§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
, in rising to move—That, having regard to the greatly enhanced price of animal food, this House is not prepared to adopt any measure which may tend further to diminish the supply of cattle from abroad,said, his constituents had no interest directly in agriculture; but they had no wish to shut their eyes to any fair claim for protection on the part of agriculturists against cattle disease. All they asked was, that it should be shown, before a particular Bill was adopted, that it was absolutely necessary, and that they could afford to pay the price for it. Now, it was admitted by the Secretary to the Treasury that the price would have to be borne in great part by the consuming portion of the community. It was, the Secretary to the Treasury stated, a consumer's question; and he added that unless it could be shown that the measure proposed by the Government was compatible with the well-being of the consumers of meat, he could not expect the House to adopt it. If they conceded that some Bill was necessary, and that there was a danger to be provided against, he was prepared to submit to the House, that in existing circumstances the working classes in the great towns of the United Kingdom were not in a position to pay an increased price for meat, and that so stringent a measure as that proposed ought not to be passed. The present was an unfortunate time for the introduction of the Bill. Employment was slack, wages were low, the cost of living was higher than it had been for many years; and the working classes could, therefore, very ill afford an additional charge for a prime necessary of life. He was in a position to show, too, from documents prepared without reference to the present controversy, that within the last 20 968 years the population of London had increased by one-third, while the means of habitation had increased only by a quarter; and that, notwithstanding the vigorous efforts made by a private Member in 1868 and by Her Majesty's Government in 1874 to grapple with the evil, by providing better house accommodation for the masses of the population of the Metropolis, not only was the accommodation wholly insufficient, but rents had risen greatly, and it appeared that in 25 years the valuation had swelled from £11,283,000 to upwards of £23,000,000; so that, for less accommodation, the industrial community were paying more than double the rent. It was well known that as men were aggregated together, compelled to work in close workshops, and to live in confined rooms, where they must, of necessity, re-inhale the air which they had themselves breathed, or which had been breathed by members of their families, it was necessary that, in order to repair the damage done to their constitutions, they should be enabled to procure at the lowest possible price a sufficient supply of nourishing food. In London, especially, owing to increase in the population, the possibility of working people getting an abundant supply of pure air—the first necessity of life—was growing less and less; and he, therefore, thought Parliament ought to hesitate before taking a step which might disable the people from procuring, at a reasonable price, a sufficient supply of wholesome food. He felt sure that if many Members of the Government were free to express their own opinions, and were not bound by feelings of loyalty to the Administration of which they formed a part, they would say that they had no real love for this Bill. They must know that it was a leap in the dark, and that no persons of character and weight had expressed opinions in its favour. The Lord President of the Council had stated that he believed any advance in the price of food that might take place on the passing of the measure would not be very serious; but any advance, however small, would be to the working man, who only earned 30s. a-week, of the most serious character. All that the Secretary to the Treasury could say in its favour was, that this being a consumers' question, he had a confident 969 hope that the effect of rendering Continental cattle contraband would be that in the course of 10 years the amount of stock in this country would be equal to what it was at present, as if the population would stand still, and no greater supply of food would be required. At the bottom of all this was lurking the old delusion of Protection—namely, that by keeping out a certain amount of foreign cattle, they would stimulate the production of home stock. Everyone who had considered the supply of food, whether in the shape of meat or grain, had agreed in thinking that it would be impolitic for the Government to undertake the regulation of the supplies, and that the provision of what was necessary in the shape of food should be left free and open to all the markets of the world. The present Bill had been essentially altered since it was introduced in the other House of Parliament, and the alterations which had been made tended in a direction which ought to have been followed some years ago, if the Government thought any alteration at all was necessary. As, however, some legislation was thought indispensable, he hoped the Government would be able to make some concession, which would put an end to the controversy that had for a long time prevailed in reference to this question. He had seen the most worthless measures carried by majorities. He had once preferred to risk the loss of his seat rather than join with the majority bent on passing a foolish measure. When it passed, it was never executed by the Government of the day, or by any of their successors; and not very long ago he had the satisfaction of seeing it repealed. Similar would be the result in this matter, if they passed this measure against the deliberate opinion of the nation. The towns had a right to be heard, not exclusively, but in bar of the progress of this measure, which they regarded as injurious to their interests. It would be a dangerous thing to put one's hands between the working men's knife and fork and their teeth. This Bill, that had come down from a House that was especially a House of landlords, was viewed with suspicion, distrust, and bitterness by the inhabitants of large towns. In the division upon the second reading of the Bill, a few nights since, 30 hon. Members 970 were counted in its favour who sat for obscure villages and grass-grown market towns, the aggregate of whose population—electors and rateable property—were each and all inferior to that of one of the parishes included in the metropolitan borough which he had the honour to represent; and whose Petition he had that day presented to the House against the anti-free-trade tendency of the Bill. At the present moment, discontent was rife, and it was not wise to try an experiment like this. His feeling about the Bill was, that it came condemned by the irresolution and timidity of its authors, who did not know really whither they were going. The people whom he represented were suspicious, vexed, distrustful, and angry at this Bill. He knew enough of what was going on out-of-doors to justify him in warning the House that it would be dangerous to meddle with the people's food. They might touch what else they pleased, and trifle with what else they would; but let them abstain from this step, which, if unfortunately they took, they would have to retrace it ere long. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. CHARLEY
, who had a Motion on the Paper for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill on that day three months, said, he would second the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury. In many respects it was a good Bill; but he objected to the compulsory slaughter of animals at the outports, and he would rather have no Bill at all than a Bill containing those clauses. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies had asked the House to accept this Bill, because it was based on the recommendations of a large and representative section of the Select Committee. The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) bestowed his benediction upon that Committee and upon its Report. He (Mr. Charley) thought it a duty to investigate the constitution of that Committee. He found the Committee had its origin in the action of the Royal Agricultural Society. The Royal Agricultural Society presented a Memorial to the Council, and applied to the hon. Baronet who had charge of the Bill to get a Select Committee. That Committee was composed of 27 Members. 971 Five of those were Irish Members, 10 represented English and Scotch counties, two represented small English boroughs, and 10 represented large boroughs. First, the five Irish Members voted unanimously in favour of a compulsory slaughter of foreign cattle at the out-ports. What motive induced them to do so? The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Harcourt) told the House there was an element of poetry in the composition of Irishmen; but the Irish Members voted in favour of this proposition for the most prosaic of all reasons—because they thought it would enhance the price of Irish cattle £5 10s. per head. On that occasion Ireland was not treated as a foreign country; but if she had been, these hon. Gentlemen would have opposed it. As to the 10 Representatives of English and Scotch counties, he gave them the credit of having voted for a compulsory slaughter of foreign cattle at the out ports because they thought that would suppress the cattle plague; but there were other motives operating on their minds, and they knew very well that if foreign cattle were so slaughtered, they would have to supply cattle to the markets of England, and that that would enhance the value of their beasts. With regard to the Gentlemen who represented large boroughs, if they looked at the composition of the Select Committee and at the division upon the second reading of the Bill, he thought they must come to the conclusion that the representatives of large boroughs, with one or two exceptions, were opposed to the compulsory slaughter of foreign cattle at the out ports. Most of the large towns, including Manchester, Salford, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol, Blackburn, and Oldham, were opposed to the provisions for compulsory slaughter. The hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had said that the Bill was opposed by the butchers and importers of foreign cattle. It could not be said that the Petition presented from the Corporation of Salford against compulsory slaughter represented the interests of butchers and importers of cattle from abroad. For every butcher whom the Corporation of Salford represented, it represented 1,000 consumers. Salford cattle market was the largest in the North of England, it cost £47,000, and occupied an area of about 9v½ acres. It was the market