HL Deb 20 April 1948 vol 155 cc216-41

5.14 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, on several occasions this House has pressed for a measure to increase the number of veterinary surgeons and to deal otherwise with veterinary surgery in this country. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has been equally anxious to bring forward legislation to this end. It is therefore with some gratification that I am presenting this Bill, and commend it to your Lordships for a Second Reading.

I think it is recognised that we need a great many more veterinary surgeons. Not only was this apparent before the Second World War, but the new developments in scientific thought and the new outlook on preventive medicine have greatly increased the need, particularly in regard to teaching and research. The Loveday Committee examined this question very thoroughly indeed, and recognised that the intention of the Coalition Government to maintain a healthy and well-balanced agriculture would undoubtedly call for a greater number of veterinary surgeons. The Committee also took into account other factors, including the rapidly growing needs of the Colonies. This Government have gone further than that. They have not only started in Africa and elsewhere overseas great developments which will also call for more veterinary surgeons, but have instituted a food expansion programme in which farmers will need to call on veterinary surgeons to a far larger extent—particularly if they can add to the number of livestock which we hope will be built up as soon as feeding stuffs allow.

Disease is the great enemy we have to face. Here I would like to pay a tribute to the veterinary service, which has in the past made such gigantic strides in fighting that evil. It has eliminated such diseases as rinderpest, pleuro-pneumonia and sheep pox, which at one time ravaged our herds. Even when we come to the terrible foot and mouth disease our losses, great as they are, are nothing like the losses which are suffered by other countries. That, I think, is due to the skill and hard work of the veterinary service. But we know that we need, and must have, more research and greater practice. Unfortunately at the present time, and in face of the shortage, only about 150 veterinary surgeons are being turned out every year.

I do not necessarily refer to your Lordships' House, but I sometimes wonder if in the country generally we realise the great importance of this profession. It goes back, as some of your Lordships will know, to pre-Christian times. Even the early Crusaders had their Corps of Marshals to look after their chargers; and in fact they became so important that in the fifteenth century the Aldermen and Mayor of the City of London excluded them from jury service. Your Lordships will sec that in this Bill we have followed that excellent precedent and excluded them again. It was in 1792 that the first veterinary school was founded in London. In 1823 one William Dick founded a college in Edinburgh, and in 1844 the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons received its Charter. But it was in 1881 that the real foundation of the profession was put in proper statutory form. In that year, under the Veterinary Surgeons Act, the register of the Royal College was recognised by Statute and, incidentally, a supplementary register of unqualified practitioners was also instituted. It may interest your Lordships to know that there are two members of that register still alive to-day. They are both over ninety, and one of them, I think, sometimes practices. Your Lordships will see that their rights are safeguarded under Clause 29.

If you will forgive me that short historical interlude I should like to come to the present position. At present, examinations are conducted by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and this is the only avenue into the profession. Courses of instruction are given by Liverpool University, the Royal Veterinary College, London, the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in Edinburgh, and at the Royal Veterinary College in Glasgow. As I have said before, these colleges turn out about 150 qualified men a year. In addition, of course, there are a number of unqualified men who practise all over the country. This Bill sets out to alter that position.

I am glad to say—and I think it is fair to point this out—that this Bill is outside politics; there are no Party politics in it at all, and the contents, except for one or two minor points, are generally agreed and supported by the veterinary profession, by the universities and by the other interested bodies. As your Lordships have probably observed, four major sections of the Bill each deal with an important point in the problems. Clause 1 of the Bill allows the Privy Council, after consultation with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, by order to direct that a veterinary degree given by a specified university shall entitle the holder to be put on the register of veterinary surgeons and become a member of the Royal College. That, I think, is the most important point of the whole Bill—that we have incorporated, or hope to incorporate, the universities into the scheme to provide the education for veterinary candidates. After all, it is their function to train, teach and examine. Their examination will qualify those members to a full place on the register, and to become fully qualified veterinary surgeons. We hope, when we have done this, that very soon in the future the veterinary colleges in London and Edinburgh will be amalgamated with the respective universities, and that new schools will be founded in the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Glasgow. When that happens Glasgow Veterinary College will, of course, cease to provide training. The output of those six universities should be about 220 graduates per annum. But I would like to call your Lordships' attention particularly to this point in the Bill: that further universities can be added; so, if we see that that number is not enough, more can be brought in. The Privy Council are empowered to make further orders as the need may arise.

I think everyone will agree that it is of vital importance that the study and examinations should be of he highest standard. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, as was suggested by the Loveday Committee, should be given a further responsibility and, under this Bill, we propose that they should appoint people to inspect the universities—the premises, the equipment and courses of study—and report back to their College. Further, they should have the power to obtain reports on the examinations. I would like to make it clear that they are not to interfere in the teaching or in the examinations, but are merely to report their opinions to their College who can, if it wishes, raise the matter with the university. Finally, although in practice it is almost certain that the universities themselves would be only too anxious to alter any point which did not satisfy the Royal College, the Privy Council can, if they wish, for their ultimate safeguard, revoke the order allowing the veterinary degree of that particular college.

