HL Deb 14 April 1981 vol 419 cc905-38

5.43 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is the sequel to an unsuccessful attempt by the Portsmouth City Council to promote a private Bill in the House of Commons in the last Session, to prevent the transit through their harbour of food animals intended for slaughter or for further fattening. That Bill was ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker, on the ground that it was unsuitable for the Private Bill procedure and that it should be a Public Bill. So that Bill did not proceed in another place and the Portsmouth City Council, diligent in its endeavours and persistent in its purpose, sought some other way of regulating or prohibiting a trade which is repugnant to a large section of the citizens of the town. On advice, the City of Portsmouth has now drafted this Bill, which I submit overcomes the impediment which, under Mr. Speaker's ruling, made it unsuitable for the Private Bill procedure.

The Bill before the House today is therefore, a Public Bill, although introduced by me as a private member. I need scarcely say that I have no interest whatsoever to declare, except that I am wholeheartedly behind this Bill and recommend it to the enlightened opinion and selfless interests of noble Lords this afternoon. The object of this Bill is to enable all harbour authorities—not Portsmouth alone—to make by-laws for regulating or prohibiting the transport of farm animals intended for slaughter and for certain connected purposes.

I think it may be for the convenience of the House if I go straight on to the Bill itself and come to other matters arising later on. Clause 1 contains the whole aim of the Bill. This is the conscience clause for a whole community. It says: Where the transport of farm animals through a harbour, or on ship from or to a harbour, for slaughter or for fattening prior to slaughter gives rise to public concern as being offensive to public morality and contrary to public policy, the harbour authority…may make bye-laws for regulating or prohibiting"— that traffic.

That, my Lords, in one long sentence, is it. All harbour authorities within the meaning of the Harbour Act of 1954 would be granted by-law-making powers and the procedure for making by-laws would be that laid down in the Local Government Act 1972, which applies generally to by-laws made by local authorities and is now commonly applied, where appropriate in legislation, to by-laws made by other harbour authorities.

It is provided in subsection (4) of Clause 1 that the confirming authority for by-laws made under this clause would be the Minister. No conscience clause without confirmation. The Minister is the keeper of the Ark of the Covenant of the deeply held community conviction. Those words will ring in the ears of noble Lords on both sides of the House in another connection.

The Bill, therefore, provides the Minister, if he sees fit, to require a harbour authority to make and submit by-laws for the purposes of this Bill. This would apply to such harbour authorities as the British Transport Docks Board or the Port of London Authority, who would have difficulty in the ordinary way in ascertaining local opinion and deciding what is or is not offensive to public morality and contrary to public policy. Therefore, the provisions of subsection (5) of Clause 1, giving the Minister power to require bylaws to be made, would of course rest entirely upon his own judgment and his own opinion of local feeling.

This power is based upon Section 7(3) of the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928 regulating the handling of petrol in harbours. The purposes for which the by-laws may be made are set out in Clause 1(2) and they would give power to regulate as well as to prohibit this particular traffic. Paragraph (a) of subsection (2) is normal for a harbour authority at the present time, but paragraph (b) …for regulating the care and handling of farm animals in transit through the harbour and their loading or unloading in the harbour is probably new, because harbour authorities generally appear not to have such duties laid upon them at present and that is why people complain so much about the rough handling that these animals frequently get at the ports—and I am told by observers how rough it can be.

Particular importance attaches to paragraph (c), which is the principal provision to enable harbour authorities to prohibit the loading and unloading of animals for slaughter. So much for Clause 1. Clause 2 deals with the inspection and detention for the enforcement of such by-laws and the powers provided in subsection (2) to search premises, vehicles or vessels is specifically limited to this purpose but the power to require information goes wider, as it must in order to be effective.

So subsections (3) and (4) deal with power to give directions to ships under Section 52 of the Harbours Clauses Act 1847. Clause 3 provides for offences under the Bill and Clause 4 deals with interpretation. That is a fairly rough sketch of the Bill, which I hope is adequate and intelligible at this time.

Now I think I ought to pass to the legality of the Bill under EEC rules. I do this because in interviews that took place between the Portsmouth City Council and officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, and indeed the Minister of State, the noble Earl himself, they all made quite a big point of the possible impediment of the Treaty of Rome and regulations made under it to this Bill. So I must look for a few moments as to whether the provisions of the Bill fall foul of our obligations under the Treaty of Rome and any other EEC legislation which may override our own.

The Treaty itself in Article 34.1 provides that: Quantitative restrictions on exports, and all measures having equivalent effect, shall be prohibited between Member States". But Article 36 provides: The provisions of Articles 30 to 34 shall not preclude prohibitions or restrictions on imports, exports or goods in transit justified on grounds of public morality, or public security, the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants". And there are other grounds which are provided in the same article not relevant to this Bill; for example, articles of historic or archeaological value. So this is, so to speak, the conscience clause of the treaty; the let-out by Article 36 on grounds specified in it. But then Article 36 goes on to say: Such prohibitions or restrictions shall not, however, constitute a means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade between Member States". The Report of the Agriculture Departments on this subject, published in 1978, devoted quite a lot of space to the implications of these articles. Their view was stated in paragraph 130 of their report. May I quote it. There have been several cases in the European Court where it has been held that Article 36 must be strictly construed in relation to prohibitions of trade, and that Member States are not entitled unilaterally to determine that a particular prohibition or restriction falls within the terms of the Article. There might well be difficulty, therefore, in persuading the European Court that a total ban on exports was justified for the protection of health or life of animals simply on the showing of instances of detriment to the health or welfare of animals in the course of trade". But, my Lords, those are not the grounds upon which my case rests: nor indeed is it what the Bill proposes to do. The report of the Agriculture Departments concluded, in paragraph 132, that the judgment of the European Court on a particular case (which was not in fact related in any way to the matter in hand but on the disciplines of harmonisation of the laws of Member States) would be to make it more difficult to justify a ban on exports after Directive 77/489 which provides its own safeguard measures on health and welfare and which became binding on this country in August 1978. But this Bill raises the matter to a higher plane of ethical judgment than Directive 77.

I think I would take too much of the time of your Lordships at this moment if I were to pursue this question of legality within EEC laws much further. All I will add now is that much is uncertain about the construction of the laws of the EEC; they are not a model of clarity. The European Court is the arbiter, and no decided case appears to rule out the options in this Bill.

On the principal clause of the Bill I will argue that member states must judge for themselves, at least in the first instance, as to when public concern has arisen on a matter which is offensive to public morality and contrary to public policy". If this Parliament confers upon harbour authorities the right to test and respond to public feelings on a matter of this importance, then that may become public policy, and what is "offensive to public morality" is surely for us to judge. Certainly this Bill is not "a means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade", referred to in Article 36 of the Treaty.

Do your Lordships believe for a single moment that if the horrible trade in the export of worn-out horses for slaughter in Belgium still continues we should be deterred for a single moment by the Treaty of Rome from stopping it? As far as it can be made effective we already have a total ban on the export of horses for slaughter. The most recent Act of Parliament to stop traffic in horses was the Ponies Act 1969. Before that boatloads of young foals were shipped abroad, ostensibly for riding, but most of them were for meat, and that trade was stopped. Horses for slaughter must be killed here. EEC countries would very much like to import live horses and especially foals for meat. They have a delicacy known as "foal-veal", but they cannot get foals from us by lawful means, though they get calves by the tens of thousands. You see, we have discrimination between young equines and young bovines, and one might ask why.

For good measure we also have a ban on export of live food animals to the Middle East for slaughter, because it would be offensive to public morality to send our animals long distances to a method of ritual slaughter which is unlawful here except for meat for consumption by Mohammedans. Whether the latest development of an export trade in animals slaughtered here under the immunities of Section 36 of the Slaughterhouses Act 1974 is to be tolerated is another matter. I already have Questions on the Order Paper on this subject.

Moreover, let me recall that in 1973 the House of Commons itself imposed a total ban on exports of live food animals which lasted until another vote was taken on the subject in January 1975. So when we feel strongly enough about things we ban them. I am submitting here that while not advocating a total national ban I am advocating that there should be a measure of local option.

Let me turn then to the case of the local community for the Bill. The Bill provides for more democracy locally, and that in itself is a good thing. It promotes the principle that citizens have the right to greater control over their environment. More local autonomy, more decentralisation—how frequently we hear this said, and how much of it is lip service! There are numerous limitations placed upon the right of citizens to control their environment. I need not labour that. Where, however, some project or proposal is mooted which causes concern among those claiming to be adversely affected there is usually some form of appeal, and we are all familiar with appeals under the planning Acts and the powers of the Secretary of State.

If, for example, there was a proposal to erect a slaughterhouse in the middle of a town, or, say, a cattle market, the citizens locally would be able to resist a development which would seriously harm their environment. All the offensive side effects of transporting or of driving livestock to and from the place would be brought into their protest. But when a harbour is used, and increasingly used, for the transit and shipment of thousands of live animals a year, the citizens through whose streets and thoroughfares this traffic passes have no remedy whatever. No planning permission is required. Indeed, for years land has been used for lairages without any planning permission, despite the bitter complaints of local residents. In Folkestone and Dover the prerequisite of planning permission has now been established after a long controversy, and one lairage has been closed and permission granted for an alternative further away from a residential area.

Shipments from a port which were a trickle years ago are now a flood and no one appears to have the power to do anything about it except Parliament and the Transport and General Workers' Union, whose veto on one port I shall come to later. I have already mentioned that Parliamentary authority was granted to stop the shipment of live horses for slaughter and it is at present public policy not to export live food animals to the Middle East for slaughter. Both those bans were imposed on the grounds set out in Clause 1 of this Bill, which are the words of Article 36 of the Treaty, under which member states may still act unilaterally if they so wish.

