HL Deb 15 June 1973 vol 343 cc986-1013

11.47 a.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I do not propose to keep the House very long, because we had a fairly comprehensive debate in relation to the matters that are dealt with in the Bill when the Control of Zoological Gardens (No. 2) Bill was discussed here. The present position so far as zoological gardens are concerned is to a very considerable extent similar to the position when the matter was brought before the House on the previous occasion. Sponsors of this Bill—who of course include myself—are deeply concerned about safety and about the proper attention which has to be given to animals kept in zoological gardens for which admission charges are made. The Federation of Zoological Gardens has been in existence for some eight years and has obtained a very high standard of supervision. It to-day represents some 34 zoological gardens, and about 1 million of the people who visit zoological gardens visit those which are members of the Federation. But that leaves a very large number of zoological gardens—because I believe that there are some 160 which would come within the scope of this Bill—which are not under the strict supervision exerted by the Federation on its members.

There is considerable anxiety on the part of those who care for the welfare of animals that there should be proper supervision. It is believed by most that it is essential that the animals should be under such supervision as will prevent any fears on the Hart of those—and there are many in this country, as elsewhere—who have regard for the conditions under which animals are kept. Regard must be had, too, to the kind of person who is in charge of these zoological gardens. I think I ought to say that as the Federation consider the safety of animals and their proper care as being of prime consideration, and in view of the fact that so many other zoological gardens are not members of the Federation—it is not a question of amour-propre at all—the matter is of sufficient importance to justify the creation of a statutory body which will look after the interests of gardens of that description throughout the whole field of their activities.

I do not want to weary the House by repetition, but, as noble Lords will see from the debate which took place on a previous occasion there was an investigation by a university body which came to the conclusion that quite a large number of zoological gardens in this country were bad in so far as the care of the animals was concerned. It is true, as they pointed out, that a fair number were excellent and some were very good, but at the same time the report left open matters which are of grave concern, I think, to every Member of this House and indeed to everybody in the country. Consequently, I, together with other sponsors, have seen fit to reintroduce the Bill in the hope that, as we have dealt with a number of matters which arose in the course of the previous debate and attempted to meet such questions as have been raised, the Bill as it now stands will be acceptable to the House.

I would in the first instance remark that the changes which have been made are of a nature which I hope will satisfy those who raised various questions then. If noble Lords will refer to the Bill, I should like to mention Clause 2 which has been simplified by providing for one register only. The provisional register has been deleted. Registration becomes a right and the Council is bound to register applicants. The Council has to show reason why a zoo should not be registered, instead of the zoo having to show why it should be registered. That is one of the matters which was raised then and I think your Lordships will agree that the new provision certainly covers the point.

Clauses 3 and 4 in the previous Bill have now been combined and simplified. Clause 3(1)(b) provides for the Council to be given power of exemption for special reasons, as I think the House will agree it should be. Subsection (3) stops a loophole in the previous Bill whereby a zoo might evade the provisions by charging admission to a house only and not to the animal exhibition. Clause 4 deals with maintenance and there is a variation in the duties of the zoos. In subsection (4)(b) the safety of the staff as well as that of the visiting public is taken into consideration. Paragraph (f) provides that proper records have to be kept. The reference in Bill No. 2 to the education of the public and the need to keep animals in breeding groups has been considered by some to be inappropriate under this legislation as it could not be determined with adequate precision, but I am aware of the fact that some noble Lords may think that this particular matter should he reconsidered at a later stage.

With regard to the previous Bill, Clause 10—there shall be no disqualification by reason of previous convictions under other legislation—is deleted and is replaced by Clause 8. We considered that point and thought it was not appropriate to take these convictions into consideration because they might not be relevant to the issues before us at the time. Clause 8(5) says: All fees prescribed … shall be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. This answers the suggestion that the fees might be unreasonable if they were imposed by the Council itself, and also, in my view—and I hope in the view of your Lordships—the fact that the approval of the Secretary of State has to be obtained would keep the fees within reasonable and proper control. In Clause 12, the interpretation clause, "the appointed day" has been changed from six months to 12 months after the Bill becomes an Act.

In the Schedule, Part I—Constitution of the Council—under paragraph 1 the Secretary of State is to appoint five members, including the Chairman, instead of four. This confers on him discretion to appoint suitable people—for example, zoological societies as such, which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Tollemache, or professional zoologists, such as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman. Then paragraph 1(b) says that four members shall be nominated by the Secretary of State after consultation with such bodies representing the zoos as he thinks fit. This is put in in order to make it clear that the Federation is not regarding itself as being in a position, from the point of view of amour-propre, although in my view, knowing the Federation as I do, it remains an important and desirable body to act in the capacity referred to in the Schedule. Nevertheless, I have been in consultation with it and it is perfectly satisfied that there should be no suspicion that it wishes to stand in a more favourable position so far as other bodies are concerned.

Then paragraph 1(c) makes provision for the President of the Royal Society to nominate after consultation. This is added because I think it is appropriate that the President should have the power to nominate. The British Veterinary Association and the Fauna Preservation Society have been deleted. We regard the Veterinary Society as such, as the disciplinary body of the veterinary profession, as sufficient representation. I should also point out that there is already a measure of conservation legislation with which this Bill is not directly concerned.

