HC Deb 18 May 1984 vol 60 cc625-55

Order for Second Reading read.

9.36 am
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Peggy Fenner)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time. With the leave of the House, I will try later to answer points raised.

The Bill seeks in various respects to update or clarify existing legislation and introduces new provisions which reflect areas of concern that have developed since the original legislation was enacted. It covers such matters as the control of animal diseases, the welfare of poultry in slaughterhouses, artificial methods of livestock breeding and veterinary medicines.

The first three clauses of the Bill provide for changes to be made to the Animal Health Act 1981. The first of these, in clause 1, extends the powers which exist for the seizure of material to prevent the spread of disease. The House will be only too well aware of the seriousness for agriculture should there be an outbreak of a serious animal or poultry disease in this country. Fortunately, overall, we have an excellent record in terms of freedom from disease and this is in no small part due to the framework of legislation upon which disease control work is founded. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. There is a continuing need to look at our controls and to adapt them in the light of changing circumstances.

In this context, the last few years have seen significant technological advances which have led to an increasing use and movement of animal semen, embryos and ova. The House will fully appreciate that these can readily transmit disease. Because of that, it could be necessary to seize such material in the face of an outbreak of disease so that the risk of spread could be minimised. It is with that especially in mind that the wider powers are sought because, at the moment, they are not in existing provisions.

Specifically, clause 1 extends the enabling powers for the seizure of material under section 35(1) of the 1981 Act so that it can include anything, whether animate or inanimate, by which or by means of which any disease might be carried or transmitted. Additionally, clause 1 amends section 36 of the Act relating to compensation for seizure, so that when the Minister seizes anything that is obtained from or produced by a diseased animal he will pay compensation if the Ministers have made an order to that effect.

Clause 2 extends the powers of entry in the 1981 Act. I am, of course, well aware of the sensitivity that accompanies the subject and the House may be assured that the Government would not propose increasing powers of entry without being completely satisfied that this course was necessary. I also emphasise that this is very much a back-up power as, in the vast majority of cases when members of the state veterinary service visit farms, there is full co-operation from farmers.

Powers are currently available which allow veterinary surgeons of the state veterinary service to go on to farms to determine whether certain diseases exist without there being any previous suspicion of disease. This power relates only to foot and mouth disease, swine fever and pleuro-pneumonia. It does not extend to other diseases, some of which, particularly those which have emerged recently, are extremely difficult to identify. It is therefore important that, as part of the disease control and eradication measures, there are powers in certain circumstances to enter premises, without there having been suspicion that disease exists, to carry out investigations. Clause 2 therefore provides for the extension of powers of entry in section 63(9) of the 1981 Act to a wider range of diseases.

Clause 3 simply makes it clear that orders made to protect the welfare of animals in transit to or from ports or airports in Great Britain may be made to apply to those parts of the journey which take place in or over our territorial waters.

Clauses 4 to 7 are the result of recommendations made to the Government by the Farm Animal Welfare Council in its report on the welfare of poultry at the time of slaughter. Hon. Members will be aware that the council was formed by the Government in 1979 and has done a great deal of work, involving considerable time and effort. I should like to add my tribute to that paid by my noble Friend the Minister of State in another place to the members of the council for their devotion to their task. The report was concerned to improve the care of poultry awaiting slaughter and at the point of slaughter. Its recommendations, which the Government recognise as very important, will, through this Bill, result in amendments to the Slaughter of Poultry Act 1967.

The most fundamental change to the 1967 Act will be to extend the conditions applying to the slaughter of poultry to include all slaughter. In other words, it will no longer relate solely to slaughter for sale for human consumption. Sales of live poultry direct to the consumer in markets and certain shops have increased and even when such poultry are slaughtered on the retailer's premises they are, technically, slaughtered after sale. I hope that the House will agree that poultry slaughtered after sale should not be denied the protection afforded to birds that are slaughtered first and then sold.

Of course, there are circumstances in which the methods of slaughter required by the 1967 Act would be inappropriate. For that reason, exemptions from section 1(1) of the Act are provided in the case of birds slaughtered to prevent the spread of disease, in the course of an authorised experiment or by a vet acting in his professional capacity. In these cases there are already safeguards that protect the welfare of the birds, so it is unnecessary and inappropriate for that section to apply. There is also provision for Ministers to approve special methods for slaughtering day-old chicks, since the methods laid down in the Act are not generally suitable for the disposal of unwanted chicks in hatcheries.

Sir Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, will she clarify the position on farm slaughter? The National Farmers Union has considerable doubts about whether regulations could apply to slaughter on the farm for sale at the farm gate.

Mrs. Fenner

Regulations consequent upon the Act will always be made after close consultation with all organisations involved and the industry. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend. The welfare of birds is of paramount importance here.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

The Minister has referred to day-old chicks, but apparently the Bill can apply to 72-hour-old chicks. Will she give some detail about the method of slaughter that will be approved?

Mrs. Fenner

We are awaiting the Farm Animal Welfare Council's recommendations on the slaughter of chicks. As I have already said, the 1967 Act is not suitable. We hope to receive the council's recommendations before the Bill is enacted.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council considered it important that people carrying on certain activities in poultry slaughterhouses should be licensed, as has been the case in the red meat industry for many years. Clause 5 therefore provides for Ministers to make regulations that will require licensing and will lay down conditions for the granting of licences. This will enable us to ensure that appropriate training is given.

Many of the Farm Animal Welfare Council's more detailed recommendations—especially those directed at slaughterhouse operators — do not lend themselves so readily to translation into legislation because of the need to provide adequate flexibility to deal with the range of practical circumstances in different slaughterhouses. The Government consider that the most practical way in which to meet those recommendations is by means of codes of practice on the humane treatment of birds in slaughter-houses. Clause 6 accordingly enables Ministers to prepare and issue such codes. The codes would not be directly enforceable in law since that would negate the value in their inherent flexibility. They may, however, in the event of any contravention of the Act or of regulations made under it, be relied upon by the prosecution as tending to establish guilt.

I should like to assure the House that no regulations or codes of practice will be made under clauses 4 to 6 without, I reiterate for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins), full consultations with interested organisations including, of course, the Farm Animal Welfare Council and the poultry industry. As the House will be aware, the Farm Animal Welfare Council is considering all welfare codes to see whether any of the recommendations could more appropriately be made mandatory by being incorporated into regulations. We shall ask the Farm Animal Welfare Council to apply similar considerations to any codes that are made under these clauses.

Clause 7 provides powers of entry enabling officers of the agriculture Departments or of the local authority to enter premises where the commercial slaughter of poultry takes place. Many premises not at present covered by the Act will be brought within its scope by clause 4. These newly-covered premises differ in nature from those already subject to the Act, so a rather different power of entry is required.

The House may also have noticed that a new species of bird has been added to the list of poultry covered by the 1967 Act. This is the quail, which was added to the list in the other place in view of the growth in quail production for slaughter in this country. I should perhaps remind the House that powers already exist in the 1967 Act to extend the list by order, so a new Bill is not needed every time.

Before I move on to other aspects of the Bill I should like, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to expand on a point of concern expressed in the other place. It has to do with the Farm Animal Welfare Council's recommendation No. 37, in which the council sought to have the welfare of poultry in slaughterhouses made part of the responsibility of the local authority's official veterinary surgeon who is responsible in licensed slaughterhouses for supervising hygiene. I do not propose at this stage to discuss the detail of this recommendation or of the Government's proposals to meet it, save to repeat the assurance given by my noble Friend the Minister of State in the other place that we intend to table an amendment during the Bill's passage through this House.

What I may add is that the Government's amendment will provide for properly qualified supervision in poultry slaughterhouses for all welfare matters relating to poultry awaiting slaughter and at the point of slaughter. As was mentioned in the other place, an official veterinary surgeon is not always required in poultry slaughterhouses and we have had to consider this problem in some depth with the interests directly involved. The amendment will take account of all the points raised.

Next, I turn to the proposed controls on artificial breeding in clauses 8 and 9. Artificial insemination in cattle first became commercially viable in the 1940s, and Government controls date from that time. Section 17 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1943 introduced enabling powers for the agriculture Ministers of Great Britain to make regulations for controlling artificial insemination and also imposed control over imports of semen through a system of licensing. These were used to make a series of regulations relating to cattle and pigs. The principal purpose of the controls was to prevent the spread of animal disease through the distribution of semen and to limit the use of animals of poor or unproven merit in order to avoid diluting the quality of the national herds.

In recent times, a number of other artificial breeding techniques have been developed, such as embryo recovery and transfer in cattle, and cloning. These have made great strides and are now well established, but there are no statutory powers available at present to control their use, even though the possibilities for the spread of animal disease and the use of poor quality donors are only slightly less than in the case of artificial insemination.

In order to remedy that situation, clause 8 provides for the making of regulations to control the practice of artificial breeding of specified livestock. Such regulations may prohibit the carrying on of any specified activity in connection with livestock, semen, ova and embryos except under the authority of a licence or approval. Importation of breeding products may also be regulated. These measures will enable the controls over artificial insemination to be maintained and extended to cover the use of ova and embryos.

