HC Deb 16 January 1975 vol 884 cc696-817

4.15 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)

I beg to move, That this House pays tribute to the work of Lord O'Brien's Committee on the Export of Animals for Slaughter (Command Paper No. 5566); and considers that, in view of the progress made in establishing international welfare safeguards and of other relevant considerations, the export trade in animals destined for slaughter should now be resumed under close control to member countries of the European Economic Community and to such other countries as can provide adequate safeguards for the animals in question. The subject of this motion is a matter of deep interest and concern to many hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is a concern that is shared by the people of this country generally.

Over the years, I have taken a close interest in animal welfare and in veterinary matters generally. There are many items of animal health and welfare legislation that I have helped to the statute book. I recall, in particular, the valuable welfare safeguards that we introduced following the report of the Brambell Committee and my personal involvement in the work of the Council of Europe on the protection of animals in international transport. In many of these matters hon. Members on both sides of the House, irrespective of party alignments, have played their part, and I believe that we British can justly claim to have been among the front runners in setting welfare standards that others have followed and I am proud to have been associated with much of this work.

Before going further, I would like to emphasise one central point. There are, in this House and in the country generally, people to whom the export of animals will always be repugnant. They are implacably opposed to it. Though I am not opposed to it, I assure them that I respect their dedication to the cause and understand the motives that inspire them. I hope that they in turn will appreciate that my colleagues and I and some of their colleagues, in reaching a different conclusion on this issue, are no less concerned to maintain and improve our animal welfare standards.

I am often disturbed at the tendency to see the nation as being divided into opposing camps—the welfarists and those who do not care, or even the welfarists against the farmers. In my experience, these are wholly false distinctions. No single group of people possesses a monopoly of feeling on animal welfare, and to make such distinctions can only generate misguided emotion and resentment. In our debate today, hon. Members will, I know, wish to see the subject examined as rationally and coolly as possible.

The House will recall the anxiety over the export trade in animals for slaughter which resulted in the appointment in 1957 of the Balfour Committee. That Commitee's recommendations provided a framework for welfare arrangements which applied at first to cattle exported for slaughter, and from 1964 onwards to sheep and pigs. The framework became known as the Balfour Assurances. Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and West Germany gave us the assurances for cattle. The extension to sheep and pigs was accepted by all these countries except France.

Now what was the effect of the assurances? We did not export cattle, sheep and pigs for slaughter unless the receiving country had given us certain undertakings. But we did allow exports of store cattle and store pigs without restrictions. Exports of store sheep were, however, confined to the countries that gave us the Balfour Assurances for that species, the reason being that most store sheep would also be in a fit state for immediate slaughter. Exports from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland across the land boundary were uncontrolled. The Republic's welfare arrangements were broadly comparable to our own, and controls between the two countries could not have been effective.

Over the years there was growing doubt about the way in which the Balfour Assurances were working. Public disquiet came to a head in 1973 and on 12th July of that year the House approved a motion, That this House shares the growing concern about the conditions under which animals for slaughter are exported, transported and slaughtered overseas: welcomes the recent Government decision to suspend the issuing of export licences for live sheep: and, mind- ful of animal welfare, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to establish an independent inquiry into this trade, and in the meantime to suspend the issuing of licences for the export of live animals for slaughter overseas. I voted for that motion.

We were then faced with widespread doubt whether the welfare safeguards for the export trade were always operating as they should and I believed the time had come for a stocktaking. Hon. Members opposite accepted the will of the House. They proceeded with their intention to appoint a Committee of Inquiry; and they suspended the issue of export licences pending the results of the inquiry. Moreover, to check possible evasion, they thought it right that the suspension should apply not only to export licences for slaughter animals but also to exports of store animals intended for further fattening. This was because the distinction between the two categories can sometimes be difficult to draw. I accepted this and we have continued to operate the same policy.

The Committee of Inquiry was appointed under the able and distinguished chairmanship of Lord O'Brien of Lothbury. The report was published in March last year and since then has been the subject of careful study. I know that some hon. Members have been impatient for this debate, but we have had to have this careful study. We invited the views of home interests. On those recommendations with international aspects we consulted those Governments that joined with us in the Balfour Assurances, and we have followed up the initiative taken by the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) by discussing common EEC welfare safeguards within the European Community. We have had discussions with them.

I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in thanking Lord O'Brien and the distinguished members of his committee for their willingness to undertake this sensitive assignment. They could not hope to please everybody. Their task called for wisdom and for a careful collation and analysis of evidence, part fact and part opinion. My right hon. Friends and I pay tribute to the committee for its thorough and impartial review and for the basis it has provided to reappraise the decision of July 1973 in the light of the facts.

Let me deal first with the question whether the Balfour Assurances were adequate. The committee found that, despite their good influence over the years, the assurances had not always been observed—which vindicates the decision of this House in July 1973. However, in my view there was no overt failure on the part of any Government to honour their obligations. The trouble lay in the inevitable shortcomings of the Balfour arrangements. Also, the O'Brien Committee commented unfavourably on the business practices of a few of the individuals involved in the trade. I think it is sad that such strictures should have been necessary.

Under the Balfour Assurances, the importing countries made certain undertakings about animals exported from the United Kingdom for slaughter: they would not travel more than 100 km—about 65 miles—from the port of disembarkation; they would not be re-exported; they would be fed, watered and sheltered while awaiting slaughter; they would be slaughtered only after stunning electrically or by captive bolt pistol. Exports to Italy were to be by direct sea or air transport. The Balfour Assurances were obtained through normal diplomatic channels. They were not embodied in any formal treaty or convention, and successive British Governments regarded the operation of the assurances as a matter for the overseas Governments. Any allegations of infringements which were capable of investigation were referred to the Government of the importing country.

After careful examination of the evidence, the O'Brien Committee concluded that the Balfour Assurances had been breached on a number of occasions. Sheep had on occasion been re-exported from one country to another; animals exported for slaughter had sometimes travelled more than 100 km from the port of disembarkation to the abattoir, and the committee was not satisfied that the mode of transport abroad or the methods of handling livestock had always been beyond criticism.

But it is relevant that the House should not overlook the committee's comments in paragraph 39 of the report. There it emphasises that there is a great deal of stock movement within the United Kingdom in the normal course of agricultural production and that the distances can be considerable, sometimes involving journeys by sea, as many hon. Members intimately connected with the industry know. At the abattoirs, the committee found that practices during the waiting period in the lairages were very similar to those in the United Kingdom. Water was normally freely available up to the time of slaughter, and if the waiting period was likely to be more than a day, food was also provided. The committee also found that humane slaughter regulations were in force in all the countries which gave us the Balfour Assurances. These regulations require stunning before bleeding.

It is clear that these findings of the O'Brien Committee point to a state of affairs far less disturbing than some would have us believe, and I hope they will be heeded by those who have sought to stir up public emotion on the more flimsy of the allegations. It is equally clear, on the other hand, that the loosely arranged Balfour Assurances were not good enough. We needed something better. So much for the past. Let us now look to the future.

The O'Brien Committee reached three main conclusions: first, that a permanent ban on the export of live animals for slaughter would be unjustified on either welfare or economic grounds; second, that the implementation of common European welfare regulations covering transport and slaughter conditions would be the most effective means of safeguarding the welfare of animals in intra-Community trade; third, that safeguards for non-EEC countries should be no less stringent if trade in food animals were to be permitted. The Government agree with each of those conclusions.

In its report, the committee welcomed the initiatives taken by the Council of Europe on a convention governing the protection of animals during international transport, and by the EEC Council on a draft directive on humane slaughter. The committee doubted, however, whether these long-term European measures would be implemented quickly enough, and so it recommended a number of interim arrangements that would serve to enable the trade to be restarted. These interim arrangements involved a supervisory body representing home and overseas trade, veterinary, welfare and Government interests. The supervisory body would maintain a register of approved exporters and appoint a small team of inspectors. Registration would be a precondition of exporting. There would be an initial forfeitable deposit and a headage levy. Exports would be confined to approved slaughterhouses. Certificates of slaughter would be required. For store animals there would be a special declaration procedure subject to spot checks.

We have considered these proposed interim arrangements very carefully. All the welfare interests we consulted doubted whether they could be enforced in practice. I think they are correct in their assessment. Some of the interim proposals would, moreover, be unacceptable to other countries concerned whose co-operation would be essential. The register of approved exporters, the initial deposit and the headage levy would require legislation. The proposed supervisory body would have to rely on reports from a United Kingdom inspectorate operating abroad with a view to applying sanctions—an arrangement that we could not reasonably expect other countries to accept. Neither would it be acceptable for us to specify the abattoirs in the member States to which our animals would be consigned for slaughter. This is a matter for the veterinary service of each importing country.

Our doubts about the practicability of the proposed interim arrangements explain why we decided to concentrate on long-term European measures and not to became enmeshed in temporary expedients. Our efforts towards that end have not been in vain. I am glad to tell the House that progress on long-term measures has been faster than the O'Brien Committee thought possible.

The EEC Council of Ministers has now adopted a directive on the stunning of animals before slaughter. It will be in operation throughout the Community by not later than 1st July this year. Its provisions are already widely in operation. Furthermore, a Commission working group of experts from the member States is considering proposals for a directive to give effect in Community law to the Council of Europe convention on the welfare of animals during international transport. I understand that good progress is being made, and the Commission will shortly be making proposals to the Council of Ministers.

In the meantime we, with Belgium, France and Germany, ratified this Council of Europe convention with effect from 1st July 1974, bringing the total number of EEC member States which have done so to six. The Netherlands, the Irish Republic and Italy are expected to follow suit in the near future. The EEC has already adopted ratification of this convention as soon as possible as the joint policy of its members.

I think the House will agree that these are most important advances. But there are other relevant measures affecting the export trade in live animals. The EEC directive—

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

The right hon. Gentleman referred to this as being an EEC directive. Could he give an assurance that the legislation that will flow from that directive in the national Parliaments will be through very soon, because the motion on the Order Paper says "now"?

Mr. Peart

I think the date of 1st July which I have suggested shows that we are anxious to speed this up, and it will be put into operation immediately.

The EEC directive on intra-Community trade in cattle and pigs contains—and I will deal with this in detail—animal health provisions that are of direct benefit to welfare. I will spell out the position as regards the directive. Under the provisions of this directive animals imported for slaughter have to go through recognised frontier posts and will be subject to inspection on arrival by the authorised veterinary officer of the importing country. These are very important measures. All animals for intra-Community trade must have remained in the specific country to which they were sent for at least three months in the case of slaughter animals and six months in the case of production or breeding animals. It would not be possible, therefore, for animals to be re-exported immediately to other EEC countries.

There are other tangible benefits under the terms of this health directive. It provides that animals for slaughter must be dealt with as soon as possible after they arrive at an abattoir. And for store cattle and pigs there are specific health requirements, for certification and for detention on the farm in the importing country, which would act as a deterrent to anyone other than those engaged in a bona fide trade in store animals.

To summarise the new arrangements, this package of welfare measures and allied provisions is a considerable achievement. Its particular advantage over arrangements of the Balfour type is that it will add the weight of Community law to national welfare provisions and will introduce a new mechanism for investigating complaints.

Whatever one's views about the Community, in the interests of what we are trying to achieve it is right to pay tribute where it is due, and I hope that no one will be prejudiced on this matter. The Government consider that these arrangements meet the specification of common European welfare regulations covering both transport and slaughter conditions recommended by the O'Brien Committee as the most effective means of safeguarding the welfare of all animals entering the livestock trade within the European Community.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

Would the right hon. Gentleman clarify the point about the date to which my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) referred? When he says that the date of the directive will be 1st July—

Mr. Peart

I said the operative date.

Mr. Powell

Does that mean the relevant legislation will already be in force by then in all Community countries?

Mr. Peart

I cannot give that absolute assurance but we are having discussions with the members of the Community—for example, with Ireland—so that this directive which was adopted in November 1974 shall be operative by 1st July 1975.

Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there are at least 100 directives that have not been enacted by national Parliaments for several years?

Mr. Peart

I heard the previous discussion with the Leader of the House, but I am a member of the Council of Ministers and I intend to press for this directive to be fulfilled.

I realise that some hon. Members may feel apprehensive about the disappearance of the 100 km limit on distance from the port of disembarkation to the abattoir—one of the features of the Balfour assurances. Let me quote paragraph 64 of the O'Brien Committee on this matter: There is, in our view, nowadays no justification for a distance limitation of such an artificial nature provided always—

  1. (i) that each consignment of animals is moving to a pre-arranged destination;
  2. (ii) that the animals receive a veterinary inspection at the port of disembarkation and are judged to be fit for that specified journey; and
  3. (iii) that whatever rest period is judged necessary is observed and that adequate food and water are provided."
All those would be taken care of under the European arrangements I have just described.

This leaves the question of exports to countries not in the Community. For those countries we encounter problems of greater distance and different cultures. There is no universal law and no international backing except where a country has ratified the Council of Europe Transport Convention.

Clearly it would be wrong to contemplate allowing exports to those countries until we could be fully satisfied about their welfare safeguards. In the past this trade has been virtually confined to breeding and store stock. Let me be absolutely clear on this; we have no intention of reopening this trade to any destination unless we can be completely assured that the conditions under which the animals are transported and are treated after they arrive will be fully in accordance with the standards we demand.

Finally, may I say a few words on the other O'Brien recommendations.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

The right hon. Gentleman must appreciate that we have some duty in this matter. We cannot part with these matters on a basis of doubt and uncertainty. I am obliged to him for his courtesy in giving way, even if it seemed to be reluctantly exercised, uncharacteristically, in this case.

Would the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House the significance and intention of the word "now"? The motion reads: should now be resumed under close control to member countries of the European Economic Community …". That would mean about 1st July according to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. But what does "now" mean? "Now" on a motion passed on 16th January would normally mean 16th January, but there is a gap of six months.

Mr. Peart

I believe that in that interim period there will have to be further discussions, and I will act on this as quickly as possible, even before the directive. If we can get agreement that individual countries will fulfil the directive and it will operate fully for the Community from 1st July, that is a step forward.

I want to deal now with strengthening the inspection system and making public our codes of practice and understandings. This is an important recommendation—investigating further technical problems such as air transport; keeping export slaughterhouse capacity under review; and encouraging United Kingdom meat manufacturers to use more home supplies. We accept all these recommendations and some of them have already been put into effect.

We shall consider the recommendation that the exporter should pay for pre-export inspection in the context of charges for export certification generally.

Recommendation 18 about the use of experienced stevedores will involve consultation with the port authorities and with the appropriate unions.

So much for the O'Brien Committee and its valuable report. I have so far made a point of dealing with these issues solely on animal welfare grounds because it is the welfare considerations that I believe must always be predominant. But we must not overlook the implications for the farming industry. At times of market surplus, the possibility of an export trade in food animals can have a useful effect in sustaining farmers' confidence. We can also derive a certain contribution to our balance of trade. I must also remind hon. Members of the fodder shortage that faces many of our farmers this winter, especially in Wales and the South-West.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)

And in Scotland.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

May I return to a point which is clearly disturbing the House—the difference between operating licences from tomorrow and from 1st July? Can the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that licences will be granted only to those exporters who are willing to abide by the conditions which he has outlined, and that in any event if anyone is found to be in breach of those conditions no further licence will be issued to him?

Mr. Pearl

I accept that. If the House passes the motion, I would act immediately. We would have licensing arrangements basically on the lines suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)


Mr. Peart

I am sorry, but I must conclude. I have given way very frequently and many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.

The re-opening of an export trade in food animals would not, in my view, provide a complete solution to the difficulties that these farmers face, but the shipment of any significant number of animals would be bound to reflect favourably on the fodder situation in the country.

The O'Brien Report does not recommend an indefinite suspension of exports. It recommends that exports should be resumed if proper safeguards can be provided. I have attempted to show that, within the European Community—and the Community includes all the countries to which we have traditionally exported livestock for slaughter—several safeguards now operate, or are being brought into operation, which did not apply prior to the debate in July 1973.

The intention of EEC countries is abundantly clear. There is already a directive on humane slaughter and a draft directive on transport conditions is being prepared. The Council of Europe Convention on Transport Conditions is already widely observed. It is for these reasons that I can with confidence recommend hon. Members to support the motion.

4.42 p.m.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

The House will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comprehensive speech on a subject much more complex than appears at first sight. One point which has emerged has caused a certain anxiety in the House, and I shall return to it later.

This is a most important subject. It is one on which people feel very strongly. Where animals are concerned, our sensitivities are naturally aroused and it can be difficult to be objective, which the right hon. Gentleman certainly was. I and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have been regretting the delay shown by the Government in announcing their conclusions on the report, which came out l0½ months ago, and in bringing the matter before the House for debate and decision. Having heard the right hon. Gentleman, however, I think that it is apparent that much work and thought has been put into this matter. Indeed, more than that, there has been considerable discussion and negotiation with the European Community, with helpful results. It may be, therefore, that the time has been well spent, but the right hon. Gentleman must understand the impatience which many of us have felt.

Through the welter of argument and disagreement that properly characterises this House. I believe that every hon. Member shares the same feeling of deep concern about the welfare of animals. We are all intent on seeing that animals in any circumstances are treated with the greatest care and humanity. It was this very concern that led to the last debate in July 1973, which in turn resulted in the ban on the export of live animals which has existed ever since.

The Minister read out that resolution of the House, so I will not repeat it. But no one in that debate sought to question, let alone to amend, any except the last part of it. The House was unanimous in its concern about the conditions in which animals were exported. Already, the Conservative Government had taken action in banning the export of live sheep because evidence existed that certain continental countries were not or might not be adhering to the full Balfour Assurances. That was done by the then Government without any particular pressure.

That same Conservative Government wanted an independent inquiry into the circumstances and conditions surrounding this trade. The farming and livestock industries and the House wanted it. The only controversy—the one which led to the vote on the addendum—was whether there should be a complete ban on exports while the inquiry was in progress, or whether that ban should apply only to those countries where evidence existed that the assurances were not being kept. The right hon. Gentleman said that he voted for the motion. With respect, I must remind him that he did not. No one did, because no one challenged it. The vote arose on the addendum, and in the event the House decided on a complete ban for the duration of the inquiry.

A committee was then set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), who was then Minister of Agriculture, under the chairmanship of Lord O'Brien, and I endorse completely all that the right hon. Gentleman has said about the work of Lord O'Brien and his colleagues. I am sure that we are all grateful for the care, thoroughness and expedition with which they discharged their responsibility. They were not given an easy task. They reported in six months, and now we have the opportunity to look at the matter again in the light of their findings.

As the committee did, so must this House start from the basic premise that we live in a meat-eating world. That means slaughter, which, however humanely carried out, can never be a pleasant spectacle. But as most people eat meat it is an inescapable process. Therefore, we are dealing not only with an animal welfare problem but with an economic problem as well which cannot be ignored. The economic arguments are dealt with in paragraphs 89 to 96 of the report. They are not particularly strong one way or the other, and the committee concluded that the issue was one which should be settled on welfare considerations. It is, in any case, the welfare aspect that is uppermost in everyone's mind.

The House will recall the criticisms and allegations which had been widely expressed and which the committee had to deal with. These included overcrowding in the lairages, lack of food and water, inadequate rest periods and veterinary inspections, and travel in excess of 100 kilometres. Instances have been cited in this House and outside and the committee looked into them and reported in considerable detail.

No one would deny that if the allegations had been substantiated a highly disturbing state of affairs would have been revealed—indeed, an intolerable and unacceptable state of affairs. The investigations therefore were awaited with natural anxiety, and they showed, at the end of the day, that, while a certain number of the criticisms were well founded, in many cases the evidence did not bear close scrutiny. Every stage in the trade was looked at, from conditions in the United Kingdom, prior to export, to slaughter facilities abroad. The export of calves, the loading and unloading at docks, sea and air transport facilities and transport on the Continent, and the problem of animals being re-exported were all studied most carefully, and the results are in the report.

I am sorry that some people have criticised the O'Brien Committee because it did not conduct its inquiries incognito. The report is frank about this. Paragraph 36 says that the committee considered this possibility very seriously but rejected it because of what it regarded as overwhelming political and practical objections.

The committee had to decide how to set about its task, and I think that its approach was the most sensible. I feel strongly that the integrity of the committee must be respected, and I am confident that the House will share that view. There is no justification for any other attitude, and if some of the committee's conclusions are not to every one's taste, that is no reason for turning on the committee. It was concerned with evidence and facts and actuality, and its report describes what it found.

The committee, at the end of its deliberations, produced a unanimous report. The first of its 24 conclusions and recommendations is: We do not consider that a permanent ban on the export of live animals for slaughter is justified on either welfare or economic grounds. That is a far-reaching and positive conclusion that cannot have been reached lightly. In a speech in another place on 6th November the noble Lord O'Brien as reported at column 487—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

That is not allowed.

Mr. Pym

May I quote that, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman may quote a Minister's statement in another place, but no other noble Lord.

Mr. Pym

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that I can indicate clearly the point that I wish to bring out.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman is free to paraphrase what was said.

Mr. Pym

The point is quite simple. More than half the members of the committee started out on the basis that they would be very reluctant converts to the kind of conclusion that I have just read. The truth and fact of the matter is that at the end of the six months' inquiry the Committee came to the unanimous recommendation to which I have just referred.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

The right hon. Gentleman has rightly made the point apropos the conclusions, but I think that he would agree that those conclusions depend on a number of prerequisites preceding them in the report. The conclusions are valid only if the prerequisites are adhered to.

Mr. Pym

I ask the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) to be a little patient. I have no doubt that this first unanimous conclusion owes much to the next 20 recommendations, most of which deal directly with the control and welfare aspects.

The committee found scope for tighter inspections and controls on a variety of important details and for the strengthening of the Balfour Assurances and the procedure surrounding them. All this would be welcome to the House, which hoped to obtain out of the inquiry extra measures of protection, vigilance and reassurance.

Recommendations 4 to 9 list a series of safeguards to be exercised under the authority of a new supervisory body. The importance of these proposals, at any rate in part, is to ensure not only good welfare but that such welfare is seen to be carried out.

I was proposing to ask the Minister—in a sense I still do—to tell us more about these proposals when he replies and whether and, if so, how and why, he is satisfied that they are practical, because other countries are involved and there could be difficulties. We must be certain about the co-operation of importing countries in carrying out the safeguards to the full. The import of what the right hon. Gentleman said just now was that these proposals have in a sense been overtaken by his discussions and negotiations with European countries. The Minister said that these had gone faster and further than the O'Brien Committee expected.

Is the Minister telling the House that those discussions and negotiations are in themselves better and more effective than the O'Brien proposals? This is an important matter because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) pointed out and as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) have indicated, the motion refers to resuming the export subject to certain conditions "now".

I think that I am right in saying, although the Minister did not say this, that the new regulations and directives and the effective measures about which he spoke are in force now, but that they are not backed by law. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was trying to indicate that they would be backed by law by July. However, I understand that they are in force now. If the Minister wishes to interrupt me to clear up this point by telling us what the true position is, I think that the House would be grateful to him.

