development of the Fatstock Marketing Corporation.…or by any suitable organisations of producers or traders who may be prepared to build provided they do so in accordance with the general scheme…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st August, 1951; Vol. 491, c. 1464.]The successor to Mr. Maurice Webb, Viscount Tenby—I have always regarded him as expressing the lowest common denominator on food and agricultural matters—expressed the same view. He committed the present Government to a policy of moderate concentration. He went further, because he defined what he meant by moderate concentration. He said:…that is, concentration into some 300 or 400 slaughterhouses throughout Great Britain. The exact number cannot, of course, be determined at once."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 2.]It may surprise the House that Viscount Tenby reduced the number to 300 or 400, but the development of road transport very much affected the estimates which had been made pre-war about the number of slaughterhouses that might be required. This view was supported by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and also supported eloquently by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who graced us with his advice in the Standing Committee dealing with the last slaughterhouses Measure.
The Inter-Departmental Committee uttered a warning, saying in its interim Report thatprivate slaughterhouses must not be allowed to slip back into the conditions of the pre-war disorders and numbers.Does the Committee know what the conditions are in the present slaughterhouses Most of them are an absolute disgrace.
Viscount Tenby estimated—I make no quarrel with him about it—that we should have 2,000 or 2,500 slaughterhouses after decontrol. I make no point of his mis-estimate, but the present 1209 number is about 4,500. This is considerably fewer than the 12,000 before the war, but it is considerably more than the 500 that we had in operation under control, many of which were thoroughly unsatisfactory.
What building has been done since then All the right hon. Gentleman has done is to discourage local authorities. My local authority has pressed as hard as a local authority could to be allowed to build a slaughterhouse. The conditions in Sunderland are absolutely deplorable. There are slaughterhouses in the basements of houses, and that sort of thing. The right hon. Gentleman has not allowed Sunderland to progress. All that has been built since decontrol is a small number of private slaughterhouses, all of which by the standards which the Ministry itself has defined are hopelessly inadequate, and this has, in fact, aggravated the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Fatstock Marketing Corporation. I would remind him what the Corporation said in its Annual Report, after the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee. It said:Although improvements are envisaged by the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee, we are of the opinion that only by means of a new construction programme, planned and executed by experts on the scale we have in mind, can slaughtering practice in this country attain the desired standard of efficiency, economy of operation and hygiene.In other words, the Corporation is confirming the approach made by the Labour Government. It would wish to build substantially, but how can it afford the risk of doing that when the right hon. Gentleman is encouraging the continuance of the present pattern of slaughterhouses? We all realise that the new regulations are to apply to the present slaughterhouses only in the remote future. We know how extremely difficult it will be to enforce them. It is all very well telling local authorities that they must discuss the matter with the Ministry and advise the Ministry when it would be proper to do what is proposed, but local authorities will find themselves in serious difficulty over the availability of accommodation. That is the problem we have in Sunderland, and we shall continue to have these deplorable slaughterhouses, adjacent to houses, in slum conditions.
1210 We know that this is not peculiar to particular constituencies, because we had the shock of the Balfour Committee's report on the export of livestock and we learned how this trade began. It began because British contractors could not satisfy the hygiene requirements of the United States Army, and they had to send abroad cattle to be slaughtered to meet the requirements of their contracts. The Balfour Committee said:We were shocked to learn that contracts for the supply of meat for the United States Forces in Europe could not be arranged from this country direct because our slaughterhouses fall short of the standards demanded by the American Army Veterinary Corps. The first shipment abroad of live cattle was in fact made in order to complete an American Army contract, the slaughterhouses in The Hague and Rotterdam having been approved by the American authorities.That is a very serious reflection upon the condition of slaughterhouses in this country.
These circumstances, I emphasise once again, demanded a vigorous and bold policy of moderate concentration with some steps being taken immediately towards its implementation. But we have had nothing of that from the right hon. Gentleman today. He has not told us that we shall be allowed to build our slaughterhouse in Sunderland. He has not given a promise. It is really rather fatuous to talk about private enterprise building slaughterhouses in these days of 7 per cent. because, at the best of times, slaughterhouses are not an attractive proposition from a business point of view
Here are the reasons why there ought to have been an immediate implementation of a policy of moderate concentration. First, it is the only way in which we can secure more humane slaughtering. It is quite impossible to provide humane conditions in most of the slaughterhouses in this country. Secondly, there are the grounds of hygiene. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, in many respects, we are behind most other countries—certainly most other countries in Western Europe—in hygiene in the meat trade. We cannot provide better conditions of hygiene because we cannot provide the better facilities. We can provide the better conditions only if we really tackle the problem of our slaughterhouses, a problem which is aggravated by the fact that we are desperately short of public 1211 health inspectors. How can they carry out their work when there is this large number of tiny, backyard slaughterhouses I have had complaint after complaint from public health inspectors that, in many authority areas, half, or less than half, of the meat is, in fact, inspected.
Another matter which is equally important and which bears upon those two points was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, and we appreciate what he is doing. The conditions of work and the status of the people engaged in the industry are most important. It is no good trying to run an industry like this on part-time labour. One cannot provide humane or hygienic conditions in that way. It is a skilled job and must be recognised as such. In fact, we shall provide proper humane and hygienic conditions only so far as we have responsible and skilled workers.
There is another factor which is important, namely, the efficiency of the meat trades. Today, we are at a comparative disadvantage because marketing is affected by slaughtering. We have a very uneconomical pattern of marketing partly because we have an uneconomical pattern of slaughtering. This adds to the distributive costs. If one could deal with meat through less than 500 slaughterhouses, whereas today there are 4,500 slaughterhouses, somebody must pay for that, for the use of the premises, for the capital involved, for the transport and the labour. It is not, therefore, surprising that this is one of the contributory factors explaining the increase in the retail price of meat since decontrol.
Equally important, also, is the serious loss of by-products in this country. This is the principal reason why the Fatstock Marketing Corporation wishes to go into the slaughtering business; it wants to own slaughterhouses and get into the by-product business. There is, for instance, the loss of glandular products. In fact, there is an enormous overall loss of by-products in this country, because they are highly perishable and the by-products works must be close to the slaughterhouses themselves.
Hides are an example, of which the right hon. Gentleman is aware. Negotiations are taking place now because the trade is very upset at the deterioration in 1212 hides and skins. Discussions have taken place. At these discussions an estimate of £1 million a year has been put forward as the loss in this regard. That is just one of the losses; because of this inefficiency hides and skins alone are costing us about £1 million a year. If we are talking of losses on this scale, then, of course, we must realise that capital investment is called for. We must not only rid ourselves of a national disgrace—I challenge any national newspaper to hold an investigation into the slaughterhouses of Great Britain—but, quite apart from that, we must rid ourselves of the wasteful use of manpower and resources; the trade is inefficient and often poor meat is the result.
Instead of a determined effort to tackle the problem, which we had hoped for, we have this bureaucrats' paradise—reports, counter-reports, minutes, notes in the margin of the minutes, papers going back and forth. The right hon. Gentleman should have stopped to consider whether the right people are, in any case, making the reports. Of course they are not. Who in the House would suggest that the present local authorities are the right basis for a slaughterhouse policy? That is why I emphasised the policy of moderate concentration. At any rate, one would have expected standing joint committees of local authorities to examine the problem.
What we have here, essentially, is a postponement of the problem. None the less, we shall not oppose the Bill. We do not oppose it, because it does some things which we welcome. It will make it rather easier to build slaughterhouses. I am quite satisfied, however, that we shall not, by and large, obtain the right slaughterhouses, even if slaughterhouses are built. I am not very optimistic in present circumstances about any slaughterhouse building on any substantial scale. At the same time, I know that it is the policy of the Government to discourage local authorities from providing slaughterhouse accommodation, although we know quite well that this is not an attractive form of investment.
I have said that I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for affording us a sight of the draft Regulations before we discuss the Bill. I concede at once that these regulations will help with regard to the provision of new slaughterhouses, but it would have been far better, 1213 as everyone who has had anything to do with the slaughterhouse industry knows, if we had continued what we began in 1951 when we built these model slaughterhouses. That is really what is needed. There is little likelihood that we shall get such building even under these regulations. Since I feel in a generous mood towards the right hon. Gentleman, I will concede that the Bill will bring about some slow movement towards moderate concentration, though, as I have emphasised throughout my speech, I consider that we want much more than that in present circumstances.
Without any reservation, I welcome the provisions relating to the Factories Acts, safety, health and welfare. I say at once to the right hon. Gentleman that he has got a first-class record in this respect. We very much appreciate the initiative that he has taken. We only wish that it had been followed by others of his right hon. Friends. It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman should be doing this after the Government's abandonment of the Shops Bill.
I recognise that this is probably the most important part of the Bill. None the less, although we congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on getting the Slaughterhouses Bill before the House, which was quite an achievement, we are grievously disappointed that he has not clone more. We hope that, on reflection, he will be with us, in Standing Committee, when we shall endeavour to strengthen the Bill and that he will endeavour to draw the regulations in a form which will carry us much more swiftly towards an effective policy of moderate concentration.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
I find myself fundamentally opposed to most of the things that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has just said.
I cannot help but welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has departed from a policy of even moderate concentration. We should remember that a policy of even moderate concentration would have deprived the general public of the great benefit which they will derive from this Bill, namely, that the small butcher slaughtering for himself can afford to be far more selective in the quality of his meat. He can afford to be far more particular in the way that he does the job, 1214 and he can achieve a far higher standard than can ever be achieved by slaughtering on a line system in a really big abattoir. I cannot accept what the hon. Member has just said, that these local craftsmen—because, after all, these butchers who produce such an excellent Sunday joint in most of our villages really are craftsmen—are inefficient or produce bad meat.
I want to declare a threefold interest. First, I am one of the honorary vice-presidents of the National Federation of Meat Traders, which represents about 95 per cent. of all the smaller retail butchers in the country.
I have another very personal and local interest in my own constituency. We seem to differ yet again from Sunderland because we are about to put up one of the new slaughterhouses. We are very grateful to my right hon. Friend for publishing the Regulations so far in advance, so that we were able to go ahead with our plans for the new slaughterhouse. I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the firm of auctioneers who are going ahead with this slaughterhouse which will help all the local farmers in the Gainsborough district. I hope that project will not be held up by any restrictions on capital expenditure or by any delay in passing this most excellent Measure through this House.
I ought to declare a third interest, and that is as a farmer and meat producer—an interest which is shared by many Members on both sides of the House. I am certain that all farmers will welcome this Bill. The farmers who are really going to welcome it are those who can still produce really good quality meat, because they know that if they can catch the local butcher's eye in the market, they will get the highest price for their product.
I am sure we all welcome the measures for extending the agricultural safety, health and welfare provisions for the men employed in the slaughterhouses and knackers' yards. I am very glad—here again I differ from the hon. Member for Sunderland, North—that the Minister recognises the very large number of part-time people who are bound to be employed in slaughtering. In about 3,500 slaughterhouses throughout the United 1215 Kingdom, slaughtering is done and will continue to be done by people who are employed for only one or two days a week.