The next point that arises is in regard to Clauses 9 to 12, and concerns the constitution of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Originally, all members were elected by the profession; we now propose that only twenty members should be so elected, that owing to the new arrangement the Privy Council should elect four, and that each university should elect two. One of these two members from each university is to be a member of the veterinary college. That will be the new arrangement. As in most of these cases, finance is of fundamental importance. As my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has announced in another place, His Majesty's Government are prepared to provide substantially increased financial assistance to veterinary education. The University Grants Committee and the two Agricultural Departments have already set up an inter-departmental Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Trueman, the Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Committee, to look into the whole question of finance, and to make recommendations. In fact, the Committee have already begun visiting the universities and colleges.

Now I come to what is probably the most difficult and most contentious point in the Bill; that is, the one with regard to the unqualified practitioner. As I said before, up and down the country there are a number of these men working and giving service in various ways—some of them very satisfactorily. A large proportion of them have been so working for many years. Mostly they have been employed in looking after dogs, cats, and other small domestic animals of all kinds. But apart from the undesirability of having a lot of unqualified men taking on this type of work, the biggest drawback would clearly be discouragement to intending new entrants to the profession. If they saw a large number of unqualified people practising, young folks who had thought of becoming veterinary surgeons would not be likely to come forward and undertake the strenuous and difficult course which is necessary in order to become qualified veterinary surgeons.

The Chancellor Committee which reported in 1945 examined this question very carefully, and, with one or two minor reservations, His Majesty's Government accept the Committee's findings. The present position is that anyone can start the practice of veterinary surgery so long as they do not imply in any way that they are members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, or use the title of "veterinary surgeon." This Bill proposes to prohibit entirely in future the practise of veterinary surgery by unqualified persons, only excepting certain treatment and minor operations to relieve pain, first-aid in emergency, the treatment of an animal by its owner, and, in certain circumstances, the treatment of farm animals by men engaged in the agricultural industry.

It has always been a principle of Parliament, and a very important one, that whenever a profession like this is restricted, some special provision should be made for existing unqualified practitioners who might otherwise lose their livelihood. So, in Clause 6, the Bill follows the general pattern, and the Royal College is asked to set up a supplementary register on which they can register existing unregistered practitioners who have reached the age of twenty-eight years, are of good character, and have been practising for not less than seven out of the last ten years. There are also special provisions for men who have had their practice interrupted by work of national importance, or as the result of being in the Services. People on this supplementary register will be subject to the full discipline of the Royal College. They will have the advantage of being able to buy the necessary drugs and to use the title of "veterinary practitioner" as set out in Clause 8. I would like your Lordships especially to note that the title of veterinary surgeon is reserved exclusively to persons on the register of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Clearly as time passes the supplementary register will become smaller and smaller. I suggest that this scheme provides a fair and practical way of solving what is a rather difficult problem.


Could the noble Earl give us any idea as to what is the number of these unqualified practitioners?


I am afraid I could not. As they are not registered it is only by devious ways that we can arrive at any estimate of the number at all.

Following out of this, the Bill, in Clause 7, deals with the position of animal welfare societies, such as the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals of the Poor. These societies are supported entirely by voluntary contribution, and look after animals belonging to people who cannot afford to go to the ordinary veterinary surgeon. I understand that the societies agree with the principles of the Bill. They agree, also, that they should employ qualified men. On the other hand, they point out that there is such a shortage of qualified men that if they were restricted to the employment of such men they would have to cut down a large part of their work and shut dispensaries all over the country. Of course, the last thing His Majesty's Government would wish to do would be to interrupt the good work which is carried on. They wish, in fact, to help these organisations as much as possible. This is the way we propose to do it. By Clause 7, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries will be able to grant licences to people employed by these animal welfare societies, but only in cases where they are dealing with people who cannot afford the services of a veterinary surgeon. Eventually, when there are enough veterinary surgeons, then gradually the number of fresh licences can be reduced until none will be necessary and only qualified men will be employed in this work.

The next part of the Bill, Clauses 13 to 19, deals with the disciplinary powers of the Council. At present only the whole Council has the power of expelling a member; in future it can be done by a committee consisting of nine members of the Council, including at least four elected members of the Council and at least one member of the Council appointed by the Privy Council. When it is a question of an unqualified man, who is on the supplementary veterinary register, four persons appointed by the Agricultural Ministers are to be added to this disciplinary committee.

I come now to the last important proposal of the Bill—the regulations with regard to those practising veterinary surgery in Eire. The present position, as most of your Lordships know, is that only veterinary surgeons on the register are allowed to practise in Eire. The qualification for this register is examination by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The veterinary surgeons in Eire have the right to representation on the Council of the Royal College. The fact that this new Bill is being brought in clearly makes a new Agreement between the two Governments necessary and we have been in touch with the Government of Eire on this question. Your Lordships will understand, however, that certain details of the Agreement must depend upon the provisions of this Bill in its final form as passed by Parliament. Therefore, in Clause 20 we have provided for reconciling the Bill with the new Agreement.


IS this limited to Eire? Does it no: apply to ether Dominions? What is the position of men with Australian or Canadian qualifications, practising in this country?


