§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It might help hon. Members if I briefly describe the broader background to the Bill. First, however, I should like to welcome back to the Dispatch Box as spokesman on agricultural matters the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and would pay a small tribute to his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes), who was Minister of Agriculture in the last Government and always brought to the industry great interest and hard work, and, I am certain, a desire to do all he could to serve it to the best of his ability. Therefore, in welcoming the right hon. Gentleman back, we also pay a tribute to the work of his right hon. Friend.
I understand from some of the farming Press that this first day back after the Christmas Recess will see a "Prior and Peart clash" to open the New Year. I assume that this in some way comes from a conversation which the right hon. Gentleman may have had with a leading political journalist interested in farming affairs. All I can say is that if we are to have a clash over this Bill the Opposition must be very hard up indeed to find grounds for a clash. If they succeed in whipping up support against this Bill, they will be whipping up a good deal of support against measures which they themselves have actively pursued over the last few years.
Agriculture is unique among our older industries. Its fortunes depend on the skill and enterprise of individual farmers. They and the farm workers have of course, a productivity record second to none. But, because of the nature of the industry and the particular importance of its production to every one of us, governmental support and assistance have always been more specific and direct than for industry at large.
54 The fortunes of the industry have, therefore, also reflected the approach of the Government of the day to these matters and the success of their policies. It is the belief of my colleagues and myself that the right approach for agriculture is one that assures a proper level of price for the farmer's produce while giving him the fullest opportunity to make his own judgments and exercise his managerial and technical skills to the best advantage.
Hon. Members will see that this approach is reflected in many of the Bill's provisions, as it has been in wider fields. There can be no doubt that this is an approach to which the industry responds. One may compare the industry's present position and the sentiment of farmers now with the situation two or three years ago. One can have little doubt that when the detailed figures come out in the March White Paper they will show three important factors—first, big advances in output, second, big advances in productivity and, third, big advances in income.
Increased production here has been of the utmost value to the nation when other industries have not succeeded in making comparable advances and when food prices on world markets have in many cases moved sharply to our disadvantage, high quality British food produced by methods over which we have control is the best possible safeguard for the housewife.
I recognise, of course, that in the improvements which have come about in the last couple of years we have the weather to thank for a major contribution, but the attitude of the industry cannot be explained away by reference only to the weather. In the place of disquiet, uncertainty and sometimes near-despair we see everywhere a buoyant, inquiring and dynamic spirit. In a short period of 18 months the state of the industry and its morale and whole attitude have been transformed.
Farmers are now asking some big questions, but also the right questions. These show that farmers are all out to meet the challenge of the coming year. In agriculture, this challenge can be simply expressed. It is to fill to the maximum extent possible the requirements of the United Kingdom market from United Kingdom production and to develop every 55 opportunity in the wider market of Europe.
Farmers are, therefore, asking themselves how to expand their production and competitiveness, what techniques and resources they need and how to secure market outlets—a considerable change from the questions they were asking a few years ago.
I want to relieve farmers wherever possible of the interference of bureaucracy, and in its modest way this Measure will help progress in this direction. But the Government are also ready to play their full part in resolving the major questions with the leaders of the farmers' unions who are rightly bringing them to the attention of the House and the country, particularly this week.
It has been the established practice that every two or three years my Department puts forward a Bill covering a miscellany of agricultural matters which cannot wait for inclusion in a major agriculture Bill. The Measure before the House is typical of its kind. In 21 main Clauses it covers no fewer than 19 separate subjects, several of them of importance to the future of the industry, while others are more by way of a tidying-up operation.
This Bill has come to us from another place. It was published at the beginning of November, and I think it fair to assume that hon. Members who are interested in agriculture will already have a good idea of its contents. I propose, therefore, to devote most of my speech to what I consider to be the major provisions in the Bill and touch only lightly on those less important Clauses that have some particular claim to be drawn to hon. Members' attention. Any points that are not clear about the remaining Clauses can be cleared up by my right hon. Friend when he replies to the debate.
The first nine Clauses amend various Acts to do with animals, and I attach particular importance to the Clauses dealing with brucellosis, zoonoses—to which I will come shortly—slaughterhouses and the improvement of livestock. Clause 1 gives Ministers the necessary additional powers they require for the introduction this year of the compulsory eradication of brucellosis, details of which I announced last March.
56 Considerable progress has already been made since we introduced the voluntary brucellosis incentives scheme in July, 1970. Over one-third of the cattle in Great Britain are now in herds participating in voluntary accreditation. This is a very good response to the Government's policy of giving every encouragement to voluntary action, and we must now build on this success by pressing forward with compulsory eradication.
Compulsory testing has already started in three main areas, and the full compulsory eradication programme will start in November. As progress continues, particularly in the voluntary incentives scheme, the programme will be developed, area by area, until the disease is eradicated. Since making the original areas, we have designated further areas, and I hope to make a statement about more areas in March.
The compulsory programme, like the voluntary incentives scheme, is based on the dual philosophy of reward for clean animals and owner involvement. It thus provides for the payment of incentives at the same rates as under the incentives scheme, but for a shorter period. In addition, it places on owners the responsibility for having their reactors slaughtered, and provides for the payment of a flat-rate grant towards the cost of replacement stock.
This approach represents a new concept in animal disease eradication and offers a number of advantages over the old slaughter and compensation arrangements.
First, by offering incentives in respect of clean animals, it encourages herd owners to take steps to clean up their herds and take precautions against infection before compulsion reaches them.
Second, by continuing incentives for one year after accreditation, it offers encouragement to the owner to insure his herd—and here I must stress how vital it is for owners of accredited herds to insure their animals against losses due to re-infection. Insurances have so far been disappointing, and I warn farmers of the vital need to cover themselves in this direction.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
What parallel provision will the Minister be making to compensate agricultural workers for loss of earnings?
§ Mr. Prior
I do not see the relevance of that question at this stage. We are simply giving agriculture a chance to replace stock infected with brucellosis by clean stock. This will be the best safeguard that agricultural workers can have for their employment. Indeed, one of the main objectives of the eradication of this disease is to safeguard the health of agricultural workers, and the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the importance of this aspect. I therefore do not see the relevance of his question.
§ Mr. Prior
The third advantage is that by requiring the owner to arrange for the slaughter of his own reactors, it puts on him the onus of getting the best possible price for them.
Fourth, by removing from Ministers the task of valuing reactors and arranging for their slaughter, we save administrative costs and the time of Government staff, who can be better employed on the task of eradication itself.
Only parts of this "package" are covered by existing legislation. The remainder are dealt with in Clause 1, which enables the Minister and the Secretary of State to require owners of brucellosis reactors to arrange for their slaughter and to provide that, when they are so required, they shall retain the carcase value and may be paid compensation in the form of a flat-rate headage payment. Subsection (4) gives Ministers powers to act in default of the owner, but subsection (5) requires them to hand over to the owner the sum realised for the carcase less any reasonable expenses incurred.
We consider that the terms which are being offered to herd owners under our eradication scheme are fair and reasonable. We have, however, already agreed with the unions that heavily infected herds may present a special problem and that their position should be reviewed this summer. We have said that any improvement in the financial terms which may come out of the review will be applied retrospectively to heavily infected herds already taking part in the scheme.
58 As far as I can see, this is the only possible case where the livelihood of farm workers might be at stake—that is, where a herd must be totally given up, in which case the farm worker might find himself without a herd to look after.
For this and other reasons we need to carry out this review in some detail. We shall then be able to assess the experience of herd owners in the initial areas. I know that already in certain of the eradication areas there has been a feeling that we should not wait until mid-summer before carrying out this review. I am, therefore, arranging for a survey to be carried out in the next few weeks with the aim of bringing forward the date of this special review, but, of course, what will happen after that must depend very much on the results of the review.
We are dealing at the moment only with quite small areas and relatively small numbers of heavily infected herds. It will not necessarily be easy to decide what steps should be taken as a result of these quite small numbers of affected herds. But this is a very important point, and I assure hon. Gentlemen that we are looking at it very seriously indeed.
§ Mr. Prior
I am prepared to look at this sort of thing—no one wants to see farm workers done out of a job as a result of this kind of action—but I do not think that we want to exaggerate it, either. The number of herds which will be given up as a result of this action is comparatively small. So far, the results of the test have shown a very satisfactory picture but we shall certainly see what is involved. I have not had anything recently from the N.U.A.W. on this subject.
Clause 2 fills a small gap in our powers to protect public health. Zoonoses are diseases which can be transmitted from animals to humans either by contact between the two or because infection may be present in meat or other food of animal origin. To a large extent the public are protected against the food risk by normal public health safeguards but these operate only in relation to farm produce, and cases can arise in which we do not have powers to go inside the 59 farm to investigate and, if necessary, take action where there is a risk that infected animals may threaten human health.
Clause 2 therefore gives us these extra powers to deal with designated diseases. The powers are intended, for the present, to enable us to deal with salmonellosis—which, in common parlance, is food poisoning. It will enable Ministers to declare places to be "infected places" and make them subject to various restrictions and requirements. For the most part, in dealing with salmonellosis the powers will be held in reserve for use only when the nature or weight of infection makes such a step necessary. There will be close consultation with the Secretary of State for Social Services.
The Clause also gives Ministers power to require that specified infections in animals should be reported to the Ministry or Department. By the selective use of the powers of entry and sampling that it contains, veterinary staffs will be able to investigate outbreaks where there appears to be a risk to public health. It will also allow for a closer study to be made of the disease.
Clause 3 should be welcomed by all people interested in the welfare of animals. The United Kingdom played a leading rôle in the preparation by the Council of Europe of a convention designed to safeguard the welfare of all warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals and birds during international journeys. When the right hon. Gentleman opposite goes to Europe in future he can feel satisfied that he will be well looked after during air transport! Her Majesty's Government cannot ratify this convention until we have regulations for all species. Existing regulations for animals associated with agriculture are being extended to cover air transport, and the Clause will enable provision to be made for other categories of animals as well, and for the carriage of animals by hovercraft.
I now turn to slaughterhouses. We have a situation in which, although the licensing of private slaughterhouses is done by local authorities, the Minister is required to approve the grant of all licences for new or substantially improved private slaughterhouses. This control, in fact, serves little purpose, because if it is exercised restrictively it 60 means either refusing developments designed to meet the changing pattern of the industry or preventing desirable improvements which would raise hygiene standards. The second consideration is that a number of public slaughterhouses are operating at a loss, yet there is a requirement on local authorities to ensure adequate slaughtering facilities, and the charges they may make for the use of public slaughterhouses are subject to Ministerial control.
One way to deal with the situation would be to pay heavy subsidies to public slaughterhouses. Hon. Members opposite will not be surprised to know that I believe this to be the wrong course to take. The proper way to deal with the situation is to remove the controls on both local authorities and private enterprise so that facilities will be provided economically where they are needed but, in so doing, to ensure that there is no relaxation of hygiene standards. We propose, therefore, that local authorities should be relieved of their obligation to provide facilities and of Ministerial control over their charges. At the same time, the requirement of Ministerial approval of new licences should also be removed.
This provision will mean that local authorities alone will deal with licences, but they will issue them only to applicants who obtain planning permission and can satisfy the necessary statutory and hygiene requirements. They will also be free to compete with private enterprise or to lease or dispose of their slaughterhouses as they see fit. As a result, we hope to give flexibility for the development of slaughterhouses at a time when the future needs of the meat industry are uncertain. "Flexibility" is a word constantly used by the right hon. Gentleman, so I hope that he will approve of our action.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
Will the Minister tell the House what is likely to happen in those areas where after this Measure is passed, if it is passed, local authorities withdraw these services which, in some cases, lose money? In those cases is it not likely that there will not be any slaughterhouses at all, because those are the very areas which will not be graced by the interest of private enterprise? Does it not mean, 61 therefore, that there will be very substantial areas not served by slaughterhouses at all?
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
Does the Minister mean that we are to get rid of all the provisions in the 1958 Act for the concentration of slaughterhouse facilities?
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)
The Minister has said that the Government are anxious to relieve local authorities of their responsibility for providing public slaughterhouses. Will he indicate what thought the Government gave to relieving those same local authorities of debts incurred in providing public slaughterhouse facilities? The debt in the City of Manchester was £4,160,000.
§ Mr. Prior
I do not at this stage want to comment on slaughterhouses in Manchester. I know that the city is losing a lot of money, but I think that we can leave this point for discussion in Committee.
I turn now to the final Clause in the first group. Clause 9 implements the decisions which I announced to the House on 4th August last year to liberalise controls over the improvement of livestock. It has always seemed wrong to me that detailed controls over breeding quality should be in the hands of Governments; so far as is possible it should be left to the breeder to decide on the type and quality of animal which is best suited to his purposes.
My colleagues and I put this view to the industry in a series of extremely interesting, stimulating and controversial meetings during the course of last year. We found that most of the organisations concerned with boar breeding were prepared to agree that boar licensing should end. The pig is particularly suitable for selection on the basis of performance, and this has reduced the importance of assess- 62 ment by visual inspection—on which licensing is based. But selection on the basis of performance is not so far advanced for cattle as it is for pigs, and bull breeders were concerned that the complete abolition of licensing might lead to the use for breeding of "scrub" bulls and bulls with hereditable defects.
So we decided to retain bull licensing but to simplify it in a way which will give breeders more freedom of choice in the selection of sires; in particular, the chance to use crossbreds if they so wish. Bull breeders have accepted that these simplified arrangements will be sufficient to guard against the re-emergence of those characteristics that they thought might come about. The Clause therefore contains the necessary provision for these changes in sire licensing.
The Clause also ends the licensing of exports of semen and removes the requirement that breeding animals may be imported only for exceptional purposes—although the associated veterinary controls will continue to be rigorously enforced.
I am glad to tell the House that this package of new arrangements, which will give the industry a far greater responsibility for running its own affairs, has proved to be broadly acceptable to it. There are some doubters, but I think that as time has gone on most of them are in the process of being won over.
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
Is the Minister suggesting that the visual assessment of a bull is a more reliable guide to its performance than the visual assessment of a boar? Can he put forward one scientific argument which applies in the case of boars but not in the case of bulls?
§ Mr. Prior
These are all arguments which have been put to me at great length from various sections of the industry. No doubt when we come to the Committee stage we shall have long discussions on this point. Whereas I think that the performance testing of pigs is now well advanced, I should like to see the same sort of state of affairs existing for bulls, and the sooner it comes about the better. But there is a real fear of "scrub" bulls and of hereditable deformities, and I took that into consideration. We have moved a very long way, too far for some, but not far enough for others.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
What is the Minister's real object here? Is it to reduce Government intervention and cost or is it to give more freedom to farmers?
§ Mr. Prior
It is both and a good many other things as well. The use of crossbred bulls can enormously help the industry. The lack of interference by my Department will also help to a minor degree.
I now come to the second group of clauses, Clauses 10 to 13, which deal with the provision of grants and loans. Here I will particularly mention the provisions relating to the encouragement of farm amalgamations. The farm structure schemes were widely welcomed when they were introduced in 1967. Unfortunately they have proved much less effective than was hoped, mainly because the administrative requirements imposed by the 1967 Act were too cumbersome. Under the present schemes we are approving only about 900 amalgamations a year in the whole of the United Kingdom, and the total number of amalgamations approved by the end of 1971 was only 2,816.
Clause 10 will enable a grant to be paid to amalgamators based on the extra acres absorbed by the enlarged unit, instead of the present special grant for remodelling works and incidental expenses. This change will enable a simpler scheme to be drawn up with fewer delays and faster payments and it will provide an incentive for all those potential amalgamations where the need is not so much for more fixed equipment as for more working capital. It will also be possible under this Clause to approve a slightly wider range of amalgamations.
Clause 11 will abolish Schedule 3 of the Agriculture Act, 1967. It thus removes what has proved to be a major factor deterring farmers and landowners from accepting the incentives to farm amalgamations. In future, instead of using land charges to prevent sub-divisions or non-agricultural use of units amalgamated with grant aid, Ministers are enabled to deal with this matter by applying a condition of grant binding on the recipient personally and requiring him to repay his grant together with a sum related to any payment to the outgoer if the condition was breached within five 64 years. In cases where the present arrangements apply, the period of restriction would also be reduced from 15 to 5 years. With these changes, more effective help would be given towards the improvement of farm structure which modern farming requires.
The final group of Clauses, that is Clauses 14 to 21, comprises miscellaneous provisions which are designed to improve and simplify administration or reduce Government intervention. I would mention in passing Clause 14, because it emphasises my determination that safety on farms shall continue to be of major importance, before turning to Clauses 19 and 20 which are the two remaining major provisions in the Bill.
Clauses 19 and 20 follow an announcement I made last January in a White Paper. I then announced changes in the work of my Ministry, including the replacement of County Agricultural Executive Committees by small regional panels. There are 58 of these committees, which, with their sub-committees and district committees, totalled over 300 bodies. Since 1948 these committees and their counterparts in Scotland have given valuable assistance to successive Ministers. I should like to pay tribute on behalf of the industry as a whole to their voluntary and public-spirited work in the interests of British agriculture over many years.
But the many tasks that they were called upon to perform have been progressively reduced. The role of the County Agricultural Executive Committees today is mainly to provide a two-way channel of communication between the Government and the Local sectors of the agricultural industry and to hear representations in grant and subsidy cases where farmers are dissatisfied with officials' decisions. The volume of this work no longer justifies an extensive and elaborate committee system or the time and effort of members and officials involved. I am confident that the regional panels, on the other hand, will prove to be the right kind of bodies to carry out this role in the future. In Scotland, certain of the review and advisory functions of the committees will be transferred to a single advisory body to be constituted by extending the membership and functions of the Winter Keep Panel. Of some 260 sub and district committees in England and 65 Wales at the end of 1970, more than 200 (37 sub-committees and 169 district committees) have been wound up already, and Clause 19 abolishes the 58 County Agricultural Executive Committees in England and Wales and the 11 Agricultural Executive Committees in Scotland.
Clause 20, for similar reasons of improved administrative efficiency, abolishes the 11 Agricultural Wages Committees in Scotland. Their few remaining functions will, in future, be carried out by the Departmental Wages and Safety Inspectorate of the Secretary of State. We are not, however, disbanding the corresponding 46 committees in England and Wales because they will have an important rôle of conciliation to play in connection with a new statutory wages structure scheme which will he coming into operation in a short time.
The financial and manpower effects of the Bill are approximately as follows. Clauses 5, 9 and 19 imply direct savings in manpower of more than 100 staff, and some measures will enable indirect savings in manpower to be made as well. On the other hand, Clauses 2 and 10 may require up to 25 additional staff building up over a period of years. On balance, therefore, there is a by no means insignificant saving in manpower which in turn result in savings in administrative expenses of about £400,000 annually. We do not foresee any significant increase in planned public expenditure resulting from the Bill.
This is a short Bill but it affects many sectors of the agricultural industry. I am sure hon. Members will agree with me that it is a thoroughly worthwhile measure, and it gives me great pleasure to commend it to the House.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)
I thank the Minister for his personal remarks and for his tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes).
I was surprised at the Minister's strange remarks about conversations with a leading political journalist and how these would inspire the tone of today's debate. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not in any way responsible for any articles which have been written by a political journalist and which have 66 appeared either in an agricultural journal or in any other journal about a debate in the House. Naturally, the Minister and I meet journalists, but we are responsible for our own attitudes and speeches.
I was tempted to intervene at the beginning of the Minister's speech and mention agricultural policy and its effect upon farmers and consumers, but we are not debating these matters today. The election manifesto of the Conservative Party made promises about prices. It said that a Tory Governmentwill retain the Annual Price Review system, the production grant system … but will introduce levies on imports".It is all laid down in the Minister's own charter and is a programme for three years. It mentions how theresultant small increase in food prices will amount to just over a penny in the £ per year on the cost of living for three years".On a previous occasion we heard from the Minister that he does not take his own Prime Minister seriously. I should love to debate this matter, but I should be out of order if I were to attempt to do so. I hope that the Minister, too, will leave the argument for another day.
The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 16th November last. I believe that this is the first time for 20 years that an agriculture Bill has been started in the Lords. I am not complaining. There may be reasons for its being introduced in another place. The Government may be in difficulty over their legislative programme. On the other hand, the Bill may not be regarded by those responsible for the management of Government business as very important and, therefore, they do not give it a high priority. Or it may be pure accident and neither of those two reasons may apply.