In addition, the clause provides for regulations to allow the payment of fees for the issue of licences and approvals. Over the years, the cost of the various tests and inspections required before a bull can be approved has risen considerably to the point where it is now estimated to be approximately £150 to £200. It is considered that in the future at least part of the costs should be recovered, although the exact level at which fees should be fixed will be a matter for careful consideration, following consultationss with interested parties.

Mr. Mark Hughes (City of Durham)

Clause 8(8) states: 'livestock' includes any animal or bird not in the wild state". Are domestic cats and dogs included or excluded?

Mrs. Fenner

I shall take advice on that, but I think that the answer is that domestic cats and dogs are excluded, because they are generally a subject for the Home Office. I do not know about breeding, but they are generally a subject for the Home Office.

Clause 9 supplements the provisions of clause 8 by providing for offences committed by bodies corporate, the repeal of section 17 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1943 and the saving of any regulations and import licences made or issued under that Act which could have been made under clause 8 or issued under any regulations made under that clause. As regards natural breeding, the Improvement of Live Stock (Licensing of Bulls) Act 1931 and the Horse Breeding Act 1958 were passed to prohibit the keeping of bulls and stallions of a prescribed age for natural service unless they were licensed. The object there too was to improve the quality of stock.

The operation of the 1931 Act in respect of bulls was suspended in 1976, as it was considered that the advantages of good husbandry practice were widely recognised and standards were considerably higher than in 1931. In the case of stallion licensing—the 1958 Act—the rising cost of licences encountered opposition from the horse industry. The horse breeding organisations themselves now strictly regulate the standards applicable to stallions accepted for registration in stud books and they do not oppose the ending of stallion licensing. An animal is very unlikely to be used for breeding purposes if refused entry to the stud book whether or not it is licensed under the Act. The age at which a licence was required was raised from 2 to 5 years in 1982, thus effectively suspending stallion licensing for a number of years. Clause 10 therefore repeals these two Acts and formally ends controls on natural breeding.

Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)

Will my hon. Friend clarify the position of the do-it-yourself artificial insemination users, particularly as there are cutbacks in the dairy industry, as that practice may grow on farms?

Mrs. Fenner

I am sorry, but I did not hear the first part of my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Stewart

Will my hon. Friend clarify the position of do-it-yourself artificial insemination users under clause 9?

Mrs. Fenner

As I have said, there are already regulations applying to artificial insemination. In the Bill, we are concerned with maintaining them, and extending them to include embryos, ova and semen.

Clauses 11 and 12 amend the Medicines Act 1968 which controls production and supply of veterinary medicines as well as human medicines. Clause 11 is intended to resolve two distinct problems concerning medicated animal feedingstuffs which have arisen with the present section 40 of the Medicines Act.

The first problem is the form in which instructions are given by veterinarians to manufacturers of medicated feedingstuffs. Prior to the Medicines Act 1968, medicated feedingstuffs were controlled under the Therapeutic Substances Act 1956. Under this Act, a veterinary surgeon's instructions to the feed manufacturer were contained in a "written direction" and specifications as to the content and period of validity of the written direction were laid down in subordinate legislation. With the introduction of the Medicines Act, however, the term "prescription" was substituted for "written direction" and no specific powers were taken to lay down matters such as the form and content of the prescription.

The absence of a specified form of instructions has caused difficulties in the trade, and representative organisations have been unanimous in asking for a return to the use of a "written direction", so that manufacturers receive instructions in a clear and standardised form. The term "written direction" has therefore been used in the new section 40 contained in clause 11 and new section 40(2)(d) provides agriculture Ministers with the power to specify in regulations conditions relating to the form and content of the written direction.

The second problem concerns the question of the general control of medicated animal feedingstuffs. Since the introduction of the Medicines Act, there has been a rapid growth in the administration of medicines through feed, which has made apparent certain weaknesses and ambiguities in the present controls. The Government have, therefore, decided that the time has now come to bring the medicated feeds sector under stricter control. The first step is to clarify exactly which products used in the manufacture of medicated feedingstuffs need to be licensed under the Medicines Act.

Clause 11(2) provides agriculture Ministers with the power to prescribe by order those classes of medicated feedingstuff which are to be treated as medicinal products and therefore require a product licence. Such an order would be made, of course, only after consultation with all the appropriate interests.

As for the strengthening of controls, clause 11 also provides for a system of registration for manufacturers and distributors of medicated feedingstuffs. Under this system, any manufacturer or dealer who wishes to register for the purposes of the regulations will be required to sign an undertaking that he will comply with a code of practice covering such things as record keeping, storage of medicinal products and the avoidance of cross-contamination. It is the Government's intention that the code of practice should be drafted by a group representing the trade associations whose members are involved in the medicated feed sector and then be formally adopted by the Government. By this means we hope to achieve an improvement in the standards of manufacture and distribution of medicated feedingstuffs without imposing requirements which are unrealistic or unworkable.

I should also mention that, in conjunction with the regulations which will be made under the new section 40, we shall be reviewing, under powers already available to the Government, the licensing of medicinal products used in the feedingstuffs sector with the aim of ensuring that those with a high level of medication are incorporated into feed under carefully controlled conditions — in other words, by those who can comply with the code of practice.

Anyone who cannot comply with the code of practice will be able to obtain products only with an appropriately lower level of medication, which do not require such careful mixing to ensure that they are safely and evenly distributed through the finished feedingstuff.

Finally, on clause 11, I stress that there will be full and detailed consultation with all interested organisations before any new arrangements are introduced, whether under existing powers or those that are being sought under clause 11. Our objective is not to place burdens upon the feedingstuffs or farming industries which are excessive or unnecessary, but rather to ensure that everyone involved in the production and distribution of medicated feedingstuffs observes the procedures which are already good manufacturing practice in this sector.

Clause 12 clarifies Ministers' powers to require the registration of agricultural merchants selling veterinary drugs and enables fees to be charged for registration.

The Medicines Act requires that all medicines not on the general sale list have to be sold through registered pharmacies. An exemption from this requirement allows agricultural merchants to sell certain veterinary drugs, known as merchants' list products, to farmers. The operation of the arrangements for the sale of merchants' list products has recently been reviewed and we have decided that agricultural merchants should continue to sell these products to farmers, but that there should be some improvements in the handling and distribution of the products through agricultural merchants' premises.

A code of practice is the method by which these improvements will be achieved. This is being drafted by the Animal Health Trade Associations Group, which represents the trade organisations involved in the distribution of merchants' list products, in consultation with the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the agriculture Departments, and is almost complete. An undertaking to comply with the code of practice will be one of the conditions for registration which Ministers will impose in regulations under the new section 57(2A) contained in clause 12.

I shall deal now with the financial implications of the Bill. With the exception of the compensation provisions under clause 1, it is not likely that there will be any significant extra call on the public purse. Where other costs arise — for example, from the licensing of slaughterhouse employees — they will in the main be recovered by means of fees and other charges.

The financial implications of the extension of powers under clause 1 depend on our ability or otherwise to maintain disease freedom. However, for the diseases for which these additional powers of seizure are likely to be sought, the United Kingdom record is very good. Any increase in public service manpower as a result of the Bill is expected to be minimal and will be met within planned manpower provisions.

Sir Paul Hawkins

A note on page ii of the explanatory and financial memorandum states: It is possible that regulations made under Clause 5 may have manpower implications for local authorities, but these are expected to be minimal. We know how things grow.

In my area there are many slaughterhouses for poultry and so on. The burden on local authorities has grown because of the many Acts and regulations. This could be the last straw. Already, district councils are protesting at the increases in their spending which lead to further rates being imposed upon people and industries in the area. I urge the Minister to give careful consideration to the matter and to ensure that no cost will be imposed upon local authorities by the Bill.

Mrs. Fenner

I take my hon. Friend's point. As I have said, the manpower implications should be minimal. Local authorities already have responsibility in that area, and any additional burden should be minimal. However, Government must always watch closely when they place additional burdens on local authorities, especially as the House has been concerned about expenditure at that level.

Mr. Tom Cox

The point made by the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins) is important. The Minister knows that during the past few weeks the House has discussed, and again next week will discuss, many aspects of local government. High on the list is the rate-capping legislation. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's area faces many problems, as do many other parts of the country. I do not question the responsibility of local authorities in this matter, but to expect them to carry out additional duties without financial help from the Government is wholly unrealistic, especially in view of the legislation that the Government are imposing upon them.

Mrs. Fenner

I have made the point already that much of the cost will be recovered through fees and other charges. Local authorities have that method at their disposal.

I trust that the House will forgive my taking a long time to explain the varied purposes of the Bill, and accept that as a sign of the importance that the Government attach to them.

10.11 am
Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)

The background to the debate this morning is the sustained and growing public concern about how we treat those all too many species of animal that we farm for food or clothing. The introduction of extreme systems of production has caused great and justifiable anger to many millions of people, because many of those involved are seen to put profit before proper husbandry practice. It has become a case of forcing farm animals into systems that are foreign to them. We need to develop systems to suit the animals that we farm, rather than the other way around.

