HC Deb 19 February 1963 vol 672 cc286-315

In paragraph (x) of section 20 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1950 (which enables orders to be made for protecting animals from unnecessary suffering during transit) after the word "transit" there shall be inserted the words "or while exposed for sale".—[Mr. Soames.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Soames

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

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

With this new Clause can be discussed that in the name of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden)—Transport of young calves.

Mr. Soames

There is a consequential Amendment to Clause 26—in page 18, line 28, after "13", to insert: (Protection of farm animals exposed for sale)". It is necessary to exclude Northern Ireland from the scope of the Clause since Northern Ireland has its own legislation and any amendment to it would be a matter for Stormont.

We are all on common ground in wanting to see that all farm animals are transported and marketed in humane conditions and that any suffering between the farm and the slaughterhouse is kept to an absolute minimum. There is general agreement that it is not always easy precisely to define what constitutes suffering and what are the appropriate measures to prevent it in all cases. However, there is a great deal that we can do.

First, there is the responsibility resting on the general public inasmuch as the Protection of Animals Act, for which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is responsible, contains general provisions designed to protect animals from cruelty in general. It is the duty of anyone who sees obvious cases of cruelty to report them to the police. If this were done more often and successful prosecutions were taken, that would point the moral to those people—mercifully they are not typical—who show less concern than they should for animals in their care.

We are here concerned with a particular class of farm animals. I hope that it is widely realised—I think that it is understood in the House—that infinitely the vast majority of farmers have a great love for their stock and are the last people in the world to wish to cause them any unnecessary suffering. There may be the individual case. This is bound to happen in so large an industry as agriculture, but, generally speaking, the farmers of this country are excellent stockmen. They love their stock, and look after them well.

The new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend is concerned broadly with two problems. First, conditions in the markets themselves, and, secondly, the transport of animals both from the farm to the market and their subsequent disposal after sale in the market. Under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, I have power to make orders to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals in transit and thus it is not necessary, as the new Clause seeks to do, to give the Minister power to make such orders. Section 20 of the 1950 Act says: The Minister may make such orders as he thinks fit, subject and according to the provisions of this Act, for all or any of the following purposes". and there follow eleven purposes, of which one is for protecting animals from unnecessary suffering during inland transit.

Mr. Woodburn

Has the right hon. Gentleman made those orders?

Mr. Soames

I am coming to that.

There are a number of orders covering transport by rail, sea, and road. As I told the House, in reply to a Question some little time ago, for some months we have been engaged in revising these with a view to bringing them up to date. The general revision, and the consolidation which takes place within it, of our orders is quite a lengthy process. These orders are long and complicated, because they cover transit by road, rail and sea, and I think that it might be necessary to add air as well for all kinds of animals. It will take some time to consolidate all these, and I propose in the meanwhile to make a new order which will provide protection specifically for calves in transit.

Sir J. Maitland

When the right hon. Gentleman is talking about animals in this context, does he include poultry? A great deal of cruelty is caused to poultry in transit.

Mr. Soames

Poultry are included in the orders. They cover a wide field, and I propose to bring in an order specifically for calves, which is a simpler process, before the full task is carried out. The kind of thing that I have in mind is protection from the weather, the provision of proper barriers and partitions to prevent overcrowding, and a general obligation to carry the animals in such a way as to avoid unnecessary suffering.

There remains the question of the conditions under which animals are exposed for sale in markets. At the moment, I have no powers to make orders comparable to the powers to deal with animals in transit under the 1950 Act. I accept the view of my hon. Friends who have put down this Clause that this would be a valuable addition to the powers of the Minister of Agriculture, and I am sure that the right way to do this is as suggested in the new Clause in my name, to add to our powers for protecting animals from unnecessary suffering during transit by adding the words: or while exposed for sale". The problem of markets and the condition of animals therein is not confined exclusively to calves. Nor, indeed, is our power for transit under the 1950 Act. The new Clause is drawn in more general terms and does not refer specifically to calves, because I believe that we should take this power for animals generally. I have particularly in mind animals which in the nature of things are not exposed to the elements at all, but are kept indoors. For instance, pigs are kept indoors throughout their lives. Many are kept at an average temperature, at a more or less mean temperature. The same thing applies to a number of dairy cows, which, during the winter, are kept indoors all the time. If pigs are exposed to the extreme heat of the sun in a market for a period of time, they can get badly burnt. If dairy cows which have been indoors all the winter are exposed to the elements, they, too, can suffer a good deal.

I therefore have it in mind that this new Clause should be used to make orders to ensure that animals such as pigs, dairy cows and calves have adequate protection from the weather, whether that be in the form of exposure to the weather or draughts. Such orders are likely to involve construction work in some markets, and their application to all markets will, therefore, take some time. We must, in consultation with all the interests concerned, work out orders which strike a reasonable balance in prescribing minimum standards of comfort and treatment for animals, without making the restrictions too rigid or irksome.

Before making orders either for the transport of animals or for markets, I intend to consult all interested parties, the farmers' leaders, the local authorities, the market authorities, the R.S.P.C.A. and the Scottish S.P.C.A. Our intention is to ensure that there is the minimum of suffering, to say nothing of cruelty. We all appreciate that there has to be this trade in young animals off farms, and it would be foolish to take steps which would make it impossible to move animals off farms, because it must be remembered that these are unwanted animals, and we would merely be transferring the difficulties from one place to another.

We need to strike a sensible balance, and I think that we must work this out with those whose duty it is to watch over these interests to ensure that the right thing is done, and when that is done I will make the orders.

Mr. Joseph Slater (Sedgefield)

The Minister has talked about consulting various authorities who are interested parties. Why did such consultations not take place before he brought the Bill before the House in the first place?

