HC Deb 13 December 1968 vol 775 cc741-802

Order for Second Reading read.

11.8 a.m

Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)

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

This Bill is designed, as the Preamble states, to Improve the conditions under which ponies are exported; to prohibit or restrict the export of certain ponies; and for purposes connected therewith. My words today must be devoted, in the main, to the Clauses, which seek to give to a small but dearly-loved section of animals in our midst a higher degree of the protection which, by chance and not by design, they have been denied in earlier legislation.

Before coming to the Clauses, however, I think that the House will expect from me my credentials for dealing with the matter, and my reasons for selecting this subject following my success in the Ballot.

In boyhood, and later, during the First World War and for some years afterwards as a Regular soldier, my life was dominated by horses and ponies. Among all those who shared my life, those upon which, I think, my greatest affection was centred were four blue roan ponies and four strawberry roan ponies in my care. I dread to think that the ultimate fate of those darling ponies might have been that of some of the ponies which are my concern today.

After that period in my life, and a suitable interval of candidature, I was elected to the House of Commons for a constituency one half of which was a mining area concerned with the Manchester collieries of Swinton and Pendlebury. Although, perhaps, the miners did not, politically, think that I was the best Member of Parliament, at least out of that experience I shared with them an undying affection for the pit pony. I have had much correspondence since the announcement of my Bill from people concerned with pit ponies, and I wish to say now that there is no continuing interest in the Bill vis-à-vis the pit pony. I understand from Lord Robens, Chairman of the National Coal Board—he knows that I shall say this—that by the end of 1970 there will not be a pit pony working underground.

When I first came to the problem of the pit pony 35 years ago, there were about 70,000 pit ponies working underground in our land. I feel that it would be right—I am, perhaps, expressing the view of the whole House here—to secure that, when the day of the pit pony is done, there shall be erected somewhere in our land a national shrine or memorial in token of the immense contribution made through generations of time by the pit pony to the wealth and work of the British people.

In 1952, I became concerned about the conditions of slaughter and export of horses. Some right hon. and hon. Members may recall the great campaign waged at that time by the Manchester Guardian, as the paper was called then. I see in his place the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) who, with me, participated in the activities in the House at that time. In 1952, I put down Questions to the then Prime Minister. Sir Winston Churchill, arising out of the recommendation of the Rosebery Committee that responsibility for matters of slaughter and export be placed under one Minister. It is interesting to note that, when acceding to that request, the Prime Minister answered my Question in these words: Everyone will, I am sure, agree that the fullest safeguards should be provided to avoid any cruelty in the transport of horses for slaughter and in the slaughter houses and knackers yards. That sentiment applies equally today to the ponies about which I am here concerned.

In parenthesis, I remind the House that that occasion gave Sir Winston opportunity to make the immortal remark which will live in the minds of historians for many years: I have always considered that the substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy milestone in the progress of mankind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2036–7.] Afterwards, behind the Chair, Sir Winston said to me, "I hope that you are pleased with my reply. I understand that the poor darlings are tied up for hours on end, without even a drink", to which I responded, "Prime Minister, I wish it were hours. I am sorry to tell you that sometimes it is days without a drink and, perhaps, without fodder".

Out of that exchange with the Prime Minister came the setting up of the Northumberland Committee. I had the privilege of seconding the Motion for a Second Reading of the Bill in 1954, a Private Member's Bill, presented by Mr. Arthur Moyle, then the Member for Old-bury and Halesowen, and now Lord Moyle. That was the Slaughter of Animals Bill of 1954.

I acknowledge the work which has been done in the past on the objects of the present Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball)—I had the privilege of serving here 35 years ago with his distinguished father—who opened a short debate a little while ago, beginning at about a quarter past three in Private Members' time, though, unfortunately, his effort at that time was talked out. Also, I acknowledge the splendid work done by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in another place, who carried this Bill through all its stages in the other place during last Session. In preparing for the present Bill, I have enjoyed both the advice and support of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin.

In substance, this is Lord Silkin's Bill which I am now putting to the House of Commons. I shall not give the House an account of the details of the trade in ponies which have been put before me by the many societies concerned with the problem, or of the conditions of sale, transport, shipment, stabling, feeding and watering, or of the gaps in supervision, maintenance, inspection and horse mastership which can strike so cruelly at ponies which go for export.

Neither shall I invite the House to consider what control might have been provided, if it were possible, over the treatment of the pony in the foreign field. What I invite the House to do is to ensure that any pony, while it is within British sovereignty, shall enjoy certain conditions of welfare and maintenance as are within our power and our country's traditions. That is my object.

I imagine that no one will quarrel with the sentiments which I have expressed so far. Before turning to the merits or otherwise of the Bill in detail, however, I shall say a little about its background. In this country we enjoy a splendid export trade, as we do with so much of our livestock, in the stud pony, the registered pony, the riding pony, the high-back. This trade is expanding, and it is one of our economic assets within the overall livestock world. Naturally, it will be the wish of all hon. Members, as it is permanently the wish of the Ministry of Agriculture, to preserve that precious heritage. Therefore, basically, my aim within the ambit of the Bill is to sustain that wonderful work as a contribution to our export trade.

However, in recent years there has grown up a rather sleazy smear in the wake of that wonderful export trade in the export of what are loosely described as scrub ponies drawn from moorland and fell, from activities in purely domestic circumstances, in the down-grading of many young ponies ridden by children in clubs, and so on, animals, that is, which fall into the hands of dealers who trail through our own markets making a few pounds profit and which ultimately, in the most wretched conditions, find their way to export ports, to go where?—to the Continent where they are served at the tables of those who care to buy horse and pony meat.

It almost seems to me to be a falsity to present, as it must be presented abroad, pony meat as if it were a special delicacy, like veal or baby lamb. There are, however, profitable elements and profit margins in this trade and in the buying of supplies cheaply and in the cheapest market and getting them to the slaughterhouses on the other side of the water from this land, handsome profits can probably be made.

I do not want this poison, which is growing and expanding, to poison the world, as I feel that in time it could, of this wonderful superior export trade which we have in the high-bred stud pony and the riding pony. I am trying to separate two worlds. Basically, I have an economic objective to preserve and expand something that is good, and I want to take away the cancer which is festering in its wake. Therefore, I turn to the Bill.

Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, Southwest)

Would my hon. Friend say whether he has had consultations about the Bill with the National Pony Society, whose chairman is in my constituency and has written to me saying that no consultation has taken place concerning the Bill and that he is surprised at its being brought forward? It represents all the pony breeds in the country and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions should be brief.

Sir R. Cary

I am sorry that I cannot reply in full to my hon. Friend. He has made a valid point, of which I am aware. My hon. Friend made me aware of it yesterday. He would, I am sure, be the first to appreciate that in seeking to present the Bill, I drew eighth place in the Ballot. Eight Fridays were available and I had the eighth pick. I did not, in fact, have a choice. There was one place left, on Friday, 13th December. The date I had in mind was 28th February.

I intended to use the Recess to do all the necessary reconnaissances that I should do in presenting a Bill like this. Had that programme been followed, I would have had ample opportunity to go to the individual named by my hon. Friend, and I hope that through this debate my hon. Friend will kindly pass him my apologies that he has not personally been consulted by me.

The Bill contains six Clauses. The important Clauses are Clauses 1, 2 and 3. Clauses 4, 5 and 6 are formalities of enforcement, interpretation and Short Title.

I describe Clause 1 as a barrier Clause in that it is linked to the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, which it amends, and it states: (a) after subsection (4) of section 37 thereof (which relates to restrictions on the export of horses) there shall be inserted the following subsection:— '(4A) In the case of a pony the conditions to be complied with shall include conditions that in the opinion of the inspector the pony is fit for breeding or riding purposes and properly described in any certificate, licence or other document relating to the export of the pony and that the pony is of not less value than £100, or, in the case of a pony not exceeding 12 hands in height, £70, or such other value as may be prescribed by the Minister for the purpose of this subsection.'". As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate, that places a discretionary power upon the Minister in operating the Clause.

I call this a barrier Clause because, at the £100 and £70 named in this amendment, the dealer whom I want to knock out of this industry will not be able to jump that money fence. It is a barrier for him. To the good, healthy, splendid stud pony export trade, however, it will be of no consequence. Some of the ponies which are exported are extremely valuable livestock and they change hands for hundreds of guineas, up to as much as 1,000 guineas. That is why I describe Clause 1 as a barrier Clause.

Clause 2 (Provision for exporting ponies) and Clause 3 (Further restrictions on export of certain ponies) I describe as disciplinary Clauses. I shall not weary the House by relating all my experiences—and they have been many over the years—of distress which I have witnessed. Perhaps I can best put the matter before the House in the terms of a document which has been sent to me by an extremely well known protection society and from which I might read two paragraphs. This would concern Clauses 2 and 3, the disciplinary Clauses.

The letter states: You will know that so many people in the horse world simply have no idea what happens at night on deserted docksides. inside long distance transports overcrowded with unweaned foals or terrified ponies brought straight off the moors or mountains to sales such as Chagford, Cwan Owen, Llanafan-Fawr or Beaulieu Road, and then sent for export a week or so later. It is no wonder that these animals are seen by us in a pitiable condition after their journeys to the Continent and later at Continental markets. In spite of top level asserts repeated ad nauseam that the Ministry's present regulations are strictly enforced, the eye-witness evidence of my colleagues and myself does not bear this out at all. We have now made a great many checks at exit ports and have frequently travelled on boats with exported ponies, in the hope of satisfying ourselves that regulations are properly enforced, only to be disappointed practically every time. Understandably our complaints are vehemently denied by those responsible; their living depends on their jobs, and it must be infuriating when outsiders draw attention to irregularities. Nevertheless, we have to speak out on behalf of the animals, who cannot themselves claim the rights to which they are entitled by law. "Entitled in law"—this is what I want to establish through the agency of the Bill. I want to afford a protection to the weak, the lame and the sick in the world of the pony, dragged by dealers from market to market in our own country, often to find their way over our frontiers elsewhere to make a greedy and shabby profit out of a trade of which I feel heartily ashamed.

I shall not take the House through many things that I would like to name, but before I conclude I would like to express the hope that a number of my right hon and hon. Friends on this side of the House might participate in the debate, as well as a number of hon. Members from the benches opposite, because the Bill has been prepared by me on an all-party basis.

In preparation for the Bill, I tried extremely hard not to become emotionally involved in the grievous aspects of this trade. Unless one has water in one's veins, to examine eye-witness accounts of some of the things which do happen makes one restless even to sleeplessness, which I have suffered during these last few weeks. These accounts come not only from our own sources, but can be read in the columns of the best newspapers not only in this country, but abroad. Men and women do not lie about these matters just for the fun of the thing. One cannot.

It would be a contradiction of the great humane traditions of this House and which are threaded through the patterns of our society and the source of which is to be found in the Christian message of compassion: compassion not only for the lonely and the sick and for the Cathy who never comes home, but also for the ill-treated dog which licks one's hands in its last hours; perhaps compassion for creation itself, particularly when one has witnessed what has happened by the use through mankind's activities of myxomatosis, or the clumsy use of sprays and insecticides.

We here have a duty, and if my Bill fails, then the dark, seamy side which has grown up in the export of ponies will continue to fester unchecked, and in those circumstances the only beneficiaries will be those who have made, who are making, and who will continue to make shabby and grubby profits out of this trade. Alternatively—I say this to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, whom everybody in the House respects for his great knowledge of agriculture, and for his kindliness, and his accessibility to the House—if my Bill is to succeed, perhaps the Government may help at its final stages to make that possible. I think that it may be worth their while to make it possible.

I like to think of my effort today as it was thought of by the editor of the Daily Mail at the time when, from behind your Chair, Mr. Speaker, we handed in our Private Members' Bills for First Reading. The editor of the Daily Mail printed this in his leader about Private Members' Bills: To the public at large these things may seem small beer, and indeed their scope is limited by the convention that they must not draw on taxpayers' money. In the biggest things the voice of the ordinary back bencher is too often drowned by the crack of the party Whips, but individual M.P.s still have a chance to leave British life a little better than they found it. It is good to see them taking their chances. This Bill is my chance, and I beg the House to give it a Second Reading.

