Clause 3. — (Feeding of Animals Preceding Slaughter.)

Slaughter of Animals (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd June 1951.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Colegate Mr Arthur Colegate , Burton 12:00 am, 22nd June 1951

I beg to move, in page 2, line 10, to leave out Clause 3.

Clause 3 was inserted in the Bill, but it was agreed that the Amendment to which we have already agreed should be substituted for it. Since that Amendment has been accepted, it is necessary to delete the Clause.

Amendment agreed to.

11.45 a.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Colegate Mr Arthur Colegate , Burton

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

I beg to second the Motion.

This Bill is concerned with the improvement in the conditions for animals awaiting slaughter. As one who first drew attention in an Adjournment debate some 2½ years ago to the slaughter of horses, which was then already taking place on a very large scale, and the methods which were employed in that slaughter, I am very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) has used his good fortune in the Ballot to bring forward the Bill.

It will be recalled that at that time the very existence of some of our heavier breeds of horses was threatened if the slaughter was continued at a similar rate. Following representations which some of us jointly made afterwards to the then Minister of Food, a committee under the Earl of Rosebery was appointed to consider the whole subject. That Committee in their Report drew up certain specific recommendations, part of which are implemented in this Bill, as, indeed, is stated in the Preamble. I am pleased to see present the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mrs. Ganley), who was a member of the Rosebery Committee.

How necessary are these provisions is shown by the Report. It disclosed a position in and about the precincts of some of the slaughter houses which certainly should not be tolerated for an instant. As has already been said, this was a subject of much adverse comment in the appendices to the Report, which set out the results of individual visits of certain members of that Committee to slaughter houses in various parts of the country. They found, as is stated, that there was no evidence that animals had been fed, although they had arrived the previous day and had travelled long distances by sea and rail—for instance, from Ireland; and little evidence was found that the horses were likely to be fed, even though they awaited slaughter for still another 24 hours. There was no hay available, and in one case the hay that was in an adjoining shed was so covered with mildew that, quite obviously, it had not been used, and was not likely to be used, for the purposes for which it was ostensibly supplied.

I accompanied one of the members of the Committee to some of the slaughter houses and saw the conditions for myself. Undoubtedly, many of the horses were miserable and hungry, and there was considerable suffering. We saw water, for instance, which was dirty and had not been changed for many days. I need not, however, go further into this aspect, because anybody who reads the Report can see these facts set out very clearly.

As regards cattle and sheep, the position has, of course, been made worse by the shortage of accommodation in slaughter houses and the great overcrowding which now takes place. This has arisen to some extent as a result of the war, when many slaughter houses were closed and slaughtering was concentrated in certain abattoirs under the Ministry of Food. Some of these undoubtedly are excellent—for instance, the abattoir in Manchester, but in many cases the accommodation is most inadequate, and they are often very small and out-of-date.

Many questions have been asked in the House as to when the Government are likely to improve matters in this direction. I know mere are several building schemes under consideration, but they have been deplorably slow. I hope that the new arrangements announced yester-day by the Government will not further delay the building—

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

What the hon. Member is saying has nothing to do with the Third Reading of this Bill. We must devote ourselves to what is in the Bill and not to outside schemes.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

I am sorry, Sir, if I went a little further than the Bill does, but what I was saying was concerned with the slaughter of animals, and I thought it was relevant to the Bill. I shall naturally not pursue that point except to say that I think that a high priority is required in that connection.

Taken in conjunction with the Transit of Horses Order, 1951, which came into operation on 19th March, and about which the Minister of Agriculture took considerable trouble, this Bill is a notable achievement in the direction of laying down improved conditions as regards watering and feeding before slaughter, as is the Order as regards improved conditions of travel by road and rail. By legislation we can go a long way towards remedying some of these bad conditions, but we cannot go the whole way. Whether these efforts are successful will depend on whether a vigorous watch is maintained by the local authorities and by the police, with the useful co-operation of the R.S.P.C.A. inspectors, who together must ensure compliance with these provisions.

It is obvious that not everyone will willingly co-operate, and much supervision will be needed. But if the provisions of the Bill, which will very shortly become an Act of Parliament, are carried into effect in the way in which the hon. Member for Burton and the House intend them to be, the Bill will be another step forward in the direction of better treatment for the animals of this country, on which we so much depend.

.53 a.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

I am very glad to be the first Member on this side of the House to express appreciation of all the effort which the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colgate) has devoted to bringing this Bill before the House. I well remember a fortnight ago when he expected the Bill to come before us. You will not remember the occasion, Mr. Speaker, because you were not in your place, as the Chairman of Ways and Means was in the Chair, the business before us being the Finance Bill. As the minutes ticked away it seemed to me that the hon. Member for Burton looked more and more like a stricken animal himself in his anxiety that the Bill should not be lost.

I think it was well that consideration of the Bill was not reached at that time. The two Bills which were to have followed it seemed to me to be quite useless and of secondary importance to the Finance Bill. But I think that the whole House did regret on that day that consideration of the Bill was not possible then. We are pleased that it reaches its culmination this morning in a much calmer atmosphere than would have been the case at that time.

I hope that the passing of this Bill this morning will be some recompense to the hon. Member, who has put a lot of work into it. I am glad that the Government have found time for it today. If anyone wished to find a justification for the Bill he would do so not so much in the Report of the Departmental Committee on Export and Slaughter of Horses, from which I have previously quoted, and with the work of which my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mrs. Ganley) was associated, but rather in the appendices to that Report. In one of these, reference is made to what is considered to be a good slaughter house. To quote—I will make no reference to the name—it states that the chief slaughterman said: The horses were usually backed in before slaughter and a sack used to prevent the animals seeing the carcasses. I then asked to see the lairage and was shown about four small loose boxes and some stalls. There were 23 horses and ponies in this accommodation, which was far too cramped for the purpose. There were eight small ponies in one box and seven in another, all herded together. They had apparently been bought the previous day at Chagford Fair, Dartmoor, and had been taken off the train that morning. There was adequate straw, but no signs of feed or water, though I was assured that they would be given hay and had been let out to the yard for water recently. These are the sort of conditions that exist.

