HL Deb 19 March 1968 vol 290 cc448-93

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that Part III of this Bill be postponed until Thursday next. This, your Lordships will remember, is for the convenience of noble Lords from Scotland.

Moved, That Part III of the Bill be postponed until Thursday next.—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Regulations with respect to the welfare of livestock]:

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


Before we pass on to the Amendments on the Marshalled List, I should like to take the opportunity, if I may, of discussing this clause as a whole. In this clause we are giving the Minister powers to regulate the dimensions and layout of the accommodation for livestock, the lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, drainage, water supply for livestock, the density of population at which animals may be kept, the type of food upon which they may be fed and a number of other things. These are very wide powers indeed, and no mention has been made as to what these specific regulations will be. We are merely giving the Minister power to make the regulations. I should like to give the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, if he would be so good, the opportunity to tell the House a little of what the Minister has in mind as to what these regulations might be and the form which they might take. I am bound to say that I speak as one involved in the industry of agriculture, and also as one involved in the methods of intensive keeping which are directly affected by this clause, and therefore of course I declare a direct interest in the Bill and indeed in this clause.

Intensive methods of husbandry have really come into prominence only in the last ten years or so. They started with the broiler industry and then in the egg producing industry, and indeed the rabbit industry, and now more latterly they have affected pigs, cattle and sheep. Indeed, this intensivism is only the application of business methods and scientific principles into the agriculture industry, and few would consider this to be unwelcome. But, of course, along with this increase of intensivism has come a wave of public opinion which has virtually said that these methods are unnatural, unfair and indeed unkind, and one might almost assume therefore unBritish. An eminent lady has written a book on the subject and led the campaign for the protection of intensively kept animals. Much of this campaign, sponsored from the highest of motives, earns the greatest respect. I am merely anxious, as I am sure all noble Lords would be, to see that the correct balance should be kept. And who knows what that balance is between, on the one hand, what one might describe as the sympathetic point of view and, on the other, the practical? Nobody likes cruelty, and legislation could and should be produced to prevent this.

It is true that intensivism is not natural, but of course it does not follow that it is therefore necessarily cruel. A lot of what we do nowadays is not natural; indeed much of it could also be described as cruel. What could have been less natural than the experience I suffered the other day, not exactly uncommon or unknown to your Lordships, of being packed tight into a Tube train with a pair of doors closing behind one; so tight that the suitcase one was carrying one could hardly hold on to, and equally so tight that one could not leave go of it. One could not sit down, and when one stood up one's head hit the ceiling. If such conditions had prevailed among animals one would have had the whole gamut of the Ministry, the R.S.P.C.A., Ruth Harrison, the lot down one's throat, but because it happens to human beings it is accepted as being tolerable.


If I may intervene, I was following the noble Earl's analogy. Would he not agree that the torture he experienced was self-induced?


I did not think it was at all self-induced; I was pressured from all angles, upwards, downwards and sideways. However that may be, the point I wish to make is that although things may be in the strict sense unnatural they need not be and should not be cruel. I should hope that we could somehow devise a system whereby the intensive systems of poultry keeping, which have come to stay and must continue, can be allowed to continue in a way in which they need not be cruel. But, of course, both the broiler industry and the egg industry, and increasingly the pig industry and others as well, operate on very fine margins indeed, and the profitability of, for instance, poultry production can be measured in pennies per bird and the profitability of egg production can be measured in pennies per dozen. Indeed the square footage allowed per animal is measured in decimal points of a square foot.

If the Government are going to bring in regulations to make alterations essential I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, what it is that they have in mind. Are they, for instance, going to say that the present density of population in the case of broilers, which at the moment is 0.6 or 0.5 square feet per bird, should be increased, as suggested by the Brambell Committee, to 1 square foot per bird? If so, this kind of alteration will have a very great effect on the whole economics of the production, in this case of broilers, and indeed in the case of eggs on egg production.

In this day and age, where one finds that the world population is likely to increase from 3,000 million to 6,000 million over a period of 40 years, from 1960 to 2000, obviously methods of production of cheap food have to be canvassed and introduced and used as well and as efficiently as possible, at the same time being humane. I should like to see this food produced as humanely as we can, but I would give the Government this warning. When they introduce these regulations I would ask them to move cautiously, because small moves in the intensive systems of husbandry can have very substantial effects on their economies, and an extravagant alteration made all at once could upset the whole balance, which is already a tender one, of systems of producing food at an economic cost which, after all, is one very important thing. I hope that the noble Lord may be able to give your Lordships some idea of what the Government have in mind with regard to the regulations for which they are seeking power under this clause.


I quite understand the position of the noble Earl, and I think he has presented his point of view very fairly indeed. If possible I should like to avoid a detailed discussion of what may or may not be in these regulations because it is a little early to do this. The regulations themselves, when drafted, will have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and there will be an opportunity for full discussion of them when they are laid. I assure the noble Earl that before they are actually drafted there will be the most thorough consultation with all the interests involved—and by that I mean not only the interests concerned with the production of foodstuffs in this way and the caring for livestock, but also the animal welfare societies and organisations.

As the noble Earl says, the clause confers wide powers on the Minister; but I can say that it is not intended immediately to use these powers as widely as they are laid down. When the Government announced their decision on the recommendations of the Brambell Report, it was explained that they intended in the main, to proceed by introducing codes of recommended practice, and I think that course, which we discussed on Second Reading, commended itself to your Lordships. Initially, the codes will be confined to one or two specific matters where welfare requirements are relatively clear; for example, there is the question of the minimum iron content in manufactured calf foods; there is the provision of lighting for routine inspection purposes in pig and poultry houses and there is the possibility of dealing with the problem of the docking of tails of cattle. But such questions as environmental conditions and the mandatory standards on densities, are problems where it is thought that we need much more information. There is a certain amount of research going on in these fields, as the noble Earl will know, and not until we have established certain facts would it be wise to bring forward new regulations.

Therefore, on the understanding that the regulations when drafted will be open to discussion, and that before they are drafted there will be the most thorough consultation with the interests involved, I hope that the noble Earl will be satisfied in giving the Minister the permissive powers which this clause provides.

3.2 p.m.


I hope that the Minister has not decided that the provision of sufficient room for an animal will not appear in these regulations. When I heard my noble friend talk about how insufficient was the room that he sometimes found on the Underground railway, the distinction occurred to my mind, and I think to the minds of many other noble Lords on both sides, that after all, he was not continuously in this position on the Underground, whereas some of these miserable animals are perpetually in a position of having so little room that they cannot even move about. I think that this is an indecent horror and a disgrace to the human race, and I greatly hope that the Government have not decided that this problem of grossly insufficient room—I am not saying that this applies universally—is too difficult for the matter to be included in the regulations when they are made.


May I thank the noble Lord for his answer to my noble friend, who I thought presented the case extremely well. There is a problem here. We all have nice feelings about animals, but there is also the commercial consideration to be borne in mind. For myself, having had some years in the past in the Ministry of Agriculture, I have great confidence in that Ministry's capacity to consult with both sides here, with those who produce food and with the consuming interests, who are naturally concerned to get food as cheaply as possible—and, indeed, with the general public, who are most sensitive to the point that has been made by the noble Baroness and by my noble friend Lord Conesford. Certainly we should not wish to see animals permanently constricted, as was my noble friend in the Underground railway; nor, indeed, would animals thrive like that. But I have, as I say, great confidence in the most experienced officials and well-tried methods of consultation in the Ministry, and I am sure that with a certain amount more research work, which I think is probably needed, the right balance can be struck here. I am sure that this is the right way to proceed: first, to establish the codes of practice, and then to introduce regulations. I think it will be possible in this way to achieve a result which will be satisfactory to everybody.