§ Dr. Stross
The hon. Gentleman has made the point very strongly that there are certain advantages in private slaughtering in small slaughterhouses scattered throughout the country as compared with large units. Would he deal with a further advantage which the owners of these small slaughterhouses will have, and which he has not mentioned, namely, that they do not have to be bothered very much with inspection?
§ Mr. Kimball
I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. Certainly in my own area all the small slaughterhouses are perfectly adequately inspected. I do not know the conditions in the hon. Gentlemen's area, but in Lincolnshire, which has far more butchers doing their own slaughtering than in any other county in the Kingdom, I have experienced no complaints about the conditions of slaughtering or of work either in slaughterhouses or knackers' yards. While we are on the subject, I hope that it is not the Minister's intention to make regulations whereby all these slaughter-men should be registered.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary-Secretary, in winding up, will be able to clear up the doubts about the words "curtilage" and "precincts." I hope that it is not intended that the concessions and other provisions of Clause 6 are not to apply to a small slaughterhouse situated further down the village street and not actually on the precincts of the butcher's shop. I hope that we shall have an assurance on this point when my hon. Friend winds up.
I am glad that the Minister has disregarded the question of the processing of by-products with which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North made such great play. If these by-products are really valuable, of course, the butchers will take advantage of the fact. If there is really money to be made from these by-products, the small butchers will not let them run to waste. However, the equipment necessary for processing these by-products would be very expensive. Hon. Members will be aware that the price of hides and skins has fallen considerably 1216 in the last few years, and I doubt whether the money which would be received from this processing would give a fair return on the expensive equipment.
As an honorary vice-president of the National Federation of Meat Traders, I can say that the Federation welcomes the provisions for the extension of the Minister's powers to deal with the more humane slaughter of animals. The Federation and the butchers will do all they can to support the Minister in these measures. On the subject of stunning pens, I know that my right hon. Friend appreciates that in many small slaughterhouses space is the limiting factor in establishing even a small stunning pen. I hope that in the consultations which he will have with the meat trade and with the other interests on this question of the more humane slaughter of animals, he will not forget to consult both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association.
I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill through the House, because I know we all wish it to pass smoothly and quickly in order that the general public and the meat trade may have the full benefits from its provisions.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) on his very thorough knowledge of the subject and on the eminence which he has attained on becoming an honorary vice-president of the National Federation of Meat Traders—a position which I once held until I fell out with the Federation over matters of policy.
I should like also to add my congratulations on the fact that the hon. Gentleman should represent a constituency where everything is so perfect. One would think that in Lincolnshire conditions in slaughterhouses must be all that can be desired, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I know some of the slaughterhouses in Lincolnshire and that they are not so perfect as he would make out.
In conversation yesterday on this subject with my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), who is very distinguished in medical surgery, I said that while I did not want to be dogmatic—and it is not safe to be dogmatic in 1217 this House—I felt that I was probably the only hon. Member who had actually worked for some time in a slaughterhouse. My hon. Friend immediately put me right by assuming I was talking about licensed slaughterers. He said that as a member of the medical profession. In saying that, I am not declaring an interest to the House. My interest in that respect went some time ago.
Looking back to my slaughterhouse days, I feel grateful for the many changes in the conditions in the intervening years. While conditions in existing slaughterhouses are in many ways appalling, there is no doubt that there has been an improvement since the days when I was a young slaughterman. I remember the condition of some of the buildings. There are many slaughterhouses today which are infinitely better than any which existed in the days that I am thinking about. The equipment is better, and some of the conditions of hygiene are better. I am sure, too, that there is a great improvement in the care of the animals.
There is no doubt that the instruments of slaughter are infinitely better. As a young man I joined in the butchers' agitation against the use of mechanical instruments. Since then I have been completely converted, and there is no doubt that the agitation we went in for against the mechanical instruments as they were coming in was a mistaken agitation. What has been done about the instruments of slaughter has been of tremendous benefit in slaughterhouse work in this country. I suppose that somebody will write a pamphlet one day on the subject and call it "From Poleaxe to Carbon-dioxide" to show the advance that has been made.
The Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has said, is good so far as it goes, but it does not go anything like far enough. The Bill touches only the fringe of the slaughterhouse problem. While the Bill will certainly, if carried into effect, improve the conditions of the slaughterhouses I am grievously disappointed that the Government have not been able to adopt the moderate concentration which was mentioned at length by my hon. Friend.
With respect to the hon. Member for Gainsborough, I would point out that at 1218 the end of the war, and towards the end of control, the meat trade had made up its mind it would never go back to the small slaughterhouses. Time and time again, at conferences of the National Federation of Meat Traders, I heard that statement made by very responsible people. They had made up their minds that never again would they have the conditions which prevailed before the war, when there were almost 12,000 slaughterhouses. It is a blot on this country's record that we have now about 4,500 slaughterhouses.
I go further than my hon. Friend, for I believe that all slaughterhouses should be owned and controlled by the municipalities. I know that in the rural and especially the remoter areas there are difficulties, and I am prepared to make some allowances because of those difficulties, but I am certain that the wit of man, in these days of modern transport, could overcome those difficulties of providing the facilities so that all the slaughterhouses, even in the country areas, could be under the full control of the municipal authorities, with adequate inspection, which cannot be secured in a multiplicity of slaughterhouses.
§ Mr. Kimball
The hon. Gentleman says that he would like concentration of slaughterhouses and he says that the meat trade was content to cope with about 500 slaughterhouses. How does he reconcile that with the fact that since there has been a free market, in which butchers have been able to go to the market to select animals of their own choice, they have preferred, and even found it essential, to open their own slaughterhouses, where they can kill the beasts of their choice?
§ Mr. Royle
I did not say that the butchers were prepared at that time to continue with only 500 slaughterhouses. I said they made up their minds that no longer was it possible to go back to the days before the war and a multiplicity of slaughterhouses. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that even the meat trade is inclined to change its mind. Between 1945 and 1953 it was screaming for freedom. At the last conference of the National Federation of Meat Traders a resolution asked the executive to consider whether licensing and registration would not be a good thing for the trade. Already, it is changing its mind about the 1219 freedom which this Government gave it not very long ago.
I will follow the line the hon. Gentleman took, and talk about those smaller slaughterhouses. Perhaps I shall say one or two things with which he will agree. The great factory abattoirs owned by the municipalities are of tremendous advantage to the country. I would appeal to my hon. Friends who are associated with the Co-operative movement to prevail on their societies to consider selling or handing over to the local authorities the very good abattoirs which Co-operative societies possess.
Public slaughterhouses do not of necessity mean massacres of large numbers of cattle. Where the hon. Member for Gainsborough slips up is that he assumes that in the large slaughterhouses the only people who will be operating are the regular slaughtermen who do nothing else at all but slaughter for a living. He is forgetting that those slaughterhouses, as I envisage them, will be available to the private butchers should they desire to use them.
There is no question of saying to the private butcher who likes to exercise his skill by going to the market and selecting his own cattle, and actually laying his hand on them, that he must cease to practise his wonderful craftsmanship. On the contrary, we say that he may buy his own cattle, his own sheep, but that he must slaughter them under proper conditions and with the right amount of supervision. That is already done in many of the municipal slaughterhouses. Nobody is suggesting that the private butcher should not have the right to kill his own animals under those conditions.
I would agree with the hon. Gentleman that, generally, the man who is not a regular slaughterman is much more likely to look after the well-being of the animals. There is no doubt that the man who is a craftsman in every sense of the word in his butchering, and does not just do only the slaughtering, is not the type of man who will knock the animals about, but I must say, with the greatest possible respect to the professional slaughterman who does nothing else, that there is an inclination, as I know from my experience long ago, to get a little blasé when one is handling cattle. That is not to the benefit of the animals.
1220 My greatest concern is about inspection. The present great shortage of inspectors is one of our big problems today. I suggest to the Minister that by continuing his present policy of opening more and more slaughterhouses he is making the inspection situation considerably worse. The problem of inspection can only be overcome in years to come by the establishment of the larger, concentrated slaughterhouses. These small slaughterhouses are not visited as regularly as we would like them visited by the meat inspectors.
I know from long experience the great temptation in the mind of the meat trader when he opens a carcase and finds signs of tuberculosis down the ribs and sides. The temptation is to get his knife and very skilfully strip out the signs of disease before the inspector arrives on the scene. In many cases, the inspector never arrives at all. That meat goes to the butcher's shop, to the great danger of the consumer. I want to see a situation in which inspectors are in constant attendance, as they already are in the larger abattoirs.
On the question of cruelty, I shall have to speak with great trepidation in the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), since I want to say a few words about ritual slaughter and its association with slaughter by those whom, for want of better words, I must describe as Christian butchers. There is an ideal at which we must aim. The White Paper refers to "stunning pens." The only people who use these stunning pens today are our friends of the Jewish faith. I congratulate them on the fact that these pens are universally in use in the ritual slaughter of cattle. The Jewish community have rendered a tremendous service to the country generally by using these pens and drawing so much attention to them.
But there is a misnomer here. The Regulations use the words, "stunning pens," but these pens are used at present for anything but stunning in Jewish ritual slaughter. While I would in no way attempt to say anything of a very deep character about religious beliefs, I have an idea in mind which, I hope, in the near future might lead to a compromise being reached. The Jewish method of slaughter involves the driving of the cattle into the pen. The pen then 1221 revolves and the person responsible for the slaughter comes along with his knife and severs the jugular vein. He does it very efficiently indeed. It is an infinitely better method than those which the Christian butcher uses.
§ Mr. Royle
I bow to superior knowledge.
The difference is that the non-Jewish butcher drags the beast into the ring on the end of a rope or chain. I have always believed that if cruelty is involved in the slaughter of animals the cruelty is chiefly in leading up of the animal to the point of slaughter. The actual slaughter is not as cruel as the minutes which lead up to it. Therefore, I should like to see a compromise reached by which the meat trade would accept the stunning pen and every beast would be put into it and there stunned before its throat is cut and bleeding occurs. I should then ask Our Jewish friends, as their part of the compromise, to agree to the stunning if other butchers agree to the pen.
It is impossible to introduce the stunning pen in the vast majority of slaughterhouses today because of the lack of space and, therefore, we cannot have this humane attitude adopted in the slaughter of our cattle. I suggest to the hon. Member for Gainsborough that he must change his mind on this question if he has any concern at all for the cattle that provide our food.
I believe that the knackers' yards need greater attention than slaughterhouses. Conditions in some of them are extremely shocking. I hope that when it comes to putting the Bill into operation, and the Regulations associated with it, greater attention will be paid to the knackers' yards and that attention will not he entirely concentrated on the slaughterhouses.
I have been glad of the opportunity of speaking in the debate, but I think that the Minister has missed a great opportunity. Ali the things that we dream of cannot be accomplished by means of the policies which the Government are pursuing. I hope that either Her Majesty's Government will change their mind about these things very quickly, or that the country will give us on this side of the House the opportunity to put these things 1222 in order. I agree that it would be crazy to oppose the Bill. It certainly takes some steps forward, but I hope to have the opportunity of joining with my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North in making this a better Bill.
