§ MR. GRAVES
rose to call the attention of the House to the restrictions which are placed on the importation of foreign cattle into Liverpool. He said, the present Orders in force for regulating the importation of cattle into Liverpool confined the imports to a single dock, and in the immediate vicinity of that dock, in an area of some two, three, or four acres, the cattle were obliged to be slaughtered on their landing. No animal could leave that space alive, and the consequence was that the trade were put to considerable expense by having to keep up two establishments for slaughtering. Liverpool had a population of 500,000, and it imported a very considerable number of foreign cattle. Some 1,500 head of cattle of one kind or another were convoyed daily to Liverpool, and it was necessary that every facility of egress and ingress should be given for passing that large number out of the town inland. The mere stoppage for twelve or twenty-four hours of that regular flow of cattle was attended with consequences prejudicial to the health of the town. Last year, when in consequence of the cattle disease it became necessary to put a complete stoppage upon and movement of cattle, the death-rate of Liverpool immediately increased, and the Government wisely relaxed those restrictions for the supply of the great manufacturing districts of Lancashire; still the evil continued in its application to foreign cattle in a modified form. Now, he strongly maintained that, so long as a single instance of the disease lingered in any part of the country, the wisest policy was to lay down the most stringent precautions with a view to its extinction, and it was only because of the peculiar character of the cattle which were imported into Liverpool that he deemed it to be his duty to bring the subject under the notice of the House. The entire importation of foreign cattle into Liverpool 630 last year, with the exception of about twenty beasts from other places, came from Spain and Portugal, and in those countries the cattle disease was unknown. The evidence given before the Committee which sat last year on Trade in Animals was so conclusive upon that point that the Committee inserted a special clause in their Report confirming the freedom from the disease which was enjoyed by Spain, and saying that there seemed to be no reason for the quarantine of cattle exported from that country. It should be remembered that the tendency of checking importations was to enhance the price of food; and that in the great manufacturing districts of the North, which were so largely dependent upon the cattle trade of Liverpool, it was important to consider whether the restrictions employed were such as public interest demanded. He thought in this case, looking at the character of the cattle, the countries from which they were obtained, their freedom from disease, and the question of public policy and interest, it would be better if these restrictions were, if not entirely removed, at least modified. On these grounds, he ventured to make the Motion of which he had given notice. He had not extended it to cattle from any other countries than Spain and Portugal, because he was unwilling to introduce the possibility of danger; but if, on international grounds, there should be any objection to singling out the two countries he had named, then he would ask to extend the operation of the Motion to all countries, seeing that, as a fact, the foreign cattle trade of Liverpool was really confined to Spain and Portugal.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Cattle arriving from Spain and Portugal may be removed by Rail from Liverpool to Manchester and Salford, under somewhat similar regulations to those in force at Harwich and Southampton for conveyance of Foreign Cattle to London,"—(Mr. Graves,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BAZLEY
supported the Motion, as his sympathies were entirely in harmony on this point with those of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves). Manchester and Liverpool, he believed, were the centres for distributing animal food to as large a population as that which derived 631 its supplies from London, but Manchester and Liverpool were denied those privileges in connection with the slaughtering of cattle which London enjoyed. As long as that difference remained, it was reasonable to suppose either that there was a want of information on the subject on the part of the Executive, or a direct intention to give to London a favour which was withheld from the North. The price of animal food in the North was so high that it was seriously injurious to the welfare of the people, and that price was very much enhanced by the restrictive importation. He complained of the difference which existed in the treatment of London and of the North. There ought to be one common and equal law on the point applicable to the whole of the kingdom. He hoped the Government would be able to accept the Motion of his hon. Friend, or at all events to do something which should remedy the existing state of things.
