§ 3.13 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, I recognise that this measure does not receive the full approval of the noble Lords who sit opposite, but I hope they will agree that it takes us an important stage on in legislation dealing with this highly important subject. During the Second Reading and in Committee certain criticisms were made of the Bill. We have tried to deal with them fairly and conscientiously. One question was whether lairages were part of a slaughterhouse for the purposes of the Factories Acts. Fortunately, on this matter we have been able to get an Amendment agreed to by both sides. In addition a few drafting and clarifying Amendments have been accepted.
The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, also expressed anxiety lest the introduction of the freedom period would adversely affect the hygienic production of meat. We understand but, frankly, do not share the noble Lord's anxiety. Considerable changes are taking place in the meat industry, and there is a role that can now be filled by the modern larger type of slaughterhouse. We believe that this period of freedom will make it easier for traders to provide, subject to planning permission being obtained, new and better slaughterhouses in the districts which best suit the needs of their individual businesses.
This does not mean that smaller slaughterhouses cannot be satisfactory or that they will not continue to exist. On the contrary, we think that they can and 172 will continue to serve a useful function, particularly in the less densely populated areas. But we recognise that there are older slaughterhouses which cannot readily or economically be made to conform with the new standards which are to be introduced. They will be replaced by new premises, often on new and more suitable sites. It is in assisting this transition from the old to the new that the freedom period will play a useful part. We believe that some of the older less satisfactory slaughterhouses will be replaced by a smaller number of new premises which will conform at once to the new standards. We are also convinced that the new standards will considerably help local authorities in their task of safeguarding the public health, and will result in more satisfactory conditions at slaughterhouses for meat inspection. We have not forgotten those local authorities who have provided public slaughterhouses. They will still, with the Minister's approval, be able to restrict the use of private slaughterhouses in their districts, but only so long as, broadly speaking, they maintain public facilities which are fully adequate for the needs of traders.
We believe that under the provisions of the Bill we shall go forward towards the aim that is shared by all of us: to the slaughter of stock in humane conditions, to the improvement in the standards of hygiene in the production of meat, and to the provision of satisfactory conditions for the workers employed in slaughterhouses. We think that this Bill will enable these aims to be achieved by a process of steady development and without the need for an arbitrary limit on the number of slaughterhouses or the central planning of their location. This Bill is designed to help the meat industry forward in ways that are suitable to the industry's present-day requirements. It is in that spirit that I commend the Bill to the House for Third Reading. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should not have wished to trouble your Lordships to-day on this Bill but for the fact that my noble friend Lord Faringdon has had to go to a business appointment abroad, and 173 at the present time should be in South America. I do not know whether he will be able to see slaughterhouse facilities there. I should like to say a word of thanks to him personally for the work he put in on this Bill.
I am bound to say that whilst, of course, we have no objection to the points here and there in the Bill which perhaps justify the noble Earl in saying that it is part of the process of progress in slaughterhouse facilities, we are exceedingly disappointed with the Bill as a whole in relation to its provisions. We have some doubts what attitude certain types of administration will adopt in respect of a local authority area in which a good slaughterhouse facility has already been provided, and its continuance in that respect may be subject to the approval of the Ministry, although I am quite sure that a local authority which has had experience of providing modern up-to-date public service to the community in a municipal slaughterhouse would not be so unwise as not to enlarge it or develop it in a way that would meet the increasing demands of an increasing population. I wonder why these words have been included in the Statute. However we shall have to wait and see how that works out.
Of course, it is exceedingly disappointing find that all the work that was put in, both here and in the other place, to try to get the Government to deal with the question of slaughterhouses attached to private dwelling-houses has not had better success. In these days it seems to me almost unthinkable that we should contemplate having a slaughterhouse attached to a dwelling-house. Of course, all the references in the Bill to the exact position of the slaughterhouse within the particular curtilage, as to whether it is going to be approved or not, mean that what happens will depend almost entirely on the attitude of the particular local authority, on whatever spirit they have, whether progressive or reactionary. In the light of our known experience in times of emergency, when, owing to the circumstances of the emergency, we had to close compulsorily large numbers of slaughterhouses of the smaller kind (we had to close some of them which were not inefficient; that I recognise), it seems to me that there is no doubt at all that the concentration of the distribution of the slaughtered meat from the control points 174 set up was very useful indeed. What is more, it meant that it was far easier, with the limited staff available, from the point of view of meat inspection as a whole, to have the meat properly inspected.
I was very concerned on the Report stage to have the figures given by the noble Earl, which showed that by no means all the meat concerned was certain to be inspected. I might reiterate what my noble friend Lord Faringdon said upon the Report stage: that there was no proof at all that there was a double check, something which is very desirable if it can be obtained, so that there is proper inspection, from the human consumption point of view, of animals both on the hoof and in the carcase. That is not provided for in the Bill in any way.
I could quite easily go on and speak about other details of the Bill, but there are other matters to come before your Lordships' House, and I know that at this stage I can do nothing to amend the Bill. But I should be quite false to our principles if I did not express disappointment that, with a Bill which purports to make considerable progress in this matter, we should have so little achievement of the progressive desires that we have set for procedure in this particular sphere of public service. Whatever Government may be in office in the near future, in the next year or two, I hope that they will pay some attention to the need for developing a widespread public service of slaughterhouses, or equally good slaughterhouses, which may be provided not by small individual businesses so difficult to cover by inspection, but by collective slaughterhouses, by co-operative or farmers' or producers' undertakings, so that they can fit into the whole scheme of things. I, am sorry that we have not been able to obtain more concessions from the Government.
My Lords, so far as I have been able to inform myself about the slaughterhouse business, it seems to me that the high standards of British slaughterhouses have been achieved and set by quite small slaughterhouses, run by special suppliers supplying selected customers who run catering businesses and who cater for holidaymakers and visitors from abroad. Moreover, these small slaughterhouses are far easier to inspect efficiently than the large municipal slaughterhouses, and the inspectors 175 find it much easier to insist on a high standard. I should be very sorry if there is any hostility by noble Lords opposite to the smaller slaughterhouses as such, and I therefore feel that I ought to put in a word at this stage to that effect.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.