§ SIR WILLIAM STIRLING-MAXWELL
rose to ask the Home Secretary, Whether Her Majesty's Government contemplate taking any step to afford compensation to the owners of cattle slaughtered by order of local inspectors, in the time which intervened between the passing of the Cattle Contagious Diseases Act (the 20th February, 1866) and the constituting of the local authority in the district where such slaughter took place? He said: I wish to call the attention of the Home Secretary to this subject, which is chiefly of interest to the county I represent. According to the Act, the local authorities were to be constituted within ten days from its passing. That time was ample for most of the counties; but in the county of Perth, owing to the lamentable death of the late lord-lieutenant, a considerable delay took place, and the local authorities, instead of being constituted within ten days, were not appointed for a whole month. The Act became law on the 20th February, but up to the 20th March there were no local authorities in Perthshire. I do not impute any blame in this delay to Her Majesty's Government or to the noble Lord who is now the lord-lieutenant. But the circumstance was productive of great hardship and inconvenience to the county, especially because the disease was raging with great severity during that month. The grievance showed itself in various and even opposite forms. Some farmers complained that their cattle had been slaughtered by inspectors acting under Privy Council orders, and that therefore they could not obtain compensation. Others complained that their cattle which were infected with the disease, and which they were willing to have slaughtered, could not be put to death because the inspectors did not think they had power to give orders to that effect. A farmer in the immediate neighbourhood of Perth wrote to me to say that in this way he had lost fifteen head of 813 cattle. Some weeks ago he applied to a local authority to know if he could have compensation, and the answer he received was that the slaughter took place before the constitution of that Board, and that therefore compensation could not be given. He then applied to the Privy Council, and received from the Privy Council Office a letter to the effect that he was not entitled to compensation unless the slaughter of the animals took place under the authority of an Act of Parliament or an Order in Council; but if he had any reason to believe that his animals had been slaughtered in a way not justified by law, then he might obtain redress, the inspector being liable. I think the House will see that that reply, when put into ordinary language, meant that there was no redress at all for that gentleman. I think the right hon. Baronet will hardly say that it would be a fair course to point out to his judgment that he must either go to law with the Lord President of the Council or with his local administrator, both of them important public functionaries, and efficient public servants. In the particular district to which I have alluded, a bold inspector, acting under the Privy Council Orders, used the knife with vigour when clothed with the powers of the Privy Council; but in another district in the county where there was a more cautious inspector, he positively refused to use the knife at all. The consequence is that I have received a letter from a gentleman in the neighbourhood, who complains that one of his tenants lost twenty-one cattle between the 28th February and the 28th March—that those animals all died of disease, and that the local inspector is ready to swear that he would have put them all to death had he considered that he had the power to do so. One man, therefore, complains that he has not received the compensation which he ought to have received for the slaughter, and another complains that in consequence of his animals not having been slaughtered by an inspector, he is deprived of compensation, while those of his neighbours on whose farms the disease broke out at a later period have since obtained compensation from the local authorities. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that these are cases of hardship such as to justify me in bringing them under his attention. I do not, of course, expect that he will give any decided answer now, but I hope that he will take the matter into his consideration. It must be remembered that these 814 grievances have happened in consequence of the failure in the legislation of this House to make proper provision for the interregnum which was sure to occur between the powers conferred by the Privy Council and the powers conferred by the Act of Parliament. Considering the great haste and pressure under which the Act was passed, the wonder is, not that there were oversights and blunders, but that they were not more numerous. I trust the right hon. Baronet will see that the cases are cases of real hardship, and that he will give them full and fair consideration.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
In a very few words allow me to say that the facts of the case have not been brought under my notice until I heard the statement of the hon. Baronet, and I was not aware that any application had been made to the Council on the subject. I apprehend that the answer sent to the application from the Council must have been merely a statement as to what the ease was. If the hon. Baronet will furnish me with the facts of the case, I will bring it under the notice of the Council with the view of seeing if anything can be done in what appears to be a very exceptional case. I see that there is an interval between the date of the warrant and the date upon which the local inspector entered upon his duties.