Whatever is eventually done in welfare, there is an economic imperative that will force more and more producers into more traditional systems that have greater respect for the behavioural and ecological needs of animals, and that is the sharp rise in the cost of oil-related imports. There is a limit to what consumers can be expected to pay, so economics may well speed the changes for which so many of us have campaigned for so long.

Almost 20 years ago the Brambell report said in paragraph 28 that it is morally incumbent upon us to give the animal the benefit of the doubt and to protect it as far as possible from conditions that may be reasonably supposed to cause it suffering, though this cannot be proved. I wholly support that.

The first report of the Select Committee on Agriculture, in 1980–81, on animal welfare in poultry, pig and veal calf production dealt with the assertion that profits take priority over welfare. That report rejected any bid for the chase after so-called cheap food taking precedence over the welfare of farm animals. It said in paragraph 27: We do not accept the contention, frequently stated or implied, that the public demand for cheap food decrees that the cheapest possible methods of production must be adopted. As we have said above, society has the duty to see that undue suffering is not caused to animals, and we cannot accept that that duty should be set aside in order that food may be produced more cheaply. Where unacceptable suffering can be eliminated only at extra cost, that cost should be borne or the product forgone. I echo that, as do millions outside these walls.

In many ways, 1979 was a landmark in animal welfare. For the first time the three major political parties were persuaded to include commitments on animal welfare in their election manifestos. Just before that election the then Prime Minister—my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan)—announced on 23 March, in a written reply to me, the setting up of a body to deal with animal welfare. Because of an unhappy slip in the voting here, followed by similar action by the electorate, it fell to a Conservative Government to establish the Farm Animal Welfare Council, to which the Minister paid tribute, and I join her in that.

Labour is pledged to extend the membership and scope of the council, to lay down clear conditions for the freedom of movement of animals in line with Brambell and to ensure that all our legislation at least meets the requirements of the European convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes. Extreme systems will be phased out and legislation will require animals to be slaughtered as near as possible to the point of production.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

The hon. Gentleman referred to the slaughter of animals close to the point of production. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me what should happen for Halal and Schechita meat?

Mr. Corbett

I shall not do so this morning, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I say that with great respect, because the matter is under'consideration by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. It would be in the best interests of everyone to wait for its report.

There is great disappointment that the Bill has taken so long to come to the House following the council's report on the welfare of poultry at the time of slaughter. That was published in January 1982, just two years and four months ago. It is such snail-like progress that so angers animal welfare campaigners. I hope that the Minister will act with better speed over the red meat slaughter report, which is due to be published soon.

Clause 4 extends the Slaughter of Poultry Act 1967 to cover the slaughter of all poultry, not simply that for human consumption. As the Minister implied, it is known that some traders slide around the present law by selling live birds and then killing and dressing them as a service. That loophole must be closed.

I want to ask the Minister about the exemptions in the proposed new section 1(2A) to the 1967 Act. Are they meant to cover mass destruction on the farm following outbreaks of diseases such as foul pest? Would destruction because of Newcastle disease also be included?

The 1967 Act lays down that methods of slaughter must be "approved by Ministers", and that requirement is repeated in new subsection (2B). Can the Minister confirm that birds being slaughtered because of outbreaks of Newcastle disease have been slaughtered in accordance with the approved methods? New subsection (2A)(b) provides an exemption for experiments and cites the wretchedly inadequate Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. Can the Minister assure the House that the slaughter methods are those of which she approves? I accept that that may be a matter for the Home Office, but the birds do not know that.

Can the Minister confirm — or will she at least discuss it with the Home Secretary—that vets and others carrying out research do not use methods of destruction that have not, in the words of the 1967 Act, been "approved by Ministers"? New subsection (2B) includes an unhappy qualification. The word "unnecessary" is put before the word "suffering". Surely that is not necessary. It is not possible for farmed animals, however carefully and humanely handled during slaughter, to be killed without any suffering. Why do we not acknowledge that for millions of poultry and hundreds and thousands of pigs, sheep and cattle, suffering is an integral part of slaughter on a commercial scale?

Clause 5 is fine as far as it goes, but it runs out of breath before the end. It rejects, in essence, the Farm Animal Welfare Council's recommendation, which said about supervision, training and the licensing of poultry slaughterhouses:

Managements should ensure that supervisory staff are suitably trained and made specifically responsible for the welfare of the birds from the time of their arrival at the processing plant to the time of death. New section 3(1A) and (1B)(b) as drafted are too permissive; (1B) needs to spell out more clearly that the staff should have an acceptable minimum level of knowledge of what they are doing to the animals—for example, when using electric stunning equipment to be able to recognise immediately whether the animal has been stunned, killed, paralysed or merely given a nasty shock.

The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that better training was needed at poultry houses, but the Government have not gone far enough, particularly as it is the practice for those who work in many of them to be on piece rates, which put the emphasis on quantity rather than on the quality with which the job is carried out. The first people needing better training, in my view, are the local authority officers responsible for issuing slaughter licences. As the British Veterinary Association rightly comments: Many of the shortcomings in poultry slaughterhouses are attributed to lack of training. I believe that that is generally accepted.

On one interpretation, the wording of new section 3A (1) (a) is too restrictive. The Slaughter of Poultry Act lays down approved methods of slaughter and provides for the registration of premises. The codes of practice—I retain doubts about their effectiveness and should like to see more of their provisions in our law — need to cover every aspect of the places where birds are slaughtered, from their welfare at the time of arrival, right through to the moment of death.

Would it not be better for the Minister to have power to prepare and issue codes of practice for the purpose of providing practical guidance covering the welfare of birds awaiting, and during, slaughter? Or should we leave this enabling provision as part of the Bill and not as an amendment to the 1967 Act? Perhaps the Minister will mull over that and write to me.

I wonder whether it is right, under new section 3A (1) (b), for the Minister to have power to "withdraw any such code" without parliamentary approval. At present, under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 the Minister can revoke only individual provisions, not sweep away entire codes.

New section 4, with its powers of entry—I agree entirely with the Parliamentary Secretary's comments on this—is important, and subsection (1) is especially so, as it will bring with it the code of practice. I was pleased to hear the Minister repeat the promise given in another place that in schedule 1 the Government will add quail to the list of other table birds.

I have three other points to make, all relating to other recommendations of the Farm Animal Welfare Council in its report on poultry slaughter. When will action be taken on recommendation 6, which says: The period between loading the first bird of a consignment into a crate until the last one is unloaded at the processing plant should be limited by law to 12 hours"? The hon. Lady will be aware of the great public concern about the way in which those wretched birds are transported. We have all driven behind lorries and seen the birds exposed to winds and all weather on their way to have their throats cut.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred to recommendation 37 and undertook to table an amendment in Committee, but I thought that we should not infer from what she said that she is minded to go along with both the Farm Animal Welfare Council's recommendations and those of the British Veterinary Association and make sure that the supervision is carried out by qualified vets. Her reference was to "properly qualified supervision", which to me suggests that they could be people other than vets.

Public anxiety on this subject was summed up by the BVA, when it said: There is an undoubted need for improvement in welfare standards for poultry at slaughter: this can be achieved only by better training of slaughterhouse staff and by supervision of their activities by nominated local authority officials"— and it added, crucially— who are well versed in the physiological and behavioural requirements of poultry. Those last words make the case for veterinary supervision unanswerable. It added: The BVA believes that all local authorities with unlicensed poultry slaughter premises in their areas should appoint a nominated veterinary surgeon to supervise animal welfare requirements and to provide support for any non-veterinary officials who may be nominated to assist. I wish to associate with those comments of the BVA the Farm Animal Welfare Co-ordinating Executive, which links 13 caring societies and which I have the pleasure to chair.

I have some other weekend chores for the Parliamentary Secretary in relation to the report of the Farm Animal Welfare Council. When is it proposed to take action on other recommendations in its report, particularly as they relate to research and specifically recommendations 13, 14, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 28 and 31? Has any research been started, has any been finished, how long will the rest take and when will the results be known? Perhaps the hon. Lady would prefer to answer in writing.

There is a need for urgency in dealing with these and other animal health and welfare matters. That view is shared in the House and especially by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I am aware of the interest that you have taken in these matters.

Great cruelty can and does exist as a result of present practices and we have a duty to acknowledge and respond to the concerns of many people outside the House. I and many others are angry at the tardy response of successive Governments on animal welfare matters generally.

I end with a quotation from a book written by my good friend and effective animal welfare campaigner, Clive Hollands, who wrote in "Compassion is the Bugler": What do we mean by animal welfare? … It is not conservation … Neither is animal welfare being an 'animal lover' … Nor is it kindness to animals … animal welfare is dignity—according to animals the natural dignity which is due to them as living sentient creatures … My only concern is the suffering we inflict on animals, whether it be for food, clothing, knowledge, sport or pleasure. He added: If we could learn to respect and accord to animals the dignity which is their due as living beings, pain and torment would end. It is to that honourable goal that I hope this slim Bill will make a small contribution.