not merely for Southwest 972 Lancashire, but for a considerable portion of Derby, Cheshire, and Yorkshire for the supply of fresh meat, and he believed that everyone in Salford, from the Mayor downwards, was opposed to the slaughter clauses of the Bill. The Committee had contemptuously rejected the proposal of the hon. Baronet who had charge of the Bill. Among the witnesses called before the Committee, there were a number of Professors, whose views were necessarily to a great extent theoretical. There were 15 representatives of agricultural associations and farmers, who were unanimous for compulsory slaughter; four representatives of foreign countries, who were equally unanimous in opposition to compulsory slaughter; and there were 12 representatives of popular centres who were also unanimous in opposition to compulsory slaughter. The only argument in favour of compulsory slaughter appeared to be, that at present there was doubt whether the cattle imported should be slaughtered at the port of debarkation; that compulsory slaughter would relieve the parties from anxiety, and the trade would pour into this country a constant supply of cattle for slaughter. He believed the result would rather be, that the parties relieved of their anxiety would send no more cattle. The evidence of the witnesses called before the Committee seemed to point to that conclusion. The agricultural interest was a great trades union. When they got the trade to themselves, and foreign cattle were excluded they would say—"We are masters of the situation; Parliament has given us a monopoly, and we will put a price on meat." It was childish to exclude Russia, Prussia, and Belgium. What was to prevent the Government from entering into negotiations with Russia, Prussia, and Belgium to have a proper inspection of cattle at the port of embarkation, as was the case in Denmark? The position of the Government was most illogical, for while they had assented to certain modifications in the Bill as regarded the home trade, they enforced a rigid iron rule in reference to the foreign trade. If the Government would not give free trade, let them give reciprocity; but there was no reciprocity in the proposals of the Bill. And the Bill was described by its supporters as being merely an instalment; 973 they said they wanted something more—namely, slaughter at the port of embarkation, which was asked for by the memorial of the Royal Agricultural Society. Therefore, it did not follow that the farmers would be satisfied even by the passing of this Bill. A very unfair imputation was implied in the statement that the opposition to this Bill was a mere Party cry. The Liberal Party opposed the Bill in its present shape because their constituents wished them, and the Representatives of the large towns on the Ministerial side did so too for the same reason. It was not a Party question at all, it was a question between producer and consumer, between the farmers and the teeming multitudes of their great towns. The farmers called upon them to surrender free trade for an effete protection, in order that they might themselves supply the cattle markets of England to the exclusion of live cattle from abroad; but the Representatives of the large towns declined to surrender the policy of Sir Robert Peel at the bidding of the farmers. He appealed to the Government to assent to considerable modifications of the Bill, and he trusted the assent would be given before they went into Committee.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "having regard to the greatly enhanced price of animal food, this House is not prepared to adopt any measure which may tend further to diminish the supply of cattle from abroad,"—(Mr. Torrens,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he should be the last to complain of the length of the debate on the second reading, or of the renewal of the debate at this stage; for the Bill required the fullest consideration at the hands of hon. Members. It had often been thrown into the teeth of the Government that they regarded this Bill from the agriculturists' point of view; but he maintained the proposition with which he had introduced the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, that it was looked at by the Government from the 974 consumers' point of view, and not from that of the agricultural interest. Hon. Members seemed to ignore the fact that the supply of meat need not necessarily fall off in consequence of the restrictions imposed by the Bill. It was said that the slaughter provisions must of necessity increase the price of food, and hon. Members argued as if the towns depended upon foreign supply, which would be affected by the restrictions. The consequences to the towns were, however, very largely exaggerated. The large towns throughout the country were not dependent upon the foreign supply, beyond that from America, Spain, and Portugal, except, of course, Newcastle and Hull, which were, to a certain extent, dependent upon the trade with Denmark. The Returns showed that the towns were not largely dependent upon the supply from the Continent generally; and there could be no doubt that, so far as they had relied in the past upon the import of sheep from Germany, their supply had been maintained by animals slaughtered at the ports. It was shown conclusively before the Committee of last year, that for 18 months a large trade had been going on in dead meat slaughtered at the ports, which circulated freely through the towns of the country. The evidence was given by witnesses who spoke from practical knowledge, who said that the trade was not stopped by the restrictions, and went further, stating that when the conditions of trade were settled and better known, the trade would be more remunerative, and competition would be encouraged. The market at Salford had been for years almost entirely dependent upon the home supply, and to a very limited extent on the supply from abroad. The reflections that had been cast on the constitution of the Committee did not appear to be justified. It was one of the largest ever appointed by the House. It embraced Members representing almost every interest in the Kingdom, and a more anxious Committee to elicit the real facts of the case, as far as possible, had never been selected before. It had been asserted that the Government had been led to bring in the Bill merely by the agricultural interest; but the fact was, that they were influenced by the evidence brought before the last Committee, which proved that the condition of things existent in 975 1873, when the Select Committee reporting in that year did not see the necessity of compulsory slaughter, had been completely changed, and that the altered circumstances required the introduction of the slaughter clauses into the present measure. The Government felt that if they were to do away with disease they must take precautions not to stop the foreign trade, but so to regulate it as to give the best security against the importation of disease. He believed that any proposition to introduce cattle from Russia would meet with the condemnation of the House; and the German authorities admitted that they were not able to prevent the importation of disease across their frontier. It was, therefore, impossible to obtain any guarantee that foot-and-mouth disease and pleuro-pneumonia would not be imported from these countries. It must be admitted that there were countries in which there was considerable danger, and with respect to which they must make special regulations; but, at the same time, he was not prepared to say that there were not countries who stood in a different position. He had stated before that there were many grave objections against making exceptions in favour of any country. The Government had considered this question carefully, and since the Bill had been introduced, they had heard the expression of opinion from both sides of the House. On the point of admission of cattle from the countries that they were satisfied were free from disease, he was not prepared to say that the Government would not consider that matter. While altering the existing law, and making slaughter at the ports the law of the country, he was not prepared to say that it would not be proper to give power to the Privy Council to deal with these five countries; and if they were able to satisfy the Privy Council of their immunity from disease, and of the efficiency of their regulations as against the introduction of cattle disease, they might be admitted. With regard to Spain, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, the Government would suggest that, while maintaining slaughter as a rule, power should be given to the Privy Council to admit the cattle from the countries named, on it being shown that disease did not exist in those countries, and that regulations exist giving sufficient guarantee that 976 disease was not likely to be imported There was another point about which a great deal had been said, and on which he wished to make a remark. He believed, in carrying out the restrictions in the Bill such as he had described, the conditions with regard to the importation of store and dairy cattle probably required further consideration. The Bill, as drawn, gave a length of time as a security against the introduction of disease, and he thought that would practically have effected the object in view. At the same time, the clauses would be so altered as to apply only to the introduction of cattle for breeding or exhibition purposes, under restrictions to be laid down by the Privy Council. There could, he thought, be no question with regard to the countries which were scheduled under the existing law. He did not think that it would be possible to argue that there was any probability at all of these countries presenting a clean bill of health, such as to justify the Privy Council in allowing them admission. He knew that hon. Members would say that France was in a different position from Germany. France was not an exporting country, unless she imported them from another country; and, therefore, it would require knowledge of the state of that country before the cattle could be admitted. He had stated the proposals of the Government thus early, because he wished to take the House into his confidence with regard to the position in which the Bill ought to stand. Having done so, he hoped the discussion would not be protracted to any length. He believed, with proper precautions, his proposals might be carried out with regard to the five countries; and he believed that they would admit a supply sufficient to do away, in the particular affected, with the grievances which had been set forth in the four days' debate. He believed the Bill would insure an immunity from disease imported into the country, and that it would do justice to the home and foreign trade.
