HL Deb 24 June 1974 vol 352 cc1221-35

7.5 p.m.


My Lords, noble Lords who have listened to me recently will realise that I do not believe in speaking at any great length, and I do not intend to make any great change this evening. However, I thought I should say a few words because my Amendment was put down and I was moved to reply to certain regional criticisms.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I think the noble Lord's first step is that he should move, "That the Report be now received".


I beg your Lordships' pardon. I beg to move that the Report be now received.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Report received.

LORD NEWALL moved Amendment No. 1.

After clause 17 insert the following new clause:

("Exclusion of specified areas.

  1. (1) The Secretary of State may by order made from time to time with respect to any specified part of Great Britain provide that for such period as may be prescribed by the order Section 16 of this Act shall not apply to the part of Great Britain to which the order relates.
  2. (2) Any order made under this section shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
  3. 1222
  4. (3) Before making any order under this section with respect to any specified part of Great Britain the Secretary of State shall consult such bodies as appear to him to be representative of the interests of farriers, of owners of horses and of animal welfare within that part of Great Britain and any other organisation which in the circumstances he considers it proper to consult.
  5. (4) Notice of the making of any order under this section shall be published by the Secretary of State, if the order relates in whole or in part to England or Wales, in the London Gazette and, if the order relates in whole or in part to Scotland, in the Edinburgh Gazette."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I put down this Amendment because I have been moved to reply to certain regional criticisms which have been levelled against the Bill, possibly in good faith, although naturally some opinions are better informed than others. It has been represented that there may be some geographical problems. In view of that, I have put down this Amendment in order to enable the Secretary of State to make an order to exclude any part of the Nation after appropriate and due consultation. Possibly I discovered the solution because I was reminded of young Lochinvar who probably had the best-shod steed North of the Border! But, after talking to various people who raised objections, I now have the support of every part of the country geographically speaking. Therefore, I do not think that there is anything more to be said. Anybody who is interested has probably read the Amendment, and I hope that they are generally in agreement.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends the noble Lords, Lord Margadale and Lord Burton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, I wish to express our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Newall, for the inclusion of this new clause in the Bill. It is unfortunate that my noble friends are unable to be here this evening owing to inescapable engagements elsewhere. During the Committee stage of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Newall, undertook to look again at some of the points to which we objected. This he has done, the new clause has been drafted and we have found the result to be acceptable. We wish him well regarding the further passage of the Bill.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Newall, will not think I am being unhelpful, but to some extent this Amendment makes a nonsense of the Bill as a whole. Clause 16 has the effect of making it an offence for an unregistered person after the appointed day either to carry out any farriery or to claim to be a farrier. This is the real purpose of the Bill. The proviso to subsection (1) makes certain exceptions to the absolute prohibition on an unregistered person carrying out farriery. The new clause which has just been moved, (subsection (1)) would enable the Secretary of State by order to disapply the effect of Clause 16 in a specified part of Great Britain for such period as may be prescribed. Subsection (2) provides that such an order shall be made by statutory instrument subject to the negative resolution procedure. Subsection (3) specifies that the Secretary of State shall before making such an order consult such bodies as he thinks represent the interests of local farriers, horse owners or animal welfare, and any other organisation appropriate to the particular circumstances. Subsection (4) requires the Secretary of State to publish notice of such an Order in the relevant Gazette.

The noble Lord, and your Lordships, will know that there was certain criticism of the Bill on Second Reading. It did not adequately deal with the remote areas of the country, such as the Highlands and Islands, where qualified farriers are few and far between. In Committee, two Amendments were proposed to remedy this difficulty: one by Lord Margadale, Viscount Thurso, Viscount Massereene and Ferrard and Lord Strathclyde, to remove the absolute prohibition on unregistered persons from carrying out farriery. This, as the noble Lord knows, was withdrawn. The other Amendment, by Viscount Thurso, Lord Allerton, Lord Burton and Lord Strathclyde, to remove Scotland from the Bill, as your Lordships will recall, was defeated. The Worshipful Company's solution to the difficulty is to offer the Secretary of State power to disapply the Act in particular regions. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Newall, moved a new clause similar in intention to, but different in points of detail from, this one. He withdrew it when Viscount Thurso and Lord Burton criticised it on points of detail. He had undertaken to discuss with Lord Margadale and Viscount Thurso the difficulties of the remoter areas, and in withdrawing the Amendment he reiterated the undertaking, as he reminded us this evening.