Part II of the Schedule provides for the first members of the Council to be appointed within six months, instead of three months, of the passing of the Act. I think I ought to point out to your Lordships that the Federation of Zoological Gardens, which in eight years has carried out 90 inspections, recorded some 120,000 words of detailed criticism and advice on all aspects of wild animal husbandry. My noble friend Lord Donaldson quoted the number of zoos as 96 in the No. 2 Bill. There are at present 116 zoos, safari parks and bird collections charging admission which will be affected by this Bill. This figure is as a result of fresh information, and does not represent an increase since May of 1972, which increase was six.

Certain comments have been made by other organisations, and I think that perhaps I ought to deal with some of the points beforehand as it may save debate at a later stage. The total number of establishments which will be affected by this Bill is about 116—I am sorry that I gave the wrong figure earlier. The Federation has 34 members, and membership, as has been suggested, is not declining. Federation zoos are visited by half the zoo-visiting public— about 10 millions annually. It has been suggested that the Federation is more closely associated with the Zoological Society of London than with its other members. This is not correct. London Zoo and Whipsnade are the national collection, and merely provide office space.

A self-imposed system of inspection can easily lead to reduced standards—I am trying now to answer some of the points which may be raised at a later stage. A legally imposed system is in my view the only guarantee of progress. Government control of zoos is a matter of principle, and it is in line with legislation in other leading zoo countries. For example, the United States of America as an Animal Welfare Act of 1970 which requires inspection and annual licensing of all exhibitors of wild animals, including circuses and dealers. Zoos are also required to be visited daily by a veterinary surgeon. In Holland, since 1972 an annual permit to keep wild animals in captivity has been required for all zoos, circuses and dealers. Standards are now being formulated by the controlling body. In Sweden, since 1960 all public exhibitions of animals, zoos, performing animals and pet shops have been under the special supervision of the veterinary directorate, which inspects premises and matters of transport. In Italy, in 1972 the Union of Italian Zoological Gardens asked the Government to introduce controlling legislation; and embodying the principle of control is also under active consideration in Germany, France and Belgium.

The Federation itself (and I refer to the Federation because this is a body which has records, which records cannot in any way be denied) has conducted ninety inspections since 1965, and as a result most of its members have made substantial improvements. I said before that the Federation invited all zoos to participate in its aims, but the offer was rejected by some, including the safari parks. 'The Federation constantly receives complaints from the public about zoos, although in seven years only three complaints have referred to its own members. Complaints by outside bodies are comparatively rare because they are not aware of many of the technical requirements. The Federation is now co-operating in instructing inspectors of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to inspect zoos. I contend—and I think the House will accept this—that existing legislation, the Protection of Animals Act 1911, is inadequate to ensure the welfare of captive and wild animals and to control diseases which are transmissible from animals to man. The proposed legislation provides a framework for this, including stricter veterinary supervision. In my view, unless fresh legislation is introduced safe standards will never be enforced. The annual registration fees charged to meet administrative costs, which is a question that has been raised, are unlikely to differ greatly from the membership dues charged by the Federation and the Association which has now been set up. I cannot give exact figures, obviously, but as I have said already the control of the fees will rest with the Minister in charge, and I am quite certain that everybody in the country will be happy to know that the question of reasonable fees will not interfere with the question of the safety of the animals.

There was an investigation of a very intensive nature carried out recently by the Sunday Mirror, and as Mr. James Pettigrew, of the Sunday Mirror, who went into the subject, remarked, some very glaring examples of cruelty were not due to a desire on the part of the persons running these safaris, and so on, to inflict pain or suffering, but were due, to a very considerable extent, to the fact that the keepers themselves, because of their lack of knowledge of the animals, were not suitable for the jobs given them. Indeed, Mr. Pettigrew supported his view by actual evidence given to him by a person who had been appointed as a keeper and who, having had no experience before in that regard, had no knowledge at that time at all of his duties or how to exercise them. As I said, my Lords, some very serious instances are referred to and this investigation took place quite recently. So there seems to me every reason why we should get this legislation through Parliament as speedily as possible. I have referred to the concern of the community as a whole. I think that those who are running properly controlled zoological gardens are deeply concerned about the interests of the animals, and of the public would support the Bill; and I am hoping that in consequence of this we shall accept the Second Reading of this Bill, which I again ask your Lordships' House to do.

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

12.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we all congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Janner, on his comprehensive and informative introduction. As he said, he has made many improvements in the Bill, all of which I welcome. I congratulate him, too, on his persistence, and hope sincerely that this Bill will become an Act. As the noble Lord says, it is an admirable machinery Bill. It achieves proper and adequate supervision over those who keep living things in captivity and ask the public to pay for them. If the living things are properly maintained according to the provisions of Clause 4 of the Bill, the powers and responsibility of the proposed Zoological Gardens Council, as I read it, are at an end. But some of these animals, my Lords, will be examples of rare species, or sub-species, whose continued existence is in doubt, and I am deeply concerned that the Council, under the provisions of this Bill, cannot concern itself with conservation.

Of course we already have protective legislation on the Statute Book. If the D.T.I., after consultation with its advisory committee, is satisfied that a species is seriously threatened, the import of those animals can be forbidden under the Animals (Restriction of Importation) Act 1964. This is a blunt and effective ultimate weapon which can be used only when much of the harm has been done and the very existence of the species is in jeopardy. In paragraph 9 of its 1971 report, when the first draft of the Bill was tabled, the advisory committee referred with interest to the provision, which was originally in the Bill, whereby standards and control of accommodation could be provided for by the Council. There is no doubt in my mind that it is essential in some cases for the advisory committee to know how and where a rare species is to be house and maintained. Unless it knows how the animal is to be maintained and looked after, the committee cannot properly exercise its judgment about whether or not the animal should be imported at all.

