HL Deb 09 July 1984 vol 454 cc630-2

10 Schedule 1, page 17, leave out lines 24 to 30.

11 Page 17, leave out lines 45 to 47.

12 Schedule 2, page 19, line 23, leave out ("3(1)").

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are designed to replace Section 3 of the Slaughter of Poultry Act 1967 by which Ministers are enabled to make regulations for the purpose of securing humane conditions and practices in connection with the slaughter of poultry and the treatment of poultry awaiting slaughter. The new power may look very different from the existing one—and by that I mean the one which was in the Bill when it left your Lordships' House—but the purpose of the Commons amendment is to clarify doubts over the extent of the powers, particularly as they apply to places where poultry are sold live to the intending consumer, who then slaughters the bird himself before taking it home. Slaughter in these circumstances may not readily he interpreted to fall within the definition of "slaughter for commercial purposes", since it could he argued that the commercial transaction has been completed before slaughter takes place. These amendments therefore give Ministers power to make regulations which apply to slaughter in any circumstances. Therefore, these amendments have tightened up the rules.

I should like to make it quite clear that we do not intend to use this power to apply controls over people killing poultry in their own homes for their own or their families' consumption, and I give an assurance that we shall make this clear in the regulations. Nor do the Government intend to apply controls to slaughter in the circumstances which are excluded under Clause 4; that is slaughter by veterinary surgeons, slaughter for an experiment under the Cruelty to Animals Act, and for disease control purposes. Again, the regulations will make this clear. Our intention is simply to control the conditions under which slaughter for commercial purposes or slaughter on premises where birds are sold or under the control of the person selling the birds, can take place. The new section leaves untouched the licensing provisions in Clause 5 of the Bill as printed.

There is one other point that I should like to add, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, when the Bill went through the House. Subsection (2)(b) and (d) will enable us to make exceptions in appropriate cases from any of the provisions in the regulations. I hope that this will be an assurance to the noble Lord, who sought special provision to be made in respect of slaughter for sale at the farm gate. The Government will give careful consideration to any requests for special treatment when the time comes to make the regulations, though I must emphasise again that our first concern must be for the birds' welfare. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said amendments.—(Lord Belstead.)

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for explaining this amendment. It is a very necessary one because there is always a great deal of worry over the wholesale slaughter of poultry in the large slaughter houses. I note in the Commons debate on the amendments that that worry was raised. There is no doubt that automatic stunning can miss birds here and there and that inspection is sometimes a little lax. I am sure that tightening up will help to relieve people's minds of that worry and reassure them that the welfare of the birds is looked after. I am glad that this will not affect various items, including the one I mentioned when we discussed this matter at the Report stage, of farm slaughtering for the farmer's wife's own use or of a few birds for sale. With that, we support the amendment.

I have just noticed where I made my mistake or someone has made a mistake. The amendment says, "After Clause 3" but elsewhere it says, "new Clause 2" It is little wonder that I was mixed up in the amendments.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I believe that the new version is an improvement on the previous one. However, I note that we are now legislating very much in arrears. The Report of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, upon which this Bill is based, was issued in 1982 and I hear that very rapid changes are taking place in the handling of birds in this particular industry, that mass production is being accompanied by mass slaughter and that the mechanisation of some operations in the handling of birds has advanced a considerable stage since the Farm Animal Welfare Council conducted its own investigations several years ago. Therefore, the power to make regulations here is not only comprehensive, but it gives the Minister an opportunity to make sure that what he is doing is up to date.

I believe that that is very important. If one is not pretty speedy in implementing recommendations of this kind, one can be left behind. This is a lesson to be learnt in connection with the more recent report on the slaughter conditions of red meat animals. However, on this particular clause I approve of the range of matters which may be the subject of regulations. My final observation is that we are building up a considerable promissory note on regulations and codes of practice. There is much work still to be done. Indeed, it must be done before the Act is really effective. That is the long and short of the matter. I hope that the department are busy preparing the regulations and also the codes of practice, otherwise there will be another gap between the authority given to the Minister and his use of it.

I remark on the Minister's repetition of the phrase, "The interests of the birds must come first". I entirely agree with that, but the interests of the birds have to come first as early as possible, otherwise there is a good deal of suffering likely to go on while fresh regulations and codes of practice are being prepared and introduced.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I think I ought to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, who has taken a close interest in this Bill. When the noble Lord talks about legislating in arrears and having to keep up, I think it is right for me to say that perhaps that is not wholly fair. The power to regulate in slaughter houses is in the 1967 Act and was used in 1971 when the regulations on the slaughter of poultry under humane conditions were made. We are now in the process of amending those regulations. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that the Ministry is keeping up with the needs of the time.

On Question, Motion agreed to.