I thank the Minister for the lucid way in which he explained some of the very difficult points in the Bill. We appreciate that and, in return, we shall help to make it a very much better one.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
I am sure that we all listened with the greatest interest to the account given by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) of his personal experience. We have heard from the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) about his hallucination that this House or parts of this House are a shambles, but I think that the hon. Member for Salford, West, who has just drawn on his experience, is happier perhaps in his present circumstances than he was in his earlier ones in a slaughterhouse.
I cannot bring any personal experience to this discussion, but it is common ground that we all wish to see an improvement in the present standard of slaughterhouses. This Bill, undoubtedly, will hasten that process. I congratulate the Government on bringing it in so quickly, because some of my correspondents thought that there would be greater delay than there has been.
I think that we ought to see the Bill against the general background that, in the last three or four years, we have all of us eaten a great deal more meat than before and, despite the condition of our slaughterhouses, we all look pretty well on it. I cannot help supposing that this extra amount of meat contributed to the increase in volume and therefore to the reopening of many of the small slaughterhouses. Obviously the question of meat hygiene is extremely important; it is also apparently remarkably detailed. The Food and Agriculture Organisation recently published a volume, which I confess I have not read, but which runs to no fewer than 500 pages, dealing entirely with this one subject.
The new approved standards will enable large modern slaughterhouses to be built by those organisations which wish to put them up, and I should have 1223 thought that it was quite obvious that organisations like the Fatstock Marketing Corporation would want to set up slaughterhouses where they know that they will be in places of strategic importance from the production point of view. Northern Ireland is an example that springs to mind. I should like to see one in my own County of Norfolk because, as a meat producing area, we should like to have increased slaughtering facilities, so that more of our meat might leave Norfolk on a dead weight basis, which would possibly afford us some protection should we again be unfortunate enough to have outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease. Undoubtedly extra facilities would be very much to our advantage.
I should like to ask the Minister whether he will say something, at a later stage, on the effect of this Bill in making it possible to secure better and more economic terms for the sale or leasing of the Government slaughterhouses, which were built for the Ministry of Food, and which were referred to by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North, and whether, when the Bill becomes an Act, those slaughterhouses may be disposed of on more favourable terms. I think that the House will be aware that the Committee of Public Accounts drew our attention to the difficulty of disposing of those slaughterhouses so long as there was some doubt as to the exact basis on which the future slaughterhouse policy would develop.
At present, we are short of good examples of large-scale slaughterhouses and that, undoubtedly, has had the effect of making it rather difficult for that specialised section of our engineering industry which makes slaughterhouse equipment to build up its export trade. Indirectly this Bill should enable that trade to be expanded.
There was an occasion last summer when a Russian delegation came to this country and wished to see various food processing installations. It asked to see slaughterhouses, and one very big maker of slaughterhouse equipment found himself in some degree of embarrassment as to where to find enough suitably modern and well-equipped premises.
The general prospect for the future is encouraging, we are setting very high 1224 standards compared with existing ones. At the other end of the scale, I must confess a similar anxiety to that of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) about the position of the small country butcher-retailer who lives and carries on his trade in isolated communities. I hope that these Regulations will not be enforced so, as it were, to drive him out of business purely on grounds of equipment and irrespective of his own efficiency and hygiene.
There is an economic difficulty here. It has been admitted that the turnover of a small country retail butcher is not very large, and it is also admitted that he is very often an extremely skilled craftsman in the art of slaughtering. I think that there is a distinction here between the mass production factory, with the latest equipment in conveyor belts such as the big municipal or private abattoir and the more hand-made efforts of the craftsman operating in his small premises often for a very limited public in the countryside. That man cannot, because of distance, avail himself of the suggestion made by the hon. Member that he should use the facilities of a municipal slaughterhouse. The slaughterhouse may be twenty-five miles away.
Likewise, he is not in a position to group together with other butchers, as could happen in an urban area, and collectively establish a modern slaughterhouse of their own, which they could share. He is in isolation. I am concerned lest he should disappear because he, like the master baker, renders a very important local service, and he is, after all, judged by results. He selects the animal—probably sees the animal growing on a neighbouring farm—buys it himself and, as a craftsman, deals with it. There is the sanction that he himself has to sell the results of his slaughtering over the counter to customers who can, if they wish, go elsewhere to buy their meat.
The standards of the draft Regulations, which I welcome in general, are, none the less, rather more stringent than the model byelaws which were circulated in April, 1956. I think that they may prove to be rather an economic burden to some of those admittedly very few—but because they are few they are not unimportant—small country butchers. The new draft Regulations speak in terms of a great deal of space. They seem to postulate 1225 running water and electricity. Of course, that is all important in a slaughterhouse in a large area and normally would obviously be absolutely essential, but in a remote country place those two desirable amenities may not be available. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will ensure that where these men, by their craft and personal standards, do a good job they will not be pushed out of business merely because the extra expense required to bring their premises up to the standards is simply not justified.
One final point on inspection. It has been my experience to have had rejected parts of animals sent in for slaughter because of sonic disease. Where meat is rejected for human consumption would it not be desirable to stain it? This used to be done, but it was given up because the Order providing for it has now lapsed and, of course, there is no longer any question of meat rationing to justify it. It is a matter for consideration, however, whether meat which has been condemned for human consumption should not be stained as stockfeed potatoes are stained.
In the end, at any rate on the small scale, neither cleanliness nor humanity necessarily go by size or by material equipment. There is a place for craftsmanship and for this personal service to a small, limited number of customers. I have not the slightest doubt, however, that overall we want to improve general standards and this will be one of the most important functions of the local authorities when the Bill becomes law.
Sometimes we speak of conditions in France, as was the case recently in connection with cattle exports. M. Herriot, when President of the National Assembly, visited the city of Lyons and said to the mayor, "Mr. Mayor, show me your abattoir and I will tell you how you administer your town." It is not for me to say how far that remark is true of this country, but the Government have decided that not only slaughterhouses need reorganisation and improvement, but local government also. I congratulate them on bringing both subjects forward for legislation in this Session.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Dye (Norfolk, South-West)
in following the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) I am afraid I cannot agree with his plea that the country butchers should be allowed 1226 a lower standard of equipment, of hygiene or of anything else than any other butchers in the country. It is amazing that anyone should enter in 1957 a plea that we would be glad to have a lower standard in the country than in any other part of Britain in connection with the food we eat.
§ Mr. Dye
With great respect, the hon. Gentleman mentioned a running water supply and electricity in slaughterhouses. I could have understood his plea if he had said that he wanted running water and electricity in every country district. I want it at any rate, and I will not be satisfied until I get it. It seems to me to be out of date to enter a plea that country butchers should be allowed to carry on with their old-fashioned methods, to the disadvantage of their customers and to the danger of public health.
We all want to see a better standard for slaughterhouses and better handling of the meat and offals from them. As I listened to the closing words of the Minister, when he said that it was hard to be prosaic on such a subject—
§ Mr. Dye
—I thought that he was apologising for the Measure he was bringing in, probably being mindful of the words of Hardy that every shepherd proved a traitor to his croft as he led them to the market on the way to the butcher.
The Minister was expected to bring in a Slaughterhouses Bill that would measure up to the needs of the country today. He has not done it, and in that respect he will let down those who are very much concerned about the facilities for slaughtering our cattle. The right hon. Gentleman did not endeavour to enlighten the House in any way on the size of the problem confronting us today. For instance, in how many slaughterhouses is there a lack of the facilities mentioned in the Regulations? How many slaughterhouses have a stunning pen into which the bullocks or cows enter before going into the slaughterhouse In how many do 1227 the conditions still exist that were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle), where a tow rope is put round the animal's neck and it is dragged into the slaughterhouse and there stunned with the little gun?
What we are concerned about is how long these conditions are to continue before we can say that the country was right in bringing in Regulations to prevent our cattle being exported to countries where they would be handled in an inhuman way? Those who took part in that agitation are now wondering whether they ought not first to have directed their attention to the conditions surrounding the marketing, transporting and slaughtering of cattle in our own country. Those conditions are far from ideal, and it may take many years under this Bill before they are put right.
In that respect I regret the nature of the Bill. The duty is placed upon local authorities. There are hundreds of local authorities, and every little urban and rural district council is an authority dealing with slaughterhouses. Hundreds of them have to engage men qualified as meat inspectors who spend only a few hours a week inspecting meat, and in those areas where the greater slaughterhouses exist and where there is a shortage of meat inspectors the country can say, "Well, as for that shortage, there are many fully qualified men who are nothing like fully employed", because they undertake other duties under that small urban or rural district council. The weakness of the Bill is that as regards the greater part of the area of England, the duty of inspecting and reporting on the conditions of slaughterhouses, and of licensing them, devolves upon these very small rural authorities, and it may be a long time before they are able to bring about improvements.
As the right hon. Gentleman himself said, it is a very costly venture either to modernise an existing slaughterhouse or to build a new one. When it has been decided to do this those concerned do not know, because of the credit squeeze, when or from where they will get the money to do it. I should have thought that it was a matter of such urgency that the right hon. Gentleman, as a Minister of the Crown, would have told the House, "This is a matter with which we are deeply concerned. We will arrange a 1228 programme of work so that it shall be done within five years. We will tidy up and modernise the slaughtering of our cattle, sheep and pigs within that specified time, whether there is a shortage of money or anything else, in the interests of the humane treatment of cattle and public health considerations respecting meat." But it is to be left to private individuals, local authorities and various other people who come along with schemes for the improvement of slaughterhouse building. The great weakness of the Bill is that it is not linked to planned development for the provision of modern slaughterhouses.
Under the conditions of the last year or two, with increased production of fatstock in this country, there has developed a greater liking for home-killed meat. In the Eastern counties, at any rate, home-killed meat has driven imported meat completely out of the butcher's shop, for there are shops today which never sell imported meat of any kind because the demand of the customers is for home-killed meat. I believe we can continue to develop the production and sale of greater quantities of home-killed meat. I look forward to the time when, in the rural areas at any rate, we shall find ourselves self-sufficient with home-produced meat.
I view the Bill from a very practical standpoint rather than a political one. I produce fat cattle. I hope this weekend to enjoy a joint from cattle which I have fattened and seen slaughtered in my locality. The carcass has been sold to the local butcher, and I am buying back a piece of it. That represents the practical view that I take of the Bill; we ought to look at it from the producer's point of view, and the consumer's point of view, too. We want to assure the people that the meat supplied to them is not only suitable to their taste and desire, but free from any possibility of contamination or disease. If the Bill were more adequate, I should have been much happier about it.
I do not altogether agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West when he says that all animals should be slaughtered in municipal slaughterhouses. He is thinking entirely in terms of the large city. Thank goodness Britain is not made up of Salfords. More civilised and better proportioned places are to be found in country districts than in Salford. 1229 We heard references to Salford the other day and were touched by them.
There are developments which move across the line of slaughterhouses owned solely by municipalities. There is the development of the Fatstock Marketing Corporation, which desires to have its own slaughterhouses, drawing its supplies of cattle from its own members, from the farmers, and selling it to retail butchers. There has been another considerable development in the last few years in the Eastern Counties where the London Central Meat Company, which in the past was solely an importer of meat and a seller of imported meat, has now gone over almost entirely to buying its fatstock from farms in Norfolk, where it now has its own slaughterhouse and supplies its own retail shops. There is no need for there to be anyone except that organisation between the producer and the consumer. That can be a very satisfactory arrangement, and it was in that way that I sold my cattle last week.