In know only that the Minister of State, Scottish Office, who was responsible for introducing the Bill in the Lords, said this about the Bill:At first sight it appears to cover a very wide range of measures which appear to have little relation to each other …it is wise to tackle those provisions that require legislation as agriculture develops rather than to wait to improve them in some major Bill."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 16th November, 1971; c. 590.]That is an implication that this is not a major Bill. I believe that parts of the Bill are important. I would call it an 67 important Bill, not a major Bill. I say only that a Minister of State responsible for introducing the Bill in another place said that it was not a major Bill. We must probe and examine this Bill of 24 Clauses and five Schedules.
It may well be that Ministers and officials are preoccupied with other, more important matters. The harmonisation of our agricultural legislation and practice with the needs of the European Economic Community is coming—at least, we understand so. The Minister has my sympathy. That sympathy increases every day the more I watch the efforts of his European counterparts to create a common agricultural policy. As yet there is no common agricultural policy. There is certainly no free trade in agricultural goods and produce in the Community.
This legislation, part of which we approve in principle and which we shall probe in detail in Committee, may be affected by some of the legislation and regulations which will emerge in the Community, if and when we join the Community. There is still an "if" about that, even though we are near the day for signing a Treaty of Accession.
In another place the Minister of State, Scottish Office used the phrase—"as agriculture develops". Agriculture is always developing. What we must ask today is: how does it develop, and what does it develop into? If the Government unfold positive and progressive policies for agriculture, they must create a new legislative framework. On the other hand, if the Government seek to arrest or negate existing policies, inevitably and inexorably existing legislation will be frustrated and repealed. We can see the pattern emerging in the Bill.
I therefore hope that my hon. Friends will probe the Government's policies, or lack of policies, and will ask what are the policies which inspire the Bill and many of the detailed measures. We must ask whether the Bill contains any innovations. Have the Government sought to build on the policies and structure of previous Governments, whether Labour or Conservative? Have the Government sought by means of legislation to reverse policies—in other words, to turn back the clock? Are the Government being 68 doctrinal or pragmatic? Are the Government, or is the Minister, wedded to a particular philosophy? These are important questions when discussing the details of any agriculture Bill.
The Minister's own philosophy is germane to our discussions today. After all, we shall have plenty of time in Committee to consider the legislative minutiae of the Bill. It is in Committee that we shall examine the Bill Clause by Clause and will table what we regard as necessary Amendments.
The question whether the Government are being doctrinal or pragmatic about agriculture through measures in the Bill could be very important, especially as the Government claim from time to time that they are committed to the philosophy and practice of competition. They argue that we must return to the principles of laissez faire that inspired Adam Smith in another century. I assume that the Minister still believes in the no-lame duck approach and has a passionate, even if a morbid, desire for less State intervention. That emerges from an examination of the details of the Bill.
I can understand the Minister's approach. I always admire the right hon. Gentleman for his frankness, which gets him into difficulties. But I can never understand how he or the Government can square it with their defence of the managed market, support buying, a rigid import levy system and, above all, the creation of a vast bureaucracy in Brussels. The Minister talked about freeing the British farmers from bureaucracy.
§ Mr. John E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
The right hon. Gentleman must know that the administration of agricultural policy in Brussels is done by fewer than 400 civil servants, about one-tenth of the number employed at the Ministry of Agriculture.
§ Mr. Peart
I do not see why I should regret it. After all, a commissioner in the Community, Professor Dahrendorf, has condemned this bureaucracy in 69 speeches and in articles. One only has to look at some of the regulations which have emerged and see how they are to be implemented if we enter the Community. I merely say that the right hon. Gentleman is a passionate admirer of this system, and I cannot square it with the views that he has expressed today and his actions in connection with this Bill.
When we examine the Bill we see that in certain policies the Minister is building on decisions of previous Administrations. I refer to farm amalgamations and the control of animal diseases, which flow from certain legislative procedures which this House has approved on an all-party basis from time to time. But, on the other hand, the Bill contains policies which I believe represent a reversal and a negation of existing legislation. I refer to Clause 19, which repeals those provisions of the 1947 Act dealing with county agricultural executive committees. In other words, the Minister is doing a demolition job, to quote the words in an article in the Land Worker. In addition, his policy in relation to slaughter house control is reactionary and bad; it will do harm and it will not be acceptable by the industry.
As the Minister rightly said, we must consider the Bill in three parts. Clauses 1 to 9 deal with livestock, and then there is the second part—Clauses 10 to 13—covering farm structure, the abolition of marketing facilities, payments into and out of the agricultural marketing funds, and the increase in advances to the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation Ltd. Those provisions form a clear part of the Bill. Then in the third part—Clauses 14 to 21—there are the miscellaneous provisions whereby the Government seek in their own way to improve administration and, as the Minister said today and has repeated elsewhere, to remove Government intervention.
I do not believe that we on this side of the House can oppose in principle the first part of the Bill. We agree in general with the amendments to the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, though no doubt some of my hon. Friends will wish to explore this matter in Committee and will ask questions on points of detail. We agree with the Minister that it is right to speed up the measures dealing with brucellosis. I was privileged to intro- 70 duce a scheme relating to brucellosis. I agree that it was rather belated, but Ministers before me did not do anything. I pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House in this connection, including the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) who prodded both Governments and who worked so hard as a back bencher; he had some responsibility for creating an agricultural climate which forced action. I can assure hon. Members opposite that I took note of his speeches and questions which he addressed to me.
I am glad that I introduced such a scheme, although it is right and proper that we should examine any defects in that scheme. I approve of what has been done in this Bill. As the Minister and others have said, one-third of the United Kingdom dairy herds are infected with brucellosis. According to official figures, there are losses amounting to £2 million every year. Then there is the problem involving human beings. In another place it has been stated that about 1,000 human beings a year are affected. This is very important, and the Department is to be congratulated on the action that it is taking. The voluntary schemes are to be reinforced by compulsory eradication in selected areas, which started in November of 1971. I am sure that my hon. Friends agree with this and that they will support this part of the Bill. I am very glad that the problem is to be tackled in this way.
Clause 2 deals with diseases which can be transmitted to human beings. I am thinking, for instance, of food poisoning. We all approve of the powers which the Minister is taking to restrict the movements of livestock and to make amendments in the Diseases of Animals Act, as well as introducing control of premises which need to be disinfected. We all agree about the need to take greater care of animals in transit, and we recognise the convention which was approved by the Council of Europe. I do not know why the Minister looks at me quizzically when I say that; perhaps it is because of my views on Europe. When I was a member of the Council of Europe and served on the Agricultural Committee I did my best to put forward the United Kingdom point of view. We are very glad that a lead was taken in this direction and we approve of the legislation which is now before us.
71 Clause 4 deals with milk. Some of the recommendations of the Northumberland Committee on foot-and-mouth disease are being put into effect. Reference has been made in another place to evidence which was presented to the Northumberland Committee by the Agricultural Workers Union on this matter. I shall raise this point again in Committee because I think it is a Committee point. It relates to compensation. This is a matter which ought to be raised on Clause 5, too.
I now come to Clauses relating to a matter which I believe is causing great concern in certain sections of the community. I beg of the Minister not to be arrogant about this, for it concerns some of our leading local authorities. Many of my hon. Friends feel very strongly about this, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney), Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) and Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker). My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has supplied me with detailed information which was given to her by her town clerk and the Association of Municipal Corporations. We know that they have been worried about this, and the Parliamentary Secretary had many interviews with the bodies concerned. I understand that he received their representations and conveyed them to the Minister. In the end the Department has taken a decision. I believe it has at this stage taken the wrong decision.
It is now to be mandatory for local authorities to grant new slaughter licences without regard to the adequacy of the existing slaughtering facilities in the area, subject only to compliance with the hygiene and construction requirements. This is not good enough. One has only to read the evidence which has been submitted by the municipal authorities, giving their reasons for opposing this change in policy and stating vigorously that this change will produce no overall benefit. The case was argued in great detail. They assert that the removal of licensing restrictions is likely to increase the over-provision of facilities already existing and that the increased competition in the slaughtering industry is likely to lead to lower standards rather than greater efficiency. Moreover, local authority abattoirs may be forced to close, with 72 resulting serious waste of public money. A lot of these slaughterhouses—I have a list here—were opened in recent years, in 1964, 1965, 1966, and so on, at considerable capital expenditure, and they have had the approval of the Ministry. Many of the schemes were conceived and planned before the Labour Government came in. So all of us on both sides have a responsibility for encouraging local authorities in many of our great cities to provide up-to-date slaughtering facilities. Yet now the Government are rejecting that approach.
The local authorities rightly argue that the closures which may occur could bring about a lowering of the general level of slaughtering standards. Further, they argue—this brings it back to the European context for a moment—that the raising of slaughtering standards up to the higher standard required for meat exporters to the E.E.C. countries could be further delayed. The Minister is well aware of the argument in that respect which has been put forward by those responsible for our public abattoirs.
The local authorities say, further, that an increase in the number of private slaughterhouses will put an additional burden on local authorities, particularly in the rural areas, and they argue also that the wholesale meat traders using public abattoirs may be forced out of business.
Broadly, therefore, the local authorities say that the Government's proposal is likely to be against the public interest. There is force in their argument that, before acting so positively in this matter, the Government would have been far wiser to have a major inquiry. In my view, this should have been done. I realise that inquiries can be tiresome, but there was an inquiry about slaughtering facilities which inspired the previous main legislation on this matter, as the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) knows from his contacts with the industry. There is now a new situation. I agree that there was also the Verdon-Smith inquiry in the intervening period, which inspired measures which still exist. I maintain that there is a case for a committee of inquiry, perhaps not of the Verdon-Smith type but a specific inquiry into slaughterhouse facilities.
73 The Minister knows that if we enter the E.E.C. we shall probably have to adopt new animal regulations. Nothing has been decided yet—this has been the subject of argument on other occasions—and there is to be some sort of European body to look into the matter, but we may well have to harmonise our legislation with the Community's regulations. We are bound to do so if we believe in Europe, as the Minister so passionately does. Therefore, what we decide now regarding meat inspection, slaughtering and so forth could be very much affected by our entry into Europe. Would it not have been better, therefore, to wait before taking such drastic action as is proposed in the Bill? Would it not have been better to take note of what the local authorities have said?
This is a matter about which the producers are concerned, too. I have here a document from the National Farmers' Union. No doubt the Minister has seen it.
§ Mr. Peart
I know that the Minister has had representations from the N.F.U.; it is an important body. This is what it says in its document:The proposals for changes in slaughterhouse legislation embodied in Clause 6 of the Bill give rise to considerable concern.Those are not the words of the local authorities, which have a direct responsibility to the ratepayers in their local areas. This is the national union of the producers expressing their concern.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
If the right hon. Gentleman will read a little further, he will be able to inform the House that the concern of the National Farmers' Union is in a sense opposite to that which he is now presenting.
§ Mr. Peart
No. The N.F.U. says: "It can be envisaged"—[Interruption.] We have read it. Apparently, the hon. Lady the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) has not read it. She is wrong in what she says. I do not wish to trouble the House with long quotations. If the hon. Lady cares to see me afterwards, I will show her the document. The National Farmers' Union sums the matter up in this way: 74For these reasons"—I shall explain those reasons to the hon. Lady later—the National Farmers' Union feels that a strong case can be made out for retaining, albeit in a more streamlined form, a residual interest of Government either central or local in the provision of adequate local slaughtering facilities, at least until the rationalisation of slaughtering and distribution has proceeded far enough to make such an interest unnecessary.In other words, the view of the National Farmers' Union expressed in this document—I think that I have put it moderately—accords with my own view. There is the need for a committee of inquiry, and I again say that that would have been the correct approach.
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman
I have read the document. If the right hon. Gentleman, instead of going over to the next page, had continued with the first page those hon. Members who may not have seen it would have been made aware that he has been misquoting. The National Farmers' Union is concerned that there should be proper and adequate provision and that, if some slaughterhouses close, private provision may not be permitted to take over. The N.F.U. feels that this might be a result of the Bill, and that is the cause of its concern—which is the exact opposite of what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
Before moving to the next matter, will my right hon. Friend take it that, in addition to the anxieties expressed by the local authorities and by the National Farmers' Union, there is serious concern among many meat traders about the consequences for their trade?
§ Mr. Peart
Yes, I know that to be so. I hope that my hon. Friends will be able to emphasise these points during the debate.
I come now to Clauses 10 to 13, which deal with farm structure. Here, I welcome what the Government have decided. Provisions for amalgamation have been a feature of our legislation for some years. They were included not only in the 1967 Act, for which I had responsibility, but also, for example, in Section 16 of the 1957 Act and Section 81 of the 1947 Act. Over the years we have had a good deal of legislation on farm amalgamations.
I believe that the 1967 Act made a major step forward, but I have always recognised that it would have to be re-examined. The changes now proposed are an improvement. Not only does a farmer have to have new buildings; he has to have working capital as well. I, therefore, very much approve of what is proposed here regarding amalgamations. It is an essential part of our policy that there should be larger units.
At the same time, however, I hope that, in pursuing his policy of amalgamation, the Minister will continue vigorously to pursue the policy of co-operation through the Central Council for Agricultural and Horticultural Co-operation. I am sure that he will do that, and I believe that the two should run in parallel.
I come now to the third group of Clauses, Clauses 14 to 21. I agree that it was right, in Clause 14, to raise the fine for an infringement of safety, health and welfare arrangements from the maximum of £50 to £100. Hon. Members on both sides will accept that.
Clause 18 abolishes the statistics advisory committees. I suppose that the purpose is to end bureaucracy, but I have a new document, which is now in the Vote Office, dealing with the need to establish a system of statistics on farm incomes and economics in the Euro- 76 pean Economic Community. I hope that hon. Members have read the document carefully. It explains a series of regulations which flow from decisions of the Community and which will be binding on this country when we sign the Treaty of Accession. The Minister should be extremely careful about abolishing a body which has worked. The committee may have ceased to have a function, but the right hon. Gentleman has not put up such an argument yet. He has merely used the argument about saving manpower and avoiding bureaucracy, but the E.E.C. rules provide that1. Each member State shall, within three months from the date of entry into force of this Regulation,"—I am quoting the relevant main regulation—establish for each of its districts a committee hereinafter called 'Regional Committee.'2. A Regional Committee shall consist of not more than 12 members representing:—the government—the farmers—the agricultural accountancy offices,and so on.
There are great elaborations on that, and the number of statistics and papers that will have to be filled in when we finally subscribe to the regulations will be much more, and will place many more burdens on the farming community, than is the case under our existing legislation. The Minister could have been a little cautious about the need to do a demolition job on the committee. He may well need such a body if and when we enter the Community.
Clause 19 contains a major decision, to abolish county agricultural executive committees, but also the rather odd decision to abolish the Bees Advisory Committee, which existed to prevent the spread of pests and disease among bees. It was created by the 1941 Act and has been kept going for a long time. I find it strange to link it with county committees. Why is that provision in Clause 19 instead of being dealt with separately? Has the Minister a bee in his bonnet about the Clause?
I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's abolition of county committees. The decision in principle was taken earlier, and now the Bill is to give it legislative effect by repealing the relevant Sections of the 1947 Act. The Minister 77 is making a mistake. I believe that the regional committees or panels will not be an adequate substitute for bodies that have worked well. They may have been embarrassing for Ministers, and at times irksome and tiresome when they sought to represent the views of the county on issues of concern to the Department, such as the impact of the Price Review, but it was always good and proper that a Minister should from time to time meet not only in the regions but in the counties those farm leaders who occupied important positions on the agricultural executive committees. The committees represented a unique partnership in the industry. They arose from the committees of the last war and were enshrined in the 1947 Act, and they have worked over the years. I have never thought that there was any major criticism of their roôle. I cannot accept the view that the reason for abolishing them is to save £150,000 as stated in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum.
Why is the right hon. Gentleman abolishing the committees at this stage when we want more devolution of responsibility to the grass roots? The committees represented co-operation at the grass roots of the industry. Their maximum number was 12. Five were Ministry nominees, generally independent people representing a particular aspect of agricultural interest. There were three representatives from the farmers' union, two from the agricultural workers' union and two from the Country Landowners Association. The men who served on those committees worked well together. We also had committees at a district level.
Why are they to be scrapped? Is it for doctrinal reasons; to save money; because they have failed? Is it that the industry has not responded? I never felt that, even when sometimes the county committees were critical of the policy for which I had a responsibility. I always found from 1964 to 1968—
§ Mr. Peart
The year 1968 is not so long ago. I found that the committees had an important roôle to play, and I have found nothing to the contrary in my experience of the farming community 78 since then. The abolition of the committees is a mistake, and one day we shall regret it. Is the purpose to see that there is more centralisation?
Why destroy county committees at this stage, or take action over the municipal slaughterhouses, when major local government reform is on the way and new structures will inevitably emerge? The county councils had a liaison through their old agricultural committees. Before destroying such a pattern, would not it have been far better to wait for a major reform of our local government structure? I cannot understand why the Minister is being so positive about the matter now. Is it because he is doctrinal, or is it because we are to enter Europe and therefore it does not matter about farming opinion here, because all that we shall be concerned about is the new European organisation?
The Price Review will have gone, in terms of the 1947 Act, together with assured markets and guaranteed prices. The principles endorsed even by Conservative Administrations after the 1947 Act will have been thrown to the wind. Are the Government now saying, "Let us complete the process and destroy the administration which was needed to carry out that policy"? I hope that the Minister will be honest about the reasons. I believe that that is the reason, that that is why he is butchering the committees, destroying something which has worked. In the long run he will be sorry. At a stroke he can easily destroy a partnership in the industry which has been built up over the years.
We have already seen the destruction of the Pennine Rural Development Board, a petty, spiteful decision, and attacks on the Advisory Service. Now the committees are to be abolished, together with the whole structure which emanated from a great partnership in the industry.
It is for those reasons that some of us do not like important parts of the Bill, particularly the slaughterhouse policy and the policy on an essential administration, one which is so important to enable the farming community to express its point of view to the Ministry and officials in Whitehall. Therefore, we criticise the Bill, and no doubt my hon. Friends will wish to oppose its Second Reading.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I welcome this opportunity to speak on agriculture, but first I congratulate the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) on his return as the Opposition Front Bench spokesman on agriculture. He is back in agricultural harness again. It is not very often, in my farming knowledge, that, once it has jumped out of the shafts, a horse is allowed to get back again. It is a rare occurrence and we welcome the right hon. Gentleman back. I also want to pay a small tribute to his predecessor, who has played his part in our debates.
I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman has improved in his absence from the shafts. We have heard again his usual phrases—such as "looking at things"—which he has repeated time and again. But we welcome him back, and we on this side can only hope that now, after a very long time, we shall begin to know exactly what the Socialist Party's policies are for agriculture. For many months we have simply had criticism. Now, perhaps, with the right hon. Gentleman's return to the shafts after having been out to grass, we shall hear about the new policies of the Socialist Party. The farmers want to know what those policies are, particularly in relation to the Common Market, import controls and levies, which are so important to them. The farmers want to know how the Labour Party would support agriculture. It is not good enough for the Opposition simply to criticise. Now that we have the right hon. Gentleman back, we look forward with the greatest interest to hearing what he has to say on these subjects.
I welcome and endorse what my right hon. Friend said. I confirm what he said about the change in agriculture. There is no question that output is up. The financial returns are better, there is increased productivity and, above all, there is a new-found confidence. This spreads right from the South-West to all the other places I have visited recently, and it is to be welcomed. Of course there are still many problems. I am not saying that all is 100 per cent. perfect. But at least the farmers have heart again; they have a will to go ahead again.
There is a tremendous task ahead as we enter the Common Market, and the pump needs to be primed, and primed 80 even more, because I believe sincerely that agriculture can and must cut the cost of our entry into Europe. It has a tremendous roôle to play, but this means that the wherewithal must be given, and that must be found at the forthcoming Price Review. Nevertheless, there is a changed situation, and I believe that farmers have confidence again.
The Bill is truly miscellaneous. It is almost like a package of licorice allsorts—there is something for everyone. Clause 19 concerns bees. Clause 3 deals with animals other than four-footed beasts so as to include cold-blooded creatures. Clause 2 deals with the control of zoo-noses. But even from such a miscellaneous Bill there are certain omissions, although I am not really criticising my right hon. Friend for that. I am speaking in the spirit of reminding him when I say that certain other things should have been included.