Those of us who have been charged with public health activities even in urban communities close to London know the extreme difficulty there is, because the law was far too weak in the old days. One of the characteristics of the English people is that they have not only a love of animals but a concern for the care of animals which often meets almost with derision from people abroad. Nevertheless, one can appreciate the shock that is caused in this country when anything comes from abroad, especially in the form of a work of literature, which indicates the way in which animals are treated in other places.

One can instance the international shock that was caused when Upton Sinclair's "Jungle" was let loose among the world. As I say, one can appreciate the shock that is caused because of our intense care of animals. In parenthesis, I would say that the author, in a moment of bitterness, said that he hoped that the book would make an impact on the hearts and humanity of the peoples of the world, "but it only touched their stomachs."

I believe it is true that anyone who can envisage the scenes that took place in Chicago in the old days would rather tend to think that we had a higher sense of humanitarianism than our American cousins. We have not required a book such as that to rouse us to a sense of awareness of all that is entailed in the slaughter of animals, and we are glad that from time to time Private Members' time is used in this House to bring forward Bills on which we all agree, on whichever side of the House we are, and which find their culmination on occasions such as this. The hon. Member for Burton is to be congratulated.

11.59 a.m.

Photo of Mrs Caroline Ganley Mrs Caroline Ganley , Battersea South

I too wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) on having brought forward this Bill, which will to some extent alleviate what is in some instances almost the suffering that horses have to undergo in being taken to slaughter. I had the honour of serving on the Committee to which reference has been made, and undertook the inspection of slaughter houses in and around London. It is perhaps true to say that in London there is rather closer supervision because of the knowledge and association of slaughter houses.

It is also true that in a number of instances it was shown, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) has said, that while there was provision for food there was not always evidence that food had been given, although it may have been, of course, that the horses were in and out of the slaughter house rather more quickly than made feeding necessary. In that event, the Amendment which has been accepted this morning will make a big difference, because it provides that a horse must be fed and watered within 12 hours, a very real improvement on the old provision. Within 12 hours of the slaughter there must have been some opportunity for feeding and also for watering.

While it is true that in some slaughter houses in London there was space for a large number of horses, it is also true that in some just outside London the usual accommodation for the animals was a field in which they were let loose, where of course they could eat the grass. But provision for water was not always in evidence. In some places there was no water available for the slaughter house, except that which could be brought in pails from a distance. When it is realised that those are the conditions operating at the present time, one feels grateful that a Bill of this kind has been brought in because its provisions will tend to alleviate the condition of the animals prior to slaughter.

We felt that there was a very real problem at the present time because no particular authority was responsible for slaughter houses and for the horses. We consider that it would be very much better if the local authority under the Health Acts or the Ministry of Food were definitely brought in so that it would be the business of somebody with authority to inspect these slaughter houses and see that the conditions are suitable. I am grateful to the hon. Member for having brought in this Bill, and I am quite sure that its provisions will meet a real want.

12.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I feel rather afraid to enter into this discussion because my trend of thought will be rather against the general feeling of the House. When I examined this problem I wondered what was our philosophy; how do we look upon this kind of thing in general? It has been said that the more civilised we become the more humane we are and the more kindly we act in many respects. When I saw this Bill I wondered whether it really is an indication of the higher form of civilisation in this country.

The other day I had a conversation with a vegetarian. He contended that one of the things which makes men brutal is because of their brutality to animals. That, he said, was why we were not moving into a more peaceful atmosphere. I began to wonder whether there was any truth in that argument, and I concluded that there was a good deal of truth in it. Here in this House we have had many discussions about war and peace and military operations, and we find that pacifists are mostly vegetarians.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

Hitler was a vegetarian.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

There are exceptions to every rule.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

The argument of the hon. Member seems to be based on the assumption that all non-pacifists are cruel persons. Is that his argument?

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

No, my argument is that pacifists are, as a rule, fine specimens of humanity. They may on occasions have wrong ideas, like many other people, but generally speaking I think that a pacifist is a good man. We are pushing this Bill forward on account of humanity, and I am asking where humanity will lead us. In what direction will it govern us in relation to animals? I believe that in India the cow is sacred, but we certainly do not think that any of our cows are sacred under this Bill.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I am sorry to interrupt, but will the hon. Member address himself to the Third Reading of the Bill? He is going very wide in his generalisations. After all the scope of a Third Reading debate is very limited.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

It is difficult to outline one's feelings against the Bill in general without some generalising. This Bill seems to me to embody the idea that we are willing to kill but are rather afraid to strike. We are very keen on killing animals. It is an embodiment of the significant fact that we in this country believe in killing animals.

Most of us like horses and most of us are fed by the cow. But when the horse and cow have done their work, what are we to do with them from the point of view of humanity? Are they to be sent to the knacker's yard from the point of view of humanity? When a man has done his work for humanity he can be pensioned off. Is there no form of thought within this country and within this House to emphasise that, just as a man who has done his work should be pensioned off, so should a horse and cow? How would we pension off a horse or a cow? By taking them to the knacker's yard. I think the whole idea is wrong. I think the Bill is wrong.

We are told it is against the law of God and nature to give a man anything to help him on his way despite the agony from which he may be suffering. Yet when we come to the animal which has done a tremendous amount of good work we take the opposite view. We say, "Save the man, keep him; let him live and suffer to the last second." But with the animal we have a different outlook. We want to kill the animal straight away. I think this Bill is wrong from that point of view. It does not indicate at all that we have any real regard for the animal.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The hon. Member says this Bill is wrong. Could he visualise what conditions would be like without it? Would they be any better?

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I do not think that Mr. Speaker would allow me to go into that particular question. It would take me all over the world and into all kinds of problems and difficulties.