There was, of course, a significant occasion when the House of Commons voted against the Government of the day to stop the granting of further licences for export until complaints about this traffic were further investigated. The Government had already banned the export of sheep off their own bat and the House of Commons refused further licences for beef and calves. The House of Commons made the ban total and a committee was appointed under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord O'Brien, in July 1973, and reported in March 1974. On 16th January 1975 the House of Commons debated the subject in the light of the O'Brien Report and on a free vote of the House the resumption of the export trade was approved. That was an act of faith in the good intentions of our European partners to impose measures to eradicate the cruelties which had aroused such indignation on this side of the Channel. There is still a lot of realiable evidence available to justify much concern about the treatment of our animals both before and certainly after they leave our shores. It is that concern which troubles citizens who see it in their midst. They see more of it than those who happen not to live in the eight ports principally used for this traffic.

The second matter to consider in this connection is whether those who object have reasonable grounds for a demand to stop it or at least to have control over it. Here we come to what may satisfy the conditions of Clause 1, which are based upon public opinion and what the public will not stand for. This brings us close to the real cause of public distress, which is the welfare of the animals.

I turn first to the size of the problem, including the limits of possible rejection, of this traffic in living animals through our ports. How big is it? How many localities are involved? There are eight ports: Dover, Felixstowe, Folkestone, Great Yarmouth, Plymouth, Poole, Portsmouth and Southampton. Your Lordships may wonder what happened to the Port of Hull, from which 50,000 sheep and lambs a year used to cross the North Sea. The Transport and General Workers' Union gave notice in March 1978 that as from 1st May in that year they would not ship any more, and they did not and they have not shipped any since. So there are occasions when local option can be obtained through a union that some people would deny to be given by Parliament. The total export trade through these ports in the year to last December was approximately 185,000 calves and 226,000 sheep and lambs. That is sea-borne trade. There is now a growing export by air and that amounted to 90,000 calves in the same year from eight airports, but they are outside the scope of this Bill.

The volume of trade through the seaports ranged between 247,000 animals through Dover—by far the busiest of all—and 10,500 through Great Yarmouth. Portsmouth exported 34,300 calves, but no sheep or lambs. Southampton exported over 30,000 calves and less than 40 cattle, but 1,100 sheep and lambs. Dover exported 48,300 calves and 198,000 sheep and lambs. So Portsmouth holds fourth place in the total of sea-borne exports, behind Dover, Plymouth and Southampton. There is one further piece of information which is relevant to this: no calves are exported for immediate slaughter, all go for further fattening—at least so far as we know. But a substantial proportion of the total of 226,000 sheep and lambs did go for immediate slaughter. This trade has grown up during the past 25 years. It had a small beginning—to begin with it was simply for food for Service families stationed in Europe. It changed from a mere trickle to a flood and none of the citizens closest to it have been consulted, and none can interfere. The cattlemen and the shippers are in command.

If I am asked what it is that local citizens object to I have plenty of evidence available from petitions and letters from people in Portsmouth. Indeed, the city council received a petition of over 7,000 signatures to campaign for this Bill. Noble Lords may have had letters from individual citizens concerned which tell them as much about their feelings as I could tell them. What upsets local people is the ceaseless traffic of livestock carriers through the approaches to the town and to the docks. In rough weather conditions they grieve for the live cargoes at sea for up to seven, nine or 10 hours. They also have deep concern for the fate that awaits these animals on the other side.

On that matter the RSPCA has said to me—as I believe they have to many noble Lords—that: the safeguards for the welfare of the animals involved are as inadequate now as they were in the 1950s". That is their judgment. The special investigation inspectors of the RSPCA have followed numerous shipments to Europe and every year, they say, they report breaches of the existing regulations. The RSPCA has been tireless in gathering at enormous cost, first-hand evidence of what actually happens and they have probably given in a letter to noble Lords an account of shipments last year trailed by their inspectors, some of which were in transit for over 24 hours, during which time the animals were not fed, rested or watered, despite stops en route to rest and water the drivers, and to refuel the vehicles. Last September the RSPCA trailed a consignment of sheep bound for West Germany which was kept waiting all night at the German border because no veterinary inspection facilities were available. When the RSPCA inspectors finally lost touch with the lorries they had been in transit over 35 hours.

Lord Burton

My Lords, how many prosecutions were there as regards the allegations which the noble Lord is making? How many prosecutions have there been in view of the fact that that action is clearly contrary to the existing law?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, they are breaches of European law.

Lord Burton

My Lords, how many prosecutions were there?

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, there is the problem of enforcement all the time not only in Europe, but in this country too. Despite these codes and regulations and an EEC directive which is still supposed to be binding on all members of the Community, a free trade across frontiers between one country and another exists today; no limit upon the distance that animals may be transported is laid down; there is grave concern at slaugthering methods in the EEC; and the rules about the feeding and watering of animals in transit laid down in the EEC directive are frequently ignored.

The conclusion of the RSPCA, shared by others who have accompanied numerous consignments, is that breaches of the EEC rules are going on all the time. The RSPCA declares that: Further safeguards and regulations are not the answer. Those that exist at present are blatantly ignored and, in the absence of any proper enforcement agency on the other side, there is no reason to believe that the position will change". It adds: In terms of animal welfare there is an overwhelming case for a total ban, but it would make economic sense also". That brings me to the complex puzzle of the economics of this trade. It is very difficult to get a satisfactory overall assessment of what our input and output of live animals, and our meat imports and exports, really amount to. The Report of the Agricultural Departments of 1978, to which I have already referred, made an attempt to get the economics of this trade in perspective. But I wish that we could be given more information which gets to the heart and the truth of the matter; not that in a matter of this kind I regard economics as being all-important. Those engaged in the slave trade talked loudly about economics; so did the employers of sweated female labour; so did those who organised the white slave traffic. Morality behind public policy is sometimes all—as were the sanctions on Rhodesia and, more recently, on the USSR. One cannot curb evil without some loss to somebody. Even the ports which might want to avail themselves of this Bill would probably suffer more than anyone else in the business. We are not yet an obsessively mercenary nation. But here is the exercise in comparative economics which I submit to your Lordships.

While exports of adult cattle, which reached a total of 70,000 a year nine years ago, have virtually ceased, the number of calves exported has risen dramatically over the same period from 10,000 to 276,000. Exports of sheep and lambs, which rose from 122,000 in 1972 to 200,000 in 1977, are even higher in 1980. Alongside the rise in exports of calves, we have imports of adult cattle now averaging 100,000 a year from the Irish Republic. Are they all store cattle? I invite noble Lords to study the reply to my Parliamentary Question which was published in the Official Report this morning, at column 859, giving the latest figures over the whole area of this subject. It amounts to the fact that we are exporting both sheepmeat and live sheep, and at the same time we import large quantities of sheepmeat. We export beef and veal and large numbers of calves to EEC countries; at the same time we import over 200,000 metric tonnes of beef and veal from the EEC.

Is there some economic sense to be found in all this, or is it the movement of live animals across the draught-board of the big cattle dealers? There may be some doubt as to how all this trade comes to be manipulated, but if noble Lords can bear with me for a moment or two longer, I shall give my summary of the account. In 1980 we exported live calves to the value of £25 million, and we imported carcase beef and veal to the value of £293 million. As regards live sheep and lambs, we exported £7.5 million-worth, and imported sheep-meat to the value of £170 million. So we exported carcase meat to a value of £250 million, live animals to a value of £33 million, and we imported carcase meat of the same species to the value of £464 million. We have halved our United Kingdom slaughtering of calves over the last two years. No wonder that some slaughterhouses have gone out of business and are now being opened up by Arab slaughtermen who want to use them for the export of ritually-slaughtered animals to the Middle East.

There are obviously some questions to be asked on these figures, and the National Farmers' Union has tried to answer some of them. But whatever may be the answers, it is not necessary to sort them out here and now for the purposes of this Bill. This Bill does not, of itself, ban anything. It would give some local option, though only then by consent of the Minister. This is the least that the citizen should be given—to have some vestige of control over his environment. Without this Bill the inhabitants of eight English ports may continue to bear the brunt of a trade which has a host of critics and which causes the deepest resentment among those who, like myself, believe that the moral standards of a people have as much to do with the treatment of animals as with many less important aspects of the human condition. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Lord Houghton of Sowerby.)

6.16 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I should like to express our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, for so ably and fully introducing this Bill. It is a vast subject, covering not only animal welfare but economics and rights of local communities; and he has covered the field excellently and well. In view of the number of speakers on the list today, I do not think that it is for me to try to cover anything like the same ground. I shall do my best to be extremely brief because there is one particular point on which the noble Lord touched towards the end of his speech which, from these Liberal Benches, I wish to underline.

I shall not concentrate on the ill-treatment of animals, the evidence for which those of your Lordships who have received a certain amount of information from the RSPCA and others will know. It is no use saying that there are laws against this ill-treatment. The point is that in other countries those laws are unenforceable by us, except just occasionally by great pertinacity, great luck, and at great expense. For all practical purposes they are not enforceable, and this ill-treatment goes on. We know that the laws are being broken, and there is nothing that we can do about it.

But that is background and I do not want to dwell on it. I do not wish to find myself specialising in animal affairs, fond as I am of them. I find myself concerned with the Laboratory Animals Protection Bill and with this Bill, and I find myself permanently speaking after the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. That is always a pleasure, but there are other things to do; and it is for that reason that I should like to concentrate on something which I regard as important, and that is the rights of local communities to protest, to state their claims, to be allowed not to take part, and not to allow certain things to happen where they live.

