§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD) CARRINGTON)
My Lords, the main reason for this not very exciting Bill is the fact that the present legislative authority for the grants for field drainage and water supply in England and Wales, and for the agricultural lime subsidy in the United Kingdom, expire next summer, and, therefore, legislation this Session is needed if these grants are not to come to an abrupt end. Certain other clauses of the Bill—Clauses 8, 9 and 12—have been prepared in accordance with the Government's policy as explained by the Home Secretary in a recent debate in another place on the extension of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, when he said that it was one of our objects to pick out the remaining powers under emergency legislation which it seemed necessary to retain permanently, and, in suitable cases, to prepare legislation. I think it will be convenient if, without more ado, I now go through the Bill clause by clause.
Clause 1 extends the present powers to make grants towards the cost of approved schemes of field drainage—ditching, tile and mole drainage—and farm water supply carried out by owners and occupiers of agricultural land. The grants were introduced in 1940 as part of the war-time food production campaign, under powers which have been renewed from time to time but expire next August. The rates of grant for these works are normally 50 per cent. on ditching and field drainage, 40 per cent. on schemes to supply water from a private source, and 25 per cent. when the source is a public main. The need for this work is still great, as is shown by the number of schemes which are now coming forward every year. There are about 24,000 schemes for field drainage and 6,000 to 7,000 for water supply. The need for help from the Exchequer also continues, because these schemes are relatively costly. They give the owner or occupier only a long-term return on 598 expenditure, yet it is essential that we should get the early benefit to food production which works of this kind confer. Better field drainage is often the essential first step in improving a piece of land. Farm water supply schemes, on the other hand, raise crop yields and milk production and cut down unproductive and unpleasant manual work, besides giving farmers, farm workers and their women-folk a long-wished-for amenity.
Clause 2 also extends existing powers to make other grants which are of great value to food production; that is to say, contributions towards the cost of applying lime. These powers, too, would expire next August. The provisions of the clause extend to the whole of the United Kingdom. It straight away prolongs the powers of the Secretaries of State and my right honourable friend until 1959, and also for five-year extensions afterwards, if Orders subject to Affirmative Resolution are submitted to and approved by Parliament. A lime subsidy scheme was introduced by the Agriculture Act, 1937, and has operated ever since, without major change, by payments made direct to farmers. It has undoubtedly proved one of the most successful means of aiding production and farming efficiency. Since its introduction, the use of lime in the United Kingdom has risen from about 500,000 tons in 1936 to 6 million tons in 1953. This revival in the good practice of liming must continue, or we shall lose what we have already gained in improved soil fertility. Lime deficiency still exists, and we should like to see lime being applied at the rate of 7 million tons a year.
Clause 3 clears up two small difficulties that have arisen in the administration of the grants made by the Department to county councils for smallholdings which they provide under Part IV of the Agriculture Act, 1947. I would emphasise that these amendments do not imply any change whatever in smallholdings policy but are designed only to help its application. The first two subsections are designed to regularise the provision of holdings of over fifty acres in area as smallholdings. A smallholding is essentially one which the occupier and his family can work themselves without any regular hired labour, and I know your Lordships will agree that holdings of over 599 fifty acres ought to be the exception rather than the rule. But it is necessary to go above this limit sometimes. The reason may be that the holding is on relatively poor land, as in parts of Wales, and therefore rather more than fifty acres is needed to provide a full-time occupation and a reasonable livelihood for the occupier. Again, in dividing up an estate into smallholdings, to stick rigidly to the fifty acre limit might often leave over odd parcels of land not big enough to form a holding in themselves, and on grounds of good estate management the sensible thing is clearly to throw them in with the adjacent holdings, even if it does bring these over the fifty acre limit.
Previous attempts to define these holdings of more than fifty acres in terms of limiting rental or net annual value have led to difficulties and the need for special noting in the Ministry's Appropriation Accounts of grants for any smallholdings which fell outside the statutory definition. We hope that the provisions of subsection (2), which have been prepared after consultation with our Smallholdings Advisory Council, will get over these difficulties for the future. Subsection (3) provides that the smallholdings authority will not be penalised if the rate of interest at which they can borrow money to defray the capital cost of providing a smallholding goes up in the interval between the approval of their estimates by the Ministry and the actual borrowing. Conversely, we ensure that the Exchequer gets the due benefit if there is a fall in the rate of interest.
The next three clauses, Clauses 4 to 6, introduce amendments into the constitution and proceedings of the agricultural land tribunals set up by the Agriculture Act, 1947. Your Lordships will be familiar with the working of these bodies. Their main task is to hear and decide finally, on the basis of the facts, cases in which decisions and proposals of my right honourable friend (or of county agricultural executive committees acting under powers which he has delegated to them) under the Act, and also under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, are referred to them at the request of one of the parties concerned. The best known of these references are concerned with notices to quit given by landlords to their tenants, and proposals to dispossess occupiers or owners for failing to observe 600 the rules of good husbandry or of good estate management.
These references are often called "appeals," but what the tribunal really has to do is to hear the whole case again and reach an independent decision. Sometimes they take the same view as my right honourable friend or the county agricultural executive committee, and sometimes they do not, but I believe it is generally agreed that they have done their work admirably and impartially. Both the Country Landowners' Association and the National Farmers' Union, as the national bodies representing both owners and occupiers of agricultural land, have expressed to my right honourable friend their confidence in the tribunals and the way in which they do their work.
Clauses 4 to 6 of the Bill make three improvements in the constitution and powers of the tribunals. These changes raise no controversial issues, but have been urged on us from a number of well-informed sources as the result of experience we have had over the past six years. Their object is, first, to make the independence of the tribunals abundantly clear, by providing that in future members of a tribunal shall be appointed by the chairman instead of by the Minister of Agriculture; secondly, to enable them to award costs where necessary to check vexatious references, as for example when a landlord tries to harry a tenant by taking him before the tribunal year by year on a notice to quit; thirdly, to enable any aggrieved person to have, as of right, access to the High Courts on questions of law, by way of reference from the tribunal.
