Deb 28 July 1943 vol 128 cc818-36

LORD BRABAZON OF TARA had the following Notice on the Paper: In view of the recent strides in physiology, especially in regard to insemination, to draw attention to the immediate consequences on live stock in general, and the potential possibilities in relation to the human race and ethics; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have consulted the highest authorities in the land, and they tell me that as a Privy Councillor I am entitled to speak from this Front Bench; but I should not like your Lordships to think for a moment that I do so because I have changed my political opinions. The question which I am raising to-day, however, is non-controversial from a political point of view, and it is easier to see one's notes, or even one's script, when standing at this box rather than when speaking from one of the Back Benches. It is for that reason that I avail myself of this privilege. I am also fortified by the fact that I am inspired by being able to see His Majesty's Government, rather than look only at the backs of their heads.

The first question which will be asked me is why I bring up this question at all. My answer is perfectly plain. I am now nearly sixty years old, and in my life I have seen science run ahead of human wisdom, with the result that in the aeroplane we produced out of our technical skill something which has very nearly destroyed civilization itself: If that is true in the mechanical world, surely it is even more important that we should know all about advances in other walks of science which are sure to have the most tremendous repercussions upon human life. There have come in physiology knowledge and practices derived therefrom which frankly frighten me very much, and I think that we should give to this subject wise and grave thought, knowing full well what the subject is all about. My Motion deals with insemination, and I hope that your Lordships will bear with me in speaking on this question, because it is one, as may be imagined, of very great delicacy. Nature is callous of the individual, but very, very careful of the species. It is no doubt for that reason that she has made contact between male and female always a pleasurable act, and it may have been for that reason that in the early days it was looked upon as mortal sin, on the basis that any pleasures were bad for us. But it did lead in those days to an ideal of asceticism which was bad for the world, because every intellectual man and woman went into the Church as monk or nun, and Europe bred from her worst elements rather than from her best.

This subject is important in this respect. We mortals are really immortal only through our descendants, and in the act of creation we are at our most Godlike level. We can never understand evolution, because we are only the expression of evolution; so also we can never understand creation when we are but the results of it. It is as if a clock were trying to understand its own workings. I cannot expect you to know all about this subject; consequently if you will bear with me I must say a few words of general explanation. Before I go on to that, however, I want to try and explain the attitude and limitations of human knowledge upon it. In the physical world years ago—and I may say that in the physical world man is much happier than in any other branches of science, because he is dealing with inanimate things, which he can handle and knows a lot about— the laws of Newton seemed to look after all inanimate matters. The microscopic world was built up in terms of small billiard balls and atoms; all was well with the world, and everybody understood everything. Well, as science went on the discovery of the electrical composition of matter came along and the atomic and microscopic world was explored, and explored with increasing genius, until—what happened? No longer are we dealing with reality at all, only with an equation which, from the point of view of reality, means nothing to us at all, and we are down in the physical world to a transcendental state—something we shall never really understand.

If that is so of the physical world, surely it is more so in anything that touches life, and I must say that the scientist was never more triumphant than he is to-day but, on the other hand, never more humble. The scientist to-day is not a Mr. Know-all but a patient student of the unknown. As I said, physics have passed beyond our ken, and life consequently is even more impossible for us ever to understand. Physiology deals with the study of the functions of the body, and to-day we are considering what happens when the two sexes of mammals are joined in the sexual act. I do not intend to deal with the psychological preamble, which comes technically under the head of courtship. That deals with the psychological side of life, which is even more difficult than the physiological. But the complication that nature has to | indulge in for this is something at which we must all marvel—the number of glands which have to operate, all controlled by a small gland at the top of our roof, called the anterior pituitary gland—a sort of headquarters to all the various functions of the body which have to operate in order that the body may do what is necessary. And you have got to get down to what the problem is in nature. The problem is that the ovum of the female has to be fertilized by one spermatazoon of the male. If you study the organs of life you will find that there are many things done in the most amazing and efficient way. For instance, if you look at our bodies as heat engines, they have an efficiency which could never be approached by any man-made machine. If you look at the way the eye works and you are a student of optics, you will be nothing short of amazed at the complexity and wonders of that particular organ.