This is a right which Liberals would encourage at the best of times over perfectly ordinary matters. In this country as a general policy we need more devolution and not less, but we are getting less devolution and not more. Those of your Lordships who were present in the Chamber this afternoon during the debate on the last Bill will already have seen how a Government which are, in their own way, keen on the principle of freedom and keen on not having centralised government have been forced—and I say "forced" to put it kindly—or have found themselves in a position where they felt that they had no alternative but to increase the powers of the centre as against local government. We have had an English local government Bill where that happened; we are now having a Scottish local government Bill where that is happening, and it is absolutely the wrong tendency. Any situation that we can find where we can give the right to local communities to govern their own affairs, particularly when it is to do with matters of their own conscience, is a worthwhile opportunity which we should seize.

Approving, as we do on these Benches, of devolution of powers, such devolution is doubly important on matters of conscience. The English conscience moves in a peculiar way. It is not over-sensitive, and that is a good thing. We tend for years and years to let individuals make up their own minds, decide for themselves, even on things which a lot of us feel are barbarous, cruel and wrong. I think that this is absolutely right. Whether it is laziness or tolerance, I believe that it has the right effect. But from time to time we make up our own minds that we must act collectively, and as often as not the move is a local move rather than a central move, and all the sounder for that.

John Hampden refused to pay the ship money; the dockers refused to ship supplies to the Russian counter revolution. Our history is in fact studded with examples of this kind of action. Sometimes in the light of history we may look back and think they were wrong as to what they decided to do, but much more often they are right, and surely they are always right to do what they think to be right. The efficacy of democracy depends on that kind of decision, that kind of action, and that kind of local prejudice much more than it depends on what happens here in Westminster.

The people of Portsmouth, the councillors of Portsmouth by a great majority—and I think it is a splendid thing, and something which we should admire and marvel at, that an overwhelmining majority of councillors, and we all know in local government that councillors are not easily moved to quixotic gestures—have been moved to claim the right of their city to stop this vile traffic—and I use that phrase with intention—going through their city. Morally, undoubtedly, they have this right. Certainly they should have it legally.

6.23 p.m.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I am opposed to this Bill for two main reasons. One, it would damage the nation's trade; secondly, it could cause unnecessary delay and therefore hardship and cruelty to livestock in transit. Being a farmer I shall concentrate my remarks on the welfare aspect, but as I am being constantly told by Governments, of all colours, that I should try to sell my goods more efficiently I have to remind your Lordships that exporting is a vital outlet. This Bill would discriminate against British farmers and exporters without similar conditions being put on our EEC partners.

On the matter of trade, I was somewhat interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, indirectly suggesting the banning of imports of New Zealand lamb. I understand only too well the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, to ensure that no unnecessary cruelty is inflicted on animals. It is my concern as well. Therefore, our objectives are the same, but not for the first time or maybe the last time I differ from him in the application and the practice.

I do not think we shall achieve much in arguing as to what does, or does not, constitute cruelty to animals. The argument is subjective, and neither the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, nor his compatriots in Portsmouth, nor I, can prove to your Lordships who is correct. It is not possible to ask a sheep how she feels. We can only guess. Certainly I have been doing that all my farming life, as no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has been doing similarly all his political life.

The noble Lord can argue that, because I am so intimately and physically concerned with my livestock, particularly the need to make them profitable—and I am not ashamed of making profits and employing people—I fail (if I can put it this way) to see the meat from the wool, and that his judgment is a more balanced one. I must leave such a decision to your Lordships, but I would add that no farmer or exporter of livestock can tolerate, on financial or welfare grounds, stress. I think it is the stress factor that I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is trying to reduce in his Bill.

It will not, for the following reasons. First, it will multiply and complicate existing national arrangements by substituting local ones. There could be a totally different set of rules in, say, Holyhead from the one in Portsmouth, apart from the language problem. Surely such a matter is not a matter for a Private Bill, despite the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. Secondly, the Bill could delay and obstruct movement through the ports. Thirdly, the Bill could complicate and revise unnecessarily the new 1979–80 Sea Transport Order which consolidates previous legislation in line with the directive that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, mentioned, EEC 77/489. Lastly, the Bill could confound and confuse the Farm Animal Welfare Council, whose job it is to look at the export of live animals.

I have to remind your Lordships that the export of live animals has been the subject of inquiries in 1957, 1975 and 1977, including the one chaired by the noble Lord, Lord O'Brien. All these reports came out in favour of the trade continuing subject to certain conditions, which have been met and are now subject to close day by day monitoring. I have to ask the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, why he cannot accept decisions made by Government select inquiries. If my memory serves me right, it was only the other day that the noble Lord was so forthright in his condemnation of Governments appointing such inquiries and using the valuable free time of such experts as the noble Lord himself, for instance, who I think served or gave evidence to the committee Dogs in Society, after which the Government did not accept their recommendations. Surely here is a perfect example of a Government doing exactly what the noble Lord wants them to do.

I conclude by repeating to the noble Lord, Yes, we are on your side in trying to prevent cruelty to animals; but do not take my particular view of what is, or what is not, cruel. Likewise, I ask you not to take your own view, but to accept the impartial inquiries of 1957, 1975 and 1977. The noble Lord has made his point. He has concentrated the industry's mind yet again on the need to keep a close watch on the export trade. But no further good, only aggravation and frustration, would occur should this Bill be allowed to go into Committee. I beg the noble Lord that he will withdraw it.

6.28 p.m.

Baroness Stedman

My Lords, I am in somewhat of a quandary this evening. Yesterday I agreed to a request from the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, who cannot be here today, to ascertain what were the views of the Association of District Councils since I am one of the vice-presidents of that body. I now find, having put my name down to speak, that that association, having discussed the matter, decided "a decision by the Association on this issue is not appropriate", which does not help me very much this evening.

Despite the fact that I played truant last week and spent it on a hill farm in Cumberland, I have no farming credentials to speak on this Bill. But I personally support the Bill that is before the House, and I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for his attempts to alleviate suffering by animals in transhipment to other ports. Opponents of this Bill may very well argue that the local port authorities are not the right bodies to have the powers which are proposed in the Bill. I know that some will feel that Parliament should remain the arbiter of public policy and public morality in matters which affect national activities.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, they feel that this Bill, if enacted, could well lead to an arbitrary assessment of what is public concern in a particular locality followed by the making of bye-laws under the Act which could result in different regulations being enforced in different ports all around the country. I have no doubt that some opponents will object to Clause 1(5) as being somewhat unnecessary in a Bill which purports to grant permissive discretionary powers only. But it is nothing new for the Minister to have reserve powers to use if he deems it necessary so to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, covered the background of the Bill and the reasons for its introduction thoroughly. The Bill simply makes it possible for port or harbour authorities to make by-laws to regulate or prohibit the transport and export of farm animals intended for slaughter. Why do we have to export animals intended eventually for slaughter? Why can they not be slaughtered here and their carcases exported? Many of these animals are transported to the Continent and are subject to frequent loading and unloading with all the attendant stress, strain and suffering after going sometimes 300, 400 or 500 miles without rest, food or water. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said the RSPCA each year reported repeated breaches of the regulations and the EEC directives which exist and which are supposed to safeguard the welfare of animals in transit. I accept that we alone cannot enforce the directives or regulations in other countries, but we could at least give a lead by means of this Bill to enable harbour and port authorities to make by-laws to regulate or prohibit the export of farm animals intended for slaughter.

Other noble Lords have referred to the attitude of the Portsmouth City Council, a responsible local authority with a great deal of experience in the export of live animals for food, and their views should carry weight with your Lordships. Another point we should consider is that when live animals are exported, our processing industries in turn have to import large quantities of hides, offals, bones and other by-products. If the slaughtering was done at home, there would be less need for those imports and it seems ironic that at the same time that we are exporting cattle to the Continent for further fattening for slaughter, we are importing large numbers of store cattle from Ireland.

My noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge spoke to a similar Bill in 1972 and he has asked me to pass his regrets to the House at not being able to stay tonight for this debate. However, he supported a similar Bill in 1972 and he supports this one today. He would particularly like to know—if the Minister cannot answer these points tonight perhaps he will do so by way of correspondence—the numbers of bobby calves (that is, calves under a week old) that are exported from this country; surely those calves should be killed as early as possible if they are not to be reared here at home. Secondly, what improvements have been made in the handling of animals for sport both here and abroad, since we last discussed the matter on the Bill that was put forward in 1972? As I say, I shall understand if the Minister cannot reply offhand tonight. Perhaps he will write to me or my noble friend Lord Donaldson on those two points. I hope the House will give the Bill an unopposed Second Reading, and I give it my support.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to clarify one point? I think I misheard her, but did she ask for information as to what improvements had been made in respect of animals for sport—or did she mean animals for export?

Baroness Stedman

For export, my Lords.

6.35 p.m.

Lord de Clifford

My Lords, while my feelings are rather divided on the matter, I feel that I must support the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, on the Bill. I am happy to speak following the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, because on many occasions we have crossed swords across the Floor of the House, but tonight it is delightful to find myself on the same side with her. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said there was a large matter of conscience involved in the issue and that people expressed their consciences in different ways. My conscience is wholeheartedly behind the Bill and I cannot understand the attitude of people who point to the EEC as being a difficulty in relation to the Bill.

