HC Deb 02 June 1871 vol 206 cc1481-99

rose to call attention to the operation of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act and the recent Orders relating to Foreign Stock, and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the cost, constitution, and working of the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council. Since he had given Notice of his Motion, he had slightly altered its terms in consequence of the evidence given before the Sanitary Commissioners, and also in consequence of the Returns moved for in February last by the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) not having been presented to the House. He begged, in the first place, to offer an apology to Dr. Williams for having spoken of him as the secretary instead of the director of a defunct company, and to state his belief that he was a well-educated gentleman who was well fitted to hold his present post, although he had received no special training for it. In August, 1865, the present Veterinary Department of the Privy Council was established under the name of the Cattle Plague Department, and Dr. Williams was appointed secretary to it. In its earlier days that Department was renowned for its expensiveness and for its injustice in attempting to kill the cattle of the farmers without awarding them any compensation. In the same year Dr. Williams was replaced by Colonel Harness, and the business that the Department had to get through then was very heavy, there being 5,000 or 6,000 cases of cattle plague weekly at that time. At the end of the year 1866, Colonel Harness was promoted to some other office, and Dr. Williams, who had been quietly shelved in the sinecure berth of medical adviser to this office at £600 a-year; again became the secretary of the Department. For the next two or three years the office had very little to do, and of the 1,500 letters a-day which Mr. Helps stated were received then, nearly 1,000 contained nil Returns from inspectors. The Cattle Plague Report, which he knew had been nearly completed in 1867, was not presented to that House until 1870, by which time it had lost all interest, people having then almost forgotten the existence of the cattle plague. During that period, a few cases of compensation had to be determined by the Department, but an immense amount of trouble was occasioned by the difficulty of forcing a small modicum of justice from it. A certain number of statistical papers had been prepared by the Department, at his (Mr. C. S. Read's) suggestion, for the use of the Metropolitan Cattle Market Committee which sat in 1868, and since then the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act had been passed, and it might now be taken that the Department was a permanent Government office. Although it had been officially stated that the Department was not to be regarded as a permanent one, it appeared that within the last few months the secretary and three or four of the clerks in it had been placed upon the permanent civil list, with, he supposed, a claim to pension and to compensation in the event of their office being abolished. What had the office done for the country? If they asked the meaning of an Act of Parliament, they were invariably told it was not the business of the Department to interpret Acts of Parliament. If they asked for an opinion relating to their Orders, which were issued from time to time, they got the most indefinite and unsatisfactory reply; and if they asked for advice they seldom got it. Not a single suggestion had emanated from them as to the best means of getting rid of or curing disease. Not a single piece of preventive advice had been given, and the office seemed only to know of the existence of two words—"isolation" and "slaughter." Now, though the barbarous pole-axe might be considered good against the cattle plague, he (Mr. C. S. Read) thought that in cases of slighter diseases it was undignified to resort to it, and against the scientific spirit of the age in which they lived. They had published only one Report, and that Report was incubating for three years before it was produced. The Department could not be regarded as of any value as a veterinary department; it was simply a rule-of-thumb police office, with red tape Orders, and no end of schedules, with the maximum of inconvenience inflicted upon the owners of the stock, and the minimum of good results. The duties of the Department were now only to collect statistics of the metropolitan market; but they were published weekly by the clerk of the market in all the newspapers; to take notice of the importation of foreign cattle which was recorded by the Custom House and the Board of Trade; and during the last few weeks this Department had undertaken the inspection of landing foreign stock. So that the credit of keeping out the rinderpest was due to the Custom House, and not to this department of the Privy Council. A clause was inserted in the Act to compel Returns being made of the number of foreign cattle suffering from disease when landed, and which had to be killed. The number averaged from 10 to 20 a month, and the work was not sufficient to occupy a clerk more than one day a-week; and with regard to defining the ports at which cattle were to be landed, that was done by extra assistance employed for that purpose. The department had to send out forms to the local authorities relative to pleuro-pneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, and scab—and they did it to perfection, if inundating the inspectors with forms was any criterion. They were printed in all kinds of colours, blue, red, and green, and the inspector had to make triplicate Returns whether disease existed or not in the district. And when they were sent to the head Department they did not appear to be totalled, because when he moved for Returns on a former occasion, a most imperfect table was the result. The Reports of the condition of foreign districts as to the state of the health, of the stock were occasionally forwarded to the Department, but they were never published. A small staff of veterinary surgeons and others were employed for the