This Bill takes up an absolutely different position, an entirely opposite position from our treatment of man. We are pushing on with this Bill because we want to be more humane and kindly to the animals. I say that we are not being kindly to the animal; we are stepping up and emphasising and indicating a way to get the animal killed as quickly as possible.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Does the hon. Member suggest that it is kinder to preserve a decrepit dying animal and to prolong its life? Which is the more cruel—to end its life or to prolong it?

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

It depends on the animal itself. If there is a belief that a man would be better off if he were given some form of medicine to help him out of this world because he was suffering and it was impossible to cure him, that medicine is not given. The question is whether the animal is in a condition to enjoy life. There is no condition laid down in the Bill that only animals which are suffering and can no longer enjoy life shall be slaughtered. The Bill merely provides the ways and means of killing animals.

I would say that the foundation of this Bill ought to be the first fundamental law of nature. That is the law that everyone has the right to live. Has the animal no right to live?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

This argument is becoming too involved. I cannot follow it. After all, this Bill deals with provisions for the slaughter of animals and not the first law of nature or anything else. The Title of the Bill is: To Extend the Provisions of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933…. That is the law, and therefore it is no good saying that the slaughter of animals is wrong.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

On a point of order. If one is discussing a Bill providing for the methods of the slaughter of animals, is it out of order to question whether these animals should be slaughtered at all? If the animals are not slaughtered at all, then this Bill becomes unnecessary. I am not, of course, saying that animals should not be slaughtered; but if one does say so— and that is what I understand is the vegetarian argument being put by my hon. Friend—it seems to me a valid reason for not passing this Bill. Surely that is relevant?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I think that one could oppose the Bill by a different method. That is a far too involved method in which to oppose the Bill. It is far too theoretical.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I should have thought that when a general principle was before the House, so long as one was definitely speaking against the Bill, it would not matter to what extent one went. I do not want to press that matter. I under stand the position. We want to get on with business. At the same time, I am against the Bill—

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

As I understand it, the provisions of this Bill are designed to make the slaughter of animals less cruel. Surely my hon. Friend, as a humanitarian, ought for that reason to welcome the Bill so far as it goes. It does not go as far as he wants it to go, because he would like a Bill to prevent all slaughter of all animals, but surely a little thing is better than nothing.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I agree. If one wants to abolish a practice and one cannot do it, one must make the conditions as nice as possible. This Bill is an attempt to do a dirty job as nicely as possible. At the same time, I suggest that the question is whether it is right to do the job at all. In India they have a different attitude towards the cow. It is a sacred animal.

I was amazed to find from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee that the Committee did not go into the subject further. It is all very well to say that an animal shall be fed and watered; but surely it is essential to make sure that there are ways and means of ensuring that the water shall be available. I have not seen anything in the Bill or in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee to ensure that water will be available. Any number of us have knowledge of how inspectors can be bamboozled. How is an inspector who goes into a knacker's yard to know whether an animal has been watered or fed? There is nothing in the Bill to indicate that.

That is one of the weaknesses of the Bill. Though one may be against animals being killed, nevertheless if the law allows it, and people are determined to do it, one wants them to be killed as humanely as possible. It would not have been difficult to state in the Bill that steps should be taken to ensure that an animal should have water. There may be no water pipes in the knacker's yard. But, in spite of the fact that water is not laid on, the Bill says that the animal must be watered. If water is not laid on, it must be carried to the yard. How is an inspector to say whether animals have been watered when there is no water on the spot?

If an inspector goes to a knacker's yard or a slaughter house to see that this Bill is being implemented, he is supposed to ensure that the animal has had water. The criticism which I level against the Bill is that it gives no guarantee that animals will be watered. There has been talk about living in a scientific age. We believe that we are in advance of other countries in that respect.

Here is a simple elementary position. We want more security to ensure that, before animals are slaughtered they shall be fed and have a drink, and it should be possible to make provisions for that. In this Bill there is no security for the animals in this respect, and this is the great weakness of the Bill. In fact, the Bill is so weak in this matter of ensuring that animals shall be watered and fed that I think the House would be consistent and logical in throwing it out altogether.

It should be possible, in formulating a Bill of this kind, to include provisions which would give security that, when these animals are sent to the knacker's yard, they get both water and food. Surely, just as a criminal who is going to be hanged is given a good breakfast before his execution, we ought similarly to make sure that a poor animal should have a good meal and a good drink before it is slaughtered? There is no security whatever that that will be done. The inspector has nothing behind him in the way of authority if he happens to go to one of these places and tries to prove that the animals have had neither food nor water.

I know that the situation regarding water supplies is very difficult, but I still think that where there are no taps, or even where there is no water supply, some provision should be made in this Bill that a trough of sufficient size should be available from which the animals might drink as they need, and also that that trough should be kept in an efficient state all the time.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

Really, the hon. Member is going on interminably, I do not believe that he has yet touched on the Bill. Will he please deal with the Third Reading of the Bill and confine his remarks to what is in the Bill?

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I was talking on the question of guaranteeing that the animals have Water and food, and this Bill is particularly framed in order to secure that they should. I am trying to point out that the Bill is not likely to achieve its object. It is not sufficiently scientifically framed to achieve the object it is trying to attain. In so far as that is the case, it is surely one of the weaknesses of the Bill, and I am suggesting that the whole matter should be put in proper order, so that there would be some guarantee in order to help the inspector. There is at present no security either for the inspector or for the animals concerned. There is simply a slack indication that they should have water and food at certain times but any inspector would be in a difficulty in going to these places—

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

I have heard that argument time and time again. The hon. Member must know that there is a rule against repetition, and he must remember that he cannot go on saying more or less the same thing; otherwise, I shall have to stop him.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I do not want to take up more time, because I think I have elaborated my point sufficiently. I think the Bill is wrong in principle and wrong in method, and I hope it will not be passed.