I think your Lordships will probably prefer me to deal with the remaining clauses of the Bill fairly shortly, though, of course, if any noble Lords have any particular questions on these clauses, I shall be glad to deal with them either in replying to this debate or in the later stages of the Bill. Clause 7 raises the upper limit to the contributions by growers and the British Sugar Corporation for the programme of sugar beet research and education which, under the provisions of the Sugar Industry Reorganisation Act, 1936, and the Sugar Industry Act, 1942, has since 1942 been carried out under the ægis of the Sugar Beet Research and Education Committee. With rising costs and increases in the programme of the work, particularly on such matters as the 601 campaign against virus yellows, the maximum contributions, payable at the moment, namely, 1d. per ton of beet from the grower and the Corporation, have proved insufficient, and the Committee's reserves are now exhausted. With the approval of the National Farmers' Union and the British Sugar Corporation we are increasing the maximum rate of contribution to 3d. a ton, both from the grower and the British Sugar Corporation.
Clause 8 gives local authorities permanent powers (which they have hitherto had only under Defence Regulations) to provide for the collection and processing of kitchen waste for animal feedingstuffs. At present, some 220,000 tons of pig food is collected every year by local authorities, and much of it is processed. In this connection, we will all remember and pay our tribute to the late Lord Morrison, not only for his work for many years as Chairman of the Waste Food Board but also for his interest in the pioneer work in this field of his own Borough of Tottenham, from which the name of "Tottenham pudding" is derived. Clause 9 gives us power to control the importation of bees so as to prevent the introduction of bee diseases, such as acarine and nosema, which are prevalent overseas. This is another example of powers derived from Defence Regulations which we want to put on a permanent basis.
Clause 10 and the Second Schedule, which extend to Great Britain, are designed to apply the provisions of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, to the transport of animals by air, whether to or from this country or within the country. This Act consolidated earlier Acts, some of which were drafted as long ago as 1894, when animals other than birds did not fly. We have all become much more air-minded lately and the recent flight of a large number of breeding pigs to Yugoslavia illustrates how things have changed. The need to amend the law accordingly will not, I think, be disputed.
Clause 11 makes some minor amendments to the Seeds Act, 1920. These are all highly technical and I do not think I need trouble your Lordships by describing them at this stage in any detail, but I should perhaps mention that, following on recent discussions with the organisations representing the growers, users and merchants of seeds in the United Kingdom, my right honourable 602 friend is setting up a small committee to examine in general the working of the Seeds Act, 1920, in the light of the report of the Committee on the qualitative control of seeds. The new committee will consider whether any more fundamental alterations of the provisions of the Act are called for.
The remaining two clauses apply solely to Scotland. Clause 12 enables the Secretary of State to fix minimum rates of wages for persons employed by him under the Scottish Harvesting Scheme. Clause 13 extends to Scotland the provisions of the Corn Returns Act. The main reason for this is that, to operate the Government's price guarantee scheme for oats and barley, we must have returns of the prices at which these two cereals are sold in Great Britain. These are the provisions of the Bill and it only remains for me to commend it to your Lordships as a useful if rather dull measure which will benefit agriculture in general. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a,—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord opposite for his careful explanation of the provisions of this Bill. He rightly described it as an unexciting Bill; he even went so far as to say that it was a dull Bill—almost damning it with faint praise. Although that undoubtedly is the case, I think he will agree that it is an important Bill because of its effect on home food production. It is by no means an easy Bill to deal with on Second Reading. It is unprincipled—I do not mean that it is based on a wrong principle, but merely that, as the Tide rightly indicates, there is no principle of policy to connect and link together the different clauses in the Bill. Its proposals range from an extension of the many and onerous duties of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to arrangements for the collection and disposal of swill and, the noble Lord pointed out, for the control of flying pigs and other airborne domestic animals. The result of this absence of any governing principle is that a Second Reading debate is bound to become a fairly detailed discussion on particular clauses—indeed, I think the noble Lord's speech was, very rightly and properly, a detailed explanation on the contents of the various 603 clauses of the Bill. I do not consider that that is any disadvantage, in the sense that we can say now what otherwise might have to be said, and is probably more usually said, at a later stage of the Bill, and so avoid repetition.
It was clear from what the noble Lord said in his closing sentence that, although there is no principle of policy, either in the Bill or in the Explanatory Memorandum, the purpose of the Bill is to increase the production of home-grown food; and however much its proposals may differ inter se they can all be judged by this one criterion. Some will do much; others, I think, a good deal less, to help food production; but I join with the noble Lord in his expression of hope that they will all do something in this direction. For this reason, I agree with the noble Lord opposite that the Bill is a useful measure which deserves your Lordships' support. Indeed, I remember that we in the late Government had already reached the conclusion that legislation arising out of the administration of the 1947 Act would soon be needed. I have no doubt that, had the last general Election gone differently, and we had had responsibility in this matter, we should have produced something on the lines of the present Bill—better, no doubt, but perhaps not very different. One advantage we have in dealing with this Bill is that it has been thoroughly pre-digested in another place. It has not been sent to us like some measures that reach us only half, or perhaps three-quarters, digested; each clause has been minutely examined by a Standing Committee in another place, and the original Bill has already been considerably improved by a number of Amendments which have been agreed between the Parties. This will save a great deal of time in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, I shall limit my observations to some comments on three clauses which I regard as containing the more important provisions of the Bill, where the proposed changes in the law are of special significance for agriculture and the farming community. Everyone will be glad to see the proposal in Clause 1 of the Bill, to prolong the Minister's power to make grants to farmers towards the cost of ditching and field drainage—the power which, as the noble Lord pointed out, would otherwise end in August. Of 604 course, under existing schemes for which grants have been made since the war, many thousands of acres have already been reclaimed, but there is plenty of water-logged land that could be made more productive. Most farmers keep their field drainage in good order and are thoroughly conscientious about it, but if a small man is short of labour or of cash to keep his ditches clear, the public money put into these schemes is bound to be wasted. I hope, therefore, that it will be made absolutely clear to applicants for grants under these schemes that they should not undertake a drainage scheme unless they are, at any rate at the time they make the application, prepared and able to maintain it. I hope that this will be brought home to farmers by their county executive. We must, of course, rely on their good sense in this matter of the maintenance of drainage works, because it would be impracticable and undesirable to inspect every scheme for which monies have been provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The wider problem of land drainage is, of course, untouched by the provisions of the Bill and by the continuation of the present arrangements for ditching and field drainage. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will agree that the existing law relating to the drainage of agricultural land is totally inadequate. Between the small drains and ditches, for which individual farmers are responsible, and the main rivers, maintained by the river boards, there are hundreds of miles of streams which are outside the scope of the river boards but far too costly for farmers, or even large local authorities, to keep in check. We shall lose more valuable farming land this year from flooding unless these secondary streams are taken in hand. When we are still losing land to local authorities and to Government Departments, we cannot afford to lose more land owing to flooding and the conditions which flooding produces. I know that the Government want to get agreement about the Heneage Report before they introduce legislation based upon its recommendations, but the time factor is extremely important. Your Lordships will remember that the Heneage Committee reported in 1951—three years ago. Some time has elapsed since the publication of that Report, and I cannot help feeling that, if 605 the authorities concerned are still in disagreement at the end of the summer, the Government would do as well to cut the Gordian knot by introducing a Bill in the next Session of Parliament. I am quite certain that we shall not be able to deal with this drainage problem unless we have a Drainage Bill based on the recommendations of the Heneage Committee.
