HL Deb 22 May 1958 vol 209 cc580-609

4.20 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.—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1:

Licensing of slaughterhouses—general

1.—(1) Section sixty-Four of the principal Act (which provides that except with the consent of the Minister a slaughterhouse licence shall not be granted or renewed in respect of any premises not previously used as a slaughterhouse) is hereby repealed.

LORD FARINGDON moved to omit subsection (1). The noble Lord said: It has been suggested to me that my first Amendment is of the nature of a wrecking Amendment. I wish at once to deny this: it is nothing of the kind, as I hope to show your Lordships in a moment. It is, however, the fact, which all of us who have been interested in this Bill will have had good cause to observe, that it is an exceedingly complicated Bill. I therefore venture, in order to explain exactly what it is intended to do by this Amendment, to read to your Lordships an extract from Section 64 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, which it is proposed under this Bill to repeal but which I suggest should not be repealed. Section 64 of that Act provides: Notwithstanding anything in this Part of this Act no slaughterhouse licence shall, except with the consent of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (hereafter in this Part of this Act referred to as 'the Minister'), be granted or renewed by a local authority unless the premises in respect of which the application for the grant or renewal is made have previously been used as a slaughterhouse under the authority of a licence under this Part of this Act, or, not having been so used,

  1. (a) were, at any time When the Food and Drugs Act, 1938, was in force, used as a slaughterhouse under the authority of a licence under section fifty-seven of that Act, or
  2. (b) were, at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding the commencement of that Act, in use as a slaughterhouse and registered or licensed as such under any enactment repealed by that Act."
To take the repeal of that section from this Bill does not seem to me, and certainly I do not intend it to be, a wrecking Amendment. There is good in this Bill, though not so much as I could have wished to find.

On the other hand, this particular Amendment deals with what I believe to be possibly the only really objectionable feature of this Bill. Your Lordships will conclude, from the fact that I have other Amendments on the Paper, that I have other criticisms of the Bill; but they are, I think, almost entirely criticisms of sins of omission and not of sins of commission. In effect, this particular subsection which I seek to delete is the subsection under which this curious free-for-all period will operate. On Second Reading, I ventured to criticise this period, and on further inspection of the Bill I find no reason to withdraw that criticism. On the contrary, I believe the period to be wholly bad, and I cannot help thinking that Her Majesty's Government have included this provision owing to a misunderstanding of the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee.

In defence of this appeal Her Majesty's Government have called in aid the White Paper on Slaughterhouses, paragraphs 5 and 6, which I will read in abbreviated form, though I do not think I shall alter the sense. In the light of the position which developed after decontrol, the Committee recommended a fresh approach to the problem. It concluded that, having regard to the developments which had taken place in the marketing of fatstock …it was no longer advisable to aim at a moderate concentration of slaughterhouses by means of central planning. The Committee considered that the main purpose of concentration, namely, to ensure that slaughterhouses conform to standards which meet the requirements of public health and hygiene and that consumers can be satisfied that they get clean meat, could be achieved in England and Wales by more flexible arrangements. It recommended that for a limited period, and subject to the normal town-planning requirements and to the premises conforming to prescribed statutory standards, private traders should be free to provide slaughterhouses of the design and size and in the places that best suited the needs of their individual businesses. After this period a measure of control should be reimposed. I find myself profoundly puzzled by these two paragraphs. They seem to me to have singularly little connection with one another, and I am unable to understand why the original proposition should have been followed by the proposal for this "free-for all" period.

I think I have discovered the explanation, which appears—and I did not read it out to your Lordships—at the beginning of paragraph 5, where it says: In June, 1954, before the Committee had completed its investigation, Government control over the marketing and slaughtering of home produced livestock came to an end. I can only suppose that the reason for this suggestion was that the Committee, in view of the decontrol of meat supplies of this country, concluded that a rapid increase in slaughterhouse accommodation would be needed. But, of course, that was four years ago. During those four years. something like 4,000 slaughterhouses have, in fact, been opened in this country. Unless it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to return to the unmitigated chaos of 12,000 slaughterhouses which we had before the war, surely it is no longer a reasonable policy to encourage by all means in one's power, in a general sense, unplanned building and construction of slaughterhouses; and, moreover, slaughterhouses to which it is to be inferred, from the wording of the White Paper, that the proposed new standards will not be wholly applicable. The words used in the White Paper: the design and size and in the places that best suited the needs of their individual businesses seem to me to be almost contradictory to the previous phrase subject … to the premises conforming to prescribed statutory standards … Those two phrases seem to me to be inconsistent, and they certainly suggest (indeed, it is a suggestion which has already been acted upon, as we all know, in various parts of the country) that there will be singularly little control of slaughterhouses in any way whatever.

It is suggested—Her Majesty's Government suggested it in another place—that this will be the function of the planning authorities. That may be so. These planning authorities have always existed, but I think some of us may be excused if we regard their activities with something less than enthusiasm or, at any rate, with something less than confidence. We have all had some experience of exactly the kind of thing that we may expect. Two of my own neighbours recently found themselves so extremely embarrassed by a new slaughterhouse that had been opened in their own village that they bought up the slaughterhouse and closed it down. They were in a financial position which made that possible, but one would like to know how it came about that planning authority for that slaughterhouse, which made the neighbourhood so completely intolerable—and neither of my neighbours' houses actually adjoined the slaughterhouse; they were on opposite sides of the village in which the slaughterhouse was set up—came to be given. If that can happen, as it did in that case, I think we may all be excused if we do not view with much enthusiasm the prospect of having no one on the planning authority to protect us against the indiscriminate setting up of slaughterhouses.