10.30 am
Sir Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

Like everyone who has the welfare of farm livestock and the prosperity of the livestock industry at heart, I am pleased that my Government have introduced this Bill. I hope that the Minister will stress to her colleagues that many hon. Members believe that far too many Bills are being introduced this Session. We have high hopes that there will be a reduction next Session. The large number of Bills introduced so far this Session has necessitated the Second Reading of this Bill taking place on a Friday morning, with very few hon. Members in the Chamber. The only part of the House that is full is occupied by my good friends from the Ministry. There seem to be an extraordinary number of secretaries present, but I am always glad to see them.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I cannot see them.

Sir Paul Hawkins

I am sorry if I have seen things that I should not.

I welcome especially the clauses dealing with the spread of animal disease. Anyone who has seen the terrible results of the spread of foot and mouth, as I have on a few occasions, will not forget the great clouds of smoke rising in the countryside, the smell of burning animals and the distress of those who have carefully built up stock through the generations by means of hard work and loving care, only to see it lost through disease. Apart from the loss of stock, there is a loss of jobs and enormous human distress. There are few outside the livestock industry who realise how farmers, stockmen and all connected with cattle, sheep, horses and other farm animals are emotionally bound up with their livestock.

The stockman always refers to "his" cattle and "his" sheep and not to his master's cattle or sheep. He takes personal responsibility, and the skill and care of the young stockman or the old-fashioned stockman today is just as good as it was in the past, although conditions have made their jobs much more difficult.

Though I love to see beautiful pictures and lovely cities, to me the most satisfying sight is a field full of grazing cattle which, as is said in the area that I represent, are "doing well"—in other words, cattle that are happy and contented. Of course, people might argue as to which breeds satisfy them the most. Lincoln Reds were my first love but now I think that the black-and-white-faced cross-Herefords are my favourites. I make these remarks because I fear that too many people outside the industry — this appeared to be the note struck by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) —approach livestock welfare as if they must protect stock from cruel people.

I accept that there are those in every area of the country who do not care about their stock, who cannot understand the feelings of those who do and who do not do their job properly, but the majority love their stock and are determined to ensure that it is better than their neighbours.

Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North)

Does my hon. Friend agree that sensible regulations are to the advantage of the wise and careful stockman as they protect him from the unfair competition of those who are more ruthless?

Sir Paul Hawkins

Yes, I agree that that is so, and I do not object to the proposed regulations. I welcome the majority of them. However, it must be remembered that those in the livestock industry depend on their stock for a living. Therefore, it would be crazy if they knocked it about or subjected it to ill treatment. I have run markets all my life. I have been leading cattle through the streets of a large town from the age of 10. In those early days I used to lead them from the trains which brought in the livestock to the lairage point. The skill that is needed in every aspect of looking after stock—for example, the stockman's eye that spots an animal that is going sick—is probably the most valuable thing that any farmer or stockman can have.

Let us not have the idea that the livestock industry is something that must be protected from everyone in it and that in the absence of that protection they will treat their animals cruelly. I agree very much with the final words of the hon. Member for Erdington. The phrase which he used should be in all our minds.

The stock of those who are engaged in the livestock industry is their living, and if bruising is caused in a slaughterhouse or market on any part of the livestock the carcase will be less valuable. Anyone who has anything to do with livestock will know that the buyer will be anxious to see that the stock is properly handled. He will be the first person to object if anyone starts knocking livestock about.

I urge my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to acknowledge the dedication, care and exceptional skills of those in the industry, not forgetting the farm veterinary service which is so closely involved in the industry. Unfortunately, she did not do so while introducing the Bill. It should be acknowledged that farm veterinary surgeons will come out at all hours and in all weathers to remote areas. They have great skill and dedication. I make a strong plea to all Governments to reduce the number of Bills that are being pushed through the House and to avoid burdening the industry with unnecessary costs, rules and regulations. I stress the word "unnecessary", because many rules are not needed. I believe that the Bill will tidy up many of them. For instance, it will do away with the necessity to license bulls and stallions, a regulation which has been on the statute book for a long time. The scrapping of that regulation is obviously long overdue.

As I said in an intervention, additional inspectors would add to the costs of the farming industry, especially at a time when it is under great pressure and must cut its costs. Inspectors should not be present when they are not necessary. The introduction of more inspectors must be considered carefully before they are introduced. Some rules are very necessary but others hamper the development of initiative arid enterprise.

I do not like the note at the end of the explanatory memorandum. There should be no increase in Civil Service manpower and no additional costs imposed on local authorities. The Ministry has determined in another Bill—it is a long time since it had two Bills passing through the House at the same time, and I hope that this means that it will not have a Bill at all next year—that there should be no increase in manpower. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will welcome my words on Bills for which the Ministry is responsible. If the present level of manpower is not increased, there may he some additional work for the present staff, but I do not think that that will do any harm.

I cannot give my support to the British Veterinary Association's request to have its members made responsible for the full supervision of poultry. I agree that veterinary surgeons should be enabled to give spot checks, but to have them present throughout all the processes, as I understand is suggested, would be an unnecessary burden on the industry.

I have great pleasure in welcoming the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will make it clear that the vast majority of people in the industry have the welfare of livestock at heart, not only because they have an affection for the stock they look after but because they will lose money if their animals are ill treated. I hope that the Bill proceeds rapidly through the House.

10.40 am
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. I believe that all hon. Members will agree that this is one occasion when we seek not to make debating points or score political points but to show, whatever our political views, our general concern about the overall welfare of animals. I am sure that all hon. Members know, from the letters we have received, that this is an issue of ever-increasing importance in the minds of the general public. The public want to know what is happening in relation to the keeping and slaughter of animals. It is a sad fact that the existing laws are hopelessly out of date.

Experimentation on animals — that subject is often discussed in the House and will be dealt with in a major Bill—causes great worry to the general public. Over the years, farming practices have cmpletely changed, and some hon. Members know far more about that matter than I do. Extensive factory farming occurs, and people are worried about the conditions under which animals are kept. I have visited many kinds of units breeding different types of animals, and often I am filled with great disquiet about the conditions under which animals, especially poultry, are kept.

The Parliamentary Secretary has replied to many questions on that matter, incuding one I asked some time ago about legislation on the keeping of poultry in battery cages. Many people are worried about that. There is something very unreal about the conditions under which poultry are kept because of factory farming methods. In some cases, the poultry have little freedom of movement and rarely see daylight. They depend upon specially prepared foods. We are repeatedly told that there is an enormous demand for cheap food produced as quickly and as economically as possible. Many of us are committed to ensuring the rights and dignities of the animals bred under those conditions, and this debate provides an opportunity to make comments on those matters.

During an intervention, I asked the Parliamentary Secretary about the reference in clause 4 to the slaughter of poultry chicks. The clause deals with the slaughter of birds that are not more than 72 hours old. Under what conditions can those small poultry chicks be slaughtered? Sadly, in some cases, small chicks up to 72 hours old are put in a crusher and then pulped dead. Many people would be filled with absolute disgust at that idea. If that is the means of slaughter, the House should be told more about the conditions under which the young animals are kept and the types of inspection used.

The Parliamentary Secretary, in responding to my intervention, referred to the review being conducted by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and I welcome that inquiry. I hope that the council's recommendations for improvement will come quickly and that we shall have the opportunity of discussing them in the House. We are entitled to be told about the exact procedures followed in the slaughter of very young poultry chicks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) referred to the transportation of livestock. He rightly said that many of us have travelled along the motorways in other parts of the country and seen large lorries loaded with poultry crates. At times, I have felt extremely sorry for the birds that are destined for slaughter. The contractors at the pick-up point who transport the birds and the people who sell and buy them do not appear to show a great deal of concern for the conditions imposed during the movement of the poultry. We are entitled to be told about the actions the Government seek to improve those conditions.

What is the hon. Lady's view about the time during which the poultry can be in transit? Many years ago, the House discussed the export of animals to the Continent, and I am sure that many hon. Members were disgusted on learning that often animals could be in transit for two or three days. I am not suggesting that we are talking about two or2 three days in this case, but we could be talking about a day or more. What regulations is the Parliamentary Secretary seeking to bring about a general improvement in those conditions?

We are entitled to be told about the conditions that apply after the poultry has been moved to the slaughterhouses. Because of the type of weather experienced in this country, poultry may be moved during changeable conditions. In what state does the Parliamentary Secretary wish poultry to be kept once they have arrived at the slaughterhouse prior to the slaughter? Will the poultry remain on the lorries? What will be the procedure if, for whatever reason, a lorry arrives late at night at a slaughterhouse. Are we to be told that, sadly, the crates remain on the lorry until the following day when the poultry are slaughtered?

Reference has been made to the method of slaughter of poultry. There is an immediate awareness, when discussing other animals—for example, cows, pigs and sheep—that the slaughterer has to have certain skills; but there is a tendency when discussing poultry to think that the animals are only small and will soon be killed. We cannot be satisfied with such an explanation. We are entitled to be told by the Minister who will train and what training there will be of the people who will be involved in the slaughter of poultry.