This is not a question of qualified men from Eire practising in this country; it is a question of the Eire veterinary surgeons being represented on the Council of the Royal College in this country. I will look into this point, but, so far as I know, this does not affect Dominion status at all; it is a completely separate matter.

I think that is the main outline of the Bill. There are a few other provisions of lesser importance which your Lordships will, no doubt, have noted. I think, however, that I have given you the essentials of the Bill. I should like to repeat that this is a non-political measure and it commands, generally, the support of the veterinary profession, of the universities, and of the other bodies who are concerned. I also submit that there is a great need for the Bill, and I ask that your Lordships will give it a speedy passage through this House. I beg to move.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Huntingdon.)

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, I should like briefly to thank the noble Earl for the way in which he has put this Bill before the House. He has done so with extraordinary clarity, and I think your Lordships will agree with what he said to the effect that it is really a non-controversial measure, except perhaps in respect of certain small points which I feel are perhaps best dealt with in the Committee stage. Apart from those points, this is an agreed measure. Possibly our congratulations to the Government would have been rather warmer had this Bill come before us twelve or eighteen months ago. We have been waiting for it for a very long time. In view of the importance of the subject—which no one could stress more strongly than the noble Earl has done—it is difficult to understand why we did not have the Bill before us some time ago. We know there were certain disputes between the profession and the universities, with the Ministry on the fringe, but those are now satisfactorily settled. The less we go back on old difficulties that have been resolved, the better, but I should like to take this opportunity, as one who once or twice made certain remarks about those controversies, to congratulate those who have managed to settle their difficulties.

I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl could have put a higher target before us. He told us that the present output of veterinary surgeons per year is about 150 and that the Ministry are hopeful that the figure may be raised to 220. In the light of the present position that figure is quite inadequate. If we are to increase production, particularly of those foodstuffs of which the world is most likely to be short for a very considerable time, we have to develop our livestock. Whilst I speak as one second to none in my belief in doing everything for the better breeding of animals, I cannot help feeling that to-day the management of animals on the farm leaves much to be desired and that little can be done with better breeding unless there is better management. And no one can help more with regard to better management than the veterinary surgeon.

One of the most welcome developments in the profession lately has been that, I will not say less and less time is given to critical disease, but rather that veterinary surgeons have made themselves more and more the advisers and helpers of farmers in bringing about greater animal health. It is not only a matter of this country. Lately I have been travelling through a small part of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Everywhere I have found exactly the same problem and exactly the same complaint. There is a certain section of opinion in this country which hopes in the future that we will be fed from the British Empire. Wherever I have gone in the Empire, I have found people perplexed by the problem of how to feed themselves. Wherever I have gone there has been an outcry for more assistance from the veterinary surgeon. In East Africa, the Rhodesias, and South Africa, I have found the same problem. They want more veterinary surgeons. It would be impossible to send better or more welcome ambassadors of Empire, ambassadors of Commonwealth, to these great Dominions, than the "vet."

How can we increase their numbers? I do not feel it would be profitable at the present moment to go into the question of the number of colleges. I would like to make one suggestion for consideration—that the Government should consider giving more assistance to intending students. I gather that at the present time one can get assistance either by local government scholarship or by a limited number of Ministry of Agriculture scholarships—I think ten a year. There is also assistance given under the ex-Service scheme. Whether the Veterinary Educational Trust, now called the Animal Health Trust, is still giving help, I am not sure. I feel that this assistance should be extended. Only within the last three weeks I heard of an applicant for a Ministry of Education scholarship who, when he revealed that he was going to become a veterinarian, was informed that the scholarship was not available for a veterinary degree. I do not know the details, but I ask the noble Earl to look into this matter. The point is not whether they should be Ministry of Education or Ministry of Agriculture scholarships. The point is that there should be greater assistance.

With regard to the Bill itself, I do not think it helps proceedings to try and conduct the Committee stage during its Second Reading, but it is sometimes helpful to the Minister to know of certain points to be raised. There is one small point—small, that is, in words, but of immense importance—which arises in Clause 5, subsection (2) (b), which begins: Any minor treatment, test or minor operation… The noble Earl knows that the question of testing is of the most important character and includes such things as a tuberculin test. Why do we not have a minor test? I do not ask for a reply, but I ask the noble Earl to give this matter serious consideration.

There is another point on which I cannot understand why there has not been more disagreement. It was made clear in the Chancellor Report that the Committee, after considerable discussion of the problem, believed that it should be made plain beyond question that the unregistered practitioner was not a veterinarian. It is all very well to sit in an office and say that there is a great difference between a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary practitioner, but we ordinary people living on farms very seldom get beyond the first syllable—" vet." To think that the ordinary farmer is going to distinguish between a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary practitioner is really quite childish, especially when we find that the largest division of the National Veterinary Medical Association calls itself the Society of Veterinary Practitioners. Yet those two words," veterinary practitioner," are now to be taken as describing the unregistered veterinarian.

