HL Deb 01 February 1966 vol 272 cc268-84

2.52 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The purpose of the Bill is to consolidate and amend the legislation relating to the veterinary profession. Under present arrangements, the profession is governed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, under the Veterinary Surgeons Acts 1881 to 1948 and, in addition, eleven Royal Charters. There is a clear need to restate the law on this subject, as your Lordships will appreciate. In addition, experience has shown that a number of amendments are necessary, and these are included in this Bill. I shall refer to the more important of these in more detail later.

From what I have said, I hope it is clear that this Bill is not as formidable as its length might perhaps suggest. In fact, the Royal College itself requested the Bill, to make it easier to regulate the profession; and the Bill has the general support also of the British Veterinary Association, subject to one or two particular points. Your Lordships will be interested to know that the terms of the Bill follow closely the precedents of comparable legislation, such as the Dentists Act 1957, the Opticians Act 1958, and the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960. What we are proposing is that there should be one Act governing the profession. The Bill re-states those provisions of the present Acts which are still needed. In addition, it includes many provisions of the Royal Charters I have mentioned which relate to the public interest rather than to the domestic affairs of the College.

As a corollary to what we are proposing here—and quite separate—the College is considering, with the Privy Council, the terms on which application might be made to the Crown for a new Charter. This Charter would revoke all the existing ones, except for a few provisions of the original 1844 Charter of incorporation. The new Charter would be confined to regulating matters of mainly domestic concern to the College. The effect, therefore, of this Bill and of the new Charter would be that for all practical purposes the profession would be governed by the College under one Act and one Charter. I feel sure that your Lordships will agree that this would be a much better arrangement than the existing one.

I mentioned that this Bill also contains a number of amendments to the existing legislation, and I should now like to refer to them. First, I wish to mention the proposal in Clause 2 and Clause 7 to add a fourth part to the Register of Veterinary Surgeons. At present there are three parts to this register, a General list, a Commonwealth list, and a Foreign list. We think that a fourth list is necessary to help many graduates of overseas veterinary schools coming to this country for post-graduate training and experience.

In order that they may take full advantage of the facilities offered at veterinary schools and research institutes, it is often necessary for them to practise veterinary surgery to some extent. The College should recognise an overseas qualification only in those cases where the teaching received by the graduate will in all respects have qualified him to practise in the farming conditions existing in this country. Unless the College has the proposed power of temporary registration, many graduates from overseas who have undergone courses which make them competent veterinarians in their own country may be precluded from making the best use of their time in this country. We propose to put this right by giving the Royal College power to award temporary registration, subject to such restrictions as it may think fit, to holders of overseas qualifications who are not regarded as competent to practise generally in the United Kingdom. I am sure that this will be of considerable benefit to the people concerned, and particularly to graduates from developing countries who come to the United Kingdom for post-graduate studies.

The next important change which I should like to mention is contained in Clauses 8 and 10. Your Lordships will see that Clause 8 provides for the continuation of the Supplementary Veterinary Register. It also enables certain employees of animal welfare societies to be registered, subject to certain conditions, in the Supplementary Veterinary Register. This is a new provision, and I should like to explain why we think it is necessary. Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1948, the Minister was given power to license employees of animal welfare societies to practise veterinary surgery within a limited field. This was done because at that time the societies were meeting difficulties in obtaining suitable professional assistance. Now, however, there is no longer such a shortage of veterinary surgeons, as the Report of the recent Northumberland Committee has shown, and we thought it only right to review the position of these people who have been licensed by the Minister under the 1948 Act.

The Royal College has discussed this matter in detail with the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, which employs most of the licensees, and we have accepted the proposals which they have put forward. I am glad to say that the Council of the British Veterinary Association also accepted the proposals. These are that the system of licensing should be abandoned, but that, in order to protect the livelihood of existing licensees, they should, if they wish, be admitted to the Supplementary Veterinary Register as a once-and-for-all operation. This provision will, of course, allow existing licensees to practise a wider range of veterinary surgery than they are allowed to do at the moment. On the other hand, there are only 56 licensees, and I doubt whether many of them will leave their present jobs. I must stress, too, that it is the Government's firm intention that there should be no further addition of unqualified persons to any of the Veterinary Registers. I hope your Lordships will agree that this is the best solution.