purpose of reporting on the transfer of animals by land and sea; and he was informed, though he could scarcely credit it, that the Law Officer of the Crown was paid £1,000 a-year for drawing up the necessary Orders in Council. The correspondence, exclusive of Returns, must be very little, because the letters during this easy-going time did not average more than 12 a-day. Last evening they voted in Committee £12,000 towards the expenses of this Department, which, exclusive of law, stationery, and printing, had cost something like £75,000, or about £100,000 in all. The secretary was stated in the Estimates to receive £800 a-year, but a foot-note would show that he really received £1,000, £200 additional being given him for "personal allowance." The chief clerk, who a short time since had been in the receipt of £200, rising by £20 a-year, had made a sudden jump to £600. He was a very good fellow, who had married a relative of his (Mr. C. S. Read's), and he was glad he had so comfortable a berth, and hoped he would keep it. In all, there were 46 persons in the office; but a man like Professor Simonds, with 8 or 10 clerks, would perform the work better than at present, and the Department would receive greater confidence of the public and the veterinary profession than they now enjoyed. The Department for Public Health in the Privy Council Office was presided over by a gentleman with six assistants, and it was surprising that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not put his hand on the Department in question, and saved £5,000 or £6,000 per annum, and, at the same time, improved its efficiency. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had, by introducing the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, instead of passing a strict sanitary law applying to the importation of cattle, made a double-thumb-screw for himself. The farmers of this country soon gave it a turn, but he appeared to take little notice of it; but, on the other hand, the butchers of the North and the foreign salesmen formed a powerful body, and they certainly had wrung something from him. The other day a number of those gentlemen called upon the right hon. Gentleman and asked him why he allowed the importation of foreign cattle at Thames Haven, and then their being taken 35 miles through the rich grazing land of Essex, and refused them being landed at Hull and taken 55 miles into Leeds? He did not know what answer the right hon. Gentleman gave to them; but he had no doubt he satisfied them, though he (Mr. C. S. Read) would have found some difficulty in justifying the Thames Haven Order. Many persons could not understand why the foot-and-mouth disease was included in this Act, and he undertook to say that if Professor Simonds had been asked he would not have advised it; but it was no doubt inserted at the instance of the Veterinary Department, or that office would have been at an end before this time. As soon as the Cattle Diseases Act was passed tons of forms were sent out by the Department to the different inspectors accompanied by books full of instructions; but they did not take the trouble, and they had not the courtesy, to tell the local authorities what they had done. For some four weeks the veterinary surgeons in Norfolk worked away and incurred expense in searching for cases of foot-and-mouth disease; but to this day they had never been paid, for the first act of the Quarter Sessions was to cancel their appointments and to send them for their remuneration to the Department that had given the instructions. He did not think lightly of the foot-and-mouth disease; on the contrary, he never wished to see it again, and Professor Gamgee said, in 1868, that they would keep clear of it unless they had it imported afresh from abroad. In 1869, however, although it was known the foot-and-mouth disease was prevalent on the Continent, the Orders were relaxed with regard to the importation of sheep, and the consequence was that the disease again spread like wildfire over the country. In Norfolk, 9 out of every 10 head of stock had it, and as it was computed there were 120,000 head of cattle in the county, and that the loss was at least £1 per head; the farmers of that county lost £120,000 by that attack. He did not agree with Mr. Mill, and those philosophers who told them that farmers recouped themselves by the high price of meat, because it was a fact that farmers would rather have moderate prices and healthy stock than high prices and diseased stock. He advocated, when the Bill was before the House, the introduction of very sharp and stringent home regulations; but he did so on the understanding that foreign cattle should be killed at the outports. The farmers were ready to submit to any restrictions, provided they were protected from the probability of foreign diseases. On the 10th of February, in Norfolk, of a herd of 40 cattle, six were attacked with pleuro-pneumonia. They were separated from the rest. They all recovered except one, and that one had an attack of chronic pleuro-pneumonia which lasted until the end of May. The owner had exhausted his hay and roots, and was not allowed to move his stock because his farm was an infected spot. That one bullock in consequence cost the county a large sum. He would not die, he would not recover, and the owner would not kill him, and the inspector having to visit him every week had to be paid for his time and his mileage. But foreign stock might and did mix with diseased animals on the other side. He said so because in May there were two cases of pleuro-pneumonia in different ships, and so advanced was the disease that the authorities had the carcases of the animals destroyed. A recent Order said the stock from Holland might come over here, and after 12 hours' quarantine might go over the whole country. His right hon. Friend might say that since the relaxation of the Orders there had been an immense importation from Holland. But the reason was because Holland was suffering from a cold spring, the farmers there had no hay, and therefore they were sending over here a large quantity of store stock. His right hon. Friend