The new clause which he is now moving makes alterations of detail which were suggested or implied by the critics of the earlier version in Committee. Specifically, it sets no arbitrary time limit on the Order and restricts the Secretary of State's freedom of consultation only in general terms. I do not see how this Amendment is more acceptable than the earlier version. It could be said that the new clause provided a solution to the difficulties that could arise in the remoter areas, or in areas where farriers were temporarily lacking. It has the merit of enabling the provisions of the Bill, at least in theory, to be applied flexibly and to respond to a local situation. But we must face the fact that it has some serious defects.

In the first place, to set up a compulsory registration scheme for anyone who wishes to carry out farriery, and then to make provision for the scheme to be ineffective for apparently unlimited periods over possibly large areas of the country, suggests a certain lack of confidence in the sponsors about the likely effect of the Bill. Furthermore, to make it possible, for substantial periods, for persons to carry out farriery in a particular part of the country without being registered somewhat weakens the assertion, which is central to the sponsor's case for the Bill, that a compulsory registration scheme is essential if more farriers are to be recruited—this would appear to be the central point and purpose of the Bill. If that is so, how will farriers be recruited in the areas—Scotland, for example, which is the case in point at the present moment—where an Order under the new clause is in effect?

On a practical level, one must face the fact that the machinery for disapplying the Bill in a particular area is likely to be very slow to take effect. The processes of observing a shortage, detecting its effect, drawing it to the attention of the Secretary of State, the resulting consultation and the making of the Statutory Instrument are likely to be protracted. It could take a long time accurately to assess a situation in a particular area. Certainly, the procedure could not deal with a temporary shortage of farriers caused, for example, by ill health. Moreover, it seems likely that the issues that will have to be determined by the Secretary of State before making an Order will be of considerable difficulty. The new clause allows an Order to apply in any part of Great Britain. There would be no difficulty in defining a part of Great Britain by reference to existing territorial areas, such as Scotland or Cornwall or some other defined area, or even a magistrates' court area, but an area served by a farrier or by a number of farriers is not likely to be coterminous with any existing boundaries such as those of Scotland or boundaries of a local authority or, for that matter, the limits of a petty sessional division.

How, then, is the part of Great Britain to which an Order is to apply to be defined? Further, how will the Secretary of State determine how long the Order is to be in operation? If there is a shortage of farriers in a large area, how will those whom he is to consult know when the shortage is likely to cease? The difficulty, I appreciate, would be mitigated, but not removed, if there were power to vary or revoke an Order. But presumably it is not contemplated that the Secretary of State should make an Order for an unlimited period. He would certainly be placed in an extremely awkward position if he were required to render inoperative for a substantial period of time an Act of Parliament which the noble Lord is asking Parliament to enact for the whole country. This is the whole purpose of the Bill: to lay down certain defined regulations, requirements, to be applied to the country as a whole, and not piecemeal, whatever the circumstances and whatever the reasons.

Lastly, having a differential application of the law within different parts of England or Wales or Scotland must of necessity produce problems of enforcement. On balance, I am bound to say that the disadvantages of this new clause seem substantially to outweigh its merits. The question of the practical effect of the application of the Bill across the country as a whole is undoubtedly one to which the sponsors, if I may say so with respect, could give more consideration. I am fully aware of the desire of the noble Lord to get this matter through the House in order to get it to another place; one understands that. But there is considerable merit in getting the Bill right in this House, so that it may receive an easier or speedy passage in another place. Having considered this matter, and, I hope, having given your Lordships a fair impression of how the Government see this issue, I contend that this is an Amendment which quite seriously undermines the whole purpose of the Bill. The whole purpose of the Bill, as the Government understand it, is to produce more farriers and to have an effective registration. I would ask the noble Lord not to press this Amendment but, in the light of what I have said, to look at the matter again.

7.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should be much obliged if either the Minister or the noble Lord, Lord Newall, could clear up one point for me. The Amendment contains the words "the Secretary of State". Clause 19 states: This Act shall come into operation.. as the Secretary of State"— et cetera. When I look at the interpretation clause, I see that "the Secretary of State" is not defined. If it had said, "a Secretary of State", of whom there are many, I could understand, but the Minister speaks as if it is a certainty that the Secretary is the Secretary of State for the Home Department; yet it seems to me that the Amendment which we are now considering on Report has been specifically designed to deal with Scotland. How the Secretary of State for the Home Department can make an Order to deal with Scotland is beyond me. On Second Reading I made the point that this Bill had gone up one side of Whitehall and down the other because there was not a natural home for it, that eventually it went round and round in circles in the Home Office and landed up with the Department which deals with cruelty to animals because there was no other Department to deal with it.

