Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [26th June], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the proposal to pass a permanent law, requiring that in order to prevent the introduction of the Cattle Plague into this Country from abroad, all foreign cattle and other animals imported into the Port of London shall be landed at one prescribed spot, and shall not be removed thence alive, ought not to be considered apart from the general policy of imposing legal restrictions on the foreign cattle trade in other ports of the United Kingdom,"—(Mr. Milner Gibson.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
said, that the question raised by the Bill itself was one of very great importance, being nothing less than this—whether this country should continue the policy which it had been pursuing for twenty years, or whether it should reverse that policy. Parliament had now to consider whether it would revert to Protection or persevere in the great principles of Free Trade, which had led to results so beneficial, not only to this country, but to all the world. The Government had introduced a Bill of a most protective kind—and how had it been introduced? It had been, at least, as far as regarded the principle involved in it, smuggled into the House in the first instance; but when it came before the Select Committee he and other hon. Members perceived that it was a measure of rank Protection. It would defeat one of the great objects Sir Robert Peel had in view when asking Parliament to adopt the principle of Free Trade in cattle—namely, that of securing to the people of this country meat at prices within their reach. During the investigation conducted by the Select Committee it was admitted on all hands—by the advocates as well as by the opponents of 1292 the Bill—that the effect of the measure would be to raise prices very much. Graziers certainly said that its effect would be to bring about Free Trade; but when asked what they meant by Free Trade they said they meant free competition. When the inquiry was carried a little further it appeared that they meant competition among themselves, but a keeping out of the foreigner. Within a few months after the passing of this Bill the importation of foreign cattle would come to an end. Indeed, he might refer to the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council in support of that proposition, for the noble Lord had frequently avowed in that House that foreign dealers would not send their cattle to this country if the animals were to be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. But the Select Committee had heard the evidence of more practical men than the noble Lord—butchers and farmers. The latter said that if this Bill passed prices would be improved; and they added that, in their opinion, prices ought to be improved. The butchers stated that the Bill would have the effect of advancing prices; but their objection to this was that, while prices would be increased the supply would be diminished. Perhaps it had been the desire of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) that some of his party should be educated in Free Trade principles by the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) and other Members of the Committee; but he did not think anything had been effected in that way beyond getting some of the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Disraeli's) supporters to admit that if you limited the supply and increased the demand you would raise prices. The pretence for the Bill was the rinderpest, which had visited this country a year or a year and a half ago; but it had not been shown that such a measure was necessary for keeping that disease out in future, or that it would effect that object. Before the Committee, M. Rouher, the chief of the Department in France which had the matter under its charge, attended for the purpose of explaining what arrangements were made for preventing the ravages of rinderpest across the Channel. The position of France was far less favourable than ours, and yet, though they had the disease there eight or ten times, they had never found any difficulty in stamping it out without in any degree giving up the full and free importation of foreign cattle. It was very instructive to see how this 1293 information was received by the country Gentlemen on the Committee. One would have thought they would have listened to it with the greatest interest; but it was evident that M. Rouher had had in them a comparatively unwilling audience. In France the rinderpest had been stamped out with a loss of 600 head, whereas it cost us 278,000, besides 54,000 that had been slaughtered on account of the disease. In Austria, too, which was the only country where rinderpest still existed, the plague was confined to one or two provinces, and surely the Government, before they subjected the country to a tax of £2,000,000, or £3,000,000 in the enhanced price of their food, ought to have inquired how the Germans contrived to restrict the malady within a few districts. Depend upon it, the real rinderpest which hon. Gentlemen opposite feared was foreign competition. There was a minor point on which he desired information. Did the Government intend to adhere to their resolution to admit cattle from Spain, Portugal, and Brittany? If they did, it seemed to him hardly consistent with the dignity of this country to attempt thus to evade our obligations under "the most favoured nation" clauses of our treaties. The only effect of this Bill would be to raise seriously the price of meat. This would especially be the case in London, for two reasons—because it would limit the supply, and because the expense of the construction of the foreign market would fall upon the metropolis. It had been estimated that the cost would be nearly £500,000; and it was also believed that it would be four or five years before the market could be opened; so that, during all that time, the meat market would be in a state of confusion and uncertainty. A rise of price in the article of meat touched the comfort of the people. In 1866 the number of foreign cattle in the metropolitan market was 343,000 head, and in 1867 that number was decreased by 56,000, or nearly 15 per cent. It was difficult to measure the amount of privation and suffering caused by that diminution. He trusted that the House would never consent to infringe on the great policy of Free Trade, and that the friends of that policy would by their vigilance and perseverance prevent the adoption of such a law as the one now proposed. It might appear to be harmless; but he believed that it would prove, if it was passed, a most vicious and prejudicial piece of legislation.
§ SIR J. CLARKE JERVOISE
said, that the Medical Officer's Report in 1863 stated that the diseases which figured behind the dead meat market were various. The more important were contagious fevers, parasitic diseases and typhoid; and Mr. Gamgee (who was admitted on all hands to be a great authority on such subjects) stated it to be his belief that one-fifth of the mutton, beef, veal, &c., sold in this country was considerably diseased. He also stated that the epidemic diseases were entirely owing to the importation of diseased meat, and that by the adoption of more strict precautionary measures it might be greatly reduced. It was well-known that pleuro-pneumonia was one of the most fatal kinds of cattle disease, yet up to the year 1845 it was absolutely unknown in this country. The number of cattle imported in I860 was 104,000, and three times the number imported died of disease. He had another duty to discharge in reference to this matter. In "another place," when the cattle plague was under discussion, all sorts of threats and menaces were held out against every magistrate who neglected his duty by not enforcing these Orders. Now he had often offended in this way, and as he believed that these threats were levelled at him, and as he was not allowed to say what Orders he would enforce, and what he would not, he had thought it his duty to announce at the Quarter Sessions that he had made up his mind to retire from the bench. He did not charge the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite with having in view the reversal of Free Trade; but he must say such was their tendency. The Notice he had placed on the Paper was put there partly in irony, It was to this effect—That any legal restrictions on the importation of foreign cattle are premature, until the request to the Russian Government to appoint an International Commission to consider the possibility of arresting the cattle plague in its place of origin, the Steppes of Russia, determined by the International Congress held at Zurich in September 1867, to which Professor Simonds was delegated by the President of the Privy Council, shall have received an answer.The whole course of the Privy Council had been full of mistakes. First of all, they had the stories about pleuro-pneumonia, with the loss of £6,000,000—an exaggerated statement. Then they sent out Mr. Simon, the Officer of Health, to the Continent to trace out the origin of the plague. He went to Holland; but it was not there. 1295 He went farther and farther on with like success, until at last he overtook it in Galicia, where he found four infected beasts that had just come out of the Steppes. But when Mr. Simon was asked whether he went on to the Steppes, he said "No,. for if he had he would not have been allowed to come back again." In fact, Mr. Simon made a joke of the whole matter. Then came the Report of the Commissioners, who said that the stamping-out system was only useful when there were a few cases. The right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) said that the Commissioners derived all their information from the Report of the medical officers, which was a mistake.
said, that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was, that the Commissioners had not consulted the medical officer.
§ SIR J. CLARKE JERVOISE
The Commissioners said in their Report that they depended upon the excellent judgment, information, and experience of their medical officer, Mr. Simon; but when Mr. Simon came to be examined before a Committee, and was asked what he knew about the cattle plague, he said he could only speak as one of the party, and that he knew nothing about it. In September last, Mr. Simon was again sent into Germany, and on his return home he reported that he had attended a Convention of scientific men from all parts of the world—even Russia and Turkey being included. This Convention had come to a resolution to send to the Emperor of Russia to request him to take steps for the suppression of the cattle plague at the place of its origin on the Steppes. Being curious to know the result of this deputation, he put a question on the subject to the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council (Lord Robert Montagu), but the noble Lord informed him that that subject was not in his Department, he ought to apply to the Foreign Secretary. He accordingly put the same question to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary (Lord Stanley) and he got from him the same answer as from the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council. It was stated by the officers of the Customs that there was not a word of truth in the statement that the disease was imported from abroad. It seemed to be their opinion that it was spontaneous. It had been stated, and he believed with great truth, that it was the desire of the Government to shake off their responsibility in this 1296 matter upon an Act of Parliament, and to make this House responsible for the acts of the Privy Council. That Act was the Contagious Diseases Prevention Act, which was itself a mistake, because it provided that in the case of cattle slaughtered by mistake compensation should be given to the owner. That appeared to him to be a bonus on fraud and ignorance. Now, he thought if there was one thing in which there could he no mistake, it was this, that the cattle plague was capable of originating spontaneously. If it did so in one case it might do so in all, and then down went all the Resolutions of the Privy Council. It had been said that the hardships undergone by the cattle in conveying food across the Russian Steppes would be got rid of by the formation of railways now in progress, and that the diseases consequent upon their hardships would be prevented. If that were so, Russian cattle would arrive in this country in good condition. He hoped the House would hesitate before passing the present Bill.
§ MR. T. T. PAGET
believed that this question had been introduced under the shield of Protection, carried on by Protection arguments, and he feared that it would close with the cry of Protection. He was not, therefore, surprised that that cry had been so ably met by his right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson). If the arguments on the one side, however, savoured too much of Protection those on the other side savoured too much of Free Trade, and to neither side did he feel disposed to give implicit adherence. He thought, however, that it was very desirable that a market should be established where the butchers of Brighton and other towns might enter into competition with the London butchers, instead of all the foreign cattle coming into London being at once killed and consumed in the metropolis. The Bill was, in his opinion, far from faultless, but he should certainly support the going into Committee, in the belief that the principle on which it was founded would be of advantage to the country.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, the Bill was a very important one, and it was utterly impossible to give it the consideration it deserved. Where were the Cabinet Ministers? Was the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council the only Member of the Government responsible for the Bill? It was most disrespectful to the House that no Cabinet Minister was present at a dis- 1297 cussion of such importance. He regarded freedom of trade as an established principle of legislation, and thought it out of the question to proceed with the Bill. There was no hope or expectation in any quarter that it would pass this Session. There were twenty-one Orders on the Paper, and they had better proceed to them. He begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adiourned."—(Mr. Hadfield.)
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he trusted the House would not assent to an adjournment of the debate. The hon. Member (Mr. Hadfield) had given no reason why it should be adjourned. The Bill had been introduced in December, and it was afterwards most carefully considered by a Select Committee. He had yet to learn that it is the practice of Cabinet Ministers to speak at the beginning of a debate. As regarded the absence of the Cabinet Ministers at the present moment, the hon. Member knew that this was the dinner hour. There was ample time to pass this Bill, and it was of the utmost importance that there should be a decision of the House. He had placed the question before the House on the ground of Free Trade, and not of Protection. He believed the majority of the people of this country to be in favour of the Bill. There was ample time to have passed it long ago had it not been for the factious delays that were offered. ["Oh !"] It was introduced on the 5th of December, read a second time on the 12th February, and referred to a Select Committee, where it was under consideration for more than two months. When the Bill came down again the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Milner Gibson) moved that the Report should be sent to the Examiner of Standing Orders, which had no other effect than to lose more time. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to over-ride the opinion of the House by dodges.
