HC Deb 14 March 1866 vol 182 cc263-76

(Mr. Hunt, Mr. Holland, Mr. Banks Stanhope, Sir James Fergusson.)

Order for Consideration of Lords' Amendments read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Amendments be now taken into Consideration."—(Mr. Hunt.)


hoped the hon. Member would explain how he proposed to deal with the Amendments.


said that, as the House knew, the Bill had come down from the other House very much altered from the shape in which it was introduced by him, or in which it had left that House. It was originally intended to be passed with the utmost dispatch, and to be a short Bill with stringent provisions with respect to the movement of cattle. The Bill was delayed in the House of Commons by the Fabian policy of the Government, and it was afterwards further delayed by the same policy in another place—only conducted in a more discreet manner. Consequently, so much time had elapsed that the provisions of the Bill respecting the movement of cattle had become inapplicable and inappropriate, and, therefore, he was not surprised that the Bill had been sent down with those clauses omitted. The prohibition was originally to extend to the 25th of March; and as it was now the 14th, to pass the Bill with such a prohibition for a few days only would have been perfectly ridiculous. The second reading of the Bill was moved in another place by a Cabinet Minister, who said that he would take charge of the Bill with a view of making very great alterations, and certainly he had fulfilled his intentions. Nevertheless, the Bill had come out of the Lords' Select Committee with some useful provisions in substitution of the clauses relating to the movement of cattle. He had no feeling against the Bill because it had undergone the alterations he had mentioned; but, on the contrary, he thought that, as it now stood, it was a useful and valuable measure, and he conceived that the House would do well to pass it in its amended shape, with some few slight alterations. He regarded the clauses enabling the Privy Council and local authorities to proclaim certain places as infected, and prohibiting, after such proclamation, all movement out of those places, and subjecting all movement within them to certain regulations, as most valuable provisions, and was glad to accept them. With regard to other clauses, some slight alteration had been made in them since they passed the House of Commons, and he was not disposed, after all the time and trouble which had been bestowed in the consideration of its provisions by Members of both Houses of Parliament, now that it had come to its final stage and might do some good, to throw it behind the fire. The clause with respect to the closing of markets and fairs was likely to give rise to some discussion, but from what he could gather from those hon. Members who opposed his proposal for closing the Metropolitan Market, he believed that any difficulty with regard to that clause might be got rid of. The Bill had been described as being unintelligible and confused; but he undertook to say that with some slight Amendments the measure might be made intelligible enough. If the Bill was not proceeded with, what was the alternative? The country would then be left to the Orders of the Privy Council and local authorities; but while Parliament was sitting he trusted that it would not hand over the country to be dealt with entirely by arbitrary Orders, which had already confused and paralyzed the cattle trade.


said, he was surprised on referring to the Notices this morning to find that the clause drawn up and promised by the Government and agreed to by the tanning trade had not been inserted as a substitute for the three clauses struck out of the Bill of the hon. Member for Northampton by the House of Lords. He expressed his deep regret that no such clause had been introduced, because it would have given immediate relief to a branch of industry in which a very considerable proportion of his constituents were engaged—he meant the tanning trade. At this moment the trade was completely paralyzed by recent legislation, it being impossible to remove hides and skins, even if protected by a covering, from Leeds or Hull into Beverley, although the law as it stood permitted their transit through the entire length and breadth of the country. He deprecated much discussion on the Bill, as the time was so pressing, and, if hon. Members wished the measure to pass the less they debated the clauses the better. The adoption of any other course would infallibly defeat the Bill.


thought the Privy Council was a more fit body than Parliament to determine all the minute regulations required for meeting the calamity of the cattle plague, and as they would always be in possession of the best and latent information, they were the best able to deal with the master At the present moment there were eighteen counties in Scotland, ten counties in Wales, and some five or six counties in England free from the disease; am! if in all those it should be attempted to carry out any uniform regulation great inconvenience and loss to the proprietors and farmers would result, attended with no counter-Tailing advantage in respect to stopping the spread of the disease He therefore thought that this Bill should merely operate to give stringent powers to the Privy Council.


