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Clause 1—(Functions Of Local Authorities)

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1954

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, are you calling the Amendment in my name and that of my hon. Friends to page 1, line 13?

11.30 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 19, at the end to insert:

(3) Where a local authority have (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) provided a public slaughterhouse in the exercise of the said power, or of any other power conferred by a local Act or statutory order, they may make such arrangements as they think expedient for securing that all the activities of the slaughterhouse, or any particular activities, are carried on there by servants or agents of theirs to the exclusion of other persons.
This Amendment deals with a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) who referred to the matter on Committee stage and wanted to make perfectly clear that a local authority operating a public slaughterhouse on the line system could make arrangements to secure that all or any of the operations were carried out by its own servants or agents to the exclusion of other people. We think it desirable that local authorities should be allowed to operate public slaughterhouses in whatever way they think efficient, and this Amendment is to meet the point raised by my hon. Friend.

I have just had handed to me a manuscript Amendment. Is it intended to be added here?

There was another point raised, about which I think the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) was very worried, in regard to possible dangers in relation to certain facilities for ritual slaughter. I had assured him there was no such danger in this Amendment and that the whole purpose was to allow local authorities which believe in having the line system—which is to be encouraged—to provide those facilities. I gathered that the hon. Member was worried about this, and I was prepared to add certain words, with your permission, Mr. Speaker.

In addition to the words on the Paper, the Amendment would read:

Provided that a local authority shall not exercise the powers conferred by this subsection in such a manner as to deny to any religious community reasonable facilities for obtaining as food the flesh of animals slaughtered by the methods specially required by their religion.

This is the first notice we have had of this Amendment. We have not seen it on the Paper. As far as I can gather from having heard it, it is acceptable and desirable—I am speaking of the manuscript part of the Amendment—but I would emphasise that the Opposition is labouring under some disadvantage in regard to this Bill.

I make no complaint about this, but we did our utmost to expedite the consideration of this Bill in Committee. We were assured on several points that the matter would be further considered, and we assumed, therefore, that we should have a further opportunity of discussion when the Bill came up for recommital and Report. As far as I understand it, there are several matters we shall not have an opportunity to discuss on which the Minister gave assurances. The Minister gave an assurance on this question, and I think he has endeavoured to meet the assurance he gave.

If this satisfies my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) and he has had an opportunity of consulting those concerned, I think we could accept it, but I do not know if he has had such an opportunity. But if it be that he has not had an opportunity to consult those who are directly affected, I think we should adjourn further consideration of the Bill, because I would emphasise that on this Bill we did our utmost to expedite the proceedings. But I must complain that on several points there has been no further consultation with us on the particular matters we raised, and I understand that we are going to have no opportunity to discuss them. We have had no pre-warning either of the particular wording, and it is a matter of some importance.

I concede at once the Government's difficulty. This must be law by Saturday, but really this is not the way to conduct Her Majesty's business. We have complained before about the dilatory manner in which this Bill has been handled, and I would say on behalf of the Opposition that it has not been fair to us, as this Bill could have been discussed last week, if other matters had not then been discussed. The Government knew this had to be passed by Saturday, or presumably some people might be open to possible proceedings, and I make that general point.

But if my hon. Friend can say that those who are directly concerned about it will be satisfied with this wording, it would not be for me to object to I do know, because my hon. Friend told me, that there have been anxious discussions about the actual wording of the Amendment. If he is not satisfied, and wants an opportunity to consult those interested parties affected, I think we must press for an adjournment of the further consideration of the Bill.

It is a little difficult, as I think the Minister will appreciate, for one to be able to be sure about the exact meaning of the wording of the Amendment which he handed in just now without having read it, and I am afraid that my hon. Friend is trying to put upon my shoulders a responsibility which I could not altogether accept. On the other hand, I do want to express my thanks to the Minister and his colleagues for their attempt to meet the points have been discussing with them and which they undertook to meet during the Committee stage.

Subject to my taking a further look at the wording of this particular Amendment—I do not mean this evening—and subject to the Minister being able, as I think he is, to correct the wording of the Amendment if it becomes necessary in another place, I would say at this stage that I am prepared to accept it myself, and I thank him for having given the matter his consideration.

I only want to say very briefly that, since this Amendment does completely meet the point of the Amendment which I moved in Committee, I am extremely grateful to my right hon. and gallant Friend, who has met us so completely, and I hope that the House will accept it.

During the Committee stage it fell to my lot, by reason of representations that were being made to me, to inquire into the conditions behind the Amendment, the principle of which was accepted, even though the Amendment was withdrawn in connection with the control of servants in slaughterhouses by the municipalities, and I raised the question of ritual killing. I hope the Minister will pay some attention. I hope he will pay much more attention to what I am saying than seemingly he took of his promise when it was in the Committee stage.

We are entitled to make the justifiable complaint at this stage that a promise was made to the whole Standing Committee and the Minister has done nothing at all about it. Tonight the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has had to put forward a manuscript Amendment and that, from the point of view of efficiency on the part of a Minister who is in charge of a Bill, is most reprehensible. I must register my protest against the almost callous indifference of the Minister in this matter.

I utter one word of warning about the Amendment. It does not meet entirely the wishes of certain members of one of the trades that are interested in slaughtering. I agree that there is a case for exclusive rights in line slaughtering, but the whole idea of greater freedom of slaughtering in the future was that there should be greater facilities for all. It is felt that local authorities should have sufficient facilities to enable butchers to slaughter their own animals if they so wish. I know that with line slaughtering that is not possible, but in other cases it is.

I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will watch this matter in the future and will see that the legitimate wishes of local butchers are met. One of my hon. Friends has already complained of a case of monopoly, and I have heard of another alleged case. It is sub judice, and therefore I cannot go into it in detail. There are cases where local authorities want and are given monopoly powers, but certain butchers complain that that does not meet their legitimate wishes.

Is the hon. and gallant Member saying "lion" slaughtering, to make up the deficiency in line slaughtering?

I should like to support the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan). I hope that with the manuscript Amendment the word "may" in the Amendment on the Order Paper will be operative and that local authorities will have the power to allow the private trader who wants to slaughter his own cattle to slaughter them in the public slaughterhouse. I am all for safeguards, and there is nothing like a public abattoir for providing them, but I want the private trader who wants to slaughter his own cattle to have the right of access to these slaughterhouses.

The hon. and gallant Member for South Angus spoke of line slaughtering. I know that he means mass production. [An HON. MEMBER: "Mass destruction."] The man who is slaughtering two or three cattle a week for his own shop will certainly give much greater attention to the cattle when they are alive and to their dressing than will the man who is doing this work by mass production methods. Let us make no mistake about that. I am against the small slaughterhouses. I am against a man slaughtering in a small place without the necessary supervision, but provided he has right of entry to the new slaughterhouses he will do a better job than the other man. Therefore, I want the word "may" in the Government Amendment to be operative so that there shall be that right of entry.

11.45 p.m.

I suggest that it would be wrong not to accept the intention of the Amendment proposed by the Minister. There are dangers in a too-liberal interpretation of the word "may." It may be that in some districts at the moment controversy and dismay would be caused. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) is a practising butcher and knows that I have had some experience in this direction. After a lapse of 14 years, I assure him that he will not find many private butchers whom he would trust to slaughter cattle either in a public or a private slaughterhouse. My hon. Friend laughs at that, but he knows that it is true. I congratulate the Minister for moving the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.