HL Deb 11 December 1930 vol 79 cc501-23

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. Its purpose is to prevent the use on cows in this country of bulls that will not produce sound and healthy stock. This prohibition will, of course, include bulls that have been already rejected in Ireland, a good number of which we import into this country now. Ultimately we hope to bring about the complete suppression of the scrub bull in this country. I think we all, in sonic part of our nature, have a desire to suppress or destroy something or somebody, and I would suggest to your Lordships that, if we are feeling in that mood, there is nothing to which we might turn our attention more usefully than these scrub bulls. The noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, proposes to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. I really do not know what reason the noble Lord is going to give for his proposal. I have no doubt that he will try to terrify your Lordships with the bogey that this is a gross act of Socialist vandalism and an assault on individual liberty. I do not know what individual liberty the noble Lord has in mind. Is it the individual liberty of a certain limited class of farmers to flood the markets of this country with calves which are bound, when they grow up, to be a loss to their unfortunate purchasers; or is it the liberty of a certain number of bulls to enjoy matrimonial relationships to which neither their charm of looks nor the result of their activities entitles them? I do not know; but no doubt the noble Lord will inform us of his objections.

This country has always had a worldwide reputation for its live stock. We can still say that in this country we have some of the best live stock in the world. But I am afraid we also have to admit that, as we go round the markets, it is impossible not to realise that we also have some very bad specimens of live stock in this country. It is essential, if we are aiming at a prosperous agricultural industry, that we should maintain the reputation that we possess for the excellence of our live stock. No less than 70 per cent. of the whole of our agricultural production is live stock or live stock products, and no less than 40 per cent. of our total product is of bovine origin, and therefore, to some extent, to be influenced by the passage of this Bill. It is fair to say, therefore, that our live stock industry is really the basis of agriculture in this country.

That fact is realised—and for that reason there have been repeatedly passed resolutions in favour of the principle of this Bill—by the Council of Agriculture for England, the Council of Agriculture for Wales, the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society, the Highland and Agricultural Society, the Smithfield Club, the National Cattle Breeders' Association, the Federation of Meat Traders Association, the Council of Milk Recording Societies, the Scottish National Farmers Union and a considerable number of English county branches of the National Farmers Union. The principle of this Bill is supported by all these interests, and the details of the Bill itself have been considered by two Advisory Committees, one appointed for England and the other for Scotland. These Committees considered all the details of the Bill, and it is intended on the passage of the Bill that a somewhat similar Committee should be set up in order to assist the Minister in drawing up the necessary regulations as to age and other questions that will doubtless have to be settled.

There is no doubt that, in the past, a great deal of good has been done by voluntary action, but we have to admit that it has really only touched the fringe. Our various live stock improvement schemes, notably the scheme for putting out premium bulls throughout the country, have accomplished a great deal. There are 1,500 premium bulls in England and about 900 in Scotland, but when you compare those figures with the number of bulls in England and Scotland, you will realise that they are a very small proportion—only 2 per cent. of the total bull population in England and 5½ per cent. in Scotland. Accordingly I think it is fair to say that these schemes, while they are good so far as they go, have done very little more than prepare the way for taking the next step.

What can be done if we take the next step is shown by the experience of Ireland, where this scheme has been in operation for a number of years. I do not think that many of your Lordships who have bought cattle in the last few years can fail to have noticed the change in Irish cattle in our markets. I remember that six or seven years ago when you went into a market you only had to see that tab on the ear of the beast to turn your back on it. To-day you go up for further examination because you know how good they have become. At a time when Ireland has been improving her stock we have been providing her with a market for the bulls that are not good enough for her. She has been sending them over to this country, and during the year ended 30th September last, 1,400 bulls which she had rejected were exported and the majority bought by our farmers for use on their stock. I might say here that we have had informal discussions with representatives of the Agricultural Departments of the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland and they do not regard our action as unreasonable.

There is one point in particular that I should like to stress in regard to the importance of this Bill. Of late, as your Lordships know, we have been making considerable progress with the National Mark scheme for beef, and it is hoped in a very few weeks to open up new centres in addition to Birmingham and London where the scheme has hitherto been operating. If we are to secure amongst consumers an increased demand for first quality English beef, we have got to be able to supply it, and at the present moment we are grading 50 per cent. of the home beef consumed in London. Of the other 50 per cent., of course, a great quantity is cow beef, which could never be graded, but there is a good deal of this 50 per cent. ungradable beef which should be gradable if only it came from a better grade class of stock. There have been dangers at times that there might be difficulty in fulfilling the demands which have been created, and it is therefore essential, if we are going to tackle this question of the consumption of home-grown meat, that we should see that we are able to supply the demand.