Mr. Peart

I give that assurance. It is our intention, if the motion is carried, to reopen EEC trade immediately and to accept applications for other destinations subject to careful investigation. The assurances given are better—that is improvement—and the directives will later provide the force of law described by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Pym

Will the Minister confirm that these safeguards are in force so that, if the motion were passed and the trade resumed, the House would know that they are in force now?

Mr. Peart

I think (that they are. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is no question that (they are in force, but we want the backing of law. There are problems with third countries. We would have to look into applications for destinations which are different from the Community. That would be a matter for discussion with individual Governments.

Mr. Pym

Is the position that the trade would be resumed with countries in Europe where they are in force, albeit not as yet backed by law, but emphatically not with countries where such safeguards are not in force? This is an important matter which the House will wish to measure carefully.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have a list of laws which are already in being in France which are not being carried out at the moment? I also have a list of times and dates from witnesses who have seen those laws being ignored. How can the Minister or anybody else be sure that any new law will be carried out?

Mr. Pym

In those circumstances, I understand that no more licences would be issued. I do not think that we want to get back to a series of allegations of what is happening or might happen. What we are considering today is the result of the inquiry into the evidence. That is an important point and I hope that the Minister will return to it this evening.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

I do not wish to raise difficulties—I want to help the House and myself—but, not being a lawyer, I do not understand what is meant by being "in force" without legislation to back that requirement. Could my right hon. Friend help me on that point?

Mr. Pym

I do not find any difficulty with that point. Many things which are done as a matter of routine do not necessarily depend on backing in law. The important point is that they are being and must be seen to be carried out. That is one of the areas of public anxiety.

There is an important recommendation about the carcase trade which has been on the increase for a number of years, and markedly so in the early 1970s. I think that we would all like this trade to be expanded. The purpose of the recommendation referred to in paragraph 96 is to see that the capacity and location of export-approved slaughterhouses keep in step with the growth of the carcase trade. I should like the capacity and location to be ahead of the growth of the carcase trade so that facilities are available to take account of the consequences of a growth in that trade.

Another important aspect of the subject is the impact of the temporary ban on the livestock sector of agriculture. This is not the occasion to go into the causes of the slump in the livestock market. But this country has a greatly increased stock of animals, some of which are starving. There are probably 14½ million head of cattle to feed—I have seen estimates of that total—but the supplies of fodder are estimated to be adequate for only 13 million head. The slaughterhouses are working flat out. They cannot cope with such a surplus of beasts. It is hard to quantify accurately the loss through malnutrition and starvation, but estimates are as high as 1,000 head per week. If that is even remotely right—I think that it probably is—that is about as ghastly and cruel a situation as can be imagined by anyone.

There is a crying need to take surplus animals off British farms, but they cannot be slaughtered here in time. The capacity just does not exist. The miserable hay harvests and the poor weather last summer are acts of God. But when farmers expanded their herds in the early 1970s, they did so in the knowledge of and on the basis of a trade in live animals which was suddenly removed. This removal is not the basic cause of today's problem. I am not one to exaggerate. But certainly it is a contributory factor in the current crisis, and one of peculiar poignancy. I believe that the House would wish to take it into account in the debate. In my view it would be a dereliction of our responsibility not to take it into account. But I put it no higher than that, because the heart and essence of the question we must decide today is the health and welfare aspect of the export trade.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

If the arguments are correct about the number of cattle which are starving here, it would seem that it would be necessary to export immediately to the Continent about 3 million cattle in order to alleviate the situation—at any rate, very considerable quantities. At the same time we are importing from Ireland and there is a glut of beef on the Continent.

Mr. Pym

I think that my hon. Friend exaggerates. I sought not to do that. I have very deliberately said that this matter is not the centre of our debate today but that it is a factor to take into account. What I say is that were the ban to be lifted that would make a contribution towards preventing that malnutrition and starvation about which we are so worried.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the independent report that the BBC gave was that the 1,000 deaths a week were merely in Devon and Cornwall only—not in the whole United Kingdom—and that it is as invalid to plead against this relief that opening exports would not relieve the whole of the problem as it would be to say that because all the passengers on the "Titanic" could not get into the available lifeboats, none of them should have got into any of them? This is a relief which can be given to some animals but not all. That is no reason why this relief should be denied to as many animals as would benefit from it.

Mr. Pym

I am aware that the figure I mentioned is the same figure as has been mentioned in relation to the West Country only. But I have found it most difficult to get any accurate figure, and therefore I pitch this on the low side. I have been careful to say that whereas it is peculiarly important at present, it is not a point that is fundamental to the decision which the House is being asked to take. The effect of the ban on our immediate situation must be put into the balance.

How then does the balance of the argument lie? I understand and respect the feelings of those who believe that animals should not be transported overseas in any circumstances because they feel that any such movement is prejudicial to the animals. But is it prejudicial? Not only the House but the industry itself and everyone wanted the evidence examined and tested. This has been done—thoroughly, openly and frankly. The result is here in the report. Its conclusion, based on a dispassionate analysis of the evidence, is that a continuation of the ban is not justified but that there should be revised safeguards. The House will note that particular attention was given to the views of the British Veterinary Association.

I believe that the House will feel that the objective for which it voted in the July 1973 decision has been achieved. To the Committee's principal conclusion, which I read out, must be added the fact that a lifting of the ban now would be a positive benefit and bonus to the welfare of our high headage of cattle in Britain today, and the fact that when the House voted to introduce the ban in 1973, it did so on a strictly temporary basis—that is to say, while the inquiry was in progress and making its independent assessment.

Now we have that assessment. It may not accord with what some people hoped for, but if we depart from the evidence we are embarking on a hazardous course. The evidence indicates most clearly that the fears expressed previously are at worst exaggerated and at best ill-founded.

The motion, like the report, is concerned with the close and strict exercise of the controls and the safeguards which will ensure the welfare of the animals involved. On this basis, I advise the House—in so far as any words of mine can carry weight—to support the motion.

5.5 p.m.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

The O'Brien Report should go down in history as a memorable document, not merely because of its intrinsic value but because it will supply back benchers on both sides of the House with the opportunity to give their Front Benches a rude awakening as to what are really the facts of life of this issue.

It may be incumbent upon me to declare an interest in the debate, other than my personal interest. I am President of the National Society for the Abolition of Factory Farming. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the gratitude of the association for the excellent manner in which my right hon. Friend the Minister, and the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) when he was Minister, received deputations from the association, and for their courtesy—[Interruption.] If I may say so to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), whose intervention I did not hear, he has already made one little speech, and it may be just as well now, if he wants to make a really intelligent speech, for him to remain silent, to listen to what I have to say, and to emulate it.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) made a plea, quite rightly, on behalf of us all when he said that we all believe that there must be proper consideration for all animals at all times. That is the sort of cliché which has been used over the past decade, but not much notice has been taken of it, and people are becoming concerned—I can understand that, particularly when such words are uttered—when the deeds which follow them follow much too tardily. In consequence, the words turn sour.

It has been said by both Front Bench speakers that people may see a report of an incident of maltreatment of animals, about which a great deal of publicity may be given, and naturally people react to that. Indeed, as the report says, very often when this happens people understandably get angry, but they then make the wrong assumption that the particular vulgar incident is the general practice when it is not. In examining these cases I have often found that the particular vulgar incident is in isolation. The more reprehensible incidents are almost commonplace. That is a point which the O'Brien Committee has overlooked.

It would be pointless for the House to receive a report from any committee but then be too shy to criticise it. Of course we acknowledge the work of such committees, but we should be failing in our duty to any committee if we thought but did not say that there were aspects of its report which were lax or that the conclusions drawn were erroneous. In making such criticisms we are paying full respect to such reports, and I hope to do something on those lines later.

Organisations other than my own have studied the report. They cannot be dismissed as emotional or as not knowing what they are talking about. I have read their reports. They include, for example, the report of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is as much incumbent upon me to read what the RSPCA says about the O'Brien Report as it is to read the O'Brien Report itself. It comes to a different conclusion from the O'Brien Report in many respects. The Farm and Food Society has examined the report and has come to a different conclusion from the members of the committee. The Crusade Against All Cruelty to Animals Limited has studied the report in detail and its conclusions are in many instances different. Organisations like the Council of Justice to Animals and Humane Slaughter Association have examined the report. They cannot be dismissed as irresponsible and emotional. They have discovered in the report lapses which they believe should be noted. All these organisations are unanimous in believing that, the O'Brien Report notwithstanding, this is not the time to raise the ban on the export of live animals.

Mr. Hooson

Does the hon. Member agree that all the organisations he has mentioned are dedicated to a total ban on the export of live animals? Does he accept that before they entered into an inquiry they had already come to a conclusion and that that marks a completely diffierent attitude from that of an independent committee of inquiry which has no such objective?

Mr. Molloy

That was a sad interjection—

Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)

It was pathetic.

Mr. Molloy

—because these associations were in existence for years before the problem arose. They have been concerned with animals welfare. It is wrong to say that they have prejudged the issue. They have examined the report. I invite the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) to say that he has read the reports of the associations I referred to and that he finds them irresponsible.

Mr. Hooson

I have read the report of every organisation which has sent a report to me and I think they include all the bodies mentioned by the hon. Member. I respect their point of view. I accept that these people are genuinely concerned about animals. I was merely pointing out the difference between an organisation or individual with a mission and an independent body which is considering evidence and which has no conclusion in mind in deciding what is right or wrong.

Mr. Molloy

I give the hon. and learned Gentleman credit for complimenting the organisations and associations I have mentioned. I hope he accepts that but for their devotion to a cause it is unlikely that we would ever have had the O'Brien Report.

Mr. Winterton

I have just studied the list of those who gave both written and oral evidence to the committee. Why was it that neither the hon. Member nor his organisation appeared before the committee to give the evidence that he says exists?

Mr. Molloy

The hon. Member has only now looked down the list to see whether my organisation gave evidence. The fact is that the society was not requested to do so even though it wanted to—

Mr. Winterton


Mr. Molloy

The hon. Member keeps shouting "rubbish" but we are discussing here a very important report, not the contents of what is between his ears.

It would be wrong if we were to examine this whole problem simply from the point of view of the farmers and those whose living depends on the trade. Of course, there are many farmers who are just as dedicated to the welfare of animals as anyone else.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr. Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.]—I am grateful to the hon. Member—

Mr. Molloy

I have not given way.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. Is the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) rising to a point of order?

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I merely wanted to clarify—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. An enormous number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. The more interruptions the fewer the contributions there will be. Mr. Molloy.

Mr. Molloy


Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I was not rising to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If it is not a point of order the hon. Member must allow the hon. Member who is addressing the House to continue.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I rose in the normal way in debate to check a point made by the hon. Member. I did not claim that I was on a point of order. I merely rose to give the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) the opportunity of giving way as is the normal practice.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is the normal practice if the hon. Member gives way, for another Member to speak, but there was no indication that he was giving way. Let us continue now. Mr. Molloy.

Mr. Molloy


Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the hon. Member give way? I am most grateful. As I understood it, the hon. Member said that an organisation wanted to give evidence but was refused the right to give evidence by the O'Brien committee. If it wanted to give evidence why did it not do so? I did not understand. I thought that the hon. Member said that the O'Brien committee refused to allow some organisation in which the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) has an interest either to give oral or written evidence. If the hon. Member did not mean that, what did he mean?

Mr. Molloy

I did not give way to the hon. Gentleman before because he did not ask me to give way. I believe that he was on the fringe of being guilty of a serious abuse of the House. I do not intend to go back over all that ground again simply to get what I said into his mind. I do not intend either to succumb to any demands from him that I should answer any question. As I understand it, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you are in charge of the affairs of the House and not the hon. Member for Tiverton.

I wish now to proceed with my comments on the report and on the Balfour Assurances. We all know that these assurances were hardly worth the paper they were written on. We cannot, therefore, pin any hopes on voluntary observation of them, and I believe that some form of legislation will ultimately be required.

It is distressing to learn that the carcase trade cannot be carried out because of the lack of suitable transport. Surely that is something that even the farmers will want to look into. The ultimate objective of the report is stated on page 6, paragraph 21. It says: We consider the allegations in detail in paragraphs 33–83 and we go on to discuss in paragraphs 84–96 the more general welfare and economic arguments which apply to this trade. Then comes the important aspect: The eventual objective must be for the movement of all animals for any purpose within the EEC to be carried on under common safeguards as outlined in paragraph 18, but these are unlikely to come into effect for some little time. We must ask ourselves why. We must not rush into agreeing to the motion.

It is true that some reports have given a false impression of cruelty, but there has also been responsible Press and television evidence based on practical investigation. I know that some reports have simply been of one incident, but there have been detailed examinations by some British newspapers and the BBC, as a result of such incidents, to find out the general practice. Anyone who has seen or heard such reports must conclude that there is an unhappy state of affairs which we cannot ignore. The same applies to the export lairages, where the report has revealed unsatisfactory conditions.

The House would also be well advised to note the disgraceful business of re-export, mentioned in the report. That business is still indulged in by dodgers who are as cruel as they are artful, and we must stop it. Everyone, whichever side of the argument he is on, will want to see that sort of practice stopped.

There is a great deal in the report on which people who take contrary general views can agree. We should try to select them, to make sure that they at least are dealt with. In its thorough way the committee visited many other countries. It found that after its visits many deficiencies at abattoirs were remedied. A permanent body could well put right many deficiencies and vulgarities.

The committee rightly mentions the Council of Europe Convention. This country is a signatory to that Convention. Any reasonable person would describe the Council of Europe's line as an ideal answer. It may be impossible to achieve the ideal, but we should work towards it.

The economic arguments are mentioned in paragraph 90. We should read not merely the conclusions but some of the arguments on which they are based.

Mr. Pym

All of them.

Mr. Molloy

The right hon. Gentleman did not quote all of them, but, from his responsible position, he should have done so. Time does not allow me to do it, although I am prepared to go through the whole lot.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman was interrupted, but he has already taken 20 minutes, and should not be provoked.

Mr. Molloy

I wish your chastisement had been exercised in the same gentle, kind manner a little earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because much of my 20 minutes has been taken up by other hon. Members.

The Committee says in paragraph 90: As we have said in paragraph 21, economic considerations played only a secondary role in our thinking and we judged that in the final analysis the scale of the live export trade was such that in national terms its termination would be of relatively limited significance. That is the economic argument. According to the report, maintenance of the ban would have relatively insignificant economic effects. Hon. Members who disagree have the right to challenge the committee on that.

I should like to have said many other things, but I realise that many other hon. Members wish to speak. The method of implementing the committee's recommendations is important. I do not want to interfere too much with the EEC countries, but I want their co-operation. We should have sensible discussions with them, but many people in this country desire firm legislation and efficient enforcement of the committee's recommendations. Till we can examine in more detail how we shall legislate, and what sort of efficient enforcement we shall have, it is imperative that the ban be maintained. I hope that back benchers on both sides of the House will join me in opposing both Front Benches.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. Joseph Godber (Grantham)

I shall speak briefly, because I know how many other hon. Members wish to speak. I am glad to have the opportunity to take part in the debate, because I was the Minister responsible for appointing the O'Brien Committee, and it is appropriate that I should say a few words.

My first words are words of unqualified thanks to Lord O'Brien and his colleagues for a clear, concise and comprehensive report. Whatever one's judgment of the report's findings, no one can find fault with its literary content. We should be most grateful, because we receive verbose reports from time to time, and it is a pleasure to read one that is brief and to the point.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) took enough time of the House to acquaint us all with his views, so I do not wish to take too long in referring to his speech. But I must take him up on his quotations from paragraph 21. The last thing he would have wished to do was to mislead the House or misrepresent the committee, but in quoting two sentences from that paragraph he left out material sentences between them. His quotations gave a connotation to the report which I do not think was intended. Before the hon. Gentleman spoke, I had underlined a sentence in the middle of the paragraph which I think is its key sentence. It says We do not consider that the degree of stress involved in any one section of the export trade, nor its cumulative effect, is sufficient to justify a permanent ban.

Mr. Arthur Lewis


Mr. Godber

I shall not give way, because I want to be brief, and I have merely been dealing with the points made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North.

I turn to the generality of the debate. I said on 12th July 1973: The debate is not about motives but about methods. We all want to stamp out cruelty wherever we can, and there are two aspects we may have to consider. One is cruelty during transport. The other is cruelty at the point of slaughter."—[Official Report, 12th July 1973; Vol. 859, c. 1853.] I want to speak largely about those matters, and particularly to take account of what the Minister said today. One or two aspects clearly disturbed a number of hon. Members, including me to some degree, in regard to the implementation of what he proposes. The right hon. Gentleman called attention to the speed with which the Council of Ministers had dealt with the matter. I am entitled to remind him and the House that in the debate in July 1973 I said that I intended to raise the matter and to press it. It was in September 1973 that I first raised it in the Council of Ministers. I had previously spoken to most of the other Ministers. I think that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will recognise that it was that initiative that led to the speedy consideration of this matter. I am not seeking credit—

Mr. Peart

On this matter I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman. I do so sincerely.

Mr. Godber

I was not seeking credit but seeking to make the point that the Council of Ministers was seized of the matter at that time. He has been able to conclude the discussions. I am glad that the other countries responded so readily. That is the tribute that I wanted to pay.

I turn to the specific issues of transport and slaughter. Having regard to what the Minister has said before the debate, I was expecting to hear him say something about the utilisation of the interim measures. I was surprised that he decided that that was not necessary. As he has made that decision I shall not make reference to those proposals, although I believe that some of them were realistic and could have been effective without introducing excessive governmental interference.

Basing himself on the O'Brien Report—and it is a clear indication of present practice and policy—the Minister has said that he intends to concentrate on the long-term measures. I am seeking to quote his words. He said that progress has been fast. He then referred to the Community directive on pre-stunning and gave 1st July 1975 as the operative date in the Community. Secondly, he referred to the Community as a whole adopting the Council of Europe's Convention on Transport. It is about transport that so much of the complaint and accusations of the past have been based. They have centred around the Balfour Assurances.

Many Members have been genuinely concerned about the dangers of excessive transport and ineffective lairages. The basis of the Balfour Assurances was that we should limit the distance of transport. Paragraph 18 of the O'Brien Report tells us of the utilisation of the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport as the position when the report was printed. The paragraph says that the proposals are moving towards ratification of this Convention. France, Germany and the United Kingdom ratified on 9th January 1974 and Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg had ratified prior to that date. In response to the discussion on animal welfare in the Council of Ministers on 25th September 1973 the Commission are working on a draft directive … The Minister has told us that the Community is adopting an existing Council of Europe arrangement and, therefore, giving it the force of a Community directive. But already the United Kingdom has ratified and it is bound by the convention. That is important in relation to what the Minister was saying about a time factor. We know already that the United Kingdom Government have ratified the convention and are standing by it. Other countries in the Community, as set out in paragraph 18, have also ratified.

It would seem that the fears expressed by certain interventions can be dealt with by a reference to the Council of Europe measure having been adopted by individual countries. It is only the formal directive of the Community which has not yet been put into force. The convention is realistic. It is being operated and no one has claimed that there is any contravention of it in the countries concerned. That is an important assurance which will help the House in accepting the Minister's position.

I turn to the question of slaughter. I refer to paragraph 17, which says: Humane slaughter regulations are in force in all the countries which have agreed to the Balfour Assurances and these regulations…

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Would the right hon. Gentleman repeat that?

Mr. Godber

I am trying to be brief.

Mr. Lewis

Did the right hon. Gentleman read "enforce" or "in force"?

Mr. Godber

I read "in force". I am quoting from the report. I draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to paragraph 17. If my words are unclear he will be able to read them in that paragraph. The paragraph says that the regulations are in force in all the countries which have agreed to the Balfour Assurances and these regulations require stunning before bleeding. The regulations are based on pre-stunning by captive bolt pistol, electro-lethaler or other approved method and in the case of pigs in certain countries by CO2 gas. That seems to cover the situation insofar as the regulations are being imposed and utilised by the Governments concerned. That is one of the points about which concern has been expressed by those who have been opposed to this trade.

I shall not lend my voice in the House to say that any country in the Community is deliberately evading the regulations. Perhaps in some countries the enforcement has been less severe than in others. There are clear references in the report to such matters. I draw attention to paragraph 77 which specifically refers to a case in France. It refers to a slaughter-man having been excluded from the abattoir for a month owing to his failure to operate the pre-stunning equipment as prescribed. The report refers to certain assurances that were given by the French Ministry of Agriculture as to the implementation of severe penalties if there should be any repetition of such a failure.

It seems that through the Community regulations and the directive from 1st July onwards there will be adequate power to ensure that such penalties will be implemented. In the meantime national legislation is available. I suggest one further safeguard which might be required so as to satisfy all of us. The right hon. Gentleman will be issuing export licences to individuals. It will be possible to check and take note of how this trade is undertaken and how stunning and slaughtering take place. It will be possible to rescind a licence in the same way as we did when in Government. If the Minister will give an undertaking that these matters will be severely controlled and that licences will be withdrawn if necessary, I believe that in spite of the greyness of the area exposed by his speech we shall be able to accept his assurance. Without such an assurance I would have the same fears as many of my hon. Friends.

Mr. Peart

I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance now. However, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will spell it out in addition to answering other questions. I give the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman seeks.

Mr. Godber

That clears the position in my mind to a considerable extent. Firm lines have been drawn regarding transport and slaughter but that does not mean that any country involved has the right to turn a blind eye to any other malpractice that may take place. The majority of people concerned in this trade, in their own interests if for no other reason, are careful to avoid unnecessary cruelty as it harms the value of the product. Of course, I do not rest my case on that. I am reminding people in the trade that they have an interest of their own quite apart from any feeling that we must introduce safeguards against cruelty.

In spite of the slight doubts that arose during the Minister's speech I feel that the motion in the form in which it has been introduced can be accepted. It not only uses the word "now" in line 4 but line 5 includes the words "under close control". I interpret "under close control" as being close control of the issue of licences and a willingness to withdraw them in case of need.

On that basis I hope that the House will accept the motion. When we debated this matter before I felt that the House was naturally concerned, as it always is on issues of this kind, but perhaps over-concerned. At that time I asked the House to accept an amendment which would mean that it would wait until the report appeared. Had the House waited until then and had it seen the O'Brien Report I think that it would probably not have passed the motion in its original form. I believe that that would have been the position, but I never complain after being defeated in debate. On the occasion to which I am referring I was defeated and I accepted the will of the House.

Mr. Crouch

I have listened to my right hon. Friend most carefully. Can he say that he is satisfied that if this ban is lifted now, Recommendations Nos. 7, 8 and 9—the control recommendations in the O'Brien Report—could be observed?

Mr. Godber

I cannot speak for the Government, only for myself. In the light of the assurance I have obtained from the Minister, it seems that they can be observed. Recommendation No. 7 deals with exports being allowed to slaughterhouses which have satisfied certain minimum criteria. This could be carried out because it would be known where consignments were going. Recommendation No. 8 concerns the revised certification system. There is a certification system and, provided that the trade operates it effectively, it is acceptable.

