HC Deb 09 May 1969 vol 783 cc847-85

11.6 a.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, leave out lines 10 to 19 and insert: (4A) Subsections (1) and (2) of this section shall not apply to ponies, but, subject to the following provisions of this Act, it shall not be lawful to ship, or attempt to ship, any pony in any vessel from any port in Great Britain to any port outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man unless—

  1. (a) the Minister or, in Scotland, the Secretary of State is satisfied that the pony is intended for breeding, riding or exhibition and 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 in either case as may be prescribed by order of the Minister and the Secretary of State acting jointly; and
  2. (b) immediately before shipment the pony has been individually inspected by a veterinary inspector and has been certified in writing by the inspector to be capable of being conveyed to the port to which it is to be shipped, and disembarked, without unnecessary suffering;
and, without prejudice to paragraph (b) of this subsection, a veterinary inspector shall not certify a poney to be capable of being conveyed and disembarked as aforesaid if, being a mare, it is in his opinion heavy in foal, showing fullness of udder or too old to travel or, being a foal, it is in his opinion too young to travel." (b) in subsection (5) of section 37 thereof, after the word "examined" there shall be inserted the words "or inspected".

Mr. Speaker

As is my wont, I have published a list of selections of Amendments. With Amendment No. 1 we shall discuss the three sub-Amendments: In line 7, leave out '£70', and insert: 'other than a pony of the Shetland breed not exceeding 10½ hands in height, £70, or in the case of such a pony of the Shetland breed, £40,' in line 7, leave out '£70' and insert: 'other than a pony of the Shetland breed not exceeding 10½ hands in height, £70, or in the case of such a pony of the Shetland breed, 5150'; and in line 8, leave out 'either case' and insert 'any of those cases'; and Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 17, leave out '12' and insert 12/'; and Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 17, leave out '£70'and insert '£40'.

Mr. Burden

I am sure the whole House is grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for drawing attention to the illness of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). I am extremely sorry that his name is not attached to this Amendment. His illness is probably due to the zeal he has put into work on the Bill, indeed he collapsed on the very morning that the Committee sitting ended. He is now convalescing and his convalescence is not likely to be long. The greatest tonic that he could receive would be if the Bill could complete its stages today.

The main intention of Clause 1(a) is to prevent the export of ponies under stated values. It seeks to do this by adding certain requirements to Section 37 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950. Article 30 of the Export of Horses (Excepted Cases) Order, 1966 (No. 508) exempts virtually all ponies from the application of Section 37(1) of the 1950 Act, and therefore from the conditions in Section 37 as a whole. Thus, the Order would prevent Clause 1(a) of the Bill from applying to any but a small number of exported ponies.

The proposed Amendment is designed to overcome this difficulty and to allow the intention in Clause 1(a) to apply to all ponies. It would also remove from veterinary inspectors responsibility for valuing exported ponies which they would not be able to discharge effectively. After discussion we realised that by requiring the Minister or Secretary of State to satisfy himself as to the value of a pony for export it would be possible to make other more satisfactory arrangements for valuations. This could be done by a bill of sale from the auctioneers or by the breeder or seller to the exporter. I do not see great difficulty about this and I am quite sure that it could be administered reasonably easily.

The other changes in the Amendment would achieve the replacement of the inspector's assessment of fitness of a pony for the stated export purpose by the requirement that the Minister shall be satisfied that it is intended for breeding, riding or exhibition. Most hon. Members would agree that this is an improvement on the original wording of the Bill. It would bring the requirement into line with existing subordinate legislation.

Amendment No. 2 transfers from Clause 3(a) and 3(b) to Clause 1 the welfare points relating to mares and foals. That means that the amended Clause 1 would cover all the welfare requirements, other than the rest requirements, which are dealt with later in the Bill. One of the most important features of the Bill is that mares heavy in foal should not be exported. The regulations for restricing the export of cattle which might calve or sheep which might produce lambs are strong. The export of such animals is prohibited. It is therefore right and proper that mares should receive the same protection.

In Clause 2, the opportunity has been taken to omit the requirement of specific age assessment which would be virtually impossible for any inspector to make with the necessary precision. Advice has been taken on this matter, and the British Veterinary Association is in full support of the removal of the requirement that the veterinary inspector should have imposed on him the task of determining exactly the age of a pony. The Association says that this is impossible. This is also the view of the establishment at Newmarket which was asked for advice. The Clause, as amended, would take care of this, so that age generally would replace the specific requirement on the vet to say that a particular age had been reached.

The Amendment also substitutes a provision to the effect that mares shall not be too old nor foals too young to travel. Most of us would agree that veterinary officers can and will take responsibility for ensuring that the intention in this part of the Bill is carried out. The working of the Bill, when an Act, will much depend on the interpretation put on it by the Ministry and the instructions sent out to veterinary inspectors. I have no doubt that the Ministry will ensure that the purpose of the Bill and the wishes of the House are fully taken into consideration in the recommendations which it may make to its veterinary inspectors.

It is proposed that the height criterion of ponies should be amended to 14.2 hands. This brings the measurement into line with the standard measurement for ponies. If the Amendment is carried, the Government will consider bringing existing subordinate legislation into line.

As so often happens with a Private Member's Bill, some of the drafting was faulty. I pay tribute to the help which we have received from officials at the Ministry with Amendment No. 1 which I believe will make the Bill more workable and carry out all that was desired by its original sponsor, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington.

11.15 a.m.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

I should like to associate myself with the remarks which you, Mr. Speaker, made about the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). We all hope that he will return to good health soon.

I am well aware that the House has a great deal of sympathy with the purposes of the Bill. I believe that I am as interested in animal welfare as hon. Members who have promoted the Bill. But the heart of the Bill, as contained in Clause 1, would have the effect of prohibiting the export of ponies unless certain conditions are satisfied. One of the conditions is that a pony not exceeding 12 hands must have a minimum value of £70. The difficulty in principle in using minimum values as an export control is that in setting a high figure with the declared purpose of making export for slaughter totally uneconomic, much of the export to which no one can object of ponies for breeding purposes, riding and as pets will be prevented. Ponies are of many ages, sizes and breeds, and the arbitrary minimum values laid down in the Bill would interfere with a legitimate and perfectly respectable trade.

A large proportion of all ponies exported in recent years were valued at well below the minimum values prescribed in the Bill. Therefore, the trade as a whole would be seriously affected. But the effect would be more critical upon breeders in some parts of the country than in others. I have put down the sub-Amendment because it is clear that if the minimum value of £70 for the smaller category of ponies goes forward as it stands, it will create grave and quite unreasonable difficulties for the crofters in the Shetland Isles who are dependent on Shetland pony breeding for an important part of their livelihood. The Bill will create not only economic problems but important problems of animal welfare.

I know that some Members honestly believe that it would be wrong and impracticable to specify different values for different breeds and that there is no justification for singling out for special treatment the Shetland breed for a lower minimum value. This is an objection with some colour, but in practice it is not a substantial objection. The inclusion in my Amendment of a maximum size of 10½ hands would go a long way to satisfying the objection.

I hope that the House will bear with me if I consider the effect of the Bill which would be experienced in the Shetland Isles, which I think call for special consideration. As the name suggests, the Shetland breed originates in the Shetland Isles, although it has now spread throughout Northern Europe. This pony which is small and hardy, can be reared in the cold climate of the Shetland Islands and on their poor soils where crops cannot be grown on any scale and where even sheep find subsistence difficult. In these areas, the crofters have eked out a very difficult living by pony breeding which makes a substantial difference to their livelihood.

