HL Deb 02 May 1991 vol 528 cc910-25

7.7 p.m.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the Bill is very straightforward; it is to improve the welfare of animals at slaughter. That is a matter of professional and personal concern to me and one which is worthy of your Lordships' whole-hearted support. It is the fruit of an initiative which the honourable Member for Holland with Boston began in another place. I must pay tribute to him, to Compassion in World Farming, to the RSPCA and to the British Veterinary Association for all their help in this matter. I should also like to take the opportunity to thank the Government for the considerable resources that they have made available to help progress this Bill.

The Bill is entirely uncontroversial. The new provisions stem from the Government's commitment to implement some 59 of the recommendations from the Farm Animal Welfare Council's 1984 report on the welfare of livestock (red meat animals) at the time of slaughter.

The Bill amends the Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act 1980 and the Slaughterhouses Act 1974 which covers England and Wales. Essentially the provisions in this Bill are concerned with the way existing law on welfare at slaughter is enforced and complied with.

Clause 1 refers to recommendation 46 in the Farm Animal Welfare Council's report. It adds to existing regulationߞmaking powers for securing humane conditions of slaughter to enable the Minister to require occupiers of slaughter premises to secure compliance with any provisions of such regulations.

Classes 2 and 3 add to and strengthen the Minister's powers on the licensing and training of slaughtermen by extending the category of person eligible to supervise a trainee slaughterman. They make clear the types of qualifications which may be required before a slaughterman's licence of any class is issued and allow the prescribing of the form of the licence and the information that it must contain. In the context of these clauses your Lordships will note that they encompass recommendations 43, 44, 45 and 47 of the council's report.

Clause 4 requires local authorities responsible for executing and enforcing legislation on the welfare of animals at slaughter to arrange for the supervision of slaughter premises in their district by officers holding qualifications prescribed in regulations and to comply with directions given to them by Ministers concerning the arrangements for supervision. That clause refers to recommendations 1 and 2 of the Farm Animal Welfare Council's report.

Clause 5 deals with a substantial number of the council's recommendations by making provisions for Ministers to prepare, issue and revise codes of practice giving guidance on the practical application of the law on the welfare of animals at slaughter. A breach of any such code would not render a person liable to prosecution but would be capable of being used as evidence tending to show contravention of the law.

All the new provisions introduced by the Bill require further action through regulations, codes of practice or ministerial directions before they come into full effect. I hope that the secondary measures can be expedited.

These measures are intended to ensure adequate compliance with legislation with particular regard to conditions which are stressful to animals at slaughter and affect their slaughter, such as the unloading of animals, the lairaging when animals of different social groupings are mixed, handling, marking, weighing and taming and during the pre-slaughter treatment in the approach races and in stunning areas.

A good welfare practice at slaughter results in more wholesome and profitable carcasses. Hence, the proposed regulations are in the interests of the industry.

Noble Lords may ask why the Bill has not covered all recommendations in the council's report. The simple reason is that its proposals are deliberately uncontroversial to the extent that it received wholehearted support in another place. I should caution your Lordships against the temptation to introduce amendments of a more controversial nature. This is a Private Member's Bill and for it to succeed it must be pleasing to all sides of the House. I understand that the Government are to address the council's more contentious recommendations in a government Bill which they intend to bring forward as soon as parliamentary time permits.

I hope that your Lordships will agree that this is an admirable Bill. The sooner it reaches the statute book the better.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior.)

7.12 p.m.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord, with his unrivalled knowledge and great experience, has taken on the task of seeing this small but useful Bill through your Lordships' House. I hope that he does not suffer the same fate as I when I introduced a very complicated Bill to reform the whole of the legislation about the welfare of deer. I took that through your Lordships' House and had to put it through in three Sessions before it finally became law. That Bill was much more complicated than this and we had to battle hard. I hope that we shall resist the temptation, strong though it is, to table amendments to the Bill so that it can go through broadly as it stands.