Mr. Speaker

May I point out that as this is obviously a non-party debate it would help the Chair to keep a balance in the debate if those who wish to oppose the Bill would let me know.

11.34 a.m.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) on his good fortune in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills and also on the manner of his presentation of his Bill to the House.

This has been a turbulent week in British politics, and the subject of this debate may seem trivial compared with the matters of great moment which the House has discussed in recent days. Nevertheless, as the hon. Gentleman may agree, the House is often at its best in debating Measures of this kind, and there are many who will want warmly to acknowledge the genuine concern and compassion which prompted the hon. Gentleman's choice of this particular Bill.

Up to last year the export trade in ponies was essentially a "clean" one. The vast majority of exported ponies went to good homes in Holland, either for riding or breeding or as pets. During 1967, however, investigations by the International League for the Protection of Horses showed that Holland was becoming overstocked and that more British forest and moorland ponies of poor quality were becoming available. The League prophesied the likelihood of attempts in 1968 to find undesirable markets for this type of pony, and its fears appear 1.0 have been well-founded.

The 1968 export season's prices for the poorest ponies dropped to a point where slaughter became an economic proposition. More and more sub-standard ponies came forward and the League has said it was not surprised to discover that … certain consignments of those animals followed new routes and were taken to localities which our experience makes us regard with suspicion. Suspicion is weaker than proof, but there are two points which ought to be emphasised about the League's credentials for being listened to with respect. First, it is in an exceptionally strong position to put this complex matter into proper perspective. Its representatives have for many years carried out regular surveillance of sales and embarkations in this country and of transport, sales and abattoirs on the Continent. They have been permitted to board vessels used for exporting ponies, as well as to visit many abattoirs, and these are facilities which are not granted to other organisations. In addition, special investigations have been conducted periodically, and the most careful study has been made of all available data. The League's object throughout has been to establish the truth and to report it without bias.

Secondly, the League has never joined in the sensational stories disseminated by some animal protection societies, and, indeed, by some newspapers, alleging that the pony export trade is essentially a slaughter trade and one carried on in vile conditions. These stories, as the House knows, have consisted largely of unwarranted assumptions and on so-called "evidence" which does not stand up to reasoned examination.

For bath of those reasons I know that what has been said by the League and by the hon. Gentleman will be taken very seriously by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. I know that my hon. Friend will also appreciate that what the Bill seeks is simply tighter legislative control which, while protecting low-value British ponies, will, at the same time, preserve legitimate export interests.

I think that it will be generally agreed that Clauses 2 and 3 are both uncontroversial and unexceptionable and that the main debate will be about Clause 1, and, in particular, the words … the conditions to be complied with shall include conditions that in the opinion of the inspector the pony is fit for breeding or riding purposes and properly described in any certificate, licence or other document relating to the export of the pony and that the pony is of not less value than £100, or, in the case of a pony not exceeding 12 hands in height, £70, or such other value as may be prescribed by the Minister for the purpose of this subsection. There are two points of difficulty which ought to be raised and discussed. Thus it could be argued that a single pair of figures cannot adequately distinguish between the present trade in breeding and riding ponies and a trade in ponies for slaughter. Any one single pair of figures could either interfere with the trade to which no one has any objection or even allow through some ponies which could be slaughtered. Further, it may be argued that a practical difficulty is that it would not be easy, some would say it may be almost impossible, for any one person to be able to give an authoritative valuation of each and every pony, of whatever breed or cross, that might be presented to him. Certainly, it may not be right to expect the Ministry's present welfare officers, who are "vets", to do this work.

These are important difficulties about Clause 1, but I know that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will address himself to them in a helpful and constructive way. This is a Bill which deserves the detailed and sympathetic consideration of the House and I hope that it will be so regarded by both sides of the House. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is well-known throughout the agricultural industry as a humane Minister and administrator. It was my great pleasure to work very closely with him as a colleague in the Department for about four years, and I know that he can be relied upon to study the Bill with the same compassion and concern which has informed the speech of the hon. Member for Withington.

Finally, I hope that the debate will be concluded with reasonable expedition so that other important Private Members' Bills, which will be coming before the House after this, will also have the benefit of full consideration.

11.42 a.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

As he knows, I share to the full the general respect and affection in which the House holds the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). I congratulate him on a most able and, in parts, moving speech. As he was kind enough to mention, I am as concerned as anyone about the decent treatment of animals, and I believe there may well be parts of the Bill which are necessary and which we can all support. However, the Bill as a whole causes me grave concern.

First, it illustrates the difficulty of general legislation covering the whole country. I shall speak entirely about the situation in Shetland. The Bill may be a valuable piece of legislation for other parts of Britain, but in Shetland we have always had a large trade in ponies and for many years they have been sent to different parts of Britain and of late years they have been exported.

What has been good about the recent developments in the trade is that, both within the country and abroad, there has been a greatly increased demand for Shetland ponies for riding and as pets, and we can find no evidence that they are exported for slaughter. The odd one or two may be slaughtered, but there is no evidence, so far as I know—and the Government will confirm or deny this—that there is any trade in Shetland ponies for slaughter. It would clearly be a somewhat crazy thing to do.

Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

In what way can it be proved that Shetland ponies are not being exported for slaughter? What positive steps have been taken to make sure that such is the case?

Mr. Grimond

The dealers are interested in the fate of their ponies, and they know the sort of people to whom they sell them. Secondly, it would be slightly eccentric to buy a Shetland pony to eat. I frankly admit that, once Shetland ponies are taken to the Continent, they cannot be traced, but those who say that there is a big trade in Shetland ponies for slaughter have to prove it. We know that there is a large export trade in Shetland ponies for riding and as pets, but we have no evidence that there is any substantial trade for slaughter. I am talking only about Shetland ponies. If there is any evidence that they are slaughtered, no doubt hon. Gentlemen will produce it.

What has been encouraging about the situation is that the demand has greatly improved not only the incomes of the crofters, but the treatment of the ponies, and it would be a tragedy if the Bill resulted in stopping the trade in these ponies. If instead of being sold in the autumn the ponies were left on the scattalds, or common grazing, they might suffer more cruelty from under-feeding during a Shetland winter than we have any evidence of in the trade. The police in Shetland have seriously considered prosecuting the crofters, but they have decided not to do so, for what can the crofters do if the ponies are left in numbers too great for the scattalds? This is a very difficult situation.

Further, I greatly doubt whether the Bill is enforceable, at least without an enormous increase in the inspectorate and, at a time when we are all trying to avoid that sort of increase, this is a minor but substantial consideration.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

Shetland ponies appear to be a special case. Can the right hon. Gentleman give some idea of the average value of the ponies when exported, because that is the key point?

Mr. Grimond

I am coming to that. I have been making a general observation, but I want now to come to Clause 1.

The average price for ordinary colt foals at the Unst sales varied between £20 and £30, so that it seems the Bill might kill that trade. I am informed on as good information as I can get that the price would fall to £5, and if that happened that might well be the end of the trade.

We are constantly told that we must develop the Highlands. We are constantly providing money to set up new enterprises and new activities in the Highlands. If, at the same time, we pass legislation which undermines existing employment and enterprises in the Highlands, we undo all the good being done, and this trade in ponies is a traditional Shetland trade of great importance to people who have very small incomes and who would certainly not be absorbed into industry. The Bill would do great damage in the Islands and other places if it had that result.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

The right hon. Gentleman said that the price of Shetland ponies was between £20 and £30. It is very seldom that one finds a Shetland pony available anywhere in England for less than £100.

Mr. Grimond

If the hon. Gentleman has better information than I have about the Unst sales, let him say so. I was careful to say that the price of colt foals at the Unst sales averaged between £20 and £30 I am speaking entirely about Shetland, about which I know a little. I know nothing about the New Forest, or Wales, or any other pony areas. Prices there may be much higher. I am sure that the Government have full information and, if I am wrong, no doubt I shall be corrected. However, I spoke to the auctioneers only this morning and they confirmed these figures which were given to me last week.

That being the case, we can expect the disappearance of the export trade in colt ponies unless Clause 1 is amended. I know that it says that the figures may be altered and fresh figures prescribed by the Minister—no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us his view about that—but I think that it would be extremely difficult to amend the Bill to meet the situation in the trade in Shetland ponies, because Clause 1 would have to be so drastically amended that it would be virtually deleted. However, if the Parliamentary Secretary has any lower figure in mind, no doubt he will tell us.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House any indication of the average height in hands of Shetland ponies, because an adjustment could obviously be made in price?

Mr. Grimond

I could not give a very useful indication offhand, so to speak.

Hon. Members know what a Shetland pony looks like. The traditional object of breeding Shetland ponies in Shetland was to breed them as big as possible, because they were wanted for work on the crofts. Since this new trade came in—sale for pets—there has been a tendency to breed them smaller. Although years ago the average height of these ponies might have been substantial, in recent years I would think that it has fallen. However, that is a slight diversion. Perhaps this part of the Bill can be amended.

I have great sympathy with the greater part of the next two Clauses. But, I am told that substantial parts of the Clauses could be enforced by Order. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us whether this is so. If so, that would obviate the necessity for the Bill. Most of us feel that there already is enough legislation.

Either Clause 1 will have to be drastically amended or, I must tell the hon. Member for Withington quite frankly—I know that he will be extremely sympathetic towards us—I am assured by the veterinary service, by the National Pony Society, by auctioneers, and by everyone I have consulted, that it will do damage to a perfectly legitimate trade in Shetland and will damage the trade in a way which will throw the whole thing back so that the ponies will be worse off.

The proposal in Clause 3 (1) (b) is a perfectly legitimate proposal as regards cerain parts of Britain. But Shetland ponies foal late, because they are in the extreme north. The sales are usually held in October. If the time limit of five months is retained, they will not be able to be sold. If the Bill is to go forward, we would like the time to be reduced to four months. Again I have tried to get figures. I repeat that I am speaking only for Shetland. It is the only place about which I am entitled to speak. One hundred and sixty-two pedigree ponies were sold at Baltasound on 23rd October. Of these, 35 were born in June or later. As far as I can discover, taking one year with another, between 25 per cent. and 50 per cent. of foals sold at these Autumn sales are probably foaled in June or later.

Hon. Members may ask whether we cannot hold the sales later. I understand that already there are complaints from the buyers that they have to come to Shetland so late. It would be difficult to hold the sales later.

I have made inquiries as to whether any cruelty is involved. There has been one case in which veterinary officers thought that a foal was parted from its mother too early. I am not saying that this is the only case. I do not deny that there may be an occasional danger. But five months is too long. It could be legitimately left to the veterinary people to decide whether in particular instances there was any reason why four months should not obtain. If five months is retained, this will put an almost insuperable handicap on the trade.

I wish to reiterate that no one, least of all the Shetlanders, who have a strong vested interest in seeing that their ponies are well looked after and are in good heart in the hands of the eventual buyer, wants to encourage cruelty. If I do not talk about the rest of the Bill, it is simply because I agree with it. I have made these what I regard as valid and important points, not out of any spirit of hostility, but because I feel bound to put it to the sponsors of the Bill that unless it is drastically amended it will do great damage to a perfectly legitimate and very important trade in a part of the world that is not too well off.

11.55 a.m.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I rise to discuss the Bill. I put it no higher than that. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester. Withington (Sir R. Cary). I am sure that he will not take offence when I tell him that we are discussing a short Bill which has one object, but he discussed matters more of sentiment than of hard fact, varying from myxamatosis to pesticides, neither of which are or indeed could be mentioned in the Bill. I know that my hon. Friend will not be offended if I endeavour to bring the House back to the hard facts of this business.

I took notes of things that my hon. Friend said. He went through a great many facts. He ended by saying that the Bill was meant to deal with the weak, the lame and the sick. With that sentiment I entirely agree. Whether some ponies which are sent for export are slaughtered is not a matter that arises on the Bill. In any case, I am informed that there is no evidence to support any such allegation. No doubt when ponies get older and get past work they will suffer the same fate on the Continent as they would suffer in this country when the end of their working life arrives.