Mr. Soames

I have made one speech. There are a number of hon. Members who wish to take part in this discussion, and if hon. Members agree I should like to make another speech at the end of the debate and then perhaps that would be the time to answer questions.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Pearl

I welcome the Minister's approach. Of the two Clauses dealing with this very important question of how to avoid cruelty to farm animals, I prefer the Minister's. I recommend my hon. Friends to support it. It may be that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) and other hon. Members who have supported the other Clause—which is a very admirable one and which I also support in principle—will agree to the withdrawal of the Clause in view of the assurances which have been given.

The first point that I want to make concerns consultation. Mention has been made of various bodies, including local authorities. I happen to be a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and I should like to know whether that body will be consulted. The Minister did not make that clear. I should have thought that veterinary surgeons, who have continually to deal with animals, are specialist people who are capable of giving the Ministry much advice not only about the siting of markets but about the care of animals in transit and the various other problems which arise therefrom.

In saying that I hope the veterinary profession will be consulted I am not indulging in special pleadings. All interested sections should be consulted, including farming organisations and various bodies concerned with cruelty to animals, but, above all, the veterinary profession which is concerned with animal health and has a wonderful record in the care of animals. I realise that the Minister has his own veterinary advisers, but I should like to see official consultations at the level that I have mentioned.

In this matter we are on common ground. We are all anxious to prevent the suffering of animals in transit, and we realise that it is not an easy matter to define cruelty. Often there is a responsibility on the general public. We have probably all visited auction markets and seen animals in transit at railway stations. If we see instances of cruelty we have a right and a duty to report them. I hope that the Minister's appeal in this connection will evoke some response.

On the other hand, it is right that we should also take these powers. Mention has been made of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, which enables the Minister to lay Orders concerning the movement of animals. Section 20 is very complex and detailed. Paragraph (x) of that Section refers to Orders made for protecting animals from unnecessary suffering during inland transit … Those words will be strengthened by the addition of the words proposed in the Minister's Clause.

I recommend those who have pressed this matter through the various organisations, and have rightly supported the Clause put down by the hon. Member for Gillingham—who has a long record in regard to the care of animals, through various societies—to accept the Minister's Clause. The hon. Member for Gillingham would be well advised to suggest to his colleagues that he should withdraw his Motion so that the matter can be dealt with by way of Orders made under the Minister's Clause.

We shall naturally study carefully the Orders that are prepared. As the Minister said, this will be a long process. It is a very difficult matter, affecting a wide variety of farm animals and the new problems which arise during transit these days. There is the problem of transit by aeroplane, and the movement of horses, including racehorses. We all have knowledge of these matters. We hope that there will be proper consultation in the matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sedge-field (Mr. Slater) was right to point out that consultations ought to have been held already concerning conditions in markets. We all know that many of our markets are out of date and are bad not only from an auctioneering point of view but in respect of the accommodation provided for animals. We have all seen cruel things occur—usually unwittingly. Deliberate cruelty is not practised on a large scale. Generally, it arises through carelessness.

I endorse what was said about the stockman's love of his animals, but now and then abuses occur, generally in trantit or in the markets. We have to face the serious problem of improving quickly the accommodation of our markets. This will inevitably be linked with the wider problem of the reform of our marketing structure generally, but we can discuss that matter on another occasion.

The improvement of the accommodation provided for animals will involve a large supply of capital. Considerable sums of money will have to be put into the new markets in order to provide the necessary accommodation to meet the provisions of the Orders which will be brought forward by the Minister. I hope that the Minister will initiate speedy action. In general, I welcome his approach. It is pragmatic and practical. I hope that the hon. Member for Gillingham will see the wisdom of the advice that has been given and will not press his new Clause.

Sir Richard Glyn

I join the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) in welcoming my right hon. Friend's new Clause. We are sincerely grateful to him for having introduced it, and we look forward to seeing the Orders made under it. This is an extremely difficult and complicated subject, because it is rather difficult to describe cruelty.

I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend make what I thought was a most important comment, namely, the difficulty of defining cruelty. I agree, I believe that we can take two calves of the same age and size, one brought up under hothouse conditions and the other in the open field; we can subject them—indistinguishable as they are—to a given set of conditions, and find that whereas one will be perfectly comfortable the other will suffer acutely. In many cases it is difficult to draw a line.

It is probable that the group of hon. Members on both sides of the House with which my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) has been prominently associated, and which has been studying this matter, has been affected by the fact that a practice has grown up lately of transporting to London weak and useless calves, fit only for slaughter, from markets a great distance away. They are sold very cheaply in London. There is a marked difference between the handling of these unfortunate, weak, cheap and useless calves and the handling of valuable calves for rearing.

I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that most farmers treat their calves well. I heartily agree. Most auctioneers also go to great trouble to provide proper accommodation for calves, and most hauliers also treat them very well. The great majority of the huge number of calves sold in markets are very well treated. But there is the unfortunate minority who ill-treat their animals. These people trouble the consciences not only of farmers but of other people. That is what has brought the matter to a head.

Everyone will be glad that power has been taken to control conditions at auctions, because that is where the trouble starts. Weak calves are put up, sometimes without adequate cover, or without adequate drainage. Very wet pens can cause as much misery as anything else. There is also a great deal of overcrowding. All these questions will have to be examined.