The year's crop of ponies, usually at about four to five months old, is traditionally sold at the Island autumn sales. The figures which I have for 1968 show that 360 fillies and colts were sold for about £25,000, of which 188 colts averaged about £25. Very few ponies are directly purchased by continental buyers. Most are taken to the mainland. About 200 to 300 per year are subsequently exported to the Continent. Some of these are bred, not in the Shetland Isles, but on the mainland. However, in the view of the breed society and a number of prominent breeders it is most unlikely that Shetland ponies are exported for slaughter.

At about five months old, the Shetland pony weighs about 1 cwt., rather less than a good strong calf. In these circumstances, it is most unlikely that slaughter would be sufficiently profitable to give rise to any organised trade at any price. Certainly, at the price proposed in the Amendment it would appear totally uneconomic.

I hope that the House will consider the effect of the Bill on the Shetland pony trade in the Islands as foreseen by bodies such as the Shetland Crofters Union, the Crofters Commission, the Shetland breed society and the auctioneers. If the minimum value of £70 in the Bill had been applied in 1967 and 1968, the export of about one-half to three-quarters of the ponies would have been stopped.

The records that I have been able to obtain show that in 1967, 309 Shetland ponies were exported. The Bill would have reduced this number to 67. The corresponding figure for 1968 was 238, which would have been reduced to 104. This would have serious results. In the first place, there would be a drastic fall in the Shetland sales. Many colts and ponies would remain unsold or have to be sold at uneconomic prices. Those remaining unsold would have to remain on the islands to face a winter of severe weather conditions on open scattolds, competing with the breeding stock for the very scanty forage available, and both would suffer. In effect, this would create a serious welfare problem.

This point deserves to be emphasised, because it is as much with this in mind as with any other consideration that I move my Amendment to the proposed Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is not moving his Amendment. It is, however, being discussed with Amendment No. 1.

Mr. Maclennan

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I commend it to the House.

There would be great problems for the crofters themselves, many of whom rely on pony breeding to supplement their existence, and the economy of the poorer islands such as Unst, would be greatly depressed.

To pass the Bill in its present form unamended would be tantamount to saying that whatever their difficulties, the Shetland crofters should give up their breeding of native ponies because this House has some suspicions—it must be emphasised that they are no more than suspicions; the proponents of the Bill have not brought forward proof positive—that some of the foals may be mistreated in foreign slaughterhouses.

I ask the supporters of the Bill to examine their consciences, and their standards of living as well, and consider whether they would care to have their own incomes reduced to those of Shetland crofters upon the basis of those suspicions. If they cannot honestly say—

Mr. Burden

Will the hon. Member kindly tell the House how many breeders of Shetland ponies there are in his constituency?

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Member will appreciate that my concern is not for breeders of Shetland ponies in my constituency. I have never made that claim. Throughout the progress of the Bill, I have made it clear that my concern was both for the welfare of the ponies and for the crofters living in the Shetland Islands. I ask hon. Members to give serious consideration to the effect of these proposals on the islanders and to accept my Amendment.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that we are discussing Amendment No. 1 and the three Amendments to it. Is that right?

Mr. Speaker

Yes, together with Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. The right hon. Gentleman has six Amendments to discuss.

Mr. Grimond

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, would like to join in the regrets which have been expressed about the health of the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), who originally introduced the Bill.

I made a speech on Second Reading in which I outlined the position of some of my constituents. Naturally, it would be out of order to go over that ground again, but I should like to emphasise some points particularly directed to my support for the first Amendment to the Amendment which appears in the name of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). Responsible bodies throughout my constituency have advocated a lower figure of £30, but if we cannot obtain that lower figure the figure stated in the hon. Member's Amendment would be better than the £70 which was originally included in the Bill.

I must attempt to clear up some misunderstandings about the situation. There are various bodies which, from the best of motives, have taken a considerable interest in the arguments which have been put forward for reducing the figure from £70 to £40. One of them is the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society, which, I might say in passing, is a very long way from Shetland and, possibly, operates in rather different circumstances.

In a booklet which it kindly sent me, however, that society states: The population of Orkney and Shetland Islands is over 30,000 and yet there are only 181 crofter members of the stud book society. … Are we quite sure that Shetland pony breeding in the Orkney and Shetland Islands is anything more than a profitable sideline for a rather small minority? That is the type of ignorant statement which is calculated to cause considerable annoyance among people who are far from rich and who live in much less comfortable circumstances than some of these people in the South of England.

No one has suggested that there is large-scale breeding of Shetland ponies in Orkney. What we suggest is that this is a vital trade to a certain part of Shetland. Anyone who knows about the crofting counties knows that although the number of crofters may not be great, this trade is vital to a small number of people in Shetland, and particularly in Unst, which has a population of under 1,000. Anything in the nature of an extra £25,000 coming into their islands at the annual sales is extremely important to the economy.

It has been suggested, I understand, that the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society might be prepared to accept a figure of £50. This was said some time ago. The Society said it not because it likes the propositions in the Bill, but because it thought that £70 was too high.

Mr. Burden

When the right hon. Gentleman says that that was said some time ago, would he not agree that we should get it into relative terms? This was confirmed on 21st January in a letter to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Grimond

Yes. If we are to quote that, we ought to quote what else the stud book society said. It said that it has some sympathy with the purposes of the Bill but "that the terms of the Bill had been inadequately considered to the extent that they will not alleviate the position as it is sought to do but may well aggravate it".

The stud book society listed certain ways in which the position would be aggravated: The lairage provisions will simply slow down the time of transit, which in itself is one of the principal causes of hardship. The provision which will result in further handling is another factor to be avoided in minimising suffering. It would be quite unfair to the Shetland stud book society to say that it supports the main purpose of the Bill, because it does not. Nor does any of the other responsible bodies who know the situation. The Crofters Commission and the Highlands and Islands Development Board have opposed £70, as have local crofters who have petitioned against it and have suggested a figure of £30.

What is particularly significant is that the local branch of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has opposed this figure. Indeed, it is apparent to anyone who knows the situation that quite contrary to the intentions of the sponsors of the Bill, unless Amendments are made on this vital question they will be encouraging cruelty to animals. Unst is 250 miles or more from Aberdeen. To minimise suffering, the animals need to be got to Aberdeen as quickly as possible. The Bill will cause delay. Furthermore, there is no proper lairage at places for keeping these ponies.

As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland has said, and as I said on Second Reading, the greatest hardship that can be inflicted on these ponies is to force them to remain in Unst on the scattolds in winter.

Mr. Speaker

Order. With respect, the right hon. Gentleman is embarking on a discussion of the Bill.

Mr. Grimond

We are discussing a Clause, Mr. Speaker, which, unless amended, will result in a great many ponies being left in Unst. There is no doubt about this from the figures quoted by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland and by me. Some 200 to 300 ponies will be affected if the figure of .70 stands in the Bill and will be left on the scattolds and that will inflict hardship, and I think that that should be very much in the mind of the House when it comes to vote.

11.30 a.m.

There is, of course, no evidence that these ponies are exported for slaughter. The very idea is slightly absurd, in view of their size. There may be very great cruelty to ponies on the Continent, and that is one of the reasons why I have not wholly opposed the Bill, but again, it should be remembered that, I understand, 8,000 ponies of the Shetland type are bred in Holland and there is no reason to suppose that the ponies which were found, for instance, by the staff of the Ambassador in Paris came from this country at all, but if they did there is absolutely no evidence they came from Shetland. No one has ever produced any evidence at all either that these ponies are sold for human consumption or that there is cruelty—except in one case of a pony which was not sold but was left on the scattold.