It is suggested that it may hurt certain interests. We all know the main user of the scrub bull. Of course it is the dairyman, and of course it is certainly possible that he may have to pay a little more for his bulls, but we all at different times have to fulfil the obligations of some law, which prevent us doing harm to the community. That is no new principle, and I am prepared, as a matter of fact, to question how much harm in the long run this Bill is going to do the dairyman. He sends his calves to market when only a few days old, and he does not get very much for them. Are we sure that one of the reasons that he gets so little for them is not that the purchaser knows he has to give a small price because a large proportion of the calves will turn out no good. Once it can be established in the market that these calves are from good bulls and there is a chance of their growing up into good commercial stock, the dairyman is likely to feel the benefit in the increased price which he gets for his calves.

There is one other point. I dare say the question of the number of additional officials needed will be raised in this debate. The position is this. At the present moment 29 live stock officials are employed throughout the country. This Bill will require about 23 additional live stock officials, and the whole scheme will Cost £15,000 a year in England and Wales. I suggest to your Lordships that that is really not very much for what we are going to get.


Is that net or gross?


That is net. The total cost is nearly £30,000, but then we get something for the fees. We shall really get more out of it, because of course these officials will do the general work of live stock officials, and therefore it will be possible to bring about what I think might be generally agreed is quite a needed reform, and that is decreasing the size of the area which live stock officials now have to cover. The addi- tional officers will carry out the whole work of live stock officers in smaller districts.

I would venture to hope that not only will this Bill pass but that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading without a Division. This is the greatest step forward for the live stock industry that has been proposed for a great many years. It has been on the stocks far too long. I do not know why, but for some reason or other—presumably because Governments do not like any form of controversy on non-political subjects—the Bill has never been brought forward before, though I think it is fair to say that pretty well every Minister has considered it and given it some form of modified approval. It may cut at some interests, but I suggest that really you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, and that it is impossible to interfere with personal habits —even of bulls—without incurring some kind of hostility. It is time to take courage in both hands and to put a stop to this system of laissez faire—of free trade and I might almost say of free love —in the bovine world, which has created such havoc in the herds of this country. I am sure that even Lord Banbury would not wish to perpetuate such a system as that. I therefore beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Earl De La Warr.)

LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM, who had given Notice that he would move as an Amendment, That the Bill be read 2a this day six months, said: My Lords, I understood the noble Earl in commencing his speech to say that everybody was in favour of destroying something or somebody. Noble Lords on the Bench opposite have destroyed a great many things since they came into office last year, and have injured a great many people, but I do not think the noble Earl ought to say that we on this side are animated by the same sort of feeling. This Bill violates two principles which I have maintained ever since I had the honour of a seat in either House of Parliament. It interferes with the liberty of the subject, as the noble Earl said. Apparently he did not think very much of that; but I do. It also empowers the Minister to go to a man and say: "You do not know how to conduct your busi- ness, so I am going to conduct it for you, or part of it, and if by so doing I cause you to make a loss you have to bear it." In addition, it creates new officials at a time when, instead of creating new officials, we ought to do everything to reduce the number in existence.

The noble Earl says the Bill is going to cost £15,000 a year. I have sat for a good many years in either House, and have heard Ministers in introducing Bills say that they were going to cost so much. There was a statement about what education was going to cost. It was to be 3d. in the £, or something of that sort. Old Age Pensions were never going to cost more than £6,000,000 a year, and they now cost £35,000,000. Therefore, I do not pay much attention to the statement that this Bill is only going to cost £15,000. Then the noble Earl says that it has been tried in Ireland, and it has been a success, the result being that all the bad Irish bulls are coming over here. If the noble Earl likes to bring in a Bill to exclude Irish cattle I do not think I object, but that is an entirely different thing from instructing the farmer how to carry on his business. The noble Earl says, if I understood him correctly, that the result will be that the farmer will have to pay more for his bull. I think that is so, and it is not a very propitious moment for farmers to pay more for what they have to buy.

