HL Deb 12 December 1973 vol 347 cc1251-69

7.23 p.m.

LORD BALERNO rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is being done about the acute shortage of veterinary surgeons in the Government service. The noble Lord said: My Lords, my Question refers to "the acute shortage of veterinary surgeons in the Government service". I have quite deliberately used the word "acute". I should make it clear that I am applying this to the field service only and am not including the research and investigation staff, where at present the shortage is not acute.

My Lords, I understand that the field service has an establishment of 451 veterinary officers. There are in post a total of 372. That makes a shortage of 80. That is not the worst. Of the 372 employed, only 51 are under 40 years of age. The State is not recruiting new veterinary surgeons at a rate anything like sufficient to make up the wastage. There are but four of them under 30 years of age, and that implies a recruitment rate from the colleges of less than one per annum. During the next 10 years, no fewer than 120 will have reached the age of 65. If we exclude the administrators, and such like, and concentrate only on the number actually in the field, the situation is really alarming. There are but 227 of them, out of the complement of 330. That is a shortage of 33 per cent. of veterinary surgeons in the field. There is, therefore, to my mind, nothing in the way of reserves to deal with the emergencies that are indubitably coming—foot-and-mouth, vesicular disease, rabies, perhaps, which we have been discussing in recent times.

Apart from the representations made by the profession itself, there have been, during the last 20 years, no lack of warnings to each successive Government. Three Government Committees have stressed the implications of this shortage. There was Gowers in 1954, Plant in 1962, and Northumberland in 1968. Presently a Government Committee under Sir Michael Swann is, among other things, investigating this aspect of the profession. I question whether in this important matter we can afford to wait for this Report and then wait another year or so for the Government to consider it and decide what action to take. Furthermore, the Ministry has estimated that entry into the E.E.C. will call for an additional 100 field veterinary officers in the basic grades. The Government will also require a large number, which has been variously estimated at 500, of whom a significant proportion must be full-time officers. The widespread dissatisfaction with the State Veterinary Service will certainly result in some serving veterinary officers being attracted into local government and the E.E.C. employment, thus weakening still further the position.

My Lords, it is my view that criticism of any Government should be as constructive as possible: and I therefore make a few suggestions. I will take pay first, to get it out of the way, as I appreciate Phase 3 difficulties. For over 15 years the level of pay in this Service has been very unsatisfactory; and for five years it has been in serious dispute with the Treasury and the Civil Service Department. So presumably the Minister is fully aware of the position. I ask only two questions on this point. First, why is the pay of the State Veterinary Service linked to that of scientists in the Civil Service? Secondly, why is it so far below the State Medical Service and the earnings in private veterinary practice? Undoubtedly a major reason for young graduates shying off the State Service is its subordination to A.D.A.S. Senior veterinary staff are no longer in full control of the junior staff. Quite rightly, the new entrant to the profession resents the prospect of being controlled by a man who has had a far shorter course of training—and that in an entirely different discipline.

Another reason I will illustrate from the experience of a final year student. I take it from the Farmers Weekly. This is from an article inquiring why the young graduate will not go into the State Veterinary Service. One student had been out for a day with a Ministry veterinary officer as part of his compulsory training, and he said: "It was slow and I got the impression he wanted to get on with tending his garden." I should like most strongly to urge the Government to revert to the old situation where the Chief Veterinary Officer has direct access to his Minister—direct contact with his Minister. In fact, the whole Service, I think (and I believe that most veterinary surgeons take the same view), needs to be restructured so as to give the veterinary surgeon an opportunity to get ahead and to specialise. At the present moment he has not those incentives. This could be done by giving more opportunity for advisory work, and work especially in preventive medicine and in the problems of animal reproduction which are very acute and through the solution of which great economies can be made in production.

There is a point about cross-posting which takes place in the service as it is. It seems to be done with a certain lack of sympathy, and that is probably due to the postings being made by a non-veterinary surgeon. In the long term, it is fundamental that we ourselves produce more veterinary surgeons to meet this steadily increasing demand for the service that only they can render. I do not call for more veterinary schools, but I ask for an enlargement of the existing schools. I know that to some extent this has already taken place: in Liverpool, Bristol and Cambridge there have been proportionately substantial increases in the last few years. But the three big schools, in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, now each have an annual intake of 60 to 65; and I think the number could be stepped up a little above that. I feel sure that at this point somebody is going to ask: "Are there sufficient applicants to fill these places?" I can give your Lordships a very short answer to that. There are something like three candidates for each veterinary place each year in the universities despite the fact that the standard for entry to the veterinary school is now higher than that for entry to the medical school.