I see a weakness in the Bill in relation to this matter. The Minister ought to have taken into consideration the grading of cattle when slaughtered. That should be the big development in the next few years. At present, most fat cattle, sheep and pigs go to market. That represents a wasted journey, and it is a costly one in not only money but damage to the animals during transport. Also, the markets are often far from ideal, although the authorities are trying to improve the conditions.
Is not the ideal to be aimed at that animals should go straight from the farm to the place where they are to be slaughtered and for the meat there to be distributed to the retail shops? I should have thought the Minister would have envisaged that as the best possible, most economical and most efficient development, and that he would have aimed at the type of slaughterhouse which would enable his officials to function most efficiently in grading the animals on a deadweight basis. At the moment, if a country butcher wishes to buy an animal from a neighbouring farmer, the animal has to be carted to market and weighed and graded on its live weight, then it has to go back to the slaughterhouse, and the meat is finally distributed to the shop.
The London Central Meat Company has a registered slaughterhouse where the 1230 grading can be done on a deadweight basis. There are only three slaughterhouses in Norfolk where that can be done. At most of the others it is not possible for it to be done. If we are to have private enterprise development of many small slaughterhouses, either new ones or by way of modernisation of existing ones, it seems to me that some butchers will be at a disadvantage compared with others who have larger and more modern slaughterhouses which can be registered for grading.
I agree with a good deal of what the hon. Member has to say. The kind of slaughterhouse which he has envisaged is very often extremely economic, but under the present Bill the way to development of that kind of slaughterhouse will be entirely open.
§ Mr. Dye
I am anxious that the Minister should guide development along those lines rather than continue with the Present system where the advantage is weighed in favour of going through the auction market.
I was somewhat confused by the description of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford. West of the Christian way of slaughtering a bullock, by holding it by a rope around its neck, and of the Jewish way which he thought was more humane. He was confusing the casting pen of the Jewish method with the stunning pen of the modern English slaughterhouse. He kept referring to the stunning pen for the Jewish method, whereas, as I understand it, the modern Jewish method is by the casting pen, although the animal is not stunned before it is put into the casting pen and no method of stunning is used until its throat has been cut. It is handled inside the casting pen, which has a great advantage over the previous Jewish or Mohammedan methods of slaughter.
I want to know whether we are to move forward in British methods of hastening the stunning of the animal before it enters the slaughterhouse. That is the practice in modern slaughterhouses where the animals merely move along a passage to be stunned at the end of it and rolled through a kind of revolving door into the slaughterhouse. That is the system which we ought to have in all slaughterhouses as quickly as possible, without any excuse about the size of some 1231 slaughterhouses. I also hope that in any Regulations which are issued the modern and latest methods practised by the Jewish people will also be covered.
I believe with many people that if we are to make it compulsory for the initial stunning of an animal to take place before its throat is cut, then that practice should be made to apply in all slaughterhouses of whatever religious faith. Those of us who rear animals and who are also concerned with their humane handling are deeply concerned about that, and I hope that members of the Jewish and the Mohammedan faiths will agree to have stunning first and to its being made compulsory.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Sir James Duncan (South Angus)
I hope that the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) enjoys his Sunday dinner. I have had the same sort of experience, but my beast was slaughtered in a small slaughterhouse and I was perfectly content, and, as he can see, I am still perfectly healthy. The answer to the problem lies in a compromise between what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) wanted and what some of us have wanted. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North said that we have had 5,000 slaughterhouses and now have only 4,000 or 4,500. That is a good and not a bad development.
The hon. Member wants great factory slaughterhouses. There are many advantages in that for the supply of big cities and for the export trade—exports internally and overseas, if we can obtain an export trade in carcase meat. On the other side of the picture is the rural area where a small slaughterhouse run by a local man suits the neighbourhood and where a big factory slaughterhouse would not.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North complained that we had run away from the suggestions of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Slaughterhouses on moderate concentration. We shall get moderate concentration in another way, perhaps more moderate than the hon. Member wanted, because the standards of hygiene and the Regulations will compel some small butchers' slaughterhouses to be closed down and those butchers will have to buy their meat on the hoof and 1232 sell it on the hoof in the market. In that way we shall have the moderate concentration which the hon. Member wanted.
I must apologise to my right hon. Friend for not hearing his speech, although I have heard all the others. The Bill is extremely difficult to understand. I remember the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, and the Slaughter of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1954. I remember the Food and Drugs (Scotland) Act, 1955, which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North got out of, but which I did not. They were all complicated, although in the end they were successful bits of legislation.
However, here is a Bill which refers to repealing and amending bits of two of those Acts which themselves were very complicated pieces of legislation. I could read out some of the subsections of the Bill to show how very difficult they are to follow. I appeal to my right hon. Friend when the time comes to have some comprehensive, clear consolidation Measure so that we shall all know where we are and shall not have to spend hours with towels round our heads and volumes of Acts of Parliament at our sides trying to understand this legislation.
Clause 1 (2) refers to the construction Regulations under the Foods and Drugs Act, 1955, and also to construction Regulations under the Slaughter of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1954. It has been represented to me that merely to deal with the construction Regulations is not enough and that further provisions of the Food and Drugs Act should be taken into account. For instance, arrangements made for meat inspection should be included in the construction Regulations so that, in spite of the difficulties, the Bill might also deal with meat inspection. Our system in Scotland is different from and better than that in England. I know the difficulties in England, but we ought to look towards the day when the English will be able to reach the Scottish standards.
My next point concerns small local authorities. I can see very great difficulty in finding sites for new slaughterhouses. Normally a new slaughterhouse is put down somewhere near some houses and even if the local urban district council, for example, approves of the idea the planning authority—the county authority—can veto it. The Minister will 1233 have the applicant appealing to him over the refusal of the local authority to grant a licence, but what if the Minister approves over the head of the urban district council and the planning authority then refuses planning permission? That is a very material point. If we are to get on with this improvement of slaughterhouses and the building of new ones, big or small, it is very important that the Minister should have some overriding authority over the planning authority as well as the local authority, because they are not the same people, except in county council and large county borough areas.
I want to make one point in relation to the position in Scotland. The Bill applies to Scotland only in a limited degree, and it applies only where the Factories Acts are applied in England. I am glad that this provision is included in the Bill, because if the Ministry of Labour comes into these matters and it is a United Kingdom service it is obviously right that Scotland should not be left out when improvements are being made and the big slaughterhouses are being made subject to the Factories Acts. It does not matter where the big factories are they should all he treated equally.
I was expecting that the existing legislation in Scotland would have been effective, with that addition, but I recall an answer given by the then Secretary of State for Scotland—now my right hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. J. Stuart)—on 25th October, 1956. It is a very long answer but, broadly speaking, it says that Parliamentary legislation will be introduced applying the principle embodied in the Bill to Scotland as well as England. I can only hope, in view of that decision, that the Scottish Bill will not be too long delayed, and, if I may dare so to hope, will not be so complicated.
Meanwhile, we are operating under Part II of the 1954 Act, which is still in operation, although Part I has been repealed. Under it there are byelaws, and the Secretary of State has no doubt already approved byelaws for the various local authority areas, and has published model byelaws. If a new Bill is introduced, those byelaws will have either to be amended or wiped out and new Regulations put forward. Under the present system in Scotland—which is a system of byelaws—what is really needed is the 1234 spending of more money by local authorities upon the improvement of their slaughterhouses, rather than an Act of Parliament, because local authorities can make such improvements under their byelaws.
I do not disagree with what hon. Members have been saying about the city slaughterhouses; the same argument is true in Scotland. I should like to see the byelaws more and more operative, and local authorities themselves complying with them. Unlike the case in England, 87 of the slaughterhouses in Scotland are municipal and only 14 or 15 private. Therefore, if there are sinners in Scotland, the local authority slaughterhouses and not the private slaughterhouses are the main ones. I therefore hope that in any legislation for Scotland the Secretary of State will retain powers to see that local authorities carry out their duties.
I am not absolutely clear whether my reading of the Bill is correct. I am not sure whether, in the ease of existing slaughterhouses in England, the Minister retains sufficient power to make local authorities bring their slaughterhouses up to date, as we all want.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, who is a countryman, referred to the question of the concentration of big factory slaughterhouses. In this connection one must remember the problem of the casualty—the cow that breaks its leg or the pig that breaks a limb. As a farmer, I have had personal experience of this. It means that one is left on the farm with an injured animal, which is in pain. If there is a moderate concentration of 500 slaughterhouses, they may be thirty or forty miles apart. A farmer is not equipped to destroy injured animals humanely; if he tries he will probably inflict more cruelty. It is essential to have sufficient slaughterhouses in the country to ensure that an animal can be got into a slaughterhouse of some kind within a very short time, by using the road transport which is available. Ten, fifteen or twenty miles is the outside limit that a casualty should have to go to be put out of its pain.
The average farmer with a pig or sheep can usually take it in the back of his car, runabout, van, or whatever he has, but with cattle that is not possible. He has to hire road transport to take it. If 1235 slaughterhouses are going to be concentrated some farms will be miles away from them and a great deal of cruelty will occur to animals which have accidents.
For that reason I believe that it would be much more humane if we had a lesser degree of moderate concentration than the hon. Member for Sunderland, North wants. I think that the Government have struck the right balance in encouraging private enterprise, both big and small, and I believe that we have the promise of better and more hygienic conditions for the meat to be handled, slaughtered and sold to the public.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Had the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) had the good fortune to be present while his right hon. Friend the Minister was speaking he would have agreed with me that the Minister presented a difficult and complicated subject with the greatest possible clarity. For that I am grateful to him. I came here this evening, having read the Bill, the White Papers and some of the background, not really quite sure about the position.
I must warn the Minister that some local authorities are unhappy about one or two of the provisions of the Bill. I am sure that he is fully aware of that. My own local authority, the City of Stoke-on-Trent, wrote to me, and I discussed the matter with the town clerk in the House last night. He told me that the Council has certain reservations. It is in agreement with the City of Birmingham, and it has a similar reservation.
A resolution of the Health Committee of the Stoke-on-Trent City Council, similar to one approved by the Birmingham City Council, was worded in this way:This Committee having long favoured the policy of moderate concentration in the standards of slaughtering and inspection of meat, regard the change of policy as outlined in the White Paper of May, 1956, as a retrograde step and fear that the policy set out in paragraph 18"—that is the obnoxious paragraph to them—of the White Paper will be inimical to the interests of the consumer and may have serious effects on the slaughtering and marketing facilities provided by local authorities.1236 I assume, of course, that this is a reference to local authorities who have their own abattoirs, which they man themselves and inspect by their own inspectors, in which people from other authorities are allowed to participate and to which any butcher can send his cattle.