Here was a certain difficulty presented to nature of, as I say, fertilizing the ovum by spermatazoa of the male. But nature in her wisdom found this task evidently one of great difficulty and complexity and she acted on the basis of a mass assault rather than by high efficiency. If we take the case of a stallion and a mare as an example, the ovum of the mare is about one-one hundred and fiftieth of an inch in size and it has to be fertilized, as I say, by one spermatazoon. The stallion puts into the mare on an average 3,000,000,000 spermatazoa, only one of which is wanted. It is that which is taken advantage of in insemination. It is trapped and used for the efficient insertion of it into other females.

There are one or two points which I think one should just deal with on that question which are of interest. Take first the laws of hereditary. The genes and the chromosomes are found in every one of that vast number of spermatazoa, and it is interesting, and I think little known, that the ovum of the female is neutral and the sex is determined entirely by the male—that has nothing to do with the female at all. I am speaking of mammals because in birds as a matter of fact it is the opposite.

The history of this is rather interesting. It originates, curious enough, in Russia. Professor Ivanov, of Russia, was one of the first to indulge in animals, in this particular science of insemination, and was helped much by Dr. Wroblewski, and in this country we have two very advanced and distinguished workers in Dr. Hammond and Dr. Walton, of the Cambridge School of Agriculture. It is interesting to see what can be done in this way. In Russia from one ram they have got over 2,700 ewes in one year—a thing which, of course, would have been impossible before. A bull can, by this practice, put ten cows in calf instead of one, a stallion eight mares.

Then there comes the all-important part of how long the spermatozoa can be kept alive, because if there is no time period in which they are alive of course it will be impossible to transport them. There is a lot of work 'being done on this subject and it is interesting to see the time periods that have been reached at present. The stallion's spermatozoa last no longer than twelve hours, the bull's can be kept for over a week, the ram's about the same time. The boar's, on the other hand, have never been kept more than five hours. Professor Ivanov has also done a most remarkable experiment in which a cow was put in calf from a bull that had been dead over a week—a very extraordinary experiment. Your Lordships will see consequently the way this investigation is advancing and that the possibilities are indeed very big. For that reason it does concern, on that side, the Ministry of Agriculture very seriously. I see that in a recent Act the Minister is given powers to issue orders to regulate practices in this regard, but it will want grave and serious thought because we. have always been great exporters of live stock. It is a curious thing—whether it is the climate or not—that in this country we breed better animals than anywhere else in the world. If, in the future, the practice is going to be to export sperm rather than animals, it is going to have a very serious effect upon the live-stock industry.

I should like to know what the Minister of Agriculture has in mind in this respect. The Jockey Club has laid it down that no thoroughbred is to be inseminated except by the stallion that covers her. That, I think, is a very wise rule because thereby the probability of pregnancy would he increased, and you would avoid what: is a danger in a small family—as indeed thoroughbreds are—the danger of in-breeding. If you had, for instance, a super racehorse, you would find all the mares of the next generation inseminated by that particular stallion, with the result that in a few generations you would get in-breeding, which, of course, results very soon in general degeneracy. Your Lordships will have noticed that in other small families of animals, such as special breeds of dogs. Due to this very practice of inbreeding, some of our best-known and most popular types have entirely disappeared. The ordinary fox terrier and the Irish terrier, amongst others, have, by in-breeding, degenerated and become quite useless.