§ MR. CHARLEY rose to Order. He wished to correct a statement made with regard to the supply of the Salford market. ["Order!"]
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I must congratulate the Government on, what 977 appears to me to be, its progress towards the true principles of legislation in this matter, and also the diminution of the practical evils which would have followed from the adoption of the Bill. I hope I shall not be considered ungrateful for the considerable concession that has been made—if I rightly understand it—if I endeavour to place before the House the anomalous, almost absurd, position in which we shall be placed if the Bill, as now amended, be passed. Until the House goes into Committee, and we see what the Amendments of the Government are, we cannot say what the concessions amount to. I understand that the cattle from those five countries—Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—are not to be slaughtered at the ports, but are to be admitted inland.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that what he stated was, that while slaughter was to be the general rule as applied to all countries, the Privy Council would have power given it to exempt any one of those five countries on its being shown to the Privy Council that disease did not exist in the country specified, and that regulations were there enforced to prevent the introduction of disease.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I understand that, practically, to mean that the Privy Council will, in all probability, continue the same regulations with regard to those countries which now exist. But the House has a right to complain that slaughter should be made the rule; and, indeed, if we are to suppose the Privy Council are to use their discretion precisely in the way stated by my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, and that it is the intention of the Government to say that cattle from Spain, Portugal, or Denmark are to be admitted, if they can prove that no disease whatever exists in those countries, I am obliged to inform the House that, in my opinion, the concession will amount to nothing, and absolutely no cattle will be admitted. But I can hardly suppose that it is the intention of the Government, that cattle from Spain are only to be admitted if it is proved that the country is absolutely free from disease. If that is so, no cattle will be admitted at all, because it will not be possible absolutely to prove that there is no foot-and-mouth disease in a country. I cannot suppose that the Government are going to rest upon the 978 principle of slaughter, if there happens to be foot-and-mouth disease in the country from which the cattle came; because, if that is the case, the concession will be in appearance, and not in reality. My contention is, that the present regulations with respect to foot-and-mouth disease are sufficient, that the slaughter of all the animals in a diseased ship is enough, and I imagine my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury must really hold that view. Knowing from the experience which we have had, that there have been animals occasionally affected with foot-and-mouth disease in Spain, Portugal, and Denmark, I do not think my hon. Friend could work the regulations precisely in the form which he has explained. However, hon. Members must look carefully to the words of the Amendments, and if they are open to the interpretation which I have stated, it will not be difficult to show that the concession amounts to nothing. I, and those who take the same view, throw out this challenge—and the Government and the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) will find it difficult to deny it—that since our regulation for the slaughter of all those animals, whether affected or not, among which any diseased beasts are to be found, no case can be proved of foot-and-mouth disease having been introduced into this country. With regard to the case of Mr. Preston, on which the Secretary to the Treasury relies, I must say I heard it with surprise; for I was told by a friend and neighbour that that gentleman held to his statement that his herd did not get the disease from foreign cattle. The hon. Gentleman mentioned a conversation which throws some doubt on it. But I may state, from information which I have received, that Mr. Preston holds entirely to his letter in The Times. Then the hon. Gentleman said he had got another case which will be found mentioned in the evidence before the Committee of 1873. That is the case given by Mr. Webb. But that confirms my contention, for the case occurred in 1871, whereas our regulation for the slaughter of the cargo was not enforced until 1872. I maintain that the regulation in question is sufficient to keep out foot-and-mouth disease; and that, if the Government are only to admit cattle from countries which can prove that they have no foot-and-mouth 979 disease, they may as well pass the Bill in its original form. But what is the position in which we shall be placed with regard to foreign countries, if we say that the cattle from Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and the United States, may be admitted inland; and if we enact positively, by law, that they shall not be admitted from other countries? Scarcely a more absurd position can be imagined. We have acknowledged that the Privy Council has rightly exercised its discretion hitherto, and yet we propose to take away that discretion for the future with regard to all other countries. And with regard to home disease, we leave the Privy Council an absolute discretion. But, surely, with regard to the foreign trade, as well as the home trade, it is the business of the Government, from year to year, and from month to month, to consider how they can best promote without restricting it, and without the risk of disease. These restrictions are most inconvenient. The cattle import had grown to 260,000 before 1865; the cattle plague brought restrictions, and the imports were reduced. They grew up again to 270,000 in 1876, and fell last year, in consequence of the restrictions on account of cattle plague, to 210,000, and would have fallen still more, if these five countries had been brought under the operation of the restrictions. We have a growing trade, which we wish to preserve; and, surely, the Government do not desire to put the House in this position—that, unless we can find time to pass a law through Parliament, we are not to admit cattle from a country which can prove itself quite clean and free from disease. I cannot understand the proposal which is made by the Government, unless it is made as a sort of compromise, in order to meet the pressure put upon them in certain quarters. I wish also to point out the position in which it will place them with reference to foreign countries. With nearly every country they have a favoured nation clause, which says that the goods of one country should be admitted on the same terms as those of another. That clause does not, of course, apply to actual disease. If we can prove actual disease, we must put that country in an exceptional position; but suppose a country to be perfectly safe, it will have a right to complain, if 980 it should be treated in a different way from Spain or Portugal. We are passing an Act of Parliament under special and exceptional circumstances, those circumstances being chiefly the outbreak of cattle plague which followed the late war; and, surely, in these circumstances, it is ridiculous to take away from the Privy Council their discretion? All this, however, is a matter which we can debate in Committee. The Government have met us quite as much before we get into Committee as we can expect, and I hope they will a great deal more when we are there. The House has listened to me so kindly that I will not trespass upon it more than I can help; but I shall be very glad if it will allow me to make a few remarks upon another portion of the Bill, considered in a rather different light. Hitherto we have looked upon it mainly with regard to this most important clause, dealing with the slaughter of foreign cattle. I dare say it may be said that I am to blame for that in having founded my Amendment to the second reading upon that clause. No doubt it was the chief provision, and did require the first attention, and my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury was himself so impressed with its importance that, in introducing the Bill, he said very little about the home regulations. It is, however, a matter about which I feel so much interested, that perhaps the House will allow me to look at the Bill for a short time, putting aside the foreign cattle, and considering only how it affects our home trade. Our home trade and the imports from Ireland are, I admit, of much more importance than the foreign trade. In the first place, it seems to me that the provision of the Bill with regard to the cattle plague are almost entirely good. Power is taken by the Bill, or rather enactments are made by it, to carry out two of the recommendations of the Committee of 1873; which, I think, the Government ought to have made law before. One of these is that cattle which are in contact with those affected must be killed, and another is that animals in an infected district may be killed. There is another very important alteration, with regard to the cattle plague, which was not recommended by the Committee of 1873, but by that of 1876; and which. I think, is a good alteration. 