The House may remember that I have never been a supporter of the EEC, and what always astonishes me is the way in which we keep hearing about harmonising things; it never happens. We are supposed to harmonise with the EEC, but it seems they are never prepared to harmonise with us. What stuck very badly in my throat was the banning of exports of lamb to France. If there was any question of harmonising, I should have thought that was one case where the French might have given way. They did not, however; they fought it all the way.

We in this country through Parliament can arrange all the welfare we want for animals in transit, but once the boat carrying them leaves our shores, it seems we can do nothing about the welfare of those animals if the country to which they are going will not agree or try to enforce the laws which are in existence. When the City of Portsmouth or any other port says, "Enough is enough"—that they will not export animals in a certain way—I am 100 per cent. with them because it should be for the people of an area to decide such matters affecting that area. Indeed, many times in recent years we in Parliament have been told by the Government, "We intend to hand responsibility for this, that or the other to the people who live in the local areas", and that is what we are asking the Government to do in this case.

I will not follow other noble Lords in describing the horrors that can take place once animals have left this country. It can be said that those who make such comments are biased and are prepared to overstate the case. Be that as it may, things occur which are contrary to the conscience of the people of this country and if the people of a port area say they will not stand for it any longer, then in my view they have every right to say that. My noble friend says he cares for his sheep but that he must make a profit.

I cannot see—I have never been able to see—why the continuation of the export of sheep live can really make more profit for a farmer than the same sheep slaughtered with all its by-products left in this country. People have tried to tell me why it is, but I still do not see it. I am not a very good economist; in fact I am an extremely bad one according to my wife. I should like to understand the reason. But I fear that until I am convinced that we would be doing damage to our farming industry, I shall always be against the export of live animals, and I must support the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, in relation to the Bill, though I do not agree with some of its details.

6.40 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, as many of your Lordships know, I farm. I do not sell cattle, other than dead cattle, and I do not sell any sheep at all. I feel that the Bill is really for the prejudiced, and not for the enlightened. Not surprisingly, the Speaker in another place ruled that it was a totally unsuitable Bill to be introduced by Portsmouth City Council as a Private Bill. I shall try to show that it is equally unsuitable in a Public Bill to allow mediaeval barriers to trade to be set up by the various ports concerned.

Clause 1 is extremely widely drawn. What it really says is that if a number of people get together and say that they do not like the export of live animals, the local authority can ban it, disrupt people's livelihoods, and, as has already been said, introduce different laws for different ports. At the moment there are very strict rules on the transport of live animals overseas. They are stricter than the rules for transport of animals within the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the Bill and the attitude of those who support it have shown a very unattractive form of chauvinism. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, was saying, basically, "We don't trust beastly foreigners"—as was the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I presume that it is perfectly all right to take sheep from Orkney or Shetland or Northern Ireland to this country; that is all right because it is being done by nice, kind "Brits". They would not do harm to animals. But we cannot really allow the foreigners to do it; they are far too unkind, far too cruel. That comes from the great Liberal Benches of those who support internationalism and free trade.

Perhaps your Lordships will be interested to know that many of the slaughterhouses in the Community are up to Community standards for slaughterhouses, which are extremely high, whereas the standard of slaughterhouses in this country is not nearly up to the standard of slaughterhouses in France, Germany or the Low Countries. So perhaps before we go on about how beastly are the foreigners to our poor little sheep, we ought to put our own house in order with regard to slaughterhouses in this country.

The logic of Clause 1(5) has already been commented on. It is that if the Minister says that people are not passing enough laws in their local authority, he can make them pass some more. Is that really what we are suggesting should happen? I know that it happens in relation to petroleum transport. But people do not get emotional about petrol. You cannot pat it on the head and feed it carrots on a Sunday afternoon. We get too emotional about animals. Of course we have to have decent lairage and feeding and proper regulations, but I find it rather unattractive that it is suggested in your Lordships' House that we cannot trust foreigners to enforce the rules that we have.

Clause 2(2) also gives another set of people the right to search private property without warrant and generally to boss people about. I suggest to your Lordships that there are already too many of those kind of people in existence. Surely—and I think that this will be established further by my noble friend Lord Ferrers—it is against the rules of the European Community to enact a Bill such as this. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would have liked to say it was not against the rules of the Community—but he seemed to cast doubt even on that.

The farming industry would bear an unnecessary cost if, say, Felixstowe said, "Yes, go on with the trade in live animals", while Folkestone and the South Coast ports said, "No". That would present an unfair disadvantage to farmers, and it would hamper trade.

As I have previously said to your Lordships, we must of course have decent rules for the transport of live animals. Of course transportation must be undertaken kindly and successfully; and of course I should be totally against the grubby transport of broken-down knacker horses for trade. Of course one is against that. But I personally see nothing wrong in having horses slaughtered for human consumption. I had an extremely nice hunter, of which I was very fond. His soul hunts with the Fernie hounds and his body fed greedy Frenchmen over Christmas because his legs were gone and he was put down and slaughtered in this country. Let us not get emotional. Let us make absolutely certain that what we do is done cleanly, tidily and correctly, and without cruelty. But let us look to the mote in our own eye before we say that all foreigners are beastly to British animals.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Macleod of Fuinary

My Lords, I do not intend to delay the debate for any length of time, not being an expert in the subject in which we are involved. But it has been my lot for nearly 40 years to spend summers on the little island of Iona, eight miles long by two miles wide, which lies off the coast of Mull. Whenever I am on the island the farmers have livestock for the market. The livestock has to be ferried across to Oban. That means that it has to be put on one ferry for one mile. Then it has to go 34 miles across Mull, and then travel for 10 miles by another ferry to Oban. The livestock has to undertake a 2-ferry journey before being disposed of in England or abroad, which means going over the sea again.

That is the essence of the problem, but here is the extent of it. It involves not only Iona. Everyone can picture in their minds the West Highland coast, with Islay, Jura, Colonsay, Mull, Skye, the Hebrides, and Shetland and Orkney. Livestock from all those places has to travel by ferry before being disposed of. Thus your Lordships will understand the concern of farmers regarding this proposed legislation.

The rugged Western Highlands are uneconomic in relation to mainland abattoir activities, and moreover they are not economic in the sense of growing crops and any form of development of agricultural work. The farmers in these areas can do only one thing—that is to export their livestock. They will be faced with catastopohe if they are debarred by further regulations concerning transport.

From Orkney alone 13,000 cattle and 20,000 sheep are disposed of every year. From Shetland 25,000 sheep are disposed of; I do not know the figure for cattle from there. From the Western Isles at least another 20,000 sheep and cattle are disposed of. Well over 100,000 beasts are sent, and the catastrophe would be absolutely disastrous for literally hundreds of small farmers if they are to be affected by new legislation.

We should remember—we have been reminded of this fact in the debate—that legislation regarding the transport of animals was passed in 1927, that we legislated for the protection of exported animals in 1964, and that in 1973 there was the Transit of Animals Order. Bearing in mind that that legislation has been loyally obeyed from the districts that I have named, to pile on additional conditions would literally throw out of business scores of farmers, and would leave us and the continent short of tons of carcases, which presently are seemingly required both here and on the continent.

If anything like this present Bill is ultimately passed, I plead with the Government to make the necessary amendments for the West of Scotland and for the North of Scotland, to satisfy hundreds of farmers who presently have a prosperous, necessary and well-regulated trade, divided though they be, and have to be essentially every time they move in all these places, by ferries, in the North and West of Scotland.

6.50 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Macleod, because I, too, shall be touching on that point which he has raised. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has explained the purpose of his Bill very clearly, and its content, and I know how sincere he is in his intention to obviate suffering by livestock. But I must tell him immediately that I cannot support this Bill, and that I hope he will not pursue it. I declare again my interest as engaged in farming in Northern Scotland, near my home. My specialities do not include livestock; they are seed potatoes and barley, which all goes into the whisky industry.

This Bill would give port authorities powers to regulate or stop the transport of live farm animals for slaughter or for fattening for slaughter. The effect of this would be haphazard. It would disrupt both the livestock farmers and the transport operators. It would damage their programmes, which would in any case by bedevilled in future by uncertainty. The interests of our islands, and especially the Scottish islands, would be severely damaged. The Bill would affect movements between the islands and the mainland—everywhere where the livestock pass through a harbour. In the Western and Northern Isles, cattle and sheep are an important element in farming and crofting, and they in turn form major sectors of the islands' economies.

I would point out, after what the noble Lord, Lord Macleod, has said, that it is not sensible or feasible to have slaughtering facilities on all the islands. Indeed, recent health requirements have made slaughtering conditions more stringent, and this is no doubt correct—and I heard what my noble friend Lord Onslow said about raising standards in this regard. It is consequently not easy to multiply slaughtering facilities over the islands.

Livestock forms the staple commodity in the islands, for land over a large area of them is not suitable for other forms of agriculture, such as crops. I would make the exception of Orkney, where there is pasture for dairy cattle, which produce the well-known cheese and cream. But in general the Scottish islands have to depend upon the rearing of livestock for beef, mutton and lamb. This Bill would strike a severe blow upon the Scottish islands. The consumers would also be deprived of supplies of, for example, Shetland lamb, and beef from the Hebrides. From what I have said—and I was interested to hear the origin of this Bill as having come from the City of Portsmouth—what may be appropriate for Portsmouth is not appropriate for Stornaway.

Turning to exports as a whole, I understand we export to European countries, and in many cases it is for slaughter and consumption. I would ask my noble friend Lord Ferrers whether he would confirm this when he speaks. This Bill would undoubtedly reduce British exports to those markets, and some of those markets have been hard won in the past. How, then, should we proceed? At present the regulations in the United Kingdom are strict, and require proper periods of rest, watering and other humane handling of animals. They are now, I understand, being consolidated and brought into line with EEC arrangements.