This is an agreed Bill. We are anxious that it should carry all sections with it and that it should give both confidence and status to our great veterinary profession. I ask the noble Earl to consider this point again, with a view to adopting the recommendation of the Chancellor Committee, which is to call the unregistered veterinarian an "animal practitioner." Whatever the term, let us make it absolutely clear for the benefit of those men who give up five years at the beginning of their lives to train themselves as veterinary surgeons. There may be one or two other points we want to suggest, but that will be done at a later stage. I again congratulate the Government on this Bill and wish it speedy passage.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, I too would like to congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill. I warmly welcome it on behalf of the veterinary profession properly so called, on behalf of all stack owners in this country, and particularly on behalf of the general public, as consumers of milk and meat. It is a somewhat belated implementation of the Reports of two Committees. One is the Loveday Committee, who made their First Report no less than ten years ago, and their Second Report in 1944—the latter, of course, dealing with the subject of veterinary education. The other Report is that known as the Chancellor Report, which dealt only with the problem of unqualified veterinary practitioners. The general purport of those Reports may be summed up as, first of all, an insistence upon the necessity of a far larger number of veterinarians being avail-able to the animal-owning community of this country, and, secondly, that unqualified animal practitioners must gradually be put out of practice.

As some of your Lordships may remember, on April 11, 1945, I initiated a debate on milk, in the course of which I quoted a certain paragraph from the Second Loveday Report of 1944, and I venture now to quote it again. It is to this effect: Recent estimates put the animal loss to the nation in livestock and livestock products due to animal disease at not less than £30,000,000. The bulk of this loss is deemed to be ultimately preventable, but only if expenditure upon veterinary training on a considerably greater scale than at present is incurred. In the Second Loveday Report the Committee set out their scheme providing for an annual output of at least 220 veterinary graduates, not only from the existing schools and colleges—those of London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool—but also at Cambridge and Bristol. If I understand the noble Earl aright, it is contemplated establishing veterinary courses in these additional universities. But there is one notable factor about that. The Committee particularly stressed that veterinary study should be given full university status. If that means anything at all, surely it means that there should be a veterinary faculty at these universities, and that veterinary instruction should not be merged and lost in the meticulous meshes of some other faculty, either the faculty of human medicine or a generalised faculty of science.

The veterinary profession, properly so called, feel strongly upon this point. I should like to emphasise it, because what they desire above all is to be given a proper professional status in this country—a status of equal standing and importance to that of the medical profession which is concerned with human diseases. That status exists in several other countries in the world. I do not know any civilised country in which the profession of veterinary practice takes relatively so low a position in relation to medical practice as it does in this country. There are certain countries (I remember that Denmark is one of them) where not only is the veterinary profession on an equal footing with the medical profession, but many of those who belong to the one profession belong also to the other. In that connection, I would remind your Lordships that if there is one science more than any other which calls for further development in the light of modern discovery, it is that of comparative pathology—that is, the bearing of animal disease upon morbid conditions in human beings.

The Chancellor Report, to which in the main this Bill gives expression, recognises that unqualified animal doctors should gradually be thrown out of practice. What I should particularly like to ask (my noble friend Earl De La Warr has already asked this) is what prospect there is of materially increasing the numbers of qualified veterinary practitioners, not only for the requirements of this country, but also, as has been suggested, for the requirements of the whole of the British Empire, so far as other countries in it are unable to provide for their own requirements. I happen to know that there is a serious dearth of qualified veterinarians in New Zealand; there is a similar dearth in Australia. In Australia, under the aegis of a veterinary faculty of a university, they have developed to some extent the prospect of a much larger output of veterinary surgeons. So far, nothing of the sort has been done in New Zealand, and up to two years ago they were looking almost pathetically to the "Old Country" to provide those qualified veterinarians which they want so much. Now—I rather regret it—they are looking to Australia to help them. But Australia already has its work cut out to provide sufficient veterinarians for its own requirements.

In the Second Report of the Loveday Committee a significant statement was made, to which in the course of the milk debate I ventured to refer, and to which, with the leave of the House, I am going to refer to again. They appended a schedule setting out the total number of veterinary surgeons in the various European countries, the number per million of their population, and—what is more important—the number of veterinary surgeons per million of the larger domestic animals. In this schedule, Switzerland comes first and Belgium second; Germany and Czechoslovakia are bracketed third, Denmark comes fifth, the Netherlands sixth, Norway seventh, Great Britain eighth and France ninth. The only country other than Britain which has less than one hundred veterinary surgeons per million of the larger domestic animals is France, and she is the only one of the Western European countries which has an average milk yield per cow lower than ours. This surely has a significant bearing upon the relation between milk yield and veterinary supervision or control. I venture to suggest that although the Loveday Committee indicated that there ought to be an annual output of at least 220—and the noble Earl opposite has referred to the same figure—in the light of modern developments, modern scientific knowledge and, as my noble friend in front of me pointed out, the enormous expansion—and, in the interests of the public, desirable expansion—of livestock in this country, that figure is not nearly large enough.