might say that he had appointed an inspector at the other side of the water; but the inspector could not detect infection in its incubation, and he contended it was cruel to our farmers that they should not be allowed to remove a bullock attacked with pleuro-pneumonia until after the expiration of 30 days, and that foreigners should be able to remove theirs after 12 hours' quarantine. His right hon. Friend had said the other day that Holland was free from disease, meaning, no doubt, the cattle plague, for he could not have meant pleuro-pneumonia. In North Holland alone, from the 19th of March to the 22nd of April, 45 cattle died of this last disease, 206 affected by it were killed, 138 recovered, and 94 were left ill, making a total of 483 in that small Province, from which we were to receive our Dutch cows and store stock. Mr. Kilby, of Yorkshire, had sent out 4,000 circulars to the principal agriculturists of this country, asking for their experiences of the loss of stock during the last 30 years, and had also applied to some gentlemen in Wales and Scotland. He found that in some of the Northern districts of Scotland, and the remote counties of Wales, they had no case whatever of foot-and-mouth disease or of pleuro-pneumonia. Did not that show most distinctly that these were foreign diseases, because there was the same atmosphere in one part of the country as in another, and the cattle received, if anything, more severe treatment in those remote districts? In the breeding counties, Mr. Kilby found that the losses were 25 per cent from lung disease, and 33 per cent from foot-and-mouth disease; while in the grazing counties the losses were—from lung disease 90, and from foot-and-mouth disease 78 per cent, or 168 per cent in all, showing that it was by the transit and mixing of cattle these dangerous diseases were propagated. In 1868 we had 3,769,000 cattle, worth about £56,000,000 Well, the losses in 30 years amounted to £83,000,000, or nearly once and a-half the worth of the whole stock in 1868. So that a man in England during the last 30 years who had 20 head of stock lost the value of one every twelve months. As regarded Norfolk, that was considerably under the mark, and his own (Mr. C. S. Read's) losses had been very much more. Now, for the sake of 184,000 head of stock—which was the average importation of the last four years—we exposed 9,000,000 of cattle in this country to foreign diseases; and for 560,000 head of sheep—the average importation of the last four years—we exposed 34,000,000 of our sheep to foreign disorders. The consequence was that the price of meat to the consumers had been increased. Whatever might be the case with corn, the consumers of meat in this country had to look to the home supplies. According to the agricultural and official Returns of the Board of Trade, the total home supplies of meat for the years 1867, 1868, 1869, and 1870, were 4,856,922 tons, or on an average per year 1,214,230 tons. The foreign supplies for the same period were—of live stock 56,210 tons, and of dead meat almost exactly the same amount, or 56,724 tons. The percentage of the home supply, therefore, was 91½ as against 4¼ of live stock and 4½ of dead meat from foreign countries. He could not understand why Belgium, where no cattle plague existed, was scheduled, and why the right hon. Gentleman, on the other hand, allowed the direct importation of cattle from Russia. The other day a cargo of beasts came direct from a Russian port whence the plague was imported in 1865. It came to the Victoria Docks, and after 12 hours the beasts were sent to the Metropolitan Cattle Market. They mixed with foreign sheep both at the railway station and in the market, and although he might be told the latter were not allowed to leave the market alive, he was sure they sometimes did so. Another cargo of beasts came from Hamburg; but they were imported from Russia through Germany. They arrived with some sheep at Brown's Wharf, and those very sheep went into the Provinces. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had extemporized a temporary water-side market, and Mr. Odams, who spent £12,000 in fitting it up, had not been very well used by the authorities. He provided a very good and sufficient place, and when more accommodation was wanted he was asked whether he would provide it. Mr. Odams thereupon spent £1,200 more in making sheds, &c.; but in a fortnight the Order was rescinded, and the whole of the stock for which this accommodation had been provided was allowed to go to the Metropolitan Cattle Market. The state of the foreign cattle market which was to arise at Dead Man's Wharf would, he trusted, receive the attention of his right hon. Friend. The Corporation of London, after doing little or nothing hitherto, had now built a wall to separate 20 acres of land from the Victualling Yard, Deptford. If, however, the new market were not ready by January 1st, 1872, the Corporation would lose the monopoly of the market, and he hoped his right hon. Friend would insist on the Corporation keeping to their part of the bargain. He wished the right hon. Gentleman had kept to the temporary market, and withdrawn the cordon, so that the inhabitants of Brighton and other places might have the advantage of coming to London and buying their stock. The House ought to encourage the carriage of dead meat for the sake not only of economy, but humanity; and it was a shame and disgrace to a civilized country that such slaughter-houses as those we had in London should exist. A dead sheep might be sent into Staffordshire for 10d., and from London to Manchester for 1s. a-head, including the skin and offal. Even lamb—that most perishable and delicate meat—he had himself been sending this week to the London market. He believed that instead of an hon. Member of that House going bawling about the country and calling for economy, it was far better to put his finger in that House upon some item of extravagant expenditure with which he might be acquainted. He trusted that the House would grant the inquiry for which he asked. It need only be a short one. Three or four sittings of the Committee