Another important change, effected by Clause 11, will be to give the Royal College power to charge increased fees for persons on the Registers. The level of fees will be subject to approval by the Privy Council. At present, a maximum of five guineas is fixed by legislation for persons on the Register of Veterinary Surgeons, and one guinea for those on the Supplementary Register. The Royal College has been operating at the maximum for some time, and an increase is necessary to meet increased costs.

My Lords, there are a number of other changes of a relatively minor nature contained in the Bill which I shall not go into now. However, there is one other important amendment which I think I should mention. It is the provision, in Schedule 2 of the Bill, for much closer regulation of the Disciplinary Committee of the College. First, the Council of the College will be required to make rules about the procedure to be followed, and these must include provision on a number of specific matters for the protection of the accused. Second, a legal assessor will be required to sit with the Disciplinary Committee in disciplinary cases, thus giving statutory effect to current practice. Third, appeals from the Committee will now be to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, instead of to the High Court or Court of Session. This restores the position to what it was before the 1948 Act. One of our reasons for doing this is that in some Commonwealth countries the basic qualification for practising veterinary surgery is still registration as a member of the Royal College, and we therefore think that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would be a more appropriate appeal tribunal. This brings the veterinary profession into line with the medical and dental professions.

I should like to mention one more point. Under Agreements made in 1931 and 1954 between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland, special arrangements exist for the registration in this country of holders of veterinary degrees of recognised universities in the Irish Republic; for there to be five representatives from the Republic on the Council of the Royal College; and for the mutual enforcement of disciplinary control over veterinarians practising in either country. Many of the provisions of these Agreements are now obsolete, and negotiations are therefore taking place with the Government of the Republic for a new Agreement. Clause 21 will empower Her Majesty by Order in Council to give effect to the Agreement after it is signed. Your Lordships will realise that there is, of course, reciprocal recognition of the United Kingdom qualifications in the Republic.

As I indicated earlier, this is largely an agreed measure. The British Veterinary Association have, however, pointed out that as Clause 1 is drafted the majority of elected members on the Council could become a minority, should there be an increase in the number of universities with recognised veterinary schools. The Association and the National Farmers' Union have suggested that Schedule 3, which deals with the practice of veterinary surgery by laymen and which has remained unchanged since 1948, is somewhat out of date because of changes in agricultural practice. There is merit in both points, but they do not affect the principles of the Bill, and if your Lordships agree, I suggest that we can discuss them at a later stage.

This Bill is a very useful measure, and one that is important to the profession with which it deals and to their clients—the farmers and other animal owners. I have therefore no hesitation in commending it to your Lordships as a useful measure of reform and worthy of a Second Reading in this House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2—(Lord Champion.)

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I agree entirely with the closing words of the noble Lord who has introduced this Bill in such felicitous terms. This is a useful and important Bill, both to the agricultural profession and to animal owners, and above all to the industry itself. It is important, in the sense that it enables the industry to exercise a considerable amount of self-government, and in that connection I was glad that the noble Lord ended by referring to Clause 1, because undoubtedly there has been some feeling in the industry that it is important that its own governing body should have on it a majority of persons who actually practise veterinary surgery. No doubt we can discuss this matter further on the Committee stage and I think at the moment I can leave the matter there.

I turn secondly to Clause 7, to which the noble Lord referred. It is important here that the Government should declare clearly the limits of the purpose of this particular clause. As the noble Lord has described it to-day, I think the assurances he has given are satisfactory so far as they go. As I understand it, he has said that the purpose of this clause is to enable veterinary surgeons qualified overseas to come over here and study further in this country, and it seems perfectly reasonable that when they are doing so they should have access to clinical experience. I think it is desirable, however, to make sure that this is not just a loophole for a more permanent admission to the profession. It is important to make sure that if this is to be done, the temporary registration shall be really temporary; and while there could be no objection whatsoever to the registration of a person under Clause 6 if he showed subsequently the necessary knowledge and skill, I think the profession would like to be assured that there will be definite limits to the way in which this provision, useful in itself, is exercised.

