Clause 26. — (Power of local authorities to provide and carry on slaughter-houses.)

Orders of the Day — Livestock Industry Bill. – in the House of Commons on 4th May 1937.

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6.14 p.m.

Mr. Rostron Duckworth:

I beg to move, in page 25, line 8, at the end, to insert: Provided that no order or scheme shall permit of any process or manufacture being applied thereunder to any product of the slaughtering of livestock, except to the extent of preparing the product in a suitable form for delivery to a factory whose business it is to manufacture from such product in its original form. The object of the Amendment is to prevent, if possible, the establishment of municipal factories in slaughter-houses to deal with processes which ought not to be carried on in such slaughter-houses and which, if permitted, will have serious effects on private undertakings and on many successful and established businesses. Two of the profitable by-products of slaughtering are the production of tennis gut and glue. This is a matter which, unless the Amendment is carried, will, I fear, be viewed with grave concern by many who have established businesses, and who feel that municipal trading and undertakings should not prevent the successful competition which is most desirable.

6.16 p.m.

Photo of Marquess of  Titchfield Marquess of Titchfield , Newark

I should like to support the Amendment, and I can do so in two sentences. If my right hon. Friend does not accept it, the Clause may adversely affect such trades as tanning, light leather dressing, glue, gelatine, dripping, soap, fertilisers, catgut and other useful commodities. We on this side of the House believe in the vital principle that subsidised industries should not adversely affect unsubsidised industries, and unless the Amendment is accepted this vital principle may not be assured.

6.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

I am not quite sure how to take the Noble Lord when he makes speeches. I am not always sure whether he is serious or humorous. On many occasions he tells us that the only industry worth while is agriculture, and there is not a thing he would not do for agriculture. Now he states that because three experimental abattoirs are to be run as a service for agriculture he is not interested in agriculture but only in the side issues. Where does the interest of the Noble Lord lie? Is it in agriculture, or is it in the multiplicity of odds and ends that exploit agriculture?

Marquess of Titchfield:

I am very interested in agriculture, and all those things appertaining to it.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

The Noble Lord always seems willing to support proposals that the taxpayer shall subsidise agriculture, and to oppose anything that may help agriculture to help itself. He suggests that no subsidised undertaking ought to be in competition with an unsubsidised undertaking. I wish the Noble Lord had thought about that a few years ago. He is supporting a subsidy for milk for manufacturing purposes, and to that extent is supporting the erection of new dairy factories for the processing of milk which is subsidised by the Government which he has supported throughout. I know that it is not the lot of the politician to be consistent, except to be consistent in his inconsistencies. The Noble Lord is the perfect example of that, and I am not surprised that he is supporting the Amendment. It is a further restricting and limiting Amendment which is calculated, if accepted, to destroy the effectiveness of any experimental abattoirs. The Government after all do not intend to do too much. This Bill contains four parts—a part to restrict imports of beef and veal, a part to deal with the re-organisation of marketing, a part to deal with the establishment of experimental abattoirs, and a part to provide £5,000,000 as a subsidy for livestock producers. The Noble Lord will support the first and last, hut he is doubtful about the other two.

The Amendment would restrict the effectiveness and utility of the abattoir if it is to be nothing more than a huge shell where cattle are to be taken to be slaughtered. The utilisation of identi- fiable and unidentifiable offals will make a success or failure of centralised slaughtering. What the Noble Lord and the Mover of the Amendment want to get rid of is the power of those who run the central abattoirs to do anything other than kill. An abattoir would be merely a shell where thousands of cattle, sheep and pigs are slaughtered and everything handed back to the individual butcher or to the owner of the animals. If the right hon. Gentleman is to get the maximum experience from such an experimental slaughter-house, he has to take a leaf out of the note-book of those who have been running a successful abattoir for many years. The hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) and other hon. Members went to Leytonstone a few weeks ago and saw a big abattoir where nothing leaves the place—not even a squeal, because there is no such thing as a squeal at Leytonstone as humane slaughtering is the general rule. They sell the meat in the best possible condition after having allowed it to hang the appropriate length of time. They utilise every one of the identifiable and unidentifiable offals to the best advantage, and the whole thing has been a paying proposition for a long time.

If the Government, as is the case here, are to make a present of £50,000 to each of three bodies who are to take the risk of spending many hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide central slaughterhouses, the Government should be able to obtain from them all the information possible as the result of the experience of a year or two. How can they get that experience if the abattoirs are to be allowed only to kill the animals? This limiting Amendment would destroy the effectiveness of Part V of this Measure. I hope that the Leytonstone example will be multiplied and magnified by these experimental abattoirs. If the people who are running them are not to be able to use the offals to the best advantage, what advantage ultimately will the producer of cattle derive from this experiment? I would remind the Noble Lord that this proposal is intended as a service to agriculture. It is helping agriculture to help itself, and £150,000 is to be given by the Treasury to enable it to help itself. The Noble Lord, however, says, "Please do not do that; restrict them to the killing of cattle." The Mover of the Amendment says, "We do not want municipali- ties to enter into any trading undertakings." If the right hon. Gentleman had taken our advice, the local authorities would not have been running these three central abattoirs. They would have been run by the State. It would have been State trading, which is the right thing to do because as the State is providing £50,000 as a gift and another £100,000 as a loan, it might well have run the abattoirs and provided the Government with all the information and experience they require. If, however, they leave it to the local authorities, or to a joint local authority, or to a public utility society, or whoever it may be, then at least they have to give those who run them a chance of making a success of the experiment. I hope that the Minister will not countenance any limitation of their powers.