I am sure that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will correct the figures I give, if they are wrong. I must apologise in advance if I am not here to hear the Minister's speech, because I have another engagement which will take me elsewhere. In 1965–66—I have no later figures,—the trade had risen to 5,000 to 6,000 ponies a year exported.

There is, not only in Great Britain, but also on the Continent, a growing interest in ponies for riding. I regret to say that in the age of the internal combustion engine riding has declined. Whether the late Sir Winston Churchill was right in saying that the internal combustion engine is a curse on our lives, I do not know, but unfortunately it is here and it makes riding on the roads much more dangerous than it was in previous years.

In a small way this trade helps our export figures. I would not use the improvement in the export figures to support any suggestion that we should export unfit animals. I hope that in some way—perhaps the Minister can tell us how—we can stop the export of animals which are unfit for use when they arrive at the final port of destination or, which is even more important, which are unfit to travel from the place where they are purchased to the continental destination.

Let us start by agreeing on one or two facts. The ordinary pony is a very hardy animal. It can stand a very great deal. Most ponies are born on moors, be it Dartmoor or in the Shetlands. They are not brought up in soft conditions. Like all animals of the horse type, they require regular food and water. If they get that, and if they are fit, they can stand without the least harm a very great deal. They are not brought up as pets. They are useful working animals, starting, as they do, literally in the wild.

How can restraints be imposed upon the transport of sick animals without imposing undesirable restraints upon this perfectly legitimate and increasing trade? I do not think that the Bill can do it. It may well be that, if amended, this purpose could be achieved. It is no good saying that a show pony, if it wins at a show, fetches a big price. Of course it does, because the purchasers hope that at another show it will win more rosettes and prizes. It is no good saying that a pony which has been carefully broken and schooled and is fit to ride by a child of four fetches a big price because it is safe. Of course it does. There is a great hunt for such ponies all over this country and on the Continent.

We have to deal with the general class of fit pony and, if necessary, the unbroken pony. There is no reason why a person on the Continent should not purchase a pony, which he knows to be unbroken, with the purpose of breaking it when it arrives. Those ponies are often bred. They are not fairly described as scrub ponies. I have in mind the Dartmoor pony which breeds all over the Moor and is rounded up once a year. We may call them scrub ponies, but they are in fact very strong, useful and adaptable when broken. However, they do not fetch anything like the figures set out in Clause 1.

The winner of a pony show fetches a great deal more. If we put in these figures, £100 for the ordinary pony and £70 for ponies not exceeding 12 hands in height, which I think would include Shetland ponies, we will put paid—and I use the expression in the double sense of the word—to a large part of this legitimate and excellent trade.

I have no figures about the price for an unbroken Dartmoor pony, but I should not be far wrong if I put it at £30 or £40. Unless it is a prize winner, it certainly does not go up to £100. Even if I am wrong, we want inspection by veterinary surgeons who know whether an animal is sick, lame or weak.

Mr. Burden

Has my hon. and learned Friend read the Diseases of Animals Act? Inspection is provided for in the Diseases of Animals Act.

Mr. Doughty

I am well aware of that. That applies to cart horses, vanners and riding horses. Because it is in another Act does not mean that it is right in this Bill. I am concerned with this Bill.

Veterinary surgeons are well trained professional people who are capable of saying: "This animal is unfit to travel. You caused it to travel from Shetland, or wherever it may be, to the East Coast port from where it is to go. You should have known that it was unfit to travel". Prosecution will then follow. But veterinary surgeons are not horse dealers. They may have a rough idea of what a pony will fetch, be it in this country or on the Continent, but that is not their business.

My criticism of Clause 1 is that the wrong test has been applied. The test should be one of fitness or, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Withington of the weak, the lame or the sick. Although I know what lies behind the Bill, and I support it, I should be loth to be party to supporting a Bill which I consider unworkable. That is the only point I make. That is why I think that the proposed new subsection (4A) to the 1950 Act is not workable in any practical way. If the Bill were to get second reading—and I shall not oppose Second Reading—the Clause would have to be deleted and a new Clause put in its place dealing only with the transport of the weak, lame, sick or, I might add, the over-age pony.

I agree that ponies, like horses or other animals which travel by train, lorry or boat, should be properly fed and watered on the way at regular intervals. This is a very complicated way of setting it out. It is sufficient to say that they must be fed and watered at regular intervals and also that the feeding and watering should take place on proper premises—not on a quayside with a bucket and hay thrown on the floor. We can deal with that in Committee if the Bill gets to the Committee stage, but I do not like the wording.

One final matter on the wording of the Bill. I cannot see why there should be a particular exception for registered ponies. Ponies may be bred not so much in the wild as on a person's farm or on land surrounding his house and who, being a member of a pony club, has registered them, knows them all by number, and can sell them with a proper pedigree and number in the stud book. I am sure we shall hear later why it is necessary to refer to these ponies. However, concerning travel, they are ponies. They may have greater value because they come from a particular pony stud farm, but their inclusion separately does not appear to be necessary.

Concerning the general idea underlining the Bill, I have no objection. Indeed, I support it. But I think that it wants redrafting or so amending that we shall not recognise it in this form. If the Bill is passed in this form the only effect will be to put a totally unnecessary brake on a legitimate trade.

I am glad to note that all over Western Europe people are riding ponies more. When I say "people", there are very few ponies, except a Shetland, which will carry me—more likely my grandchildren.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

I can certainly supply my hon. and learned Friend with a good strong Galloway pony.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

Would a vanner be the answer?

Mr. Doughty

A vanner is hardly a pony. It is dealt with in a separate Act. It would have to be a strong pony. At any rate, I would only get any distance on a pony of 14 or 15 hands.

I am glad that pony clubs attached to various hunts are flourishing. The children seem to have excellent ponies. I hope that the same thing happens on the Continent. The riding schools have a large number of these ponies, and strong little things they are. I hope all that will continue both in this country and on the Continent. Let us have the weak, the lame and the sick ponies put down mercifully. If anyone wants to introduce a Bill, or amend this Bill so that it covers that facet of the trade, they will have my support.

12.10 p.m.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

I approach this Bill with an open mind. I came here to listen to the speeches before deciding my view on the Bill and I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) for the way in which he introduced the debate. Like the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) I have a particularly local interest in a certain type of pony. I immediately confess an interest. I am a small breeder of Welsh ponies. In addition, over a period of three years, from 1962, I have been the Chairman of the Livestock Export Council and have had several opportunities of seeing the conditions applying at various ports and quarantine stations, and the way in which animals of all sorts were fed and watered.

The Welsh Pony Society, with its headquarters at Aberystwyth, has, like other societies, a particular and continuing interest in seeing that ponies which are exported arrive at their destinations in good condition. That is why I join with other hon. Members who have said that Clauses 2 and 3 are in accord with the wishes of everyone of us. There are some difficulties about Clause 1. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was entirely accurate and appropriate in the comments that he made.

In my position as Chairman of the Livestock Export Council I share his opinion. I have not exported many animals, but last year I exported two Welsh ponies to Germany. I sold them for £110 and £112. Both were colts and both were yearlings. They were perfectly capable of travelling, and the mover of this Bill will say that both would still be able to be exported under Clause 1, as it stands.

I accept that, but believe that I should be extremely lucky, as a breeder, to continue to get that amount of money for that type of pony. I have some doubts about the figures that he has in the Bill, particularly with reference to what has been said by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. It is clear that if Shetland ponies are to be covered there must be a severe Amendment to Clause 1.

Sir R. Cary

At the end of the Clause a discretionary power is given to the Minister enabling him to prescribe another value.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing this to my attention. That is very important. Perhaps when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he may, with the agreement of my hon. Friend, suggest that it would be wise to adjust Clause 1 to provide that the Clause will work as we all desire.

I want to underline the volume and importance of the trade. I have been given some figures for Welsh ponies and cobs, from the Secretary at Aberystwyth. In the last 11 years 5,914 ponies were exported, the vast majority going to Holland, some 3,382. We come now to the crux of the problem. On the Continent, pony trekking and riding has grown as much as it has in this country. In the upper reaches of the Wye Valley pony trekking is an immensely important tourist attraction. To those who are unhappy about the ultimate end of some of the ponies exported to the Continent, I suggest that they go to one of the countries to which the largest amount of ponies is exported, Holland. I have had reports about the two ponies which I sent to Germany last year, from the owners and friends of mine and they are doing very well.

The export figures are interesting. They have grown for Europe, but diminished for Canada and the United States, where in the late fifties, the export of Welsh ponies was very great. The export of ponies amounts to about 5.000 or 6,000 a year. Providing the good name of the pony trade is kept, particularly by the breed societies, who have a great responsibility, and by the markets, it will improve further. The hon. Member referred to some of the markets in my part of the world. He referred to Cwmowen and Llanafanfawr. He could well have added Llanybythyr, Hay-on-Wye and Hereford. All these are major markets, where a large number of ponies are sold.

The way in which these markets are carried on is highly important if the trade is to retain its good name. As a boy I can remember waking up in the morning and hearing the clattering of horses and ponies on the road outside my home. The gates had to be shut, and coming down the road were the hill farmers, driving their ponies to New-bridge-on-Wye Fair. In those days it was not safe to be on the road, certainly not when the farmers were on the way home in the evening. I can remember when the ponies were sold in the roads, tied up on the side of the road in the village. That was Newbridge Fair. Nowadays we do not see the rough handling of ponies that we used to 30 or 50 years ago, and we are glad of that.

When the Minister speaks I am sure that he will underline the importance of Clauses 2 and 3, the question of "the disciplines", cleanliness, food and water, and the state of the animal when it leaves the country. On Clause 1, I hope that he will give us the benefit of his experience and the knowledge of his Department. I trust that he will be able to help the mover of this Bill so to shape it that it will not harm the important pony exporting trade, which is so important to many breeders and which gives such an immense amount of happiness and satisfaction to young people abroad as well as here.

12.20 p.m.

Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)

I have been concerned with horses or ponies for most of my life, and have a great affection for them. I knew that a Bill had been introduced in the other place dealing with this question and that another Bill, similar if not exactly the same, had been briefly discussed in this House in a previous Session. I was, therefore, glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) had been successful in the Ballot and was proposing to introduce the Bill on a day when there would be opportunity for more ample discussion.

I had not had the opportunity of examining the contents of the Bill in detail, but expected to be able to give my hon. Friend my unreserved support today. The House will not be surprised to hear, however, after what has been said by the last three speakers—in particular, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond)—that, after looking at the proposals in detail, to discover what I could about the background to this subject, I could not help having some reservations as to the practicability and workability of the Bill, and about its effects on the export trade.

The background to the Bill is the genuine and deep concern of our people for the proper treatment and welfare of animals—in particular, the horse and the dog. One of the nicest things about the English people—I am sorry, I should say the British people, because we must include the Irish—is the way in which they respond to the beauty and lovable qualities of the horse and the dog.

Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)

Will my hon. Friend include the cat?

Mr. Ramsden

I do not want to go through the whole gamut of the animal kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Member for Withington mentioned his earlier military experience. One of my most vivid recollections of the war is of a subaltern in my regiment despatching, one by one, with his revolver, the horses in a transport column which had been captured from the enemy and which were receiving wounds. Englishmen feel that this is the proper way to behave. It is fair to say that successive Governments have recognised this feeling in their legislation.

Side by side with this feeling there is an equal one—whether or not it is as justified I do not know—that foreigners do not approach animals from the same point of view as we do. We have some apprehension that their standards may be different, and we feel some anxiety about the matter. The word "sovereignty" has often been mentioned lately. When an animal, in the process of export, leaves the sovereignty of this country and goes into the hands of foreigners, we feel that we ought to do everything possible to make sure that it is treated properly.