It seems to me that the only people who will benefit are the breeders of pedigree cattle. I once bought a pedigree bull, and I never want to do it again. I buy all my own stock and have done so for many years. I was once at a sale on a rather wet day, when not many people were there, and three or four pedigree heifers were offered for sale. I thought they were very nice-looking, and as they were not fetching much above the price of an ordinary heifer, I ventured to buy three. Having bought three, I thought "Now I must buy a pedigree bull." And I visioned to myself the first prize at the Royal Agricultural Show. I went to a friend of mine who was very successful in my county in breeding pedigree hulls, and I said: "I want to buy a pedigree bull. Have you anything about fourteen months old?" He said: "Oh yes, I will show you three or four." I eventually bought one with a very long pedigree, and gave £45 for it. I sent a cattle cart and two or three men, and took a great deal of trouble about it. I kept it a year. It served twenty-five or thirty cows and heifers, and it got one calf; and so, having had it for a year, and it having performed like that, I thought that was sufficient and I sold it for I bought from a neighbouring farmer quite as good looking a bull for £18 and I put that bull to the heifer and cows that the pedigree bull had been put to, and it got every one in calf. Therefore I do not want to buy any more pedigree bulls.

I was talking on Tuesday to one of the largest land agents in my part of the world, and I told him that. He said: "That is a very common thing. These high bred pedigree bulls and pedigree rams are often not prolific." What does the ordinary farmer want? He wants something that is prolific, and, if this Bill is passed, my own belief is that he will have to pay considerably more for his bull, and not get the result which he desires. And just think what happens to a milk farmer in that situation. He must get his cows into milk regularly. He cannot afford to let them be out of service for a certain time. They must come on regularly, and if he buys the bulls, such as the noble Earl spoke of —I am not at all sure that he is not a pedigree breeder himself—the result may be the same as happened to me.

Let me turn to the Bill. The first thing I see is that somebody on summary conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding £20. The Bill is full of fines and summary convictions. Then the next thing I see in Clause 1 (2) is this:— For the purpose of any proceedings in respect of an offence under this section, it shall be presumed until the contrary is proved that the bull had attained the prescribed age …. I appeal to my noble and learned friend below me (Viscount Hailsham). I am an ignorant person, and do not understand law, but I always understood that at law a person was supposed to be innocent until he was proved guilty. I thought that was one of the great advantages of English law. Now that is all over-ridden, and a man is supposed to be guilty until he proves his innocence, which seems to me to be a novel proceeding. That, I suppose, is what the noble Earl means when he speaks of wanting to destroy something. He is destroying part of the old English law. Clause 2 says:— …the Minister may, subject to the provisions of this section …. grant in the prescribed form …. a licence to keep the bull. There is nothing to say that he must grant a licence. Then subsection (3) says:— The Minister may refuse to grant or may revoke a permit on any grounds which appear to him sufficient. That is the old thing: do away with Parliament, do away with the Courts of Law, let the Minister do whatever he pleases. That clause seems to me to be enough to cause the Bill to be rejected.

Then we have a very extraordinary provision in Clause 2 (5). I do not understand it. It says:— If notice is given under the last foregoing subsection to a person who is not the owner of the bull, it shall be the duty of that person forthwith to inform the owner accordingly, and, if he fails to do so, he shall be liable to indemnify the owner against any loss the owner may suffer by reason of the failure. What on earth does that mean? I am not the owner of a certain bull in a certain district. The Minister comes to me and says: "You must go and tell this person that something is going to happen to his bull." Why should I do that? What has that to do with me?

Let us turn to Clause 4: It shall be a condition of a licence or permit granted under this Act that the holder thereof shall— (b) submit the bull to which the licence or permit relates to inspection by any officer of the Ministry when required at any reasonable time by such an officer so to do, and render all reasonable assistance to that officer for the purpose of the inspection. "Reasonable time"—that is supposed to be the safeguard. What is a reasonable time? I suppose two or three o'clock in the afternoon will be a reasonable time. But suppose it happens to be in the hay or corn harvest, and the farmer is in his hayfield a mile from his yard where the bull is. An officer of the Ministry comes at two o'clock in the afternoon—quite a reasonable time—and says: "I want to see your bull." The farmer probably has his stockman working in the harvest field with him. He has to go and render reasonable assistance to that officer for the purpose of the inspection. And all this at a time when farming is not doing well, and when the last thing a farmer wants is all this interference with the manner of his doing business.