But above all I believe that the major defect of this Bill is just this "free-for-all" period which it suggests. I cannot myself find any good reason or excuse for this policy, and, as I said before, I am bound to believe either that Her Majesty's Government are giving a display of doctrinism and a demonstration of their profound faith in the perfection of unrestricted free enterprise, or else they are, as I have suggested, mistaken in what the Interdepartmental Committee desired when it made this particular recommendation. I am convinced that this period is a profound error on the part of Her Majesty's Government. It is, as I say, the major blot on this Bill which, though it may not come up to the standards which we should like or up to the hopes that many of us have from a Slaughterhouses Bill, none the less does not contain many other actively objectionable clauses. Therefore I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government, if they are not prepared to consider this particular Amendment or something like it, at least will give us some explanation for this, as it seems to me, quite irrational, thoroughly ill-advised and, from the point of view of the public, possibly extremely dangerous provision. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, leave out subsection (1).— (Lord Faringdon.)


I realise that the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, does not like this subsection. I do not quite follow his dismay about what he feels is our misinterpretation of paragraphs 5 and 6 of the Interdepartmental Committee's Report. Frankly, I feel that we are interpreting those two paragraphs correctly, and I believe that the interpretation which he would like to put on them cannot really be read into them. This Amendment would mean that the granting of any new licence or the extension of any existing ones would at all times have to be subject to the approval of the Minister. That is, frankly, quite contrary to what the Government have declared as their policy in this matter. We have said that we support the Interdepartmental Committee and we feel that there should be this period of freedom—a limited period, mind you—during which new slaughterhouses can be built and old ones brought up to new standards; and in spite of what the noble Lord has said about planning consent, I feel that that is one of the three important safeguards. The second is that the premises should conform to the provisions of Clause 5 of this Bill: namely, that the slaughter hall does not form part of a building another part of which is or can be used as a dwelling. That relates to new construction. And the third is that the premises conform to the new standards of hygiene and with the prevention of cruelty to animals.

The Government's view is that the principal aims of the slaughterhouse policy, namely, the slaughtering of livestock under hygienic and humane conditions, can best be achieved by prescribing statutory minimum standards and by measures that will ensure that those are reached in the shortest possible time. This, we feel, will best be done by enabling the private traders for a limited period to be free to build their slaughterhouses in the places best suited to their needs for their particular businesses. The limited period—it is pretty limited—begins with the passing of the Act and ends with the submission by the local authority of its report on the slaughterhouse facilities in its district. We firmly believe that this is the right approach, and I regret I cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment.


The noble Earl would not like to tell me why he is so certain that this is such a good idea? He has not done so.


The pattern of the meat trade has changed considerably since decontrol, as the noble Lord is aware. There has been creation of various new forms of trading and it seems only right that traders should be given the chance to set up slaughterhouses where it suits them best, where there may be considerable concentration of stock within easy reach of which they would like to have their slaughterhouses, the products of which may not be consumed locally at all; they may all be exported to other areas. But the local authority might feel that there were sufficient slaughterhouses for their particular interest already there. That is the main reason.


Would the Minister be likely, when it was referred to him, as it can be at present, to turn down such suggestions?


Frankly I do not see what is to be gained by bringing the Minister in at this stage.


My noble friend Lord Faringdon, in his introduction of this Amendment, drew the Committee's attention to a particular slaughterhouse that was opened in his friend's village, and he asked whether the noble Earl could give us some information on the powers of the planning committees to prevent this nuisance. I had it down in my notes to ask the noble Earl whether there was any provision in this Bill or in any other legislation giving the public and the community the right to protest if a slaughterhouse was reopened or buildings were converted into a slaughterhouse. I ask this specifically, because some days ago I was listening to the debate on the Tribunals and Inquiries Bill and I noticed on one or two occasions that the noble Viscount who sits on the Woolsack was more or less asking the noble Lord, Lord Denning, whether the people had a particular right. If the noble Viscount has doubts on that matter, how does the general public know what its rights are? Could the noble Earl tell us whether the public have a right to protest and object to the opening of slaughterhouses in their vicinity?

The noble Earl in his speech has based his case on freedom. I should like to quote a speech that was made in 1954 by his noble friend Lord Tenby on the Second Reading of the Slaughterhouse Bill in another place. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons), Vol. 526, col. 1636]: However, at this stage—and this is very important—we do not regard it as desirable that either local authorities or private interests should build new slaughterhouses which might conflict with the long-term siting plan which is now being prepared. These are the important words: We have to take care we do not reproduce in a different and in a more costly form the unorganised pattern of the pre-war years. On the Second Reading of this Bill my noble friend Lord Faringdon gave us a very clear picture of the deplorable conditions that existed before the war. Then there were 12,000 slaughterhouses, and we all know, from our own reading, of the very poor standards of hygiene. We also know that the 4,000 slaughterhouses we have now are still in poor condition. Does the noble Earl really believe that, during this period of "free-for-all", private capital is going to be put into slaughterhouses without any protection? Will private capital be put into a slaughterhouse with the possibility that, in the next street, another slaughterhouse will be put up by a competitor? I understand that the cost of improving slaughterhouses is quite considerable. We live in times of dear money and a shortage of money. Does the noble Earl really believe that private capital is going to be put into this industry without any form of protection? My own feeling is that it will not.


On that last point I agree, in that I do not think any business will put up a slaughterhouse unless those concerned are reasonably certain that others, and particularly their competitors, are not putting up one next door. There is this limited period in which they say what they want to do, and they can, if they wish, start; but they need not start until the end of the period.


In other words, the noble Earl is suggesting that there is going to be a standstill period?