The wording of paragraph 18 is to be found on the back page of Cmd. 9761, and it is as follows:Repeal of Local Authorities' power to refuse licences in certain circumstances. The power of local authorities to determine that no further licences shall be granted on the ground that there is an adequacy of existing private slaughterhouses will be repealed.Possibly the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary in winding up the debate tonight, will be able to give us some assurances about this. We shall certainly need to raise the matter in Committee. May I put this question to the Parliamentary Secretary? If the local authority is satisfied that there are already enough private slaughterhouses in the area, is it not reasonable to accept its word on the subject? Local authorities are very sensitive to public opinion and public pressure. Will they deny their own citizens an opportunity to have cattle slaughtered in a proper fashion? I can see no reason not to trust the local authorities. I know that in paragraph 17 of the White Paper the Minister has very wisely made it possible for local authorities operating their own slaughterhouses to refuse to grant additional licences, with the proviso that the Minister can over-rule them. As far as it goes, that is satisfactory, but we cannot understand the reason for paragraph 18 and we should like an explanation.
This is a small Bill, but it affects very many people—many local authorities, many workers and certainly very many animals. In 1933, when a Report was made to the House by the Economic Advisory Council's Committee on The Slaughtering of Livestock, the number of animals slaughtered, outside bacon factories, was given as 9½ million a year. I do not know what the figure is today, but I assume that it is very similar. We can therefore think in terms of 10 million animals which are affected by the Bill and for whom we must have a care. We must see that if they are slaughtered, they are slaughtered as humanely as possible; that the premises are completely suitable; that the workers involved are able to 1237 work under decent conditions and are under no specific risk; that the meat is not contaminated; and, above all, that inspection is such that we are not trapped into eating diseased meat.
I am sure that those premises will meet with agreement from every hon. Member, but I note that the Report to which I have just referred—going back to 1933—gives views about private slaughterhouses which do not contain the sentimental expression of opinion about the craftsman whose craft must not be allowed to die. Instead, we read a rather brutal description. The Committee felt that they were out of order in mentioning it, and they put it like this:Though it does not fall strictly within our terms of reference, we wish to record the fact that we have received a considerable volume of evidence to the effect that meat inspection in private slaughterhouses in England and Wales is not by any means satisfactory.That was in 1933. The Committee says why. I will not read its reasons at length because I can paraphrase them. The reasons are that sometimes the meat is not inspected at all—there are not enough inspectors—and, even when inspectors are available, they tend to have many other duties to perform; that it is expensive to have inspectors and to pay them; that these local authorities are small and cannot keep inspectors standing by purely for meat inspection; that they therefore have other jobs, too, and are not always available for meat inspection.
There is, of course, a great difference between this type of meat inspection and the type which we see in my own local authority, where the slaughterhouse is substantial in size and where the inspectors are present, on the spot, all the time. It is not possible for anything to happen in the way described by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle). Nobody can trim away from the inside of the ribs of the carcase the end product of tuberculosis to make the meat appear fit for human consumption, so that when the meat inspector arrives to inspect it, possibly in bad light and possibly late at night, he will be deceived, In the circumstances which I am describing for a good slaughterhouse that is quite impossible.
I think that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) should look more carefully at the slaughterhouses in his own constituency before he gives us the im- 1238 pression, with such pride, that it is impossible for anything to go wrong in his county. I must admit that I have not the same pride when I speak about the County of Staffordshire, because I know that in North Staffordshire, in the City of Stoke-on-Trent, before the war we suffered from animals being slaughtered in small abattoirs outside the city, the meat being brought in regularly either during the night or in the early hours of the morning and never being inspected; or, if it were inspected, it had first been trimmed to deceive the tired inspector, if there were an inspector at all. The meat was then sold at a low price and our poor people bought diseased meat in the markets in those days. That was commonplace, and I am ashamed to admit that it happened, but it happened in many parts of the country and to deny it is stupid.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West did not, I hope, mind my interrupting him when he was speaking about the method of ritual killing by which an animal is put into a casting pen, which rotates; the animal is turned over and its throat is then cut. I learned my physiology from Professor Lovatt Evans, a great teacher of physiology at Leeds in my time, who later came to one of the great universities and medical schools in London, and I note that recently he has expressed his view about this method of slaughter. His view was that it is not cruel at all and that the animal does not suffer. I read physiology extensively myself and took an honours degree, and I know a little about it, but I know much more about it because as a medical man I have seen one or two cases of cut throat in human beings. When these human beings recover they are ready to talk to the doctor and can tell him whether it hurt or not. The animal cannot.
The facts are these. If one can avoid terror in the animal—no dragging, no tripping, no casting by the old, bad methods—step forward, and, with one cut with a very large razor sever both carotid arteries, the animal is probably quite unconscious by the time one counts three—in three seconds. What has happened in that time is clear. For anyone who sees it it looks terrifying and upsetting, but the sudden rush of blood from two severed carotid arteries means that before 1239 one can count three the animal is deeply unconscious. The convulsions occur afterwards, but the animal feels nothing of them at all.
That can be shown in two ways. I must not say too much here lest someone takes my advice, but provided that he did it under test conditions and had somebody there to cut him down, a man could hang himself—without a drop, of course, and, therefore, without breaking his neck; ordinary hanging means a compression on the carotid arteries so that the brain is starved of blood flowing from them—and he would find that it does not take many seconds before swooning occurs, that there is no pain from the compression at all, and that the convulsions occurring afterwards occur in unconsciousness. Anybody who has ever been cut down and revived would say that.
There is another fragment of evidence, and it derives from garotting. The method of garotting is to press the carotid arteries against the transverse processes that come out in the cervical part of the spinal column. One approaches the victim from behind, and presses one's fingers against the carotid arteries. It was a method commonly used when robbing people 100 years ago in such industrial areas as Salford and the Potteries. Arnold Bennett has described it as occurring at midday in Burslem when he was a boy. Approached like that and held like that, the victim fell unconscious in two seconds, his wallet was taken and the garotter slipped round the corner. That, again, shows that unconsciousness can be produced very quickly by shutting off the blood supply of the carotid arteries.
I have quoted these cases because I think that it is very doubtful that the animal feels pain when the blood supply is cut off by a sharp, large razor in this way.
The last piece of evidence that enters my mind is the specific case of an 18-year-old patient of mine who cut his throat. He did it very badly in that he cut it in front—and here I do not want to say too much lest I give away too many secrets of my profession and, perhaps, encourage someone to practise on himself. This patient cut right through his wind pipe, and through the muscles and so on. He did not cut his carotid 1240 arteries and jugular veins, or the deep sympathetic nerves behind them.
It must have been fifteen minutes before I got to him. He was sitting there, and was not very comfortable, I admit. I was a little shocked, but I covered him up, held the parts together, stuck them together until the ambulance came, and took him to hospital. An extensive repair was done in hospital, and he lived for about 20 years longer. Then, as he had a habit of doing these things, he found another and more successful way, and left this life.
I discussed this matter very carefully with him, and he told me that only after he came out of the anaesthetic following the operation for repair did he feel any discomfort, soreness or irritation. There is only one thing I would say to militate against that fragment of evidence, and I must say it. He was a schizophrenic and, perhaps, was exaggerating his feelings, or lack of them.
When we cut ourselves with the razor when shaving, it is not painful. We see the blood before we feel anything, so let us not assume—and here I speak purely as a physiologist—that when one cuts an animal's throat, if it has been led carefully into the pen and rotated, one is being brutal to it. Let us face the facts as they really are.
Lastly, I say this to the Minister who, very courteously, is still waiting here? I would not have blamed him if, during this gruesome perusal, he had gone out. The local authorities and everyone at all interested in this subject want, as he wants and as we all want, clean meat guaranteed free from disease, and workers who will themselves be protected and cared for. We want the thing to look clean as well as to be clean, and we do not want tens of thousands of abattoirs. Already, perhaps, 4,500 of them may well be too many, and it may well be that if the Minister's ultimate aims are achieved there will, in a few years, be fewer of them. If I thought that I would support the Bill but, in any case, I will not vote against it.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I had not intended, earlier in the day, to intervene in this debate because, as far as I can see unless one were equipped with a very intimate knowledge of many slaughterhouses one would not 1241 be in a position to contribute more than those who are so intimately acquainted. But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) who, unfortunately, has a "bee in his bonnet" about this matter—
§ Mr. Janner
Not one "bee in his bonnet," but several "bees in his bonnet"—speak as he did on a Bill that, presumably, does not attempt to interfere with the religious rites of a substantial section of the community. I say "presumably", because I hope that the Minister will look very carefully at Clause 7, although, as far as I can see, it does not interfere with the exemptions for ritual slaughter contained in the 1933 Act.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West chose to bring in a subject which to many religious people in this country—and, indeed, throughout the world—is of considerable importance. It is important not only from that point of view that it is a religious injunction. It is a religious injunction which is observed not only because it is a religious injunction, but because Jewish people, Jewish traditions, and the Jewish religion have always regarded this form of slaughter as being the most humane, and it is not correct that my hon. Friend—in fact, two of my hon. Friends—should come to the conclusion that it is otherwise.
I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who is himself a physiologist and a doctor. He supports the views of other eminent physiologists in this matter. Hundreds of physiologists have made categorical statements that there is no inhumanity involved in the Jewish method of slaughter and as recently as a year ago the late Lord Horder confirmed what he had already stated on a number of occasions in categorical terms, that it was not inhumane.
Of course, every form of slaughter has some form of inhumanity about it, I suppose, but this is a matter about which I am thoroughly convinced; otherwise. I would not be speaking as I am speaking now. I am quite convinced that the severance of the carotid artery in itself means almost instantaneous unconsciousness and death. Furthermore, investigations 1242 have recently been made in a university in America and it was stated that this was as humane a method as any existing.
When one attacks or criticises something which is held to be a matter of faith by religious people such as Jews and Mohammedans, one must surely be practically 100 per cent. certain of one's facts. The Jewish community has sufficient to put up with from anti-semites. Heaven for-fend that I should suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West is in that category, but he must be aware that such people are just waiting for some suggestion of this kind in order to instigate hatreds against, and attacks on, Jewish people.
We know that when Hitler was attacking and killing, when he and his followers ultimately killed 6 million people, he was advocating that schechita, the Jewish method of slaughter, should be dispensed with. We in this House know that that is not the cause when we are discussing this matter here, but I am sure hon. Members will appreciate what a delicate question they are dealing with. I trust that they understand that we who are Jewish are particularly anxious about our humane ideals.
For thousands of years this method of cutting has been practised, and it was and is the most humane in the world. Of that there can be no question. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central has already indicated that the act of cutting with the sharp knife itself immediately creates unconsciousness, and consequently, as stunning is not permitted, according to the religious authorities of the Jewish community, and as it makes no contribution towards the removal of any inhumanity, according to physiologists, we should think very hard before attempting to interfere with a humane method already in existence for so long.
I came into this House in 1931. In 1933, I was a Member of the Committee that dealt with the Slaughter of Animals Act. At that time, an Amendment was put down with a view to removing the exemption granted in the case of the Jewish and Mohammedan method of slaughter. I spoke to Mr. Wise, who was then Member for one of the Birmingham constituencies, whose name headed the list of those who wished to remove the exemption. I asked him whether he had 1243 seen the Jewish method in practice, and he admitted that he had not. At my invitation, he went to see it, and on coming back, he expressed himself in words very similar to those used by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) last year in the House. He did not use these words exactly, but the words I am about to quote from what was said last year are a paraphrase of his.