Then turn to subsection (3), which states that the Minister may …make it a condition of the licence that the bull shall not, for such period as the Minister may think fit"— that is, if somebody thinks the bull is affected by a disease— be allowed to serve a cow, and the licence shall be endorsed accordingly. So, if I have a bull which may be a little ill for the moment, I cannot allow him to serve a cow when he gets quite well unless I run all over the place and find the Minister or his official and get leave to do so. Next we come to Clause 4 (5), which says that if any person allows a bull to serve a cow in contravention of a condition of a licence he shall be liable to a penalty of £20.

Clause 5 does appear to give the unfortunate farmer an opportunity of appealing against the decision of the Minister, because it says that if the Minister refuses to grant a licence, or revokes a licence, the applicant, on payment of a fee not exceeding five guineas, may require a referee's inspection of the bull. What is the good of that in view of the provision I have read out in Clause 2 (3)?— The Minister may refuse to grant or may revoke a permit on any grounds which appear to him sufficient. That being in the Bill, what is the good of the subsection I have just referred to, which says that if I pay five guineas I may appeal, but that, after my appeal is made, the Minister may, without giving any reasons, refuse it?

Clause 6, says that the Minister or any officer of the Ministry may, by notice and so on, order a bull to be slaughtered or castrated within such time after the notice takes effect as may be specified in the notice. What does that mean? It means, as I understand it, that if I have a bull the Minister, or rather his official can come round and say: "We are not going to license that hull. You have to kill it or castrate it." As your Lordships know, a bull to be in good condition for service ought not to be fat. He is not in a condition to be sold as a fat bull. Therefore, if he cannot be used for service you try to get him fat so as to send him to market as a fat bull. But the Minister may say: "No, you kill him," or "You castrate him," and there is no appeal. It is rather a difficult thing to castrate a big bull three years old. Surely the noble Earl does not expect the farmer to do it himself. He may he had up; at least, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals may prosecute him for attempting to do it. He will have to employ a veterinary surgeon. I am not at all sure whether, under an Act passed by a better Government, the last Conservative Government, you must administer chloroform if you perform castration. Here is a further expense put upon the farmer.

Then there is a very extraordinary provision. I am sorry to trouble my noble and learned friend so much, but I must call his attention to it. Subsection (3) of Clause 6 says:— If a notice under this section is duly served on a person who is not the owner of the bull, it shall be the duty of that person forthwith to inform the owner accordingly, and, if he fails to do so, he shall be liable to indemnify the owner against any loss the owner may suffer by reason of the failure. What on earth does that mean? Does it mean that the Minister's official may go round, go into the first farm he sees, hand a notice to the man he sees there—who is not the owner of the bull and, apparently, not the owner of any bull—and tell him to go and find some bull and hand the notice to the owner of it? If he does not do that he has to compensate the owner for any loss the owner may suffer by reason of his failure. That really seems to me to be a most extraordinary provision. I should have thought it hardly possible even for the present Government—and they can do a great deal that is bad—to put forward any such clause.

Then subsection (5) provides that if any person on whom notice has been served under the clause fails to comply, he is liable to a fine of for every day during which the failure continues. And subsection (7) provides:— If a notice duly served under this section is not complied with, the Minister may cause the bull …. to be slaughtered or castrated at the expense of the person on whom the notice was served, and the cost of the slaughter or castration shall be paid by that person to the Minister"— the Minister is going to make some money there. It would suit the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I think, is rather hard up at the moment— on demand, or in default may be recovered from that person by the Minister summarily as a civil debt. Clause 7 enacts that the owner who has a permit has to produce it whenever required to an officer of the Ministry or a police officer. Suppose a farmer is in the market. A police officer asks him: "Where is your permit?" and is told that it is at home, five miles off. Has the farmer to go five miles and bring back the permit in order to show it to the police officer?

Paragraph (b) of subsection (1) says that if a licence has been granted—he is all right there—the licence has to be shown to the person in charge of the cow which is about to be served by the bull. So that if a farmer is good enough to allow his bull to serve a cow, somebody has to produce a licence. Then there are more penalties, with which I need not deal, for non-compliance.

Clause 10 provides that an officer of the Ministry shall have power at all reasonable times to do all sorts of things —to inspect any bull, to mark any bull, or to enter on any premises where he has reason to believe a bull is kept. If anybody obstructs or impedes an officer of the Ministry in the exercise of any power conferred upon him by the Bill, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20. And in the next subsection there is another fine of £20. Clause 12 says that the expenses of the Minister under the Act may be approved by the Treasury and, so far as they are not met by receipts, they shall be defrayed out of money provided by Parliament. So that there is to be more expenditure at a time when it is the last thing that we ought to undertake.