As I say, as far as I can make out the Bill will result in excluding some of these ponies which go for export perfectly properly, perhaps for riding, or as pets, and so forth. This is serious enough, but to insist upon the .70 figure would gradually kill the trade and very seriously affect sales.

As I say, it is not a question of in some way advocating cruelty to animals. On the contrary, unless a more realistic figure is written in, cruelty will actually result from the Bill.

Further I must make some point about the peculiar position of ponies. They do arouse, quite properly, a very great deal of feeling—much as do cows among Hindus. But this very interest sometimes strikes me as strange, because I cannot help thinking that if they were pigs there would not be quite the same interest in them, and I am not at all sure that pigs are any less sensitive than ponies though they may look rather less pleasant.

Therefore, we have to judge this in realistic terms. We have to judge whether we are meeting any justifiable case.

Mr. Burden

Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that there are provisions whereby cows, pigs and sheep must have rest—at least 10 hours before shipment—and that they must not be sent into a ship if they are about to produce?

Mr. Grimond

Of course. I am very glad to hear it. I can only say that, in my constituents' view, this puts ponies in a rather special position as against sheep.

Shetland is not like the South of England. It is a fact of life that this island. Unst, is 250 miles away even from Aberdeen, and though there is a relatively large export of livestock, and this has to be treated realistically within the possibilities of the situation. Therefore, I very much hope that the House will support the Amendment to the Amendment.

I have been very careful not to encroach on grounds I do not know. That is the reason why I have not generally attacked the Bill at all. I do not know about Dartmoor; therefore, I have not talked about that. I do not know the conditions which may exist in Wales, or about the exports from the eastern English ports. I do know about Shetland. I do know that there has been absolutely no case made out that Shetland ponies are exported for human consumption, and that no case has been made out about cruelty to them. I do know that there is an unanswerable case about how the Bill would gravely affect the incomes of people who are already very hard put to it to make a thriving living, and I know that many of the provisions of the Bill will be very difficult to enforce.

Moreover, it seems very strange to me that hon. Members who clamour so much about our having fewer civil servants should put their names to proposals which will undoubtedly mean a very large increase in the inspectorate, and so forth. However, that is by the way.

What I am asking is is that the House should understand that the figure of £40 would have the effect of excluding a justifiable export trade, £70 would be intolerable, and £50 is more than my constituents should be expected to accept. If there has to be price fixing at all I would far rather prefer £30, but if the House will not accept that figure, then I would ask it to accept the Amendment proposing the figure of £40.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

I would begin by also congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) upon the very hard work he put into producing this Bill, and I am quite sure we all wish him well.

I direct my remarks to my Amendment to the Amendment and my proposal to make the figure £50. Possibly this figure is too low, but in any case the only reason I put down the Amendment to the Amendment was to try to comply with the wishes of the Shetland Stud Book Society which said very fairly on 21st January that it considered that £70 is rather high for Shetland ponies and would tend to diminish the export trade, and recommends instead £50 as a more realistic figure. The Society recommended that, and that is the reason for this Amendment to the Amendment, because I want to help that Society.

I still believe this is far too low because I have evidence here that someone fairly recently tried to buy a miniature Shetland colt yearling and the cheapest price that could possibly be paid was £125, and other prices went up to £250. So this £50 figure is not a very unfair one.

Mr. Grimond

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the figures which have been officialy produced of the prices at sales are faked? Or what is he saying? We can find out what the prices at sales are; they are recorded. They vary from £5 upwards. He has mentioned a yearling colt at £250. Is he saying that these figures are bogus?

Mr. Dance

No. I am certainly not. But the right hon. Gentleman is really supporting my argument. I am entirely in favour of and would like to encourage the export of Shetland ponies for riding and breeding and so on, but I want to stop these scrub ponies going for slaughter.

I have also just got the information from an extremely reliable source which tells me that a 10½ hands pony in good condition would put on weight to some 5½ cwt. and my information is that the cut out amount of meat would be about 60 per cent. to 64 per cent. If we take that figure of 5½ cwt. then we find that this pony weighs 616 1b., and if we take that 60 per cent. odd we find that means 360 1b. deadweight of meat at the end. As my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) pointed out so ably in Committee—and I must say that he took infinite trouble to get information—the selling price at the far end is about 12s. to 18s. a 1b., which means that the 101 hands pony would fetch something like £130 or £140, a very profitable trade at the other end.

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

I think the hon. Gentleman is giving a misleading calculation. I have it confirmed on good authority that for a colt at £40 the figure is nothing like that. If one operates on the basis of the retail price as against the wholesale price, of course one gets a figure which puts the argument out of joint altogether.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We seem at this moment to be debating the Bill. We are debating not the Bill however but a group of Amendments.

Mr. Dance

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

We are not debating the Bill at the moment, but certain Amendments to it.

Mr. Dance

Yes, Sir. What I was trying to say was that those figures which I gave are correct I am told. The figure originally given was some 60 per cent., but shortly before this debate I was told it went up to 64 per cent. I agree with the Minister that the end price is larger than the beginning price. Nevertheless, there is a large discrepancy between the figure of £40 which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) wants and the £130–£150 which it would reach at the other end. I commend to the House the more realistic figure of £50.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland said that he had no evidence that ponies were ill-treated in transit. I have some rather horrifying information here from someone who went to Germany—

Mr. Speaker

Order. What the hon. Gentleman is about to say will be in order on Third Reading. We are replacing one subsection by another. There are three proposed Amendments to the Amendment, plus two Amendments to the original subsection. These are what we are debating now.

Mr. Dance

I beg your pardon, Sir. I conclude by asking: what, indeed, is a Shetland pony? I believe that this issue may cause a little confusion. We all know that much of the wine labelled Beaujolais comes, not from Beaujolais at all, but from Algiers. Shall we not find ourselves faced with a problem, in that we shall require experts to say whether the pony concerned is a Shetland pony, whether its conformation is correct, and whether it shows the true characteristics of the breed? I should like a little more information about how that will be established.

I ask the House to accept the figure of £50. I think that it is on the low side, but if it is acceptable to the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society it is only right that the House should accept it.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

May I associate myself with the remarks which have been made about my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), who has always been extremely courteous to me since I have been in the House. I am in the embarrassing position of being in opposition to parts of the Bill with which my hon. Friend was originally associated.

Both sides of the House give general support to those parts of the Bill concerning the conditions under which ponies are exported. The anxiety arises over the introduction of the arbitrary price levels which have been put into the legislation and which are the subject of Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, which stand in my name.

I will deal with the arguments on Amendment No. 2 briefly, because I think that they are broadly acceptable to the sponsors of the Bill. This Amendment seeks to substitute 12.2 hands for 12 hands, because 12.2 hands is recognised as being the height of the standard Dartmoor pony. I believe it is generally acceptable that the exclusions to bring the level of £100 down to £70 should apply to that breed and that the sponsors of the Bill will therefore agree to an Amendment which has that effect. It is a purely technical Amendment. It is unnecessary to devote any more time to it, it being recognised that the Dartmoor pony, along with the New Forest pony and the Shetland pony, is one of the smaller breeds and, therefore, should come within this redefinition of what the original legislation proposed.

My second Amendment is of much greater substance and, therefore, is likely to be rather more controversial. It seeks to reduce the value of a pony of 12 hands from £70 to £40 for the purposes of the operation of this legislation. I am concerned on a number of grounds about the effect on constituents of mine of the introduction of the proposed £70 limit. We heard a number of well reasoned arguments in Committee on behalf specifically of the Shetland pony. I have not the slightest doubt that there are problems associated with that area and with the ponies that come from it.