I have referred to some of the possibilities in the animal world. Now I pass to what is, to me, the much more serious side of the question and one which alarms me very much—that is, the possibilities on the human side. On the human side, the name changes from insemination to telegenesis—I do not know why, because the practice is exactly the same. I have made inquiries in America as to what is occurring. There, in the case of childless marriages, there is a very great demand, if the husband is sterile, that the wife should, rather than adopt a child, be inseminated by an unknown father and produce a child herself. The demand for that has increased lately, and it is estimated that, of childless marriages, there are in the United States no fewer than ten thousand applications of this kind. I wish the noble Viscount, Lord Dawson of Penn, were here because I feel that on the medical profession there is going to fall an immense responsibility for what occurs in this particular field. If the husband is sterile, no insemination of his sperm will, of course, produce a child, and if the child is to be produced by another father, through the doctor, then you may very easily get progeny which the world would look upon as legitimate but which only the doctor knows is, in fact, illegitimate. It seems to me that there is a danger of very grave abuses arising, and very great care and surveillance is wanted of this particular development.

There are of course other points which will readily occur to your Lordships. There are women who would like to have children without marrying and without sinning. The Church one day will have to consider whether the having of a child by a woman in this way, in that she has not actually sinned, is a sin or not. It is a development which will have to be given consideration. Then, of course, from the point of view of the State, there is this important point, that a child got by a woman in this way would probably be a very desirable citizen. Is the State to deprive itself of children born in this way or not? That is one of these problems of the future which we have to face. Then there is the problem, which will interest the lawyers, involved in the extraordinary experiment of which I spoke by Professor Ivanov with regard to the insemination of a female after the male had died. These are the beginnings of a very remarkable development in life production which I bring to the attention of your Lordships' House. I cannot expect the noble Duke (the Duke of Norfolk) who, I understand, is to reply for the Government, to give a detailed answer. We are only on the fringe of these vast developments, but the reason I have raised this subject—and I do most humbly apologize if 1 have offended anyone by any word I have used—is the profound effect that this may have on life throughout the world, both animal and human. I do not think we should live in a fool's paradise and ignore this subject on the ground that it is, as it is, unpleasant. I do not think that is the right attitude to adopt. It is our duty, as I see it, to know the problems that are about to face us, and in our wisdom to do the best that in us lies so to direct those new forces that they will result in bringing happiness and good into the world. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, I feel it a great privilege indeed to be allowed the opportunity of adding my very humble and modest contribution to the most profound and far-seeing speech that many in your Lordships' House have had the privilege of listening to for a long time. The subject which the noble Lord has tackled to-day is, in all conscience, a profound and difficult one, but it is not only the actual subject which he has spoken about. As he mentioned in his opening remarks, it is the profoundly critical stage at which we have arrived in the thoughts of men when material science has led us to a point where scientists themselves bow their heads, not only in humble confession of doubt, but also, perhaps, in a measure of awe and possibly fear. As the noble Lord indicated, science has, in its development through the ages, tended to turn from the study of the macrocosm to that of the microcosm. It is very easy to follow along a path which may eventually bring us to committing ourselves in a manner in which it will be very difficult for the human race to retrace its steps. Little is known about the ultimate results of these unnatural practices which are now being experimented with. Not only is the question of artificial insemination of the female being studied and experimented with, but I understand that the opposite process, the process of transplanting the ovum of the female into the uterus of another female is also being experimented with, and further, the division of the male element, the semen, into its constituent male and female parts, for the purpose of sex determination. If such a practice—the latter practice I refer to—was to become practical in its nature, it is easy to see what profound sociological and political results might occur therefrom.

Can we ignore the danger of human interference with the most profoundly fundamental of all natural processes? Is the animal likely to be unaffected in the course of time by denying, except in very few cases, the exercise of its most integral physiological function. The noble Lord has referred in his wonderful speech to the dangers which appear most patently to practical men, and I would crave permission to draw your Lordships' attention to the transactions of the society of which many of your Lordships will know, the Highlands and Agricultural Society of Scotland, which, after careful study of this matter by a specially appointed Committee, has decided to communicate with the Department of Agriculture for Scotland to the effect that it objects entirely to the introduction of any scheme of artificial insemination for cattle in Scotland as such a system is neither required nor desired in that country. I hope I shall not be thought old-fashioned if I suggest that possibly in the minds of these men who form this society there may have entered a certain instinctive feeling of fear which has been produced by their long association with the soil and with the animals of creation.