I have little experience of the export of animals. The only two which I have exported were foxhounds, which I sent to the Secretary to the Speaker of the French Parliament—a friend of mine and a great Anglophile, now, alas, deceased. He met them at Victoria station and was to take them back on the boat train to Paris. He was about to put them in the guard's van when the man in charge of the van intervened and said, "No, sir. Those are high-bred English foxhounds. They cannot possibly travel in the guard's van. You must have them with you in your sleeper." My friend was obliged to do so, and they passed a far more comfortable night than he did. This is illustrative of the wide feeling among our people about the right way to treat animals.

I now turn to the question of ponies bought live for export. We have an instinctive repugnance to the idea of horses or ponies being eaten. We do not eat them ourselves. Nevertheless, in many countries, especially in Europe, horseflesh is eaten and relished. There is a demand for this type of meat. However much our people may deplore it, it is inevitable that hundreds and thousands of our horses and ponies will, when they are old, or lame, or past working, end up on the Continent as meat on the tables of the Dutch, the Belgians, or the French.

There is nothing discreditable about this trade. Export takes place in the form of carcase meat and despatching is done in registered and inspected slaughterhouses, in the humane conditions prescribed by the House. The trade is widespread, and the reasons are entirely practical. Many of our horses and ponies, when they come to the end of their useful lives, can no longer be given the benefit of a long retirement in a field, especially in the more suburban areas. Disposal is, therefore, a problem.

Disposal is mainly handled through carcase meat for economic reasons. The price of this type of meat is about 7d. a lb., or £4 a cwt., as compared with the price offered in the knacker's trade—the pets' and cat's meat trade—of 1d. or 2d. a lb., or under £1 a cwt. I do not think that this should cause concern to horse lovers, because eventually there has to be disposal and the more valuable the commodity—to put it in stark economic terms—at the end, the less likelihood there is of ill-treatment and eventual cruelty.

I have ascertained the facts as well as I could. It appears that imports to Belgium alone in 1967 of carcase horse-meat for human consumption, fresh and refrigerated, was something over 14,000 metric tons. I have ascertained that from the Belgian import figures. The Board of Trade figures are slightly, but not much, different. That may be due to a different way of collecting statistics. Taking the killed-out weight of a horse at 10 cwt., which is my estimate—I have no knowledge of this other than as an amateur—it would amount to about 30,000 horses exported in carcase form every year.

Mr. Speaker

I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but it seems that what he is talking about is outside the Bill.

Mr. Ramsden

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I believe that it is directly relevant. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland argued, there is very little evidence of export of live ponies or horses, and that is what the Bill deals with. My argument is leading to an examination of the relative economy of exporting live or in carcase form. I think that the evidence I am producing will endorse the view that there is practically no export on the hoof and that it would be foolish for anyone to engage in it.

I had reached the point of saying that there is evidence that about 30,000 horse carcases are exported to the Continent every year. Against that background, I wish to look in more detail at the effects of the Bill. When one looks at the Bill and at the 1950 Act which it seeks to amend, one wonders why no provision was made in that Act to protect ponies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) has said that the reason there was no provision in the 1950 Act was that at that time there was no export trade in ponies and that this has developed since. Presumably, at the time of the 1950 Act, there was no export trade of ponies on the hoof for slaughter and no suspicion that there might be such a trade. If there had been such a suspicion the Government certainly would have made provision for its prevention or restriction. There was no export trade live and no export trade on the hoof, but there must have been in 1950 a demand for horse-flesh for the table on the Continent, maybe not so great but comparable with what there is now.

I have not been able to get the relevant import figures; no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary has them. If there was such a demand it must have been satisfied somehow. It is reasonable to assume that it was and is satisfied by the export of carcasses from this country and from other European countries. This demand on the Continent has always been met by exports, but not by exports on the hoof.

Mr. Burden

The trade was built up in carcase meat because provisions laid down by previous Acts of Parliament set a price on the export of live animals. That has built up the carcase trade and forced the export into the carcase trade.

Mr. Ramsden

I respect the depth of my hon. Friend's knowledge. What he says may correctly describe the origins of the carcase trade. When one looks at the present position of a trade of about 30,000 carcases a year and an export trade of about 4,000 ponies on the hoof, of which we know the vast majority go for riding or breeding—

Mr. Grant-Ferris

How do we know that?

Mr. Ramsden

I think the House will accept that that is our general information. It seems unlikely that there is much trade on the hoof for slaughter. I asked a man in the North of England who knows most about this trade, and who sells cattle in Antwerp and the Low Countries, where it is accepted that the centre of this market lies, and he told me that there is no evidence at all of ponies arriving direct for slaughter.

We all wish to see prevented as far as possible the dispatch of batches of ponies from the Shetlands, the Welsh hills or Dartmoor to the Continent, where, in the main, they are destined to be sent as pets or to be ridden or for breeding, and the odd one in the batch which goes lame finds its way through the normal processes for disposal. That happens, and it is very difficult to deal with it other than by some form of veterinary inspection at the port of departure.

Regulations have been made by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food enjoining veterinary inspection before export. I have been told—but I hope that it is not so—that there is an exemption in the case of ponies exported for breeding. If that is so it is a pity, and it should be put right. I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary can reassure us on this matter. The reference I make is to the Horses (Excepted Cases) Order, Statutory Instrument No. 508, paragraph 3.

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

That applies to ponies for breeding, over a certain price.

Mr. Ramsden

The batch ponies with which we are concerned have the benefit of a veterinary examination. I think that that is right, and I am relieved to hear it.

Another step which ought to be taken to safeguard the conditions under which these ponies travel was mentioned either by the hon. Member or by a noble Lord in another place—and that is that we should press on with the work which is being done in Europe in connection with the transport of live animals. I believe that the Council of Europe have a convention for the protection of animals in international transport, and I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will tell us that it has been ratified or that any other necessary steps have been taken to make it effective.

These steps ought to be taken, but I think that there is nothing practicable which can be done about ponies which are sold in batches. I do not think that the minimum price proposals in Clause 1 could possibly be workable in this context. The point was well made by a noble Lord in Committee on the Bill in another place, when he gave an example of the difficulties of pricing an individual animal which had been sold in a batch of animals.

It seems to me that the apprehension which people have about this trade can be exaggerated. On the figures given, in my view the sale of Shetland ponies for the slaughter trade would not be economic, even if the figures fell as low as £25 to £30. It would not make sense to export them for slaughter.

I was impressed by what was said the last time this subject was debated by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, both of whom spoke of the absence of any concrete evidence of the export and slaughter of ponies for human consumption. As a House, we should give weight to that fact, although equally we should give weight to any evidence which may be produced to the contrary. I understand that at the moment there is little firm evidence to the contrary.

I am glad that my hon. Friend has brought forward the Bill and I certainly support its objects and would not dream of doing other than giving it a fair wind. We need to look extremely carefully at the practicalities, particularly of Clause 1. I hope that my hon. Friend will give an assurance that he will take note of that point.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that there are still a goodly number of hon. Members who wish to take part in this debate.

12.43 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I have listened carefully to the speeches, and particularly to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden). We seem to be losing sight of the fact that the Bill does not intend to put any embargo on or any difficulty in the way of what we in the House consider to be a legitimate pony trade. Clauses 2 and 3 are intended to ensure that animals are exported under proper conditions and Clause 1 is intended to ensure that ponies are not exported on the hoof for slaughter. Most people, I am sure, will agree that that is a very commendable object. Indeed, I propose not to deal at length with Clauses 2 and 3, because there appears to be considerable agreement about them.

I remind the House that this is no new Measure. The very serious concern felt about this subject has been expressed in two attempts to introduce a Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) sought two years ago to bring forward a Bill in this House and last Session Lord Silkin sought to bring forward a Bill in another place. Although the Bill was debated for a comparatively short time in 1967, it was talked out by an hon. Member opposite who had been "conned" and asked to do so.

Following this somewhat prolonged debate and the views which have been more broadly expressed, I feel sure that the Minister will this time give the Bill his blessing—at least to a considerable part of it, particularly Clauses 2 and 3—and that we shall also be able to persuade him that Clause 1 should be accepted, albeit with some amendment to take care of the interests which have been expressed. I see no great difficulty, for example, in setting a value on a Shetland pony, tying that to its height in a recognised measure for horses of so many hands.

All that the Bill aims to do is to make it uneconomic to export horses or ponies for slaughter abroad. It does nothing to stop what we consider to be legitimate trade. It seems to me that if it is implemented, certain of the measures will help to preserve the high quality of the pony stock in this country and to ensure a greater export of high-quality ponies.

The Bill has the full support, as I know, of a considerable number of animal welfare societies, many of whom have stated—and we must accept that they are honest about it—what they consider to be legitimate and proper information to the effect that ponies are exported on the hoof for slaughter. The Bill certainly has the general support of the Parliamentary Animal Welfare Committee. I do not intend at this stage to go into the names of the various animal welfare societies which have supported the Bill, because they are comparatively well known.

All that the Bill attempts to do is to bring legislation for ponies into line with legislation passed a long time ago to control the export of horses for slaughter. Hon. Members will see that Clause 37 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, lays down restrictions for the export of horses. It provides that they shall be inspected immediately before shipment by a veterinary inspector appointed by the Ministry. The conditions require that the horse is capable of being conveyed to the second-mentioned port and disembarked without cruelty", and that it is capable of being worked without suffering". The Clause lays down the minimum price at which a heavy draft horse shall be exported as £80 and that for a vanner as £70.

But this discussion goes back even further. The necessity for legislation was debated before 1937. A Bill on this subject was introduced in 1937. Among those who took an active part in the debates was Sir Robert Gower, a very distinguished Member of Parliament for Gillingham, the constituency which I now have the honour to represent, and, as the House knows, at one time the Chairman of the R.S.P.C.A. He and others in those debates made it perfectly clear that they were introducing the Bill to lay down minimum prices for horses for export entirely to stop them from being exported for slaughter.

Later, in 1966, not so long ago, Statutory Instrument No. 507 set the minimum value for certain categories of horses for the purposes of Section 37 of the 1937 Act. That was a logical follow through when, in view of modern economic circumstances and the lessening of the value of money, the minimum prices of horses covered in the Act needed to be increased.

The 1937 and the 1950 Acts were to protect heavy draught horses, vanners, mules and donkeys, but they made no provision for ponies. That is why we welcome the provisions of Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill.

In 1966, the minimum value for a heavy draught horse in this trade was raised to £135, that of the vanner to £125, for a mule to £125, and for an ass to £25. Why was the pony excluded? Why should a pony under 15 hands be excluded? Why should not ponies be given the protection which these precautions were intended to give to heavy draught horses, vanners, mules and asses? Why is it logical to give them protection against going into slaughterhouses on the Continent, and not ponies? The original categories were given protection because it was known that they were going to the Continent for slaughter and the people of this country, who pride themselves on being great animal lovers, thought that these animals should be protected, and they were not satisfied with the conditions in which these animals were slaughtered on the Continent.

Whatever my hon. Friends may say, are we absolutely sure that no ponies are taken on the hoof to a slaughterhouse, or, if they are, the conditions in which they are landed at the point of disembarkation, their treatment in the abattoir and their final destruction at the point of slaughter, are such that we can be completely satisfied? If we can be completely satisfied, why do we not remove the restrictions on the export of heavy draught horses and vanners and others, restrictions which were reinforced by the present Government as late as only two years ago? Some of us are concerned with whether some of these animals are going abroad for vivisection, and we want to ensure that that is not the case.

The conclusion that some precautions should be taken is inescapable. As late as 1966, in the Statutory Instrument I have mentioned, the Government made it perfectly clear that they considered it still to be necessary to keep a minimum price for certain categories of horses to protect them from going abroad on the hoof for slaughter. Surely there is no less need to make similar provisions for ponies.

Some of my hon. Friends have said that prices laid down in the Bill will interfere with the legitimate trade. If they are interested only in setting prices which will encourage more and more of these animals to be sent abroad for slaughter in conditions which the House has utterly repudiated from time to time, they should say so. If they are interested in ensuring that a legitimate trade in ponies for riding and other purposes which we would all applaud continues, they should appreciate that certain precautions are not only desirable, but necessary.