The hon. Member for Workington pointed out that a lot of money will have to be spent on improving markets. He knows that auctioneers and other people—including farmers' co-operatives—are already spending enormous capital sums in doing just this. For example, great improvements have been made at a market which I visit personally. In Sturminster Newton, the firm of Messrs. Senior and Godwin, which has the biggest calf market in the west of England, disposes of 1,300 calves not only in a day but in a few hours. The calves are brought in, sold immediately and moved at once. This at least is good, because it means that the calves are not kept hanging about in conditions which, although as good as they can be, can never be perfect.

A great deal of money has been spent on improving the market in Shaftesbury not far away where the firm of Messrs. John Jeffrey has an entirely new market with every modem facility which I wish could be inspected by hon. Members because the arrangements there are admirable. At this market also, a large number of beasts are handled under modern conditions and everything possible is done to prevent cruelty under circumstances where, of course, time is of some importance.

The real point about which hon. Members will be concerned is what happens to the weak calves when they leave the market. We have evidence of possibly thoughtless and sometimes rather ruthless treatment by what I am convinced is a small minority of hauliers. These hauliers take these calves, which are destined for immediate slaughter, for what in some cases are surprisingly long distances; and the journeys are made in very unpleasant conditions. I am glad to know that steps are being taken about this matter.

I am aware that the movement of animals by rail is fairly satisfactory. But literally hundreds of calves are conveyed by road in three-tier diesel lorries which may emit fumes. Journeys are made during the night and the animals may be transported for a distance of 400 miles by relays of drivers. I think that regulations must be carefully and tightly drawn to control this aspect of the matter. I am sure that it is only in a minority of cases that ill-treatment occurs, but it is a crying shame that it should happen at all.

We are most grateful to my right hon. Friend for having introduced this valuable new Clause. If the undesirable practice could be stamped out at the market—because that is where the trouble starts—a great deal of cruelty could be prevented. I am glad to note that all sorts of animals will be dealt with under these provisions, and also poultry, because there have been instances of the rough handling of poultry. I hope that no time will be lost in taking action under the provisions of this new Clause so that extraordinary cases of cruelty, such as have been brought to light recently, will be stamped out without delay.

Mr. Woodburn

I thought that the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) would describe some of the cruelties to these calves which occur when they are being transferred from one point to another. Some years ago, when this matter was raised with me, I learned that some calves never have a drink between the time when they are born and the time when they are slaughtered, which seems unnecessarily cruel. If they are being transferred from one part of the country to another, at least they should be provided with water to drink. Of course, this would probably cost money. To provide them with milk would certainly cost money.

I can imagine some animals being conveyed for distances of 400 miles by the same driver, because during our debates on the transport legislation we discovered that the regulations relating to the driving of vehicles were being broken by many people and that journeys of 400 miles were made without the necessary period for rest being observed by drivers. I wish to ask the Minister whether arrangements may be made to ensure that these animals at least get a drink of water between the time when they are born and the time they die.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Burden

I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I pursue this matter further. I am sure that my hon. Friends are gratified at the extent to which his proposals will improve the situation, but I do not think that my right hon. Friend has gone sufficiently far.

The Bill affords an opportunity for hon. Members to discuss a matter which has been causing grave concern to the animal welfare organisations for a considerable time. It is also a matter which has recently stirred the consciences of a great many members of the public because of disclosures made in a national newspaper. Hon. Members are always careful about accepting information published by newspapers, because there is frequently a "slant" on such information, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that the reporters who looked into this matter behaved in an extremely responsible way and provided every opportunity to check the statements they made about the instances of cruelty which they alleged.

These calves are so young that they can be fed only by their mothers and they have no food from the time they are born—as stated by the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn)—until the time they are slaughtered. It is an unfortunate fact that these disclosures are bringing discredit on the fanning community generally because many people believe that farmers are responsible. But those who have studied the matter are aware that, generally, farmers are very careful in their treatment of their animals and that many of the criticisms which have been launched against farmers are unjustified.

I believe that the present circumstances make it necessary for the Minister to take powers to remove the worst features of this trade and avoid the stigma which has been levelled against many people in the farming industry. If that is not done, such criticisms may be levelled against the Ministry for failing to prevent the worst features of this unfortunate trade from continuing. We all recognise that economic circumstances demand that these unwanted animals—for that, alas, is what they are—must be disposed of as soon as possible after they are born. But that fact cannot justify the worst features of this trade in bobby calves. The Ministry must know that the conditions under which these animals sometimes suffer should not exist in a country which prides itself on its humane treatment of animals.

As my right hon. Friend said, these unfortunate animals are of little value. But they are not responsible for the circumstances of their birth and those circumstances provide no excuse for callous treatment which sometimes occurs in the few days in which they live. On the contrary, those very circumstances should urge us to ensure that the conditions under which these animals live are improved during the time in which they live out the few days of their lives.

Can anything justify the length of time of journeys to which they are subjected? I am in a position to give the House some extremely disquieting figures about the way in which these small animals are caused to travel. There are reports from unquestionable sources saying that regular loads of calves travel from Dingwall to London and from Lanark to London, distances of 571 and 399 miles. There are regular weekly loads from Yeovil and Taunton to destinations in Scotland and the north of England. A report of an R.S.P.C.A. inspector noted that regular weekly shipments of calves were transported from Carmarthen to Aberdeen and consignments varied from 80 to 100 animals travelling by road.

I am informed that frequently these animals, during the course of two or three days, are taken into two or three different markets. Is there any justification for this? It is not difficult to imagine misery and distress suffered by these animals subjected to travelling these long distances in conditions such as have prevailed in the last few weeks. Recently, one consignment of calves from Blackburn to Clitheroe, a distance of 46 miles, was on the road for 24 hours because of the bad weather conditions. I wonder how long some of those animals which came from Scotland to London were on the road, in what sort of condition they arrived, and how many were taken out lead at the end of the journey.