This Zoo Council could be, and should be, and the advisory committee hoped that it was going to be, the essential link in advising on and to some extent controlling the accommodation of rare species in zoos. But it is preventative and restoration measures that can be taken before it is too late with which I am concerned; measures that could most effectively be taken or controlled through the Zoo Council if only it had the powers. Let me give your Lordships an example. A species may be getting very rare in its natural habitat and a particular zoo may persist in buying specimens through dubious channels, or even through channels which are illegal in the country of export. Is the new Council to do nothing because it has no powers to prevent this abuse of natural resources? I see nothing in the Bill to cover this. The Council should, for example, have power to limit the number of animals of any one rare species purchased by a zoo.

Again, my Lords, the world zoos are beginning to realise that to survive they must breed their own animals. The rapidly diminishing habitats can no longer supply the rapidly increasing numbers of zoos. Only a controlling body can say whether further imports of a wild species would be best limited to the zoos that can breed these animals. Successful breeding at one zoo could well provide exhibits to stock other zoos and provide the necessary exhibits in a particular country. These and many other conservation measures will become increasingly important over the years. It is inconceivable that the Council will be able to fulfil its functions without regard to conservation and I believe that the public would be very dismayed if the Council ignored some conservation issues which it is best placed to tackle.

My Lords, I know that conservation measures have been taken out of this Bill. At this stage I am not suggesting that in this Bill there should be any specific conservation, or breeding, or education obligations placed on the Council. But, looking ahead, I am absolutely convinced that in this Bill the appropriate Minister should be given the power to instruct the Council to ensure that its members take reasonable conservation measures which are considered necessary in any particular case. The existence of such a power would, in most cases, enable the Council to secure the necessary degree of co-operation without going to the Minister, and the composition of the Council, with which the Minister is so closely concerned, would ensure that no unreasonable demands were made on member zoos. This, my Lords, is a major point, and I hope to put down an Amendment to this effect during the Committee stage.

I have only two minor points to make. Clause 8 provides that the annual sum to be paid to the Council is to be calculated on the number of paid admissions. But parties of school children can add to the numbers without adding much to the amount of money received. Should not the provisions in the Bill enable the Council to reconsider the amount as well as the number of admissions? My final point concerns the last two lines in the Schedule. Should some thought be given to the quorum? Should it be possible, as it is possible as the Bill is now drafted, to hold a valid meeting with no paragraph 1 Secretary of State nominee present? I know that a nominee of the Secretary of State is also the chairman, but who is to take the chair if the Secretary of State chairman-nominee is absent? If there is any friction, which I hope that there will not be, I am sure that a little cleaning up in that regard would lead to greater harmoney in the operation of the provisions of this Bill.

12.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should first make clear that I have been concerned with zoos for a very long time. I suppose that it is more than 40 years since I first joined the Zoological Society which runs the London Zoo, and throughout the whole of that period I have always been very conscious of the fact that to catch an animal in the wild, often many miles away from the rail-head or the port or the aerodrome from which it is ultimately taken to this country, and to bring it to this country, and keep it here in captivity, must involve a degree of suffering and shock; and that we ought constantly to be asking ourselves whether we are justified in inflicting that suffering and shock on animals and whether the result we achieve from it is justified. I am quite certain that that is not justified unless we make sure that when they are kept in captivity in this country they are kept under the best possible conditions and given the best possible attention. When I refer to "conditions", I do not mean only the physical conditions, such as food, temperature, water, humidity and the like, which are essential for the physical wellbeing of the animals, but also psychological conditions, so that the animals are kept in, say, family groups similar to those in which they are accustomed to live in the wild, and are not left, as used so often to be the case. and indeed still is in some places, to mope in loneliness in a cage or, at the other extreme, to be put into groups much too large for the territory available in order merely to provide an interesting spectacle.

If those good conditions are maintained, most species will breed readily in captivity. In the better collections (and I use the word "collections" intending to cover not only the traditional type of zoo where animals are kept in cages, but the extensive zoos and safari parks, such as Whipsnade and the like) of both the old-fashioned conventional and the modern extensive zoos, they are very successful in keeping animals under such conditions that they breed readily. They not only breed their own replacements, but many of them breed a surplus which is available for sale. The surplus to which the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, has just referred has been, I think, an essential duty of zoos to produce in order that the pressure on wild stocks may be reduced. In these good collections of all sorts one of the more interesting features of modern times is that a great number of them die of old age or of the diseases of old age, like heart disease and cancer, just as human beings do. Far fewer of them die of the deficiency diseases which were customary 20, 30 or more years ago, of infectious diseases like T.B., or of parasites and the like.

My Lords, these conditions can be obtained. They are obtained, as I have said, in the best of zoos, and could be obtained in every zoo. But in fact they are not, and have not been, obtained, and there are, as the noble Lord, Lord Janner, quoted from two Reports, still a considerable number of zoos where the conditions under which the animals are kept are wholly unsatisfactory.