Recommendation No. 9 deals with the veterinary inspection. I hope that in replying the Secretary of State for Wales can assure us about this because it is important. Such an inspection has always been a part of this trade. The need is to ensure that a viable suggestion is implemented. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will deal with this in his reply, I will not only accept the motion but advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to do the same.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Hemel Hempstead)

The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) was concerned that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) should not mislead the House by selective quotation from paragraph 21 of the report. He will understand if I seek to correct him now so that he does not fall into the same trap. The right hon. Gentleman quoted from paragraph 21, line 14, the following words, We do not consider that the degree of stress involved in any one sector of the export trade, nor its cumulative effect, is sufficient to justify a permanent ban. These words must not be taken in isolation because the next sentence says, On the other hand we believe that the issue of further export licences should continue to be suspended until acceptable and enforceable conditions can be introduced to ensure that the welfare of the animals is safeguarded with greater certainty. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that that puts a different slant on the sentence he quoted.

Mr. Godber

The last thing I wished to do was to mislead. I was trying to correct the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy). I would have quoted the whole paragraph quite happily but for the fact that I felt Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye upon me. However, that further sentence is exactly the point to which I addressed the majority of my remarks—in other words, the way in which the matter should be dealt with.

Mr. Corbett

I accept that. I think that between us we may have put the matter right.

Like other hon. Members, I welcome the O'Brien Report. There has been immense criticism of its judgments but this should not detract from the work done by the committee and the speed with which that work was carried out. My complaint against O'Brien is that, having done the work well, it has drawn the wrong conclusions from the evidence. I say this first because the live animal trade is of small economic significance to the United Kingdom. Paragraph 21 of the report makes this point.

Second, O'Brien calls for extra safeguards for the welfare of animals and in doing so tacitly admits the case made by organisations with which my right hon. and hon. Friends and others have been concerned for years. Attempts over the years to make the system work have failed. We have only to go back to the Balfour Assurances to see that. It was the concern of these people which led to the establishment of the O'Brien Committee. It is of some concern to me that even since the publication of the report a number of us have been receiving detailed allegations of continuing cruelty in abattoirs and lairages, particularly in France and Belgium.

My third reason for saying that O'Brien drew the wrong conclusions is that it can make no sense to spend £2 million a day on imports of all kinds from 61 countries while encouraging the export of meat grown on British farms.

My fourth reason concerns the producers. In the livestock sector producers constantly turn to the public and ask for their support in the almost monthly crises through which they pass. Yet on this occasion they are not saying that the British housewife should come first for British food, part subsidised out of her purse and her husband's pocket. They are saying to the British housewife, "We want to make a quick buck abroad and don't you stand in our way".

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will the hon. Gentleman accept from a housewife that the type of beef which is exported to the Continent is precisely the sort of beef no British housewife would choose to cook? It is much larger and coarser and very much older than the beef to which British housewives are accustomed.

Mr. Corbett

I do not totally accept that. In any event it does not dispose of the argument. I hope that not many of our beef growers are producing coarse beef—

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

It is old.

Mr. Corbett

Or old beef. That does not dispose of the argument against sending an old, barren, cow abroad on the hook rather than on the hoof.

I turn to the arguments in favour of the removal of the ban. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who regrettably I do not see in his place—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order. Is it not the case that we do not expect two right hon. Gentlemen immediately to make their speeches and then walk out? Both the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) have left the Chamber. I have never done that. I always wait to hear at least two of the following speakers. That is the rule and custom.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We never know what reasons right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have for being in or out of the Chamber. That is not a point of order.

Mr. Corbett

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said that some cattle were starving. He drew attention to the fodder shortage. It has been argued elsewhere by those who want the ban lifted that unless the export of live animals is resumed hundreds of thousands of cattle will be sentenced to death this winter. I acknowledge that there is a problem with fodder. I know that everyone concerned with farming will be glad of the voluntary help which individual farmers have been able to give through their unions.

Is it seriously suggested that the ability to export a few thousand head of cattle will solve the fodder problem? If this is what is being asserted, I would point out that I am advised that we are talking about the export of between 2 million to 3 million head of cattle in the next two or three months, whereas in the whole of 1973 the total of hoof and hook exports in headage terms was 76,000. Where are the buyers coming from for that 2 million or 3 million? It is rubbish to argue that removal of the ban will make anything but a marginal contribution to the solution of the fodder problem.

It is argued by supporters of the removal of the ban that most member States of the European Community have ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Animals during International Transport. The O'Brien Committee concluded that the evidence was not strong enough to justify a permanent ban on welfare grounds. How much cruelty and suffering and how many allegations of cruelty and suspicion of suffering do we need before the ban is made permanent? The right hon. Member for Grantham could not answer that question. None of use can say with certainty that regulations passed by the Council of Europe or by individual member States of the European Community will be enforced to standards which satisfy our concern about animal welfare. No hon. Member is able to give that guarantee—and that includes my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

What about the recommendation made by the Balfour Committee, and repeated by the British Veterinary Association and the O'Brien Committee, that the sensible way to deal with the trade is to change it into a carcase trade? My right hon. Friend dismissed the interim suggestions in the O'Brien Report. He felt that these matters were best dealt with by individual countries under their own veterinary safeguards. How can we be sure that the new regulations will be adopted and enforced? Do we know that in every European slaughterhouse every regulation will be kept in every dot and comma?

These are minimum regulations. What extra safeguards are we to seek? The Minister was silent about that. How will the system be policed? If the system were easy to police, not a case would be brought in this country of cruelty to animals, but, regrettably, there are cases. Who will pay for the inspectorate? From where will the inspectors come? These are questions on which the proponents of the motion have a duty to satisfy the House.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said that slaughterhouses were working flat out and could not cope. The National Farmers' Union says in a brief that the facilities for the slaughtering and handling of carcase meat for export in the United Kingdom are limited, and that existing abattoirs are overloaded. That is not so. My right hon. Friend in a written reply gave the number of export approved slaughterhouses as 75. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in a recent survey visited 347 slaughterhouses, including most of those which are export approved. It was found that 279 were working at normal capacity or under capacity.

With the support of a petition signed by 1,500 constituents which was presented to the House by my predecessor, and with the support of the Anglian Society for the Welfare of Animals, I ask the House to say "No" to the motion and to continue the ban on the export of live animals. There exist serious grounds for doubt, and I am asking that the benefit of the doubt should be given in the interests of animal welfare.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)

I should like to speak mainly on the argument put by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) and the O'Brien Committee that the livestock export industry has small economic importance. If Lord O'Brien were reporting now, after the experience of the last year, he might have come to a different conclusion.

I wish to speak from the Welsh standpoint, which on this subject is different from the United Kingdom standpoint. I notice that the O'Brien Report speaks of the United Kingdom as a nation, which is, of course, a mistake. From the standpoint of the Welsh farmers, who are utterly dependent on livestock, the export industry is extremely important. Since Lord O'Brien completed his report, our farmers have gone through a traumatic experience. Few of them have escaped heavy losses. That is because Wales is so completely dependent on livestock. Cattle and sheep account for 78.4 per cent. of all Welsh agricultural production. Cereals account for only 2.8 per cent. Wales, with only 4.9 per cent. of the United Kingdom population, produces one-ninth of the milk, one-ninth of the calves and cattle and one-quarter of the sheep and lambs produced by the United Kingdom. Therefore when the livestock industry is depressed, the Welsh farmers suffer particularly severely. Last year the industry was more depressed than it has been for 40 years—and that at a time of cruelly rising costs.

I am being pressed by farmers in my, constituency to help them to get public assistance and try to persuade the Post Office not to disconnect their telephones That experience happened to me only last week and may have happened to other hon. Members who represent areas like mine.

The public do not understand now dependent are dairy farmers on the sale of stock, whether as calves, barreners or fatstock. That trade accounts for a substantial part of the income of the dairy farmer. Many erstwhile dairy farmers are wholly dependent on this trade because they were induced by the Government to abandon milk production and to concentrate entirely on beef. Their reward has been as bitter as the waters of Mara.

All our livestock farmers—virtually all the farmers of Wales—have been pierced on all sides by the "arrows of outrageous fortune". They suffered the removal of the guaranteed price system before the intervention system could replace it. Sheep farmers found the French market closed to them more often than not, although they had the right to expect freedom of movement in the Common Market. The Government have made no obvious effort to fight for them. As these farmers sank deeper and deeper into the bog of depression, the attitude of Government and official Opposition too often seemed to be expressed in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, who said, "Let them live off their fat". How much fat have these yeomen of Wales who have laboured such long and arduous hours? According to recent statistics, in the prosperous year of 1972 they had a total average income for the year of £1,340. There is not much fat there for them to live off.

It is bad enough when the French Government close the French market to our sheep meat—and that has often happened—but it is much harder to bear when all continental markets are closed to our livestock. That wrong is compounded by the Government dragging their feet when they should have hastened to lift the ban to help the depressed livestock industry. Little wonder in these circumstances that Welsh farmers last year, for the first time this century, resorted to unconstitutional methods.

The ban had been imposed in what might seem to some a gush of emotion, but it was imposed by those with a most laudable concern for animal welfare. The matter was quickly put in perspective by the sober and impressive report of the O'Brien Committee. Nevertheless, although the report was completed nearly a year ago, only today is the House allowed to debate it. This suggests a lack of determination on the part of the Government to do all they can to help livestock farmers.

The O'Brien Committee's findings show how exaggerated were the reports of cruelty in the livestock export trade, and in particular in the situation on the other side of the Channel which obviously is no worse than the situation on this side. The English Channel is narrower than the Irish Sea, across which a great number of cattle cross these days, and this has been going on for a number of years. So far as I know, there has been no protest against that traffic.

I was glad to hear the Minister's assurance that the new welfare regulations are already in force, and that if there has been abuse in the past there is every chance that it will be removed in future. Although the O'Brien Report regarded this trade as of small economic importance, that is a relative term, and had the Committee looked at the matter from the Welsh standpoint, I do not think it would have come to that conclusion. Who can possibly assess the difference it would have made to the intolerably depressed price of Welsh calves and barreners last year if thousands of these animals have been siphoned off into overseas markets? One cannot discount the financial importance to the farmer of the prices fetched by the animals in overseas markets at a time when at home some cattle were selling for a few pounds and some calves for a few shillings.

There is no doubt that the livestock export trade has a greater comparative importance in Wales, which is a livestock country, than it has in England. The prices our farmers get for their calves are still heart breaking and to lift the ban would have an immediate effect of putting urgently-needed money into farmers' pockets.

In my district a business man who is engaged in this trade said that if the ban were lifted at once, he would be in business immediately. He has one customer on the Continent who would take from him 200 young calves a week—and they would be taken not for slaughtering but for fattening, which is a very important part of the business. I emphasise that animals are exported not for slaughtering only—and, of course, we are very concerned about slaughtering conditions—but also for fattening.

It is very important in the interests of farmers and others in the trade to see that there is no abuse of the system and no cruelty to animals. If exported, these calves would fetch 10 times the price they would fetch in the home market. This return has been unjustifiably denied to farmers. Farmers treat their animals well. I have been engaged in some small way in this business and I know that in Wales many cattle have a better health service than do many human beings, and that is the truth.

It is in nobody's interest to tolerate the maltreatment of animals. Farmers and others engaged in the export trade have an interest in insisting on the firmest safeguards against any kind of cruelty or maltreatment. In the serious fodder situation facing many Welsh farmers, animals will face far greater suffering at home than if they are exported before the spring.

There is a shortfall in fodder supplies of at least 20 per cent., and in Wales there are hundreds of thousands of cattle above the number that can be adequately fed. They can neither be sold abroad nor killed humanely at home. It is far better to send them overseas than to allow them to starve on the Welsh hills.

A fine overseas trade had been built in Wales largely through the selfless pioneering work of such men as Mr. Austin Jenkins. This trade should be fostered as part of a comprehensive effort to improve the sale and marketing of meat and livestock, and I believe that for reliable and efficient marketing a meat marketing board is urgently needed. But the immediate need tonight is for the House to resolve to bring our withered overeas livestock trade back to life.

6.6 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham North-West)

I happen to be one of the four Members of Parliament—two from each side of the House—who took the trouble to give written and oral evidence to the O'Brien Committee. I do not want to deal at length with the report since it has already been adequately covered by other hon. Members. Instead I want to deal with the motion which we are being asked to approve.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture did not satisfy me with his explanation of what the motion was intended to achieve. I do not pass any comment about my right hon. Friend's eulogy of O'Brien. Let O'Brien take all the praise he is entitled to. I hope he got well paid for the job. I assume he did, and I assume that that also applies to members of the committee. I hope they all attended the committee's meetings, but as to that I am not completely sure.

The motion refers to the progress made in establishing international welfare safeguards". I should like to know what progress has been made in the international welfare of animals. My right hon. Friend gave no details of progress—[HON. MEMBERS: "He did."] He gave details as to directives which are to be issued, but he never said "We have examined the situation and have ensured that lairages have been properly looked after." Nor did he say "We in this country have veterinary surgeons in abundance to go round to see that things are properly controlled." Indeed, my information is that we are short of veterinary surgeons, that there are many sick animals and that vets are having great difficulty in dealing with the situation.

The Minister said that he had been given promises by those on the Continent as to the action they intended to take. It is already the law in France that certain things should happen, but even though many things should have been carried out on the Continent both before and after the O'Brien Report, nothing has happened.

I have two foolscap sheets of paper giving the date, time and place when the committee made visits, but it would take too long to read the whole list. If I may give just one example, on 23rd April 1970 the committee visited an abattoir at Fontainebleau in the Paris area and stated that there was nothing amiss. Well, any of us who have been in the Army know what happens when there is to be an inspection—and certainly I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture knows this from his experience. We know that when the general is on his way, out come the buckets of whitewash and all is cleaned up. We all know what happens when Her Majesty comes here to open Parliament. Everything is spick and span.

I do not blame anyone, because this is normal practice in every walk of life. When the managing director of the company goes round the company premises, one does not show him all the things that are going wrong and lead him to the places where the rubbish and refuse is kept. The place is made very presentable and all is well. I was not present when the committee made the visit, but the buckets of whitewash were probably brought out.

Mr. Hooson

I am sure the hon. Gentleman is right, but what the committee did at Fontainebleau almost certainly equally took place at Shrewsbury.

Mr. Lewis

I do not understand what the hon. and learned Gentleman is getting at.

Mr. Hooson

The committee visited Shrewsbury and Fontainebleau.

Mr. Lewis

I still do not see what is the connection. The whitewash was brought out. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman endorse what I say? In fact, only the good things were shown. The members of the committee did not even trouble to visit the lairages where the animals were kept to await slaughter. Had they done so, they would have seen that things were not so good. They never asked to see them, and they never went to see them.

Certain laws and regulations are already in force covering, for instance, the stunning methods and the fact that animals should not be cut whilst hanging up by their legs, as now happens. That happened on 23rd July 1974, on 19th July 1974 and on 21st September 1974. I have a whole page of dates. I shall give to my right hon. Friend the times and the details of where those practices take place. We do not have sufficient veterinary surgeons to carry out inspections.

The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) made a speech and promptly left the Chamber, which is a usual, regrettable practice. A Member is supposed to wait to hear at least the next two speakers in case they wish to refer to what he has said. I asked the right hon. Member whether he was referring to "in force" or "enforce". Rules and regulations are all very well, but we cannot ensure their enforcement. The rules are not now being enforced. Even if my right hon. Friend were able to say that he intended to establish international welfare safeguards and other relevant considerations, I do not have much confidence that he would alter the position.

My right hon. Friend has mentioned other countries. What other countries does he mean? Some hon. Members may think that this applies to the EEC countries. We have some say in EEC countries, but not a lot. However, shall we have any say in what goes on in the other countries? I do not understand the meaning of the term "other countries".

I am a little worried about the situation. We now have the situation where, for instance, the Welsh farmers speak on behalf of the Welsh farmers but no one seems to speak on behalf of the animals. It has been said that no hardship and no suffering is caused to the animals. In this instance my "constituents" happen to be animals. I have seen instances where great care is taken and where every aid and assistance is made available. I have also seen the animals' wild, staring eyes even where every help and assistance is given.

On occasions I have seen unnecessary brutality. I do not like it. I do not think it is right. However, it occurs. If it happens in this country, with its better and more humane system, I do not think we should encourage the sending of animals to the Continent where we have no control over their slaughter. There is no necessity to do so. What is the objective? Why should they not be exported as carcases? Is it because there is money in it? What is the reason? Why cannot the cattle be slaughtered in this country and then sold for export?

If I discover an abattoir in this country where the animals are not being properly slaughtered, I can come to this House and "have a go" at the Minister. However, if I visit the slaughterhouses of France and Belgium and find the conditions there unsatisfactory, I cannot put a Question to my right hon. Friend. I cannot visit such places and say "I saw the animals' throats slit in front of all the other animals. I saw an animal hung up on a hook and left to bleed in front of all the other animals." He would reply "It has nothing to do with me".

I do not see why the slaughter cannot be carried out in this country, the carcases then being exported. The only reason is that it is probably more profitable.

Mr. Geraint Howells (Cardigan)

The French say that they want live calves for rearing.

Mr. Lewis

They may well require live calves for rearing purposes. Flow-ever, in that case I should like my right hon. Friend to assure the House that those animals are being adequately treated.

The O'Brien Committee has admitted that in the past there has been unnecessary cruelty. But the export of live animals was stopped, which meant that the O'Brien Committee was not able to investigate actual cases. The committee took written and oral evidence from people who may or may not have seen slaughtering. There may be a conflict of evidence. But I cannot see why we should allow the export of live animals, even in view of the present safeguards and attempts to ensure that cruelty does not take place. There is inevitably a certain amount of cruelty. If there is an inevitable amount of cruelty, we should see that we control it as much as possible. We can do something on this side of the Channel. We can do nothing once the animals arrive at the other side.

I am sorry that I have to disagree with the Minister. I regret that I cannot support him on this occasion, although I generally support him on most matters. Probably he will be pleased to know that, although I cannot support him, I can support the Prime Minister.

Mr. Peart

That is better.

Mr. Lewis

Who knows, I might even obtain a job as a PPS. At the very least, I ought not to be attacked and castigated as much in the future as I have been in the past.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—the greatest Prime Minister I have known in 30 years, God bless him—said at Bristol and Oxford during the last election campaign that on both economic and humanitarian grounds a Labour Government would not restart the export of live animals. Therefore, in view of the custom of collective Cabinet responsibility, I ask my right hon. Friend whether he supports the Prime Minister. I do. I do not believe, on economic or humanitarian grounds, that there is any reason or necessity for the terrible business of the export of live animals. I hope my right hon. Friend will agree and say that he will switch and become a loyal supporter of the Prime Minister.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I do not leap to the defence of the Prime Minister. He is a pragmatic man. It is not true, certainly in my constituency, that we could slaughter all our animals at home. We have neither the slaughterhouses nor the slaughtermen. We must send the animals across the sea to the mainland of Britain. It is also not true—this was made clear by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans)—that keeping cattle underfed in winter pastures in the north of Scotland is necessarily being kind to them.

Mr. Lewis

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was here when I mentioned the matter.

Mr. Grimond

I was here.

Mr. Lewis

In that case the right hon. Gentleman could not have heard my remarks to the effect that we had a chance to control the slaughter of animals in this country. I am talking about the slaughtering and transport of animals. I would attack the Secretary of State for Scotland if I heard that brutality occurred in Scotland.

The motion refers to the progress made in establishing international welfare standards. What steps have been taken? None at all. There are no steps we can take to ensure that there is no brutality abroad. We can take action only in this country.

I agree that cattle must be exported from the Scottish islands to the mainland, which might result in unkind actions which we do not like. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is an animal lover. He can raise the matter in Parliament if he is not satisfied at the way in which animals are treated.

The motion begins by paying tribute to the work of the O'Brien Committee, and I have done that. It goes on to speak of the progress made in establishing international welfare safeguards and of other relevant consideration". I do not know what they are. I have not heard one vestige of proof today—and I know that it cannot be given—to the effect that if France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg or any other country does anything to which I object, I can take action.

It is for that reason that I do not intend to support the motion. There is no necessity for the export of live animals to be resumed. It is a retrograde step which the Government are proposing. I hope that this House will succeed, as it did on the last occasion, in stopping this beastly practice.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

The Minister of Agriculture was probably one of the most unhappy men in this House today when he proposed this motion. Nothing has changed from last year when he bitterly opposed these proposals.

My interest in animal welfare is well known, but I hope that I am not considered to be a fanatic. I believe that fanaticism warps judgment and often prejudices the causes that it espouses. However, I must remind the House that the committee under the chairmanship of Lord Balfour of Burleigh was set up in 1957 because of the public disquiet and unrest about the way that British animals which were exported were being treated. I need not now go into the recommendations made by the Balfour Committee, which were followed by assurances given by overseas countries, but they confirmed that the concern was right.

There is one considerable disadvantage from which the O'Brien Committee has suffered. I must make this point very firmly, and, I hope, very fairly. The O'Brien Committee was set up on the very evening that this House decided that there must be no more licences issued in respect of cattle and pigs after those already in existence had expired. Already not one sheep was going from this country to the Continent and to those countries into which the O'Brien Committee inquired. Therefore, the committee must have been at a disadvantage in that none of those countries was receiving any sheep from this country and everyone of them knew of this trade by Parliament.

Let me refer for a moment to the Balfour Committee. I remind the House that Parliament decided that animals for slaughter should go to no country other than those countries which had subscribed to the Balfour Assurances. This must have debarred the export of those animals to any countries other than those which subscribed to the assurances and at the same time it must have debarred the export of anything other than cattle to France, because France agreed to the Balfour Assurances only in respect of cattle.

I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House that no calves, no sheep and no cattle have gone to the Middle East, where ritual slaughter has been practised. If any have gone, it has been against the assurances given to this House in 1972 and which all Members believed were still being observed.

In referring to the Balfour Committee let rue remind the House of one other factor. The committee stated quite emphatically that the carcase trade should replace the live animal trade. It said that that must be the aim, and it pointed out that it was going, although the diffi- culty then was the problem of refrigeration. There is no such difficulty today. There is plenty of refrigeration.

There is no doubt that there have been many infringements of the Balfour Assurances. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), when Minister of Agriculture, himself brought in the ban on sheep, and he said today that the then Government had banned the export of sheep, not under pressure from this House but on evidence which they knew to be true. So there is direct and absolute evidence, admitted by my right hon. Friend today, without any pressure from this House, that there had been unacceptable cruelty to sheep—so unacceptable that, without any pressure, the Government of the day banned the trade. It is inconceivable that there were not similar infringements in the way that cattle and pigs were handled. Why should sheep alone be singled out for such treatment? I suggest that with cattle the case has also been proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

The RSPCA sent teams to the Continent to investigate. They were not composed of fanatics. They were not men without experience. They were not unqualified. Veterinary surgeons were sent. They were used to the slaughter of animals. It was not abhorrent to them. They knew that animals had to be subjected to it. On their return, they reported and submitted their evidence.