§ MR. AYRTON
rose to Order, and said that the word "dodge" ought not to be applied to any action which a Member on the Opposition side of the House might, in his duty, think proper to take.
§ MR. SPEAKER
thought that the noble Lord was scarcely in Order in using the word "dodge" in the remarks which he had made. He had better confine himself 1298 to the reasons against the Motion for Adjournment.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he did not mean anything offensive to the right hon. Gentleman, but the contrary. What he meant to convey was that the forms of the House had been somewhat ingeniously strained to prevent the progress of the Bill. He hoped the debate would not be adjourned until they had had the opportunity of hearing the opinions of the Cabinet, and perhaps of the Prime Minister himself, on the subject.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that when this Bill was under discussion on another occasion, he took the liberty of pointing out the position in which they were placed, and there might be some misapprehension as to his views. ["Divide !"] We have not yet heard the opinion of one Minister of the Crown, and the Treasury Bench has not now a single occupant. Possibly that may be taken as a type of the mental state of the Government on the subject of this Bill. We have not heard one Minister of the Crown. The only Minister who was brought before the Committee was the President of the Board of Trade, and he distinctly stated that he was not cognizant of the nature of the Bill. ["Divide !"]
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
, as a Member of the Select Committee, wished to say a few words on the subject, although, not being a Minister of the Crown, he did not fulfil the condition laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House (Mr. Ayrton). At this time of the evening, however, it was somewhat unreasonable to expect the Members of the Government to be seated on the Treasury Bench. The question placed before the Select Committee was, whether this Bill was a proper one, and one which should become the law of the country. He confessed that he had had great difficulty in sitting on the same Committee with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson), for that right hon. Gentleman seemed to have been animated by two feelings—the one an insuperable hatred to Protection, and the other an almost idolatrous love of Free Trade. His love, however, began abroad and ended abroad. His love for a foreign ox was something touching; his love for a foreign sheep was something beatific; but the centre of his affection seemed to be in a foreign goat; whether the attraction was in its horns, in its aroma, or in its milk, in association with the right hon. Gentle- 1299 man's infantine days, did not appear. But of this he (Mr. Freshfield) was quite sure, that the right hon. Gentleman had neither sympathy, affection, nor allegiance with the typical John Bull of our own native land. The object of the Committee had been to determine whether the Bill was calculated to meet the purpose of its framcrs—namely, to make provision for the streams of cattle which converged into the metropolis. It was found that the restrictions with regard to London amounted to a cattle plague in themselves, by the cordon which was drawn around the metropolis, and by the edict that all the cattle within that area must not leave it alive, the result being scarcity of supply and enhanced cost to the consumer. It was most remarkable that a witness summoned to give evidence against the Bill, and who Stated that he landed more than half the foreign cattle which came to England, admitted that in the interest of the public the measure was a wise one.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
The agent had prepared a very general petition; but the witness declared on his oath that the form of his petition was a mistake, and that he had never any other feeling than that the measure was a right and proper one. Could the right hon. Gentleman deny that? This evidence, although amusing, was at the same time instructive. As to the Members of the Select Committee voting in small majorities, all he (Mr. Freshfield) could say was, that the right hon. Gentleman was a man of such astute mind, that it was exceedingly difficult for persons less sophisticated than himself to understand the mode in which he conducted the case; and he dressed up his objections in so many forms that it was difficult to recognize the ! staple of them; and no kaleidoscope could give them more varied shape. As far, however, as one could collect them, the right hon. Gentleman's main objections to the Bill were these—First, he complained that they were legislating for contingencies; that the cattle plague might have existed, but that it existed no longer; and that they were imposing a heavy permanent burden on the country. That certainly was rather an extraordinary argument to emanate from the front Opposition Bench, considering that the occupants of that Bench had been endeavouring to pass a Suspensory Bill which should have 1300 operation only in the contingency of the passing of another Bill which had not been, and he trusted never would be, passed, for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church. The cattle plague was a patent and disastrous fact in our annals; and it was as certain that it would return as that the extent of the evil, when it came, would depend on the legislation of Parliament. Next, the right hon. Gentleman told them that the market would cost £500,000. But let them look at the other side of the account. What was the cost of the cattle plague? Since the ports were opened 2,000,000 head of cattle had died, at a loss of not less than £60,000,000. Since the last outbreak of that plague it was computed that some 300,000 cattle had died, causing a loss of not less than £9,000,000 sterling. What then was £500,000? Barely a year's interest at 5 per cent on the loss they had sustained. Then it was said that the measure was an imperfect one, and that they were legislating for the port of London only. But the case of London was exceptional; the mass of foreign cattle came there; and if foreign cattle were admitted into London it was impossible but that the cattle plague must be bred there, and thence disseminated over the country. The right hon. Gentleman said the way to stop the cattle plague was to close the ports. Admitting that, still there was nothing in the Bill to prevent that course being taken when necessary. The Bill was an additional measure of precaution. It was found that the existing restrictions at the other ports were not sufficient for the metropolis, and also that those restrictions, as regarded the metropolis, became an evil there and involved a loss second only to that caused by the cattle plague itself. Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill would introduce infected cattle—[Mr. MILNER GIBSON: Hear, hear !]—whereas it was not intended to make the foreign cattle market a whit less impure than the Copenhagen Fields market. Our duty was to enforce all the existing restrictions, and more; and even to have English Consuls at the foreign ports to see that no infected cattle were exported. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the butchers would carry the cattle plague in their boots. It was true that it had been proved that the disease was most subtle; but was not the risk of the cattle plague being carried in butchers' boots altogether insignificant in comparison with the danger of cattle being 1301 altogether intermixed? He (Mr. Freshfield) would earnestly recommend the House to proceed to pass the Bill this Session. It would be bad enough to commit it to Gentlemen opposite to carry out, and worse for the interests of the country, if it was left to three right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who entertained such peculiar opinions upon the subject.
said, he was sorry his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Freshfield) had compelled him, contrary to his intention, to take part in the debate and to make a protest on his own behalf. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he saw with great concern the unanimity of counsel that prevailed between himself (Mr. Gladstone) and two Gentlemen sitting on the same Bench with him; and from what he had said he was not in the House when he (Mr. Gladstone) addressed the House on a former debate upon this Bill; and his silence almost amounted to an admission of the fact.
MR. FRESH FIELD
said, he was in the House, and heard the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and if time bad permitted he should have replied to it.
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman's discretion was greater than if he had not heard it. On a previous occasion he avoided giving a positive or dogmatic judgment upon the great question of Protection involved in this Bill—the free or restricted supply of food—not because he might not have his own prepossessions with regard to it; but because he knew a number of Gentlemen on the Committee, and others, who were able to give to that evidence a degree of detailed attention he had been unable to give it, that he thought it but fair towards them and respectful to the House to leave the operation of the Bill to be discussed by them. He, however, dwelt on matter entirely distinct from that conveyed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson). Not that he was ashamed of being associated with him on any question, and more particularly that of Free Trade, in which, for the last twenty-five years, his right hon. Friend had been the standard-bearer in what was now admitted to be the cause of the nation against not the real but the supposed and imaginary cause of the particular interest of a particular class. Therefore, if he divided himself on that occasion from his right hon. Friend it was from no reluctance to stand in the same rank with him. On a former occasion be dwelt on two points, 1302 and he referred to them now because the Government had not yet said one word upon a vital point that must first be disposed of, namely—why they thought the powers already vested in the hands of the Privy Council were insufficient for the whole demands and exigencies that might arise in connection with the importation of foreign cattle? He should have been glad to have heard the hon. and learned Member for Dover's remarks upon that point. They had had retrospective complaints of the conduct of the Privy Council in former times; but it was not a question of what the Privy Council, under other auspices, might have done in former times. They had now a Privy Council in which they reposed confidence, and it became them to show cause for departing from that system which Parliament had deliberately adopted—the system of trusting to that elastic power which was lodged in the hands of the Executive Government, and of persons capable, if they went astray, of being immediately called to account, and set right by Parliament. There had been no attempt to show any cause for the departure from that elastic system, and for the attempt to substitute at the point, where it should best be substituted, a rigid system of law, which it would be difficult to revoke when once adopted, and involving at the outset great pecuniary liability. That subject had received no consideration whatever in any of the speeches of the promoters of the Bill, and certainly it had not received consideration in the detailed address of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Committee of Privy Council (Lord Robert Montagu), and therefore he (Mr. Gladstone) commended it to the consideration of the hon. and learned Member for Dover. Another point which he considered more vital, and which must be explained by the Government before the Speaker left the Chair, was the finance of the market. Not a word had as yet been said about it. He had never known, in the course of a long experience and close observation, when the Government of the day had brought forward a plan involving a large financial liability, when it was not made a capital and primary point—
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
rose to Order. He understood that when his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council was making objections he was stopped by the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair on the ground that he had already spoken on the merits of the Bill, and that it was not com- 1303 petent to him, on the Motion for Adjournment, to re-open the main question and principles of the Bill, and he wished now to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was in Order in repeating on the same Motion the observations made by him on a former occasion respecting the Bill?
said, what he wished to point out was that his observations were simply a direct, unequivocal, and necessary reply to the hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Freshfield); and why, he asked, did not his noble Friend [Lord John Manners] rise during the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dover when he was pointing out what a subtle disease the cattle plague was, and call him to Order? That had no immediate connection with the question of the adjournment of the debate, but the merits of the Bill. He had no wish to stand in the way and, as it was certain that this was a subject that must be fully discussed before going into Committee, he withdrew from making any further comment on his hon. and learned Friend's speech.
said, that this was unquestionably a Protection Bill. It was a Bill for protecting the public against eating diseased meat, and therefore, in the interests of the community, he should support it.
