HC Deb 03 February 1965 vol 705 cc1059-60
13. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied with the working of the Protection of Animals (Anæsthetics) Act, 1964, on hill farms; and if he will make a statement.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Mackie)

The Act has been in operation for less than six months, and it is too early to draw conclusions about its working.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many hill farmers believe that the new paragraph 6A, dealing with castration by the rubber ring method, will be difficult to enforce and will be widely disregarded on hill farms?

Mr. Mackie

I appreciate the difficulty on hill farms in gathering lambs at a week old, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that the British Veterinary Association, in consultations on this matter before the introduction of the Bill, felt that, in order to save suffering to lambs, a week was the best time.

Mr. Noble

But will the Minister bear in mind also that the British Veterinary Association representatives in Scotland are at the moment, I believe, discussing this matter with the hill farming interests? Will he discuss the problem with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, because a genuine difficulty will arise this spring?

Mr. Mackie

If any further evidence came to us, we should, naturally, take it into consideration in reconsidering the Act.

Mr. W. Baxter

Is my hon. Friend aware that we are all very pleased to hear that reconsideration may be given to this question, as a considerable volume of opinion has been expressed in Scotland among hill sheep farmers about their inability to carry out the purpose of the Act? It would be much better, in my opinion at least, to alter the week to, perhaps, a month in order to give people a proper opportunity to meet the desire of Parliament as expressed in the requirements of the Act. Will my hon. Friend give serious consideration to the whole question?

Mr. Mackie

I want to make quite plain that I said that, if there were further evidence from responsible bodies, for instance, the British Veterinary Association, then we should give reconsideration to the Act. Until that evidence comes forward, I am afraid not.