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Export of Live Cattle

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1957.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Hurd Mr Anthony Hurd , Newbury 12:00 am, 6th June 1957

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further statement on the action being taken to carry out the recommendations of the Balfour Committee on the handling of cattle exported to the Continent.

Mr. Amory:

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I propose to ensure that cows heavily in milk should not be exported for slaughter; that lairages at the ports should be divided and the animals supervised by experienced persons; and that water troughs, hay racks, fodder and detention pens should be provided. We also agree that approved detention premises should be permanent and covered and should normally be within the dock or airport area or adjacent to it. We shall provide that cattle should be fed as well as watered on lengthy internal rail journeys.

As regards the recommendation that vessels should not sail if winds of force 6 or over are forecast, we have decided that it would be unwise to fetter the discretion of the master of the vessel, and we propose to prohibit the carriage of cattle if the master has reason to expect adverse weather.

The suggestions that cattle found unfit for shipment should be sent to the nearest slaughterhouse and that a minimum size might be prescribed for vessels engaged in the trade raise difficulties that require further study. We have come to the conclusion that it would not be in the interests of the animals to relax the rule requiring cattle to be tied while on board ship.

Discussions with the foreign Governments concerned with a view to making satisfactory arrangements for the treatment of British cattle are continuing, and I hope to make a statement about this immediately after the Whitsun Recess.

Photo of Mr Anthony Hurd Mr Anthony Hurd , Newbury

As there is still some misunderstanding and anxiety in the public mind about this whole matter of the export of cattle to the Continent, will my right hon. Friend make clear that he accepts fully the findings of the Balfour Committee and that he is doing his utmost to press ahead with effective measures to carry out the Committee's recommendations?

Mr. Amory:

Yes, I will gladly do that. I should like to confirm that we are in entire sympathy with the objects of the recommendations of the Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Balfour of Burleigh. We are seeking most actively for ways of carrying out those recommendations. There is only one item of importance on which there is any difficulty— that is the method of ensuring that cattle shall receive satisfactory treatment on the other side of the water, and that we are most actively following up.

Photo of Mr Ian Mikardo Mr Ian Mikardo , Reading

How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile all that he has just said with the fact that he has rejected the principal recommendation of the Balfour Committee, which is to limit the export of cattle to small countries'? Does he realise that people in transit centres at Reading and elsewhere, who have seen with their own eyes evidence of hardship and suffering, have been appalled by the additional evidence of hardship and suffering brought forward by the Committee and cannot understand why the Government either reject the Committee's recommendations in some cases or are very half-hearted about doing anything about the rest?

Mr. Amory:

I think that if the hon. Gentleman reads what I said this afternoon he will conclude that we are far from half-hearted about these recommendations. We have not rejected the object of that recommendation; it is only the method about which we have doubt. That is the method suggested for limiting the journeys to small countries. We are in sympathy with the object of preventing long journeys on the Continent under unsatisfactory conditions.