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House of Commons

Friday 25 January 1991

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock

PRAYERS

[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

PETITIONS

Licensed Betting Shops

9.34 am

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) : This petition concerns the rights and feelings of 1,300 people who currently work in licensed betting shops in the United Kingdom. These people feel powerless against a shabby employer who seems intent upon imposing upon them conditions of employment that none of them wants. The petition reads :

To the honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The humble Petition of the undersigned being employees of bookmakers operating licensed betting offices throughout the nation sheweth.

That we are genuinely concerned that consideration is currently being given by the Home Secretary to a change in the law to allow betting shops to be open to the public until 9.30 pm in weekday evenings.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House does not agree to such changes in existing law unless or until :

(a) A satisfactory level of shop security is agreed between the bookmaking companies and ACTS acting on our behalf.

(b) A satisfactory agreement covering salaries, conditions and meal breaks is agreed between bookmaking companies and ACTS acting on our behalf.


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(c) Proper and meaning consultations are undertaken by Government Departments or their agents with the communities who would be most likely affected by such legal changes.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc. To lie upon the Table.

Bangor (Development)

9.37 am

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : I regard it as a matter of honour to be entrusted with the presentation of this petition to Parliament. It has been signed in a relatively short time--that time has been dictated by the urgency of the matter--by almost 6,000 residents of Bangor, young and old--people of all political views and of all religious views. The petition reads :

To the honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble petition of residents of Bangor and elsewhere Sheweth. That we fear the imminent destruction of the beautiful seaside resort of Bangor. In addition to the placing of a car park on the sea front, construction work has started on an administration building, Bregenz house, which will be fifty feet high and which has not yet received planning permission.

It has long been the policy of the council, indeed since the last century, that all construction work directly on the seafront of Bangor should be discouraged.

This latest development therefore represents a major change of direction with no mandate from the people of Bangor, who have not been given any warning about the size of the administration building.

Such enormous premises will clearly be the first step in wholesale development of the seafront, which could prevent residents and visitors from the enjoyment of the seafront and what is left of the view of Bangor bay.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House will urge the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to provide a local referendum. Any further building work on the seafront, including Bregenz house, should be stopped until the opinion of the people of Bangor is voiced.

And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray etc. To lie upon the Table.


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Orders of the Day

Pig Husbandry Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

9.38 am

Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston) : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill could scarcely be shorter or about a more simple issue. The question is whether a sow should have around its neck a narrow loop with a chain at the end of it just 2ft long--I have one here. The sow is kept in that state for four months from when it is served by a boar until it goes out to a farrowing crate. Some would say that the alternative of a stall is worse. It is so narrow that the sow cannot turn around. It can only stand up or lie down and, at best, move only a few inches.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) knows that just over half a century ago I was deputed, as a schoolboy during the war, to look after sows. I learnt that, of all the farm animals, the pig is the most intelligent. In the intervening years, I have kept many thousands of pigs. There is no doubt that the more intelligent the animal-- I suppose that this applies also to the human being--the more easily it is frustrated and placed under stress. To keep an animal such as a pig in a condition where it cannot move for four months, other than just to stand up or to lie down, causes acute stress.

It is not a pleasant sight to see a young sow put in one of these stalls for the first time. The sow is likely to struggle for half an hour or three quarters of an hour and in that time it will scream and eventually subside. One of two things then tends to happen : either for the rest of the four months it becomes listless and fails to respond to stimuli, other than food put immediately in front of it, or it rapidly becomes mentally deranged, and when the animal is released after the four months to go into the farrowing crate, it is often aggressive and vicious and it may attack the stockman. I therefore congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on his statement about this system. He could not have put it more strongly when, in a press release this week, he said that the system

"could not be justified in any circumstances".

He echoed the views of every livestock farmer who is conscious of his responsibilities to his animals and who realises that livestock farming is acquiring a bad name because of the minority who persist in using the system.

I very much regret the fact that the National Pig Breeders Association, of which I was long a member--indeed, I have been an office holder--has decided to oppose the Bill. The association alleges that about 70 per cent. of sows are kept in these conditions. I do not believe that that figure is right. My hon. Friend the Minister knows that Dr. Baxter was appointed some time ago to the Farm Animal Welfare Council. I do not suppose that any academic is more familiar with the problem. He has studied it at length. In his view, 50 per cent. of sows are kept in these conditions and the number is declining.