My second observation is on Clauses 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill, which alter the constitution and powers of agricultural land tribunals. I am sure that it is desirable, as the Bill sets out to do, to give these tribunals the power to award costs against a person making a frivolous or vexatious reference, and the mere fear of incurring a penalty of that kind should prevent cases of this type from arising. The right of appeal to the High Court on a point of law is another useful change. But more important, I think, than either of those facts is the proposed alteration in the method of choosing the members of the tribunals, other than the chairman. The proposal to give the Lord Chancellor, instead of the Minister of Agriculture, the power to select and approve the panels of farmers and landowners to sit on land tribunals will finally remove this responsibility from the Minister. This change seems to me admirable, because it carries out a principle with which everyone agrees. We all accept the old adage, that justice should not only be done but should appear to be done. In this case it is the appearance of justice that must be secured, and I think it will be secured by this provision.
So long as the Minister, who, of course, is often a party to these cases, has a say in the composition of a land tribunal, some people will complain that it is not an impartial and independent body. This complaint cannot be made after the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has taken the Minister's place, as he will do under the Bill, in choosing the panels from which the tribunals are chosen. But I think it should be said, and I am glad the noble Lord opposite said, in fairness to the land tribunals, that their decisions in the past have not shown any bias at all in favour of the Ministry and certainly no bias in favour of the Minister of Agriculture. The fact is that in about one-third of the cases they have heard, which have usually been appeals from dispossession orders or notices to quit, the appeal 606 has been allowed. That certainly does not suggest that the farmers have not had a square deal. I agree with the view expressed by a Conservative Member in another place, when he pointed out that farmers have always been given the benefit of any doubt when their cases have been heard before these tribunals. Indeed, it may be that the land tribunals should be more severe, if anything, in the interpretation of their duties from the point of view of maintaining the efficiency of agriculture.
I hope that this change in the appointment of personnel for land tribunals will be made as soon as possible. I see under Clause 4, subsection (2), that the date will be fixed by Ministerial order. I should like to ask the noble Lord opposite, who perhaps would be good enough to reply when he winds up, whether the intention is that the order should be made as soon as the Bill is passed into law, and whether the Minister proposes to fix an early date for this change. If there is any reason for delay—and I cannot imagine that there is likely to be any reason—perhaps the noble Lord will be good enough to explain it. There is one respect in which I am still not satisfied about the composition of the land tribunals. I think they should include representatives of farm workers as well as representatives of farmers and landowners. I read carefully the arguments used by the Minister in reply to this objection in another place, and I remain completely unconvinced. I hope the noble Lord opposite will reconsider this decision to exclude farm workers from the personnel of agricultural land tribunals. After all, their qualifications to sit on these tribunals are every bit as good as those of farmers and landowners. As members of county executive committees, district committees and sub-committees of county executives, they discuss and decide every month of the year, whenever these committees meet, questions of good husbandry and good estate management such as are typical of the questions heard by the agricultural land tribunals.
It has been said, as an objection to this proposed change, that up till now the tribunals have worked quite well without the presence of any farm workers. That is perfectly true, and I am not complaining at all about the efficiency of their work; but, after all, this is not an answer 607 to the case for making these tribunals as representative of the agricultural industry as are the county executive committees. It raises an important question of principle. The fact is that since the 1947 Act a feeling of resentment has grown up among farm-workers at their exclusion from this important field of work. They feel that this exclusion is contrary to the spirit of the Act. The Act set up a three-sided partnership in which all the partners had equal status in agriculture, a partnership of farmers, landowners, and farm-workers. By the Act they were associated as equal partners in the local committees responsible for stimulating food production throughout the country, and the Minister has delegated very important powers to these committees. It is vital for agriculture to maintain the good feeling between all three partners in the work of food production. I do not know whether the Government realises that this sense of grievance exists, but I fear that unless it is allayed it will grow in the course of time. It can be put right only by associating representatives of the farm-workers with those of the landowners and farmers in the work of dealing with appeals from the county executives.
The only other clause on which I should like to comment briefly is Clause 8—my noble friend Lord Burden will deal in greater detail with that clause. I am not at all happy about the provision in the clause that allows local authorities to sell unprocessed kitchen waste as animal feed. Everyone knows that contagious animal diseases such as swine fever, fowl pest, and, indeed, foot and mouth disease, have been spread in the past by the use of raw swill, and anyone who has ever had anything to do with the Ministry has been painfully aware of the way in which these diseases have got a hold as a result of the feeding to animals of untreated swill. We shall never succeed in stamping out these diseases until all waste fed to animals has been processed or sterilised. That, clearly, is a long-term objective; I do not say it is immediately practicable. During the war many local authorities set up plant for processing and treating kitchen-waste that they had collected. I should like to mention, as I am sure your Lordships would wish me to do, that my 608 late noble friend on these Benches, Lord Morrison, was a pioneer in this field, and as a result of his inspiration Tottenham set up a processing plant which has been an example to local authorities in other parts of the country. Local authorities have now been released from the obligation to treat their swill before they sell it to neighbouring farmers. It is true (and of course this objection must be very seriously weighed), that if treatment were made obligatory many authorities would stop collecting swill and would simply dispose of it with other refuse; and I expect the noble Lord will make that argument in his reply to what I am saying. But I think there is an answer to the argument. After all, we must set off against the loss of animal feed which would result if local authorities gave up collecting waste and simply threw it away, the lessened risk of disease and the great cost in terms of the spread of these diseases, which is a risk that perhaps is even less justified now than it was in past times, on account of the much lower prices now for oats, barley and other feedingstuffs for which in times past waste has been a substitute.