12.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Gibson Mr Charles Gibson , Wandsworth Clapham

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) on having secured the passage of his Bill through the House to the Third Reading stage. I was rather surprised to find his name on the Bill because, when I have listened to him in economic and political debates. I often wondered whether he had a heart at all, especially when some of us were very concerned about the conditions of our people, and particularly children, and when he was not particularly enthusiastic. It is one of the characteristics of the British race, I suppose, that we all look after our animals, and the hon. Member obviously has a good heart in bringing forward a Bill like this and conducting it through its various stages in this House.

In spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) has said, I think this Bill is a good one, in that it is an effort to achieve the humane killing of animals. I am interested in it because of some experiences I had recently. When I visited another country, I noticed that in one part of that country the animals, particularly horses and oxen, were very skinny, thin and haggard, and I discovered, after a few inquiries, that nobody bothered very much about the feeding and watering of the animals so long as they could pull the ploughs and carts.

In another part of the same country, I found that the animals there were well fed and cared for, and I discovered that that was largely an expression of the characteristics of the people in that portion of the country I visited. It has always seemed to me that, whatever may be our political and economic disagreements, when it comes to dealing with animals, most Britishers want to see animals treated as fairly and as humanely as possible. I am glad, therefore, that slaughter houses are to be improved.

There is one point of criticism that I want to make. As a member of a local authority for many years who has had the duty of inspecting these places, I know that they have in many cases been disgraceful, to put it mildly, and if this Bill results in better conditions in such slaughter houses, then the conscience of right-minded people will be solved to some extent.

I do not agree with my hon. Friend that we should not kill animals, and I think he would look very poorly if we had to do for food without the killing of animals. I think that the killing of animals should be carried out as cleanly and humanely and with as little suffering to the animals as possible. I shall never forget going into a factory in which pigs were being slaughtered, and in which the noise created and the horrors that one saw made one feel that one would never again eat any bacon. Today, however, the killing of pigs is carried out much more carefully and with much less cruelty.

The success of this Bill will depend upon whether inspectors see that its provisions are properly carried out, and my experience is that there are already far too few inspectors. Sometimes they are people who have other jobs to do, but in any case there are not enough of them, and it will not be possible to have continuous inspection of these places where animals are killed. I know that that is the job of the local authorities, and it might have been helpful if there had been some instruction in the Bill telling the local authorities to pay a great deal more attention to the inspection of these places, in making sure that the intentions of this Bill are properly carried out without any unnecessary cruelty to the animals that have to be slaughtered.

Apart from that criticism, I think this Bill is one which the House ought to pass. The people in this country who are concerned with treating animals as humanely as possible, and there are very large numbers of them, will welcome the Bill, and if we can build up in the local authorities an effective inspection system it will then be possible to ensure that the intentions of the Bill are fully carried out.

I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Burton and all the others concerned with the Bill for their work upon it, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mrs. Ganley) who, I know, for many years has taken a very active part in trying to get this problem dealt with. She must feel some sense of satisfaction that now, after several years' efforts on the committee of inquiry and before, and more recently in helping to get this Bill through, at last she sees the House about to agree to the Third Reading of a Bill which will modernise and improve slaughter houses and do away with some of the unnecessary cruelty with which animals have been afflicted in the past.

12.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

I should like to join in the tributes that have been paid to the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) for introducing this Bill and for dealing with it so competently during the Committee stage, and also in the tributes to my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mrs. Ganley) for her continued work in this field.

I should think that my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South is feeling somewhat disappointed that this Bill, which purports to implement certain recommendations of the Departmental Committee on the Export and Slaughter of Horses, is so limited in its scope. There are many good reasons why it has to be limited in its scope, and in saying that it is limited I am not complaining against the hon. Member for Burton; but I would say that in passing this Bill today, as, I am certain, we are going to do we can regard it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South said in her speech, only as a slight alleviation of the problem. It is not by any means the end of the road. It is only a milestone on the road.

This slaughtering of animals is a horrible business, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) said. Where I disagree with him is in this. Without discussing the merits or demerits of vegetarianism, or whether or not we are entitled to slaughter animals, it is, I am sure, the duty of Parliament in the present circumstances to do what it can to improve matters. I disagree with my hon. Friend about what is the duty of Parliament in the circumstances.

We are all horse eaters. Except my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend and Hitler and other vegetarians, we are all horse eaters. We may not sit down to a horse steak, but I have no doubt that we all eat it in the form of sausages, meat pies, and other things into which horse flesh is introduced. Parliament has to face the fact that horses are slaughtered for food, and surely it is our business—

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

Is my hon. Friend seriously saying to the House that horse meat is used in sausages? If so, would he kindly give to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Food, who is here, full particulars of this in the very near future? As I understand it, it is not authorised, and I should like to have some information about this.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

My hon. Friend is in the legal profession, and he rather frightens me by issuing this challenge. Fortunately for me, speech is privileged in this House, and I am not accountable in the courts to my hon. Friend for that statement. However, I do not want to abuse the privilege we have of speech in this House, so I shall modify what I said to the extent of saying that when I see some of those meat pies and sausages and other mixtures I have a very strong suspicion— [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—that I may be eating horse, when, otherwise, I should perhaps, not be so keen about it.

Photo of Mr Harry Wallace Mr Harry Wallace , Walthamstow East

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is a Member of the Kitchen Committee. I seriously ask him whether he is intending to reflect on the quality of the meat pies sold in the House of Commons.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

If I have seemed to cast any reflection on the Kitchen Committee, I hasten to withdraw any such implication. I am quite sure that the Members of the Kitchen Committee do not manufacture the pies, and perhaps even Members of the Kitchen Committee do not know what is in some of those pies.

However, to come to the contents of the Bill, this is, as I say, a horrible business, and it is the duty of Parliament to make it as humane as possible. That is not saying very much. Animals knew when they are at a slaughter house. I have been told by people who ought to know that as soon as the animals come within quite a long distance from a slaughter house, they can smell the blood and that they show certain symptoms of knowing exactly where they are; and they must be in a pretty acute state of terror. There was a party of Members of Parliament taken some time ago by a certain business in London to see some of their establishments. They took us to a housing estate, and they took us to a departmental store, then they took us to a dairy and a bakery, then they took us to a slaughter house—and then they offered us lunch. I must say that it was as much as I could do to eat my lunch.