I must tell your Lordships that I have experience in trying to regulate this situation, because some years ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Janner, said, a number of zoos—some commercial zoos run for private profit, and some scientific zoos run by such bodies as the London Zoo, Bristol Zoo and Edinburgh Zoo, scientific societies—formed a federation. They had to consider two possible alternatives. The first was that they should limit membership to those zoos which passed a fairly stringent examination—no zoo would be admitted unless it had passed that examination—or to admit any zoo which applied and then try to raise the standards of the weaker vessels by cajoling an inspection after they had joined. We were nervous of the second alternative, because we felt that if we once got somebody into a body it would be much more difficult to kick them out if they were not satisfactory than it was only to admit those who reached reasonable standards. We were nervous, moreover, that if we got a large number of unsatisfactory zoos into the body we should be faced with the problem of having to protect them against such legislation as this, which even in those days we felt was ultimately bound to come. That body therefore shows the principle which is incorporated in this Bill: that membership should be confined to zoos which pass a certain standard.

In the event, about 30 per cent. of the zoos in this country joined. A number of the remainder did not. A number of them, admirable zoos, for one reason or another did not feel it worth paying the subscription fee to join; and others did not join for the obvious reason that they would not have been admitted if they had applied. On the other hand, a number of the latter asked for an unofficial inspection, to tell them what was wrong, they improved those things which were wrong and finally reached the appropriate standards.

It is, admittedly, more expensive to run a good zoo than a bad zoo. My own feeling is—and I think it is shared by almost all people responsible for the running of reputable collections (and again by "collections" I refer to collections of every sort)—that the reputation of all zoos will suffer if bad zoos are allowed to continue. Parliament has found it necessary to control by legislation and inspection the pet shops and dealers, from which the zoos obtain a great number of the animals they require. Clearly there exists a lacuna if you then allow the animals to go to an institution where they are not still subject to the protection of Parliament and of an official inspection.

No good zoo need in any way fear this Bill. The owner of every good zoo will be trying to run his zoo on the lines set out in Clause 4 of this Bill, which, with the exception of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, I think covers the principles which every zoo should follow. No-one need fear inspection if he is already trying, as he must if he is sincerely conscientious, to follow the provisions of Clause 4. Indeed, I think that most zoos will welcome inspection under Clause 5, because one of the things that worries the better zoos is, as I have said, the way in which the worst zoos bring down the reputation of the good ones.

I think, too, that all zoos will welcome the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton: that they have a distinct responsibility for the breeding of animals in captivity which might otherwise become rare. It is seldom that they will be able to breed them in order to return them to the wild. That is a difficult process which can only be done on few occasions and with a great deal of careful management when the species get back to their natural conditions. But, at least, these good zoos—and there are many of them—can produce the stock for the zoo world generally and reduce the pressure on live populations which otherwise will prove disastrous. I welcome this Bill. I believe it is badly needed and I feel sure your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.

12.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to give this Bill my warmest support, for I feel that it fills a gap in our legislation which very much needed filling. Possibly there may be a few gaps in the Bill itself but they can be easily filled in Committee. Taken as a whole, it is an excellent Bill and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Janner, for having introduced it. I would associate myself strongly with two points which have been made by both the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. First, I deal with the point about rare animals. The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, was right to bring up this point for there is no doubt that there is a great risk of certain species becoming so rare that they will eventually become extinct; and anybody who knows anything about animals will know that they do not always breed in captivity. Even if they do, it is not always easy to return them to the wild, since they have been born, and to a certain extent brought up, in captivity. Anybody who has read Joy Adamson's book on lions will realise the difficulty that occurs there. I think that some control over the import of rare species is very necessary.

The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, brought up the question of the conditions in which the animals live. I personally should have liked to see in Clause 4 another paragraph to define the size of the cages in which animals shall be confined. Most good zoos provide perfectly adequate cages, but there are some where the animals have not the room to act normally; some cannot even lie down, stretch or turn round. That is surely something that should be controlled in the Bill: but that again I think is something that can he put right in Committee. An exception would have to be made for those animals which are travelling, but there again I think that some regulation might be made to specify the number of hours during which an animal may travel without being released, fed and watered. Otherwise I have absolute faith in this Bill and I sincerely hope that it will pass through your Lordships' House without any difficulty.

12.35 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome the main objective of this Bill, though I speak with some temerity since I am a recently recruited director of a company which owns several zoos of various sizes and I am well aware of the combined authority represented in the House this afternoon. However, speaking as one who now works in the industry, I must welcome a Bill which is in favour of maintaining and improving the standards of all zoological gardens and which also aims to stamp out some of the malpractices in what the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman last year called the "roadside menageries". At the same time I believe that a certain amount of the criticism directed towards zoos is somewhat ill-informed and based on what I believe is called anthropomorphism—the proposition that animals react in the same way as humans.

Supporting the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, for a moment, I found in a book by Geoffrey Schomberg, the Secretary of the Federation, the following words: A properly run zoo provides the animals with all its essential requirements—and an animal has no requirements that are not essential—without the unpleasantness of competition which in the wild almost always results in premature death. I think that this supports the philosophy of the zoos, a philosophy which the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, expressed with such authority. I noticed last year that he also said that all of us accept the fact that zoos, if properly run, are a useful and desirable part of our lives. Some 20 million members of the public go to zoos and I like to believe that this is an enlargement of their horizons, makes them—particularly the younger people—aware of the fauna outside their native shores and brings them into touch with country life, something of which so many of them would otherwise be deprived. Therefore the industry must accept the need for inspection and, perhaps even more important, must accept the need to be seen to be accepting inspection.