It follows that many farmers, like me, do not regard this system as necessary. In several papers on the subject and with the support of many other academics who have


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studied it, along with veterinarians and livestock farmers, Dr. Baxter said that the problems of keeping sows closely covered and in stalls will continue and will probably never be overcome. Those people and the majority of those of us involved in the livestock business know that there are many other systems. I had sows on outdoor and indoor systems. Over the many years that I kept sows, I experimented with different systems. It is true that every system has some little difficulty--there is no perfect system--but, on the whole, the difficulties associated with the alternatives are minimal. Much research has been carried out into them in recent years. For that and other reasons, a large number of farmers have moved out of the existing systems of sow stalls and close tethering. One cannot give figures, because no precise ones are available, but the majority of pig farmers do not use the systems any more.

There is a large number of large herds. There are several large herds of 1,000 or more sows in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend). I have been to the famous college in his constituency twice to talk about pig husbandry and I met his constituents, some of whom have these 1,000 sow herds in stalls or on close tethers. I had my ups and downs with them. I said that that system made for lazy stockmanship and that lazy stockmanship was bad stockmanship. They could not disagree with me, because most of the farmers in my hon. Friend's constituency who own those huge herds do not feed or look after the pigs but sit behind mahogany desks, with computers, secretaries and accountants running their large businesses.

This business has been indirectly subsidised by the taxpayer. I do not believe that these sow stalls would ever have come into being in this country had it not been for the tax allowances which were available.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington) : My hon. Friend realises that feelings in my constituency were running rather high after the rather insulting remarks that he was purported to have made and which were published in the press. If I have an opportunity to do so, I shall deal more fully with that matter later. Will my hon. Friend be good enough to tell me and the House how many pig units in my constituency he has visited and which they were?

Sir Richard Body : I have not been to any of them. I have been to two conferences on this subject at the famous college in my hon. Friend's constituency, where I spoke at length. I have visited many pig farmers. When I was actively involved in pig farming and was experimenting, naturally I went to many such farmers to see what others were doing. I am glad to say that many of my fellow pig farmers came to see what I was doing and we exchanged ideas. I am disturbed by my hon. Friend's use of the word "insulting". I did not wilfully insult anyone. I said some rather forthright things about those farmers who were letting down the farming community. I emphasise that the strongest support I have received for the Bill is from livestock farmers who are worried about their reputation. I have also had enormous support from the veterinary profession, especially among working vets who visit farms and see the injuries caused to sows. There is no doubt in their mind of the mental stress caused to the pigs.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West) : While it is one thing to criticise my hon. Friend for his forthright remarks on this matter, we should also draw attention to the


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remarks made this morning on radio by the chief executive of the National Pig Breeders Association. He sought to impugn the motives of hon. Members when he had no way of knowing the reason for our views. He sought to suggest that there was something improper in hon. Members supporting the Bill. By doing so he does himself, his organisation and its members a grave disservice and he should be ashamed.

Sir Richard Body : I have been saddened about what the National Pig Breeders Association has done recently. I was a member of it for a long time and an office holder. In those days I got to know many association members and I do not believe that any of them would have contemplated introducing such a stall system. However, the association has sought to attract many more of the large-scale, commercial producers and I suspect that those types now effectively run the association. I do not want to be over-critical of association members, but it is important to note that if one is actively farming seven days a week and one enjoys looking after one's stock, there is no time to go to London, or wherever the committee meetings may be, to play an active part in that association.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West) : I warmly welcome my hon. Friend's knowledge of my constituency. Does he therefore recognise that the south-west branch of the National Pig Breeders Association consists of those who run small businesses rather than large ones? Those farmers care deeply about their stock and they undertake the difficult task of finding time to come to London to participate in the association. I hope to speak later, but does my hon. Friend agree that, if the Bill goes through, the larger, commercial pig breeders will possess the ability to fall into line with the new regulations while the small farms will be driven out of business?

Sir Richard Body : I do not believe that I have ever disagreed with my hon. Friend before, but I feel that I must on this occasion. My hon. Friend knows that I go down to the west country from time to time and that I keep an eye on what is going on in the pig business there--I cannot help but do that. I believe that the casualties will be those farmers--sometimes I wonder whether they should be described as such--who have thousand-sow herds. They had their stall systems established as a result of tax allowances that no longer exist.