The Minister has said that her Department is awaiting a report from the Farm Animal Welfare Council. I, like many other Members on both sides of the House, await its recommendations with great interest. I hope that the hon. Lady will give the House an assurance that her Department will consider them and present them to the House for debate as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, many of us know that we often receive promises from Government Departments about legislation for which we have to wait a long time. On a completely different matter, I have been campaigning on an issue since I became a Member of the House. I have been told this year that the Government may be in a position to consider legislation to deal with the problem that affects many of my constituents. I have been told, however, that although the legislation may be discussed, "We will not be in a position to introduce the legislation that we and you believe will improve the conditions under which your constituents are living."

I hope that after the recommendations are received from the Farm Animal Welfare Council they will be presented to the House and that we will have an opportunity for an early discussion on them, and that legislation will then be introduced on a subject for which there is widespread support on both sides of the House.

I welcome the opportunity to take part in a debate on this important issue. Unfortunately, as on many other occasions when we discuss important issues, attendance in the House is not great. Those of us who are here are present because we are interested in the matter. I listened to what the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins) said, and many of us agree with him. Many people who breed animals have a high regard for their welfare, and we applaud those people. Unfortunately, other people involved in the movement and slaughter of animals do not have the same interest. It is our duty as Members of Parliament to bring such cases to the attention of the Minister and her Department, so that they can respond because we know from our postbag that increasing numbers of people would like to see an early response to this matter.

10.52 am
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this matter, and I hope that I shall win a little gratitude from hon. Members for keeping my comments as brief as possible. I echo the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins). I very much welcome the Bill.

As the Minister of State said in another place, in some respects the Bill simply brings existing legislation up to date; in other areas it clarifies existing legislation and introduces new provisions to reflect anxieties which have developed since the original legislation was made. I would label this Bill as "a good thing", but, having said that—I do not act as devil's advocate for the sake of it—I would point to three features of the Bill that worry me. I came here hoping for clarification and comment from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. She has gone some way in reassuring me, but I hope for yet more.

The first matter that concerns me is the licensing for the slaughter of poultry—and, in particular, clause 5. I am concerned about the on-farm, small-scale, often seasonal, slaughter of birds. This point was made briefly in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West, but it is so important that I do not apologise for stressing it again. I should not be representing the interests of the poultry farmers in my constituency if I did not stress it.

If, in small-scale poultry farming where only a small staff is employed, the licensed slaughterer was unable, through accident or illness, to work, one of two things would happen. There could be enormous on-farm problems while someone else obtained a slaughter licence. Alternatively, the birds might suffer while urgent new arrangements were made for off-farm slaughter.

The Official Report of the Second Reading in another place revealed anxiety about this question. An amendment was tabled there to give the Ministers the power to waive the need for a licence for certain small amounts of on-farm slaughter. I am not sure that that is the right way to tackle the problem. I feel that it would be better if the licensee could, in some circumstances, delegate the act of slaughter while retaining the responsibility for the action of those to whom the task is delegated.

Let us not forget that the report on the welfare of poultry at the time of slaughter, to which many hon. Members have already referred, does not mention on-farm slaughtering. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I conclude that the Farm Animal Welfare Council is satisfied with the current controls and procedures. At all events, I hope that the Minister will agree that this should be, and will be, considered carefully during the passage of the Bill.

My second general area of concern arises from clauses 8 to 10, and involves the proposals which deal with the artificial breeding of livestock. Three points worry me. The first is basic, and it may be somewhat heretical. My interest in animal welfare is as great as anyone else's, but I wonder whether a new system of licences and approvals in this area is necessary. What will we have under this Bill that we do not already have under the Improvement of Live Stock (Licensing of Bulls) Act 1931, section 17 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1943, albeit amended if necessary, and the Horse Breeding Act 1958? I ask—as the saying goes—only because I want to know.

My second point on clauses 8 to 10 may be a little weightier, and is about the rumours of a possible licence fee of between £200 and £300 a bull. That would be a substantial burden on the industry. The fanning community, as I know from my contacts with it in my constituency recently, is anxious to know how the fees will be charged. It is felt that the details must be clarified to assess their effect, especially on milk producers.

My third point under this heading has been voiced by the National Farmers Union. It is the fear that secondary legislation covering the detail of controlling artificial breeding may create an effective monopoly for the qualified vet. Would it not be preferable, it may be argued, to extend the present system for artificial insemination, and permit technicians to carry out the work rather than to confine all duties to the qualified vet? I hope that all these causes of anxiety can be ironed out during the passage of the Bill.

My last general point arises from clause 11, which gives Ministers powers to provide, in regulations, for control of the manufacture and sale of medicated feeding stuffs. The fear that the Bill might pave the way for discrimination against on-farm mixers led to an amendment being moved in Committee in another place. Some assurances were given, and the amendment was withdrawn. I hoped that the assurances would be repeated today, and the Minister largely gave them, but we must not lose sight of the potential economic advantages of on-farm mixing. These are generally acknowledged. Restrictive registration measures in the future could have a detrimental effect on farm economics. It is so important that there is the fullest consultation with the industry, not least in clarifying the various ways in which it is intended that the registration fee be used before additional controls are finalised. I hope very much that we can take the Minister's words as an unequivocal reassurance on that point. I overwhelmingly welcome the Bill, but, as I have tried to show, I seek clarification, comments and, perhaps, correction on several points.

11.1 am

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter). I should like to echo some of the questions that he asked.

I welcome the Bill, both for the breadth that it covers and for the succinctness of its phrasing. We all know the difficulty in raising the quality and quantity of farm production while limiting the short-term rise in costs that legislation often brings. That the Bill both raises the quality and quantity and keeps the phraseology short is to be welcomed. That it goes further and seeks to alleviate the distress caused to animals in the normal process of husbandry is also praiseworthy.

I congratulate and thank the Farm Animal Welfare Council. Its almost quixotic reward for its diligence is a widening of its powers of remit, its responsibilities, and, consequently, its work. I shall make a few remarks about individual clauses in the order in which they appear.

Clause 1—the seizure clause—is to be welcomed. For the sake of one of the most important of our country's industries, it is imperative that the clause be instituted, with its wider powers. My only query is whether the compensation powers may for the persistent offender—whether by negligence, incompetence or idleness— be too generous. On the other hand, I recognise the need to encourage farmers to notify the authorities as soon as they suspect any disease, but I wonder whether the Minister can tell me whether she wishes or intends to penalise those who constantly offend.

My only comment on clause 2, on the power of entry, is that I wonder why the extension of the rights of entry has had to wait until now to be codified. Perhaps I can answer the question myself. Perhaps it is because officers of the veterinary service, farmers and food processors have a good relationship. While codification of the right of entry is useful, it might not alter what veterinary officers do. However, it will strengthen their hand in the face of the rare case of intransigence.

Clause 3—the territorial zone clause—is a sensible and compassionate measure. It is long overdue, for we have a duty to curb cruelty to animals in transit and to limit their distress. We know only too well that other countries do not always maintain the same high standard of care for animals that this nation does.

Clause 4, the slaughter clause, is a proper extension of control over the slaughter of poultry and birds. As a decent society, we need to be ever vigilant in discovering ways of limiting animal distress, even when that may mean a marginal increase in cost. In this case, I do not believe that there will be. However, I should like to deal with two other points on the clause. The first concerns Islamic and Jewish ritual slaughter, Halal and Schechita. The Bill does not seem to deal with that form of slaughter. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will agree that people who carry out Halal and Schechita are highly trained. The declaration issued by the Jewish ecclesiastical authorities of Great Britain makes it clear that those who carry out ritual slaughter do so only after the most careful training. They state: Schechita is carried out by men who have undergone several years of religious training and study who scrupulously apply the rules and rites governing this sacred ordinance, thus ensuring the swift and painless death of the animal.

Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

Is it not true that in the form of slaughter that my hon. Friend is describing the animal is not stunned before it is slaughtered, so it must suffer some pain?

Mr. Sayeed

I agree with my hon. Friend. However, I suggest that a highly qualified person using a very sharp knife causes less distress to an animal than even a moderately competent person using a stunning rod.

I have a second query on the clause. I was rather perplexed by what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) said. He referred to unnecessary suffering. He said that he did not understand why the word "unnecessary" was included, yet he went on to say that all slaughter must cause some suffering. I should have thought that the word "unnecessary" was germane to the clause because we want to stop unnecessary suffering. We recognise that some pain, suffering and distress will be caused in any slaughter procedure but we must ensure that it is rigorously limited.

Clause 5, the licensing provision, is self-evidently sensible, although I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Minister can provide any guidance to the small producer, on whom the licence cost will be a particular burden. I echo the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins), and I am grateful for the reassurances that the Minister gave him.

Clause 6, on the code of practice, is the right way to set about instituting humane slaughterhouse procedures. The flexibility engendered by not statutorily codifying the procedures to be used means that adherence to the spirit of the Bill will be enhanced.