Article 8 of the Transit of Animals (Amendment) Order, 1931, says that it is necessary only to segregate cattle from other types of animals. Surely it is desirable to extend the provisions of the article to require that each type of animal shall be separated from other types. Invariably calves lie down in transit and there are frequent cases, it is stated, in which they are trampled on by larger cattle.

I move to the question of the markets. In too many markets there is an inordinate delay in beginning sales. Animals, including calves, may arrive as early as eight o'clock in the morning and selling not start until noon. Frequently, the proceedings have not finished until between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. Then the animals have to be moved and taken on long journeys. Bobby calves have had no food whatever from the time when they were taken from their mothers until they have gone to the markets and eventually arrived at the destination where they are to be slaughtered.

The remarks made by my right hon. Friend about his intentions in regard to markets will give satisfaction to a considerable number of people, not only those in animal welfare organisations, but to farmers and members of the public generally. The Daily Mirror reported an incident yesterday in Bakewell Market, in which 7-day to 10-day-old calves had to stand for four hours in icy water 3 in. or 4 in. deep because the exit drains had been stopped by frozen snow. My right hon. Friend said earlier this afternoon the suffering that that sort of treatment can bring to these young and delicate animals.

Surely the answer to all this is to try to bring about circumstances in which young animals, these bobby calves, these unwanted, shall be taken from the farms on which they are born and slaughtered as quickly as possible without having to undergo long journeys and be subjected to the misery of going from cattle market to cattle market before reaching their ultimate end. I believe the Ministry has been approached on this matter by various organisations which are concerned about the control of the distances which these animals are carried. It is said that there is sympathy towards the idea of introducing regulations controlling length of distances they may have to travel, but that this is not enforcible and, therefore, what is the good of formulating regulations? I ask my right hon. Friend to have another look at this problem. He knows that if he sets his mind to it he can bring in regulations which would control the distances which animals are carried.

Over a long distance a lorry driver has to carry a log and indicate the journey taken and the time it lasts, so why should these difficulties be considered to be insuperable? I am sure they are not. I ask my right hon. Friend to apply himself to this question. I am not sure that he has sufficient powers or that he has taken sufficient powers to ban the sale of some calves. This is a point on which my hon. Friends and I feel very strongly. We want him to bring in an order abolishing the entry to markets of unlicked calves, those whose navel cord is still wet, which is an indication that they are very young indeed and should not be subjected to these privations.

During the war, I understand, traffic in these young calves was prohibited by a gentleman's agreement with the district chairmen of auctioneers' associations. That practice could well be given statutory force. At present, there is no official control over entry of these animals to the markets. This is also something which I am sure my right hon. Friend will look at sympathetically and with determination to do something about it. In August last year the Farmer and Stockbreeder carried an article by a veterinary surgeon who advocated the setting up of calf banks in which farmers could dispose of calves without presenting young creatures to the markets. That would obviate long journeys and reduce disease and mortality rates.

The Ministry was consulted and agreed with the possibility, but, notwithstanding the fact that it thought it a good idea, it could not do anything further to encourage the provision of such banks. It is the policy of the National Farmers' Union to encourage farmers to co-operate one with another in selling stock, particularly calves, and introducing a system which would remove some of the worst features of which my hon. Friends and I complain.

I also hold out to my right hon. Friend that the public conscience was so stirred about the traffic in horses for slaughter overseas that the Ministry introduced a Bill banning the sale of horses for such slaughter. Adult horses are much more able to stand the rigours of the journeys to which they were subjected than are these unfortunate, unwanted animals about which we have been speaking. I ask my right hon. Friend, if it is common sense to apply restrictions to the sale of horses for slaughter, is it not common sense to say that reasonable standards are necessary in the traffic in these young calves?

I hope that my right hon. Friend will take immediate steps to ban the exposure and sale of calves below a certain age and a certain standard of fitness. I hope that he will ban long-distance transport of young calves for slaughter and will introduce a workable system of localised killing. I hope that he will introduce a compulsory order forbidding the sale of bobby calves within 14 days of original sale in the market. My right hon. Friend has already stated today that he has most of the powers to do these things. He has had the courage to admit this afternoon that he has those powers. It is now up to him to see that he uses them.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

I rise to express my pleasure that the Minister has introduced this new Clause, to make one or two observations on it and to ask for his assurance in relation to one matter on which I have some anxiety.

I do not believe that there is anyone in the House who does not welcome this new Clause. I agree entirely that the farming community, generally speaking, has maintained a very high standard of behaviour in relation to its stock. But there are black sheep among it, just as there are among other groups of society, and frequently farm stock passes out of the control of the farmers. I am certain that all responsible members of the industry would welcome this extension.

I was glad that one hon. Member opposite raised the question of poultry. It is true, of course, that under the Diseases of Animals Act poultry are not animals. On the other hand, there is special provision in Section 45 of that Act which provides that all Orders made in relation to animals shall apply equally to poultry. Therefore, when the Minister makes this comprehensive Order I hope that he will bear in mind that in that Order he has to cover circumstances which might arise in relation to poultry as well as to animals as defined in the Act.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) spoke with great feeling about the position with regard to the transport of young calves, and I share his sentiments to the full. I would say that what he asks for in his new Clause can be done by the Minister under the powers which he already has and under the powers which he will acquire under this new Clause. The fact is that on the transit aspect of this matter there cannot be any question of lack of powers because the Minister under the 1950 Act has full powers to deal with transit problems concerning young calves. He is not acquiring any new powers under this new Clause in relation to transit.