The BBC sent a team to the Continent. The team produced evidence on film. Is it suggested that that film was all phoney? The News of the World sent a team. Other investigators went. Sometimes they were subjected to indignities and had the evidence of their investigations destroyed. They were abused. I understand that the members of a BBC camera team were threatened with physical violence.

Some of those who investigated these conditions came to a Committee Room in this House where they were subjected to the strongest possible cross-examination by people with farming interests. They could not be shaken in any way. Their evidence stood up to cross-examination. I remind the House that the O'Brien Committee acknowledges this to a very considerable extent.

As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because of that evidence and that public pressure, and because of the view of Members of this House insisting that the matter be debated, on 12th July last year we on this side had not, as we have today, a free vote but were asked by our Whips to ensure that this trade continued. Quite a number of hon. Members from this side, including myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), who, I hope, will be called shortly, went into the Lobby with the vast majority of hon. Members from the other side of the House, and it will be very interesting to see whether the vote tonight is really free, because I believe that, if it is, the result will be the same as at that time. As a result of that debate the Minister of Agriculture undertook that there would be no more licences issued.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Morris)

Let me give immediately the assurance which the hon. Gentleman wishes. The vote on this side of the House is entirely free. I cannot speak for the other side of the House.

Mr. Burden

It is on this side, but, of course, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken has raised a very important point. It will be very interesting to see how the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister votes tonight. I have no doubt that many people will be interested.

I would like now to turn to the report of the O'Brien Committee, which is the important thing. In the report it is stated: We do not consider that a permanent ban on the export of live animals for slaughter is justified on either welfare or economic grounds. The most effective means of safeguarding the welfare of all animals entering the livestock trade within the EEC lies in the implementation of common European welfare regulations covering both transport and slaughter conditions. The committee went on to say: We took the view that human beings who use other forms of life for their own end should exert themselves to ensure that they do so with humanity. Ill-treatment and cruelty should not be tolerated and stress should be minimised. Nobody will disagree with that.

In paragraphs 22 to 32 are repeated the reports of the teams that carried out investigations. In its discussion of those allegations the committee said: It must be said at the outset that if all"— and I stress the word "all"— of these allegations were substantiated they would indicate a highly disturbing state of affairs. I would suggest that this House and all of us would accept that far fewer than "all" the allegations would need to be proven beyond doubt for us to consider that a very unsatisfactory state of affairs exists.

The committee went on to say: While our investigations have shown that a certain number of allegations have been well founded, a number of instances have emerged where the evidence does not bear close scrutiny. The evidence that does not bear close scrutiny is contained in two paragraphs only, paragraphs 68 and 69, and the only reference is to the evidence given by the News of the World, and to no other evidence. One must, therefore, assume that the committee accepts that the other evidence was right and cannot be questioned.

At the end of that paragraph the committee speaks of a certain abattoir that was visited. It made the point that the News of the World investigators in their report gave the names of the people who were carrying out constructional activities rather than the name of the abattoir, and said: We have learned that deficiencies in the stunning areas at this abattoir have been remedied since our visit. I believe the O'Brien Committee was suffering under great difficulty because of the circumstances and timing in which it was set up, but I believe it had one other very great failing in that it gave notice days, weeks and months ahead, of its intention to visit any place in particular and to question any people in particular. There was no question of anonymity. Does anyone honestly believe that clearing-up operations were not carried out between the time the announcement was made in this House and the visits of the O'Brien Committee?

I would refer to one paragraph in O'Brien that has not been mentioned and which in my view shows above all why this trade cannot be continued and why this motion must be rejected tonight. Paragraph 17 of the report states: In Italy enervation is permitted provided that it is carried out by trained personnel acting under the authority of the director of the abattoir. It was surprising to me that there was no mention of what "enervation" meant, so I had inquiries made. The Ministry veterinary surgeons at Chessington seemed a little doubtful, but now I know what it means. It means that a sharp three-cornered instrument called a punctilla, a small knife with a triangular blade, is inserted into the base of the skull of the animal to sever that part of its spinal rapport responsible for the nerve centres controlling the limbs. The animal is not rendered unconscious. It is immobilised so that it cannot kick the slaughterman when he cuts its throat. It is fully conscious and it has full feeling. That is what is being practised now in Italy and applied to our cattle going there.

I have made most of the points that I would wish to make, although I would have liked to have made some others, but I submit that there is undoubted proof of cruelty to animals that are exported for slaughter and that this fact is inescapable. I do not believe that the economic grounds can outweigh the moral grounds that are against this trade. In its report the O'Brien Committee stated not once but several times that the economic arguments in favour of this trade are very marginal, that only 2 per cent. of our cattle are involved, and the committee makes the point in the final part of its report, on which I could have enlarged, but I have no doubt that one can wholly destroy the economic arguments. I know that my hon. Friend will make an important point on that in a moment.

In paragraph 96 the Committee says: Our review of the economic arguments suggests that from the national point of view the benefits from unrestricted trade are of small significance which confirms our earlier judgment that this issue is one which should be settled on welfare considerations. The Minister has said that if the motion is passed tonight, tomorrow the licences will start to flow again. O'Brien was specific that in no circumstances should this process start, not only until the regulations had been laid down, but until it was shown beyond all doubt that they were operating properly.

If they act as their consciences and their morality demand, I believe that hon. Members will throw out this suggestion tonight. I am convinced that many farmers are bitterly opposed to the reintroduction of this system and that certainly the vast majority of the British people will show their resentment in no uncertain way of such an action by Parliament.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. Caerwyn E. Roderick (Brecon and Radnor)

I want to go on record in this debate, as I failed to do so in our previous debate. At that time I was a supporter of a ban on the export of live animals. On the evidence available at that time I was anxious that there should be a full investigation into the circumstances in which the animals travelled to the Continent and were slaughtered. I want to go on record now as accepting the motion. We have had what we asked for—time to think and investigate—and we have seen a report which, if it is not a 100 per cent. vindication of the trade, goes a long way towards satisfying the needs which many of us thought should be satisfied.

I am extremely concerned about cruelty to animals and about animal welfare in general. We should do everything we can to ensure that animals do not suffer. I shall warmly and gladly support the Bill to ban hare coursing and I shall be glad to see the end of fox hunting. What sometimes distresses me is the fact that some organisations and people who spend a great deal of energy trying to secure a ban on the export of live animals are not quite so active on these other two matters. I wish that they would extend their activities.

Mr. John Tomlinson (Meriden)

Who are they?

Mr. Roderick

One example is the RSPCA, and there are certain people who do not spend so much time in trying to ban far more cruel activities than anything connected with the transport of animals for slaughter. These activities are to be condemned also for the feelings which they arouse in human beings and which are less than civilised.

Three matters give rise to concern—the transport of the animals, the conditions under which they await slaughter, and the way in which they are slaughtered. I am by no means satisfied that we always transport animals in the best way in this country. I have seen wagons in which animals are overcrowded. We also transport them from one end of the country to another, so distance in exporting seems to be irrelevant.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Like the London Underground.

Mr. Roderick

Yes, human beings suffer as well, but at least they have a choice.

Under ideal conditions, I should prefer a 100 per cent. carcase trade, but conditions are not ideal and this would be unrealistic to expect at present. In any case, there is a demand for animals to be exported not simply for slaughter but for breeding and fattening. We should have to declare ourselves against these objectives as well. We have imported animals for breeding and fattening. This is to the good, if we are to improve our animal stocks. So a 100 per cent. carcase trade would not be realistic.

In any case, it is incumbent upon us to make much more provision by way of suitable abattoirs and storage facilities before we go for that objective. This is a process which we should encourage our friends on the Continent to follow.

It appears from the O'Brien Report that some of our fears about practices in foreign abattoirs were unfounded and that the incidence of cruelty was exaggerated. That is not to say that some acts do not take place which are unworthy of human beings. I hope that my right hon. Friend's statement that licences will be withheld from those who do not observe the regulations will be carried out and that severe penalties will be rigorously imposed on them.

It is interesting that some people suggest that 100 per cent. observance of these regulations should be expected. They speak cynicaly, expecting a flouting of the regulations. I should like to know in what area we can expect 100 per cent. observance of regulations. For instance, there are regulations about cruelty to children. That does not mean that we have done away with it. There are regulations about various forms of crime, and we have not done away with those crimes. The regulations will not necessarily do away with cruelty. Regula- tions about the treatment of animals in this country are regularly flouted. The regulations are first class. What we need is better policing and better investigation at all times of the circumstances in which these movements and slaughterings take place.

Coming from Wales I cannot help mentioning the fodder situation. I understand that between 800 and 1,000 farms in Wales have less than 50 per cent. of the fodder they need to see them through the winter. There are hundreds of farms where there is not food for those animals during the winter. So the animals will go hungry. To me, it is cruel to allow those animals to survive under those conditions.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

I think it is right and proper that the hon. Member should be more factual in that sentence. He ought to give us the statistics in order that we can judge the validity of his conclusion, which I suggest is wrong.

Mr. Roderick

I have given a statistic. I would have thought that 800 to 1,000 farms in Wales with less than 50 per cent. of their fodder requirements for this winter was a useful statistic that should be borne in mind. I visited farms last weekend where the stock of fodder was what it would normally be at the end of February. It is as low as that.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

The point is, would the lifting of the ban help this problem?

Mr. Roderick

I was coming to that. I do not pretend that it would solve the problem, but we are looking for a way of easing the pressure and this is one way. Certainly, keeping the ban will not help at all. We are hoping that by this means we can help. There is no shadow of doubt, as I have said, that animals will go hungry and, I emphasise again, we do not have sufficient storage and slaughterhouses. We have had tremendous pressure on our slaughterhouses this winter owing to production levels and poor prices.

I should like to mention in passing the question of production. It has been argued that there has been over-production of beef in the past couple of years. There has been a tremendous increase in the production of beef, but no one will persuade me that we have had over-production while there is a single person hungry anywhere. There has not been over-production, and I have been glad to see beef produced in this way, but we must ensure that it is dealt with properly.

As I said earlier, with the assurance today from my right hon. Friend, I gladly support the motion, and I hope that the House will support it, too.

6.53 p.m.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

Unlike the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick), with whose speech I very much agree, I did not vote for the imposition of a ban on the export of live animals, because at the time I thought that the so-called evidence of cruelty was probably grossly exaggerated. It seems to me that many people in this House and outside try to resile from the proposition that we are a meat-eating country and its consequences.

Let me immediately confess an interest. I myself farm, and I represent a constituency in which the major occupation is certainly livestock farming. But the raising and slaughter of animals for human consumption, and particularly the slaughtering part, are an unpleasant business altogether. I do not know how many people who have written to their Members of Parliament about the matter under debate today have ever visited a slaughterhouse in this country. I have visited slaughterhouses on many occasions and I have never yet visited a slaughterhouse in this country, or a market in this country, where I have not seen a breach of at least one of our regulations.

I thought that the approach of the O'Brien Committee was robust and sensible. It was based on welfare considerations and, although I think that the committee considerably underestimated the economic importance of the trade, nevertheless it was a welfare approach. As the committee pointed out in its report, there were even a couple of its own members who had never visited a slaughterhouse before and never seen the ghastly business that it is. It always turns me up, as it does most people, to see the handling of the animals as they go in for slaughter.

But we are a meat-eating country. We rear animals for this purpose. It may be that the next great refinement in human behaviour will be that we dispense with this business and rely entirely on vegetables, cereals and so on. All I can say is that I think that state of affairs is centuries away. But I think that the House should not be either "pi" or hypocritical. I have been extremely dubious about the wisdom of this country joining the Common Market. Like O'Brien, however, I do not share the belief that the devil begins on the other side of the Channel, and I think that one of the most significant findings of the O'Brien Committee was that conditions in lairages and slaughterhouses on the Continent were very similar to the conditions that were found in this country.

Hon. Members have spoken today of the journeys that animals have to undertake. I do not know what the distance is from Orkney and Shetland to Aberdeen, but it is a much longer sea journey than across the English Channel. For decades live cattle have been imported into this country from the Republic of Ireland. I have never heard a suggestion in this House that abattoirs should be established in Ireland rather than transport these animals across the Irish Sea. As a country we have wanted the economic benefits of the Irish trade. The welfare authorities—I am told that the RSPCA alone spent £125,000 investigating the cross-Channel trade—have carried out investigations on the Continent. But how much concern was there by welfare associations about those sea journeys across the Irish Sea before the farming crisis this autumn?

Mr. Burden

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman recall that perhaps the most significant sentence in the circular sent out by the NFU to all Members of this House concerning this matter said that the import of Irish cattle at this time was anomalous?

Mr. Hooson

I was merely pointing out the different kind of emphasis, the different approach, which seems to have been demonstrated between the continental trade and the Irish trade.

I come now to a very important point. I was disturbed at one o'clock today in the "World at One" programme on the radio to hear this debate presented in this way: "Cruelty to animals or cruelty to farmers?" It was presented as though cruelty to animals was inevitable and acceptable if one view were taken and cruelty to farmers was inevitable if the other view were taken. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was a gross misrepresentation of both sides of the argument. To hear that programme, one would not have thought that there had ever been an O'Brien Report. A hair-raising number of allegations were made by a veterinary surgeon as though the O'Brien Committee had never investigated any of these matters.

I want to say a word for the farmer's humanity because in my experience farmers, with very few exceptions, are greatly concerned about the welfare of animals. The farmer looks after his animals, and often many of them in a sustained way, not just cosseting one or two pets. He sustains his animals through winter and summer; he beds them, feeds them twice or three times a day in very considerable numbers, and he is naturally concerned about their welfare. People get very attached to animals and it is a matter of pride to look after them well.

In a constituency such as mine, the greatest compliment that can be paid to a man in the agricultural community, whether farmer or farmworker, is that he is a good stockman, and a good stockman is always concerned about the welfare of his animals. The suggestion made in correspondence to hon. Members from time to time that the farmer is not concerned about the welfare of his animals and that it is city dwellers and the like, who read second-hand reports of these matters, who are the ones concerned is very far from the truth.

The farming community certainly welcomes the debate in this House on this subject and it welcomed the investigation by the O'Brien Committee.

It is very important, is it not, to look at the constitution of the O'Brien Committee? I said earlier in an intervention invited by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) when he referred to various organisations that were against lifting the ban that they had already expressed a certain view. They are rather like the advocate in a court who is representing one side of the argument, the farming interest in a way representing the other. But the O'Brien Committee was acting as a judge and we are in fact the jury, deciding whether what is set out in the O'Brien Report is acceptable to this House. There was Lord O'Brien himself; then a very distinguished lawyer, Mr. Tony Cripps; an experienced veterinary surgeon, Mr. Hignet; Miss W. Prentice, OBE; and Professor O. G. Williams, who is, I think, a respected professor of animal husbandry. It was a well-qualified committee.

The conclusion reached by the committee is contained in paragraph 119: Few other than the trade and farming interests concerned have spoken in favour of continuing the trade. For this these interests have been subjected to much, in our opinion, unjustified abuse. It would have been all too easy for the Committee simply to have bowed to the strong emotions which have been aroused on this subject. That, at least, would have made for a popular Report. We have been more concerned, however, to seek the truth and to make proposals that are reasonable and fair. This we believe our recommendations to be. What is the point of setting up a committee of this kind to go in to such detailed investigation and then rejecting its findings? Of course we must subject its findings to scrutiny, and no committee of this kind can say that there are not, every day, both in this country and abroad, instances of cruelty to animals, just as there are individual instances of cruelty to children. But all that the committee, or a Minister, could do would be to investigate the general conditions. That the O'Brien Committee did, and it found the conditions abroad very similar—indeed, almost identical—to what they are here.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) mentioned, for example, death by enervation in Italy. I have never seen this process, but from my inquiries I understand that the skilled operator brings upon the animal instantaneous death. That system has been used in Italy for a very long time. It happens that our tradition has been different. I do not pretend to be an expert on this subject, but it is easy to criticise other countries' systems simply because they are different from ours.

Mr. Burden

It happens that I have taken expert veterinary advice today, and that advice is that the animal is not rendered unconscious and that all that happens is that it loses control of its limbs, is fully conscious and suffers pain.

Mr. Hooson

I have inquired into it as well, and my information is different from the hon. Gentleman's. I have investigated it with veterinary surgeons.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

There may be a difference of opinion on this matter, but is it not one of the regulations in Italy that the animal should be stunned? The point that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) and I have both made is that one can go abroad into a slaughterhouse and see that animals are not stunned. Is that cruel or not?

Mr. Hooson

I do not know what the regulations in Italy are, but one can go into slaughterhouses here and see animals being slaughtered without stunning. It should not be done.

In the end what we are concerned with is whether, by allowing this trade, we are subjecting the animals to the sort of conditions abroad that they would not normally have to face in this country. The answer is "No". The O'Brien Report has shown that the conditions abroad are similar to those in this country. For example, cattle can have long journeys within this country—from the North of Scotland to the South of England is not a short journey. Again, animals brought from Wales are often taken right over to the other side of England. If they are destined for the carcase trade, they are often slaughtered in the southern counties of England.

The economic importance of this trade has been underestimated in the report. If O'Brien had to report now and not 10 months ago, he would not have said that the economic importance of the trade could virtually be disregarded. The economic importance has not been properly stated in this House. The kind of animal which is involved in this trade is usually the large barren Friesian cow. Once such animals are taken off our market and go abroad, there is a different pattern of trade here. Then the fodder which would otherwise have been consumed by these cattle is available for other animals.

The impression may have been given that starving animals in Wales would otherwise be slaughtered for meat abroad if the ban were lifted. That is not correct. But the marginal effect in the tight situation of this trade is very important, and the economic argument is therefore very important to the farmer.

I believe that the House has no justification for carrying on with this ban, and I have been reassured by what the Minister has said. It was important to clear up the point about what is to happen between now and the date in July that he gave. The House has now been satisfied, especially after the contribution of the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), on this point. The House would be going contrary to the evidence and the recommendations of an independent committee and would be acting entirely on an emotional and not a factual basis if it insisted on continuing the ban.

7.5 p.m.

Miss Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)

I disagree wholeheartedly with the motion. But at least it has the merit of clarity, if nothing else. The same cannot be said for the Minister of Agriculture's speech. I hope that the Minister who is to reply will try to clarify the extraordinarily muddled statements which the right hon. Gentleman made, both in his speech and in his subsequent intervention.

My views are plain and straightforward. I believe that there should be a permanent ban, whether it be for further fattening or for immediate slaughter. I would go further. I would also place a permanent ban on live cattle imports from Ireland, whether North or South, on welfare grounds, not on the grounds that the NFU spoke about earlier this year.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Is the hon. Lady referring to store cattle and not simply cattle for slaughter coming from Ireland? Would she ban that trade?

Miss Fookes

Yes. I confirm that I was referring to cattle both for immediate slaughter and for further fattening. That would be store cattle. I am also sure that there should be a tightening of the regulations within the United Kingdom itself. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) made great play of how we are not perfect in our own country. That only makes the case stronger, because if conditions are not quite right in this country, where we have supposedly full control, what will be the position in other countries where we do not have control?

I recognise that economic arguments will always be put forward, and I bow dutifully to the great god, Moloch, now taking the modern form of economic considerations. But I regard the difficulties in which British agriculture finds itself as being due not to the ban on live exports but to major rises in the cost of feeding stuffs and the inept handling of agricultural matters by the Government. I would not regard live exports as anything but peripheral.

The O'Brien Report stated that only 2 per cent. of total United Kingdom livestock production was involved when exports were allowed. Indeed carcase meat exports have been rising over the years, and in the peak year for live exports—1972—no less than 79 per cent. of the value of the cattle export trade was in carcase meat. Therefore, we can detect a steady and, to me, encouraging trend already taking place towards the export of carcase meat. I believe that that is to be encouraged and not discouraged.

One interesting comment on the present situation comes from a well-informed commentator. I quote for the sake of accuracy: A few cargoes of Belgium-bound cows and heavy steers will cause scarcely an eddy in the flood-stream of stock pouring through United Kingdom slaughterhouses. And there will be a little more than a few ounces per head of precious hay to put before the cattle that remain on our farms. The only way to avert tragedy in the livestock areas of the west is to import more feed, and to see that farmers have the cash to pay for it. I agree with the observation. Interestingly, it comes from "The Editor's diary" in a recent issue of the Farmers Weekly.

Again, looking at live exports from the Republic of Ireland, where there is no ban, some interesting figures emerge. In the peak year, 1972, there were 100,000 live exports, whereas in the first 10 months of this year there were only 15,000. I obtained these figures from the Irish Livestock and Meat Board. That does not suggest to me that there is a vast market awaiting our animals if that is the position in a country not under any ban.

In any event, I believe that the previous arguments used in favour of a live trade have now been reversed by a somewhat odd quirk of fate. We were often told about the dearth of export-approved slaughterhouses. We now learn, from Ministry statistics, that there are no fewer than 75 of these slaughterhouses. What is more, there appear to be some new EEC regulations. I am not quite clear whether they were mentioned [...] the Minister's muddled speech, but no doubt they can be clarified. I understand that from July 1974 there could be no movement of cattle through markets and then exported unless they were approved markets. From a recent parliamentary answer I received, I understand that out of 1,631 markets in the United Kingdom only four are approved for this type of trade. Therefore, I ask the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture what effect this would have if the ban were lifted.

Economic arguments in support of my view can be adduced from a very different source—the British Veterinary Association. The association estimates that stress through travelling can cause a loss of weight of between 3 per cent. and 7 per cent. depending on the amount of stress that is caused. In evidence to the O'Brien Committee the association added that bruising of animals in transit, which is not uncommon even in the United Kingdom, can mean a loss of between 9 lb. and 20 lb. of meat. Adding the two together, one can see the economic arguments for not allowing animals to go on long journeys.

Mr. Winterton

Or not looking after them.

Miss Fookes

Yes. Unfortunately, those who look after animals in transit may not be as interested as others would wish. It is not farmers who look after animals in transit, but other people who have a short-term interest in them. I am thinking of lorry drivers, people handling animals as they go on and off ships, and others. What does it matter to them whether the animals lose weight in transit? They have no economic interest either way.

I turn now to the welfare considerations being adduced in favour of resuming this trade. We are given harrowing pictures of thousands of animals starving, shortage of fodder and so on. I do not suggest that the fodder situation is anything but difficult. We are fortunate in having a mild winter. That has made the situation slightly better than it would otherwise have been. In my view, to allow the export of these animals to try to cure the situation is not the right solution. The humane thing is to slaughter them if we cannot feed them.

