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House of Commons

Wednesday 22 February 1995

The House met at Ten o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Live Animals (Export)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Kirkhope.]

10.4 am

Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton): I am delighted to have secured this important Adjournment debate on the transportation of live animals, but before I begin my speech, I am sure that the whole House would join me in sending our best wishes to our Prime Minister in Belfast this morning as he takes part in that vital initiative. Animal welfare is of great concern to many of our citizens, who have been genuinely distressed by some of the scenes of cruelty to animals in the process of live transportation that they have witnessed. It is therefore important that this matter be discussed in detail in Parliament, so that the facts may be clearly presented and argued.

Although it is an emotive and complex issue, I hope that we can debate the matter in a dispassionate and reasonable manner; in a broadsheet rather than a tabloid fashion. I hope that we can reach a clear view of the way forward, and that we can balance the understandable desires of our farmers to supply a real demand for live meat on the continent with the need to have the highest possible levels of animal welfare; that we can balance our needs as a meat-eating species to raise animals for slaughter with our responsibility to be wise and caring stewards of all other creatures; and, finally, that we can balance the need to support the dairy industry and the livelihoods of our farmers with widespread public concern about animal welfare.

On Saturday night, at Millbay docks in Plymouth, two cattle lorries arrived and boarded a privately chartered ferry bound for the continent. The lorries carried calves and sheep, and came from farms throughout the south of England. Standing at the gates of Millbay docks with banners, 200 to 300 people were shouting and screaming their protests as the lorries swept through. The police were there in force to ensure that the protesters did not prevent the lorries from entering the docks.

Once inside the docks, the cattle and sheep were inspected by the vet who accompanied them on their entire journey. They were inspected by Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials, and by representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, all of whom gave the cattle and sheep a clean bill of health. Once inspected, the lorries boarded the ship, and the ship left.

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I recently visited Millbay docks, and spoke to the vet and RSPCA representatives, who confirmed their opinion that the sheep and cattle were not in distress. Yet many of the protesters were in tears; many were simply angry. They are an embodiment of an outpouring of concern that has grown from all corners of our society.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne): Is my hon. Friend able to assist me by reconciling the view of the chairman of the Sussex police authority in my area, who calls this trade barbaric, and thinks that it should be stopped, with the view expressed by his colleague, the Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman in this place, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), who described the activities of protesters as "naive, hysterical and counter-productive"?

Mr. Streeter: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. It is important that we approach this issue from a consistent position, and that, wherever possible, we say the same thing. I ask myself, who are the demonstrators? Some are retired civil servants, some are teachers, some are housewives, some are students. Most of them care genuinely about the welfare of animals, and are prepared to stand in the cold and the rain night after night to make their protests. That picture is repeated almost daily all over the country. Many people want to stop the export of live animals from the United Kingdom to the continent for slaughter. They believe it to be a cruel and unnecessary practice. They care, they are committed and they are to be respected for their compassion and their concern. Some of the people at the demonstrations have a different motivation. They are members of Class War or the Animal Liberation Front, and are there to cause trouble and pursue their own agenda, whatever that might be. I shall say more about them later, but the first question that I want to explore this morning is: why do we not ban the export of live animals, which causes so much distress to some many people?

The first reason is a legal one. Article 36 of the treaty of Rome--with its clause allowing restrictions on imports and exports on the grounds of public morality, public policy or the protection of the life and health of animals--is not applicable, because there is an existing EC directive on animal welfare standards. That EC directive does not deal adequately with the provision for feeding, watering, journey times and other matters, but it exists, and it prevents any member state from taking unilateral national action.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington): The hon. Gentleman is making an eminently sensible contribution to the debate, and I am sure that many of us support what he has said. Will he condemn the actions of his hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), who deliberately set out to destroy the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew)? Will the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) condemn the actions of his hon. Friend, who prevented Parliament from dealing with an issue that the great majority of people in this country wanted to be addressed?

Mr. Streeter: I entirely reject the hon. Gentleman's comments. At the beginning of my speech, I said that we should address the issues, not in tabloid terms, but objectively and sensibly. I refute what the hon. Gentleman said.