I represent the vast majority of the acreage of Dartmoor. There, too, we have special problems—problems which qua this legislation surround the Dartmoor pony which is bred in reasonable numbers in that area and which would not be replaced by any other form of livestock rearing if this form of farming were to disappear. The breeding of Dartmoor ponies constitutes a considerable part of the revenue which the commoners derive from the moor. It is a traditional industry and one which, in the hands of certain of the commoners, is today producing a lucrative revenue. It is one which is threatened by the proposed £70 limit.

11.45 a.m.

As I understand it, the main and most lasting effect of the £70 limit is that it prevents the export of ponies which are to be kept on the Continent for perhaps two years before being sold as ponies for pleasure purposes. It is not the intention of the legislation to prevent the slaughter of ponies. Here I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance), because I think that it is clear that the legislation will not reduce the number of ponies slaughtered for human consumption on the Continent. It will ensure that the ponies will be slaughtered in Britain and then the dead meat will be shipped to the Continent. I believe that this is acceptable to the sponsors of the Bill. It would therefore be helpful if they would explain to the House what additional facilities are likely to be forthcoming to help in the slaughter of ponies in Britain and if they would put it more clearly on the record that they are not in any way trying to reduce or affect the supply of pony flesh for human consumption.

The issue all revolves round the question whether these ponies are being exported through British ports to the Continent ostensibly for the purposes of being used for pleasure but in practice to go to the slaughterhouses. The sponsors of the Bill have no objection to the export of ponies where it can be shown that they are to be used for breeding, riding or any such purpose and that they come within the financial limits. Nor have I.

If I may put my own personal position on the record, I am quite appalled at the confusion that exists when it comes to the provision of evidence about the destination of ponies that go abroad. Some time ago I was approached by the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society, which is one of the organisations pressing for this legislation. As I was interested in the case which was argued by the Society, I arranged for a meeting between officers of the Society and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I took the officers to the Ministry. I hope that my hon. Friends will take it as a sign of good intention on my part when I record that I was superficially and initially interested in the case that was advocated. However, I must state that I was appalled by the trivial nature of the evidence, which was totally destroyed by the Minister at the meeting. I therefore looked again carefully to see whether there was justification for the suggestion that ponies were going abroad for slaughter—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is speaking about the Bill itself, not the Amendments. The hon. Gentleman may speak on the Bill on Third Reading.

Mr. Heseltine

In that case, I leave the point, Sir.

Putting aside the question whether the slaughter traffic should be set aside, my concern is that it should be possible for rearers of ponies in Britain to sell the ponies at a relatively young age—say, six months—to people who take them to the Continent, who keep them for the two years necessary to bring them up to a state when they can be ridden, and who break them ready for human handling. This will not happen if the £70 limit is imposed. If a £40 limit is applied, it will be possible for these people to continue the trade which they say is at present being carried out with a view to providing ponies as pets on the Continent.

I want to quote from an article in a local newspaper reporting what was said by probably the largest breeder of ponies in my constituency and, therefore, probably the largest breeder of Dartmoor ponies. The article said: Mr. Coaker said he exported between 700 and 800 ponies in 1967 and approximately 400 last year. 'I have a ledger showing where every pony went', he said, 'and none of my animals went for slaughter. If there was any question of slaughter I would not have anything to do with the trade.' He exported mainly mares and filly foals for about £50 each—and the new Bill would debar as much as 75 per cent. of his export trade, he claimed. Mrs. Coaker accompanies every consignment to the Continental receiving port. 'We have sold ponies in every European country west of the Iron Curtain', Mr. Coaker said. … I asked if I could visit his farm on Dartmoor. He agreed and also produced the ledger for me to study. It contained detailed analyses of every sale, including the price paid, the name of the purchaser and the destination. I did not do a detailed and lengthy audit of his books but I have no reason to suppose at the end of my visit that he was not showing me anything I asked to see. I regard his evidence as being as substantial as the evidence of the Society. He believes that his customers on the Continent are holding on to the ponies until they are ready for disposal for family purposes.

Mr. Burden

My right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) has given specific and accurate information, obtained from Belgian records, showing that, in 1967, a total of 14,000 metric tons of carcase horse flesh representing about 30,000 animals was imported into Belgium alone.

Mr. Speaker

Order. A promoter of the Bill must not tempt himself to get out of order.

Mr. Heseltine

I leave that point, Mr. Speaker. I sympathise with the arguments put by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). Although the constituency concerned is not immediately his, he has a regional interest and has expressed very adequately the case of the breeders there. I ask for his sympathetic understanding when I say that I cannot support his Amendment.

There may well be specific problems in the case of Shetland ponies. But they are exactly the problems which I have at the moment. If I were agreeable to the protections specifically sought for Shetland ponies, I would be aggravating the situation in respect of Dartmoor ponies. There is a two-hands difference in the size of the ponies but people who buy ponies for their children—and this is largely the market—are likely to look more at the colour and individual attractiveness of a pony than take into account whether it is a Dartmoor or a Shetland. They will surely not be very concerned about which region it comes from. His Amendment would put a £30 differential on Shetland ponies as opposed to Dartmoor ponies. Whilst I sympathise with the arguments the hon. Gentleman put in the case of Shetland ponies, I could accept them only if they were also applied to Dartmoor ponies as well. No doubt the same situation applies to New Forest ponies.

Amendment No. 3 would make the situation of the Ministry of Agriculture much easier because it is simple and clear-cut. It would delete the reference to £70 and substitute a level of £40, which would by and large be acceptable to all of those with special problems and interests in this matter. It would be easy for the Ministry to execute.

Mr. Grimond

I cannot, of course, speak for the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) but I think that I can speak for some of the Shetland pony breeders who have petitioned against the Bill. I am sure that they had no idea of harming the Dartmoor breeders. They were simply concerned with the Shetland situation. I understand the point the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) is putting and I am sure they would too. It would be a pity if it were felt that there was rivalry or any intention to harm the hon. Gentleman's constituents. It is simply that we did not know about Dartmoor ponies and were largely concerned with our own affairs.

Mr. Heseltine

Of course I totally accept that point. I think that I have shown that the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland deals with a constituency problem whereas I hope that mine would catch up all the problems existing for specialist breeds. This surely would make my Amendment acceptable to all whereas his Amendment would adversely affect my part of the country. I could not, therefore, support it, whereas, if the hon. Gentleman supported my Amendment, he would gain for the Shetland pony breeders all that they required without prejudicing anyone else's position. In any case, his Amendment worries me in relation to definition. It would be extremely difficult to define what a Shetland pony is at any one time. It would produce difficulties at the Ministry, which would not want to take that on. On the other hand, my definition of a straight £40 is easy to understand and administer.

Mr. Maclennan

The proposal to categorise by breeds is not entirely unprecedented. Section 10 of the Horse Breeding Act, 1918

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on the Report stage. The hon. Gentleman cannot make a second speech but only a brief intervention.

Mr. Maclennan

I intervened to point out that the Shetland pony breed is exempted under the Horse Breeding Act, 1918, from stallion licensing requirements.

Mr. Heseltine

I do not doubt that but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the harm to my constituency if I were to agree to a differential in favour of Shetland ponies. I am sure that the sponsors of the Bill understand that the House wants a Bill of this kind because the general intentions are right and they carry wide sympathy. The main concern is about the details of the drafting—in my own case, with the export at a young age of what I call store ponies which can be stored two years before being sold. Perhaps my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) could help me with amplification of the words in his Amendment, … intended for breeding, riding or exhibition … since, if he could alter or amplify them so that a young pony intended—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot speak to an Amendment which is not on the Order Paper.

