HC Deb 05 April 1867 vol 186 cc1228-32

Sir, the Question to which I have to call the attention of the House is one of great importance, not only to my own constituency, but to several others who happen to be placed in a similar position. I have to ask the Vice President of the Council, On what grounds it has been decided to exclude Aberdeenshire from participation in the Grant of £35,000, voted by this House, for the purpose of compensating the Owners of Cattle slaughtered under compulsory Orders in Council? It will be in the recollection of the House that during the cattle plague in this country in 1865, an Order was issued by the Privy Council, according to which owners of cattle affected by rinderpest were obliged to kill and bury them without compensation. That Order in Council continued in force from August, 1865, until the middle of November in the same year. In consequence of that Order a great number of cattle, both in England and Scotland, were slaughtered. Of course, the Order was very unpopular at the time. To apply the case to Aberdeenshire—it will be in the recollection of the House that in the course of the present Session a Vote of £35,000 was granted to compensate owners of cattle which had been slaughtered in accordance with this Order in Council. During the whole period of the operation of that Order, the people of Aberdeenshire had acted on the principle which has been sanctioned by the House. Owners of cattle, occupiers of farms, and the landlords in that county, had met together and agreed to form an association for the purpose of assessing themselves voluntarily, to compensate for the slaughter of their cattle. That was the main feature of the society which had been formed in Aberdeenshire—a principle which was carried out in such a way as commended it to the gratitude and imitation of the whole country. In the course of the present Session, Parliament resolved to compensate owners of cattle slaughtered under the compulsory slaughtering clauses of the Order in Council of 1865; and out of the grant voted, a sum of £900 would have fallen to the share of Aberdeenshire. But Aberdeenshire was in the position that the owners had already been pail, or, rather, had paid themselves by means of the Rinderpest Association. Accordingly, that Association presented a humble memorial to the Privy Council, praying for its share of the grant; but it received a refusal, for which no reason was assigned. The consequence will be that Aberdeenshire will have no participation whatever in the grant for compensation. I believe there is a sum of £20 which will be received by one man—a man who by his very recklessness in refraining from giving the association support is to receive this compensation. Such is the position in which the decision of the Privy Council has placed Aberdeenshire, and all places which acted in the way that county did with respect to compensation. The House of Commons, by making this grant of £35,000, has affirmed the principle on which Aberdeenshire acted; but the Privy Council, by its allocation of the grant, denies the reward Aberdeenshire is entitled to for having given a good example to the country. This is a decision which was not expected by the farmers of Aberdeenshire in their simplicity. They do not understand this sort of compensation. It seems to them to be a tax on forethought and energy, and a premium upon apathy and indifference. Their argument is this, and I think there is logic in it—that if it is a sound principle that owners of property taken by the State for State purposes should be compensated by the State, there should be no exceptions, but wherever the case applies the owners should have compensation; and they think that, in the cases where the owners of cattle have been compensated by the landlords or by voluntary associations, the principle still holds good that the State should pay. All that is required in the present instance is, that a little more trouble should be taken by the Privy Council Office; and that trouble surely is nothing compared with the satisfaction of undoubted justice which Aberdeenshire claims.


said, that he had also to complain of Aberdeenshire being excluded from the benefit of the national fund. That county was the first to set a good example; its policy of compensation had been adopted by England, and it was only just that those who had displayed prudence, resolution, and disinterestedness should be compensated as their neighbours were. In England compensation had been given by the State to farmers placed in the same position as those to whom it was denied in Scotland. The conduct of Government was a remarkable instance of one-sidedness.


said, that the Order in Council for the slaughter of diseased cattle was made on the 26th of August, 1865. It was an Order for the slaughter of cattle not by the owners, but by inspectors appointed by Government. That Order remained in force till the 23rd of November, when it was rescinded by another Order in Council. The money voted by the House was to pay for the cattle slaughtered by the inspectors during the period which intervened between these two Orders. The sum was calculated upon the returns made, at the time, by the Government Inspectors, of the cattle which they slaughtered and of the value of the cattle at the time of slaughter. In December, 1866, another Order was made as to the distribution of the money. It runs thus— That the amount to be awarded for cattle slaughtered, shall be according to the same rate as is provided by 29 Vic. c. 2, with regard to animals slaughtered under such Act, having previously deducted all compensation received from Local Rate, Insurance, Sale of Carcases, and any other sources. The Rinderpest Association of Aberdeenshire was not "an association for the relief of the sufferers under that Order." The people of Aberdeen had shown a great deal of public spirit. They had been before the rest of the country in endeavouring to stamp out the plague by slaughtering the diseased cattle; and they formed an association to pay each other for the cattle killed by themselves with that laudable object. This they did for their own good. They knew that by this means they would be subject to less loss. In time the whole nation followed in their steps, and by similar means, stamped out the plague throughout the whole country. The Privy Council had killed no cattle in Aberdeenshire except in the one case referred to by the hon. Member who had put the Question, and he had been paid by the loss which he had suffered under the Orders of the Privy Council. The £35,000 granted by the House was apportioned in accordance with the returns, made by the inspectors, of the cattle killed by them under the Order in Council. But in Aberdeenshire, with one exception, no cattle had been killed by the inspectors under that Order. How, then, were the Government to know the value of the cattle killed? The ipse dixit of the owner must be taken; but this would be out of the question. Again, an enormous inconvenience would result if this matter were re-opened. We stepped in when the plague was over; the people had settled down. Some had suffered total loss; others had since been satisfied. Some of the farmers who had lost their cattle had been re-imbursed by their landlords; others by the county Association; and if the Government were to say that they would compensate in these cases, claims would pour in by thousands, not from Aberdeenshire only, but from places all over the country. The class of claimants also would be different; it would not be the farmers who would claim; but the landlords or associations who had recompensed them. But the hon. Member thinks that "Associations have a right to claim compensation." What is an Association? A certain number of persons banded themselves together; and, if they could estimate the probable loss in the year, they divided it between them, and each paid his quota; so that the many paid a small sum, and the few sufferers were recouped. But, if you paid compensation to the Association, the money would not go into the pockets of those who bad lost their cattle, but into the pockets of those who had not. As the farmers had already been compensated by the Association or by the landlords, the compensation awarded would really go to the two last; in other words, the State was to compensate persons who had not lost their cattle. Again, an association is not limited as to size. If you are to compensate one association you must compensate another. Now, suppose that Sir James Shuttleworth's plan of a National Assurance Association had been carried out. Then every one who lost cattle would have been compensated out of a general rate on land; and the landowners might have claimed to be re-imbursed out of the Consolidated Fund. This would be absurd; but it rests on the same argument as the claim of the hon. Member. If the hon. Member thought he had a good case, his proper course was to bring it before the House of Commons and try to get an additional grant to compensate the Aberdeen Rinderpest Association.