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If we were to proceed with a ban on exports, the European Commission would take the United Kingdom Government to the European Court of Justice to have such a unilateral ban swiftly reversed. In the meantime, UK farmers would rightly claim for compensation against our Government for damages suffered as a consequence of unlawful action. It is simply not an option.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I apologise for missing the opening moments of his speech.

Surely, if the Government were prepared, unilaterally, to institute a ban, it could be tested in the European Court. There is a body of opinion which says that, as European law is untested in many spheres, that would be a worthwhile step. At least the Government could then say that they had done their best, but were overturned by the European Court. At present, the Government seem to stand between the people and the European Court, frustrating the wishes of the people of this country.

Mr. Streeter: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The Government have had the benefit of legal advice from the best legal minds in the country. Were I asked to choose between the hon. Gentleman's legal opinion and that of the best legal minds in the country, I would go with the latter every time. The same is true of veal crates as of banning exports. We fought hard in 1990 and 1991 to impose a Communitywide ban on veal crates when formulating the EC directive on the subject. However, the European Union adopted a lesser measure in 1991. Our Government secured a provision allowing member states to adopt stricter standards.

We chose to adopt stricter standards, and effectively--and rightly--banned veal crates from our shores. It is cruel and unacceptable to keep a calf in a crate in which it cannot turn around or groom itself. But it is not possible to ban the export from the UK of calves that end up in veal crates. An existing EC directive covers the matter, and such a measure would be doomed to failure. It is simply not possible to ignore the legal realities and seek a unilateral ban, however much Opposition Members might object.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North): Was my hon. Friend encouraged to see Brigitte Bardot demonstrating in Paris and attacking the French Government for their poor, but improving, attitude? Would it not help the important cause of animal welfare if Brigitte Bardot or her equivalents did the same in Greece, Spain and other countries, thus providing better support for the excellent attitudes of this country and our Government?

Mr. Streeter: Unlike my predecessor in the House, I do not know Brigitte Bardot personally.

Madam Speaker: Pity.

Mr. Streeter: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) has anticipated later sections of my speech on the importance of approaching the problem Europewide, and mobilising public opinion throughout Europe, so that standards of animal welfare throughout Europe become as high as they are in this country.

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It is likely that measures banning or restricting the export of calves would constitute an unacceptable interference with the operation of the common agricultural policy as it affects the market for beef and veal.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): The hon. Gentleman is discussing the legality of a ban. Perhaps he will support me in asking the Minister to place the legal advice in the House of Commons Library so that we can look at it. My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) asked the Minister to do that, but the Minister refused.

Mr. Streeter: I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister has heard the hon. Gentleman's point. It is a long-standing convention that the Government do not disclose their legal advice, or even whether they have taken legal advice from a certain source. I see no reason to change that convention in this case.

My first question was whether it would be possible, legally, to ban the export of live animals and veal calves. It is not. My second question is: even if the ban of the export of live animals were legal and possible, would it be desirable? What would be the result of such a ban? Surely our concern should be for animals everywhere, not just restricted to our shores.

If our farmers, employing decent standards, were not able to supply the demand in southern European states, someone else would. Let us be under no illusions--it would almost certainly be the east European nations, which raise animals in far worse conditions than we do. That would set back the cause of animal welfare by decades. Fewer sheep and cattle would be produced in the United Kingdom, where we have decent standards and transport animals in humane conditions. More sheep and cattle would be produced elsewhere, in poorer conditions, and transported under lower welfare standards.

Such a ban would not help the cause of animal welfare, but diminish it. There is nothing intrinsically cruel about transporting animals in a lorry. I draw upon my experience of being brought up on a dairy farm. I have been surrounded by sheep and cattle all my life--nothing changes.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South-East): I hope that, as the hon. Gentleman develops his interesting speech, he will comment on the air transport of live animals. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, an animal rights campaigner in my constituency was recently killed. It is an emotive subject. The vast majority of animal rights campaigners are decent people, but there is always a minority of troublemakers. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on air transport, particularly in relation to noise levels and how they affect residents living in areas such as mine in Willenhall in Coventry?