would be sufficient either to prove or disprove the case. The hon. Member concluded by moving for the Select Committee of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, he could endorse two statement made by his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read). The first was, that a veterinary surgeon ought to be at the head of this Department of the Privy Council; and the next was that the foot-and-mouth disease ought not to have been included in the Act. The question of cattle plague contagion was one of equal importance to the consumer and producer. He believed that if the losses sustained by the diseases of imported cattle were ascertained, it would be found that the price of meat had been raised in consequence 1d. per pound to the consumer. He knew that, as a breeder of cattle, he would rather sell at 2d. per pound less than receive the present high prices, and must say it was the exceedingly small stock of cattle in the country which kept up the price; and that nothing but getting rid of the disease would bring down the price of meat to its normal state. Foreign cattle should be killed at waterside markets, and store cattle should be kept out altogether; while as to the 12 hours' quarantine, it was of no use at all. He could confirm what his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk had said as to the cattle in Wales being free from disease; and he (Colonel Corbett), too, was of opinion that if no disease were imported he believed their cattle would be entirely free from disease.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the cost, constitution, and working of the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council,"—(Mr. Clare Read,) —instead thereof.

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


said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) had made a severe attack on the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council; but he (Mr. Bright) was not concerned in defending the Privy Council, and was of opinion that every Department of State realized considerable advantages from being attacked. The hon. Member complained very much that the British farmer suffered from the Cattle Diseases Bill, and that he could not remove his cattle from one place to another. Now, he (Mr. Bright) would assist him or anyone else in removing unnecessary restrictions; but when the farmer came to the general question of the importation of cattle, he (Mr. Bright) differed from him in toto. The hon. Member would have all cattle coming into this country slaughtered at the ship's side. That would make a very considerable difference in the amount of cattle imported. There was not a greater risk of importing disease than of spreading it by the removal of cattle. The hon. Member said that only 10 per cent of our meat came from abroad, and that for this quantity it was not well to risk the health of all the cattle in the country. But 10 per cent was a large proportion; it was the whole consumption in the country for five or six weeks in the year, and the quantity was sufficient to materially affect the price in the market. The hon. Member also spoke of the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council as being most uncomfortable: granted. The strength of the agriculturists in that House was enormous; but there was another strength outside the House. Many deputations from the large towns had waited upon the right hon. Gentleman with reference to this subject, and, to a certain extent, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that these deputations were promoted by the butchers was true; but that circumstance only proved that, in the opinion of the butchers, the restrictions upon the importation of cattle very much diminished the number of cattle for slaughter, and therefore injured their business. What they wanted was to have more meat to sell, and to his mind, it was a most significant fact that the butchers were the men to take up this question. That they would be more and more supported by the public at large he felt convinced would be the case in consequence of the high price of meat. The deputation which recently came up to town, and which he had accompanied in their visit to the right hon. Gentleman, stated that, as it was legal to bring foreign cattle to London through an agricultural district of 40 miles in extent, it was only right that Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and other large towns should enjoy the same privilege. They were told that the cordon around London prevented cattle from leaving London; but they proposed to meet the difficulty by having the cattle brought into large towns killed at slaughter-houses within those towns. There might be some difficulties in the way; but many gentlemen who were conversant with the subject declared it to be quite possible to import cattle on those terms without introducing disease. If the Department felt themselves unable to grant the terms asked, the next thing that these large towns would ask for would be to have free trade permitted with every non-infected country, subject to the best inspection which could be supplied by the Government. The tendency of meat to rise in price went to show that the people of the country grew faster than the cattle, and if that were so the question of these restrictions would have to be discussed hand-in-hand with the Game Laws; for if they were to have great restrictions placed upon the importation of cattle they ought to reduce their game preserving, and so increase their own power of breeding and feeding cattle at home. He hoped the Vice President would bear in mind that there was throughout the country a demand for a greater liberty of importation. Coming from Cheshire, he knew the great burdens that had been cast on town populations in consequence of the cattle plague, and while those people were as anxious as the hon. Member for South Norfolk to prevent the spread of disease, they also desired to obtain that animal food which was to them a necessary of life. If restrictions were carried too far, the result would be that at some time they would be wholly abolished.