As the noble Lord said, the Bill has full government support and, I suspect, the support of every noble Lord who is to speak in the debate this evening. Nevertheless, I should like to offer a few words of strong criticism of the Government in this matter. The Farm Animal Welfare Council issued three excellent reports on the welfare of animals for slaughter in 1982, 1984 and 1985. The second report in 1984 dealing with livestock provides the basis, as the noble Lord said, for the animal welfare improvements proposed in the Bill. That report was published in 1984, seven years ago. Is that not a totally inexcusable delay in improving animal welfare?

I drew the Minister's attention to the Notice of Motion No. 853 on the Order Paper of another place on 17th July 1984 and the amendment to it. Let us look at that Motion. It was an all-party Motion in another place headed by leading Conservative Members. It commends the Farm Animal Welfare Council report and looks forward to: its early implementation by the government". That was in 1984.

More interesting is an amendment added by another Conservative Member, Miss Janet Fookes, and other Members from all parties. That amendment stated: is appalled by the conditions in many slaughter houses revealed by the Report; and demands that the Government implement the recommendations as a matter of urgency and without shilly-shallying". That was the Motion and the amendment to it in the other place some seven years ago. We have been waiting ever since for something to be done.

Now, with great respect, what we have is not very much. As the noble Lord said, it is a handful of non-controversial proposals mostly dependent on subordinate legislation and codes of practice, which, it is a fair guess the Government have yet to draft. How much longer must we wait?

The 1984 report contained 51 recommendations for legislation, 11 recommendations for better enforcement, 25 recommendations for codes of practice and 9 recommendations for more research. This Bill scarcely makes a dent in the catalogue of essential improvements needed in the welfare of animals at slaughter.

My criticism is blunt. I ask the noble Baroness—and I have given her notice of this—why we have had to wait for seven years for a minimal start. Secondly, when can we expect to see more government legislation on the main and more controversial recommendations? The noble Lord will forgive me if I smile when he says that he is happy because the Government will bring forward these more controversial changes when parliamentary time permits. I have been in one or other Chamber for 40 years. I have heard that refrain so often that I no longer take any notice of it. That legislation will not be introduced unless we continue to fight very hard for it and offer blunt criticisms when it does not appear. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord will not be satisfied but will join with the rest of us in saying that this is not good enough and is only a very minimal start.

Which of the main recommendations in the report do the Government not accept? Let us know where we stand. How hard does the battle need to be to get the remainder of the recommendations into law? How many of the 117 recommendations do the Government wish to see implemented and which are to be shelved? We should know that after seven years. The Government have had long enough to make up their mind.

Animals continue to be subject to unnecessary suffering in slaughterhouses. There is no doubt about that. I am sure that with his great experience, the noble Lord will agree with that. It is not a good record either as regards general legislation or the Government's implementation of the recommendations for reform.

To echo the words of the amendment to that Motion in the other place, the Government have been shillyߞshallying now for seven years. We bluntly have to say so. We have to ask equally bluntly how soon something really deliberate is going to be done to put into force the main recommendations of the 1984 report.

7.20 p.m.

Lord Dunleath

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, for having presented this Bill. I also thank the noble Baroness for very kindly having sent me a brief about it. It is most helpful. I welcome the Bill but I cannot help feeling some sympathy for what the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, has said. When I read the Bill and the brief I wondered why they had not gone further. In particular I wondered whether, as stated in Clause 2(2), "a person" with the appropriate qualifications will be sufficient to exercise the necessary supervision. Is "a person" going to ensure that the intentions of the Farm Animal Welfare Council are put into practice?

I preface my brief remarks by saying that it must be inevitable that anyone who works in a slaughterhouse becomes hardened to the distasteful things they see happening every day of their working life. I have been told that many people, if they saw what happened in a slaughterhouse, would never eat meat again. But it is a job. In the same way, a surgeon obviously has to be hardened to the distasteful sights that he sees, such as the blood and the intestines when he has to slit open a person's stomach. I am so squeamish that I could not be a surgeon any more than I could be a slaughterman. But it is a job that has to be done. At the same time the risk is that this immunity from natural squeamishness may lead to an insensitivity towards cruelty.

