HL Deb 20 January 1972 vol 327 cc183-202

3.40 p.m.


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 Somers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Amendment of Diseases of Animals Act 1950]:

THE EARL OF SHANNON moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 17, leave out (" is intended for breeding or exhibition and ")

The noble Earl said: In moving my Amendment I feel I must ask for the indulgence of the Committee in raising matters which many may think should have been raised on Second Reading. The only reason I can plead is that, in common with a number of other Members of your Lordships' House, to me the Title of the Bill gave little or no indication of its purport. I am not in any way accusing the noble Lord, Lord Somers, of trying to sail this Bill through your Lordships' House under false colours. I am sure that he has been correctly advised that, administratively, this Bill is most appropriately attached to the Diseases of Animals Act. But if one reads the small print underneath the Title one finds that one has been inadvertently misled, as I must confess I was. This, in addition, I think, must largely have been the reason for the complaint of the noble Lord, Lord Somers. in column 1170 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of November 25 that very few Members of your Lordships' House elected to remain for the Second Reading debate of this Bill.

Next, I feel that I must make it perfectly clear at the outset that I do not have any personal interest whatsoever to declare, either directly or indirectly, as an exporter of livestock; nor am I a member of any of the highly vociferous and powerful lobbies on animal welfare. I wish to make this perfectly clear, as many animal welfare enthusiasts feel that anyone who even suggests the smallest modification of the cherished benefits which they wish to inflict on the rest of the human and animal community, must automatically be the lowest form of wretch, dedicated to making a profit from animal misery. My Amendment is of a probing nature, and I was prompted to move it because some of those noble Lords who spoke in favour of the Bill on Second Reading did so in guarded and qualified terms, calling for various points to he amended in Committee; yet the Committee will notice the "long list of Amendments we have before us this afternoon: precisely one—mine.

I am also moving this Amendment because I am sure not only that the Bill is too full of loopholes to be effective but that it will in fact eventually result in the opposite effect to that which its supporters claim it will achieve—and this is something that none of us wants. I do not believe in the notion that animal welfare is divisible. Foreign animals are no less sensitive than those with British passports or with British patrial status; but the bulk of emotion aroused in this country is understandably over those latter animals. No one will attempt to deny that this trade is one in which there have been gross lapses, but legislation and practice have made and are making great advances, and these advances are led by this country. I should hate to see our admirable example in this work being abandoned purely on the grounds of a possible temporary benefit to British patrial animals only. Very heavy stress has been laid on our inability to control what happens once the animals are outside this country, and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, in fact expressed surprise at my remark, when recently I was in correspondence with him on this subject, that responsible exporters were accompanying their animals and superintending their slaughter. In his letter to me he claimed that both he and the R.S.P.C.A. were totally unaware of this situation.

If I may refer the Committee to the OFFICIAL REPORT, when Lord Somers was moving the Second Reading he quoted (col. 1172) from the R.S.P.C.A.'s now utterly infamous Putte report that the owner of the animals insisted that his animals were given something to drink on arrival. So there can be some control, and it is not impossible to arrange. I have further taken the trouble to interview both the owner referred to in this report and his transport contractor, and I find that not only did they accompany their animals all the way on that particular occasion but that, in addition, they were present and saw every one of their animals slaughtered, totally in accordance with the Balfour assurances. I may remind the Committee that I am talking about the Putte report. This is a normal practice with this particular company, and they assure me that every consignment which they have ever exported has been personally accompanied by a senior executive of the company up to the completion of slaughter.

In case any Member of your Lordships' Committee is starting to get hot under the collar in thinking that I am suggesting that the R.S.P.C.A. report is wrong, let me say that I am not. What I am saying is that the report is true and ghastly, but it does not say what some people appear to be trying to read into it. The writers of the report did not say that they saw British calves hit with hammers. That is not in the report. What they did say was that they saw some of the calves hit with a hammer. This called for further investigation, and I made it. I have established that all British calves on that consignment were slaughtered before 8.30 in the morning. The inspectors, by their own admission and statements in the report, arrived at the slaughterhouse at Putte at 9.30 a.m. I am not attempting in any way to condone what was done after 9.30; but the calves were not British calves, as many people in this country seem to believe; and the report does not say they were. Furthermore, that slaughterhouse was in the possession of a number of humane-killing pistols. I have heard that the number was up to six. These were used on the British animals—that was the normal insistence of the owner when accompanying his animals. The Belgians after 9.30, may have been grudging in the use on Belgian calves at British insistence of the only one pistol that the inspector saw. They had been made to slaughter British calves in the approved manner; and following this there could have been a certain amount of feeling. They may have asked themselves why they should have to do so in the case of Belgian calves. I am not qualified to pass judgment on the proficiency of that particular slaughterman, but the eye-witnesses of the slaughter of the British calves over an hour earlier were satisfied that their calves were slaughtered correctly and efficiently. So I am trying to impress on the Committee that, bad though it was, we must be careful not to read into this or other reports, whether through wishful thinking or even through inadvertence, anything that is not exactly and specifically stated in them.