In introducing the original Bill last year the noble Lord, Lord fanner, regretted that the industry had failed to put its house in order. Perhaps under the goading of Lord Janner, the industry has, I believe, done quite a lot to put its house in order since then. I understand that between them the Federation and the Association now represent something like 100 out of the 116 establishments. The figures are somewhat difficult to get at and I find them a little contradictory; but it is true to say that these two bodies must represent from 90 to 95 per cent. of the visitor capacity of the various zoos across the country. Both these bodies run their own successful inspection procedures. It is against this background that I want to express one or two reservations about this Bill. One or two of these are Committee point.

For instance, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, when he mentioned the question of whether charging should be on the basis of numbers or of the "gate". But there is one rather important item of principle to which I want to come in a moment. First, one must be very careful that we are not creating a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Personally, I find myself reluctant to proliferate bureaucratic institutions unless they are absolutely necessary. We are talking about setting up a further bureaucracy in a country which already has a rather bloated number of its citizens serving in that capacity. My own view is that we must retain a sense of proportion about this. Even if one wanted to inspect each of these zoos once a year, this could quite easily be done by one team. And if that team consisted of two people, there could be a situation where a Council of 11 people plus the secretariat is being set up to administer the work of two men. On the face of it that sounds somewhat overblown, and it is the resultant expense of an administrative machine of this kind which worries me, and worries some of the smaller men who are operating zoos.

In passing, it is perhaps worth making the point that there is a widespread feeling that running a commercial zoo is a little like having what the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Fleet, once described as "a licence to print money". This is not so. The bigger zoos are expensive of capital, and the smaller ones are often run by an enthusiast who wants to follow a certain way of life and who is not looking purely for commercial gain. Some of these smaller operators fear that the expense involved in the proposals of this Bill could put them out of business altogether and deny them the way of life they have chosen. They point out there are already a number of restrictions concerned with planning, hygiene, health, animal welfare, public health and safety, and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, called attention to this fact when he spoke in the debate last year. Furthermore, in spite of the vigilance of the R.S.P.C.A.—and very praiseworthy it is!—and the rather strangely named Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. complaints are in fact rare. All the same, I do not believe that any reputable organisation has any objection to spot checks being made by properly qualified inspectors without any warning.

It is suggested in the Bill that the cost of this Council should be wholly borne by the industry. The industry will have a minority representation on this Council, so there is a real prospect that the smaller zoological gardens will not be represented on it at all. This does not seem to me to be a wholly equitable arrangement. It is therefore small wonder that some people are seriously worried. Furthermore, if we take the analogy of restaurants or pet shops, they are not asked to bear the cost of the inspectorate. Therefore I would suggest that at the very most it would be reasonable to say that the zoos should perhaps have to carry the direct cost of an inspection, rather than the whole bureaucratic cost of the entire organisation. In this way they would feel there was some limitation on the expenses that might be imposed upon them.

I do not think it is necessary for me to expand here on the possible alternative ways in which the machinery could be run. One obvious possibility would be to route it through the Ministry of Agriculture, even if they sub-contract the activity to properly authorised bodies. This is a matter of detail which I hope can be threshed out before we get to the Committee stage of the Bill. I have expressed some criticism of the financial provisions in the Bill, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said exactly the same last year. He said: This would be a costly business, and we think that perhaps there is room for further thought and discussion on how the Council would be financed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21/3/72; col. 665.] The bringing forward of this Bill has already had a very desirable effect on the industry, but I hope that we shall be cautious in avoiding the possibility of creating some bureaucratic monster which could slip out of control.

12.45 p.m.


My Lords, I have to confess to your Lordships that the idea of keeping wild animals and birds in captivity for exhibition is quite abhorrent to me, but I realise there is little likelihood of zoos of this kind being abolished, any more than fireworks on November 5. These things are here to stay. They are very popular with the general public and I think they give great pleasure to many children. Also, natural history can be learned by a visit to a zoological garden. However, times change and there exists now another aspect. Owing to man's greed, usually for financial gain, so many wild animals have been slaughtered that some species have become scarce and others, including some birds, are already rare. Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I am very concerned about their conservation. Unless steps are taken soon to preserve them, they may shortly become extinct. This would be a tragedy for the human race. Therefore, apart from any other aspect, the zoo has for breeding purposes become a necessity for dwindling species of animals and birds. If we wish to save them from complete extinction their stock must be increased.

My Lords, if birds and animals are to be kept in captivity this must be done under the best possible conditions. Their welfare must be studied and their environment made to resemble their natural backgrounds as much as local conditions permit. This Bill seeks to do these things by setting up a council to carry out all the provisions and regulations necessary for the welfare of the animals and birds and for the staff who care for them, and to maintain a high standard of hygiene and safety. Therefore I give this Bill my wholehearted support, and I trust that your Lordships will do the same.

12.48 p.m.


My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships' House, I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Janner for having moved the Second Reading of this Bill. I should like to thank him for having done so because this is an assembly which is uniquely qualified to discuss a matter of this kind. That has, I think, been amply proved by a number of the speeches we have had this morning, and particularly, if I may say so, those by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, both of whom are such distinguished figures in the field of animal preservation.