At the moment I believe that each abattoir has a governmentߞappointed veterinary inspector. But he cannot be everywhere at once. I have been told that there is a risk that, when there is a rush of animals and the abattoir is busy, with people in a hurry, short cuts may be taken. One example is that it is necessary for the ear tags to be removed from cattle before they go for slaughter. The staff have the equipment to remove them painlessly but from time to time they are just ripped off causing the animals unnecessary pain and additional stress. Another example during a rush is holding animals close to the point of slaughter.

That leads to the question of the design of abattoirs. It is essential that animals awaiting slaughter should be held in an area which is well separated from the point of slaughter. The animals can smell the blood and sense what is going on. That causes additional stress and on occasions causes the animals to panic. That is the only reason why an otherwise docile beast can go berserk. If an animal escapes, as happens from time to time, it goes charging out and has to be rounded up. It may have caused damage in the meantime. That is an indication of the terror that can be inflicted on animals when they are too close to the point of slaughter.

Also pertinent to the design of slaughterhouses is the holding box in which the animal is held while it is being stunned. Animals are of course of different sizes. Therefore the design of the box should be such that the stunning equipment should be 100 per cent. effective the first time. Similarly, the inspector, the properly trained person to do the job as suggested in the Bill, should be responsible for checking the stunning equipment on a regular basis and also for checking that the operator is fully competent to use it.

In the case of the captive bolt I am told that examination of carcasses reveals that on occasions four or five attempts have had to be made before the animal is properly stunned with the captive bolt equipment. Similarly, where electric tongs are used, if the voltage is not up to the fully appropriate level the animal can receive a severe shock without being rendered unconscious. There should be a trip switch to ensure that a shock is not administered unless there is a full voltage of electricity available to ensure that the animal is rendered unconscious the first time without having to endure suffering because of several attempts being made.

I wish the Bill well. Like the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will pursue the matter and fulfil the other requirements of the Farm Animal Welfare Council with the, minimum of delay. I welcome the Bill.

7.26 p.m.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

My Lords, I do not possess the detailed knowledge of the slaughter industry held by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath. I am a farmer and stock-keeper, now partially retired. I greatly welcome the Bill introduced in such a simple and understandable manner by the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior. The great delay that has occurred since the Farm Animal Welfare Council reported on what should be done is to be deplored. Now we are at least taking a step on the road to adopt in due course the majority, if not all, of the recommendations. I shall not dwell on the fact that it may be very difficult for the Government to decide what to do about some of them. In some cases there may be no answer.

We have to ensure that the Ministry gets parliamentary time and that each year we take a few more steps along the road so that when we are fully in the EC our standards are better than theirs. Then we shall feel independent. The Ministry won a great victory some years ago in preventing the export of live horses by the simple imposition of a price structure. It is to be hoped that in future methods can be found of equal efficacy which do not haul us into the European Court.

There is a problem looming, if it is not here already, which is well known to the Ministry and my noble friend. Enormous difficulties have been caused in the knackering and rendering trade by the discovery of BSE. Previously in the traditional knackering industry one rang up, the van came, the animal was taken away and, if you were lucky, you got a small cheque. If you were unlucky you got nothing, but you never got a bill. Now the reverse is the case. The knackers may not be there. Inevitably that will lead to the illicit and I believe illegal practice of slaughter on the farm by unlicensed slaughtermen.

There are all kinds of nasty ways to do it. One of the ways to discourage, or at least to mitigate, the effect of this is for the captive bolt pistol which although it has shortcomings is quite easy to use, to cease to be categorised as a firearm. To obtain such a device one has to produce four photographs and pay a large fee. It is surely better to consider widening the availability of these implements in cases where the knackering trade has collapsed. Indeed my noble friend told me earlier that his establishment, which must be of the very highest repute, is allowed only three. They have to be treated as if they were made of solid gold in order to comply with police regulations. I exaggerate, I fear, about the solid gold, but that is the feeling. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, will consider that as a looming problem in agriculture. I know it is not within the scope of this Bill but I am quite sure that the problems with the rendering trade will affect a wider and wider field; and it is but another part of the slaughtering trade.