There appears to have been an infringement of the assurance in regard to the distance travelled. Again I have inquired into this matter and I find that it was the subject of a protest at the time by the owner; although at that time he was more or less reassured by the Belgian authorities. The argument produced then revolved around the fact that the animals were disembarked at Zeebrugge in Holland and were slaughtered in Belgium. It is a fine point; but Putte is only 100 kilometres from the point of entry into Belgium. I believe that it is marginally over that distance, by the most direct route. But, obviously, the animals could have been said to have been re-exported. So I am satisfied that this distance constituted a violation. On inquiry into this matter, made on his return from this trip, the owner advised his customers on the Continent that he would never again countenance his animals being slaughtered at Putte.


I wonder whether the noble Earl would mind my interrupting him. He said—and this might vitiate the whole of his argument —that these animals were landed in Zeebrugge in Holland and then transferred into Belgium. It not Zeebrugge in Belgium?


I apologise. I was under the impression that it was not; but, with great respect to the noble Lord, it does not completely destroy the argument. I had thought that there had been a further violation, in that the animals had gone through Holland. As I said, I am satisfied that there was a violation and that the distance was exceeded, whether or not they went through a second country.


The noble Earl will forgive me for interrupting again. One of the objects of the Balfour assurance was that animals should not be re-exported from the country to which we had exported them. The noble Earl, basing his argument on the premise that Zeebrugge was in Holland, made these animals cross a frontier to get into Belgium; whereas if we accept the geographical fact that Zeebrugge is in Belgium, they did not cross a frontier in order to get to their final destination in Belgium.


The noble Lord is right, I am sure. I was not attempting in any way to say that there had not been a violation. I was probably being very hard on myself and thinking there had been a further breach of the assurance, as I believe the noble Lord will see if he reads what I said. I presumed that there had been a further breach.

There are many other points that I should like to raise but I have spoken long enough in moving my Amendment. What I wish to say is that in my opinion we should not, by prohibiting exports, abandon the only standards by which on the Continent this practice is coming to be judged and can be made more humane. It is our example which matters. Let us not take away this example. I think that would be a great disservice to animal welfare generally. If we back out, the animals will still come from somewhere, crossing perhaps many more frontiers. It may be that the animals will come this country through some loophole in this Bill; but I think we can safely say that they will not come through the hands of reputable exporters. I do not know whether my Amendment is acceptable to the Government. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will say whether or not he considers the Bill with my Amendment is more or less suitable than the Bill without it. But I would ask that we do not abandon the only parameters by which this trade can be judged. Instead we should continue to ensure that our animals, which already are beginning to command a premium price owing to the condition in which they arrive, are properly looked after and slaughtered. By so doing we may set an example instead of turning our back on the whole business.

This is only a probing Amendment, so I shall not be asking the Committee to divide on it; but I should like to hear the further views of other noble Lords, and particularly of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, if he can devise a way or ways of meeting my points and those of other noble Lords who expressed their concern on Second Reading. I would again apologise to the Committee for my obvious lapse in knowledge of geography and in trying to imply that there had been even further violations than there were, but it was a small point and not very strongly related to my argument. I agreed that there had been a violation and was, in fact, trying to make it worse than it was. I beg to move.


I should like to begin by thanking the noble Earl very much for having written me and given me notice of the Amendment he was going to move. When he told me of his reasons for doing so I naturally looked into them. I have made exhaustive inquiries and I can find no instances—it may be that I have simply not found anybody who knows of them—of a British seller of cattle to the Continent accompanying those cattle to the Continental slaughter-house.