Now that the Minister is extending paragraph (x) of Section 20, which is the effect of this new Clause, this will enable him to make a far more comprehensive Order governing the position of calves and of animals and poultry generally. I hope that we shall have that Order with the least possible delay and that he will bear in mind many of the points raised by the hon. Member for Gillingham when it is framed. I agree that it will not be an easy matter. There are aspects on which one has to be realistic and practical. I hope that the Minister will consult the farming community and those responsible for running the markets and also those who are concerned with transport, because if these Orders are unreal and artificial they will be of no practical help.

There is one other matter that I wish to touch upon. I am not quite happy that what is now proposed to be done by the Minister does not still leave a gap. I hope that I am wrong in this and that the Minister will be able to help me. Paragraph (x) of the 1950 Act deals with inland transit. The new Clause deals with calves exposed for sale, and I should like the Minister's assurance that he is quite satisfied that there is no gap there. The phrase that worries me is "exposed for sale". I should have thought that an animal that had been sold was clearly no longer in the position of exposed for sale. If it has ceased to be in the category of one exposed for sale because it has been sold, does it immediately come into the category of an animal in transit? I rather doubt it.

It is quite clear that the Minister and everyone in the House, I believe, intends to cover the whole of the period of an animal which is exposed for sale and which is ultimately in transit. Once an animal is sold in the market, although it ceases to be exposed for sale, it may be said that, as soon as that time passes, it is then immediately in transit. I am not at all happy about it. There may well be a loophole here which would be most unfortunate. In that regard I have been looking at Section 21 which deals with the position of animals suffering from pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease. It appears to me that there we have the problem dealt with in a far more comprehensive way. I do not want to weary the House with details, but I should like to refer to two paragraphs: (i) while exposed for sale or exhibited in a market, fair, sale-yard, place of exhibition, or other place, There is also a general provisions with regard to Section 21 which if it were in this new Clause would certainly remove any possible ambiguity in relation to the position of calves. It is this. (vi) generally, while being in a place not in the possession or occupation or under the control of the owner of the animals". If there were a similar provision in this new Clause, quite clearly there would be no gap at all. I would ask the Minister to tell us whether he is satisfied that there is no gap and that he can make Orders that will cover the position not only of an animal up for sale but of an animal after it is sold and before it starts on any journey. Subject to that qualification, I welcome the new Clause, and I hope that the Minister will produce a set of comprehensive Orders covering the position which has been envisaged by a number of hon. Members. I feel certain that the farming community would welcome these Orders if they were framed in a really practical way.

Mr. R. W. Elliott (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)

Those of us who have been concerned in inquiring into this unfortunate trade in what are known as bobby calves recognise that my right hon. Friend has attempted to solve a most difficult problem. Nevertheless, I think that there is a great deal in the case advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). I believe that we can do more to alter this trade than that which my right hon. Friend suggests. Cruelty is unavoidable to a degree in certain cases. Where it is avoidable but practised, we must obviously condemn it. I have in the past few days instigated an inquiry in my own city of Newcastle into the all too regular escapes of cattle from the city's abattoirs. These escapes are unnecessary. With the provision of sufficient hurdles, with the correct provision of unloading docks and with a reasonable amount of care on the part of those concerned with unloading, it is unnecessary for animals to know the awful cruelty of suddenly finding themselves loose in city streets.

One recognises that the trade in bobby calves is difficult to control. The ideal is that the bobby calves should be taken straight from the farm to the point of slaughter. Some day this may well be recognised as an ideal for all fatstock. Those of us who are in the business know that there are many hurdles to jump before we get to that one, but it is a rather fine ideal at which to aim.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

Why transport bobby calves from the farm at all? Why not slaughter them on the farm?

Mr. Elliott

Because in most cases that would not be hygienic. It would not be practical. I think that my right hon. Friend was right in suggesting that we must show a certain amount of care, or we may move the place of cruelty from the auction yard or the cattle truck to the farm. One must be practical. The bobby calf has a certain value. Its flesh has a certain value. Its skin has a certain value. If we are practical we must realise that, in common with all other fatstock, it should be slaughtered in a duly appointed and duly supervised abattoir. The ideal is that the calf should be transported direct from farm to abattoir. It is right and proper, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham made clear, that we should appreciate publicly that many dairy farmers are doing this, quite often at financial loss to themselves—in fact, usually at a financial loss to themselves. An enormous number of dairy farmers detest the trade in bobby calves and take their calves to slaughterhouses direct from the farm and as quickly as possible.

What those of us who have tabled the new Clause are after is the dealing in these unfortunate animals. We want to cut out the enormous distances travelled. We want to cut out if possible the fact that calves can be shown in more than one market.

I believe that the so-called insuperable difficulties here are not as insuperable as all that. We could institute a system of localised slaughtering in this country, as indeed we did during the war, which would cover a very large proportion of the country. We realise that there is the outlying problem. We realise that the very small dairy farmer would experience a transport difficulty, but this does not apply to the majority. I wholeheartedly support the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham that a system of localised slaughtering of these animals should be examined.

In addition, I believe that we can do something about the distances travelled.

Lorry drivers have to keep logs. It is quite deplorable that small calves are transported in this way. Indeed, sometimes calves are only two or three hours old at the point of loading. I heard of one case of a lorry driver went to a farm recently. The lorry was loaded with fatstock for the local fatstock market, the fatstock being cattle and sheep. The driver was asked to wait ten minutes until a calf was born so that it, too, could be transported to market. This is deplorable. I think we can eliminate the necessity for such calves to be transported enormous distances. It is the dealers we are after.