I agree—and no doubt the noble Lord will make this point—that the elimination of untreated swill collected in towns would not do away with the spread of animal diseases through the consumption of untreated waste, because, of course, the same thing might happen as the result of waste collected in rural areas. But although the risk of spreading disease cannot be completely removed until this problem is dealt with as a whole and it becomes obligatory to treat all waste, whether town or rural, I think the Government could have gone further by saying that local authorities should continue to treat their waste as they did during the war. I realise that this matter is still under consideration by the Government. They have not yet received the Gowers Committee's Report, and I think the least they could do, in view of the risks they are taking under this Bill, would be to say that they are prepared to introduce legislation next year or as soon as possible after they have received and considered the Gowers Committee's Report. I should like to ask the noble Lord—perhaps he will be good enough to reply when he winds up—how soon he thinks this Report will be available. 609 Those are all the paints that I wish to make on the Bill, and I would only repeat what I said at the outset: that I think it is a useful measure, and one which will help food production. I therefore hope that it will receive your Lordships' support.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I should like to add my word of welcome to this Bill, which I should have regarded as non-controversial, in that it deals mainly with matters which it is generally felt need a certain degree of rectification and improvement. In that sense, it seems reasonable to suggest that it should be widened to deal with another matter which should also, I think, be quite non-controversial—I refer to the judgment of Mr. Justice Danckwerts, in a recent case, which has brought to light what appears to be an unintentional error or defect in the wording of a subsection of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948. Many of your Lordships will, no doubt, know the subsection to which I refer. It enables owners to terminate a tenancy, provided that a notice to quit is served within three months of the death of the tenant with whom the contract of tenancy was made.
It had always been supposed that, on the death of the survivor of a joint tenancy, the owner could exercise his power under that subsection to terminate the tenancy, and resume possession at the expiration of the twelve months' notice to quit. The learned Judge's decision, however, clearly indicates that such is not the position, and that a notice to quit, under that subsection of the Act, served on the executors of a surviving joint tenant is of no effect without the consent of the Minister of Agriculture. For a notice to be effective without such consent in the circumstances of a joint tenancy it is necessary for both, or all, the joint tenants to have died within the three months' period in which the owner may serve notice to quit. I think your Lordships will agree that the chances of that happening with any degree of frequency are rather remote. Thus, an owner who has let land to joint tenants cannot exercise the right which Parliament clearly intended him to have. It must surely be a quite unacceptable position that legislation should be continued which involves a quite unintended result, which, in turn, 610 may even give rise to hardship; and I think it only right that this should be corrected as quickly as possible. It may be thought that this is not a very important matter, that it might wait until some other period when more Parliamentary time is available, and that it could be included with other matters in one and the same Bill. I should like to-day to give your Lordships a few figures to show that it is not quite such a small matter as might be thought.
Information has been sought from a total of 160 estates, most of which average about 2,000 acres. I may say that from these same estates it is customary to obtain information on the subject of rents and other matters which have been considered by Her Majesty's Government in official reports. So far, it has been found from the replies received that, out of a total of 4,990 tenancies, there are 509 existing joint tenancies—that is to say, approximately 10 per cent. Further, there were 113 instances, or approximately 2 per cent., in which there was a surviving tenant of a joint tenancy. Therefore when the figures are put together, they show a proportion of approximately 12 per cent. There are all these cases in which, very probably, the right granted by Parliament to owners cannot be exercised. Accordingly, I hope that it will be possible to admit the importance of this matter and that amendment can be made by the acceptance of a new clause which it is proposed to move on the Committee stage. I think it is most important that owners, as well as tenants, should know exactly where they stand in the matter, and, moreover, that their position should he equitable—which it is not at present. Otherwise, there must be a practically complete cessation of joint tenancies which I think it must be agreed, in view of the figures that I have given to your Lordships, are important, and in many cases beneficial.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Listowel has dealt so effectively with the proposals of this Bill that it is hardly necessary for me to add anything to what has already been said except with respect to Clause 4. But, before I pass to that, may I be allowed to say that the Government's policy—or perhaps it would be truer to say lack of policy—with regard to agriculture, is 611 meeting with an increased volume of criticism throughout the country. Only this week a respected leader of an agricultural trade union pointed out that the present Government is, point by point, undermining the policy laid down in the 1947 Act. It may, perhaps, be dangerous for the Government to assume that most farmers have many Tory corpuscles in their blood. When the time comes the Government may have a rude awakening. Passing now to Clause 4, I submit that this clause breaks faith with many local authorities who have spent much time and money in the national interest in developing the collection and processing of kitchen waste.
§ LORD BURDEN
I beg your Lordships' pardon—I meant to say Clause 8. This clause breaks faith with many local authorities who have spent time and money in the national interest in developing the collection and processing of kitchen waste. Secondly, the Government's policy may lead to grave outbreaks of foot and mouth disease if farmers either ignorantly—it would be illegal, I agree—or recklessly feed unprocessed kitchen waste to pigs and poultry. Further, I maintain that this policy is being pursued flouting the expressed opinion of the Ministry's own experts and, in addition, the views of agriculturists who are members of the Government's own Party in another place.