May I just say one word in thanking the noble Lord for having explained this matter as well as he has, and for having gone as far as he has? Like my noble friend Lord Nugent, I am quite certain that the officials in the Ministry will do all they can to come to a fair conclusion. I am most grateful for the views which the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, put forward, because there is a real point here. On the one hand, one has to prevent cruelty; equally, there is the other point, that margins are finally fixed and at some point one has to try to make the decision which is the correct, the fair and the just way to do it. I am grateful to the noble Lord opposite for having gone as far as he has done to answer the point.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:

Codes of recommendations for the welfare of livestock

3.—(1) The Ministers may from time to time, after consultation with such persons appearing to them to represent any interests concerned as the Ministers consider appropriate,— (a) prepare codes containing such recommendations with respect to the welfare of livestock for the time being situated on agricultural land as they consider proper for the guidance of persons concerned with livestock; and

3.7 p.m.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved, in subsection (1)(a), after the first "livestock ", to insert "including the size of the accommodation provided". The noble Earl said: I quite agree with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that this is a question of balance, and this, I think, is what we should try to obtain. But I do not hold the view that commercial in- terests and inhumanity necessarily go hand in hand. I believe that there are many improvements which could be made but which would not necessarily make a particular arrangement non-commercial. I think the Government are proceeding in a wise way with this Bill. In Clause 2 we shall have what I suppose are statutory orders that will have the force of law, and in Clause 3 we shall have a code which will not have the force of law but, none the less, will be relevant to the way in which things are done, and, what I think is most important, relevant to the future; because after all, this is going on for all time and, as has been said intensive cultivation is a comparatively recent growth. But we must take it as axiomatic that in one way or another it is going on. To my mind, the important point about the code is that it will indicate the sort of way in which buildings and accommodation will be provided.

We are in a slight difficulty here, because often it is not useful or profitable to discuss either statutory orders or, indeed, a code of regulations in this House because we find it difficult to amend them. Therefore I think the present is a proper time to discuss roughly what it is intended to be included in the code. I know that there are differences of opinion on this subject, but we have in the Brambell Report, in Chapter 4, an extremely authoritative statement. This matter has been gone into by people of high authority who have devoted their lives to the study of animal behaviour, and I think therefore that we should treat it with the greatest respect.

I have put down my Amendment in order to be quite certain that this problem of accommodation will be included within the code. There is nothing about it in paragraph 3, which deals with the code; there is reference to dimensions in paragraph 2. I want to be quite certain, as I think we should, that this is a matter which will be dealt with properly in the code. The words which have been used by the Brambell Committee, speaking, as I say, with great authority, are these—and I should like to quote them to your Lordships: An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs.

In Scotland, we used to have something called "the little ease". I am told that students of torture in the Middle Ages found this to be an extremely effective way of obtaining information, confessions or other statements from prisoners. It was a room in which there was neither adequate space to stand up nor to lie down. It had the advantage that no apparent bodily harm was done to the prisoner—that is to say, no damage to the skin. In practice it was a very efficient way of getting such information as the inquisitors wanted. The same sort of problem exists at present. The description in the Report of what is required is not precise as to metres, feet or inches, but a general description is supported by the leading authorities on the study of animal behaviour and animal requirements. I mention particularly Dr. Tinbergen, who is the leading authority in the world on animal behaviour.

I should like an assurance from the noble Lord on this matter. I should like this Amendment to be accepted to make certain that those who formulate the code recognise the importance which Parliament attaches to this point. This need not adversely affect the commercial development of intensive agriculture to which we attach such importance, but I feel that public opinion demands that it should be conducted in a way which the public consider to be satisfactory in the handling of animals. I put forward this Amendment since I want to be assured that suitable recommendations to cover this particular point will be included in the code. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 5, after ("livestock") insert the said words.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)


I should like to support this Amendment very strongly. I listened carefully to the points put forward by my noble friend Lord Ferrers, and of course one must look at both sides of the question; the farmers' interests and the interests of the country at large must be considered. But in the parallels which my noble friend drew with someone's being confined in an Underground train, he omitted to point out that a human being has the faculty of reason: he knows why he is being confined. My noble friend would realise that he would not be confined for long; he would realise that he went in of his own free will and would very shortly be coming out again. But although an animal is conscious and capable of feeling pain and other sensations, it is not a reasoning creature and does not realise those things—it is conscious only of what it feels at the moment. This Amendment is most important, and I hope that the Committee will accept it.


I also should like to support my noble friend's Amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said, it is extraordinary that in a civilised community we should, because of our food needs, allow animals to be so confined that they cannot turn round, stretch themselves or clean themselves. It is very cruel. There would be a terrible uproar if animals in zoos were confined as they are confined in factory farms. I agree that the commercial aspect is involved, but I cannot believe that to give an animal sufficient room to stretch its limbs, or a bird room to clean itself or to extend its wings, would require much in the way of extra accommodation. One must have a building for the purpose, and the expense involved would not be great if it were slightly larger. Therefore, I hope Her Majesty's Government will accept this Amendment.


I have every sympathy with the noble Earl's Amendment, and I agree that these systems of keeping animals are deeply repugnant to us, but I feel that the Amendment adds nothing to the Bill. We have given to the Ministry of Agriculture general indications of the kind of things which we want them to consider with regard to the welfare of animals. To pick out one single example and pinpoint it does nothing more than show the flag to a certain section of the community, who are rightly worried about this matter. It seems to me that this diminishes the strength of what we seek in this particular case. Therefore, while sympathising with what has been said about the repugnant nature of this method of keeping animals, I do not think the Amendment adds anything and I feel that the Government should reject it.


I am in great sympathy with all the supporters of this Amendment, and I avoid intensive farming as much as I can. But there is already provision in Clause 2 for regulations to be laid down as to the dimensions and layout of accommodation. There is no point whatever in drawing attention to it again in Clause 3.


May I point out to the noble Lord that Clause 2 is a statutory requirement prosecutable by law? At present there are many places where the quotation which I made cannot be fulfilled. The code is a guide for conduct in the future, it is setting a rather higher standard than that which exists at present. That is why I have put it in Clause 3.


May I point out that there was a Gallup Poll on this subject? Eighty-seven per cent. of the people approached agreed that it was extremely cruel to keep animals so enclosed that they could not turn round, and 91 per cent. of people approached thought it disgraceful that a bird was so restricted that it was unable to stretch its wings or clean itself.


I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, that the code is for the future, but surely all this is covered by the words in paragraph (a) namely, "with respect to the welfare of livestock". Therefore one does not need to pinpoint anything else. The "welfare of livestock" includes accommodation.


One interesting point about this discussion is that everyone seems to be agreed, though I am not quite certain what we are agreed about. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, rightly made the point that it is cruel or inhuman to keep animals in such a way that they cannot stand up, sit down or preen themselves. This would be largely agreed by all. But it does not necessarily follow that all factory farming falls within this ambit. It does not. Certain forms of factory farming can be described as cruel. Indeed, the forced feeding of cockerels is obviously cruel and I should be well content to see that kind of thing finished. But to say that all forms of intensive livestock keeping fall within the same ambit as my noble friend Lord Selkirk has suggested because they restrict the animals to a certain extent, is wrong. We want to be absolutely clear what we are agreeing about.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, agree with what has been said about the importance of accommodation. That is not in dispute between us, and the Brambell Committee emphasised the importance of accommodation. However, I would ask the noble Earl not to press his Amendment, not because we do not accept the importance of accommodation, but because there are, after all, other important matters. Knowing the noble Earl's long Parliamentary experience, I could have understood his approach had he pressed for the same wording in Clause 3 as there is in Clause 2. In Clause 2 it is stated that as well as accommodation there are such facilities as, lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, drainage, water supply and otherwise to be provided in connection with any accommodation ". All these are important, and if we just put in one item and not the others it tends to emphasise the importance of that aspect and not the others. They are all important. The code of practice is now being considered by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, and how the draft of the code is framed will partly depend upon their advice. Indeed, I could not here make a definite commitment about one of these matters in regard to the Bill. I think that would be wrong in view of the procedure to which we are committed.

I would also add this. The noble Earl said that he wanted to make absolutely certain—those were his words—that the problem of accommodation was dealt with in the code. But, of course, the clause itself only gives permissive power to the Ministers. It says, "The Ministers may from time to time". They do not have to bring codes forward. But they intend to do so and I shall be surprised if they do not contain some of the matters about which we have been speaking. But the noble Earl cannot be absolutely certain of this even if his Amendment is accepted. Because therefore I do not think it would strengthen the Bill, because I assure him that the importance of accommodation is accepted by us all, and because these are matters which are at the present time being considered by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, I hope he will withdraw his Amendment.


I am sorry that I cannot agree with my noble friend. I think this Amendment is crucial. I agree with him that if Members of this House saw a crate of birds of any kind crushed together we should be appalled and would demand their release on humane grounds. But we are not legislating for the people who are sitting in this House. All legislation which embodies controls is not generally intended for the majority; it is intended for the lawless minority. It is intended for that minority who in this case do not have the same humane feelings as my noble friend.

We are not legislating for humane farmers, kind people who recognise that this form of intensive breeding is a form of cruelty to animals. We are legislating here in order to control a minority of people whose first priority is commercial gain, not humanity. Unless my noble friend embodies this Amendment and makes it clear beyond all doubt that the law will not tolerate this treatment of animals, he will be losing the only opportunity we have of controlling this minority.