Mr. Streeter: I shall talk about the demonstrators in a moment. I see no significant difference between transporting cattle and sheep in a lorry and other forms of transportation, provided the same standards apply. I have not inspected the aeroplanes in which those cattle are transported, so I have less knowledge of that. I am satisfied by what at I see at Millbay docks in Plymouth that such transportation is not intrinsically cruel.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North): The hon. Gentleman says that we should participate in the trade because, if we do not, others--perhaps from eastern

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Europe--may do so, and do so cruelly. But the reason that we have a law banning veal crates in this country is because they are cruel, immoral and unacceptable.

If the hon. Gentleman says that we should transport animals to a state that is cruel, immoral and unacceptable because we want to make profits rather than let others do so, does not his argument undermine the basis of law in this country, which bans that cruelty? The hon. Gentleman cannot say that we should allow animals to enter such a state simply because we would rather make the profits rather than allow someone else to do so.

Mr. Streeter: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me in his long speech. If he will be patient, I shall deal with that precise point in a moment.

Provided that the appropriate conditions are in place and are monitored effectively, the journey to the slaughterhouse need not cause distress. In January, the Government introduced even tougher restrictions on our farmers, which require each exporter to comply with an approved journey plan. If we withdraw from the debate and seek to impose a unilateral ban, irrespective of the legal consequences that would follow, we would surely lose our voice in Europe on the issue just when people are beginning to listen to us about animal welfare.

I believe that the decision by the Council of Ministers last night to discuss the issue again in a month shows that people are beginning to fall in behind us on the issue, and that there is a real chance that progress will be made. For those reasons, I simply do not believe that a general ban on exports--if it were legal--would help the cause of animal welfare generally, and it would not be desirable. I am bound to ask what impact a general ban on live exports would have on the dairy industry. Male calves are an unavoidable by-product of the dairy industry. We cannot ignore the laws of nature: a dairy cow will produce the milk from which we derive our dairy products only if she has a calf each year. Farmers must do something with male calves.

It would be convenient to believe that they could be sold for veal in the United Kingdom, but the domestic market is simply too limited. If farmers are left to fatten calves for beef, a huge increase in the amount of beef on the market would destabilise the farming industry and the common agricultural policy.

Farmers could be forced to slaughter calves within days of their birth--I think that that is a strange argument to come from people who are concerned about animal welfare--but that would be an unaffordable expense for farmers unless they were subsidised by public money for every calf slaughtered. There is no doubt that an immediate ban would threaten the economic viability of our dairy industry, to no avail. UK farmers would pay the price, animals would not benefit and eastern European farmers would laugh all the way to the bank.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr): Such a ban was imposed by the Conservative Government in 1974, and in 1975 the then Labour Government reversed that decision. Does my hon. Friend have any idea why Labour Members now suggest that the policy should be changed to reverse their original decision?

Mr. Streeter: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. As I said earlier, it is important that hon. Members do not play to the gallery, but have the courage of their convictions on the issue.

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Some of those who are protesting at Millbay docks and elsewhere are vegans and vegetarians. They do not eat meat themselves, and they do not wish to see others eat meat. They represent about 5 per cent. of the population of this country. Joyce DeSilva and Peter Stevenson of Compassion In World Farming are strong vegans. I respect that, but it is not right that people who have such an unnatural agenda should seek to impose their views on the rest of us.

I do not need to debate the morality of eating meat. I have no moral qualms about it and I am joined in that view by more than 90 per cent. of the population. If the vegans and vegetarians had their way, there would be no dairy industry at all in this country, which would devastate our economic and rural landscape. It is a dangerous agenda, and we should firmly reject it.

Sir Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown): I apologise to my hon. Friend for not being present to hear the earlier part of his speech. On his last point, it is true that the vast majority of those who are demonstrating against the export of veal calves eat meat themselves. I see nothing wrong with that. Surely my hon. Friend agrees that we have a responsibility to treat animals decently while they are being prepared for the table, and to kill them painlessly, instead of allowing them to spend six months of living hell in a veal crate?

Mr. Streeter: Obviously my hon. Friend did not hear the first part of my speech, which was devoted entirely to that very point. I have dealt with the fact that the vast majority of demonstrators are genuine, decent people, and I have paid a great tribute to them. However, some of the protesters are not nice people. Some extremists, whose primary concern is to disrupt society, have jumped on the bandwagon. Some of that group claim to care about animal welfare, but they show a complete disregard for human life, which gives the lie to their claims.

