HL Deb 02 July 1953 vol 183 cc160-7

5.28 p.m

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 DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

LORD BURDEN moved, after Clause 3 to insert the following new clause:

Institution of proceedings

"4.—(1) A local authority in England and Wales may institute proceedings for any offence under this Act committed in the area of the authority.

(2) In this section "local authority" means the council of a county borough or county district, the council of a metropolitan borough or the Common Council of the City of London."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. If we must eat meat, I think everyone would agree that the animals should be killed by the most humane means possible. Therefore, with the objects of this Bill no one, I think, can quarrel. I submit to the Committee, however, that the Bill is defective in three ways. First, it does not provide who is to use the humane killer: the work is not to be carried out by a licensed slaughter-man. Secondly, there is no right of entry. But the third and most serious difficulty is the one which my Amendment seeks to put right—I mentioned the other two defects just in passing. I wonder whether it is realised that under the Bill as it stands local authorities will not be able to see that the provisions in the Bill are carried out. The local authority will not be able, as I understand from my reading of the Bill, to take any steps whatsoever to enforce its provisions; and, as your Lordships will be aware, the officers of local authorities under the principal Act have a wealth of information and knowledge with regard to protecting animals which are to be slaughtered.

Who will endeavour to carry out the provisions of the Bill? First, it is, understood that we shall trust an enlightened public opinion. Secondly, it is suggested that the police will do so; and, thirdly, the officers of the R.S.P.C.A. I say nothing about the enlightened public opinion, but I would say a word with regard to the police. I do not know whether a figure has ever been given as to the number of animals likely to be affected by the Bill, but I believe that I have seen the figure of 50,000 quoted somewhere. Many of these killings, in the nature of things, are carried out in remote rural areas. Those of us who have had any experience of the countryside, particularly in the remote rural areas, will know the duties imposed on the police officer in such areas. It is practically impossible to expect the village policeman to carry out the duties imposed by this Bill. As for the R.S.P.C.A., I have the greatest respect possible for the work which they carry out in difficult circumstances. The point of this Amendment is, shall I say, to make the Bill operative, which I think is the desire of the promoters of toe Bill. My Amendment, therefore, is moved in no antagonistic spirit to the provisions of the Bill, but only in an attempt to see that its provisions do not become a dead letter because of the lack of provisions for enforcement. I beg to move my Amendment.

Amendment moved— After Clause 3 insert the said new clause—(Lord Burden.)

5.33 p.m.


The first thing I want to make quite clear is that, on the pure merits of this Amendment, there is no disagreement between us; but, for reasons which I must put forward, which I think are sound and weighty, I all sorry that I have to ask the House to reject the Amendment. So much is it a fact that on its merits we do not disagree that I just want to mention that, in the first draft of this Bill, there was inserted a power for local authorities to enforce this Bill. That shows that there is nothing between us purely on the merits of the Amendment. The real difficulty is this. Though there seems to be a little doubt about it, I am informed, and, I believe, that if this Amendment were to be passed it would be necessary for there to be attached to this Bill a Money Resolution. I am further informed, and believe that it is almost, though perhaps not quite, impossible for a Money Resolution to be attached to a Private Member's Bill. I am not an expert on this machinery, but I am informed that that is the case. Be that as it may, there remains this. If this Bill had to go back to another place to have a Money Resolution attached to it, there would, as I think we shall all agree, be no time to pass it into law this Session. That may or may not be a valid argument, but it remains a fact that one must take into account. So, while I fully appreciate the good intentions of the noble Lord who says that he wants this Bill to pass, I must, I am sorry to say, tell him that, if his Amendment were passed, it would have the opposite effect and that neither he nor I should get what we wanted.

There are one or two other small points. The noble Lord said that without this Amendment local authorities could not take any steps to enforce this Bill. But surely they could inform the police; they could inform the R.S.P.C.A. who could, and I have very little doubt who would, then prosecute. Indeed, the noble Lord almost answered his own point when he mentioned the village police. He seemed to doubt whether the village police could or would lay an information on this Bill. I have little or no doubt about it myself. We all know of many cases where village policemen lay informations on very similar subjects. For example, to mention only one, I have known many cases where the police have prosecuted people for setting traps in the open. That is only one case of the same sort of subject. If they cart do that, why could not they prosecute a man who killed a pig in contravention of this Bill? They could and, what is more, I believe they would. I hope that I have said enough to show that in many ways I regret that this Amendment is not in the Bill but that on the other hand, I believe that the disadvantages of passing this Amendment far outweigh the advantages which would accrue. I must repeat that, if this Amendment were passed, I should have very little hope of being successful in getting this Bill passed into law this Session.


I fully appreciate the risk which would be run if I endeavoured to press this Amendment. One knows, too, with a Private Member's Bill of this kind, the thought and work that go into it before it reaches its present stage. I should not like in any way to disappoint those who put so much labour into it. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Citation, extent and commencement]:

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved that the Act should come into operation on April 1, 1954, instead of July 1, 1954. The noble Earl said: The purpose of my Amendment is to bring this Bill into effect three months earlier than the time proposed in the Bill—in April, 1954, instead of July, 1954. I think your Lordships have already agreed that this inhumane practice of slaughtering pigs in backyards should be discontinued. If it should be discontinued, then surely it should be discontinued at the earliest possible opportunity. The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, on Second Reading said that already there was a sufficient number of humane killers for this Bill to be made operative without any long delay. I must say it is extremely puzzling to me why the administrative arrangements required before the Bill can take effect should take a whole year. I am suggesting that the period should be cut down by only three months, and I hope the noble Lord will seriously consider whether it is not reasonable to ask those who are responsible for making the administrative arrangements to make them within a period of nine months from the passing of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 30, leave out ("July") and insert ("April").—(The Earl of Listowel.)