No; I am not suggesting anything of the sort. In most cases there will probably not be any question of another slaughterhouse going up. The types of body which I think we all have in mind are not on such a "cut-throat" basis that they will not have consultation with each other. I think they will, and I believe the noble Lord would agree with that. He quoted from a speech made by my noble friend Lord Tenby, when he was in another place. As I have explained before, and as has been explained in another place, the Government changed their mind and said quite clearly that they had changed their mind. The speech to which the noble Lord is referring was made before, not after, the Government changed their mind, as again the noble Lord is fully aware. He also asked me what protection there was for the individual citizen who objected. I agree that there is no direct appeal to the Minister, but the local citizen has his representatives on the local planning authority and he can make representations through them in the ordinary way.

4.43 p.m.


I want to intervene only on the point of the protection of the ordinary citizen. We all agree, I think, that a slaughterhouse, although it may be very necessary, is not a desirable place to have next door to your residence. I do not suppose, in the large majority of cases, that a local planning authority would permit a slaughterhouse to be put up in a residential area. But there are exceptions, and my noble friend has given one. The difficulty is that an application is made to the local planning authority for consent to the putting up of a slaughterhouse, and the ordinary citizen who may be affected knows nothing at all about it. There is no obligation on anybody to give notice to anyone other than the local authority that this application is being made, and the application could be granted without anybody knowing anything at all about it. It is true that at the next election the citizen could turn out the authority or the particular member who had been misrepresenting him in that respect; but that is very cold comfort for what might amount to a serious depreciation in the value of his property.

I am sure the noble Earl will agree that to have a slaughterhouse quite close to your property would not by any means add to its value, and a citizen would have no redress. It is for that reason that it is desirable that a licence from the Minister should be required, or that he should be notified of the proposed setting up of a slaughterhouse. That is a protection; but that protection is being taken away by the first clause of this Bill. I would not be particular as to whether the protection to the individual was given in the form of requiring notice to be given to the Minister or in some other way. If I could be certain that there was an obligation on the local authority, or on the applicant who applies for permission to build a slaughterhouse, to give notice of the application, so that any person affected could take the necessary action and could ask for a public inquiry to be held, I should be perfectly satisfied. But that would require amendment of the Bill, and there is no Amendment of that kind before us. I would ask the noble Earl to give careful consideration to this dilemma: that it could happen—I admit in a limited number of cases—that a slaughterhouse might go up in a part of the town or village where it would be most undesirable and without the people affected knowing anything at all about it until it was too late. If only there could be introduced some machinery by which the person affected could be informed in good time, so that he could take action, I think that would meet the case that my noble friend has in mind in moving his Amendment.


I have been much impressed by the debate to which we have listened this afternoon on the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, and particularly by the contribution now given to the Committee by Lord Silkin. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this point. I am not familiar with the contents of the Bill, but it seems to me, having spent many years in village life, that the possibility that, without any knowledge of the matter, one might suddenly find that a slaughterhouse had been agreed to; that it was "dumped" in a particular neighbourhood, and that one might be told "It is too late; it has all been agreed," is worthy of consideration. I would ask the Minister whether, in some form, such as an advertisement in the paper, notice could be given to let the people know what is proposed. If they have no objection, all right, go ahead. But it is not right that a slaughterhouse should be erected without the people concerned being fully aware of what is happening. It is not only a question of the erection of a slaughterhouse—that may or may not be desirable; it is a question of the animals being driven in, of children seeing this, and all the rest of it. I feel that it is a point that the Minister should reconsider before we are asked to defeat this Amendment.


I am impressed by what noble Lords have said on this matter. There is protection to this extent: that the local authority, when putting in its report on the slaughterhouse facilities, will include in it any proposals for new slaughterhouses; and that report, of course, will be open for public inspection. But I am not sure that that goes quite so far as the noble Lord would like. Without committing myself in any way, I will certainly look at this point again to see whether there are some means of ensuring that the public have the information which the noble Lord requires.


I am grateful to the noble Earl for what he has said and to other noble Lords for their support. I think we have an important point here, and I hope that the Minister may, by some means, be able to meet us. I can see that there may be considerable drafting difficulties, but all the resources of the Department are at his disposal and I am sure that they are well able to meet even the most difficult problems. The noble Earl has still not told me why it is so important to have this "free-for-all" period. During that period he does not want matters referred to the Ministry —and incidentally, the period is to be at least two years, which is not quite nothing: yet as soon as local authorities have their reports in, everything will be referred to the Minister. Why is it that during the first two years the Minister wants to be quit of any responsibility, or that Her Majesty's Government desire he should not be consulted? I still can find no reason whatever in anything that has been said by way of reply. I remain puzzled.

I made a suggestion as to what might have happened. The noble Earl repudiated that, and was certain that he had read correctly the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee; but I am still left in a state of puzzlement. If the noble Earl will look into the matter, at any rate so far as the planning side is concerned, by leave of the House I will withdraw my Amendment now, but on the understanding that, failing some Amendment being put forward by Her Majesty's Government, I shall raise the matter again on the Report stage.


Before the Amendment is withdrawn, may I say this: the noble Lord has said he hoped that the Minister "may" find a way out of this difficulty. I would put it a little stronger and say I am sure that the Minister will find a way out of the difficulty, because the House feels very strongly upon this point.


I thank the noble Viscount and, accept his amendment.


I should like to correct an impression which I may have given. When the report of the local authority goes to the Minister it will include details of slaughterhouses, so that the public will have access to those details. I did not make it clear that at the same time the local authority must publish the details in one or more newspapers, so that at that stage they would be available.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.53 p.m.

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: This is so obviously desirable that I do not think I need take up much of your Lordships' time upon it. It is in line with a recommendation of the Interdepartmental Committee and it is a little difficult to see why Her Majesty's Government have not incorporated it in their Bill. I believe that nowhere amongst those who are interested in this subject are there any two opinions as to the undesirability of having slaughterhouses in, or attached to, dwelling-houses. It is an unfortunate fact that slaughterhouses tend to attract vermin, flies, insects and the like; and on that ground and on the ground that the processes which take place in slaughterhouses are extremely inconsistent with anything like reasonable living conditions, I believe it will be agreed by practically everybody that to have slaughterhouses in, or attached to, dwelling-houses is highly undesirable.

