HC Deb 03 May 1867 vol 186 cc2013-8

I rise to move the Resolution of which I have given notice— That this House is of opinion that the County of Aberdeen should receive the proportional amount of the Grant which the owners of cattle slaughtered under the compulsory Orders in Council would have received, in accordance with the Privy Council Regulations, had no Cattle Assurance Association been formed within the same. It will be in the recollection of the House that during the prevalence of the rinderpest in this country, very arbitrary powers were given to the Privy Council. In August 1865, the Privy Council issued an Order making it compulsory upon the owners cattle to slaughter their animals wither compensation. During the course of the present Session, a grant of £55,000 was made to defray the expense of the cattle which had been slaughtered. Upon Aberdeenshire sending in its claims to a share of this money, to the extent of £824, the claim was disallowed. It was not denied that the cattle had been slaughtered in accordance with the instructions of the Privy Council and the Order of the Government Inspector; but the Privy Council said because there was a Rinderpest Association in the county by which the farmers had been paid, therefore they could not make any further payment. I venture to say—and in this I shall have the support of all the Scotch county Members—that if it had not been for the existence of the Aberdeenshire Rinderpest Association £1,000,000 would not have covered the amount of loss which would have been sustained. They have therefore felt it to be their duty to apply for this grant. They used their best exertions to enable the Government to carry out their powers, am they have therefore a right to share in the Compensation which other counties have received. It is a fallacy to say that the farmers have been re-paid by this Assurance Society. For every £100 which they received for slaughtered cattle they had paid so many pounds beforehand. Therefore, it cannot be said that they have been re-paid It may be said that if Aberdeenshire is to receive this compensation, other counties in similar circumstances must also receive compensation. I do not see why they should not all receive compensation. From the Return which has been laid upon the table of the House it appears that the total number of cattle slaughtered during tin existence of the Order of the Privy Council was upwards of 75,000, and if we take the value of these at £10 per head, and purse the mode of distribution adopted by the Privy Council—namely, given one-half the value, we get at a sum of £35,000 which is within the sum granted the year for compensation. [Lord ROBERT MONTAGU: The sum was £25,000.] At all events, the Government would not require any very large additional sum to meet the claims, and it would be preferable to vote this additional sum rather than perpetrate an injustice.


in seconding the Motion, said, the question was whether a distinction was to be made between different portions of the kingdom. The course pursued was to give compensation to those who followed a system, and to withhold it from those who invented it.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that the County of Aberdeen should receive the proportional amount of the Grant which the owners of cattle slaughtered under the compulsory Orders in Council would have received, in accordance with the Privy Council Regulations, had no Cattle Assurance Association been formed within the same,"—(Mr. Fordyce,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said that the claim made by the Aberdeen Association for refunding to them the compensation paid by them, rested upon two grounds. One was the general ground that unless the amount of compensation were refunded the Government would be offering a premium to imprudence, by compensating those who were careless and imprudent, and refusing compensation to those who had had foresight, and had provided funds to meet the exigencies of the case. The other was the special ground that the Association was not a Mutual Assurance Association; but was formed to carry out the Orders of the Privy Council and to stamp out the plague; and that compensation had been offered merely to induce persons to give information when their animals were attacked, and induce them to co-operate with the society. It was urged that the Association was not formed for purposes of insurance, but was established simply for the purpose of inducing the farmers to consent willingly to the slaughtering of the cattle. No doubt the duties of the Government inspectors had been much facilitated while the compulsory slaughtering Order was in force, by the establishment of this Association. And after the compulsory Order had been withdrawn, the Association had bought up diseased cattle and had killed them. But it should be borne in mind that this Association had refused to compensate those who were not members of that body. There were two instances of such a refusal. From this it appeared evident that the Association was really a Mutual Assurance Association. This view was supported by the "Constitution and Rules of the Aberdeenshire Rinderpest Association, August 1865." Rule iv. is in these words— The objects of the Association are, 1st, The Extermination within the county of the Cattle Disease, commonly known as the 'Rinderpest,' and 2nd, The Indemnification of Sufferers by this Disease, to the extent and subject to the Rules and Conditions after mentioned, or such Rules and Regulations as may from time to time be issued by the Central Committee. And Rule xii. runs thus— Sufferers by this disease who are not members of this Association, or members who shall infringe any of the preceding rules or regulations, or the rules, regulations, or precautions which may be issued under any Order in Council, having reference to the Rinderpest, or by the Central Committee, shall have no claim on, or right to the funds of the Association, but the Central Committee shall have power to indemnify such parties to such extent, and in such manner as they shall deem advisable for the public good. He now turned to the general ground. This, as the hon. Member had acknowledged, would apply equally to all counties, and not to that of Aberdeen alone. In fact, it involved a question of the propriety of the Order of Council of December 1866. The £25,000 which had been granted by the House, had been estimated on the assumption that, under that Order, no associations would be refunded. If that Order was to be annulled the House must be asked to vote £10,000 more. In dealing with other cases on the same principle as it was now proposed to deal with the case of Aberdeenshire great difficulties would present themselves. In Norfolk and Warwickshire the farmers had been compensated from the local rates, and in some counties those farmers who had suffered losses were merely excused from the payment of the regular rates; in others the landlords had compensated the farmers; and would it, then, be proposed now to refund the money to the local rates and to the landlords? The principle now advocated by the hon. Member would lead to a whole host of new and unheard of claims upon which there could be no check, and the difficulties which would result from acting on it were sufficient to induce the House to pause before agreeing to the Motion of the hon. Member.