There remains the question of enforcement, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that we must improve in every way we can the policing of the regulations. Surely that is where we should be looking. It is, from what he said himself, anxiety about exports to other European countries which is the reason for his having introduced this Bill. We are concerned with what happens to those animals after they have left the shores of the United Kingdom. This is the area in which we should be seeking improvement and consolidation, and making sure that the regulations can be enforced. But I conclude by saying that the damage which would be done to the British agricultural industry if this Bill were to go through means that I hope it will not succeed.

6.56 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel

My Lords, I take a different view from that of the noble Lord who has just spoken. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Houghton for introducing this Bill. I support it, and I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading and allow it to proceed to amendment in Committee. I shall be very brief because at this stage of the debate it is impossible to avoid repeating arguments that other noble Lords have made, but I think it is important to demonstrate the weight of support in your Lordships' House for this Bill, and this may justify a very limited degree of repetition.

I welcome particularly the power given in Clause 1 of the Bill to harbour authorities to prohibit the export of farm animals intended for slaughter, and I hope that it will appear to many of these authorities that it would be, to quote the words of Clause 1, offensive to public morality and contrary to public policy to allow the export of sheep or cattle assigned for shipment to the European Economic Community countries for slaughter there.

Now why, on the balance of the arguments that have been expressed in the course of this debate, should this trade in farm animals be stopped? I think it is because we now know without any possibility of doubt—thanks largely, as the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has pointed out, to the fine work of the RSPCA inspectors, who followed shipments of farm animals to their destinations on the Continent; and I think a tribute is certainly due to the RSPCA—that such regulations as have been made for humane treatment of these animals in transit and for their merciful dispatch at the point of slaughter have not been generally observed and are not capable of enforcement. These safeguards are in fact as ineffective today as they have been at any time since the trade began about 25 years ago.

The only effective action, of course, would be for the Government to ban the trade in farm animals, as they did for a time when it was suspended in 1973. But this is obviously not the policy of the Government today. The most we can hope for is that this trade will be curtailed and controlled by port authorities by the use of the by-law powers conferred on them by this Bill.

The argument for stopping the export of sheep or cattle on the hoof is not solely humanitarian. This, again, has been pointed out, but I think it ought to be underlined. It is also economic and social. We are amply provided with slaughterhouses in the United Kingdom (and I am afraid that on this point I disagree with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow; my information is quite contrary to his) and these slaughterhouses measure up to the high standard of hygiene and efficiency prescribed by the European Economic Community. At present, these abattoirs at home are not used to capacity. The export of live animals would be unnecessary if, instead of being transported a long distance to a convenient port, they were killed at the nearest slaughterhouse and exported as carcase meat to the continent like the great majority of meat that we export to the continent. This would be some degree of compensation for the farmers. It would give more employment to those engaged in slaughtering animals and there would be further benefit from the use of the by-products, hides and so on, which would cut down the import bill for leather and the meat processing industries. There would thus be real economic and social advantages in converting our present exports on the hoof to exports of carcase meat.

This is only an enabling Bill which does not oblige the harbour authorities to do anything. Some may not wish to take advantage of its provisions. Therefore, I am glad that there is a default power for the Minister in Clause 1 in case this should happen. But where authorities have the need for these powers they should not be deprived of them simply because they are not appropriate for private legislation. It should be possible for them under the general law, which is exactly what this Bill provides, to have regard to matters of public concern and policy in their own areas and to stop, or, at least, to regulate, a trade that is offensive to all concerned with animal welfare. I repeat that I hope your Lordships will allow the Bill to have a Second Reading and that any amendments which may be necessary in the interests of those who are prejudiced by the provisions of the Bill will be considered and dealt with at that stage.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether he would also ban the export of animals from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom and from the Scottish Isles to the mainland? Would he recommend a ban on the export of live animals from the Scottish Islands to Scotland or from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom—or is it only to foreigners?

The Earl of Listowel

No, my Lords, I suggested that in the case of live animals to other parts of the country—and I know that it is more difficult in Scotland—they should be sent to the nearest convenient slaughterhouse which, again, from the farmers' point of view is best from the standpoint of the quality of the meat.

7.3 p.m.

Lord Burton

My Lords, I would not wish to detain your Lordships for long. While I appreciate the good intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, I am afraid that I must tell the House that this Bill would be devastating for Scottish agriculture, which is already struggling, as I have said recently, with an average net income for the 30,000 holdings of £1,100 per annum per holding. Which of your Lordships will expect anyone in this country today to work, often for long hours, for as little as or less than £1,100 a year? The Bill would prevent farming on all the islands off the coast of Scotland. Surely that is a restriction on trade. The noble Lord said that he did not wish to restrict trade. That is a restriction; it must be so.

By the nature of the terrain, the islands are confined to livestock farming only (as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has said) and if this Bill were to pass, one or two individuals, possibly with the best welfare intentions, could stop the market for all this livestock and close down the farming in the islands. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, stated that it was the intention to get by-laws for every port. His intention seems to be to inflict the maximum damage on farmers, particularly for the islanders. They are the very people in the worst economic state, who have difficulties with everything coming into the islands or going out being more expensive.

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, could confirm that Portsmouth have already spent £70,000 of their ratepayers' money on trying to get legislation of this type. This shows what a few determined individuals can do. I am confident that many of the ratepayers of Portsmouth could have found more worthwhile uses for this large sum of money. By the nature of the size of the enterprises in the islands, slaughterhouses are impracticable there. While on the subject of slaughterhouses the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred to them and I am afraid that he was wrong. Our slaughterhouses are way behind a lot of the European ones. It is very often the local authorities who are represented on the port authorities who are the people responsible for these slaughterhouses and who have not brought them up to standard. They say that they do not have the money to do so. To put them in the position of looking after the welfare of these animals seems to be wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Macleod of Fuinary, has spoken more ably than I could on the problem which would face the islanders. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, referred to the ban on the exports of sheep to the Arab countries. This market has been largely taken over by Australia and New Zealand. All that has happened is that we have lost a large trade outlet which we could have controlled and now millions of sheep are having a longer journey than if we had been allowed to do it. The noble Lord referred to the various infringements of the existing laws and EEC laws which, he said, were taking place. He referred to following vehicles for many miles and hours. If there were infringements and all this expense and trouble was taken to follow these vehicles, why were there no prosecutions? He could not answer me. I know that I interrupted the noble Lord. I apologise to him; but I felt that I had to do so.

Legislation already exists with realistic provisions to safeguard the wellbeing of animals being transported by sea. The Government only last year took steps to initiate a consolidation, an up-dating, of transport orders and have circulated proposals for consideration. The Government already keep a close watch on these matters. Let us look at what exists at the moment. First, animals for export must be rested for at least 10 hours, fed, watered, inspected by a veterinary officer who must then issue a certificate of fitness to travel. There are already very strong safeguards on that alone. There are rules governing the loading and unloading of stock. That is exactly what this Bill is intended to impose—further restrictions in addition to those already there. Vessels can leave port only if the master is satisfied that the sea conditions are such as will not cause suffering or injury to animals which are being transported—a more stringent regulation, therefore, than is in existence for humans. I do not think that the master worries about whether the ferry leaves port in a rough sea when he has only human beings aboard, but he is not allowed to do so if he is carrying animals. So much for the allegations that animals are being moved from Portsmouth and battled about while going to France. I take it that that is where they were going.

Finally, export licences are issued only for those countries where acceptable welfare standards already exist. Ample legislation and regulations exist already. It could be that if this Bill were passed, the Skyemen would have to resort to their old method of getting cattle to market. That was to swim them across to the mainland mainly at Kyleakin. Would the noble Lord feel it better for the cattle to have to have a long swim in cold water and strong currents rather than to leave things as they now are? His Bill would not stop someone swimming the cattle but would possibly stop them from taking the ferry.

Earlier I referred to how Scottish agriculture is struggling for its very existence at the moment under sever financial handicaps. This has been recognised in Brussels and the EEC has agreed to make a payment of £20 miilion for the development of agriculture in the Western Islands. If this Bill were passed tonight we should be holding out the begging bowl with one hand while cutting our throat with the other. We should be the laughing stock of Europe and the hope of getting further aid for other impoverished areas of the country would be completely lost.

To return to two detailed points of the Bill, Clause 3(1) makes it possible for a £1,000 fine to be payable by anyone who fails to comply with the by-laws. It seems to me that this regulation could apply to every animal so moving. Consequently, if there is a sheep lorry with 400 sheep on board—which is not an unreasonable number—there could be a fine of £400,000. Is this not correct?

I think that this Bill is intended to be a United Kingdom Bill; but as at present drafted in Clause 4—and this is the intention—it would not apply to Scotland. The Bill refers to the wrong Ministers, it has the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. They are not the relevant Ministers. It should be referring to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Not only is there faulty drafting here—and the Bill would be extremely injurious but there may well be drafting mistakes elsewhere. I hope for all these reasons—and very good reasons they are, and no doubt we shall hear others from my noble friend on the Front Bench—that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, will withdraw his Bill tonight. I am confident that, if he does not, we shall not give it a Second Reading.

7.12 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, in speaking to your Lordships, I have been advised by the Confederation of British Industry and also the National Farmers' Union of the Isle of Wight. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy—in a splendid speech which I thoroughly endorse—said that it might be all right for Portsmouth, but not for Stornaway. I can assure him that it is not all right for Portsmouth. It is one of the ports that we would seek to have, by amendment, excluded from the provisions of the Bill, if it ever got that far. It would be illogical for Portsmouth to stop its traffic to, say, France, and to allow its traffic to the Isle of Wight. I can assure your Lordships that we would fight hard to have it banned from taking part in the outcome of this Bill, in the unlikely and unhappy event of it ever becoming law.