agreed in the desirability of having one rule which should apply to all parts of the kingdom; but it was important, while the cattle disease was still raging in other parts of the world, that all cattle imported to this country should be slaughtered at the port to which it was brought. At Newcastle all cattle had to be slaughtered on the spot, and if there was a relaxation in one place it ought to extend to others. No doubt it was very desirable to do away with the existing restrictions altogether; but so long as the cattle disease continued in existence, the only safe course was to kill all cattle at the port of debarkation.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Newcastle, that the restrictions which the Government had been compelled to impose had been a very great burden upon the country, and had tended to raise the price of meat. But though there was the evil of that burden on the one hand, there was a still greater evil on the other—namely, the danger test. By removing the restrictions they might again let loose the cattle plague in this country. The restrictions were an evil, but the cattle plague was a still greater evil, and the Government had to choose between the two and take the least. The Government, he thought, ought not to run the risk of re-introducing the cattle plague. The hon. Member for Liverpool had, he admitted, made out a good primâ facie case, and he wished he could at once say he was in a position to 632 meet his view of the matter. He would assume that the foreign cattle imported into Liverpool were chiefly Spanish; but he would remind the hon. Member that there was an international difficulty in this case, and that in consequence of the Favoured Nation Clause, the Sovereign of this country could not extend any favourable provision to one country which she did not extend to others; she could not say, "Let Spanish cattle come in, but let cattle from, other nations be excluded." The hon. Member for Liverpool, recognizing the international difficulty in the case, had suggested that the terms of his Motion should be made to extend to cattle imported from all countries abroad. But they were bound to keep this great object in view—that so long as the cattle plague existed abroad, they should not allow the foreign cattle which came into England to mix with English cattle unless both were about to be slaughtered. That was the fundamental principle which guided the Privy Council. With regard to the course pursued at Harwich and Southampton, it should be remembered that at those places no market for home cattle was permitted, so that the foreign cattle could not possibly mix with English beasts. At Liverpool, there was a large home market and a great flow of cattle from Ireland; and if the restrictions were removed, what was to prevent Irish and foreign cattle from coming into contact with each other, or even from being conveyed to other places in the same train? If that were to happen, the seeds of the disease might easily be sown throughout the country again. With regard to the desire which Manchester had expressed to be placed in the same position as London, he would ask, was Manchester prepared to go to the expense to which London submitted, of having a cordon of police constantly drawn round the town to prevent the passage of any cattle outside the limits of the local authority? London was a special case. If cattle were slaughtered at the ports, the offal would not be sent up to London, and the poor would be deprived of a great portion of the food. Only the most expensive meat would be sent to London; for that would leave a greater margin of profit after paying the expenses. The East End would, therefore, have to buy more expensive meat. The sense of the House ought to be taken substantively on that important question before he could assent to such a Motion as this. 633 He could only assure his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool that every restriction which the Government could safely remove they would remove, and they would endeavour to make those which prudence compelled them to maintain as light as possible, not only for Liverpool, but for all other places also. He only wished that the restriction which the hon. Gentleman complained of could be removed at once.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he was glad to hear the noble Lord express so earnestly his wish to remove every restriction which could safely and reasonably be removed. He wished, however, to remind the House that the price of food to the consumer was enhanced, not only by restrictions on the importation and removal of foreign cattle, but also by every restriction and impediment placed in the way of trade in our own cattle. Restrictions had been imposed both on foreign and home cattle; and if it was in the interest of the consumer to relax the one where it could be done with safety, it was also in the interest of the consumer to relax the other where it could be safely done. It seemed to him that relaxations could be given to our own traders at home with less danger than to foreign importers; for they were fairly entitled to assume that the cattle plague was introduced here from abroad, and the danger of its breaking out again, arose from the chance of its being re-introduced from abroad. Happily, the cattle plague had now very much abated, and he hoped the noble Lord and the Committee of the Privy Council would take it seriously into their consideration whether, both in the interests of the producer and the consumer, the time had not arrived when some considerable relaxation should be made in the restrictions on cattle at home. By the operation of the present system an advantage was given to foreigners over the home breeders of cattle. Foreign cattle were brought to Harwich and other ports, and from thence were brought directly up to the London market, whereas the home grazier was obliged, among other things, to run, perhaps, from one end of his county to another before he could obtain a license from a magistrate to remove his cattle from home.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
We have removed this restriction; any local authority can now appoint persons to grant licenses.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he was glad to hear that, and hoped that would be a step to 634 still further relaxation. He wished to call the attention of the noble Lord to another matter. There were many districts of the country which were entirely free from the cattle plague—some districts had been free for more than a year—and he wished to know whether it was not possible to allow the free circulation of cattle within those districts. In Scotland cattle were allowed to be moved into England, but a cordon was drawn to prevent them passing from a foul to a clean district. He thought something of the same kind might be done in groups of counties in England.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he hoped, as soon as the Bill now before the House was passed, to be able to remove a great number of those restrictions.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, that after the satisfactory explanation which the noble Lord had given he would withdraw his Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.