May I help my noble friend? We are not talking here about a proposed law. We are talking about a proposed code of practice which will not be legally enforceable.


My noble friend must not quibble with me—and he and I have been in both Houses long enough to know that that is a quibble. He knows perfectly well that if a code of practice—and I am prepared to call it that—is embodied in this Bill, then those who are guilty of not observing it are indeed guilty men, and can have a finger pointed at them by every organisation concerned with protecting animals. Later on failure to observe it may be regarded as a very serious offence. If my noble friend cares to call it a code of practice, then I insist upon that code of practice, and it makes my case even stronger.

There are those who say, as did my noble friend, that after all this is not really so important. If you give an animal enough light and air, why trouble about including accommodation? We have today had the noble Earl opposite introducing the analogy of being crushed in a Tube train. May I introduce an analogy? In our country to-day we recognise that putting a human prisoner in a cell, where he has light, water and food and from which he is allowed out for certain sanitary purposes and so on, is not enough. We say that every day that prisoner should also be taken into a yard and given exercise. It is laid down by those who prescribe conditions for prisoners that if we are to treat them in a humane manner they must be given not only light and food but also adequate exercise. That is what we are asking for to-day for these animals.


I strongly support everyone who is anxious about the welfare of livestock. But to deal with the thoughtless, cruel, over-profit-seeking minority there is Clause 2. I imagine that under Clause 2 it will be the job of the Minister to ensure that in laying down the law on this he will set out standards below which no one dare fall, as otherwise he will be in trouble, and that the purpose of Clause 3 is to endeavour to secure a code of conduct which people will be asked to try to reach within a reasonable sort of period. If a code of conduct for the welfare of animals is to be set up or declared, the standard of accommodation and all the matters which have been implied in the speeches on this Amendment will be included.

I think the Minister must be very tough under Clause 2, but under Clause 3 he will set standards which people will be expected eventually to attain. If they do not, the failure will then be used, as in subsection (4) of Clause 3, as evidence in the court against someone who failed eventually to bring his establishment up to a reasonable standard. I am bound to say that I think Clause 2 is going to be tough—it ought to be and it is intended to be—and that Clause 3 will enable a gradual lifting of the standards above those laid down in Clause 2, and to a very much higher standard than we have in many establishments at the present time.


I should like to support the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. Before the last war I experimented in breeding cages, which were then a new thing—and a farmer always experiments in everything new. I suppose I had a couple of dozen cages, and I put in some pullets which had been allowed free range and were ready to lay. I let them out by the middle of the winter, because I thought it was inhuman. Of course I like animals—I like some animals better than I like human beings, and I would not confine those wretched hens in those cages.

Since then that system has become an enormous business and nobody has mentioned this point. I do not know how much money is invested in the battery hen business, but it is a very large figure; and any farmer who goes into this business always has a large capital cost hanging over his head. Before I retired to the Isle of Man I must have farmed for 30 years, I suppose, off and on, and I appreciate that hens usually die in debt; but they are less likely to die in debt if you do not put up a building costing thousands of pounds. It is a balance between your feeding stuffs and your egg production; and if you add the capital cost of these huge, automatic buildings to that, the food supply has to go up by only a point or two and you will lose a lot of money. I am speaking from the commercial point of view. I said, first, that it is inhuman, and I still say it is inhuman.

I did not perhaps quite follow the point the noble Lord, Lord Somers, made, but I would say this to him. It is inhuman to hens, just as it would be to human beings, to be shut up. Before they go into the brooder, the battery laying plant, they must have a certain amount of outdoor life. They must get a bit of fresh air, and they must have a little exercise for their limbs; and in that open-air life they learn all the reflexes which make hens happy—to make dust baths, to clean themselves and so forth. They cannot even scratch in these things. They are deprived of these reflexes, and are shut up.

I trust this Amendment will go through, but I appreciate that an enormous capital investment is involved throughout the country, and I would suggest that the change be done gradually so that farmers can get out of it. The point which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, made—I would almost call her my noble friend, although I am a Cross-Bencher—is of course absolutely true. Commercial people are not interested, or should not be if they are going to make a success of their business, in anything but getting money out of it. But I think the battery breeding people of this country are on a very dangerous wicket themselves. They have enormous capital investments, their buildings are deteriorating, and it needs the price of food to go up only very little and hens will again die in debt.


May I take up the point which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, made regarding the commercial aspect? It struck me—I may be wrong—that there was a tone of contempt in her voice when she referred to the commercialism in livestock production. Commercialism is essential. The Annual Price Review enables a farmer to recoup his increased costs in any one year to the extent of only about three-quarters of those total costs. The balance, the farmer is told by the State, he must take up by increased efficiency. Therefore the pressure is put on him to move into more intensive systems than he is using already.

I agree with what my noble friend Lord Selkirk has said about the animals being kept under decent conditions, but you must not blame the farmers unduly, because they are themselves under considerable pressure every year to cut their costs in some way and to make some financial improvement, which is covered by the term "commercial", in their methods of productivity. One hopes and expects that the code will prevent them, in pursuit of greater efficiency, from doing things which are inimical and harmful to the animals, but I think we must remember the point that the farmers themselves are under considerable pressure.


I think I am the first lawyer who has intervened on this particular point, and I would say at once that I fully understand the Minister's objection to putting these words in here, an objection also expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and others. I do not think these words would be completely effective to achieve the object of the mover of the Amendment, because this code is only something that may be made. The words in the clause as it stands are quite general enough to include this provision, without specific mention of it. Nevertheless, I think that the universal sympathy for the Amendment which has been expressed in all the speeches is very natural, and the object behind that universal sympathy certainly ought to be achieved.

I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said: that we must consider this together with Clause 2. My noble friend Lord Selkirk, who moved the Amendment, read out a sentence, your Lordships will remember, that appears in what I think is generally called the Brambell Report. It is the last sentence in paragraph 37, and I think that what the Committee wants to be certain of is that those words in the Report are carried into legal effect. I think the noble Baroness would be completely satisfied if that were done. If I may read the sentence again, it says: An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty, to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs". I do not believe there is anybody in this Committee who does not think that that is right; and if that is right, it ought to be secured, in my respectful suggestion, under Clause 2. If it were so secured, I do not think we need worry about these words under Clause 3. I intervene only to say that this Bill, in its final stages, should certainly ensure that that recommendation is carried into legal effect, and, if that were done, I do not think anybody would suggest adding these particular words in Clause 3. They would be open, I think, to some of the objections to which the Minister has drawn attention.


The noble Lord asked me why I put the Amendment in here. The reason was to draw out the very point which has been drawn out. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, we do not get anywhere with that. But we do not get anywhere with any Amendment on this point, because it is up to the Minister to draw up his regulations under either Clause 2 or Clause 3. Now, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, it is my anxiety that the regulations under Clause 2 will not be tough. I do not think they can be tough, and really for the reasons which my noble friend Lord Balerno gave—because you cannot put farmers out of business. It will be very difficult to make extremely tough regulations under Clause 2, and my anxiety about putting these words in Clause 2 is that they cannot yet be fulfilled.

But what I want from the Government is an assurance that they will be the objective to which the Government are working. If the noble Lord can give me that assurance, I will very willingly withdraw this Amendment. But can he give me that assurance? Can he give me any assurance that the words which have been quoted by myself and my noble friend Lord Conesford are going into the code? If he will give me that undertaking, I will certainly withdraw this Amendment.


I am much obliged to the noble Earl. May I make two points? One is that if the words went in they would have absolutely no practical effect. But the noble Earl is absolutely right: the debate which he has stimulated has emphasised the words which are in the Brambell Report, and supported the point of view which has been expressed to the Minister in other ways. With all that pressure, with all that feeling, with all the knowledge at the disposal of the Minister, I give this assurance to the noble Earl: that I should be very surprised indeed if the code, when it is drafted after consultation—and the Bill commits the Minister to consult with the interests concerned, including the Farm Animal Welfare Standing Advisory Committee—did not have one item in it relating to this problem of accommodation. This is the objective to which we are working; and, although I cannot at this moment commit the Minister, because he has to consult the other people, I think I can say that the code will almost certainly contain references to accommodation.


Can the noble Lord say that by Report stage he will give us a firm undertaking that words approximating to these will appear in the code? I should like his undertaking that he would try to do that.


I cannot give that assurance; but I will see what I can do. But words approximating to those of the noble Earl's Amendment would not have any effect at all. One must go into much more detail in the code if one is going to have any effect on day-to-day husbandry. But I will see what I can say further at Report stage.