The noble Earl said something about the National Farmers Union. Some three or four years ago when there was a question of a Bill of this sort, the Farmers Union were strongly opposed to it. Last Monday I saw one of the leading members of the Farmers Union in my district, and I showed him the Bill, which, fortunately, I had. He was horrified at it and sug- ested that I should write to the Farmers Union in Bedford Square and ask them what they thought about it. In reply, I received this letter which I shall be very glad to show to the noble Earl. I will not trouble your Lordships with the whole of it. The Farmers Union apparently wanted to see the Bill, but they had had a disagreement with the Minister and did not see it. They say in the letter:— Consequently, we have had no intimation of the contents of the Bill until we received a copy of it this week. The Bill is being placed before an early meeting of our Live-stock and Wool Committee, and will then be circulated to all our county branches. So, at the present moment, a majority of the Farmers Union, with the exception of those to whom I showed the Bill the other day, have not even seen it. Therefore, I would suggest that it is an extremely bad time to bring it forward when the people who are concerned have had no opportunity of knowing something about it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out ("now") and at end of the Motion add ("this day six months").—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)


My Lords, as a practical farmer in Wales, this matter has interested me for many years, and I have been enormously impressed by what has been done in Ireland. Since the Irish Free State have had the management of their own affairs, they have dealt with this matter and the result, I know, has been extraordinarily satisfactory. The whole of the young stock turned out and bred in Ireland and sent to this country are on a higher level than they were five years or even three years ago. I understand that they are steadily improving. For that reason, I consider it is extraordinarily satisfactory that this Bill, which I understand has been under consideration by Ministers of Agriculture for a good many years, has at last been boldly brought into your Lordships' House. I feel convinced that within three years of this Bill becoming an Act of Parliament everyone in this country will look back with surprise at the fact that it had not been passed earlier. I agree with my noble friend Lord Banbury that this £15,000 could be very easily saved in the way he suggests, but if there is any difficulty on the ground of expense I hope that the saving of the proposed opera subsidy will be a solution.


My Lords, it pains me very much to find myself at variance with my noble friend Lord Banbury, partly because his detestation of compulsion in all its forms is shared to the fullest possible degree by myself, and it pains me also to find myself supporting a Bill advanced in this House from the Government Benches. None the less, I would like to commend this Bill to the House for its favourable consideration. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, really touched the one important matter when he said that if we are to do any good in marketing in the future, and in the improvement of the quality of our stock, which alone can guarantee that market, this is an essential preliminary. That is really the whole thing. This Bill is very long overdue, but let us recognise that it does apply to dairy farmers as a whole restrictions and expenditure their acceptance of which entitles them not only to credit but to consideration in future measures. It does, it must impose upon them expenses which they do not now have to bear, and if in the interests of the community as a whole they are to be forced to bear them, do not let us at some future time forget their claims upon Parliament when they advocate measures to assist the dairy industry.

That said, I really think that nothing can be advanced against this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Banbury, made a most libellous statement about the prolific qualities of pedigree bulls.


I only stated my experience.


The noble Lord's experience, I am happy to think, must have been quite unique. But admitting that the libel upon the pedigree bulls was not a libel in the case of the noble Lord, but is libellous in general terms—admitting that, and admitting, too, that this Bill must, and I trust will, he of some assistance to the pedigree stock industry, my answer to that is, why not 7 The pedigree stock industry has been the main spring of agriculture for a number of years, and it would ill become this House or either House of Parliament to say or do anything which could injure the prospects of the pedigree stock industry. That is by the way. We come back always to the main point, and it is this, that we must produce a quality of meat in this country which can successfully and consistently compete with the carefully bred beef which is imported into this country. There is no breeder abroad who hopes to compete in this market who does not take uncommonly good care to purchase from this country the best possible bulls that he can obtain. Surely, it is a little short-sighted of our own breeders of stock, whether dairy-farmers or other, not to obtain from the source which is handy the same class of stock that these foreigners and fellow-compatriots in the Dominions are in such haste and so determined to have? That is only common sense.