wished to know, as all changes of occupation took place on the 15th of May in Scotland, whether there was any power to enable the movement of stock under those circumstances?


said, he was not certain what would be the effect of the Amendments which had been made to the Bill by the Lords; but he was under the impression that cattle could be removed with the consent of the local Boards otherwise than by railway.


said, he had conferred with his constituents, and found them decidedly unfavourable to the Bill of the hen. Member for Northampton shire, They thought that if they had a responsible Government in the country, on an occasion of great emergency like this, they were the persons to bring forward a Bill of this kind, and they were only confused by having a Bill prepared by a private Member running side by side with the Government measure. Her Majesty's Government did not object to Amendments. The difficulty which the people experienced was in stocking farms and in moving stock. A great sheep fair was held in his neighbourhood the other day; but on account of the difficulty of moving the animals (in one adjoining county they could move them, in another they could not) the magistrates were obliged to attend in order that the animals might be allowed to get out of the fair. The time for holding the great fairs was approaching, and how was the business of the country to be carried on? He saw no reason whatever for going on with this Bill. If they did, their legislation on this subject would be so complicated that the business of the country could not be carried on. The whole question should be taken up by the Government, and they ought to begin de novo.


said he entirely differed from the lion Member for Northamptonshire, who, he earnestly hoped, would take the advice of the hon. Baronet who had just spoken (Sir John Trollope) and drop (he Bill altogether. What they wanted m addition to the action of the local authority was the supervision of one responsible Minister, who was liable to question at all times as to the operation of the Orders in Council.


protested against the doctrine that Parliament should delegate its power to the Privy Council. It was quite right that power should be so exercised during the recess; but when Parliament was sitting they were bound to legislate on all subjects as the wants of the country might demand. There were certain portions of this Bill which were urgently required, but which the Bill of the Government did not deal with, such as the removal of hides and manure, both of which produced very dire cases of infection. This Bill had been deeply considered by a Select Committee in another place; Parliament would not therefore be legislating in a hurry; and if they could not have a complete measure dealing with the; whole subject they should pass this Bill as soon as possible.


observed, that the action of the Privy Council had produced no effect whatever in stopping the cattle plague, whereas the system of legislation which had been adopted had had a most beneficial effect, as was evinced in the recent Returns. There had been a great diminution in the number of cattle attacked by the plague during the last week, and this he attributed in a very great degree to the effect of their legislation. The Government appeared not to think this question of great importance; but it was vital to the interests of the country, and was much more urgent than their Reform Bill, which nobody wanted and every one would be glad to get rid of. He called on the Government to deal with this question in a fair and statesmanlike way, and not leave the country in such an emergency to the action of the local authority.


thought the House was placed in a position of considerable diffi- culty in relation to this Bill. It had been returned from the other House so mutilated that it was almost impossible to proceed with it without going into Committee on the Lords' Amendments; but there would be great difficulty in dealing with them consistently with the usages of the House. A proposition had been made that the Government should introduce a Bill to carry out its proposed enactments; and if the Government would act oil that suggestion it might be the best mode of meeting the difficulty. He thought it would be a much better course than proceeding with the present Bill. He must press on the Government that the situation was becoming extremely embarrassing. The justices in Kent and Essex—no doubt wise and prudent people—differed entirely from the view taken of this question by both Houses of Parliament. They had undertaken to declare in the case of Kent that no manure should be taken from the metropolis into that county, and in the case of Essex that no manure should be taken there which might in any way propagate the plague or prove injurious. Thus they both shifted the responsibility from themselves; but persons engaged in removing manure from the metropolis might be subjected thereby to serious penalties. The metropolis was thus, as it were, in a state of blockade, and if some step were not taken in this matter, great expense must be incurred in sending that valuable commodity, which agriculturists so much required, to be sunk in the sea. The Government must either accept the responsibility of proceeding with this question, which was one of real emergency, or the House must be content to grope its way in dealing with the Bill now before them. If the Government would not lead the House, they must put themselves under the leadership of the bon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt), and be content to forego the aid of the immense staff of public servants who were paid for the assistance they could render in such a case.