May I now turn to Clause 8? This is perhaps the most contentious clause in the Bill, and one which we shall have to examine on the Committee stage. Circumstances change so much that it is always difficult for a Government to give firm assurances that will remain firm for ever. We understand this. At the same time, I do not want to go into the merits of the admission of those who are at present licensed to practise (if that is the right expression) in the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals of the Poor. I think there are dangers here, partly that the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals of the Poor may themselves spread further into the social strata than they were originally intended to do, and secondly, as the noble Lord said, that those who are admitted to the supplementary register may leave their present employment and go out and practise veterinary surgery in a far wider range of cases than they are at present able to do or that there was ever any intention that they should do. I do not want to go further into this matter, but it is right that one should refer to the difficulties at this stage.

There is one aspect of the Bill to which the noble Lord did not refer, and that is the fact that veterinary surgery is defined in this Bill for the first time. It is sometimes said that the surest way to kill a thing is to define it. There is some feeling in the profession that the definition is not sufficiently wide in scope, in that it covers diagnosis, advice and treatment, both surgical and medical, but does not cover prognosis and preventive medicine, including the control of vaccination and inoculation. One can see the difficulties in a comprehensive definition, but where it is impossible to give a comprehensive definition it is perhaps advisable to refrain from giving a definition at all. Here again is a matter which we can follow up on the Committee stage.

Incidentally, to the layman's eye it seems a little odd that no reference at all is made in the Bill to Home Office licences to the medical profession to carry out operations of a veterinary character. This is a matter which, as I say, occurs to me purely as a layman, and I would commend it to the noble Lord, who has more experience than I have of these matters, to look into before the next stage of the Bill.

There is one other matter I should like to mention and that is the change in appeal arrangements against decisions of the disciplinary body. The existing arrangement is that an appeal is made to the High Court or the Court of Session, and under the Bill it is to be made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The noble Lord justified it on two grounds: first of all, this is the appeal procedure in the case of the doctors' and dentists' professions; and, secondly, on the ground of the interests of the Commonwealth. I would just mention this in I passing. Again, I myself should have thought that a little further justification for the particular case is required than the noble Lord has yet been able to give, and I think perhaps we should explore this question further.

I would make another point, maybe from the layman's point of view. It is not quite clear why costs should be awarded against the Council, as I understand it, where an appellant wins his appeal, rather than against the public purse. After all, the Council are protecting the interests not only of the profession; in so far as they are protecting the interests of the profession they are also protecting, and more particularly, the interests of the agricultural industry and owners of animals in general. The purpose of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is to exercise a general control over the profession in the name of the profession itself. It is a self-governing body for the profession which has to deal with very many ethical problems for the profession. And I return to the point from which I began, that I think it is extremely important that it should be representative of the profession. This, I think, is one of the main points that we should like to see dealt with in the later stages of the Bill. With these reservations, I would give a warm welcome to the Bill in principle, and I hope it will go through quickly.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I also give a warm welcome to this Bill. It has taken some time to produce it, and I believe that since the time it was first drafted about 10 per cent. of the veterinary surgeons have come on to the roll. It is not unnatural, therefore, that some of them should be looking a little askance at the agreements made by their elders in the Royal Veterinary College and perhaps also in the British Veterinary Association. I support my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in his plea for an increase in the number of the United Kingdom elected members. I think it is a pity that we should retain the same proportion as was set up under the 1948 Bill. The veterinary profession has grown considerably in stature since then and has shown itself fully competent to look after its own affairs without as substantial an influx of members from outside the profession.

I should declare my interest. I was for many years a lecturer in a veterinary college; I was also governor of that college. I watched it integrated into the university, and it is now an independent faculty within the university. So, when I say that over the years the profession has grown considerably in stature I do know what I am talking about. In thinking back to the days of the origin of the veterinary profession, the smithy and the farrier, I would venture to say that to ask the modern veterinary surgeon to shoe a horse is as ridiculous as to ask a medical surgeon to cut your hair. The veterinary profession is as far away from the smithy as the medical profession is from the barber's pole. I welcome Lord Champion's assurance that the Government have no intention of having any increase in the numbers on the supplementary register.

There is one animal, or species or class of animal, for which I would make a special plea for consideration of its inclusion in the Bill. That is, fishes. Fishes are excluded. There are more and more fishes being kept in the United Kingdom as pets. They are tropical fish, and veterinary surgeons are called in to look after them. I would suggest that this Bill might be made a little more forward-looking and it could at the same time be made considerably tidier in its expression, because if we now included fishes—as fishes will be included sooner or later within the next twenty years; the next Bill will certainiy include them—all we should have to say is "all vertebrates", which is a very clear and precise definition.