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central) : Like my hon. Friend, I have kept pigs in the past and I care greatly for their welfare. My hon. Friend, however, has portrayed pig farmers, particularly those who run large farms, as not caring for their stock. The practices that my hon. Friend has described are also widespread on the

continent--perhaps more so than in Britain--and they have developed over a long time. Those practices have been accepted by the majority of people in agriculture--my hon. Friend is an exception--until recently. Most farmers care for their stock and, as my hon. Friend is well aware, unhappy stock does not thrive. Farmers would not keep their stock in conditions where it did not thrive. I agree that changes may be necessary now, but to attribute to pig farmers evil, malicious and uncaring feelings is unfair.

Sir Richard Body : I am not so sure. I am complaining about a minority. I do not believe that the majority--I am


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almost willing to bet on it--keep pigs simply to make money. I can speak with some authority about making money or losses from keeping pigs--one can do both. The majority who keep stock, be it cattle, pigs, sheep or anything else have a feeling for those animals. Those who work in the fields, or in the piggeries, and look after those animals have a feel for them. I am not arguing about that majority ; I am concerned about a problem that touches the minority.

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown) : I could take my hon. Friend to many small pig breeding farms in Sussex where the farmers have provided open areas in which the pigs can run. The difference between those and the filthy, disgusting stalls in which pigs are chained is colossal. Does my hon. Friend agree that certain elements of the farming world display a degree of hypocrisy when they try to pretend that they care for those pigs, while they treat them like that? My hon. Friend has already shown to the House the restrictions that are placed upon pigs.

Sir Richard Body : I agree with my hon. Friend.

I have challenged the National Pig Breeders Association and the National Farmers Union, whose representatives I met recently, to give me the names of any farmers who have gone over to the ultra-intensive form of production in the past three years. So far, no names have been given and I do not believe that there will be any. Dr. Baxter, to whom I referred earlier, has also made inquiries and I am reassured by his findings. Manufacturers of the chains have also told me that there are no more sales, which is a great advance. When we had a generous system of grants and tax allowances one could receive a large grant for putting down the concrete base for the intensive pig farms. One also received a tax allowance, over seven years, for erecting the buildings. The equipment, the sow stalls and tethers, could be written off against one year's tax. Those with large farms and receiving a substantial income had a considerable advantage over those with small farms whose income was not as great and whose tax liability, therefore, was not enough to enable them to take advantage of the tax allowances. It is not unfair to say that it is the taxpayer, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has been largely responsible for the introduction of the stall system.

I remind the House that as long ago as 1981 the Select Committee on Agriculture, under the chairmanship of Bill Elliott--now in another place-- carried out a long and detailed inquiry on the stall system. We visited many farms in Britain and in France, Germany and Denmark where we examined their practices not only on the farms, but in research establishments. We heard a great deal of evidence and at the end we agreed unanimously on the report. The House has always respected the unanimous report of a Select Committee. It is 10 years since we agreed that report which came down against the ultra-intensive methods of pig husbandry.

The House subsequently spent a whole day debating the report, which also made recommendations about the more controversial question of poultry and veal. On pig husbandry--in particular, sow stalls and close tethering--the House agreed unanimously what the Select Committee had decided. There have been disagreements on all sorts of issues in the Select Committee and the House will know that it consists of some fairly hard-faced hon. Members. I must not be unkind about my colleagues,


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but they were certainly not sentimental about the matter ; let us say that they were practical. Nevertheless, those of us who brought to the Committee a considerable knowledge of livestock farming were appalled at some of the things that we saw.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes) : My hon. Friend has described accurately the acceptance of the report by the House, but the matter went even further than that. The 1983 guidelines issued by the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), said :

"The keeping of sows and gilts in stalls, with or without tethers, raises serious welfare problems. It inevitably places severe restrictions on the animals' freedom of movement alternative systems, such as kennels, store yards or yards and cubicles, in which animals' behavioural and exercise needs can be fully met, are therefore strongly recommended."

So by 1983 the Government had accepted the basic thrust of the Select Committee's report.

Sir Richard Body : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Perhaps I may digress for a moment, because I realise that my hon. Friend the Minister is none too happy about the five-year period. Let me explain why it was selected. The lifespan of the stalls is usually about 15 years ; the tethers have a considerably shorter lifespan. The Select Committee reached its decision 10 years ago and there was a considerable amount of reporting in the farming press when the report was published and debated. I cannot believe that any livestock farmer can have been unaware of what the Select Committee or the House had said. Moreover, when the welfare code was published in 1983, there can have been no doubt about the matter among pig farmers because, again, there was a considerable amount of publicity. If my arithmetic is right, 10 plus five makes 15. That means that by 1996, 15 years will have elapsed since the Select Committee unhesitatingly drew those conclusions which were then endorsed by the House.