I shall refer to some brief extracts from recent newspaper reports. An article by Emma Wilkins, which appeared in The Times of 4 February 1995, said:

"Animal-rights demonstrations at ports and airports are being infiltrated by violent militants intent on criminal activity, a senior police officer said yesterday.

Mick Brewer, acting Deputy Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police, said that the peaceful protests at Coventry airport against the export of veal calves had been sabotaged by activists who had their own aims.

`I think it is clear that we are seeing an influx of criminally minded people who are operating off the back of a peaceful demonstration,' Mr. Brewer said. `After the tragic accident, our officers began to notice new faces in the crowd at the airport. Their technique is often to hide behind the peaceful demonstrators and egg them on'.

Mr. Brewer has discussed the policing of demonstrations with his opposite number at Devon and Cornwall Police. Violence has broken out at Plymouth docks. `I think we are being targeted by the same type of individuals,' Mr. Brewer said".

An article from The Sunday Times of 8 January 1995 by Mark Christy and Andrew Alderson, contains an interview with Michelle Ratcliffe, 27. She is

"a self-styled black Boadicea of the anarchist movement, is typical of the hard-core elements who have hijacked the demonstration for political motives and who have left respectable protesters"-- the people about whom my hon. Friend is concerned--

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"questioning their own involvement. `These animals are being tortured,' she said. `We are tooled up with baseball bats and other weapons and are prepared to defend them'.

Ratcliffe conceded, however, that she and her companions from the Justice Department, the anarchic group, were `not particularly concerned about the animals. We are here to fight for social justice . . . I'm so angry with what's happening here I would kill the police to achieve our ends'.

Ratcliffe, who travelled from her home in Brixton, south London, with Stu Johnson, 24, her white, dread-locked boyfriend, has protested previously"--

this will be no great surprise to my hon. Friends--

"against the poll tax, the Criminal Justice Bill and new roads. Many of the protests have culminated in violence. `We like to steam in and sabotage a bit. The police are indiscriminately beating people up, and we are not just going to stand there and take it. We fight back,' says Ratcliffe . . . `There are more of us now so the police will get trashed'".

They are not nice people. A very sinister picture is beginning to emerge from some of the demonstrations. We must not be deflected by violent extremists who are seeking to hijack the issue. The rule of law, not mob rule, must prevail in this nation.

I pay tribute to the police, who have done a tremendous job in protecting those who seek to go about their lawful trade. In so doing, the police express no opinion about the export of animals. Individual officers may be for or against it, but the police will protect any person equally against any assailant. I find it deeply reassuring that in this country, even in the face of the most ferocious attack, one person will always come forward to help--the uniformed policeman.

Some irresponsible voices have said that the police should not prevent the demonstrators from stopping the export of animals, or that farmers should pay the cost of deploying the police. But that is a very dangerous road to tread. If law-abiding citizens must pay the police for protection in going about their lawful business, the police force will become nothing more than a privatised security force which protects the interests of the highest bidder. The police are a neutral force, who look to preserve public peace by safeguarding the laws of this country. If demonstrations were peaceful and non-threatening, there would be no need for such a heavy police presence. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the export of live animals, the outcome must be determined according to the rule of law.

What can we do? I hope that I have shown that it is neither possible nor wholly desirable to ban the export of live animals from the United Kingdom. It would not improve the cause of animal welfare as a whole. It is also clear that it is simply not possible to ban the export of calves to the veal crate trade, much though I would like to see that happen.

Nonetheless, there is a clear way forward. We must shift the focus of attention away from unilateral action in the United Kingdom, and mobilise public opinion throughout Europe in favour of wider measures in support of animals. That is the greater prize that is within our grasp: to see standards of animal welfare in Spain, Greece, Italy and elsewhere throughout the Community brought up to the high standards of animal welfare here.

We must do two things to achieve that aim. First, we must maintain and increase pressure on member states through the institutions of the European Union. That is

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why I welcome the diplomatic mission upon which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has recently embarked. She is going from capital to capital throughout the continent, seeking to persuade her European colleagues that the veal crate trade should be abolished. I can think of no one more persuasive or better qualified to lead that charge than my hon. Friend.