Finally, I would refer to Schedule 3 to the Bill, which is extraordinary as it stands at the moment, dealing with the treatments and operations which may be given or carried out by unqualified persons. I welcome Lord Champion's assurance that there is going to be an opportunity to discuss this matter at a later stage, and I hope he will be able to elucidate the second paragraph of Part I of that Schedule, which is an extremely obscure and foggy statement that, as I understand it, has merely been copied down from a previous Act. I hope that some attention will be given to the question of an unauthorised person, say an agricultural person, spaying a pig. There are very few people now alive who even know what it is to spay a pig. I have asked several veterinary surgeons of the younger generation if they have ever spayed a pig, and they hold up their hands in horror and hope they will never be asked to do so.

This Bill has had a long gestation—five years—and I do ask the Government to bring it right up to date and remove from it all the outdated methods and practices, vestigial though they may be, which seem to have crept into the Bill and survived. I cannot think it is a survival of the fittest at all.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords, I welcome this Bill. On the whole, I think it is most satisfactory and does well what it is intended to do. There are just one or two points that I should like to mention; possibly they will be discussed when we come to the Committee stage. First of all, there is Clause 7, dealing with this matter of temporary registration. I think perhaps it is not widely enough recognised that some foreign qualifications in veterinary surgery are pretty crude, and it may be that for temporary registration in this country people from other countries (I do not want to select one country from another; I think one would have to make a general rule) should have to pass a small examination in order to prove that they were, in fact, capable in their job.

Even more important, I feel, is Clause 8. The people formerly known as licensees, who largely work for the animal welfare societies, and so on, were allowed to do certain slight operations and procedures on animals, but they were not allowed to undertake anything of a serious nature except under the strict supervision of a qualified veterinary surgeon. But now, according to this Bill, they are to have a register of their own, and they are to be known as "veterinary practitioners". Any member of the public passing a gate and seeing displayed on it a brass plate with the words "So-and-so, registered veterinary practitioner", is not, on the whole, going to be knowledgeable enough to realise that that person is quite different from a qualified veterinary surgeon. Therefore, either such people should be made to pass an examination before holding that title, or we should dispense with the supplementary register altogether and let them remain as they are at present, licensees. I think it is going to be difficult for the public to distinguish between the one and the other if they are simply going to be known as "practitioners". Moreover, as other noble Lords have said, under this clause as it stands, such people may practise a great deal more widely than, as licensees, they have done up to date.

Schedule 3, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Balerno, is, on the whole, fairly satisfactory, though I personally should like to see it tightened up a little. One has to realise that on the large majority of farms there is somebody who has quite a good knowledge of veterinary practice, and who is capable of performing the operations satisfactorily and, largely, painlessly. But I have known of a good many cases where an operation has been quite crudely carried out. There should he some safeguard against that. I certainly agree with my noble friend that the second paragraph in Part I is much too vague, and I hope that we may be able to amend it when we get to the Committee stage. Apart from these points, I am pleased with the Bill.

I should like to end by saying that the anti-vivisection societies are keen that there should be some examination, and that natural methods should be used, rather than recourse to drugs and so on. I cannot say that I can give that view wholehearted support. I think it desirable, but there is no doubt that drugs, which have been discovered by the method of vivisection (which is not a process that I like, but which I realise is necessary in some cases) have done an immense amount of good. Therefore, I am not going to press that any provision of this kind should be included in the Bill. Nevertheless, it might be a good thing to draw the attention of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to the fact that there is widely held the opinion that where possible, natural methods are preferable to the use of artificial drugs. Apart from that, I should like to thank the Government for having introduced this Bill, which I think will do a great deal of good.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to welcome this Bill. There were a few matters upon which I had doubts before I came to this debate. Many of them have been cleared up; in particular, the careful and painstaking explanation which one always expects, and receives, from the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has helped me considerably. Nevertheless, there are a few doubts in some branches of the B.V.A., chiefly in regard to Clause 8, which I find confusing. Clause 2 refers to four lists, but a little later on in the Bill one finds another list, which is not mentioned at all, but which is called "the supplementary" list. That is a little confusing when one is first going through a Bill.