981 It is that the Privy Council is made the authority—the power throughout the country—for the cattle plague, instead of the local authority. Then, there is a provision that compensation is to be paid out of the taxes instead of the rates. That, I think, is a very doubtful matter, which will admit of much argument. We next come to pleuro-pneumonia. I hope I do not weary the House; but it is most important to consider the Bill in relation to the home trade, because its provisions really affect both the producer and the consumer more, perhaps, than the House is yet aware. With regard to pleuro-pneumonia there is also one good change, inasmuch as the period of isolation is altered from 30 days to 56 days. There is also a power to declare a district infected not only because pleuro-pneumonia exists at the moment, but because it has existed in the month previously. Both are recommendations of the Committee of 1873. Now we come to an enactment, as to which it is very doubtful whether it ought to be in the Bill at all; and it involves a principle of so much importance that I think some reference should be made to it before the House goes into Committee. Power is given to the local authorities to slaughter cattle which are actually infected. That is right. It is clear that they ought to have that power. This House will bear with me for a moment, if I tell them that, in the slang of the Veterinary Department, "infected" cattle are those from diseased districts, and not apparently diseased; while "affected" cattle are those really diseased. Power is given to the local authority to slaughter, for pleuro-pneumonia, infected cattle; but, by Act of Parliament, it is to be decreed that cattle affected must be slaughtered. I think that is a mistake, and that it is a matter which, instead of being placed in an Act of Parliament, might fairly be left to the discretion of the Government. At the present moment I believe such cattle ought to be slaughtered; but what the Privy Council does by Order is one thing, and what we do by Act of Parliament is another. I do not wish that we should put ourselves into such a position, either with regard to the home or the foreign trade, that we should be obliged to pass Acts of Parliament whenever any change comes over the circumstances 982 of the case. I believe that veterinary science will be eventually able to do without slaughtering. I do not think it very likely that it will ever succeed in finding a cure for cattle plague; but I trust a cure will be found for pleuro-pneumonia. Therefore, I think it a mistake to put in an Act of Parliament that cattle must be slaughtered for pleuro-pneumonia. I now come to a very important part of the Bill. In the course of this evening I asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether he could lay upon the Table of the House the General Orders which would be issued with regard to these diseases? The answer which he gave was just what I expected—namely, that the General Orders must depend upon the Bill, and that until the Bill was passed they could not be produced. But what I must point out to the House is, that unless, and until, we have those General Orders, we have a most incomplete Bill; we have no idea what the Bill will be, and we can form no notion as to how it will affect the home trade. The Bill is so incomplete, that I think, at least, we should know the general principles upon which its provisions are to be applied before we go into Committee upon it. For, unless we know those general principles, we cannot answer either of these two questions. First, we do not know whether the inconveniences to the trade will not be far greater than any good which may accrue; and, secondly, we are in the dark as to whether the home regulations will not be the merest possible sham, or whether they will have some degree of efficiency. As regards pleuro-pneumonia, the Government—that is, the Privy Council—takes the power, if it thinks fit, to declare not merely that a place, but that a district is infected. Now, we ought to know on what principles they will thus declare a district to be infected. It was said, as clearly as possible, in evidence before the Committee, that all chance of stamping out pleuro-pneumonia depended upon there being a large district around that infected place. I have no idea how the Government intend dealing with these matters, and I am the more inclined to ask the question because, having looked very carefully at the statements of the Lord President of the Council in the Committee of the House of Lords, it appears to me that, both with regard to 983 pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease, his Lordship is inclined to adopt much less stringent measures than those of which the permanent heads of Departments are in favour. We know what Professor Brown thinks ought to be done with regard to pleuro-pneumonia. He says that restrictions in a number of details, such as stopping markets and the registration of cattle, would be necessary to stamp out the disease; but that they would constitute such a mode of interference that no one in the country could tolerate it. I say, both to the Members for the agricultural classes and to the Members for towns, that we ought to know what regulations are intended to be made. Are they to be such that they will create such an outcry in the country that they cannot possibly be carried into effect, or are they to be so reduced that there will be no chance of stamping out the disease? As the Bill appears to be drawn, they will be stringent enough. I would ask the county Members to consider what they will be, if they are to be carried to the full extent of the Bill. There is to be no movement "into or out of" an infected place; there is, also, to be no movement "into or out of" a district infected with pleuro-pneumonia, unless the Privy Council licence it. I go upon the supposition that the Privy Council do not mean to licence such movements, except in extraordinary and exceptional cases, and that isolation in a district is to be the rule. What is a district? I find only one definition in the Bill—namely, in the 16th clause—which says that a district is described in the Schedule. In the Schedule it is described as a "county, excluding boroughs," and "boroughs." Let us see what will be the working of the Act as regards pleuro-pneumonia. Supposing a ship arrives at Liverpool from Ireland, and it is discovered that it has one animal on board suffering from pleuro-pneumonia, so far as I can see from the Bill, not a single animal will be allowed to leave the district of Liverpool alive for a very considerable number of days. Let hon. Members consider the effect of such a provision, and what are actually to be the restrictions. I can hardly believe the Government mean the Act to work as I have stated; but I must ask them what they do mean? They state, with regard both to pleuro-pneumonia and 984 foot-and-mouth disease, that there are to be General Orders, and that isolation is to continue in force, except in such cases and upon such conditions as the Privy Council may decide. Now, I do say that we are very much in doubt, unless we know the sort of General Orders that are to be issued. I wish the House to see the enormous discretionary powers taken by the Government under this Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Salford alluded to them to some extent; but let me ask the House to refer to Clauses 27 and 30. In Clause 27, it will be seen that the Privy Council may make what Orders they please with regard to any disease, except cattle plague, pleuro-pneumonia, and foot-and-mouth. I wish we had the slightest chance of the Government having the same faith in themselves as regards the foreign trade as they have with regard to the home trade. If hon. Members will look at Clause 30, they will find that 35 powers are given to the Privy Council. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the enormous discretionary powers thus given. I now come to the discretion with respect to foot-and-mouth disease, and the regulations on this subject are of the utmost importance both to the home and foreign trade. And here I am obliged to say that, so far as I can make out, they succeed as the Bill at present stands—to use the words of Professor Brown—in making the Bill obstructive without being effective. There are three ways in which we can deal with foot-and-mouth disease. First of all, we can exclude it from the list of diseases altogether; and I can see by the evidence given before the Committee in 1873, and by some of the questions asked the witnesses, that very strong arguments were used in support of that view. I confess I am not entirely convinced by the reasoning; but I had much rather foot-and-mouth had been struck out of the list of diseases than left in the way which the Bill leaves it. Another mode of dealing with foot-and-mouth disease is in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of 1873—namely, that measures should be taken to prevent diseased animals being exposed in markets, or carried along highways. There is, lastly, a plan of stamping out the disease as we should stamp out cattle plague or pleuro-pneumonia. 985 That has been recommended by some of the Chambers of Agriculture, and also, though very reluctantly, by Professors Brown and Simonds. They say they are by no means certain that the country would consent to the necessary regulations; but if they could get their own way and no obstacles were placed before them, they think they could stamp it out. But this Bill takes no notice of that part of the stamping-out process which will be effectual, and only leaves in that which will be very obstructive and very inconvenient. Professor Brown, in 1873, when he was asked how he could stamp out foot-and-mouth disease? said—"You must apply cattle-plague restrictions without compulsory slaughter." In that statement you have a real description of what must be done to have any hope of stamping out the disease. Yet the great argument in favour of this Bill was based upon the compulsory slaughter at ports. It was said—"See how the cattle-plague restrictions of last year stopped foot-and-mouth. We are pretty sure of being able to stop it under the Bill." But the Bill does not propose to put into force against foot-and-mouth disease the same regulations as against cattle plague. It is necessary to stop markets, to stop the movement of cattle, not only in small infected places, but in a considerable area, such as a district, to have the slightest chance of stamping out the disease. As the Bill was brought into the House of Lords it contained these provisions; but both were struck out, mainly in consequence of representations from Ireland; and we have had very fair warning from the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, and also from other hon. Members, that if it is attempted to bring back these regulations, there is no chance of passing the Bill. Professor Brown said, over and over again, that this was absolutely necessary. I asked him—From your experience do you imagine it would be possible to carry out these regulations which you say would be necessary for freeing the country from foot-and-mouth?—I do not, and I think nothing short of these regulations would be worth trying. Do you think it would be enough to stop the foreign import?—No.With regard to Professor Brown, you must not consider him as a mere Professor working in his laboratory; he is a man of practical experience, and of 986 greater practical experience in regard to cattle plague than anyone in England. The Secretary to the Treasury, upon considering the whole evidence, came to the conclusion that laws would be required to stamp out foot-and-mouth disease. And here the House must allow me to read again from the last examination of Professor Brown. I said to him—My friend asks you again the exact measures you would propose to be combined with the slaughter of all animals at the port of landing for foot-and-mouth. Suppose the disease only extended to a certain number of districts, what should you say should be done then?—I should at once stop all movements of cattle in those districts except by licence, and I should also prevent the holding of fairs and markets except by licence; and, except under special circumstances, I should prohibit the movement of any animals from farms on which disease existed.That is far the least that those who know most about it say is necessary to stamp out disease. But that is what the Bill does not do. It does not prohibit the movement of cattle for foot-and-mouth in infected districts, nor does it enable markets to be stopped for that disease. The Privy Council have an almost absolute discretion in everything except those two things, and yet they are the only measures which would make it possible to stamp out foot-and-mouth disease. I am not saying that they ought to be restored to the Bill—I think it would be useless to try to stamp out foot-and-mouth, for no country in Europe has done so except Denmark. In Professor Brown's examination, he said that if foot-and-mouth existed here as it did in Denmark, only upon a few farms in one island, there would be no difficulty in dealing with it. But the case here is very different. This is a disease which comes and goes, disappears for a few months, or a year or two, during which we know not where it prevails; and if this Bill passes there may be a temporary cessation of the disease, and the agricultural Members will say to their constituents—"We have stopped the foot-and-mouth disease." But two or three years hence it will spring up again. I am not myself in favour of these stamping-out measures; but those who do believe in the possibility of stamping out disease ought to complain very greatly against this Bill, because it does not in any way give power to do so. What it does do 987 is to give the Privy Council power to make excessively inconvenient restrictions, and to harass the trade without effecting the object in view. I now come to a point upon which we ought to have much more accurate information. What is a "place," as contained in the Bill? What is to be an infected place for foot-and-mouth and pleuro-pneumonia? The definition in the Bill is different from that in the present Act. In the present Act it is defined as a "field, stable, cow-shed, or other premises." It is now described as a "cowshed, field, or other place." Now, I want to know what a "place" is, and everyone engaged in the trade would like to know. Take, for instance, the trade between England and Ireland. Is a wharf to be a "place?" If it is, I venture to say you will not stamp out the disease; but you will so inconvenience the Irish trade that its proportions will become much reduced, or the regulations will have to be made a mere sham. Take the case of the port of Liverpool; there ships discharge their cargoes right and left against the docks. If you say a wharf is a landing "place" on the right hand side, then it will be declared an infected place, if one animal suffering from foot-and-mouth is found there. Then, for 14 days the next cargoes must go to the wharves on the left hand side, another infected ship may arrive, and thus the whole wharf be isolated. The result will be, that if the Government insist upon these regulations, the dock authorities will rather be without the Irish trade at all. That is a very serious matter, indeed, and one quite independent of the foreign trade. The Irish trade is one upon which no one will say that the food of the people does not depend, and the stoppage of the Irish imports would be a very serious matter indeed. If, again, a "place" is to mean a "market place," is it intended that if one animal affected with foot-and-mouth goes within the curtilage of that market, the whole of the market is to be an infected place, and that no cattle are to be moved there from for 14 days? If you are not going to declare that, then the regulations are the most absolute sham. My hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk is prepared to declare a market an infected place, and in a speech delivered in Norfolk, he said that on the appearance of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, 988 it would be necessary for the local authority to shut up the market. I ask the Government whether or not that is the meaning of the Bill? Do you intend to stop a market when you find a diseased animal in it or do you not? I believe that if that be the intention of the regulations, the remedy will be worse than the disease. I think, also, that while the foot-and-mouth regulations, as they at present stand in the Bill, will be ineffectual, it will be extremely difficult to make them more stringent in Committee, because of the opposition of the Irish Members. As