My Lords, the people of this country are inclined to regard the veterinary profession as persons who treat sick animals and who have responsibility for controlling horrible foreign diseases that may break out in this country. In fact, of course, they do much more. The contribution which the veterinary profession make to human health is of equal importance. They safeguard all the animal-produced food which we eat. Of all the home-produced food which we eat, I believe that over 70 per cent.—at any rate, around 70 per cent.—consists of animal products. Doubtless the Minister could give a more up-to-date figure. In one form or another disease takes considerable toll of that production, and most of this disease is preventable. There is urgent need to get a move on with preventive veterinary medicine. While the 2,000 veterinary surgeons in private practice will undoubtedly co-operate, a comprehensive scheme requires the wider responsibility of the State veterinary surgeon. As things are, the State is quite unable to provide this; and there is no prospect that it will. Yet the saving of loss to the livestock industry can be reckoned in millions of pounds.

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, for raising this matter to-night. It is not only of vital interest to the farming community but, as I hope to prove, of vital interest to the general public. My interest in this matter is due to the fact that I recognise that still to have diseases which are animal-borne, which can be transmitted to the public, is so utterly stupid, when we know that the whole situation can be prevented. Yet here we are, in this nuclear age, tolerating conditions which are not tolerated in many countries in Europe and not tolerated even in Northern Ireland. I am referring of course to the disease of brucellosis. So much of it is related to the fact that the Veterinary Service is grossly inefficient, chiefly because it is lacking in numbers.

On Monday I asked a Question concerning the slow progress of the eradication of brucellosis in relation to the under-staffed conditions of the Veterinary Service. I gather that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, whom I am sure we are all pleased to see here to-night, thought that I was overstating the case. I have refreshed my memory of the statement that the President of the British Veterinary Association made on the B.B.C. on December 23, on "Farming To-day". I should like to read it and leave the House to decide whether indeed I have not understated the case. Mr. Campbell MacKellar, the President of the Association, said: The State Veterinary Service is so understaffed that any major outbreak of epidemic disease this winter would stretch it to and perhaps beyond its breaking point. The British Veterinary Association feels that the public should be aware of the risks being run, of the inefficiencies being accepted, and of the likelihood of disaster with its implications to public health, animal welfare and the economic consequences to livestock and the nation as a whole. He went on to say: At present there is a shortage of about 30 per cent. in the veterinary officer grade in the State service—the man in the field—and less than a quarter of the veterinary staff is under 45 years old. This is not a new situation. It has been worsening steadily for twenty years, but the Government appear impervious to warnings. After that, I hope my very mild supplementary questions on Monday will be regarded really as not putting the case in its proper light; in fact, I certainly failed to emphasise the important aspects of this problem as the President of the B.V.A. did in his remarks.

I am not a farmer; I am a doctor who feels strongly about this subject on the health aspects. But the House must have been impressed also on Monday with the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan. He is a farmer and never fails to remind me of the subject when I read his long, long letters. He farms on a very large scale, and in a supplementary on Monday he said: for six years now we have been stressing the importance of keeping the veterinary medical service at a high level — during those six years practically nothing has been done".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10/12/73, col. 870.] During these years—even during the six years—students could have been qualified and the problem resolved. We are told that the majority of veterinarians are over 45, and everybody knows that many of these are not in the best of health. I remember that, again on Monday, Lord Mar rose and reminded the House that many vets suffer from brucellosis—a disease associated with varied symptoms but which invariably saps the energy of the unfortunate victim. It is all very well for somebody from the Ministry to go around and see a vet and think: "He looks all right"; but if one has a recurrent disease which saps one's energy one cannot be efficient.

