§ 3.20 p.m.
§ An Amendment reported (according to Order).
§ Clause 1 [Licensing of slaughterhouses —general]:
LORD FARINGDON moved to add to the clause:
(6) A slaughterhouse licence shall not be granted or renewed under this section or at all in respect of any premises adjoining or forming part of a building used as a dwelling.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will observe that this proposed Amendment is exactly the same in wording as one which I moved on the Committee stage. Your Lordships may well wonder exactly why I have done so. I assure your Lordships that in the ordinary course of events it would not be a thing I should do. However, at that time I withdrew my Amendment I put a question to the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, who has had the courtesy to give me a reply, as to the amount of meat which was slaughtered in slaughterhouses attached to dwellings. His reply has somewhat disconcerted me, because the basis of his opposition to my Amendment on the Committee stage, as I understood it, was that to close these slaughterhouses 966 would disorganise the supply of meat and possibly actually cut it off to a number of people. One naturally assumed, therefore, that there must be a very large quantity of meat passing through those slaughterhouses, and that the Department must be aware of the quantity.
He will excuse me if I quote from his letter, in which he says:
No information is available about the amount of meat treated at this kind of slaughterhouse. There is no statutory provision for them "—
the local authorities—
to collect such information, and the Minister of Agriculture has no power to require them to give him the information.
That really, I suggest makes complete nonsense of the opposition of Her Majesty's Government to this particular Amendment. I do not intend to re-argue the question. It was a point which I think was pretty generally accepted on all sides, and the only reason why we withdrew the Amendment at Committee stage was that we supposed very large and substantial quantities of meat must be going through and that the Government had reason to think that the supplies of meat would be dislocated by such a prohibition or the closing of such slaughterhouses.
§ I would add that it seems to me—I may he wrong the noble Earl will correct me if I am—that in so far as these (as is admitted by everybody) highly undesirable slaughterhouses which now exist are concerned, there is no provision in the Bill for their eventual closing. There is no stage at which, unless I am much mistaken, the slaughterhouse which is at present attached to a dwelling and which will be licensed by the local authority can ever be closed on the ground that it is attached to a dwelling-house. There is provision that new slaughterhouses will not be licensed if they are attached to dwellings but there is no such provision where they are already licensed. Therefore, so far as I can see, the prospect is that these slaughterhouses which now exist will always exist. Perhaps the noble Earl will be able to tell me I am wrong, but I think that that is so. As I say, I do not intend to repeat what I said on Committee stage. We are probably all in agreement that slaughterhouses attached to dwellings are undesirable, and the only point is whether we can conveniently do without them. Her 967 Majesty's Government's opposition to this Amendment is founded on, I can only assume, the gazings of the Minister into the crystal ball which they keep in the Department for that purpose. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 46, at end insert the said subseetion.—(Lord Faringdon.)
EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, for his explanation why he has moved this Amendment again, but for the reasons which I shall give the Government cannot accept the Amendment. As I explained on the Committee stage, the Amendment goes much further than Clause 5 of the Bill, which deals with the same subject. That clause will prohibit the granting of a licence for any new slaughterhouse where the slaughterhall, the part of the premises where the animals are actually slaughtered and dressed, forms part of a dwelling. The Amendment would, however, prohibit any part of the slaughterhouse premises, such, for example, as the lairage or any storage building, from forming part of a dwelling, and this would give rise to a difficult problem at many existing slaughterhouses.
Examples have been brought to our notice of where a slaughterhall forms part of the dwelling, but, as I have explained to the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, complete information on the number of such cases is not available and my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has no power at present to require collection by local authorities of particulars of these cases. However, although we do not know exactly how much meat is produced in this kind of slaughterhouse, we feel that any proposal to close them at once would cause serious disturbance to the distribution of meat. This would apply particularly in the rural areas where slaughterhouses may form part of the shop and the dwelling place of retail butchers trading in the villages and in some of the smaller country towns.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I ask a question on that point? Were slaughterhouses of this type actually in use during the period of control?
EARL ST. ALDWYN
No, they were not all in use. Some of them were, certainly. The Amendment would therefore involve a change which it would be unreasonable to make in the present circumstances. I would, however, draw your Lordships' attention to the provisions of Clause 3(3) of the Bill under which the Minister will have power to direct local authorities to include in their slaughterhouse report any particulars about existing slaughterhouses in their districts. My right honourable friend the Minister will therefore consider asking for particulars to be given in these reports of existing slaughterhouse premises where the slaughterhall forms part of a dwelling, together with an indication whether it is expected that such premises will or will not in future comply with the prescribed standards of construction and equipment. The collection of those particulars will thus give a complete picture of the situation and will enable the Minister to review the problem if necessary. As your Lordships will appreciate, the main object of the Bill is to bring about better standards in our slaughterhouses by improvements over a period. This cannot be achieved immediately, and time must be allowed for the trade to develop either by constructing new slaughterhouses or by improving existing ones.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl could answer two questions. From what he said in his opening remarks, I rather inferred that he might have been more amiably disposed towards this Amendment if I had substituted the word "slaughter-hall" for "slaughterhouse . I should like to ask him whether that is the case and whether if I did so change my Amendment he would be prepared to accept it. The other point which he has not covered is the point about existing slaughterhouses which are attached to dwellings—their acceptability in the future. If I read this Bill correctly, the Minister is taking no power at any time in the future to close slaughterhouses which are attached to dwellings. They are not being given a limited life for convenience sake; they are being given a permanent existence. Therefore, so long as they satisfy the requirements in other respects, then in this, in my view, particularly urgent respect they may go on existing for all time and the Minister 969 has no power to add this particular qualification to what is needed in an approved slaughterhouse. I would ask the noble Earl whether he would be prepared to accept either of two things: would he be prepared to accept the Amendment if substituted "slaughterhall" for slaughterhouse"? Alternatively would