There is no doubt at all that this is a horrible business, and that it is our job to try to do something about. That is the intention of this Bill, and that is why my name appears as one of the sponsors of the Bill. It is not put forward as the perfect solution to the problem. It is put forward mainly as a small attempt to do something that is badly needed to be done towards implementing what was recommended—and this was only one of the recommendations—by the Departmental Committee as long ago as March, 1950. I think we ought to adopt some of the other recommendatons of that Committee as soon as we can, and that the sooner we do it the better for our reputation in this House and the better for the animals.

With regard to what my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) said about horses abroad, it is a point, I think, in favour of this Bill that, by making the conditions as good as we can in this country, we do better than sending horses abroad to be slaughtered. This horrible trade goes on. We have not yet been able to deal with it as the Departmental Committee recommended. At any rate, I think that as animal lovers it is better that we should slaughter animals in the conditions that exist in this country, and that will be improved by the Bill, than that we should send them abroad to be dealt with in what are, as I understand it, much more cruel conditions.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Will my hon. Friend permit me? Is that observation warranted, in view of the appendices to the Report? The indication of those appendices is that conditions over here are a good deal worse in many respects than on the Continent. That is the shocking aspect of the matter.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

I cannot accept that. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you would rule me out of order if I attempted to discuss too far the contents of the Report of the Departmental Committee. I will only say that this Report does not justify the remark that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has just made. Indeed, it makes certain recommendations regarding the control of the export of horses, and that, I think, proves what I say.

Photo of Sir Harold Sutcliffe Sir Harold Sutcliffe , Heywood and Royton

Is it not a fact that the export of live horses for slaughter from this country has now been entirely stopped, as the figures given by the Ministry of Agriculture recently testify?

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

I do not want to go too far into the argument about the slaughter of horses. I think that that would be quite out of order. I should like to confine my few remarks to the contents of the Bill.

There is an admitted weakness in this Bill, and that is in regard to feeding. The Bill as it now stands is very different from when it first saw the light of day. The hon. Member for Burton must have been quite astonished, I think, at finding all the snags that have arisen during the discussion of the Bill. Attempts have been made to deal with those various snags, and only very recently we adopted a substantial Amendment about them. I think that this is as far as the House could reasonably go, but if further Amendments. even now, were found to be desirable they could be inserted. There are ways and means of making Amendments even after this stage. However, so far as concerns the people who are sponsoring the Bill, what they were able to do for the proper feeding and watering of the animals, has been done.

Perhaps I may take the opportunity of explaining to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend just why it is that feeding in the period immediately prior to slaughter is not provided for. In fact, the provisions exempt feeding for a certain period. The reason is that we are given to understand by the experts that a carcass is spoiled if feeding takes place too near the period of slaughter. That, as we were advised in Committee, is the reason for this exemption of feeding, and it is not an attempt to starve the animal which caused the provision in the Bill to be put in which provides for a period during which feeding is not desirable.

I strongly recommend the Bill to the House. It by no means goes so far as we should like it to go, but it is a small step forward, and I hope that the Bill will receive a unanimous Third Reading.

12.41 p.m.

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

In rising to support the provisions of this modest Bill, I do so partly because of the alleviation it gives with regard to unnecessary suffering and partly because the constituency of West Ham, which I have the honour to represent, is the place where, in fact, there is more horse slaughtering done than in any other place in the country.

The whole process of horse slaughtering in the London area seems to be concentrated in West Ham where thousands of horses are slaughtered each year. I am afraid that I cannot enter into the details of that particular matter, as it has been considered by the courts and I was involved professionally in those proceedings. It may well be that I should find myself in some difficulty if I were to go into it in any detail. It is quite clear that anything this House can do to eliminate unnecessary cruelty in connection with this necessary process of slaughtering should be done by the House.

I should like to deal with one or two of the anxieties expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) about the provisions of the Bill. He feels that the obligations which are placed upon the occupier of these premises that we are concerned with should be made more specific. I can assure him that the Bill goes far enough to place fairly and squarely upon the occupier the responsibility, for instance, of supplying a sufficient quantity of wholesome water. It is not necessary that the Bill should state how that water should be provided. If the occupier fails to provide the necessary amount of water, then he commits an offence, and if he is charged it will be for him to prove that he did provide the necessary water and inform the court that would have to deal with the matter what provisions he had in fact available.

It seems to me, therefore, that the Bill need not go further than it does with regard to the provision of water supplies, and I do not think that it would be helpful if any legislation upon this matter were to set out the quantity of water to be supplied or the manner in which it was to be supplied. It is sufficient, I think, that the Bill should clearly state that the occupier shall have the duty of providing every animal with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Is not that confusing the matter a little? My hon. Friend is casting on the prosecution the negative burden of having to prove that the water has not been supplied. If the horse slaughterer, or knacker, or whoever it is, simply keeps his mouth shut, it is very difficult to see how an offence under this Bill can ever be proved.

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

I should have thought that where there are facilities, as there are in law, to enable sudden inspection of these premises to be carried out, there would not be a great deal of difficulty. It seems to me that if we were to seek in this Bill to specify methods for the provision of running water, we should get ourselves into considerable difficulty. As it is, the Bill places upon the occupier the duty of causing every animal to be provided with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water. The difficulty of proof in these matters is, as my hon. and learned Friend has pointed out, substantial. Those of us who are accustomed to appearing in the criminal courts know that the prosecution in cases of this kind do encounter difficulty, but I cannot see how, by altering the wording of the Bill, more adequate provision could be made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walls-end was also a little anxious about the problem of inspection. As has been pointed out, these provisions of the law are enforced and carried out by the local authorities. Their effectiveness varies with the effectiveness of the local authority concerned. Some are very energetic about this matter, and, if I may say so, the local authority in West Ham, in view of its special responsibility as being the area where so much horse slaughtering is carried out, has paid very great attention indeed, with its limited resources of personnel, to the enforcement of existing legal provisions.