said, it appeared to him that the non-infected districts were in a much worse condition as they now stood under the Bill, with all the Amendments it had received, than they were under the Bill as it left the House. Then there was a clause expressly exempting them from restrictions, and he had reason to believe that that clause was in perfect accord with the feelings of the inhabitants of the districts so situated. But it bad been struck out and another inserted prohibiting all fairs and markets everywhere, without exception, for the next three months. Where was the necessity of putting a stop to fairs and markets—he might say, to the staple trade of the country in many cases—in these non-infected districts? He earnestly hoped the case of these districts would be borne in mind. Sooner than this Bill should pass with all these Amendments he would prefer that they should be in the hands of the local authorities, acting under the direction of the Privy Council; or, better still, that the Government should take up the matter, and pass a short and simple Act, which, with the experience now gained, they would be enabled to do, and which would probably give satisfaction in all quarters.


said, he was exceedingly disappointed with the answer which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) had given to his request that be should inform the House what course he intended to take with the Amendments made in this Bill. The difficulty in which they were now placed arose thus. The hon. Gentleman, from the first taking what he properly called at the time an anomalous course, produced a Bill when the Government introduced their measure. That Bill, by consent of the Government, was read a second time, and committed without discussion; and when the Government, in a division upon an Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman, were, as he described, without any party motive, placed in a large minority, the hon. Gentleman proposed that all those portions of the Government measure which related to the movement of cattle should be abandoned, and that the Government should allow his Bill, so far as related to that subject, to be proceeded with. To this course the Government assented in deference to the opinion of the House, as expressed in the division. The whole principle and main object of the Bill of the hon. Gentleman was to provide by legislative enactment the precise rules and regulations under which cattle should or should not be moved throughout Great Britain up to and after the 25th of March. The particular point to which the hon. Gentleman directed the attention of the House and desired the decision of Parliament was, under what regulations cattle should be moved after the 25th of March. That Bill had up to the present time undergone, probably, greater vicissitudes than any other measure ever introduced into that House. As originally introduced it consisted of sixty-two clauses, of which only one was left untouched in the Bill as it now appeared before the House, and that was simply a penalty clause. Eight more clauses of the sixty-two of the original Bill, and eight alone, remained in the Bill at sent down from the other House, and those were very considerably amended, and none of them at all referred to any of the regulations as to the movement of cattle on account of which the hon. Member introduced his Bill, either up to or after the 25th of March. The remaining fifty-three clauses of the Bill as originally introduced had been omitted in its progress through Parliament. The hon. Gentleman com plained of the Fabian policy of the Government; but he (Mr. Baring) ventured to assert distinctly that from the first introduction of the Bill it was the desire of the Government, as it was undoubtedly his own wish and intention, to facilitate the passing of many portions of that Bill and make it a useful measure. The slightest attention to dates might satisfy the hon. Gentleman that his charge of delay on the part of the Government had no foundation. The Bill, as he had said, was read a second time without discussion; it was committed without discussion; it was re-committed for Amendments without discussion. There was a second edition of the Bill before a word of discussion took place. The second edition of the Bill, as amended, was considered in Committee on the 19th and 20th of February, re-committed, and again considered in Committee on the 22nd, and passed on the 23rd. Now, considering the length of the Bill, of which there had been three separate prints, and the large paper of Amendments brought down night after night by the hon. Gentleman, the fact that it had gone through all its stages upon which any discussion took place in three days was surely a proof that the charge against the Government for attempting to obstruct the Bill was without foundation. With respect to the present position of the Bill it was not competent for them to discuss the proceedings of the other House; but with respect to the provisions of the Bill as sent up to their Lordships he might state, having gone into the investigation with the greatest care, that, whereas the Bill professed to lay down a uniform system, there were no fewer than fifteen exceptions to the rules laid down for the movement of cattle. Besides these, there were three most important reservations, one of them expressly giving that power in so many words to the local authorities in many parts of England, to which the hon. Gentleman in all discussions on the subject had strongly objected. The Bill, which professed to lay down general regulations as to the movement of cattle, was incumbered by so many exceptions that the exceptions became, in reality, the regulations. The Bill, as sent to the House of Lords, made no attempt to provide by general regulations for what should take place after the 25th of March.