For example, I am very concerned about the whole question of the storage of cereals, particularly in the future when perhaps we shall have the intervention price and grain has to be stored. I think that the Bill could possibly prepare the ground particularly for further grants for storage. It may be that we shall have to give merchants grants to store grain rather than give them to the farmers for this purpose. All these things have to be looked into.
Again, why not include some help or provision to improve our slaughterhouses in order to bring them up to a higher standard? I believe that this is necessary but I shall return to that point later. Why not also include some legislation which will give the Meat and Livestock Commission something better to do? I am a fairly severe critic of the Commission, on which £15 million has been spent, so that it is a very expensive body. Again I remind my right hon. Friend that the Commission has a task to perform.
Then, some of us in agriculture are very concerned about methods of housing and tethering animals. One might consider this a small matter but certain trends alarm me. I have received a pamphlet called "The Iron Maiden", showing a truly horrible piece of equipment. There are various trends in tethering and housing animals which are alarming, and perhaps these should be dealt with in the Bill.
81 Clause 1 deals with the compulsory slaughter of animals infected with brucellosis, and we welcome this. It is a nasty problem. It is vital to the agricultural workers that the disease be cleared up. If we can do this, it will benefit not only the farmers but the farm workers and their children, because many people are infected by the disease. I would have thought that the National Union of Agricultural Workers would welcome what the Ministry is trying to do to eradicate the disease to the benefit of farm workers and their children.
I believe that the disease is very expensive. I sometimes wonder whether people realise just how expensive it is at present. Over the last six to seven months the cost of a dairy replacement has gone up by £70. The cost of a Friesian in calf is now about £200, while an Ayrshire costs about £170. If we go into an area eradication scheme, it will be very expensive, and the £30 compensation paid at present is not nearly enough. If we are to eradicate the disease, as we must, a much bigger sum of money will have to be provided.
From the reports I have had, the situation is difficult. Many famers are in despair. Progress has undoubtedly been made, certainly in the South-West and particularly in Devon and other areas, but more must be done. The hard core of the problem is those farmers who have done nothing about it so far. Among them the disease is pretty prevalent and the cost will be great. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has promised to look at the matter carefully, particularly the question of compensation.
Clause 3 extends the definition of "animals" to other than four-footed animals, and most of us will welcome this. It also deals with the conditions of animals in transit, and at least they can be improved. Some of us have had many letters on this subject. Judging from newspaper reports, much misery and cruelty has been caused to animals in transit. Surely this is one of the things we should remedy speedily.
Clauses 6 and 7 deal with changes in legislation concerning slaughterhouses. We must provide adequate slaughterhouse facilities, particularly if the industry is to expand, and if we go into the Common Market—as we shall—increased production at home will mean that slaughter- 82 house facilities will need to be increased. What I am saying does not militate against what the Minister is doing in the Bill.
I believe in co-operative slaughterhouses. What has happened in Torrington on these lines is an object lesson in how to slaughter meat for the farmer, the consumer and the trade in general. One of the great advantages of co-operation in the use of slaughterhouse facilities is that all three sides of the business are at one. In the North Devon area the profits and bonuses go back to the retailer, the wholesaler and all concerned. I look forward to the day when many of these municipal slaughterhouses will be taken over by farmers and by the trade and put on a co-operative basis. This is the way things should go, and this legislation will give a chance for this to happen.
The National Farmers' Union has said that planning authorities must allow planning permission if public slaughterhouses are given up. Unfortunately, slaughterhouses are not very popular, yet they are vital, and, therefore, they should be modernised and brought up to date. Strong resentment is felt by local authorities on this subject, and the problems of effluent are very real. Therefore, the points raised by the N.F.U. need careful watching.
I welcome the suggestion by the N.F.U. that the Department of the Environment should be in touch with the Minister of Agriculture on planning, development and appeals. The Ministry and the Department should work together to find a satisfactory solution to these problems and to the proper siting of slaughterhouses. I strongly believe that slaughterhouses should be up to export standard. This will be costly, but the consumer has every right to have a high standard of hygiene, which is a matter of paramount importance. I know that in my part of the country the slaughterhouses are up to standard, but I must also point out that only 60 out of 2,000 slaughterhouses in this country are up to standard compared with those in the Community. This shows what a long way we are behind our future partners. One of the benefits of our going into the Community will be that our standards will be brought up to theirs. It will be interesting to know whether we shall receive encouragement from the Minister to carry out alterations.
83 I should like at this point to mention the problems which will be involved in the killing of chickens. Apparently, once we enter the Community every chicken will have to be inspected by a veterinary surgeon. At present this system is not followed in this country. Therefore, this is another rôle that slaughterhouses will be called upon to play.
I am concerned that if the E.E.C. regulations are enforced no freshly killed birds will be on sale in this country. This will mean that a chicken will not be on sale with its "innards". This is a serious matter because many people like to buy a bird unplucked, and this affects the shelf-life of a freshly killed bird. The Minister must look at this problem carefully. It is not necessary for all the birds to be killed and then to be frozen.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that all meat inspection should be carried out by the veterinary profession?
§ Mr. Mills
I am not suggesting that, but I am wondering whether the regulations which are to be imposed will be to the benefit of the poultry industry since this will affect those people who will wish to continue to buy live birds.
I turn to Clause 10, which relates to farm amalgamations. The Minister has introduced two major provisions, one relating to the change to an acreage basis, and the other to a reduction in the relevant period from 15 to five years. It will be recalled that we had a good deal of trouble with the Labour Government in getting the period down to 15 years. The right hon. Member for Workington said nothing about this matter today but now, sensibly, my right hon. Friend is bringing down the period to five years.
Something appears to be wrong with the farm amalgamation scheme because so few people take advantage of it. I would ask my right hon. Friend to say what further steps are needed to encourage farm amalgamations in order to make holdings viable and to give people a decent living from agriculture. As we move forward into the Common Market, the question of amalgamations will become more important. Perhaps we shall be told why this scheme has not been particularly successful.
84 Clause 13 deals with the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation and the amount of advances made by the Minister to that body. I must confess I am not happy about the way things are running in the A.M.C. Although it is important that the corporation should have funds, I feel that the whole business should be looked into. What of the future? If we go into the Common Market we shall face a problem in respect of subsidised interest rates. Will the A.M.C. be able to deal with the situation? This raises the question whether we really want subsidised interest rates. I personally do not want them. I think that British agriculture should stand on its own feet, and that we should have the right end-price so that a subsidy will not be necessary. This will enable agriculture to be treated in the same way as any other industry or business. Again, this matter needs careful examination.
What worries me is that the A.M.C. does not appear to be particularly flexible. Those who used these facilities two years ago when the Labour Administration were in power were paying 11½ per cent. —and they still have that burden hanging round their neck, even though the present Administration have brought down rates of interest. Therefore, those people are being penalised. I have received a letter from an auctioneer and estate agent on the subject of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, from which I should like to quote:I think solicitors and ourselves and accountants generally are finding it difficult to get quick decisions from the A.M.C. We are able to get a very good service from the building societies today, but in the case of the A.M.C. there is sometimes two to three months' delay before a decision is received. This is to be regretted and means that farmers are now having to turn to other sources for finance.Although I appreciate that my right hon. Friend has allowed the A.M.C. to have increased funds, I would ask him to examine its methods and look into the slow way in which it works.
Clause 14 deals with the important subject of the Agriculture (Poisonous Substances) Act, 1952, and I welcome the fact that anybody offending under this legislation will be liable to a fine of £100 rather than £50. I was wondering why my right hon. Friend did not include a provision to deal with the problem of substances which are put into lemonade 85 bottles—such as paraquat. It should be regarded as a most serious offence to put poisonous substances, such as paraquat, into lemonade bottles. Children have suffered in this way, and in Scotland, I believe, adults have died through drinking such liquids. This matter must be looked at in Committee.
There will certainly be some cost reductions. There is a plus of £30,000 in Clause 2 which is a good thing because it protects the consumer. In Clause 4 there is an increase which again protects the consumer. There is a definite saving in Clauses 5 and 9. In Clauses 10 and 11 there could be increases in costs, while Clause 19 contains further definite savings.
I was amused at the way in which the right hon. Member for Workington got so steamed up about these agricultural committees. This was his main theme, but I have not had any representations from the industry on this matter and I believe my right hon. Friend to be correct. It will be costly to eradicate the dreadful disease of brucellosis but it is a burden that we have to bear, in the interests of both the consumers and the farmers and farm workers.
I welcome the Bill. I do not share the fears expressed by the right hon. Member for Workington. The Bill contributes to British agriculture and will be of great help.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)
No one would dispute that there are features of this Bill which are of obvious merit. Clause 1, dealing with the fight to eradicate brucellosis, commends itself to reasonable opinion on both sides of the House.
I want to direct my remarks to Clauses 6 and 7. If the Bill is not amended, these Clauses would have disastrous consequences for major local authorities such as Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle and Sunderland and a host of others which provide public slaughterhouse facilities. If the Bill is not amended, it will not only be the animals which are gently led to the slaughter; the ratepayers of these major cities will be also.
Perhaps I could illustrate the point by outlining the circumstances which Manchester, as a major local authority, 86 has experienced in seeking to provide what are acknowledged in the industry indeed throughout the world to be high quality public abattoir facilities. In 1966 that city built an abattoir at a capital cost of £4,160,000. These public slaughtering facilities were provided with the encouragement of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Since then the abattoir has been costing the ratepayers about £400,000 annually. The ratepayers have been obliged to carry a rate burden of £1,000 a day to provide the level of slaughtering facilities which any community has a right to expect. Now the Government are amending the 1954 and 1958 Slaughterhouses Acts in a way which will facilitate the establishment of additional private slaughterhouses.
When Manchester built its abattoir it did so on the basis that it would be providing slaughtering facilities for a sub-region. Regrettably since then we have seen the establishment of a host of additional private slaughterhouses which, understandably, have competed with public facilities, so much so that the envisaged annual through-put of 225,000 animal units has never materialised at Manchester. Successive Ministries have encouraged the establishment of private slaughterhouses, and it might be thought that this is not such a bad thing. What is more important is whether those slaughterhouses have a similar standard of hygiene and public health.
The Manchester abattoir enjoys a high reputation, being one of the few slaughterhouses and abattoirs recognised for the export of meat to the European Community. It is one of the even more select number of public slaughterhouses in this country recognised for the export of meat to the United States. I would have preferred it if the Bill had sought to establish, as the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) suggested, provisions for raising the standards of hygiene and slaughterhouse facilities here rather than removing the safeguards protecting the financial stability of public abattoirs.
I listened attentively to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) about the interviews which the Parliamentary Secretary had with the industry about the provisions of Clauses 6 and 7. The regrettable feature of those interviews was 87 that they took place after the Government had formulated their policy. The first intimation that local authorities received was a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary last April saying that the Government proposed making the Amendments to the 1954 and 1958 Slaughterhouses Acts. I was pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary did Manchester the courtesy of seeing the splendid abattoir facilities provided. But the fact is that the interviews which the Minister had subsequent to his letter in April were after the event, not before.
Against the background of the foreshadowed reorganisation of local government, which will involve a tremendous change, and immediately before Britain enters the European Economic Community, I feel that the Government ought to consider the establishment of a committee of inquiry to look into the provision of public slaughterhouse facilities before proceeding with the amendments contained in Clauses 6 and 7.
This is no small issue. These proposed changes will have a major impact. It may be that we shall see the closure of public abattoirs in the cities to which I referred. This could have alarming consequences as regards hygiene and the preparation of meat for our community. I believe that before such a major change is contemplated, we have a right to expect a responsible Minister and Government to establish an inquiry so that the facts can be established and we may have the opportunity of looking again at the level of hygiene requirements in public slaughterhouses. Why should the community in this country be obliged to accept lower standards of hygiene for the preparation of meat than those in Germany and some of the other E.E.C. countries and the United States? Surely we are entitled to the highest standards of hygiene. According to statistics, the highest standards are provided by public abattoirs and slaughterhouses operated by the municipalities and local government generally.
The hon. Member for Torrington spoke about the establishment of co-operatives. How much better it would be if the Government helped local authorities and major cities which are providing public slaughtering facilities with the terrible financial albatross which so many are 88 carrying at the present time. I hope the Minister will reply to this point at the end of the debate—that, regarding Clauses 6 and 7, urgency has never been more urgent.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
While I welcome many of the provisions in the Bill, I am deeply concerned about the effect of the brucellosis eradication scheme on farmers in the initial eradication areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) said that when we come to the farmers who have done nothing about it we shall find the problem very serious indeed. I know many farmers who, far from having done nothing about it, have done all in their power, long before there was any question of compulsory eradication, to make and keep their herds clean by following the best possible processes, taking the best possible advice and following an approved system of inoculation. Yet, quite unaccountably, they are finding breakdowns occurring, even after passing clean on the first test.
This is a desperately serious problem not just for the less enlightened farmers but for those who really put their backs into trying to combat this terrible disease amongst our cattle, with its depredations on the human population, particularly those concerned with livestock production who have to handle these cattle daily.
As farmers, we welcome the Minister's assurance that he will look again at the problem of herds which have been seriously affected. We welcome still more his assurance that any improved terms will be retrospective to help those farmers who have been so badly affected. But I know of cases—indeed, I have brought them to the Minister's notice—where farmers have had half of their herds going down and are facing undoubted bankruptcy if something is not done soon.
We are glad that the inquiry will be brought forward as quickly as possible, but these men are in a very serious situation now. We all know that the price of an in-calf heifer has risen from about £130 to £200. But that is only a start. It will go higher still as farmers, in despair for their income and capital, have to jump into the market to keep up production. I ask the Minister to expedite 89 this matter to the utmost of his ability and to give substantial compensation to those who have done all in their power to clean up their herds but, for some reason beyond the wit of man to define at the moment, have fallen by the wayside. I ask the Minister to step in and help them at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
It is some years since I have spoken in an agricultural debate in this House. I am sure that the House will readily forgive me for having been silent. The last occasion on which I spoke in a debate on agriculture was to wind up a debate which was opened by my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). I welcome him back to our debates. I know that he, like his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes), has rendered distinguished service to the agriculture industry.
I want to deal with the issue which I discussed when I last spoke to the House on agriculture some seven years ago, namely, milk. This arises from Clause 5 of the Bill and what the Minister hopes to do about changes in the schemes for marketing and regulating the marketing of milk. Before doing so, however, I should like to say that I am far from happy about the Minister's proposals for bull licensing. I know a little of the past history and the difficulties. Indeed, members of my family played a small part in trying to establish herd books for herds and flock books for flocks when there were none available over the years. Any change in this sphere is to be aproached with great care. We know of the difficulties which arose to ensure conformity in herds. I suspect that the Minister's real object is not to help farmers or to give more freedom to the industry, but to reduce the amount of Government intervention.
The Minister's conclusions as regards bulls and boars are illogical. The industry is far from happy about reliance on the proposed cross-colour marking. A buyer will want to know far more about the breeding background of an animal. I hope that the Minister will examine my contention: the greater the amount of hybridity—that is, the greater the cross- 90 breeding—the greater the need to establish the background of those animals which are licensed from that moment if the traditions of our breeding herds are to be maintained in the high esteem that they have achieved in world markets over many a long year.
As I have indicated, I want to deal with milk and milk marketing and some of the great uncertainties and queries which remain in this vital part of the industry. When the Minister says that he wants to free the agricultural industry from bureaucracy, bearing in mind the bureaucracy of the Common Market in which we shall perhaps find ourselves shortly, one realises that he is in danger of again making himself a laughing stock in the industry. In Wales milk is the mainstay of the return to the industry, and that has not come about by accident. It has come about deliberately. During the war years one saw the milk churns going higher and higher up the hills and farmers becoming more and more dependent on milk for their income. Everyone knows that once a farmer starts to produce milk, once he starts to be tied to a regular monthly milk cheque, it is exceedingly difficult for him, given the amount of resources available to the industry and the amount of acreage that is available, to get out of it. This part of the industry is genuinely concerned about what will happen to many important facets of the pricing arrangements for milk if we enter the Common Market.
Milk producers are the least dependent of all upon subsidies. The Minister says that the industry should stand on its own feet. Traditionally milk producers have done so because they have not been dependent on direct subsidies. The Minister's second exhortation related to competition. The industry has faced competition at the manufacturing end of its products for many years. The right hon. Gentleman's third exhortation was that the industry should get organised. There is a long tradition, going back to the 'thirties, of the milk part of the industry being extremely well organised, and that is why it has been so effective.
Recently the agriculture industry has been encouraged by the Minister to produce more, and he says that if we join the E.E.C. there will be a chance to increase production right across the 91 board. Those sentiments have been received rather coolly by the industry. Those in it want to know the colour of the Minister's money. If there is to be increased production, they want to know what they are to be paid for the increase.
Does the Minister mean what he says? Perhaps I may examine the issue against the background of the concern expressed by the sugar-beet industry. Everyone knows that that part of the industry is tied to a regulated acreage, and we are told that there are no hopes of the British Sugar Corporation increasing that acreage until 1974. If the Minister means what he says about there being a chance to increase production right across the board perhaps he will give us an indication of his intentions in that respect.
The stability and efficiency of the milk industry owe a great deal to its organised marketing. What is to be the position of the boards mentioned in Clause 5 of the Bill when we enter the E.E.C.? Nobody has said that the boards are not wanted in the Common Market, but nobody has said, either, that they are wanted.
Last year when many of my colleagues and I met the Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board and his colleagues they were far from clear about their future prospects. My impression is that, looking at the matter strictly, the very existence of the board is contrary to the rules of the common agricultural policy. We have learned that the boards are to be tolerated. What we want to know is whether they are to flourish and whether they will play as important a part in the future of the agriculture industry as they have in the past.
I understand from the agriculture Press that the Government have decided not to use the existing agriculture marketing boards for the intervention purposes that will be necessary if we join the E.E.C. but that, instead, a new Government agency is to be set up for that purpose. Is this departure from the practice of using existing boards and the setting up of a new agency because the E.E.C. dislikes producer monopolies? I know that the E.E.C. dislikes monopolies generally, and obviously that includes producer monopolies. I surmise that the intervention agencies would have to be independent, by edict of the bureaucrats at Brussels, whom the Minister generally 92 detests, of the existing boards which represent producer monopolies. If, under Clause 5 of the Bill, the Minister seeks to introduce new schemes, or to look at a particular aspect of the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1958, he should make an unequivocal statement on what he envisages the role of the Milk Marketing Board to be.
I want to know what power the board will have to operate the scheme under which transport charges for milk are pooled. The House may know that this matter came before my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey when he was Minister. An application had been made by producers in the south-east of England to end the system of pooling milk transport charges. This is a matter of great concern to the part of the Principality from which I come. Producers who are distant from the markets gain a little from this pooling arrangement while those who are near to the markets are disadvantaged by it.
I put this matter specifically to the Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board when I went to see him last year but he could not give me a clear indication that if we entered the E.E.C. the board would be able to continue the present arrangement for the pooling of transport charges. This is a matter of great importance to people in the Principality and in other parts of the country who are far away from the markets. The Minister should tell us clearly tonight where the board stands in this matter.
If we join the Community, will such an arrangement be allowed to be continued or will it be contrary to the rules of the E.E.C.? One of the main theme songs of the E.E.C. is that the economy must not be distorted. A cardinal way of distorting the economy is for a monopoly agency of producers to distort transport charges by pooling them. This is a matter of concern, and I hope that the Minister will tell us tonight exactly where the industry stands.
The board is able to arrange its pricing system in such a way that the increased costs of the winter production of milk are met by an increased price for milk. It could be argued that that again is a way in which the economy of the milk industry is distorted. If one is able to rearrange production, given the incentive of a better price, so that there are 93 level deliveries and milk production in summer does not get out of control, there is a better balance and a better result in marketing. The increased price of winter production is properly reflected in the price which the industry receives. Will the board be able to continue that arrangement? Will the board retain that power, accepting for the purpose of this argument that that is a way in which the industry can be distorted?
There are two schools of thought about where lies the future prosperity of the industry from the point of view of milk production. Some say that if we enter the Common Market it will be better to increase summer production and to go all out for grass, that in turn meaning less dependence on expensive concentrates without leading to lower production per head. Some argue that that is the more attractive method for the industry to adopt.