the regulations stand, they are as bad for the home trade as for the foreign, and are obstructive without being effectual. It is quite true that in Clause 26, power is given to the Privy Council to do what it pleases if animals infected with foot-and-mouth disease be found in a market. But we ought to know what the Government means to do; for, in the one case, they will cause enormous inconvenience, or in the other, laws without stringency will be a mere sham. I must return for one moment to the foreign trade. The Committee, upon which my hon. Friend sat, reported that the utility of all these foreign regulalations depended upon the home rules. In the 13th paragraph of the Report of the Committee last year, in accordance with the evidence, it was stated that if this disease were to be stamped out, both kinds of regulations were desirable. The Committee add that the first matter to be decided is, whether the farmers of this country are prepared to accept such regulations as may be necessary? The first matter for us to know is, what the home regulations are to be? Absolutely no information is given us what these regulations are to be, except that for the foot-and-mouth, we know they are not in two most important matters to be stringent. I have only one remark more to make before I sit down. I have to make an appeal to the Government to alter the present form in which they bring these clauses before us. This is a very important point. I think it must be admitted that the spread of the disease at home in England depends upon the Irish imports as much as upon the communication between one county and another of this country. Upon that point I do not think that there is any doubt, though there may be doubt as to 989 how far these diseases at present exist in Ireland. Just now appears to be a good time in Ireland, and I believe that these diseases are less prevalent there than usual. Nevertheless, a great deal of the disease here comes from Ireland. Evidence was given before the Committee last year to this effect by Lord Fitzhardinge, Mr. Swan, and Mr. Howard. Mr. Howard, who was one of the best witnesses, sums up the whole of the matter with regard to the Irish imports by saying that we get the foot-and-mouth disease regularly from Ireland. Therefore, before we ask our home farmers to submit to restrictions, and before we make any provision for slaughtering foreign cattle, we ought to know what the Irish regulations are to be. The Bill, however, is very clumsily, if it were not very ingeniously, framed. We first decide what shall be done in England; we then make provision for foreign animals, then regulations for Scotland, and afterwards for Ireland. I appeal to the Government so to alter the form of the Bill as to settle all the home regulations for England, Scotland, and Ireland first, and then to decide what shall be done with regard to foreign animals. With regard to Scotland, it makes very little difference, because the English regulations are applied there; but in Ireland there is a different authority from that in England. Instead of the English Privy Council giving the orders, the duty devolves upon the Irish Privy Council. There is nothing to cause them to issue the same Orders; there is only advice to be offered to the Irish Privy Council, that there should be communication between the two Governments with a view to uniformity. Each Government is to tell the other what it does. But we know there would be a strong pressure brought to bear upon the Irish Government to make these regulations very lax. I do say that, in common fairness, we ought to know what is to be done with regard both to England and Ireland before we are called upon to decide what measures are to be taken with regard to foreign imports. To go back for one moment to the first question, I repeat what I began, by stating that I thank the Government for the concession they have made. It is, I trust, an immediate practical improvement; but it appears to me extremely 990 illogical, and to be open to great practical objection in the future. There was a time when there were quarantine laws and regulations; the Privy Council, I believe, had power given them by law to put countries in quarantine in which certain diseases were found to exist; but how absurd it would be to enact by statute that any country in which cholera, for instance, existed, was always to be quarantined. It seems to me most absurd that an Act of Parliament should have to be passed to declare a country free to send cattle here; yet that is what the Bill does. Because there happened to be an outbreak of cattle plague last year, you take from the Privy Council the power to relax the regulations which they made in consequence of this outbreak. I have, in conclusion, simply to express a hope that, as the Government has conceded so much before the House goes into Committee on the Bill, they will make still further concessions before the clauses are agreed to.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
, referring to a former statement, said, the exceptions were in favour of countries where the laws were sufficient to afford reasonable security against the introduction of disease.
§ MR. KING-HARMAN
said, the hon. and learned Member for Salford (Mr. Charley) had commenced his speech by a most extraordinary and uncalled-for attack upon the five Irish Members who were Members of the Committee sitting in relation to this subject, and who gave a considerable amount of time and attention to the evidence given before them. If the hon. and learned Member for Salford would refer to the Report of the Committee, he would find, from the questions they put to various witnesses, that the five Irish Members attended steadily and regularly to their duty, and they would likewise find that many Representatives of large English boroughs attended not nearly so regularly, unless a witness was brought in to suit the special view of the case. They had been told that Mr. Gebhart proved before the Committee that since the cattle had been slaughtered at Deptford certain descriptions 991 of meat had not gone through the country. Mr. Gebhart said that the supply to large towns and boroughs would greatly suffer if restrictive measures were put on the importation of sheep. In the mining districts especially, Mr. Gebhart pointed out that the population were in the habit of buying the German sheep, which were lean and had little bone, that this meat would not bear the risk and cost of travelling, and if the supply of these sheep were stopped, the people would feel it keenly. He (Mr. King-Harman) pointed out the fact that since the slaughtering of these sheep at Deptford, the meat had been sent into North and South Wales, where the fore-quarters had been bought, and in many cases the hind-quarters had been returned to London, and sold, not only as good and wholesome meat, but actually as the best Welsh mutton. A great deal had been said about the opposition which would have been offered to the Bill in the interests of Ireland, if the more stringent clauses affecting that country were retained in it; but, although Irish cattle suffered very much from foot-and-mouth disease, they did not really suffer so much, and got rid of it more quickly—he could not explain why—than English cattle, notwithstanding which fact, great loss was, no doubt, occasioned by the reluctance of English buyers to purchase stock in Ireland from a fear of the disease. The hon. and learned Member for Salford said that five Irish Members sold their convictions for the sake of a gain of £5 per head in the value of the Irish cattle. He had never heard it said that Irish stock would be increased £5 per head before it was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member. He believed, however, that if certain restrictions were enforced, their store cattle would be slightly increased in value; but he did not anticipate an improvement in the value of their fat cattle. He believed that if Irish landlords looked to their pockets alone, they would be rather in favour of leaving things as they were; because, though the small farmers would benefit if there were no foot-and-mouth disease, they would suffer temporarily if restrictions were placed on the movement of cattle, and the loss would for the time fall on the landlords, who would not be able to obtain their rents until the restrictions were removed, and the 992 cattle sold. It was his opinion, however—and he had had much conversation with men of all sorts in Ireland—that, with the exception of salesmen and those who were both salesmen and graziers, every class of agriculturists was in favour of the Government measure, and that they would prefer a Bill drawn up according to the more stringent Report of the original Committee.