I can hear breathings behind me. I think I know where they are coming from—my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman). It is interesting that the RSPCA, which has carried out a recent survey by approaching a number of slaghterhouses—347 in fact—now says that 279 are working at or under normal capacity and the other 68 are working to capacity. It matters not a whit for this purpose, if humane slaughter is the reason for animals being sent there whether they are export-approved slaughterhouses or not, because I gather that lairage facilities are considered satisfactory and that there is food and water for the animals if they have to wait.

Slaughtering figures bear out what I have said. I have taken the figures from the official statistics so that I shall not be accused of drawing upon some organisation which cannot be trusted to give the right figures. These figures come from the Ministry of Agriculture, so presumably they cannot be wrong. I quote them for what they are worth. There is a very definite downward trend from October to December in both cattle and calves. For example, calves have gone down from 73,000 in October to 42,500 in December.

Mr. Tomlinson

Tell us why there were 73,000 in October.

Miss Fookes

That is not to the point. The point I am trying to make is that there is not now the pressure on the slaughterhouses that there was. Therefore, the argument for opening up the export trade on the ground that this is the lesser evil for the cattle cannot be sustained. Furthermore, even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the worst pictures that have been painted, I still maintain that the time scale is the all-important factor.

The difficulties facing British agriculture at the moment are, we hope, temporary. If we open up the live export trade again, it will presumably be for an indefinite period. Therefore, we shall be subjecting our animals to what I regard as unacceptable hardship, and possibly cruelty, for an unlimited time to deal with a temporary situation this winter.

I come now to what I regard as the heart of the matter—the evidence of cruelty to and hardship suffered by animals on their journeys and at the point of slaughter. One of the most blatant shortcomings of the O'Brien Committee is its tendency to underestimate the independent evidence which came before it and to overestimate the value of its own investigations, which, as we can see if we look closely, were very limited indeed.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery suggested that the bodies which made those investigations had a vested interest in finding something wrong and that, therefore, their conclusions were not to be trusted. I suggest that it is the other way around. It was because they found things to worry about that they went on with their investigations and reached their conclusions.

Looking at the list of bodies concerned and the assignments that they each undertook in following animals across and to the slaughtering places, the weight of evidence is such that it cannot be disregarded. The evidence comes from not only the RSPCA but the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society, which did a great deal of first-hand investigation, the International Society for the Protection of Animals and the Council of Justice to Animals and Humane Slaughter Association which also did some firsthand work. There were also the BBC and the News of the World teams, plus a number of individuals whom it would, perhaps, be invidious to mention, who did this work for themselves.

The O'Brien Committee gives a grudging admission to the work of those people, and it admits that some at least of the allegations made were correct, but when the committee tries to pour cold water on them it is interesting to see what it picks on. As has been mentioned, one organisation got the name of an abattoir slightly wrong. In paragraph 68 the committee also mentioned indignantly that one consignment of cattle about which complaints were made were not British cattle at all but were Irish cattle. Apparently they do not count. Does it matter one iota, for the sake of the animals, whether the country of origin was Britain or Ireland? The point was that they were being badly treated. Are hon. Members about to intervene and tell me that there were two different sets of standards employed by the abattoir workers, one for Irish cattle and one for British, and that they could distinguish between them?

Mr. Hooson

In fairness to O'Brien, the paragraph to which the hon. Lady has referred deals not with the treatment of animals but with transportation, and it says that they were being transported a distance in excess of what was recommended under the Balfour Assurances. The Irish did not subscribe to the Balfour Assurances.

Miss Fookes

The point I was making—and that intervention makes no difference to it—is that there was ill treatment, and the only fault that the O'Brien Committee could find was that they were Irish cattle which were being treated badly and not British, so presumably it did not matter.

If one looks closely at the investigations made by the committee itself one finds them woefully inadequate. I do not believe that it was right for the committee to visit various places having given notice that it was going. The only way to make proper investigations was to go incognito. For whatever reasons, the committee did not do so. What is more, the committee was limited in its direct investigations. It undertook one sea voyage, as I understand it, and on the basis of that one voyage it felt qualified to deal with the whole subject. It made visits to five continental slaughterhouses. I rather get the impression that the committee followed one consignment. I looked in vain in the annex to the report for a list of dates when it followed various consignments of cattle.

Therefore, I do not believe that it conducted its investigations with the thoroughness I would wish. I am not prepared to give weight to the committee's particular conclusions in the absence of what I would regard as proper investigations. I believe that if the committee had been conducting, say, a series of medical experiments, and if it placed its conclusions before a body of learned fellows on the basis of the amount of work that it had done, it would be laughed out of court.

Even if we disregard the evidence before O'Brien, there are still gravely disquieting allegations which have been coming forward since that was given. I refer to the investigations in France of the welfare society, Oeuvre d'Assistance aux Bêtes d'Abattoirs, which visited no less than 14 abattoirs during this year. Its allegations make frightening reading.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I think that the hon. Lady has slipped up. She said that the visits were made this year. I think that she meant last year.

Miss Fookes

I hope that I shall be forgiven for that grave error. I meant 1974.

For example, the society visited the abattoir at Flers, in Normandy, and said: This place has been the subject of numerous complaints about the brutal handling and infringements of legislation since 1971. It is now found that cattle destined for sausage manufacture are left without water and food in an outdoor enclosure which serves as a lairage. Usually they remain there from Friday until Monday, Tuesday, or even Wednesday, before slaughter. The society adds: In France, this deprivation of water is standard practice for beasts known as 'sausages', the aim being for the manufacturers to have the meat as dry as possible. As we know, the abattoir at Fontainebleau, which the O'Brien Committee visited and which was export-approved and under veterinary supervision, has also been found, by this particular organisation, guilty of various appalling practices, including not stunning before killing.

Whatever EEC regulations are put forward—and I welcome these—will not change the situation overnight. It will probably take years before they can be fully enforced. As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has so kindly pointed out, in this country things are not always as well as they might be. Therefore, what guarantee do we have in other countries as well? As I understand it, the so-called safeguards which the O'Brien Committee proposes are not being accepted by the Government because they do not regard them as practical. That, at least, is some consolation to those of us who thought they were woefully inadequate.

There is one point where no EEC regulations will be of any use whatever—the sea crossings. I noted with interest that the O'Brien Committee suggested that the masters of ships should still be the judges of whether it would be fair and right for cattle to be allowed to be transported. I have lived most of my life within sight and sound of the English Channel. I know on just how many days every year it is in a pretty choppy condition. What is even worse is that many of the cattle which would be exported would not be going on a short English Channel crossing. In many cases they would be going across part of the North Sea. I have already mentioned my utter disapproval of the transportation of cattle across the Irish Sea. No EEC regulation, even if it seeks to emulate King Canute, will make any difference to the power of the waves.

On this argument alone it is wholly unfair and unkind to cattle that they should be subjected to this stress. Indeed, the RSPCA, when watching the imports of cattle that were so unpopular with the Welsh farmers, said that it had its inspectors present day and night, when that crisis was brewing, and that cattle were crossing in gale force winds. So much for the discretion of the masters of ships. It is quite clear to anyone that in practice they will try to get the cattle over come what may.

Mr. David James (Dorset, North)

Has my hon. Friend taken account of the effect of modern ships' stabilisers? Is she aware of the fact that cattle are brought in from the Inner and Outer Hebrides all the year round without any of these complaints being raised?

Miss Fookes

I have very little knowledge of the position in the Inner and Outer Hebrides. I said earlier that I thought that we ought to be looking again at our regulations within the United Kingdom. Even with the stabilising effect, I do not accept that one can cut out completely the stress on animals. I have not noticed any great difference where human beings are concerned. I also notice that although some ships are supposed to have stabilisers for the comfort of passengers, half of the time the stabilisers are not used because they would slow down the ships. I should think that that would be true also of animal transportation.

Let me turn to the—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] It may be too long in the view of other hon. Members. I very rarely take the time of the House to make a speech and when I do I hope to be allowed a little latitude. Perhaps if I were making points that were more popular with some of my colleagues they would not find my speech so long.

Let me turn to the various people who would have to implement these recommendations. We know that there is already a great shortage in the State Veterinary Service. This is causing considerable worry. We know that a vast amount of the welfare work that ought also to be undertaken is not being done. That does not give me any great hope for the future. The view of the British Veterinary Association, which has been very much underestimated—indeed, ignored by the O'Brien Committee—is very much worth quoting and following. It believes as a principle that slaughter should take place as close to the point of production as is possible. With that view I fully agree. It seems to me strange that when a body of professional people of this standing makes such a recommendation it should be set aside. The O'Brien Committee says that it does not regard the length of journeys as being of any great importance or the cause of undue stress. Is it setting itself up as having greater professional expertise than the whole of the British Veterinary Association?

My conclusion—and I am sure that those who disagree with me will be glad to know that I am concluding—is that the carcase trade should continue to replace the live export trade. That is perfectly possible and feasible. It would be a retrograde step if we were now to lift the ban for an indefinite period. This House has at times risen to the occasion and shown great compassion in the course of its long history. It has made decisions which are greater than the sum of the erring mortals who make it up at any one time. I would hope that we would add to that list of compassionate decisions by making one tonight. I want the House to say that for all time there should be a complete ban on live animal exports, and that we should show a sense of responsibility towards them, just as much as we should to our fellow human beings.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a most difficult debate to control while being fair to each point of view. I propose to call the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry), who will make a speech for the motion. I shall then call the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) to speak against it. The Chair will try to keep a balance, but it would be helped by shorter speeches.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)

I shall try to follow your advice, Mr. Speaker, and make a brief speech. This is a debate of great importance and clearly feelings run high on both sides of the argument. I have attended the whole of the debate. Those who are against the motion have made long speeches, but perhaps they are entitled to do so since they clearly feel very strongly about it.

I begin with two general points. First, the background to the debate is the simple fact that the livestock industry is in deep trouble. My many meetings with my farmers over the past 12 months make this abundantly clear. There is an acute shortage of hay. Irish store cattle continue to come into the country in large numbers and the undoubted effect of the ban means that some profitable export orders are being turned away. In addition to this fact, extra cattle have to be fed, which exacerbates the fodder situation. These are indisputable facts. My farmers, therefore, along with many others, are watching the vote tonight with deep and genuine anxiety.

My second general point is my belief that Parliament should support the recommendations of an independent committee set up by a Minister, which has completed the most extensive inquiries with scrupulous fairness and care over many months. We must think about this carefully. It would make a nonsense of our system if at the end of the day parliamentarians, who have not had the same opportunities of studying all the facts, were not to accept the findings of the committee. If they are going to attack the findings, which really means attacking the fairness and integrity of the committee, they must say so.

Mr. Burden

My hon. Friend must be fair about this. When he refers to taking note of what the O'Brien Committee says, he should accept that the committee makes the specific point that this trade should in no circumstances be restarted until the safeguards are provided and have been proven to exist.

Mr. Awdry

My point is that some hon. Members have simply rejected the committee's findings. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) said that she could not go along with those findings. That makes a nonsense of the situation. I believe that if a Minister sets up a committee and it takes evidence from many parties, parliamentarians should accept that committee's conclusions.

There was genuine concern on the part of the public that animals were suffering both in transit and at the place of slaughter, and it was therefore obviously right that an independent committee should be asked to review the whole of the export trade of live animals. The committee received a great deal of evidence, both oral and written. One hon. Member has told us that he gave evidence. The committee visited markets and slaughterhouses at home and abroad. It even accompanied the animals on their journeys by sea and air. It therefore obviously took a great deal of trouble in its investigations. We have to study the report calmly and without emotion, and that is difficult because the subject has been the cause of a lot of emotion. I am convinced that at the end of the day we should support the Minister and the committee with our vote.

I am glad that the committee attached overriding importance to the welfare aspect of the trade. I began by referring to the state of the livestock industry, but that is only a secondary consideration. The overriding consideration which we should all have in mind is that of welfare. The public expect us to put welfare considerations first, and I seek to make my case on that basis. There are two main areas of criticism of the trade—first, the transport conditions across the Channel and on the Continent, and, secondly, conditions in the slaughterhouses on the Continent.

The committee analysed both those matters with great care and in considerable detail. It went to a number of markets in the United Kingdom, including Banbury and Shrewsbury. It was impressed by the good conditions of the animals that had travelled long distances. In my constituency at Chippenham there is a large market which I often visit. Every week animals are brought hundreds of miles to it, coming from Scotland and the North of England. The animals do not suffer through travelling these long journeys and people do not complain about the welfare aspect. Therefore I agree with the committee that the argument about distance is not sufficient in itself to justify a permanent ban.

Sea travel is another point of concern. The committee travelled with animals over the sea in rough weather and, if I may answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake, it was convinced that the animals were not subjected to an unreasonable level of stress. It found that the stress was less than that experienced in travel by road. I am convinced that the complaints about travel conditions have not been justified.

I wish to deal with the question of slaughterhouses. None of us likes this horrible process, but it is necessary if we are to continue to eat meat and no one has suggested that we should stop eating meat. The committee studied conditions in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. No allegations have been made against the Netherlands, but there have been failures in Belgium and France, although these have been dealt with. It would be surprising if there were not unsatisfactory conditions in some slaughterhouses in Europe. There are many conditions in this country as well as abroad that are not perfect. Both France and Belgium operate their slaughterhouses under careful veterinary supervision, and I was glad that the committee recommended that future exports should be permitted only to slaughterhouses which satisfied certain specified criteria. In spite of all the criticism, therefore, I am persuaded that a case has not been made out to maintain a permanent ban on the export of live animals for slaughter.

I have been a Member of this House for about 12 years and I recognise the immensely strong feelings which exist among our constituents about the welfare and kind treatment of animals. I am sometimes astonished that I receive more letters on the treatment and care of animals than on almost any other subject, in spite of all the terrible troubles going on outside the country and within it. That is to be welcomed, because it shows that we are a kind, sympathetic and decent nation. It is right that hon. Members should receive letters and documents from many organisations on animal welfare, and that we should read them thoroughly, as we all do.

It is our duty to see that animals are properly cared for. Equally, I am certain that the farmers in my agricultural constituency have a deep, genuine sympathy and understanding for animals. They would wish to have no part in any cruel or uncaring process. I am sure that the setting up of the committee, the preparation of its report, the earlier debate and this debate will all help to ensure that unnecessary suffering is avoided.

I have thought deeply about this matter. I trust that at the end of the debate the House will give the Minister support for what I believe to be an absolutely right decision.

7.41 p.m.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

Whatever the views of individual hon. Members, we would all agree that there has been no lack of information supplied to hon. Members over the past several weeks on both sides of the argument. We have in conflict in the debate two of the most powerful lobbies in the country—the farmers' lobby and the animal lovers' lobby. I am not an ardent supporter of either. We have before us the O'Brien Report, which is, as far as is possible in this matter, impartial and objective. I have tried to read everything that has come my way from both sides.

We had the rare event last week of the Labour Members in Fife meeting the representatives of the National Farmers' Union, when at least six papers were read out to us by six farmers. Those papers were on various problems of the farming industry, but, significantly, not one of them was devoted to the topic we are debating. There were papers on cereals, potatoes, milk, the capital transfer tax and related legal matters. But it was only in the subsequent discussion that this question was raised, and then only to the extent that the farmers pleaded with us to support the NFU in seeking the lifting of the ban on the export of live cattle. They said that if we could not do that we might suggest as a compromise a temporary lifting of the ban. I thought that that was a genuinely expressed view, but the thin end of a wedge, and so I reject it.

Therefore, I am forced to consider whether it is desirable on economic grounds and/or humane grounds to ban the export of live animals or to allow it to resume. I have read the report. I tell the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry), who spoke very reasonably, that it is a peculiar constitutional doctrine that the House must automatically accept the findings of any report, however distinguished. The purpose of the House is not to do that but to examine the report impartially. We are all laymen and lay women, and we have a degree of common sense which is sometimes more valuable than the opinion of experts. I am not saying that the committee did not do the best job it could within the limits of its resources and its time. I have no criticism on those grounds, but I want to make one or two comments.

First, little is said about exports of animals to places outside the EEC. Secondly, the committee did not go into the cruelty involved in ritual slaughter. It said that that was outside its terms of reference. Thirdly, the committee admitted grave deficiencies in the control arrangements designed to safeguard animal welfare, especially where animals are re-exported. We read this in paragraph 61. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) referred to paragraph 17, mentioning the method of enervation used in Italy.

We must accept one or two basic principles. The first is a simple one, put forward by several hon. Members, that as long as man eats beast there will be cruelty, just as there will be cruelty to children as long as human beings produce children. Hon. Members must take such measures as we think desirable to minimise that cruelty.

That being so, slaughter must be carried out at the nearest possible point to production, and it must be carried out humanely. That means that a country such as ours must produce as much of its own meat as possible. We must then make sure that the animals are slaughtered under rules produced by the House, enforced by inspectors under the control of the relevant Minister. We must see that there is a minimum of transport, whether by road, sea or air.

So long as the country exports live animals, we cannot enforce our regulations in respect of those animals once they reach other countries. It is true that in an organisation such as the EEC there is some measure of control, because there will be common practices throughout the Community. But I have one or two pieces of information about abattoirs outside Europe, where I suspect some of the animals will end up.

If the trade is allowed to resume, many animals will almost certainly end up in Algeria, Tunisia and perhaps Egypt. That is the fear of some hon. Members and of other people who have studied the problem. I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but I have a report from an eminent veterinary surgeon who saw an abattoir in Cairo. That abattoir may be acceptable to the Egyptians, but the report shows it to be disgusting and appalling by our standards. As has been said in the debate, the practices in Italy may be acceptable to the Italians but would not be acceptable to us. I do not understand how the committee or the Government can say that we can control events once the cattle go from these shores. I cannot be satisfied on that point.

I understand the economic arguments of the farmers, and I sympathise with them, but the farmers are not unanimous on the subject. I quote a Mr. McCall-Smith who is a sheep and cattle producer in Scotland. In his presidential address to the Scottish Peat and Land Development Association just before Christmas, he said: People talk about a surplus of beef. I say there is no surplus of prime beef, it has attracted prices of £22 to £25 per cwt throughout this year ". That was 1974. He continued: but there is a vast surplus of the sort of beef that people do not want. That is axiomatic. If people do not want it, there will probably be a surplus. Mr. McCall-Smith then said: Lifting the ban on live animal exports is not the solution to the problem. The report of his speech continues: there was no excuse for exporting frightened animals to a virtually nknowun fate overseas. Public money had been used to produce these animals, for example, a £18 calf subsidy, and they should be sold on the home market.

Mr. Geraint Howells

The hon. Gentleman has just quoted a statement that the average price for best beef in 1974 was in the region of £20 to £25 per cwt. Let me tell the House that the price of beef in 1974 went as low as £12 or £14 per cwt. The average price for the few months at the end of the year was very low indeed, and £10 per cwt. less than the hon. Gentleman quoted.

Mr. Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman has an unfair advantage over me. He knows about these matters and I do not. I am quoting an expert who is probably more expert than the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)


Mr. Hamilton

No, I must get on. Mr. McCall-Smith said: no stockman worth the name would want his animals sent to some country whose animal welfare assurances were not worth the paper they were written on. That is my view.

I greatly sympathise with the farmers in their present predicament. I do not think it is a strong argument to say that this issue will have only a marginal effect on them. To many farmers at the margin it could make the difference between survival and non-survival. All I am saying is that as a layman, and as one concerned with the welfare of animals who cannot speak for themselves, I believe that animals should be defended by us and that on an occasion such as this Members should take a non-party and objective view.

Faced with all the conflicting evidence from the pressure groups, which are doing all they can to further their own interests as they see them, and in trying to further the national interest, I think that on balance I must come down on the side of the animal lovers. At the same time, I hope that no charge will be made that the NFU is a hard-bitten, tight-fisted and tightly-knit group of politically motivated men. I do not accept that. Nor do I accept that the animal lovers are wishy-washy sentimentalists. I hope I shall not be accused of taking either standpoint.

I have tried to look at the matter as objectively as I can. The Government's policy must be to protect the farmers by measures other than this. If the future of the farming industry has to depend on a trade of this sort, it had better go to the wall. I do not believe that it is so dependent. I think that the Government should have other measures to put into effect to produce a solution to what I hope and believe is a temporary problem facing the farmers and the agricultural industry.

7.54 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) and the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) all add to the great desire to see the expansion of the carcase trade in this country. But none of them remembered that the O'Brien Committee, like the Balfour Committee, considered this matter carefully. The trouble with the expansion of the carcase trade is the lack of suitable transport and the technical problems involved in ensuring that the carcases reach distant markets as fresh meat. The demand from the Continent is for fresh meat. On the Continent there is severe consumer resistance to any expansion in the chilled and frozen meat trade.

When we debated this matter on 12th July 1973 the House was asking for suspension of the licences for the export of live animals for slaughter overseas. If the Minister's advice is accepted tonight under present conditions, the bulk of the trade that we shall see developed, as hon. Members from Wales have already said, will be for store cattle for fattening on the Continent.

I do not think that the House has appreciated the problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Drake asked why we cannot take fodder to the starving animals. The price of bad hay in Lincoln market last week was £57 a ton. The price of good hay was nearly £90 per ton. That is the extent of the problem.

It is appropriate that it is the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who is commending the lifting of this ban. I do not believe that sufficient tribute has been paid to him for the part that he has played over the years in animal welfare, both in his handling of the foot and mouth outbreak and in his dealings with the Brambell Committee. That fact was recognised by the veterinary profession in 1969. It gave the right hon. Gentleman the highest honour that can be awarded to any non-veterinarian when it made him an honorary Associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Like most other people, he would do everything possible to avoid cruelty.

The question is whether by shipping cattle, sheep and pigs to the Continent we are inflicting on them greater suffering and stress than that which they would normally suffer in movements in this country. The largest part of the trade goes from Lincolnshire, from Boston Docks. The cattle go in air-conditioned boats in blocks of nine or four. They are sealed off so that they cannot be rolled and shaken about. They go in conditions which were found by the O'Brien Committee in paragraph 47 to be better and to inflict far less stress on animals than transport conditions in this country.

The House must face the fact that in the life of any beast in Britain there are three moves. They move from breeding area to livestock rearing, from rearing to fattening and from fattening to slaughter. My hon. Friend the Member for Drake showed her lack of knowledge on this subject—I do not doubt her sincerity—when she talked about bad handling in the cattle transport industry. The first thing that a farmer would do would be to change his transporter if his sheep arrived with pneumonia or other signs of stress and disease. The people who handle the animals take the greatest possible care. They want to continue in the trade and they give the farmers a very good service. I think that the O'Brien Committee is right when it concludes that inflicting a Channel crossing on our livestock does not induce greater stress than that which is induced in transport within this country.

I believe that the Minister has given us an adequate assurance about the progress that has been made in Europe. We have humane slaughter regulations which have been accepted by the EEC countries. We have humane transport regulations which will be law by the beginning of July in the EEC countries. That meets one of the main worries of the O'Brien Committee and makes it clear that the House would be right in accepting the Minister's advice and finding it unnecessary to consider the interim regulations.