These are serious charges, and in endeavouring to prove my case it will be necessary for me to trouble your Lordships with actual quotations, including one from the Minister himself. The first is from a paper by Mr. F. C. Dawes, a brilliant civil servant, now retired, whose outstanding ability in my opinion has never received that official recognition it so richly deserves. Mr. Dawes worked in conjunction with the late Lord Morrison, having been loaned by the Ministry of Health to the Board of Trade to develop the kitchen waste and waste business. Look at what Mr. Dawes wrote in 1953:Very early in the war, local authorities were officially asked to collect kitchen waste separately, and dispose of it to pig and poultry feeders, with boiling apparatus to sterilise it in accordance with the terms of a Statutory 612 Order which specified 'exposure to a temperature of boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit) for not less than a period of one hour.' The Order was made in 1941, by which time it was known that kitchen waste was a carrier of the virus of foot and mouth disease brought into the country in imported meat.Many costly and wasteful outbreaks of this disease occurred soon after the beginning of the war which the veterinary experts of the Ministry of Agriculture attributed to the extended use of unsterilised raw kitchen waste as a feeding stuff; at the same time the Ministry reported that it was necessary not only to continue to use it, but urgently to increase supplies. This led to the establishment of 66 sterilisation stations up and down the country, and local authorities within economic transport distance of these stations were directed separately to collect kitchen waste and forward their collections to these stations for sterilisation and concentration in steam-jacketed cylinders. … These plants are still operating and more than 200,000 tons of sterile feeding stuff—which is in very keen demand—are produced annually from this class of organic refuse and sold to pig and poultry feeders.Had it not been necessary to introduce a war-time scheme it is doubtful whether separate collections of kitchen waste, which are made two or three times weekly, would have been introduced, but so long as the strong demand for sterile concentrate continues, it is officially hoped that the local authorities, who own and operate most of the sterilisation plants, and private firms, who operate about a fourth of them, will continue to develop this dollar-saving service by increasing the output of concentration up to the level of demand. To achieve this end, increased collections by the plant-owning and the contributory local authorities will be necessary.The next evidence I wish to submit to your Lordships is from a paper by Mr. R. K. Macdowall, of the Ministry of Agriculture, on the production of stock-feed from waste materials—I have a copy of the paper here. He says:In this country we have now witnessed more than a decade of widespread effort in many of our towns and cities to recover edible waste materials and convert them into animal feeding-stuffs. The measure of success which has been achieved is sufficiently demonstrated by statistical returns. Since the outbreak of war in 1939 a total of more than 4 million tons of raw material has thus been reclaimed by local authorities in Great Britain. Making due allowance for moisture and foreign matter, this total is equivalent to about 1 million tons of course grains like feeding barley or maize. Kitchen waste from domestic and other sources has been a major constituent of this total, while a small but growing fraction has been derived from commercial and industrial sources. This latter fraction has been of particular value owing to its greater average content of animal protein….613 The Paper goes on:In this work local authorities have played a leading part. In many of our towns and cities, the officers responsible for public cleansing have broken new ground by the intensive collection or processing, or both, of waste materials formerly neglected. Many of these special wastes have brought their own problems in transport and in processing …The period 1941 to 1951 saw this commissioning of many central processing plants for waste food in or near about one hundred towns. At these the perishable waste materials were sterilised and treated to reduce bulk and make possible their economic transport to rural areas in a wholesome condition. In this way much potentially infective raw material was kept away from farms and livestock, and the risks of spreading animal disease considerably lessened. This prophylactic aspect demands emphasis, for the history of many primary outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease has shown the presence of unsterilised swill on farms to be a major cause….At present about 350 local authorities have the support of the Licensing of Private Collectors Orders which aim at restricting private collections in scheduled areas and promoting the economic operation of organised collections and of the central processing plants. In addition, fifty other local authorities operate independent collection schemes.In the aggregate these municipal collection schemes produce about 1,000 tons of recovered waste daily, of which some 95 per cent. is sterilised at central plants before feeding.That is a quotation from the expert of the Ministry of Health.
The next quotation I submit, and there can be no cavil at this, is from the Minister of Agriculture himself, in a letter dated October 20, 1952. This letter is so important for my case that I venture to submit it in full. It begins as follows:I am writing on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to convey to you their appreciation of the valuable assistance given by your Council in the national scheme for the organised collection and sterilisation of waste food. The scheme produces some 400,000 tons of raw material each year and the total concentrated animal food made available to stock-keepers since the scheme started is about 2¼ million tons. Each ton of concentrated waste is sufficient to feed one pig from weaning to slaughter.Impressive as these figures are they give no ground for complacency, nor do they justify any relaxation of effort. They could well be improved upon and I am asking for your Council's continued co-operation and effort. I know this is a difficult time to ask local authorities to devote money to development, but here they can help twice over in saving dollars and producing more food. I earnestly hope therefore you will arrange for a review of the efforts being made so as to assist even further in the future.614The present scheme was started in 1940 as a war-time expedient to conserve food resources and save the shipping space of imported animal feeding-stuffs. But the scheme to-day"—that was, in 1952—is every bit as necessary as it was during the war. The nation needs more meat and at this stage it is primarily to the pig we must look to supply that extra meat. We also want more poultry and more eggs. We can have both, if we can feed the hens. There is a continued shortage of feeding-stuffs for both pigs and poultry and we cannot afford foreign exchange to purchase all we need overseas. It is imperative, therefore, that the maximum quantity of waste food should be salvaged to turn it into valuable food for pigs and poultry. We can use all we can get provided it is properly treated.The next paragraph is one of the most salient of the letter. It says:Unless salvaged raw waste is sterilised, there is a great risk of animal disease being conveyed to livestock through small pieces of waste containing scraps of meat infected with foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever or fowl pest. The approved central sterilisation plants were erected to overcome this risk by treating the raw waste in factory plants away from live stock so that it is made available to stock-keepers in a safe and easily handled form. Although the stock-keepers are required by law to boil swill before feeding it to live stock, and in their own interests they naturally do their best to carry out their obligations, outbreaks of animal disease continue to be attributed to the taking of raw swill for boiling on to premises where stock is kept. No outbreak of animal disease has ever been attributed to treated waste sterilised at a central plant.Since this Ministry took over responsibility for the organised salvage of kitchen waste in April, 1950, the working of the scheme has been reviewed and the views of the various associations of local authorities and other interested bodies have been considered. I have recently announced in Parliament that legislation to place the scheme (now operating under Defence Regulations) under a more stable basis will be considered when possible, though unfortunately, owing to the present pressure of Parliamentary business, I can give no undertaking as to when that will be.In these circumstances, and with the certainty that there will be continued demand for good quality concentrate for many years to come, I sincerely hope your Council will review their existing arrangements and let my Department know what they can do to ensure that increased quantities of this valuable material are salvaged for animal feeding.That letter is signed by the Minister of Agriculture himself, and addressed to Lord Mayors, Mayors and chairmen of councils. I ask your Lordships particularly to notice the statement by the Minister—which, incidentally, in another place, the Parliamentary Secretary of the 615 Ministry had what I can only call the audacity to question—that,Unless salvaged raw waste is sterilised, there is a grave risk of animal disease being conveyed to live stock through small pieces of waste containing scraps of meat infected with foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever or fowl pest.In passing, I would call attention to the grave risks which are now arising from the use of unsterilised waste food collected from American Air Force camps, particularly so far as fowl pest is concerned. We all know that fowl pest is endemic in America, and anyone using non-processed waste from an American camp is asking for the most serious trouble.