The noble Lord, Lord Banbury, referred to the importation of bulls from Ireland, and pointed out that if we wished to prevent those bad bulls being imported into this country, we should enter into negotiations with the 'Free State Government and act on that side. But this Bill has the same effect. These imported bulls, if they are bad, will be subjected to the same inspection to which the home trade bulls will he subjected; so of course they will be in due course eliminated. At least I take it the effect will be that they will be eliminated. There is only one other point to which I would like to refer. I find myself whole-heartedly in favour of the Bill, although I recognise to the full that in the noble Lord, Lord Banbury's most delightful speech he did put his finger on very many anomalies and points that we would accept only too gladly if the objective of the Bill did not justify the means which are being pursued to obtain it. I admit that with great pleasure, but there is one point to which he referred, and to which I would like to refer in particular, and that is the increase in the number of officials. I do not think we ought to permit an increase in the officials necessary to implement this Bill without being more satisfied than we can be at the present time that that increase is really necessary. I have the greatest respect naturally for the officials of every Government Department, but they are not over worked, and I think this House would like to know whether the existing staff of the Ministry is not already amply sufficient to deal with this new measure.

I am not able to form an accurate opinion on the subject, because, clearly one's knowledge of the whole country is not the same as one's knowledge of one's own locality; but, so far as I am able to judge, it ought to be possible to give effect to this measure without adding to the officials attached to the Ministry, and if we want to justify and popularise the measure, both with the general public and the farming community, one of the best means of doing it will be to give them an assurance that no further officials are to be appointed. I wonder whether the Government realise the horror, the something worse than horror, the bitter feeling which is being created throughout the country at this constant increase of officials. It really is a very serious matter. You hear this dislike of the increase of officials talked about at every street corner, and behind every fence, and whenever you meet another man. If you want to commend your Bill to the public and the farming community, I ask you to do your very best not to increase the number of officials. With that slight exception, I beg to commend the Bill most heartily to the House, and I shall he very glad to give it my own personal support.


My Lords, I only rise to say that we on this Bench desire to support the principle of this Bill, although, naturally, we do not support the Bill in all its details. I should like to say that in the part of the world in which I live the agricultural communities as a whole, I think, put forward to the Ministry a: scheme very much on the lines which appear in this Bill. They did have some differences, which I suggest that my noble friend opposite (Earl De La Warr) should consider if the Government really want to get the farmers on their side. I think it might be of advantage, although from a Departmental point of view there are many disadvantages in it, if you could not bring this Bill into operation until you have got the support of the farmers unions and the agricultural committees. I do not think it would be difficult to get support from the farmers if that was done, and the Bill was brought into effect in each county as that, support was obtained. If that were done, I think the opposition to the Bill would almost dis- appear. I realise to the full the disadvantage of having a scheme running in one county and not in the county next to it; but I am not sure really that you would not gain more by obtaining the help and assistance of the farmers rather than suffering all the disadvantages which weigh against it.

As regards the speech of my noble friend Lord Banbury, I may perhaps be able to comfort him in one respect and that is that Clause 2 would affect the pedigree bull quite as much as it affects the non-pedigree bull. Therefore if any bull is non-prolific it will fail to get a certificate.


But does my noble friend think that the Minister, or his representative, knows anything about bulls? Will they not say: "Oh this hull has a pedigree, therefore it is all right?"


I think that is just what is not likely. I think my noble friend opposite knows.


But is he going to inspect?


No. The live stock officer will inspect, and I can tell my noble friend this in support of live stock officers, that a farmer sometimes goes to a live stock officer and says: "Can you find me a suitable bull?" The live stock officer has got the farmer exactly what he requires and sometimes at a price below that which the farmer was willing to give. It is true, I think, that expenses of travelling to find the bull fall on the taxpayer and not on the purchaser, and that is a matter which in these hard times may require consideration. That raises a further point. My noble friend Lord Hastings made a very strong plea—which I am sure we shall all back up—that the number of officials should be kept at the very lowest figure, and that if possible there should be no increase at all beyond the present number. If live stock officers can find bulls for farmers, it does seem to me that they might be able to take on these additional duties without their number having to be increased.

There is a further point arising under Clause 5. I can appreciate that the Department does not want to tie itself down definitely to schemes which must naturally differ in different parts of the country, but we have no information as to what type of referee is to be appointed—whether the referee is to be a veterinary surgeon or a representative, say, of one of the special associations which look after particular breeds, or perhaps of a milk recording society. I think we should like to have a little more information as to what is in the minds of the Department in regard to that panel of referees. I would like also to suggest, that a fee of five guineas does seem rather high. It is quite true that you wish to impose on the fanner a preventive from making what I may call frivolous appeals and that if an appeal succeeds the fee will be refunded, but to ask a farmer to pay a fee not exceeding five guineas seems excessive. I should have thought a fee of two guineas would be sufficient. These, of course, are matters for Committee, and I really only ruse to say that on the general principle of the Bill we shall support the Government.