Nevertheless, it is a very real difficulty, and one hopes that the local authorities will, after the publicity that has been given to this problem, be more alive to the duties which rest upon them in regard to the enforcement of these humane provisions. I understand that the representatives of the medical officers of health and local sanitary inspectors, have a right of immediate entry without notice upon these premises, and so my hon. Friend's anxiety that there will be too many difficulties in the way of a sudden check seem to have been rather exaggerated in his mind.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

Can my hon. Friend explain the position when an inspector enters upon premises and sees no indication of a water supply. If he makes inquiries and the man in charge says that there is a water supply, how can the inspector obtain any proof?

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

How would my hon. Friend deal with that if the man in charge says, "I will not answer."

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

These points of detail with regard to specific cases are not easy to deal with. The facts in each case vary considerably. I should have thought that in the hypothetical case to which my hon. and learned Friend has referred, if, in fact, an inspector came on a place where there was no facility at all for water to be supplied and there did not appear to be any evidence that water had in fact been supplied, it would be sufficient if the inspector said so in the witness box to establish a prima facie case that the animals in the lairage had not been provided with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water. It would then be upon the accused occupier to satisfy the court that he had in fact supplied the animals with water. One is always in these matters where the enforcement of legal proceedings is concerned in some difficulty in dealing with hypothetical cases.

Photo of Mr Harry Wallace Mr Harry Wallace , Walthamstow East

I am in some difficulty about this, and perhaps my hon. Friend will help me. How can the presence of water in the lairage show that the animal has had water?

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

I quite agree that that in itself does not show that the animal has had water. The kind of argument we are now having illustrates admirably the trouble one gets into in dealing with hypothetical cases. The hypothetical case mentioned by my hon. Friend was one in which there was no provision available in the lairage at all for the supply of water. If there was provision for running water in the lairage, clearly the occupier would be in very much less of a difficulty than in the hypothetical case just referred to.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Surely whenever we pass a Bill in this House we have to consider the hypothetical cases that may arise under it, and at the stage when everything that may happen in consequence of the Bill is hypothetical we have to apply our minds to those matters, so that we may discover the wrong which it is sought to correct.

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

I cannot conceive of any other means by which the Bill could place the burden more clearly upon the occupier. If my hon. and learned Friend is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, perhaps he will enlighten the House as to what he has in mind.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Could my hon. Friend point out to me whether the Bill lays the burden on the occupier? It seems to me that the ordinary rule applies here. and that the burden of proof is on the prosecution.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that we are not now in Committee.

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I agree. I was merely seeking to reply to this rather detailed discussion on the words of the Clause, in order to allay the anxiety of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend about the inadequacy of the provisions of this Clause to deal with the mischief with which the Bill is concerned. I think I have said sufficient to indicate my view that the provisions of Clause 1 go a good deal of the way towards making it incumbent upon the occupier to supply the animals in the lairage with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water. The problem of enforcing that is, as I have admitted, not without difficulty, but that is a common phenomenon with regard to many aspects of the criminal law, and I do not see how the Committee could have dealt much more successfully with the problem than in the manner they have done here.

I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the House on this Bill. I give the Bill my cordial support, because it deals with a problem which is of particular interest to my constituency where, for good or for evil, this massive quantity of slaughtering of horses takes place every year.

12.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

First, I wish to join in with other hon. Members who have congratulated the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) who fathered the Bill, and who, probably like many other fathers on the eve of such an occasion, is rather timorous about whether or not the child will get a safe delivery. I do not think that he need worry very much about the mood of the House in that respect, because I think the Bill is generally acceptable to all hon. Members on this side of the House.

The Bill is kind in its object, and in that respect it is a good Bill. It is small in size, and there has been some doubt expressed as to whether or not in its method it is entirely effective. Considering the intention of the Bill and taking into account the present circumstances that have led up to the Bill, I think that the House would be very foolish indeed to refuse it a Third Reading.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. MacKay) expressed himself as wholly opposed to the Bill; he thought that it was entirely wrong. From what I could gather from his speech, the only Bill that he would be wholly in favour of would be one that would lead to a wholesale extension of the practice of vegetarianism. This Bill is quite unrelated to that, and I imagine that no Bill could be brought forward on a Friday to achieve that end. My hon. Friend should consider the present circumstances. If he had read—and I doubt very much whether he has read—the Rosebery Report on the Export and Slaughter of Horses, and realised that certain of the recommendations they have made would not be carried out if this Bill were not passed, he would have changed his mind about calling the Bill "entirely wrong."

This Bill is an extension, in a small way, of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933. That Act was directed entirely at the method of killing, and provided that the slaughter should be instantaneous by means of a newly-designed weapon. This Bill, on the other hand, concentrates not on the method of killing but on the incidental agonies which the animal must suffer. Going to the place of slaughter, the feeling of death, the smell of blood and the sight of slaughter, all have a proved effect on the animals about to be slaughtered. We deal also with the creature discomforts of hunger, thirst and waiting.

The Bill deals with only some of these, and if there is any criticism I have it is that the Bill does not go far enough. The 1933 Act did not say a word about the lairage, and this Bill deals entirely with that, and with the creature comforts. I must confess that on reading the Report of the Committee stage and seeing the Bill as it now is, I think that the Bill is much more acceptable than it was when introduced on Second Reading. I think we are all agreed about that, although it is still by no means perfect.