I would ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to state what progress my hon. Friend has made in her challenging and worthwhile mission.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is not just doing that. She is also calling a conference on Friday of farmers and retailers of veal to encourage the development of a new market for veal in this country, so that our farmers can get the added value, instead of those involved in transport and foreign rearers.

Mr. Streeter: There is no limit to the initiatives being produced my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in support of British farmers and the cause of animal welfare throughout the EU. She deserves our congratulations, as does my right hon. Friend the Minister on his success in moving the question of veal crates up the Euro-agenda. Whereas the matter was due to be discussed in 1997 by the Council of Ministers, it is very much to my right hon. Friend's credit that the matter has been discussed this year, and that positive steps are being taken.

I understand that the Commission has already started work on a scientific report on the directive on the welfare of calves, which is the first stage of the Council's veal crate provisions. Let us hope that that scientific report recommends the banning of this trade. It would be an enormous tribute to my right hon. Friend's efforts if the veal crate trade could be abolished throughout Europe in the next 12 months.

It is also vital that the Government continue to press our European colleagues to adopt stricter feeding and watering intervals, the licensing of hauliers--with provisions for disqualification--and a journey limit for animals travelling to slaughter. While it was disappointing that no resolution could be found on the matter at the Council this week, I would be interested to hear from my right hon. Friend what progress has been made.

Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East): Is it not a fact that, if the shadow spokesman for agriculture, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang), held the position of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods, he would find himself in an identical situation to that of my right hon. Friend? At least the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East understands that position, having been--unlike many of his colleagues, including those on the Front Bench--in both government and opposition.

Mr. Streeter: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) says in his speech that he entirely accepts my right hon. Friend's position. It may well be that the introduction of proper welfare standards in the transportation of animals throughout Europe will not be achieved in the short term, but it is a much more valuable prize than any unilateral action could ever be. I am certain that it is the right way forward. One of the reasons why a pan-European approach would be so

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effective is that, as more countries join the European Union in the future, so they will have to comply in full with the stringent requirements on animal welfare. That means that an ever- increasing number of animals would be brought within the better conditions. The enforcement of EC directives--we in the south-west know that that is difficult--is only achievable on a Communitywide basis. We have all been horrified by the videos of what goes on in some slaughterhouses in Spain and Greece, and those are already in contravention of EC directives. A far greater emphasis on enforcement must be given by the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. My right hon. Friend might mention in his speech the question of enforcement.

Many of us criticise the institutions of the European Union--I think, often with good cause--but here is a situation where the machinery of state of the European Union can be put to good use to produce a Communitywide solution which we could not possibly achieve on our own.

In preparing my speech, I have recognised how restricted we are in taking our own decisions in agricultural policy; but this is perhaps one of the areas in which membership of the European Union can be used to our advantage. Who knows--we might even be able to use qualified majority voting to force the southern European nations to come to heel.

The final way to tackle the issue is by an extension of people power. Attention drawn to the issue of animal exports by demonstrators has unleashed a powerful surge of public concern in this country. It is now time for that concern and energy to be harnessed in the most effective way. It is time to take the protests to Europe. I call on the lobby groups involved in the battle to mobilise public concern throughout Europe, and to take the arguments to Europe in a lawful and peaceful way.

If there are to be demonstrations, let them be in Brussels and Strasbourg, or outside the slaughterhouses of Greece and Spain. Let letters of protest be written to the Italian and Portuguese Members of Parliament. It is time that the European Parliament, and its ruling party, took a closer interest in this subject, and started applying pressure wherever it can. Let it be a voice for change within Europe. Here is an issue on which the European Parliament can make a positive name for itself.

In conclusion, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on all he has done in furthering the cause of animal welfare. I seek assurances that he will continue his crusade to improve welfare and standards throughout Europe by putting pressure on other Council Ministers and institutions.

I call upon all those who are genuinely interested in the subject of animal welfare--not the extremists and anarchists, but genuine people--to lift their sights and take their arguments to Europe. They must seize the greater prize which lies within our grasp; not a unilateral action, which would be so unproductive, but a secure future for the welfare of animals across the whole of Europe, once and for all.