On the other hand, some people argue that the industry should continue with—and, indeed, go for—more winter production, which has played such an important part in the industry in the past, and that the increased production would pay for the higher costs of production. However that may he, the Minister should make it clear whether the board will be able to ring the changes in either of these respects. I am told that it will not award incentives for summer milk and that, because of the uncertainties surrounding our entry into the E.E.C., it decided to maintain the present price in favour of winter milk unless it became clear during the transition that it would be forced to change.
This statement from the chairman of the board shows the appalling uncertainty in the board about what its powers will be. The chairman goes on to say that if the board were unable to compensate winter producers for relative increases in costs there would be some saving to summer milk. He warned that if the swing were too sharp it could create marketing difficulties both for liquid supply in winter and for the manufacture of dairy products.
I take it that we can assume that tthe existing seasonal differential will continue? This is the assurance that I want from the Minister. Can the board increase these differentials to maintain their relative positions? Second, can 94 they be increased to compensate winter producers for the relatively higher costs of production which will arise if we enter the E.E.C?
These matters concern the industry. It does not know the answers, and the answers are essential if the industry is to take vital investment decisions. It is no good the Government exhorting the industry to produce more unless much of this uncertainty is removed.
In the last 10 or 15 years even, slight changes in milk prices have had catastrophic effects on production. A very slight increase leads more people to produce more milk than is necessary in the liquid market and to increase the proportion which goes to the manufacturing market. As a result, the pool price comes down. Then, one has to wait for people to leave the industry so that production returns to what it was. In the past, both Governments have had to consider carefully to ensure that juggling with milk prices did not have much wider effects than was intended.
Whether we are in the Market or outside, the milk producers will do their best to produce the commodity that the housewives require. But they want these uncertainties removed and they want to know where the board stands in future.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on introducing this little Bill. It is a little Bill, despite the arguments of the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), and, I think, a good little Bill. There are probably two or three ways in which it could be improved if it were expanded, but in these 20 or 25 Clauses there is a lot of good, common sense.
On Clause 2 of the Bill, I welcome the Minister's concern for people who care for animals in the risks they run of catching disease. This is a real risk. As the right hon. Member for Workington said, there have been up to 1,000 instances of human beings in this country catching brucellosis. There are many more obscure diseases which may be even more contagious, and this is a risk for those people.
I hope that the Minister will act rapidly when he designates a new notifiable disease and will have good advice for 95 this purpose. Can he assure me that the advice and information that he obtains will get to him rapidly when he needs it and that he will act rapidly in his turn? It is absolutely essential that he should act at once to make any new disease notifiable.
Clause 6 relates to slaughterhouses. I welcome these proposals with one or two small exceptions. I see the point of the Opposition, that farmers should have the opportunity of a municipal slaughterhouse in every area to market their stock. I would rather that slaughterhouses were private enterprises, but whether they are public or private is of little concern to me. What I am concerned with is to see that the farmer has a slaughterhouse within a reasonable distance, giving a first-class, modern, hygienic and efficient service. I will not support anything in the Bill which would weaken that essential need.
We all want slaughterhouses to get better. We do not want to think that our standards of hygiene in slaughterhouses are lower than those in the E.E.C. or the United States. The Slaughterhouses Act, 1958, did a great deal to ensure that slaughterhouses were brought up to date. I want that modernisation to continue, but I share the concern that there is a real risk, if slaughterhouses are no longer required to be operated by local authorities, that in some areas where a local authority might refuse a private developer planning permission farmers will be held to ransom because they have to go to one slaughterhouse regardless of the charges.
Has the Minister figures to show the decline in the number of slaughterhouses since the 1958 Act began to bite? In my constituency alone, in the early 1960s, when the Act came into effect, a number of private slaughterhouses could not, with their very small volume of trade, afford to come up to the fairly high standard required, and they went out of business. It would interest many hon. Members to know the figures for this decline, probably as a result of that Act.
In connection with Clause 9(2), I share the view that the criteria under the 1931 Act which remain effective for the licensing of bulls are insufficient. As hybrid bulls can be licensed, further details of their ancestry should be required. In 96 other words, because the requirements that remain under the 1931 Act are insufficient, details of the immediate parentage of the bulls concerned should be ascertained.
In general I welcome the Bill. However, at this critical time for agriculture, particularly in view of the changes in farming methods, I regret certain omissions from this little Bill, and these may be the subject of Amendments in Committee.
One such omission relates to the tremendous shortage of working capital on farms. The Minister has spoken of his intention to expand productivity, particularly before we step into Europe. As one of his admirers, I am sure he will forgive my saying that it is insufficient for him merely to reply that he is aware of the problem of the shortage of capital. If we are to take advantage of any opportunities in Europe, our farms must be geared to do so and must be given the wherewithal to become so geared. We look to my right hon. Friend to take a giant step forward in this direction in the coming Price Review.
In addition to gearing our farms to meet European competition, capital is required to halt the huge drift of agricultural workers from the land. Only if farmers have the money to pay decent wages and provide good working conditions will this drift be halted. The workforce has declined in recent years from 1 million to fewer than half-a-million. Indeed, if the drift were to continue for the coming 15 years we would have no workpeople left on our farms.
The decline has been alarming, particularly because of the increased number of complex machines being used on farms and because the skills required are more diverse. Nor must we forget that the numbers of animals in the charge of farm-workers are worth many tens of thousand of pounds. Despite this, farmworkers are given a basic wage of £14.80 per week. No wonder their numbers are declining. Farmers would like to pay them more and give them better conditions, but they do not have the cash to do so.
Some of the conditions of farmworkers are deplorable. The miners who are on strike have turned down a 12 per cent. increase and are demanding an extra 15 97 per cent. to 20 per cent. In 1970–71 miners earned on average £27.5 a week. When they come out of the pits they receive free hot pit-head baths and other amenities. [Interruption.] I agree that they should receive those things, but why should they be denied to agricultural workers, many of whom come off the land in a far worse condition than do miners coming up from warm pits?
Many farmworkers often have to work all night and at weekends. They are entitled to decent conditions and a living wage. Every farmer would like to be in a position to provide them with these things, including lavatories, changing facilities, washrooms, and so on, but they do not have the cash to do so. The result is that farmworkers receive only £14.80 compared with the national average wage of over £20 a week. While this state of affairs continues, the drift from the land will continue.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
While I agree with what my hon. Friend is saying, I am sure that he does not wish to be unfair and will be the first to admit that many farmers are paying well over the figure he mentioned. Skilled workers are demanding more and it is only right that they should get it.
§ Mr. Farr
My hon. Friend is perfectly right. I am pointing out that many farmers are not in a position to do what their more fortunate colleagues are doing, which is paying well above the minimum. I want the whole industry to be able to afford to pay proper wages and provide good conditions.
Although the whole issue of the provision and use of water concerns my right hon. Friend the Minister, he never seems to be in a position to take direct action on the subject. It has always been a mystery to me why the Minister of Agriculture of the day is never responsible for initiating and carrying out our national water policy.
Most of the water that comes within our national policy originates on farmland or in upland areas and drains through farmland. The Minister is responsible for forestry, which can generate a precipitation of rainfall if trees are planted in strategic areas. All farm stock must be watered and many crops need irrigating. Despite these important 98 aspects involving the use of water, my right hon. Friend appears to have very little say over our national water policy.
I maintain that the Minister of the day should have a controlling interest in planning our future water requirements. River boards and water authorities decide policy for 10 years ahead to ensure that areas will not be short of water. These schemes are dreamed up by those authorities and boards and they sometimes involve the creation of new reservoirs. They say, "We will need so many millions of gallons of water in this geographical location", and from then on it seems that little, if any, concern is shown for the quality of the agricultural land to be inundated by the reservoir in question. The land to be swamped always seems to be the last consideration.
The proposed reservoir at Empingham, in Rutland, is a good example of this. Thousands of acres of good agricultural land will be flooded. The nation cannot afford to lose tens of thousands of acres of farm land every year in this way. We know that new reservoirs are needed, but a Minister of Agriculture who is interested can see that they are put on land which is not of first-class value. More water is needed, but a Minister who is interested in the sensible use of land will direct the attention of water authorities to the more energetic use of desalination methods or the re-use of water, in which there is tremendous potential.
I deplore the announcement during the Christmas Recess that the Government's plan to build an exciting new desalination plant at Ipswich has been abandoned, or at least postponed. I will seek to probe the Secretary of State for the Environment on that announcement because when, in the autumn, the Government announced that that new desalination plant, the first in this country, was to be built at Ipswich, I thought that we should find an exciting new means of utilising sea water, perhaps in the 'eighties, to provide the extra water we shall need without continually using the easy way out of flooding even more acres of good farmland. Parliament has very little control over this easy way out now because in the last Session we passed the Water Resources Act, which more or less precludes any form of parliamentary control over the establishment of reservoirs.
99 There are one or two omissions from the Bill. One, which I shall seek to put right in Committee, relates not so much just to the need for more agricultural production at a more profitable rate for the farmer but the need to keep an eye on the general conservation of this island of ours. In a few years' time, a Minister of Agriculture will not be concerned simply with how much the country can produce from its fields but will also have to pay attention to the conservation of the countryside. He will have to question whether it is still a good idea to use public money in grants to continue the ploughing-up of more heatherland and moorland in Dartmoor, the West Country, the Pennines or Scotland. In a few years' time, if not sooner, he will have to question whether it is still a good idea to pay public money to farmers to go on pulling up hedgerows so that there can be created large new plains—or possibly dust bowls in some sandy areas—and also radically change the appearance of the countryside.
The Minister of Agriculture will in a few years' time have to question whether it is still a good idea to spend public money on draining not potentially good agricultural land, but land which at best will never be more than second rate but which at the moment provides a useful reserve for wild life in the natural habitat. In a few years' time a Minister of Agriculture will have to be concerned not only with a prosperous agricultural industry but with a living countryside. Whether he wants to or not, he will have to do that.
I welcome the reference in Clause 14 of the Bill to the Agriculture (Poisonous Substances) Act, 1952, and the doubling of the maximum penalty for offences under that Act from £50 to £100. As has been said earlier today, it is an extremely important Act.
One matter not included in the Bill, but which may lead to the tabling of an Amendment, relates to the threat or possible threat of vermin to farmers' crops. I am delighted to know that the Minister has completely abandoned all the sophisticated and expensive control or attempted control of vermin by the use of large sums of taxpayers' money on silly ideas like narcotic baits for wood pigeons, which rarely worked and which, 100 when they did, cost £2 or £3 per pigeon killed. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on abandoning that silly scheme, which was entirely the responsibility of the previous Government.
At the same time, I charge my right hon. Friend with the responsibility for keeping an eye on the vermin problem and listening to the advice of the county officers. We do not again want a menace such as that of millions of rabbits which cost the nation millions of pounds annually in lost agricultural production. The rabbit menace is not likely to recur, but action may be needed to keep down the wood pigeon population and other forms of vermin may come to the fore in a few years' time. If, for instance, as is the case in some Midlands areas, wood pigeons are a nuisance, perhaps my right hon. Friend could arrange for county wood pigeon shoots or other local initiatives.
I welcome the Bill. I forecast that my right hon. Friend will in future have to keep an eye not only on first-class and efficient agricultural production but on a prosperous and beautiful countryside. I congratulate him on what he has so far done.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We have about 125 minutes left for back benchers, and I know that about a dozen hon. Members want to catch my eye. I hope that those hon. Members who do catch my eye will bear that fact in mind.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has touched on a number of the provisions in this very miscellaneous Agriculture Bill, but all hon. Members on this side will agree with his assertion that agricultural workers are far too badly paid. I thought that the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) rather overreacted when he felt it necessary to interrupt his hon. Friend to point out that not all agricultural workers are on minimum rates but that some are relatively highly paid. That is true, but what an appalling situation we would have if agricultural workers were forced to live on the minimum rates. According to the figures issued in April, 1971, by the Department of Employment and the 101 Department of Agriculture, the average earnings of full-time manual workers were just under £30 a week, while the corresponding figure for all agricultural workers at that time was just under £21 a week. We can argue about the size of the gap, but there is a substantial gap which is indefensible.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
Did the figures which the hon. Gentleman has just quoted take into account free accommodation, some produce, which many agricultural workers enjoy, and other perquisites?
§ Mr. Strang
They took all additional payments into account.
Furthermore, it is not enough to say that agricultural workers have a hard job. What is more important is that many of them do very skilled jobs. One of the most serious problems in agriculture today is that these workers are not being rewarded in a way which corresponds to the remuneration obtained by workers in comparable jobs outside farming.
The House will, I am sure, forgive me if I confine my remarks to one Clause only. I have been interested in livestock breeding since I was a boy and prior to my election to the House in June, 1970, I was employed as an animal geneticist at the Agricultural Research Council's Animal Breeding Research Organisation. Bull and boar licensing is based on the central fallacy that one can evaluate the likely performance of the progeny of a sire bull or boar by looking at the animal. It is worth reading the appropriate sentence of Section 2 of the 1931 Act:The Minister may refuse to grant or may revoke a licence in respect of a bull, if the bull appears to him to be of defective or inferior conformation and likely to beget defective or inferior progeny.Basically, that is what licensing is about.
It is interesting to examine what has happened in the pig industry. It is only during the last few years that a consensus in the pig industry has emerged in favour of abolishing boar licensing. Why has this happened? People once believed that they could evaluate the carcase quality and general efficiency of a pig by looking at it. But those days went by the board, thanks very largely to work of the Pig Industry Development Authority and subsequently the Meat 102 and Livestock Commission. Now, pig breeders realise that it is a nonsense to suggest that by looking at a boar one can in any way predict the performance of its offspring. In a pig, one is interested in carcase quality, growth rate and feed efficiency. The animal's looks bear no relation to that. It is precisely because that is now accepted that boar licensing is being abolished.
It has been suggested in the past—not so much recently—that we should now use better criteria for boar licensing. After all, we now have very sophisticated performance testing. It was argued by a small school that we should base boar licensing on modern performance standards; on how they performed on test. The main objection to that is that it would be quite unworkable, because there is a whole variety of performance tests and one would have to evaluate all of them. Another reason why boar licensing is not practical, and one much harder to get across, is that even if one based the licensing criteria on sensible objective considerations, such as growth rate, feed efficiency and carcase quality, as assessed by ultrasonic back measurements, and one rejected a fairly small proportion—let us admit that that is what this is all about—one would still be making a negligible and insignificant contribution to the overall economy of the national pig herd.
Not everyone in the pig industry is in favour of the abolition of boar licensing. After all, there was a very substantial section of the industry against the Pig Industry Development Authority progeny-testing and performance-testing. The pedigree breeders were very opposed to this. But eventually it made progress. It takes time for scientific argument to catch on. As far as livestock shows are concerned, pedigree pig breeding has gone to the wall. No serious pig breeder thinks about showing his animals at a livestock show, nor does he think that the prize he might receive would have any relevance to the efficiency of his livestock.
It is a little disappointing to find that the Scottish National Farmers Union is still aligning itself with this reactionary viewpoint. The phrase "scrub boar" illustrates the weakness in the argument. A scrub animal, by and large, is an animal that looks very bad, a small animal, 103 a weakling. An animal is a scrub largely because of the way it has been brought up. If one evaluates a range of scrub boars, one will find that their genetic potential is not substantially below the national average. It will not go into any more detail.
I come to the crucial argument. Why is it right to abolish boar licensing and not bull licensing? What does the Farmers Weekly have to say about this? It has a very interesting reaction which I would certainly endorse. Its 13th August edition says:Is this illogical outcome explained by a sincere belief that irresponsible farmers are waiting for freedom from licensing to flood the country with scrub bulls—but that there is no parallel danger facing the pig industry? Or is it merely that the ranks of pedigree cattle breeders can put up such a dazzling array of titled persuaders that a Tory Government finds it difficult to resist?I suspect that the Farmers Weekly has a point. What the Minister has said today suggests that he has based his decision on the consensus of views in the industry and that he has paid no regard to the fact that all the animal geneticists and what I would call the progressive people in the industry are opposed to licensing.
It is worth drawing attention to the 31st December edition of Farmers Weekly because the conformation which livestock inspectors will have to take into account when evaluating bulls relates to the conformation which was evaluated at, for example, the Royal Smithfield Show. The supreme pinnacle of conformation was the first prize, won by an Aberdeen-Angus steer bred by a Scottish breeder. The animal was cut up. It was seen just what the carcase was like.
The Farmers Weekly article is headed:Smithfield beef is pathetic says store buyer.But this was a first-prize animal. I give a couple of quotes from meat buyers about this alleged supreme animal. One buyer said:That really looks like a dreadful bit of meat.Another buyer said:I can't imagine any butcher buying this sort of meat and making a profit. None of our customers would accept a carcase like this.104 The point of all this is to bring home the fact that one cannot justify the licensing of bulls on the basis of visual assessment. The Minister is not only retaining bull licensing; he is also modifying it. It is to be run by the vets. They will operate the 1931 Act. In the first article I quoted from the Farmers Weekly it was said that it was important that these vets should have some genetic training. But no vet who has any genetic training will operate a licensing scheme. For the Minister to suggest that animal geneticists, or people who know some animal genetics, should operate a licensing system is rather like the Pope asking a panel of atheists to judge on theological differences within the Roman Catholic Church. That is what it amounts to. At best, one will get a panel of quack veterinary geneticists. In this instance we have a right to expect the Minister to align himself with the progressive thinking. It is only a matter of time. In a few years the consensus of opinion in the case of cattle will be the same as is the case with pigs.
When he was speaking this afternoon the Minister said, "But the difference is that in the case of pigs we have the objective standards of testing; we do not have them in the case of bulls." I grant him that the pig industry leads in this field, but the question is whether the retention of bull licensing will help us move towards these more objective methods of evaluating bulls. They will not. They will do the opposite. They will still encourage the idea that looking at a bull visually is of some significance. It will help to bolster the pedigree breeders who are the main opponents of performance testing.
I had a rather interesting example in a quotation from the Sunday Express in September, 1970. It describes a trial which the Milk Marketing Board ran. It had 16 Hereford bulls on a farm; it bred from them, evaluated the calves and ran the results through a computer. When it found which was the top Hereford bull it went back to the experimental farm to collect it and to use it for breeding purposes.
What was the outcome? The bull had been slaughtered. To explain why it had 105 been slaughtered I quote from the Sunday Express of September, 1970:A livestock inspector making a routine examination formed the opinion that Eytonhall Pedro did not look vigorous enough and appeared to have defects that might be passed on to later generations. He ordered Pedro to be put down.I quote now what a spokesman for the Milk Marketing Board said:A board spokesman said yesterday that had Pedro survived, he might have had a potential value of several thousand guineas.It will not wash. No scientific arguments can be summoned up to justify abolishing boar licensing but not abolishing bull licensing. I ask the Minister to think again and to be a little more strong willed. He should say to the livestock industry, "I am sorry, but I am putting an Act on the Statute Book which will have to last for perhaps five or 10 years. On this occasion I will not go with the consensus. I will align myself with the progressives in the industry, with the geneticists and with progressive breeders."
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
It is, perhaps, not often that I can agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang). Indeed, on the subject of agricultural wages I fall out with him. However, on the subject of bull and boar licensing the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. In his excellent speech he set out the many reasons for which he rightly condemns the whole system of bull and boar licensing.
My right hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear me say this, because I have mentioned it in the House before. In his speech in introducing the Bill my right hon. Friend made the somewhat arguable statement that performance testing for pigs is in advance of that for cattle. I question this. It is true that the gestation period of a cow is substantially longer than that of a sow and it is, therefore, possible to have genetic measurements of pigs taken in a shorter period of time. With the introduction of artificial insemination it seemed that cattle had taken a great step ahead of pigs, because artificial insemination of pigs is a comparatively recent development and even now is only in its infancy.
I, along with the hon. Gentleman. detect a very strong lobby of pedigree cattle breeders throughout the United Kingdom, perhaps especially north of the Border. 106 I am not in any way denigrating what they do or what they have done, because they have made a magnificent contribution to the prosperity of British agriculture, and our stock is rightly renowed throughout the world. However, to suggest that performance testing should topple them from their pillar ignores modern science and, I believe, shows an unwillingness to allow their products to go under the modern microscope of performance testing. I therefore hope that, although I suspect it is rather late in the day, the Minister will have yet another look at the question of bull licensing.
