§ 2.6 p.m.
§ LORD DOWDING
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government why extensions have been granted to local authorities, including the notoriously black spot of Newcastle, allowing them to postpone the modernisation of slaughterhouses, including the provision of stunning pens, beyond January 1 of this year, the date laid down in the Slaughter of Animals (Prevention of Cruelty) Regulations, 1958; and also to ask whether the Newcastle Council has applied for loan sanction to build a new slaughterhouse and, if so, on what date the application was received.]
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (LORD ST. OSWALD)
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has misunderstood the Regulations on this point. January 1 of this year was not the final date for the modernisation of slaughterhouses or the provision of stunning pens. It marked the end of the local authorities' power to grant individual exemptions from the stunning pen requirement in districts where the Minister had already brought the Regulations into full operation. No application for loan sanction to build a new slaughterhouse has yet been received from the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Council, but I know the council are working on the plans, and the officers of my Department are giving them all the help they can, technical and otherwise, to enable them to carry out their responsibilities in this matter.
§ LORD DOWDING
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his Answer, I would point out that the authorities 953 have had four years warning of this requirement, and I would ask if he would inquire of his right honourable friend whether at least it is not possible to ordain the immediate provision of stunning pens.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the Council cannot, I assure the noble Lord, be in any doubt as to the urgency of their situation, and I look to them to respond to it. We cannot appoint the day now, because to do that would entail closing all but two of the existing slaughterhouses which are now handling only about 25 per cent. of the present throughput, and it would be impossible then to absorb the very large slaughtering requirements near at hand. My right honourable friend would be reluctant to take that step while the City Council are prepared to remedy the situation.
My Lords, may I ask whether, since he said the Minister has consulted the local authority about plans for a new slaughterhouse, they are insisting on the provision of ample room for cattle awaiting slaughter? In many cases cattle have far too short a time to cool and rest in the slaughterhouse before being led to slaughter, and the effect on the meat is becoming known to the public.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, in my Department we are as intent as the noble Lord to see that those objects are all achieved.