May I refer the noble Lord to his own statement on Second Reading where he states, in quoting from the Putte Report: ' The calves would arrive at Putte at 5 a.m. and the owner of the calves told us that he insisted that they were given something to drink on arrival.' "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25/11/71; col. 1172.] Those inspectors were with the calves. Where was the owner, unless they contacted him by telephone? I submit that the noble Lord knows from that that someone was there, because they spoke to him.


Indeed, the owner was the Belgian owner who had bought the calves over here. That is what generally happens. They come over to our markets on the East coast, they buy the cattle here and from that moment they are the owners.


Will the noble Lord accept that I have spoken to the owner; that he was there and was the one who gave the inspectors this particular statement?


I must accept that statement, naturally, if the noble Earl makes it. But I can only say that is a very unusual case. It is usual for the cattle to be shipped on to either a British or a Continental-owned ship and from that moment we have not the slightest control over what happens to them. The noble Earl said that the British calves were slaughtered before the R.S.P.C.A. inspectors arrived there. I will deal first with the question of distance. The inspectors saw the calves arrive and followed them in the train to the slaughterhouse. They found that the distance was well over the 100 kilometre limit.

One inspector was a veterinary inspector, and I hardly think that he would be likely to mistake these calves for others. He not only saw them being slaughtered in this manner but also, as the report says, saw a pile of animal heads in a corner. He examined the heads and found that there were no bullet holes in them, but in many cases there were broken frontal bones. The inspectors asked the slaughterman to demonstrate the use of a Cash pistol, which he did out of deference to those two inspectors. It was found that the slaughterman was not proficient in the use of the pistol, which does not seem to imply that he had been using it until the inspectors arrived. The pistol had not been greased and the box which contained the charges was covered with cobwebs. That does not seem to me to imply that the captive bolt pistol was used very often. Therefore, I am afraid that in this instance the owner of the cattle—if, as the noble Earl says, he was British—must have been greatly misled by what he saw.

I regard the report of the R.S.P.C.A. inspectors—which was extremely balanced and not exaggerated or hysterical in any form—as stating what was good and what was bad. I accept that report as being accurate. Incidentally, may I say to the noble Earl that this is not the only case. It is not just one particular instance of maltreatment in Belgium. There have been many others, in Belgium, France and in other countries. Therefore, I do not feel that I can in any circumstances accept the noble Earl's Amendment.

4.4 p.m.


I do not know what the implications of the noble Earl's Amendment will be, but I agree with him that this is a bad Bill. As he did, I slipped up on Second Reading. I did not notice what the Bill was about; if I had I should have spoken against it, as indeed I shall on Third Reading.

By the provisions of the Bill it is hoped to try to alleviate certain sufferings which we agree occasionally occur. In fact, they will not be alleviated in any degree whatsoever. The people who perpetrate the worse abuses in this respect will continue to get away with them as they do now. They are nearly all foreign nationals. What the provisions of the Bill will do is totally to prevent the sensible and valuable export of live cattle from this country. I cannot believe that that would be in the best interests of the agriculture industry or of anybody else. There are already adequate provisions to ensure the welfare of animals, both in transit and also, for the most part, in the slaughterhouses of the countries to which they are exported. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, and with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that there are abuses, and we are doing our best to prevent them. By being a party to the Balfour recommendations we are helping to make the Continentals follow our example, as the noble Earl said. By coming out we merely opt out of the whole thing, and that will do no good.

So far as animal welfare in those slaughterhouses is concerned the Bill achieves nothing at all. It would be a pity to close a valuable market to our home producers just because there are a few bad cases. It is a market which is likely to increase substantially, and as it does so no doubt the controls on it will become better as we go into Europe. As it stands, the Bill would preclude us from taking advantage of selling into Europe at all. I should like to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Royle, has to say, but I know that in this country we have very good slaughterhouses which at certain times are under-used. In certain circumstances it might be possible to do all our exporting in terms of butchered cattle. That is what I think the noble Lord. Lord Somers, wants. But that is probably an unlikely development, and in any case the Continentals prefer cattle on the hoof and the market cannot be maintained by exporting carcases instead of livestock. For all those reasons, and for those put forward so ably by the noble Earl, I think that this is a bad Bill. As I say, I do not quite understand the implications of this Amendment and I shall be interested to hear what the Government have to say.

4.8 p.m.