Turning to the slightly wider issue, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton—who put his case extremely well and tried very hard—was not very convincing on what I think was the key point in his argument. That was that Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome gave a save-all to anybody to upset all the efforts of the Treaty of Rome. I was not at all convinced by what he said. So quite apart from the fact that I do not like the Bill, I do not think he even proved to us that it was legitimate within the EEC framework.

I would suggest—and one or two noble Lords have pushed on to this point—that really what we want to do is not produce this rather narrow-minded legislation, which gives individual ports freedom to impose their somewhat one-sided views upon the majority; we want to concentrate—and I am sure that the feel of the House would go with this—on trying to make sure that the EEC Directive 77/489, which has been referred to, is properly implemented throughout the Community. The important point is that we are in the Community and we need take full advantage of it. There are all sorts of advantages for us and in such a communanté spirit what we need to do is make sure that the Community's own rules are properly implemented for all of us. To take a narrow-minded view strikes me to be backward-looking and thoroughly retrograde. I suggest to your Lordships—and I shall not detain you any more because all I wanted to say has already been said—that we must not accept this Bill and we must not give it a Second Reading.

7.15 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I beg your forgiveness for intervening but it will be for only three minutes. I yield to nobody in my admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, in his efforts for the welfare of animals. As the House knows, I am also interested in that aspect. This Bill is not really logical or practical. Regarding logic, I should like to point out that Clause 1(2)(c) says: the authority as may be specified in the byelaws grant a certificate that the animal is not intended for slaughter on, or within three months after, arrival at the place to which it is consigned and has been certified by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to be accredited breeding stock". I have exported breeding and store stock—both cattle and sheep—by sea. So far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no difference in their treatment. If you have a bull worth about £10,000 he would probably be treated better. Animals intended for slaughter do not know that they are going to be slaughtered any more than the animals intended for breeding know that they are intended for breeding. So it is not really logical.

The other point regarding practicability has been made extremely well by my noble friends Lord Camp- bell of Croy and Lord Burton, so I will not go into that. I must declare an interest: I farm in a fairly extensive way on the Island of Mull. We have to send our stock across to the mainland. If we could not do so we should have to become like the Hindus with the Brahman bulls. We would have to leave our livestock until they died of old age, because we cannot fatten them on the hills. So it is not really practicable. I should like to end by saying that as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said, the real problem is enforcement. There are ample laws to see that this traffic is controlled for the welfare of animals; but the real problem is to enforce these laws. Having said that, I shall not support the Bill if it goes to a Division.

7.18 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, we have had a very interesting debate, starting with a most passionate and detailed speech from my noble friend. This is a Private Member's Bill, and if there is a vote then this is a matter for the exercise of conscience on the part of every Member of this House. There is no doubt whatever about Lord Houghton's passionate concern for animal welfare. It is well known, appreciated and understood. It is to his great credit.

I am afraid, however, that the Bill put forward with the best possible intentions will serve only to increase bureaucracy and certainly confusion arising through different standards covering the movement and welfare of animals applying in various ports. I note in passing that no mention is made in the Bill of the use of air transport, which also has welfare problems of its own, as we all well know.

I share my noble friend's concern for animal welfare as well as other humanitarian interests. This may interest your Lordships: it so happens that some years ago, before the operation of the Export Animals Protection Order 1964 and the Transit of Animals Order 1973, I was involved at first hand with the purchase, transport and care of cattle for export, mainly to Holland. This was at a time when I was nursing a constituency in Norwich, where there was and still is a considerable animal welfare lobby. I had no option: my employer was the late Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, who on the first deal gave me 24 hours to obtain all the facts about what was and is a complicated business, bearing in mind the regulations governing animal welfare, which have been extended and strengthened since.

Bearing in mind the implications of my political interests, I watched every procedure personally with the greatest care. I saw the cattle loaded, inspected them and their quarters on the ship, checked lairage facilities and visited my animals resting there. In no case, I may say from my observations on this particular ship, was there any ill-treatment or lack of care. In fact in one shipment from Boston, Lincolnshire, one of my cows was found to be in calf and the pregnant mother was held back and given every attention until the veterinary surgeon certified her and her offspring as fit for travel. The lucky buyer had a bonus but my firm had greater expense. I must say from past experience of attending some, though not all, cattle markets that it seemed to me that often discomfort and distress to animals was greater there than in the procedures of shipment I still maintain that view.

Apart from the obvious possibility of an uneven operation of the Bill by harbour authorities, which might cause animals destined for export to travel greater distances, what happens to the cattle already loaded if some official discovers a technical breach of a by-law and the ship is detained? Are they to be offloaded, put onto transport and dispatched again to lairage, and then once again to be in transit and loaded, et cetera, all over again?

The Bill does in fact encourage piecemeal legislation, as harbour authorities could adopt varying by-laws or none at all. This is the core and the weakest part of the Bill. If further safeguards and improvements are needed, and I am prepared to accept that that is the case, then the only way is to have legislation operating nationally, as a Government measure.

I do accept that there is a case against long-distance shipment of live cattle overseas or to countries where standards of welfare and slaughter are not equal to our own. There is certainly a case, I will agree with my noble friend, for further consideration on the position of calves or baby calves, which many letters received refer to, and I have loads of them here.

I must say that the great bulk of correspondence sent on or handed to me—because I am deputising for my noble friend Lord Peart—comes from the Portsmouth area. Much of it refers to animals enduring long journeys without rest, food or water. If this occurs here, then there is a case for the Government to institute an investigation, as this is illegal in Britain. Mention was made about shipping cattle at times of rough seas prevailing. I understand, and I am subject to correction, that ships carrying cattle are not allowed to sail when the seas are rough. There are a number of pressure groups for or against, some expressing views with great emotion. The bulk in favour want slaughter in Britain. Carcase meat is still exported from Britain as well as being imported into Britain.

I have not referred to any question of a valuable export trade or the profit motive. My main concern, like that of my noble friend, is animal welfare and there is no doubt that my noble friend, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is as well aware as I am that his Bill at this stage of the Session has practically no chance whatever of proceeding very far, even if given a Second Reading majority today. But we must all admit that he has well and truly put his case. Let us say that in many instances there is a degree of substance in it.

The Government circulated proposals for a new Sea Transport and Export of Animals Order in 1979–80. These proposals are extensive and desirable. Legislation consolidating present law and extending powers nationally and internationally would be welcomed on all sides of the House and outside. It would be a considerable help to the House if the Minister replying for the Government could give us a definite assurance that legislation will in fact be coming along.

As I have already indicated, my Lords, I very much regret that I cannot support my noble friend's Bill because, as I have indicated, it would result in a patchwork of varying degrees of control all over the country. The bringing in of by-laws would in itself often depend on the volume and strength of public lobbying in a given local authority area, as indeed is the case in Portsmouth. I accept that people have the right to protest, as we see by the lobbies here in these Houses of Parliament. They have the right to protest to their councillors and to bring pressure on them, as indeed they do. Even on noble Lords pressure is exerted, as the volume of correspondence I have here proves. But I believe the answer lies in the hands of the Government by the bringing in of legislation, proposals for which are already available—legislation which would in this House be vigorously and expertly examined. Of that, bearing in mind this debate, we can be very sure.

7.27 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I was fascinated by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, because he is always so careful. I was not surprised that he did not hold his position with the late Lord Macpherson of Drumochter too long if he sold off all his cows which he thought were barren cows, only to find they were in calf. He must be a very good person to do business with! I am sure I have done the same too; but the only difference was that I did not know it. I suppose I should declare an interest. I also farm, but I do not export any animals for slaughter or further fattening.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has been—much to his credit—a great campaigner for the improvement of conditions under which animals are kept, and the noble Lord's Bill today is another tangible example of his concern. The Government share with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, a concern for the welfare of farm animals but where we tend to part company with him is on the most suitable way in which to protect them. In this case we are concerned with the welfare of those of them which are carried by water and, in particular, those which are to be exported.

Perhaps I may first explain the protection and safeguards which already exist. The Government already protects all farm animals which are intended for export through the provisions of the Exported Animals Protection Order 1964. That order requires them, among other things, to be rested for a period of 10 hours in a Government approved export lairage and to be offered food and water during that time. Under the order, animals cannot be exported unless they have been examined by a veterinary inspector, who is appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, and also unless they have been passed as fit to be shipped. A new order is being prepared, which will improve the welfare of farm animals which are intended for export, and it will transfer the licensing of such exports from the Department of Trade to the agriculture departments in Great Britain. Interested bodies and the Farm Animal Welfare Council have been consulted about these and account is being taken of their comments in the new order which is being prepared.

There are, too, two further statutory instruments to protect the welfare of farm animals during carriage by water. They are the Transit of Animals Order 1927 and the Animals (Sea Transport) Order 1930. These orders lay down detailed, constructional standards, in order to ensure that the ships, which are used, are adequate, and that they make provision to protect the welfare of the animals during carriage. Under a related measure, standards are laid down for two-tier vehicles which are used to carry farm livestock on ferries, and these vehicles have to be inspected to ensure that they meet the required standards. Proposals to amend and to update these regulations have been the subject of consultation with interested parties and the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and here, too, a new instrument is being prepared. The new order would set revised standards for vessels and vehicles which are used to carry livestock on ferries and it would, in a number of ways, tighten up on the existing safeguards.