I make the point in passing that I thing the House owes a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Newall, for his interest in the Bill and for giving it an airing. But let us recognise that even if it passes your Lordships' House tonight and subsequently receives a Third Reading, that is the end of it; it is a cul-de-sac because Private Members' time has run out in another place. I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Newall, that he takes advantage of the triumph which he has achieved and that he should not push his luck.

The facts are that this Bill should not have been handled by the Home Office. I say that with great respect to the Minister and with great respect to his Department. They are not in the least qualified to deal with a Bill of this kind. This Bill should have been dealt with by the Ministry of Agriculture. For that to happen, there has to be a change of policy in Whitehall because many years ago the decision was taken for better or worse—and I think very much for the worse—that the horse should no longer be considered an economic animal. Consequently, when this Bill saw the light of day and went to the Ministry of Agriculture, they said, "Nothing doing; we're not going to have it, because we are not concerned with expenditure on horses. We have no responsibility for horses. Horses are not matters that concern us."

Just to show how far off beam we are in the remarks which have been made so far. it would appear that this Bill deals with Scotland. But what about Middlesex? I do not have the resources to be certain that my researches are accurate, but as I understand it the total number of farriers in the County of Middlesex is two, and the truth of it is that so far no Department in Whitehall knows how many horses there are. They are not absolutely sure how many farriers there are and they are not sure where they are distributed. That is not a good starting point.

What I think Lord Newall has done is to give the Bill an airing. It will not go any further. What he should now do, and I would join my voice with his, is to press the Government to reconsider the position of all horses—the horses in which I am interested and the horses in which other people are interested and to regard the horse as an economic animal. This would have very far-reaching results. At once it would impose upon the Ministry of Agriculture the duty to do what Lord Newall has done, because if the horse is treated as it should be treated and as it is treated by all our partners in the European Economic Community—that is, as an economic animal—then the Minister of Agriculture would do something about the training of farriers and would recognise as Lord Newall and his friends recognise, the very difficult situation of getting one's lad placed with farriers. After the lad has had six months' training he can then walk out of the farrier's shop and proclaim to the world, "I am a farrier" and take half of his master's customers with him. In those circumstances, one can understand the master farriers being loath to take on apprentices until they are quite sure that there is going to be a registration scheme and only competent people shall engage in the art of farriery.

I introduced the point about the Secretary of State so as to be enlightened about this point. As it stands, I am completely bewildered by the Amendment in the Bill, but I do not press it. I say that this Bill has gone as far as it will ever go—and perhaps I ought to say in its present form as far as it should go—but that Lord Newall has done much and that he could do much more if he would agree now to withdraw his Bill, either at this stage or at Third Reading, and in the meantime plead, as I am now pleading, that the Minister should talk to his colleagues in his own Department and that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should talk to the Secretary of State for Agriculture and say to him: "Look, chum, this is not my problem. It should not be in the Home Office at all, or in the Scottish Office, although we are all concerned. This problem belongs to you, and it belongs to you not only because of the horse and not only because of farriery but because of the effect it has on veterinary science". We lag behind all of the countries in Western Europe. The Swan Committee has been sitting for years and still has not reported. If that were done, then Lord Newall would have achieved great things with the Bill because he would have got the Government to bring this country into line with the rest of the Common Market countries so that money could be spent not only upon farriery but upon veterinary education.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, as one of those who has taken a great interest in the Bill as it has gone through its stages in your Lordship's House, I should be glad to accept the advice which the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has suggested if I thought that the Bill, having been taken away, further examined and made the subject of further consultation, could be improved in some substantial respect. I am bound to say that I am not clear about how it could be improved. It suffers from the inevitable difficulty that it is trying to cope with two quite different kinds of problem—the short term and the long term.

We are all agreed on what we want to see in the long term. We want to get rid of the present system under which apprentices break their apprenticeship early on because they see that they can earn a much better living by hiring a van and going round presenting themselves as fully competent to shoe horses. We all know that this is happening up and down the country and that it causes a good deal of damage to horses and infuriates the owners of horses. But if we are to get rid of that long-term problem by insisting upon proper training and registration, surely it is inevitable that in the short run some alleviation, some coming to terms with the harsh realities of the present bad situation, should be permitted.