said, that he only desired that compensation should be given on the same scale as that which had been laid down in other cases.


said, he had been unable to discover any valid argument in the speech of the noble Lord why Aberdeenshire should be excluded from the benefits of the compensation fund because it had established an Association of its own. It was notorious that, among the crowd of schemes for the suppression of the cattle plague which occupied the attention of the House in the early part of last Session, the system adopted in Aberdeenshire was considered to be the most effectual, and it was ultimately adopted. It had worked excellently well in the county itself, and had preserved the northern districts of Scotland from the plague. The only reward that they had received at the hands of the Government was a refusal to allow them to participate in the benefit of the money voted for the compensation of sufferers from the disease. This was really placing a premium upon the carelessness, idleness, and indifference of those who had taken no pains to stamp out the plague.


said, he should support the Motion. He admitted that his views were not altogether disinterested in doing so, for if the present proposal received the sanction of the House he should take an early opportunity of bringing forward a similar one, substituting "Norfolk" for "Aberdeenshire." The case of the two counties was precisely similar. On the outbreak of the plague an Association was established in Norfolk, £25,000 was subscribed. Rules and regulations for the extirpation of the disease were enforced. Infringements of the Privy Council Orders were prosecuted. Though the Government rendered no aid, and could not stop the fairs, so that the disease was repeatedly re-introduced after being stamped out, the loss of stock was confined to 6,000. But for the Association, 50,000 out of the 100,000 head of cattle in the county would have been lost. The return for all this energy, was that the farmers of Norfolk were refused any compensation for their losses. The funds voted for the purpose were entirely distributed among those improvident or indifferent persons who had stood by with folded hands while the disease was making its greatest ravages throughout the kingdom.


said, he thought that the hon. Member (Mr. Fordyce) had made out a good case. Scotland, and, indeed, the country in general, owed a great deal to the farmers of Aberdeenshire for their pointing out the manner in which the plague might be met. But the noble Lord had clearly shown that the question was surrounded with difficulty. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Read) had made a strong claim for his county, and, doubtless, others could make an equally strong claim for theirs. Although he should vote with the hon. Member, he would prefer to leave the matter in the hands of the Government. He had promised to represent the case of Perth to the House. It had happened that the lord-lieutenant of Perth died just as the Cattle Plague Bill was passed. During the three weeks that elapsed before his successor was appointed, although the disease was rife in the district, the local machinery could not be set to work to stop it, or compensate the losers. All that the people of Perth, however, asked, was that the county should have power to assess its inhabitants for the relief of the sufferers at that time. He hoped that the Government would not refuse so reasonable a request.


said, he was still of opinion, as he was last year, that it was unadvisable to meet the cattle plague by a public Act and rate. But he was bound to say that it seemed hard that those districts which had exhibited a disposition to help themselves should be permitted to suffer most. He hoped there would be no division, and that the matter would be left in the hands of the Government.


said, he had been applied to to support the cause of Aberdeenshire, and had thought it an isolated case. The Vice President of the Council (Lord Robert Montagu), however, had given unanswerable reasons for refusing the request; and as the public revenue had already suffered far too much from the cattle plague, he should vote against the Motion.


said, he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion. He hoped, however, that the Government would reconsider their decision.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.