There is only one other point I would like to refer to on the ethical side of the question. It is generally, I think, admitted by psychologists and by religious bodies that the best training of the young in the elements of physiology is by the gradual study of the processes of reproduction in 1he lower animals. Well, if the study of our young is to be the study of what it cannot but be agreed are profoundly unnatural methods, and which may very possibly produce unnatural effects in the animals themselves, surely we cannot dismiss the possibility of such study having a very profound effect on the development of the minds of our young people. Science has to go forward and study these matters. They have to be put to practical tests, but we have seen the extremely deleterious effect of the interpretation by the laity of the tentative results of scientific theory. I would urge that we do not go ahead in a large way with a programme based on these very tentative results until the experiments have been carried over a period when the effect, not only on the animals themselves but on their progeny, may be accurately assessed. I desire to support the noble Lord who has moved the Motion.


My Lords, we have heard two extremely thoughtful speeches on a difficult subject, and I think I may say that vistas have been opened up in the minds of many of us of a new approach to this problem. I only want to say a word on a point mentioned by Lord Brabazon, the legal side. I do this in view of the possibility that we may clear the ground for a more open study of what we have discussed by the removal of one of the blots on our present civilization—namely, the term "illegitimate child." What is an illegitimate child? The term ought to be completely abolished. There may be illegitimate unions, but an illegitimate child! Why put on the unfortunate and innocent child the burden of a nomenclature which pursues it through life? Every day in Great Britain a hundred illegitimate children are born. Since we started our session this afternoon a number of illegitimate children have been born in this country. What have they done to be termed "illegitimate"? It is time we swept away a gross injustice to these children who are just as valuable, perhaps even more valuable, as future citizens than some of those born in wedlock. I hope that this particular obstacle to an open study of the problem raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, may be in the not-too-distant future swept away, so that these children may be recognized as valuable citizens without the burden of the term "illegitimate" which has been applied to them up to date.


My Lords, I do not at all envy the noble Duke in the task of replying to the very erudite physiological discourses to which we have had the privilege of listening this afternoon, but as I imagine the agricultural side of this problem will be that to which the noble Duke will direct his attention, I for my part would like most earnestly to express the hope that there will be a very clear distinction made between artificial insemination as applied to the increase of our live stock, so badly wanted in the areas of animal depopulation in the devastated countries of Europe, and the same process as contemplated in relation to human beings. I will not attempt to go into the subject to which noble Lords who have spoken have predominantly turned their attention. I would only say in regard to that, that I most earnestly hope that at any rate we in this country will do everything in our power to discourage a process which can only, in the long run, tend most seriously to break up family life.

The problem as applied to the present difficulty of rapidly reproducing essential farm live stock has become an increasingly difficult one, and I most earnestly urge His Majesty's Government to turn their attention to the problem of accelerating the process of the supply of semen for the purpose of post-war rehabilitation in Central Europe. We have been told in your Lordships' House that two Government stations, one at Cambridge and the other at Reading, have been established with the object of producing semen under the most careful supervision and with every possible precaution. I think it was on May 13 in the present year that a conference was held under instructions from the Ministry of Agriculture. It was convened by the Royal Agricultural Society of England and was attended by representatives, inter alios, of all the chief breed societies in this country. We have been told that as a result of that conference experiments are going forward with a view ultimately of providing the necessary semen for reproducing animals of high value both for meat and for milk on an accelerated scale. But some of us are rather concerned to learn that there appears to be no prospect in the opinion of the Chairman of that Conference of any results being available in this country, at any rate so far as high-class and pedigree stock are concerned, for at least two, and possibly four, years.