That is the object of this Amendment. In another place, when resisting a similar Amendment Her Majesty's Government gave as their excuse that to close down at once all these slaughterhouses, which are admittedly of a highly undesirable character, would prejudice the supplies of meat in this country. I would ask the noble Earl when he replies for Her Majesty's Government, if it is his intention to resist this Amendment, whether he can give me any estimate of how much meat is treated in the type of slaughterhouse whose closing I propose in this Amendment. I know that there has been a substantial increase in the consumption of meat in the last four years—of that we are all fully aware, and glad of it. But, clearly, only a certain percentage of that meat is treated in these highly undesirable places. Even if it were a very considerable percentage, I should still consider the conditions so undesirable, so dangerous to the health of those who work in the slaughterhouses and also to public health owing to the probable or possible (I would say probable rather than possible) contamination of meat supplied from those places, that those places should not be permitted. That being so, I believe this is such an undesirable practice, one prohibited in almost all civilised countries, that, even though the proportion of meat affected may be substantial, I press upon Her Majesty's Government the desirability of closing these slaughterhouses immediately, even at the cost of a little temporary inconvenience I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 46, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Faringdon.)


I fully appreciate the reasons which have led the noble Lord to move this Amendment, but I hope that when I have given the reasons of Her Majesty's Government for not accepting it he will appreciate that we have a strong case. This Amendment goes a great deal further than Clause 5 of the Bill which deals with the same subject. If the Amendment were accepted, a slaughterhouse licence could not be issued or renewed for any premises either adjoining or forming part of a dwelling. Let us consider what this would mean in practice. If a person built a dwelling adjoining slaughterhouse premises, the local authority would not be empowered to renew that licence when the current licence expired—and no licence can run for more than thirteen months. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, laughs, but this is quite a serious matter.


Has the noble Earl considered the fact that one cannot build a house without getting the approval of the local authority, and that the local authority would hardly give approval to the building of a house on top of a slaughterhouse?


It is with some regret that I must tell the noble Lord that, in fact, that has happened. It happened in Cornwall not very long ago, and something similar is happening in the North at the moment. This is not hypothetical; it is based on fact. Under those conditions it would mean that the occupier of a slaughterhouse would have to control all adjoining property in order that he could ensure that none of it would be used for dwelling purposes.

My right honourable friend, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has looked very carefully into this question and considered how far it is reasonable and practicable to require that dwellings should be separated from slaughterhouses. He did consider the possibility of including in what is now Clause 5 a provision similar to that put forward in the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord; but this is not a practical proposition. In the first place, it would mean that many existing slaughterhouses would have to be closed. Secondly, it would mean that whenever someone wanted to erect a new, modern slaughterhouse he would have to get control of all the adjoining property. That is not a practical way of improving slaughterhouse standards, and I think the noble Lord would agree that it would put an unreasonable burden on private traders. The noble Lord asked whether I could tell him the amount of meat that went through slaughterhouses which might be closed if this Amendment were passed. I am afraid that, at short notice, I cannot give him the facts, but I will let him have them later on. I must ask your Lordships to resist this Amendment.


The noble Earl has made a reply on the position, but not an extremely convincing one. I looked again at the wording of my Amendment and all it says is: … in respect of any premises adjoining or forming part … It is perfectly true, I suppose, that the word "adjoining" is dubious. It might extend, as the noble Earl suggested, to a house built fairly close to a slaughterhouse. However, it would be the simplest matter in the world to find a form of words which would cover that point. In any case I should be prepared to drop "adjoining or" from the Amendment; What I am really desirous of doing is closing down immediately all slaughterhouses which are in fact attached to or actually situated in a dwelling-house. That, I am convinced, is the least that any country which presumes to have, I would not go so far as to say a modern slaughterhouse policy, but even a decent slaughterhouse policy, could and should do.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 6 agreed to.

Clause 7:

Safety, health and welfare of persons employed in slaughterhouses and knackers' yards

7. In subsection (1) of section one hundred and fifty-one of the Factories Act, 1937 (which relates to the interpretation of the expression "factory" for the purposes of that Act), at the end of paragraph (c) there shall be inserted the words "or (d) the slaughtering of cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, asses or mules".

5.3 p.m.


I beg formally to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 43, at the end, insert ("and for the purposes of this section slaughtering should include the confinement at slaughterhouses of such animals awaiting slaughter and the keeping or subjecting to any treatment or process products of the slaughtering of such animals".—(Lord Faringdon.)


With the permission of the House, I will speak to this Amendment and also to the next one standing in my name. The Amendment which the noble Lord has just moved seeks to ensure that Clause 7 brings within the scope of the Factories Acts, 1937 and 1948, two kinds of premises which are ancillary to slaughtering. I will, if I may, deal with the second kind of premises mentioned in his Amendment. These are premises where the products of slaughtering are subject to treatment or processing. This provision is not necessary because such premises come under the Factories Acts already by virtue of paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (1) of Section 151 of the Factories Act, 1937. These paragraphs bring within these Acts premises where articles are made, altered or adapted for sale. And already premises where bacon or sausages are prepared, where tripe is boiled, or at which similar operations are carried on, are within the scope of the Factories Acts. These words in the noble Lord's Amendment are therefore not necessary.