With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:

Powers of entry, etc.

6.—(1) A person duly authorised in writing by the Minister may at any reasonable time enter upon any land, other than premises used wholly or mainly as a dwelling, for the purpose of ascertaining whether an offence under this Part of this Act has been committed on the land.

(3) A person authorised as mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this section to enter upon any land— (a) shall if so required produce evidence of his authority before entering and while present on the land;

3.42 p.m.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, in subsection (1), after "by the Minister", to insert "and qualified as a veterinary surgeon". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2 which stands in my name, and it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I discuss at the same time No. 3. These Amendments concern a point that I made on Second Reading, and although it is a small one I think it is of great importance. The Amendments are designed to ensure that the official making an inspection is fully aware of the hygiene precautions necessary when visiting an intensive livestock unit. The Amendment would in terms require that the inspecting official should be a veterinary surgeon, because he would know the various disease risks, depending on the type of livestock concerned, and could be relied on to take the proper precautions.

To make clear the cogency of this argument, perhaps I should give a brief description of the chief diseases which afflict livestock, and particularly intensively kept livestock, which now covers the whole field of livestock. Individual livestock farmers, certainly the progressive ones, go to very great trouble and to great expense in order to protect their livestock against these disease risks. To begin with, foot-and-mouth disease is something that we are all much aware of; but this disease (caused by a virus which attacks hooved cattle) is only one of the many viruses which attack livestock and cause immense economic loss. Foot-and-mouth is relatively simple, because it is notifiable; and where there is an outbreak cattle and livestock have to be slaughtered, and compensation is payable. But there is, in fact, a whole range of these various virus and bacteria infections which affect livestock.

With chicken, there is fowl pest, a notifiable disease, that used to be compensated on slaughter, though it no longer is. In most cases when one of these diseases attacks the livestock the farmer has to treat it himself with veterinary advice and with the best modern drugs and antibiotics available. But the outbreak of one of these diseases in livestock checks the production or growth of the livestock, probably causes mortality and invariably causes very heavy economic loss which might be crippling to the farmer and certainly would wipe out his profit margin for the year for that particular batch of livestock. It is under stand-able that the efficient livestock farmer takes great pains nowadays to protect his stock against the spread of these various diseases.

With pigs one finds the devilish virus pneumonia which affects most of the pig herds in this country. Also, there is swine fever, which temporarily has been stamped out although the extremely unpleasant African swine fever is now moving up through Europe and may come here at any time. With chickens there is a whole range of infections, infections such as infectious bronchitis and fowl pest, which I have mentioned, fowl paralysis, mycoplasma, any of which can cause farmers great economic loss. With cattle and calves there is brucellosis and salmonella—just to mention a few of the diseases with which our livestock must live. And, of course, there are other diseases, like blue tongue, for cattle, which is lurking in North Africa and is tending to move into Europe.

Most of these diseases are caused by viruses. Usually the virus is persistent, highly infectious and able to for sometime without a host. It is wind-borne and is easily carried on the clothes of individual human beings who visit the stock. It can be carried easily on coats or shoes, in hair or on hands, and is easily transferred from one livestock unit to another. And this is the point. If an inspector goes to a livestock unit to make one of these inspections and then has to leave that farm to go to another, unless the proper precautions are observed he may very easily transfer one of these unpleasant and dangerous diseases from one livestock unit to another. In the research institute of which I have the privilege to be the chairman we are required, when going in, even to the semi-infected area, to change into clean clothes inside the unit and when we come out to go through a shower bath and to leave the clothes behind. One cannot require such precautions on every farm that is inspected, but there is a range of simple and relatively practicable precautions which can be carried out. For instance, gumboots can be washed in disinfectant, clean overalls can be supplied by the farmer and then left behind, an expendable that could be provided. Hands can be washed, car tyres can be washed with disinfectant. These are the basic minimum precautions which should be carried out when going from one unit to another. On farms this is what farmers themselves do when going between different units, which they keep far enough apart to reduce the danger from wind-borne infection.

All these considerations apply to my second Amendment, which is to subsection (2), in relation to the local government inspector who is inspecting for the purposes of checking the diet of the livestock concerned just as much as to the inspector in subsection (1), who is actually looking at the animals. The inspector for diet would almost inevitably have to go into the house where the animals or birds were kept, and therefore all the same dangers would occur. I make the point most cogently. Here we have inspectors who are going to ensure that a minimum standard of health and welfare is being exercised for these animals. It would be utterly absurd if, in the process, the inspector happened to transfer the disease from one unit to another. It is in order to obviate this particular risk and to ensure that these inspectors are able to carry out their work with the confidence of the farming community, that I move this Amendment, and I trust that the Government will be able to accept it.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 4, at end insert ("and qualified as a veterinary surgeon").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)


I am not in general hostile to this Amendment, but there is one question that arises—it is really a logistic one. If one narrows the inspectors down so that they must be veterinary surgeons, are we not putting on the veterinary profession more than they can do? There is already a shortage of vets, for a number of reasons. I agree that, so far as medical work is concerned, part of medicine must be designed towards prevention rather than cure. But it seems to me that the jobs envisaged could be carried out perfectly well by properly qualified inspectors who need not be qualified vets. The work is not so difficult that it could not be learned and done properly, and at the same time confidence would be given to the farming community being inspected. I have no doubt that in an ideal world the inspectors would be qualified vets, but it does not seem to me that here it is necessary for them to be. It might even be a disadvantage, in that it would require the use of vets for work which might be done better by other people.


I should like to support what as been said by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I was about to make the same point, and he took the words out of my mouth. I am glad that he did, because he could say them much better. I also support what has been said by my noble friend Lord Nugent. It is important that these diseases should not be carried, but the point is: Are there enough qualified veterinary surgeons to perform these services?


It is not often that one has the pleasure of preferring the words put in the Bill by the Government to an Amendment proposed from one's own Front Bench, but I believe that on this occasion, having heard the Minister's arguments, I shall prefer the Bill as it stands. We have just heard that to insist on veterinary surgeons making all these visits would put a great strain on our limited number of surgeons and take them away from work which many of us may think more important than paying these visits. The Minister or a local authority would not be able to authorise a visit unless there was a veterinary surgeon able and free to make it, and we must bear in mind that veterinary surgeons employed by local authorities to be at their beck and call are very few—if, indeed, they exist at all. It also could be that a number of visits which ought to be made in the interest of the welfare of animals would not be made.

I do not want noble Lords to think that I do not appreciate the point made by my noble friend Lord Nugent about the carrying of disease from one farm to another—something about which we are particularly sensitive this spring. If we are to restrict these visits to qualified veterinary surgeons we ought, as the next step, to say that no-one should ever go on anyone else's farm, for what ever purpose, or go inside any building in which stock are housed, unless he is a veterinary surgeon. Although I can see a little of the trade unionism behind the Research Institute which has put my noble friend up to proposing this Amendment, I think that he is asking a little too much. At this stage at least, the interest of the animals, which is what we are concerned with here, rather than the interests of the vets, would probably be advanced far more by leaving the drafting of the Bill as it stands.


I, too, appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, is trying to do but I am wondering whether it is practicable. Looking at the various clauses in Part I of the Bill we see all manner of things which do not apply to a veterinary officer at all. Why should it have to be a veterinary officer who goes on to a farm to see that no unnecessary pain or distress is brought upon the animals? Why is it necessary to have a veterinary officer to safeguard the welfare of livestock, with particular reference to their housing, feeding, et cetera? Why is it necessary that it should be a veterinary officer who would advise on livestock, and so on? In respect of the provisions in every one of the clauses in Part I of the Bill it seems to me that other people, rather than veterinary surgeons, are qualified to carry out the duties.

I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, that the first words of Clause 6 refer to: A person duly authorised in writing … It is not a question of any Tom, Dick or Harry going on to the farm. These are authorised people. I would say to the noble Lord, who made a moving reference to foot-and-mouth disease, that surely the provisions ensure that the veterinary surgeon would have to paddle through a tray of Lysol or something of that kind. Why cannot anybody else who is an authorised officer do the same? I can see where the noble Lord is going, and what he is driving at, but it seems to me completely impracticable in these circumstances to keep out everyone except a veterinary officer.


I support my noble friend Lord Boyle He has listed a number of things that veterinary officers, who I understand are in short supply in the farming world, would have to do. If we take human beings as an analogy, the equivalent would be the Health Service, and no one would suggest that doctors should be required to do these things. They would be done by ancillary workers. I should have thought that in the farming world there would be ancillary workers, sufficiently qualified and with a high standard of behaviour, who could be trusted and who could quite well perform some of these functions.