Several hon. Members rose --

Madam Speaker: Order. There is obviously a great deal of interest in this subject, and that is very good. May I appeal to Members now to speak for about 10 or 12 minutes, so I may call as many as possible?

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10.36 am

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): May I first declare that I am not a vegetarian? I worked for 21 years in the dairy industry, and I am qualified as a dairying chemist, so I do know a little about the industry.

I was a little disturbed by the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter), because he seemed to be saying that there is nothing we can do about the matter, that it is all to do with Europe. The first person to say something like that was Pontius Pilate.

I am glad at last to have the opportunity to speak on the transportation of calves, because I want to talk about calves which are sent to the veal crates. I believe that that needs to be stopped, and I believe that this country could do it.

Unfortunately, the only thing which has been stopped so far is my Protection of Calves (Export) Bill, which was due to be given Second Reading on 3 February. The Bill was blocked by the cynical methods of the hon. Members for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), whom I am glad to see in his place, and for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald), whom I am glad to see sitting behind the Minister of Agriculture. It is my understanding that the hon. Gentleman is the Minister's parliamentary private secretary. I do not wish to dwell on that matter.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): The hon. Gentleman said that he was solely addressing the issue of calves. Is he not addressing the issue of sheep and other livestock exports?

Mr. Martlew: My view is that there is a clear argument for this country to institute a unilateral ban on the transportation of calves, and we have a legal right to do that. It would be more difficult to do that with regard to sheep or other cattle.

Hon. Members should realise that we have taken unilateral action in the past. Four years ago, there was an outcry about the transportation of horses for slaughter, and some 250,000 letters were written to the then Minister of Agriculture. The outcry was such that we banned the transportation. No one said that it was illegal, but we found an excuse, and we banned it. That went against all the concepts of free trade.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): Will the hon. Gentleman unequivocally confirm that his private Member's Bill has the full and public support of his own Front-Bench team?

Mr. Martlew: I am sure that they will reply to that. My understanding is that their views are similar to mine. Doubtless they are in favour of banning the transportation of calves destined for veal crates.

I shall not dwell on the behaviour of certain Members of Parliament on the occasion in question-- [Interruption.] --or on the antics of the Tory yob element today. It is enough to say that their behaviour did no credit to this House.

As for my reasons for wanting to ban exports of calves to the continent: in 1994 we exported 500,000 calves, mainly to the veal crate system.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has on a number of occasions levelled accusations of filibustering at us, and

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has just described us as "the yob element". Surely that cannot be in order, the more so as he will not give way to us to allow the truth of the matter to be told.

Madam Speaker: I think that temperatures in this House are rising too high at this time of the morning. This is an important issue; I want it to be debated properly. If there are a lot of interventions, hon. Members will not be called--it is as simple as that. Hon. Members should therefore use a little common sense and allow Members to speak for 10 or 12 minutes. That way, they will all be called.

Mr. Martlew: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Most of the calves that we exported in 1994 were destined for veal crates, a system banned in this country in 1990, although the regulations went through the House in 1987.

The fact is that this is a relatively new trade, and the idea that the dairy industry would be devastated without it is incorrect. In 1986, we exported fewer than 200,000 calves. The dairy industry has simply taken advantage of the high prices on the continent. We banned the trade in 1990 because it was cruel. We decided that it cannot be right to incarcerate young calves for five months in a system that does not allow them to turn around or lie down. They are fed an unnatural diet, kept in semi-darkness and often tethered, before being slaughtered, because the continentals prefer white veal.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster): This whole House is greatly opposed to the rearing of calves in crates. That is why my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is trying to convert her colleagues on the continent to pink veal, which is not cruelly produced.

The hon. Gentleman referred earlier to unilateral action on the export of horses. In fact, we imposed a minimum price. That was not illegal; it was accepted by others and it had the same effect. The current proposals could be illegal and are likely to be reversed immediately, thus offering only a short-term solution, whereas we want a long-term solution.

Mr. Martlew: I appreciate the hon. Lady's point that the banning of exports of veal calves may or may not be legal. In the case of live horse exports, the action taken was merely a pretext. The fact is that it has never been challenged in the European Court, because the Europeans know that we will not stand for the exporting of horses for slaughter.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North) rose --

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