I should also like to see transport dealt with but I must not dwell on that. Transport has great problems. I am glad to see the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able, in Cabinet or elsewhere, to defend the living animals as robustly as she defended that mythical animal, the haggis, yesterday. I wholeheartedly support the Bill.

7.23 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, and all seven of us present for the debate, welcome. I am sure that it is a pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, making his maiden introduction of a Bill in your Lordships' House and also to hear the noble Lord, Lord Cochrane of Cults, whom we heard for the first time two days ago. It is nice to hear him again.

I do not know why it is that on this subject of animal welfare we debate under a guillotine. This is the only guillotine imposed on your Lordships' House; that of the supper interval. We have a Motion that the House resume at five minutes past eight. I am almost in the mood to make sure that it does not resume until five minutes past 10. However, I have had my share of the time of the House this week and I must not make a nuisance of myself; not this week. Quite honestly, it is too bad that it is animal welfare and animal matters that come under this restraint. It is not right.

The introduction of any Bill at Second Reading usually gives the opportunity for a wider survey on some of the issues relating to the subject of the Bill. But when we are under this kind of timetable we have to stick to the Bill. We do not have the opportunity to make a few philosophical remarks about how human beings are treating the animal kingdom under modern conditions of commercial and population pressure. I am always protesting against that but it makes no difference. The usual channels are deaf or blocked to appeals to give the House the opportunity to debate some matters free of this limitation on time.

There are many occasions when on this kind of attendance your Lordships' House, in Committee, legislates. If it can do that, surely it can spare some time, even though the attendance may not be up to the usual standard, to discuss animals. The reason for the sparse attendance at the moment is that our colleagues and other noble Lords and their guests are busy having refreshment. That is an added obstacle to the work of the House on this subject.

Before I go on to be very rude indeed, I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, a former president of the British Veterinary Association whose prestige in the veterinary profession and his long service to animal welfare are well known, that it is a great honour to have him introduce this Bill. He is the first veterinary surgeon in your Lordships' House; and now that we have one, we have a notable one. I pay him my great respects. I am sure that we envy the noble Lord the pleasure of introducing a Bill that we shall welcome and of which we shall say "It is long overdue and does not go far enough".

If we are to have a debate in the supper break, it is also a good thing that we have a topic—the welfare of animals at slaughter—which is very appropriate for a supper interval. My only regret is that when noble Lords go to their refreshment along the corridor we do not broadcast live the proceedings in your Lordships' House. I am willing to offer £1,000 towards the cost of installing in the dining rooms of the House live television, or at least live sound, of the debates during the supper intervals so that they may pause when eating their meat to consider how it got there and interrupt conversation on less important matters to listen to what this slaughter business is. Perhaps they would then insist on the supper interval being free of intervention from people who welcome unpleasant subjects to give them indigestion. For this Bill we should have to provide sick bags in the dining rooms if we were to broadcast this subject live. They would all get up and not come back. It would be a wonderful opportunity of ramming home the importance of this subject to this House. However, I must not take more time than is proper at the moment. I resent the conditions under which we discuss the subject. I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for whom I have great affection, for any incursion on her time.

I shall do no more now than say that in the background to this Bill is still the ritually slaughtered animal. I shall not dilate on the subject but I am bound to draw attention to the fact that it is a growing industry. As the Moslem population increases, then the need for the ritual slaughter of animals will increase too. It will be intolerable if this country is divided into two sections of slaughter policy; one the secular section where we regard it as essential to have pre-stunning before killing an animal, and one where there is no such condition. I do not think that a nation divided in that way between one religious community and others will be at peace. The many aspects of the matter which arise on selling and labelling and putting ritually killed meat into the normal run of the wholesale and retail trade are deeply worrying. One day many people will rise up and say, "It has to change". That is all I am going to say on that subject. That day will come and I hope to be there. We shall have to have a full debate at a suitable moment on where we are going on this subject of ritually killed animals. We want animals to be killed and treated in other respects as we have laid down in the law and not have immunities, which were granted under entirely different circumstances, widely extended because of a complete change in the composition of our community.