It is clear that the Veterinary Service is in urgent need of new recruits; and this is the crux of the situation. Therefore, I was astonished to learn, again from a supplementary question of mine on Monday, that the Department, after all these wasted years, were advertising, of course with little success, for vets. As I said this, I was surprised that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, greeted my remarks as though they were very fresh ideas in answer to an old problem. I said that when you want students for any profession you do not advertise, you go to the schools and get them from the sixth forms; and as the President of the Veterinary Association has said, twenty years have gone by. Students could have been qualified and these problems need not have arisen.

Just before I came in I was handed a letter (I am sure he will not mind my quoting him) from Sir William Weipers, of the University of Glasgow Veterinary School. I understand that it is a very good veterinary school, and noble Lords will understand why I take great pleasure in reading this letter to the House. He said: In Glasgow we have gradually worked up to a figure over the last 20 years of a female intake of from 10, 15, 20 up to 50 per cent., and this year we exceeded 50 per cent., no doubt due to the fact that in accepting equal criteria for men and women, we were getting a larger share of women because the other schools did not accept equal criteria. I hope noble Lords appreciate what that means. Other schools were adopting the approach adopted in medical schools; they demand that the women have higher academic standing than the poor boys before they accept them. In Glasgow this very enlightened man has realised that this problem could be solved if women were encouraged to go in. As we know, and as I have said on so many occasions, the Civil Service has always discriminated against women, and I cannot imagine anybody in the Ministry of Agriculture saying, in these twenty wasted years, "What about getting women vets?". I welcome the fact that in Glasgow here is a huge pool of brilliant girls accepted as vets.

It seems amazing that this is not done. We see girls on television loving animals, loving horses, loving dogs. Their maternal instinct attracts them to animals, yet the Civil Service say, "Over our dead body; no women in our Departments; no women in the veterinary services; no women in the medical schools". And in consequence we are short of doctors, we are short of vets, we are short of brilliant, able people in every Department of the State. I must admit that when this letter was handed to me—and I have seen it only to-night —I rejoiced in saying that we have at least one highly intelligent man in the University of Glasgow Veterinary School.

The National Farmers' Union—and I do not think the National Farmers' Union have ever supported my political Party; we have always regarded them as a very right-wing organisation—are extremely concerned at the present position. An efficient young farmer of my acquaintance asked me to obtain the answers to three questions which I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will be able to answer with great ease. They are quite simple: (1) can the Minister deny that the designation of further compulsory brucellosis eradication areas has been deferred because of shortage of qualified veterinary staff in the Government's service? (2) If there were a foot-and-mouth outbreak approaching the scale of the outbreak in 1967–68, would the Ministry have resources available to deal with it adequately? (3) Are the Government satisfied with the rate of recruitment of qualified young veterinary staff, in view of the age distribution of the present State veterinary force?

My Lords, these are very simple questions, and it seems very shocking that they have to be asked by farmers these days. All I want to say is that, looking at the whole picture and in the light of the revelation of the President of the British Veterinary Association concerning veterinary surgeons, it would seem that while European countries, and even Northern Ireland, have eradicated brucellosis, Britain has lagged behind through sheer inefficiency.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down I should like to say that I think no further comment is necessary by myself.

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, will the noble Earl please comment for me on this aspect of the shortage of Ministry vets, which I certainly did not realise was so serious until I listened to what other noble Lords have said to-day? There is a limited importation every year of certain Continental beef breeds, above all, Charolais. I have no interest to declare, and I am not trying to sell Charolais or other such beasts to anybody here, but at the Smithfield Show the Champion beast was a Charolais cross. I am told that at the Guildford fat stock show earlier this week the majority of the cattle shown were Charolais crosses, as was the show champion. The reason, I believe, is very simple: the weight gain qualities and the good configuration of this breed.

I saw in France that Charolais bull beef were putting on 3 lb. a day light weight gain on May sileage. The consequence of this limited importation is that good Charolais heifer costs anything from £2,500 to £4,000, or ten or fifteen times the price of a good native breed cattle. If the shortage of imports or inability to import any more is contributed to by the shortage of Ministry vets, and the shortage of quarantine stations, it seems to me totally unnecessary that this cannot be put right. Would not the noble Earl consider increasing the number of these quarantine stations, because this should bring down the price of beef and consequently mitigate in some very small way the inflation that we already have with us on this tiny aspect of it?