So far as Clause 8 is concerned, I agree with all that has been said. But I thought that the Minister said—perhaps I heard him wrongly—that one of the reasons for altering the licensing of veterinary practitioners was that there are now plenty of veterinary surgeons. If he did say that, I am afraid that I strongly disagree with him so far as Scotland is concerned. If he did not, I apologise for my bad hearing.

The only other point that has been brought into question—and I am glad to hear that this will be considered in Committee—arises on Schedule 3, concerning the things which people are allowed to do. The list is fairly open. It seems to me extraordinary that there is no limit, of age or anything, in the paragraph on castration. I know that this is covered by another Act, but all the other paragraphs on similar operations contain riders about the age of the animal and so on; and I should have thought that it should be so also in this respect.

There is one omission, concerning the de-horning by the electrical method of calves when they are a few days old, to which I would refer. Surely a farmer should be allowed to do that, as I think he does anyway. What is really extraordinary is the matters which are excluded. As this Bill reads at the moment, an unqualified man may castrate a stallion of up to the age of two years. Either that means admitting that unqualified men can give an anæsthetic, or that the Bill does not state that an anæsthetic is necessary at all. It is this sort of confusion and small points like these in this Bill, which I think should be taken up.

I would also point out that since the business of the House started this afternoon just over 20 calves have died. Throughout the year calves die, as a result of preventable diseases, at the rate of one every two minutes. It would not be right at present to say that the situation in regard to the number of vets is satisfactory, when there is as yet no preventive medicine to fight against "the staggers" (it has a technical name which I cannot remember) or "the scours" from which calves, once infected, die, as we have experienced in Scotland this year. At the moment vets are unable to cure "the scours", and many millions of pounds are thereby lost to agriculture, so there should not be any complacency about the number of vets. Apart from drawing attention to these few points, I agree with other noble Lords that this is a good Bill.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like in a few brief words to welcome the Bill from this side of the House, and to congratulate my noble friend for his clear exposition of its contents. I am sure that he made its provisions plain to all Members of the House. No doubt the Bill will be gone through very closely in its Committee stage, so I do not intend to take up much time of the House this afternoon.

I should merely like to make brief reference to Schedule 3 and those parts of the Bill which were referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Balerno and Lord Somers. Part I of Schedule 3 is headed "Treatment and Operations which may be Given or Carried Out by Unqualified Persons", and in line 41 we see: The performance by any person of or over the age of eighteen of any of the following operations… I would comment that eighteen is a very young age at which to undertake some of these operations. The phrase "by any person" appears to me to be a strange one. I do not intend to press this point now, but I would reiterate what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, about the crude way in which some laymen carry out these jobs. I remember, as a boy on a farm, seeing the crude methods used by the very good old farmers in those days. We must be on our guard in these matters, and I hope that before the Bill is finalised the Minister may agree that operations of this kind should be carried out by youngsters only under the strict supervision of veterinary surgeons. With these few remarks, I repeat that I give the Bill a welcome; I am sure it is overdue, and I am sure, too, that it will be of benefit to the agricultural industry.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that no Minister in introducing a Bill could be anything but wholly satisfied with the welcome which has been given to this Bill. Practically every point which has been raised during this debate has been, inevitably, a Committee point. Everybody has warned me that points will be raised on Committee stage. I am grateful to know this, as it is as well to have advance notice of these points. I hope that when the time comes I shall be well aware of what will be raised and have the answers ready in those cases where I do not propose to accept an Amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, raised the matter of temporary registration in Clause 7. The noble Lord said that it was satisfactory as far as it went, but he felt that it might provide a loophole in allowing permanent practice by people who ought not to be allowed to be in permanent practice. The conditions under which they are allowed to practise in this country will be wholly a matter for the Council of the Royal College, which not only has the task of safeguarding the profession—and clearly it will have regard to the welfare of the profession—but also seeks to safeguard the welfare of the animals of this country generally. I do not think there is any danger here, but we might have to discuss this question again.