I have nothing but approval for the Bill. Of course it has taken too long to arrive; indeed, they all take too long. We do not interfere with the conditions of animals in those circumstances unless they become a scandal. But at that stage it is very late in the day. Moreover, very frequently, enormous sums of capital have been invested in slaughter house equipment which people plead would be uneconomic to replace, except in the long term.

The next piece of legislation which will come before this House will concern the tethering of pigs. It will raise similar issues. Those concerned want eight years to carry out the reforms which we intend to make. There are already signs that, as the Bill is a Private Member's Bill in the House of Commons, it may get blocked for lack of time and it is possible that other problems lie ahead. It will be a great shame and scandal if that proves to be the case.

I support the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, in his stress upon oversight. One person may not be enough for the purpose. Indeed, one named person was certainly not enough in the laboratory where Professor Feldberg was at work on animals under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. I know that those who are doing the job do not like someone looking over their shoulder to check that they are doing the right thing. However, we are dealing with the lives of other sensitive creatures and we must respect that fact. We cannot proceed as if they do not matter because they jolly well do. Enforcement is the key to this as it is the key to everything in animal welfare. I hope that a watch will be kept on the effectiveness of the supervision which is carried out.

Where do we stand in regard to the EC on the matter? I have already passed a note to the noble Baroness on the question. I understand that there is a proposal passing through the EC which will deal with the matter on a European basis, although it may be wider in its full effect. The process of policy making in the EC involves more circumlocution than here. It has to go through all the nations, and so on. The officials and the commissioners do not have the same relationship as Ministers and civil servants have in this country.

From what I hear Sir Leon Brittan, who is one of the British commissioners, has put a spoke in to stop something happening. Moreover, I heard today that another commissioner has added his spoke to the wheel. Why are these spokes being put into the progress of this work? Why does one of them come from a British commissioner? I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cochrane of Cults, that we must try to be in advance of Europe and not slither around waiting for them to set our pace. This has a European dimension and it is a very important one. We must be provided with more information about what is happening in Europe than we receive at present. I say that because Europe is probably settling things for us. We need to know what is happening.

I do not think I have impeded the progress of the House sufficiently to interfere with what the Committee wants to do when its Members return well fed to the Chamber at five minutes past eight.

7.45 p.m.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo

My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, on these occasions. He is a great animal lover and does much to help the welfare of animals generally and in the industry. It is an equal pleasure to have had the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, to introduce the Bill, as he is a former president of the British Veterinary Association.

Over the past five years a great deal of legislation has been enacted which has been beneficial to the welfare of animals. While recognising the fact that long delays have taken place, much animal welfare legislation has been introduced. The Government may rightly feel proud of their record to date. I believe that the noble Baroness has done a great deal both through this House and elsewhere. Reading my Horse and Hound magazine, I never cease to see her pictured smilingly attending either sales or some seminar. I am now very familiar with what she looks like in print.

However, whether the legislation coupled with the regulations is enforceable many people who look after animals doubt. It would appear that we have before us sound legislation embodying a code of practice which is both easy to follow and, I suggest, enforceable.

I have to admit to being a layman as regards certain techniques of slaughter used on different types of animals. But, having witnessed the slaughter of pigs both in this country and West Germany, I know that our techniques are generally much better than those of our European partners. I believe that the technique of slaughtering animals is not a simple one. It needs to be studied and improved upon. Indeed, I would go further and say that I believe different animal types require different techniques.

In that connection, I question whether there should be emergency provisions within the Bill for the slaughter of animals which have been involved in traffic accidents or similar incidents. I recall the IRA bomb attack in Hyde Park on 20th July 1982 when 16 horses, 3f the Household Cavalry were killed or fatally injured and had to be quickly destroyed. I wonder whether we should put a provision into the Bill to ensure that there is some kind of emergency regulation.

