HC Deb 25 July 1868 vol 193 cc1775-81

Order for Committee read.


said, as his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated last night that, considering the great opposition that was offered to the measure, the Government had come to the determination of no longer asking hon. Members to put themselves to the inconvenience of attending the House for the further consideration of the Bill; he should, in accordance with that Resolution, move that the Older be discharged.


extremely regretted that the Bill was to be withdrawn; but, under the circumstances, he admitted that the Government had no other alternative than to give it up, considering the shortness of the time now at their disposal and the vigorous nature of the opposition to the measure. He had been taxed with being the author of the Bill; but he distinctly denied that such was the case. If he had been its author, he should have tried to make it a national and not a metropolitan measure; and if any compensation was to be paid he thought it should be paid out of the national Exchequer, instead of the payment being imposed on the metropolis. The Bill never was, in his opinion, a strong Bill; it was weakened in the Select Committee and rendered still more feeble in the House; but he hoped that the Vice President of the Council would not during the Recess listen to any request from any quarter to relax the present restrictions in the metropolitan area, if he wished to keep the cattle plague out of the country. With respect to two or three countries where rinderpest had never existed, he did not see why the same exception should not be extended to Denmark (proper), Sweden, and Norway, as had already been made in favour of Spain and Portugal.


said, that what had just fallen from the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Read) did justice to the views of those who opposed the Bill, because he had conceded the point they had been struggling for. It was only because the principle of the Act of last year was attempted to be departed from that the House became embarrassed by the course pursued by the Government. He was glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in withdrawing the Bill frankly recognized the grounds on which its opponents had thought right to discuss it, and admitted that the Government were not at first fully made aware of the true bearings of the case. With respect to the financial part of the scheme, it would have been a deplorable example, if Parliament had exercised its authority to confiscate property without providing compensation, and it was a great proof of the wisdom of the rules under which the Business of the House was conducted, that a minority, powerful in argument, reason, and justice—["Oh, oh!"]—could withstand any sudden impulse by which the majority were overtaken to carry a measure pregnant with injustice and wrong. ["Oh !"] The minority upon this question represented the majority of the people. ["No, no!"]


begged to suggest to the House whether it was desirable after the ample discussion that had taken place upon the Bill to further prolong it?


said, he should certainly protest against the manner in which the Bill had been withdrawn after the majorities which voted in its favour; and he protested the more so because it tended to confirm the suspicion which all along existed on the independent Conservative Benches that it was never intended that the Bill should pass. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) said the minority which opposed the Bill represented the majority of the people, but that was not so—on the contrary the hon. and learned Gentleman represented only the London importers and butchers. There was a very large majority of the people of this kingdom in favour of it. It had, too, with one exception, the support of the Irish Members, who were anxious to save the country from the recurrence of a calamity which had cost Great Britain it was said £12,000,000, and from which they had preserved themselves by their own exertions and determination. There was no force in the arguments which were directed against the principle of this measure, but it was opposed on the pretence that it was so badly drawn, it could not work, and that it threw expense on localities that were not fairly liable. But the Government could have easily improved any objectionable provisions, leaving the Bill sufficient for its purpose, and supplied the very small sum of money which it was clear from the statements made, that speculators would undertake it was but trifling, if indeed required at all. But supposing these objections to be well-founded it was clear that if the Bill had failed it had fallen through solely on account of its imperfect nature and the apathy of the promoters. Every expedient was resorted to to waste the time of the House, and iteration and re-iteration proceeded to such lengths that the hon. and learned Gentleman repeated the same sentence eleven times over. The hon. and learned Gentleman also counted out the House. Now, he (General Dunne) did not object to the tactics of the minority; but he did regret that the Bill should have had to be rejected on account of the incapacity with which it was framed.


thanked the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Read) for the advice which he had given to the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) with respect to relaxing the rule so far as to admit cattle from the countries where no plague existed, and he expressed a hope that it would be adopted by the noble Lord. He would nuclei take that, so far as it was in his power, there should be no stretch of any relaxations for an improper purpose at the port of Hull.


trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be induced to introduce a measure on this important subject next Session. As a Member of the Committee which sat for several days during the dog-days, and with what result they then saw, he would venture to say the great evil of their Bill was the very system of which the hon. Member for East Norfolk desired the extension; it was the fear lest the Privy Council should step in and relax the restrictions that indisposed the City Corporation to become the market authority. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer could levy a sum of one or two sovereigns upon every hon. Member who repeated his arguments, as had been done during the discussion of this Bill, he would soon have sufficient funds for the construction of the market.


observed that in the discussions of last night it became manifest that the present system was liable to the grossest imputations of malversation. Over and over again the Government were accused of jobbing; and that suspicion was inseparable from proceedings by Orders in Council. He expressed a hope that a Bill would be introduced upon this subject at the earliest possible period; and better framed and better financially supported than this had been. Legislation was necessary for the protection of this country against the cattle plague, which he was afraid was spreading on the Continent. It was of the greatest importance that protection in this country from rinderpest should be established by Act of Parliament, and not by Orders in Council. He hope that Government would not be discouraged by their present position, and would renew their attempt to establish efficient means of inspection, for which the natural position of the country gave every facility.