§ MR. FORDYCE
said, that the farmers of Aberdeenshire had a great interest in preventing the introduction of the disease in cattle. Aberdeenshire was the largest cattle breeding county in Scotland, sending to London about 90,000 head of cattle, alive or dead, per annum. His constituents took a very simple view of this Bill. They said they were entitled, as a matter of police regulation, to precautions being adopted for keeping diseased cattle out of the country. Under a system of free and unrestricted importation one disease after another had been imported into this country. The cattle plague prevailed in Aberdeenshire, and the only successful measure was to isolate the county. What his constituents asked was, that the same plan should be applied to the whole country as far as practicable, and this object, so qualified, was carried out by the Bill. If the system foreshadowed in the Bill were carried out the result would be the establishment of dead meat markets in the neighbourhood of all large towns. It was not protection against foreign meat that his constituents wanted, but protection against disease. Hon. Gentlemen said, "Where is the ne- 1304 cessity for such a Bill? There is no cattle plague at present." But if they had, like some of the farmers of Aberdeenshire, lost nine-tenths of their cattle by the rinderpest, and had found their present stock depreciated in value by £2 per head, they would hold very different language. Something must be done to establish dead meat markets in all large towns, and he regretted the Select Committee did not examine the gentlemen who came from Aberdeenshire to represent the views of the farmers of that locality, who would have shown that it was possible to supply London with dead meat from Aberdeenshire. There was a strong feeling among the agriculturists of Scotland in favour of the Bill.
said, he was in favour of the adjournment, thinking that the House was not at present in a position to come to a conclusion on this important subject, and he doubted whether it would be so during the present Session. It was no doubt the interest of the farmers of Aberdeenshire to obtain the highest price for their beasts, and it was equally the interest of the shoemakers of Northampton and others to get meat as cheap as possible. The Privy Council possessed sufficient powers for preventing the transfer of cattle throughout the country. He objected to the Bill as a return to Protection, and the arguments employed to show that the agriculturists needed protection from foreign cattle reminded him of those formerly used in support of protection from foreign corn.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
, as an unrepentant Protectionist, thought the proceedings of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were calculated to further what he desired—namely, the modification of the present system of Free Trade in corn. They claimed a right to import disease ["No !"] unrestricted, except by Orders in Council. They might cry "No !" but that was really the meaning of the Opposition. Now, he had the same objection to that elastic system, so much admired by the right hon. Member for South Lancashire, that his forefathers had to ship-money.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, it did not seem a very satisfactory course to adopt to move the adjournment at that hour; but there were circumstances which sometimes rendered it necessary to take an exceptional course. The subject now under debate had been before the House for three nights; it was a measure of great importance, inasmuch as it affected the food 1305 supply of the metropolis; and yet the Ministers of the Crown had not seen fit to express their own opinion upon it. It was proposed by this Bill to exclude all foreign living cattle from this country, and to enact that all such upon their arrival should be slaughtered, whether they were healthy or unhealthy. He himself was an advocate for prohibiting the importation of cattle from unhealthy and affected countries; but he was in favour of admitting healthy cattle which could be brought into this country without danger. He supported the Motion for the Adjournment upon this ground, that no Cabinet Minister had thought it worth his while to condescend even to listen to the debate—much less to speak—in it. Upon one occasion the Government, through their organ in that House, represented this measure as a gigantic scheme of Protection. He (Mr. Milner Gibson) had been charged with faction, and with using dodges; but he denied both. The noble Lord the Vice President of the Privy Council made a speech recently, in which he said—How are we to feed the poor? There are some difficulties in dealing with the subject, but the greatest of all is the feeding of the poor. If the beasts are killed at Harwich only the best joints would be sent up to London, for it would not pay to send up the others. But the working classes do not live upon the best joints, but upon shins of beef; not upon Southdowns, but upon Merino sheep; not upon joints, but upon offal; and that offal will never be brought to London if the animals are slaughtered at their places of landing.Those were the words of the Government. When, therefore, they had such a remarkable change of opinion—when they found Ministers violating their own opinions so recently expressed, they were entitled to learn from those Cabinet Ministers what was the fresh evidence which had induced that change of sentiment, and what were the excuses for thus placing restrictions upon the food of the people. He was told that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had excited the suspicions of a certain number of the country Gentlemen below the Gangway on account of his insincerity. Amongst these a round robin had been got up—a threatening communication—and presented to the Premier, striving to coerce him into carrying this Bill. The Prime Minister had evidently departed from all his arrangements with regard to the Public Business. He said some time ago that the Bribery and the Supplementary Reform Bills were to take the precedence; but in came 1306 this threatening letter from the country Gentlemen, and this Cattle Market Bill was thrust in between. They were surely entitled to hear the opinion of Ministers themselves on the subject. He should vote for the adjournment of the debate, because he had heard no explanation from any Member of the Cabinet, and because he believed the House was being treated with disrespect. They had been called down at great inconvenience to two Forenoon Sittings in order to debate the Bill, and not a single Member of the Government had deemed it worth while even to peep in and see what they were doing. He should like to know what were the public objects which the Government wished to accomplish. If he received no clear and satisfactory information with respect to the Ministerial policy he should support the Motion for adjournment.
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Milner Gibson) would have taken a wider and a broader view of this matter than he had done. No Member of the House knew better than the right hon. Gentleman that the large slaughter in Holland of cattle which took place during the cattle plague had had the effect of greatly reducing the price of meat. Dutch beef was sold in the London market at 6½d. per pound, whilst English beef sold at 10d. and 11d. Quantities of dead meat, amounting to as much as 18,000 tons, during the half year, had been shipped to the metropolis by the Great Eastern Railway. If that could be done in Holland they might expect still more favourable results if the cattle coming from all countries were compelled to be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. The Bill now under discussion was loudly and urgently demanded. The importation of cattle into London from other parts of England had almost been stopped by the cattle plague, and some such measure as the one before the House was required to revive the home trade. He had no hesitation in saying that the sole opposition to this Bill was simply to defend the interests of some twenty cattle salesmen in London. No man knew that better than the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne. The first opposition to the Bill rose from the Thames Haven Company. Three cattle salesman, one dead meat salesman, and the Tilbury line were at the bottom of the whole of it. The twenty people to whom he had referred had set the whole of the Opposition going for the last eighteen months. The Veterinary 1307 Department of the Board of Trade had been undoubtedly also opposed to the Bill; but that was because they were afraid of being abolished should the new law come into operation. He was not surprised, therefore, that that Department should receive the support of the right hon. Member for Ashton, who was formerly connected with that Department. The real question to be decided, however, was whether they were or were not to pass the Bill. His own opinion was that no Government in the position of the present could possibly prorogue Parliament without passing the measure, more especially as not a single argument had really been advanced against it. He maintained that no class interest whatever would be injured by it; on the contrary, they would all be benefited, and moreover the whole country was in favour of the Bill. The slaughtering of the cattle at the landing place would have the ultimate effect of relieving Newgate Market of the great pressure and inconvenience which at present prevailed there. District butchers who sent their carts there as early as three or four o'clock in the morning, had often to keep them waiting till nine o'clock under a broiling sun before they could get their meat conveyed away. That, of course, tended very considerably to deteriorate the quality of the beef. He wanted to know why that which had been done by Governments who were most careful not to allow their people to be in want of food should not be done by us? The French Government could not allow their people to grumble for want of food, and they had established this system. He hoped that the next time the right hon. Gentleman opposed the Bill he would do so, not for the mere fun of putting a stop to it, but would make use of sound arguments which might go forth to the country.
MR. J. B. SMITH
supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) for the adjournment of the debate. He wanted to know what they were to think of the huge trades union formed in that House for the purpose of raising the price of the food of the people. ["Oh, oh !"] What had they seen in the House this evening but a trades union, pursuing the same course as the trades unions they had all heard so much of. ["Oh !"] They had heard that hon. Members were engaged in preparing a missive to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli); in fact, that they were preparing to "ratten" him unless he conformed to their wishes. Under 1308 such circumstances he appealed to the House whether the noble Lord opposite (Lord Robert Montagu)—and, by-the-by, the Treasury Bench was entirely empty at the time—was justified with charging Members on that (the Opposition) side with faction? He maintained that they were perfectly justified in the course they had taken.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I rise, Sir, to speak on the question of adjournment, and I must say I very much regret to have heard that such a Motion was made. It seems to me to be a most unusual course to adopt on such an occasion. The observations that no Ministers were present on this Bench at eight o'clock, if accurate, have not been made in that spirit of courtesy which generally pervades our debates. Nor is it true, I think, that there has been an absence of Ministers of the Crown generally during this debate. There have been two long Morning Sittings. I have been present at them, and I have been in my place the whole of this day. It is not customary to make such remarks; it would be inconvenient for both sides, and I think it is scarcely justified. It appears to me that it is desirable that the House should come to a division; not, however, upon the question of adjournment, but on the merits of the case. If the House wishes that the debate should be prolonged, I am perfectly ready to take part in it, and there are others of my Colleagues who are prepared to do the same. I think that, under these circumstances, if the House comes to a division upon the question of the adjournment we shall be liable to great misrepresentation, and there will be some ground for the insinuations which have been thrown out that there is a desire on the part of a portion of the Members of this House not to meet the question with that fairness which is desirable. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire has made an inquiry which, though I am speaking on the question of adjournment, I would wish to answer. The right hon. Gentleman says he is anxious to know why we did not meet the necessities of the case by Orders in Council instead of this Bill. I quite admit that that is a very fair inquiry, and one which I think would occur to any one who gives a candid consideration to this question. But the real cause for the introduction of this measure was that Orders in Council did not meet the necessities of the case. We are obliged to hare recourse to statutory 1309 regulations, because we cannot by Orders in Council meet the necessities of the case. There is a clause in the Bill of last year which provides that the Council shall have powers to establish a special market for foreign cattle. At the time the Bill was under discussion I remember that the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) proposed that this provision should be compulsory, not only on the local authorities, but on the Privy Council. That was opposed, because it is not expedient; that compulsory powers should be given unless they are absolutely necessary, and under the Bill we had the power of establishing a market for foreign meat in every town, and also of purchasing land for that purpose. Well, we have succeeded with these powers in every town except London; but when we attempted to carry that legislation into effect in London we utterly failed. We found that we could not deal with the local authorities and with those whose concurrence was necessary in order to effect what we desired. There was no redress for us, therefore, and no means by which to overcome the difficulty unless by coming to this House and asking for legislation. That is my answer to the inquiry of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not want, though I am prepared on a fitting occasion, to go into a discussion on the general policy involved in the Bill. All I wish now is to impress on the House the extreme inexpediency of our going to a division on a question which does not involve any expression of opinion as to the policy of the Bill. That appears to me highly undesirable, and I trust, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman, on reflection, will feel that the best course is to withdraw the Motion for adjournment, and let us proceed with the discussion.