Clause 1, in its new layout, entirely separates the questions of water and food. Despite the interruption of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), I think it is clear that the Bill lays upon the occupier of the lairage the obligation to provide the animal with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water. I cannot see any doubt about that. The question of whether he will carry that out is a different matter altogether. There may be some criticisms of the provisions empowering the inspectors, or whoever is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the Bill, to see that that is done, but the actual law is clear. The occupier must provide and give these animals waiting for slaughter a sufficient quantity of wholesome water.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

I entirely agreed with that proposition. I was thinking of the later Clauses, where failure to do so is made an offence, and I was visualising the difficulties which may arise in the courts where the burden of proof is not transferred. I should have thought that this Bill would have been a great deal easier to enforce—

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman hopes to catch my eye in a short time. He must not make his speech now.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The best we can do is to make the law tight enough. As a complement to the effectiveness of the Bill's powers of inspection, a number of inspectors will be necessary to carry out the will of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Gilbert McAllister Mr Gilbert McAllister , Rutherglen

Would not my hon. Friend agree that what my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) said is substanially true? We must hope that when the Bill goes to another place something will be done to strengthen it by putting the onus of proof where it ought to be.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I quite agree, but if my hon. Friend will be patient he may hear some criticisms from me on that point.

We cannot quarrel with the object of the Bill. The widening of its scope by the introduction of the new Subsection in regard to knackers' yards to Clause 1 is good. It is a pity that we leave the penalties what they were in 1933. For the first offence the fine is "not exceeding £10," and for the second offence "not exceeding £20." It is only for a third offence that there is possibility of imprisonment for not exceeding three months, with the alternative of a fine of £20.

Remembering the change in the value of the £and in the public attitude towards this kind of cruelty, as evidenced not only by the Bill but by other Bills of this character this session, we could easily have increased the fines or put in a provision to deny licences. A person who ignores this law for the provision of food and water to animals before slaughter and considers only what he is going to make out of them should not be granted a licence after he has offended three times.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

On Third Reading hon. Members cannot suggest improvements but can only talk about what is in the Bill.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I am talking about the fines in the Bill.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I thought the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that they should be different.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I was saying that they are not enough. Surely in doing that I am talking about what is in the Bill.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

The hon. Gentleman thinks they should be something different.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The change we made in Clause 1 is not entirely satisfactory because of the possibility of animals being left without food and water. The occupier of a lairage has only to claim that he intends to slaughter the animals within the next 12 hours to be able to escape penalty.

The spirit of the Bill is good, but I want to deal with two other defects. One supporter of the Bill, a Scottish Member, was mainly responsible for the Act of 1933. I regret that the Act did not extend to Scotland. I do not know why Scotland should be left out of these beneficial Bills. The departmental committee's report covered Scotland. One of the most damaging statements, referring to a visit to a Scottish slaughterhouse, is contained in an appendix to the Rosebery Report. We read there: At the time of my visit slaughtering was in progress. I saw two horses brought into the slaughter room and shot side by side.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I think the hon. Member is quoting a Scottish slaughterhouse.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I am quoting from the Rosebery Report.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I gathered that it was a Scottish slaughterhouse. Of course, Scotland is not included in the Bill.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

It says in Clause 5 (2): This Act shall not extend to Scotland. Does that mean I am not entitled to mention that the Bill does not extend to Scotland?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I understood that the hon. Gentleman was putting forward the case why the Bill should extend to Scotland, but that cannot be done on Third Reading.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I bow to your Ruling, Sir, but I still think that Clause 5 (2) is a mistake. I think I am entitled to say that Clause 5 (2) detracts from the goodness and virtue of the Bill and that it would have been very much better without the subsection which denies Scotland its benefits.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Might not the omission be explained by the instinctive kindness of the people of Scotland?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the Report from which I attempted to quote, and he will find that his remark is not entirely true. Conditions prevailing in some Scottish places are just as bad as in England.

Photo of Mr Gilbert McAllister Mr Gilbert McAllister , Rutherglen

On a point of order. I should be most grateful for guidance on the Ruling that you have given, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If my hon. Friend had been opposing the Third Reading, would he have been in order in doing so on the ground that the Bill does not apply to Scotland, and in giving reasons why it should apply?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

On the Third Reading one can deal only with what is in the Bill. One can draw attention to the fact that the Bill does not apply to Scotland, but to do so at great length is out of order.

Photo of Mr Gilbert McAllister Mr Gilbert McAllister , Rutherglen

I take it as within the rights of hon. Members to oppose the granting of the Third Reading of a Bill. If the ground of opposition were that the Bill did not apply to Scotland, would not one be entitled to put the next point and to give reasons why it should have applied to Scotland?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I can only quote from the procedure laid down in Erskine May: The procedure on the third reading of a bill is similar to that described in relation to the second reading, but the debate is more restricted … being limited to the matters contained in the bill.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

It is rather limiting, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The Bill states that the Act shall not extend to Scotland. Surely it would be relevant to discuss whether or not it should extend to Scotland. I find some difficulty in answering the points put to me by Scottish hon. Members about my attitude to the Bill. I am not allowed to quote from the relevant Report dealing with Scottish matters upon which the whole Bill is based.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Further to the point of order. Is not the difference between Second Reading and Third Reading that on Third Reading one may not deal with topics which are not in the Bill with a view to expressing a desire that they should be incorporated in the Bill, which would manifestly be an impossibility having regard to the fact that the Bill had reached its Third Reading? Was not your Ruling perfectly correct?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman. He has put the position in a better form of words than I did. I agree with him.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

There is only one other matter about which I wish to speak. The recommendation on which part of the Bill is based is on page 12 of the summary of recommendations of the Report of the Departmental Committee. Paragraph (i)which says: That stricter supervision should be exercised by licensing authorities to see that horses which are detained for more than 24 hours before slaughter are properly fed. But the Bill does not mention licensing authorities.

I fear that what was expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mrs. Ganley), is justified. We are passing a Bill which is good, although it could be better with some other things in it, but whether or not the good which is in the Bill will be translated into practice depends entirely on the authorities and people whose business it is to see that the Bill is carried out. The defect of the 1933 Act may well be the defect of the Bill when it becomes an Act. As far as administration is concerned, we shall not have the people whose job it is to see that it is carried out. The local authorities are not willing to accept the responsibility, and so we are thrown back upon the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and its inspectors.

That is the big weakness of the Bill, and it can only be overcome if the public are aware of the cruelty which is taking place and co-operate with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Some slaughter houses are in isolated areas, but others are in populated areas. If there is proper co-operation between the public and the inspectors, the abuses can be tracked down and the law applied. However, the great weakness of the Bill is that there is nothing in it to say, "It is your job to see that the Bill is carried out."