This is the point I want most earnestly to make. If, as I understand, there are several hundred square miles of territory not only in occupied Russia but in Poland, and even in Belgium, Denmark, Holland and other countries where the stock have been taken largely for food by the Germans, especially for their armies, and there are in those areas practically no live stock at all, or at any rate only in such small numbers that the prospect of starvation among the local population after the war is very serious, then I most earnestly ask His Majesty's Government if they are applying their minds seriously to the question of artificial insemination as applied to live stock and what is the earliest date when some reliable results will be looked for and the semen made available for use in those countries.

There is nothing new about the artificial insemination of live stock. It has been going on for several years, not only in Russia, but in Denmark, and even to some extent in this country in regard to the reproduction of certain features in our thoroughbred horses. In New Zealand there is considerable progress at the present time in commercial insemination of live stock, and it is being encouraged in every way by the Government. As your Lordships are aware, it is very essential in a country like New Zealand, which depends very largely for its economic prosperity upon the dairying industry, that there should be not merely during the war but after the war a sufficient quantity of milk which may be turned subsequently into butter or cheese for export purposes. Perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I read some extracts from a State docu- ment, the New Zealand Journal of Science and Technology, in relation to this subject: This technique has now advanced to the stage where there is nothing to prevent its widespread use on a commercial scale. It has already been used extensively overseas, more particularly in Russia; and [our own leading investigator] at Ruakura [the chief Government research station] has demonstrated the possibility of serving over seven hundred cows from one bull in the relatively short breeding season in this country. There appear no technical difficulties in the way of its widespread adoption, in conjunction with proven sires, to assist in the rapid grading up of dairy herds in the more closely farmed areas. In examining the financial result of this as an inducement to farmers to do all in their power without loss to themselves to make use of this artificial process, this report goes on to say: If approximately fifteen hundred cows were inseminated in each season from one of the outstanding bulls in the industry, we could expect approximately six hundred daughters to come into production as a result of that insemination. As each daughter would on the average milk for five seasons, the advantage to the industry is: 50 lb. fat x 5 seasons = 250 lb. fat per daughter; and on six hundred daughters this amounts to 150,000 lb. fat. At 1s. 4d. per pound butter fat this works out at £10,000, so that for every season's insemination from a single outstanding bull the industry would benefit to the extent of approximately £10,000. The Report goes on to say: Fifteen hundred cows may be an over-optimistic estimate of the numbers which could be inseminated from one bull in the short season available in New Zealand, but even if the figure is halved the returns still promise to be very remunerative. Then comes the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, indirectly alluded when he said the sire was the more important factor in predetermining sex. The Report says: The Russians, working with rabbits, claim that they have developed a technique for materially affecting the sex ratio of the progeny. They claim that, instead of the usual 50:50 ratio, they are able to obtain up to 80 per cent. of male or female offspring at will. If these claims can be substantiated and extended to cattle and the method is suitable for large-scale application, the case for artificial insemination becomes even stronger. I have only to say in conclusion that, of course, I fully realize that every precaution would have to be taken in employing this artificial method of reproduction. There is, as my noble friend opposite has pointed out, in our case, the consideration of our being a large exporter of valuable pedigree stock, and, therefore, every care must be taken that we do not purport to export through this means something that is of no great pedigree value under the supposition that the semen comes from highly valuable pedigree animals. We are also told that there is a great danger of certain bacterium which tends to cause sterility or abortion being conveyed from the bull through the semen to female animals. I do not know whether this is so. I do not pretend to any scientific knowledge on this subject. Agricultural societies everywhere, and all breeders like our British pedigree stock breeders, are naturally extremely anxious that nothing should be done which would destroy the value in the world of the best possible British live stock. I do say that, if all precautions are taken, so far as the devastated areas of Europe are concerned this is a matter to which we and the United States ought to put our hands, and that we should take thought to see if we cannot do something along these lines to help the devastated countries as soon as the war is over.