The other premises dealt with by the noble Lord's Amendment are the premises where animals are confined while awaiting slaughter; premises usually known as lair-ages. Here I would urge on the noble Lord not to press this part of his Amendment, for two reasons. In the first place it refers to the confinement of animals "at slaughterhouses". The difficulty here is that it has been suggested in another place that if a door is put between the lairage and the slaughterhouse then the lairage may come to be regarded as separate premises for rating purposes and could be regarded as separate for the purposes of the Factories Acts. But I fear that the noble Lord's Amendment may fail to bring the lairages within the Factories Act, just as Clause 7 may fail, as it is at present worded, on the grounds that the lairage premises are not "at" the slaughterhouse but, though adjoining, are still separate premises.

When Clause 7 was being prepared it was thought that the clause would satisfactorily apply the Factories Acts to lair-ages, because they usually form part of the same premises as the slaughterhouse; and a slaughterhouse is defined for the purposes of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, as including the lairage. But a slaughterhouse is not defined for the purposes of the Factories Acts, and it is not certain that Clause 7, as it stands in the Bill, means that lairages which are not attached to slaughterhouses will be brought within the scope of the Factories Acts. I have therefore put down the Amendment that stands in my name to make it clear that lairages which are used particularly for confining animals awaiting slaughter shall come within the scope of the Factories Acts. That Amendment will bring within the Factories Acts lair-ages which adjoin a slaughterhouse and detached lairage buildings, possibly across the road, where animals are confined before slaughter.

There are, however, some premises which may at times be used as a lairage and to which by their nature it would be unreasonable, and possibly even impracticable, to apply the Factories Acts. Such premises are agricultural land and premises used for holding a market; and the Amendment provides that the Factories Acts shall not apply to them. It does not seem necessary to bring markets within the scope of the Factories Acts, because the workers who attend the cattle there do so for only short periods. They go there just to feed and water the stock and to see that they are properly confined. These workers can use the sanitary and washing facilities at the slaughterhouse unless, as may be the case, the public facilities at the market are handier. And as the market premises have to be cleaned, the provisions made by or under the Factories Acts are not in fact necessary. As to agricultural lands, again the slaughterhouse workers would be going there only occasionally, just to feed and water the animals, and it does not seem necessary to have those included either.


I am most grateful to the noble Earl for his explanation. With that explanation, and having read his next Amendment on the list, and thanking him very much indeed for meeting my point, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Page 13, line 43, at end insert "or (e) the confinement of such animals as aforesaid while awaiting slaughter at other premises, in a case where the place of confinement is available in connection with those other premises, is not maintained primarily for agricultural purposes within the meaning of the Agriculture Act, 1947, or, as the case may be, the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, and does not form part of premises used for the holding of a market in respect of such animals."—(Earl St. Aldwyn.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8:

Amendment of Slaughter of Animals Acts,

1933 to 1954

8.—(1) For so much of subsection (1) of section one of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, as precedes the proviso to that subsection there shall he substituted the following— No animal to which this Act applies shall, in a slaughterhouse or knacker's yard, be slaughtered otherwise than instantaneously by means of a mechanically-operated instrument in proper repair unless—

  1. (a) by stunning effected by means of a mechanically-operated instrument or an instrument for stunning by means of electricity, being in either case an instrument in proper repair, it is instantaneously rendered insensible to pain until death supervenes; or

5.10 p.m.

LORD FARINGDON moved, in subsection (1) (a), after "instrument" where that word occurs a third time, to insert "of a design approved by the Minister and". The noble Lord said: I shall not detain your Lordships long on this Amendment, because it deals with a point that I raised on Second Reading. The noble Earl gave me an answer then, and I have put down the Amendment in the hope that he might have reconsidered the matter. If the Ministry gave a certificate of suitability to equipment and implements, it would be for the convenience both of manufacturers and slaughterers. I have read carefully the debates in another place, and the answers given there, and I do not follow the objection which Her Majesty's Government seem to have to this proposal. May I remind the noble Earl that this type of approval is not peculiar or unusual? In other connections other Ministers approve certain apparatus, implements and equipment, and inform the general public that they have had these instruments tested and approve of them. This in no way sets up any kind of monopoly. Anybody else is perfectly at liberty to produce another instrument to do the same work, and to submit it to the Ministry for testing and approval. I urge on the noble Earl the convenience to all concerned, both on the supply and on the consuming sides, of having ministerial approval. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 11, after "instrument" insert "of a design approved by the Minister and".—(Lord Faringdon.)


The Slaughter of Animals Acts require that stunning instruments must be either mechanically operated or electrical, and the Minister is advised that powers already exist in these Acts which would enable him to require that only instruments of an approved design should be used by slaughtermen. Moreover, the Slaughter of Animals (Prevention of Cruelty) Regulations lay down that every person shall use such instruments for slaughtering any animal and adopt such methods of slaughter as may be requisite to secure that as little pain and suffering as possible is inflicted. It is also an offence against the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, to indict any unnecessary suffering on an animal.

It is not worth a slaughterman's while to use had instruments and risk severe penalties when good ones are on the market. It is not worth the butcher's while to allow him to do so. Nor are we justified in assuming that these people are unconcerned for the feelings of the animals. Therefore I think that the risk of had instruments coming into use is very small. I assure your Lordships that officers of my Department, who have powers of entry to slaughterhouses to see whether the Regulations about cruelty to animals are complied with, take note of the instruments being used, and the humane societies are also extremely vigilant in this matter. On Second Reading, when the noble Lord raised this point, he said he did not think it an adequate answer to argue that there would be risk of creating a monopoly. I have shown that there are other arguments—and I feel strong ones—against the control he would have the Minister impose. As I have said, the Minister has the power to make these regulations if at any time he feels that they are necessary; but frankly at the moment he does not feel that they are required.