I took the trouble to find out what the Bill was about before the Second Reading debate and I supported it wholeheartedly. I am relieved to know that the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, does not propose to press his Amendment to a Division. I was glad to hear him say this because, although he described it as a probing Amendment, if it were accepted the Bill would die —the Amendment would destroy it. On Second Reading, noble Lords agreed with the contention that it was a good thing that no longer should food animals be exported to the Continent of Europe except where they were needed for exhibition or for breeding. It was as clear as that. May we just look at the terms of the Bill and at what the acceptance of the Amendment would mean. Clause 1 of the Bill says: Subject to the following provisions of this Act, it shall not be lawful to ship, or attempt to ship, any animal to which this section applies in any vessel from any port in Great Britain to any port outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man unless— (a) the Minister or, in Scotland, the Secretary of State is satisfied that the animal is intended for breeding or exhibition and is of less value than such amount as may be prescribed by order of the Minister.… If we delete the words suggested by the noble Earl, the only condition with regard to the export of food animals will be the decision of the Minister whether their value is over or below a certain amount. That would completely destroy the principles of the Bill which this House accepted oil Second Reading. Therefore, my appeal to your Lordships is that the Amendment should be resisted in all circumstances. If it is carried, the export of animals would be permitted over the value fixed by the Minister, for whatever purpose they may be exported, whether for slaughter for food, for exhibition or for breeding.

My contention is that on Second Reading we decided that only certain animals should be exported for exhibition and for breeding, and I am asking the Committee to agree that that principle shall be maintained. On the question of value, whoever determines what the value is to be, we know that the exporters of live animals to the Continent are prepared to pay fancy prices for British livestock for continental consumption. If this Amendment were carried, there is no doubt at all that animals from British farms would get there in very large numbers.

The Amendment gives no idea at all of what value would be assessed by the Minister; there is no indication whatsoever as to what the amount would be. We would (if I may use the term) be "buying a pig in a poke" here. The noble Lord who spoke from the Liberal Benches has not said a word about the economic side of this matter. There is the humane side and the economic side, and in my speech on Second Reading I tried to point out that one was as important as the other. Some time ago, I was reading a speech which had been delivered to farmers by the Present Minister of Agriculture during the course of the Macclesfield by-election. He was saying to them that when we go into the Common Market we shall find all kinds of foodstuffs coming into this country at an expensive rate and he appealed to British farmers to produce more so that we should not have to import so much. If that is right, why are we sending out these animals? Why do we not keep them? Why do we not use our own meat in this country instead of exporting to the Continent of Europe animals on which the British taxpayer has already paid a heavy subsidy? These are points which do not emerge in the Amendment which has been moved.

On the humane side, there are coming to light more and more disturbing incidents in the export of all kinds of animals for food. In spite of what the noble Earl has said, there are hair-raising reports about a certain Dutch ship called the "Superior Producer" and about the things that happened on that ship as British animals were being taken aboard. There are so many loopholes in the present situation. There are some disturbing reports about conditions at a certain Dover lairage already approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. To hear of or to read some of the things about the conditions in that particular place would make one's hair stand on end.

So my appeal is that if, on economic grounds, we have to export meat to the Continent of Europe, for goodness' sake let us send the meat dead. As the noble Lord has indicated, we have magnificent slaughterhouses in this country, ships and refrigeration are up to date, and if we have to send them, we can send bodies of animals dead to the Continent. I hope that your Lordships will say this afternoon that this is not the kind of Amendment we want, though this is the kind of Bill we need to prevent our animals from being sent abroad under such conditions.

I end by saying that most of your Lordships know my background and what my business was, so that they will not accuse me of being squeamish in any shape or form, and I am not. I am not just a "do-gooder" who pays more regard to the benefits we give to cattle than to the benefits we want to give to human beings. We talked about this at great length yesterday in regard to another part of the world. I believe that there are still many things to be done for human benefit, and I think that animals should lake the second place. But in this country we have a tradition of care for our animals. It is a tradition that does not exist in many other countries. I hope that your Lordships will allow the Bill as it stands to proceed to a Third Reading.

4.18 p.m.


It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Royle, because we all have an enormous respect for his experience and his humanity. I speak only because I remember something of these matters in the dark ages when I was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We were greatly concerned about these matters at that time. We tried to improve the situation and I believe that since those days the situation has probably been considerably improved. There have been also notable improvements and developments in the field of refrigeration since those days. I am one of those who find something very distasteful indeed in the idea of many of these animals being kept under conditions which are unnatural, herded together aboard ship for a long time and, at the end of the day, only for the purpose of slaughter.