I am sorry that the National Farmers' Unions of both England and Scotland have supported the retention of bull licensing, because it is an insult in some degree to the intelligence of the modern British farmer to suggest that he would use a scrub bull or a scrub boar when the finest genetic material in the world, possibly, is now available through the services of artificial insemination centres throughout the country, more easily and more cheaply than it had ever existed before, from better bulls. I cannot believe that anyone would be so stupid as to use second-class bulls or boars on their stock.
I turn briefly to the question of diseases of animals which is dealt with in Clauses 1 and 2. Together with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks. (Mr. Kitson), I moved an Amendment in Committee on the Agriculture Act, 1970, which I believe forced the Government of the day into some action on the subject of the eradication of brucellosis. That was an occasion when, to my surprise and perhaps to that of the then Government's Whip, the Opposition of that day got its own way.
I hope that the question of compensation will continue to receive urgent attention. It is a very substantial blow if a farmer gets any animal ill-health on his farm that wipes out his herd. I have experienced this and I know the great shock this causes both to the farmer, physically and financially, and also to the stockman.
As to zoonoses, which is referred to in Clause 2, I am particularly keen that the Government should press ahead with action in this respect. Some years ago, my wife contracted what was known as undulant fever which almost certainly 107 came from brucellosis-infected milk. It was more of a miracle than anything else that she survived. Action which will allow the Government to enter on to farms to discover and investigate dangerous diseases is sensible and relevant.
The most controversial Clause in this otherwise rather uncontroversial Bill concerns the farm structure schemes and the amendments thereto. This is arousing a substantial amount of interest in the industry, because the existing schemes have failed to work. The schemes were designed to encourage landowners and farmers who sought to enlarge farming businesses and to ease the passage of those farmers on unviable holdings out of the industry. Grants to the latter are contingent upon grants being paid to the former. In the interests of the outgoer it is necessary that the balance between the size of grant to the amalgamator and the restrictions surrounding the grant should be such that, if eligible, the outgoer should receive his payment with reasonable promptness and certainty.
This is not the case at present. Outgoers are not receiving grant because amalgamators are deciding that restrictions are too onerous a basis on which to proceed and tie their land to Schedule 3 for 15 years. The reduction in period to five years is welcomed, together with the replacement of Schedule 3 by a personal contract, which will reassure many landowners and farmers that the amalgamation scheme is worth while.
However, many others will find that the legislation still bars them from entering the scheme. The Bill still insists on single ownership. Ownership, however, is distinct from occupation, and many farming families deliberately split the land into individual parcels between themselves and other members of their family, for reasons such as equitable inheritance or estate duty avoidance. The farmer may well operate as part owner-occupier and part tenant of various members of his family. This is a common occurrence. if he wishes to buy a neighbouring farm and amalgamate it under the scheme with his own, he may find that he is ineligible for the scheme as the total amount of land owned by him is not large enough to qualify.
Unhappily, there have been examples of this. I have details here of such a 108 case. In 1969 an owner-occupier applied for an amalgamation scheme to join the next door 80-acre holding to his own. Some months later a Ministry lawyer discovered that the new owner was two people in law—the owner in fee simple of part of his farm and the sole beneficiary under the terms of his father's will, subject to a life interest on the part of his mother. Fortunately, the land in the farmer's own name constituted a viable unit, but the debate has gone on, the matter is still not resolved, the amalgamator has not received his money, and I gather that the file now requires a truck to carry it about.
These difficulties arise because of the legal complications which surround the ownership of land. I believe that this problem could be resolved if the farmer could benefit from the scheme as the occupier of land rather than as the owner. He could enter into a personal contract with the Minister which would bind the farmer to continue farming the land as a single business for five years, and in the event of death within this period his executors could either continue to farm or unwind the contract on a basis which could be agreed with the Minister. If the farm amalgamation scheme is designed to improve farm structure through helping investment in fixed capital, the system of tenure is not necessarily relevant. There is a perfectly good precedent for this in the Farm Capital Grant Scheme, where Government money is provided whatever system of tenure applies. Broadening the basis of the scheme would avoid many of the legal difficulties which surround the new scheme, and would therefore make it more attractive to amalgamators and simpler to operate for the Ministry and would allow outgoers to receive payments to which they are entitled.
In view of the previous remarks about time, I must conclude, but I do so by saying that if I have a criticism of this peculiarly innocuous Measure it would be that it continues policies of the previous Government and perhaps does not Rive to agriculture quite as much new thought and policy as we might have hoped for under the present Administration. But when the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said that be approved of the Bill in principle and made a few minor Committee points—
§ Mr. Wiggin
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I got the impression that in general he was satisfied with the Bill. He dealt with a few Committee points and then announced that he proposed to divide the House tonight. I can only say that if that is the case I have no doubt that the industry will observe once again the Opposition's hostile attitude to British agriculture.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
I am sure it will be widely agreed that our debates on agriculture are much too infrequent. The Minister is very fortunate in that we have so few opportunities to debate his misdemeanours at length. Most of his policy proposals have been incomprehensible where they have not been intolerable, and dull where they have not been disastrous.
This is not the occasion to discuss all the right hon. Gentleman's policy proposals since he became Minister 19 months ago. Even his monumental failure and bungling over food prices must await another occasion for full debate. He must, however, know that the scandal of high prices is being discussed by housewives throughout the country. I think one could say that he has about as much support among informed British housewives as the Mukti Bahini have among the soldiery of West Pakistan.
The Minister appeared to think that this Bill is not worth opposing. He seemed to say that it is too inconsequential to merit a Division at the end of the debate. In some respects, this is a miserable little Measure. In many other respects, it is a deeply important Measure, not least for consumers. The Minister will be hoping that the Bill will be given a quick and easy Committee stage. May I remind him of the Committee stage of the Agriculture Act, 1967? My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) will recall, as I do from working with him on the Standing Committee, that the 1967 Act began its legislative life in 1965. I foresee a very long Committee stage for this Bill. If the Minister thinks otherwise, he should look at the unmerciful 110 filibustering that went on when my right hon. Friend's 1967 Measure was in Standing Committee. There will be no filibustering from us, but there will be informed and strong opposition to every objectionable part of the Bill.
I had a clash with the Minister during his speech on the question of compensating farmworkers for loss of earnings. The Minister has been congratulated on compensating a farmer in the case of any grievous outbreak of disease on his farm. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to be aware of any concern about compensation among farmworkers. The National Union of Agricultural Workers has been in touch with me and has said that its members would like to draw attention to their Executive's concern that there is no reference to compensation to workers whose earnings might be reduced by slaughter of animals infected by brucellosis. The union says:…this we deplore. We drew this aspect to the attention of the Northumberland Committee in respect of foot and mouth a few years ago, and we note that Clause 4 of the Bill does in fact implement a recommendation of the Northumberland Committee and provides for compensation to be paid to the farmer for the milk and milk products destroyed. Here again, the fact that the earnings of the workers involved may also be substantially reduced is ignored.I put it again to the right hon. Gentleman that the representations of the National Union of Agricultural Workers are worthy of his personal and detailed attention.
The National Union of Agricultural Workers, which unfortunately is no longer directly represented in this House, has also expressed concern about the abolition of committees and other bodies referred to in Clauses 18 to 20. It says:We have already protested to the Government about the proposal to abolish the Agricultural Executive Committees in England and Wales. We believe that the Government's axe on them delivers a severe blow to grass-roots participation.…This is a very serious matter. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) referred to the serious problems of wastage among farmworkers. It will not help towards a solution of this problem for farmworkers to feel that their opinions on such sensitive matters as consultation within the industry are being ignored. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to misunderstand the importance of these representations. They have been made to 111 many of my hon. Friends and to myself by men who work, in far too many cases, for wholly inadequate earnings on the farms of this country.
My right hon. Friend, when he was Minister, conceived the industry as a partnership. To the extent that Clauses 18 to 20 reduce consultation within the industry, they detract from the conception of partnership. The Minister should have explained why he is making these proposals now. Is he changing the consultative process in order to mute criticism? As policy-making becomes more remote, we shall need more consultation, not less.
There was some talk earlier in the debate about the bureaucracy of the agricultural institutions of the European Economic Community. We are concerned not just about the bureaucracy of the Common Market. For throughout farming in this country, there are those who are increasingly concerned about the remoteness of policy-making and decision-making affecting the industry. They know that in future they will be even more remote from the place where the most important decisions are made.
This is not the time to reduce consultation in the industry. On the contrary, the Minister would have been well advised now to consider the possibility of increasing grass-roots participation in policy-making by improving consultation.
I make no apology for returning to Clauses 6 and 7 and, in particular, to the question of slaughtering facilities. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that I have been in touch with him—writing on behalf of the local authorities—on this deeply important question. On 22nd December, the hon. Gentleman wrote to me to say:I hope that Manchester Corporation understands why the Government feel that it is right to proceed along the lines indicated in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill …".The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. Manchester does not understand why he and his right hon. Friend should be proceeding with these two Clauses in the Bill. Let him not mistake the strong feeling in many of our important municipalities.
Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I have received strong representa- 112 tions from the local authorities about Clauses 6 and 7. I refer, in particular, to their anxiety that local authority abattoirs may be forced to close, resulting in a serious wastage of public money. Since about 1958 the Ministry has sanctioned expenditure of approximately £15 million on these new abattoirs, with full knowledge of the scale, type and cost. The right hon. Gentleman knows that these abattoirs were designed on the strength of a Government policy of restriction on the licensing of new private slaughterhouses. It could never have been envisaged when these abattoirs were being planned that a complete reversal in policy, from restriction according to need to freedom irrespective of need, could ever take place.
There is also the question of the raising of slaughtering standards and the possibility that this process will be delayed if we enact the Bill with Clauses 6 and 7 intact. There is one standard for meat produced for the home market and another, higher standard, for meat intended for the European export market. It is significant that, out of about 2,000 slaughterhouses in this country, only about 40 are approved for the export of meat to E.E.C. countries and fewer than 30 for export to West Germany, where the highest standards apply.
It is significant also that, although local authorities operate only about 100 slaughterhouses—5 per cent. of the total—they provide eight, or about 30 per cent., of those approved for export to West Germany. A replacement of some of these public abattoirs by private slaughterhouses, which the Ministry appears to expect as a result of the change in licensing policy, could reduce the number of establishments which are up to export standards.
It has been put to me by the local authorities that it would have been expected that any change in Government policy would be designed to bring British slaughtering standards up to the export slaughterhouse level, not to reduce the number of slaughterhouses already providing the higher standards. There is no obvious reason why the dual standards—a lower one for meat for home consumption, and a higher one for meat for export—should be retained at all. Still less is there any reason why the 113 situation should be worsened by Government legislation.
It may be thought that only local authorities are concerned about Clauses 6 and 7. As the House knows, I have the honour to represent the Privy Council as a member of the council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Thus I have many friends among veterinarians in this country. There is some feeling among veterinarians that we should look very critically at slaughtering standards in this country. It has been put to me by the British Veterinary Association that, with regard to slaughterhouses:this Association is most anxious that standards of meat inspection in this country should be brought up to E.E.C. standards as soon as possible, including a greater degree of veterinary involvement, and central control, in the inspection of meat.Yet it is of the essence of probability that, under Clauses 6 and 7, we shall have a lowering of standards in this country.
There was some dispute earlier about the view of the National Farmers Union. It cannot be disputed that in the letter which we have all received the N.F.U. says thatThe proposals for changes in slaughterhouse legislation embodied in Clause 6 of the Bill give rise to considerable concern".My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington was right to draw attention to that observation in his opening speech from this side.
The Town Clerk of Manchester has said to me that,Maximum profitability in the slaughtering industry is not compatible with the maintenance of the highest standards of hygienic operations".Moreover, we have with us in the Chamber my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan), who played a distinguished part in the planning and building of the Manchester abattoir. Few hon. Members participating in this debate know more than he does about the economics of providing slaughtering facilities of a high standard. I am sure that my hon. Friend will say that the policy enshrined in Clauses 6 and 7 is to be deeply regretted on practical and many other grounds.
The Town Clerk of Manchester says thatManchester abattoir, and possibly other new public abattoirs, may have to be closed as 114 a result of the unrestricted competition which the change in licensing policy will allow, competition which local authority abattoirs, with their concern for the maintenance of high standards in the interests of public health, may find it difficult to meet".I should have liked to comment on other aspects of the Bill but I realise that others of my hon. Friends wish to speak, so I close on this note. I hold the strong and certain conviction that the Bill will not reach the Statute Book either as quickly or as easily as the Minister seemed to imagine when he opened the debate.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Howell (Norfolk, North)
I welcome the chance to speak in the debate. The Bill, called the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, could well be described as the "mixed bag" Bill. I find myself in agreement with some of it, but with some I am very much in disagreement.
I very much welcome the new measures for the eradication of brucellosis. My right hon. Friend should be congratulated on the speed with which he has taken that necessary action.
The provisions for mergers in Clauses 11 and 12 are welcome, together with the simplification they bring about and the quicker payment in the farm structure provisions. I also welcome Clause 13, which allows another £5 million to be advanced by the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. Anything that helps to inject more capital into our industry is to be welcomed, but it is a pity that the sum was not larger.
I turn now to the parts of the Bill with which I disagree. There seem to be three which do nothing to help the prospect of marketing boards, particularly meat and cereal marketing boards, which are so vital to our industry if we are to achieve the benefit from the market which the Minister talks about so often, although he never tells us how he will help us attain orderly marketing. How can individual farmers do anything about it themselves? That is something the Government must do.
If I understand them correctly, Clauses 6, 9, 12 and 16 push the prospect of marketing boards further into the distance. Under Clause 6 we are to have less control of slaughterhouses, which is 115 a retrograde step. We must have a much more modern approach to livestock slaughtering, with central slaughtering points, so that we can compete with people in Europe, who are much more modern than us in this respect. I believe that it is very wasteful to slaughter in very small slaughterhouses, with the loss of by-products and so on. Perhaps some changes can be effected as the Bill passes through Parliament.
Clause 9 means less control of breeding. The merits of licensing bulls and not licensing boars have been thoroughly thrashed out. It is inconsistent to retain control of one and not of the other. It is a great pity that we are to have any less control than we have. One of the great advantages of statutory marketing boards would be a more positive breeding programme so that we could compete on fair terms with the Danes and even the Southern Irish.
I do not know whether I quite understand what Clauses 12 and 16 are all about, but they seem to put the prospect of a cereal marketing board further away, and anything that does that I think to be wrong.
§ Mr. Howell
Marketing boards are mentioned in them, but probably I should not expect them to have anything to do with marketing boards.
The President of the N.F.U., Mr. Plumb, has been speaking at its annual general meeting today. He said:A majority of the Council and branches have recently expressed their support for the principle of statutory producer boards, at any rate for cereals and meat. The Union is therefore committed to drawing up legal blueprints.My first Question on entering the House was whether the Minister would take action to set up statutory marketing boards. He then passed the buck to the farming unions and said that it was up to them to take the initiative. I am glad to be able to tell him that they have done so, and I hope that he will follow suit and give them some encouragement.
Mr. Plumb said later in his speech today:However, I must say clearly that our assessment of the replies to our frequent 116 soundings is that the Government will not accept such proposals today, nor is anyone prepared to say that they would be acceptable to the E.E.C.I suppose it is a difficult time to think of setting up marketing boards, but if the Government could make the appropriate noises that they were somewhat in favour of them it would be a great help. Farmers in this country are in a very vulnerable position, with so little organisation in marketing. We should be in a much safer position if we got ourselves organised, and I believe that we can be organised only if the Government take the lead and help the industry to set up statutory marketing boards.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) was ingenious enough to talk about something that is not in the Bill. I see no reason why I should not do the same. He suggested that the Minister should take charge of water throughout the country. At least it would be a tidy arrangement. I do not agree with my hon. Friend, but would my right hon. Friend consider a new Clause under which he casts aside some of his heavy responsibilities? I am talking about coastal defence. It seems very strange that the Minister of Agriculture should be involved in this.
I am concerned about the matter because the village of Salthouse in my constituency is in serious danger. I should like my right hon. Friend to pass this buck to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. If that were done, we should be more likely to obtain our coastal defence for Salthouse. At present the defence of the area, because the land behind it is below sea level, is the responsibility of the East Suffolk and Norfolk River Board, which I understand is a law unto itself. If it gets any money for such projects it has to go to the Ministry of Agriculture, and the only money it gets annually for such work is £450,000 for a very long coastline. The Department of the Environment can spend much larger sums on protecting a small acreage. At Salthouse 800 acres and a most picturesque village are liable to be lost. There is also considerable danger to life if the sea breaks through, as it almost did on 21st November, 1971. Therefore, I should be very grateful if my right hon. Friend would consider shedding that responsibility and allowing the matter to be dealt with by 117 the Secretary of State for the Environment, who seems to have much more money.
Although, as I have said, I think that some of the Bill is good, it is all rather trivial. I believe that it will, possibly, be misunderstood at a time when the industry is in such serious condition. My right hon. Friend sounded very cheerful and I am grateful to him and the Government for their action at the last Price Review in stopping the rot in agriculture, but I hope they appreciate that they have done nothing more than stop the rot. It is still there. The industry is still desperately short of capital and it can only be helped by much more realistic and fairer prices.
Recently, the Director-General of the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service told the farming community that it could get another £250 million worth of production if it really got down to better methods. I do not believe that any farmer would dispute that. We could achieve it and much more, but we have to have the capital to do it. I hope that my right hon. Friend is charged with the responsibility of seeing that we have that capital after the next Price Review.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)
The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Ralph Howell) commented on Clauses 6 and 7. We would welcome him in our Lobby tonight because they cover one of the most important parts of the Bill—a part which is controversial and worth arguing and voting against. I make no apology for talking about these two Clauses. They deal with slaughtering, which is a nauseating subject. But on the successful operation of the slaughtering of animals depends whether those of us who can afford it get our steaks or perhaps our roast beef on Sundays. Of course, when or if we enter the E.E.C. we shall be getting steaks and roast beef less frequently in any event, because we shall not be able to afford them so much.
I make no apology for talking on this issue, as I have said, because the Minister and other hon. Members opposite seem to be dismissing this little Bill as a Measure on which the Opposition should not clash with the Government. I wonder why they take that line. Clauses 6 and 7 are very important indeed. To 118 me, a proposal is controversial when it is going to place further at risk the health of the nation by eroding the careful local authority supervision and the licensing of slaughter houses. We have greater safeguards now than we will have under the Bill. The fact that there are numerous local authority slaughterhouses in our large cities is a further safeguard to our health. Earlier Clauses in the Bill deal with the transference of disease from animals to human beings and introduce greater safeguards, yet Clauses 6 and 7 will actually worsen the situation, increasing the possibility of such transference.
I have often been in various slaughterhouses in many parts of the country and have seen the work being done. Before I came to this House, the trade union for which I worked was, and still is, responsible for organising workers in slaughtering. I had close personal contact with them. I have listened many times to their complaints and agitations. These were not always about wages and hours of work. Most of the men work on a headage rate—that is to say, on the amount of cattle slaughtered. It is not just a case of one man slaughtering one animal. The men work in a team and get paid, through a pool, on the basis of the number of animals slaughtered. The team shares the money in the pool.
These men obviously want to work in decent conditions. If hon. Members opposite had seen the conditions and had heard as many complaints as I have about them in old-fashioned, privately-owned slaughterhouses, comparing them with the vast improvement obtained when a city council has built and organised a modern slaughterhouse, they would realise how the provisions of Clauses 6 and 7 are a retrograde step for the consumer, for the ratepayers and for the workers in the industry through the encouragement of more private slaughtering.
Have hon. Members ever thought about the problems of sanitary inspection? Sanitary inspectors who inspect meat are important persons. There are not a great number of them. Very often a local authority is hard pressed to find a sanitary inspector for meat. These inspectors are highly skilled. If we are to have small, inadequate slaughterhouses popping up here and there, particularly in rural areas, clearly the local authorities will have a 119 tougher job than at present in sanitary inspection.
As a trade union official I was, of course, also concerned with the transference of disease to humans. I remember a case which we had to take before a local tribunal under the social insurance Acts. A slaughterman had contracted tuberculosis within his body—I do not mean tuberculosis of the lung—from a carcase which had this condition and which had escaped the notice of the meat sanitary inspector. The man was ill for a long time. We argued that this was an industrial injury and won our case because the medical evidence supported us and showed that the disease could be transferred to human being from a carcase. I am telling the House this in order to illustrate the need for a very careful check of our slaughterhouses—the kind of check which, I am certain, cannot be given by turning slaughtering over to private enterprise.