5.40 p.m.


Again I find myself in the position of agreeing with the mover of the Amendment purely on its merits, and again I regret to say I am in the position of having to ask the mover not to press the Amendment because the result might create to this Bill a certain amount of opposition which has so far been allayed by the time inserted at which the Bill is to come into operation. The history of this matter is that the promoter of the Bill in another place himself inserted the date and moved an Amendment to that effect. Needless to say, being like the noble Earl in full sympathy with this Bill, he did not do that without some reason. The noble Earl quoted something that I said on Second Reading, to the effect that there were sufficient humane killers in existence. However true that may be (and I believe it was true and is true) there remains this fact: that we have to satisfy those who may have a doubt or a criticism to make about this point, not only that there is this number of humane killers in existence, but that they exist everywhere, up and down the country, properly distributed. We have to satisfy them on that point.

I want to be in a very safe position in this matter. I do not want to run the slightest risk of being accused of making a statement which proved to be not quite accurate. I want to be certain about it. There are those who have a doubt about this matter, and one wants to make doubly sure that the Bill does not come into operation until there is not the slightest difficulty about obtaining a humane killer. There is no sort of pact about this matter. I think I can say that there has been an understanding throughout the history of this Bill that there should be no difficulty in this connection, and again I must say that if this Amendment were passed I think there is a risk that we should lose the understanding and good feeling which has existed, both in another place and in this House, and which was quite remarkable. Therefore I am going to ask the noble Earl to be good enough to withdraw the Amendment, because as we have waited for all these years for this reform it would be a thousand pities to lose it just for the sake of three months.

There is one small further point. I am informed that there is a season for pig-killing and that the season in which pigs are not killed, generally speaking, is in the middle of a summer. Therefore there is a little administrative convenience and tidiness in having July 1, which is in the middle of the non-killing season, as the date on which the Bill shall come into operation. The present date will avoid a little confusion in the minds of farmers and others. The whole of the next: killing season will be outside the Bill and the whole of the season following that will be within the Bill. That may be a slight help to those up and down the country who want to kill their pigs. I know I am asking a lot of the noble Earl in this matter, but he and I both want this Bill and therefore I ask him to withdraw his Amendment.


Before the noble Earl responds to that request may I say that this House is being put in an absolutely impossible position. After all, our function is to act as a revising Chamber. I would venture to say, from my experience, that there is no legislation that is more apt to need revision than Private Members'legislation—it needs to be very carefully looked at. I know nothing about this Bill—I am not in the least hostile to it—but I have listened what has been going on. The last Amendment was obviously a sensible Amendment. We were told (it was surprising to me to hear it) that if we carried that Amendment providing for a right of inspection by a local authority, or something of that sort, we should require a Money Resolution to the Bill, and, that being so, the Bill would have to go back to another place, all precedent would be broken and so on. In the result, the noble Lord said, with tears in his eyes, that he was very, very sorry; that it was a splendid Amendment and one with which he entirely agreed, but that he must ask my noble friend not to press2 it—and the noble Lord behind me responded to his sorrowful attitude.

Now the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, moves another Amendment, and again it is said that it is an eminently sensible and reasonable Amendment. But again the noble Lord has said, "Whatever else you do, please do not press it to a Division, but withdraw it." I have no doubt that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who is always kindhearted and tolerant, will withdraw his Amendment. That is all very well, but I think it places this House in an intolerable position. I am making no attack upon the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, in saying this; the position has existed for a long time. But I do think we ought to consider in the appropriate quarters what we are going to do about it. It is wrong that Private Members' legislation should come to us at such a late stage that we are told, in effect, that if we move any Amendments to the Bill we shall imperil and probably lose it, and that consequently we must take it just as it is and do nothing about it. That puts us in a bad position.

I have no doubt that the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendment because of that situation, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will apply his well-known ingenuity to this problem, to see whether something cannot be done to put us is a position effectively to carry out our revising powers— because that is all this House wants to do. Unless we do that effectively, some of this Private Bill legislation will not be so good or so useful as it would be if this House had the time and opportunity to look into it and revise it. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind my making that intervention. I am not making any attack on him. I think this is inherent in the position which we suffer from to-day, and I wish it were otherwise.


This Bill is not my Bill, nor is it a Government Bill. I know we are all in sympathy with what the noble and learned Earl has said. But I oppose the Amendment on its merits, because I think it is a bad Amendment. Speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, I would ask the Committee to reject it, but not for the reason that my noble friend Lord Merthyr has given. I think there is a very good reason why we should start the Act at the end of June, and that is that in point of fact the end of June is the month at which the killings of pigs drop right down. In the spring, there is fairly heavy killing of pigs, but in July and August it drops down to about 1,000 a month throughout the country. From the administrative point of view I should have thought it a great convenience to start an Act of this kind at a time when the pig killings were low and the farmers had an opportunity to buy these humane killers.

Some of the farming community, I think quite wrongly, have been a little apprehensive about this Bill, and the more time we have to explain to them what the purpose of it is and the more time they are given to adjust themselves to the conditions of the Bill and to get this humane killing apparatus, the better. I should have thought that from every point of view it was better to have the Bill starting at the beginning of July than earlier on. After all, there is not much difference. The noble Earl is asking for only three months. This matter has been going on for a very long time, and for the reasons I have given I think it would be much better to leave the Bill as it is rather than to press the Amendment.


I agree with the noble Lord opposite that this is not an Amendment of any great importance. It would alter the date when this Bill takes effect by only three months, and we have been waiting for a Bill of this kind (noble Lords who take a special interest in the welfare of animals particularly so) for a very long period of years. We shall be extremely thankful when the Bill becomes operative, and certainly no one would wish to risk its loss for the sake of three months. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without Amendment.