I cannot see that there is anything wrong with the Amendment of Lord Newall. Indeed, for my part I should be very willing to support it. It is true that it does make things a little untidy. It admits that in certain parts of the country there may be, in the short run, a need for special arrangements to get one through to the period when full registration can be insisted upon and the intentions of the Bill fully carried out. But that kind of makeshift arrangement is probably inevitable, and I do not see why we should not accept it. It is true that in its original form the Amendment was a little tidier when it specified a period of up to five years, but who is to know until the circumstances of the situation are examined whether the right period is three years, or five years, or six years? We would all accept that it cannot be much longer.

Indeed if a longer remission of the application of the full Bill were allowed it would gain in its effect by not drawing the attention of those concerned to the fact that the Bill would be applied before long and that those who had not received proper training, and had not qualified themselves to register within that period, would be out of it. So for my part I would wish to support the Amendment rather than see the Bill thrown out on the basis that this is too untidy. We must accept that there must be an untidiness in the short run if we are to achieve the better regulation of the farriery trade in the long run.


My Lords, I am very glad that I managed to reach your Lordships' House just as the noble Lord, Lord Allerton, was rising to support the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Newall. I was interested in the points put by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. In the first place, the noble Lord, Lord Newall, and all of us have been advised by Parliamentary draftsmen that the proper terminology is "The Secretary of State" whether one means one Secretary of State in particular, or all Secretaries of State in general, and that this is common usage which would cover the appropriate Secretary of State in the circumstances. Therefore, I do not think this is a flaw in the Amendment.

I accept and greatly agree with the point made by the noble Lord. Lord Wigg, that the horse should be regarded as an economic animal. This is a matter of some importance and one on which, if the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, will give the necessary leadership, there are many of your Lordship's House who will follow. But it will not in itself register farriers, and at the moment we are discussing the Farriers (Registration) Bill and the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Newall, has tabled to it.

I rise to support that Amendment, because it seems to me that it removes the objection which I and the noble Lords, Lord Margadale, Lord Allerton and Lord Burton, and various other noble Lords had to the Bill as it was originally brought to your Lordships' House, the objection being that we did not feel that in areas so remote as Scotland, Wales and perhaps certain other parts of the British Isles—for instance, possibly the Dales and parts of Cornwall—simple registration of farriers would do much to help.

We accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Newall, that in recruiting more farriers it is important to raise the status of the farrier and to protect the master farrier from the apprentice who runs off after six months, and so on. That might happen in the more populous districts, or in districts where there are people with a skill similar to farriery, who might come out at weekends and offer a shoddy, cut-price job to the unsuspecting horseowner. But we do not feel that this argument applies in the rural areas and we have great confidence in the Secretary of State, of whatever Government it may be and for whatever Department he may be responsible.

We feel that, on the whole, this country has been well served by Secretaries of State, who are men of certain discrimination and knowledge and are backed by knowledgeable advisers. Therefore, we feel that if we put this discretion into the hands of the Secretary of State it will be well and wisely used. We may be wrong; it may be that Secretaries of State are particularly foolish people, but we do not believe this to be so. We feel that to give them discretion is no bad thing in any Bill. To give them a period of five years and tie them down to this period is not a good thing, because the problem may be solved in less than five years or may not be solved in seven or even ten years in the more remote areas of Britain. Therefore we accept that the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Newall, meets the point of criticism which we put during the earlier stages of this Bill.

The criticisms put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, reminded me of a fairy tale by the brothers Grimm, called The Three Sillies, where the young man's fianceé sat below the axe in the rafters, while the beer poured on to the floor, weeping at the thought that the axe might fall on his yet unborn child's head. This Amendment has been put forward in order to solve—and, indeed, it seems to us to solve it—the problem of the remoter areas by giving discretion to Secretaries of State. I do not feel that this is a foolish thing to do, or that it turns the Bill round the other way. It merely postpones the taking effect of certain parts of the Bill in certain areas but it does not postpone the registration of farriers within those districts. It merely does not enforce it by law. My Lords, I most certainly support this Amendment.


My Lords, as the sponsor of the Bill, I wonder whether I may have leave to speak again. I shall not detain your Lordships long and, obviously, I am grateful for the support that I have received. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, for his opinion which I am always pleased to hear, although I cannot agree that this Bill has gone as far as it can or should go. But I think I should speak in reply only to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell; and I agree wholeheartedly with everything said by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, although I have not seen him for a very long time because I think he has been on some canal or other.