said, he could understand that the inhabitants of towns were anxious for the removal of restrictions on the importation of cattle, because they believed that that step would enable them to obtain their meat on cheaper terms; but it should be remembered that the present price of meat was not entirely owing to the restrictions on the importation of animals, since of the present meat supply 91½ per cent was derived from home sources, 4¼ per cent was the flesh of animals that were imported alive, and the remaining 4¼ per cent was imported dead meat. Those who were interested in this matter did not desire to impose any restrictions beyond those that were absolutely necessary; but they asked that, whenever there was any suspicion of disease, the animals imported should be slaughtered at the port at which they arrived, and such a step they considered necessary as a safeguard. In his opinion, the increased price of meat was chiefly owing to the fact that during the last two seasons, in consequence of the excessive drought, there had not been a good supply of that food which home stock required for their sustenance.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present. House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


, resuming, said, that in the county to which he belonged, for several years there had existed a committee, upon which he had been engaged, to prevent the importation of cattle from one county to another, and a cordon had been drawn which imposed restrictions which were at one time relaxed; but it was found necessary to re-impose them as a measure of self-defence; and the local authorities only asked that their acts should not be invalidated by its being permitted to import without restriction cattle which came from countries where it was known that disease had prevailed to an alarming extent.


said, that although the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. C. S. Read) had made a severe attack on the Department with which he was connected, he did not regret that the subject had been brought before the House, although he could not admit that his hon. Friend had made out a case for a Committee of Inquiry, the appointment of which would imply some degree of censure. A complaint had been made that the Department was needlessly costly, and that a greater number of clerks were employed than was necessary. Now that was a great mistake. During the time that he had held his present position he had never heard any complaint that the Department had not sufficient to do with respect to the cattle plague. With regard to Dr. Williams, the permanent head of the Department, he could only say that he never met with any official more desirous of discharging his duty, or better qualified to do so, and he had always found that gentleman of the greatest possible service. Very shortly after his own appointment as Vice President, the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act was passed, and a considerable staff was necessary to work it effectively. The Department had two things to consider—first, what could be done to prevent the spread of foreign disease; and, secondly, what could be done to prevent the spread of home disease. The first of these duties the Government did attempt to carry out with regard to the cattle plague and with regard to the sheep-pox, but no attempt was made to check the spread of home disease. Any attempt to fulfil such an object compelled the Department to have a large and responsible staff, for the interference with foreign imports was one of the most serious duties that could be imposed on a Government, and when it became the duty of the Government to put restrictions on a trade concerning the main part of the food of the people, it was essential to have a responsible and intelligent staff, capable of giving good advice and of obtaining all necessary information from day to day as to the spread of disease both at home and abroad. With regard to the attempt to prevent the spread of home disease, that was a new duty, and the size of the staff was consequent on the attempt. The number of local authorities in the country was 404; there were 1,180 inspectors in England and Wales alone; and the Department was daily brought into communication with these local authorities. The Department, like all other Departments of the Government, did not attempt to interpret the law, because they had no legal power to do so; and if they did attempt it they might only mislead those who applied to them; but cases constantly went before them, and the correspondence they carried on was really enormous. He did not suppose that his hon. Friend's objection was that the Office had nothing to do, but rather that what was done had better have been left undone, and that the policy they had adopted, and the Orders they had issued, were the real grounds of offence. His (Mr. Forster's), position was a rather unpleasant one, being, as it were, between two fires; but perhaps it would have been still more unpleasant if he had had a pressure from one side, which he ought to have resisted, with no pressure from the other side to anable him to resist it. It was his duty to consider what was intended by the Legislature when the Act was passed, and how he could best serve the country by carrying out that Act; and he could honestly state that he had simply and solely