Therefore, I support the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham that the possibility of the unlicked calf being prevented from reaching the market should be at least examined. It would be very difficult indeed to ensure that no calf should be shown until it was two weeks old, as it would be difficult indeed far anyone to say just how old a calf was. But we can do something about the unlicked calf. Any inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, any auctioneer, or, for that matter, any haulier will know an unlicked calf when he sees one. This aspect of the problem should be carefully considered.

The Minister has suggested that he is seeking powers to control the transit of bobby calves. Does this power include the power in certain circumstances to forbid the transport of these calves? I support wholeheartedly the very excellent efforts made during the course of this debate and for a long time now by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham to do something about this deplorable trade.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I wholeheartedly support what has been said by the hon. Members for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott). The hon. Member for Gillingham, as secretary to the all-party committee for animal welfare, has a very specialised knowledge of the problems arising in relation to cruelty to animals in very many spheres. Those of us who served with the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North on the Slaughterhouses Bill, 1958, know that he made some excellent contributions to those discussions because of his specialised knowledge.

I am grateful to the Minister for having come forward this afternoon with this proposal, because I believe that he hoped that this proposal would meet what we of the all-party committee for animal welfare had in mind. After the speeches which have been made, particularly by the hon. Members for Gillingham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have second thoughts and that he will not withdraw the Clause but see whether it is possible within the regulations and powers already granted him by Parliament to do something to minimise the cruelty which is obviously present in the transport and slaughter of bobby calves.

I do not blame all people concerned in it—of course not. However, there appears to be an appreciable minority of people who are benefiting by this excessive cruelty. I for one am not ashamed to say cruelty. I, for one, am not ashamed to say Daily Mirror, in its issue of 31st December last, rendered the nation a very good service by bringing to the notice of everybody just what this trade involves. I do not want to make a long speech. I think that the case has been made out. I am sure that the Minister is convinced of the need to do whatever is possible within his present powers, and such powers as he may be able to take, but I implore him not to delay dealing with the iniquity of the treatment of these bobby calves so that he can consult interests all over the place, which may take years, while waiting for markets to be substantially improved, or for this, that and the other.

This is a very simple problem. The hon. Members for Gillingham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North are right in saying that localised slaughter is the real answer to this problem and that the dealers' trade should, if possible, be abolished. Let us get rid of the unnecessary cruelty, and then, I am sure, the nation will say "Thank you" to all of us.

Mr. Bullard

The Minister has gone a long way towards allaying some of the fears concerning cruelty to animals. We all know that a certain amount of cruelty can occur on rare occasions, so I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will not pursue his new Clause, because the Minister should be given every chance to take what measures he can to prevent cruelty.

I would like to follow what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) about the possibility of calves being prevented from coming into the market. I believe that that could be done. My hon. Friends have chosen to say in their new Clause that no calf under 14 days old should be exposed in a market for sale. The difficulty here is that we would not wish to interfere with the trade in rearing calves. We appreciate, too, that these calves must be moved about the country to a certain extent and that it would be bad to upset that trade in any way.

However, I believe that it would be possible to make a limit of weight below which no calf should be exposed for sale. Such a limit would be easily enforced, a weight test being applied before calves are transported. I realise that some breeding societies might complain that their trade would be upset because they go in for small calves. However, these societies could adjust their breeding policies to ensure that their calves were not so small. In any case, the calves could be kept on the farms a little longer; until they are a bit bigger and of such a size and age to be suitable to be transported.

It must be realised that in many cases these calves are not really wanted. They are put on the market, picked up by people who will make a bit of money out of them and are not really worth much when they have to be transported a long distance. Many people will not transport them a long way unless they are able to secure a large enough number to make the transportation worth while.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

There is one aspect of this important matter which the House has not yet considered. Naturally, all hon. Members will agree with the sentiments that have been expressed about cruelty to animals. Unfortunately, man is himself a meat-eating animal and the Daily Mirror and other newspapers have done a great service to the country by drawing attention to the terrible cruelty which is caused to bobby calves.

Do not let us be hypocritical about this. If man is to eat meat there is bound to be a certain amount of cruelty in the butchery and transport of animals. Nevertheless, we want to reduce this cruelty to the minimum. Common sense tells us that if a farmer is moving calves for rearing purposes, he would be a fool if he did not look after them and if the hauliers did not take care in their transport. But for the sort of cruelty we are discussing—and we are all grateful to the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) for having drawn attention to the plight of unlicked calves and bobby calves—this is a matter where the House of Commons may be able to help.

We have heard the voices of experienced farmers—especially that of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott)—and it may be that an answer can be found on the farm itself. One can see the logic of the words "while exposed for sale" in the Minister's new Clause, but it has been pointed out that we want something further to be done and that this should be extended—if need be to animals while they are on exhibition and being transported after their sale. I hope that the Minister will do something along those lines.

I should like to know whether the Minister has discussed the question of improving matters with the people who really know; the transport industry, "vets", local authorities and hauliers. Hon. Members should realise that, if we are to ask local authorities to improve the protection given to animals while they are exposed for sale in country markets, it will mean a great deal of extra cost—the expansion of buildings and other facilities—and the necessity to protect animals from the wind, rain and sun. Before the Minister tabled the Clause was any estimate obtained from local authorities in the rural and market areas about what the cost might be? Would the Exchequer make a grant to the local authorities concerned so that they could improve their cattle markets and provide such conditions?

We are all aware of the cruelty that can go on. We know the terrible story of the calves at Bakewell which had to stand in snow 4 inches thick. While we all wish to prevent this sort of thing happening, who is to improve the cattle markets and bear the additional expense? The financing of local authorities is antiquated at present, even with the block grant system, and one day a Government will have to face up to the whole problem of local government finance.