Clause 7, dealing with the powers of entry under the 1967 Act, is obviously a logical extension of current powers. The final clauses—8 to 13—are in many ways some of the most important clauses. They deal with the improvement of the quality of stock, controlling the spread of disease and the control of the amount of medication in animal feed. My only queries are these. First, what will be the cost to farmers who do their own artificial insemination or, in years to come, use other sophisticated techniques? Will my hon. Friend please ensure that they are not priced out of helping themselves to keep their costs down?

Secondly, referring to clause 11, while I generally welcome both the clarity of the provisions and the controlling of unnecessary or too great an amount of medication in animal feed, I should like to be reassured that the provisions also deal with hormone additives or, if they do not, that there are other provisions which do should hormones be added in this manner in the future. As we know, these are used not as a medicament but as a method of assisting in the fattening of calves and other livestock. The properties of hormone additives are passed on to humans, with well-known results.

This is a most welcome measure and I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing it before the House. I hope that it will have a very swift passage.

11.9 am

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for her helpful explanation of the Bill. Listening to the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), however, I was reminded of the chicken beheaded in 1979—I think that it was stunned first — whose headless body is now running around the country while the bodiless head sits here talking to itself.

I should declare an interest, as I am involved in the supply of refrigeration equipment for the chilling and freezing of poultry for consumption. I am not directly concerned with the slaughtering process, but the quality of the final food product depends on proper care throughout the whole process from farm to consumer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins) made clear.

In answer to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) the hon. Member for Erdington said that he did not intend to comment at this stage on the Moslem Halal and Jewish Schechita methods of ritual slaughter, as a report from the Farm Animal Welfare Council is awaited. Nevertheless, there is growing concern in many parts of the country, not least in my constituency, about the supply of ritually slaughtered meat. The Moslem community are calling on education authorities to supply Halal meat to Moslem schoolchildren, while animal welfare groups are calling for an end to ritual slaughter without pre-stunning.

This country can be proud of its long history of religious tolerance. This is reflected in slaughterhouse legislation dating back many years which has allowed exemption from pre-stunning for religious ritual slaughter. Various veterinary experts, including Professor Burrows and Sir Lovatt Evans, state that, carried out properly, such methods are not cruel. In this context, I refer my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) to the publications of the Board of Deputies of British Jews showing the Jewish method as humane and to the Council of Christians and Jews publication by Joan Lawrence which confirms that, if carried out properly, Schechita involves no more cruelty than the usual methods of slaughter.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to give an assurance, however, that the training requirements for licensed slaughterers under new section 3(1A) will extend to religious ritual slaughterers. Conditions in ritual slaughterhouses should be no lower than those in other slaughterhouses. Indeed, many people would wish to feel that even higher standards prevailed so as to ensure that the animals experienced the minimum distress during the brief period of consciousness before death.

It is a shocking and damning deficiency of the present legislation that the sale of live poultry for slaughter after sale is outside the scope of the law. Hon. Members on both sides will have been appalled by paragraph 56 of the 1982 report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, which said: At businesses we visited where slaughter was carried out by the Moslem method for the food of Moslems, the birds were kept on the premises and slaughtered in the most squalid conditions. Nothing can apparently be done about it by the authorities as the birds are sold to the customer live and slaughtered for him immediately afterwards. We understood that this type of trade is outside the scope of the Slaughter of Poultry Act 1967, which relates only to poultry slaughtered before being sold for human consumption. That state of affairs is due to a technical loophole in existing legislation. I welcome the fact that new section 1(2A) provides protection for poultry irrespective of whether they are slaughtered before or after sale. That is a substantial and much-needed improvement to the present, deficient legislation.

I note that the Farm Animal Welfare Council has yet to report on red meat slaughter methods and that the Government have commissioned research into humane methods of religious slaughter. Cruelty to animals undoubtedly arouses even more emotion and distress to people in this country than cruelty to birds, so I hope that the report will not be long delayed. I hope also that the Minister will tell us today how soon we may have a code of practice to cover both poultry and red meat and whether RSPCA inspectors will have rights of entry.

I am interested to know that some Moslem groups in the West accept pre-slaughter stunning as being within their religious code and are happy to adopt this practice, which accords with accepted standards in this country. I should be further interested to know what steps the Government are taking to encourage traditional Moslem groups to examine alternatives of that kind. I accept that strongly-held beliefs are involved, but no doubt films and visual aids can be produced to promote greater awareness of different views on both sides of the controversy.

Last month my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) sought to bring in a Bill requiring a code of practice to be added to the Slaughterhouses Act 1974. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) spoke against the proposal and it was defeated by a majority of 101, which I believe reflected the desire of the House to maintain the long-standing tradition of religious tolerance in this matter and to study the report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council before discussing the matter further.

I support the Bill and I trust that it will complete its passage without delay so that the conditions in which birds are kept before slaughter will be subject to proper regulations. I commend the Bill to the House.

11.18 am
Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North)

I welcome the Bill. I wish to comment briefly on clauses 4 to 7, dealing with the slaughter of poultry. The Minister is to be congratulated on the presentation of the Bill to Parliament, but I join other hon. Members in expressing appreciation of the work of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, as it was originally the initiative of the council to seek to bring the slaughter of poultry within the ambit of the law and to extend to poultry the protection now provided for red meat animals, in response to strongly held feelings outside the House, which cut across party affiliations.

I believe that the vast majority of the population believe that there is a world of difference between the production of animals for food and a production line in a factory. In the debate in another place attention was drawn to the danger that in the factory farming and slaughter of poultry the birds might be regarded as "raw material". I am sure that this House and the people of this country would find such an attitude utterly repugnant.

Poultry production has led the way in intensive farming methods and I should be the last to call for any reduction in the efficiency of food production in this country. My hon. Friend the Minister could not possibly remember this, but I well recall the days when chicken was regarded as a great luxury that one could afford at Easter but certainly not as a regular part of one's diet. Nowadays poultrymeat is one of the cheaper forms of meat protein and I certainly welcome that. We should be careful to ensure that the efficient and cheap production of food does not take place at the expense of potential or actual cruelty to animals.

In an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins), I said that I believed that regulation was not to be feared by those who are careful animal husbandmen. I do not accept the view that there is necessarily a clash between cheapness and care of animals. The efficient, careful and properly regulated operation may well be more effective than the squalid operation. There is no doubt the poultry requires protection in the same way that the animals that have provided red meat in the past have been protected.

I referred earlier to the time when poultry was less commonly and readily available because of its price. In those days, poultry was often purchased in the state where it had to be prepared by the consumer, and the condition in which the bird had been slaughtered was obvious. Poultry purchased today is often already prepared for the oven, prepacked and perhaps frozen, and the fact that it may have suffered debeaking at an earlier stage will be unknown. That it may have suffered mutilation as the result of an accident during transport will not be known by the customer. The customer cannot be assured that the kind of protection exists to which my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West referred when he said that the quality of the meat would be the deciding factor.

I am sure that the poultry producers, like those who are raising cattle, are kindly, and that they wish to ensure that their birds are kept in the best possible conditions.

However, conditions during transportation and slaughter raise a different question. The emphasis is on speed, which will occasionally bypass the care that we would want exercised at all times. Hon. Members who have seen birds hooked on to the shackle line, struggling as they go on the way to slaughter, will realise that we must recognise that an inevitable amount of stress and necessary suffering is involved in the process.

What the Bill seeks to do, and does well, is to avoid unnnecessary suffering, and the ancillary stress to which the bird may be subjected. I welcome the introduction of the phrase "whether for immediate sale or not". There has been a loophole in the past in that birds that were not to be slaughtered immediately for use as food were likely to remain unprotected. The closing of this loophole will be widely welcomed.

I welcome the introduction of licensing for those who work in the poultry business. The people who supervise this process must be properly trained, and such training should be recognised by a licensing authority. I see no reason to believe that this requirement will place an unnecessary burden on the poultry production industry.

Mr. Hunter

Does my hon. Friend acknowledge the difference between factory slaughter of poultry and on-the-farm slaughter of poultry? Will he take that distinction on board?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, indeed. If my hon. Friend suggests that an increased cost burden may be placed on the small-scale slaughterer, I would say to him only that I must be one of many people who have been prepared to pay a premium for items purchased at the farm gate, such as free-range eggs and chickens raised in the traditional manner. One is prepared to pay a premium for such items. If this involves a cost for the small-scale slaughterer, I do not think that the purchaser would object to meeting that cost.

I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) that the administrative problem might be greater than the cost problem. I hope that the Minister has also taken it on board. One would not wish to place an unreasonable administrative burden on the small-scale producer who does not have a large staff that he can use flexibly.

I welcome the Bill as a measure of animal protection, and as an expression of the concern of the House that we do not wish cheap food, which we all accept is desirable, to be obtained at the expense of suffering to the animals concerned.