3.56 p.m.


The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, gave us a very weighty and informed warning about the Sanger of the spread of infection from farm to farm, and I think it would be well if his words were heeded. But I agree with what has been said by other noble Lords, and by my noble friend Lady Summers-kill, that we should have difficulty in limiting the people engaged in this work to qualified veterinary surgeons. After all, the State Veterinary Service, which will be responsible for the inspection work under this Bill, has technical staff trained to assist in disease prevention and control. As the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will know, they have been working for some years past and are well aware of the dangers of which he spoke. It is our intention that in the first place, as I indicated during the Second Reading debate, they should assist in some of the inspections required under Part I of the Bill; but they will be working under the supervision of the Ministry's veterinary staff. Later on, when we have our codes and when practices have been established, when it is purely a question of seeing whether the practices which have been laid down and generally accepted are being applied, it is likely that these trained technical officers will be able to work on their own.

As my noble friend said, there will be ancillary workers, and the fact is that local authority staffs do not include qualified veterinary officers who could do this work. At least that applies so far as most of the local authorities are concerned. The ancillary workers will be dealing with matters with which they are trained to deal. Those dealing with feeding-stuffs will include officers who are concerned with local authority inspections and services under the Food and Drugs Act. I should have thought they were likely to be very responsible people who would well understand the kind of difficulties that we know exist at the present time. They will have to take samples and carry out analyses of foods. They will be professional people, but they will not necessarily have to be qualified veterinary surgeons.

As they will be officers who have not been engaged in this sort of work on the farms before, there will be a special guidance circular to which they will have to work, and I can assure the noble Lord that what he has said—and I quite appreciate the importance of it—will be brought home to the officers who work with the local authorities in enforcing the provisions in the regulations. I hope that, with that assurance, the noble Lord may consider that he has usefully brought some dangers to our attention, and that we shall be particularly careful, as a result of what he has said, to ensure that these dangers are counteracted.


May I thank the noble Lord for giving such serious consideration to the point I made, which I appreciate did not win general support. I am grateful to him for recognising the weight of it. Let me assure my noble friend Lord Inglewood that the advisory Veterinary Research Institute was not in any way responsible for the views I put forward; in fact it may even be surprised by them. I merely put forward views common with livestock farmers, who have great anxiety on this point. It is entirely a production point.

I realise the difficulty which would arise if we wrote into the Bill the requirement that veterinary surgeons must carry out all these inspections. On the other hand, I am bound to say that my ingenuity would be puzzled to compose an Amendment on the lines which the noble Lord has so graciously offered to me. I recognise that trained assistants, certainly in the Ministry of Agriculture, would be adequate for this work, and if the noble Lord would make sure that the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry was himself responsible for the general standard of their training, I am sure they would observe the necessary veterinary precautions in carrying out their inspections.

With regard to local authority inspections, these are more difficult because they do not come under the Ministry and its officers, but I take the point which the noble Lord made, that these inspectors are professional or semi-professional men, concerned, as he says, with the administration of the Food and Drugs Act and therefore well able to take a responsible view; and, provided that a special guidance circular goes out, again with the approval and with the responsibility of the C.V.O. behind it, I have no doubt that local authorities could effectively carry out these inspections with full precautions. With the valuable assurances that the noble Lord has given us, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.3 p.m.

LORD BALERNO moved, in subsection (3)(a), to leave out "if so required". The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. The usual thing that happens on a farm is for an inspector to arrive without having given prior notice, and I think that this is to be expected for a lot of his work would go by the board were it compulsory for him to give notice in writing beforehand. I am proceeding therefore on the assumption that as a rule the person authorised will arrive at the farm without due notice. So I think it is essential that he should declare himself immediately on arrival as a person authorised under this Act for the welfare of animals.

The fanner himself cannot be expected to be around on his farm all the time. Some farm labour is extremely efficient and intelligent; other farm labour is not so bright, and we have to cater for both kinds. A large number of people visit farms. Some visit regularly and are known to the farmer and his workers, and are accepted right away. But, by and large, it is expected of people who visit a farm that they should declare themselves and their business on arrival. To go round a farm without having declared oneself, and unknown to the farmer himself, or without having declared oneself to the nearest farm-worker, is something to be deplored, and it will not help the enforcement of the Act if the animal welfare officer, as envisaged by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, goes snooping round the farm. After all, a policeman declares himself when he goes on a farm by his uniform, and so does an inspector from the R.S.P.C.A. And I think that the animal welfare officer, when he visits a farm, should be required to declare himself in some way, not necessarily to the farmer, but to the first person he meets: that he should take the necessary steps to acquaint somebody in the farm of his arrival.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 18, leave out ("if so required").—(Lord Balerno.)


I agree with my noble friend Lord Balerno that an extraordinary number of people come on to one's farm. Often they are officials of one kind or other, but some of them may be trying to sell fertilisers or machinery. Farmers never know who is calling. As my noble friend said, the fanner himself may not be about, and an ordinary agricultural worker may not know whether the person who has arrived is expected or not and would not like to say that the caller must not go here or there because he would not know whether he was acting rightly or wrongly. A person authorised under the Bill should have to declare who he is, and what he is there for, the moment he walks into the farmyard. I should like to support my noble friend's Amendment.


; May I assure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, that this is not intended to be in any way a charter for snoopers. In the ordinary way, Ministry inspectors will be required to make their presence known to the farmer or his staff before making their inspections. Indeed, there will be little point in going round inspecting the premises unless they are able to discuss the matter with the farmer or his staff and give advice.

In many cases there will be no need to pull out a card or identity document. Everything, as the noble Lord knows, is on a basis of friendliness. Many people from the Ministry and the advisory services visit the farms, and relations are friendly. If the Amendment were accepted, not only would it be mandatory for the inspectors to prove their identity when they entered a farm, but they would also be required to prove identity at intervals during their stay on the farm, and possibly before they leave. So far as the Ministry's officials are concerned, there is no problem. As yet no tradition has been built up with local government officers, but the same kind of practice will be established by them—namely, they will make their presence known and the inspection will be done on a co-operative basis with the farmer and his staff.

On the other hand, there may be odd cases where there is an emergency, when, for example, it is thought that there is an animal suffering. In such an emergency it may be desirable, because there is not a member of the farm staff about, for the inspector to go on to the farm to wherever he has reason to expect there is a suffering animal. In that unlikely, but nevertheless possible, case, it is thought that it would be better if he were able to go there, without breaking any law, and carry out his inspection.

There is one other point that I would make to the noble Lord. In many of these matters one likes to keep to the established legal terminology and established legal practices, and I gather that the actual wording in this Bill is the same as that in the various agricultural Acts—the Diseases of Animals Acts of 1950, Section 6, the Agriculture (Poisonous Substances) Act 1952, the Food and Drugs Act 1955 and so on: there are four or five other precedents. No difficulty has ever arisen in those cases, and I cannot see that there could be any difficulty in this case. Nevertheless, it may still be that, because the noble Lord has raised this point—as he did on Second Reading, before the matter had been fully aired—it will be understood much more clearly that in the ordinary way it will be desirable to make absolutely certain when the inspector visits the farm that his presence is known to the farmer or his staff. But, bearing all the other points in mind, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw his Amendment.


I do not know whether the noble Lord feels that in these days of documentation it might be good planning for all people who have rights of inspection automatically to carry some sort of card on them, like a driving licence, which they would merely produce if they were asked. This would seem to get over most of the difficulties mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that there may be occasions when the person concerned may have to go on in a hurry. One carries so many papers in one's pockets now that it seems to me it would be quite easy to carry a small thing like a driving licence which just says who one is. I believe that the Gas Board now adopt this method.


On that point, as the noble Lord will see, it is stated in the Act that if so required the officer shall produce evidence of his identity ". Whether that evidence is in the way of a card or some other document I do not know, but obviously he must now carry some proof of identity.


I should like to thank the noble Lord for going some way to meet the point put by my noble friend Lord Balerno; and I am glad that he accepts the weight behind the Amendment. This touches on a point I was making earlier about the risk of spreading disease. Normally, I am sure it is most desirable that the farmer should know that he is being visited and should assist the inspector with any hygiene regulations that he has on the farm. For that and other reasons, I am sure that the best thing is for the inspector to contact the farmer on arrival. What I should like to hear—and I think the noble Lord has pretty well said it—is that the normal practice will be to contact the farmer or to let him know when the inspector is coming, which of course is the normal practice that the veterinary officers of the Ministry now observe when coming for other purposes. If we can have it firmly on the record that it will be the normal practice for the inspector to make contact with the farmer by one means or another on arrival, or before arrival, I am content to leave the flexibility which at the end of the day I realise the Minister must have if he wants to visit in an emergency. If we could get that, I would advise my noble friend to be content with it as a valuable achievement.