There is, of course, no Party line on this subject. I speak as one who for long has been a member of the Animal Lobby in Parliament, and for many years I have been a vice-president of the R.S.P.C.A., whose views I have ventured to obtain on the subject of this legislation. I very much share the hope which noble Lords have expressed from all sides of the House this morning that this Bill will become an Act. But I am bound to say that I have an uneasy feeling that a Bill introduced at this stage in the Session may well turn out to be largely an educational exercise. It is late; this is a difficult period of the Parliamentary year in which to embark on new legislation; and I believe there may be some noble Lords—particularly those responsible for the conduct of Business in your Lordships' House—who may deprecate the tabling of a measure in the middle of June. Certainly it would, I think, be much more effective had we more time left in the Session in order to go in more detail into the problems involved. Nevertheless, having said that, and even if this Bill should turn out to be an educational exercise, I think it is one which is desperately badly needed, and most important.

I should like to support the noble Baroness who has just spoken and the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, in what they said about the conditions in some of the privately owned zoological gardens. Perhaps as one example I might quote from the R.S.P.C.A. veterinary surgeon's report on the Windsor Safari Park which he visited on December 19, 1972. I do so because I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, has said about most of these bodies being properly controlled. That is true, but it is necessary at the same time to emphasise how badly some of them are run.

The report says: The baboon enclosure was grossly overcrowded. The creatures were crowded into one outside run, sitting on wet concrete, shivering with cold. They were not allowed inside. We were told that, unless the weather is very bad, the baboons are shut outside in one compartment measuring 18 feet by 12 feet. There are also two inside rooms, measuring 15 feet by 10 feet, and there is an additional outside run of the same size as the other. Between 130 and 140 baboons were kept there. Because of two injured baboons, we were told that all the others slept in one room 15 feet by 10 feet, and occasionally one is kept aside for a mother and newly born baby, so that there are, in fact, many occasions when the baboons all have to share one room. While we were there, the head keeper, who has no real training in wild animal care, was changing the baboons from one pen to another. He had a whip in his hand and the animals were terrified. Depending on the arrival of visitors, not more than 30 or so baboons are let out each day between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The report continues: The cats have exposed living quarters and no inner sleeping compartments in which they can hide away from the public. There were seven males and twelve females in the lion enclosure. This proportion could cause stress, as a socially abnormal group. When we hear a report like that it strengthens the case for legislation of this kind and makes a powerful argument for the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for what one might call Parker Morris standards for animal welfare.

One point I should like strongly to support is that made by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, who said he would prefer it if the Bill were rather wider in its scope and could cover within its provisions what he called dubious methods of acquisition. Like other noble Lords, I think there will be general agreement that the methods of capture, transportation and acquisition leave a great deal to be desired, but they are subjects which it is difficult to legislate about. However, I should hate to rule out the possibility of legislation being forthcoming at the proper time. These are fields in which further research is badly needed with a view to legislation at the right time.

I support this Bill, as I hope I have made clear. I am not absolutely certain that it is in the right form; I have much sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, who referred to the gaps in the legislation. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, that it would be better if it had more emphasis on conservation, not simply on the conditions under which animals which have been captured are kept. I am a little doubtful whether the composition of the Council, as proposed in the Schedule, is right, and whether the licensing and inspection provisions are the best that could be made. I should much prefer the same system to operate as we had in the case of the Pet Shops Act of which I was one of the sponsors when Sir Arnold Russell introduced it into another place a long time ago. If I might put by R.S.P.C.A. hat on, I should like to see the Society represented on a Council of this kind, remembering that it looks after no fewer than one million animals and birds which pass through London Airport every year.

I shall support the Bill. I still find it absolutely baffling that the Home Office should be the Department responsible for matters of this kind. I suggest to the noble Viscount who is going to reply to our discussion that it would be tremendously helpful if we could have further discussions on the provisions of this Bill. There are a lot of problems, but I believe that most of those problems could be ironed out. If we could have the help of the noble Viscount, and his Department, it should be possible to send from this House to another place a Bill from which the difficulties have been removed and upon which the maximum degree of agreement has been obtained—a Bill, therefore, which should take up little time when it goes to the other end of the Palace of Westminster.

12.56 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am sometimes baffled by the subjects with which the Home Office deals. My own portfolio is extremely diverse, but it certainly includes at the moment animals, and that is why I am to answer this debate. Noble Lords who are interested in this matter know about the provisions of this Bill, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Janner has explained them. Everybody will realise that it is a variation of the Bill which we had last year. Last year both my noble friend, Lord Windlesham, and I had to issue some words of caution about workability and enforceability, and we made some reservations. I suggested on Third Reading that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and his colleagues might come and do what the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, has suggested: discuss the whole matter with myself and my advisers. He did so, and there were full discussions over a substantial period of time. We found that the noble Lord was anxious to press on with his measure and reintroduce it. He was prepared to modify the Bill to meet the objections which we expressed both in the House and in more detail privately. We were grateful for that co-operation. The result is that the Bill, as recast, has removed the features which we thought difficult and objectionable. I hope at the same time it has produced something with which the noble Lord, Lord Janner, is tolerably satisfied.

We suggested in the discussions that there should be a controlling body of members mainly appointed by a Minister, after consultation, where necessary. Then there should be a requirement for zoos which wanted to make a charge for admission to register with the body and be open to inspection. Also, the zoos should make adequate provision for the health and welfare of their animals and for the safety of the visiting public. That is what we have now. I was able to say that if a Bill like that came along the Government would not want to oppose it. That was the way it was left at the end of our discussions, and the noble Lord drafted the Bill which we now have. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, may I say that if we are now to start this procedure all over again and try to bring in a collection of totally new points which were not even in the previous Bill—that includes some of the subjects which have been dealt with to-day—I do not think we are going to make any progress; I do not think the Bill will proceed. The Committee stage will be chaos. I believe that we shall be back to square one, and I have serious reservations about trying to support some of the matters that have been spoken about to-day.