GENERAL SIR, GEORGE BALFOUR
, as on a previous occasion, supported the Bill in the interests of the consumer, as of the farmer, believing that no measure could be more beneficial to the people of the country than one that tended to secure for them a sufficient quantity of food at a fair price. He believed that this end could be effectually attained by removing the causes which impeded the home production of food. That object, he was confident, would be attained not only without increasing the price paid, but cheapening the cost. The truth was, that fear of disease was the real cause of the decrease of the home supply, or rather the extension of the stock of cattle to meet the increased demand for meat was impeded by the diseases brought from foreign countries. In his own county, for instance, no less than from 15 to 20 per cent of the cattle had been swept away by disease in 1866, and what the farmers most desired for an increase of stock was security against both the foot-and-mouth disease and the cattle plague. A careful investigation made in the several localities would show that the facilities for obtaining store cattle from Ireland, and from abroad they eagerly desired, but hindered by fear of ruin and losses caused by these diseases. There could be no doubt that the stock of cattle would largely and rapidly increase when the farmers felt more secure; indeed, even now there was a very appreciable improvement in many counties; an examination of the numbers now as compared with the numbers in 1868 would prove this fact. His view was that the country ought to rely on that increase when diseases from abroad were stopped, being ample not only to supply the people, but also to keep prices down. On the data stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, they wanted yearly for consumption in the United Kingdom about 1,440,000,000 lbs. of cattle meat, and at about 600 993 lbs. the beast, the number would be 2,400,000 cattle, of which it was not necessary to import at present more than one-eighth, or about 300,000 cattle, or dead meat from abroad, leaving 2,100,000 head of cattle, or say 1,260,000,000 lbs. of meat to be obtained from the home factory. He thought that if the plague had not broken out, there would have been by this time at least 12,000,000 cattle in stock in the country, of which one-fifth would have been available for slaughter every year. This assumption was justified by an examination of the stock in the counties of the three divisions. Since the 5th March, 1866, when the plague had ceased the stock had increased. The increases had been large in most of the counties, and if the obstructions caused by the dread of disease could be removed, the home manufacture of meat would largely progress. This result was financially and politically of vast importance, for none could look at the cost of imported cattle without being struck by the fact that 10 years ago they imported in one year more cattle by 11,000 than they did last year, and yet paid a much smaller sum. The information which would shortly be laid before the House, in Return 273, ordered to be printed, would conclusively prove that with their increased demand on foreign countries for cattle and dead meat, the prices levied on this country for food of all kinds, as well as for meat, had largely augmented, and this in the face of full freedom in respect to all imports. The interruptions caused by disease in respect to meat, and its cost did not apply to other articles, such as butter and eggs, for the prices of these had swelled up year by year with their augmented wants; so that, in spite of absolute free trade, there had been no reduction in the actual prices in any article. As for free trade, there could be no fear that the Government would attempt to do anything that would really diminish the free supply of meat; while farmers, as all knew very well, did not wish for protection, being aware how completely their welfare depended on the consumption of the great towns. The House would remember that if the Bill was, after all, as asserted, a boon to the farmers, they were a hardworking, industrious class, who had not received enough consideration from Parliament, 994 and who certainly made no such excessive profits as in other trades. At present, everyone must admit that there was a powerful body of influential and wealthy men, deeply interested in the foreign trade of animals and dead meat, and when the Return already referred to was in the hands of hon. Members, they would see that, a trade in meat of £20,000,000 sterling value passing through the hands of this importing and selling body, it was not likely that the outlay would be made without insuring to the interested individuals large commissions and profits, far in excess of the gains the comparatively less wealthy farmers have ever reaped from their sales of animals direct to butchers.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, he could not agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) that the regulations with regard to the import of foreign stock were sufficient to keep out foot-and-mouth disease. At present, stock cattle from an unscheduled country had to undergo quarantine for 12 hours, and then, if found sound, were allowed into the interior. Now, 60 cattle and 60 sheep had recently arrived at Brown's Wharf from the Paris Exhibition; they had not been in a market, but had been arranged in the Exhibition with every possible sanitary precaution, and the same care had been taken of them during their journey to England. Those cattle had passed the Inspector after 12 hours' quarantine, when not one of them was infected, yet almost all of them were diseased now; and if they had come from an unscheduled country, they would have been pronounced sound and sent to all parts of the Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman would perceive that it was not enough to kill cattle when they became infected; and that although the foot-and-mouth disease had a short period of incubation, the quarantine of 12 hours was not sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman had also thought that if Holland were to give an assurance to this country that she would not permit the transit of cattle from Germany through her dominions to England, she might be declared free. But free from what? Free, probably, from cattle plague; but was that country free from pleuro-pneumonia or from foot-and-mouth disease? The former had existed in Holland for centuries, and the latter, 995 it was said, from time immemorial. The percentage of disease in that country was remarkably high, in spite of all efforts to stamp it out; and yet the right hon. Gentleman had argued that cattle coming from Holland should, after a quarantine of 12 hours, be allowed to be distributed over all parts of England and Scotland. That was hardly fair when they were striving all they could to stamp out pleuro-pneumonia. The Government had made very large concessions, and he hoped, when the House was in Committee, they would make no more; indeed, he should be glad to see the Bill made somewhat more stringent.