Mr. Heseltine

I apologise, Mr. Speaker I thought I was referring to Amendment No. 1. In that case I leave the point. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham will consider carefully the points I have made, which give genuine concern to my constituents, to whom hardship would be caused if the Bill were passed as it stands.

12 noon.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I warmly endorse what has been said about the zeal and devotion invested in the Bill by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). The whole House will be relieved and happy to know of the progress he is making towards recovery from the illness which prevents his attendance here today.

I want to support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). I feel that nothing has been said to disturb the case he presented to the House.

Reference has been made to the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society—the breed's rules body—and my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) gave some figures on the effect, as he saw it, of applying a minimum value of £70. In that connection, he spoke of the sales in 1967 and 1968. My information is that the Society believes that in 1967 only about 35 ponies bought for export at the Shetland Pony Sales would have been affected by the proposed £70 minimum value, and that in 1968 only some 42 would have been affected.

The House might also reflect on the view of the Council of the Society that breeders could well benefit greatly from the minimum values proposed in the Bill on the ground that overseas buyers will pay more for the best stock.

I understand that the Society has informed my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and the Scottish Office that it does not substantiate the claims made by the Crofters Association and that in general the Society supports the Bill.

Inevitably, there has been compromise between the sponsors of the Bill and the two Departments affected by its provisions. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is to be congratulated on conciliating the differences which have arisen, and I very much hope that we shall make good progress today towards completing the remaining stages of the Bill.

Mr. Gordon A. T. Bagier (Sunderland, South)

I hesitate to move into the circle of obvious experts on the raising and exporting of ponies. However, before we finally decide the sum which is to be inserted in the Bill, I hope that hon. Members will consider the important situation which is pending as a result of the decision of the National Coal Board to make its pit ponies redundant by the end of next year. It will have the effect very quickly of bringing about 2,000 ponies on to the market. Concern has been expressed to me by people throughout the country about the possibilities of these animals being exported for slaughter.

Lord Robens has made it clear to me in correspondence that only by the Ponies Bill can he guarantee that something can be done to ensure that they do not go abroad in this way. He is utterly opposed to the export of ponies for slaughter.

I hesitate to recommend a specific figure, because I prefer to leave that to the experts, but I hope that they will consider the importance of pricing out of existence any possibility of these animals, which are widely respected and loved, being exported in a way which means that, at the end of their working lives, they finish up in continental slaughterhouses.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest)

I want first to comment on what has been said by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier), and I can assure him that the Bill provides the protection that he seeks.

I hope that the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will stand as it is. I understand and sympathise with the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) and others who have spoken. Clearly, with a Bill of this type, there will be certain individuals who feel that their own breeds of pony are not being looked after properly. However, the acceptance of any Amendment changing the minimum price will open the floodgate to a whole range of special pleading which will damage the Bill.

I am well aware that frequently figures are misleading and cause people to feel that special cases are not catered for properly. However, in paragraph (a) of my hon. Friend's Amendment, after the figure of £70, one sees the words or such other value in either case as may be prescribed by order of the Minister and the Secretary of State acting jointly …". The Amendment has been drawn with the generous help of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, and we are grateful for that. The acceptance of other Amendments setting limits on height or price will merely confuse the issue. The Bill is a simple one and its purpose is clear. It is to limit cruelty and the export of ponies for the wrong purposes. For that reason, I recommend hon. Members to support Amendment No. 1, because it covers all the points which have been raised.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

After some of the speeches this morning, it was refreshing to hear what the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) had to say, because he made an important and significant point concerning the impending release of large numbers of pit ponies on to the market.

The House would be well advised to reject the Amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine). The Bill is fairly sensible, simple and easily understood. Once we start differentiating between breeds and introducing different treatments for them, we have a complicated Measure which may prove to be unworkable. Once one embarks upon a course of that nature, one runs into definition difficulties.

I was surprised to hear some of the comments of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland about the way in which the problem has been presented to him. He mentioned the Highlands and Islands Development Board, and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) pointed out that the Board opposed the figures contained in the Bill. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has ready access to the experts on that Board. I wonder whether he has asked them if the Board has considered erecting an abattoir for surplus ponies in the Northern Scottish districts and outlying island districts. The question was put to the Minister in Standing Committee, but we got no answer. I can understand why. The Minister is not in communication with the Board in the way that the right hon. Gentleman is. If he has put the problem to the Board, the House would be interested to know its answer.

Mr. Grimond

If the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is not, through the Scottish Office, in touch with the Highlands and Islands Development Board, it is very odd. We do not want our ponies slaughtered. I understood that the sponsors were not introducing a slaughter of ponies Bill. Up to now we have been selling ponies for the purpose of breeding and riding. No one has suggested that any substantial number have to be slaughtered. Eventually all animals are killed. But if the Bill in its present form is passed, we may be faced with a surplus of ponies which will have to be slaughtered when there is no need for it.

Mr. Farr

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for those remarks on the point that I raised, but I do not regard his answer as satisfactory. I did not regard the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the desire and need of certain breeders on the island of Unst to get the ponies the distance of 250 miles to the mainland as quickly as possible as very helpful. He indicated that lairage facilities were not only superfluous in this journey but positively not wanted.

Mr. Grimondrose

Mr. Farr

I think it is an extraordinary attitude for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that these ponies should be pushed together in the hold of a boat—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is following the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) into the realms of disorder. He can talk about that on Third Reading.

Mr. Farr

I immediately bow to your advice, Mr. Speaker, and turn to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), which I believe were completely in order the whole time. He referred to a constituent of his who apparently, under admirable circumstances, breeds Dartmoor ponies. He has a very happy occupation and a rewarding business selling Dartmoor ponies to people from the Continent for a price, we understand, as low as £40. My hon. Friend's constituent's wife even takes the trouble to accompany each consignment of ponies to the Continent to make sure that they end up in suitable hands. It is a relief to know this.

My hon. Friend said that these ponies which went to the Continent for £40 or £45 were bought fairly young and went for two years' training before they were released for riding and schooling purposes. It is remarkable that people will go to the trouble of buying Dartmoor ponies at £40 or £45 to send to the Continent, should take the trouble to train them for two years and perhaps then sell them for £100 at the end of that period, when they can straight away, on the Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam markets obtain over £120 for a typical Dartmoor or Shetland pony. They follow an extraordinary practice.

My hon. Friend cannot gainsay the facts of the case which have been proved, I think fairly adequately, on Second Reading and in Standing Committee when we discussed the specific point that ponies of the Shetland and Dartmoor type are selling in Continental markets for £100 or £120 to butchers who buy them for human consumption. Why should my hon. Friend's constituent's customers go to the trouble of buying these animals for £40 or £45 and training them on the Continent for two years when they can more than double their money overnight by unloading them on the market? While I accept as absolutely infallible the sources of information given to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock, I suggest that the example that he illustrated is an exception—

Mr. Michael Heseltinerose

Mr. Farr

—and that the rule is that the vast majority of ponies which leave this country, either because they are old and have finished their useful life or because they are perhaps very young, end up in the slaughterhouses on the Continent for human consumption.