There is another matter that concerns a number of producers. Will the European dimension put our farmers at a disadvantage compared with farmers on the continent, and will there be an increase in imports from countries that have a lower regard for their animals than we do? I do not think that will happen. I have given the matter careful thought. I have discussed it with a number of farmers and others. It will not happen because, in the first place, the system is not profitable. It has been made artificially profitable, as I sought to explain earlier, by the tax allowance. If it were profitable, the sow stall systems would not be disappearing as rapidly as it is. The figures show clearly that farmers are abandoning the system and, in the past three years, have not been replacing sow stalls that have ended their natural life. Any hon. Member who has an appreciable number of pig farmers in his constituency will know that pig farmers have had a pretty rough old time in the past few years and that pig farming is not always a highly profitable business. There has been acute pressure on farmers at the margins. One might have thought that that would be reflected in intensified systems and certainly more farmers would have gone over to sow stalls and tethering if that system had been seen to be more profitable. That is simply not the case.

Miss Emma Nicholson : I have a lot of pig farmers in my constituency. Indeed, we bred pigs when I was a child.


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Does my hon. Friend agree that the real reason why pig farmers have been under such economic pressure and have been going out of business is that they have not attracted the subsidies that have been handed out to other sectors of the industry? The sums that they have been offered and the tiny tax allowances that they have received have been too modest to stop people going out of business. Does my hon. Friend agree, therefore, that the pig farmer deserves just as much attention in this context as the pig? I hasten to add that I support the concern about better welfare for pigs.

Sir Richard Body : My hon. Friend is enticing me and inviting me to make at least a half-hour speech on my favourite topic, but I have to keep an eye on the Chair and I would be monstrously out of order if I answered my hon. Friend's question, tempted though I may be. This is a short Bill on a simple issue and I must return to it.

In respect of the European dimension, there is a positive advantage in getting rid of stalls and tethers rather sooner than at the end of the five -year period. Five years is a compromise figure. Many farmers would like the system to be got rid of more speedily for commercial reasons. After all, we face competition from the continent, although I am glad to say that in recent years, we have doubled our exports of pigmeat to the continent and that has been a triumph for our farmers. There would be a marketing advantage in getting rid of the system and I look forward to hearing the Minister's views about the subject.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : The Government recently decided virtually to ignore the EC's proposals on magpies and only yesterday the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that the Government would use what he called "devious means" to ensure the continuation of our various protections for horses and ponies. In the light of those facts, would not it help if the Government made it clear that they would once again fight hard--and, if need be, use devious means--to stop the import of bacon produced by those who use this appalling practice in other parts of the Community? Is not that a better answer than more subsidy, bearing in mind the fact that this year the EC is to spend £23,000 million on direct subsidy and that that is an all-time record?

Sir Richard Body : My hon. Friend is always right when he speaks about matters emanating from Brussels. I do not see why we should not invoke article 36 of the treaty of Rome to bring those imports to an end on moral grounds.

I should say that the great majority of continental farmers do not resort to the practice. Most of them still have very small pig units and it is simply not worth their while to embark on the sow stall and tether system.

Mr. Lord : My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) gave the House the global figure for agriculture subsidies. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body), who knows the subject well, will surely acknowledge that the pig industry is not among those that receive massive subsidies and that it has to stand on its own feet.

Those of us who will speak today on behalf of pig producers are not against the principle of the Bill. We are trying to get a little balance into it. I represent Suffolk, which has probably the second largest population of pig producers in the country. The producers in my area are changing over to a loose housing system. I have spoken to one of my pig farmers who is also a pig consultant. He


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travels widely on the continent and tells me that many of the practices in Europe are much worse than the practices and the way in which we keep our pigs here. We are considering a two-pronged issue : the first is the way in which pigs are kept on the continent and the second is unfair competition with our pig farmers. Surely such a proposal for change should be implemented at the same time throughout Europe.

Sir Richard Body : I will return to my hon. Friend's peroration shortly. However, he is right to state that pig farmers have not been subsidised. They have been taxed. Some 70 per cent. of the working costs are feed costs and that has been taxed by up to 100 per cent. That has been a severe burden for pig farmers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) knows, that tax takes the form of import levies. Many of my fellow pig farmers went out of business when we imposed very high import levies on imported maize which some of us believed was a very good feed for pigs.