My local authority has approached me on this matter and I know that other local authorities have been in touch with hon. Members on this serious problem. For the Minister to say that local authorities wish to be relieved of the burden on the rates by having these slaughterhouses closed down or handed over to private enterprise is certainly not borne out by what the local authorities have said. The Minister should know that the local authority associations and many individual local authorities made representations to him after he announced the changes in April last year. Indeed, they sent a deputation to see him. Therefore, there is no ground for the Minister to make such a suggestion.
One extremely serious point in this matter is that there has been no consultation. This is important because, as I have sought to outline, workers in the industry can get disease from contact with meat. I should like to know how many members of the public realise that there are two standards of slaughter in this country. The home slaughter standard is lower than the standard which will obtain if we export cattle or any kind of carcase to E.E.C. countries, particularly to West Germany. What a ridiculous situation this is. Surely the British people have a right to the same protection as that which is demanded by 120 people in E.E.C. countries. Surely it would have been much more sensible to have included in the Bill, instead of Clauses 6 and 7, a provision laying down the same standard of slaughter for the home market as that which is expected by our friends on the Continent.
I deplored the flippant way in which the Minister sought to deal with that Clause in his speech and also the attitude of many of his hon. Friends who have described this as a little Bill, unimportant and non-controversial. Perhaps they are taking this attitude because they have not been in slaughterhouses and seen what I have seen. Perhaps they have not met the workers who actually carry out the killing. I am suggesting that they have not made a proper inquiry, and there is evidence to that effect. In fact, they have made no inquiry.
§ Mr. Torney
I want to finish what I am saying. Many other hon. Members wish to speak and the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) has already spoken.
§ Mr. Torney
There has been no inquiry, and I say this from evidence. Before the enactment of the Slaughterhouses Act, 1958, an interdepartmental committee made a detailed study of the industry and produced a report, and before the enactment of the Agriculture Act, 1967, which set up the Meat and Livestock Commission, there was a committee of inquiry called the Verdon-Smith Committee. But there has been no investigation of that nature on this topic. The first time local authorities knew that this was to happen was when they had a letter from the Minister in April last year—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Anthony Stodart)
I must correct the hon. Gentleman, because that has been said twice in this debate. April of last year was the last occasion on which there was a meeting, but the first meeting was held long before then.
§ Mr. Torney
Then the evidence which has been supplied by the Bradford City 121 Council, which is a copy of the document supplied by the Manchester authority—and this matter was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris)—is either wrong or the authorities are at variance with the Minister. They clearly say that they heard of this change of policy in April last year; they then began their protests and sent deputations to the Minister. Even if the date is in dispute, it is obvious that there has not been enough inquiry and consultation with the industry. There has certainly been no consultation with the trade union which represents most of the slaughterhouse workers, namely, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.
If there had been an inquiry on the lines I have suggested, surely the local authorities would not have been so infuriated and would not have protested to their Members of Parliament. Furthermore, had there been such an inquiry I am certain that the Government would never have inserted two such ridiculous provisions as Clauses 6 and 7, which can only have a regressive effect on the meat industry, on the health of the public and on the workers in the industry. I am certain that the Opposition will fight this Bill Clause by Clause in Committee. If I have the honour to be chosen to serve on that Committee, I will fight Clauses 6 and 7 with all the power at my disposal.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Like many other hon. Members who have taken part in this debate, I wish to deal with Clause 6. I shall not venture to deal with Clause 7, because I am sure that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will tell me that it refers to Scotland. I know English Members are not particularly welcome in contributing to Scottish matters.
§ Mr. Kinsey
It is well known that Sassenachs know little about Scotland. This is why we tend to leave Scottish affairs to the Scots and to the right hon. Gentleman, who knows so very much about them.
122 The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) sought to deal with the conditions in slaughterhouses. However, I feel that he knows little about the subject of marketing and the patterns of marketing or he would not have made the speech he did. He questioned whether the health of the nation was being safeguarded by maintaining municipal slaughterhouses. Does he not think our inspection facilities are sufficient to cover the whole field? I would suggest to him that they are, and that it is monstrous to suggest that our slaughterhouses are not reaching the standards laid down by law.
I welcome the provisions in Clause 6. I believe that a dramatic change has taken place in the pattern of slaughtering since 1958. I was a member of the Markets and Fairs Committee in Birmingham and I remember that we discussed the implementation of the 1958 Act. We had then a Socialist majority in the city, and we were discussing how to do away with any private facilities in the city. Market patterns have so changed in the meat distributive trade that in the new market complex we have decided not to proceed with slaughterhouse facilities. The source of supply is the best place for this. Why add the on-cost of transport to the city centre? Why add the on-cost of bringing in the offals and carting them all out again after slaughter? We are dominated by a changing pattern. Even now the meat trade is changing so that boneless meat is being brought into marketing. The economic factor is dominating the pattern and it is the most important factor for the housewife.
I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) had to say about the experience at Manchester and the fact that the abattoir is now a drain upon the ratepayers. The pattern of marketing has changed and the authority is faced with a loss. This is very much due to inadequate marketing advice available to the respective committees. It is easy to see the patterns of the past but difficult to know the patterns of the future. Many people on these committees are laymen.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
The hon. Gentleman says that local authorities which find themselves encumbered with expensive slaughtering facilities do so because of 123 errors of judgment on their part. If he goes back over the history of this he will find that in the majority of cases these buildings stemmed from the decision of the Conservative 1958 Slaughterhouses Act and the consequent inducement given by successive Governments to local authorities.
§ Mr. Kinsey
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood what I have been saying. I said it was the lack of forward advice in marketing that has led to this position. Manchester, Sheffield and other large cities have gone ahead with these facilities and found them to be an expensive charge because the facilities are no longer required. The Minister is now relieving these cities of the need to be in the unenviable position of running loss-making facilities for meat slaughtering.
I am worried about the future pattern and a system of marketing advice for local authorities. I want to know how we view the pattern of agricultural marketing. Changes are being forced on local authorities. Many markets are of Victorian vintage or possibly earlier and they have to be brought up to modern hygienic standards. City developments and traffic demands are forcing changes too. There is no apparent free forecasting advice available. Particularly with our advent into the Common Market we should be doing such forecasting. The Bill does not offer any such advice facilities, and I think that we are missing an opportunity here to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Large amounts of money are involved, a lot of it Government money.
Six years ago in Birmingham we started discussing plans for a new market. It began as a £14 million-£16 million project and left us gasping at its scope. We had a huge multi-storey building proposed, with all sorts of facilities. When we took control of the City the Birmingham Markets Committee under the chairmanship of Alderman Collet examined this project carefully. Alderman Collet is sometimes an eccentric and dogmatic man but on this occasion he was absolutely right, and he pruned the expenditure down to an £8 million scheme. This meant excluding the slaughterhouses, which horrified many of us and the trade in Birmingham. Even the £8 million, we 124 are now advised by the trade, is too much to be absorbed in overheads because of the change in trading patterns. We now have the multiple, the supermarket, the hyper-market, all mass handling, much of it pre-packaged, by-passing markets.
What are the Minister's ideas about the need for market efficiency? There is much Government money at stake. I noticed in the "Insight" article in the Sunday Times dealing with the replacement for Covent Garden—the Nine Elms project—that there is £8 million in Government grant and £16 million in Government loan with other untold expenditure in the background. We shall probably finish up with an hygienic white elephant if some of these patterns continue. We must know future patterns so that we may interpret future demands. We should look at it now if we want to effect the way that marketing is proceeding.
Agriculture does not finish at the farm gate; it goes on into marketing. It is as essential to the industry to sell as it is to grow and to rear the produce which is consumed.
I welcome the provision about slaughterhouses for a very different reason from that which has been mentioned this afternoon. It will take away from local authorities in many cases the need to provide ritual slaughtering facilities, which are a blot on their consciences. I refer to shehitah killing, the Jewish ritual, and the Moslem ritual slaughter. Has the Minister considered bringing into the Bill a Clause to outlaw or control the system of killing which horrifies the majority of our people?
There have been many battles about this matter in the Birmingham City Council. This legislation still allows the kind of killing which the local authority member should not have to solve. It should be the duty of the Government. On the tour of the markets which I made—my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South said that it was not pleasant—that was one part of the markets which I could never face, despite the assurances that I had been given. Nothing is righteous about such barbaric killing. I ask the Minister to be brave and to bring all slaughtering in this country under humane standards.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)
As the House knows, I have an interest in agricultural matters. I seem to be the only Member who has so far spoken in the debate with such an interest. I find that rather surprising.
The Bill will need a great deal of detailed scrutiny in Committee, but I will give one or two examples in the course of my brief remarks.
Clause 2 refers to birds as well as animals. Will the Minister tell us why in Clause 2 birds should be mentioned rather than poultry? There must be some quixotic legal reason. Obviously, poultry is capable of definition, and we know what it means; but the expression "birds" includes wild birds. One hopes that Ministry inspectors will not ask farmers and farmworkers to take reasonable steps to collect or restrain birds in their desire to keep down carriers of disease.
One of the main purposes of the Bill, which has emerged today, has been the Government's desire to save money and staff. Yet, looking at Clause 5, we see that what the Government are saving they are asking other bodies to do for them. In Clause 5 the Government require the Milk Marketing Board to supply certain information which they might otherwise have had to supply themselves. This will probably mean additional expense to the Milk Marketing Board. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government propose to recompense the Milk Marketing Board for such information as it may supply?
We have had a great deal of discussion about Clause 6. Will the Minister tell us how the free development of private enterprise in providing slaughtering facilities has been impeded under the 1958 Act? Has there been any evidence that private slaughterhouse construction has been held up? Have local authorities ever used their powers unreasonably, in the Minister's opinion?
We all know that there have been few new slaughterhouses since 1958, largely because of the enormous cost of providing such facilities. Why, therefore, are the Government proposing a complete free-for-all in the provision of slaughterhouse facilities when the existing freedom has not been fully used?
126 Another point on Clause 6 is that the Government are abandoning any idea of controlling slaughterhouse location or numbers. Will the industry's efficiency and, still more, its service to the public be improved by the removal of statutory controls? It is noteworthy that some of our principal overseas competitors exercise much greater control over slaughtering facilities, and, indeed, marketing, than we do. I refer particularly to Denmark and New Zealand—two of our principal competitors in the production and sale of meat and bacon.
We have heard from many of my hon. Friends who represent areas with large municipal slaughterhouses that local authorities have been losing money by providing slaughterhouse facilities at the behest of successive Governments since 1958. The Government are now saying that they must put up their charges. If they do that, they will have a lower throughput and will be faced with the vicious downward spiral, which we saw in the provision of public transport facilities in urban areas, of the cost going up and throughput going down, resulting in costs going up again.
Alternatively, the Government suggest that local authorities can lease their slaughterhouses. That is an attractive idea. However, no private operator, nor, indeed, any group of farmers, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills), would necessarily take over a large local authority slaughterhouse with all the overheads which would be entailed, which would no doubt be reflected in the value of the lease, without having to put up slaughterhouse charges.
Another suggestion is for local authorities to close down their slaughterhouses. I suspect that this is probably what the Government would like, although they would not dare say so openly.
The Government claim neutrality in the provision of slaughterhouse facilities between private enterprise and local authorities, but I suspect that they think that the future lies with private enterprise. They may weep a few crocodile tears for local authorities, but that is all that they will do. If local authority slaughterhouses are forced to close down, there will be greater pressure on the facilities of private enterprise slaughterhouses. What will they do? Obviously, 127 they will put up their charges, because they will be in a much stronger competitive position. Here again, we must remember that not only are many private slaughterhouses of a lower, albeit legal, hygienic standard than local authority slaughterhouses, but if they are to slaughter more meat which is presently being slaughtered in modern conditions there will be a deterioration in the hygienic conditions under which the bulk of the country's meat is slaughtered, although those conditions will still be perfectly legal.
Higher slaughter charges must mean higher meat prices, because there is no margin in the meat trade to absorb continued extra costs. This is especially true of the fresh meat trade, most of which goes through public and large private slaughterhouses, where there is little value added. This is a matter which the Opposition will be emphasising both inside and outside this House as part of the Government's general policy of transferring charges to the consumer.
I wish to make only two points on Clause 9. One is that most hon. Members will welcome the end of boar licensing, which in recent years has become a farce. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), in a very learned speech, said that the value on the hook bears no relation to conformation and looks on the hoof.
I see that the Government are freeing breeding stock from all import controls other than veterinary requirements. Is there not a danger for the future, that some breeding companies may wish to import the latest fashionable breeding stock from overseas, perhaps not submit it to the rigorous testing that would be desirable, not explore its genetic potential to the full, and then put the new breeding stock on the market, either as a pure breed or hybrid, with a massive advertising campaign and perhaps mislead farmers into buying stock that is not all it is cracked up to be. I do not know whether the Trade Descriptions Act would apply to such sales. I suspect that it would not, and I would welcome an assurance that the Ministry is aware of the dangers of unrestricted imports of breeding stock.
128 My last point is on Clause 16, which I do not think has been referred to so far, other than by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Ralph Howell). Clause 16 allows the Home Grown Cereals Authority to impose levies on traders in home grown cereals. The cereals trade would be well advised to look at what has happened in the meat trade with the Meat and Livestock Commission, which was originally going to be financed out of the guarantee system, and is currently financed by levies on those who operate slaughterhouses; in other words, the meat trade. What will happen is that the burden of financing the Home Grown Cereals Authority and its forward contracts will fall increasingly on the trade and will come off the shoulders of the producer.
In the meat industry the burden is shared, but I suspect that in the cereals trade the cereal traders will soon find it convenient to pass on the amount of levy which they are likely to have to pay to the Home Grown Cereals Authority to the consumer, and that is another indirect consequence of the Bill. We may find higher cereal prices, which will mean higher bread prices and higher prices for other cereal-based products as a result of the levies imposed on the trade which it does not bear now.
This switch of the burden of financing the Authority from farmer to consumer is in line with the Government's philosophy of increasing consumer prices and reducing the tax and other financial burdens on their friends. The hon. Member for Torrington says that agriculture is better off under this Government. I do not know whether it is or not, but I know that the consumer is certainly worse off, and one or two Clauses in the Bill will make prices even higher for him. We on this side have no real objection to farmers standing on their own feet. What we object to is their standing on the consumer's feet, and if for no other reason I think that that is why we shall oppose the Bill tonight.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)
I shall confine my remarks to a few minutes because I know that other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
Clauses 6 and 7 are crucial and of paramount importance, and they are the 129 major defect in the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that the problems of local authorities have been exacerbated in recent years, and that many meetings have been held at his Ministry between representatives of local authorities, himself and his officials in connection with the serious financial problems confronting authorities which operate slaughterhouses.
These problems are real. I know that the local authorities' representatives have had a courteous hearing, but they have come away from the meetings with no concessions from the Minister or from the Ministry. These meetings have been going on for a long time, and I think that they were entitled to expect some concession, but what has happened?
The proposals in Clauses 6 and 7 will worsen the financial position of the local authorities to which I am referring. There are about a dozen of them all told. These are the authorities which since 1958 have embarked on the building of either large-scale or medium-sized abattoirs. They have built them during a period of rising prices, a factor which has been beyond their control. They have built them during a period when there have been serious epidemics of foot-and-mouth disease. That, too, has been beyond their control. They have built them during a period when the quantity of livestock coming into the country from Ireland has been drastically reduced. That again has been beyond their control. In view of all that, I should have thought that the Minister would have been looking for ways of easing the position of the local authorities which are faced with a crushing financial burden.
I now want to deal with the philosophy of slaughtering. The 1958 Act arose from the White Paper, which in itself arose from an inter-departmental committee's report. That committee was extremely concerned about the standard of slaughterhouses in this country. They were pathetic. As recently as 20th November, 1971, as reported in The Guardian, a leading member of the British Veterinary Association referred to Britain's slaughterhouses as being not much better than knackers' yards. I do not subscribe to that extravagant language, but it is true—successive Governments have been responsible for this— 130 that the standard of slaughterhouses in this country leaves much to be desired.
At present there are about 2,000 throughout Great Britain, and if their standard is to compete with that of slaughterhouses abroad they will have to be greatly improved. The standards laid down under the 1958 Act were fixed far too low. They brought about some improvement—any improvement on a non-existent standard is something—but the standard which has been achieved is not high enough. It was pitched too low because the exorbitant costs would make slaughterhouses uneconomic.
If we are to compete in standards, a massive capital investment programme is needed. No modern slaughterhouse should be without modern rapid chilling and cold storage facilities. These cost a great deal of money, and an individual trader does not have the necessary capital, and no trader would want to invest large sums if his slaughterhouse would be used only one day a week. We have too many slaughterhouses. Our total of 2,000 should be reduced very severely and regional slaughterhouses established.
This was the philosophy of the interdepartmental committee which reported in 1955. I am sorry that the Government of the day did not implement those proposals in the 1958 Act and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) could not accept my overtures and pressures to implement them in his 1967 Act. In this Bill we seem to be moving in the opposite direction. This number of 2,000 slaughterhouses will grow and the opportunities for the high capital investment necessary to give us an efficient slaughtering industry will disappear.
Therefore, I ask the Minister to reflect on the opposition on both sides to the principles of Clauses 6 and 7. I hope that in Committee he will further consider removing them. Unless he removes them, general standards will decline, slaughterhouses will proliferate and, if and when we join the Common Market, our slaughtering industry will not be able to compete with the continental one and will therefore suffer. This is a crucial issue, and I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to its implications.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
I intend to confine my remarks to Clauses 9 and 10 of the Bill, but first I wish to give a broad welcome to Clause 9.
Hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies will have received conflicting advice from constituents on the subject of bovine licensing. There seems to be a general welcome for the abolition of the licensing of pigs, though there are certainly two strongly opposed views on the subject of bull licensing.
The provisions for retaining this form of licensing, but confining it to fewer elements than before, are bound not to meet with universal agreement. Nevertheless, this decision shows that the Minister has listened carefully to at least some of the representations that have been made to him and has responded to them rather than steamrollering through the Department's initial thoughts on the matter.
Clause 10 recognises that what we had all hoped for as a result of the previous provisions has not worked out as well as we had wished. This has been the case for a number of reasons, including the one given by my right hon. Friend, which is the complexity of the system. A second reason is undoubtedly the shortage of liquidity in the industry as a whole.
If my right hon. Friend is to get from Clause 10 the results for which he hopes, from the point of view of amalgamations, he will have to bear in mind the need for adequate capitalisation, a factor which is often ignored by those whose duty one would think it is to consider this issue carefully. For example, the evidence given at a public session of a Committee of this House upstairs revealed the staggering fact that the managers of the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation were not aware of what comprises Britain's largest industry. Only .6 of 1 per cent. of I.C.F.C.'s total advances shown in its last balance sheet went to agriculture.
Moreover, the managers appeared to have the impression that the banks were happy providers of long-term capital for this industry and that the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation granted mortgages to tenant farmers as well as to long leaseholders and proprietors, but this is not the case. I mention this because it brings home to us the importance of enabling the industry to retain profits for expansion 132 and similar activities. Unless that situation continues, Clause 10 will be largely stillborn.
I emphasise the difference that can exist between profitability per acre and output per acre, a consideration which is often ignored. The country needs the maximum output per acre. At a time when we are losing 50,000 acres a year of better than average agricultural land to building and construction of one kind and another, with an increasing population, the objectives of a Bill of this kind should be aimed at synchronising high output per acre with high profitability per acre.
That should be the paramount aim of our agricultural policy so that we do not have the sort of situation which we have had in recent years—certainly for far longer than it should have existed—with a low farming policy producing a better income per acre than would have been the case under a high farming policy.
Having said that, I conclude by giving a general welcome to the Bill. I listened with interest to my right hon. Friend's explanation of it and it is certainly not an easy Measure to make sound exciting on Second Reading. Nevertheless, the Bill continues the work done by a succession of Governments and though its title is unexciting it describes well what must have been a lot of work done in the Department as well as by the Ministers of the day who have been responsible for it.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
The Minister did not pitch his case very high. He did not claim that the Bill had any lofty theme or theology to it. It is at best a parliamentary potpourri, or legislative rag-bag. To my hon. Friends and myself there are enough absolutely objectionable Clauses as to justify our dividing the House tonight if we see fit.