My Lords, may I ask a question of the noble Earl before he comes to reply? When we debated the Export of Live Animals Bill I think it was reported at the time that there was a serious shortage of veterinary officers and that in fact the few who were offering were unable to give a satisfactory service at the ports. Could he tell us whether these riding establishments are being inspected, as envisaged in the Bill? Can he also confirm what my noble friend Lady Summerskill said: that women are not being recruited, although they are acting as assistant vets all over the country?

7.49 p.m.


My Lords, I should like at the outset to thank my noble friend for putting down this Question, and although only a few noble Lords have taken part, and the House is now fairly thin, I regard this as a very serious subject and I regard the speeches made by the noble Baroness and by my noble friend as very serious, too. Indeed, the whole question touches on a matter to which my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture and his Department have been giving a great deal of attention.

For several years now the recruitment of veterinary staff has not kept pace with wastage from retirement and other causes. I accept that at the outset. There are at present some 90 vacancies among professional grades in the veterinary arm of the Ministries Agricultural Development and Advisory Service as against an authorised strength of 656. The difficulties of recruitment have been felt mainly in the field service, as my noble friend said, as distinct from the veterinary investigation in the laboratory services. The shortfall has not been continuous or constant. In fact there have been marked fluctuations. At present—and here I think I disagree with my noble friend only on a matter of figures—there are 64 vacancies, whereas I think my noble friend said that there are 80 for the field staff on the present complement of 451.

I am bound to comment that the shortage of field staff is offset to some extent by the employment of some 60 veterinary surgeons as temporary veterinary inspectors on a daily fee-paid basis. I am sure my noble friend is aware that veterinary surgeons in private practice play a very important role as fee-paid local veterinary inspectors under the direction of the Ministry veterinary officers. But I should tell my noble friend straight away that my right honourable friend is most anxious to see a significant strengthening of his full-time staff. In recent years, various measures have been adopted to make employment in the State Veterinary Service more attractive to good quality recruits from the veterinary profession. For example, steps have been taken to improve the level of starting pay; to speed up advancement above the basic grade and to permit entry above that level; and in order to encourage prospective young recruits, the requirement that basic grade recruits should have at least one year's outside experience has been abolished. But even so, unfortunately these steps have not achieved the desired results.

The situation has been made more acute by the new demands which are made on the Service. In the early 1960s, the field service staff were engaged mainly on work associated with notifiable diseases such as Newcastle disease in poultry, tuberculosis, swine fever, anthrax and foot-and-mouth disease. But of course the situation has changed, and indeed the whole livestock industry and its requirements have changed in the last ten years. An increased involvement with public health work has demanded greater diversification of veterinary officers' duties and in addition there are specialist services in such areas of work as meat hygiene, artificial insemination and health schemes. With the successful completion of an eradication programme such as swine fever and tuberculosis, the Veterinary Service has now turned its attention to the pressing and more complex problems of diseases such as brucellosis and salmonella. These diseases by their very nature require much more professional skill and action on the farm than, for example, bovine tuberculosis, and they make great demands on the veterinary officer.


My Lords, is it really necessary to go through all this? Have we not been told, over and over again, that the Ministry are doing everything they can to forward the brucellosis eradication scheme?


My Lords, I think it is desirable to go through it again, because the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, said that the Ministry are doing everything they can to forward the scheme, whereas the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, said that in fact the Ministry were dragging their feet in regard to the scheme. I am trying to draw the picture as it is and then try to explain exactly how it is proposed to tackle it.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, was really being a little facetious. He was indicating that although the Ministry say they are doing everything possible, in fact they are doing nothing.


Well, my Lords, I shall hope to tell the noble Baroness that we are doing something, but I hope she will also give me the credit for acknowledging the fact—the point that she and my noble friend have both made—that there is a difficulty here and that the Government acknowledge it. I really think it is not quite fair to say that the Government are doing nothing. I have tried to give an account of the situation as I see it. My noble friend and the noble Baroness have said that we do not have the staff and have asked what we are going to do about it. Let me say from the outset that these heavy demands on the State Veterinary Service are such that my right honourable friend is anxious to see the Service strengthened. Your Lordships will probably know that the Civil Service Commission regularly invite applications from veterinary surgeons for posts in the Ministry. Because of the unbalanced age structure of the field service, to which my noble friend referred, the Ministry are keen to attract young veterinarians to the Service. The Civil Service Commission maintain contact with the veterinary colleges and regularly send them the relevant recruitment information. The noble Baroness said that that is the place from which to get recruits. That is perfectly true: the Ministry go to the veterinary colleges and inform them of what is available in the Ministry but they cannot force students who have graduated to go into the Service as opposed to any other of the outside professions.