Mr. Heseltine

I am interested to know whether the figure that my hon. Friend quotes is the figure which can be obtained for selling six-months' old Dartmoor ponies on the Continental market.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Farr

The figures that I gave on Second Reading and in Standing Committee have never been questioned. They were worked out on the basis of the dead weight of the animal concerned. Obviously the killing out or dead weight of a six-months' old pony would not be the same as the killing out or dead weight of an older animal. But these figures satisfactorily establish—and I think that the Minister agreed with this—that the killing out landed weight of a pony on the Continent is about 2s. 1d. a 1b. on the retail weight in a pony shop and is—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are getting deeply involved. The hon. Member must link what he has to say with the Amendments which seek to delete £70 and substitute £40 or £50 for Shetland ponies or Shetland breed or even Dartmoor breeds of ponies.

Mr. Farr

I am obliged for your interruption, Mr. Speaker, as always, but I respectfully point out that these Amendments hinge ultimately on the price of horse or pony flesh in the pony and horse flesh shops on the Continent. They must, because, if these price barriers are not included in Clause 1 and animals can continue to go abroad, as they do now for, £40 or even £30 a head, this trade can continue. It is with the purpose of ending this trade that these barriers of £100 and £70 have been inserted.

Mr. John Mackie

I presume this point is in order. I must point out to the hon. Gentleman, who is a farmer, that he does not base what he sells cattle for on what the butcher sells at over the counter. He bases it on the wholesale price he gets in the market, as I do. The wholesale price of horse flesh in Paris is 3s. a 1b. and 2s. 6d., or a little over, in Brussels. The hon. Gentleman must not use this argument about what is paid over the butcher's counter. A man buying for slaughter in this country can only work out his profit on the wholesale figure, not the butcher's costs and everything else that make up the retail price.

Mr. Farr

I am obliged to the Minister, once more. I should like to give an illustration of a typical case of the market at Hedel in Holland where approximately 3,000 animals are sometimes arranged for sale on the same day, about half of which are ponies. I have a report by a British citizen who lives in Holland, Mr. H. J. Oliver, who is a frequent visitor to this market and has seen hundreds of British ponies going through. This report was compiled at the end of last year. He can establish, and I can establish to my satisfaction, that they are British ponies because they still carry Her Majesty's Government's inspection marks or tags on their manes. He gives an example of his latest visit which took place at the end of last year when, of about 1,500 ponies in this market, over half, in his opinion, were imported from Britain. He substantiated this by filming the scenes at the market and taking close-ups—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is on the general question that there is export of ponies. The Bill seeks to prevent that. All we are discussing at the moment is a group of Amendments.

Mr. Farr

I should like to conclude by referring to the intervention by the Minister when he referred to the wholesale price of horse flesh on the Continent. This is a significant point. But, once again, the Ministry's sources of information are at fault. The wholesale price of beef in this country is about 4s. or 4s. 6d. a 1b. in domestic markets. Yet beef can be bought in shops in this country from 7s. 6d. to 8s. a 1b. It is reasonable to suppose that if the retail price of pony and horse flesh on the Continent is about 12s. to 15s. a 1b., the wholesale price must be much higher than the figure quoted by the Minister.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House are satisfied that this trade is continuing, that ponies are deliberately being exported for slaughter. That is why these figures have been included in the Clause. I recommend the House to accept the Clause so ably proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

I propose to intervene only briefly to discuss two of the Amendments to the proposed Amendment, but may I first join in the good wishes which have been sent to the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) wishing him a speedy recovery.

In Committee my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary defined the job of a Minister on a Bill such as this. He said that it was the Minister's job to examine the Bill carefully, to see whether there was a necessity for it, whether it could be administered, and what the economic consequences would be, and how many people it would affect.

I do not want to get involved in a discussion on the merits of this proposal. We are trying to see whether it can work, and what kind of effect it will have. I propose to talk basically about two Amendments, because certain difficulties arise on them from an administrative point of view.

I propose to discuss, first, the Amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and that in the name of the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine). I think that most hon. Members are in agreement with the main Amendment which is designed to improve the Bill.

I welcome my hon. Friend's Amendment. I do so speaking as a Scottish Minister because of the consequences which the failure to accept my hon. Friend's Amendment might have on the livelihood of the crofters in the Shetland Isles. This has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

One of the difficulties is that those who support the Bill are using the device of minimum value to try to control the European slaughter trade in British ponies, but this is far too crude a method. In setting a figure high enough to make export for slaughter uneconomic, much of the export trade in most breeds of ponies which is for the legitimate purpose of providing ponies for breeding and riding and for pets for children, would be prevented. This would particularly affect the Shetlands where, although the value of ponies exported does not amount to much when compared to the global figure, they reflect an important figure for that area. Reference was made to Unst and to the effect on the economy there. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland told the House what effect this would have on the income of the crofters and the people in that area.

I must underline what my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland said about the effect of the Bill. The Bill would create an animal welfare problem in the Shetlands, because in these barren islands unsold ponies would have to be wintered there and would face semi-starvation. The winter climate in the Shetlands is not always noted for its mildness. I do not think that the supporters of the Bill would resist an Amendment which seeks, among other things, to deal with that problem.

Mr. Burden

I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that in the proposed Clause the Minister will still have the power to introduce such value as may be prescribed for the purpose of the subsection in question, and therefore that power will exist if the hardship that is contemplated is found to exist.

Mr. Buchan

I thought that the hon. Gentleman might raise that at some stage, and this issue was raised also by the hon. Member for New Forest (Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson). We are in a certain difficulty. It is not customary in a Bill which contains quite specific proposals to allow them to be varied in this way by the Minister. Despite the saving phrase in many Bills, it is not seen as a mechanism whereby the main functions and purposes set out in a Bill can be thwarted. This would be an unusual use of power and one which the Minister might not find himself able to exercise. We cannot write into a Bill a general power which is not to be seen as a general power and which can obviate the rest of the Bill. I think that one would find it difficult to sustain that situation. If that were the case no difficulty would arise, because we would merely say that any Minister could at any time determine the level of price, and the rest of the Bill would be pointless. This is not what the Bill is about.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Would not the Minister agree that if those words were there, and if real hardship arose in the Shetlands, the Minister would be able to do something to put it right?

Mr. Buchan

If some of the other Amendments were not accepted, the Minister would be put in the position of trying to seek that saving device in the interests both of the animals in the Shetlands and the people there. I am advised that it would be difficult to do this, that it is not seen as having that kind of generalised function, and it has not been seen in the past. I am referring, of course, to the words, in either case as may be prescribed by order … That is my advice, and I must inform the House of it because I recognise its importance in connection with later Amendments.

I do not think that anyone denies the possibility of Shetland ponies being sold at markets on the continent, and no one can deny the possibility that some of those ponies may find their way to slaughter houses, but I am told that some of the ponies found in slaughter houses on the continent may be born and bred in Scotland. I know of no prominent Shetland breeder connected with this trade who has ever said that this is the case. Indeed, one prominent Shetland breeder recently said that she knew of no cases of Shetland ponies being exported for slaughter.

It seems to me that, intentionally or otherwise, the Bill has been drafted to discourage the export of all but the pedigree high price ponies. I must point out to the House that this is not necessarily related to the welfare of ponies, and that many of the less valuable ponies are perfectly suitable for riding and pets.

We must not get it into our heads that any crofter in the Shetlands and Orkneys is making a vast profit out of this trade. It is merely an additional sustenance. No vast profits are being made. Most of the crofters produce one or two ponies, and this is really what we are concerned with.

I think that I had better comment on the Amendment and on the argument between £50 and £40. It is interesting to note that in 1967, at the £50 figure about 37 per cent. of Shetland ponies would have been excluded. On the £40 figure, 20 per cent. would have been excluded, so there is a considerable difference there.