It is in the nature of a miscellaneous provisions Bill that, however meritorious, more substantial measures will be omitted than are included. If it were not so late in the proceedings of the Bill it would be very tempting to range over a number of matters which could and should properly have been included.
Everybody acknowledges that certainty and confidence form the very touchstone of success in agriculture. Never was there so much uncertainty, with Britain 133 probably about to enter the European Economic Community. The time for pious declarations of faith has long passed; it is now up to the Minister—we appreciate the difficulties that have existed during the negotiations—to give clear, specific and bankable assurances to this great industry. Those assurances must range over the future of the marketing boards; the protection of British farmers from milk products which represent between two-thirds and three-quarters of the milk production of the E.E.C. countries; the future of grants and subsidies, and the question whether wool is to be regarded as an industrial product or whether, in all the range of protections that we assume must operate in the future, wool will be included.
But I abjure all those temptations; I merely want to make reference to one glaring omission which is of great concern and disappointment to me. As the Minister probably knows, I have exhorted his Government and the previous Government to bring in legislation to create security of tenure in a situation in which the original agricultural tenant had died. I have maintained throughout that this is essentially a matter of justice. More often than not it is not merely the question of the life span of one farmer coming to an end, in terms of his tenancy; it probably concerns a process that has been carried on for many centuries, or over many generations, by a family that has invested its labour, enterprise and hopes in the land in question. It is nothing more than elementary justice that such a family should have an opportunity to appear before an appropriate tribunal and ask to have its tenure prolonged. I am not saying that it should be prolonged in all cases, but to provide such an opportunity would be just and would be conducive towards certainty in agriculture, which we all know is so much the key to success in this, our most substantial single industry.
For four years security has been granted for such families in Scotland; that security was granted in the Act of 1967. I know that there are different chapters of development in respect of legislation north of the Tweed, but it still means that in exactly parallel situations the family of the Scottish farmer has an opportunity of being granted security of tenure.
134 I now turn to Clause 6, dealing with slaughterhouses. Various aspects of this question have been touched upon by right hon. and hon. Members and I do not wish to reiterate anything that has been said. There could inescapably be very grievous consequences in many remote rural areas, because Clause 6 takes away from public bodies—the local authorities—an obligation which they have in law at present with regard to the provision of slaughterhouses. That having been done, no other public body will be vested with that responsibility: the Minister leaves it entirely to the whims and graces of private enterprise.
I believe that in our major towns and cities we may very well find that private enterprise will so operate as to militate against the efficiency of the existing slaughterhouses run by local authorities —and we know that the number of slaughterhouses has fallen between 1958 and 1970 from about 4,100 to, I believe, 1,800; that has been the steady pattern over the last 13 years.
But it is with regard to the rural areas that I differ from what the Minister said to me earlier when I intervened. What reason has he for saying that private enterprise will be interested at all in the remoter rural areas—those areas where there is already a primitive marketing system that threatens the success of agriculture there? The matter must be seen against that background. I speak particularly of Cardiganshire and of neighbouring counties of Mid-Wales where the position is exactly the same.
It is all very well for the Minister to dredge up a prejudice from his political ideals, because that is what he is doing. He believes fervently in private enterprise. Has he studied the likely consequences in areas such as mine? If so, what calculations has he made? Or does he say that no such calculations were made at all? David Lloyd George said at the beginning of the century:Prejudices are your own, but never make prejudices a policy.That is what the Minister is doing by this action, unless it be that he has succumbed to the pressures of certain commercial enterprises.
§ Mr. Morgan
I am not for a moment saying that local authorities welcome that duty, but public bodies are at the moment charged with the discharge of that duty. The moment the Bill is passed, if it is passed in its present form, there will not be a public body in the United Kingdom which will be charged with that duty. In those areas that are unattractive to the graces of private enterprise one will find a further breakdown in a system which is already weak and inadequate.
In Clause 19 we have a further instance of the crustacean prejudices of the Minister, for it is by this Clause that it is intended to do away with the duties of agricultural executive committees which were laid down in Section 71 of the 1947 Act. That Section refers tothe duty of promoting agricultural development and efficiency by such means as the Minister may direct and of exercising such functions as the Minister may delegate to the Committee under the next following section".Such functions are utterly laudible and unimpeachable.
Is there no more need now than there was in 1947 for a body representing local opinion and local conditions to be a two-way channel from Government to farmers and from farmers to Government? With Britain probably about to enter the European Economic Community, is not this the very time when there should be an opportunity for such consultations? My right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) spoke very eloquently some hours ago of lack of consultation. There is lack of consultation. Too many important decisions in agriculture are being made by too many people with too little mud on their boots.
I am quite sure that those Opposition Members who have the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee will welcome the many minor provisions which are perfectly unobjectionable and will ruthlessly exorcise those we have mentioned which are utterly objectionable to us.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
This is the first time that I have had the temerity to intervene in an agriculture debate in my several years in the House. It seems that I have only just managed to make my maiden excursion into this field. I apologise to my hon. Friend that I do not have the mud of agriculture on my boots. I may have a little soil from my garden. But I do not think that my constituency has perhaps more than one farm.
I have listened to agriculture debates and, though not participating, I cannot avoid the conclusion that there is a feeling among those who describe themselves as representing agricultural constituencies that they are a closed shop in the House. One is looked at askance if one comes from an industrial constituency. My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) rightly nods in protest, but I always bear in mind a remark I made to a late and distinguished Member of the House, Mr. Emrys Hughes, who once rebuked me for having the audacity to get involved in agricultural questions, as he called them. I had to remind him then that the Minister is the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and that I have 100,000 constituents who are vitally interested in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministery, and 100,000 constiuents, ratepayers of Doncaster, who will be directly affected by Clause 6.
I make no apology for returning to Clause 6, as have so many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite during the debate, but first, two other things concern me: the way in which we deal with agricultural matters and the right hon. Gentleman's approach. I have heard him today, as he has on so many occasions, call in aid and rest upon the support he has from the National Farmers' Union. But he never refers to the National Union of Agricultural Workers. Involved as I am in debates on so many other industrial matters in the House, I should have thought it an impertinence from any Minister to quote a trade union as though that somehow made it all right, because his views conformed with the policies of that particular union. The House should not tolerate it.
137 I was equally surprised by the way in which the right hon. Gentleman lightly dismissed the provisions of Clause 20, which does away with the agricultural wages boards in Scotland. This is a matter of far-reaching importance for thousands of workers. The boards are statutory bodies that have been established for many decades to protect some of the lowest paid people in our community, and we have no adequate explanation of the machinery which will replace them.
I now turn to Clause 6. In an earlier intervention I said that local authorities have been encouraged by the policies of successive Governments to invest very large sums in providing municipal slaughtering facilities, and now the right hon. Gentleman is reversing that policy and leaving them, as I said earlier, encumbered with the consequences of their investment.
In 1965 I had the pleasure of accompanying my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), then Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry, on the occasion of the opening of the new abattoir at Doncaster, in which the local authority had invested £320,000. It currently runs at a deficit of £24,000 a year. It does so because it has an obligation at present to provide proper slaughtering facilities. I have before me the memorandum prepared for the town clerk by the manager of the Doncaster Markets Authority, summarising his views on the provisions of the Bill. He said:At the time that consideration was given to providing a new abattoir and wholesale meat market it was understood that any proposals to build other slaughterhouses in the district could be opposed with every chance of our objections being accepted. Every effort was made to cater for the local meat traders' requirements and all the interested parties in Doncaster and district were consulted and their observations considered when the final plans were prepared. In my view there is no doubt that the success of the old premises following the de-control of meat in 1954 had some bearing on my Committee's recommendation and they would probably have refused to replace the old premises if the proposed new legislation had existed at that time. If this had been the case the old slaughterhouse would have been closed on the ground that it did not comply with the hygiene regulations and the meat traders would have been seriously inconvenienced because there were no other adequate facilities in the district. As it was the Council agreed to make adequate provision for the wholesale and retail trades for Doncaster and district after taking into consideration the 138 other slaughtering facilities that existed when the plan was prepared.Anything which leads to a serious decline in the present level of facilities at the Corporation's premises would certainly cause consideration to be given to curtailing the service and some redundancies in the labour force would probably result from this.It seems to my local authority that that will be the consequence of this provision, which the Minister has not explained adequately. He has given no reason for this substantial change in practice, nor was any reason given in another place. I believe that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey) let the cat out of the bag when he spoke of the need for a realistic assessment of large-scale marketing for the future. The hon. Gentleman suggested that those who were engaged privately in providing on a large scale for the meat market must be given the opportunity to do their own slaughtering. This means that those local authorities which, following encouragements given by successive Governments, have invested heavily in slaughtering facilities, must be prepared to face a hiving-off of a substantial part of their trade and their being left with the alternative of shutting-up shop and leaving the small wholesaler with no facilities or running the facilities at a substantially increased cost.
I have looked quickly at the arguments which were advanced by the Minister's predecessor in 1957 on the Second Reading of the Slaughterhouses Bill. The then Minister, Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory, as he was then—I apologise for forgetting the noble Lord's new title—said this:The principle, that local authorities should have power to close private slaughterhouses in their districts on the ground that the public facilities are adequate for the requirements of all traders in the district, goes back to the Food and Drugs Act, 1938. Indeed, some local authorities, I understand, have possessed similar powers for almost a century under local Acts. We considered very carefully whether this power to refuse licences, if the public facilities were adequate, should now be withdrawn, but, as we explained in the White Paper, of May, 1956, we decided that the power ought to be retained.After all, local authorities have the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the provision of slaughtering facilities in their districts is adequate. We felt that we could not fairly ask them to undertake this responsibility for action in default, as it were, while exposing them, without any safeguards, to the risks that public slaughterhouse provision might be rendered unecomonic by the unrestricted building of private slaughterhouses in a district.139That would have been unfair to the local authorities who were spending public money to provide a service in default."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 1198.]Those local authorities have spent money to provide a service in default. The Minister is reneging on the attitude adopted to local authorities in 1957 by his predecessor and local authorities are being lumbered as a consequence.
I remind the Minister, and therefore put on record, of what those local authorities put to the Parliamentary Secretary on two occasions when they met him, with such little response. I ask the right hon. Gentleman now to give much more serious consideration than he has apparently done in the past to the pleas put to him by those local authorities and to the remedies which they seek.
The local authorities ask, as long-term remedies, for
As a short-term remedy they ask for
- "(i) More rigid control of licences for new slaughterhouses and enlargement of existing ones, the determining factor being whether there is need for any additional slaughtering capacity having regard to the existing facilities within a radius of 50 miles.
- (ii) More stringent regulations to be adopted for the construction and operation of slaughterhouses.
- (iii) Freedom for local authorities in England and Wales to fix their own slaughtering charges after consultation with the traders concerned as already applies in Scotland."Financial assistance for local authorities who have provided new abattoirs.Having put that on record, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will seriously turn his mind to the propositions which were advanced by the local authorities and which I am putting to him now. The inescapable conclusion to which one is driven is that the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing the general philosophy of this Government, and that for doctrinal—indeed, ideological—reasons he is prepared to sell local authorities and their interests short in order to placate and help his friends with their private interests.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I think I have had my fair share of Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bills in my day, and I never underrate their importance. I think that the Government's own supporters, by their lack of 140 enthusiasm for the Bill, have themselves shown a lack of interest in agriculture today. Bearing in mind what the Minister said about the importance of the Bill, I think he merited, even for his own case, a little more support than he got.
I do not know how the Secretary of State for Scotland will reply to all the Scottish criticisms that he got from his own side, As for the other hon. Members opposite who represent Scottish agricultural constituencies, I cannot remember seeing any of them here, let alone hearing them. This is a pretty lamentable fact.
There are Clauses in the Bill of considerable and far-reaching importance. Whilst the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Ralph Howell) is probably not quite as facile as the rest of us in dealing with the Second Reading of miscellaneous provisions Bills, I do not think he should have been apologetic for the fact that he wanted to deal with some matters which are not in the Bill. From my recollection, this is the whole reason for people speaking on the Second Reading of this kind of Bill. After all, we got off to a good start with the Minister. He spent one-quarter of his time on a subject which was not at all related to the Bill. He started by anticipating what was going to be in a White Paper which is to be published in the month of March.
One or two hon. Members had a go at putting on the usual bit of pressure in relation to the Price Review. They did not go so far as to quote the Scottish National Farmers' Union, which has obviously been listening to the slogans of the Government, stating what they can do in relation to entry into the Common Market. A phrase caught my eye relating to the enormous cost of entry into Europe. This is the Scottish National Farmers' Union telling us that if it is to play its full part,expansion means investment, investment means cash, cash means income, and income means enhanced prices.I think that the fatal word "prices" was mentioned by only one hon. Member today, my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), and this is something to which we shall require to return in the future.
What did the Minister start by saying? He stated what was, I presume, the intention in the Bill. He said that it was 141 going to relieve farmers from interference and bureaucracy of government—a fine ringing phrase.
But then we look at the Bill. Clause 1 has as its subject the eradication of brucellosis. It is not exactly likely to free the farmer from interference, moving as it does—we are all delighted—from a voluntary scheme to a compulsory slaughter scheme. Also, it raises the question of compensation, to which I shall return later.
Clause 2 has as its subject the control of zoonoses. Clause 3 has as its subject theApplication of provisions of Diseases of Animals Act 1950 to further animals.Next, we come to provisions dealing with requests for information, with investigation and with the right of entry. Oh, dear—what rows we have had about right of entry. I can remember the Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Anthony Stodart), "going his dinger" about it time and again; it was one of the stock subjects of debate, and we talked for hours about it. The Minister's phrase was "to relieve farmers from interference and the bureaucracy of government".
Clause 5 has as its subject theFurnishing by milk marketing boards of information derived from tests on milk.So one can go on. Clause 14 provides for the increase of fines, a doubling of fines, in this case in connection with safety. This is all right, but the Minister should not try to kid people about what the Bill does or does not do. He should deal with it factually. There are provisions dealing with power to obtain statistics by means of notices, and so on.
I should have gladly heard the Minister on some of the matters which he left out. He mentioned only in passing the abolition of the Scottish wages committees—that is Clause 20, and I do not think that we have had any information about that—and he did not mention Clause 21, which extends the Act of 1872 in relation to certain parks and lands held by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am looking forward to an interesting discourse from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on that important topic.
The Bill has been described as a ragbag of this, that and the other, but I do 142 not so describe it. I do not suggest, as the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) did, that it is an innocuous Bill. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North said that it was a trivial Bill. It is a sad day for the Minister when an important Measure like this is described by his own supporters as trivial. One can but think of all the hours spent on it by officials labouring over its provisions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) said that there would be a long Committee stage. I am sorry that I shall have to deprive myself of the opportunity to serve on the Standing Committee. I am already serving on the Committee which is considering an important Scottish housing Bill. [Interruption.] If the Parliamentary Secretary insists, I may come and give him the benefit of my help in speeding up the passage of this Measure.
I return to Clause 1 and the proposals for further measures for the eradication of brucellosis. No one would describe that as innocuous or trivial, and no one who heard the speeches of the hon. Lady the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) or of her hon. Friends the Members for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) and for Weston-super-Mare, or the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe, would regard this as an unimportant provision. I welcome the progress proposed along these lines but I hope that the House appreciates that it may well bring considerable difficulties for many unsuspecting farmers. I think that many farmers have shocks coming in connection with the incidence of infected animals or herds.
I am glad that there is to be a speeding up of the review to which the Minister referred. Although the compensation may be adequate in some cases, it may well not be adequate at all in respect of heavily affected herds. A man could be put out of business for a considerable time, even though he wanted to come back in. It might well take time. Time even for farmers, may be very expensive, so I would describe it not as innocuous but as very important. I sincerely hope that the Minister will give us a little more information about how he proposes to deal with the matter and that the Under-Secretary will give the full picture on 143 compensation, giving us further information about the review if he can.
I do not think that any hon. Member will oppose the extension of the Diseases of Animals Act provisions, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney), made a considerable point on this. In Clause 2 we are extending the protections for the control of zoonoses, and Clause 3 applies the provisions of the Diseases of Animals Act to an intriguing and comprehensive redefinition of the word "animal" on which, I trust, we shall spend some time in Committee. I very much enjoyed reading the discussion of that in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate in another place. We are so concerned about the risk to human beings that we are here to change the law, but my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that there is a certain measure of inconsistency in what is done in Clauses 6 and 7 with regard to slaughterhouses, and the risks that might be taken as a result of that legislation.
The provisions on milk, skimmed milk and so on for compensation purposes arise directly from the Northumberland Committee's recommendations, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) made clear that we have no objection to them.
I did not get the impression that Clause 9 was all that innocuous or trivial when I heard the latter part of the learned speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), a very good speech which met with considerable support from other hon. Members interested in the matter, probably from a breeding point of view. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare suggested that it was a good speech and dismissed as some sort of malpractice and stupidity the use of scrub bulls. The hon. Gentleman must appreciate the practicalities and the concern of many others.
When we weigh the arguments for or against licensing, we can understand those who come down for and those who come down against, but it is very difficult to understand what the Government have done. The Under-Secretary has a great deal of specialist advice available to him. He has at hand expert advice on the Clause from his own father, one of the first of the animal geneticists, who played a considerable part in the original 144 Act, to which we now return. But I do not think that anyone can be terribly happy about the position now. Whether we like it or not, there is considerable difficulty in resting satisfied that we shall obtain the hybrid vigour by what is being suggested when the kind of decision my hon. Friend mentioned can and will be taken. There are no guarantees. I hope that we shall receive a far better reply from the Government than was given on Second Reading or in the Committee stage in another place or that we had from the Minister today.
Those hon. Members concerned about raising matters which are not strictly within the terms of the Bill need not worry. In reference to animal diseases, I mentioned to the Minister the question of the grey squirrel, and I am surprised that he did not give us the benefit of the Government's thinking on this important subject. In Committee in another place we were promised a new Clause to deal with it. Evidently, England and Wales have very much more vicious grey squirrels than Scotland has. Equally evidently, in Scotland we have much greater power to deal with them simply because certain words were not included in legislation for England and Wales. I hope we shall be given more information about this fascinating subject.
The Money Resolution to the Bill is very tight and detailed about what money is to be spent on, but I am sure that in Committee we shall be able to find some useful additions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, deserves a full reply on the question of the failure to abolish the registration licensing of bulls whereas it is being done in relation to boars. There is a balanced argument here and I do not think that in their solution the Government are showing great courage.
In discussing Clause 10, dealing with amalgamations, the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare suggested that the Government had not gone far enough. He wanted to bring in the question of land tenure. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) also referred to land tenure. He was sorry that so far the English and Welsh Departments of Agriculture have not been able to do what we did in Scotland when I was Secretary of State—give security of 145 tenure to tenant farmers. I hope that the Government will come round to this, however. But, while I support my hon. Friend in what he suggested, I doubt whether it would be entirely feasible when giving security of tenure to tenant farmers to ignore the question of tenure when it comes to the question of amalgamations.
I am not happy with the proposed easing of restrictions concerning the acreage payment, which is probably speedier and more readily calculable and can also be done in such a way as to leave a certain flexibility to the personnel concerned in considering how the money will be used. The legislation introduced by my right hon. Friend and myself contained a 40-year period but under pressure it was reduced to 15 years. I question now whether five years is right, and this aspect will need to be looked at in Committee.
There is indeed a lot of controversy in the Bill. It is not all trivial. It is not all innocuous. I am sorry that I am not allowing the hon. Member for Torrington to forget his words, but they did contradict what he said earlier.
Can we have the Scottish amalgamation figures? I think that there was much more scope for amalgamations in England than in Scotland. Yet the last time I saw the figures I thought the response was surprisingly good. However, the figure given today was 900 for the whole United Kingdom. This means that the response in England and Wales is worse than was anticipated. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office, could give the House further information when he replies.
I am sorry that the Minister mentioned nothing about the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, which represents a considerable advance over the previous system. However, the hon. Member for Torrington was not happy about it—indeed there were many things about which the hon. Gentleman was not happy in his speech. He was not happy about the Milk Marketing Board, nor was he happy about many other things, although he was almost the most enthusiastic supporter of the Government who spoke from the Conservative benches.