My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central is trying to lead me astray like the temptress, my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West. In reply to the peroration of my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central, I refer once more to the European dimension. I believe that there is a marketing advantage and I do not suggest that our farmers should be placed at a disadvantage in relation to farmers on the continent. However, our farmers could experience a positive advantage.

There is growing concern in this country about farm animal welfare and the kind of things being done on our farms. If we can say that we have stopped the worst excesses of intensive methods of animal production and that our methods, if not totally humane, are less inhumane than practices permitted on the continent, that will be a great advantage for us to exploit commercially. We should be able to tell shoppers, "If you buy British, you will be buying bacon, ham or pork that is produced less inhumanely than is the case on the continent."

Mr. John Townend : I was interested in my hon. Friend's last point that we will be able to buy British pork that is produced more humanely than anywhere else. Why, therefore, does the Bill exclude Northern Ireland? If those practices are as evil as my hon. Friend makes out, surely they should be excluded throughout the United Kingdom. Has Northern Ireland been excluded because if the Bill applied there it would make it very difficult for pig farmers in Northern Ireland to compete with pig farmers in the Republic?

Sir Richard Body : I invite my hon. Friend to talk to those who understand the constitutional niceties. It was explained to me why it would be unwise to include Northern Ireland in the Bill, but I cannot for the life of me pass on that explanation, because it was beyond me.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I support the Bill with the utmost enthusiasm. I regret the fact that it does not extend to Northern Ireland. If I catch the eye of the Chair later, I hope to urge the House to extend the provisions to Northern Ireland. I hope that my hon. Friend will ensure in Committee that it is extended to the Province.


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Sir Richard Body : As they say, that is a Committee point. My hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder)--and I insist on calling him my hon. Friend

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) : Needs must.

Sir Richard Body : Hon. Members may not be aware that my hon. Friend the Member for North Down and I once contested the primaries in North Down. Neither of us won on that occasion, but that was long ago.

I do not want to be diverted again from the European dimension. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) referred to the unfair advantage that Northern Ireland producers might experience. The ultra- intensive systems are not more profitable than many of the available alternatives. Those systems have been introduced-- [Interruption.] - -If I am wrong, why are those wretched systems going out rapidly now? Farmers are turning away from those systems because they are not profitable. I do not want to be unkind to the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington, but I repeat what I have said in my hon. Friend's constituency on two occasions : those systems make for lazy stockmanship. It is easier for one man to control a 1,000-sow herd when those sows are kept in stalls in the conditions I have described than it would be if those sows were in open yards or kept in any of the other ways in which we can keep our pigs.

Mr. John Townend : My hon. Friend's argument lacks logic. On the one hand he says that it is no more efficient or economic to have the present system while on the other hand he says that that system leads to lazy stockmanship and that we can manage with fewer men. If labour costs rise as a result of changing the system, the present system must be more cost effective. A pig farmer in my constituency has just erected one of those units that my hon. Friend claims is going out. There is no great movement out of the present system in east Yorkshire, which is the largest pig- producing area in the country.

Sir Richard Body : Of course labour costs are important. However, they are not the biggest costs involved. In relation to feed costs, they are very small. The great majority of pig farmers do not count their labour costs because they are working farmers. A working farmer does not look at the clock and calculate how much he has or has not earned that day. He gets on with the work and works seven days a week. Labour costs are not a significant item in the budget of the average pig farmer.

I am determined to return to the European dimension. I will not give way, no matter how tempted I might be, to my hon. Friends. I will not digress again. Before I was interrupted, I was inviting my hon. Friend the Minister to respond about the commercial advantages. Only quite recently I received an invitation from Safeway, which is one of the major supermarket chains, to see what it is doing to provide more humanely produced meat. I was very impressed by what I saw.

Safeway has commenced farming to increase the supply of the kind of meat that it wants, because the supply of humanely produced meat was not available elsewhere. Safeway is charging its customers in the supermarkets a 25 per cent. premium for such meat. Safeway is successful and it hopes to recruit more farmers who are willing to keep animals humanely and in return receive that 25 per cent.


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premium. As a commercial concern, Safeway is convinced that consumer demand for humanely produced meat will increase and it is determined to meet that demand. I must not put words into Safeway's mouth, and I am not doing so, but it would be enormously grateful if some farmers in north Humberside would contemplate using other methods. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington to take the message to farmers that the demand for humanely produced meat will increase and that it would be excellent if some of them abandoned some of their ultra-intensive methods.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test) : Most of the problems of the pig market stem from the fact that supermarkets are creating a very low price for pig products. The idea of Safeway giving anyone a 25 per cent. premium would probably cause a farmer in Hampshire to fall over in astonishment. That is not to detract from my hon. Friend's Bill--I am 100 per cent. behind what he is trying to achieve--but supermarkets are one of the reasons why that vicious practice has built up in the past.