I asked the Parliamentary Secretary seriously to consider this position. I cannot see how it is logical to maintain precautions for heavy draught horses, vanners, mules and asses and not apply them also to ponies. If these precautions are no longer necessary for the horse flesh trade, they should be removed from all categories, but if they are necessary for one category of horse flesh, they are certainly necessary for ponies, and it should not be beyond the ingenuity of the Government to find a formula which will fit ponies.

12.58 p.m.

Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)

The principles of the Bill have been discussed in another place at fairly considerable length and they have also been discussed briefly in this House. We are, therefore, not coming to the matter for the first time. Even the Parliamentary Secretary has had the privilege of dealing with the matter on a previous occasion, and we are aware of some of the views which he may be expected to express today. Although the subject has been discussed on all those occasions, the speeches today have brought up many points which were not mentioned earlier, and the discussion has made a useful contribution to the possibilities of dealing with the export ponies.

I should like to add my congratulations to those offered to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) for enabling us to return to the matter.

Most of us on this side of the House hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give the Bill such a blessing that at least it can go to Committee where hon. Members can deal with the points, some of considerable weight, which have been raised today. I tried to find out what sort of support the Bill had in various parts of the country where I have contacts, and I must tell the Parliamentary Secretary that outside the House I have not found anyone who does not wholeheartedly support the Bill.

I have quite a volume of correspondence with me from various quarters urging that the Bill should proceed, and I took the precaution of going to a pony breeder in my constituency in order to find out the views of an expert. This breeder, who produces quite a number of ponies every year and exports many of them, writes: I hope you will give this Bill your full support, as there is, at present, no restriction on the way these poor ponies are treated. Large numbers of colt foals are sold each autumn, and they are completely wild and unhandled, having no idea of how to eat or drink out of a container. They are herded together in lairages at the ports, and if hay and water is provided they are too terrified to touch it. After shipment, they are sent to markets on the continent, often being sold straight from Holland to Germany and France, arriving in a completely exhausted condition. Colt foals are the worst sufferers, as no-one wants to keep them, and so they offload them on to foreign markets …. Horses and mules are, of course, catered for in the present Act, but 'ponies' was omitted from this Act, and the dealers were quick to take advantage. Some hon. Members have suggested today that there is no evidence of any such export: I put forward this piece of evidence from someone who is intimately connected with the trade, who knows the conditions of the ports and is constantly going there with ponies bred on that farm. I therefore submit to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is a volume of support for this Measure both among breeders, and in the country.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) brought forward some very weighty and powerful arguments on behalf of the Shetland pony. I am quite certain that, if this Bill goes to a Committee, the right hon. Gentleman will find that all hon. Members there will do everything they can to meet his views about these very attractive ponies.

My next point refers to numbers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) has done a great deal of research, and has brought forward a lot of new and interesting information for us to consider. My information suggests that, particularly during the last year, what we have heard referred to as "scrub" ponies have been exported in larger numbers than in the past.

The last figure I have of the number exported is 4,209 in 1967—a figure given by the Minister on 29th October, 1967. Of those animals, there might be, according to the best estimates I have been able to obtain, about 10 per cent. substandard ponies which could not be regarded as being exported for breeding or riding. A somewhat low estimate suggests, therefore, that the total number in one year might be about 300 ponies.

The Parliamentary Secretary, when addressing his mind to these problems on the last occasion, said that he did not want to cause an extensive interference with the trade. I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that the number exported would not be found to be very large, and as for the Bill interfering with the trade, I have already given him the view of one person, at least, who is intimately connected with the export business, who is firmly in support of the Bill.

A point raised particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) was that, while we have been able to legislate for the protection of horses, it has been, apparently, beyond the wit of man to produce a satisfactory clause to cover ponies.

The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) said that he had exported horses at £110 and £112 each, so that the figure in Clause 1, may well be found to be too high.

The next difficulty was that mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate, who referred to the sale of ponies in batches. A number of difficulties would arise in that way, because ponies coming down off the moors or the hills—

Mr. Burden

In the old days, heavy horses and vanners were probably sold in batches as well, so this should not make for any special complication.

Mr. Godman Irvine

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. The difficulties could doubtless be surmounted.

When ponies come down off the moors and are sold in a batch it is difficult to assign a value to each pony. When this matter was last discussed in the House, the House had just passed Statutory Instrument No. 509 of 1966—the Export of Horses Protection Order. By a misfortune, I suppose, the Ponies Bill of that time was discussed only a few days later, so the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary then said, "Let us have a pause and see how this Order works. Then we can look at the matter again and see what needs to be done." The hon. Gentleman has had his pause. We have an Order, extending to three pages, dealing with the export of horses, and it should now be possible to find some method of extending to ponies a similar protection.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford referred to the Welsh Pony and Cob Society at Aberystwyth, and it occurred to me that, if this Bill is to be enacted, some other form of arrangement than is contained in Clause 3 (1) (c), which requires breed societies' certificates, might have to be considered, because Aberystwyth, which I give purely as one example, is not convenient for breeders in all parts of the country.

Clause 2 (1) (a) provides for a rest to be arranged for any animal which is being exported. I farm only a mile or two from a market, and when my animals go to market they are in the van for only five or ten minutes. If ponies are bred in similar circumstances and are very comfortable in their own stables only a mile or two from the port of exportation, that circumstances might be looked at in Committee.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to allow this Bill to go forward, so that the subject can be further discussed in Committee and the weighty matters which have been put before us today can be given proper consideration.

1.10 p.m.

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

Like all hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken, I congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) on bringing the Bill before the House after his luck in the Ballot, and I endorse all that has been said about the sincere tone of his speech, in which he explained his reasons and recounted the long history of his knowledge of ponies and his love for them.

At the outset, I assure the House that I give a general welcome to discussion on the Bill, as I welcome any discussion which leads to a genuine improvement in the welfare of animals. It is true, as several hon. Members suggested, that I know a little about farming and, naturally, have a love for animals. I am sometimes accused of being a bit off-hand, so to speak, on the question of ponies and their welfare. I recall discussing the matter with one of the noble Lords concerned with the Bill in another place, and, when I told him that I had fallen from a pony when I was a small child and been dragged by the stirrup, he said, "That explains why you are unsympathetic"—and he went into the various Freudian aspects of what happens to one when one is a child. However, I assure the House that nothing of the kind is true; I have no bias against ponies or horses. Indeed, in some ways I agree with the late Sir Winston Churchill's observation that it was a pity that they were displaced by the internal combustion engine.

As has been said, this is not a party matter. As a country, we have an impressive record in animal welfare legislation, a record ranging from general Measures such as the Protection of Animals Acts and the recently enacted Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act to various detailed regulations covering particular aspects of animal welfare. There are several Orders relating specifically to the welfare of horses and ponies in transit for export. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) said that they gave no protection to ponies, but, in fact, there is considerable protection for ponies in transit.

Mr. Burden

I said that the 1950 Act, the Diseases of Animals Act, did not give to ponies the protection given to other horses. It does not.

Mr. Mackie

I accept the correction.

The object of all these regulations is to prevent animals travelling at all if their journey is likely to cause them unnecessary suffering. I remind hon. Members that every horse or pony, unless specifically exempted—the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) raised this point—must have an official veterinary inspection before it may be exported and must be certified as capable of being shipped, conveyed and disembarked without unnecessary suffering. The specific exemption is for breed horses over a certain price. Any mare, however small, can be for breeding, of course, but the exemption from inspection applies to a horse over a certain price.

We cannot directly legislate for the welfare of animals, whether born here or not, in other countries, but we have been doing all that can be done in that regard also. Many hon. Members will know that this country has played a leading part in developing the Council of Europe Convention covering the welfare of animals in international transport. I am glad to say that the Council of Europe has this week opened that Convention for signature by Member States. Perhaps it would interest the House to know that the chairman of the Committee which brought forward the Convention was our Director of Animal Field Services, Mr. A. G. Beynon.

We hope that the Convention will be signed and that it will be of considerable value. I do not suggest that it goes as far as we should like or as far as we go in this country, but we hope that it will do a lot to safeguard the welfare of animals when they are in other countries, as they will be because we export not only horses but a good number of other animals as well. We hope that the Convention will go a long way to meet a good deal of the criticism about the treatment of animals when they reach the other side. I do not imagine that the right hon. Member for Harrogate will expect them all to travel in first-class sleepers as his two hounds did.

I come now to some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Withington. First, this Bill, like all Measures dealing with animal welfare, is purely an animal welfare Bill coming, as it were, under the umbrella of the Diseases of Animals Act, and we cannot use such a Measure for economic reasons. One or two hon. Members made this point. If anything is to be done on a purely economic basis, it would have to be done through different legislation altogether.

Now, the question of complaints made by various societies and individuals about how the present regulations have been carried out. These complaints are made as strongly as possible. I do not suggest that they are exaggerated, but I must say that I did not much like the criticism of our staff, suggesting that they hid anything which was done. I have certain figures. It is not easy to say how many consignments have gone abroad, but, over the last two and a half years—I confirm that the trade just now is about 5,000 or 6,000 ponies a year—approximately 10,500 ponies went abroad. I do not know how many consignments there were, but there must have been 200 to 300 consignments.

We have had only about half a dozen complaints a year. It may be said that that is too many, but it must be seen in relation to the size of the trade and the number of consignments going abroad. I am sure that hon. Members accept that our staff do a good job. It is not easy to be on hand 24 hours a day, it is not easy to insist that people move animals at a certain time, and so on. I assure the House that the regulations are applied as carefully as we can, and, if there are breaches, prosecutions follow. A big prosecution is pending at present arising out of an export of ponies this year.

I hope that what I have said makes clear that we are genuinely concerned about the welfare of farm animals. I am sure that hon. Members do not doubt my sincerity or the sincerity of others who have spoken about Clause 1, but I must point out the practical difficulties and the reasons why we would not wish to see it enacted as it stands.

The first difficulty is that, as I understand it, the object of Clause 1 is to make it impossible for ponies to be exported for the express purpose of slaughter on arrival. The hon. Member for Withington has repeated his belief, as did another hon. Gentleman—I know that it is held in many quarters—that there is a systematic trade in the export of ponies for slaughter. However, we have no reason whatever, from our sources of information, to suppose that any such organised trade exists. We have received reports of that kind and we have inquired into a great deal of them both ourselves and through other channels, and our inquiries have shown them to be without demonstrable foundation.

Mr. Grant-Ferris

Will the hon. Gentleman enlarge upon that? That has been said by him before and by noble Lords in another place, but no one has explained exactly what has been clone. Have inspectors literally gone on trains and seen where the consignments go and what happened to them? It is difficult to believe that ponies exported under six months old are exported for any purpose but to be eaten.

Mr. Mackie

Various complaints have been made to us relating to certain areas on the Continent. We have been given the names of towns, and so forth. We have sent people out there, and we have asked our embassies as well to look into the matter. We have found, as I have said, that the reports really had no demonstrable foundation.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I hope, if I get the opportunity to speak later, to give a bit of evidence supplied by the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society on this matter. I worked in an embassy in Western Europe before coming to this House and I certainly did not have time to travel 100 or more miles behind ponies to see where they eventually reached, but others have had the opportunity of doing this.

Mr. Mackie

If the hon. Member catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we will be interested in the proof, if it is proof.

Mr. Farr

On a point of order. The point which my hon. Friend has just raised illustrates the danger of Ministers winding up a debate before it has been properly concluded and before hon. Members have had full chance to express their views.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

That is not a point of order. The Minister can choose to speak when he wishes.

Mr. Mackie

On a Friday, a Minister generally intervenes not too early in the debate, because if he is able to answer the points before hon. Members speak, he may save them from doing so.

Overseas Governments concerned have assured us that British ponies are not imported for slaughter, nor is it easy to explain, if such a trade exists, why not a single export application has shown slaughter as the purpose for which the animal was intended, especially when such a declaration would not have hindered the export.