146 I should like to question the Government's figure in respect of the A.M.C. I wonder what they had in mind in deciding on this particular figure. Did they have in mind the expenditure since 1967 and also the considerably increased costs which have taken place since that date? I doubt that the money will be adequate or will last as long as was suggested in another place, where it was said that it would be sufficient for about three years. I doubt that it will last that long.
In regard to Clause 19, I have not been satisfied by anything the Government have said as to why the valuable agricultural executive committees should be abolished and replaced by regional panels. My hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe has emphasised that the point of decision is to be made even more remote from the farmer. This surely is the time at which one wants to retain whatever consultations exist among all people concerned in the industry. I know from personal experience at the Scottish Office of the very close contacts which existed between the Scottish Office and individual farmers. This contact was not just confined to areas close to the Scottish Office itself, but was extended to the more isolated places. Much of it came through close contacts among executive committees, liaison officers and Ministers. These personal contacts led to an understanding, a tolerance of various differences and an understanding of policy. I think such contacts are now required in agriculture since there is uncertainty in the industry—and if the Minister wishes to deny this he is being unfair to himself. There is always a considerable fear of change, and in the years ahead we shall want to see the greatest measure of consultation. It is just not good enough to throw away consultation procedures without giving satisfactory and adequate reasons for so doing.
I should like to deal with Clauses 6 and 7, which reflect probably the worst feature of the Bill. Clause 6 deals with the slaughterhouse situation in England and Wales, and Clause 7 deals with the position in Scotland. These Clauses alone offer ample justification for opposing the Bill. Since the previous Tory Government which enacted the 1958 Act said that the system was working well, 147 I do not understand why at this stage they should wish to backtrack and go in the opposite direction.
It was not a Labour Government but a Tory Government which introduced the Slaughterhouses Act of 1958. At that time there were 4,500 slaughterhouses in England and Wales. That number has been reduced, desirably, to 1,734. Why was the Act introduced? It was not because private enterprise slaughterhouses were so good but because they were so bad. I can remember the debates we had and the details produced by hon. Members on both sides about the circumstances of these slaughterhouses. Since then there has been £20 million spent, mainly by local authorities. The tradition in Scotland has always been that of local authority provision of slaughterhouses in the main.
There has been lying in the recesses of the Scottish Office for years and years a new Slaughterhouses Bill which does not contain this provision. Why do it? I have a list of figures for various towns which recently opened slaughterhouses. In Derby, opened in May, 1964, the figure is £190,000; Doncaster, opened September, 1965, £320,000; Glasgow due to open in 1972 with a cost upwards of £3 million; Manchester, opened June, 1966, £4,160,000; Preston, opened October, 1964, £171,000; Sunderland, opened January, 1963, £430,000.
All these sums of money went to provide a facility the Government wanted. Now they come along and say that they are abolishing the requirement for the registration and licensing of slaughterhouses, apart from planning permission, subject to the usual inspection. The Minister says that these local authorities are losing money but the Government control the charges levied. Perhaps the Minister does not want to introduce an order increasing the charges. He says that he is giving freedom to local authorities, to the trade, but we have already been told that there is no great rush by private enterprise to provide new slaughterhouses.
The right hon. Gentleman is now giving freedom to local authorities to go out of the business, to sell the slaughterhouses—I do not know whether he will control the sales—or to lease them. It is the adequacy of the facilities about 148 which farmers are rightly concerned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington made the point about how the farmers feel. They are dependent upon the adequacy of these facilities, and so is the trade. If a local authority decides to get out there is no appeal against that decision. What will happen? There is no guarantee that private enterprise will come in; I am perfectly sure it will not. There will be further centralisation, further transport charges, about which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey) was so worried. This is one of the most ill-considered and reactionary decisions ever made. Why was it done? It was not asked for by the trade, the local authorities or the farmers. It is pure Tory dogma. It has no other justification. At a time when we should he raising our standards—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says there is competition. Will this lead to the raising of standards? I am sure that it will not.
The Minister seems to think that he will get rid of his responsibility for suggesting what the increase in prices shall be. It is a dangerous position to leave this matter to the freedom of the market. There will be competition, but not of the kind which will lead to a rise in standards which we now expect, and pretty soon other people will be insisting on them. When we opened a new abattoir in Scotland recently, to our horror we found that the people on the Continent were looking rather askance at it.
I have already referred to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South but he was not here. I think that he should be here to hear the words of praise which I occasionally hand out. He said that we have these two standards and that we should be raising them. The danger is here. It is inconsistent with what was suggested about the need to protect the public by what is contained in Clause 2.
The Minister has little to praise himself about in the Bill, apart from Clause 1. To my mind, Clauses 6 and 7 are worthy of the opposition which we will provide in the Lobby.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)
If the winding-up speech by the right hon. 149 Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was any indication of the strength of opposition to the Bill, it will not strike very great fear into the hearts of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
Summing up the opposition, with which I shall be pleased to deal in more detail in the course of my speech, it amounts to a number of fairly small but perhaps important reservations in certain directions, which I hope to allay, and almost totally ignores, despite some lip service given in passing, the large number of thoroughly good proposals in the Bill which are of great benefit to the agricultural industry and which, if not appreciated by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, are certainly appreciated by those outside this House.
First, I should like to deal with some of the detailed points which have been raised. The House will appreciate that many of the topics and varied points raised by hon. Members in the debate will be dealt with in Committee. I say this with respect to the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), who, in his usual way whenever I am at the Box, always gives me a great catalogue of detailed points to answer. I have no doubt that there will be opportunities to answer them in Committee.
I should like to start in a slightly unconventional style by going to the end rather than the beginning of the Bill. Many of the major items are at the beginning of the Bill, but the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock referred to two specifically Scottish Clauses at the end of the Bill, Clauses 20 and 21, which relate to wages committees and parks and gardens in Scotland. I do not think that any other hon. Members referred to them, although the hon. Member for Don-caster (Mr. Harold Walker) worked himself up into something of a lather about wages committees.
I assure the hon. Member for Don-caster that there is no need for him to get worked up, either on his own or anybody else's behalf, about Clause 20, which refers to the abolition of some of the district wage committees. These committees were appropriate to a previous era of wages councils practice when there were separate district committees setting wages for different districts in Scotland. For a number of years wages in Scotland 150 have been fixed on a national basis by the national Agricultural Wages Board. To that extent, the main function of these committees has been superseded. There is, however, one important function left—this is probably what the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock had in mind—which relates to exemptions for workers who may be disabled and for whom their employer asks to pay a rate lower than the statutory rate. As these cases are checked by the Inspectorate of my Department in Scotland, and as the other main function of the district committee has been superseded, we think that this is more appropriately a matter to be dealt with by the Wages Inspectorate of my Department.
When the hon. Gentleman realises that the present set-up involves the work, of about 200 voluntary committee members, and that the amount of voluntary time given up is out of all proportion to the work that needs to be done, I think he will realise that it is sensible to tidy up this matter, and I do not believe that any harm can come from doing so.
Clause 21 deals with parks and gardens in Scotland. We are taking power in this Clause because the Transfer of Functions (Scottish Royal Parks and Ancient Monuments) Order of 1969 did not extend to gardens which are satellites of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. The power embodied in Clause 21 will regularise the position by enabling the Secretary of State to make regulations under the Parks Regulation Acts of 1872 and 1926 for the control of visitors and to maintain or manage these gardens at public expense for scientific investigation as well as for public amenity. That is the important thing. The introduction of this power will make very little difference to what happens now, but it will remedy possible defects in the existing situation, particularly with regard to the promotion of scientific research. This is a tidying up provision, but it is a sensible one, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will welcome it.
I now turn to some of the more important provisions in the Bill, and in particular to the question of brucellosis, which is covered in the earlier Clauses. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who is 151 absent from the Chamber at the moment, for what he did to introduce schemes for the eradication of this disease. My right hon. Friend and I are glad to be associated with the extension of the work which the right hon. Gentleman started because there is no doubt that not only from the point of view of human health but from the point of view of the farming community, too, if we can remove the scourge of this disease it will be good not only for the sake of eradicating it but because, at the end of the day, its eradication will bring enormous financial benefit to the farming community.
It is important that the industry should have a stake in eradicating the disease. It has that through the incentive scheme, and I repeat what my right hon. Friend said, that the industry should demonstrate its stake in it—this applies particularly to those whose herds are in the accredited scheme—by taking up what is offered to them in the way of insurance through the insurance companies. Any farmer who does not take out insurance is being imprudent and cannot expect much sympathy from anyone if anything goes wrong. I know that the N.F.U. is concerned about this, and I hope that those whose herds are accredited will take advantage of the opportunity offered by insurers.
We are very much aware that hard cases may arise as we move forward towards compulsory eradication. This was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin). The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked whether I could go further and say when the review would be completed and what might be the outcome of it. It is difficult to be more precise now, because eradication started in certain areas only in November last year. In other words, the scheme has been in operation for only two months, and in any case it is being done on a voluntary basis for the first 12 months. This, therefore, is the earliest moment at which we could have evidence of what kind of hardship or difficulty may be thrown up. But we will carry through our review as quickly as possible. We do not want this scheme hindered.
152 The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) said that any changes in sire licensing should be approached with care. I agree, and this has been done in past schemes. Some hon. Members asked why there are differences in treatment between bulls and boars. The changes which we are proposing are being introduced after full consultation with the industry, for which this is a matter of some concern. The difference in treatment shows that we have not acted in a doctrinaire spirit. [Laughter.] Hon. Members were claiming that this was doctrinaire.
As my right hon. Friend explained, in the pig industry scientific assessment, through performance testing and so on, has established the principles, but the practice, particularly because of the longer generation cycle, is one of the main reasons why we must move much more carefully over bull licensing.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
Surely, if the cycle of breeding is shorter for boars, the damage is quicker; the argument will not work both ways.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
The hon. Gentleman has not listened to the argument. I said that established scientific principles applied generally to boars but have been applied only in a very limited way, as he knows from experience, to bulls.
With respect, when the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) calls the veterinary surgeons "quack geneticists" and says some of the things he said about the industry's attitude towards bull licensing, he forgets that a tremendous heritage has been passed down by many famous breeders who have made the British cattle industry the envy of the world. That is why we should move cautiously here.
We are doing nothing to prevent any progressive breeder who wishes to experiment from working with hybrids in the way that the hon. Gentleman believes is necessary. At the same time, we have introduced measures which will check the acceleration, if it happened, of heritable defects. We have gone forward realistically and in a manner which not only is acceptable to the industry but has preserved many of the good features of the older system as well as leading to greater liberalisation.
153 The right hon. Member asked me about the numbers of applications for farm amalgamations. Between 31st October, 1967, and 31st December, 1971, out of a United Kingdom total of 2,816 approvals—that is the significant figure—663 were in Scotland. Those are the figures for amalgamations. For outgoers' payments, of the total number of 2,325 approvals in the United Kingdom, 709 referred to Scotland.
This demonstrates the relative importance of the scheme to Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) knows from experience in the part of Scotland which he represents, in the North-East, about one-half of that total came from that area of Scotland, which proves that the scheme has been of strong local importance, too.
My reply to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) in relation to the farm amalgamation scheme is that three main defects have been shown up in recent years. The first has demonstrated the cumbersome nature of the provisions contained in Schedule 3 to the 1967 Act. I am sure that the procedure will be helped enormously by repealing those provisions.
The second defect has been the fact that assistance for amalgamating has been concentrated on fixed equipment. This has been a hindrance, and under this Measure the power to make acreage payments will enable help to be given for working capital, too.
The third defect has been the delay in the payment of grants. Again, the acreage payments which we propose will enable money to be made available far more quickly than under the old system. For all these reasons it is clear that what we are doing in relation to farm amalgamations will be generally welcomed by the industry.
There is, however, a point that should be emphasised. It is that this is a voluntary scheme. It is, therefore, up to the parties concerned to bring forward proposals voluntarily if they think that they are suitable and they will benefit from them. We are seeking in this scheme to find ways to help those who have genuine proposals so that both amalgamator and outgoer will be helped and thereby, in turn, help the structure of the industry as a whole.
154 The question of slaughterhouses has come in for much comment. I regret that I will not have time to deal with all the points that were raised but in view of the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris)—I was glad to hear him say that he intends to adopt a constructive approach to this subject—I am sure that we can go into the matter in depth in Committee.
The right hon. Member for Workington made a number of points about slaughterhouses and his remarks were echoed by many of his hon. Friends. To some extent he revealed a misunderstanding that exists over this issue and the reason why the Government have introduced these proposals. [Interruption.] I regret that some hon. Gentlemen opposite are revealing a closed mind on this subject. They must stop and listen to the arguments. If hon. Gentlemen opposite simply interrupt without listening, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe will be unable to adopt the constructive approach he wishes to adopt.
It is not true to say that the difficulties of public slaughterhouses have resulted from competition from private slaughterhouses, as some hon. Gentlemen opposite have suggested. It is significant to note, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) pointed out, that the number of slaughterhouses has been declining steadily since the passage of the 1958 Act. In 1958 there were 4,300 in England and Wales. There are now fewer than 1,800. There were 123 in Scotland in 1958. There are now 89. Private competition cannot be said to have affected the trend.
Nor can it be said that any difficulties have arisen because, as hon. Gentlemen opposite would have it, licences have been granted too freely. In the last five years in England and Wales 123 applications have been approved and of these only 10 have been for entirely new premises. It cannot be suggested, therefore, that current practice has resulted in proliferation, as the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan) suggested.
It is of particular significance that Manchester Corporation invested in its slaughterhouse with a view to slaughtering Irish cattle imported into this country. Its plans were stultified because the Government of the day brought in the 155 Irish Free Trade agreement, which allowed the slaughtering of cattle in Eire. That shows that some of the difficulties mentioned by hon. Members opposite about slaughterhouses cannot be laid at the door of the present Government.
We are introducing the Bill because we believe that because it is expensive to provide some of these facilities—and I have mentioned the small number of completely new slaughterhouses built in recent years—there will not be a rush to provide these facilities by private interests. Those who want to use these facilities will still find it better to use those which are already available, especially if they are up-to-date, rather than go to the high capital expense of providing their own. Although not many approvals have been given or licences issued in recent years, there has not been any great deterioration in the situation. The Bill merely regularises what has been happening in any case.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to the question of consultation. We can follow that up in greater detail in Committee. We believe that our slaughterhouse proposals will modernise the legislation.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West referred to the important question of hygiene. Nothing that we are doing in the Bill will in any way lower the standards of hygiene that can be applied by
§ local authorities. I can give an absolute assurance about that.
§ I have dealt with many points. I apologise for not having been able to reply to all of them but I was not given a great deal of time to do so. The Opposition appear to have forgotten the many good provisions in the Bill that will be welcomed by the agricultural community, dealing with brucellosis compensation, animal welfare, the improvement of livestock, the help provided by amalgamation grants, higher financial ceilings for the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation and the farm safety measures. These have been niggled at by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock. There are the changes in agricultural holdings legislation. All are helpful, yet hon. Members opposite oppose them all, because they want to oppose the modernisation of slaughterhouse legislation and the reorganisation of the machinery of the agricultural executive committees.
§ The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked whether we were being doctrinaire or pragmatic. It is the party opposite that is being doctrinaire. What the right hon. Gentleman said illustrated the completely mythological basis of the Opposition to the Bill tonight.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 229, Noes 196.159
|Division No. 32.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Farr, John|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Chichester-Clark, R.||Fell, Anthony|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Churchill, W. S.||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)|
|Astor, John||Clegg, Walter||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Cockeram, Eric||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Awdry, Daniel||Cooke, Robert||Fortescue, Tim|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Coombs, Derek||Foster, Sir John|
|Balniel, Lord||Cormack, Patrick||Fowler, Norman|
|Batsford, Brian||Critchley, Julian||Fox, Marcus|
|Benyon, W.||Crouch, David||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Crowder, F. P.||Fry, Peter|
|Biffen, John||Curran, Charles||Gardner, Edward|
|Blaker, Peter||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen.James||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Dean, Paul||Glyn, Dr. Alan|
|Boscawen, Robert||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Goodhew, Victor|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Dixon, Piers||Gorst, John|
|Bowden, Andrew||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Gower, Raymond|
|Bray, Ronald||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)|
|Brewis, John||Drayson, G. B.||Green, Alan|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Dykes, Hugh||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Bryan, Paul||Eden, Sir John||Grylls, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Gummer, Selwyn|
|Burden, F. A.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Gurden, Harold|
|Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray&Nairn)||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Emery, Peter||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Channon, Paul||Eyre, Reginald||Hannam, John (Exeter)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Sharpies, Richard|
|Havers, Michael||Mawby, Ray||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Hawkins, Paul||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Simeons, Charles|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Miscampbell, Norman||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Holland, Philip||Moate, Roger||Soref, Harold|
|Holt, Miss Mary||Molyneaux, James||Speed, Keith|
|Hordern, Peter||Money, Ernie||Spence, John|
|Hornby, Richard||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Sproat, Iain|
|Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia||Monro, Hector||Stainton, Keith|
|Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||More, Jasper||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Steel, David|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Mudd, David||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Neave, Airey||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Stokes, John|
|James, David||Normanton, Tom||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Jopling, Michael||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pardoe, John||Tilney, John|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Parkinson, Cecil||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Kilfedder, James||Peel, John||Trew, Peter|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Percival, Ian||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Kinsey, J. R.||Pink, R. Bonner||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Kirk, Peter||Pounder, Rafton||Waddington, David|
|Kitson, Timothy||Powell. Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Knox, David||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Lane, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Wall, Patrick|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Warren, Kenneth|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Raison, Timothy||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Loveridge, John||Redmond. Robert||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Luce. R. N.||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Wilkinson, John|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Winterton, Nicholas|
|MacArthur, Ian||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Ridsdale, Julian||Woodnutt, Mark|
|McLaren, Martin||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Younger, Hn. George|
|McMaster, Stanley||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Royle, Anthony|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Russell, Sir Ronald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Maddan, Martin||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Mr. Hamish Gray and|
|Madel, David||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Mr. Oscar Murton|
|Mather, Carol||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Foley, Maurice|
|Allen, Scholefield||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Foot, Michael|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Crawshaw, Richard||Freeson, Reginald|
|Ashton, Joe||Cronin, John||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Atkinson, Norman||Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Barnes, Michael||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Golding, John|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Dalyell, Tam||Gourlay, Harry|
|Baxter, William||Davidson, Arthur||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Beaney, Alan||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Hamling, William|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Deakins, Eric||Hardy, Peter|
|Booth, Albert||de Freltas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Delargy, H. J||Helfer, Eric S.|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Dempsey, James||Horam, John|
|Bradley, Tom||Doig, Peter||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Dormand, J. D.||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dunn, James A.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Buchan, Norman||Eadie, Alex||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Edelman, Maurice||Janner, Greville|
|Carmichael, Neil||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Jay, Rt.Hn. Douglas|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Ellis, Tom||Jeger, Mrs. Lena|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||English, Micheal||John, Brynmor|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Evans, Fred||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Ewing, Henry||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)|
|Coleman, Donald||Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham,Ladywood)||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham,S.)|
|Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Molloy, William||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Sillars, James|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Kinnock, Neil||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Lambie, David||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lamond, James||Murray, Ronald King||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Latham, Arthur||Oakes, Gordon||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Lawson, George||O'Halioran, Michael||Strang, Gavin|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||O'Malley, Brian||Swain, Thomas|
|Leonard, Dick||Oram, Bert||Taverne, Dick|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Orme, Stanley||Thomas, Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Oswald, Thomas||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Tinn, James|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pavitt, Laurie||Torney, Tom|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Pentland, Norman||Wainwright, Edwin|
|McBride, Neil||Perry, Ernest G.||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|McCann, John||Prescott, John||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McEIhone, Frank||Price, William (Rugby)||Wallace, George|
|McGuire, Michael||Probert, Arthur||Watkins, David|
|Mackie, John||Rankin, John||Weitzman, David|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Reed, D. (Sedgefleld)||Wellbeloved, James|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Rhodes, Geoffrey||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Richard, Ivor||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Marks, Kenneth||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Whitlock, William|
|Marsden, F.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Rose, Paul B.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Meacher, Michael||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Woof, Robert|
|Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Sandelson, Neville|
|Mendelson, John||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Millan, Bruce||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Milne, Edward||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Mr. Tom Pendry.|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).