11.26 am
Mr. Mark Hughes (City of Durham)

May I embarrass my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) by welcoming his first speech from the Dispatch Box? We appreciate very much what he has done in the House and, in his regrettable period away from the House, what he has done for the Farm Animal Welfare Council and the co-ordinating executive, and for the farm lobby.

As a member of the Select Committee, to which reference has been made, I regret the delay between the publication of its report nearly four years ago and the coming into force of the codes of practice envisaged under the legislation. Those codes take too long to come into force. I understand the need for extensive and careful consultation with many interests and bodies outside the House. When the Ministry receives the report on red meat slaughter in the course of the next few weeks, I hope that it will be able to act with expedition in bringing the regulations and codes of practice to the House.

I anticipate a major difficulty remaining between those areas where statutory regulation is desirable and those where codes of practice give a desirable flexibility that would be denied under statutory regulation. With regard to the length of time for which the poultry can be in transit, particularly prior to slaughter, I believe that the code of practice may be too weak, and that some statutory limitation should be imposed.

I have a number of specific points to put to the Minister. On clause 1, is he satisfied that the movement of infected feedingstuffs, such as occurred in the recent outbreak of Newcastle disease in the Liverpool warehouse, will be adequately covered, or is that already covered under the regulations, which, curiously enough, I gather do not require to be laid before the House?

On clause 2, why are the powers of entry not applicable to poultry? Does not the history of the recent outbreak of Newcastle disease show that there may be need for powers of entry to infected poultry farms? Clause 2 specifically excludes poultry. I hope that we shall consider that matter in more detail in Committee.

I totally agree with the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins) that the role of the stockman is crucial to animal welfare on the farm. Equally, the role of the slaughterman is crucial to animal welfare in the slaughterhouse. It is essential that they should both be trained and should not be asked to cope with too many animals. On the farm, the stockman may be asked to look after more and more birds in larger and larger houses. His seeing eye may be called upon to oversee far too many poultry. Again, the slaughterman may be paid on piece rates. The quicker he slaughters the birds, the more he is paid.

I echo the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) and others who have said that we must look closely at the period of up to 72 hours for destroying young chicks. I hope that we shall be able to consider that point in more detail and more effectively in Committee.

Clauses 4, 5, 6 and 7 amend the Slaughter of Poultry Act 1967. I have little to add at this stage to the remarks that have already been made, but we will consider the provisions in more detail in Committee. In particular, we must consider the problems of on-farm slaughtering, which can involve great suffering. There is no reason to believe that on-farm slaughtering is automatically more humane. Frequently it may be, but I speak as one who as a little boy tried to chop the head off a chicken and missed. I hasten to say that I have a scar to show for my pains. Such incompetence can cause suffering to the chicken as well as to the lad wielding the axe, and it should be covered in the Act in some way.

I have a number of questions to ask about the control of medicated feedingstuffs. First, although this is not the hon. Lady's responsibility, can she tell me what consultations have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland? This part of the Bill is the only part that applies to Northern Ireland, yet there is likely to be trade in medicated feedingstuffs over the land border. I should be grateful to know what the relationship is between the Republic of Ireland and Ulster on these clauses, what consultations there have been and whether there is analogous legislation in Eire.

Secondly, what controls are envisaged on the importation of pre-medicated feedingstuffs? Is it adequately controlled by the clauses?

Thirdly, will the regulations and other matters arising from the clauses cover the need for adequate and clear labelling of the medication included in the feedingstuffs? That is important from the point of view of public health. There is much public concern about the possible presence of residues. I had assumed that the medications referred to would not include hormones, but I may be wrong about that, and the public are concerned about the use of hormone additives in meat. There was the problem with pigs' ears, and so on. There is also the problem of the build-up of resistance to antibiotics given in animal food. They are passed on to man, who builds up a resistance to them. I should be grateful if, now or later, the Minister could give some thought to those problems.

I welcome this modest but important Bill. We will study it in detail in Committee, but I hope that my hon. Friends will give it every assistance on its way to the statute book.

11.34 am
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I apologise for entering the debate late. I have been detained elsewhere, but I have a strong interest in the matter. My speech will be brief.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) said, every possible effort should be made to avoid stress in poultry and animals on their way to slaughter. Perhaps a special study should be made of this matter. We know from the whole attitude of animals and birds to slaughter, and from the condition of their meat after slaughter, that they suffer greatly at that time. We should do all that we can to reduce the suffering.

A casualness creeps into the way in which people handle animals—particularly birds— before slaughter. With more thought, much suffering could be avoided. For instance, baskets of poultry on their way to slaughter may be thrown out of trains and bounce off the station platform. That is very unpleasant treatment, and it could be avoided with more careful handling.

I am in touch with various members of the veterinary profession, particularly the British Veterinary Association, which has given a warm welcome to the Bill. The association says that it welcomes the presentation to Parliament of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill. The Bill contains several valuable provisions which, directly or through subordinate legislation, will improve the legal safeguards on which the health and welfare of animals depend. The legal safeguard is what counts. The association continues: Of particular value … are the provisions for raising welfare standards for poultry at the time of slaughter and the proposed powers to apply more stringent control over the production and distribution of medicated feedingstuffs. Clauses 4, 8 and 10 are particularly interesting to the veterinary profession. Clause 4 amends section 1(1) of the Slaughter of Poultry Act 1967, which prohibits the slaughter of poultry … for human consumption, except by one of the methods mentioned". I note the comments of the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes). We must be careful about the way in which we approach the slaughter of poultry. People are terribly crude and casual about it. It is said that poultry can be killed quickly by wringing their necks. However, that is a job for the expert. Amateurs can cause tremendous suffering. That is shown by the way in which poultry react after being half-killed. I believe that the Bill will put an end to that suffering.

By removing the words for the purposes of preparation for sale for human consumption, the Bill extends the protection of the law to all poultry slaughtered. There are certain specified exemptions controlled by other legislation, and an order-making power is proposed, which I welcome. It would will Ministers to prescribe other methods of slaughter for poultry chicks. This extension of control of slaughter implements a recommendation of the Farm Animal Welfare Council. Such a provision has long been advocated by the Select Committee and other bodies, notably the BVA. The Farm Animal Welfare Council is also currently studying methods of slaughter for chicks. During the Committee stage in the Lords the Minister said that the Government were awaiting the advice of the council before approving new methods of slaughter. I hope that it will be forthcoming before the Bill becomes law.

Clause 8 empowers the appropriate Minister to regulate the practice of artificial breeding of livestock, which is widely defined, to include any animal or bird not in the wild state". Such a wide definition should be studied carefully. Clause 8 will replace existing powers to control artificial insemination and introduce new powers to cover other forms of artificial breeding, such as ova and embryo transfer. The control of artificial breeding is welcome—it is essential to prevent the spread of animal disease and to curtail the use of poor quality stock. We get poor quality stock because of a failure to control breeding. Haphazard breeding leads to a deterioration in livestock and should be controlled.

Clause 10 repeals the Improvement of Live Stock (Licensing of Bulls) Act 1931 and the Horse Breeding Act 1958 and so formally ends controls on the natural breeding of cattle and horses. Bulls have already been mentioned, but controlling the breeding of horses is extremely important. I should like to pay tribute to the horse and pony breed societies, especially the Hunters Improvement Society which has produced admirable horses which have won gold medals and fame for the United Kingdom in the Olympic games and other competitions all over the world. It is important to ensure that such successful breeding policy is not adversely affected by the repeal of the 1958 Act. The horse and pony breed societies are too numerous to mention, but through careful breeding practices they have done much and will do still more to raise the standard of British ponies.

Can my hon. Friend assure us that her Ministry will be pleased to see control over the breeding of horses that will encourage the breeding of a suitable and practical riding horse? Bearing in mind that riding is the fastest growing sport in Britain — about 2 million people ride every week — it is surprising that we do not have many suitable riding horses. The British Equestrian Federation and the British Horse Society have worked closely and are attempting, by careful registration and breeding policies, to produce a sound and sensible riding horse. My hon. Friend could help greatly by encouraging her Ministry to assist those societies in that important work.

11.42 am
Mrs. Fenner

With leave of the House, may I say that, although attendance at the debate has been rather thin, I agree with those who have spoken that these are important matters. I have observed that three Opposition Members have had to carry the burden for their right hon. and hon. Friends. The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) has been courteous enough to send me a note saying that he has to leave. I have also noted that not one Liberal, Social Democratic or other Opposition party member has been here to debate the Bill, the central part of which exercises the minds of many of our constituents.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins) and the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes) that training in farming methods is important. The care and skill of the stockman is much to be appreciated and admired. I thank my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the care that is exercised in looking after animals on farms. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) said, we are also considering poultry farming and intensive systems. We therefore need to take precautions such as are set out in the Bill.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), whose care and concern in these matters is well known, mentioned unnecessary suffering. I do not know who said that all life is suffering, but I am sure that death is as well. It is right to curb unnecessary suffering and to make imposition of it an offence. I remember having a jab for hepatitis. It was certainly suffering but I am sure that it was necessary. I take the point about our slow progress in introducing recommendations, in clauses 4 to 7, on the slaughter of poultry. I have listened to the injunctions that have been made but await the report of the Farm Animal Welfare Council on red meat slaughter.