My Lords, like the noble Earl I am in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill, but, like him, disagree with many of its provisions. To my mind the Bill seems, to a large extent, to be doing the right thing in the wrong way. We have had several instances of that. Bills of this nature do not represent what is the real agricultural feeling in the country. I quit e admit that it represents the feelings of the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society and of breed societies, but, if I may venture to say so, although I have the honour of being a member of the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society, I think we must not entirely look at it from their point of view. I should like to look at it principally from the point of view of the tenant farmer.

I am in agreement with much that was said by my noble friend Lord Banbury. There is a good deal in this Bill which will press very hardly upon small farmers. On the other hand, I quite agree that it is necessary that we should improve our stock in this country. I am aware that legislation of this nature has had a wonderful effect in Ireland and that the stock they send over to different markets has shown an enormous improvement over the stock sent twenty years ago. I also think that the Minister is given a, great deal too much power by this Bill. As has been stated on other occasions, there has been rather a tendency to put powers in the hands of Ministers without specifying those powers in the Bill. A great deal is left to regulations. I think noble Lords will see that this Bill gives great powers for making orders and regulations and revoking licences. Moreover, there is a particular clause relating to diseases which says that a bull may be declared to be incompetent and that it should not be used. As regards what is described as" inadequately prolific," I think we should have further information as to what is the idea of the Minister on that point. I understand that in the case of stallions if they fail to produce twenty per cent. they are declared "inadequately prolific."

I also very much agree with the noble Earl when he says that he regards a five guinea fee as too high. That fee is too much for a small man to have to pay, and I am very doubtful whether it ought to be thrown upon the individual because this legislation and this inspection are for the general benefit of the country. It is not a personal matter. As the Government are not afraid of spending money on opera, I should like to suggest that instead of giving money to opera they should use it to pay for these inspections and save the small farmer the necessity of paying when he has to make an appeal. I am rather doubtful also about the provision that the referee should be appointed by the Minister. It seems rather like appointing a man to be the judge in his own ease. It seems to me to be desirable that the man who is appointed as referee should be appointed by some entirely independent body. The appeal will be against the decision of the Minister or his servant, and surely the Minister is not the man to say whether it is right or wrong? The referee ought to be appointed independently of the Ministry and not be paid by the Ministry in any sense at all.

Further, I notice that Clause 11 gives power to the Minister to make regulations and I was very much surprised to see that that was not followed by the ordinary clause providing that these regulations and orders made by the Minister should lie on the Table of both Houses of Parliament and should not come into effect until they were approved. I notice that under the Irish Act, which was passed in 1925, it is necessary to lay regulations on the Table of both Houses in the Irish Free State. I am rather surprised, as this Bill is copied so much from that Act, that it does not contain that provision. It is a matter which I think requires to be seriously looked into. I am also rather surprised that. the noble Earl—he will correct me if I am wrong—when he was saying that various people had been consulted, made no mention of the agricultural committees of the county councils.


I think they are represented on the Council of Agriculture, are they not?


Do I understand the noble Earl has consulted the agricultural committees?


The Council of Agriculture, which is composed mainly of them.


But not the actual committees?


Not individually, no.


When the late Government brought in this Bill it was not at all approved by the agricultural committees and I imagine that is why they did not proceed with the Bill. As the agricultural committees have not had this Bill before them, I venture to suggest that there should be a considerable time before the next stage is taken, in order that these agricultural committees of the county councils may have adequate time to consider the Bill and see whether they want any amendment made in regard to details. They will no doubt say whether they approve of the Bill or not, but it is more important that they should be able to consider the details and what amendments they require.

I am rather surprised that it has not been thought desirable by the Government to make use of the agricultural committees of the county councils, which are composed not only of practical farmers, but also of the squires in their particular areas and, last but not least from the Government point of view, of representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture. I would go a little further and suggest, not only that these committees should be consulted, but that the Govern- ment might also consider whether it would not be feasible to ask these agricultural committees to carry on the working of a good deal of this Bill, and put the responsibility upon them. These committees have their own officials, of whom use might be made, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Hastings that we do not want a large increase of officials, which would cause a general grievance. I venture to say to the noble Earl that, if he could get the agricultural committees to undertake this work to a large extent, he would do away with a great deal of friction and with the opposition that undoubtedly exists at the present time to this Bill.