The hon. Member for Solihull said:I have been to a slaughterhouse this morning and I have seen animals slaughtered by the Jewish method. I am absolutely convinced that there is no cruelty whatsoever attached to it.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1956; Vol. 562, c. 440.]That reflected, in 1956, what was said in 1933 by an hon. Member who had the courtesy to see the method in operation.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West for having referred to the casting pen method in the way he did. He himself said that the main element of cruelty, the thing people can object to, is not so much in the slaughtering itself but in the bringing of the animal to slaughter. I do not know whether the casting pen is the same thing as the stunning pen; I gather from my hon. Friend that it is practically the same. It has been admitted by those that have seen it that the casting pen removes fear from the animal. The result is that when the actual operation of cutting the throat takes place, the animal, as we have heard from my hon. Friend, has no pain or practically no pain.
I do not desire to speak for very long on this issue, as other hon. Members wish to speak, and I do not want to go into the details of the arguments which have been used from time to time. I appeal to my hon. Friends to realise what is the real nature of the contention that they are introducing. These objections are really wholly unjustified. They are upsetting people who themselves are the keenest in the world to be humane. They are upsetting religious people; the religious heads of the Jewish community have made it absolutely clear that what is suggested by them cannot be done. They are lending force to a myth, for myth it is, that the presence of a considerable quantity of blood in itself indicates pain.
My hon. Friend spoke about the reflex action. I have seen, as I am sure my 1244 hon. Friend has been, a side of beef, hanging up and quivering; after it has been cut and hung up, one can see that movement. One can see a chicken run after its head has been cut off. These are things which physiologists can explain, but there is certainly no pain attached to them; the quivering indicates no pain and the running of the chicken after its head is off indicates no pain.
I know that the Minister does not intend anything to detract from the position as it exists, but we should be careful that neither the Bill itself nor any part of it can be interpreted as meaning what my hon. Friends are saying. At the same time, it should be made clear to those who are concerned for the humane treatment of animals that the Jewish community is not inhumane in this matter. On the contrary, the method used is a method which has been practised for thousands of years, a method more humane than any other practised during those centuries. Pictures showing a great deal of blood are no indication that pain is created.
I do not think that I should give at this moment further quotations, but, if at any stage, the matter is raised again I hope that the Minister will assist those of us who know what the position is to remove the doubts remaining in the minds of hon. Members.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. North-West (Mr. Janner) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) will excuse me if I do not follow them in the particular line of argument which they introduced. I ought to say that the pamphlet which was published last year and circulated to hon. Members by the University Federation of Animal Welfare suggested that the period during which an animal might feel pain was 10 to 12 seconds. I am not a physiologist, and beyond that I do not know. The Federation itself was supporting the Jewish community, but that was a reasoned statement which it put forward.
Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I welcome the Bill, although I feel that it is a limited advance towards the aim which most of us have in mind. We are today in the twentieth century, 1245 and I hope that in spite of hydrogen bombs, and so on, we are rising to a greater standard of civilisation than we have yet known. The sacrifice of animals to feed human beings seems to be a lamentable necessity. All of us agree that this horrible thing must be done as humanely as possible.
It is for that reason that I am sorry that the present Minister of Agriculture—whom we all recognise to be a very humane man—should be piloting through the House of Commons a Bill which maintains the present high number of slaughterhouses at about 4,500 compared with 500 to 600 when the 1954 Bill was introduced. We hope that that number will be reduced and reduced quickly.
If I am correct, I thought the Minister indicated that he hoped that this Bill would promote an even further concentration of slaughterhouses. I feel that the smaller slaughterhouses, which were introduced and many of which were revived under the 1954 Act, are not the proper sized units where we shall obtain as humane slaughter as is possible in this twentieth century. It therefore seems to me that the trend must be towards larger units which can be properly constructed, properly equipped, and properly manned. In that way the meat inspectors will be enabled to do their job properly. There is a shortage of inspectors. Theirs is a distasteful job—a job requiring training, skill and many years of study. Therefore, we ought to pay the inspectors well, and we ought not to expect of them long hours of duty, any more than we should of the slaughtermen. It seems to me that there is now a shortage of these inspectors and that much meat—I do not say most of it, but a considerable quantity is—being sold which has not been inspected by a meat inspector.
We welcome the better standards of accommodation which will be provided as a consequence of the Bill. They cannot come too quickly.
I would now pay a tribute to the Borough Council of Penzance in Cornwall, although Penzance is not in my constituency but in the next one, St. Ives. Penzance Council has taken a very progressive and forward view, yet in Penzance is one of the most awful slaughterhouses in the Kingdom, and it is situated within fifty yards of the centre of the town. Penzance is not to blame. For 1246 more than a generation it has been trying to get a better slaughterhouse. Yet still there is that dreadful place in the middle of the town. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary was kind enough two or three months ago to receive a deputation from the Penzance Borough Council and the Kerrier Rural District Council. Part of that district is in my own constituency. He received us very sympathetically, and we are grateful to him for that.
I would stress, as Penzance has stressed, that the siting of slaughterhouses is most important. Power over siting rests with the county planning authorities, but it seems as though the system is not working properly, and, therefore, I support the view of the Penzance Borough Council that the smaller local authorities themselves should have power over the siting of slaughterhouses.
In recent years I have sent to various Ministers instances of slaughterhouses being sited in the wrong places. A residential area, whether it is a middle-class area or a council housing estate or any other sort, is the wrong place for a slaughterhouse. In such an area there will be some people who are of highly strung character and whose nervous condition will be made worse by the very proximity of a slaughterhouse. Week after week we read in the newspapers of instances of animals becoming demented on their way to the slaughterhouses in the middle of our towns.
In Scotland, I understand, no compensation is paid when a slaughterhouse is closed or becomes redundant. I hope that the Bill will not cause a heavy burden of compensation to be imposed upon the local authorities when the time comes for the closure of slaughterhouses which are not to be maintained.
I understand that the Regulations will provide for a stunning pen in every slaughterhouse except where that is impracticable. I suggest that if a slaughterhouse is of inadequate size to permit of a stunning pen it should not be used for the slaughter of bullocks.
Some of these matters are, perhaps, Committee points, but I come to another I have been asked to raise and I should like the Minister to consider it as soon as possible. It is that there should be a constant supply of hot water in the 1247 slaughterhouse. I hope that he will not allow any water but drinking water to be used for any purpose whatever.
I regard the Bill as only a stop-gap. The Fat Stock Marketing Corporation came in to save the Government and the country in 1954 when all controls were suddenly removed, and it has undoubtedly a part to play in any good scheme in the future. This Measure is a small step forward. I am sure that the House will do what it can in Committee to improve it and that we shall soon move forward to a time when no slaughterhouse in the land will cause any of us a sense of shame.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)
The attitude of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) was unfortunate, because his speech was more or less on the line that every butcher should have his own slaughterhouse. We know from our experience during the war how necessary it was to have a concentration of slaughterhouses and we have learned the value of a certain amount of concentration since the end of the war.
Whilst we on this side of the House welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction in some respects, it does not provide overall cover for the British Isles. Scotland is left out and only England and Wales figure in it at present. The proposed Regulations governing construction and standards of hygiene are good, and we are glad that the power of local authorities to issue licences is to be retained. It appears also that there will be power under the Bill to close down slaughterhouses which are not required.
Only a short time ago it was indicated very clearly in the House that it was the Government's intention to reduce considerably the number of these small slaughterhouses. They are the ones in which frequently proper care is not taken of things and craftsmen are not employed on the job. It is important that the work should be done not by part-time slaughter-men or semi-skilled people but by real craftsmen such as are employed at the central abattoirs in our large cities.
It appears that the Bill is to achieve modernisation in two stages and that private traders are to have power to set up their own new slaughterhouses. This has been the bone of contention in most 1248 of the speeches from this side of the House. There is great fear of this development, because meat is delivered in ninety-nine homes out of a hundred and this slaughtering should not be done in a higgledy-piggledy way in any street. It must be carried out, for the moment, by means of a mild form of concentration and, I hope, by full concentration in the years ahead. It is also provided in the Bill that the conditions laid down are met. I think that these matters are very important, and I hope that they will be reinforced when the need arises, because it is extremely important to do everything that we can to safeguard the interests of the people.
I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Gainsborough has returned to the Chamber and I will repeat my chief criticism of the speech which he made earlier when he spoke against moderate concentration and seemed to favour slaughterhouses attached to almost every butcher's shop. Of course, the hon. Member is a farmer and was therefore batting on his own wicket, and I suppose we must excuse him for doing that.
We on this side of the House are glad to have an extension of this kind of legislation, but we are dissatisfied because we consider that it does not provide for sufficient construction and proper safeguards for hygiene. It does not enable the development of a sufficient number of craftsmen to do this job and we consider that there will not be sufficient oversight by the inspectorate because of the development which is foreshadowed in the Bill.
If the Minister had brought in a Bill which was going to do this job in a big way, and not in the little way that he proposes, we would have been very happy about it. This is a step forward and we have often appreciated what the Minister has done in other fields. I think that the Bill must eventually bring us to what we want to get, which is proper reorganisation of the killing and distribution of meat under satisfactory conditions for the whole of the people.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
When the Minister opened this debate he told us with a great deal of frankness that this was a complicated Bill. We can all agree with him on that. We have had a very helpful debate, which the Minister 1249 commenced with a very interesting speech and I think that all of us on this side of the House are in agreement with the general intention of the Bill. We want an improvement in the slaughterhouses of this country, but we think that the Bill does not go far enough and quickly enough in that direction.
Speeches have been made from the other side of the House putting forward a number of points of view. I think that very few of us on this side will be in agreement with the speech made by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball). We do not want to see a return to the chaotic pre-war conditions, when there were thousands of slaughterhouses in all parts of the country, without any proper supervision and in which very primitive methods were in many cases used.
We want a development of the supervision of slaughterhouses and greater concentration. To follow the advice of the hon. Member for Gainsborough would lead us away from that ideal. We do not want to have a slaughterhouse attached to every butcher's shop. We want slaughterhouses of an efficient size where proper supervision can be made effective. The purpose of a slaughterhouse should be to provide good, clean meat for the consumer. I am speaking in this debate on behalf of 12 million consumers who belong to Co-operative societies, and they have a great interest in the provision of good clean meat. Co-operative societies generally are very keen that the standards of slaughterhouses should be improved. So we give general support to the object of this Bill, although we may want to make one or two suggestions on points of detail.
We certainly do not want to return to the pre-war days with some 12,000 slaughterhouses in all parts of the country without proper supervision. We want to be able to reconcile the need for national standards with the operation of slaughterhouses by the interests concerned. We appreciate the object of the Bill in laying down standards. We think that it is absolutely right that they should be laid down and that they should be maintained.
The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Slaughterhouses was a good one in some respects, although the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) in 1250 this connection are correct. The Committee could have been drawn from a wider range of interests than it was.