Having said that, I am going to refer shortly to three points, to two of which my noble friend Lord De La Warr has already referred. He referred to the title which is to be enjoyed in future by the unqualified animal practitioner. I use the word "animal" advisedly, because, first of all, what is the difference between a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary practitioner? There is only one difference, if the words are to receive their natural interpretation. A surgeon has a much more limited function to perform than a practitioner, who has to be not merely an animal surgeon, but an animal doctor. Now you are allotting this more comprehensive term to the man with the more limited qualifications. Surely there is something wrong there. After all, the important part of that designation is the term "veterinary," and, if it mean anything at all, surely it must mean the person who is qualified as a full veterinary practitioner. You are now allowing the term to be appended to the future designation of the unqualified practitioner.

With regard to the term "minor," it appears that so-called minor operations, including tests, may still be carried out by unqualified practitioners. I would venture to ask that in the Bill itself the term "minor" be more clearly defined. If it refers to tests for tuberculosis, contagious abortion or mastitis in its various forms, I suggest that an unqualified practitioner is not a person who will inspire confidence on the part of the stock owners of this country in diagnosing or curing those all-important diseases which are so seriously limiting the output of milk. As your Lordships probably know, The Royal Agricultural Society of England are making a strenuous effort, with the full approval of the Ministry of Agriculture, to eliminate bovine disease, and nothing will give them more encouragement than the fact that the persons concerned with these more serious bovine diseases are qualified veterinary practitioners, and only qualified men. I do not want to take up further the time of the House, except to emphasise one point which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. If we want people of the right type, and deserving the new position which you are allocating to the profession, we must improve their status and make it perfectly evident that we are doing so. I venture to believe that if we do, we shall have a far larger number flowing into this enormously important national profession than we have to-day. I warmly welcome this Bill, and if I appear to be in any sense a critic of it, I assure your Lordships that I desire only to be a constructive critic. I am in no way hostile to the Bill; I very warmly welcome it, and I hope that it will receive the full approval of your Lordships' House.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, my intervention in this debate is prompted by the experience which I have been fortunate enough to enjoy during this last two years of sitting on two Committees. They have brought me into contact with the veterinary profession and allowed me to appreciate not only the great work which the qualified veterinary surgeon has performed in the past, but also the very great responsibility which will rest upon his shoulders in the future. I do not think it is realised by the ordinary citizen of this country how great a responsibility rests upon the veterinary profession, not only in connection with the health of the ordinary citizen but for the prosperity of what must always be one of this country's greatest industries.

I join with the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, in stressing the effect that animal health has on the ultimate health of human beings. I had a lasting impression made upon my mind when it was given before me in evidence that the vast bulk of the meat which is offered for sale in this country is, judging from the highest desirable standard of nutrition, unfit for human consumption. I think it is necessary that we should do everything not only to increase the numbers but also to increase the status and the prestige of the veterinary profession. I think that this Bill does that. It gives university status to the veterinary profession. It allows the veterinary student to pursue his studies in the wider and more advantageous communal atmosphere of a university, which I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, with his wide experience of these matters, will agree is wholly desirable. It will also give an added incentive to the younger man to come into the veterinary profession. I think it will be universally agreed that that Part of this Bill which deals with the educational advancement of the veterinary profession is wholly desirable, and will meet with no criticism whatever.

I do not intend to enter into the controversial side. The noble Earl who spoke on behalf of the Opposition said that, except in respect of one point, any Amendment which could be suggested to this Bill was only minor. The exception was the title to be enjoyed by the unqualified practitioner. There are many members of your Lordships' House who remember the battle which raged on this particular subject when the qualifications of the dental profession were being discussed. I believe I am right in saying—and I speak subject to correction—that at that time the unqualified dentist, although debarred from calling himself a dental surgeon, could call himself a dentist or a dental practitioner—as a matter of fact, anything other than a dental surgeon. As the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, has said, this is an agreed Bill, and frankly I do not think it is worth quarrelling over this point, which has been established in this country on so many previous occasions. I do not think it is worth while losing the main chance of something which can be of great help to the future of the veterinary profession. I thought the noble Earl's congratulations to His Majesty's Government rather like opening the horse's mouth and having a look at its back teeth.


Did the noble Lord ever buy a horse without doing that?


I would counsel the noble Earl to accept more Bills without looking inside the horse's mouth. He said he could not understand why we did not have this Bill twelve or eighteen months ago. I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on being able to reach such a large measure of agreement on such a contentious matter, agreement which appeared to be entirely out of the question two or two-and-a-half years ago—a period in political history of which the noble Earl has far greater knowledge than I have. Therefore I am not going in any way to qualify my congratulations to my noble friend, to the Minister, to the Royal College, and indeed to all those who have been able to agree upon such a splendid measure, one which will redound to the credit of the veterinary profession and be to the benefit of the citizens of this country.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I will not detain the House more than a short time. My memory on this subject is quite a long one. It is exactly a quarter of a century ago, when I was Under-Secretary for the Colonies, that I was made chairman of an inter-departmental committee to survey the methods of training of scientists of various kinds. The result of our inquiry—which was not for publication—was sent to the Lord President of the Council, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the veterinary side of the Ministry of Agriculture. That was twenty-five years ago; and at long last we see real progress. I congratulate the Government on producing this Bill. I agree it has not been easy—it never is easy. The Loveday Committee made it perfectly clear that the status of a profession cannot be raised merely by nomenclature or by passing Acts of Parliament, but that in the future veterinarians must be gathered into the same sort of educational process as that of every other scientist—namely, university status, university degrees, and university faculties.