I am considerably consoled by the noble Earl's reply, particularly by the first part of it. I had not realised that the Minister already has power to do exactly what I want him to do. On the understanding that he would exercise this power I will withdraw my Amendment, but I should like to point out that, whilst one naturally assumes (and I think rightly) that the most humane and efficient instruments will be used by slaughterers, nevertheless it could happen that an extremely persuasive salesman might sell an inferior instrument to a slaughterer, who might then find that he had a considerable amount of money invested in it and would therefore continue to use it. That is a possible occurrence, and I still remain of the opinion that if the Minister has power to say which instruments he approves, he should do so. But since he has the power I desire to give him, I will, by leave of the House, withdraw my Amendment.


May I say a word before the Amendment is withdrawn? One of the reasons which the noble Earl gave for resisting this Amendment was that the humane societies were very vigilant in this matter. I just want to make the point that no outside society has the right of access to slaughterhouses. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has permission unofficially to enter and inspect slaughterhouses, but it has no legal right to do so. It seems to me that, with the well-known difficulties of finding sufficient inspectors to see that all is well in the steadily growing number of slaughterhouses, it may well be that a thoroughly unsatisfactory instrument may continue in use for some time before the fact is detected by inspectors.


Frankly, I cannot agree with the noble Lord that there is that risk. If I thought that there was that risk, and if my right honourable friend the Minister thought so, I feel fairly confident that he would consider making regulations; but until we have reason for thinking that that is likely to happen, I could not suggest that we should make them.


Like my noble friend Lord Faringdon, I feel much reassured, in the main, by the answer given by the noble Earl. But if the existing Statutes governing the slaughter of animals give this power, and if the practice is to have approved weapons, would it not be possible for the Minister to have ready for publicity a list of the instruments that have been approved?


Perhaps the noble Viscount misunderstood me. The Minister has power to make these regulations, but he has not made them. To the best of my knowledge, we have never been approached by manufacturers to give approval; but if we were, we should certainly consider it.


The farmers I meet, like myself, have animals that become familiar friends. They respond to their names and come up the field when called. They are real friends, and sometimes, though they do not go to market, they have to be disposed of to the ordinary knacker. Farmers like to feel that an animal which has been a friend is humanely treated, and I should have thought that if there was an approved list, made under existing regulations, of instruments known to the Ministry to satisfy their requirements, that would be of great guidance to the practice of slaughtering.


If the noble Viscount could produce evidence for me of instruments being used which have not been in use for a considerable time by everybody concerned, I would certainly look into the matter, but to the best of my knowledge only standard implements are being used in any slaughterhouse or knacker's yard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

5.20 p.m.

LORD FARINGDON moved after Clause 8 to insert the following new clause:

Prohibition of slaughtering on Sundays

". Every slaughterhouse shall be closed for the purpose of slaughtering on Sunday save as the Minister may by regulation otherwise provide, and any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both."

The noble Lord said: I attach a great deal of importance to this Amendment. It is supported by the Public Health Inspectors' Association, who point out that it is practically impossible to maintain decent standards of cleanliness in premises that are in continuous use throughout the week. They maintain —and I think it is almost certainly true—that, however much you may clean out a place immediately after it has been used, unless you give it a period of quiescence you do not allow baccilli to work in the way they should do. Continuous use, in fact, however cleanly and careful your methods may be, mitigates against the efficacy of the methods you are taking. Sunday killing has been abolished in certain places in England. I would ask the noble Earl, if he is going to resist this Amendment, to tell me two things: first of all, whether it is not a fact that he has received representations from the Public Health Inspectors' Association; and secondly, whether he has received any complaints of the fact that in certain places the slaughterhouses are not operated on Sundays.

I strongly urge on the Government the desirability of accepting this Amendment. Noble Lords will notice that there is, as it were, an escape phrase in the Amendment which says: save as the Minister may by regulation otherwise provide". It has been claimed that Sunday slaughtering is essential in certain country areas because the butchers have not refrigeration conveniences in their shops so that meat may not be available for the housewife on a Monday, after the week-end. I feel that by this time such refrigeration ought to be standard equipment in all butchers' shops. Electricity is almost universally accessible in this country now, so I do not think the objection I have mentioned is a great one. However, if it were, there is in my Amendment the escape clause by which the Minister can make regulations to cover this particular difficulty. I hope that Her Majesty's Government may see fit to accept this, as I believe, most important Amendment from the point of view of public health. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 8, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Faringdon.)


I should like to say a word or two, on behalf of the local authorities, in support of this Amendment which has been so ably moved by my noble friend. Does the noble Earl recognise that in many instances a seven-day week is being imposed for some employees, and that it has to be paid for by the local authorities? Then I would ask him to bear in mind that there is a shortage of public health inspectors, as was shown in the Report in regard to the profession some time ago; in fact, the shortage was such that I remember that from the other side it was proposed that butchers should be employed to do the job, and we on this side protested. These men conscientiously endeavour to carry out their duties to the public and to their local authority. I hope that, taking into account these factors and those put forward by my noble friend, the noble Earl will at least give reconsideration to the matter, even if he cannot accept the Amendment to-day.


I would, first of all, tell the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, that he is quite right in thinking that the Public Health Inspectors' Association have made representations. Powers already exist which would enable Sunday slaughtering to be restricted if it should be found that this is desirable for the purpose of securing that all meat is inspected. These powers are in paragraphs (a) and (f) of Section 13 (2) of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955. In addition, Clause 9 of this Bill would enable any regulations which were made for this purpose to be applied to different areas at different dates, if it were thought desirable.

The effect of this Amendment would be to prohibit, as soon as this Bill is passed, the use of slaughterhouses for killing animals on Sunday, save as the Minister may by regulation provide. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture feels that, even if he believed that this was essential, such a requirement could not be imposed without proper consultation with the interested organisations, and this Amendment would not afford the time needed for such consultation. But under the existing powers there would be time for such consultation, and I feel that your Lordships will agree that this is the proper way to approach the matter.

