HC Deb 18 July 1958 vol 591 cc1645-50

Order for Second Reading read.

2.22 p.m.

Sir Archer Baldwin (Leominster)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Measure comes from another place, and I should, first, like to thank the Government for finding the time necessary to pass it through this House. The object of the Bill is the improvement of the breeding of livestock. The original Bill was passed in 1931, when any bull which could reproduce was being used—and some terrible things were being reproduced. Next, we had the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1944, whereby pigs were added to the livestock that were required to be licensed, and other alterations were made.

The main object of the Bill is to alter Section 6 of the Act of 1944. Subsection (3) says that a licence may be refused if the inspector is not satisfied that the bull or boar

  1. "(a) is registered or eligible for registration as a pedigree bull or boar with an approved breeding society; or
  2. 1646
  3. (b) conforms to the standard of type laid down for pedigree bulls or boars of that type by an approved breeding society, and is unlikely to beget progeny which do not conform to that standard."
The Bill before the House seeks to amend paragraph (b) of Section 3 of the 1944 Act, so as to prevent bulls or boars from being licensed except under certain conditions approved by the particular societies dealing with those bulls or boars. My own breed, Herefords, are very capable of reproducing their characteristics and of giving the impression at first glance that the animals are pure breed, although they may be first-cross; and there have been cases of registration of bulls that are first-cross. We want to stop that happening, because the next cross is obviously a mongrel. I am sure that most, in fact, all breed societies will welcome the Bill.

There has been some objection raised to the Bill by one or two of my colleagues, but I do not think that they fully understand its purpose. They have looked upon it as being brought forward hurriedly, and as autocratic, but, as I am sure that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will agree, no immediate action will be taken under the Bill which will immediately affect all breed societies—or what are not breed societies, because I believe that today some bulls are being used that are not covered by a breed society at all. There will be different appointed days for different societies, and when an appointed day comes, steps can be taken to see that only those bulls are licensed that are registered.

All of us who want to improve livestock will welcome that provision. In my own breed, they have very strict standards, and it is extremely difficult to get even a second-class bull registered. The society has very strict standards, and it is only fair that steps should be taken to see that cross-bred bulls are not registered as pedigree animals.

2.27 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I intervene only briefly to say that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have no wish to oppose the Bill. We think it fit and proper that it should have emanated from another place which depends on the hereditary principle, and in proper cases we encourage the Government always to resort to controls.

As the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir A. Baldwin) has said, this is an enabling Bill. He has obviously been in consultation with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, and received an assurance from him as to the way in which these provisions will be implemented. In referring to another place, I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord who has been responsible for the Bill. I was happy to serve with him on the Agricultural Committee of the Council of Europe, and I much appreciate the keen and practical interest that he takes in British agriculture.

The Bill is very limited in its scope. I agree with the bon. Member when he says that in making the provisions rather more stringent it will make them more effective. As regards boars, it follows the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Development of Pig Production, which reported in 1955. On previous occasions I have paid regard to what I would call the Franks approach to these matters. We are here dealing with the powers that rest with the Minister or the Secretary of State, and I would take this occasion to emphasise that I am satisfied that here it is proper that the Minister or the Secretary of State should exercise these powers. The fact that an appeal lies to the referee is a proper provision, and should overcome any anxieties that anybody may have about the exercise of Ministerial powers.

In conclusion, I would say only that in this regard, as some of us feel about another place, we have learned a lot about genetics in the past few years. We have learned that heredity is not the simple principle upon which the other place is established, and possibly—although I do not know what the Parliamentary Secretary will say—this is a matter to which the Minister or the hon. Gentleman himself might pay greater attention, but in any case I think we would all agree that this Bill improves the present position. It is desirable, and has our support.

2.30 p.m.

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

I should like to give the Government's view about this Bill, and will say at once that I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) in the matter of the hereditary principle in so far as it refers to another place. That is somewhat outside the scope and terms of the Bill, and we have no intention of including that place or, indeed, Members of this House within its terms.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir A. Baldwin) has said, this Measure is designed to improve our livestock. It emanates from another place, but my hon. Friend is keenly interested in the welfare of our stock and it is very fitting that it should be he who brings it before this House. It is certainly the aim of the Government, as, indeed, it is of all those who are interested in the future of our agriculture, continually to strive to improve the general standard of our stock. Our pedigree stock is acknowledged to be the finest in the world, and we want to see the general level of ail our stock raised higher and higher. This is only a small Bill, and we must not claim too much for it, but I am sure that it takes another step in the right direction.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend Section 6 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1944, in that subsection (3, b) will no longer be one of the criteria on which the eligibility of bulls or boars will be judged. We shall rely more on subsection (3, a) which, of course, refers to registered animals, or those eligible for registration—and I emphasise those words. I want it to be quite clearly understood that, in this Bill, we are not contemplating immediately applying the principle that only those animals that are actually registered shall qualify.

I should also like to draw attention to Clause 1 (2), which makes it possible for the effects of this Measure to be brought in by stages. I attach great importance to that. Quite clearly, there are different stages of development in relation to different breeds, and I think that it would be very wrong to provide that immediately the Bill is passed these particular criteria should apply to all breeds of cattle and pigs. That is certainly not the intention, as I understand it, of the promoters of the Bill and, indeed, the Government would not now be supporting it if it were. This is something that has to be approached very gradually, and it is very important that there should be the fullest possible consultation with all those concerned before we take any such steps.

What I envisage is that one breed will be taken at a time. Subsection (2) specifically provides that the appointed day may be brought in for different breeds at different times, and before any breed is brought in we shall want to be sure that it is feasible, right and proper to take that step. There is no intention of trying to stampede anybody. I say that quite plainly, because, as my hon. Friend mentioned, one or two hon. Members were concerned that we were, perhaps, going a little too quickly.

This is an enabling Measure. It does not in any way compel the Government, but gives an additional power to the Minister of the day, so as to strengthen his hand in relation to bulls and boars. Perhaps the best way to put it is that what we are doing is to shift the onus of proof that an animal is pure bred from the Ministry's inspectors to the owner of the animal himself. If the owner has that onus put upon him, it will be a more satisfactory way of ensuring that the right animals only are included within the breeding herds of this country. That is the intention.

As I say, we want to approach it with due caution, with proper consultation, and to do it breed by breed, at such time as we think fit. With those limitations—I emphasise them deliberately, because I want there to be no misunderstanding about it—the Government welcome the Bill. We feel that it can, properly approached, prove a real asset in our effort to raise ever higher the standard of our herds. It is only fair to say that we have seen the standard of the average herd raised very considerably in recent years, but there is still a great deal more which can be done. In that sense, and with that hope, I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing the Bill, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Finlay.]

Committee upon Monday next.

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