On Monday, the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, asked a supplementary question following the Question asked by the noble Baroness, and he said that the Government propose to cut down the existing six veterinary, schools to four. I can assure your Lordships that the Government have no such proposal at the present time. The present output from these colleges is 240 a year, and my noble friend will, I think, be glad to Know that the University Grants Committee's current quinquennial settlement did not envisage a reduction in the number of veterinary students. On the contrary, the universities proposed a moderate increase in the numbers and the University Grants Committee's allocations should make this possible. The Departmental Committee of Inquiry into recruitment for the veterinary profession, which reported in 1964 (the Northumberland Committee) considered that the rate of admissions to veterinary colleges at that time could be regarded as adequate to provide the number of veterinary surgeons likely to be required over the next 10 years up to 1974, but of course we all recognise that conditions have altered.

In 1971, the Government appointed a Committee of Inquiry into the veterinary profession under the chairmanship of Sir Michael Swann, to consider and report on the future role and educational need of the profession in the United Kingdom. This Report should be available by about the middle of next year. The appointment of this Committee recognised the fact that the time had come to carry out a wide-ranging review of veterinary work in the foreseeable future. Their terms of reference cover all aspects of the profession's activities, including the likely demand for veterinarians and the suitability of veterinary training.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that in 1962 the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers started bringing pressure to bear on the Ministry for a brucellosis eradication scheme? Is he also aware that in 1965 they gave up further efforts through lack of interest and that in that year the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers started a scheme of their own? In 1967, the Ministry took over that scheme, and those who had already gone a considerable distance along the road towards eradication were told that they must go back and start with everybody else. Those are facts for which I can vouch.


I do not see that to go back into past history is particularly helpful. I would only say (because I know the noble Lord is concerned with brucellosis) that he will I think readily accept the fact that we have now got something like half the herds of the country in the Brucellosis Scheme and, I think I am right in saying, 56 per cent. of the animals. That is a major achievement, and although I accept entirely that progress may not be as rapid as the noble Lord and the noble Baroness would like, at least there is some progress. As I told the noble Baroness the other day, we expect the final end to the Brucellosis Scheme to come within the next decade, which was the target set when the scheme first came into operation.


My Lords, would the noble Earl give way for one minute? He has not answered Lady Summerskill's question about the recruitment of women. It is very odd that I should find myself in total agreement with her, but on this particular occasion I do. The noble Earl has not commented on the questions that she raised. Could he do so?


My Lords, if the noble Earl would be kind enough to be patient I shall try to answer all three questions of the noble Baroness, plus the question that my noble friend put. But if I am continually interrupted, quite obviously I shall not answer any questions.

My Lords, my noble friend referred to the question of pay, and he quite rightly referred to it because this is germane to the question of recruitment. I would wish to give my noble friend a public answer. The veterinary officers' pay scales have for some years been linked with, and moved in step with, those of the scientist group of the Civil Service. The present rates of pay result from an award of the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal, which operated with effect from January 1, 1971, subsequently enhanced by a central Civil Service pay settlement from January 1, 1972, and a further increase from April 1, 1973 under Stage 2 of the counter-inflation policy. Currently, the minimum of the scale for the basic grade for veterinary officers, Grade 2, is £2,445, although of 61 new entrants in the last five years only three have started on the minimum of the Grade 2 scale; 40 started on benefits above the Grade 2 minimum, 13 of them actually at the maximum, which is £3,095. A further 18 were recruited direct to Grade 1, for which the starting pay is now £3,095. The present average salary of all officers in Grades 1 and 2 is £3,524, and there is opportunity for promotion to higher posts, with scales rising to £5,200 and upwards.