I entirely agree with noble Lords who have stressed the point that before any university is recognised for a grant or anything of the sort for training veterinary surgeons of the future, it should establish a proper faculty. It is not only a question of numbers that are needed; it is quality, and quality of education. There has been far too much of the old Camden Town tradition—which I hope we are getting away from. After all—all honour to it—it was founded over a century ago, and it has dominated the Royal College. As one of its eminent professors said to me: "When the milch cows left London we went to the dogs. They provided the material on which we learnt our job." A hundred years ago there were 50,000 dairy cows being milked daily inside London; and the whole transport of this city was horse transport. The conditions were quite different. I hope the Ministry of Agriculture will realise the vital importance of veterinary training in the future and the importance of linking it up with animal husbandry and farm practice. After all, one has only to look at other countries. Utrecht, for instance, is famous in Europe for its standard. It has its own animal hospital and a whole chain of farms for research purposes just outside the city of Utrecht. There is Buitenzorg in Java where they train Indonesians and have a fully qualified staff such as we have never dreamt of having. That sort of thing is long overdue here.

My only quarrel with the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, who introduced this Bill to-day is that he persists in believing that we may be able to get through with the numbers of veterinarians that were recommended in the Loveday Report. I have sufficient knowledge of this country and of the Colonial Empire to say that I do not believe you will be able to carry out the urgent reforms or fulfil the major needs on an output of 220 qualified men, when it is agreed that the unqualified practitioner is going gradually to be weeded out. You cannot do it unless you double those numbers—I say that emphatically. I saw enough of it when I was at the Colonial Office—the heartbreaking job of getting an odd "vet." or two from Ireland, from Canada, and then from Australia and from New Zealand. South Africa had to provide for its own and neighbouring requirements as well as its great research organisation and for the terrific problems of cattle diseases in Africa. No, the qualification must be full university qualification and the numbers must be not merely doubled but trebled in view of the needs of the Colonial Empire that is still subordinate to the Colonial Secretary, and also of the animal industry of this country.

Look at the position in regard to animal tuberculosis. It is a scandal that the progress being made in this country is so slow. Look at America and the Province of Ontario and see what they have done in this respect. In this country there are two bright areas. One is South Wales—the three adjoining counties of Pembroke, Carmarthen and Cardigan, which, as regards progress made and in spite of terrible shortages of veterinary officers, are outstanding compared with any county in England. It has been done partly by the use of large numbers of unqualified assistants working under veterinary officers. They have made real progress in cleaning up whole districts, area by area, and eliminating tuberculosis from the herds. The other area is Ayrshire. Then look at the number of producers of T. T. milk in the great dairy county of Cheshire. It is an absolute disgrace that a percentage of the dairy herds, from one end of that county to another, are riddled with tuberculosis. There are other counties as bad. But you cannot do, and you will not be able to do, what you must do in the interests of the health of the animals, and of the prosperity of the fanners and the human race, unless you build up a much larger veterinary force and have a much bigger drive behind it in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Let me say a word now about the unqualified practitioners. Personally, I do not care what they are called. All I know is that, although they ought to disappear, the idea that they can be cut off at once is utterly impossible. There is hardly a qualified veterinary surgeon in the country who is not absolutely dependent on their assistance, wherever he may be. The qualified men are not available. They would be the first to admit it. However, sooner or later we have to eliminate the unqualified practitioners, and eliminate them completely. It is no use saying," We will leave them to deal with dogs and cats." The whole animal kingdom has to be considered in this matter, and considered as one. Let me stress this point. I am particularly glad that there is a clause in the Bill—I hope it is not controversial—that will add to the Council a few people from the universities and from nominations by the Privy Council. I hope they will put on the governing body of the Royal College a first-rate biochemist and a first-rate physiologist from outside the veterinary profession. We have to tone up the whole corpus and character of the five (probably it will soon be six) years' training, the type of content of the education and the examination qualifications. I am sure that we must do that if we are to do our duty by the animal industry of this country and of our Colonial Empire.

I hope the Ministry of Agriculture will have an easy time with the Treasury. They ought to be able to convince them easily, on facts and figures, that this is one of the finest investments that this country could make, and to persuade them to give liberal grants for the new faculties, not only at Cambridge and Bristol but also at other universities, for development and for the improvement of the equipment and the facilities at the existing universities. They must have field stations; they must have stations outside. Liverpool have one now in the Wirral peninsular. I understand that the "Royal Dick "is probably moving out of Edinburgh. By all means let them keep in touch with the rest of the university—it is part of their work there—but the practical work in a field station and on the associated farms is an integral part of any proper education for the type of veterinary surgeon we require.