I should like to quote an opinion which I think will appeal to many noble Lords. Shortly before the lamented death of Mr. Macdonald, the agricultural correspondent of The Times, whose agricultural comments we always read with such interest every Monday, I had the opportunity of having a talk with him on this question. I asked him how he thought the Bill ought to be worked. He said that he thought it ought to be worked through the farmers' organisations, and not directly from White-hall. I suggested to him that it might possibly be desirable that the agricultural committees of the county councils should practically administer the Bill, and he said that, if this was done, he was certain that there would be no objection to the Bill, and that the desire of the ordinary farmer was to avoid what he considered interference from Government Departments. During the War such interference was necessary, but we all disliked it and the farmers have not forgotten it. I am sure that, if the Bill is to work without friction, it would be desirable, if the noble Lord could see his way to do so, to give certain powers to the agricultural committees, so that they might have a good deal to do with the administration of it. My criticism has concerned only the details of the Bill. I approve of the principle and shall certainly vote for the Second Reading.


My Lords, I also welcome this Bill, and I have only two points to make in regard to it. The first concerns the officials. I should have thought that the present live stock officers could have done a good deal. I have often wondered how some of the live stock officers managed to employ their time. A great deal of assistance could also be obtained from the milk recording societies and the breed societies, and, if I might endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Strachie, a good deal of use might also be made of the agricultural committees of the counties and of the officials employed by them. I think this might smooth such opposition as there may be to this Bill among a certain class of farmers, and give general assistance in carrying out the terms of the Bill with the least possible friction.

The only other remark that I should like to make concerns the questions of the referee and of the fine of five guineas. I think that the fine, if I may say so, is too high, at least for the class of farmer that it will probably hit. As to the referees, I venture to hope that the Government will give us a little more information as to who they will be. I hope that the local organisations in the counties and the breed societies will be consulted and will be allowed to have something to say on that point. Otherwise I am very glad that this Bill has been brought forward LORD RAGLAN: My Lords, before the noble Earl rises to reply, there is one question that I should like to ask. If this Bill passes into law, will His Majesty's Government consider the desirability of extending its provisions to human beings?


My Lords, as apparently every noble Lord who has spoken, with the exception, I think, of Lord Kylsant, is in favour of the principle of the Bill but disagrees with most of its provisions, I shall not press my Amendment to a Division, on the understanding, to which I feel certain that noble Lords opposite will agree, that we do not take the Committee stage of the Bill until next January. Is that so?


That would be so.


In those circumstances, I should not put the House to the trouble of a Division, though personally I have always found it far better, if you disagree with all the clauses of a Bill, to reject it on Second Reading and not to wait for a Committee stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, since the noble Lord opposite has withdrawn his Amendment, I do not think it is necessary for me to say very much, exept that we certainly shall not take the Committee stage until January. There are, perhaps, one or two points that I might just touch upon, in order that, when the Committee stage arrives, your Lordships may be in a good frame of mind to receive it. On the question of the necessary officials, I can say that we have been into this question very thoroughly. The live stock officers have at the moment a great multitude of duties and are very busy men. Under this Bill they are going to be asked to carry out the inspection of 60,000 bulls in England and 8,000 in Scotland. I think your Lordships will agree that this is a very considerable task. I think the clause providing for appeal really meets most of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, but one or two questions were asked on that point.

I was asked first who would be appointed as referees. If your Lordships will look at Clause 5, you will see that they will be appointed by the Minister after consultation with agricultural associations and cattle breeding societies, but I think it is difficult to specify the names of these associations and societies because, if we once specify them, some of them might at a later date go out of existence. The particular committees which we consulted on the details of the Bill during the last month included, in England and Wales, the Councils of Agriculture for England and Wales and the National Cattle Breeders Association. The National Farmers Union were invited, but, owing to a dispute with the Government that was not really connected with this Bill at all, they refused to attend. This is the sort of body with whom we should confer in appointing a referee. It will be that sort of committee that we intend to set up as soon as this Bill is passed to help us to prepare regulations. One point that forgot to mention in moving the Second Reading is that this Bill will not come into operation until the appointed day, which cannot be within two years of its passing, so that we have plenty of time for dealing with the details. I would only like to add that, having heard the buying experiences of the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, I would suggest to him that perhaps the Minister runs his own farm better, and I think that it might be well, before the noble Lord goes into the buying market again, that he should get some advice.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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