I believe that there will be a strong demand for British meat in future, and 1 see no reason why that demand should not be satisfied by using refrigeration. So my own feeling is that it would be right to do everything we can to terminate the conveyance of live animals for the purpose of slaughter where any length of journey at all of any importance is involved, as it would be in transport by sea, and I rather hope that on general grounds we shall let the Bill stand as it is.


I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Royle, in what he has said on this Bill. But when I was listening to the noble Earl who moved this Amendment I was puzzled. It is obvious that he has the welfare of animals very much at heart, but if his Amendment were accepted, it would not help their welfare at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Royle, said, it is left completely to the Minister and the Secretary of State to lay down the value below which animals could not be exported. Of course, the Minister and the Secretary of State have to keep an eye on the balance of payments. It might happen that they lower the value of livestock to help the balance of payments and thereby encourage the export of greater numbers on the hoof. There is far greater protection of animals if these words are kept in the Bill. If you are exporting an animal for exhibition, presumably the animal has to return. If you are exporting it for breeding, it must be of a far higher value than if you are exporting it for slaughter. It would be rare, in my experience, for any importer on the Continent to pay £400, £500, £600 or £1,000 for a bull merely to have it slaughtered. It would make very expensive steak and—although this is rather beside the point—rather tough steak too. I could not support this Amendment, because it appears to me to be against the welfare of livestock.

4.21 p.m.


I shall not endear myself to your Lordships if I utter more than four or five sentences, and particularly I shall not endear myself to my noble friend Lady Lee, who has an important piece of business coming on afterwards. However, I was somewhat mystified by the terms of the Amendment moved by the noble Earl. It would, for example, prevent us from sending racehorses abroad and participating in races on the Continent; and that might be a bad thing. But the noble Earl did not say a single word about the Amendment, so far as I could follow him, and I paid fairly close attention to what he said. He also said that many Peers were rather deceived by the title of the Bill, and did not realise that "Animal Diseases Bill" really meant putting an embargo on certain kinds of exports. I was similarly mystified by the title of the Bill, but I then took the elementary precaution of reading it. I suggest to the noble Earl that it is a good thing always to read a Bill before attempting to address yourself to it. The noble Earl told us a story of one owner who accompanied his animals right to the point of exportation. Such an owner, under this Bill, will have nothng at all to fear.


Can the noble Lord enlarge upon that? If the owner is totally barred from exporting, how is he unaffected by the Bill?


That is all right, then. The noble Earl said that we have no control over these animals once they have gone outside this country. Having regard to the mass of evidence that exists about the cruel and neglectiful way in which some of the animals mentioned by the noble Earl are treated. I suggest that we ought to make sure that they are killed before they leave this country.

In view of what the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches said—that with the Common Market coming along we shall probably be developing our exportation of animals to be slaughtered for food—surely the precautions which the Bill seeks to impose will be more necessary than ever. When the economic aspect of the argument is touched upon, we should not forget that while we export probably £5 million, £6 million or £7 million worth of these animals a year, we import £350 million worth of meat from abroad, and it will do no harm to our balance of payments if we can reduce the amount we import. I think this is a good Bill—and no Bill is perfect. In the earlier stages your Lordships gave general approval to it, and I sincerely hope that it will now be able to go forward to its final stages.


Reference has been made to the Common Market. Does entry into the Common Market have any effect on this Bill? On our entry into the Common Market. does this Bill remain as effective as it is now or are we wasting our time? I do not know what will he the effect of the Amendment if we enter the Common Market. I do not know exactly the situation that exists. Does anybody know? If so, it would be helpful if we could be told.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I remind him that, so far as we are concerned, the Common Market will not come into operation for another 12 months. Surely, we should do our best to try to prevent the continuance of hardship and cruelty for another 12 months.


I should like for a moment to support the noble Earl, Earl Shannon, who moved this Amendment, even though as a farmer I have to declare an interest. Obviously all farmers will benefit by trade with the Continent, and that we must indeed confess. I think also that the farming industry must look closely at the sacrifices that will have to be made if this trade ceases. Of course, one has no wish whatsover to encourage cruelty (none of us has; it does none of us any good), but we must ask ourselves whether this Bill is the best way to stop it. Is it right, with the Ireland loophole and so on?—but I will not labour those points further. What I should like to see is a better form of leverage than to cut off the trade; to decide to opt out of the whole matter rather than, as has been suggested, to carry the campaign into Europe. I feel that in the long run it would serve much better if we could do that.