I think I practically said what the noble Lord asked for, but I will read out again the note from which I was speaking. Normally Ministry inspectors will be required to make their presence known to the farmer or his staff before making their inspection, and we should expect that local authorities would instruct their officers similarly.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for his helpful reply, and his assurance that the action which the Amendment was intended to effect is so clearly stated in the code of practice adopted for the work of the servants of the Ministry of Agriculture. My apprehensions were not so much about the Ministry officials as about local government officials. My own personal experience, which perhaps I should divulge, was inspection by Water Board officials without any notice whatever. I have heard also of Inland Revenue officers visiting farms in connection with rating without letting their reason be known; and this has occurred in respect of other things, such as inspectors for P.A.Y.E. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8:

Interpretation etc. of Part I

8.—(1) In this Part of this Act— livestock" means any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur or for use in the farming of land or for such purpose as the Minister may by order specify.

4.17 p.m.

LORD BALERNO moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "creature" and insert "vetebrate animal". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 5. In his reply to my previous Amendment the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, referred to the phrase, "a person authorised shall if so required", as being a phrase quoted previously in Acts immemorial in connection with farm livestock. The purpose of this Amendment is to continue the view put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that present Acts of Parliament should contain the same phraseology as has been used before.

What I object to in Clause 8 is the use of the word "creature" in the phrase, "Livestock' means any creature … ". I have checked on previous Acts affecting livestock. I have gone back for 150 years—I do not say this is conclusive or exhaustive, but it is the best that I could do—and "creatures" is not used. The great Act was the Cruelty of Animals Act 1876, where the word "animals" is clearly used, and not the word "creatures". This was repeated in the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1912. The word "animals" has been used regularly in other Acts since then, and the word "creatures" has not been used at all.

I submit that the right word to use is "animal". The word "animal" does not have such a long pedigree as the word "creature", but in Murray's Dictionary it has its antique uses. The word was first reported as being used in 1398. In Murray's Dictionary it is in common usage. The definition of the word in common usage is: A brute or beast as distinguished from man". There are other definitions which support that. I would call to your Lordships' memory what the noble Lord, Lord Strange, said when he was speaking a few moments ago. He said that he liked some animals better than human beings. The word "animal" can be use as descriptive of man, but it is always used contemptuously or humorously; and when in use as an adjective, the word "animal" always refers to bestial characters of the human race, unless it is used by divines and theologians, who sometimes use the word in another sense.

I would therefore ask the Government to accept the word "animal" instead of "creature", for "creature" definitely embraces the human race as well as the animal race, and there are many more examples of that, both Biblical and non-Biblical, right down to the present day. The definition would be much better if "animal" were substituted for "creature". The reason why I have added "vertebate" is to save the welfare officers some work; otherwise, if we do not use that restriction, we shall extend their work to quite impossible lengths.

Your Lordships will notice that the clause says: 'livestock' means any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur or for use in the farming of land …". I imagine that "for use in the farming of land" relates to horses. But there are other animals, including worms, which are kept "for use in the farming of land" and are probably much more important than horses. This would also apply to bees. It would be interesting to set: a welfare inspector looking to see whether some bees were too closely housed together. That could be possible. Silkworms would also come in. Therefore I suggest that for better understanding the word "vertebrate" should be associated with the word "animal". I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 33, leave out ("creature") and insert ("vertebrate animal").—(Lord Balerno.)

4.22 p.m.


I support my noble friend very strongly. When I was at Oxford I read zoology, which was the science of animals, not creatures. An "animal", we were taught at that time—I do not know what it means now—was any living thing which is not a plant. A "creature" comes from the Authorised Version of the Bible, the Creation, and you may remember how The Victorian writer of hymns said: All things bright and beautiful All creatures great and small". This is an extremely imprecise definition. If this definition remains, then bees are undoubtedly covered because they produce food; fruit flies for genetic experiment would not be covered. Snails to be sent to Soho for eating would be covered, but not slugs. Mealworms which are used for feeding reptiles would be covered; beetles, perhaps, would not be. Water fleas, which one can buy at various shops for feeding fishes, would undoubtedly be covered, but ordinary land fleas certainly would not. I recommend this definition. It is a modern definition, and I am sure it is what Her Majesty's Government mean, and we do not really want any of these ambiguous phrases to remain on the Statute Book.


While I have found no reference in the Bill to fleas, land or water, I should like to make a point about one or two classes of unfortunate creature mentioned in Clause 43. I hope the Minister will not overlook their particular interests when considering whether or not to accept my noble friend's Amendment. Clause 43 refers to the "catching or taking [of] fish or shellfish", and I should think that under normal practices there are few creatures which deserve more protection from overcrowding than shellfish.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for that support. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has obviously done a good deal of research since we last considered this matter; and I, with a little assistance, have also done some. His case, as I understand it, is that in all the literature and documents he has considered "creature" includes man, but "animal" does not. On the other hand, I find that Dr. Johnson said that, "Man is a tool-making animal". Aristotle said, "Man is a political animal". Sir Thomas Browne said, "Man is a noble animal", and there are other examples. Moreover, although the noble Lord said that the word "animal" had been used in other Acts, the fact is that in the Agriculture Act 1947—and there is no better authority in farming circles—the word "creature" is used. As for the noble Lord, Lord Cawley, who quoted again the words of the good old hymn: All things bright and beautiful All creatures great and small"—


That is it.


My noble friend Lord Champion is very well versed in these matters. He could probably quote for me two verses on, where the same hymn says: The rich man in his castle The poor man at his gate God made them high or lowly And ordered their estate. I do not accept that. I think this hymn is a poor authority to quote. I prefer to rest my case on the 1947 Act, and I hope that on reflection the noble Lord will agree with this and also that if we use the word "animal" we shall still be inclined, according to Dr. Johnson, Aristotle, Sir Thomas Browne and also Burke, to include a human being and probably to exclude the very creatures the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, referred to. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, can see his way to withdrawing this Amendment.


Would the noble Lord agree that, although man is both a creature and an animal, and certainly a vertebrate animal, he is very seldom a creature kept for "the production of food, wool, skin or fur", and that he is not "kept for use". I do not think a man can be kept. A woman can be kept. Perhaps this is what is disturbing the noble Lord opposite. But I do not see that a man is ever kept "for use in the farming of land", and I do not see how the definition can possibly in any case refer to a human being.


Is the noble Lord aware that in the latest edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern the offending verse has been expunged?


I hope the same doctrine will not be applied to my Bill.


I am quite unrepentant. I think that, although the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has been able to pick out a few quotations, including one from Dr. Johnson, by far the weight of argument in Murray's Dictionary is in favour of "creatures" to include human beings, and the word "animals" to exclude human beings. The weight of example was there. Anybody, by looking through a dictionary of quotations, as I have done also, can get the odd example where the word "animal" is applied to man. But, as a rule, where it is applied to man it is in a humorous or contemptuous manner. If the word "creature" was used in the 1947 Act, of which I was unaware, all I can say is that that was another example of the slovenliness of those in charge of the Government at that time, to have allowed that to creep in.

When this point and the definition of the word "animal" was debated two years ago in this House, and the noble Lord, Lord Champion, was sitting where the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, is now, he was so persuasive that he completely charmed me against my better judgment, but on reflection, and after reading the Report, I am still convinced that I was right. But I yielded to his charm and, having yielded to his charm, perhaps it would be invidious if I did not yield now to the charm of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I do not see sufficient support from the animal world on this side of the Committee to insist that the word "animal" be substituted for the word "creature". If I did, I would stand by my Amendment, but as it is, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Provisions supplementary to s. 9 in England and Wales

10.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, no sum shall be payable in pursuance of section 9 of this Act in a case where—


This is a paving Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved. Page 7, line 13, leave out ("states") and insert ("contains a statement")—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This also is a paving Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 25, leave out ("states") and insert ("contains a statement")—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.32 p.m.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, in subsection (1), after paragraph (c), to insert: ( ) the tenancy in question was the subject of a written agreement entered into less than five years before the termination of the tenancy and containing notice that the holding or the part of the holding, as the case may be, would be required by the landlord within that period for development purposes and the development is commenced within the period of six months following the termination of the tenancy; or".