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he should be sorry to interrupt in any way the course of Business, and would therefore withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, he considered the House had a very important duty to discharge in deciding upon the present question, affecting as it did the supply of food to the people. The question assumed increased importance when they considered the character of the country, which, with perhaps one exception, was 1310 more thickly peopled than any other in Europe, and which, without any exception, was the country in all the world which was most dependent upon the importation of food. He was not, as was well known, a metropolitan Member; but the constituency he represented was as much interested in the Bill as the metropolis itself. If, as was generally supposed, the restrictions which this Bill would impose would limit the importation of cattle into the metropolis, the metropolis must necessarily make up its supplies of food by competing with the rest of the country, and therefore the price of meat to the rest of the country would be enhanced. But if there was any necessity to pass this Bill for the metropolis, there was undoubtedly a necessity to pass it for the whole country. And if the argument was not strong enough to extend the Bill to the whole country, then undoubtedly the Bill itself had no legs to stand upon. This was, of course, the thin end of the wedge, and the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. Fordyce) had very candidly told them it was a foreshadowing of what would come upon the country. Many things had been said in the course of that debate; and, generally, what one side of the House had asserted the other side had contradicted; but there was one point on which all were agreed. It was admitted that, for a temporary evil, they were about to impose permanent restrictions, and it was admitted and understood that those permanent restrictions would limit the importation of cattle. ["No !"] Well, then, there were some exceptions, and they were not universally agreed upon that point; but it was enough for him that the Government admitted it, and that it was believed to a very great extent on that side of the House. The Government admitted it; for the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council, in the very long speech he delivered in introducing the Bill, began, by telling them that they had a choice of evils. If so, then undoubtedly there must be some evil in the restrictions proposed. If it were the fact that they were going to limit the importation of food, and therefore that they were about to increase permanently the price of meat throughout the country, he called that a most startling proposition. Hardly more than a week ago many Members of that House met together, in a place not far from that spot, to keep alive the memory of a great statesman (Mr. Cobden) and to advocate his opinions. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton 1311 (Mr. Villiers) presided on that occasion, and his name was as much associated with Free Trade as that of any man in the country. In the face of associations like these, there appeared to him to be something unreal in the business they were now upon, and he could not wonder at the suspicion expressed by many Members, especially by the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson). He doubted whether the Government was serious in the matter; certainly the Bill had not been introduced by the most serious Member of the Government. It had been supposed by high authorities that this measure was really introduced for electioneering purposes. It was believed that the Government had treated very badly the great party behind it, and that they had no real desire to pass the Bill; that the party behind them were pressing the Government, and that the Government was not free to act as it desired in this matter. Undoubtedly there was great mystery and perplexity about this question, and the measure was not supported as one of that great importance ought to be. The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council said they had to consider whether they would put up with this evil of restriction in order to avoid a possible recurrence of the cattle plague in this country, and that upon the answer to that question depended the fate of the Bill. Although the noble Lord had discussed every mortal thing in connection with it for upwards of two hours, he did not discuss the question he had himself put. Was it remembered that it was 100 years since this country had been afflicted with the cattle plague? For a quarter of a century at least the importation of cattle had been unrestricted, yet we had been free until recently from the cattle plague. According to the evidence given before the Committee, it was fifty years since France had been afflicted with the cattle plague. He did not mean to say that a period equally long must elapse before this country was again visited by it, but we could only judge of the future by our knowledge of the past. If the question were put to the French whether they would submit to such restrictions in order to ensure themselves against the recurrence of the plague, he was confident their answer would be that the proposal was a monstrous one. For £200 or £300 the French Government had stamped out the cattle plague, and at the present moment they imported from every country, 1312 taking no precautions beyond inspecting the cattle at the frontier and at the port of Marseilles. He would say, if the Privy Council had not the authority which the French Government had in the matter, let it be armed with that authority; but he was told that they had power absolutely to prohibit the importation of cattle, if they could make out a case justifying such a measure. Let the House consider that the evils of restriction already experienced at the outports would be visited upon the metropolis. How great the evil was might appear from the experience of Hull, where the importation of foreign cattle had dwindled down from 35,000, at which it stood three years back, to something like 1,300. That was the evil they had to anticipate in order to avoid a possible cattle plague. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), whose absence from the House on that occasion he regretted, had successfully warded off the attempt made to impose those restrictions upon the great port he represented, but what that port, through its Conservative Member, had repudiated, the Government were now about to saddle on the much larger area of the port of London. The noble Lord the Vice-President of the Council enlarged on the great difficulty of guarding this area, from its irregularity and extent; but in the face of that difficulty, and in the face of the fact of the introduction of foreign sheep, the cattle plague had disappeared from the country. The barrier had been thrown down in the case of France, and he could not conceive why it should be allowed to exist here. If that House had been assembled to discuss the question how more meat could be supplied to this country, it might have been a futile discussion, but it would not have been a dangerous one, and would not have raised unpleasant suspicions. There were millions of people in this country who knew nothing of animal food except what they saw of it in passing through their towns. It rarely touched their Tips. If every man and woman were to have one meal of animal food per day, this country would be revolutionized. According to Mr. Caird, who was a high authority upon the subject, if all the meat, home and foreign, consumed in this country were divided among the population, it would only amount to two ounces per head per day; and when they considered the abundance, or rather the superabundance, enjoyed by the rich, it was manifest that 1313 a large portion of the people must be wholly deprived of that luxury. Again: Mr. Caird told us that one-eighth part of all the meat consumed in the country came from abroad. One-eighth of the population of this country was 4,000,000 of people, and therefore they were dealing with the meat supply of 4,000,000 of people. Hon. Members who had been severe sufferers by the cattle plague could not be the most dispassionate judges of a question like this. Men who were suffering from great loss or pain no matter of what kind, were not always the best judges of the reinedy. If they were to ask men who had been garotted to legislate in respect to garotting, they would probably wish to have one-half of us put in strait-jackets. The noble Lord the Vice President had spoken, in the days of his innocence, before he was corrupted or coerced—he (Mr. Jacob Bright) did not know exactly by what means hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Treasury Bench were violently driven from one extreme of opinion to another—the noble Lord had spoken of the difficulty of feeding the poor, and had characterized the policy of this measure as a scheme of gigantic Protection. If there was any intention of restoring Protection this was a very inopportune time to do it. Bread had been dear, and there had been a yearly increase of taxation, and fears were expressed that we were likely to have a much harder race with the foreigner in regard to our industry. But if this restriction were imposed it would raise the price of food—["No, no !"]—the cattle which would otherwise have come to this country would be kept away—["No, no !"]—and the tendency would be to bring about this unfortunate state of things, that the food of our competitors would be lowered while our own food would be increased in cost. This Parliament began its career of legislation by passing what was called the Cattle Plague Bill—a Bill which gave compensation to men engaged in agriculture at the cost of the rest of the country. Now, he did not deny that legislation was necessary at that time, and on that question; but, in common with the great majority of the non-agricultural population of the country, he believed that the legislation that did take place was of a most unjust character. He had not then the honour of a seat in that House. He was simply a spectator. But it appeared to him that at that time there was a great 1314 agricultural insurrection in that House, led on by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Government, for the time, he believed, was not able to legislate in the sense in which it desired to legislate. The name of the right hon. Gentleman was at the back of this Bill, which, however, he did not believe would pass. If it did, it would be a fit legislative close of a Parliament which so unjustly began. They had heard a good deal said about the moral competence of the House. Well, seeing that the cattle plague had disappeared from the country under present regulations, and almost entirely from Europe—seeing that neighbouring countries admitted foreign cattle—seeing that those who would be injured by an enhanced price had no voice in that House—he asked whether, under these circumstances, they had the moral competence to deal with this question, which should be remitted to another Parliament? The House had been condemned by the country and by itself, and the Government had over and over again been condemned by the House, and it had been understood that only such questions should come before that House as were necessary for the winding up of Business. He was not credulous with respect to the character of the next Parliament. He had never believed that the mere giving of votes could create a miracle, nor did he believe that a really national assembly would ever sit in that House until the people of this country were protected in giving their votes—["Question !"]—and until the balance of power as between the large and small constituencies were redressed. But a new Parliament would never sanction such a measure as this. And he believed, if they succeeded in passing this Bill, long before they had wrung the £500,000 from the taxpayers, the next House of Commons would have repudiated the measure and given them no thanks for their pains. Whatever came of this Bill, it could not fail to discredit the Government. He had never had much respect for the Government. Its conduct in the year 1866; its peculiar origin, and its still more peculiar history, had made it difficult for him to be one of its admirers. But there were elements in it which had led him to believe that it was impossible it could ever lend itself to a folly like that. He had been compelled to acknowledge with the rest of the world, that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Go- 1315 vernment was a man of commanding intellect. He had believed, and he would not yet abandon the belief, that the great intelligence of the Prime Minister was a guarantee that his Government would not be allowed to commit the extraordinary blunder of once again placing the great Conservative party between the people and their supply of food.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, if his name had not been at the back of the Bill he would have spoken, as the subject of the Bill was one in which he took great interest. He deeply regretted the tone of the debate, which was calculated to create the false impression that this was a question between urban and rural interests. He wholly denied that there was any such conflict. The hobgoblin of Protection had been raised in order to defeat the Bill. Now, since he had had the honour of a seat in that House the question of Free Trade and Protection had been entirely settled, and he had never heard any Member attempt to revive the old Protectionist doctrine. If he thought the present proposal would revive that doctrine in any shape be would never have allowed his name, as it did, to appear on the back of the Bill. The simple question they had then to consider was, what was the best way of keeping our flocks and herds, on which we mainly depended for the food supply of the people, free from the contagion of disease imported from abroad? It must be admitted that town and country were interested in keeping our herds free from contagion. The question was, could that be better done by a system of exceedingly complicated and vexatious regulations than by fixing upon a place where foreign cattle should be landed and slaughtered? That was the only question to be considered; and all that had been said about the towns Buffering from the measure was beside the mark. He admitted that the matter was not wholly free from difficulty, that there was much to be said on both sides, and that, if the Bill had come before the House two years ago he should not have supported it. He had sat upon the Committee presided over' by the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) on the subject of Trade in Animals; and when the labours of that Committee were concluded they sent in a Report which abstained from recommending the adoption of a measure like the present. But the experience they had since acquired convinced him—as it con- 1316 vinced, he believed, many others who had then shared his opinion—that such a proposal as the present one might be prudently and beneficially adopted. Previous to the cattle plague breaking out the metropolitan market was the great market for the whole of the country as well as for the metropolis and its neighbourhood. But the regulations which had been acquiesced in by the country—and against which, as far as he was aware, no protest had been raised in the House—were so strict as regards the metropolitan market that they prevented an immense number being sent up to London. The supply was consequently very much limited. Previous to the outbreak of the cattle plague the supplies were annually on the increase; but there had been a positive decrease since the new regulations came into force. It was clear, then, that the present system tended to limit the supply of home-bred animals to the metropolitan limits; and it could hardly be denied that the removal of the existing restrictions and the consequent admission of a large number of beasts to the market would be a benefit to the consumer. Every hon. Member, he thought, must wish to see a very large supply sent to the metropolis, so that the price of meat might be reduced. Such a supply was prevented by the rule that when once an animal had come into the metropolitan market it could not be allowed to leave the metropolis. It was formerly the practice that persons in distant towns should come up to London, or should employ agents to purchase cattle in the metropolitan market; but that practice was put a stop to by the regulations now in force. This fact was, in his opinion, an answer to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Jacob Bright). He would pass by the argument, in which there was a certain amount of force, that the insecurity which prevailed in consequence of the apprehension of danger from foreign infection tended to prevent people from investing their money in the breeding of cattle. But, on the other hand, it must be remembered that, under the present arrangement, a large number of young animals born within the metropolitan area had either to be destroyed or furtively, and in evasion of the law, to be sent to he reared in the country. When he reflected upon the number of milch cows kept in London for the supply of milk, it was evident that the number of calves destroyed must be considerable; or, if they were 1317 sent into the country it was because people felt that the present regulations were contrary to common sense, and they were therefore disregarded with an easy conscience. The question, therefore, for consideration was whether it would not be advisable to free the metropolitan area from restrictions which tended to limit the supply of food in the metropolis, and to appropriate a market at the waterside for the slaughter and sale of foreign animals. He did not deny that the course the Government recommended was open to some objection; he offered it to the House as the lesser evil of the two; and, in reality, all they had before them was a choice of evils. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. J. B. Smith) had said that it would tend to raise the price of the Government contracts for meat; but he believed there was no evidence to support that objection. On the contrary, the evidence went to show that if the contractors were obliged to slaughter the cattle in London they could supply the troops with dead meat at a cheaper rate; because, having a ready market for what was technically called the offal, they would be enabled to sell the prime parts at a lower rate than if they had to convey the whole of the animal to the place where those prime parts were required for consumption.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