Mr. Burden

Does the Minister now say that when a cargo of horses goes abroad, members of the veterinary staff of the Ministry have followed each section of the consignment to its destination to find where the horses have gone? This is nonsense. If the hon. Gentleman is arguing that there is no evidence that the animals are sent for slaughter, equally it is difficult to provide any evidence that they are not.

Mr. Mackie

I did not say that. I simply said that I found no evidence of organised buying of horses in this country to go for slaughter. I do not suggest that none of the ponies go for slaughter immediately after they arrive. As far as we can find out, it must be a very small number. We certainly have not followed every export batch of ponies, but probably a few go for slaughter. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) pointed out, ultimately they will all be slaughtered on the Continent, irrespective of the reasons why they go abroad.

It can be argued that although it has not been possible to demonstrate the existence of this trade, we should pass Clause 1 to prevent the possibility of such a trade developing. The difficulty in this argument is that the pair of minimum figures given in the Bill—or, indeed, any pair of minimum figures—could not successfully discriminate between ponies going for slaughter and those going for purposes such as riding or breeding.

Mr. Burden

What about horses?

Mr. Mackie

I am coming to horses. The hon. Member is more than usually impatient today. A figure that would be high enough to prevent any deliberate export for slaughter would also interfere with the export of the cheaper types of pony for breeding or riding. I know that the figures in the Bill have been carefully chosen and agreed by a number of pony and welfare societies, but this agreement does nothing to dispose of the objection that no single pair of figures could achieve the result desired by the sponsors of the Bill for all breeds and ages of pony. This would be true of any pair of figures at any one time, and the matter is further complicated by the seasonal and long-term variations in value which occur.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can my hon. Friend say anything about the figures advanced by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), which seemed to me to be questionable? Secondly, while we are on Clause 1, can my hon. Friend say whether there has been any consultation between the Department and the International League for the Protection of Horses, whose suspicions I mentioned earlier?

Mr. Mackie

In answer to the second point, we have been in consultation with all societies connected with horses and ponies. I am coming to the second point. The hon. Member for Gillingham is a little impatient. I was going to deal with the figures to show what would happen to the export trade in Scotland.

In 1968 to date 70 per cent. of all the exports from Scotland would have been barred had the figures in the Bill been used. Even if we had halved those figures, a considerable proportion would have been barred, including particularly a consignment from the constituency of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland where six were valued at £19, two at £20 and two at £28. They would all have been barred. Hon. Members must recognise the difficulty of using any two figures at any one time and adding to that difficulty the seasonal and long-term variations which are possible.

Sir Knox Cunningham

The Minister referred earlier in an intervention to a figure for exemption, not for ponies but for horses. As it is difficult to ascertain what should be the exact figures in the Bill it would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman could now tell us the exemption figure.

Mr. Mackie

Without delaying the House, I think offhand that the figure is £180. I can check it before the debate finishes.

Another major difficulty outside the value of the ponies is to require an officer at the port to determine the value of each individual pony. The duty of valuation is not one which could be properly laid upon the State veterinary service, who have responsibilities under existing animal welfare regulations at the ports and airports. Their skills are those of vets and not of valuers. Hon. Members must agree that it would be no easy task for any one person to make a reliable valuation of each pony. The point about batches of ponies has been raised, and that adds increased difficulty.

An officer could be presented with ponies of any breed or cross and he would be expected to state authoritatively the value which they would realise. Indeed, the officer might have little or nothing on which to go, except the value declared by the exporter. If people are determined to carry on this trade, it is only too easy to enter on the declaration too high values for their animals. It was said that not all cheap ponies are bad ponies and some are good for breeding. They would, therefore, come into this picture as well.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

As to the question of value, if a pony is not exported under the open general licence issued by the Board of Trade for a batch of 30 for breeding but is exported as an individual pony, it would have a certificate of origin which would state the value. It is not necessarily the case, therefore, that the veterinary staff would have to value the pony. He simply has to check that the certificate of origin gives a value over and above the minimum value in the Bill.

Mr. Mackie

That would not cover the point. As I have said, there is nothing legal about a certificate of value, except for a horse which is exempted. All these other animals have to be inspected. If we were to ask for valuations, our veterinary people would have fantastic difficulties. Their job is to enforce the legislation which we already have to ensure that the ponies are fit to travel.

The problems inherent in the minimum value system proposed in the Bill are much greater than those in the minimum values already enacted to prevent the trade in worn-out working horses which were revised by legislation two or three years ago. Their aim is to prevent completely a particular and identifiable trade. It does not take a vet more than a few seconds at a glance to know whether a horse is old and worn out. The sending of a good able horse abroad is an altogether different matter. The intention of this Bill is to discriminate between a worthwhile trade in breeding or riding horses and what is basically a hypothetical trade in ponies for slaughter.

Mr. Burden

With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I just do not agree. If he reads the 1937 Act, which, I hope, he has read, he will find that values were set not in order to stop trade in old, worn-out horses abroad, but to set a figure at which it would be uneconomical to export horses for slaughter, and this is the continuation of that.

Mr. Mackie

I am sorry, but we shall just have to agree to disagree on that point. It is a different picture altogether from the one in this Bill.

I should now like to turn to Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill. I ought to make it clear to begin with that our veterinary officers do not at present give certificates for the export of ponies that are unfit to travel, either because they are overtired or are too far advanced in pregnancy, or too old or too young. So, in general, ponies do enjoy already safeguards rather similar to those provided by Clause 2 and Clause 3 (1) (a) and (b).

However, if there is on this point a consensus of opinion in this House, then I would accept that it would be helpful to have the safeguard of a rest period, which several hon. Members have mentioned, and safeguards related to the question of the age of the pony being exported and its degree of pregnancy, covered specifically in legislation. We already have power to bring in such legislation under the Diseases of Animals Act, and we do not need the powers which would be given by this Bill, but I can willingly give the hon. Member for Withington the assurance that we could enact subordinate legislation which would have, broadly, the same effect as Clause 2 and Clause 3 (1) (a) and (b).

On studying the Bill we are not quite sure what the purpose is of Clause 3 (1) (c). It was the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) who raised this point as well. The hon. and learned Member has sent an apology explaining why he could not be here to hear this reply. I would welcome further discussions with the hon. Member on this point.

I must apologise to the House for speaking at this length, but I hope that I have made it clear that the Government are in full accord with the sponsors of the Bill about the need to protect pony welfare, and that the fact that we see objections to Clause 1 is not due to lack of good will but to a genuine belief that it would not be practicable to enforce, or fair to some of those engaged in a worthwhile trade which none of us would wish to prevent in breeding and riding ponies. We have judged the feeling of the House that this Bill is worth having a look at. Although I know there will be difficulties, we do not propose to oppose the Bill. If the House wishes to give it a Second Reading then, in Committee, we may—I would emphasise "may"—be able to thrash out something, but, as I have said, we have great reservations. With that I hope that the hon. Member is reasonably satisfied with his day's work.

1.34 p.m.

Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)

I do not intend to delay the House for any great length of time. I am not an expert on ponies and horses, and I have listened with very great attention to those experts who have taken part in the debate. I think it is fair to say that there is unanimity in the House on two things. One is that no one wants in any way to disturb the legitimate export trade in ponies. The second is that no one wishes to see ponies exported alive for slaughter. The reason for that is that is that in cases of this kind the conditions of travel are not what they ought to be. There is not much care taken about them when they reach the Continent, and certainly many people are worried about the conditions of slaughter on the Continent.

I was disappointed by the Minister's attitude towards Clause 1. It may be that he took an understandable point of view as a Minister, but he pointed to every difficulty there was; all the difficulties about making it work. It seems to me that if these kinds of value criteria work in relation to horses there is no reason why, with adjustment, they could not be made to work with ponies.

There are two points I want to make about the values.

Mr. John Mackie

Would the hon. and learned Member tell me how in the Ministry we would deal with ponies valued at from £19 to £28 in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond)? Which of the pairs of figures would the hon. and learned Member choose to allow? Perhaps he would explain if he wants to be helpful.

Sir Knox Cunningham

I am most grateful to the Minister. He is the expert; he has the resources of the Ministry behind him; he knows what the prices in the trade in ponies are. I am going to make my points, but he is the expert, and ought to be able to give the necessary guidance to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) who introduced this Bill.

There are two points I want to make on the question of the values, the £100 and the £70. Some have said that they are much too high and that it would be very difficult to find out what the right figure should be. I give this suggestion to the Minister. Might it not be a solution to choose a figure which was above—not substantially above, but above—the economic figure of pony meat on the Continent? Pony meat is used a lot on the Continent and one should be able to get a figure at which it would be uneconomic to send ponies to the Continent for slaughter but would not in any way affect the legitimate trade.

My second point about these figures is a quite different one. It is this. I think it is not wise to put a figure in an Act of Parliament. One knows that there is continual inflation of money and there is devaluation which takes place on occasions. There is of course a sentence in the proposed new Section (4A) which would allow the Minister to alter these values, but very often when a figure goes into an Act of Parliament it remains there and an alteration is not made. The figure remains for years so that it bears eventually no relevance to the intention with which it was originally inserted. This difficulty has been got over in certain Acts which have an international bearing. I can think of one, the Merchant Shipping (Liability of Shipowners and Others) Act, 1958. A figure was put in of gold francs, which is later converted into sterling by Ministerial order, and it is thereafter changed when there is devaluation, or in other circumstances. I am not saying that this is the solution in this case, but I would ask the Minister, with technical advice, to try to find some method of connecting these figures with market values.

Clause 2 is an important one, since ponies may be exported by air as well as by sea. I know that there is a considerable export trade in animals which go often by air as well as by sea. The Minister said that the provisions in Clause 2 could be covered by subordinate legislation. Will he undertake to introduce subordinate legislation to cover the necessary enactments in the Clause?

Clause 3 is a technical one, and I am not qualified to speak on it. However, as a member of the public I am entitled to claim that it contains many matters which, though difficult to deal with, should be dealt with for the protection of ponies sent abroad.

It is invidious to mention a particular organisation in view of the many bodies which have been busy in this matter of pony protection. Reference has already been made to the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society. This organisation has an extremely active honourary secretary in Mrs. MacDonald and an equally active assistant secretary in Mrs. Bezet. I particularly have in mind the activities of Mrs. Bezet, for she is often to be seen at the docks in the United Kingdom, inspecting the conditions under which animals are exported, and she also tries to follow batches of ponies to see what happens to them once they arrive on the Continent.

It is too easy for people to pour scorn on the activities of those who do this work. We should remember that they do it because they believe in what they are doing and because they are animal lovers. They meet with every form of obstruction, probably naturally so, because they become involved with people who are working and these people often do not want to be bothered with what they sometimes call busybodies. When difficulties arise, they want to solve them as quickly as possible and get on with their work. It is important, therefore, that people should be prepared to inspect the conditions under which animals are living.

Although I have mentioned only two people who are concerned with this work there are many societies busy in this sphere. The House should pay tribute to them because human beings, nurses and others are able to make themselves vocal. Animals cannot do that. They need our protection. They look to us to look after them, and I hope that Parliament will always do that.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Withington for introducing the Bill. I do not expect it to become law in exactly its present form. However, I would be disappointed if the Minister does not adopt a helpful attitude and, with his experienced staff, try to make the Bill workable because I believe that it can be made to work.

1.44 p.m.

Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

It is not for me to try to stiffen the backbone of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir Robert Cary). He has been too great a fighter for this cause to be persuaded that any radical amendment of his Bill is necessary.

I say that because I was concerned at the attack made on Clause 1, and particularly on some of the figures in it, by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), especially when he commented on the value of Shetland ponies which are exported. I appreciate that, to some extent, his figures were borne out by the Minister.

I do not doubt that Shetland ponies leave the islands at £19 each, and possibly even less. However, I cannot believe that any ponies sold for that sort of money will be ridden for a very long time indeed. A short while ago I obtained from the Library a copy of that excellent journal, Horse and Hounds, which might be described as the trade paper on these matters. If anyone wants to buy or sell a pony—I speak with some experience of this—there is no better way of doing so than by inserting an advertisement in the columns of this magazine.