The noble Lord said: This Amendment was moved and voted down by the Government on Report in another place. I make no apology for moving it again now because the Parliamentary Secretary then undertook to study the point and put down an Amendment, if thought necessary, for consideration here. I must confess to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that I am disappointed not to see a Government Amendment on the Marshalled List on this point. I had rather hoped that in the calm atmosphere of your Lordships' House this point might have had more objective consideration than perhaps it had in another place.

The purpose of the Amendment is quite a narrow one. It is to enable a landlord who is intending to develop a piece of land but who expects a delay for a period of less than five years—and of course there may be many reasons for a short delay, such as financial stringency, local government problems, and so on—to let the land to a tenant for such limited period without incurring the liability to pay the increased compensation which this Bill provides; namely, an extra four years' rent in addition to the one or two years' compensation which is now operative. Obviously, if such a saving provision is not made a landlord in such circumstances would simply decide not to let the land at all, because if he did he would be out of pocket, and he would rather leave the land standing idle than involve himself in such a transaction; and clearly this would be against the public interest.

The Government position in this has been that they would rely on the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948, Section 2 of which allows the Minister to approve short-term lettings which would not involve the landlord in paying compensation. This is quite a good technical answer, but. I do not think it is an entirely practical one. It is for this reason I am moving my Amendment, in the hope that I shall persuade the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to look at this point again. The 1948 Act, Section 2, procedure involves the landlord in making a formal application to the Minister, and it then involves the Minister's officials making inspections, with the normal administrative delays which go with that. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will be aware that he has had particularly strong representations from the County Councils Association on this point, and in the course of the discussions with the County Councils Association the Ministry officials admitted that if no change in the law was made it would be necessary for the 1948 procedure—and I quote: to be operated a little more liberally in future, in view of the high cost to a landlord of dispossessing a tenant.

I think this makes my point, that the Section 2 procedure under the 1948 Act is not really suitable for this purpose, and it will strain it to require that this particular need should be met in that way. If we leave the Bill as it now stands, there will be a considerable risk that where landlords have a piece of land which is not to be developed for a year or two they will be deterred from a short-term letting and so the land will stand idle, which will obviously be against the public interest. I hope the noble Lord will agree that this is a good case, and that he will accept my Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 30, at end insert the said paragraph—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)


On this occasion I should like to support my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, and I do so very warmly. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will see that this is not a political Amendment attempting to destroy the main purpose of the clause. Far from it; it is an Amendment based on common sense and an understanding of land management, and is aimed at dealing with a number of cases which will probably grow as our network of motorways is extended over the countryside. For example, this network did not exist when the 1948 Act was debated in Parliament, and the procedures under the 1948 Act, on which I believe the Minister in another place professed to rely, are really not appropriate to these times as they have developed over the last twenty years.

What we are concerned with here is food production and the proper as of land, and it cannot be responsible for us to leave the wording of this clause in such a way that there may well be an increasing number of cases where owners of agricultural land are encouraged to leave it out of production for a number of years. I should like to think that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, sees this problem in this light and not through politically tinted spectacles, because there really is substance in my noble friend's Amendment.


I have nothing to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, have said. I entirely support them. I am sure that the provisions of Section 2 of the 1948 Act are unsuitable for the sort of situation we are discussing, and it is not desirable that it should be impossible to achieve the intended result. Yet that is what will happen unless the Government give way to some extent on this matter.


I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, that this is not a political matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said, it was discussed at some length in another place and the views of the County Councils Association were unanimous. Nevertheless, they came to the conclusion that, despite what has been said, the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Acts were sufficient to meet the sort of case envisaged by the noble Lord.

As noble Lords know, and indeed as has been mentioned, Section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, provides for the creation of lettings and licences which are not full agricultural tenancies. Therefore they do not entitle the tenant or licensee to the security of tenure and compensation rights which belong to a full agricultural tenancy, nor to the new payments under the present Bill. Such lettings and licences require the consent of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, for obvious reasons: that if they did not, it would make a nonsense of the 1948 Act. But I think the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has in mind that when the landlord wishes to come to this short-term agreement it is unsuitable to have a year-to-year basis because of the uncertainty which may attach to his application. But I can say to noble Lords that the Minister authorises me to say that such an application may expect to have a sympathetic hearing and to secure consent where there is a reasonable prospect of development within the reasonably near future. Consent would be certainly for one year and if the same reasonable prospect of development remained at the end of that year the same undertaking holds good: that an application put forward in those circumstances could expect a sympathetic hearing and to receive consent.

If the Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, were accepted, then it would take away from the tenant the protection which he has under the present law, and indeed it would become the standard practice (I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Inglewood and Lord Henley, appreciate this) of landlords, if entering into a new agreement, to ensure for themselves the protection which this Act would then give in its amended form. If there were even the slightest possibility of development the landlord would seek the protection of this provision and then the security of the tenant, where there was no real danger in the next four or five years of any development in the area, would be lost.


May I ask the noble Lord whether he can explain a little more what he means about standard practice, which I think is rather a hard suggestion, because this particular Amendment surely is intended to cover only a very limited class of circumstances, and furthermore only a short period of time? You can hardly have standard practice covering lettings of all sorts where those circumstances do not apply. The noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong. I understand my noble friend's Amendment would cease to have effect after five years.


If a landlord was seeking a new tenant, if there were the slightest possibility of development in the area he would seek to cover himself by the provisions of the Act as amended by the noble Lord's Amendment, and therefore the proper protection of the tenant would disappear. I therefore come back to what I said originally: that where there is a genuine case, where there is a reasonable prospect for development, and where the landlord would not therefore wish to undertake a new tenancy which carried with it the provisions of the Bill as now laid down, if he makes an application under the 1948 Act I give the assurance that that application would receive a sympathetic hearing and, in the majority of cases, if the application was soundly based it would be accepted, not only that year but the following year.

The noble Lord said that the procedure of Section 2 of the 1948 Act was time consuming and ponderous. I would say that it need not be. The Minister's powers to consent are delegated to the country agricultural executive committees and they and their officials are familiar with the local conditions and are prepared to come to a conclusion quickly. Therefore problems of delay need not arise. Although I see that the noble Lord is trying to put forward a reasonable, solution to what is undoubtedly a difficulty, I hope that he, for his part, will see that the solution, although it meets the problem he has in mind, would create other problems and unfairnesses, and he may well on the basis of the assurance I have given see fit to withdraw the Amendment.


May I thank the noble Lord for his attempt to give us a helpful answer? I confess I should have preferred to see an Amendment of this kind in this Bill, because I think on the whole it would more effectively have met the point I am making. Certainly the last thing I wish to do, and I am sure my noble friends wish to do, is to deprive tenants of the benefits this Bill will give of the extra four years' compensation. In the circumstances, I would advise my noble friends that we should accept the Minister's assurance, despite our doubts about the suitability of the 1948 Act procedure to meet the point. The noble Lard has been good enough to say that the county agricultural committees will be able to reach quick decisions on these matters. That will put them on their mettle, and we shall expect them to do so. Further-more, where there is a real prospect of fairly early development within three years, these consents will be given in a genuine case so long as the case is clearly made. But whether it will be given does depend on the Government and on the Ministry of Agriculture really fulfilling the noble Lord's assurance. How ever, I think we can accept it is good faith and hope that they will fulfil it. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD BESWICK moved, after subsection (6), to insert: ( ) The provisions of Schedule (Transitional provisions relating to payments under s. 9 in England and Wales) to this Act (which contains transitional provisions for certain cases) shall have effect for the purposes of this section in its application to England and Wales.

The noble Lord said: Your Lordships were good enough to agree to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7, and No. 9 stands together with them. I still think it would be for the convenience of us all if the discussion were on the Schedule. Briefly, the new Schedule provides for a transitional problem brought to the notice of the Minister in another place. He agreed to meet it. The Schedule, I think it will be agreed, meets it, and this Amendment paves the way for it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 30, at end insert the said new subsection—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

4.47 p.m.

Clause 11 [Provisions supplementary to s. 9 in Scotland]:


I beg to move that Amendments Nos. 10 to 15 be postponed until Thursday.

Moved, That Amendments Nos. 10 to 15 inclusive be postponed until Thursday next—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Interpretation etc. of Part 11]:


The purpose of this Amendment is simply to make it clear that Clause 17, the interpretation clause for Part II, applies also to the Schedules related to Part II, that is, the existing Schedules 1 and 2 and the two new Schedules, one of which will be proposed later to-day. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 15, line 35, at end insert— ("( ) References in this section to this Part of this Act include references to Schedules 1, 2 (Transitional provisions relating to payments under s. 9 in England and Wales) and (Transitional provisions relating to payments under s. 9 in Scotland) to this Act")—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

[Clauses 18 to 20 deferred until Thursday, 21st March.]