was under stood to say that the contractors were not permitted to slaughter the beasts in London.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had no doubt that an enlightened Government like the present would find means to make an alteration in that respect. Then it had been objected that it would ha exceedingly inconvenient to persons in the trade to have to go to two markets; and he did not deny that the change, like all other changes, might be productive of a certain amount of inconvenience; but that inconvenience would soon cease to be felt, as persons in the trade would in a very short time conduct their business according to the altered state of affairs. It had Also been urged that under the system now proposed there would he no real security against infection, because persons after handling the beasts in one market could go and handle the beasts in the other. No doubt contagion might arise in that way; but he was of opinion: that the danger of it was very much lessened by the scheme proposed by the Bill; for in 1865 and 1866, when the cattle 1318 plague was so rife, it was demonstrated that the chief, though not the sole cause of contagion, was the conveyance of animals along the railways; and during these years the metropolitan market was the chief focus of infection. That was shown by one single fact—that two or three days after the clauses of the Cattle Plague Act became law, which prohibited the carriage of any animal along a line of railway, the disease began sensibly to diminish. He would not further detain the House; but he hoped it would assent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. CLAY
said, the hon. and gallant Member for Harwich (Colonel Jervis) had told them that the opposition to this Bill proceeded from some twenty great cattle salesmen. He should have thought that the length and course of this debate might have assured the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the opposition sprung from much wider and more powerful sources. If he (Mr. Clay) were convinced that the Bill was to be confined to the metropolis alone he would have left the metropolis to the care of her natural guardians; but proxirmis ardet Ucalegon. It was to that source that they must trace the long and determined opposition which the Bill had met. Speaking on behalf of the port which he represented, he did not recollect any legislation which had caused in Hull so much dismay as had this proposal of the Government. The cattle trade of Hull had grown rapidly for some years, and reached its greatest extent in 1865. In that year the importation of cattle to Hull was 41,157 head; but in 1867 that number dwindled down to 16,000 odd; the sheep and lambs imported in 1865 numbered 69,160 head, and only 9,266 in 1867; and the pigs imported into Hull dwindled from 15,000 odd, in 1865, to 3,000 odd in 1867. Those figures showed not a great loss, but the annihilation of the trade. Still it was borne with a most undisturbed patience, because it was felt that the restrictions which caused so much loss were justified by the dire necessity of the care, and because no reasonable man would object to any reasonable means of getting rid of the horrid plague which was inflicted upon us. But it was now proposed that those measures of extreme rigour, which were justified by the temporary cause, should be made permanent, while no one pretended to say that the evil which they were intended to correct was permanent. He believed this Bill was an exceedingly ill-advised one, and much as 1319 his constituents had suffered from the restrictions of the Privy Council, he was content that the matter should be left in their hands, feeling confident that they would relax the restrictions whenever it was feasible to do so with perfect safety. He had been asked what reason there could be for the unnatural legislation which was proposed. There had been considerable delicacy shown in this debate as to calling things by their right names, and very great sensitiveness in making any allusion to the old differences of Free Trade and Protection. But he confessed that in his inability to find any other conceivable cause for this legislation he was driven to believe that the unfortunate admission that cattle would be raised £2 a head was at the bottom of the matter; and hon. Gentlemen representing rural constituencies had been unable to resist a prospect so pleasing to those whom they represented. If that were so he should regret it exceedingly. We were now coming to the end of that chapter in our history which would tell the deeds of the Reformed Parliament since 1832. These had given to this country more than thirty-five years of the wisest and most beneficent legislation of which the history of the world afforded any example, no part of its legislation had been be wise or so beneficent as its commercial legislation, and it would be with great regret and dismay that he should see one of the last acts of the last Reformed Parliament exhibiting a return to that policy of Protection the destruction of which had made this country one of the happiest and greatest in the world.
said, in the few observations he had to address to the House, he would endeavour to adopt the moderate tone of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and would also try to contribute to the object they all ought to have in view—namely, the prevention of disease with the least possible restrictions in trade. He thought it was admitted on all hands that even if this Bill passed during the present Session its supposed advantages could not be secured for three years. That was an objection to it; but he also objected to the Bill because he thought it an imperfect measure, and one which could not produce the results which it was intended to bring about. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill (Lord Robert Montagu) had applied very hard words to some of the witnesses who had given evidence upon the subject. The noble Lord charged the 1320 French gentlemen who gave evidence as to what course the French Government would take to protect cattle from disease with interested motives, in order that the English markets might be opened up to foreign trade, and the noble Lord also applied very strong epithets to others of the witnesses. But he (Mr. Bruce) listened in vain to hear him mete out even-handed justice to the Duke of Richmond and other witnesses who took the other side, and gave evidence in favour of the removal of the restrictions from the London market. There were, however, some witnesses who were altogether free from the imputation of being interested in the matter. The hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Freshfield) had said that the supposed opposition to the Bill on the part of the professional advisers of the Privy Council was to be attributed to a desire to retain their offices. No doubt a desire of that kind sometimes did drive men and Ministers to a very selfish line of policy; but none of the five or six witnesses who gave the strongest evidence as to the utter inadequacy of the measure to prevent the introduction of the disease into this country by means of the present Bill were in any way connected with the Government or with any special interest. Mr. Spooner, a gentleman of so much distinction in his profession that he was appointed a member of the Commission to inquire into the nature of the Cattle Plague, stated his opinion before the Committee that if a separate foreign cattle market were established in or near the metropolis, and the restrictions were taken off, we should be in a much worse condition than we were now, inasmuch as the cattle plague could be readily introduced into the metropolitan market, and communicated thence to the country at large, the infection being easily communicated by means of the clothing of individuals. Mr. Nichols, the senior surgeon of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, who had had much experience in the matter, gave the strongest evidence in the same direction to show that no sooner would the disease break out in the foreign cattle market than it would be communicated to the metropolis, and would spread thence throughout the country. Mr. Priestman, Mr. Thomas Wills, and Mr. James, all gentlemen of great experience, also gave evidence as to the utter inadequacy of the Bill. It was said that the effect of this measure would be to enhance the price of 1321 meat; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that any such result would be balanced by the reduction of the cost of meat at the metropolitan market, and had pointed out that there had already been a great reduction of supply to the metropolitan market, in consequence of the restrictions placed on the removal of cattle. The right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) contradicted the right hon. Gentleman across the Table, and it had come out in the evidence that the number of cattle now brought into the metropolitan market, and sold for use in the metropolis, was greater than the number which had been brought into it before the restrictions. The noble; Lord denied that such was the fact; but if he were right, and that the restrictions in the metropolitan market diminished the supply from the metropolis, would not the restrictions proposed by this Bill in respect of foreign cattle have a similar effect? It was not alone the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had made a very candid recantation of the opinions he held in 1866; but he found that the Committee, which included among its members not only that right hon. Gentleman, but also the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the present Under Secretary for the Home Department, and the Under Secretary for the Foreign Department, unanimously came to the conclusion that compulsory slaughter at the port, like compulsory slaughter at a market, was very expensive to the butcher, would hamper trade, diminish importation, and raise the price to the consumer, and that therefore the separation of the two markets seemed to them undesirable. Lord Salisbury was also a Member of this Committee, and took an active part in its proceedings. What, then, was his (Mr. Bruce's) proposition? He bad already said that this Bill could not come into operation for several years. He would be willing to put up a market in the port of London for the admission of those cattle, and those cattle only, that came from suspected districts. He would admit, as they now admitted into certain of their ports, freely as was now done in France, cattle coming from districts that were not suspected, and treat them in all respects as if they were English cattle. The First Lord of the Treasury had told them that this Bill might have been unnecessary but for the failure of the Privy Council to put the law into operation. He said, with regard to the other 1322 parts of the country, there was no difficulty in acting upon the powers of the Privy Council. It rested with the local authorities to set aside a place for the slaughter of cattle imported from the suspected districts; and if he understood the right hon. Gentleman rightly, it was impossible to get the local authorities in London to set aside such a place. His answer was, "Apply to Parliament for the necessary powers to deal with the special difficulties of London, and he was sure that even in the present Session, Parliament would give them those powers." [Lord ROBERT MONTAGU: Hear, hear !] The noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) seemed to say by his cheer that is what we are now doing. But they were really doing a great deal more, because they were compelling cattle from every foreign country, whether suspected or not, to come to one market; and if the disease broke out in that market they would no longer have the power to remove the market to another place. Why should they bind themselves by a rigid law to have only one market for foreign cattle, no matter whether those cattle came from a healthy or from an unhealthy place? If they did that be was satisfied that on the very first appearance of the cattle plague in their foreign market the Government would have to come to Parliament for the very power of which they were now depriving themselves. What was the objection to arming the Privy Council with the necessary powers? It was the prevailing belief that those powers would not be exercised with sufficient vigour and determination. His answer was, "So it always would be till they reformed these Departments." It was no more incumbent on the noble Lord as Vice President of the Council to have introduced this measure than any other Member of the Government. At the time that he (Mr. H. A. Bruce) was Under Secretary of the Home Department there was a great agitation in the country respecting the importation of cattle that were suffering from the disease of pleuro-pneumonia, and he remembered that the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), who was then Vice President of the Council, coming to the Home Office and stating that it was clear some measures ought to be taken on the subject, as the disease was committing great ravages; but that it was not for him, as Vice President of the Council on Education, to bring in the 1323 Bill. The Privy Council, he said, had the power of passing certain Orders which the Government might think for the good of the State, but had no administrative means within itself for giving effect to or carrying through Parliament legislation of that kind, which it was clearly the business of the Home Office to introduce. Then he (Mr. Bruce) received directions from the then Home Secretary (Sir George Grey) to bring in a Bill giving increased powers to the Privy Council in regard to the movement of cattle suffering from plenro-pneumonia; and he might mention that the principal opposition to it came from those Scotch and Irish Members who so highly approved of the present Bill. The language then used was—"What, would you give the Privy Council power to deprive Scotch and Irish cattle from entering England?" And yet only two or three years passed away when the rinderpest broke out, and then the Irish Members held a meeting, and called upon the Government to exercise those very powers they had before opposed to prevent English cattle being carried over to Ireland. He mentioned this to guard the House against the selfishness, he did not say of these Members, but of the districts they represented. So long as they had this large question not under the undivided responsibility of one Department, it could not, in the nature of things, be wisely managed. What ought now to be done was to give the fullest powers with respect to the importation of cattle to one Department, and to make that Department responsible to Parliament, and then there would be no fear that the law would not be put in force as it was in other countries. What was now being done in France, which was exposed to greater risk than we were? Did she insist on stopping all foreign cattle on her frontiers and having them slaughtered there? On the contrary, she admitted thorn freely; but, at the same time, she kept a vigilant look-out as to the health of the cattle in different parts of Europe, and was prepared at once to arrest the introduction of cattle from any country that was suspected; while, in the meantime, she opened up to the population a supply of food drawn from all quarters of the Continent. Why could not they do the same here? After the experience of the last few years in that matter, there was no fear that the Government would show any want of due vigilance or vigour, which would draw down on them a storm 1324 of indignation, that no Ministry would like to face. At the present moment the complaint was not that the regulations of the Privy Council were not effectual for their object, but that they were enforced with greater rigour than was necessary. For these reasons he objected to the Bill. Its objects could be more effectually obtained, and without injury to the consumer, by other means. Besides, the Bill was most imperfect. Why should they deal with one port alone, and not have one law for every port in the kingdom. Before long there might be a change of Government, which would remove the restrictions that now existed; and cattle would be imported freely into the ports of Hull, Newcastle, and Southampton, while the greatest restrictions prevailed in the port of London. What they wanted was one uniform system of legislation. They could not pass any measure elastic enough to suit the necessities of all parts of the country, and therefore they ought to give increased powers to the Privy Council, and see that the Council exercised those powers effectually.