explained that he had withdrawn all the clauses relating to that point in order that the Government, might deal with the question.


said, it was the first time he had heard that explanation.


said, he had stated so in the House.


would now describe to the House the condition of the Bill as it came down from the House of Lords. As sent sip iii the other House it consisted of fifty-four clauses and one schedule; twenty-four clauses and the schedule were struck out, and eleven new clauses were introduced in the other House. All the clauses relating to the movement of cattle were left out. It had been his duty to examine the Bill carefully to see whether it would be possible by introducing Amendments to make it a useful measure, He did not dispute that there were some useful clauses in it, and he had gone the length of putting his Amendments in print. The hon. Gentleman was aware that it was not competent for them in dealing with a Bill they had received from the other House amended to make any alteration except by disagreeing with or amending the Lords' Amendments, or making consequential Amendments on those Amendments. Well, the result of his most careful consideration of the Bill as brought down to them was, that even supposing—what was exceedingly improbable—that every Amendment the Government proposed was accepted by the House without alteration—supposing what was still more unlikely, that the other House would be prepared to accept all those Amendments if the Bill passed in the shape in which he proposed to amend it, they would have a piece of legislation so complicated and so difficult to understand that it would not be right to recommend its adoption by the House. Legislation relative to the cattle plague must be understood by all classes of the community, and he thought it was perfectly impossible to amend this Bill so as to render it intelligible. It affected the farmers very materially, and might be turned into a gigantic engine of oppression so far as they were concerned. It also affected the tanning interest, which was much affected by the action of local authorities, and unless those provisions were clear and distinct, it would be almost impossible for the trade to continue for any length of time. The subject was also of interest to the public generally, as affecting the removal of refuse involving the health of the population in the great towns of the country. If the hon. Gentleman would take a wise course and give up the Bill, he (Mr. Baring) was instructed to state that the Government were prepared to take on themselves the responsibility of dealing with this question in such a manner as they should think right, and which he would proceed shortly to explain. In the first place, he had to state that the Government were prepared to strengthen the establishment of the Privy Council, as had been suggested. The House and the country would feel with him the obligations they were under to Mr. Helps and the gentlemen in his department for their ability, diligence, and devotion in carrying on the vast correspondence connected with this subject, in addition to performing their ordinary business. It must therefore be understood that any changes which it might be contemplated to make in that department were owing to the necessity of extending its operations, and did not involve the slightest disparagement to those gentlemen. On the subject of the cattle plague, if—as might be hoped under Providence would be the case—the adoption of the principle of slaughter for the period agreed upon by Parliament had the effect of limiting the area of the disorder within a much smaller space than that over which it was spread at present, the Government felt that it would be competent for the Privy Council, assisted by the local authorities, to isolate infected districts, and at the same time to guard uninfected districts from the disease. The next point on which the Government must take action was with regard to fairs and markets. The course which he would indicate, without pledging himself that the Government would adopt it, in reference to this subject, was almost identical with that proposed in the clauses of the Bill originally introduced by the Government—namely, that by an Order in Council all fairs for the sale of store cattle should be prohibited for a limited time, and that no markets should be held without the license of the Privy Council, and that, when held, no cattle should leave the place in which the market was held alive; and that they should only be permitted to take place in those places that should offer the guarantee mentioned by the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Read). The fourth and last point he had to mention was, that Government believed it to be absolutely essential that some general regulations with regard to the removal of hides, dung, and other refuse, should be made by an Order in Council applicable to the whole country, except those districts which the Privy Council might wish to place under protective regulations, for the purpose of preserving them from the cattle plague. The Orders in Council on this point would be in accordance with the amended clauses in the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire.