Another point that must be remembered about exporting less meat and importing less meat from and to this country is the question of quality. We probably want to import better quality meat and to export some of the less good meat. I think that is the pattern of trade that has gone on for many years. I should like to mention also the increasing trade there is in Europe in the movement of calves by air. I have a feeling that the people who are going to enter into this trade must do their job well to succeed; I do not believe they will succeed if it is not done properly. Therefore, if there were a chance of regulating that trade and seeing that it was well done, I believe that we should perhaps let it go forward. It will of course be caught by the Bill as it stands at present.

4.28 p.m.


Before we conclude our deliberations, may I draw your Lordship's attention to a paragraph in the Balfour Committee's Report? There is some difficulty at the present moment in obtaining the Report other than from the Library of your Lordships' House. On re-reading that Report I found that paragraph 13 (which is quite short) is an important paragraph to bear in mind, having regard to what the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, said when he cast doubt on the Putte report. The Balfour Committee reported after considerable investigations, and this is what they had to say in paragraph 13: We have been greatly concerned by the evidence about Point 3 "— that is, long train journeys after disembarkation on the Continent. The Report goes on to say: The Committee have obtained firsthand evidence that cattle exported to France from Great Britain have been travelling for long journeys through France to places as far away as Marseilles or Bordeaux. Some of these journeys may take more than 48 hours from the point of disembarkation and there are no Government regulations requiring animals to be fed or watered. From all that has been said, both by the noble Lord, Lord Royle, with whom I find myself in almost complete agreement, and other speakers, especially the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, I feel that we should concern ourselves with the considerable amount of travelling which animals are obliged to do before arriving at the end of their journeys. I would also draw the attention of your Lordships to what the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, said, because the trade which is building up in exporting calves to as far afield as Bermuda or India is something with which the new regulations will have to concern themselves. For that reason I would thank the noble Lord, Lord Denham, for what he said in his assurance on Second Reading that the Government are looking into this matter in redrafting the regulations.


I do not want to detain the House a moment longer than necessary, but there is one fact which has been brought out by both sides; that animals intended for slaughter abroad are much better slaughtered in this country from the point of view of their own welfare, the quality of the meat, et cetera, rather than being sent across the sea and then on long train journeys to some inhumane slaughterhouse. That is all I have to say. I should like to know whether the noble Lord, Lord Denham, could not introduce some paragraph to exclude all animals from being exported for slaughter abroad: animals for show or for breeding purposes are a different matter. In these cases there may be certificates to show that they are in fit condition for export. The importer at the other side will see that they are properly looked after on the journey. But when an animal is exported to become just a bit of meat, it could quite well be killed in this country.

4.33 p.m.


I said during the Second Reading debate—I think I should almost say during the "first Second Reading debate" on this Bill—that the Government would be reluctant to see the Bill proceed, arid I referred to the practical difficulties in the operation of the controls envisaged. Briefly, these are that it would be necessary to set minimum values for different types of animal within all the species covered by the Bill, and these would have to be revised from time to time to reflect changing market conditions and even different periods of the year. Often there is no great margin between the value of animals for slaughter on the Continent and commercial breeding animals in Great Britain. If minimum values were set high enough to make the export of animals for slaughter or for rearing for slaughter uneconomic, they could also interfere with the trade in breeding animals which the Bill does not seek to restrict. I would add that the veterinary inspection and certification of individual animals for export is already a requirement under the Exported Animals Protection Order 1964, but with one important difference: Ministers have some discretion to waive the requirements in certain circumstances. This power of exemption is necessary, as in some cases exemption from inspection can be in the interests of animal welfare.

The noble Earl, Lord Shannon, said in moving this Amendment that it was a probing Amendment, but I think I should say to him that it would not eliminate these practical difficulties. Indeed it would add to them. Ministers would still be required to prescribe minimum values —the noble Lord, Lord Royle, mentioned this—and it would have to be done in the absence of any guidance on the criteria Ministers should adopt for this purpose. In the view of the Government, the provision in the Bill for prescribing minimum values is, as it stands, unworkable and the Amendment would introduce this further serious complicating factor. In short, Her Majesty's Government do not consider that this Bill is a practical proposition, and in their view the Amendment would only make matters worse.