We want to see proper standards applied in the slaughterhouses for hygienic reasons. This is particularly important for consumers who want to be able to buy meat in their butcher's shop knowing that it is clean and wholesome. There are many shops which are trying to make a quick profit by selling inferior meat, sometimes at a low price, misleading the consumer, and in some cases they are selling meat which should not be sold to the general public. Sometimes that meat comes from slaughterhouses which are not subject to proper supervision. We in the Co-operative movement want to avoid that state of affairs.
We also welcome the Clauses in the Bill relating to conditions of employment. We are glad that the Minister is proposing to make Regulations for the safety of the workers, and we certainly hope that local authorities will use to the full the powers that will be given to them. Workers in slaughterhouses do not have an easy job, and it is better that the slaughterhouse should be of such a size that the workers can be properly skilled and are doing a full-time job, not doing an odd job on the side.
The third thing which should be emphasised as one of the results of the Bill is a point that has been brought out in several speeches from this side of the House, the humane killing of animals. It is good that this Bill will enable humane killing to be made certain, and that there will be an opportunity for the Minister to persuade slaughterhouses to adopt new methods of killing where these have been shown to be effective.
I will say something about the siting of slaughterhouses because it is important that they should be put in the right places. This is not the case in many towns and cities, and citizens are subject to a great deal of nuisance because, at some time in the past, the slaughterhouses have been put in the wrong place or the city has grown up around them. In the course of time more powers ought to be provided to enable authorities to make sure that slaughterhouses are not only efficient, but are established in the right places.
I am sorry that more consideration is not being given to by-products factories. 1251 These are sometimes a great nuisance to those who live near or around them. Some of my constituents unfortunately live near such a factory, and I went to see it some time ago. It really is a shocking place. On a hot summer's day the smell in the vicinity is simply awful. The waste products from the factory are disposed of on waste ground across the road near a school, and the children there are subjected to great irritation because on hot days the windows have to be closed. I have seen flies almost as large as my thumb which have been breeding on that filthy land.
It would be an advantage if local authorities could be given more powers to supervise the operations of such factories. I welcome the point made on this subject in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee, and particularly the point that such factories should be established by or near slaughterhouses, which would mean efficient treatment of the by-products, and would obviate a great deal of unhygienic handling of by-products for they would not have to be transported.
We had a very interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle), who is one of the most experienced men on this subject. I found myself very much in agreement with some of the things he said. Although I appreciated the compliment which he paid the Co-operative movement in respect of the way in which it runs its abattoirs, I cannot accept his suggestion that Co-operative slaughterhouses should be handed over to municipalities. Surely, what we want is efficient handling of cattle, humane methods of killing and really hygienic conditions, and, as consumers' organisations, Co-operative societies are fully entitled to carry out this job for themselves.
I wish to put three points to my hon. Friend. First, Co-operative societies being organisations of consumers, it is not in their interests to have unhygienic methods of handling meat. Indeed, it is wholly in their interests to have the highest standards. Co-operative societies have always laid down the very highest possible standards for the handling of all food products because, as organisations of consumers, they are interested not in merely making a surplus out of the handling of food but 1252 in giving the most hygienic service possible to their members. Thus, no criticism can be made about unhygienic methods of handling in Co-operative abattoirs because there is no possible incentive for Co-operative societies to use inefficient and unhygienic methods. This would not be in the interests of consumers, who belong to the societies.
Co-operative societies running slaughterhouses are large enough to run them efficiently, and I think that that is what my hon. Friend wants. He wants larger slaughterhouses so that there can be humane killing and efficient handling of cattle and I think that he will agree that Co-operative societies can do that because they are large enough and have the resources to do it. They also have the means of disposing of the by-products, which is an important point. If there were the profusion of slaughterhouses which the hon. Member for Gainsborough and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) advocated, there would not be efficient and hygienic handling of by-products.
The third point is that Co-operative societies' abattoirs have an interest in the conditions of employees and very much welcome the suggestions in the Bill for safeguarding the conditions of employees. Conditions are safeguarded with the full co-operation of the trade unions concerned. I think that my hon. Friend will agree that those three points show that Co-operative societies have high standards and I cannot see why he should say that municipalities should take over their slaughterhouses. They are doing an efficient job well up to the standards which he has laid down. Why should they be transferred to municipal ownership?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
If the job is being done efficiently by the Co-operative societies on behalf of the consumers, there is no reason why Co-operative societies' slaughterhouses should be transferred to municipalities, although I fully agree that municipalities must have effective methods of supervision and power to exercise supervision to keep slaughterhouse conditions up to scratch.
1253 I want to say how much we appreciate the fact that the Bill has been brought forward so early in the Session. We give it a general welcome because we are anxious, as I believe all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate are anxious, to see that we move along the road towards having proper supervision of slaughterhouses and the best possible conditions for the handling of meat.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
The Minister certainly cannot complain of a lack of expert advice from both sides of the House, but, as the debate has gone, predominantly from this side. We have had experts in almost every aspect of the subject. We have had experts in slaughterhouses themselves, farming and expert physiologists and, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, at one time I was in imminent danger myself. I can assure him that I have no desire to carry out any experiments of the kind he so tactfully suggested. I fear that I must leave that to someone else.
In spite of the very wide variety of backgrounds from which hon. Members spoke, it was very clear that they were united in their general feelings about the Bill, to some extent about its inadequacies and also in their anxieties about what is now called moderate concentration. I want rather to put to the right hon. Gentleman the point of view of those who are especially interested in the health aspect of the matter.
I am a little disappointed that there is no one here from the Ministry of Health, because I regard this as a health matter in the main, although not exclusively. I very much hope that, even if we do not have the Minister of Health here today, we shall have either him or the Parliamentary Secretary in Standing Committee, when the matter is dealt with in greater detail. It would be worth the Minister's while to think about a health matter for a change and to pull himself away from his negotiations with Whitley Councils for a moment or two.
Quite seriously, I believe that we are likely to make far greater advances in health by giving more attention to this kind of public health matter than to conditions in our hospitals, badly as they need attention. It is one of the problems of our time that we need to regard health 1254 as much more closely a matter of daily concern, when we examine the whole welfare and public organisation fields. I therefore make no apology for speaking more particularly about the health aspect of this matter.
I noticed that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) declared his interest—the very honourable one of being an honorary vice-president of the Meat Traders' Federation. Since he has set the example I suppose that I had better follow suit and say that I am an honorary vice-president of the Public Health Inspectors' Association. But I make no personal claim to the expertise of a public health inspector. I happen to have fairly regular contacts with those who do, however, and I have had the opportunity of examining with some care the proceedings of their annual conference, and some of the expert papers which were read and discussed there in connection with this very important matter, and were put before the conference by some very eminent persons, including Dr. Hobbs, of the Central Public Health Laboratory, Colindale. I had the opportunity of discussing this matter with her and also with several expert public health inspectors who are in regular daily contact with the whole question.
They have undoubtedly been very anxious about it. Dr. Hobbs, for example, pointed out what a high proportion of the cases of food poisoning arise from meat products, and how many of those cases can be tracked back to the slaughterhouses. This is a very important matter. Some hon. Members opposite have been cheerfully advertising their own good health in spite of having eaten meat that had been slaughtered in small slaughterhouses. They may have been lucky; I do not know. I do not want to put doubts into their minds by suggesting that some dreadful disesaes are in preparation for them, but I would point out that this is a very serious matter.
We certainly cannot he at all complacent about the extent of food poisoning. There is a shocking amount of it in this country as compared with other civilised countries. Certainly, up to twelve months ago the incidence has been steadily rising. It has been a very anxious problem for all who are interested in public health. I am merely anxious to suggest that there is a very important reason why we should try to get far better 1255 conditions established in our slaughterhouses.
I now turn to some of the points which public health inspectors have raised when this matter has been discussed with them. They have pointed to some very pertinent matters, concerning the question of the spread of slaughterhouses today. Perhaps I may read from a Paper submitted by Mr. S. Cayton, Chief Public Health Inspector of West Bromwich:Since the decontrol of meat we have returned to an uneconomic system in which inspectors are required to be present at the slaughter of food animals in any number of premises scattered over the district of a local authority.Anyone who knows the people who have to do this job knows their difficulties and their complaints about it and knows how difficult, indeed impossible in many cases, it is for them to be present when they should be present. Mr. Cayton continues:This is in exchange for a system in which livestock was brought to a limited number of premises in which inspectors were stationed more or less permanently.From the health point of view this is vital. Here we have some of the experts, completely independent people, who are concerned with the laboratory end of the work, trying to track down the problem of food infection and food poisoning which occurs, and they are satisfied that this is the source of much of our present difficulty. In face of that kind of evidence, it is surely unfortunate that we have pressure for the retention of premises where it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide the health standards which most of us feel are essential and where inspection cannot be guaranteed to be regularly available.
Many very well qualified people assure us that today far too much meat is being sold which has not been inspected and far too much meat which is not satisfactory is being used in all kinds of processes and meat foods. I believe that we could make a considerable advance in our health standards if we were prepared to tackle the problem vigorously.
My hon. Friends have pointed out that they have no intention of opposing the passage of the Bill, taking the view that half a loaf is better than no bread, but I want to give some feeling of urgency, from a health point of view, of the need for getting on with the job. I did not feel that sense of urgency in speeches 1256 of hon. Members opposite, because they seemed so anxious to retain premises which, no doubt on personal grounds, were admirable from their point of view but against the weight of evidence as to the dangers which we still face and the shocking conditions which we must admit that we allow to continue by comparison with conditions in many other countries. We certainly cannot be proud of our position.
I do not want to exaggerate this sense of complacency, because I know the Minister's interest in the subject, but added to a sense of complacency there is the further hampering factor which has been introduced—the question of the availability of finance. It is no use our talking about all these things unless the resources are to be made available and unless it is to be possible for these new slaughterhouses to be built.
In discussions with health inspectors I find that they are very worried lest we are to go in for the second, third or fourth best by trying slightly to improve shockingly bad premises which ought to be closed down straight away. They argue very strongly that we cannot hope to tackle the health problems adequately unless we are prepared to pull down such premises, and they say that we shall be putting ourselves in a dangerous position if we take what appears to be the easy course of allowing modest and minor alterations to be made in premises which are bad.
This publication of the papers submitted to the Conference of the Association of Public Health Inspectors contains illustrations of the kind of premises—back-street, back-yard premises—that we still tolerate. I do not for a moment suggest that hon. Members opposite want to tolerate such premises, but I do suggest that if we are to tackle them we have to show a great deal greater sense of urgency from the health point of view.
It is another example of the tragedy of the Government's general financial policy, because here is another productive way of using a limited amount of our resources which, apparently, is being cast away without proper consideration of its importance to the community; cast away amongst a great mass of other desirable things as a result of this blind shutdown on financial resources, the blind squeeze that is taking place.
1257 It is not only those who are interested, in the general sense, in food matters; not only the farmers or those who have had practical experience of many of these things who are concerned about this Measure. There are many of us who feel that, above all else, this is a health matter, and that, for the sake of the health of the country, we should give it a much higher priority than it appears to me, from the discussions that I have heard, the Government are likely to give it.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)
I am sure that everyone will agree that we have had a very useful debate on this very important Measure. A large number of points have been put forward, some of which I shall try to deal with now, while others will be more suitable for discussion in Committee.