My Lords, if I may offer a very brief contribution with some diffidence to this vastly interesting debate I would say that it seems to me that one of the most important factors which we have to consider in relation to the question of the use of science in this way is that of monopolies. Is it not possible that a complete corner might come to be vested in one society or in one people, a corner in which they could, with the assistance of another party, increase the production of a certain stock out of all bounds having regard to what would be useful to the rest of the world? Is it not possible that Great Britain might be driven completely out of the market in the production, say, of sheep or of some other species—shorthorns, for example? The noble Lord who spoke just now referred to ourselves and the United States and to what we are doing at the present time in helping the world. He also suggested how we might help after the war. But we might not be allowed to do what he suggests when the war is over. Someone else might take it upon themselves to fertilize some country to such an extent that it became really a menace to the rest of the world. I think that there should be very great consideration given to the possibility of the development of a monopoly, the making of a corner. I suggest that this is a danger which obviously might arise unless the whole matter is given an international status.


My Lords, I wish to interject one word into this debate from this Bench, though I wish that a worthier voice than mine might have been raised. I echo the tribute which has been paid to the scientist as the patient student of knowledge, and I also echo what has been said as to the desirability of our sitting at the scientists' feet. At the same time, there are matters which are technically and scientifically possible with regard to the human species which are not necessarily ethically desirable or profitable. I wish to join with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, in drawing a sharp distinction between man and other mammals. The distinction is plain to the common-sense point of view. It also has a philosophical basis. Man is gifted with reason and will, and his actions are guided by choice. Mammals and other animals act through instinct, which is a very different thing. I have, of course, no competence whatever with regard to the question of the reproduction of live stock. But I think it ought to be said, when the subject of telegenesis is mentioned, that it is imperative in my view to put before the public and the scientists the view of man which is traditional in this country, because of the Christian basis of our civilization, that he is a spiritual being with a life beyond this earth, a life not limited to this world.

I am not quite certain whether I heard the noble Lord, who introduced this subject in a most thoughtful speech, aright. But there seemed to me to be in his opening remarks certain dangers. He spoke of man being only immortal in his descendants. I, believing in an after life, entirely differ from that point of view. I, also, was not quite sure of the historical accuracy of his doctrine of pleasure. I do not know when the Church ever taught that pleasure per se was sin. Certain types of action to which pleasure is attached, actions committed in a wrong way, are sinful. Yet the sex act is not a sin in itself if it is rightly and morally performed. And I am not begging the question by bringing in the value of morals. I agree that nature is careful of the race, but we have to regard that race —I am speaking only of the human species—not only from the physical point of view. The race has to be regarded on the ethical side, even if we are only looking at the human race and its perpetuation from the lower ground of continuity. As I listened to the noble Lord's speech, I found nothing to quarrel with in so far as its delicacy in dealing with an important and difficult subject was concerned. But I could not help feeling that the relationship between the mother and the child, the mother not having had a husband and having been artificially inseminated, would be of an extraordinary character and fruitful not only of danger but also, I think, of disaster in the long run. I cannot help thinking also that the relationship between the husband who was sterile and the wife who was inseminated in this artificial way, with regard to the home life and children, would be extremely anxious and very unhappy.

I echo to the full all that has been said by one or two noble Lords on the effect of this kind of action if it were blessed by doctors, which I hope it will not be, on family life; it would be disastrous to family life. We have to think of the upbringing of the race. We have to think of the human being as more than a physical creature. As I listened to that side of the debate, and to the possibilities which were opened up, and which were only discreetly alluded to in what was said, 1 could not help reflecting on that extraordinary world which was so vividly and so ironically portrayed for the instruction and warning of readers in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where he sets before us the fearful calamity of a purely mechanical world so far as human beings are concerned.