It is a fairy tale to think that all horses and all horse owners are exactly the same. This Bill has been put forward for the benefit of the horses, the horse owners, the farriers and nobody else, and all the interested parties are in agreement that this should happen. I have kept the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, very much informed of everything that I have been doing and he has now sprung a small surprise on me with the advice of his advisers. I am very sorry that this has happened, but I cannot agree with him that this will mess up the Bill. He knows full well, as has already been stated this evening, that the Amendment is tabled for the benefit of peculiar parts of the country. If the Secretary of State thinks they are peculiar enough, there will be a temporary measure to alleviate any problems that can arise from having to have registration at a certain time.

One must realise, if one has registration, that with any luck one will definitely get more farriers coming forward. It will be a proper craft recognised by law. If there is an area which is excluded temporarily, it will not necessarily benefit it if the Secretary of State thinks that it should be omitted, because the point is that the circumstances are probably such that there will be a great many part-time farriers and no full-time farriers at all. We all know that those part-time farriers will probably not register immediately, and we accept that fact. But we want it to be a workable law if we can get it on to the Statute Book.

Therefore, if this Amendment is accepted we know that there will be some farriery available as a temporary measure and during that time, when a certain part of the country is omitted, the people in all the horse bodies—and the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, now knows that there are a great many horse bodies—will all do their very best to see that some farriery is available. But it should not necessarily be that in a peculiar part, where everything is rather wild and woolly, there are no farriers at all. I think it should be a possibility, and I accept that the Secretary of State will have enough knowledge and experience to get advice from the proper people and make a good judgment. I therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, to review his remarks considerably, because I think he will find that it is not messy, any more than horses in themselves are messy.


My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to make a comment or two on what the noble Lord, Lord Newall, has said. But before doing so, may I say to my noble friend Lord Wigg that my understanding of the position is that this is the normal way for the phrase, "Secretary of State" to be used. I believe I am right in saying that the Minister for Agriculture is not a Secretary of State and therefore, as the noble Viscount said, the right terminology has been used.

The noble Lord, Lord Newall, may not think so, but the Government have tried from the beginning to be helpful and to make what we hoped were constructive observations. What I have said this evening to your Lordships was intended to be of some assistance. With my noble friend Lord Wigg, I think it is desirable that if this Bill is to get on the Statute Book it should go from here with the best possible phraseology and wording, and should be as watertight as possible. I am bound to say that the original purpose of the Bill commanded a good deal of merit and support from all sides of the House. It was intended to see that, unless they were skilled and competent and possessed certain qualifications, persons should not be permitted to practise the art—and I use the word "art" advisedly—of farriery.

I am not wishing to be harsh or unkind when I say that this Amendment makes nonsense to some extent of the original intention of the Bill. Among the original intentions of the Bill was the intention not only to register farriers and ensure that only competent farriers were let loose on horses, but also to provide, by registration, an inducement, an incentive, to people to come forward to train, the reason being that there is a recognised shortage of farriers. My noble friend Lord Wigg asked how many there are, but I do not think we really know. The figure possibly varies between 1,200 and 1,600—it depends on what sort of periodical you read. We know that there is a shortage, and if there are to be quite substantial areas in the United Kingdom—at the moment, we are talking only about Scotland—


My Lords, we have not mentioned Scotland in the Amendment. We are not talking of any area in particular, nor are we talking about an especially large area. We are talking about an area which the Secretary of State thinks should be excluded. It can be a tiny area and is to be excluded only temporarily.


My Lords, the noble Lord must bear in mind that I must go on the evidence before the House. The evidence before the House during the Committee stage was that this problem is to be found mainly, if not entirely, in Scotland. The exemption of these areas does not appear to encourage people to train for farriery. I do not think it will encourage them to become registered. I cannot see that if the House accepts this Amendment it will help the main purpose of the Bill, which is to have registered farriers only and to increase the number of farriers in the future. It is for those reasons that I had some doubt in my mind, which I expressed to the noble Lord, as to whether this Amendment will help the Bill. I do not think it will.


My Lords, if I crave the indulgence of the House it is only because it is in fashion. I do not want to embarrass my noble friend the Minister, but I do not understand how any Department, short of doing what I have asked—which is to treat the horse as an economic animal—can ever establish the facts on which it is possible to make a sensible order. The Minister will not be able to find out how many horses there are, or how many farriers there are. I stand corrected. I thought for a moment that fashions had changed, times had changed and that the Secretary was the Secretary of State for Agriculture. Ultimately, it seems to me that the only Ministry in Whitehall which can get that knowledge is the Ministry of Agriculture. Until that happens, I think the Bill will become a load of nonsense.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.