I have the current edition of Horse and Hound with me. It contains many columns of advertisements for ponies for sale. It is plain—since this is not the Meat Trades Journal—that this journal is read by children and parents who are interested in riding ponies. In other words, it contains advertisements for Shetland ponies which will be ridden as distinct from being eaten.

Under the heading "Shetlands" there are eight or nine entries. The £70 set out in the Bill is obviously realistic, because, while I will not delay the House by going through these advertisements in detail, it is clear that that figure is approximately what one would have to pay to buy a Shetland pony for riding. One advertisement is for the sale of a yearling colt, for which the advertiser wants £100. That will not be ready for riding for two or three years.

Shetlands of no distinction, except that they are fit to be ridden—they are Shetlands but of no particular quality; that may be inferred from the nature of the advertisements—are for sale at about £65. I realise that, particularly in horse trading, the prices advertised are not necessarily the final prices which the advertisers will receive. But allowing for some haggling on either side, those prices, give or take a fiver either way, represent what one must pay to obtain a Shetland pony for riding. Thus, the figure mentioned in the Bill is realistic.

Mr. Fair

Would my hon. Friend say for how long he has had that copy of Horse and Hound? I have been looking for it in the Library for the last two days without success.

Mr. Body

I purloined it only a couple of hours ago, with the authority of the Librarian. It is an admirable journal and I am glad to know that my hon. Friend reads it.

When the Minister expresses concern about this matter, he should remember that ponies which are sold for £20, £30, or £40 will almost certainly go for slaughter. If we are to stop this trade we must be firm about the price limit and I urge my hon. Friend to hold out for the £70 limit in the Bill and not to be persuaded to reduce it.

We have heard several times that there is no proof that these ponies are being dispatched for immediate slaughter on the Continent. This was the cry less than a year ago, when a similar Bill was introduced. Time and again we are told that evidence about this does not exist—that it cannot be happening; there is no need to worry; the Bill is unnecessary; our diplomats are chasing around and watching this; everything is all right. I hope that our diplomats are not spending their time on this. I do not think that they have the qualifications for it. They should be doing something else.

I doubt the value of any inquiry that may have been made on the Continent on the instructions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. There are different forms of evidence. I would treat with reserve the evidence of eye witnesses on a subject like this, because I do not believe that such evidence is necessarily reliable. It may be my legal training which drives me to this view. An eye witness is seldom dispassionate. There are few subjects which arouse passion more than this. Eye witnesses who have attended markets and who have travelled on ships with ponies may be misguided, because of the strong feeling they have on this issue. Every lawyer knows how an eye witness can be mistaken in complete good faith. Let us put aside the evidence of any eye witness.

Lawyers often say that the strongest evidence is circumstantial evidence, especially if there is sufficient of it. I believe that the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. We know that in Britain there has been a great demand for riding ponies. It has been increasing steadily since the war. There has been an increase in the number of people who have begun to breed ponies particularly from family pets, and also people who have moorland rights—farmers who have sought to supplement their livelihood on the hills. I hope that the Minister will agree that it is necessary for many farmers to supplement their income, in view of the present level of deficiency payments, by breeding ponies if they can. On the Welsh hills and elsewhere there are many good opportunities for breeding ponies.

There has been over-production of ponies. It is easy to breed them. Those of us who have tried to breed ponies know how easy it is. There is a danger of inferior stock resulting unless the breeder has knowledge of genetics and proceeds with skill. All these amateurs who have gone into pony breeding have produced some—I was about to say second-rate ponies, but that would be to flatter the progeny. The resulting stock has been tenth-rate. Such ponies are not fit for riding. They are useless, misshapen, and frequently ill-nourished. They seldom have the stamina to make good riding ponies. As a result, they have become a glut on the market.

This tendency has increased considerably in the last two years. I believe that in the last two years the traffic in ponies across the Continent for slaughter has developed. If the Minister were to say that up to two years ago there may not have been much of a traffic, or that there was none at all, I would not seriously challenge that proposition. However, I would challenge that that is the true position now. I am convinced that there is now a traffic in third-rate ponies which are not fit for riding. They are going into slaughterhouses in Belgium and elsewhere on the Continent.

Figures have been given of the number of ponies being exported. Those who attend the markets and who have seen some of the dealers at work know that there are three kinds of pony which have been added to the export ponies in the last two years—scrub ponies, yearlings, and the old ponies. I cannot believe that a pony in any one of these classes is exported, with all the cost of transport and all the trouble involved, for the purpose of riding or breeding.

Scrub ponies are not quite wild ponies. They are sometimes spoken of as wild ponies, but that is not literally so. They can be fairly described as semi-wild. They are unknown quantities. It is ludicrous to say that it will be worth the while of anyone abroad to purchase for riding scrub ponies, which have never been broken, which have never been ridden, and which often have come off the moors or off common land, which means that they are ill-nourished and, consequently, misshapen or of poor quality generally, I cannot accept that ponies of unknown quality will be shipped to the Continent, with all the expense involved, and there reduced from their semi-wild state and eventually turned into riding ponies. Those who have seen such ponies know full well that such an exercise would be nonsense.

Yearlings are now going to the Continent on a considerable scale. A yearling cannot be ridden. Three years is the youngest age at which a pony should be broken. It would be wrong to break in a pony younger than three. It follows that if a yearling which is being shipped to the Continent is to be ridden it will have to be kept at considerable expense for at least two years before anyone can break it in. In the intervening two years it may deteriorate. It may not continue to show the promise it had when purchased. No one in his senses would buy a pony so speculatively as that. I therefore suggest that the yearlings which are going to the Continent are destined for the table and not for riding.

The third kind which is going across to the Continent on an increasing scale is the old pony. I feel that I need say little about that. It seems manifest that no one will go to the expense of importing an old pony. Possibly someone might for breeding, but that is rather unlikely. If someone goes to the trouble of importing ponies for riding, he will import youngish ponies of three, four or five years of age, or ponies which have a reasonable lifetime before them.

I suggest that this adds up to strong circumstantial evidence. It becomes very strong when we realise that people breeding and dealing with third-rate ponies must find some outlet for them. They will not find that outlet in this country for riding ponies and they will not find it in any worthwhile knacker's price. However, there is a valuable outlet in Europe. So long as the price of beef and other ordinary meat is what it is in the Common Market countries there will be a strong demand for any cheap meat which can be got out of this country. We all know that there are restrictions on other kinds of meat, but none concerning ponies. I am convinced that this is the outlet for breeders of third-rate ponies, of which many thousands are produced every year.

When the Joint Parliamentary Secretary spoke on this matter 10 months ago he argued that the Bill was unnecessary. Indeed, the same argument was repeated in another place when the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, introduced a substantially similar Bill. This Bill was the outcome of a working party which considered the need for such legislation. That working party included almost every breed society and society concerned with the welfare of horses and ponies. One significant exception was the International League for the Protection of Horses. I have always been a strong supporter of that League. It was founded a long time ago to stop the traffic in horses to the Continent for slaughter. It was led by a former Member of this House who served the League as Director-General with great enthusiasm and zeal for many years. The League has never been sloppy or sentimental about this subject. It has tried to be factual and dispassionate. Therefore, we must regard its judgment with particular credit.

I understand that a year ago the officers of the League were saying that there were far too many unsubstantiated hysterical stories about horses going across to the Continent. There is no doubt that certain welfare societies sent over people to examine the trade who let their feelings get the better of their judgment. I am prepared to say that their observations may have been less than they might have been. At all events, the International League for the Protection of Horses has, until recently, stood back and said, "The stories about this trade tend to be exaggerated; they are based on a little too much hysteria and sensationalism." Indeed, a sensational story could be made about it.

The coalition between the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and the International League was a formidable one. The Ministry of Agriculture has its own inspectors. They have said that the Bill is unnecessary, and the International League has supported them by saying much the same thing. Therefore, any dispassionate observer might say that the Bill was unnecessary. But that coalition has now been dissolved.

The International League for the Protection of Horses has now come out wholeheartedly in favour of the Bill. It recognises that this traffic exists. It may not have existed two years ago, but the League now says that it does, because of the glut upon the market in this country of third-rate ponies which has no outlet other than slaughterhouses on the Continent. If the Joint Parliamentary Secretary doubts the necessity for the Bill, he stands alone. The alliance has now come to an end. He has lost his formidable ally. I hope, therefore, that he will modify his views, as has the International League.

I am glad that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary did not advance the argument put forward by one Member of the Government in another place, that cattle, sheep and pigs have to go across to the Continent or have to travel long distances in this country for slaughter, so why be squeamish about horses and ponies; why put them in some privileged position and expect them to be treated differently; they are still animals and they will eventually be slaughtered by the hand of man, or they are likely to be, so why be squeamish about this trade?

There is a distinction and, being a farmer, no one knows it better than the hon. Gentleman. Cattle, sheep, and pigs are brought into existence eventually for slaughter. They are treated in that light by those who breed and care for them. They are not treated unkindly. Every stockman knows that he gets better results if he is kind to his animals. Undoubtedly, many dairy cows and breeding sows—possibly ewes, too—are treated with a degree of affection throughout their service to man. But most farm animals which are not used for breeding are not so treated. They are treated with a degree of kindness and firmness, but they are not treated as pets. This is important, because those who own ponies or horses and have had the pleasure of spending many hours with them know that they are very sensitive creatures—probably as sensitive as any domesticated animal.

One realises this when one takes the condition of a horse or pony which has been ill-treated, even for a short time, or treated without consideration. It becomes frightened and nervous, and if the treatment goes on for any length of time, it is liable to become vicious. This is not so with ordinary farm stock. They do not become as sensitive. Their characters are not changed to quite the same extent. There can be no doubt that horses and ponies suffer in their mind and character if they are subjected to any kind of harsh or inconsiderate, let alone cruel, treatment. It may be because, over generations, they have been close to man and, generally speaking, have been well looked after. At all events, their sensitivity is such that they should be regarded differently, in this context at least, from those farm animals which may be on their way to the slaughter-house.

Not long ago I encountered someone, I will not call him a gentleman, engaged in this trade. I met him in a market in the South of England. He had brought with him cheap ponies and he was prepared to deal in them. I was tempted to name him, but I have always thought it unfair that hon. Members should take advantage of the position they have here to name anyone who cannot immediately reply to any allegations. I do know his identity, and I passed on the information to one of the welfare societies, which entirely corroborated my suspicions.

I am glad to say that it has been keeping an eye on him. It has confirmed how appallingly he treats animals which pass through his hands. He is in the meat business, but it is pony meat that he deals in. Many are New Forest ponies. He has a small-holding in that area. Almost all of his animals—and not all are New Forest ponies, many are horses—are kept out-of-doors all the year round and, he makes a point of this, he never feeds them at all. They are to provide for themselves on the common land. Throughout the winter months, when there is virtually no grass, certainly no grass of any nutritional value, those animals have to do as best they can.

I will not describe my discussions with this man in the market. In the first place, he aroused my interest when I found that one of the animals in his care had a large number of sores. I began to count them and I reached 11 when he intervened. There were still many more to be examined. He told the most ludicrous lies about how those sores had occurred. He had no intention of putting them right, or treating them in any way. The two ponies he had were to make their way across the Channel for slaughter. It is ludicrous to pretend that those two worn-out ponies, which were worth only a very few pounds were to be used for breeding. They were too misshapen for any such purpose, still less would they have ever been fit for riding again.

Those two animals were definitely going into the meat trade and I cannot begin to imagine the kind of treatment that they would have on their journey across the Channel into some slaughterhouse. We all know that animals which are brought cheaply by certain types of individuals will be treated cheaply. This is one of the dangers, one of the evils of this trade. I hope that I will be forgiven for speaking at some length, but I want to urge my hon. Friend not to give way on the Bill. It is a first-class Bill, and it has all my support. I hope that it will go through without any delay.

2.05 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

I am very glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body). He made a valuable contribution to our debate. May I say how glad we are to see him here, able to make his contribution and looking so well, after his own unfortunate experience. I only wish that my hon. Friend had been able to name in the House his assailants on that occasion.

