HL Deb 15 February 1938 vol 107 cc645-52

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Merthyr.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause r agreed to.

Clause 2:


2. The operation of docking or of nicking may be performed in any case in which a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, after examination of the horse, has certified in writing that such operation in his opinion is necessary for the health of the horse because of disease of or injury to the tail.

THE EARL OF RADNOR moved to insert at the beginning of the clause: (1) The operation of docking may be performed upon any heavy draught horse or vanner under two years of age. (2).

The noble Earl said: I have just had it pointed out to me that there is a slight error in the Amendment as printed; it should be read as though the "(a)" before "upon" were omitted. This Amendment looks very much like a wrecking Amendment, and in fact, if your Lordships agree to it, it will undoubtedly wreck the Bill, because it eliminates from the operation of the Bill all draught horses, and draught horses are the ones most affected by the Bill. In intention, however, it is not an Amendment to wreck the Bill, because your Lordships have agreed to the Bill in principle and I am not prepared to disagree with the decision to which you came on the Second Reading. At the same time I do desire very much to keep out of the Bill, so far as possible, horses which may be sold for draught purposes by the farmer to the town user of heavy draught horses.

I am firmly convinced that, whatever may be the reason—many of your Lordships think it is fashion and I tried, unsuccessfully, to argue on the Second Reading that it is utility—among the users of heavy draught horses there is undoubtedly a dislike of horses with long tails. The passing of this Bill into law will, I think, deal a further blow to the production of heavy horses in this country by tending to make the users dislike horses and turn more and more to machinery. When, however, I came to go into the drafting of an Amendment I found it almost impossible to draft one in a narrower sense than that which would include all draught horses of every sort and kind. It is very difficult to define where the heavy draught horse would end and where the vanner would begin. It is therefore drafted on these lines, with the principal object of trying to prevent the heavy horse industry, particularly, suffering a blow, because by insisting upon no docking of horses there may be a prejudice against the utilisation of horses for draught purposes of any sort or kind. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 8, at end, insert the said new subsection.—(The Earl of Radnor.)


The noble Earl has anticipated my statement that this Amendment would, if passed, wreck this Bill. I must say with equal frankness that the Amendment must certainly be resisted, and I am going to ask your Lordships to support the Bill by voting, if need be, against the Amendment. The first weakness that I detect in the Amendment is that it is accompanied by no definition of what a draught horse is, and "vanners" ought properly to be described. It may be that everybody knows, in fact, what they are, but I think your Lordships will agree that in a Bill of this kind a water-tight definition should accompany such an Amendment. No such definition accompanies this Amendment, and indeed it is capable of such wide interpretation that if the Amendment be passed practically any horse, it may be safe to say, could be docked.

The noble Earl mentioned that he wanted to enable farmers to dock horses and sell them as draught horses for use in towns, and I believe it has been submitted that it is in the towns that these docked horses are required. But horses, like most other things, change their ownership, and a horse may be in a town one year and in the country for the rest of its life. It is when it is turned out to grass at the end of its working days, or before, that the cruelty in docking the tail really begins. Therefore I submit that that point does not really meet the desirability of leaving a horse's tail undocked, from the point of view of cruelty. If I were completely to answer the points which the noble Earl made I should have to repeat very much what I said on the Second Reading of this Bill. I have no desire to do that to-day, except just to mention that if it is said that this Amendment is really necessary—if it is said that it is necessary for driven horses to have their tails docked—then I say that that statement can he countered by the statement that all the world over millions of these horses with undocked tails are being driven.

It may be that in London, and even in this country as a whole, the majority of vanners and draught horses now have docked tails. If we take a larger unit, however, if we go further afield and look at other countries, say, at the United States, which has a temperature or climate more or less the same as our own, there we find, in that up-to-date progressive country, literally millions of horses being driven with undocked tails. I submit that that fact alone should convince your Lordships that this practice is not only cruel but unnecessary. As I have said already, I do not wish to detain the Committee by repeating all the points which I ventured to bring to your Lordships' notice a fortnight ago. I would only ask you to bear this point in mind, that if a man driving a horse does not like its tail at full length he can, without docking it shorten the tail by tying it up or braiding it, and thereby getting it out of the way. Since the Second Reading I have seen photographs of the various methods used, and those photographs show quite plainly that by means of those processes which I have described this argument of the noble Earl can be met, and that the presence of a long tail, from whatever point of view it is objected to, can be avoided without docking. I ask your Lordships in all sincerity to resist the Amendment.


I do not propose to detain your Lordships longer on this Amendment but I should have been glad if the noble Lord could have given me one word of sympathy for the unfortunate farmer. I am all the more surprised that the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture in this House has not given us that one word of sympathy. As I have said, this is an Amendment which is in effect wrecking, and I do not propose to ask your Lordships to divide upon it, because it would only be to repeat the Division which we had on the Second Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Prohibition of Importatation of docked and/or nicked horses.

4. The importation into the United Kingdom of a horse with a docked and/or nicked tail is prohibited. A horse with a docked and/or nicked tail shall be deemed to be included in the Table of prohibitions and restrictions inwards contained in Section forty-two of the Customs Consolidation Act. 1876, and the provisions of that Act and of any Act reenacting, amending or extending the same shall apply accordingly.

LORD MERTHYR moved to leave out "and" ["and/or"]. The noble Lord said: This Amendment is only a drafting Amendment. I am advised that the word "and" is not here necessary.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 2, leave out ("and").—(Lord Merthyr.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment, in the next line, is exactly the same.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 3, leave out ("and").—(Lord Merthyr.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MERTHYR moved to insert the following new subsection: (2) This section shall come into operation on the first day of January nineteen hundred and forty-five.