I am not suggesting that there is not a great deal of merit in what, for instance, my noble friend Lord Craigton said about the worth of considering conservation. I know that many other noble Lords agree—the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for instance, and others who have spoken. I also fully understand the difficulties, and indeed some of the undesirable features, that may attend the acquisition of the animals. That was a point of the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton. I will keep an open mind. I shall certainly be prepared to look on merit—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, will, too—at Amendments put down on these matters. But at the moment I do not see how they fit into the framework of the Bill.

If you have this duty to consider conservation, it may be one thing to get the Council, the statutory body, to bear this in mind; but to make it a criterion (for instance, under Clause 4) seems to me to be inconceivable, because how any magistrates' court could ever decide an appeal, if registration was refused or cancelled, on the grounds that conservation was not necessarily being properly carried out, is totally beyond me. I think we have something here which is justifiable on appeal in the magistrates' court, but those who put forward these suggestions will, I hope, consider carefully the close-knit framework of this Bill and—though let them put Amendments down if they wish—make sure they do not completely undermine the whole of the machinery with which we are involved. I am sorry to have to say that, but it is important that those who want to amend this measure should realise that it has been fairly carefully worked out between the noble Lord, Lord Janner, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, who have all been in on this, and myself and my advisers. It may be that we ought to have this Bill, but deal with these other matters at another time and in another way, rather than try to tack them on.

I can at the moment say that the attitude of the Government is one of neutrality, as it usually is in animal matters. If the case is made out by noble Lords who approve of this Bill, then certainly I will do nothing whatever to try to stop its passage.

There are a few small points worth mentioning. This is not an attempt to pour cold water on it, but to bring the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and his friends up to date on the current situation. I think it was my noble friend Lord Strathcona who said that we might be taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Other noble Lords, on the other hand, such as Lord Greenwood, have said they have convincing evidence of the need for control of this kind. The R.S.P.C.A. and some of their work were mentioned by the noble Lord. What worries me a little is that, unlike the Federation, the position of the Association, which claims (and I think this is borne out by the figures we have had to-day) to represent about 60 per cent. of the zoos likely to be affected, do not appear to be convinced of the need for this measure. They have said that, while they fully support the principles that zoos should be obliged to maintain proper standards, they feel their voluntary inspection—at any rate, theirs and the Federation's between them—adequately provides for this. It is no part of my job to say whether this is so or not, but I find it a little disturbing that so large a body or what claims to be so large a body, in the world of zoos should not themselves have been associated with the need to bring this measure forward.

It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, either to-day or at some other time, can explain what is the situation here; but we certainly do not want a position where there is active opposition, at any rate, from the Association, because it seems to me that in that case this Council is going to be fraught with difficulty from the very beginning and we shall not have a happy situation. I do not know whether the noble Lord can give me the latest information on this aspect.

The other point which has been made is again one that my noble friend Lord Strathcona touched on, and that is the question of financing the Council. This may, for all I know, be perfectly all right, but I envisage that there will be fairly substantial overheads which will have to be covered by the fees. After all, even in the case of fairly modest staff one has to provide proper accommodation for them; there are pensions, stamps, heating and lighting, and all the rest of it. There will no doubt be allowances or payments for inspectors who go round doing the work. There will have to be some accommodation, presumably, for the Council meetings; and at the moment, as has been pointed out, this will lead, or may lead, to a fairly high charge—I do not know what it would be; the noble Lord, Lord Janner, was not able to say—on the individual zoos.

The way Lord Janner put it was that the fact that these fees would be subject to control by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, at any rate at the moment, would be a measure of control. So it would. But I think it must be realised that no responsible Home Secretary could so depress the level of fees, in order not to put too heavy a burden on the zoos, that he bankrupted the Council. Therefore, if there are reasonably overheads and expenses to be paid, one would have no option but to agree to confirm tolerably high fees to pay them. It is no use doing it in any other way because that, too, would make a nonsense. I just put that point.

I must say, further, that if my noble friend Lord Strathcona thinks that finance is going to come, at any rate in part, from any other source, then this a very different matter from the scheme that has been in all these Bills, and I would most definitely reserve the position of the Government on this. I could not begin to give any assurance whatever that we should be able to support it. So those who think perhaps there are analogies in other worlds (pet shops was one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood) must realise that this has never previously been suggested to Government in this context. It is certainly not one of the points that has been agreed, and I should have to take very careful advice about the impact of this, and indeed what our attitude would then become to the Bill, if an attempt were made to insert any form of public financing in this matter. So, again, I hope that those who want to make these points will bear in mind the background and the way in which this Bill has been produced in consultation. While, as I say, I do not want to be unhelpful in any way about it—I do not want to be restrictive; I am prepared to discuss anything—if this Bill is going to make progress I hope that those who frame Amendments will bear in mind the kind of things I said so that we do not get into a situation where progress becomes almost impossible.

There are a number of other points. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, was probably right in thinking that one could tighten up the wording of Clause 4(e). Probably proper accommodation for the animals is the main point. Certainly it would have to be maintained, but it may be that provision of proper accommodation is the real criterion that ought to be there. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Janner, might like to look at that point which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, made when he looks at the wording of Clause 4(e).