The word "surgeon" still suggests somebody who merely operates with a lancet. We have to get much more firmly planted in the minds of the teachers and those qualified to teach the whole modern idea of preventive medicine. Preventive medicine is the secret of public health, and we have to get public health into the animal kingdom. The whole thing is an essential part of our life. It is economically necessary, it is nationally necessary and it is certainly imperially necessary. I hope that in all these matters the Secretary of State for the Colonies will work thoroughly with our Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and with the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, to make this Bill a milestone in the history of veterinary surgery and a really big effort to expand a profession which has long needed the impetus, the encouragement and the expansion that our situation to-day demands.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, at the beginning of the few words that I intend to say this evening I should, according to custom, disclose the fact that, as a member of the Council of Management of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, I have a direct interest in Clause 7 of the Bill. The discussion has covered the field of veterinary practice and the need for a greater number of veterinary surgeons in the country, and also the question of the unqualified veterinary or animal practitioner. I would point out, with regard to the phrase "animal practitioner," that whatever may be said in its favour it is not good English, because the animal is certainly not the practitioner; "veterinary practitioner "is more in accordance with the proper use of such words. However, that is just a minor point. I myself took part in some of the negotiations that have culminated, I think very successfully indeed, in the measure that is before your Lordships this evening. I would like to welcome it and to congratulate the Government upon the way in which the measure has been drafted. I have had a quarter of a century's experience in another place. I have had contact with a good number of measures that have become Acts of Parliament, but I can recall hardly any Bill which was so well drafted as this one. It is quite clear what is meant. There is not too much verbiage about it, and it seems to me to cover the ground.

I am afraid that I must agree with a number of noble Lords this evening about that figure of 220. It is the figure suggested by the Loveday Report, but consider what that means. Five years, or more than five years, are required for the training of a veterinary surgeon. That means that you begin to get results from the 220 in about five years' time. Of course, the five years is an estimate, but I do not think it is open to any serious question. My estimate is that so far as agriculture alone is concerned, and so far as this country alone is concerned—apart from the Dominions and the Colonies—it will be twenty years before we have sufficient veterinary surgeons to deal with a position similar to that facing us to-day. It is a position which is not improving. A number of noble Lords this evening have referred to the question of the public value of this measure. I am sure that the general public do not realise, even if they read much about the Bill in the ordinary Press, the tremendous importance to human health of this measure.

May I occupy a little time—I will not take long—in dotting the i's and crossing the t's of some of the statements about animal health and the need for veterinary surgeons in the farms of this country? It was only in 1934 that the Committee on Cattle Diseases of the Economic Advisory Council said that 50 per cent. of dairy cattle were disposed of on account of disease, that the average productive life of dairy cattle was four and a half years (only half of what might be expected if they were free from disease), and that 40 per cent. of cows were infected with bovine tuberculosis and the same number with contagious abortion. The official computation mentioned by that same Committee's Report was that the annual national loss from four cattle diseases alone is 20,000,000. That is the economic loss, but the amount of disease among cattle which is not known to the ordinary public must be stupendous.

There was also a Report of a Committee of the Ministry of Health—I am not quite sure of the year, but it was in the middle of a decade between the two wars; I think about 1936 or 1937—where an illustration was given of the appointment by one local authority of an additional meat inspector—one meat inspector. This was a large industrial city in this country and, as a result of the appointment of that additional inspector, 1,000 per cent. additional cases of diseased pork were found in one year in that city. I do not know quite what that means, because 1,000 per cent. is really an impossibility. Considered in the way in which that phrase is popularly used, it seems a tremendous number, but I am quoting from the statement which was made—1,000 per cent. more cases of diseased pork were discovered in one single year; that would be ten times more. There was, in addition, an increase of 120 per cent. in the number of cattle found to be diseased. I do not know what would have happened had they appointed two inspectors, because those figures give no indication of the real facts, only an indication of what the facts might well be.

There is no doubt that the position to-day is appalling, and compared with other countries we in this country are very backward in regard to veterinary services. There are 94 veterinary surgeons per 1,000,000 farm animals in Great Britain, compared with 148 veterinary surgeons in Denmark and 247 in Switzerland. Surely that indicates that something more than a beginning of even 220 additional veterinary entrants to college study in a single year is required. The aim must be much higher. There is a vast scope for veterinary surgeons. That brings me to the question of the unqualified practitioner. I will not enter into any discussion about matters which have caused a certain amount of controversy. I think they have been successfully dealt with, and settled, by a reasonable compromise accepted by all sides. But the words "unqualified practitioner "can be used very unfairly. Technically, of course, they mean the practitioner or animal doctor who is not a member of the College, one who has had no college training. That is really all it means. It may include the "quack" of the worst type, but it may include many people who have had vast experience and really good training in the treatment of animals. The organisation to which I have referred and for which I have some responsibility, whatever may be said of it—and it may be open to criticism in many ways—does give a high standard of training to its men, as has been recognised by past Presidents of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Though it may be technically correct, to call these people "quacks" in the first place, and to speak of "unqualified practitioners" as though it implies incompetence, does hurt at times, and we have to take that into account.