My Lords, there is one small warning which I should like to give to your Lordships' House. I take it that the main object of artificial insemination, so far as cattle are concerned, is to use only the best males, and, by using the best males over a great many more cows than would otherwise be possible, to reduce the number of males that are kept. That is an aspect of the matter which in future generations may be of some interest to your Lordships' House, but it does not at present arise. There is at all events, however, this which should be said. Those of us who have bred cattle, sheep and other animals know that there is a snag in this matter, and it is this: however much money you may give for a bull, and however carefully you may study its pedigree, all that matters is whether it is a really good sire. Many a thousand pounds has been given for a bull which has turned out to be practically useless as a sire, and many a first-class sire has been bought for £20, £30 or £50, perhaps sometimes coming from indifferent parents, but proving itself a first-class sire. That has little effect at the present time, but if you buy what is thought to be a first-class sire for a very large sum of money and use him over 1,500 cows, and he turns out to be useless as a sire, the harm which you will do is out of all proportion to the harm which is done now when a bull which deals with only 30 or 40 cows turns out to be an indifferent sire. Until we know more about pedigree, which in many cases goes back to two generations, and sometimes even to three, I venture to suggest to the noble Duke and to his Ministry that they would be wise to go slow on this matter.


My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships only for a minute or two, because I know that you are anxious to hear the noble Duke's reply; but I should like to say how emphatically I agree with the remarks which have just been made by the right reverend Prelate. I think that he put the situation from a human point of view into very correct perspective, particularly following the lead given by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. My noble friend Lord Brabazon has dealt with this extremely interesting and delicate matter in a masterly fashion, but he himself said with what alarm he looked upon the advent of these scientific ideas into the realm of human reproduction. I think that the remarks of the right reverend Prelate are very accurate in that respect; I fully agree with him that it would be destructive of all that is best in human life. It is only in regard to one remark that I disagree with my noble friend Lord Brabazon, and that is in his reference to the historic outlook of the Church in regard to these matters. The right reverend Prelate has put that in its proper perspective, and it is not necessary for me to say more; but I should like to express the hope that Lord Brabazon will pay great attention to what the right reverend Prelate said with regard to the attitude of the Church in relation to this important matter.


My Lords, the Motion introduced by the noble Lord has certainly given rise to a far wider debate than I, in my humble position in the Ministry of Agriculture, had anticipated would arise, but I had made it quite clear to the noble Lord before this debate began that, so far as I was concerned, I drew a very decided line between the first and the second parts of his Motion, and 1 did not propose to reply to the second part. Since then, however, the right reverend Prelate has come forward with such very careful and well-chosen words that I need say no more upon the second part of this subject than that it is being closely watched by my right honourable friend the Minister of Health, and that doubtless, if and when it becomes a live issue in this country, he will consult the Lord Chancellor as to the legal problems which are raised, and to which the noble Lord who moved this Motion has himself referred.

If I may, therefore, I will come back to the animal side of artificial insemination, as it is regarded by my Department at this juncture. First let me say that there is nothing new about this artificial insemination. It was started by the Arabs many hundred years ago, when with some success they employed it in the breeding of their horses. After that, experiments were carried out about the year 1780, and thereafter there seems to have been some slight lapse. There is no doubt whatever, however, that modern methods of artificial insemination provide a means of improving our live stock in a way hitherto impossible. It has been said to-day, and it has been said before, that we in this country breed and own the best herds and the best flocks of live stock in the world, but it is also a matter of surprise to many visitors to this country when they see the standard of certain of our stock kept by farmers in their own fields and passed through the local markets.

As we see it, the three main advantages of artificial insemination over natural mating are that the use of a valuable sire may be extended over a much larger number of females; that the small farmer is able to make use of a sire which in other circumstances he would probably find it impossible to use; and that it does in some respects act as a safeguard against the spread of certain diseases. Artificial insemination, as I think the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, mentioned, has been used very widely of late in Russia, but so far as this country is concerned it has never really been used as a commercial business or in ordinary farming conditions. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, referred to blood stock. Here I should just like to say that as regards the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, who are the representative body controlling to a certain degree the breeding of blood stock in this country, the Council of that Association at their meeting in 1936 passed a resolution which, if I may, I would like to read. It stated: With regard to the insemination of mares the Council consider that insemination should only take place when it is for the benefit of the mare, and not to save the stallion. What actually happens in practice on the stud farms in this country is that if a mare is a difficult subject, either the owner may ask that the mare should be inseminated or the authority will suggest to the owner that the mare should be inseminated. In that way there is no doubt as to the sire, and there is no reason to suppose that insemination is ever employed without the knowledge and consent of the owner of the mare.