Clause 3 of the Bill amends Section 16 of the 1980 Act in regard to the training, examining and testing of slaughtermen. Much has already been said about the single person, but I believe there is an important need for uniform training and testing, possibly before licences are issued or renewed. Furthermore, licences should reflect the type of animals to be slaughtered within particular slaughterhouses. That should be covered within the small print of the licence.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has already mentioned the issue of ritual slaughter. However, I believe that could be omitted from the Bill. A provision for the slaughter of animals on accepted spiritual or religious grounds needs to be included. Having had the honour on several occasions of attending the Gurkha religious ceremony of Dashera, I admit to being concerned that that type of ceremony could be. debarred under this legislation. It is possible that the noble Baroness may wish to say something about that in her reply.

The Bill will go a long way to improving the welfare of animals by removing their pain and suffering. It will ensure that slaughtering techniques and procedures are correctly carried out. As one who cares about animals, I too support the Bill.

7.48 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Bill and all that it implies. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, on the very clear way in which he introduced the legislation. The background against which the Bill is set has been clearly outlined by noble Lords who are much more familiar than I with the details of the slaughter of animals.

It seems to me—although this point has not been mentioned by other speakers—that one of the concerns which strike a layman is that, like many other businesses, slaughtering cannot be a very profitable business whether it is done by private or local authority slaughterhouses. Indeed, margins must be fairly narrow. I should have thought that, as is the case with most businesses these days, there will always be attempts to get a better throughput in order to achieve the necessary profitability to keep the business going. That causes some concern. For example, if the business going through the slaughterhouse is being speeded up, there will be more than a temptation to cut corners and not do the job properly.

Against that background, the Bill provides for the designation of officials to be responsible for animal welfare and the nominating of slaughterhouse staff to look after the welfare of animals. Most importantly, it provides for the proper training of slaughtermen. I do not believe that any noble Lord has mentioned this point, though I may be wrong, but, if we accept the scenario I have described as regards the need for profitability, it is likely that there will be bigger slaughterhouses which are further apart. That will mean that animals will have to be transported further and therefore that the stress they will suffer before they reach the slaughterhouses will be increased. That again emphasises the need for proper handling when they finally arrive.

Like many types of learning which are characteristic of this country and which will have to change, learning on the job in slaughterhouses is unacceptable. It may be acceptable for golf caddies and even, if I may say so in the Minister's presence, for trainee stable staff to learn as they go along —although in that area people probably need expert training—but there is a tendency for people to tag on to a man who knows what he is doing, watch him and learn. Bad practice can often be perpetuated in that way. People need proper training in theory and practice.

The Bill reinforces the excellent orders which have been introduced by the Government and which we welcomed. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, spoke about television in our Dining Room. It was an interesting point. I do not know whether it will be accepted. Two sessions of hearing about animals being slaughtered may have a detrimental effect on the economy of the Dining Room of your Lordships' House, but I take his point. I shall be serious about his point on ritual slaughtering. That subject needs a debate in your Lordships' House. What he said has serious implications which should be addressed. I go along with him entirely on that.

I agree too with the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby. Different animals require different methods of slaughter. That reinforces the need for proper training.

Other countries in Europe have similar problems in respect of slaughtering. I guess that some countries are much worse than we are. I hope that when there is uniformity in Europe we shall lead the field in slaughterhouse practices. Some countries now joining the EC have practices which we find unacceptable. That applies also to some countries nearer home. There was a recent newspaper article which described the killing of pigs in south-west France. The French authorities allow a departure from normal standards where pigs have been traditionally killed by the family. Leniency is shown. Although the work is done efficiently, it struck me that the animal and its welfare might not be the prime consideration.

We welcome the Bill. It probably does not go far enough, but it will be a useful addition to the legislation on the subject.

7.55 p.m.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, like others, we regard this as a useful Bill, and consequently we fully support it. I have already written to the Minister and told her that it is not our intention to table amendments to the Bill at any stage, because we agree with its promoters that we want a speedy passage for it into law, and amendments would not contribute towards achieving that objective.