Apart from the domestic scene, the Government are working in the European Community on the preparation of a new directive which is intended to expand and to develop Directive 77/489 on the protection of animals during international transport. I agree with my noble friend Lord Mottistone that we should try to make improvements in standards in the European Community. This is exactly what we are doing. This new directive has involved long and difficult negotiations in Brussels, but agreement is not far off and the Government hope to see this new directive in being within the next few months. My noble friend Lord Onslow asked me about this directive—or I think he intended to ask me, because he gave me prior notice that he was going to do so—but he waxed so eloquently about motes and beams that I believe he failed to do so.

The welfare of farm animals during international transport is already protected by Directive 77/489 and one of its most important provisions is that, during transport, these animals must not be left for more than 24 hours without being fed and watered, unless the journey can be completed within a reasonable period of time. There are allegations—they were made this evening—that there are breaches of this directive. Where that happens, the breaches are taken up with the exporter concerned and with the authorities in other member states.

A further directive is under discussion in Brussels. It is almost complete. It is, at the moment, at the technical level and it will be submitted to the Council of Ministers shortly. This directive would expand and develop the provisions of Directive 77/489, and would be likely to provide for a travel document to record certain details of the journey, and thereby improve the enforcement of the present rules. The provisions of the draft directive will be likely to require remedial action to be taken during the journey, if the animals are not being carried in accordance with current requirements. These are important new developments which must be taken into account in reaching any decision on the need to prevent the export of live food animals to destinations within the European Community. So there is quite a lot going on in the animal welfare scene.

These safeguards, and the new developments which are proposed, demonstrate that the Government are deeply engaged in the preparation of measures, both here and within the European Community, to increase the protection of the welfare of farm animals which are being exported and which are being carried by water. I accept that there are some who feel that, whatever the arguments are, they just do not want to see animals exported on, in their judgment, humanitarian or welfare grounds. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and various others of your Lordships have given us examples of that today. May I say that, even though I do not share these views myself, I entirely respect them and I respect the right and the sincerity of others who do hold them. That is what I might describe as the causus belli of the Bill.

However, I am bound to tell your Lordships that if this Bill were implemented it would have very severe economic and international consequences; and particularly severe consequences for agriculture in the islands, and for the communities which depend upon it. So let us consider this, as a number of noble Lords have been concerned about it. The main cause for concern is the provision which enables by-laws to be made to prohibit the movement of farm animals by water, except for the movement of accredited breeding stock. In 1980, over 600,000 farm animals were transported by water to, from and within Great Britain. This movement of animals is necessary for the efficient operation of the agriculture and food industries, and there would be serious consequences for both if this trade were to be interrupted.

Over half this total of 600,000 is made up of sheep and calves which are exported to the European Community, and the interruption of this trade would lose well over £100 million in foreign exchange every year. That is a very substantial sum. I know that the advocates of a ban on live food animal exports would argue that the lost trade could be made up by increased carcase meat exports. But this would not be the case, because live exports exist in response to a specific market demand on the Continent, and those countries which require animals for their own slaughtering will simply get their supplies from elsewhere, in preference to importing carcase meat.

The scope of the Bill does not cover foreign trade alone, but covers all movements of farm livestock by water, including that which goes between the islands and the mainland of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Macleod of Fuinary, was the first to mention that. It is a curious thing that every Scottish noble Lord—my noble friend Lord Burton, my noble friend Lord Campbell, and my noble friend Lord Massereene—mentioned it and I am not surprised. My noble friend Lord Burton said that this Bill does not refer to Scotland. In fact, it does because an Act of Parliament applies to all parts of the United Kingdom, unless a part of the United Kingdom is specifically excluded. There is no such exclusion in the Harbours (Transport of Farm Animals) Bill, and therefore it applies to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But, of course, my noble friend is quite right. The definition of "Minister" in the Bill is one of a number of drafting defects, where the scope of the Bill has not been reflected in its definitions.

In 1980, over 130,000 farm animals were moved by sea between the Scottish islands and the mainland. The Scottish islands are heavily dependent on agriculture and, in particular, on livestock production, and they need to be able to send store and fat animals to the mainland for market. If the provisions of this Bill were to be applied to the Scottish islands, it would have a devastating effect on their economy and on the people who live by that economy. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy asked whether there was a decline in slaughterhouses and referred to slaughter- house standards. There may well be a decline in slaughterhouses, because the hygiene regulations are expensive to put into effect and small slaughterhouses, such as those on the islands, with a low throughput, could not justify the costs of meeting the hygiene regulations. He also asked me whether we export animals for slaughter. The answer is that the United Kingdom exports sheep for slaughter and for further fattening, but our calf exports are for further fattening and are not for immediate slaughter.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, said that had the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, been here he would have asked what improvements there had been since 1972. The main improvement has been the introduction of common rules throughout the Community. This is a very substantial improvement which requires pre-stunning at slaughter. That is Directive 74/577 which came into force on 1st July 1975 and which protects the welfare of animals during international transport. One of its most important provisions is that during transport these animals must not be left for more than 24 hours without being fed and watered unless the journey can be completed within a reasonable period.

The welfare of exported animals has also been improved by the provisions of the Transit of Animals General Order 1973 which introduced general safeguards to protect the welfare of animals in transit by any means of transport. There is also the directive to which I referred earlier, 77/489. The noble Baroness asked in particular what is the position with regard to bobby calves. That is a terminology which has traditionally been used to refer to calves which go for immediate slaughter.

As I have said, no calves go for export for immediate slaughter because it is not economical to do so. All calves which do go, go for fattening. I cannot tell the noble Baroness what are the exact figures for calves but I can tell her that in 1979 total cattle exports—the majority of these refer to calves—were 500,000 head, which was 3 per cent. less than in 1978. In 1980, the number dropped to 370,000 head, which was about 26 per cent. less than in 1979. The noble Baroness will also wish to know that all calves which do go abroad have to be inspected by a Government vet and that they must be over 50 kilogrammes in weight before they are exported. Government vets enforce this rule strictly when they inspect the calves. There are, therefore, no very young calves which are exported.

It is estimated that 30,000 cattle and between 50,000 and 60,000 sheep are transported annually from the islands to the mainland for immediate or early slaughter. There is also a reverse trade in live finished cattle from Aberdeenshire to the Island of Lewis and a small inter-island trade in finished cattle and sheep. The prohibition of these movements of stock would place the islands in a serious financial position by the closure of outlets to a wider market.

A problem could also arise in the beef industry. This industry traditionally relies upon supplies of fattened store cattle from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. These animals, too, are imported by sea. In 1980, over 110,000 animals were brought in. If the provisions of this Bill were to come into effect, this trade would stop and it would have severe consequences for our beef supplies in Great Britain.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, for many of us who have an open mind on this issue, a great deal turns on this question. A lot of the debate has missed the point which seemed to be made by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby: that these powers to make by-laws are subject to confirmation by the Minister. Is it the case that the power to confirm or to refuse could be used in order to prevent any unreasonable by-law in the case, for example, of the trade between the Scottish Islands and the mainland? Or is the power to confirm or not to confirm not used in that way?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if the noble Lord will be good enough to contain himself, I shall come to the point to which he addresses his mind quite correctly. There is another aspect of the Bill to which I should like to refer before turning to that point; namely, that if the Ministers of Agriculture and Transport were to approve any by-law which could be construed as limiting trade between members of the European Community, they would be placing the Government at the risk of causing a breach of its obligations under the Treaty of Rome.

My noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley says that this kind of prohibition, if not observed within other states would be discriminatory. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said that this is not so, because Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome would permit this. The Government's legal advice is that a by-law banning exports or imports even from one port could constitute a breach of our obligations under Articles 34 and 30 of the Treaty of Rome. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, suggested that Article 36 permits a ban on the grounds of public morality but I have to tell him that past rulings of the European Court of Justice give us no reason to believe that a ban could successfully be defended on these grounds.

Article 30 of the Treaty of Rome prohibits quantitative restrictions on imports or measures having an equivalent effect. Article 34 contains similar provisions relating to exports. Our legal advisers consider that these articles include local restrictions such as those proposed in the Bill. Such measures would, at the very least, result in the diversion of trade which could cause delays and additional transport costs to the exporter.

There is the implication in Clause 1(5) that the Bill should be applied uniformly. The European Court has ruled that all trading rules enacted by member states which are capable of hindering directly or indirectly, actually or potentially, intra-Community trade, are to be considered as measures having an equivalent effect to quantitative restrictions.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said that the bye-laws can be justified on such grounds, even if they are considered to contravene Articles 30 and 34 of the treaty. I am bound to tell your Lordships that our legal advisers very much doubt whether a case on these grounds could be made before the courts.

Apart from this, Article 36 also provides that any restrictions or prohibitions imposed on the grounds provided in Article 36 must not constitute a means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised discrimination of trade between member states. Council directive 77/489 EEC on the protection of animals during international transport has been adopted to harmonise member states' laws in that regard, in order to eliminate the technical barriers to trade in live animals which could result from disparrities between national laws. The European Court of Justice has ruled that in such circumstances recourse to Article 36 is no longer available.

The Government are also concerned about the precedent which this Bill could set for the use of ports for our seaborne trade generally. The control of our exports and imports must manifestly be a matter of national policy and not, I suggest, of local determination. For this reason alone, I am sure that the Bill will not be welcomed either by shippers or shipowners generally, although I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, would not be particularly worried about that. However, I know that the Department of Trade has had representations from the Freight Transport Association which includes the British Shippers' Council.