I was asked one question by my noble friend Lord Wakefield of Kendal. I think I should say that the European Economic Community have not so far issued any directives to member countries on animal welfare and we know of no proposal at present for harmonising legislation in this field. On the other hand, we have to accept that there are no trade restrictions on the movement of animals between existing member countries of the Community. I hope that the noble Earl will not press this Amendment, in view of the extra difficulties I have described.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that he declared that attempting to fix prices would be unworkable. He has not explained to us why. Can he tell us why?


Yes; because there are four different species of animal covered by the Bill and not, as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, seemed to think earlier, only horses: there are cows, pigs, sheep and goats. A different price would have to be fixed for every breed and virtually a different price for every age group. That price would have to be varied from time to time according to the market conditions appertaining and it would vary from one period of the year to another. It would also have to vary if the value of money changed. It would be an almost impossible task for a Ministry Department to fix the number of prices that are needed and the amount that has to be set so as neither to put the sum low enough to enable animals to be exported ostensibly for breeding but actually for slaughter, nor too high so that in fact it would stop the export of genuine animals for breeding.


Has not the noble Lord's Ministry had some experience in fixing what we might call standard prices for different beasts in connection with the different subsidies that we have paid to farmers in recent years?


Yes, but this is rather different, in that the whole purpose of fixing these prices—and there would be a tremendous range of them—is to differentiate between the animal for slaughter and the animal for breeding or show purposes.


I should like to thank those members of the Committee who have taken part in this, what Lord Denham called. "second Second Reading debate". I did not realise quite the strength of emotion held on all sides, and I am most grateful to all those noble Lords who have made known their points of view on this Amendment. I am sorry if I did not make the Amendment quite clear. It was purely to see whether it was not possible to remove the total prohibition while leaving in the Bill the rest of the safeguards, including the valuation one. I am sorry to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Denham, that in fact I should be guilty of making confusion worse confounded. I have nothing further to offer on the matter of values, because this seems to be something which makes the Bill unworkable in its first condition and just as bad or worse with my Amendment.

Now I did not mention anything to do with the economics: that is a subject I know nothing about and I have not inquired into whether or not we are losing a jolly good industry. I am afraid that is something I have not concerned myself with. One point arose which I did not mention and had not thought of before, but I think it should be highlighted. We talked a lot about the 100 kilometres on the Continent. Do we apply it to this country? Are all animals in this country slaughtered within a 60-mile radius, I wonder? Before we in this country get too smug about this matter, let us look at the current edition of the R.S.P.C.A. News Sheet, which talks about the ritual slaughter that is still carried out here. That makes one's hair stand on end and makes the Putte report look not so bad after all.

I do not think I have any other observation to make in respect of those who have spoken in support or against my Amendment. I opened my remarks by saying that the reason for my Amendment being put down was partly because of those noble Lords who had expressed on Second Reading only qualified support for the Bill, asking for work to be done on the Committee stage and for the Bill to be amended, and also because I felt that the Bill would not in fact do what its proposers hoped that it would do. I think it will have the opposite effect, and I have explained that matter in detail. I have already promised the Committee that my Amendment is only designed to probe the possibility of removing the complete prohibition.

I will withdraw my Amendment. Before I do so I should like once again to ask the noble Lord, Lord Somers, to try to think of an Amendment for the Report stage to meet what I consider will be a very serious admission of defeat, because we have led the way in improving the conditions of slaughter on the Continent, and the travelling conditions of animals. I should hate to see us abandon our lead and admit defeat. We have led this campaign, and I do not think we ought to give it up. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will see his way to propose an Amendment, perhaps on Report stage; otherwise I must inform the Committee that I shall be opposing the Third Reading of this Bill. I beg leave of your Lordships to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


Before we pass Clause 1, I think I had better say a few words because I have had requests from several quarters to include horses in this Bill. Before I did so I felt it was necessary to make quite certain of the proportion of horses that were exported. Ponies are already adequately protected under the Ponies Act sponsored by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. So far as I can make out, other horses seem to be protected by price, and, in any case, I cannot find from any authorities that I have consulted that there is any great export of horses at all. Therefore, in the circumstances I feel that it would be unjustifiable to introduce horses. If any noble Lord holds the contrary view, I am perfectly ready to consider the matter at a further stage.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.