said, he could answer for his constituents that they would not abuse any relaxation of the existing rules which might be granted to them. On a former occasion he suggested the withdrawal of the Bill, because it would be impossible to work it. He felt gratified that the Government had come to that determination, and lie hoped it would be found that the powers at present possessed by the Privy Council would be found sufficient.


said, he hoped the Privy Council would not relax their regulations with regard to cattle during the Recess; and if the Government did not possess sufficiently stringent powers he hoped they would obtain them before they prorogued Parliament. When the rinderpest first broke out several deputations from Oxfordshire waited upon the Government, and they left with the impression that if they had the power they had not the inclination to put it into effect.


said, he could not allow the Motion for discharging the Order to pass without protesting in the strongest manner against such a proceeding on the part of the Government, and calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the absence of the Prime Minister, for an explanation of the extraordinary conduct which they had thought fit to pursue in the matter. He (Mr. Blake) considered' that he had a right quite as much as any one in the House to make this demand. He had supported the Government through out on the Bill, had remained up often until two, and even past three in the morning, to assist them; had laboured, and, he might add, successfully too, to induce Irish Liberal Members to swell the large majorities which they had on every division up to the very last. He was disappointed and surprised beyond description at the withdrawal of the Bill, when there was an absolute certainty that, if persevered in, it would be carried. He was thunderstruck when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced, at nearly four o'clock that morning, to a House of not a dozen Members, that Government had resolved to abandon the Bill. What the real reason for the Ministry taking this step was he was at a loss to divine. It was not on account of not having a majority to carry it, as they had even in the last division defeated their opponents by nearly 3 to 1. It was absurd to say that it was from an apprehension that persons having just claims to compensation would run any risk of not receiving it, as he was informed that persons of responsibility had undertaken to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to run all risk with regard to the market. Now that undertaking, of course, included every liability, compensation as well as everything else. ["Name !"] The Chancellor of the Exchequer knew who they were, and that they were good security for what they proposed, and he challenged him to deny the accuracy of the statement lie had made. He supported the Bill mainly because he thought it would prove a useful measure for Ireland. Irish cattle that came to London were placed in the same position as foreign cattle coming from diseased districts, and bad to be slaughtered in London often at a great loss to the owners, who, at times, could sell them at greater profit in some of the markets around London. It was thus a great disadvantage also to the English dealers, who were deprived of the opportunity of purchasing Irish cattle in the London market. If his assertion was correct—and he again demanded from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a direct answer as to whether it was or was not—the conduct of the Government was most reprehensible in sacrificing, without sufficient cause, a most useful measure, and in throwing over himself and others who had most gallantly fought for them. Unless the Chancellor properly explained the matter, he could assure him it would be a long time before he would support him on any question again.


wished only to make one suggestion, which he was sure the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) would take in good part—that if he drew up a new Bill, its provisions should be confined to cattle from suspected countries. If this were done there would very soon be no suspected countries. The two principal countries suspected were Holland and Prussia, both of which had a very valuable trade with us in their own cattle; and if they found that this trade was stopped because they allowed cattle from infected countries to pass through them, they would soon see the expediency of ceasing to do so. The proposed new market would then be superfluous, or could be made supplementary to the present market.


said, it was most unusual, on the Motion for the withdrawal of a Bill, that there should be a sustained debate on the subject of it. He should not have taken part in the discussion but for the observations of the hon. Member for Waterford. (Mr. Blake), and the hon. and gallant Member for Queen's County (General Dunne). It must be obvious to every impartial mind that the Government had used its most strenuous endeavours to carry through the Bill, and they had been driven at the last moment to abandon it from the insuperable obstacles which it had met with in its progress through the House. With reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Waterford, he stated last night that he understood parties were prepared to find the money for the construction of the market; but, in the communications he had with them, compensations were not included. Compensations were merely alluded to in that sort of conversation one beard in the Lobby. The City authorities declining to become the market authority, the financial difficulty assumed greater importance than before. The financial bearings of the measure were then very different from what they were when it went before the Committee. He repeated that every effort had been made to carry the Bill, and the suspicions which his hon. and gallant Friend (General Dunne) had expressed as to the want of sincerity on the part of the Government were in this case wholly unfounded.


was as much surprised as anyone could be at the withdrawal of the Bill, but, At the same time, he must say that the Government had fought the battle both ably and manfully. He hoped it would go to the country who were the parties who had obstructed the Bill. It was most unjust to charge those who approved of the Rill of a desire to increase the price of meat; no such intention had ever been entertained, and it was unfair and unjust to make such statements. The Bill was rendered necessary from a fear of the return of the disease to this country.

Order discharged.

Bill withdrawn.