Reverting now to the main theme, the letter of the Minister of Agriculture is reinforced by one dated as recently as May 29, 1953, signed, I presume, by one of the officials of the Ministry, a Mr. H. G. Lambert. After referring to the new changes, and so on, in regard to the fixing of farm prices, the letter goes on to say:The above extracts make it clear that, far from removing the importance of exploiting sources of supplementary home-grown food, the Government's programme relies on increased supplies of feed in this country. And they do not justify fears of a sudden change at 31st July in the overall demand for processed waste food. But the actual market price of any feeding-stuff is likely to fluctuate during the year with temporary changes of supply—particularly at harvest time.Incidentally, the Ministry of Food contributed to these fluctuations by stocking up with potatoes and then suddenly putting those potatoes on the market and upsetting the demand for kitchen waste. The letter goes on:The Ministry would therefore advise local authorities operating processing plants as follows:616
Such long-term contracts might include provision for such matters as price, transport allowance, delivery point and time for collections, assurance of supply and reception for a number of years, etc. It might also include a scheme for profit-sharing on such a basis as to stimulate collections. Some plant operators have already made contracts of this nature, and various means have been adopted to stimulate collection.
- (a) To examine their price fixing and selling arrangements to ensure that they can deal with seasonal or temporary variations in demand.
- (b) To consider further the desirability of making long-term contracts with their contributors so as to ensure regular supplies on an agreed basis.It will be clear that the continued success of the salvage scheme will depend to an increasing extent on plant operators. There is no intention of varying the requirement that local authorities should send any waste food collected to a central processing plant, but the Ministry will in future consider any requests from collection authorities to transfer from the processing plant named in the Direction to another, subject of course to reasonable notice being given. Discussions are still proceeding on the terms of permanent legislation, which is to be considered when possible, to replace the present arrangement….That is as firm an assurance as can be given to the local authorities.
I now come to what I cannot but describe as the betrayal of the local authorities and those engaged in the raising of pigs and poultry farming. This new policy is outlined in a circular dated December 12, 1953. That circular, geting away from all those promises, says this:The Government have decided that the salvage of waste food by local authorities will in future be on a voluntary basis, and my right honourable friend hopes to introduce legislation in the current Session giving local authorities the necessary permissive powers so that the war-time directions can be revoked. In the meantime, he is prepared to revoke individual directions for local authorities if they wish him to do so. Despite this, I should say that this is a most useful piece of salvage work which ought, if possible, to be maintained as a long-term service.Did you ever hear such feeble expressions of direction in your life? Then he goes on—and this is the sting in the thing:Now that local authorities are free to decide whether or not they will salvage waste food it appears to the Minister reasonable that restrictions should be removed from the private collectors, provided minimum animal health requirements are met. It has been decided to amend the Department's practice accordingly. This letter is to advise you, therefore, that as from January 1, 1954, the issue of licences will depend on animal health requirements only. Any collector of kitchen waste who possesses plant capable of sterilising his collected material to the satisfaction of one of the Ministry's veterinary officers will be given a licence permitting him to collect at any premises where the waste is made available to him.It is perfectly true that some local authorities raise objection to continuing the policy of processing kitchen waste if this involves a charge on the local rates. But that objection could easily have been overcome, if there had been the will to do it. If the statement of Sir Ralph Enfield in April, 1954, in Lloyds Bank Review is correct, it appears that there 617 will be something like £200 million paid out this year in price support so far as agriculture is concerned, and the figure of £200 million and £300 million is mentioned for 1954–55. Out of that vast sum, if there had been the will to do it, arrangements could have) been made for local authorities to continue this useful work without any cost at all to the rates and, at the same time, maintain the supply of foodstuffs. But I suppose the Minister preferred another way. Again in his own words, his policy is to:enable the healthy wind of enterprise, initiative and freedom to sweep away the cobwebs of twelve years of control.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ LORD BURDEN
It does not matter about the foodstuffs; it does not matter about the spreading of diseases, and so on. I will come to that in a moment.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
should not like it to be thought that that extract from my right honourable friend's speech had anything to do with waste or swill. It was about agricultural policy generally.
§ LORD BURDEN
Surely, the provision of foodstuffs is part of agricultural policy generally. That quotation, which I have made deliberately, reveals the state of mind of the person, and shows why we have not had made the arrangements with the local authorities which ought to have been made. The circular to which I have referred goes on to say that certificates will be issued to any private collector who possesses plant capable of sterilising the material collected to the satisfaction of one of the Minister's officers. That—and pardon the phrase—is sheer, unadulterated "bunk." What guarantees are there that, having once got a certificate, he is going to sterilise the waste food he has? None at all. He will be perfectly free to sell it in an unsterilised or sterilised state just as he thinks fit. At this very moment, many local authorities are selling tons of untreated kitchen waste direct to middlemen who are hawking it round the farms. One local authority, to my own knowledge, has already sold its processing plant, and others are advertising their plant for sale. The City of Bath are advertising their concentration plant, and a similar advertisement has appeared from the Borough of Luton.
618 What is behind this change of policy on the part of the Government? Why are they prepared to run these grave risks? Do they wish to eliminate the use of kitchen waste for the benefit of the big financial interests who control the importation of feedingstuffs generally? Have they succumbed to the pressure of the vast interest of big business in this matter, or what is it? Or is it simply lack of imagination and a so-called dash for freedom? I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not blaming the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and those people who know all abort it. I place the responsibility fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Minister of Agriculture and his fellow Ministers. I am sure that the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture must hate to see their work of the past decade torn up, as the Minister is tearing it up. I remember that when I was in the railway service any person who moved animals from an area infected with swine fever was liable to prosecution and the infliction of heavy penalties. What, then, should be said to a man or a Minister who deliberately creates the conditions, as the Minister is doing in this policy, likely to bring about the horrible diseases of fowl pest, foot and mouth disease and swine fever?