Mr. Burden

I am very suspicious of percentages in this context. If the percentages have been worked out, surely the Minister has the figures for the number of ponies affected?

Mr. Buchan

I think I have. At £50, out of 309 ponies, 113 would have been excluded. That is 37 per cent. At £40, out of 309 ponies, 61 would have been excluded. That is 20 per cent. The figure is either 113 or 61, so the difference is 52. If we do not deal with percentages, or with comparative figures, we can make a good case for ignoring the argument about the Shetland trade, because globally it represents such a small amount. But I think that we must deal with it in comparative terms, and that there is much virtue in these percentages.

My aim is not to discuss the merits of what is proposed, but to consider the workability of it and to put the House in possession of the facts.

12.30 p.m.

I must also refer to the various organisations that have been mentioned. It is correct to say that the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society put up the figure of £50. The letter that we have received says: The Society considers that the £70 minimum price for export is rather high for Shetland ponies and would tend to damage the export trade. We recommend that £50 would be a more realistic figure. As opposed to that, the Crofters Commission said that the figure should be £30; the Shetland Crofters Union said that it should be £30 and the Highlands and Islands Development Board also suggested a figure of £30. In other words the representatives both of the people involved and those whose task it is to administer matters in the area—the Crofters Commission and the Highlands and Islands Development Board—suggested a figure of £30.

Mr. Grimond

Can the Minister confirm that the Shetland Stud Book Society was not wholly favourable to the Bill, and also that the petition sent in from the Shetland crofters mentioned a figure of £30?

Mr. Buchan

I am not sure about the petition, but the right hon. Gentleman is correct in the other respect.

We now come to the difficulty that arises in respect of the two Amendments put forward to the Amendment under discussion. I appreciate the difficulties facing the hon. Member for Tavistock in respect of his Amendments. He made the point that if Shetland ponies were dealt with specially there would be a discrepancy between our dealing with them and our dealing with other ponies in a similar situation. I find it difficult to know how to advise the House. It seems to me that there is a technical error involved in Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 which would arise if the Amendment that we are now discussing were accepted. It might be that the problem could be dealt with in another place, at a later stage, but I must point out the difficulty.

Some difficulty also arises in connection with definition. I agree with the point that has been raised in that respect. A good deal will depend on the usual visual defining, however, and we do not anticipate technical administrative difficulties arising out of the Amendment. We welcome the Amendment but we also strongly recommend the House to support the Amendment to the proposed Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan).

Mr. Speaker

Order. On a purely technical point it is impossible to support Amendment No. 1 and Amendment No. 3 because if the first Amendment is carried the other will fall.

Mr. Buchan

I am glad that you have defined the position, Mr. Speaker. I had hinted at it but I did not think it incumbent on me to go any further. I am glad that you have done so. That is precisely the point I had in mind.

Dr. Hugh Gray (Yarmouth)

I intervene briefly, because the Port of Great Yarmouth has been concerned in the export of ponies and many of my constituents have been in touch both with me and with my hon. Friend. In response to complaints received my hon. Friend was kind enough to pay an unexpected visit to Great Yarmouth in order to examine for himself the conditions under which ponies were exported. My hon. Friend did not announce his visit beforehand. I hope that he will tell the House about his visit, and what he saw.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member will come to the terms of the Amendment.

Dr. Gray

I support the Amendment. It will meet the wishes, attitudes and values of my constituents to a great extent by restricting to some degree and making less profitable the traffic in ponies that is now taking place. The effect of raising the price will surely be to cause fewer ponies to be exported to the Continent.

I want to make it clear that the Port and Haven Commissioners have no direct responsibility in this matter, and that the responsibility of the company which ships these ponies arises only when the ponies are taken on board. My constituents hold strong feelings about this—

Mr. Speaker

Order. All this, including the reference to Yarmouth, may be in order in the debate on the Third Reading, but we are now discussing an Amenment, three Amendments to that Amendment, and two other Amendments to the part of the Bill which the first Amendment seeks to replace. The hon. Member must come to the terms of the Amendment.

Dr. Gray

I thought that by referring to the fact that the Amendment would seem to meet the wishes of my constituents I was in order. However, I will leave my remaining remarks to the debate on the Third Reading.

Mr. Burden

I have listened carefully to the arguments that have been put forward, especially those of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), but I find myself unable to accept their views; indeed, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland gave every reason why the Bill, and especially the Clause, should go through. He pointed out that the Shetland pony trade was very important to the people in the island and he also reminded us that it was 250 miles from Aberdeen.

Among other things, the Clause seeks to prevent cruelty to ponies and to prevent their being exported unless they are shown to be fit for export. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman reinforced the case for the Bill by saying that these ponies should be put direct on board ship at the end of their journey in the United Kingdom, when they were to be sent abroad. These ponies have to travel by sea from Shetland to the mainland, and then travel across country, presumably in cattle trucks, after which they have to be put into another ship for their journey abroad, then, presumably, to endure further rail journeys on the Continent. If there were no other grounds for the Bill the ground of pure humanity and the cessation of cruelty would be enough.

Mr. Grimond

I was merely quoting what was said by the Stud Book Society, which the hon. Member has prayed in aid as an expert body. The view of that body is that the quicker the ponies are moved from Lerwick the better. I pointed out that although it is desirable that there should be lairage, my information is that there is none. I am not saying that lairage is not desirable.

Mr. John Mackie

That is one of the problems. There is no lairage for poines at the various ports in Scotland, and the Stud Book Society has objected to its provisions in the past, because of the cost involved.

Mr. Burden

That does not get away from the fundamentals of the case. It would be incorrect for me to refer to the hon. Member's Second Reading speech, but he has changed his ground extraordinarily in view of what he is saying today.

We are also endeavouring to ensure that these ponies are not sent abroad for slaughter, but are sent for riding or breeding. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier), who intervened on behalf of pit ponies, made one of the strongest arguments in favour of the Bill. I am sure that the House took his speech very seriously. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland also referred to preventing the export of ponies of a certain age.

Mr. Grimond

indicated dissent.

Mr. Burden

That may not be what the right hon. Gentleman meant but that was the inference that I drew. I am sorry if I misjudged him. One of the aims of the Bill is to prevent the export of old ponies which are unfit for breeding or riding. That is vitally necessary.

The right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock were obviously concerned about what will happen to ponies which are not fit for breeding or riding. I again refer to the views of the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society. The letter which the Society sent to the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland on 21st January, 1969, said: The Society considers that proper facilities must be provided in the U.K. for the humane slaughter of scrub ponies unsuitable for breeding or riding purposes and an organisation should be formed to conduct the marketing and exporting of their carcasses. The Society thus makes it clear that it considers that there is the likelihood that some animals are going abroad for this purpose and that, even if they are not, it would be better for Shetland pony breeders in general that there should be such a facility so that the better stock can be retained and scrub ponies fit for nothing but slaughter can be slaughtered without long journeys and in the most humane conditions.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we do not want our ponies to go abroad for slaughter. All farm animals must at some time come to this end. The sponsors of the Bill recognise that this is necessary. This is why we have moved in this direction.

The possibility of setting up abattoirs in Britain has been raised. I know that this is a point to which the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock put great weight. I have a letter from one of the biggest manufacturers of feeding stuff—

Mr. Speaker

That can come in on Third Reading.