We are all concerned that these slaughterhouses should be conducted in the best possible way. The amount of Sunday slaughtering obviously varies between one part of the country and another. Frankly, we have no information that there are any largish areas where at the moment it would be practicable to prohibit Sunday slaughtering. As I said, my right honourable friend is concerned about the matter, and he does wish to have these consultations with the organisations primarily concerned.


Will he convene a conference of the interested organisations?


I can say that recently the Department have held discussions with twenty-two interested organisations on matters that might be adopted to secure 100 per cent. meat inspection, which does nearly meet the point of the noble Lord, Lord Burden. I cannot commit my right honourable friend at this moment to call a conference of the sort the noble Lord envisages, but I can assure the noble Lord that he has this point very much in mind.


Perhaps I might ask the noble Earl a question, because I am not quite clear about this matter. While he has been speaking I have been re-reading Clause 9, under which, I understand, he claims that the Minister can by regulation introduce any such policy as I suggest within any such areas as he may consider suitable.


It is under Clause 9 (2).


I thought that must be so. That is, of course, some consolation to me. On the other hand, I wonder whether the noble Earl is aware that a number of local authorities have wished to give themselves this power to close slaughterhouses on Sundays, and that they have been informed by his Ministry that it considered that this was a matter for general legislation and not for Private Bill legislation. To some of us, at any rate, it seems that this Bill would be a good place in which to make this legislation, which is now considerably overdue. Will the noble Earl press upon his Minister the desirability of operating under Clause 9 (2) at the earliest possible moment? On that understanding, I should be prepared to withdraw the Amendment.


I will certainly draw my right honourable friend's attention to what the noble Lord has said.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.

5.31 p.m.

LORD FARINGDON moved, after Clause 10 to insert the following new clause:

Meat inspection in slaughterhouses

". The Minister shall make regulations which shall make provision for securing—

  1. (a) the inspection of all animals intended for slaughter for sale for human consumption, and
  2. (b) of all carcases of animals so slaughtered and no meat shall be sold for human consumption unless there has been such inspection:

Provided that where by reason of accidental injury illness or exposure to infection it is necessary that an animal shall be slaughtered without delay and notice is given to the local authority as soon as is reasonably possible, whether before or after the slaughtering takes place, the said animal but not the carcase thereof shall be deemed to have been inspected."

The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment with whose object I imagine everybody in the House will be in sympathy. I do appreciate, however, that it may not be immediately feasible—that is to say, as my noble friend Lord Burden mentioned a moment ago, we all know that the supply of inspectors is sadly deficient, and it might be impossible immediately to make this Amendment operative. However, I was rather consoled by the remarks of the noble Earl about the consultations which appear to have been going on in his Ministry on exactly this subject of 100 per cent. inspection. I wonder if I might ask the noble Earl whether he can give us any further details as to the point which those negotiations have reached, and also whether they are likely to eventuate in anything like the provisions which I have set down in this Amendment. I will not take up more of your Lordships' time. The Amendment is really the heart of the matter. What we all want, above all, is good, clean, humane, hygienic slaughterhouses, from which will emerge meat in which the public can have complete confidence; and the public cannot have that confidence until they have 100 per cent. inspection both of the animals and of the carcases. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 10 insert the said new Clause.— (Lord Faringdon.)


I will detain the Committee for only two minutes. The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has stressed the importance of the inspection of meat. I should like to stress the equal importance, when you inspect the meat, of inspecting the premises at the same time. I would refer the Minister to Command Paper No. 243, which was issued by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in August, 1957. Paragraph 8 says: The rooms used for the preparation and storage of meat shall be constructed so as to prevent, as far as is reasonably practicable, any risk of infestation by rats, mice and insects and the entry of birds. I am not very happy about the words "as far as reasonably practicable." If it is the case that it is impossible to construct rooms for the preparation and storage of meat which are going to be completely free of rats and mice, I would say that it is essential, before meat is sent to the retailers, and particularly to factories which process the meat into pork sausages and meat pies, that the meat is inspected, and, at the same time, that the premises from which that meat is issued are also inspected to see that everything is free from any disease.


I can assure the House that Her Majesty's Government appreciate the general concern there is that all meat should be inspected in our slaughterhouses as soon as possible. But we must not introduce statutory obligations on this point until we can be quite sure that they are in fact practicable. The amount of home-produced meat to be inspected has much increased during the past years, and qualified staff are not available at this moment to inspect all the animals and all the meat throughout England and Wales. Although at least 80 per cent. of the meat is inspected, the advance to 100 per cent. presents considerable administrative problems. I can assure your Lordships that we are tackling these with a sense of urgency, but it is, unfortunately, out of the question to prohibit immediately the sale of uninspected meat.

The Minister has power, jointly with the Minister of Health, to make regulations for securing the inspection of animals intended for slaughter, and also of the carcases of animals, under the Food and Drugs Act. Both those Ministers; have undertaken to Parliament that they will use those powers as soon as practicable. The consultations which have been going on have been with the object of sorting out what the obstacles are to 100 per cent. inspection and how we could possibly get over them. Those consultations are not completed yet, and I am afraid I cannot tell the noble Lord any more about it at the moment. All I can say is that we are extremely conscious of this problem and are anxious to see 100 per cent. inspection at the earliest opportunity. I am afraid I cannot go further than that.