My Lords, I certainly would wish to do absolutely nothing to stand in the way of this Bill to-day. It is the result of much hard work by all those concerned. It is probably about right. There may be a few further points that I myself should like to discuss with the sponsors, and certainly of course we will discuss at subsequent stages all the other ideas that have been put forward today. But if there are going to be large departures from the principle in the Bill—on which I express complete neutrality as it stands at the moment—then of course the position of the Government, I am afraid, must be reserved. Meanwhile, I certainly wish to do nothing to spoil the happy attitude that has greeted this Bill to-day, or in any way to depress the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and other noble Lords who have supported it, including my noble friend Lady Berkeley, in what must have made the most admirably short speech we have heard this week.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, may I ask him this question? I hope I did not give the impression there had not been consultation; I was not suggesting that for one moment. But we really are up against a very difficult timetable at the moment. The more time that is taken on the Committee stage, both here and in another place, the less likely are the chances of this Bill's reaching the Statute Book. I was expressing the hope that the noble Viscount might perhaps be prepared to take the initiative in taking part in discussion with all the organisations which are affected by this Bill, including those referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, in an attempt to keep away from the tune-table of the House matters which could be resolved outside, so that we can have general agreement when we come to the Committee stage.


My Lords, of course I would wish to assist the House in any way possible, and if that is what noble Lords would like then by all means let them come to see me. Quite frankly, some of the suggestions that have been made to-day are very wide of the areas which have already been pretty well threshed out, and upon which consultations have been held, not only with the Government but with an enormous number of other bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Janner, must know this, to his cost, from the number of letters that he must have written, or had written on his behalf, to get even reasonable agreement to what is in the Bill now. If we are going to start that process all over again I do not think we shall assist much in terms of the Parliamentary time-table, because that process is a very long one. Of course I will do what I can to help, but major extensions are inevitably of themselves going to hold up the processes of this Bill.

1.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am deeply indebted to all noble Lords who have spoken to-day, and of course I have noted the points that have been made. I am not pessimistic about the possibility of this Bill's becoming an Act because it is highly essential that it should be passed as speedily as possible. The public are tremendously concerned. I referred to a report issued some time ago by the Sunday Mirror, which made it perfectly clear that in spite of all the precautions which might be taken by any body, whoever they might be, and whatever the association might be, there are loopholes and there are cruelties and that these have to be dealt with. I speak very strongly on this matter because I think it would be disgraceful if we were to delay unnecessarily on it. We should he doing an injustice to the public, and in allowing the difficulties and cruelties which are at present prevailing to continue we should be gravely wrong. Consequently, I appeal to noble Lords to expedite the bringing into effect of this measure, even though it may mean that some of the points raised to-day may have to await further legislation.

I absolutely agree with the sentiments that have been expressed in respect of certain matters, particularly the question of preserving species, but I would appeal to this House to look at from my angle and from the angle of those who are anxious to get legislation through. First, may I deal with the point raised by my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale? I see no reason at all why we should not get the Committee stage through fairly soon. After all, the arguments adduced here to-day were fairly comprehensive and are not likely to require very much more detail. I am grateful to the noble Viscount and to the Home Office, who have been extremely helpful in this matter, and although some of us who have been conducting the talks with the Home Office have wanted other points to be put into the Bill, for the the purpose of getting the main issue resolved speedily, we have agreed to bring forward a minimal requirement, essential at the present moment to deal with the situation.

The No. 2 Bill was accepted by your Lordships and at that time the question was one of sending it to the other place. What I and my fellow sponsors have tried to do now is to produce a Bill which we hope will prove acceptable to everybody. Frankly, I cannot see how any zoological society would wish to obstruct a Bill of this nature. Surely they are all anxious that the kind of thing that was referred to in the Sunday Mirror in respect of the treatment of animals should he avoided in the future. It may well be that the persons responsible for the various zoos referred to by Mr. Pettigrew were not aware of what was happening, or perhaps had not sufficient professional advice on how to deal with these matters. But the fact remains that these allegations arc being made; the public are disturbed, and I am disturbed, as I think are the other sponsors of this Bill.

I appreciate of course what the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, has put forward, but those whom I have consulted with regard to the question of fees do not think that that will be a formidable matter. It will not be very much more than is at present spent in respect of proper supervision, but the public itself would want a proper necessary expenditure in order to be satisfied that every precaution is being taken to deal with the question of avoiding animal suffering. They would want proper supervision and proper control in zoological gardens.

When one comes to regard the question of commercial enterprises one generally accepts that the minimum amount of necessary expense that a commercial enterprise would want to incur would be acceptable to them. I think perhaps that is putting the matter in an English understatement. It may well be that a commercial enterprise is satisfied with employing people who have not had experience, thinking and believing that they would be able to carry out the job effectively. But, after all, commercial interests may conflict with the ultimate decision as to what is essential. I hope I shall not be misunderstood, but in all good faith the commercial interests may feel that it is highly desirable that they should incur no greater expense than that which in their view is essential.

My Lords, I am sorry to detain the House but I feel very strongly about this matter, and I hope that we shall have the Committee stage as speedily as possible; that the points which have been raised here can then be dealt with; and that if some noble Lords concerned are not fully satisfied with everything that may be put into a Bill of this nature, they will accept what can be done at present and perhaps await another opportunity of bringing forward the points they wish dealt with.

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