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the Bill would affect his constituency in two ways—first, as it attacked a portion of their trade, and one which they carried on to a considerable extent; and next, as it taxed their food. He was therefore desirous to learn what were the views of the Government on it. Though the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been good enough at length to address the House, he had carefully abstained from a single remark upon the two subjects which had been specially urged upon the attention of the Government. These two topics were the principle of public policy raised by the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson), and the question of finance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say one word on those topics. He (Mr. Ayrton) therefore found himself in as much difficulty as before in these respects. He did not approach this Bill in a spirit of hostility; from the first he had contended that the cattle trade should be dealt with by the joint action of town and country, and from the first he had protested against setting up distinctive interests. He had been called the father of the policy contained in the Bill; but if the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) had only acted on the suggestion which he made last Session, the House would not have been troubled with the difficulties in which it was now plunged. 1325 His object had all along been to secure as large a supply as possible of live cattle to the metropolis from the country as well as from abroad. The population of London, as the largest consumers of meat in proportion to their numbers of any population in the kingdom, required supplies of both kinds—home and foreign. The present difficulties and obstructions arose entirely from the course taken by the Vice President and his Colleagues. The Bill had not been properly described as a Bill to establish a foreign cattle market. No doubt the Bill established a market for the supply of the metropolis, yet the market was not to be in the metropolis. It also proposed an establishment for the slaughter of cattle; an establishment for the exclusive landing of all cattle landed within the port of London; so that any vessel coming from between Gravesend and London with cattle would be compelled to go to a particular pier. There were to be also quarantine stations and roads and railways. All the vessels were to go to one port, and all the cattle were to be taken out on one pier and there slaughtered, unless they had undergone the quarantine provided for by the Privy Council, in which case they might be removed. He had never proposed or suggested so large a measure as that. It was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, two years ago, had first launched the idea embodied in the Bill of slaughtering cattle at a particular spot on the Thames. He had divided the House against the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the House rejected it by a considerable majority. Since last year the Government had tried to embarrass the trade of cattle in the metropolis. Last year he had put a proposal on the Paper suggested to him by his constituents. It was a proposal for a market; but not to restrict the landing of cattle to any particular place. On investigating it, and believing it would act injuriously to trade, he declined to proceed with it. When that restrictive proposal was on the Paper the noble Lord made some comments upon it, and spoke of it as one that would involve the necessity of two markets that would destroy competition, and as a gigantic system of Protection. When the Bill came under consideration he had in the question of dealing with foreign cattle proposed an elastic clause in accordance with the views he had stated, and the language which he had used had been adopted in the Bill which bad actually passed. It proposed that 1326 the Metropolitan Board of Works, with the sanction of the ratepayers, should erect a market to which such foreign cattle should be taken as the Privy Council by Order might direct. That was the law which was passed last Session, and which was now in force. He argued that, there being power given under the Act of last Session to the Metropolitan Board to construct a market as soon as applied to by the Government, the application was not made as it ought to have been. His complaint was that the noble Lord did not and would not act upon the statute of last Session. Instead of carrying out a proper policy the noble Lord determined to carry out his own policy, that the market should be constructed by the City of London. They said they were willing, but naturally at once the Metropolitan Board said, "Go and get your market made by the City of London." The noble Lord soon found the difficulties that must result. He was embarked in an entirely new policy; a clause was passed that destroyed the rights of his constituents; compensation was claimed for those who had exercised wharfage rights for four years, and then the City of London said, "We will have nothing more to do with the Bill." He wanted to know from the Government in what position they were placed? Here was a Bill which proposed to do great things for the agricultural interest. There was a provision in the Bill to Appoint Commissioners; but there was no provision made for paying them. He was surprised that Gentlemen opposite should be so intent on making a profit of their beasts as to become the dupes of a measure which, while professing to give them everything, would really give them nothing. The Commissioners would have to purchase land at an enormous price; but where was the Aladdin's lamp which would procure them the necessary funds? Moreover, the object of the Bill would not be attained within four or five years. The powers of the Corporation of London would lapse after a year if they acquired no lands, or after three years if, having acquired lands, they took no further steps, so that for three years nothing would be done. Then a Commission without funds might be appointed, and after three years more their powers also would lapse. Now, he would put it to the Government and to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether it was worth while to proceed with a Bill of such a character? Hon. Members opposite perhaps imagined that if they got this Go- 1327 vernment to pass a Bill they would be able to get funds from another Government. Beyond the right of the Privy Council vetoing the incoming of foreign cattle supposed to carry the disease, he denied that restriction should exist. To implicate all the activity of foreign traders was simple stultification, and foreign Governments would be estopped from sanctioning the exportation of cattle. He asked hon. Gentlemen opposite not to send their "round robins" to the Ministry, to induce them to palm off this Bill, which stopped the very springs of commercial activity. He appealed to the opposite side on the grounds of public justice and public policy. ["Oh, oh !"] But his constituents were placed at a disadvantage in order to benefit the agricultural interest, and he altogether denied the justice of the attempt to make the port of London the scape-goat of other ports in the country. Probably, if any metropolitan boroughs returned Conservative Members, they would be able to prevail with the Government, as the Members for Liverpool had prevailed. But it was hopeless for the Government to expect from the intelligence of metropolitan constituencies the return of Conservative Members. This Bill could not pass in the present Session, for the requisite notices had not been given affecting private property. If even the Bill went up to the Lords, there must be a Committee on the subject, to consider the case of wharfingers and others whose rights were affected by the measure. As to the great question, whether the measure would raise the price of meat, Mr. Bloomfield Baker had stated before the Committee that the Government contracts alone would be increased by £1,000 per week if the Bill became law. But if this were so in the case of 30,000 or 40,000 soldiers, what would not be the result of the measure upon the food of the whole metropolis? On the ground of public policy, and in the interest of the general trade of the country, he hoped that the House would reject the measure.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I hope the House will come to a division upon this stage of the Bill. We have heard in this debate that this measure is the revival of Protection. Remembering that some of the speakers to whom I have listened are distinguished for their knowledge of political economy and their opposition to all artificial systems of restriction, I am surprised that that accusation should be made so freely. We have heard something also 1328 about a hustings' cry, and perhaps in the scarcity of the commodity on the other side this stale sarcasm may do as well as any other. Now this is not a question of protection; it is one of precaution. It is a question really between pestilence and precaution. It is a question whether, after the experience we have had of the fell disease to which our herds and flocks have been so fatally subject, it is necessary or desirable that we should adopt some precautionary policy, and whether, on the whole, the measure proposed by my noble Friend (Lord Robert Montagu) is not the most prudent and the most proper? Now it has been asked frequently in the course of this debate, "Why do you propose to do that for London which you do not propose to do for the other ports?" We do not propose to do it for the other ports because it is already done for them. Land has been purchased in those places, and by the clauses of the existing Act we have been able to bring about a state of things which we have not been able to bring about for London. And why not for London? Simply because you cannot avail yourselves of the penalty which was provided by the existing Act in order to enforce the arrangement. What was the penalty? That if in any of those ports they did not choose to purchase the land that was necessary, and establish separate markets, the Privy Council could prevent the importation of foreign cattle. Now, how could you do that in London when you have failed to establish markets, never mind from what cause. No one for a moment could contend that the Government could take upon itself to stop the importation of foreign cattle into London, which is 92 per cent of the gross amount imported. Therefore we have not under the existing Act the means by which we can bring about in London the same results as in the other ports, and it is because we want to legislate practically for the whole country that we ask you to give us those powers which are necessary. So much for the first question that has been asked me. Then there is the other question as to the financial position of the affair, which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Milner Gibson) has brought forward, and which the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) has adverted to. Now, we must remember that in the Committee on the Bill upstairs, the City of London proposed a tariff of tolls quite satisfactory to the Committee, and that tariff was accepted. Certain clauses were framed to 1329 carry the general arrangements into effect, and those clauses were accepted. So much, therefore, for the financial part of the question. But then a misunderstanding arose between the Corporation of the City of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works, and what was that misunderstanding really occasioned by? As far as I can collect it was a quarrel as to who should be entitled to the surplus profits of the scheme. Well, now, if there be a misunderstanding between those two bodies as to the question of surplus profits, I think there is primâ facie evidence that the scheme would be a paying one. It is therefore unnecessary to discussion in order to ascertain how the money is to be provided; but what we want to inquire into is whether it is necessary such an arrangement should be carried into effect; and that we shall be better able to discuss in a further stage of the Bill. What we have now to decide is, whether it is necessary for the public health and the general welfare of the country that a scheme of this kind should be adopted or not. And if it be our opinion that it ought to be adopted, there can be no doubt that means will be devised by which a measure absolutely necessary may be carried out. Then we are told that we are acting in a very different way from how they act in France; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bruce), who spoke with moderation and authority on the subject, greatly dilated on that topic. But there is very little similarity between France and England on this subject. The importation of foreign cattle into France is very moderate indeed; it is counted only by thousands while in this country it is counted by hundreds of thousands. In fact, France has no ports of importation, except from Algiers to Marseilles, and only two inlets into France for foreign cattle by two railways—the Lille and Sambre. The traffic in France can therefore be regulated with success; for, by the law of that country, everything goes to Paris, and the cattle on arriving there are slaughtered within a very limited period. Therefore the similarity of the circumstances alluded to, and the circumstances urged by the right hon. Gentleman to warn us from pursuing a different course in this country, ought not to have much influence or authority on the opinion of the House. I hope the House, having now discussed the question for some time, is prepared to come to some decision on the subject. The House, when in Committee, will have as opportunity of 1330 urging in detail any practical objections, and of then being practically considered. But the great point to be remembered by the House is that the state of affairs upon the subject is most unsatisfactory; that the system of Orders in Council, which I have heard advocated from quarters in which I should not have expected them to find much favour, is one that is attended with great disadvantage to the business of the country; and that not only agricultural pursuits but the commercial interchange of the country are extremely embarrassed and disturbed if the supply to the London market is limited—and considerably limited it is—by the system which exists. I do not think I have collected from any hon. Gentlemen that they are of opinion that the system can go on without considerable modifications. I trust therefore that dismissing from our minds such really idle considerations as that this plan is a revival of Protection; but looking at it as an attempt to establish a system of wise and necessary precaution, the House will now agree to go into Committee. It is absolutely necessary that Parliament should come to some decision upon the subject, and re-assure the public mind; and as the question is precaution against foreign pestilence, I hope the House will no longer delay coming to a vote upon it.