My noble friend asked why the pay of veterinary officers is linked with the pay of scientists. The answer is that some 13 years ago, the pay of the veterinary staff was tied to that of scientists because the staff association, which is the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, wanted it; and this arrangement was agreed to by the Civil Service Department. The basis on which the pay of the Civil Service scientists generally, and not solely veterinary staff, should be determined has been referred to the Pay Board for consideration, and their report is expected early in 1974. Discussions will take place between the Civil Service Department and the Institution of Professional Civil Servants concerning the salaries of veterinary surgeons, and these will have regard to the Pay Board's recommendations and the counter-inflation policy. I am sure your Lordships will understand that it is not possible for me to attempt to predict the outcome of these discussions.

An attempt was made some years ago to establish comparison between the earnings of the veterinary surgeons engaged in private practice and those engaged in public service. This has proved impracticable for a number of reasons, because veterinary surgeons who are partners in private practices receive emoluments which include such things as cars, houses and other non-cash benefits. Because of these difficulties, and the relatively small number of people involved—there are only a few hundred—it was decided, in agreement with the staff association, that the most satisfactory arrangement would be for veterinary officers' pay movements to keep in step with those of the much larger scientific Civil Service. It was not thought proper to establish pay linkage with the medical officers in the Civil Service, whose duties are of a somewhat different nature. I would add that in the past year the Ministry, in collaboration with the staff association which represents veterinary officers, has undertaken an intensive study of a whole range of factors affecting the attractiveness of a career to a veterinary officer. The conclusions of this study are now being considered, and in consultation with the Civil Service Department and the staff association concerned my right honourable friend has also had recently the benefit of the views of the British Veterinary Association. Proposals are being discussed relating to the structure and management of the Service, the nature of the duties undertaken by veterinary officers, and the opportunities for advancement in the Service.

My noble friend referred to the fact that the demands of the European Economic Community would require 100 extra veterinary staff. Member States of the E.E.C. tend to make greater use of veterinary officers for control purposes than we do. As a result of membership of the Community, therefore, we must expect that greater demands will be made on Government veterinarians. There are such things as Draft Regulations and Directives, which are currently under discussion, dealing with milk and meat products. These could result in increased demands upon the Government veterinary services, but at the moment it is too early to assess the extent of the demands.

The noble Baroness, Lady Summer-skill made quite a point in her speech of the fact that women were not called upon to be veterinarians. She asked why we did not take advantage of having women in the Veterinary Service. I can assure her that there is no sex discrimination in the Civil Service examinations held for veterinary surgeons, and that women can sit them in the same way as men and, by suitably passing them, can be accepted by the Ministry.


My Lords, in order to prove his point, would the noble Earl give the figure of the percentage of women in the Veterinary Service in England?


My Lords, I thought the noble Baroness's point was that we had not drawn women to the Service, and that there was some discrimination.


My Lords I want the noble Earl to prove that what he said is correct by telling me what is the percentage of women in the Service.


My Lords, I cannot, without notice, tell the noble Baroness that. But I shall certainly do my best to find out what the figure is. With respect to the noble Baroness I suggest that the whole premise on which she based her argument was erroneous, in that she said we did not draw on women, and that there was discrimination against the use of women as veterinary officers. This is not so. If women sit the test and pass it, they are acceptable to the Service.


Perhaps the noble Earl has a number of advisers sitting behind him, although I do not see a woman there. But surely one of them could tell him what is the percentage of women in the Service. Can he also tell us—and it is a very important point that I made with regard to the veterinary school in Glasgow—the answer to this question: is the entry to the Ser- vice for men and women the same, or does a woman have to have a higher academic standard? It was pointed out that in Glasgow both boys and girls (and I call them that because they are young when they go in) have the same academic standards. I should like an answer to these two questions: what is the percentage of women accepted, and do they require the same academic standards?


My Lords, I will see that the noble Baroness is apprised of these figures. She did not give me notice that she was going to refer to Glasgow or Cambridge—


It is a debate.


Of course, it is, but the noble Baroness can hardly expect me to carry in my head every figure about every single recruitment study for students sitting for Veterinary Service examinations. I will certainly give her the answer later, but she did not tell me that she was going to refer specifically to Glasgow, as opposed to London, Cambridge or anywhere else. But I could find out the information.


My Lords, could we all be given the answer?