I remember reading some words some time ago expressing a countryman's love of the countryside which, although I am a mere townsman, I venture to quote to your Lordships:A land of quiet tilth and cote,Of little woods and streams,Of gentle skies and clouds afloat,And swift sun-gleams!A land where knee-deep cattle keepChewing as they stand;Of hillsides murmurous with sheep—That is my native land.My Lords, the countryside, with its enchanting loveliness, is in the grave risk of being ravaged by foul diseases. I beg of the Government to change their policy in this matter before it is too late.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down will forgive me if I do not follow him in the matter of collection of refuse except to say that I should have thought it was a little far-fetched to accuse the Government of betraying the local authorities when what they have done is to allow 619 them to make up their own minds about something which is essential to local authority service. I know that my noble friend in front will be able to deal with the point fully, and I am only sorry that I shall not be here to hear him do so. I wish for one short moment to make reference to two points in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Explanatory Memorandum. I am a member of the Ministry's Smallholdings Committee, and I want to say how glad I am that there is now freedom to go over fifty acres in certain places. I say that particularly because I come from hill-farming country. It is the policy of the Ministry, and rightly so, that a smallholding should be capable of supporting the man who farms it, without his having to undertake any other occupation. In the ordinary way, fifty acres is sufficient, but when you come to rough grazings on the hillside you want a bit more than that, because grazings of that sort of a total of more than fifty acres are, in fact, only the equivalent of fifty acres of good land. We now have some arrangement which helps the smallholder in the hill farming country, and I am glad to see it.
I should like to refer to one other point. There is a clause dealing with agricultural land tribunals. Again, I speak as one who is not a member of a land tribunal now but who has been a member and knows what it is like to sit on one. As time goes on, more and more weighty decisions are put on those agricultural land tribunals. I think my noble friends in front of me will have no complaint about the way in which, by and large, the tribunals and the individual members have done their duty, but the time has most certainly come when the members of the agricultural land tribunals should be removed from any possibility of suspicion of partisan bias or partisan atmosphere, and, as is proposed in the Bill, should be given a more legal look and be appointed by the Lord Chancellor. I am glad to see that clause in the Bill.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
My Lords, I told the noble Lord, Lord Burden, that I was going to try to deal with some of his statements. He assured me he would be back in this Chamber in a moment or two. Meanwhile, I should like to say a 620 word about a point that is omitted from this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, introducing the Bill, said that one of its objects was to increase food production. He mentioned the grant for land drainage. It has been brought to my attention recently that there is a gap in the present law and the powers of the Ministry of Agriculture to deal with drainage on a small scale. The noble Lord, will, I imagine, say that all matters of drainage must wait until they are dealt with on a comprehensive scale as the result of bringing the recommendations of the Heneage Report into operation. But I suggest that there is one small point which might be dealt with, apart and in advance, and it is this. Contrary to what I and some others have thought was the result of war-time regulations, it appears that there is no power on the part of an agricultural executive committee in the county to insist that a farmer shall clear out a boundary ditch. Such action has become of increasing importance compared with the old days, owing to the break-up of estates and the multiplication of smallholdings. It often happens that a ditch alongside a field of a certain farmer vitally affects the drainage of an adjoining farm a little farther up, and unless that ditch is cleared out, the adjoining farm cannot be properly farmed. Often, quite substantial areas of land remain unproductive simply because they are waterlogged through the negligence of the adjoining farmer.
I confess that I thought that, under the war-time powers that we took, it was possible, and still would be, to deal with a case like that, but apparently I was wrong. There is no doubt at all that it would be a great advantage to people generally if a contumacious farmer, let us call him, with a comparatively short stretch of ditch, were in some way or other compelled to carry out the obligation of making his neighbour's land capable of being properly drained. I venture to suggest that that is a small point but pretty extensive in its effect, and it might be dealt with without waiting for the major river proposals involved in the Heneage Report. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will deal with the very confused speech of the noble Lord, Lord Burden, who has not returned; therefore I will resume my seat and leave it to my noble friend to deal with that.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I am grateful for the way in which your Lordships have received this Bill. I agree with the noble Lord opposite that, though it may be not exciting and rather a hotchpotch, it is an important Bill. Some of its clauses are of the greatest importance and benefit to food production. The best thing I can do now is to try to answer some of the questions that have been put to me. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked me about land drainage, as has my noble friend who has just sat down. I can answer my noble friend first and say that I have every sympathy with the sort of case which he has in mind. He has already given himself the answer which I was going to give him—that is, that these matters must wait until they can be comprehensively dealt with under the Heneage Report.
The noble Earl referred to the Heneage Report. I cannot contend that we have acted in this matter in a very speedy fashion. As has been pointed out, the Heneage Committee reported in 1951, some two and a half years ago. I would, however, say this—and I think noble Lords on all sides will agree with me. Not only is this a very complicated matter—as anybody who has read the Heneage Report, and who knows something about the difficulties of land drainage, will agree—but it is also a highly controversial matter. Some of the recommendations of the Heneage Committee are by no means acceptable to all Parties. We have taken considerable pains to discover the views of all those people who are interested in drainage and who will be affected by any legislation. Indeed, we have only recently received the views of one of the organisations most directly concerned in the whole matter. In addition, the particular section of the Ministry of Agriculture which is most concerned with drainage has for the last twelve months been working at extremely high pressure to remedy the devastation which was caused by the floods at the beginning of last year. I use that as a mitigating circumstance. The section has been very busy, and your Lordships will know that it has done a very fine job indeed in that matter. I should have thought that, in the circumstances, in a matter of this complexity, we must make quite certain that we are doing the right thing before we proceed any further, and must also, 622 if possible, try to get the agreement of all those concerned.
The noble Earl also asked me whether or not we were paying sufficient attention to the question of maintenance after these ditching schemes had been carried out. I can tell him that we sent a circular to all county agricultural executive committees on April 22, 1954, in which we specifically drew the attention of the committees to this matter. If I may quote, we said:All applicants for approval of ditching schemes sign a declaration that they will do their best subsequently to carry out maintenance work, but county drainage and water supply staffs are now urged to draw the special attention of applicants to the declaration and ensure that they are not unmindful of their responsibilities for subsequent maintenance.So we have that point very much in mind.