I would say that, by and large, we have had support for the Bill although, perhaps, in this context, to say that it has received from the other side of the House a "moderate" degree of approval would be the most suitable way of putting it. I know that hon. Members opposite would rather that the Bill brought about a higher degree of concentration. I quite understand that; it is the path they all wish to follow. But it seems to me that they wish to bring about concentration by order, by planning. I would suggest that the ultimate result of what we seek will be, certainly, not so great a concentration as hon. Members opposite suppose but a measure of concentration achieved by the raising of standards.
We are setting standards, and whatever hon. Members opposite may say about their being inadequate those standards are considerably higher than the existing ones. Where there are really bad or really small slaughterhouses it will not be sufficiently attractive for the operators to bring the premises up to those standards; but, where the need and the throughput are sufficient, there will clearly be the desire to raise the standards to those set. That is the practical way of approach, and we hope and believe that we shall in time achieve the results that have been spoken about, though by rather different means.
1258 Here I should like to enter a plea against what seems to be a rather exaggerated view held by some hon. Members opposite. I do not believe that because a slaughterhouse is small it is necessarily bad. It may well be true of many—I realise the difficulties of inspection and the problems about by-products and the rest—but in many of the very rural areas the conditions are as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball)—and, as a Lincolnshire Member, I, too, must stand for some of the things he said.
One should not condemn all slaughterhouses merely because they are small. There is a genuine attempt on the part of many of those who operate them to do so in as healthy and clean a way as any other. Last weekend I was in my constituency, and I want into a small village slaughterhouse where I was very favourably impressed not only by the present standard but by the concern which the occupier had for bringing the standard of the premises up to the recommended level. Indeed, the copy of the recommended minimum standards which I have here was thrust into my hand on that occasion as I did not happen to have a copy with me at the time. I am aware of the problems of these local butchers, and I am glad to know that they are approaching them in this fashion.
In anything that I am saying I do not want it to be thought that I am speaking against the principle of large slaughterhouses. Of course, in many cases it is right to have a large slaughterhouse. I am merely seeking to set a balance, because the weight of the speeches which have been made today has been a little too much the other way. While there are many things in favour of large slaughterhouses, we must not forget the point that has been mentioned today concerning the cruelty which results to animals from travelling long distances. To site slaughterhouses in the towns and cities means that live animals will have to be taken considerable distances. We must not forget that point. If the policy of hon. Members opposite is to have the slaughterhouses in producing areas, that is another matter, but I have not heard that suggestion made today. All I am doing is to try to put the matter into its right perspective.
1259 I should like to deal with some of the points which have been raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), during an intervention in my right hon. Friend's speech, referred to the Regulations relating to safety and construction. The Regulations on safety are provided for in Clause 6. Subsection (1) relates to factory inspections, and subsection (2) relates to the retail butchers' slaughterhouses. Regulations on construction are provided under the Food and Drugs Act, 1955. They are to be found in Section 13, and, in fact, although they were there originally, we could not have used them in relation to these draft Regulations because we want to deal with the matter by stages over areas. That is provided for in the Bill. Although the powers for bringing in the Regulations were in existence, they did not exist in the form in which we wanted them. That explains the wording to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
§ Mr. Willey
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. I do not wish to pursue the matter further now. We can return to it in Standing Committee. However, it seems to me that there has been some delay on the part of the Department if they had the powers to introduce Regulations such as these without the question of staggering with regard to different districts. I am thinking of new building which has been conducted during the last year or so.
§ Mr. Godber
We wished to consider the matter as a whole. Having done that, we wanted to bring in the Regulations by districts. I do not think it would have been right for us to have laid down these standards at an earlier date. In any case, we have had the most exhaustive discussions with the various interests on these Regulations. It has taken a long time to get some measure of agreement on them, and while we are just as anxious as the hon. Member is to press on, we did not wish to go ahead in a manner which did not meet with general approval. That covers that point. Incidentally, the Regulations under Clause 6 (1) of the Bill are subject to affirmative Resolution, which I know will meet with the hon. Gentleman's approval. The Regulations under the previous Act to which I referred are subject to negative Resolution.
1260 The hon. Member for Sunderland, North talked a great deal about bureaucrats. Frankly, I was surprised. I began to think that he had lost his faith in planners and planning. When he refers to them as "bureaucrats", I know that he disapproves of them; when he refers to them as "planners", I know that they have his approval. He should not have scoffed at these particular gentlemen, who have, I think, produced a very valuable Report. Of course, we have been following out to a considerable extent that Report, although we have not accepted it completely; we have put the weight of our wisdom behind it in bringing it before the House in this way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think too harshly of those gentlemen in that respect.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the financial problems involved. As my right hon. Friend made clear in his opening speech, we are not proposing to provide large sums of finance. This Bill is the framework on which we have to build in the future. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do what the financial stringencies are at the moment. I know about his own special problem in Sunderland, and I hope very much that it will be possible to go ahead, though I am not in a position tonight to make any statement on any particular slaughterhouse. I know that he will be well aware of that, and I do not believe that he honestly expected me to make any statement about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough raised one or two points of considerable interest. I have already referred to the position of small butchers, but, in connection with Clause 6, my hon. Friend wondered also whether the small slaughterhouse which is not actuallywithin the close or curtilage or precincts of premises…would come under the same arrangements as a butcher's shop, which is actually attached. As I understand it, it would not. I should like to go into that further later, but, as I understand the matter, it would come under the Factories Act restrictions, and, of course, the Regulations will be planned in such a way as to be almost comparable so that there will be no particular disadvantage.
I am told that in connection with Clause 6 I said that there would be an 1261 affirmative Resolution for the Regulations regarding safety, health and welfare. I should have said that the affirmative Resolution applied to the Order under Clause 6 (1) relating to safety, health and welfare. Of course, the ones relating to construction and hygiene will be negative. I hope that it is clear now that that is what is intended.
Turning to the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle), it was, if I may say so without in any way wishing to appear patronising, a most interesting and helpful speech from one who understands from practical experience what he is speaking about. He put forward some very important and constructive suggestions, and we should like to consider some of them further in Committee when we come to that stage. He was very concerned about the matter of meat inspection, and I gained the impression that he felt that the percentage of meat which is properly inspected is very low.
§ Mr. Godber
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman; that was the point I wished to correct. I felt that he was, perhaps, saying that it was too low, and there I agree with him; but it is, in fact, a very large percentage which is inspected, and, naturally, we seek always to extend it until we obtain 100 per cent. coverage.
On the point of the stunning pen, I gathered that he was saying that the stunning pen we were envisaging was similar to the one for the Jewish method. That is not, however, the case; it is a different type.
§ Mr. Godber
That is a question which, as I say, we shall go into further.
The hon. Member raised the question of slaughtermen, who, he felt should in the main be full-time slaughtermen.
§ Mr. Godber
I beg the hon. Member's pardon; it was one of his hon. Friends. The hon. Member believed that part-time slaughtermen would do the job well. I am glad to say I am in agreement with 1262 him. I gather that in the main he was of the view that slaughterhouses should be large municipal slaughterhouses but that there should be provision for local butchers to be able to slaughter their own animals. That is an important proviso that must be included if we are to rely upon the large slaughterhouses.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) said that he hoped we should be having a Slaughter of Animals consolidation Measure in the near future. This Bill is paving the way towards that end and the Second Schedule refers in large degree to that.
In the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) we had some graphic descriptions which caused some of us to grow pale. We certainly found his speech most interesting, although some of us on this side were a trifle disappointed that he did not carry it so far as to give a demonstration on some of his hon. Friends. Perhaps we shall have that at some other time.
§ Dr. Stross
I am sorry that I had not the inclination, but on some other occasion perhaps I will cross the Floor to do it.
§ Mr. Godber
At any rate, we were much enlightened by what the hon. Member said, and I am sure that his points were valuable in making us, and, indeed, people outside, understand the extent to which cruelty is absent from these operations when properly carried out. That is something of very great value and I am grateful to him for having made the point.
We listened with great respect to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) on a point on which, I know, he feels extremely deeply. I give him the assurance that this Bill in no way sets out to change the position under shechita in any way.
§ Mr. Godber
I think it would be better to leave it at that.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) reminded us of his own particular problem in his area, which I know well and with which I sympathise. It is just one other of those cases which, I hope, will benefit in the long run from the measures which we are seeking to introduce. I assure the hon. Member that I have his case very 1263 much in mind. He also mentioned that, in regard to the stunning pen, there should be some tolerance with regard to the smaller slaughterhouse and that point is allowed for in some degree in the draft Regulations which we have introduced.
§ Mr. Hayman
I made the point that where the premises are so small as not to have a stunning pen, bullocks ought not to be slaughtered.
§ Mr. Godber
That is exactly the point to which I was addressing myself. We have to some extent provided freedom to the local authorities to grant exemption for a period, at any rate, with regard to that. That is another point which can be discussed at a later stage.
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) also contributed to the debate. I was rather interested to see the measure of the split between the "Co-op" and the Labour Party on this vital matter which he exposed between himself and his hon. Friend. I hope that it will not extend too far to cause serious embarrassment between them. The question of ownership of these particular slaughterhouses is one which I am quite content to leave to them. The important thing is that we should have more good slaughterhouses. I am not so concerned with the question of who owns them so long as there are more good ones.
The hon. Member did, however, say something concerning a by-product factory in his constituency which worried me. I should be grateful if he would let me have further details, so that we might have an opportunity of looking into the problem and consider whether there is any way in which it can be met.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) stressed the need for this Measure for the sake of the country's health, and said that that was the main reason for going ahead with these improvements. I agree that there is a big need for them, but we are addressing ourselves very much to that, and by this very Measure itself. It may not go as far as he would wish, but he must agree that it is on the right lines. As for animal health, which is closely related to public health, we have made very great progress in recent years. Although it may be, perhaps, beyond the scope of the Bill, I should like to say that 1264 about what we are doing for our cattle; and point out, for instance, that the tuberculosis eradication scheme is making tremendous strides at the present time, and will react and has already reacted on the health of the people.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I agree, and in a way, because of the work which has been done at Enfield, it is all the more important that its value should not be lost because of conditions in slaughterhouses.
§ Mr. Godber
Yes. I think we are both seeking to achieve the same end, and I quite agree about the need to go as far and as fast as we can. We are starting on the road at the present time and I hope that we shall be able to proceed along it with reasonable speed.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the availability of finance. There is no more I can say about that, but once we have the Bill on the Statute Book we shall be in a better position to seek to provide the means.
I have tried to answer the questions which have been asked by hon. Members. We shall seek and hope to have their support in Committee on the Bill to help us get this further useful Measure of social legislation on the Statute Book. To put this Bill in its right perspective we should remember that it is but one stage—it may be a small Measure, but it is one more stage—in the progress of our social legislation which has been enacted during the time of this Government.
I remind the House that within the last three or four years there have been much larger Measures than this, the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954, the Baking Industry (Hours of Work) Act, the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, and the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956. All those Measures are designed further to improve the conditions of the workers, to improve hygiene, and to improve the quality of products supplied to the people.
This Bill is just one more stage in what the Conservative Government are doing; we are always in the van of progress. We are grateful for the support of the House for the continuation of this work.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).