It would be interesting to know how much these improvements would cost and whether the Minister would be prepared to give a percentage in grants from the Exchequer to local authorities to make the improvement. I will not restate the sentiments which have already been so ably expressed by other hon. Members, but wish merely to bring this question of cost to the Minister's attention.

Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)

Like other hon. Members, I give the Clause my full support. It is an excellent feature of this House that while on occasions we argue and become rather angry with one another on certain issues, when we discuss questions such as this—concerning the prevention of cruelty to humans or animals—it is nice to know that all hon. Members are united in their views. The Minister should be congratulated for having introduced his new Clause.

The right hon. Gentleman is not going as far as many of us would like, but it is a move in the right direction and we welcome it. Those of us who live in rural areas and who are familiar with the sight of animals being transported to and from farms are often perturbed when we see an isolated case of cruelty. We might be at our local market and, perhaps, have a twinge of conscience when we see an animal being poorly treated. I suppose that we can report it, but I think that we take the line of least resistance and shut our eyes.

I am glad that the Minister has included poultry in the Clause, because in some parts of the country the keeping of poultry has become a very big industry in recent years. Poultry can be treated badly. There are many battery houses in which hens, confined to small cages, are virtually laying machines. When the "machine" stops laying and there are no more eggs the owner must change over to a new lot of hens and it often happens that the old batch of hens are put into crates and sometimes transported long distances, often in very cold weather, having just come out of hot battery houses.

The Minister's new Clause will be welcome to hon. Members on both sides of the House and particularly to all animal lovers.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Hoy

Far be it from me to throw a douche of cold water on this new Clause, but all that the Minister is doing is to add a very few words to those giving him the powers he already has. He has made it perfectly clear that he possesses all the powers necessary to deal with animals in transit and that all he now proposes is to insert or while exposed for sale". He claims no more than that. If the Minister already has the necessary powers, we are entitled to ask why he and his Department have not used them.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) said that animals are being carried long distances, and instanced journeys of 400, 500 and nearly 600 miles. If the law is being contravened, surely there is power under the Transport Act to deal with the drivers who are contravening it. There it is quite clearly the responsibility of the Government to take action, and it may be that if we do no more today than insist on the Government taking action we shall have done a good job. The same remarks could be applied to cruelty to these animals. We all abhor cruelty of any kind, and all we now ask is that the Minister will do something about it.

I would tell the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) was not seeking to criticise the new markets, or to assert that no new markets existed. He acknowledged that many people have spent considerable sums of money in modernising their markets, but I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree that there are far too many markets that are out of date and need considerable sums of money to be spent on them—

Sir Richard Glyn

I understood the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) to say that this money needed to be found, but he appeared not to be aware that this need was being met, that the money was being found and that markets were being improved.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

The real problem is to be found not in local authority markets but in the enormous and increasing number of private enterprise slaughter houses.

Mr. Hoy

I was about to deal with that point. All I sought to make clear was that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington was attacking those markets that are completely out of date and quite unfit for their purpose.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) spoke of Government grants to bring these markets up to date, and that brings in the very point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin). It is obviously the duty of those owning these establishments to bring them up to date, and among the small local authorities there may be those who need a grant for that purpose. But do not let us get into the habit of thinking that every time an improvement has to be made, whether the property be publicly owned or privately owned, it can be done only by means of Government grant. If the regulations are to be effective, it will be essential for the Minister to see that the markets are so built as to provide what he would want to have under the regulations.

We certainly commend what has been said. The Minister has not sought to claim more for this new Clause than I had pointed out but he gave the House an assurance. We now ask him to put his speech into action. In doing what he can to prevent this appalling suffering to these animals he will have the wholehearted backing of the House.

Mr. Soames

This debate has been most helpful to me, because a number of hon. Members on both sides have suggested what improvements might be made, and what might be included in these Orders. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) asked me to take into account what has been said, and I do not think that he needs my telling him that, of course, I shall. Several hon. Members have given me their ideas—particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), who has devoted so much time and thought to this acknowledged problem—and this has been very helpful.

I do not want what I say to cause either undue optimism or undue pessimism. I want to strike the balance of what I think is possible and feasible. Some hon. Members have talked of restriction in terms of the age of the calves going into the market. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) who has great experience, talked in terms of weight. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) referred, quite rightly, to the totally different cruelty or suffering that might be caused to two calves of identical age. There is, first, the calf reared on the hill for a matter of days and weeks. When that animal goes to market, it finds nothing wrong with it at all. On the other hand when the little dairy calf, born in a cowshed and kept in the stall for a few days, goes to market, it is completely lost, and suffers.

We have to be very careful in drawing these regulations not to put a stop to what is a proper and rightful trade. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham, who has done a lot of research into this matter, mentioned calves going from Caernarvon to Aberdeen—a long haul. I should be very surprised if those were not rearing calves and not bobby calves at all—

Mr. Burden

I am glad that my right hon. Friend has raised that point. I did not mean to say that all these animals were, in fact, bobby calves. I do not wish to be unfair, or to give the wrong impression.

Mr. Soames

I was not seeking to accuse my hon. Friend of trying to mislead me. When spelling out these things, one can make it sound as though a long journey with these calves was a terrible thing, but this is a trade, and the animals will live for a long time. They are born, perhaps, on the hills of Wales, then off they go to other farms to be reared. I do not think that hon. Members opposite would like to see that trade die—nor, looking at the economic interests of farming, would we. On the other hand, there are certain practices which we should like to see stopped. I assure the House that I shall be consulting all who can contribute thought to this matter so that we may have a meeting of minds. It may be that weight should be a factor, and may be not. One could have a very young and comparatively heavy calf and have a pure bred Guernsey or Jersey a few weeks old which should be knocked on the head if it is a bull calf, and it might not be knocked on the head all that well or efficiently. On the other hand, it might be kept as an unwanted animal on a farm for longer than one would have wished.