I think the noble Lord who has just sat down was correct when he said that so long as there is such a tremendous unsatisfied demand for veterinary surgeons in this country it is a quite impossible prospect to say that the so-called unqualified practitioner should at once be completely wiped out. The controls amount simply to control by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; and that is surely a far better thing than allowing the matter to go on with hostility and division, as unfortunately has been the case for some time. I hope the future, at any rate, will show good will on all sides; and I say to the Veterinary College itself that at any rate those whom I know who have connection with the "non-college veterinary practitioner," as he has now come to be called, have every desire to work in harmony with the Royal College for the benefit of the community, the animals of the community and of agriculture and agricultural animals, and to bury any hatchet that has existed in the past, so that we can work together to deal as adequately as possible with these problems. After all, the animal which is dealt with by societies that depend upon voluntary subscriptions is not quite the same animal as the farm animal, and in the training of the P.D.S.A. the farm animal is excluded. We think the rest of the training is adequate, but we are prepared to make that training even higher than it is. We are quite prepared to accept any control and advice to that end from the Ministry of Agriculture or from the College. But that question involves a human question too, because there are a vast number of people who do not know how to look after their animals, and who inflict a great amount of pain and suffering on them by reason of their ignorance. Therefore, you must add to the question of treatment some educational side, which is something the P.D.S.A. tries to do. That is all I want to say, because I do not want to advertise one association as against any other in a debate of this character.

The question of what is a major or a minor operation is, I believe, a matter which will be dealt with by regulations issued by the Ministry. It is a very difficult question. What do you mean by "the nursing of animals?" The College have long ago given up that problem; they have refused to define "nursing." I think we can find some kind of definition, so that the case that ought to go to the fully trained surgeon—by which I mean the qualified man—goes to him without any question. There is, however, scope for those possessing a high degree of qualification and great knowledge and experience in the treatment of animals, to deal with millions of animals that would not otherwise be dealt with. So long as there are so few veterinary surgeons, if you were to wipe out altogether the unqualified man, instead of merely controlling him, you would leave millions of animals in this country to a life of misery, and often of torture. I think we have here a solution to this problem, and I end by again warmly welcoming this Bill. It is the result of careful negotiation between people who, after all, have very much at heart the interests of both the country, from all the points of views that have been discussed, and of the animals of this country.

6.39 p.m.


My Lords, it has been extremely gratifying to receive such a warm welcome for this Bill from all parts of the House, and it will be very satisfying to my right honourable friend to realise that the considerable amount of thought, work and discussion between the different organisations has produced a measure which has found so much concord amongst your Lordships. I do not wish to detain your Lordships at this late hour, but one or two questions have been raised in the debate upon which I should like to comment. A number of the speeches made this afternoon, notably those of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble Lord, Lord Harlech—though in fact I think everyone touched upon this point—dealt with the question of numbers. With regard to the graduates who will be passing out from the various universities, I would like to stress again that the number which has been quoted is merely the minimum that we shall need. If we find—as noble Lords have said we shall—that the need is for greater numbers, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent us getting them. In fact, the Bill provides machinery to expand the number of universities and so increase the numbers of graduates.

I quite agree with noble Lords who have quoted figures regarding the losses due to disease. Lord Bledisloe, in particular, stressed this aspect, and mentioned a loss of £30,000,000 together with other estimated losses. It is, of course, difficult to get really accurate figures in this connection, but undoubtedly the numbers of animals lost are very high. It is one of the most important subjects that we have to tackle—the bringing about of a material reduction in these numbers—and in order to deal with that problem we must be able to take the most effective measures. One of the main points raised by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, and others—and may I say that I appreciated the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in this connection—related to the unqualified practitioner. It has been pointed out that the arrangements embodied in this Bill are the results of intensive negotiations which finally resulted in a compromise on admittedly a difficult subject. It is from that point of view that I would ask your Lordships to look at this matter and to give your approval to this scheme.

There has been some comment upon the title which is to be given to the men on the supplementary register, but I submit that it is extremely difficult to think of a good alternative to the one we have decided upon. Many people have considered this matter, and no one has succeeded in improving upon the phrase we have adopted." Animal practitioner," I would suggest, is slightly ludicrous English. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, pointed out, "veterinary" is a key word. If these unqualified men—some of whom have long experience and great knowledge—are to be brought under the discipline and control of the Council of the Royal College, I think it only fair to give them some title which will indicate what is actually their profession.

The question of the status of the universities is, of course, an extremely important one. We want to raise that and to consolidate it as much as possible. At the same time, I do not think that anyone can well lay down in a Bill either the procedure or the teaching of the universities; that is a thing which we must leave to the universities themselves. We must also leave it to negotiation and discussion between the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the universities as to what is the best way of introducing the faculties and the manner in which the field stations are used in combination with the universities. I submit that these points are matters of detail better left to be agreed by negotiation between the interested parties than by indications in a Statute.

I think I have dealt with the main questions raised in the debate. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, asked me if there was any reliable estimate of the number of unqualified practitioners. As I told him, it is extremely difficult to get a reliable estimate, but as the result of the latest information, received I think the figure is lower than that given by the Chancellor Committee. I would say that it is approximately more like 500 than 800. I do not, however, give that as a firm estimate; it is merely a matter of opinion. I will not keep your Lordships any longer. Other points which have been raised are, I think, points suitable to be dealt with in the Committee stage. May I say once again how much I appreciate the reception which your Lordships have accorded the Bill and the very constructive suggestions, and criticisms, which have been put forward. Again, I would express the hope that this much needed measure will have a speedy passage through your Lordships' House.

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