We are all grateful for the O'Brien Committee's attitude during this investigation. It adopted an attitude of humanity and objectivity. I hope that that attitude will be followed by the House tonight. The committee found that there was a strong emotional response to stop this traffic from people who had no practical knowledge of the trade. The report lists in paragraphs 68 to 73 the allegations that have been made. There was the so-called BBC film which spoke of "black faces at dawn and white faces in the broken-down lorry on the Alps." I could list many more examples, but I will not take up the time of the House. This merely illustrates the difficulty of private investigation.

The House should be aware that over the years the various animal welfare societies have used the stunt of private investigation as a way of raising funds from a public that has always been concerned about animal welfare. The case has not been proved. I hope that the House will allow this trade to reopen. It will put a bottom in the market for our store cattle. It takes two to make a price at a public auction, and I want to see the foreign buyers back in our auction markets. We have the EEC assurances. The resumption of the trade is important to the livestock industry. The reason for its suspension no longer applies.

8.2 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)

May I refer the hon. Member for Gains-borough (Mr. Kimball) to paragraph 94 of the O'Brien Report? It states: It has been suggested … that the continental housewife prefers to buy fresh, home-killed meat rather than chilled imports … we do not find any of these arguments particularly convincing. That answers one of the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks.

I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) regarding the factual strength of the report. The general impression one gets from reading the report is of the cursory manner with which the committee dealt with the representations of the animal welfare organisations and the subjective conclusions it reached. All too frequently it seems to whitewash existing practices.

For instance, paragraph 76 deals with the European practice of slaughtering animals within the sight of one another. The report states that although it might be argued that for one animal to watch another being stunned and slaughtered must cause alarm and stress, our observations have convinced us that this is not the case. That is a glib conclusion. How can the committee, with so little experience of slaughtering—and I wish that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) were present—speak with such conviction, even arrogance? Has Lord O'Brien developed extra-sensory perception which enables him to communicate with animals? His record shows that he cannot even communicate with people. If he has developed this great quality he should tell zoologists how he managed it, because it will be one of the great discoveries in biological science in the twentieth century.

In paragraph 86 O'Brien deals with the opposition of the British Veterinary Association—and since we are looking for qualifications this is a body which has them—which argues that the level of stress is higher in the live export trade than in the domestic trade, especially when the animals are for immediate slaughter. O'Brien rejects this argument on the grounds that it would involve accepting human powers of appreciation which we do not believe animals such as cattle, sheep or pigs to have. How does he know? Surely we must pay more respect to the view of a professional body like the BVA. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery asked how many of us were familiar with slaughterhouses. I am a butcher's son. Before we had sane regulations for slaughterhouses in this country I visited slaughterhouses frequently. My impression from seeing these animals much more often than the O'Brien Committee did was that they are apprehensive, that they are scared out of their lives. I have known slaughtermen who have told me that because of the appealing look in the eyes of a pet lamb they could not kill it.

The O'Brien Report whitewashes many issues. It abounds in complacency. For example, paragraph 77 states that the French Government admit that the law is infringed. So much for the assurances which we are asked to accept about Common Market regulations. The French Government admit that the law is infringed and that a substantial proportion of slaughtering is carried out without the benefit of pre-stunning. O'Brien seems to be satisfied because one slaughterman wat suspended for a month. I quote the O'Brien Report again since its literary quality has been appreciated: We were given the strongest assurances by the French Ministry of Agriculture that further severe penalties would be imposed if there should be any repetition of this failure. French slaughtermen must be shaking in their boots and thinking about giving up the profession. Can one month's suspension be called a severe penalty?

In paragraph 70 the committee accepts that photographic evidence indicates that livestock transporters have been driven at excessive speed but indulgently concludes that the drivers did not know what their cargo was. I have seen transporters in this country pass me on the road when they should not have done so. I was aware of the contents of the transporters. I can only say that if the drivers did not know what the contents were it was because the animals had already been stunned by being bashed around. The committee believes the drivers. Millions would not.

Paragraph 49 shows a similar complacency. It says: As livestock are a valuable commodity, we consider that it would be unrealistic to assume that they would be deliberately put at risk through transport in inadequate or ill-fitted vessels. Similar glib arguments were used in defence of the slave trade. We know that live creatures packed tightly together may bring higher economic returns, even counting the losses which this packing causes.

The report admits many abuses such as the treatment of blind and lame animals, the export of horned and recently dehorned cattle, the transport of animals over excessive distances and the re-export of animals, especially sheep.

It also admits that control arrangements which were intended to safeguard the welfare of animals being exported proved seriously deficient. It emphasises the need for stronger arrangements and makes good suggestions for the methods to be used, especially the appointment of inspectors. The Minister's speech was very weak on this because he was vague about whether we are to introduce a full and satisfactory inspection. This would be more effective than new EEC regulations. The Minister was not very reassuring on this question of control. Many of us feel that loopholes will be found as before, that regulations will be ignored, as before. A ban on the trade is the only effective measure which would protect our defenceless animals which depend entirely upon us for their protection.

Paragraph 21 states that the trade is of small economic significance to the United Kingdom as a whole. Some hon. Members have attributed to this the difficulty in livestock farming, but, as has been demonstrated by several hon. Members, that is not so. It is a relatively unimportant part of the British trade in meat products.

Paragraph 96 states that we nevertheless welcome the growing trend towards carcase meat exports which brings us nearer to the Council of Europe ideal. There is no reason why in our compassion for animals we should not go a long way towards achieving that ideal. Why, therefore, revive the live export trade? As it is dying fairly quickly, why go through all the motions of rescinding the ban on the export trade and bringing in new regulations? We should stop it now. It is of relatively little economic significance.

Some hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies pretended that the trade was more important to Wales than it was to other parts of the United Kingdom, but I think that they were making constituency points. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) said that the traffic in livestock exports was chiefly of low quality. I rarely agree with her, but on this occasion the anti-ban lobby agrees with her. If that is so, I do not see the relevance of the Welsh livestock trade. If the Welsh Nationalists and Welsh Liberals do not defend the high quality of Welsh livestock I will do so myself. Welsh livestock more readily finds a market in England than most. No longer do Welshmen steal English- men's cattle. So they could readily find a market in England.

It is stupid to revive the live export trade. Why not hasten its end by keeping the ban? It is the only way to ensure the welfare of animals which have suffered so much in the past.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)

I must declare an interest. I am a farmer and I have had the privilege of looking after livestock for many years.

I refute any allegation that farmers generally are cruel. That just is not true. They care a great deal for their animals and, from an economic and practical point of view, if animals are not cared for they do not come to maturity. Today, many pigs are better housed than are human beings. I know of sows with underfloor heating and regular food which are better housed than grandma and grandpa. Let us have no nonsense about animals not being properly cared for by farmers.

Over the years I have not changed my views. I would never condone or advocate a trade in livestock which I knew to be inhumane. Having once had the privilege of being a junior Agriculture Minister, I know the work that is done to protect animals which are exported. I pay tribute to Ministry veterinary personnel and civil servants in this section of the Ministry. They have sought to ensure that everything is done to prevent any form of cruelty, and I believe that that policy will continue in the future.

I want to see the export of livestock on a deadweight basis. That has always been my aim and it is my aim now. That would be better for the farmers and for the maintenance of employment, but that is not possible at present because there are not enough export-licensed slaughterhouses. Till there are enough we cannot prevent the export of live animals. We must move towards a deadweight basis, and I hope that the Minister will agree that in the long run that is the best method.

I accept the O'Brien Report and the recommendation that for the time being it is right to export live animals, but only to countries which have accepted and are seen to carry out the Balfour Assurances and the regulations. I hope that the Minister will refuse licences if there are any abuses. I should like a system of tagging so that the animals can be checked. If the animals are not tagged the exporter's licence should be taken away and he should not be allowed to export again. I hope that we shall have a tough policy.

We must work towards humane slaughter in the European Community and towards methods which are comparable with our own. I am surprised that people are not more concerned about animal welfare in the Community.

Let us consider more what is happening in other parts of the world. The overriding reason for allowing the export of some live animals at present is our shortage of animal food. There are in the South-West alone more than 1,000 animals dying from malnutrition, and I have seen them in the knackers' yards. If we have a cold spell, the situation will be made worse. Let us ease the farmer's burden by allowing the export of live animals for the time being and so enable more food to go to the animals that remain. We have a choice whether to allow more animals to starve to death or to allow some to be exported and so relieve the pressure on those that remain. I choose the latter.

The export of live animals should continue only for the time being. We should go to the deadweight basis if possible. The Ministry should watch carefully to see whether there is any abuse, and if there is it should be stopped.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

The hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) has set an excellent example of brevity. A number of hon. Members wish to take part and the wind-up speeches will start at nine o'clock. We can accommodate a considerable number of hon. Members if they are brief.

Mr. Winterton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was under the impression that the debate was open-ended and that it could go beyond 10 o'clock.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The debate must end at 10 o'clock, and I understand that the winding-up speeches will start at nine o'clock.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Frank Hatton (Manchester, Moss Side)

I welcome the opportunity to make a brief intervention to speak against the export of live animals and in support of a permanent ban. The more I read the report, the greater is my impression that the investigations were undertaken from the point of view of justifying the export of live animals rather than from an impartial viewpoint. The committee appears to have reached its conclusions and made its recommendations on the basis of flimsy investigations of individual allegations that the Balfour Assurances were not being complied with, and it exhibits an almost incredible degree of naivety in those investigations.

The conclusions which recommend that the suspension of trade in live animals for slaughter in countries within the EEC should be rescinded under certain safeguards until such time as European welfare regulations are brought up to acceptable British standards are somewhat contentious.

First, we have no guarantee that such animal welfare regulations as may be adopted in the countries of the EEC will be as stringent as those applied in this country. Secondly, the safeguards detailed in the report would be only slightly better that the Balfour Assurances, and to ensure their compliance would be just as difficult.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) suggested that we should subject the findings of the O'Brien Report to scrutiny. In making brief contribution I am unable to do that in any detail, but I shall look at one or two paragraphs.

Paragraph 35 of the report states that the conditions seen by the representatives of the trade and producer interests presented a somewhat different picture from the allegations made by various welfare bodies and others. It is hardly likely that they would be objective in their analysis. The paragraph goes on to state: we do not believe that there has been on either side a deliberate intention to mislead. That may be so, but the Government's purpose in appointing the committee was surely to identify the areas of unintentionally misleading evidence and to conduct an impartial investigation leading to an objective report. The impartiality of the investigation and the objectivity of the report I believe to be open to question.

In paragraph 38 reference is made to the handling of animals during transport, and the report states: variations in stock handling ability can exist between different markets but in our view this is an area where local control can and should be exercised. The precise reason for the difficulties experienced in the past has been that under the Balfour Assurances local control should have been but was not exercised. There is no reason to believe that anything within the report is likely to enforce greater compliance by local control authorities.

I wish to make one other comparison in subjecting the report to a brief scrutiny. Paragraph 77 relates to an incident where it had been proved that certain pre-stunning equipment had not been used and as a result slaughtermen were penalised. The committee was given the strongest assurance by the French Ministry of Agriculture that further severe penalties would be imposed if there should be a repetition of this. One wonders whether the "Balfour Assurances" were given as strongly as they should have been. It is well known that certain aspects of those assurances are not kept, and it is surprising to find the O'Brien Committee prepared to accept them.

The committee stated that it believed that by allowing the trade to continue under strict and proper conditions we could set a practical example to other nations trading in livestock and thereby contribute to a general raising of standards. That appears to be pious nonsense. The committee disregarded the economic arguments since it said that such a practice would contravene Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome. However, the article stated that prohibitions and restrictions on imports and exports or goods in transit might be justified on the grounds of public morality, public policy or public security and the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants. Despite the arguments advanced by the O'Brien Committee, those provisions could well be applied to the trade involving the export of animals.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Civil Service Department—who I am pleased to see in the Chamber this even- ing— referred in an Adjournment debate some time ago to serious financial dilemmas faced by the Manchester abattoir which at that time had a deficit in excess of £1,000 a day and was losing money at a rate of £400,000 annually. Despite what has been said by the Opposition in this debate, I understand that there is excess capacity in many abattoirs—abattoirs which are approved in respect of the export of meat to EEC countries. At present the city of Manchester is spending £9,000 on improving the modern abattoir there to bring it more into line with EEC regulations and to enable a greater throughput so that pigs and sheep can be slaughtered in greater numbers. There are great economic advantages in using the facilities we have in the retention of by-products in this country and in terms of increased employment opportunities.

However, despite the economic arguments, I, along with many of my hon. Friends, will vote against the motion because we believe that a total ban on the export of animals for slaughter is the only humane solution in this controversial matter and the only way to prevent a great deal of suffering.

8.26 p.m.

Mr. George Thompson (Galloway)

Hon. Members this evening have spoken a great deal about ideals, and clearly in an ideal world we should all be vegetarians and there would be no cruelty or suffering in the animal world. But as long as we insist on eating meat—and I must confess that I consumed a nice piece of roast veal this evening—we shall have to accept that this unpleasant business must go on.

I was told in the General Election that my agent had arranged for me to visit a slaughterhouse but thought better of it because he did not think that I would be at my best for the rest of the day. Yet I go on eating meat. I have had a number of letters on the subject from my constituents, and only one lady was totally logical; she was a vegetarian and was against the trade. I take off my hat to her, but I disagree with her.

I agree with the O'Brien Report when it says that if there is avoidable cruelty that is necessarily bound up with the trade, we should refuse to carry on the trade irrespective of the economic arguments. The question boils down to this: is there necessary and unavoidable cruelty? I get the impression from some of the letters I have received that the writers believe that the minute that we cross the Channel we land in territory that is inhabited by fiends. Are the people on the other side of the Channel so cruel to animals? I have lived in Italy and France. Not having visited the slaughterhouses in those countries, I cannot tell hon. Members what they are like. I did not receive the impression that continental farmers were any more or any less cruel than farmers in Scotland.

It is interesting that so often when we refer to places of slaughter we prefer, instead of the good old English word "slaughterhouse", the French word "abbatoir". I feel that there is an element of xenophobia in this. There are differences between those who live in towns and those who live in the country. The townsman has his pet cat or dog, with which he has a close affinity. The countryman knows cattle, sheep and pigs because he works with them.

I believe that we in the country tend on the whole to be less sentimental and less anthropormorphic in our judgement of animal suffering. The moment we wish to enter into the psychology of animals, we find that we cannot do so. We are not able to say whether the beast waiting to be killed suffers. We know only that human beings do.

I wonder why the organisations which very properly deal with cruelty to animals and its prevention have not been on a mission to our overseas partners in the EEC to persuade public opinion in those countries to make the necessary changes. It may be that they have done so. I hope that they have.

Referring to the transport of animals, earlier in the debate, "wild staring eyes" of animals leaving the ships were evoked. If we see a transporter or lorry containing cattle and we peer through the spaces between the boards, I am sure that we shall see eyes that are staring. They may be wild. The point is that there must be stress on the animal loaded on to a lorry and transported it knows not where, probably at high speeds, on country roads which could certainly have fewer corners. Yet I have never heard anybody urging that we should return to the droving of animals along the roads on the hoof, which is what I remember happening when I was a small boy.

If there is stress on the animal at sea which is beyond what it suffers on land then while it is crossing the Pentland Firth or the Minch in bad weather, it must suffer the same stress caused by the North Sea or English Channel crossings. My information—I have carefully avoided crossing the Pentland Firth or the Minch by boat—is that those seas can be pretty rough, too. Yet there is no cry to stop the traffic between the mainland of Scotland and the islands. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, it would not be possible to do that, unless we insisted that each island slaughtered its own cattle and had no export trade except that of carcase meat. Where could we find the inspectors to supervise the abattoirs—or, for that matter, the necessary abattoirs?

It is contended that the animals are not loaded properly on to the boats. I do not believe that there is any difference between the men of Kent or Lincolnshire and the men of Scotland. I do not believe that the men of Kent or Lincolnshire are rough, hard men when it comes to treating animals while the men of Scotland are gentle, kind persons. I believe that humanity is the same in both places. I submit that the trade is neither necessarily nor avoidably cruel.

I was glad to have the assurance of the Minister, and I am glad to note that those assurances will be repeated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. I am glad that we shall receive those assurances so that my hon. Friends who have not all had the opportunity of listening to the debate may hear them and carry them back to their constituents.

If a committee is set up, carries out its investigation, and reports, we should not lightly set aside the conclusions of its report. If we receive positive and honest assurances from the Minister, we should not decline to believe them. Therefore, I advise my hon. Friends to vote in favour of restoring the traffic in live animals.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. John Tomlinson (Meriden)

I wish to support the motion. However, before giving a few reasons why I believe that we should take that step I want briefly to refer to some remarks which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Hatton). It was sought earlier in the debate to call into question the impartiality of the O'Brien Report, and I believe that is a matter which the majority of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House regret. We have had a thorough investigation by the O'Brien Committee. To suggest that all that the committee was doing was seeking to make a case to justify the export of live animals is a travesty of what happened.

I welcome the report. I believe that what we have had from all those who oppose the restoration of the trade in live animals is a statement of the same arguments, as if nothing had happened since the O'Brien considerations were made. We have heard exactly the same pre-1973 arguments as if circumstances were exactly the same. This is not the case, of course. Since the O'Brien Committee was set up a number of very important changes have occurred. We have had the EEC directive on humane slaughtering. That is by no means a futuristic proposal. It was adopted by the Community in November last year. We have also had the Council of Europe convention on the protection of animals during international transport. That has now been ratified by all the countries in the EEC, with the exception of the Netherlands. The Commission of the European Community is at present working on draft directives on Community slaughter practices. The circumstances of the post-O'Brien considerations are entirely different in almost every respect from those which led this House in 1973 to set up the O'Brien Committee to examine the widespread concern which existed, even in the farming community itself.

I would have been disturbed about the wording of the motion had we not had the clear assurance from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture—and which I hope will be spelt out again in the reply to the debate—about the word "now". I believe that the inclusion of that word in the motion means that we must have spelt out clearly exactly what we are to do in relation to the control of licences and to the withdrawal of licences if the circumstances of the trade are unsatisfactory, and how we are to penalise in other ways besides the withdrawal of licences unsatisfactory circumstances of trading. I welcome my right hon. Friend's assurance to the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber).

Many hon. Members have quoted selectively and even misquoted the O'Brien Report to underline what they allege to be the marginal economic effect of the restoration of the trade. Half of a sentence in paragraph 21 says that … it is of small economic significance to the United Kingdom as a whole. If the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) had quoted the whole sentence, as I attempted to invite him to do, instead of picking up the sentence half-way through, it would have been clear that the O'Brien Committee said: We took the view that although the live trade is of importance to those in the industry who are affected by its operations, it is of small economic significance to the United Kingdom as a whole. It is important to recognise that it is of very great significance to British agriculture, and of much greater significance today than in the circumstances of 1973, and even in the circumstances of nine months ago when the O'Brien Report was published.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Coventy, South-West)

Does my hon. Friend also accept the exhortation in the report where the Committee says, in page 24, that … it must be remembered that the live export trade in slaughter animals accounts for only about 2 per cent. of total United Kingdom livestock production"?

Mr. Tomlinson

I certainly accept my hon. Friend's quotation and I am prepared to have a chat about it with her afterwards. I will even explain its significance and what 2 per cent. means, because 2 per cent. is not insignificant. It is a very significant factor indeed. It is one which ought not to be tossed out as if 2 per cent. is totally insignificant when it is very significant indeed in relation to the agricultural industry as it exists today.

Another point on which we have heard rather superficial argument is fodder. We have been told, and everybody accepts, that there is a serious position in relation to fodder. We have had all kinds of outrageous statements suggesting that unless we export 3 million live animals this will have no effect on the fodder situation. In fact, every single animal exported has an effect. The export of one would have little effect, but the export of 3 million would have a very great effect. If we have restoration of the trade to the level it was at in the immediate pre-O'Brien situation it would make a significant contribution to the solution of the fodder problem, although it would not be a total solution to it. In view of the seriousness of the fodder problem as it exists any contribution is to be welcomed and certainly not to be sneered at because it does not provide a total solution.

Anybody who feels that a solution to the fodder situation can be found at a single attempt is certainly living in a fool's paradise. If he has it, let him give it to my right hon. Friend, who can certainly use it if it will produce a magic formula which will open Pandora's Box and produce fodder.

An important argument that we have not heard today is that this additional restoration of confidence in our agriculture industry also has another significant economic effect, and it is not one which should be scorned at a time of difficult economic circumstances—the reduced cost to the Government of agricultural support. This is very significant to us because of our present circumstances, in addition to the balance of payments consequences.

In my opinion none of these things in themselves would justify the restoration of the live trade if there were cruelty, but I have read the O'Brien Report, not selectively and not once. I have tried to read it dispassionately, bearing in mind the views of my constituents, some of whom are opposed to the reintroduction of the live trade, some of whom support it. I have no particular axe to grind as an individual other than to see this House do what I believe is the sensible thing rather than display an emotional reaction to circumstances which might well lead us to a wrong course of action.

Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)

May I refer my hon. Friend to paragraph 34, referred to earlier? It says: While our investigations assume a certain number of allegations have been well founded … The O'Brien Committee tends to use the term "allegations" when talking of those whose reports favour keeping the ban and terms such as "representations" and "evidence" on the other side. How many well-founded allegations does my hon. Friend think there need to be for him to support a continuation of the ban?

Mr. Tomlinson

At the moment I am not satisfied that there is any evidence of cruelty that is in any way other than cruelty that must be expected by people who in any circumstances will be in breach of any kind of rules. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick), who spoke earlier in support of the motion, said we have excellent regulations against child cruelty but those do not stop it, and, therefore, we should scrap all those regulations. I believe we have excellent safeguards to stop cruelty to animals, but that does not mean that in no circumstances is cruelty going to occur.

Mr. Arthur Lewis


Mr. Tomlinson

No. I will not give way to my hon. Friend. The House has heard too much of him during the course of the afternoon.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have spoken only once, and you will agree that that was at the request of the Chair, and if the hon. Member makes a remark of that kind that is a reflection on the Chair. It was the Chair who called me.

Mr. Tomlinson

I apologise if my hon. Friend is so sensitive but I understand other colleagues have said some words during the day, and I overheard them, in relation to my hon. Friend's interventions. I certainly apologise to his sensibility.

One of the major arguments has been: why should we have live trade rather than carcase trade? Of course, the underlying assumption is that the only trade in cattle is for immediate slaughter. There are other areas of trade—[Interruption.] Yes, but there is also transport of live animals for rearing.