endeavoured, irrespective of Parliamentary strength on one side or the other, to consider how the Act ought really to be carried out. But they did not prevent the full and fair consideration of the different interests involved. With regard to the foreign importations, the principle upon which the Act was passed was, that there should be such restrictions upon the import of foreign cattle as would prevent the spread of disease. His hon. Friend had spoken of the advisability of having all cattle slaughtered at the port of landing; but when the Act was passed the feeling of the House was decidedly against that, and the principle adopted was that only such cattle as were considered dangerous should be slaughtered at the port of landing. When the Act was passed, the Department scheduled such countries as were considered dangerous; considering those countries dangerous from which there was a possibility of importing animals infected either with cattle plague or with the sheep-pox. The countries scheduled were Germany, Holland, Russia, Belgium, and the Eastern Provinces; and they were scheduled not so much because the Government were afraid of importing cattle reared in those countries, but because they had no security that those countries would not be the means of transmitting really dangerous cattle from the Eastern Steppes, from the borders of Poland, from the Principalities, and from Russia. The only countries left open for some time were France, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark. But then came the late war, which obliged the Government to increase the restrictive orders very much, and to shut out France as well as the other countries; to have German cattle slaughtered on the north side of London, instead of sending them to the metropolitan market; and to prohibit importation from France and Belgium. These Orders, for which the Department deserved some credit, could not have been issued unless the Office had had a responsible department to give information as to the facts of the case; and as the Orders necessarily raised the price of food, nothing but a feeling of necessity induced the Office to issue them. The war, as far as Germany was concerned, was now entirely over, and that circumstance had enabled the Office to put Germany back again into the position in which it stood before the war. In the next place it was thought—and this he believed was the real cause of offence to his hon. Friend—that the time had arrived when Dutch cattle might be safely introduced. Last year the import of Dutch cattle was somewhere about 70,000 or 80,000, and of German cattle somewhere about 50,000 or 60,000 and for some time past there had been no cattle plague in Holland, the restrictions to prevent its spreading in that country being well devised; but as there was a danger that Steppe cattle might come through Rotterdam, the Dutch Government were told, when they asked that the restrictions on the import of Dutch cattle into this country might be taken off, that there was risk in allowing cattle to be imported from Rotterdam, and the result was that the Dutch passed a law prohibiting the import of sheep and cattle into Holland, and promising to give notice before the law was changed. When that law had been in operation for two or three months, Her Majesty's Government took off the restriction from Dutch cattle, which they had not felt justified in taking off before they found that the new Dutch law was successfully carried out, inasmuch as the cattle plague was raging around Holland, and in Belgium and France. It might be argued that the Government seemed only to have considered it their duty to keep off the cattle plague and sheep-pox, and that they had not thought it necessary to take precautions against the spread of pleuro-pneumonia, and the foot-and-mouth disease. But pleuro-pneumonia, though dangerous, was not so dangerous as the cattle plague, and it was, moreover, a disease already in the country, there being scarcely a county in England in which it was not prevalent; and it was too much to say that all Dutch cattle should be slaughtered on landing, because in Holland, as in England, pleuro-pneumonia was to be found. No doubt there should be stringent regulations with regard to inspection, and that no animals should be allowed to be introduced into this country which came with pleuro-pneumonia. And what were the regulations? The regulations with regard to pleuro-pneumonia were that if in any ship coming from Holland, or any foreign country, there was any animal affected with the disease, not merely the animal should be killed, but the whole cargo should be slaughtered at once, and not allowed to go to the metropolitan market or into the interior. Foreign cattle, therefore, were liable to even more stringent regulations than home cattle, because there was no power under the Act to slaughter a whole herd at home because one of the animals suffered from pleuro-pneumonia. That was going as far as he thought they were justified in going. It was rather remarkable that soon after this Order three cases of pleuro-pneumonia had occurred in two cargoes from Holland. The Dutch Government were immediately communicated with on the subject, and told they should take the greatest precautions to prevent the recurrence of such cases. They had taken the greatest possible precautions, and he