inquired how Government intended to deal with the movement of cattle in the event of a change of tenancy-taking place?


replied that the Orders in Council would provide for such cases.


was desirous of knowing how Government intended to deal with that subject. Did they intend to delegate their authority on this point to the local authorities?


said, the proposal which he would indicate as the one likely to be carried out by Government was, that while the principle of isolation would be carried out as to infected districts, and every precaution would be taken to protect uninfected districts, such as Wales and Scotland, with regard to the rest of England some form of licence might be devised which would enable beasts to he moved from one part of the country to another. He might add that he hoped it would be possible to make the regulations he had described under the existing law by means of Orders of Council; but if, upon further consideration, Government found that such was not the case, it would be their duty to apply to the House for fuller powers. With regard to the very important subject of the cleansing of railway trucks, as the matter had up to the present time been under the consideration of Parliament, Government, out of respect to the House, had refrained from taking any action for the purpose of compelling the railway companies to per- form that duty; but in the event of the Bill being abandoned, an Order of Council would immediately be issued requiring railway companies to cleanse all trucks which had been used for the conveyance of cattle In the event of Government having to introduce a new Bill, they would adopt many of the clauses contained in the present Bill, such as the power given to magistrates to stop animals, and certain penalty clauses On all other points Government could deal with the cattle plague more satisfactorily by Orders of Council than by an Act of Parliament. In the first place because the latter could not be made sufficiently elastic to meet the varying requirements of the case; and secondly, because by means of an Order of Council the whole of the regulations might be drawn up in one code, instead of being scattered among the numerous clauses of two Acts of Parliament, coupled with a third, of a temporary nature, the expiration of which would disturb all the existing regulations. It was under these circumstances that be now asked the hem. Member for Northamptonshire to abandon the further prosecution of a Bill which, from the alterations made in it, he could no longer consistently countenance, and to leave the whole matter in the hands of Government. By the adoption of this course, the hon. Member would save the House considerable time, and would possible save the country some inconvenience. He greatly regretted the Government had been induced to abandon important clauses in their Bill for the purpose of allowing the hon. Member to introduce a Bill, the history of which had proved the futility of endeavouring to enforce by Act of Parliament a uniform code of regulations of the most minute detail with regard to the traffic of cattle, the conveyance of hides, skins, and other offal, from one part of the country to another.


said, he was rejoiced to hear from the Under Secretary for the Home Department that the Government intended to relieve both himself and the House from very great difficulty by accepting all responsibility in this matter, but he could not agree with the concluding observation of the hon. Gentleman, that his efforts had been unattended with success, because within the last few minutes they had heard the Government announce that they would do what every one had desired they should do—take upon themselves the responsibility they had hitherto declined. The hon. Gentleman had referred to those clauses in the Cattle Diseases Act which the Government were eventually compelled to withdraw, as though they had proposed to deal with the question in the principle on which the Government now intended to act; whereas, in truth, the effect of those clauses was merely to throw upon the local authorities the powers and responsibility which it was the duty of the Government to accept. He believed it was solely owing to his efforts, backed up as he was by those interested in the question, that they bad heard the announcement to which they had just listened from the Undersecretary. They now heard for the first time that it was the intention of Government to issue uniform Orders in Council with reference to the movement of cattle and the stopping of fairs and markets; and he need scarcely say how much pleasure such an announcement had given him. The hen. Gentleman had scarcely treated his Bill with fairness in attempting to cast ridicule upon it. Of the fifteen clauses; containing exceptions to the general principle alluded to by the hon. Gentleman, some referred to England and some to Scotland, some to one sex and some to the other, some to one seaport and some to other seaports, but the distinct principles of exception were but few. He thought a Minister of the Crown might have been better employed than in making pettifogging objections of this kind to a Bill which had been brought in with the intention of effecting a; useful purpose. He had much pleasure in acceding to the proposition of the Government, that they should take the whole responsibility of the question upon themselves, and was content under such circumstances to abandon his Bill. He should have preferred the matter being dealt with by Act of Parliament, as the regulations would then have been approved by the representatives of the people; but if Government chose to adopt the other course, he trusted that they would deal with the question in a comprehensive way, and endeavour if they could to stop this great calamity, which had now spread all over the kingdom.