I believe that the arguments are overwhelming. The O'Brien Committee has done a thorough job and examined all the evidence. Many of the allegations made are covered by its statement in paragraph 20: Some of the welfare societies and private individuals who have given evidence to us have undertaken fieldwork themselves, but a large proportion have been quite ready to acccept the reports of others as a basis for their arguments. On this secondhand evidence they have founded vehement appeals for the abolition of the export trade in live animals for slaughter. I regret that I cannot follow their example, and I hope that the House does not follow it either.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is the duty of the Chair, as hon. Members appreciate, to maintain a balance between speeches for and against the motion. We have just had two speeches for the motion and I think that it is my duty to call someone to speak against the motion. I understand that all those who have just risen on the Opposition side are for the motion, so I propose to call another speaker from the Government side. Mr. Leadbitter.

8.46 p.m.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

It might comfort other hon. Members, who are obviously disappointed at not having been called, that I intend to speak for no more than four or five minutes.

Mr. Winterton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are the custodian of back benchers' rights. Many of us have sat here, apart from only a short break, for the whole debate, yet hon. Members come in on the Government side and take part almost immediately.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter), whom I have just called, has been in the Chamber for the whole period of my occupation of the Chair. In any case, I think hon. Members will agree that we should have balance in debate and not have three consecutive speakers for the motion. I am therefore calling the hon. Member for Hartlepool.

Mr. Leadbitter


Mr. Arthur Lewis

Further to that point of order. Is it not the case—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. If we could save interventions and points of order, we could probably get in all the hon. Members who wish to speak. Mr. Lewis on a point of order.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want to get this on the record. Is it not the case that, whatever happens, the Chair is right? Right or wrong, the Chair is always right. I want to get that clear, because earlier, I think before you were in the Chair, Mr. Speaker himself said that he would try to call speakers alternately for and against the motion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am glad to have the hon. Member's statement that the Chair is always right. I shall introduce him to my wife, and he can tell her that as well.

Mr. Leadbitter

The question is not whether people are cruel or not cruel but whether the House wants to satisfy itself that a certain course is right and to do so on the basis of evidence, without imputing the motives of O'Brien or anyone else. My hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) said on 12th July 1973: there is the fact that the evidence on sheep last year and early this year showed breaches of the Balfour Assurances to such a considerable extent that no control was possible, so the Government were forced to suspend sheep export licences. So without reference to the House, on the evidence available to them, the Government had decided to stop the issue of licences. And that was not so long ago.

My hon. Friend went on: The evidence on cattle shows the same pattern, and rightly so, for the same people are dealing with cattle as were dealing with sheep. The fourth point that he made is pertinent: Fourthly, we in this country had official assurances from Continental Governments about the treatment of sheep. These assurances turned out to be valueless. Why should we have any more trust in official assurances about cattle?"—[Official Report, 12th July 1973; Vol. 859, c. 1802.] This raises a point which I should like to put to the Minister. We have at the moment a motion the drafting of which is highly questionable, not in the sense that I doubt my right hon. Friend's motives but in the sense that it does not really give us the kind of overall, complete assurance that the House would like to have if the vote goes a certain way, because we are concerned about questions of control and enforcement Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend whether, if this is a possible mistake in putting before the House a motion which means that licences will be issued tomorrow and that the concern of the House and of the country will be renewed, it would not have been better in such an important matter as this to consider bringing in a Bill in order that the 24 recommendations of the O'Brien Committee, with all their requirements, their regulatory aspirations for enforcement, the staff that are required and, indeed, the reciprocal arrangements we need with the Common Market countries in particular, might be debated in this House and would therefore become matters of law, which is quite different from what is stated in the report, which seeks to have a code of practice. Most of us know what can happen with codes of practice.

Therefore, to be brief and in deference to hon. Members opposite, I simply express my belief that the Minister might take into account the question I have put to him: namely, whether this is an advisable step and whether, on reflection, it would not have been better for the Government to take this into their own hands and bring forward a Bill so that we could scrutinise it and, at the end of the day, have on the statute book regulations that are enforceable by law.

9.52 p.m.

Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)

It was in July 1973 that this House voted to suspend licences for the export of live food animals for slaughter abroad. Like the Minister himself, as he confessed today, I was one of those who, on that occasion, supported this on the ground that there seemed to be reliable evidence then that the Balfour Assurances on which the trade had been conducted had been circumvented and ignored and that there had been suffering by the dumb animals which could have been prevented.

I have had well over 50 letters on this subject, and the breakdown is half in favour of the O'Brien Report and the other half urging me to vote against it. I have the greatest admiration and respect for those groups and individuals who really care about the welfare of animals, which cannot speak for themselves, and do not wish to see any avoidable cruelty practised. But I must confess that I think the people who write to me and know very little about the trade take one point of view, while those people who know about farming or about the trade in meat take the opposite point of view. I want to say—it has been said before, but it cannot be said too often—that it is a great mistake to think that farmers are callous people who do not care about animals. They are kind and warm-hearted people who like animals as much as does anyone else.

That is why I was delighted that, after the vote in 1973, the O'Brien Committee was set up with the intention of reviewing the export trade in live animals and considering the welfare of such animals and whether is was being properly safeguarded. I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to Lord O'Brien and his Committee for the thorough way in which they have examined this problem and the objectivity with which they have reported.

The essence of the committee's recommendations is threefold: first, that a permanent ban on the export of live animals is not justified on either welfare or economic grounds; secondly, and most important, that the most effective means of safeguarding the welfare of all animals entering the livestock trade within the EEC lies in the implementing of common European welfare regulations to cover both transport and slaughter—which is what I believe; and thirdly, that until such time as these common regulations have been introduced, the trade in live animals should be allowed to continue only under interim safeguards. All that has been agreed.

As one of the United Kingdom delegates to the Council of Europe, I should like to quote from our report, which deals with the contribution made by the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Animals. Here is the situation as it exists now, and I read from paragraph 18: The Member States of the EEC, with the exception of the Netherlands, as signatories to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport, are moving towards ratification of this Convention. France, Germany and the United Kingdom ratified on 9th January 1974 and Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg had ratified prior to that date. In response to the discussion on animal welfare in the Council of Ministers on 25th September 1973 the Commission are working on a draft directive on Community slaughter practices and it is expected that this will be put to the Council of Ministers in the near future. These are the safeguards which we can expect and which we have now received from the O'Brien Committee.

Had time permitted, I would have stressed the other safeguards—for example, the use of special veterinary inspectorates, supervisory bodies, and veterinary services at embarkation and disembarkation. I think that the O'Brien Committee has done a splendid and objective job, and I commend the Minister of Agriculture for the way in which he introduced the subject today. He has turned his coat, as I have done, but we are not ashamed. We have changed our minds, and that can be a healthy diet.

We should not be swayed by well-intentioned people, however well-intentioned they are. I think that the O'Brien Committee has shown that not only would the resumption of this trade help the farming community, which so desperately needs it, but that animals are suffering from lack of fodder and that the ban is causing more suffering to animals rather than preventing it. I shall support the Government in their acceptance of the report, and I hope that most of my right hon. and hon. Friends will do so.

8.57 p.m.

Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) and others who suggest that the O'Brien Report was impartial and objective. I find it neither impartial nor objective. It begins by making a promise that the committee made a judgment in the first place which would allow it to give primary importance to the welfare of animals. From that promise or judgment, the committee could have adopted a number of approaches, for clearly the phrase "welfare of animals" does not lend itself to some kind of scientific and statistical determination.

Faced with a spectrum of choice, the committee, in my view, took a far too rigid line of reasoning—that unless every one of the cases of a disregard for the welfare of animals reported to it could be proved beyond a shadow of doubt, economic or political factors should determine the committee's findings.

At the same time, and as an integral part of that approach, the report indicates to me that the committee seemed determined to find and offer any excuse in cases in which there was an acceptance that the welfare of animals had been disregarded, and, linked with this, the report shows an overwhelming desire to accept any assurance whatever that the incidents concerned would not happen again.

The first few lines of paragraph 34 set the scene, and the conclusions seem almost inevitable. The paragraph begins: It must be said at the outset that if all these allegations were substantiated they would indicate a highly disturbing state of affairs. As has already been pointed out, if even some of these allegations had been substantiated, they would show a highly disturbing state of affairs. In the next sentence, the committee admits that a number of cases were proven, but it does not tell us how many such cases would have to be proven for the committee to accept that the ban ought to be continued. The report admits that, on investigation, a number of incidents were shown to be well founded. I repeat, however, that it does not tell us how many would have needed to be well founded for the committee to reach a rather different set of conclusions.

The same sentence in the report suggests that we look at paragraphs 68 and 79, which are supposed to explain and convince us that these cases of cruelty did not happen. I find those two paragraphs unconvincing.

The whole of the language in the report shows a lack of objectivity. When it comes from those who would like to continue the ban, they talk of allegations. When it comes from the other side, they talk of evidence and cases. But nowhere is this shown to be the case when they mention something happening. In paragraph 56 we see the words: We have heard of an incident in 1969 when 26 calves died from suffocation". Either they did or they did not die. That sentence could have been put in a totally different form. Surely there are records to show whether the incident took place or not.

In my judgment, the report is not objective, neutral, far-reaching or impartial. I suspect the reason is that those concerned are frightened to challenge the Common Market on the issue by saying that they will use Article 34 and impose a permanent ban.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I am grateful for being called in this important debate. I congratulate the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) on the reasoned, logical and objective way in which they have put their arguments in support of the O'Brien recommendations. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Tomlinson) on an absolutely splendid speech seeing through all the smokescreens that have been cast across the real issues in this debate.

I may be one of very few hon. Members who, after the debate in July 1973, accompanied a consignment of cattle from my constituency to the abattoir in Holland.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Did the hon. Gentleman escape?

Mr. Winterton

I did this unheralded and without notice. No arrangements were made by the people involved in the export to give me the red carpet treatment.

I was present when the cattle were sold at the Congleton cattle market, where they were inspected by a veterinary surgeon and a blood test was taken. I watched them being watered and fed at the market, where they stayed overnight.

The following day I saw them loaded into a cattle truck, and I accompanied them from Congleton on the road journey to the lairage at Decoy Farm, Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, which is owned by W. Lanham and Sons, the carriers. Those who say that the carriers do not care about their cargoes are talking through the tops of their heads because the cargoes are valuable. Bruised meat does not sell well. Ill-treatment meted out to animals in transit, either on the boat or in road transport, reduces their weight, and weight, when it comes to the end product, is valuable. I inspected the lairage, which was ideal in every way. The cattle were again watered and fed and there was plenty of straw bedding.

On Thursday, 2nd August, the cattle were inspected by a veterinary surgeon before being taken to the dock at Great Yarmouth where I saw them embarked. I inspected the pens, which were clean, and there was no overcrowding. I remind the House that the number of cattle that can be carried by a particular ship and the sizes of the pens are strictly regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

I sailed with the boat in question, the "Duke of Holland"—a ship of the Norfolk Line on the Norfolk ferry service—and we arrived at Scheveningen at approximately nine o'clock on Friday morning.

The cattle were disembarked and taken by cattle trucks some 800 metres to the dock lairage where they were unloaded, watered, and examined by a veterinary surgeon. The lairage was adequate in every way. The cattle were loaded into cattle trucks again and taken to the lairage at the slaughterhouse—Firma van de Wel en van Dijk, Openbaar Slachthuis, Den Haag, Kantoor 17 en 18. Here they were watered and fed, and the lairage again was generously provided with straw bedding. There was no shortage of space. Each animal had plenty of time and plenty of room to lie down.

This was an unheralded journey. No red carpet treatment was meted out to me. Holland was referred to by the hon. Member for Meriden as the one country which has not yet put its signature to the EEC regulation. The treatment was excellent in every way. I go so far as to say that the treatment there in the cattle markets and the slaughterhouses was probably better than in this country.

I saw a number of animals into the slaughter chamber. They were not slaughtered in sight of each other. However, I must add that the animals that I saw into the slaughter chamber were not from the consignment which I accompanied from my constituency, as it is the custom to rest animals after their journey for a period of between 48 and 72 hours.

Tonight I intend to support the recommendations of the O'Brien Committee. I congratulate the committee on the proper way in which it tackled a very difficult task.

9.6 p.m.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

At this late hour I shall be very brief. I shall confine my remarks to one particular point I wish to put to the Minister.

I am not altogether satisfied with the motion. I am sorry that little or no mention is made of many of the useful recommendations in the O'Brien Report. I am worried, too, about the gap in time between now and July when the Minister hopes to get the EEC regulations into effect. But I do not intend to develop that point now.

I want to concentrate on a particular aspect of this matter and explain to the House why I shall be voting for the motion although it is very unsatisfactory in itself. That reason is this. I say "Look at the map." After we banned live sheep exports from Britain in February 1973, I went to Dublin in April and met Mr. Clinton, the Eire Minister of Agriculture, and departmental officials. At the end of April they were good enough to show me their export figures for live sheep from Dublin and Cork to the Continent and how they compared in the previous weeks with the figures for the same period in the previous year. From the time when we banned our exports of live sheep there was a marked increase in live sheep exports from Dublin.

The Minister there was good enough to say that our ban had helped the Irish exporter tremendously and that he hoped we would be foolish enough to ban the export of live cattle also. We were foolish enough to ban the export of live cattle. In July we did exactly that. The result was the same for the Irish live cattle trade to the Continent as it had been for the Irish live sheep trade. That trade multiplied as soon as we took this action in Britain.

I say to the animal welfare supporters tonight—although we are all animal welfare people at heart—"Look at your maps." Is it more humane to supply from Britain the live animals which these abattoirs on the Continent will have—from some source—from carefully defined regulations and in well conducted circumstances, as the Government propose—a journey of perhaps, on average, 100 miles—or is it more humane or kinder to the animals to allow them to travel 500 miles or 600 miles from Cork or Dublin through the rough western approaches to the English Channel to get to the same continental abattoirs?

The abattoirs will have them. They do not care whether we regain our market or the Irish continue to supply them. Moreover, the regulations governing the conditions in which these animals travel from the Republic of Ireland are not as stringent as our British regulations. Therefore, I say to the welfare lobby "Look at the map before you vote tonight."

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

No one who has been present, as I have been, both at the debate in July 1973 and again today, or who has read even a fraction of the huge number of letters which have been written to hon. Members on the subject, will doubt the deep concern which is felt on the issue by a large section of the population as well as by hon. Members.

We are not divided in our detestation of cruelty. We are not divided in our determination to avoid unnecessary suffering. Those of us who believe that the O'Brien Committee's recommendations should be accepted and that the ban on the export of live animals for slaughter should be lifted respect the passionately-held views of those who take the contrary viewpoint. We also have a duty to explain to them and to those who are anxious and undecided the reasons for our own strongly-held convictions.

In the face of the fact, accepted by the O'Brien Committee, that the trade is of small economic significance to the United Kingdom as a whole, we have to explain not only why it can be justified but why it is so important that it should be allowed. I believe that we must start, as the committee started, by accepting that the business of slaughtering animals so that they may be consumed as food is not an attractive operation in any circumstances. Nevertheless, in the words of paragraph 20 of the report, while the majority of people wish to eat meat, it is a necessary one". It would be possible to prepare a report complete with photographs on British abattoirs which would revolt those who did not already know what was involved. In the circumstances the vegetarian point of view is very understandable, but the majority of us are not vegetarians and the argument is only about whether the transport of animals to the Continent and their slaughter there is an even beastlier business, a point effectively made by the hon. and learned Member for Mongomery (Mr. Hooson) and the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson).

There are three basic questions. The first is whether, when the process of slaughter is preceded by transport to the Continent, additional stress and suffering arise to the extent that the operation should not be permitted, or whether cruelty is more prevalent in continental abattoirs. Secondly, is there an economic case for the export trade that justifies even a marginal increase in the possibility of stress and suffering? Thirdly, can there be effective safeguards to ensure that abuses or mistakes—and, therefore, unacceptable suffering—do not take place? All three questions have been dealt with in the debate.

The committee firmly answered the first question. Paragraph 21 of the report says that although there have undoubtedly been shortcomings in the past which may, on occasion, have amounted to ill treatment of the animals, we believe that these can be remedied. We do not consider that the degree of stress involved in any one section of the export trade, nor its cumulative effect, is sufficient to justify a permanent ban". The committee elaborates on its conclusions, and in paragraph 85 it states roundly: If we had come to the conclusion that the trade was inhumane we should have had no hesitation in recommending a ban on that element of the trade which is carried on in live form. We have not come to such a conclusion, however, and we are therefore proposing a system of controls which we consider will safeguard the welfare of the animals in the slaughter trade. We believe that by allowing the trade to continue under strict and respected conditions we could set a practical example to those other nations which trade in livestick and thereby contribute to a general raising of standards.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

Does the hon. Member agree that the transport of animals by sea must necessarily involve considerable stress? The O'Brien Committee observed in paragraph 50 that although it approved the system of loading, There are occasionally recalcitrant animals which resist all efforts at persuasion and these may have provoked the use of undue force as was reported to us by a number of witnesses. Does not the hon. Member agree that the stress involved in the sea transport of live animals necessarily leads to cruelty irrespective of the standards? This was not one of the questions to which the O'Brien Committee directed itself.

Mr. Edwards

It is not the conclusion I reached on reading the report. One would have to deal with recalcitrant animals just as much when loading them into other forms of transport. In any case, there are considerable sea voyages in the transport of animals within the British Isles.

I want to return to the question of standards and the impact of our decision, which was freely discussed in the debate in July 1973, but not so much today. It was argued then by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), who has not been present today, that we should set an example. He believed that to be more important than the possibility that cattle from this country would be replaced by cattle from other countries, sometimes much further afield, so that the totality of suffering would be increased rather than decreased.

The forecasts made then by Sir Clive Bossom and others that cattle would instead come from Ireland and Eastern countries has come true. It is almost certain that as a direct consequence of our decisions cattle have been transported for far greater distances and that additional suffering has been caused. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), the then Minister of Agriculture, was right when he argued that far better than a unilateral ban would be international action to raise standards and that we should work to that end through the EEC.

The committee reached the same conclusion, that The most effective means of safeguarding the welfare of all animals entering the livestock trade within the EEC lies in the implementation of common European welfare regulations".

Mr. Burden

Does my hon. Friend agree that the committee did not start to act until after there had been an absolute ban on the export of sheep, and that the ban on the export of cattle was announced on the very day on which the committee was set up, so that it did not see the export of cattle under normal circumstances and did not see the export of sheep at all?

Mr. Edwards

That was the fault of my hon. Friend and his hon. Friends who voted for the amendment in July 1973. It was the case of my right hon. Friend the then Minister that we should continue the trade while the examination took place. Therefore, that is my hon. Friend's responsibility.

The member States of the EEC, with the exception of the Netherlands, the Irish Republic and Italy, have ratified the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport. Those three countries are expected to do so in the very near future. It is generally accepted that in any case serious problems will not arise in the Netherlands because of the strict enforcement of comprehensive animal welfare legislation there. The EEC directive on humane slaughter, adopted on 18th November 1974, requires member States to bring it into force not later than 1st July 1975.

The combination of the O'Brien conclusion and the new European measures convinces me, and I hope will convince others, that we can satisfactorily answer my first question.

Secondly, I asked whether there is an economic case for the export trade. The producers overwhelmingly believe that there is. The farmers and those who represent them are virtually unanimous on this point. Members for urban constituencies may have received numerous letters from their constituents. So have I, but in addition in my constituency farmers have marched and have held great meetings. Within a few days they collected more than 1,000 signatures on the petition that I have here. They have consistently, over a long period pointed to the impact of the ban on the price of cattle received in the markets. At a time when they have been facing a desperate crisis, they are convinced that the ban has been a critical factor destroying confidence, reducing flexibility and cutting the price they receive.

The NFU tells us: The opportunity to export meat from the UK is essential to the maintenance of a healthy and balanced home market in so far as it helps to reduce the fluctuations resulting from varying domestic production and imports. It continues: certain categories of slaughter stock, e.g. heavy cows for manufacture, are commonly in surplus in the United Kingdom but in demand in other EEC countries. The Farmers' Union of Wales says: The severe blow to the confidence of our beef industry which the events of recent months (the removal of effective price support and the glutted and depressed market) has delivered is likely to result in a serious fall in production. This can be mitigated if some buoyancy is restored in the beef market as soon as possible. The resumption of live exports is one of the most effective immediate measures which can be taken in this regard. In paragraph 21 the O'Brien Committee said: the live trade is of importance to those in the industry who are affected by its operations ". Thus we have a trade which, though not important for the United Kingdom economy as a whole—this is a point that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) made much of—is of critical significance to an important section of the economy, namely, the agricultural sector. That is a point that the hon. Gentleman ignored and a matter which was dealt with effectively by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Tomlinson). In Wales almost every farmer reports that he previously sold regularly for export and the dealers say that if the ban is lifted there will be a market again. They say that they felt the impact immediately the ban was imposed on the prices of their products.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) pointed out the economic importance of the trade for Wales. He reminded us that the O'Brien Committee examined the matter before the recent catastrophic collapse of the beef market and was therefore unable to make an economic assessment in slump conditions. Farmers are confident that the export market could have played a crucial part in their economy at a time when they were virtually unable to find a home market.

The Director for Wales of the NFU writes: In an over-supply situation in a completely unprotected market, our livestock industry has suffered severely this year and considerable financial losses and hardship have occurred on Welsh farms being, in the main, small family units. The ban on livestock exports during this time not only accentuated the catastrophic drop in farm incomes but has removed a valuable market outlet for a whole class of livestock—such as cows and ewes—which has only a very limited demand in this country.

Mr. Crouch

Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that the purpose of the export of live animals on the hoof is to get rid of old cow beef and not to sell beef for fattening abroad? That has been the pattern of the trade in this country. The number of cattle exported in 1973 was 76,000 as against over 1 million slaughtered for carcase. Those are the economic facts.

Mr. Edwards

I am saying that the trade that we are discussing is of extreme importance to many farmers. It is often an economic fact that the marginal element in an activity is particularly important for the price level. The disposal of the barren cow is highly significant.

I now turn to the question that I posed earlier of whether there are now adequate safeguards. That is a question that has greatly concerned the House. I have already referred to the new EEC convention. We have had the Minister's undertaking following an intervention by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and a further undertaking in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham that a licence will be issued only on the basis that the conditions that he spelt out are being observed.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham did much to clarify the existing position. He reminded us that the convention on transport has already been ratified by six of the Nine. The Irish Republic and Italy already have legislation. The Netherlands, which has to produce the precise legislation, already has standards that are probably higher than anywhere else. Humane slaughter regulations are in force in all the countries which have agreed the Balfour Assurances.

We also have the directive on humane slaughter. As I understand it—no doubt the Secretary of State for Wales will confirm this—the directive is already in force, but until 1st July it cannot be enforced by the EEC mechanism. From that date the actions of individual Governments already being applied will be further strengthened by the authority of the Community. Together with the convention and the Council directive, we have the Minister's assurance that licences will be issued only if those safeguards are being operated and that licences will be withdrawn if they are not observed.

I believe that taken together this gives us the safeguards we all want. I should like the Secretary of State for Wales to satisfy us on the question of veterinary inspection, which was not really dealt with by the Minister. I have referred to the economic case for reopening the trade and pointed out that the ban, by substituting cattle from more distant parts of Europe, far from reducing suffering has increased it.