6.26 p.m.

Photo of Sir Francis Acland Sir Francis Acland , Cornwall Northern

I do not want to enter into any disquisition on the morals of the Noble Lord, which are as above reproach as those of the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway. I do not very much like the Amendment. One of the things on the list which the Noble Lord wishes to be excluded from the things which abattoirs should do is the making of fertilisers. Anybody who has been over the best-conducted abattoirs—as I have had the rather doubtful pleasure of doing once or twice—reaches a stage in the transformation of the animal at which there is something in the air besides the lowing of cattle—an emanation, or effluvium, if one uses a polite word, or stink if one uses the word which normally comes to one's mind. That is the department where certain by-products are being turned into manure. If all that had to be taken away from the abattoir and dealt with somewhere else, instead of on the spot, the unpleasant feeling would be widely distributed wherever the byproducts might be taken before they passed into the further stage of being made into manure. Offals are best treated on the spot, and no obstacle should be put in the way of these abattoirs doing it in order to get the best out of the beasts and all that the beasts produces. Therefore, I hope the House will not unduly restrict these abattoirs more than is normally and rightly done in other abattoirs which are carrying on their business on up-to-date lines.

6.28 p.m.

Major Hills:

The question between the Mover of the Amendment and the Noble Lord, and the two speakers on the opposite side, is how to get the best out of the offals and how best to help agriculture in the processes through which the offals go. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) said that we want to get the best out of the beast. I accept that as a test. How do we do it? Is it done by doing what the Bill allows to be done, namely, to prepare for sale and to sell any of the by-products? What is meant by "prepare for sale"? Should the by-products be sold as such, or should they be manufactured into some of the numerous articles that are made from the by-products? I put to the House that you help agriculture best by having these by-products sold to the best advantage and at the best prices in the market which is always ready to take them, and not by investing a large sum of money in the various processes through which the by-products go. The question between myself and the other side is as to how far they would go. I do not think we should go so far as they would wish to go. I have been given a list of the products made out of offal, and the trades include tanning, pellmongering, leather dressing, glue and gelatine, edible dripping, soap and tallow, fertilisers and cattle foods, tripe boiling, neat's foot oil, cutlers' bones, and the casings of sausages. That is a pretty wide array.

How far do hon. Members want to go, as a matter of practical good sense? We should let the abattoir prepare for sale and sell these offals to the best advantage. I believe there is a very ready market for them, and that at present there is a shortage of supply and that it is a sellers' market. Should we not be doing the best for agriculture by preparing the offals to the extent that we have prepared them, and then selling them, rather than starting all those numerous industries, which are very technical and in which the products would come into a competitive market? It is not a question between selling the prepared article and selling it wholly unprepared. It has to be prepared for sale and I agree with the right hon. Member for Cornwall that that preparation has to take place on the spot. We cannot just send the things out on a lorry to another factory without some preparation. Do the Committee think it would be a good thing that the door should be opened so wide as it would be unless some words such as those proposed are inserted? H the particular words are not suitable, the Mover of the Amendment will be prepared, I suppose, to consider other words. I am convinced that we should be doing the best for the industry by not going too far afield, and embarking in trades which are not part of the cattle raising industry or of the agricultural industry. We ought to confine ourselves to preparing these byproducts to a sufficient extent to get the best price for them and allow the manufacture to be carried on elsewhere.

6.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not wish to truncate discussion on this matter, but I hope the House may now come to a decision upon it, because it is not a new point, but is very similar to one we have already discussed, and we have a lot of work to do. Again the difficulty is one of finding words which would be suitable to prevent an undue extension of powers, while at the same time not limiting too much a perfectly reasonable experimental effort on the part of these slaughter-houses. We have the same difficulty as in the last case, namely, the variation of local feeling and of local industries all about the country. We took what I still believe to be the better course of moving an Amendment in Committee to Clause 24 (I, g, i), which was accepted, providing that the scheme shall determine which of the products of slaughtering other than butcher's meat—which will also be defined—may become the property of the slaughtering authority. That Amendment was moved with the object of ensuring that the scheme would contain a full description of which products of slaughtering should become the property of the authority. Therefore, when a scheme comes up for discussion the whole extent of the processes and the number of the commodities will be clearly displayed. There will be no chance of someone starting an activity without someone having had the right to object.