said, he was not surprised that the hon. Member had failed; in his attempt to carry an Act of Parliament which would effect the desired object, as he believed the only safe principle for the Government to adopt in the matter was to issue Orders in Council on the subject. An Act, had lately been passed for Ireland, by which large power was given to the Lord Lieutenent to take the steps he might deem most effectual for dealing with the cattle plague if it should reach that country. That Act had, he believed, met with the general approval of the Irish people; and he thought that the same principle might be adopted with advantage in this country. In order to bring the discussion to a formal termination, he would move that the Lords' Amendments in the Bill be considered on that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir George Grey.)


said, he did not think it right that the Bill should be withdrawn without an expression on the part of those interested in that important question of their sense of the valuable labours of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. He wished, for one, distinctly to state that he attributed to the perseverance and energy of his hon. Friend the welcome result which they had heard announced in the name of the Government that afternoon. All that he contended for was the establishment of a uniform system under the direction of the Government; and it was a matter of indifference to him whether that uniformity was attained by an Act of Parliament or by Orders in Council. He was glad to learn the course which the Government had resolved to adopt; and he trusted that, strengthened as they must feel by the opinion of the House, they would not shrink from enforcing a uniformity of practice under the Orders in Council.


said, he thought it right to repeat that any absolutely uniform system, which would entirely disregard all differences of circumstances, would be wholly unattainable either by an Act of Parliament or by Orders in Council.


said, that the course which the Government had just announced their intention of taking was precisely that which had been recommended in the Report of the Cattle Plague Commissioners last autumn; and he believed that if they had followed the recommendations contained in that Report last November, there would at present be no cattle plague. The present state of the law was manifestly most unsatisfactory. They had stopped all the traffic on railways, but cattle were still allowed to pass along the roads, and the cattle trucks on the railways were not disinfected. He hoped that the Government, acting under the Orders in Council, would give their immediate attention to those subjects. He could not help expressing his regret that the interests of the farming class were not represented by any Government Board in a manner corresponding to that in which the interests of the commercial classes were represented by the Board of Trade.


said, he thought the Government were taking upon themselves a great responsibility, and he trusted that they would make the necessary provisions for regulating the movement of cattle which must take place in consequence of those changes of farms which would soon be commencing in the North of England. He was anxious, as one of the agricultural Members in that House, to state how much he felt indebted to the hon. Member for Northamptonshire for the zeal, intelligence, and courtesy with which he had brought that subject under their consideration.


said, he wished to know whether the Orders in Council were to be carried into effect independently of all interference on the part of the local authorities?


desired to impress upon Government the necessity for adopting some permanent measure for the prevention of the spread of the cattle disease. He asked whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce such a measure in the course of the present Session?


said, it would be necessary for some regulations to be made with regard to the sales of cattle which were about to take place in different parts of the country.


inquired whether the Orders of the Privy Council could be carried out without reference to the local authorities?

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived. Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Consideration of Lords' Amendments, put off for six months.