Suffering is also rising because of the shortage of fodder and the pressure on our abattoirs. Cattle are starving or going hungry on our hills. The farmers of the United Kingdom are trying to feed over 14 million cattle with supplies adequate for about 13 million. I agree with the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) that it would be absurd to suggest that the problem can be solved through exports. The numbers are too great but hon. Members have expressed their passionate concern about cruelty. Even if 10,000 or 20,000 cattle could be exported during the next two months, the suffering of a similar number of animals could be alleviated.

If the ban had never been introduced, we might have had 100,000 fewer cattle in this country this winter and a very real contribution would have been made towards the alleviation of distress. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), who has consistently and passionately advanced his case, pointed to individual acts of cruelty. As the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) asked, in what areas are regulations always completely observed? He pointed out that we had laws designed to prevent cruelty to children but that we still had cruelty to children. The fact that individual acts of cruelty have been identified does not necessarily establish a case against the trade if the rules are generally observed and if there are safeguards to ensure that they are observed.

I wish to say something about the nature of the report. Many people have paid tribute to Lord O'Brien. He has made it clear that the committee, whose views were virtually identical with those of the Balfour Committee 17 years before, was unanimous but that at the outset three of its five members had expected to take a contrary view. He has made it clear that the unanimity was arrived at spontaneously and without any kind of argument and in spite of the pressures and emotional attitudes with which the members were confronted.

He has put on record his view that in some countries on the Continent the practices are, if anything, better than our own and that it is an illusion to think that the devil starts on the other side of the Channel. The House demanded this investigation. Lord O'Brien, a distinguished ex-Governor of the Bank of England, was assisted by the President of the Royal College of Nursing, the President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons—two people who have given their lives to alleviating suffering, human and animal—a distinguished QC who had been a member of the Northumberland Committee and a distinguished agricultural scientist.

They spent six months on their task. They went to markets, to slaughterhouses, lairages and ports, they travelled with cattle, they examined in detail the newspaper evidence that so influenced the House on the previous occasion and they came to the conclusion that a permanent ban on the export of live animals for slaughter was not justified. As the committee says in paragraph 119: It would have been all too easy for the Committee simply to have bowed to the strong emotions which have been aroused on this subject. That, at least, would have made for a popular Report. We have been more concerned, however, to seek the truth and to make proposals that are reasonable and fair. This we believe our recommendations to be. Surely this House, too, must be, and I am sure will be, more concerned with the truth than with emotion and will be equally reasonable and fair.

I am sure that the House will bear in mind that it is not being asked to reverse a previous decision. The original vote was not for a permanent ban but for an inquiry and, in the meantime, an interim supension of licences. The proposer of that motion, then the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West and now the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) argued for a suspension, not a ban. He said: and to start the new inquiry and let it decide in what circumstances and with what safe- guards the trade should be reopened, if at all."—[Official Report. 12th July 1973; Vol. 859. c. 1805] We have now had that inquiry. It has suggested the circumstances and the safeguards, and we find that they are attainable. Surely, in that situation, and bearing in mind the needs of the agriculture industry, the House should permit the trade to be reopened, and I urge my hon. and right hon. Friends to support the motion.

9.30 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Morris)

I think that there is total agreement on both sides of the House that the debate has been a most useful one. Admittedly, divergent views have been expressed, but that was only to be expected. There has been no sign of unanimity on what should be done, but what has been manifestly clear and recognised by every hon. Member who has taken part is the deep and sincere concern which all British people share about the need to protect animals from cruelty and suffering. I, too, wish to go on record as sharing that concern.

I am sure we speak for the whole country on this matter. The United Kingdom can fairly claim to lead the world in animal welfare. That does not mean that we should not aim for even higher standards. I believe that we have much further to go. Examples have been quoted of dissatisfaction about the transport of animals within the United Kingdom, and we could all probably give examples of what we have seen from time to time. We have further to go, but we should combine progress with vigilance. I admit that there is a place for vigilantes in animal welfare, and the public are right to support the welfare organisations.

The issue tonight is not so much our common goal as whether we should, in the terms of the motion, allow the export of food animals to the Continent. Time has not stood still since the House took the important step it took in 1973. As was said by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), a great deal of progress has flowed from the resolution passed by the House in 1973. The Government of the day having set up the committee and the committee having reported, it is time to take advantage of all the good work to which the right hon. Gentleman referred which has gone on since then. I say, in all humility, that we should resist the temptation to quote from past experience as if nothing had happened.

The essential facts can be simply stated. On 12th July 1973 the House decided that the export of live animals should be suspended pending an independent inquiry. I have detected a train of argument among some who feel passionately on this issue—and this came out strongly from the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), who has played an active part on this subject for a long period of time—that they seek a ban on the export of all food animals for all time. That is perhaps a role and a stance somewhat different from the resolution of the House in July 1973.

The distinguished O'Brien Committee was then appointed to make a careful survey of the facts and to make recommendations. I, too, wish to pay tribute to the great thoroughness of its work. I appreciate that not all hon. Members have joined in that tribute, and perhaps they did not feel inclined to do so because they were unhappy at the committee's findings and tempered their views from that standpoint. That is perhaps unfortunate, but I fully understand their views.

However, I wish to pay tribute to the committee's work in tackling its task and producing an excellent report. One conclusion was that a permanent suspension of exports would be unjustified on either welfare or economic grounds. Secondly, it felt that the most effective means of safeguarding the welfare of animals in intra-Community trade lay in the implementation of common welfare regulations for both transport and slaughter. Thirdly, the committee thought that there should be no less effective safeguards for trade with non-EEC countries.

The Government accept these conclusions, but since the report was published a great deal of progress has been made within the EEC. There is now a directive on humane slaughter to which I shall refer in more detail a little later. Six of the Nine have already ratified the Council of Europe Conventions on the Protection of Animals during international transport and the other three are following suit. To give a effect to the convention in Community law, the Commission will shortly make proposals to the Council of Ministers.

In the Government's view, this package of European measures meets in substance what the O'Brien Committee recommended. All these considerations are entirely concerned with animal welfare. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture said in opening the debate, it is right that welfare considerations should predominate on this issue and I yield to no one in that view. On the other hand, as many hon. Members have said, it is an undoubted fact that the resumption of exports would benefit our agriculture and balance of trade, though it would be a disservice to exaggerate the effect of that aspect.

Mr. Burden

The Minister says that the resumption will affect our balance of trade. How can the export of 2 per cent. of our cattle benefit our balance of trade when we know that in the first 243 days of last year we imported about £35 million worth of cattle from Ireland?

Mr. Morris

I do not think that argument stands up to logic. There is a difference in the quality of animals imported and exported and in the type of meat—and exports of even 0.2 per cent. would benefit our balance of payments. The hon. Gentleman's argument does not merit close examination.

Mr. Marten

The Minister said that the Commission was making proposals to the Council of Ministers to implement the European convention. Will that be done by regulation or by a directive? If it is to be done by a directive, it has to be translated into legislation by the provincial Parliaments, such as Britain and France.

Mr. Morris

I know of the hon. Gentleman's great interest in these matters. I anticipate that I shall be able to assist him fully, if he will give me a few minutes. But it will be a directive.

Having mentioned the issue of agriculture and the effect on the balance of trade, I come to the very careful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick), who has brought to my attention time after time the situation in his constituency. There is no escaping the fact that poor weather this summer has led, as all of us in the Principality know, to a substantial shortfall in supplies of hay and straw, carrying with it risks for the welfare of animals in several parts of the country and in particular in the Principality. We discussed with the farming unions and others what practical steps could be taken to mitigate those difficulties. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture made his decisions and announced them on 11th December.

Hay is in short supply throughout Europe. Some may be available in Canada and the United States but its importation would be very expensive. More than at any other time, therefore, we shall have to make the maximum and most efficient use of our domestic supplies.

Mr. Geraint Howells

The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware that, if the ban is lifted, the return to the hill farmers in Wales and other parts of Britain will improve. They will then be able to buy extra fodder to feed their animals.

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman is reinforcing the point I made concerning the benefit to agriculture and hill farmers generally, who now find themselves without fodder with which to feed their animals. One should not exaggerate—I know that the hon. Gentleman with his experience, would not do so—the effects on the prospects or hopes of this trade. I am sure that the House will join me in commending the generosity and public spirit of those farmers who have contributed from their own stocks of fodder to help those less fortunate to keep their animals alive. However, whatever benefits may accrue from the combined efforts of the farmers and the Government, I am afraid that we shall be left with a situation in which some animals will be at risk. It is incumbent upon us to explore fully whatever other opportunities exist. That is a matter for all those who are passionately concerned with welfare, who should seriously bear it in mind in the way that they cast their votes this evening.

Mr. Corbett

Is my right hon. and learned Friend seriously suggesting that, assuming that this ban is lifted over the next eight or 10 weeks, a sufficient number of animals could be exported on the hoof to make anything except the most insignificant contribution to the fodder shortage.

Mr. Morris

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has clarified my point that we should not exaggerate the effect of the lifting of the ban, or the prospect of the trade.

As for some of the calculations made by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), who hoped that the price of calves would rise ten times if the ban were lifted, I should want to put a large pinch of salt against any such forecast.

My family and I have been deeply involved in Welsh agriculture, and from a lifetime's experience I am deeply aware of the highly critical situation in the hills of the Principality today. Any help which can be given to the animals in the hills will be welcomed. I implore those with the welfare of such animals at heart to bear in mind the effect of even a small measure of help in that direction.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)


Mr. Morris

I have given way a number of times. However I must deal with the points about which I have been asked. I have been asked about progress and control.

Mr. Stephen Ross


Mr. Morris

No. I have given way to a number of hon. Members. There is no one in this House more generous than I am in giving way, and hon. Members know it, but I must ask them to allow me to make my own speech.

We would look foolish if we maintained the suspension of exports, only to find later that we had to debate what we might have to do to deal with underfed cattle on our hills. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am advocating the resumption of our normal export trade, subject to close control and the safeguards which have been asked for by both sides, here and now, in the best interests of animal welfare and on the ground that sufficient progress has been made in the application of acceptable welfare standards on the Continent. Desirable side benefits will accrue to the farming industry, but that is not the primary reason.

Although I recognise the sincerity of those hon. Members who have urged that the suspension of exports should continue, I do not follow their logic. If we allow matters to stay as they are, we shall be perpetuating the practice of allowing Irish cattle to come here, entering on one side of the country, while an export ban is imposed on the other side. From the welfare point of view, it does not make sense to declare that journeys across the Irish Sea are acceptable but that shorter journeys across the English Channel which can take place only after the animals have had a 10-hour rest before embarkation impose unacceptable stress on the animals.

Nor does it make sense from the agricultural point of view. It does not make sense to Welsh farmers who currently have the doubtful distinction of watching cattle coming in at Holyhead while they bear the brunt of the fodder shortage.

It is not enough to argue that the resumption of exports would probably have little noticeable effect on market prices. For Welsh farmers it is primarily a question of confidence and of asking themselves whether they have sufficient fodder to feed all their livestock this winter. There is a serious and critical situation on the hills, and I ask the House to recognise this.

Perhaps the most important question raised in the debate is the progress which has been made. I want to deal with it because I know of the great interest on all sides of the House.

What progress has been made since O'Brien? The measures since July 1973 have involved a great deal of work and effort on the part of the Commission in Brussels. It has given it a high priority because of our pressure and because of the decision taken by the House of Commons in July 1973. The progress which has been made since that time will benefit those who care passionately about the welfare of British animals. It will also help those who are equally passionately concerned about the welfare of Continental animals.

It was my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) who spoke about the legal position. I want to deal with this point because several hon. Members have cast doubts on my right hon. Friend's claim that real and substantial progress has been made in the EEC since the O'Brien Report. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) suggested that nothing has really changed.

Let us look at the facts. First, there is the EEC directive on humane slaughter. It comes fully into force throughout the Community by not later than 1st July this year.

Mr. Burden

But not now.

Mr. Morris

But in the meantime each member State already has the necessary national law and that perhaps is the significance of the changed situation in many parts of the EEC since the debate in this House. Therefore, it follows that the directive when it comes into force is an umbrella in addition to national law. That is the significance of the present situation, which is why I am able to recommend to the House the motion which is now before it.

Mr. Burden


Mr. Morris

I will not give way, as the House wants to hear what I have to say.

The directive will be binding on all members. This means that the practice in Italy, referred to by the hon. Member for Gillingham, will become illegal. There is no significant trade between ourselves and Italy in this respect at the present time. One must deal with matters of consequence. The point I seek to make is that the value of what comes into effect on 1st July is that any infringement can then be taken up through the institutions of the Community. There are, therefore, two protections. Any individual can then make representations to the Community in addition to the existing protection of national law in each country.

Secondly, there is the European Convention on the Protection of Animals during International Transport. As from July 1974, this became binding on the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Denmark. All these countries have ratified this convention. The Netherlands, the Irish Republic and Italy have also accepted it in principle and intend to ratify it as soon as possible.

Mr. Crouch


Mr. Morris

No, I will not give way. If I do not deal with these matters the House will have proper room for complaint because the House wants to know what progress has been made.

First, there is the proposed new EEC directive to reinforce the convention by making it Community law. This is not just an empty intention. The working party of experts met as recently as 11th December last and, as my right hon. Friend has said, the Commission hopes to put the proposals to the Council of Ministers shortly. But the point I have sought to make time after time is that the necessary national laws already exist for both the convention and the directive. This is an additional umbrella and will give the assurances that my hon. Friend wants as to how he can ensure enforcement outside the United Kingdom over what is happening in other countries. That is the policeman he wanted and that is the policeman he is getting. That is the value of the additional umbrella. A great deal of this arose from the debate in this House, although some of it was there already. The convention and the directive reinforce the national law.

Finally, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals has informed my right hon. Friend of its progress in co-ordinating the activities of the welfare societies of Europe. I am sure that the hon. Member for Gillingham, after that, would not like me to say that nothing has changed. There has been real progress. That cannot be refuted. There has been sufficient progress to enable my right hon. Friend and myself to propose that there is no need to go for the interim arrangements suggested by the O'Brien Committee but that we should concentrate on the permanent EEC measures, which in any case the Committee considered to be the only satisfactory long-term solution. National laws already exist. Reinforcement of humane slaughtering will take place on 1st July. Reinforcement of transport arrangements should occur soon afterwards.

There is one other issue on which I was asked for assurances—the issue of licences. If the motion is carried, my right hon. Friend intends to announce that exports of animals will be resumed forthwith. They would be under close control. For exports to EEC countries, licences to exporters would be for three months. There would be no discrimination between member States, and each consignment would be the subject of a veterinary examination and certificate. That is the assurance that hon. Members on both sides wanted.

There would be close co-operation between our State veterinary service and those of other member States. Shipments would be refused if welfare requirements were not met. In this connection, hon. Members should not overlook our domestic legislation on animal welfare and transport. We can be proud of it. Failure to comply with our requirements is a punishable offence.

In the same way, for exports to non-EEC countries we would grant particular licences against particular export orders, but only after we had fully satisfied ourselves about the welfare safeguards of the importing country, again on veterinary advice. I can assue the House that this will be under close control in the straightforward sense of the term. If we have doubts, it will mean that we are not satisfied. We shall not tolerate abuses and if there is any suggestion of abuse I have my right hon. Friend's assurance that he would not grant the licence. These are the assurances that hon. Members wanted. I give way now to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch).

Mr. Crouch

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for living up to his reputation for courtesy. I merely wanted to remind him that, of 24 recommendations in the O'Brien Report, not one dealt with the re-transport of cattle exported to a European port. There is no safeguard against journeys of up to 1,000 kilometres, about which the committee was so concerned. I hope that the Secretary of State will answer that.

Mr. Morris

I wanted to ensure, after I had dealt with the principal points, that the hon. Member had time to ask his question. If there is anxiety on that score, my right hon. Friend will consider it. I am satisfied that in the way in which he will deal with licences there will be proper safeguards and assurances. I therefore recommend the motion to the House.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

When I made my speech, I inadvertently—[HON. MEM- BERS: "Sit down."] Please. I inadvertently—

MR. PEART rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. COLEMAN and Mr. HARPER were appointed Tellers for the Ayes but, no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.

Question put accordingly:

The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 191.

Division No. 59.] AYES [10.3 p.m.
Abse, Leo Fry, Peter Mates, Michael
Adley, Robert Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mather, Carol
Aitken, Jonathan Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mawby, Ray
Alison, Michael Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Mayhew, Patrick
Anderson, Donald Ginsburg David Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Arnold, Tom Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Meyer, Sir Anthony
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Goodhew, Victor Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Awdry, Daniel Goodlad, Alastair Mills, Peter
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bain, Mrs Margaret Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Moate, Roger
Banks, Robert Grant, George (Morpeth) Molyneaux, James
Beith, A. j. Gray Hamish Monro, Hector
Bell, Ronald Grimond, Rt Hon J. More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Grist, Ian Morgan, Geraint
Benyon, W. Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Biffen, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Bishop, E. S. Hastings, Stephen Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Blaker, Peter Hawkins, Paul Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Heath, Rt Hon Edward Morrison, Peter (Chester)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Henderson, Douglas Neave, Airey
Brittan, Leon Heseltine Michael Nelson, Anthony
Brotherton, Michael Hicks, Robert Neubert, Michael
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hooson, Emlyn Newton, Tony
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hordern, Peter Nott, John
Bryan, Sir Paul Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Oakes, Gordon
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Onslow, Cranley
Buck, Antony Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Osborn, John
Budgen, Nick Hughes, Mark (Durham) Page, John (Harrow West)
Bulmer, Esmond Hunter, Adam Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hurd, Douglas Peyton, Rt Hon John
Canavan, Dennis Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Cant, R. B. Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Carlisle, Mark James, David Prior, Rt Hon James
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) John, Brynmor Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Cockcroft, John Johnson, James (Hull West) Raison, Timothy
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Cope, John Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Reid, George
Cormack, Patrick Jones, Barry (East Flint) Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Corrie, John Jopling Michael Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Costain, A. P. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Crawford, Douglas Kaberry, Sir Donald Ridsdale, Julian
Critchley, Julian Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Dalyell, Tam Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Kimball, Marcus Roderick, Caerwyn
Davies, Ifor (Gower) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Kinnock Neil Ross, William (Londonderry)
Dormand, J. D. Kitson, Sir Timothy Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Drayson, Burnaby Knox, David Rowlands, Ted
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lane, David Scott-Hopkins, James
Durant, Tony Langford-Holt, Sir John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Latham, Michael (Melton) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Elliott, Sir William Lawrence, Ivan Shepherd, Colin
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lawson, Nigel Sims, Roger
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Le Marchant, Spencer Sinclair, Sir George
Emery, Peter Lester, Jim (Beeston) Speed, Keith
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Spence, John
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Luce, Richard Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) MacCormick, Iain Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Fairbairn, Nicholas MacFarquhar, Roderick Sproat, Iain
Fairgrieve, Russell MacGregor, John Stainton, Keith
Farr, John Mackintosh, John P. Stanley, John
Fell, Anthony Maclennan, Robert Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Fisher, Sir Nigel McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Magee, Bryan Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Marquand, David Stradling Thomas, J.
Freud, Clement Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Strang, Gavin
Tebbit, Norman Wakeham, John Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Temple-Morris, Peter Walder, David (Clitheroe) Wiggin, Jerry
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester) Wigley, Dafydd
Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Thompson, George Walters, Dennis Winterton, Nicholas
Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Watkinson, John Younger, Hon George
Tomlinso, John Watt, Hamish
Townsend, Cyril D. Weatherill, Bernard TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tugendhat, Christopher Wells, John Mr. Donald Coleman and
Urwin, T. W. Welsh, Andrew Mr. Joseph Harper.
van Straubenzee, W. R. White, Frank R. (Bury)
Archer, Peter Grocott, Bruce Pendry, Tom
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Grylls, Michael Penhaligon, David
Atkinson, Norman Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Perry, Ernest
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Phipps, Dr Colin
Bates, Alf Hamling, William Prescott, John
Bean, R. E. Hannam, John Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Radice, Giles
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hatton, Frank Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Berry, Hon Anthony Hayman, Mrs Helene Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bidwell, Sydney Heffer, Eric S. Richardson, Miss Jo
Boardman, H. Higgins, Terence L. Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Booth, Albert Hooley, Frank Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Huckfield, Les Rossi Hugh (Hornsey)
Braine, Sir Bernard Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Royle, Sir Anthony
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hunt, John Sandelson, Neville
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Hutchison, Michael Clark Sedgemore, Brian
Burden, F. A. Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Campbell, Ian Jeger, Mrs Lena Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Sillars, James
Cartwright, John Judd, Frank Silverman, Julius
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Kaufman, Gerald Skinner, Dennis
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Kerr, Russell Small, William
Clark, William (Croydon S) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Clemitson, Ivor Lamborn, Harry Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Cohen, Stanley Lamond, James Snape, Peter
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Spearing, Nigel
Crawshaw, Richard Leadbitter, Ted Spriggs, Leslie
Crouch, David Lee, John Stallard, A. W.
Crowder, F. P. Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Stanbrook, Ivor
Cryer, Bob Lipton, Marcus Stewart, Rt Hn M. (Fulham)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Litterick, Tom Stoddart, David
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Lomas, Kenneth Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Luard, Evan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Deakins, Eric Lyon, Alexander (York) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Delargy, Hugh Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Tierney, Sydney
Dodsworth, Geoffrey McAdden, Sir Stephen Tinn, James
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McCartney, Hugh Torney, Tom
Dunn, James A. Macfarlane, Neil Tuck, Raphael
Dunnett, Jack Mackenzie, Gregor Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Madden, Max Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Edelman, Maurice Marks, Kenneth Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Marten, Neil Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Edge, Geoff Meacher, Michael Ward, Michael
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Mendelson, John Warren, Kenneth
English, Michael Mikardo, Ian Watkins, David
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Weetch, Ken
Faulds, Andrew Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Weitzman, David
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Moore, John (Croydon C) White, James (Pollok)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Whitehead, Phillip
Flannery, Martin Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Whitlock, William
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mudd, David Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Fookes, Miss Janet Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Forrester, John Murray, Ronald King Williams, Alan, Lee (H'church)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Newens, Stanley Wlliams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Freeson, Reginald O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
George, Bruce Ovenden, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Gilbert, Dr John Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Woodall, Alec
Glyn, Dr Alan Palmer, Arthur Young, David (Bolton E)
Goodhart, Philip Pardoe, John
Gould, Bryan Park, George TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Graham, Ted Parkinson, Cecil Mr. Robin Corbett and
Grant, John (Islington C) Pattie, Geoffrey Mr. William Molloy.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House pays tribute to the work of Lord O'Brien's Committee on the Export of Animals for Slaughter (Command Paper No. 5566); and considers that, in view of the progress made in establishing international welfare safeguards and of other relevant considerations, the export trade in animals destined for slaughter should now be resumed under close control to member countries of the European Economic Community and to such other countries as can provide adequate safeguards for the animals in question.