The noble Earl opposite then asked me whether the Government would reconsider the question of workers' representatives on agricultural land tribunals. Very often, I agree with the noble Earl but on this matter I think that he is wrong. What he wants to do, as I understand it, is to increase the number of members on agricultural land tribunals from three to four, the fourth member being an agricultural worker. I have had some experience of county agricultural committee work, and I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Earl that the agricultural workers' representatives have been most useful. Indeed, it would be unthinkable that the county committee could work without them. But in the case of the land tribunal I do not think that workers can be directly concerned in the cases which arise, because all the cases which come before the tribunal are either cases which are between the Minister and the landlord or the tenant, or between the landlord and the tenant; and in no case is the agricultural worker himself directly concerned in the matter. The composition of the tribunal at the moment is an independent chairman who must be a barrister or solicitor of seven years' standing, and one landowner and one tenant. If the number were increased to four, it would upset the balance of the tribunal, and in cases where voting is necessary make for difficulties. Moreover, as I have said, the very nature of the cases before these tribunals is such that the farm worker has no direct 623 interest in them. My noble friend Lord Chesham raised the very interesting question of joint tenancies and the judgment which has just been given in the High Court. All I should like to say at this time is that between now and the next stage I will certainly consider what he has said, and whether or not we feel that we can or should do anything about it.
Now, my Lords, we come to the main "burden" of the debate, if I may make a bad pun, which was that of waste materials. Both the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Burden, raised this question. The noble Lord, Lord Burden, started off with a moderately good-natured gibe about the Government's lack of a long-term policy. We are getting rather used to that. If he will do me the honour of reading the last speech I made in an agricultural debate in your Lordships' House, he will see that we have a very sound and comprehensive long-term policy. I only wish that I could say the same for his Party. My noble friend Lord Hudson and I have on frequent occasions tried to draw from the Benches opposite a comprehensive policy on agriculture, but without any success whatever.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The noble Lord has suggested to my noble friend that he should read the noble Lord's speech in the last agricultural debate, in order to ascertain the long-term agricultural policy of his Party. Perhaps the noble Lord would like to return the compliment. I suggest that, to ascertain the long-term agricultural policy of the Labour Party, he should read our reference to agriculture in Challenge to Britain.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
We must not let this develop into a debate on long-term agricultural policies, but I have read that document with the greatest care, and the thing that has astounded me about the agricultural statement is that in the whole of the statement put out by the Labour Party there is not one word about marketing. I should have thought that that was a matter, shall we say, not unimportant at the present time; and it is one on which the Party of noble Lords opposite, and noble Lords opposite themselves, have been highly critical of the Government. But I have not noticed any 624 very great statement on that matter coming from them. However, I will leave that, and Lord Burden's gibe.
The noble Lord, Lord Burden, then went on to make a powerful speech, which was lavish in quotation and gesture, about waste material—he had a thoroughly good time; he enjoyed himself very much. I am a generous person and I am glad that he had a happy afternoon. But if, in the cold light of tomorrow, the noble Lord reads in the OFFICIAL REPORT what he has said, without the expressions that he used, and without the changing tones of his voice, he will see that his case added up to remarkably little. The question of the collection of waste food is a very complicated one, and I should like, very calmly, to deal with what the position really is. Broadly speaking, since 1942 the country has been divided into two separate areas as regards the collection of waste food—first, the scheduled areas, which comprise nearly all the urban centres, where licensing of collectors has been obligatory; and, secondly, the more rural areas, in which licensing has not been necessary. In the scheduled areas about 300,000 tons of swill have been collected every year, and, so far as one can assess, something of the order of 250,000 tons in the unscheduled areas. What the clause of this Bill does—and the only thing that it does—is to enable local authorities to continue to collect and to process waste foods; or, if they wish, to sell the waste food unprocessed. I am not trying to avoid anything; the noble Lord will see that when I have finished.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Burden, have argued that, from the animal health point of view, it is essential that any waste food which local authorities collect should be processed and sterilised centrally. But we have felt that it would be an injustice on local authorities to impose on them obligations which we could not impose upon private collectors. They would be in a much worse position than the private collectors. There is another consideration which I think is important. Since last November, when local authorities were given the option either to continue to collect swill or to withdraw from the scheme (I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Burden, is aware of this fact), about half of the local authorities, which 625 represents something in the nature of 25 per cent. of the total tonnage of swill which they collect, have said that they wish to withdraw from collecting swill. There is no doubt that many of them find it difficult to carry on with this collection, and I should have thought the last thing we should do is to discourage them, by the imposition of more restrictions, from continuing the collection of swill.
§ LORD BURDEN
Will the noble Lord forgive me? I do not want to enter into a cross-Table debate, but the fundamental point that I tried to elaborate in my speech was that local authorities feel that they ought not to charge these collections as a cost on the rates. This, coupled with the fact that the direction orders as to the delivery of concentrated kitchen-waste to the local authorities have fallen, is the reason why collections have been given up. But the primary fact is that local authorities should not, and will not, incur charges in this matter which fall on the ratepayers. That is the point.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
But some local authorities—in fact, 50 per cent. of them—are going on with the collection of swill, and some of them are selling it unprocessed; so I do not think that argument helps. I should have thought that if some of them can do it, there is no reason why others should not. But in any case, from the animal health point of view, there is an Order, the Diseases of Animals (Boiling of Animal Foodstuffs) Order, 1947, under which all meat, bones, offal, swill, broken and waste foodstuffs, kitchen refuse, et cetera, are to be boiled before being fed to animals or poultry and are to be so kept that animals or poultry shall not have access thereto until the material is boiled. So no food can be fed to the animals until it has been sterilised and boiled.
It seems to me that we come down to this question—I quite appreciate that the noble Lord feels strongly about it: What is the right balance between, on the one hand, animal health considerations, and, on the other, the desirability of getting as much waste food collected as possible, and allowing people freedom to do it? For the moment, at any rate, I should have thought that we ought to let things stand as they are until the Minister has had an opportunity of seeing the Report of the Gowers Committee on Foot-and-Mouth Disease, which will probably have 626 some interesting things to say on the subject. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked me when that Committee were likely to report, and I can tell him that it will probably be somewhere towards the end of next month; so we shall have some information then. The noble Lord, Lord Burden, will no doubt put down an Amendment on the Committee stage, so we shall start the argument all over again. I am grateful for the way your Lordships have received this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.