The Bill is good and is kindly in effect, but let us be conscious of its defects and realise that we are not making great and sweeping moral changes because of the unwillingness of people to accept the responsibility for carrying out the generally accepted will of the people that cruelty to animals before slaughter shall be reduced to the minimum.

1.15 p.m.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Test

I have been asked by the members of the R.S.P.C.A. in my own town to support the Bill. I do so gladly, and I sincerely congratulate the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate), who has had the proud task of promoting the Bill.

It is worth noting that in a world where in China people are being publicly executed because they are Communists or are not Communists, where in Hungary men are being imprisoned and tortured because they are not Communists, and where in the United States men and women are being harried out of their jobs and victimised because they are Communists or have been Communists or have spoken to Communists, the House of Commons should be adding another link in the chain which protects animals, who can do nothing for themselves. This is one of a series of Measures brought to the notice of the House during the last 50 years on behalf of the dumb animals of this country. I welcome it sincerely and hope that it will be given a unanimous Third Reading.

1.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I do not intend to emulate the philosophic, hypothetical and legalistic arguments which have held the House in the past few hours. I wish simply to say that I am among those who congratulate the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) upon introducing the Bill and seeing it safely through the House.

In case a mistaken impression has been created, I emphasise that the Bill will affect slaughter houses generally and is not confined to the slaughter of horses. The Ministry of Food is therefore very much affected by the Bill as the Ministry at present is largely responsible for the slaughter of animals for human consumption. I say at once that we are most anxious to avoid unnecessary suffering to animals which have been purchased by the Ministry for slaughter. It is on that account that we have endeavoured to display a benevolent neutrality and have given all the assistance we could to the hon. Member to help him to obtain his objective.

Meanwhile, we have always insisted that the slaughtering contractors and their employees should carry out fully the provisions of the principal Act, the Slaughter of Animals Act. I assure the House that when the Bill becomes effective—and we have encouraged the hon. Member to make it effective earlier than he originally hoped would be possible—we shall insist upon the provisions of the new Act being similarly effective in the slaughter houses for which we are responsible.

As to the matter of inspectors, we have supervisory officers whose responsibility it is regularly and frequently to visit the slaughterhouses to satisfy themselves that the Ministry's instructions about the welfare of animals are properly implemented.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Does not that apply only where horses are being slaughtered for human consumption?

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I am sorry that the House should still be confused. I am dealing at the moment only with the slaughter houses for which the Ministry are responsible, and the Ministry are in no way responsible for the slaughter of horses. Apart from our own supervision through these inspectors, we have given every facility to the inspectors of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to visit the slaughter houses and satisfy themselves that the animals are properly cared for. The R.S.P.C.A. inspectors are indeed constant visitors to the slaughter houses.

Earlier this year we agreed with the R.S.P.C.A. a new procedure whereby, if our local officers cannot find a remedy for any complaint made by the Society, their inspectors have access to the senior administrative officer of the Department in the area. If, notwithstanding that access, the Society feels that all steps have not been taken to remedy the complaints which they have brought to our notice. their headquarters have the right to raise the matter with the Ministry headquarters.

This procedure is some evidence of our anxiety to do all we can to avoid any unnecessary suffering, and also to give all the access we feel we ought to give to the inspectors of an independent authority—the R.S.P.C.A.—so that they, in turn, can satisfy themselves that every endeavour is being made, in conditions which are sometimes far from satisfactory, to do what can be done to avoid unnecessary suffering.

The point has been made during the debate that in many places the conditions are not satisfactory. Because of that we feel the greater is our responsibility to take every step we can to ensure that, within the limitations of those conditions, all avoidable suffering should be avoided. Moreover, may I add, that as far as I can see, the people concerned with the slaughtering of animals in this country are carrying out their job as humanely as they can. Therefore, I take this opportunity to assure the House, in view of the considerable interest shown this morning, that not only are we endeavouring to do all we can to ensure that the provisions of the principal Act are fully carried out, but also that we will readily accept the new responsibilities which this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will lay upon us.

1.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Colegate Mr Arthur Colegate , Burton

If, by the leave of the House, I might say a few words, I should like first to thank everybody who has helped to get this Bill to its present stage, and who have shown by their thoughtful speeches what a deep interest they take in this subject. One hon. Member said that I must have learned a good deal during the stages of this Bill. That is true. One of the things I learned most clearly was what a great fund of good will exists on both sides of this House when any question of cruelty to animals comes up.

I want in particular to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, who has done everything he could to facilitate this Bill. Not merely that, but by his assistance, with the assistance of his Department, and of the people with whom he put me in touch, the hon. Gentleman has unquestionably enabled the Bill to be improved so that it should be a really effective weapon against the practices which we all deplore.

In that connection I do not think that pains and penalties would help us very much. The effective weapon is public opinion working through voluntary associations—the R.S.P.C.A. is a notable example—and also by the individual expression and formation of public opinion which I find in my constituency and which I know other hon. Members find in theirs. When the question of proof was mentioned, I recollected the large amount of correspondence from my constituents in which I found that all sorts of people keep a keen eye on what is going on in slaughterhouses. It is those people, who have combined with the officials and the Ministry of Food, who are giving full support to any steps taken to prevent cruelty. In that way we shall do far more even than if the penalties were increased.

With regard to the limitations of the Bill, hon. Members will realise that I fully sympathise with them on its defects and omissions. Had I drafted a Bill which included all I felt about cruelty to animals, it would have been a very large Bill and there would have been little chance of getting it through the House, because a private Member, even with the generous assistance of the Department concerned, cannot hope to get through a Bill which affects many interests and which would lead to a long discussion. If a private Member wishes to be successful, he has to bring forward a short Bill dealing with almost a single point which will gain the general assent of the House.

With those few words, I commend the Bill to the House and hope that it may receive a Third Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.