If the House will be advised by me I think it will be far better to leave it as we have put it, so that in each case it will be left to local opposition and local criticism to put its point of view. When we are setting out, in these three cases, to gain knowledge and experience it would be unwise unduly to limit the possible activities of these slaughterhouses. The Noble Lord the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) and other hon. Members have read out a terrifying list of trades the very existence of which appears to be imperilled by the chance that these three slaughter-houses—only three—may be in a position to make use of some of the products of slaughtering. It is vital to the whole conception of the Bill that the matter should be left for discussion on the schemes, and if the House will be advised by me, I think that is the course which should be adopted.

6.36 p.m.

Mr. Alexander:

I am glad the Minister is taking the general line of asking the House to leave this matter to be dealt with in the schemes, but I am anxious about his general approach to the question, and very much hope that the kind of assurance he is giving to his followers does not mean that when a scheme for any particular abattoir is produced to the House the proposals in the Bill will have been found to be watered down. I agree that it is advisable to have each scheme considered on its merits and with due regard to all the circumstances of the case, but I hope the Minister is not foreshadowing any concession to the kind of view which was expressed, reasonably and temperately, by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), because when we come to look at what is actually being done with the by-products from abattoirs, there is no case at all for this Amendment. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred to the abattoir at Leytonstone and what has been going on there for years, and what has been done there can be done in any other part of the country, and in the case of these three experimental slaughterhouses we ought to go beyond what is done there.

I was not altogether satisfied with the tone of the Minister's reply, and I think it would be fatal that he should give any impression to his followers that by leaving this matter to be dealt with in the schemes some concessions may be made to the point of view which has been expressed here this afternoon. We are all the more concerned about that because the Minister knows that there will be very little opportunity for criticism and amendment of those schemes. It will depend a great deal upon the spirit in which the Ministry is prepared to administer this Measure, and to deal with the Commission's control of the schemes, as to how we shall regard this particular point. I beg both the Minister and hon. Members to consider the detailed examination of this case which was made by the De La Warr Committee. The chairman of that committee, now a member of the Government, went into the matter very carefully, and came to conclusions regarding the manufacture of by-products which I think are unanswerable. I do not want to take up time by quoting them, but if hon. Members will look at pages 22 and 23 of that report, dealing with skins and fats and their treatment, and the developments which could be undertaken not merely in the interests of the industries concerned with these by-products, but, ultimately, in the interests of agriculture, I feel certain they will not agree to any form of limitation. I hope the Minister will not leave the House under the impression that when the Bill comes into operation and the schemes are under consideration the Commission will have any suggestions made to them which would weaken in any sense the present form of the Clause.

6.40 p.m.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

I hesitate to intervene, because I know that there is a great deal to be done, but it will not do for the House to pass from this point leaving it to be thought that the hopes expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite are those of all of us in the House. There is another point of view. One appreciates the great advances which would be made in connection with the slaughtering and processing of livestock, but this slaughter-house scheme sets up a State subsidised concern. State money is to be loaned. This is to be a heavily-subsidised concern. I am quite ready to see central slaughter-houses vanquished by surrounding enterprises if the contest is on level terms, but it is not going to be on level terms. These slaughter-houses will have means of undercutting their competitors, and there is a danger to private enterprises which may be perfectly efficient. My right hon. Friend gave the example of the various processing firms round the slaughter-house in Edinburgh. I do not say that they are perfect, but they are very efficient, and I should regard it as a very evil thing if this central slaughter-houses scheme should be so extended that all these private concerns were put out of the market by it. I think this is a fair summary of the situation: that if we have central slaughter-houses we must not limit their powers too rigidly, but at the same time must not extend them so greatly as to put out of business perfectly efficient firms running under private enterprise. I hope that when the Minister brings forward his various orders it will not be found that they go as far as the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) would desire them, although they go as far as is reasonable from a private enterprise point of view.

6.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Fred Marshall Mr Fred Marshall , Sheffield, Brightside

I sincerely hope that the Minister will not weaken on this point. I was a little anxious about the tone of his remarks. The previous Amendment sought to place a partial restriction upon what the central slaughter-houses could do, and this Amendment practically "goes the whole hog." It says in effect, that no authority operating a central slaughter-house will be able to purchase by-products with the object of processing them. That means that those places will simply be central slaughter-houses and I tell the Minister frankly that it will not be worth spending the money of the nation upon them if that is all he wants. I would point out the practical difficulties in which the Amendment would involve us.

There is the question of diseased meat. Anyone who is interested in this question knows that some of the articles which were mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) are produced from diseased meat—tallow and various other things. Is the right hon. and gallant Member prepared to allow diseased meat to be taken through the streets of a congested city, with all the possibilities of spreading disease, because it could not be processed on the spot? Blood is converted into a very valuable fertiliser. Imagine the position the authorities would be in if this Amendment were adopted. They would have to prepare the blood, to put it into receptacles and to cart it to the factory of a private company in order that it could be processed there. The thing is absolutely absurd. I thought the Minister was going to undertake a real experiment at these factory abattoirs, and that he would there acquire experience which could be applied generally throughout the country if the experiments were successful. The Minister has elected to go on these lines, and I sincerely hope that he will make his experiments complete and comprehensive and of such a nature that they will give him the desired information.

Amendment negatived.