In these Orders, both in terms of transportation and in terms of what happens in the markets, we are out to ensure that, on the one hand, we bring in rules and regulations to secure that in the admittedly few cases cruelty is stopped to the best of our ability while, on the other hand, we do not interfere with what are the proper economics of livestock farming.

Mr. Hayman

Although in some areas there may be only a few cases, it has been said that tens of thousands of calves are involved in transit from Lanarkshire to London.

Mr. Soames

I do not know to what length of time the hon. Member refers, but I think that the number of bobby calves which are moved a long distance—and they are moved only because of the economics of the trade—is not a high proportion. Most of these calves are slaughtered fairly near the farm, but there is a long-distance trade and we must bear this in mind when we are framing the regulations. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham, who is anxious that we should get to grips with this problem is also, I am sure, as anxious as is the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) or myself that trade in calves from the hill lands to other farms in other parts of the country should not be prohibited.

Mr. Hayman

Nobody is speaking of those.

Mr. Soames

Then we must define. Those who have studied this matter carefully, with a proper balance in their minds, will appreciate that this is not a problem which is easy to solve. I was asked specifically by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) whether I would discuss the matter with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The answer is that we have already decided to do that, and to discuss it also with the Veterinary Association, and with the societies which are concerned with cruelty to animals as well as with the leaders of the farming industry and the market authorities.

7.15 p.m.

The transport aspect has been mentioned. Here again we must try to secure a balance between the fullest consultation and somewhat speedy action. I know what the House wants and what I want, and I shall do my best to bring it about. It has been questioned whether what is required is sufficiently covered by the words "exposure for sale". I am advised that it is. The hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) spoke of the reference in Section 21 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, to exposure for sale. The words are: while exposed for sale or exhibited in a market, fair, sale-yard, place of exhibition, or other place … "Exhibited" refers to the place of exhibition, and where a market is concerned "exposed for sale" is the term used. This will enable regulations to be made covering the conditions in which calves live within the market and the length of time over which they can be kept in the market. I do not believe that there is a gap in the legislation.

Mr. Bowen

As I understand, the Minister is saying that this matter will be covered by the phrase "while exposed for sale". But I have in mind calves which are not usually sold in the ring but are kept in their pens ready to be sold. At that time they are exposed for sale and therefore there is no difficulty. Then they are sold, and five to six hours may elapse before transport is arranged and they are transported away. It is difficult to say that they are still exposed for sale. They have been sold. Are they in transit? If they are not in transit and they are not exposed for sale, they are not covered.

Mr. Soames

I have in mind laying down the regulations under which calves will be kept in markets. Markets differ and we cannot generalise, but there are a number of markets where calves, especially those which are destined for almost immediate slaughter, are tied up to any old railing and are not kept under cover or given any of the benefits that other more valuable animals are given. I envisage as part of the regulations that the calves must be protected from the weather, with side boards and the like. At the moment, many of them are kept out of doors and there is no regulation to prevent that. Once the animal has been sold it becomes the property of the purchaser, but we believe that the regulations which we shall be able to lay down will cover animals within the market. These animals will also be covered both before and after sale by the general legislation dealing with cruelty to animals.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

Is the Minister entirely satisfied that the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) has not made a valid point in that there may well be a gap where it is possible the Minister will not be able to make regulations? I understand the point the hon. and learned Member has made because I am familiar with the market he has in mind. He has pointed to the practice of selling calves in the pen. The calves may well change hands again without being moved out of the pen and in between may never commence to be in transit. This frequently happens in West Wales markets.

I understand that the Minister has powers to make regulations covering the animals while they are exposed for sale. I fully understand the point that once the sale has been completed the animals cease to be exposed for sale and yet have not commenced to be in transit. Is the right hon. Gentleman absolutely sure that he has powers to make comprehensive regulations to deal with all the matters raised by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan?

Mr. Soames

When the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan was speaking I sought technical advice and I was informed that the Bill gave all the powers necessary to cover markets, but, of course, I will look at the point again. If it is necessary to do anything more it will be possible to add to the Bill when it passes through another place. At first blush, all I can say is that the information I am given is that it is technically sufficient for the purposes which we seek to achieve, to ensure that calves in markets are treated in the right way.

I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides for the spirit in which they have put down their new Clause and the way in which they have accepted the new Clause which I have moved. I take the message of the House that it is looking for satisfactory regulations to be made as soon as right and proper. I realise that this is my responsibility, and I hope that the House will accept the new Clause which I have commended to it.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

May I put one question to the Minister? I am sorry that I did not hear his opening statement on the new Clause. I am concerned about one aspect of the treatment of animals in transit. I have had some experience of this matter, and I have been much troubled by the amount of suffering endured by animals, principally cattle, being transported in cattle trucks. The normal practice, which seems to have sufficed in most people's minds, is that the animals are loaded head to tail and in such numbers that, presumably, they are unable to turn round or fall. I have frequently been very concerned to see the conditions in which some animals have had to travel on the railways during fairly long journeys when, in some way or other, they have been able to turn round.

If the cattle wagons were slotted so that each animal had protection instead of the whole lot having the entire wagon space to occupy, this would provide a far better measure of safety and there would not be the bruising and wounding caused by animals falling and being trodden on or by animals, particularly cattle when not dehorned, turning round.

Mr. Soames

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I shall have it in mind along with all else that has been said in the debate when I consider the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.