Because of our support for the Bill, and our desire to see it on the statute book, we have no intention of raising tonight or at any time during its passage wider issues as to the future of slaughterhouses in general, and the thorny question of when Her Majesty's Government might find time to implement all the FAWC recommendations in this area, which, as we know, require primary legislation. That said, I endorse the comments made by my noble friend Lord Northfield as to the delay in that respect.

Other speakers have covered most aspects of this short but important amending Bill. The House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, for his lucid presentation of the Bill, and to the Minister for sending me details of the Bill's provisions ahead of this Second Reading.

I understand that none of the Bill's substantial provisions can be brought fully into effect without the making of regulations, ministerial directions or codes of practice. I also understand that there will be full consultations with all interests on proposals for any such measures. Thus, the desire for speedy implementation of the Bill's provisions must be reconciled with the commitment to consult.

In the meat trade generally the consultation process can be protracted, but a recent and welcome development in training for the industry should expedite at least part of the discussion process. I refer to the establishment of the Meat Training Council under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Vestey. That council includes major elements in the industry and is supported by the Meat and Livestock Commission. The certification body in the council is the Institute of Meat. Here I must declare a non-pecuniary interest as a past president of that excellent training body. The Institute of Meat standards of achievement scheme would be an ideal medium to establish a national standard for licensing slaughtermen, and it covers all species. I shall not develop that point in greater detail as I promised myself a brief speech, and the Institute of Meat has sent to the meat hygiene division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food details of what it is doing, and what it can do, in that important area.

The public has an ongoing interest in the welfare of animals at all times, and not least at slaughter. Various organisations have written commending the Bill. They, like myself, hope that it will soon be law, but even more, they hope that its provisions will be speedily implemented throughout England, Wales and Scotland. I also hope that corresponding legislation will be introduced in Northern Ireland, a point about which the Minister was kind enough to write to me. I fully support the Bill.

7.58 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

My Lords, the Government are most grateful to my noble friend Lord Soulsby for sponsoring the Bill. It covers a subject which is of as great a concern to the Government, as I know it is to your Lordships' House. I want to make it clear to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that if I have not finished answering the questions by 8.5 p.m.—tough luck to the transport boys!

The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, said how difficult it is to get a Private Member's Bill through both Houses. He referred to the delays in implementing the FAWC's recommendations on the welfare of red meat animals, as did several other noble Lords. The Government agreed in principle to implement 104 of the council's recommendations —a substantial programme of work. Seven recommendations were immediately included in the ministry's research programme on stunning and slaughter; and 30 recommendations were implemented last year in new regulations and guidance issued to local authorities. The Bill will let us implement at least 59 recommendations, most in codes of practice. We intend to bring forward a government Bill to implement other recommendations from this and other council reports. My department is currently preparing a list on the stage reached in implementing each of the recommendations made by FAWC in its reports on welfare at slaughter. This will shortly be placed in the Library of the House. I also remind the noble Lord that in 1984 we updated the law on the welfare of poultry at slaughter through the Animal Health Welfare Act in order to enact yet another of those recommendations.

The Bill before your Lordships today therefore represents a most welcome opportunity for the Government to give effect to a number of significant but uncontroversial FAWC recommendations. To answer one of the points kindly put to me in a letter by the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, I can inform your Lordships that in anticipation of the successful outcome of the Bill the Government are preparing three codes of practice. We fully intend to discuss provisions for new regulations and codes with interested parties before their publication.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, I refer to Clause 2 concerning Section 4(2) on trainee slaughtermen. The noble Lord asked simply why "a person" in that clause should supervise. Part of Clause 2 concerns the person eligible to supervise a trainee slaughterman. Through regulations we intend to make sure that that person is suitably qualified and apprised of welfare requirements.