Sir Richard Body : I must agree with my hon. Friend. However, I am totally resolved not to be diverted by anyone else again. I have been on my feet for much longer than I expected. It is a short, simple Bill, and we are digressing. There is a plot. I suspect that the usual channels want the Bill to be debated for as long as possible. I must now conclude.

Those of us who think seriously about livestock farming know that vegetarianism is now surging forward. In the Members' Dining Room there is now a vegetarian menu, which we certainly did not have in times past. On the blackboard menu in the cafeteria there are six, seven or eight dishes on offer, and two or three are always vegetarian. I do not suppose that a single restaurant in London does not now provide a vegetarian dish. Most significant of all, hon. Members who have visited universities or polytechnics in the past year or so and eaten in the halls or canteens will have noticed that a third and sometimes half the students are vegetarians. Intrigued by that, I have talked to them about it. There seemed to be a logical syllogism. "We cannot condone cruelty. We believe that modern meat production is cruel, therefore we do not eat meat." I do not think that one can fault the logic of that syllogism.

It is important, therefore, that those of us who are concerned about the future of livestock farming should clean up its reputation and put right what we believe to be wrong. It is not only what we in the livestock industry believe to be wrong ; almost every inquiry including every scientific inquiry has condemned those

ultra-intensive practices, and the sooner they are got rid of the better it will be for the reputation of farming. At the last annual general meeting of the National Pig Breeders Association the chairman said :

"The time has come when the UK pig industry must start to improve its public image."

He went on :

"The case for promoting our product more effectively to the consumer must be advanced within the framework of the need to burnish our reputation with the general public."


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I agree with that statement, and I hope that House will also agree. I hope also that the National Pig Breeders Association will think carefully about what it has been saying recently.

The Bill is obviously in the interests not only of wretched sows that are kept in stalls for four months at a time, with the stress and the lack of will to live that so many of them suffer as a result, but of every livestock farmer.

Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) : I am privileged to follow the promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body). I pay tribute to his work on the Bill. He is one of the few Back-Bench Conservative Members of whom I had heard before I was elected. I have a brother who is involved in organic farming in Northern Ireland and he mentioned to me the work that the hon. Gentleman had done not only on this issue but on many other farming issues to put across the organic message. I agree with every word that the hon. Gentleman has said.

This is a small, narrow, definitive Bill and we should be able to pass it very quickly. I hope that there will not be any of the procedural or tactical delaying methods in which the House seems to involved itself. Let us have a straightforward debate and then vote on the Bill. I hope that hon. Members will support it.

I shall tell hon. Members of my own interest in the measure and why I feel passionately about it. I am a product of the pig industry. I was brought up on a small rural farm in Northern Ireland. I do not think that I would be here were it not for pigs, because that was the way in which my family made their money and ensured that I was able to be brought up in a way that would help me in my future life. That pig farm was a genuine pig farm. I am confident that I have delivered more young pigs into this world than many other hon. Members have. Therefore, I know just how intelligent pigs are.

I support everything that has been said. Pigs are the most intelligent farm animals. I could relate many examples--I shall not bore the House--of sows who, no matter what was done, were able to open the gate and get back in when they wanted to. When they were let out into the field for the day and got fed up they always knew how to get back in. No matter what we did, one sow was able to let herself out. She could even manipulate and get rid of the wire that had been used to secure the gate. Pigs are extremely intelligent, clean animals. Anyone who has looked after pigs knows that, unlike many other animals, they perform their bodily functions on exactly the same spot and at the same time, practically, and will never mess up the place in which they are kept. That is why it is disgraceful and appalling that pigs in this country are still being kept in the way that has been described.

I do not believe that any genuine farmer--that is, someone who cares first and foremost about the animals that he or she looks after--could possibly oppose the Bill. I understand why hon. Members from areas in which there is industrial intensive farming have been lobbying hard on the matter. I understand that there are pressures on them, but I urge them to realise that the people exerting that pressure are not genuine farmers. A genuine farmer would not use such methods of husbandry.

The Bill is not about the economics of pig farming and the problems of commercialism in farming. There is time for that in another debate. We are not here to discuss what tax advantages should or should not have been given to the


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