It is to individual harbour authorities to whom the Bill would give the responsibility for judging whether a trade had given rise to public concern as being offensive to public morality or contrary to public policy. I would venture to suggest that it is wholly inappropriate to place a subjective responsibility of that nature upon commercial bodies. In the first place, we would be creating an obvious conflict of interest, since ports depend on all kinds of traffic for their livelihood. Some ports already have a trade in farm animals, and there will always be others who could see a reasonable prospect of obtaining such business. In the second place, the Bill could lead to an arbitrary assessment of public concern in a particular locality and it could result in divergent by-laws being enforced at different ports around the country. I suggest this is not a matter on which there should be a variety of methods of application of the law but one common approach within the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said, "Don't worry about this, all by-laws must have the approval of the Minister"—and here we come to the point raised by the noble Lord. If I got his words correctly I think the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said that the Minister is the Ark of the conscience of the community. The Bill goes further than that. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said that he was all for devolution and let individual local authorities do what they like. Further, there is an implied obligation under Clause 1(5) that a Minister should—not just "could" but "should"—impose these restrictions on trade if he feels that any harbour authority does not at present have sufficient by-laws of its own to achieve that end.

So although the Bill may appear to give freedom of choice to individual harbour authorities in fact it places upon the Minister an overriding power which could enable him to ensure that the provisions of this Bill apply nationally to all harbour authorities, irrespective of their views. Furthermore, it gives the Minister the power to make the by-laws which will have the same effect as if the harbour authority had made the by-laws, even if the authority did not want to have them.

So this has other implications for harbour authorities. It runs counter to the long-standing policy that ports should remain open to all users provided that port charges are paid. This policy is expressed in Section 33 of the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act of 1847 which is incorporated into the local legislation of most harbour authorities. The Bill would involve a major and unwelcome departure from this policy. At the same time it would place on harbour authorities the responsibility for administering a policy which has nothing whatsoever to do with safe navigation or with the proper regulation of a harbour, which are the duties for which they are established.

This is of course a Private Member's Bill and your Lordships can do what your Lordships see fit with it, but I am bound to leave the House with a clear impression of the Government's attitude to the welfare of farm animals which are intended for export, and it is this. We believe that this trade should be permitted to continue but with added legal safeguards. The Government have set up the Farm Animal Welfare Council to give advice on matters affecting the welfare of farm animals and it has already considered the Government's proposals for the new safeguards for the welfare of farm animals during export and during carriage by water. In our view, these measures should apply throughout the country and not on a port by port basis as is proposed in the Bill.

The Government understand, and indeed share, the deep concern of those who are committed to improving the welfare of farm animals, and many of your Lordships have spoken on that basis this evening. We all want to see animals well and properly cared for, but I suggest that the Bill has to be considered in all its aspects and not just in relation to one aspect, however important that may be. I am bound to tell your Lordships that the Government's view is that the adverse effects of this Bill, which I have endeavoured to describe, outweigh the advantages of it, and therefore the Government could not support the Bill.

7.54 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, first I must thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It is obvious that this Bill has aroused considerable interest and has been more controversial than I expected. Our debate today has not been nearly so entertaining as some of the debates we had on the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, when we were more relaxed and we had more friends across the Chamber than I appear to have at the present moment. Nevertheless I have assumed this task and I am going to stick doggedly to it.

I must make an apology to the noble Lord, Lord Burton, for not having dealt adequately with his question. The infringements that I referred to were those observed by the special investigation branch of the RSPCA in other countries and therefore prosecutions did not lie in the hands of those who were observing the infringement. There are obvious difficulties in other countries' nationals trying to prosecute those who infringe the law of their own country, so they were reporting infringements outside this country.

I think I should make another observation in passing, which is that probably new considerations will arise in connection with the transportation of animals with Greece already in the enlarged Community, where there are grave doubts about the treatment of animals—and with Spain and Portugal and Turkey also coming in, the enlargement of the EEC will certainly create entirely new problems of freedom of movement of transportation and the removal of trade barriers between member countries. I ask noble Lords to bear that in mind.

I wish those who are not in favour of the Bill had at least made some acknowledgment of the ideal—I would say it is a principle—that living animals which are to be slaughtered should be slaughtered as near as possible to the point of production. That has been stated time and again as the ideal which should be followed, and we should be adjusting our slaughterhouse facilities to the greater observance of that principle than we are doing at the present time.

I believe that one day those who come after us will wonder why we tolerated this traffic at all. There will be alternatives found to regarding living animals as merchandise to be shipped from one place to another and subjected to treatment which offends a great many people. The British Veterinary Association said that they would heartily support this Bill, though they feared, as one or two noble Lords have mentioned, the possibility of longer distances having to be travelled by land if facilities at certain ports were withdrawn. It is better that animals should travel further overland in this country than have longer sea voyages or journeys by land in other countries. That is the experience which I think most people would say justifies keeping as much as possible within our own control.

Let me now straight away dispose of the problem of Scotland and the transportation of animals between islands and the mainland within the United Kingdom. The Bill does not specifically exclude them and it does not directly or indirectly refer to them, but I would say that this is a matter which could be dealt with at the Committee stage of the Bill. We could in fact leave Scotland out of it altogether, as so frequently Scotland is left out of legislation which applies to England and Wales, so I hope that no noble Lords will regard the special difficulties of transportation from islands to the mainland of Scotland as a serious obstacle to approving the general principles of this Bill.

The real principle is whether we can make some progress towards a better solution of a problem which will stay with us whatever we do. I believe that ultimately the only straight and sensible course is to phase out this traffic altogether—and let me remind my noble friend Lord Wallace, who has spoken from the Front Bench, that this is part of Labour Party policy and I have not the slightest doubt that one day this will appear in the manifesto to which he will be committed. I must say that as of now I am drawn more to the Social Democratic Party than I am to my noble friend on the Front Bench. At least I have heard the voice that I wanted to hear from our Front Bench, and I cannot make any promises about my future political allegiance. However, meantime I must put up with what my noble friend said from the Front Bench.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord will be quite welcome over here if he has any doubts.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, kept on saying "if this Bill is applied", "if the provisions of this Bill applied"; it was as if this Bill were imposing directly the options which are available under the Bill. The options are there, but they are not necessarily applied to anybody, not necessarily imposed on anybody either. It is a matter of particular harbour authorities, particularly probably the municipally-owned ones which have local electorates bringing their opinions to bear upon them. It is there that the disposition of a harbour authority is probably stronger towards exercising the option under this Bill than in a nationalised port which has no necessary response to make to local opinion. It is only if local opinion is strong enough and the port authority, a local one, take no action to respond to that local opinion that the Minister would come in to exercise his powers by requiring that particular port authority to make the necessary by-laws.

I think heavy weather has been made on all sides about a good deal of the detail of this Bill, losing sight of the fact that there is a firm principle involved here—that is, whether we are going to have more de-centralisation, whether we are going to have more control over our environment or whether we are to exercise some responsibility. And I emphasise that word; it is not a whim, it is not an emotion, it is responsibility for the attitude of citizens towards activities which are going on in their midst. I think we must bear that aspect of the matter in mind. The difficulties that might arise as between one port and another are inseparable from the exercise of any degree of local autonomy. We have spoken of regional decentralisation, we have been bewitched by devolution and decentralisation in recent years; we have in fact tried to get a greater acceptance of devolution in both Scotland and Wales. So the principles of this Bill are clearly written into a great many political tendencies at the present time.

Well, my Lords, there is a great deal else that could be said. I feel very strongly that the issues in this Bill are worth your Lordships' approval, for examination as thoroughly as your Lordships like in the Committee stage of the Bill. I regret that I cannot respond to the suggestion that I should withdraw it. I do not do things to withdraw them—not of this magnitude. I have spent a great deal of time and thought on this Bill. I have convinced myself about it, and there is not the slightest reason why If should withdraw, no matter how critical the views of noble Lords opposite. They have all been in favour of keeping this trade going. No concessions have been made in the speeches I have listened to, and I have listened to them all, about wanting to meet the public disquiet and distress about this trade, which is more widespread than in the ports directly affected.

I am afraid that this is the attitude of the conservative frame of mind. I use that term not in a political sense at all, because I do not want to make any political points in my final few observations. But we do have to move on from where we are; otherwise we should still be in the middle of the slave trade, to which I have already referred. However, I see that your Lordships are ready to give this Bill a Second Reading, so I strongly thank you for doing so, and invite all noble Lords who feel as I do, if we have a Division, to come into the Lobby with me.

8.5 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Bill shall be now read 2a?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 38.

Airedale, L. Jacques, L. [Teller.]
Avebury, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Aylestone, L. Listowel, E.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. McGregor of Durris, L.
Bernstein, L. McNair, L.
Brockway, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Craigavon, V. Stedman, B.
de Clifford, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Gardiner, L. Underhill, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Wade, L.
Hale, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. [Teller.]
Abinger, L. Mottistone, L.
Auckland, L. Mountevans, L.
Avon, E. Newall, L.
Birdwood, L. Norfolk, D.
Burton, L. [Teller.] Northchurch, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Onslow, E.
Denham, L. Orkney, E.
Digby, L. Penrhyn, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Renton, L.
Ferrers, E. St. Aldwyn, E.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Sandys, L.
Hylton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Leonard, L. Soames, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Stanley of Alderley, L. [Teller.]
Long, V.
Loudoun, C. Strabolgi, L.
Lyell, L. Trefgarne, L.
MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Walston, L.
Margadale, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion for Second Reading disagreed to accordingly.

Bill, by leave, withdrawn.