The noble Lord spoke eloquently on conditions in abattoirs. Local authorities at district council level are responsible for enforcing the extensive legislation which already exists to provide for the welfare of animals at the time of slaughter. Officers of the state veterinary service also visit all slaughterhouses to monitor standards and give advice. Conditions are generally satisfactory. It is up to local authorities to see that standards are maintained. The agriculture department immediately investigates any reports of poor welfare standards that reach them. I hold the same feelings as the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, and just as strongly as he does.

The noble Lord asked what action would be taken following research which showed faulty stunning that would cause pain. The Government commissioned research in this area because of concern expressed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council about the accuracy of stunning. We have the research results, which support the need for the use of head restraints to improve accuracy of stunning and which drew attention to inadequately powered pistols. We have accepted the need for head restraints, and the requirement is now included in the new regulations. We are including other findings of the research in the codes of practice.

My noble friend Lord Cochrane spoke about the knacker industry. The only effect this Bill has on that industry is to ensure that knackermen deal with live animals humanely. My noble friend will recall that we fought successfully against considerable opposition from other member states to safeguard the knacker industry during the negotiations on the EC directive on the disposal of animal waste. The Government are to be congratulated on their stand and on the fact that we have kept knackers going on a derogation. My noble friend Lord Cochrane also spoke about disposal of stock. As he made clear, the disposal of stock has nothing to do with the Bill. He may know that there will be an opportunity to discuss the issue in full on 15th May.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, will be aware that his point about EC proposals has nothing to do with the Bill. However, I understand that the Commission has been working on proposals for the protection of animals for slaughter. These have not yet been submitted to the Council of Ministers. I assure him that the Government are as anxious as he is to see progress made on these measures. We shall continue to encourage the Commission to bring them forward as soon as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, made an assertion concerning two commissioners. Quite frankly, I would rather not comment on speculation.

Both he and the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, were concerned about religious slaughter. As they are aware, we discussed this fully in June last year when the Government introduced important new measures to safeguard the welfare of animals being slaughtered by these methods. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, spoke about the Pig Husbandry Bill. As he knows, that Bill was withdrawn on 26th April. The Government will bring forward their own regulations at an early date and the draft regulations reflect exactly the provisions of the revised Bill. Mention was made of slaughter of the type used by the splendid —though not in this context—Gurkhas. But that is outside the scope of the Bill. The legislation we are amending applies to slaughter in slaughter premises. The noble Viscount also mentioned the slaughter of animals in traffic accidents. I am afraid that that is also outside the scope of the Bill.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, made a most peculiar series of comparisons to which, as a golfer, I took great exception. He said that learning slaughter on the job was not good enough, but some very good caddies have become great champions. The Government intend to bring forward proposals on training slaughtermen as soon as possible, but I cannot give a date at this stage. I should make clear that we intend fully to discuss the provisions of any new regulations with interested parties.

I think that that about wraps up all the questions that I was asked. I have not done too badly. I wish to assure my noble friend that his Bill has full government support and we wish it a speedy passage through your Lordships' House.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down perhaps she would be kind enough to answer.one further question which I put to her. She kindly answered us all at great length and we appreciate the trouble she has taken. However, I asked her to make clear whether the Government reject any of the major recommendations of the 1984 report. If so, we know what we must press for. Will the report that will be put in the Library, for example, indicate clearly whether the Government reject any of the major recommendations of the 1984 report?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I suggest that the noble Lord waits until the report is in the Library, when he can come back to me. It is my understanding that no major issue in the report is to be rejected.

8.9 p.m.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

My Lords, first I thank the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for his generous remarks about me. With no disrespect to him, I wish to correct one point. The presidency to which he referred was of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, not the British Veterinary Association. I say this because my colleagues may take me to the slaughterhouse if I let it pass.

I have listened carefully to the views expressed during the debate. My noble friend the Minister of State answered points which were raised during the discussion and I am grateful to her for that. I am much encouraged by the positive points that were raised during the debate and the way in which the Bill has been received by noble Lords. The Bill has attracted the backing of all sides of the House. As has been said, the Government are in complete agreement with it. I commend this Bill to your Lordships' House in the sincere hope that noble Lords will give it the welcome and the support it clearly deserves. I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

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