I appreciate the noble Earl's difficulty and, as I said when I moved the Amendment, I appreciate also the general difficulty, owing to lack of inspectors. I am wondering whether the noble Earl would be more likely to accept an Amendment if I could put some kind of temporal clause into it at the Report stage. I feel that the matter is important. The noble Earl has said, and I accept, that the Minister is very concerned about it, but I am not by any means happy about the 20 per cent. of uninspected meat. To start with, I should like the figures broken down to show to what extent live animals are inspected and to what extent carcases are inspected. Is it counted as an inspection if one or the other is inspected, for example? The reason I ask this question is that the figure is considerably higher than that. Whilst 20 per cent. is alarming enough, anything higher of course becomes increasingly alarming. I wonder whether it would be possible to place a firmer obligation on the Minister to fulfil this duty which lies with him. I will try to think of some means of meeting the time difficulty, and if I can I will move something on the Report stage. With your Lordships' permission, I ask leave to withdraw this Amendment.


I should like to give the noble Lord some encouragernent there, but, frankly, I cannot. We have all the powers that are necessary to do this and it is merely a question of pressing on and doing it as quickly as we reasonably can. We circularised all the local authorities to ask them exactly how much of their meat they had inspected during 1957, and I can tell the noble Lord that the great majority replied that they were inspecting 100 per cent. To introduce actual legislation for this purpose when the powers already exist before we can say we can have 100 per cent. inspection everywhere, would be premature.


Is the shortage of inspectors due to a shortage of available trained people or shortage of finance or funds available to local authorities?


I believe that the shortage is due largely to lack of skilled personnel. Certainly I have not any figures as to how many applications there have been which have been withdrawn because of shortage of finance.


Would it be true that the shortage of finance applies to the people concerned in view of the long and technical course of training they have to undergo in order to qualify, and that the remuneration offered is not commensurate with that sacrifice? I do not ask the noble Earl to reply.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 11 to 15 agreed to.

First Schedule agreed to.

Second Schedule:


The Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933 (22 & 24 Geo. 5. c. 39)

1. In section three (Which prohibits the slaughter or stunning in a slaughterhouse or knacker's yard of animals as defined by the Act except by licensed slaughtermen)——

  1. (a) in subsection (1), for the words "No animal" there shall be substituted the words "'No animal to which this Act applies";
  2. (b) in subsection (5), after the word "operation" there shall be inserted the words "within their area"; and
  3. (c) subsection (8) shall be omitted.

2. In section six (which empowers a local authority who have provided or established a slaughterhouse to employ persons to slaughter or stun animals as defined by the Act in accordance with the provisions thereof)—

  1. (a) for the word "animals" there shall be substituted the words "animals to which this Act applies";
  2. (b) without prejudice to subsection (1) of section seventy-three of the principal Act, the words from "arid" onwards (which empower the making of charges for the services of persons so employed) shall cease to have effect except in relation to the administrative county of London.

5.42 p.m.

LORD FARINGDON moved to omit paragraph 2. The noble Lord said: This is a small technical point on which I hope Her Majesty's Government may be prepared to meet me. They have, in fact, half sold the pass in the Bill, because what I am asking is that the local authorities shall be permitted to continue as at present to make their charges under Section 6 of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, rather than Section 73 of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955. At the moment they can make their charges under either of those two sections of those two Acts. In fact they operate usually under the Slaughter of Animals Act because it is much easier and much quicker for them. They may make reasonable charges for the services which they render. If, however, they operate under the procedure of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, Section 73, the procedure is much longer and they are obliged to consult the Minister. The reason why I suggest it is desirable that they should have this quicker procedure is that it is inevitable, at a time like the present, that there should be constant changes in labour costs, costs of electricity, costs of raw materials and so on, and it may well act as a considerable injustice to local authorities if they are unable to change their charges rapidly, in view of such rises, and may have to continue to operate at a loss because they are awaiting Ministerial consent.

I say Her Majesty's Government have half sold the pass in this matter because in this Bill London is excluded from the Schedule's proposed regulations and can continue to operate under the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933. I hope the noble Earl will be able to tell me that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to allow other local authorities the same privileges as London. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 41, leave out paragraph 2.—(Lord Faringdon.)


The paragraph which the Amendment of the noble Lord proposes to leave out amends Section 6 of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, in two ways: first, by substituting for the word "animals" the words "animals to which this Act applies"; secondly, by repealing (except in relation to London) that part of the section which gives power to local authorities to make charges for the services of persons employed by them to stun or slaughter animals in public slaughterhouses. The first is purely a drafting Amendment to bring the section into line with the rest of the Slaughter of Animals Acts when amended for consolidation. Animals to which the Act applies are described in paragraph 5 of the Second Schedule to the Bill. There is no change in substance and I feel it is unlikely that the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, in moving the Amendment can have any objection to sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 2.

The reason for the second part of paragraph 2 (b) is that Section 73 (1) of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, gives comprehensive powers to local authorities to make charges for the use of public slaughterhouses or for any services provided there; this includes stunning or slaughtering animals. It is therefore unnecessary to continue the separate and limited power in the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, to charge merely for stunning or slaughtering. It is this limited power which is to be repealed except for London. The reason for the exception is that the general power under the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, does not apply to London.

Under Section 73 of the 1955 Act a local authority can revise any of their charges at any time and apply them without delay, subject only to a copy of the revised charges being sent to the Minister and published locally for the information of all concerned. There is no delay. The Minister's prior approval is not required, although he can, if he considers the revised charges unreasonable, direct the authorities to alter them. This procedure has worked smoothly. It enables the authority to revise its charges whenever it thinks it necessary, and at the same time it safeguards the interests of the users of public slaughterhouses by enabling them to make representations to the Minister if they consider the revised charges unreasonable. In practice very few representations have been made and the Minister has never found it necessary formally to direct alterations in charges. I feel that really the local authorities are better off under the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, than under the 1933 Act.


I thank the noble Earl very much for that reply. I think I owe him and the House an apology, because I seem to have misread the Food and Drugs Act; but perhaps the House, in view of the rather complicated nature of this Bill, will excuse me. May I say that I am extremely satisfied with this one answer at least, and with pleasure I ask permission to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Second Schedule agreed to.

House resumed.