Clause 8 was mentioned by a number of noble Lords, and we understand the fears which exist. The clause was decided upon after considerable negotiations between the P.D.S.A. and the Royal College, and subsequently the agreement which was entered into by the P.D.S.A. and the Royal College was agreed upon and accepted entirely by the British Veterinary Association. It is true, as Lord Balerno said, that some 10 per cent. of the profession have come into it since the date of the original agreement. Doubts have been expressed, and I can understand them, but I must not go too far in support of this. The fact is that an agreement was arrived at, it was supported by the British Veterinary Association, and as recently as last week it was again agreed to, as is to be seen from the current issue of the Veterinary Record.

The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, mentioned Clause 27 and dealt with the matter of interpretation. This is a difficult matter, and we shall no doubt return to it at a later stage. When I first looked at the matter, I felt that it would be better not to widen the interpretation, but, as I have said, we shall be looking at this again.

The point made about the Home Office was entirely new to me, despite the fact that I have taken a considerable interest in veterinary surgeons in the past, partly as the result of having chaired a committee which made a recommendation which has some relation to Clause 8 of the Bill. I must confess that I did not know that the Home Office came into this matter. I will look it up, and will be prepared to give an answer, if necessary, on Committee stage.

With regard to the matter of an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the possibility of costs being given against the Council in a successful appeal, this is a matter which we shall have to look at. Where there has been a successful appeal against the Council, I should think it right that the costs should be borne by the Council. It would surely be unusual, if on appeal the Council were found to have reached a wrong decision, that the Council could escape the consequences and pass them on to the general taxpayer. Perhaps the noble Lord will consider this matter further.

The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, spoke from an exceptional knowledge of this Bill and its background. He said, "I know what I am talking about", and a voice behind me said, "It is rather unusual that a noble Lord should know what he is talking about!". I would not accept that, because noble Lords in this House do know what they are talking about. This raises the standard of debate in this House to a height which I sometimes did not experience in another place. However, it is not my object to continue on those lines this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, referred to the exclusion of fishes, and rather suggested that the definition should include all vertebrates. To some extent, we feel that we ought not to agree here to what appears to us to be a take-over bid by the vets, a take-over from the fish scientists, and we feel that there is at present no justification for a change here. But, undoubtedly, the noble Lord will return to this point on the Committee stage. I agree with him that there is perhaps a need to elucidate paragraph 2 of Schedule 3, which is a difficult one, and my noble friend Lord Hilton of Upton referred to this in his remarks. There is some obscurity here which perhaps we might clear up at a later stage. Unless I am very much mistaken, this has been lifted completely out of previous Bills, but it is not necessarily right that we should continue it in this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, referred to some of the qualifications of people who might be over here on a temporary register, practising veterinary surgery in this country. It will be for the Council of the Royal College to ensure that persons who have what he called a crude knowledge, or a crude qualification, do not in fact practise in this country. It will be their job to ensure that nothing of the sort takes place. Clause 8, to which he and most other noble Lords referred, is a matter to which we must return on another occasion. The fact is, of course, that those licensees will not be quite on a register of their own: they will be on a register which was set up by the Act of 1948. This supplementary register will be the register upon which people were able to get in 1948, if they had practised some form of veterinary surgery—without being able to use the name—for ten years prior to 1948. So it will not be an exclusive list.

As to the use of natural methods, I have had sent to me a document on this matter which I shall have to consider, and which I imagine is the same as the noble Lord has received. The noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, in particular, apart from the other points to which I have already in part replied, said that he could not agree with me that there were plenty of veterinary surgeons.


In Scotland.


I did not put it in quite those terms. But we did have the Report of the Northumberland Committee, whose specific task was to look into this aspect. They reported that they were satisfied that there would be sufficient for the purpose, which would justify the ending of Section 7 of the 1948 Act. That is the position in regard to the licensees. I agree with the noble Viscount that there is some doubt about this, and in some parts of the country, perhaps, there may not be so many. But I do not imagine that there are many licensees operating in that part of Scotland where there are not enough veterinary surgeons. At any rate, the Northumberland Committee have told us that there will be sufficient, and we have had to accept their assurance on this point.

On the de-horning of calves, Schedule 3 is at present being negotiated with the people concerned, including the National Farmers' Union. We might not be able to complete the whole of our negotiations before this Bill becomes an Act, but we are hoping to be able to amend Schedule 3 by an Order to be laid before the House. We think that might be the best method of dealing with this. This applies, too, to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Hilton of Upton. I hope I have dealt with the major points which have been raised in this debate, and I look forward very much to the Committee stage of the Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.