My Lords, I will give the noble Baroness the answer. I said that I have not the answer with me because I was not aware that I was going to be asked specifically that question.


It is on the desk.


I have the answer here. There are ten women and 440 men.


Which proves my point.


It depends, of course. I do not think there is any point in labouring it. It does not really prove the noble Baroness's point at all, because it does not take into account the number of women who presented themselves to competition.

The noble Baroness asked me whether the designation of new brucellosis areas was being put back because of lack of veterinary surgeons. I can tell her that diseases which are of prime importance, outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth diseases and swine vesicular disease, are obviously bound to take the first call on veterinary staffs' time. Where this has happened—and it has happened in the case of swine vesicular disease—effort has had to be transferred from the brucellosis scheme to dealing with that, and that has been one of the reasons for the delay in the starting up of the eradication areas in the East of England.

If the noble Baroness asks whether I can give an assurance that if there is a foot-and-mouth outbreak we should have adequate resources, I can only again refer her to the fact that the demands on the veterinary staff are bound to go first of all to trying to eradicate diseases of a special nature like that; and if that happens, of course other services are bound to suffer. That is of the nature of the Veterinary Service. When she asks whether we are satisfied with the rate of recruitment, I hope she will take it from me that we are not satisfied with the rate of recruitment; we should like to see more. I have tried to explain what measures we are taking to ensure that this comes about. But if she asks are we satisfied the answer is, "No, we are not."

My noble friend Lord Onslow asked me a specific question about Charolais coming into this country. All cattle coming into this country from outside the British Isles must be subject to strict animal health controls and quarantine. There are two quarantine stations, one at Lowestoft and one at Dunleath, and the number is limited to 200 animals all from one country every two months; that is to say, 1,200 animals a year. Veterinary supervision is by the Ministry's own full-time staff and I would accept that this is one of the constraints which could operate against increasing the amount of imports. Again, it is a question of proper allocation of the resources available. In allocating the 200 places, the Minister is advised by the Advisory Panel for Livestock Importation which was set up by the Agricultural Industry itself from the beginning of 1972. The number of Charolais imported have been 451, the last batch being in May of this year. I understand that up to 600 could have been imported and that no Charolais imports are under immediate consideration, as the Livestock Advisory Panel has recommended other breeds during the early part of 1974.

I hope that I have been able to answer some of the questions which have been put by my noble friend and the noble Baroness. The noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, asked me a specific question about riding schools. I will find out the answer and let him know.


My Lords, my other point was that when we debated the export of live animals, very serious questions were asked as to whether there were enough veterinary staff at the ports to inspect these animals when loading on the boats. There were all sorts of complaints and allegations of cruelty. Can the noble Earl give an assurance that the staff is now adequate to cope with this task?


My Lords, my understanding is that the staff is adequate, but in view of the noble Lord's interest I will follow this up and make sure that this is so. I have tried to answer the questions, but I rather doubt whether I have satisfied the noble Baroness.


You have not.


I hope I might have satisfied my noble friend. But if I have not satisfied either of them, I hope I have satisfied them on one point and that is that we are in total agreement that it is essential that we have a good Veterinary Service, and it is essential that some method is found of increasing the number of people coming into the Service. The noble Baroness and my noble friend will realise that this is a question of attracting people. We cannot just get them into the service by saying that we want more people. Indeed the whole of the veterinary service, as I know my noble friend will agree, has a record of which it can be justly proud. It has a tradition of professional integrity and dedication to the cause of animal health and welfare. We want to see that continue. We accept that there are problems and difficulties but I very much hope they are going to be overcome. I would only say to my noble friend that I am grateful to him for raising this matter, and I am grateful, oddly enough, to the noble Baroness. We do accept that this is a difficult problem, and we hope it will be overcome.


May I give a small bouquet to the State Veterinary Service regarding swine vesicular disease. When that outbreak took place I was in contact with a very senior person in the United States Department of Agriculture, and he was full of admiration for the way the Service had identified the disease, the speed with which that had been done, and the great ability with which preventive measures were taken by the Ministry of Agriculture. He only wished he could feel that his own Department would have reacted as swiftly and as well.


I am very grateful to my noble friend for having said that. I was not going to reply, but my noble friend the Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard told me that I had to reply in order to put my noble friend in order.