§ MR. BAZLEY
attempted to address the House; but, there being loud cries for a division, said he would move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Basley.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
I hope the hon. Gentleman will proceed with what he has got to say. I have myself been often received in that manner; but I found the House listened to me when I went on.
I should be very glad if my hon. Friend (Mr. Bazley) were disposed to withdraw his Motion for Adjournment. I am bound to say that in my opinion—especially after listening to the right hon. Gentleman—the financial part of the question has assumed an appearance still more formidable; and it is my intention to raise that question, if no other Member does so, on the Motion that you, Sir, do leave the Chair. With the extensive prospects opened out by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. Fordyce) that this is the beginning of a system of which we have had one or two specimens, in the town, of Hull; for example, and that 1331 it is intended to go around the country. [Lord ROBERT MOSTAGU: We can at present.] The noble Lord did not hear the Member for Aberdeenshire then. The right hon. Gentleman says that this is a measure absolutely necessary for the public welfare, and that consequently the means for defraying the charge must be found—if that be so, why should not the means come from the Consolidated Fund? The whole of this opens up a series of questions so important that a discussion must be had upon them. If my hon. Friend would allow me, as my right hon. Friend has raised the question upon the principle of the Bill to a considerable extent, and as hon. Gentleman opposite are anxious to have an expression of opinion upon it, I would suggest that he would not stand io their way.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he was not satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. He hoped that the Bill would be left to he dealt with by the new Parliament.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 191; Noes 82: Majority 109.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. BAZLEY
said, that while he disclaimed all intention to annoy Her Majesty's Government he should move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I trust the hon. Gentleman will not make that Motion. It will stop all the Business of the evening.
rose to ask what course the Government intended to take? He presumed, however, that after the division which had been just taken they would object to the adjournment of the debate. For his own part he should certainly not press the adjournment of the debate; but he wished to refer to a matter that had been hardly touched on by the Government. It had only been very briefly mentioned by the First Minister, and never until that speech was delivered. He should endeavour to set forth briefly what he had to say on that matter, in deference to the wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite. With 1332 regard to the general argument he should say very little, and should touch very briefly on the points that had been brought into view during the present evening. One of those appeared to be that Gentleman opposite had urged in argument that time was of the greatest importance to them in that matter, and that a great advantage was to be gained by pressing forward the present Bill under the circumstances in which they were at present placed. Now, it appeared to him that there was no ground for such a supposition. Under the Bill twelve months were allowed for choosing a site for the new market; but why was twelve months necessary for such a purpose? He ventured to think that if the Bill were discussed six months hence, and if six months only were to be allowed for the choice of a site, no time would really be lost. ["Committee !"] His argument, he might remark, did not refer to any particular clause; but to the expediency of pressing the Bill forward at the present time. He was afraid that the longer the discussion on this Bill was protracted the more it would assume the very invidious, not not to say odious, aspect of a battle of class interests. However much some hon. Gentlemen might exert themselves to divest it of that character, he was sorry to say that the language of others tended very much to give it that character; and when a new Parliament met, it would not be a graceful recollection of the last act of the old one that a measure of that kind was carried into effect that Session. He was persuaded that many hon. Gentlemen were urging forward this Bill under the honest belief that it was a measure of precaution, and he had no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perfectly sincere when he said that while there would be temporary inconveniences, the trade would soon be re-organized, and that matters would then go on as well as, if not better, than before. Such a prophecy would have been the more comforting but for the existence of certain facts relative to the effects of a similar system of precaution at Hull. Indeed, he was somewhat astonished that the case of Hull had not been mentioned either by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer or by the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown. He would therefore briefly re-capitulate the facts. In the first place, however, he must express his belief that the right hon. Gentleman at the Head of the Government was entirely wrong when he stated that the 1333 foreign cattle trade of the port of London was 92 per cent of the whole foreign cattle trade of the country. Of course he could not at the moment quote the precise figures; but his impression was that the out-port trade—to use the expression of the Customs—was about five-twelfths, and certainly more than four twelfths of the entire cattle trade. The right hon. Gentleman's argument therefore fell to the ground. Hull was a port which had a thriving and rapidly growing cattle trade. In 1864 it imported 30,000 cattle, 38,000 sheep and lambs, and 7,000 swine. The next year the figures were as follows:—41,000 cattle, 69,000 sheep and lambs, and 15,000 swine. In 1866 the precautionary measure came into effect, and the result was that the 41,000 cattle fell to 26,000, the 69,000 sheep and lambs to 48,000, and the 15,000 swine to 8,000. Nor was the effect of the measure of precaution then exhausted, for in 1867 the numbers were—17,000 cattle, 9,000 sheep and lambs, and under 4,000 swine. The figures for 1868 were of course incomplete; but he was told that at the present time the cattle trade of Hull exhibited in a yet more satisfactory manner the extreme efficacy of the precautions which had been taken. It was idle, therefore, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to suppose that by general prophecies and promises, which he would do his best to fulfil, he was to carry to disturbed, mistrustful minds any comfortable assurance that his expectations for London were to stand against the evidence of facts and figures already in their hands with respect to the case of Hull. He had no doubt that hon. Gentlemen were sincere when they said they did not want protection; but he apprehended that until the facts and figures he had quoted had been answered, it was clear that the operation of the measure would be something like the extinction of the foreign cattle trade. Such was the case with respect to the probable effect of the Bill on the supply of food, and his right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Bruce) had shown that the scientific evidence of veterinary surgeons proved it to be in a prominent degree worthless as a measure of precaution. Then came the question as to the efficacy of Privy Council regulations versus statutory restrictions; and why, he would ask, did the Government not enforce compulsory slaughter in the metropolis on their own responsibility, instead of asking the House to relieve them of that responsibility: 1334 and put itself in their place? He, for one, contended that the arrangement of proceeding by means of the Executive Government, subject to the control of Parliament, and the consequent revocation of errors that might arise, was one which was infinitely to be preferred to a rigid system of statutory restriction such as that which was urged on the acceptance of the House. Then they had further to consider the financial question, and if that question had had been formidable before they had heard the addresses of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, it was at present far more formidable. The case presented by the First Minister of the Crown was no case at all. The right hon. Gentleman at the Head of the Government invited the House to go into Committee to consider the subject in its financial aspect; but he must be permitted to say that no Government measure involving a large outlay had ever been dealt with in that way. It was the absolute duty of the Government, he maintained, to produce before the Speaker left the Chair their financial plan, to show what charge would be incurred under the operation of the Bill, and how that charge was to be met. The right hon. Gentleman sought to put the House off with generalities; but he felt assured that if the measure was passed in its present shape the question of finance would hereafter arise in one shape or another. What, be would ask, were the funds out of which the proposed market was to be supported? As things now stood, the cattle trade of the metropolis was concentrated in a single market, which represented but one source of expense. On the fund by which that market was supported it was, however, sought to throw a double charge, although it was not a fund which yielded a surplus, but one which, on the contrary, was encumbered with a deficiency of £7,000 a year. If that were so, how was the deficiency to be supplied and provision made for the additional charge which would be imposed if the Bill were to pass into a law? What were the sources from which it was conceivable the new charge could be met? It might, perhaps, be thought that it could be met by means of the dues on foreign cattle; but, so far as he could see, we could not levy one penny more on such cattle than on British cattle admitted to a British market. He was of that opinion because of the faith of treaties. A common stipulation in treaties 1335 was what was called the equality treatment, which had reference to dues and charges of all kinds. He recollected very well that in 1860, when the French Treaty was entered into, and it was contemplated to levy certain petty charges in the port of London, a special article had to be introduced to prevent their imposition. The Government, therefore, could not hope to raise the revenue required for the new market by taxing foreign at a higher rate than British cattle. The next source of revenue open to them was, as had been stated, the property of the City of London; but the citizens had, he believed, beyond all doubt, washed their hands of the Bill. He, for one, protested against the idea that the ratepayers of the metropolis were to be looked to to defray the necessary charges, and he did not suppose for a moment that they would willingly submit to any measure which would tend to limit the supply of food. The next source to which recourse might be had was the Consolidated Fund. The meaning of the statement of the Head of the Government that this was necessary for the public welfare, and that some means of getting the requisite money must be devised, was that the public must provide the money; and he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman contemplated getting those means from the Consolidated Fund? Another mode of getting at the treasure of the public was by way of guarantee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer shook his head, and he was glad to understand from the demeanour of the right hon. Gentleman that when he said there was to be no charge on the Consolidated Fund, he meant to include no direct or contingent charge by way of guarantee; but what was said by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) was strictly true—that Commissioners were to be set up without any money to bless themselves with. They were about to do that which had been done too often before—namely, to delude the farmers by professing to do wonderful things on their behalf, which, when put to the test, proved wholly futile. If it was intended to deal in an open and trustworthy manner with the agricultural interest, the financial part of the Bill must be made a reality. He hoped that the Government would give a clear statement of their intentions.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he regretted that when he before addressed the House he was not 1336 aware of the challenge that during his absence had been thrown out to him respecting the financial part of the measure. The points raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite are no doubt worthy of attention, and he would take them one by one. The right hon. Gentleman had asked why the Bill was pressed with such urgency? Why could it not stand over till next Session? Because, after it was passed, another Bill, founded upon it, would have to be introduced, giving powers for the acquisition of the site of the intended market; a provisional Motion would have to be passed, and notice to be given to the persons interested in the site. The right hon. Gentleman had next instanced the case of Hull, as an answer to the argument that the Bill would occasion a larger supply to the market. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed to the decline in the number of cattle, sheep, and swine imported into Hull as the consequence of the Order in Council, compelling beasts to be slaughtered at the place of lauding; but he had apparently forgotten that the Order applied only to cattle, and not to sheep, lambs, or swine, unless imported in the same vessel with cattle; and it was therefore plain that the Order in Council could not be held to be the cause of so serious a decline in the importations of Hull. The fact, he believed, was that the restrictive regulations of the various foreign Governments checked the importation from abroad, and also that the French ports during the period in question offered a better market to breeders; for even in London, where compulsory slaughter in a separate market was not enforced, the importation of cattle had fallen from 147,000 in 1864 to 125,000 in 1867. With regard to the financial part of the question, he observed that the Bill in its present shape was not the Bill as introduced by the Government. When the Bill was first introduced the City of London engaged to carry out its provisions, provided it had the tolls under Schedules of the Bill; but when the Bill went before the Select Committee the old rivalry between the Metropolitan Board of Works and the City of London broke out afresh. The surplus was, under the Bill, to go to the market authority; but in the Committee the Bill was altered so that the surplus should go to the reduction of the tolls. It was therefore no wonder that there should be some reluctance on the part of the City to carry out the Bill. But if the City declined to 1337 do so the Metropolitan Board would become the market authority. At the instigation of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), who was certainly not a supporter of the Bill, the clause relating to the City of London was struck out. That might be a proof of the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman; but it was certainly no reason why a charge should be brought against the Government with reference to the market authority. The view of his noble Friend (Lord Robert Montagu) who had charge of the Bill was to restore it to the shape in which it was when it went up to the Committee, so as to leave it to the City of London to receive the tolls as the market authority, and appropriate the surplus as they appropriated their other funds. But if they declined, the Metropolitan Board would become the market authority, and the surplus would go to them instead of to the reduction of tolls. Independently, therefore, of the Commissioners, they had here two responsible and important bodies, who, if they restored the Bill to its original shape, would be perfectly willing either of them to become the market authority. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Milner Gibson) very properly observed that they should not put higher tolls on animals imported under the provisions of this Bill than before. But so far from being higher the tolls were considerably lower. The tolls in the Schedule were 2s. 6d. per head instead of 5s. 11d., as in the metropolitan cattle market.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that was not so. Instead of being 5s. 11d. in the metropolitan cattle market, cattle under the same circumstances were only charged 3d. per head.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that was a question of fact which might be very easily settled. All he could say was, that if they passed this Bill as presented by the Government, there would be a perfect security that it would be properly carried out in the fact that the City of London would be willing to undertake it as the market authority. It was therefore idle for the right hon. Gentleman to say that financially the Bill would not hold water.
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire had advised the House not to delude the farmers, and he made a strong statement with respect to Hull, where what he called the foreign trade had been almost 1338 extinguished. But had not the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, with the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), urged the House to continue the very system of Privy Council Orders which the right hon. Gentleman said had all but extinguished the foreign trade at Hull? Was there not something to delude in that? And then as to the ratepayers of the City of London, were they not also deluded by having the extinction of trade put on them by the Privy Council Orders instead of by statute? Hon. Gentlemen talked of the fettering of trade; but was not trade fettered now? Was the time ever known when the people of the metropolis paid so large a price for their meat as they did now? And why was there such a large margin between the price paid to the producer and the price paid by the consumer? It was all very well for the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets and the Whitechapel butchers to talk upon this subject; but was there no delusion here? The very large difference between the wholesale and retail price of meat was owing to the restrictions which the Privy Council placed on trade. But it was said what was the use of passing this Bill when twelve months' notice was given for purchasing a site for the market? But why should these twelve months not be limited to six? That might be done in Committee. He believed all the financial difficulties might easily be cleared away. If not it would only show what remained to be done by the new Parliament. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire said they had no right to deal with such a question, for they were a dying body. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not seem to consider that when dealing with the Irish Church.
I never used the words the right hon. Gentleman is putting into my mouth, nor anything like them.
said, that if they had cleared away the difficulties in the path instead of uselessly protracting the debate by pressing the same speeches over and over again, they would either have carried the Bill through Committee by this time, or else have left it in a condition much more accessible to the legislation of the new Parliament.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, that the Orders of the Privy Council were sent temporarily, while the Bill would be permanent it its operation. With regard to the question of imports, the cause of the decline was the 1339 prohibition on importers to send surplus imports into the country, and the impossibility to regulate the supply to the wants of each particular port. If it were intended to erect the necessary buildings for only two years, they were incurring a monstrous outlay for a very small object. He condemned the Bill as one which would occasion great loss without possessing sufficient compensating advantages.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
made an appeal to the First Minister of the Crown. Seeing that the agriculturists of England, Ireland, and Scotland felt so strongly on this question, and seeing that the decision of the House had been marked so emphatically in favour of the Bill, he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to give his consent to postpone the prorogation of Parliament a sufficient time to enable this truly Protectionist measure to be proceeded with.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would now consent to the adjournment of the debate. The Statements which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister, and by the right hon. Gentlemen the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to the financial part of the Bill were such as to render a further discussion of the main principle of the Bill absolutely necessary. He was not averse to any reasonable arrangement in favour of the agricultural interest; but he protested against the extravagant clauses contained in the present Bill. He made the suggestion that the debate should be adjourned in order to save another division, and perhaps a long series of divisions.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he would have consented to an adjournment of the debate before the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) spoke. But as that right hon. Gentleman had had an opportunity of which he had availed himself of speaking upon the financial part of the Bill, and as his observations had been answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was really no reason whatever why the main principle of the Bill should be further discussed, and why the House should not at once go into Committee upon that Bill. He should certainly oppose the Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had replied to his right hon. Friend, but he had certainly not answered him—["Oh, oh !"]. He had given no answer to the question, where the funds 1340 were to come from to carry out the Bill, if the City and the Board of Works had no money, and were not empowered to borrow for the purpose. The question was left exactly as it was left when his right hon. Friend sat down.
§ MR. DE GREY
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) would consider favourably the appeal made to him by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berkshire (Sir Charles Russell) not to prorogue the Parliament till this measure was passed. Such a step, though it would be a sacrifice of time and trouble, would be appreciated by the country; and if the Bill were passed into a law this codicil to the will of a moribund Parliament would be a legacy gratefully acknowledged by all classes.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Bazley.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 55; Noes 155: Majority 100.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
said, they had been there for fourteen hours and had to meet again at two o'clock in the afternoon, and he therefore moved the adjournment of the House.
§ MR. DISRAELI
trusted that the House would not embark in these barren and distressing practices which they appeared likely to pursue. He hoped that after the very large majorities which had been in favour of going into Committee, the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Motion, particularly as those majorities were furnished not from that side of the House alone. He did not desire to say anything by way of menace; but if the hon. Gentleman persisted in these Motions, he should not continue to oppose them in the present jaded state of the House, more particularly as there was to be another Sitting that day. It was the usual practice of minorities to defer to the opinions of the majority, especially when that majority had been so large as it had been that evening; and he trusted, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman would not persevere in the course he was now adopting.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he had understood from the right hon. Gentleman that he would not have objected to the adjournment of the debate if it had been moved before the speech of his right hon. 1341 Friend the Member for South Lancashire had been delivered. ["Oh, oh !"] The right hon. Gentleman bad so stated and said so still. ["Oh !"] He trusted therefore that the hon. Gentleman would press his Motion.
said, he thought that both sides of the House should clearly understand the position in which they now were. The opponents of the measure should understand that those who supported it would go into Committee if they continued dividing till two o'clock to-morrow after noon.
said, he could tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Jervis) that he too would sit there, if necessary, till two o'clock to-morrow afternoon.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
pointed out to the opponents of the measure that they would be in no worse position if they permitted the Speaker to leave the Chair than they now were. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes, we shall; very much.] He trusted that for the sake of the character of the House the present factious proceedings would not be persisted in.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, it was not usual when there were Morning Sittings to discuss opposed Business at that hour. He hoped the First Minister would give some assurance that he would assent to an adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Cowen.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 131: Majority 93.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. CHEETHAM moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
complained that the Bill had been treated in a most discreditable manner by the Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, there were a number of Gentlemen who were determined to oppose the Bill at all hazards.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, he had felt strongly opposed to the Bill; but 1342 it had been fairly fought in all its stages, and further opposition to the Speaker's leaving the Chair ought now to be discontinued.
§ MR. AYRTON
called attention to the fact that the First Minister of the Crown had left the House, and asked who was in charge of the Business of the House.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that the Prime Minister was willing, supposing the House went into Committee, to report Progress at once, and fix the Bill for Monday.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Cheetham.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 30; Noes 130: Majority 100.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR moved the adjournment of the House.
asked what were the forms of the House. If necessary, those on the Ministerial side of the House would walk continually into the Lobbies till ten in the morning.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Peter Taylor.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 31; Noes 132: Majority 101.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. CANDLISH moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Candlish.)
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY
made an appeal to hon. Members opposite on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair. They were hardly treating him fairly by keeping him in the House at that late hour, mid he hoped they would not press the Motion for the adjournment.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he had intended rising to make a similar observation. If hon. Members had no consideration for themselves, they should at least have some consideration for the Speaker, who had, with the exception of the two hours between four and six, been practically in the Chair since twelve o'clock, and it was now twenty minutes to three.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he felt obliged to those Gentlemen who had made that appeal in his behalf. But he wished that hon. Members, without any reference to his convenience, should be guided by what they considered proper and suitable and becoming the dignity of the House.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
asked why the Irish Registration Bill had been placed after the Bill under discussion? The Irish Members had been pressed to wait for it; and why? Because it was known they were generally favourable to the Cattle Bill, and would, of course, support the Government. ["Oh. oh !"]
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he was quite ready to admit the opposition, which had been as industrious as the Government's; but he maintained that indirectly the effect had been as he had stated. He, however, recommended his hon. Friend (Mr. Candlish) not to press his Motion.
§ MR. CANDLISH
, reminding hon. Members opposite it would have been more consistent if they had consulted the Speaker's comfort hours before, withdrew his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee; House resumed; Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.