believed they had been effectual. The regulations enforced were of the most stringent character. No cattle were allowed to be shipped without previous examination by veterinary surgeons—to be conducted between sunrise and sunset. The General Steam Navigation Company had also taken up the subject, and it was their interest to see that the regulations were strictly enforced; for the trade in cattle between Holland and this country was a most important one. Still, he did not think they were justified in restricting the Dutch trade in cattle on account of Holland being in the same position as this country with regard to pleuro-pneumonia; while the regulations in force did practically prevent pleuro-pneumonia being introduced by Dutch animals. Then, on the other hand, he was urged by his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) to let in the German cattle for the benefit of the large towns as we did the Dutch, under certain regulations. And the hon. Member had referred to Thames Haven, as an instance of the feasibility of complying with his wishes. But the position of Thames Haven was widely different from that of Hull, and it would be exceedingly difficult to draw a cordon round those large towns, to give the same security as existed in London. Nevertheless, he thought the representations made by the deputation to which his hon. Friend had alluded deserved the most careful consideration of the Government, and he acknowledged he had postponed a final decision on that subject, expecting the arrival of Earl De Grey within two or three days, when he should be glad to have his counsel and assistance in the matter. In the meantime, he was glad to find that the representations of the hon. Member appeared to have found favour with his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk. [Mr. C. S. READ: No, no!] At all events, his hon. Friend did not seem to think any great danger would result from the adoption of the suggestion. Now, with reference to home diseases, his hon. Friend seemed to think that all their efforts to check them had been useless. But there had not yet been time fully to test the value of their regulations. He did not think that in a couple of years they could gain statistics that could be of very much value with regard to such a difficult matter as the spread of disease among the cattle of this country. It had taken some weeks or months before the local authorities could thoroughly work the Act, for in some places there had been a strenuous endeavour to carry it out; in others, there had been apathy and opposition. So far as they could get any information, it was very much in favour of the working of the Act. There had been in 26 weeks ending March 6, 1870, 775 outbreaks of pleuro-pneumonia, and in the corresponding weeks of 1871 the outbreaks were only 514. Of the 47 divisions in England and Wales there were 16, in which during six months of 1869–70 the outbreaks had been 603; and in the corresponding period of 1870–71 the outbreaks were only 379. In 15 others there was a diminution, and a considerable diminution. There was only one county in which there had been an increase—from 104 to 112, and that was the county of Norfolk, where there had been more opposition to the carrying out of the Act than in any other county. In fact, it was not till November, 1869, that any inspector had been appointed there, and nine were then appointed for the county and two for the boroughs. Suffolk had 42 inspectors, selected from the police; the decrease of the disease there had been greater than in Norfolk, and the expense of working had been less—£253, as compared with £841, the cost of working Norfolk. It was found that inspectors taken from the police, assisted by one or two veterinary officers, answered better than a large staff of veterinary inspectors. His hon. Friend alluded to the way Mr. Odams was treated in regard to the waterside market. But he had never been asked to supply the market. He found it to his advantage to do so, and he made all provisions in the most entire understanding from the Office and himself that the arrangement would be temporary. As to not giving him information beforehand, the fault rested with him (Mr. Forster); for he always directed Dr. Williams to let no Orders be known until they appeared in The Gazette. He thought no case had been made out against the Department, and his opinion in regard to the Act was that the cost entailed was worth while being incurred. The foot-and-mouth disease was a great difficulty; but he thought it had now been brought into a position in which the counties did act. Having been left to their own discretion, 30 out of 40 had imposed more stringent regulations than the Act required, which proved that they preferred dealing with the foot-and-mouth disease themselves. The Return which had been asked for had not yet been received; but it would be laid on the Table of the House as soon as possible.


said, had the question been one of party, the House would have been crowded; but now that a question involving the character of the food and the well-being of the people was before them, he believed there were not 40 hon. Members present—a fact which would not be a little curious were the history of debates written.


Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at a quarter before Eleven o'clock till Monday next.