It would certainly be idle to suggest that there are not immense possibilities in the practice of artificial insemination, but here, if I may, I should like to refer to the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Bledisloe and then to the speech of Lord Cranworth. Lord Bledisloe went so far as to suggest that he hoped that we should do all in our power to accelerate the experiments on this subject in order that we should be prepared, when the day comes, to re-stock the occupied territories of Europe with live stock sufficient for them to carry on. Lord Cranworth, if I may say so, quite rightly pointed out that the question of whether the sire is a good one or a bad one cannot be determined until some time afterwards, and that if by the process of artificial insemination some bulls have produced 1,500 calves, and they were served by bad sires all over the occupied countries, it might have a far worse effect on live stock than the slow and better methods of nature. That is one of the reasons why I think noble Lords will agree that we must go slowly and carefully in this matter.

Noble Lords have suggested the dangers, and in-breeding is obviously one which comes to one's mind at once. It is true that in the vast spaces of Russia they certainly have used artificial insemination, but it is a very different proposition to use it on a similar scale in a country the size of our own. Strict control of the practice is necessary to ensure that it does not become discredited, or that the live-stock industry is not prejudiced as the result of its development on wrong lines or of its improper commercial exploitation. In order to gain such knowledge two large-scale field trials, both with cattle, are being carried out, at Cambridge and Reading, under the general supervision of the Supervisory Committee on Artificial Insemination appointed by the Agricultural Improvement Council. To safeguard against any irregularities that are likely to arise my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, foreseeing the possible dangers, introduced a section into the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1943, empowering him to make regulations for controlling the practice of artificial insemination in the case of animals to which the particular regulations apply and, most important, to prohibit, subject to any exemptions specified in the regulations, the distribution or sale of the semen of any such animal except by licence.

At present it is only anticipated that we shall employ this control in regard to cattle, though under the section of the Act every animal necessary to husbandry is covered as and when it should be wished. The nature of the control which the Minister would exercise would be such as to ensure that the well-being of all branches of the cattle industry is fully safeguarded. I can assure the noble Lord that developments will be closely watched. Indeed, regulations relating to cattle are already in an advanced stage of preparation, and it is hoped to lay them before Parliament in the very near future. There is little more that I can say, but I know that the noble Lord was anxious to be informed what steps we were taking to control this matter, and I hope that when the time comes for him to see the provisional drafts which, as I have said, are on the way, he will be satisfied.


My Lords, there is one side of this matter which I think has not been quite brought out, and that is that the great advantage of insemination lies not in the great numbers that can be served by one bull but in the area which can be covered. I do not think enough stress has been laid upon that point. For instance, in Wales I have a lot of Jersey cows and the difficulty is to get a Jersey bull. This development enables us to get over that difficulty. The same thing arises if you have Hereford cows. I do not know what is the state of things in the Eastern Counties, but can you there get the proper Hereford bull you want? It is, I say, a question of the area.


My Lords, I must thank the noble Duke very much for his remarks on this subject. His reply was more than I expected, and I congratulate his Department, because not only has he promised to control this particular practice but he is no doubt responsible for the encouragement given, which is a very great thing for any Government Department to be congratulated upon. I have been very interested in many of the speeches to-day and the various angles from which the subject was discussed. I was delighted to hear the speech of the right reverend Prelate and I agreed with most of what he said. I hope, however, that he will not always feel obliged to defend the early Church, otherwise he will find himself in very great difficulties. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.