Mr. Body

They threw away the Ponies Bill.

Mr. Campbell

I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) for having chosen this subject for his Private Member's Bill. I am glad to be a sponsor of this Bill, but in supporting him I should make it clear that I have no wish to impede the export business in ponies which are used for riding, breeding or to be kept as pets. The demand for these ponies from Britain is, fortunately, increasing and is to be encouraged.

It is unfortunate that in the last year or two there has been an expansion, of the exporting of scrub and unbroken ponies, too. We must ask: are they being exported for breaking in, training or breeding? My suspicion, particularly as they are sold for comparatively small prices, is that there is cause to believe that some, at any rate, are going for slaughter, and that because their value is regarded as being so small very little trouble is taken over the conditions in which they travel.

There has been some doubt about the evidence, if there is any, of ponies going for slaughter. As I said in an intervention, there is at least one case which has been brought to our attention by the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society. Last year, representatives of the Society were able to follow 14 ponies and it may be of interest to the House to hear details of this case. The ponies were consigned to someone described as a continental dressmaker. They were followed by the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society from Dover to Zeebrugge and then about 150 miles to Ranee, near the French border. The Society says: The ponies were unloaded into premises containing slaughter equipment and used as a collection centre for the municipal abattoir at Charleroi. The Belgian to whose premises they were delivered holds an important executive post at the Charleroi abattoir, and is described as a meat wholesaler. I have no reason to doubt the truth of what that society has reported. I would describe it as the kind of circumstantial evidence which my hon. Friend the Member for Holland-with-Boston said was needed to show what is happening, together with his evidence about the person dealing in this kind of thing in Britain.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) confirmed what most of us know, namely, that old ponies which have come to the end of their useful lives are exported for meat, as are horses. He said that the large majority travel as carcases. I would have hoped that we could so arrange our laws to ensure that all the killing is done in this country, and that the export is entirely in carcases.

The Society has devoted some time to following the travels of certain ponies to see what happened when they arrived on the Continent. The idea put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary, that our embassies could provide this circumstantial proof, is only part of the answer. Having been a diplomat in a previous incarnation, and having worked in an embassy in Western Europe, I can assure the hon. Member that we were a great deal too busy with other matters, such as promoting our exports, to indulge in this kind of thing, except, perhaps, as a hobby in our spare time. It must be for the Livestock Protection Society or some such body to carry out this task. Embassies would, naturally, do their best, through the sources available to them, to confirm the position, but they are not in a position to do more.

Shetland ponies present a special problem. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) drew attention to this fact. He reported that the price of ponies in Shetland is fairly low, but when they are sold in England later they fetch a much higher price. I am prepared to accept that few of them, if any, go for slaughter, because they are not the type which would offer much in the way of pony meat. Under Clause 1 the Minister has some discretion in the matter—or, if he has not, perhaps a change in the Bill may be made in Committee. The words or such other value as may be prescribed by the Minister for the purpose of this subsection. would seem to give the Minister discretion to stipulate different conditions for Shetland ponies.

I should be sorry, however, if the difficulties which the case of the Shetland pony presents made the Bill unacceptable. I am sure that ways can be found to deal with the problem, while maintaining the general principle about which hon. Members on both sides are agreed, namely, that there should be a ban on the export of ponies which are likely to go for slaughter, and that ponies should travel under humane conditions.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland about recent developments. It would be unfortunate if the production of Shetland ponies were to be discouraged by anything in the Bill. This is a matter which can be dealt with satisfactorily in Committee.

It is important that conditions should be stipulated in respect of ponies which are shipped abroad, as is already done in respect of horses. The Bill seeks to do this. Some ponies travel considerable distances after crossing the Channel or the North Sea, and no British Government or Parliament can control those journeys. Even if we have excellent arrangements for the conditions of travel to the port and on the ship, ponies may still be badly treated over several days of travelling after arriving at the port of disembarkation. That is why we feel that there should be a ban on the export of live ponies of little value.

On the other hand, we want to increase our exports of ponies of value. There is no doubt that they will be treated well by those who receive them, because the value of a poney depreciates if it is not well treated. The real need is to make sure that the recently expanded trade in scrub ponies and unbroken ponies is brought to an end. Concern has been expressed on the question whether the pony foals are amply covered by the Bill. Clause (3) (b) is relevant here. It prohibits the export of ponies of less than five months old. I hope that in Committee this provision will be considered further, in order to make sure that there is sufficient protection for foals.

I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the Government would not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, but that all these matters would be gone in: o in Committee. The Bill will cover a legislative gap and it is becoming increasingly important to fill that gap. It: will also allay the justifiable concern among all in the country who care about the welfare of animals.

Mr. John Mackie

Will the hon. Member say whether the instance to which he referred is the case of the batch of ponies that went to Rance, in Belgium, in May, 1967. If so, the Sun and the International League for the Protection of Horses investigated the matter and found that the 14 ponies were alive and well.

Mr. Campbell

I shall pass the hon. Member the report from the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society. It has a different date and I have read out the main points. No doubt the person concerned abroad can be recognised and identified. I shall supply the hon. Member with the rest of the information direct. If the facts are correct they provide circumstantial evidence that what we have suspected is happening. That is why I felt it right to give this example, details of which have been sent to me and some of my hon. Friends.

2.30 p.m.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

So many powerful arguments have been made in support of this excellent Bill—I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) on introducing it—that I can be very brief.

There is strong feeling in the country in support of the Bill and of trying to do away with this beastly form of trading. Sometimes people may say there is too much sentiment attached to animals. One of the saddest days of my life was in the early part of the war when, at Tidworth, all our regimental ponies went for sale. It was sad because we did not know what their future would be. That is the feeling which is so strong in the country about ponies: what is to be their future?

Some time ago I took my family to Sheringham for a holiday. There are some fine sands there and my daughter was keen on riding. I hired a pony every day for her to ride. Towards the end of September, when we were leaving, my daughter asked if I could buy the pony for her. I went to the owner and asked if he would sell it. He said that he would sell it in three weeks' time, when it would be earning no more money, because he did not want to keep it during the winter.

I wonder what happens to that type of pony. Are they herded together and then shipped out for purposes described by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell)? Those ponies have served their masters well for a season, but, because it is not economic for their owners to keep them in the winter, are they herded together and sold? I am pretty certain that they are the sort that are shipped abroad.

I fully appreciate arguments put forward by hon. Members about the actual value of precluding genuine export of riding or breeding ponies. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) that we should put a value on them which would make it quite clear that it is uneconomic to ship them abroad for sale. Unless we do that we shall not achieve the object we desire. I support the Bill and sincerely hope that a formula can be found to see that this trade in ponies going overseas for slaughter may be killed forthwith.

2.32 p.m.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I join in the thanks and congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). I congratulate him on the manner in which he introduced this much-needed Measure. I beg him to stand firm on Clause 1. Some hon. Members, on both sides of the House, think that Clause 1 is the meat of the Bill, to coin a phrase. It is absolutely essential that it should be retained. I am rather doubtful if the amounts of £70 and £100 are adequate.

I also congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on being present throughout the debate. He began by pooh-poohing some parts of the Bill, but he ended by welcoming it. I was glad that he did that, but his speech would probably have been more effective and of more value if it had been made after he had heard my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell). His speech had some valuable contents, if the Parliamentary Secretary had known them earlier, he might have altered the content of what he said.

I am particularly concerned about Clause 1, which the Parliamentary Secretary suggested may be difficult to enact. My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) confirmed my views about this trade. In his interesting speech he referred to prices of Shetland ponies for sale, displayed in Horse and Hound. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said that he had been in contact with a dealer in the Orkneys this morning and that ponies were being sold there at £20 and £30 per head. The right hon. Gentleman made that speech about half-past 11 or a quarter to 12. Since then I have made certain investigations. I calculate that if one bought a pony in the Shetland Islands this morning for £20, one could have it on the Continent in a few days at a landed cost of about £40.

I shall not bother the House with the intricacies of my calculations, but I reckon that the deadweight of a Shetland pony would be about 2 cwt. If one carries the equation a little further one finds that it gives a landed deadweight of the value of about 3s. or 3s. 1d. per lb. In the Paris markets, I am reliably informed, beef is 15s. per lb. and pony meat is 7s. or 8s. a lb. It is not very difficult to make the obvious deduction that if one lands ponies at about 3s. a lb. and they are making 7s. or 8s. a lb. in the shops in Brussels and Paris, a trade is to be done. It is a trade which I believe it is the duty of this House to put an end to.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) referred to an experience he had when he sold two ponies to Germany. He was glad to tell the House that from inquiries he had made they are doing well today. Although the House is delighted to know that, we are concerned with a trade on a bigger and less personal scale than two ponies sent by an individual. This trade relates to nearly a hundred ponies a week for 52 weeks a year. It is a much bigger problem than perhaps my hon. Friend realises.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), who I quite understand cannot be present now, said that he wished the Bill to apply to the lame, the weak and the sick only. The whole purpose of the Bill is to prevent the export of ponies for slaughter, never mind how it affects the constituents of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. Surely he does not want his constituents to be able to continue in a trade in which their product is going for slaughter on the Continent, under most unsatisfactory and unfair conditions. If the Bill is enacted, Clause 1 will put up the price which those constituents can get for ponies. Instead of exporting the rubbish to which my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston referred, at £20 they will be able to export worthwhile ponies and the commodity will be thoroughly inspected.

I do not think the amounts of £100 and £70 are necessarily too much. Some hon. Members have suggested that they may be a little high. The Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, values had to be almost doubled recently by Parliamentary Order because they had become very much out of date. The figures which my hon. Friend the Member for Withington put in the Bill are probably right. He well described it as "the barrier Clause".

I wonder whether Clause 2 is sufficient? My hon. Friend said that the Minister of Agriculture may by Order make a relevant provision, but subsection (1) (a) is such that I wonder whether the House ought not to mention a minimum period of rest for ponies, such as 24 hours. I am prepared to rely on what the Minister of Agriculture puts in the Order, and no doubt that would be the minimum period which he would include in such an Order. In that case, it would be useful to incorporate it in the Bill.

Clause 3 (1) (a) refers to any pony mare which is heavy in foal". I should like to be more specific and perhaps to say, Any pony mare foaling or considered to be foaling within six months". Clause 4 deals with enforcement, and I call my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the penalties in the 1950 Act have not been amended in any Statutory Order introduced in the House since that date. I know that the values of the animals have been amended by Statutory Order, but the level of the penalties for infringement has not been amended and they now appear to be a little out of line. Under the 1950 Act the fine is a maximum of £50 plus £5 per animal for every animal over 10. Consequently, in a case affecting 11 animals the maximum fine to which one may be subjected is £55. I imagine that in some cases it might be well worth risking a "fiver" to make a considerable profit per head in exporting ponies to the Continent.

Finally, I want to make a suggestion which might be considered an improvement in the Bill. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said that the cost of a proper examination by officials at the docks and the airports would be very large. In the debate in June, 1966, the Minister who is present today said that in his view it would be sufficient if the animals were "run past the inspector". If we are to have a Bill of this nature, the job must be done properly. It is not sufficient for animals, in the Minister's words, to be "run past the inspector" under artificial light. A proper examination is not possible in those circumstances.

On the other hand, I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Withington does not wish to impose a severe financial burden on the Ministry through the additional costs of inspection. Could we not have a new Clause providing that a proper inspection is carried out of each animal, to fulfil the conditions laid down by the Bill, and that the cost of such proper inspection shall be charged to the exporter? By "a proper examination" I do not mean the animals being "run past the inspector"—possibly an inspector who has had a lot to do and who is undertaking this work late at night. I mean an inspection in which the animal's hooves are lifted and there is a proper veterinary examination, for which a charge of £2 or £3 per capita could reasonably be made to the exporter.

Having made that suggestion, I again warmly congratulate my hon. Friend. With many of my hon. Friends, I look forward very much to the Ponies Bill becoming the Ponies Act at an early date.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).