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Amount of general drainage charge]:

On Question, Whether Clause 22 shall stand part of the Bill?


I gave notice to the noble Lord who replied to the Second Reading debate that I should like to raise several questions on this Part of the Bill, and on Clause 22 I wondered what sort of representations or appeal an individual could make, and whether the noble Lord was satisfied that there were limits under the Bill to the amount both of a general and of a special drainage charge which any river authority was in a position to raise. Furthermore, can the noble Lord give us an assurance that the change in basing these general and special charges from the now obsolete Schedule "A" assessments to this new system does not, in fact, create a valuation problem which is going to take a great deal of time before it is fixed and settled, or is going to throw up new problems, and so perhaps encourage us to look for yet a third basis of fixing these particular charges?


As the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, would know, the whole basis of assessments has been changed and at the moment I have not the answers to his questions at my fingertips. But I think we shall be returning to this subject of drainage charges at the next sitting on this Bill, and, if the noble Lord will agree, it will be more convenient for me to delay giving him the information for which he has asked until the resumed Committee stage.


I will do everything possible to meet the convenience of the noble Lord provided I do not miss my chance of an answer to these questions; and I hope he will see that that does not happen.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Amount of special drainage charge]:

4.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 23 shall stand part of the Bill?


Again, I gave the noble Lord notice that I was going to ask a simple question in regard to Clause 23. It was just to make clear whether it is within the power of a river authority to raise a special drainage charge on part of its area and whether, if it does in fact raise such a charge, it must do so over the whole of its area. This is most technical.


And for that reason I hope that the noble Lord will agree to the same arrangement as I suggested with regard to his other questions.


With the greatest respect, my noble friend agreed provided that he does not lose the opportunity of raising the questions again. If the clause is put and agreed to, surely he has lost his opportunity. Might it not be for the convenience of the Committee if this clause were also postponed until the next time we meet as a Committee?


We are in something of a difficulty. I understood the noble Lord to say that he had given notice to my noble friend, and in fact notice of these questions has not been received.


I was under the impression that I gave notice on Second Reading, and I assumed that these questions would be dealt with and that the Minister in charge of the Bill would be able to answer without difficulty.


The noble Lord said that he proposed to ask certain questions. I am sorry if there is a misunderstanding here. I wonder whether the noble Lord would accept this from me. We had hoped to make progress on this Bill, excluding the Scottish clauses, and to adjourn at around 5 o'clock. If we reach the end of this section, it is quite right that this clause will be put. If I undertake to provide full answers to the noble Lord's questions certainly by Report stage would that be acceptable to him?


I think that is a bit hard. The noble Lord, Lord Hilton, and I were both concerned on the Committee on the 1961 Bill when it was discussed in another place, and therefore it is not completely novel to either of us. All that I was asking was for certain assurances on what I should have thought were quite simple points. I in fact went to great pains to say that I was going to do this, and I did not think I was going to present any difficulty, nor would I ask any question to which the answer was not straight in the brief with which some of us are familiar. I do not want to put noble Lords in any difficulty, but I think these points are such that it would help the people who ultimately have to pay these various drainage charges if there were quite clear and simple answers on the Record. I do not know quite what the noble Lord in charge of the Bill feels that he can do. I do not want to be difficult. I assured the noble Lord, Lord Hilton, earlier this afternoon that I had no intention of being difficult.


The noble Lord has put his points, and I am afraid the detailed answers are not available. I am sorry, but I gather that the line of communication has not been so open as I thought it was. If the noble Lord does not wish this clause to be put, I think it would be convenient if we adjourned at this stage and resumed on Thursday.


If it were possible for all the answers to be given in a short composite speech by the noble Lord on the Question, That the clause stand part—I refer to the last clause in this Part of the Bill—I would raise no objection. Perhaps that would allow the noble Lord to make a little further progress.


I wonder whether I can help the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. As we have a few minutes left and there is still a further Part of the Bill with which we could deal, would it help the noble Lord if we agreed to postpone dealing with Part IV of the Bill, the land drainage section, until Thursday, and deal with Part V now in order to dispose of the single major Amendment which occurs there?


I do not want to be sticky about this, but at the outset of the business to-day it was decided to postpone only the Part of the Bill that deals with Scottish matters and nothing else. I should have thought that there is a little difficulty here. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is entitled to an answer to his questions. I am bound to say that it looks to me as though the Department, on going through the debate on Second Reading, did not select this as they ought to have done, in order to brief Ministers with a reply to these points. I am rather disappointed that my old Department, with which the noble Lord was associated, have not in fact done this. I think we could well now adjourn this Committee stage of the Bill, which I understood was to be at 5 o'clock, at this point, and resume this Part of the Bill at a later stage. This will then permit my noble friend to have ready all the answers to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, who, from the way he has put the matter to the Committee, I am sure deserves the fullest possible answer. I rather hope that my noble friends will agree to this course, which I think in the circumstances would be a wise one.


That may well be to the convenience of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. Like the noble Lord, Lord Champion, I was also under the impression that only Part III was to be postponed until Thursday. Speaking for myself, I have an Amendment down on Part V which, if we conclude the proceedings now, will not be taken until Thursday, when I cannot be here. I do not know what one can do about this.


We were making good progress, and I am sorry that we have run into this problem, when we could have reached our target quite well. The noble Lord has said that his questions are simple ones. I had no knowledge at all of any notice being given to me, and I am informed that they are most complex in their nature. This is information which has just reached me, and it just is not feasible to give an answer off the cuff. I would therefore undertake to see that the answers are secured, but I could not possibly give them at this moment. Now we have reached the question as to how I can satisfy noble Lords opposite, who have been most helpful. We had hoped to adjourn round about 5 o'clock for the purpose of going on to other business, arranged through the usual channels, which would meet the convenience of others whose time is also limited. It is almost 5 o'clock. I wonder whether it would not be a more tidy arrangement that we should leave this here. Certainly the Clause 40 point which the noble Lord has in mind could probably be discussed at length on the Report stage.


I do not wish to be difficult if noble Lords opposite can find some way on Report stage of letting those who are going to pay these charges learn through Hansard what the position is it would be most helpful. I do not want to be the cause of any change of arrangements made through the usual channels but when I heard the noble Lord say that these were complex questions, I felt that in a sense I had been vindicated and could not be accused of raising small points to which one ought to know the answer. If they are as complex as the noble Lord says, that is all the more reason for our having some sort of answer. I will not press for any answer now if the effect is to hold up the business of the House.


I think that my noble friend is being too accommodating. This is a case of an important Bill being considered on Committee stage, and for some reason or another the Minister in charge has not been briefed on the answers to some important questions. I do not think that we ought to jump one stage of the Bill to meet anybody's convenience. The solution suggested by Lord Champion is perfectly correct. It is now five o'clock, we should adjourn these particular clauses and receive an answer on the Committee stage. If my noble friend Lord Inglewood then wishes to put down an Amendment on Report stage, he will have his opportunity.


I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for trying to meet all parties. It is not entirely possible to meet everybody's convenience. As my noble friend Lord Ferrers has indicated, he will be sadly put out by continuing the debate on this Part of the Bill on Thursday; but we are all servants of the House before our own convenience, and I am sure that we shall all accept the unofficial arrangement that to-day's Committee stage proceedings on this Bill should end at five o'clock. My noble friend Lord Inglewood has made his point. Our time has now run out, and I think we should agree to adjourn the debate now and continue it on Thursday.


I also am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for suggesting that my Amendment might reappear at Report stage. I understand that it is necessary to have these arrangements through the usual channels whereby debates come to an end at a certain time. Unfortunately, sometimes the arrangements do not filter through to everybody, and I shall certainly be content, as I cannot be here on the second day of the Committee stage, to put down the Amendment on Report stage.


I am grateful to everybody for the helpful spirit which has been shown. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, I would say that it was not my own convenience which was being served; there were others to be considered—very busy people who are engaged in important business in serving their country, who were not able to get down here until about five o'clock. We hoped that we could use the time up to five o'clock. On the other hand, there are others from North of the Border whose clauses could best be discussed on Thursday, and we went to the trouble of postponing those clauses until Thursday. We were trying to come to a rather complicated arrangement. I feel that it would be better now if we adjourned. Therefore, I beg leave to move that the House do now resume.


I will first put that the debate on Question, That Clause 23 stand part of the Bill, be now adjourned until next Thursday.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.

House resumed.

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