The noble Lord said: I have put down this Amendment in accordance with the undertaking which I gave on the Second Reading, that if your Lordships gave the Bill a Second Reading the operation of the clause which prohibits the importation of docked horses should be postponed for six years after the coming into operation of the Bill as a whole. The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, has also an Amendment down to postpone the operation of the clause for three years, so that we differ only in point of time. The figure of six years was arrived at in consultation with the representatives of certain importing interests engaged in importing horses from the Continent. It was pointed out to me, I think with fairness and with a good deal of weight, that if this clause were not postponed there would be a good deal of unfairness, because whilst the Bill would not affect any docked horse which was at that moment in this country it would, on the other hand, affect every docked horse then on the Continent and it would, therefore, in consequence give an unfair advantage to the owner of a docked horse in this country over the owner of the docked horse abroad which was intended for importation into this country. I readily saw the point, and I had no hesitation in putting down this Amendment in order to meet the objection.

It is a matter for your Lordships to decide what period is a fair one, but I am going to ask you to support the six-year Amendment because that was the agreement with the importing interests. I do not think that it is unfair to the borne producer or the home breeder. Of course the promotors of this Bill are not concerned in any way with the question of Free Trade or Protection; they neither wish to help nor to hinder the home breeder or the foreign breeder, they only wish to arrive at a Bill which will be fair to both of them. I feel myself that the six-year postponement would be a fair one, and not the three. Although I should like in other ways to meet the noble Earl, and I hope to be able to do so, I must ask the Committee to accept my Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 8, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Merthyr.)


If the only argument in favour of six years was that it gave the home producer an unfair advantage over the importer I am afraid I should resist this Amendment very strongly, because it is the kind of unfairness that I, and I think the farming community in this country, would dislike very much. But since I put down my Amendment I understand there are very considerable difficulties about fulfilling the demand if the three-year period were inserted, and therefore I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment when it comes forward.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF RADNOR moved to insert: Provided that nothing in this section shall prevent the importation into the United Kingdom of any horse which is certified by an official of the Ministry of Agriculture or the secretary of any horse breeding society approved for the purpose by the Ministry of Agriculture, to be imported solely for the purposes of exhibition or breeding.

The noble Earl said: This is an Amendment to provide that any horse which is certified as approved for the purpose of breeding or exhibition should be allowed to be imported. I understand the noble Lord in charge of the Bill has no objection to "breeding," but there are certain objections to the "exhibition" of horses because exhibition horses may come into this country and remain here for purposes other than exhibition or breeding. I had in mind more particularly those horses that come over here for international jumping competitions and the like at the big horse shows in the summer. But I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, is prepared to meet me in some way, and I hope your Lordships will therefore agree to this proviso substantially.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 8, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Radnor.)


I think I should here point out that there are one or two practical difficulties in the way of the Amendment. In view of the practical difficulty of verifying the facts upon which a certificate under the Amendment would have to be given, such a provision could be utilised to secure the admission of many docked or nicked horses intended for other purposes than that of exhibition. Further, the Amendment would involve the examination of every horse imported into the country. The noble Earl has suggested that this examination should be by an official of the Ministry of Agriculture; but imported horses are not at present required to be examined by an inspector of the Ministry at the port of entry, and to make a requirement of this kind would involve extra expenditure that might be considered to be of an unnecessary character.

The present position with regard to imported horses and mules is that under the Importation of Horses, Asses and Mules Order, 1921, they must be accompanied by a certificate of freedom from certain diseases, and this certificate has to be handed to the officer of Customs and Excise at the port of landing. If any animal arrives without this certificate, or if the certificate is not in order, the Customs officer communicates these facts to the Ministry, who then take up the matter with the importer of the horse. There would be no practical difficulty in requiring a statement to be added to the certificate, either that the horse has not been docked or nicked, or that, if it has been docked or nicked, the operation was necessary for the health of the horse because of disease or because of injury to the tail. I have made this statement because if the Bill makes further progress it will be necessary for the Government to put down an Amendment to Clause 4 on these lines.


So far as the importation of horses for the purpose of breeding is concerned, I have no hesitation, subject to what has just been said by the noble Earl who speaks for the Government, in accepting this Amendment, but I am not quite happy about the other part of it which seeks to allow the importation of docked horses for exhibition purposes. There would be no objection to the importation of a docked horse for exhibition at one of the well-known horse shows, but, as the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, himself pointed out, this Amendment as now drafted might lead to what would be, in our view, abuses. It might lead to the importation of a horse under the cloak of exhibition, and I think the Amendment needs redrafting and to some extent tightening up. If the noble Earl will withdraw it and if an Amendment, to be drafted between him and myself—and I hope we might have the assistance of the Ministry —were then introduced at a later stage, I feel quite certain that we should be able to accept it and that that Amendment would be mutually agreeable. If the noble Earl could see his way to withdraw his Amendment at this stage I feel sure we could satisfy him at a later stage.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for the way he has met this Amendment. I quite appreciate the difficulties arising, and I think it would be an excellent plan that I should withdraw the Amendment at this stage and, in consultation with him and the Ministry of Agriculture, possibly re-draft it. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Clause 7:


7. This Act shall come into operation OIL the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine.


The Amendment to this clause is consequential. It follows upon the postponement of Clause 4 for a period of six years. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 17, after ("shall") insert ("except as otherwise provided").—(Lord Merthyr.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.