Mr. Burden

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I have a letter from one of the biggest feeding stuff manufacturers in which he undertakes to set one up and have it working within six months.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock concentrated on the information he had received from one breeder. He said that the wife of that breeder went abroad with the batches of ponies to ensure that they were shipped humanely and properly, but she left them at the point of disembarkation. Of course they could be watched up to that point. It is after that point that the cruelty, the travelling and the slaughter takes place, not at the point of disembarkation. Is my hon. Friend naïve enough to believe that, in view of the feeling in Britain, that those who act as importers of ponies for slaughter in other countries would declare this? Of course they would not.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

My hon. Friend knows as well as I do that nobody denies that the possibility exists. What we are absolutely sure about is the case has not been proved.

Mr. Burden

I have ample evidence to satisfy me that it has been proved. My hon. Friend must accept that perhaps the case was not proved in the argument he advanced.

My hon. Friend also said that Dartmoor ponies go up to 12.2 hands. To 12 hands the price comes down from £100 to £70. This is a good assessment of the killing out cost of animals to make it as unprofitable as possible. In any case, if ponies at 12.2 hands are fit for riding and breeding, they would certainly fetch £70 without any difficulty.

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way yet again.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not in Committee—

Mr. Heseltine

This will be the last time.

Mr. Speaker

We must not have too many interventions.

Mr. Burden

On a point of order. I very much object to the remark my hon. Friend has just passed—"He asked for it". I did not ask for it.

Mr. Heseltine

Further to that point of order. I said, "This will be the last time". I would never have used the words that my hon. Friend thought that he heard. Am I to understand that my hon. Friend is prepared to accept that the adjustment from 12 to 12.2 is reasonable and should be embodied in the Bill?

12.45 p.m.

Mr. Burden

I should be quite prepared for that to be considered in another place. It cannot be considered today.

Despite all the statements which have been made by the two Members sitting on the Liberal bench today, although one is not exactly a Liberal, the provision has considerable support. It has the support of private veterinary surgeons knowledgeable in the equine side of their profession to whom I have written. It has the general support of the British Veterinary Association, which saw the difficulty of prescribing the age of ponies but wished that the general provision should be in the Bill. It has the support of auctioneers, who are the main sellers of the ponies, of the National Pony Society, of Ponies of Britain, of the British Horse Society, and of animal welfare organisations including the R.S.P.C.A. which also might in the past have been a little diffident about giving full support. It also has the support of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society. I recommend that the Amendment in its entirety be accepted.

Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)

A number of hon. Members have suggested that there is no conclusive evidence of the activities which are worrying many people. I have taken the precaution of consulting some of the breeders of ponies in the part of the world which I represent, which is as far from Orkney and Shetland as could be found. They, with their knowledge of breeding and of the trade, are satisfied that a Bill such as this is necessary. I am disposed to support them in their view. Their view is that the difficulties which arise may well be increased by the difficulties about pit ponies which have been referred to. Breeders and experts in my part of the world would like to see the Amendment accepted in the form in which it stands on the Notice Paper.

I have also consulted the breeders of Shetland ponies in the south-eastern part of England. They have been unable to follow the figures which have been placed before the House. The figures which breeders of Shetland ponies in the South-East think would be realistic are much higher than those which have been suggested by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan).

Therefore, although I am no expert on the right price for a Shetland pony, according to my evidence those who are engaged in breeding these ponies, certainly in some areas, believe that the Amendment should be accepted in the form in which it appears on the Notice Paper.

Mr. Richard Body (Holland-with-Boston)

May I reply to the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Heseltine) for proof? I do not know what standard of proof he wants, but I have here copies of a Dutch meat trade journal. The Dutch is probably as intelligible to him as it is to me, but I went to the Library and elsewhere for translations. There is no doubt that these copies, which are for this year, report all the imports into Holland of these ponies and there is no reason why the butchers and wholesale meat traders of Rotterdam and elsewere would have any interest in these ponies unless at least some of them were going for slaughter or for re-export to Germany and other parts of Europe.

The price of pony meat is given in these journals. The figures in the Amendments are utterly unrealistic and would wreck the purpose of the Bill. The demand for pony meat or "pony veal" as it is called, is strong and is gaining strength in Holland, if the Amendment of my hon. Friend or that of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) were carried, it would mean

the continuation of this trade in slaughter

Mr. Speaker

The Question is—

Mr. Maclennan

On a point of order. I seek your advice about the position governing my first sub-Amendment, in line 7, leave out '£70' and insert: 'other than a pony of the Shetland breed not exceeding 10½ hands in height, £70, or in the case of such a pony of the Shetland breed, £40,'. I understood that you, Mr. Speaker, had selected this Amendment for discussion, but I am not clear whether we may vote on it.

Mr. Speaker

What the hon. Gentleman must ask Mr. Speaker is whether he would allow a division. When Amendments are selected for discussion, they are not divided on unless for some special reason, hon. Members make representations and the special reason seems a good one to Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Maclennan

The special reason which I would adduce—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman need not argue it at this stage. I have listened to the debate. He may ask whether he can have a Division.

Mr. Maclennan

I am grateful to you for curtailing this matter, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for a Division on my first sub-Amendment?

Mr. Speaker

The Chair is in some difficulty. The broader Amendment would have been the third sub-Amendment, but unfortunately, for technical reasons, that cannot be divided on. In the circumstances, I am prepared to allow a Division on the first of the three sub-Amendments

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, in line 7, leave out '£70' and insert: 'other than a pony of the Shetland breed not exceeding 10½ hands in height, £70, or in the case of such a pony of the Shetland breed, £40,'.—[Mr. Maclennan.]

Question put, That the Amendment to the proposed Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 49, Noes 42.

Division No. 205.] AYES [12.54 p.m.
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Buchan, Norman
Bessell, Peter Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Carmichael, Neil
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Coe, Denis
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parker, John (Dagenham)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Pavitt, Laurence
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lipton, Marcus Pentland, Norman
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Luard, Evan Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Forrester, John Lubbock, Eric Rees, Merlyn
Freeson, Reginald Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Gardner, Tony MacDermot, Niall Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Mackie, John Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Miller, Dr. M. S. Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Haseldine, Norman Molloy, William Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Heseltine, Michael Morgan, Elystan, (Cardiganshire)
Horner, John Morris, Charles R, (Openshaw) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Howie, W. Moyle, Roland Mr. Alec Jones and
Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Neal, Harold Mr. Robert Maclennan.
Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) O'Malley, Brian
Alldritt, Walter Ford, Ben Nott, John
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Goodhart, Philip Page, Graham (Crosby)
Bell, Ronald Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Probert, Arthur
Biggs-Davison, John Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Body, Richard Hunt, John Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Braine, Bernard Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Burden, F. A. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Silverman, Julius
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Kimball, Marcus Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Chapman, Donald Kirk, Peter Ward, Dame Irene
Crouch, David Knight, Mrs. Jill Weatherill, Bernard
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McNair-Wilson, Michael Wilkins, W. A.
English, Michael McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Errington, sir Eric Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Mr. Gordon Bagier and
Farr, John Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Mr. James Dance.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)

Further Amendment made to the proposed Amendment, in line 8, leave out 'either case' and insert 'any of those cases'.—[Mr. Maclennan.]

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Farr

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 23, leave out '15' and insert '14½'.

There was some discussion in Committee about this proposal. We had originally wished the height of 14 hands to be inserted in the Bill, but it was understood by our advisers and the advisers to the Minister that perhaps 14½ hands was a more appropriate definition of a pony as that accords with the measured height of a hand as recorded in the standard English dictionaries and books of reference. There has been comment on the fact that existing legislation refers to the height of a pony as 14 hands, but I understand that there is a possibility that the Government at a later stage may introduce legislation to bring the measurement for a pony into line with this recommendation of 14½ hands

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 5, in line 25, leave out '15' and insert '14½'.—[Mr. Farr.]

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