The hon. Member for City of Durham asked whether the slaughter of poultry in connection with Newcastle disease was carried out humanely. The slaughter was as humane as possible and carried out under the supervision of vets. I remind him that when there is an outbreak of a serious disease, it is essential to carry out the necessary work with the minimum delay to prevent its spread. Welfare is assured by the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1972, which prohibits the infliction of unnecessary pain or distress. Slaughter in Home Office establishments is not subject to approval by Agriculture Ministers by virtue of clause 4, but other legislation exists to control it.

Clause 6 provides power to include in the code of practice provisions relating to the welfare of birds awaiting slaughter. Recommendation 6 of the Farm Animal Welfare Council concerns transport time. Consideration is being given to updating the Conveyance of Live Poultry Order 1919 in that context.

Several hon. Members have referred to training and its importance. The training of slaughterhouse staff will be a condition of licensing. It is intended that licences should be subject to veterinary control.

Mr. Greenway

I welcome my hon. Friend's statement. Will she consider the importance of training for those who handle animals in transit to the slaughter house? There is no question but that much cruelty occurs then, and the Farm Animal Welfare Council is not considering the matter. Will she give me some comfort that she will ask her Department to consider the transportation of animals and the way in which they are handled, as there is a complete lack of training of those responsible?

Mrs. Fenner

I have just said that consideration is now being given to up-dating the Conveyance of Live Poultry Order, which involves transit. Clearly, the ability of those handling the conveyancing will form part of that consideration. However, I take note of my hon. Friend's comments.

The hon. Member for Erdington also asked about the sections of the FAWC's recommendations that refer to research. Research has been commissioned with the Agricultural and Food Research Council. No results are yet available, but I note inquiries about the current state of progress, and if the hon. Gentleman does not mind I shall write to him on that point.

I was asked about FAWC's recommendation No. 37. I have said, as promised in the other place, that I will introduce an amendment. The elements of our proposal are that local authorities should have a duty to enforce the legislation. At present they have only a power to institute proceedings. Furthermore, local authorities should appoint, for each slaughterhouse, an officer or officers, with qualifications that are approved by Ministers in regulations, to be responsible for ensuring compliance with the legislation. Finally, Ministers will be empowered to give guidance to local authorities on the arrangements for enforcement.

That arrangement will enable local authorities to appoint another suitable officer, such as an environmental health officer or the poultrymeat inspector, to be responsible for welfare in those slaugherhouses that are not licensed under the Poultry Meat Hygiene Regulations 1976, and where there is no requirement for an official veterinary surgeon. However, we intend to require that in licensed plants the official veterinary surgeon should always have responsibility for welfare.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West was not very happy with my immediate response about costs. We believe that if the guidance that we have given to local authorities on official veterinary surgeon attendance for hygiene supervision is followed, there will be no need for the official veterinary surgeon to spend additional time at the slaughterhouse for welfare work, and no additional cost will arise. In the case of unlicensed slaughterhouses, local authorities already have general responsibility for hygiene and we do not anticipate any substantial increase in their cost as a result of our proposal. I can only reiterate that we expect that the cost in manpower will be minimal. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that reassurance. However, I can also assure him that I have noted his concern.

The hon. Member for Tooting, who has regrettably had to leave the Chamber, and other hon. Members were concerned about the provision on chicks. The effect of clause 4 would be to make the slaughter of chicks subject to the slaughter requirements of the 1967 Act as soon as the Bill comes into force, unless we have by then approved special methods. However, it will probably not be possible in practice for us to approve those methods of slaughter for chicks by then, since the FAWC is currently considering the slaughter of chicks. Until it has reported it would be inappropriate to take action.

Therefore, the Bill provides that the slaughter of chicks will not become a subject to the provisions of the legislation until a day appointed by the Minister. But, of course, I reassure the hon. Member for Tooting that until then chicks will continue to have the protection that they already have, in that it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering under the other two Acts. Commercial hatcheries have to dispose of large numbers of unwanted chicks, and hitherto the 1967 Act has not applied, since they are not slaughtered for sale for human consumption. Therefore, the effect of the legislation—and the effect when we have the FAWC's recommendations—will be to bring chick disposals within its scope. Thus I hope that the hon. Member for Tooting will be reassured about the slaughter of chicks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) expressed concern about those who rear and slaughter poultry on a small scale. We are aware of the concern expressed that exemption from licensing should be made available to people, and particularly farmers, who slaughter a small number of birds. The Bill has therefore been amended in the other place to enable exemptions to be made to the licensing system, to be introduced under clause 5. The amendment makes it clear that there will be a general power to provide for exemptions since, until we have considered further the details of the licensing system and taken account of any representations that may be made during consultations, we shall not know what exemptions we may wish to make.

Furthermore, we would lay ourselves open to all sorts of requests for exemptions to be provided in the Bill if we attempted to be specific. Therefore, I cannot give any firm commitment that the specific exemptions sought will be made, although I can assure the House that we have taken note of the concern and will bear it in mind when preparing the proposals. However, our first concern must be the welfare of the birds. If we make exceptions, they must be carefully drawn so as to ensure that welfare is not prejudiced and loopholes are not created. We shall, of course, be consulting widely.

My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke also questioned the effect of clause 11 on on-farm mixers. The important parts of the clause for on-farm mixers are new section 40(1) and (2). Subsection (1) gives Ministers power to prohibit incorporation unless the conditions specified in the regulations are satisfied. The conditions are then set out in subsection (2). However, subsection (2)(a), (b) and (c) will not necessarily all apply in every case. The regulations will be drafted in such a way that an on-farm mixer will not have to be registered with the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain under subsection (2)(c). He will, however, have to comply with the conditions specified in subsection (2)(a) or (b) which, of course, are already contained in the existing section 40.

Some on-farm mixers may, however, choose to register. We intend to include, as a condition of registration, a requirement that registered dealers and manufacturers may sell or supply products with a high level of medication only to other registered dealers and manufacturers. On-farm mixers who can meet the conditions for registration, which will be contained in the code of practice, will be able to register if they wish, and so obtain these products. Those who do not register will have access to products with a lower level of medication which can safely be incorporated into feed with fewer controls on the mixing process.

I should explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke that if highly-concentrated medicinal products are not properly mixed into feeding stuffs, there is a risk that an animal may receive an excessive amount of the medicine, and that residues may remain in the meat which could be harmful to the consumer. Therefore, we felt it right that these potentially hazardous products should be available only to manufacturers who can incorporate them into feed under carefully controlled conditions — in other words, manufacturers who are registered. If on-farm mixers can meet the conditions for registration, it is for them to choose whether to register and so obtain those products.

My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke also asked about the use of technicians in embryo recovery and transfer. Embryo transfer involving surgical techniques falls within the scope of the Veterinary Surgeons Act. However, non-surgical procedures are not restricted in that way. Indeed, I understand that embryo transfer by this method is already conducted by people other than veterinary surgeons. Whether that should continue, possibly subject to some form of veterinary supervision, is a matter for subordinate legislation, on which there will be full consultation.

Several of my hon. Friends referred to religious slaughter. The Bill will improve the slaughter of religiously slaughtered birds. In some shops birds are sold live to the intending consumer and are then slaughtered. The Bill extends the protection of the 1967 Act to such birds. However, the Bill does not remove the exemption from the preslaughter stunning requirements. The Farm Animal Welfare Council is examining religious slaughter and will be making a report to Ministers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) asked about hormone medication, as did the hon. Member for City of Durham. Hormones are not normally administered through feedingstuffs, but as implants. I can assure my hon. Friend that hormone products, like all veterinary medicines, are subject to the licensing provisions of the Medicines Act. Safety for the consumer of animal products is carefully considered before a product is licensed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) also asked about religious slaughter, and I hope that my answer reassures him. He also referred to power of entry for the RSPCA, for example. We believe that powers of entry, as of right, should be limited to those who are publicly accountable to Parliament or to the local authority. Advice from the RSPCA is always welcome, but I do not believe that it is right to give its inspectors a power of entry since they are not answerable to hon. Members or local councillors.

The hon. Member for City of Durham talked about several aspects. If I do not reply to them all, I shall deal with them in Committee. The hon. Gentleman asked me about other animal species. We have drawn the definition of livestock widely because we want to ensure that adequate powers are available to control as necessary animal species that might be subject to artificial breeding in the future. That is especially important in relation to disease and animal welfare. The control of individual species will require subordinate legislation on which there will be full consultation. We do not intend at this time to include species such as dogs and cats in such legislation.

The Bill is one of some diversity. I trust that I have not stretched the patience of the House in introducing it and trying to answer the many queries posed by hon. Members. We regard the Bill as important. I understand the criticism of the time that it takes to bring desirable legislation before the House. We shall be examining the problems of red meat slaughter shortly. Hon. Members have today contributed to another important advance in the welfare of animals and poultry at slaughter.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 42 (Committal of Bills).

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