§ MR. BIGGAR
thought it right to say that he spoke for no one but himself. He did not mean to speak for the Irish Members, and so far as his constituents were concerned he had not received any intimation of their views; but he was decidedly against the Bill. He regarded the evidence given by Professor Brown and Professor Simonds as entitled to very great weight and as much superior to that of gentlemen who simply gave ex parte evidence, without furnishing the reasons on which they based their conclusions. The Bill was chiefly aimed at three diseases—cattle plague, pleuro-pneumonia, and foot-and-mouth disease. In regard to cattle plague, he thought the evidence given before the Select Committee showed that on the last occasion when it visited this country the farmers were in a state of unnecessary panic, and that cattle were slaughtered right and left which a little hesitation would have shown not to be suffering from the disease at all. That panic, he thought, existed more or less now. Having referred, in support of this opinion, to the evidence of Professor Brown, and to the circumstances connected with the importation of two cargoes of foreign animals last year—the one into the Thames, and the other into Hull—which were supposed to be affected with cattle plague, the hon. Member went on to observe that although the epidemic of 1865 was no doubt serious, yet probably more injury was occasioned by indiscriminate slaughter than by the ravages of disease. It would have been better to have killed the animals which were really affected and to have placed the rest under healthy conditions. If the disease was so contagious as they were 996 asked to believe, one would have thought that in the countries in which it was indigenous there would be no cattle left at all. In the interests of the consumers of this country, he believed that the proposed restrictions should not exist; and, with the very strict care which was exercised over all cargoes which came into the Kingdom, he did not think that Germany should be a scheduled country at all. Even if the cattle were brought in without any examination, it would probably not be so injurious as the system of wholesale and unreasonable restrictions. As to pleuro-pneumonia, we had it constantly in the midst of us in all parts of the United Kingdom; and the logical result of the restrictions now proposed to be applied to foreign cattle under that Bill would be that every beast having lung disease which entered any town or county should be slaughtered there. Lung disease had existed among cattle in this country when the importation of foreign cattle was totally prohibited. So far as lung disease was concerned, the restrictions contained in the Bill would not protect the cattle of English farmers. The disease existed to as great an extent in England as it did in any other country. Then as to foot-and-mouth disease, it was not fatal, though no doubt it was very inconvenient and annoying, but not so much so as the proposed restrictions would be. There was very little evidence to show that it was either infectious or contagious; but it was shown that cattle existing under unfavourable conditions as regarded water supply, ventilation, or overcrowding were subject to take it. It had been argued that the slaughter of animals at the port of debarkation would not affect the consumers, who would be supplied by the dead meat market; but he wished to point out that in inland towns it was necessary to have the cattle alive, so that they could be killed when wanted. It had not been proved that the importation of American dead meat would be a success. A great deal of meat, they knew, had to be destroyed—of course, greatly to the loss of the importer—and the profits in the ordinary course of the trade could not withstand such losses. He believed that, upon the whole, the trade had been a loss. In conclusion, the hon. Member contended that the object of the Bill was not so much to keep disease out of the 997 country as to promote the interest of the home feeders by keeping foreign fat cattle out of the English markets, and so raising the price of meat which had been bred and fattened at home.
§ MR. GOURLEY
, whilst pleased that concessions had been granted by the Government, thought that others ought to be made. He felt bound to oppose the further progress of the Bill, because it was bad in principle and illogical in its intentions. He would, therefore, suggest, that before proceeding with the Bill in Committee, the Government should agree to the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford. He held that new legislation was entirely unnecessary as far as restrictive measures were concerned, the powers already possessed by the Privy Council being sufficient to enable them to prevent the spread of cattle disease; while as to compensation for farmers, the clauses which already existed, whereby that class received compensation for making known that they possessed diseased cattle, or cattle that they suspected were diseased, instead of being altered with a view to increase the compensation, ought to be abolished altogether. They had a tendency to encourage indolence, and the farmers would take greater care if they had not compensation to look to. The Bill would prevent a reduction in the price of meat, which was necessary, in consequence of the great fall which had taken place in the wages of the labouring classes. Hon. Members who had addressed the House had asked, in whose interest had the Bill been introduced? As far as he understood, it had not been introduced in the interest of the farmers. It had not been introduced, in his opinion, in the interest of the agricultural labourers, because they did not happen to be consumers of beef or mutton. Well, then, in whose interest had this Bill been introduced? In that of the landowners of the country, for the purpose of enabling them to maintain their present high rentals, which must inevitably be reduced but for some such measure as this. While the value of all other interests had been depreciated, while the value of the shipping interest had been depreciated 30 or 40 per cent, of the mining interest 100 per cent, of the ironmasters as much or more, the one interest which had not been depreciated 998 was that of the landowner. Rentals of landowners were now exactly what they were four or five years ago, when the country was in what must be designated the highest state of prosperity. The Bill was illogical in its principle, because while it would prevent the free importation of European cattle, it proposed to admit cattle from Ireland and the United States and Canada. The reason for exempting Ireland was fear of the opposition of the Irish Members, who would have given the Bill every possible opposition, if the prohibitory clauses respecting Ireland which it originally contained had not been struck out. The real reason why Canadian cattle had also been exempted was, that if the Government extended the compulsory slaughter to the cattle imported from that country, they would have risked the creation of a feeling of disloyalty on the part of the Canadian people. There was no doubt that an under-current of disloyalty existed in Canada. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: No, no.] When he was in Canada, six years ago, he took the trouble to make some inquiries as to the feeling of the people towards the mother country; and while he admitted that a spirit of loyalty was displayed at certain public meetings, yet in the background he found a large amount of disloyalty, and a feeling on the part of the people for annexation to the United States. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: No, no.] That was the impression he had formed as the result of his inquiries. While the Government had imposed all kinds of restrictions upon shipowners and mine-owners, the farmer was to obtain a larger extension of the exceptional privileges which had been already accorded him. He denied that the provisions of the Bill would stamp out disease. They would rather tend to foster indolence on the part of the farmers in guarding against it. If the Government were sincerely desirous to stamp out disease, their first duty was to clear London and other large towns of their unhealthy cow-byres, and the landowners and farmers of the country should be compelled to provide better housing and better water for their cattle, otherwise disease would not be stamped out. The inhabitants of our large towns were generally opposed to this measure; and if it should become law, and the price of meat was thereby 999 enhanced, the working classes would be deprived of an article of food that was necessary for the production of the bone and sinew which enabled us to compete so successfully with foreign countries. In conclusion, he appealed to the Government to grant still further concessions with regard to the importation of foreign cattle.
§ MR. D. JENKINS
said, the constituency he represented would be seriously affected by the operation of the Bill. He did not think the concessions made by the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury were satisfactory. Cattle had been imported in sailing ships during the last 25 years from Spain to the place he represented, and they had been invariably delivered in good condition, with two exceptions. In no single case had the introduction of the disease into the county of Cornwall been traced to the importation of foreign cattle, but rather whatever disease they got in that county came from Bristol. This fact pointed rather to the necessity of having more stringent home regulations, instead of increasing the restrictions on cattle sent from abroad. The supply of foreign cattle at Penryn had certainly kept down the price of meat. He was informed that if this Bill passed in its present form, and if the compulsory slaughter of all animals imported from abroad were enacted, the importation from Spain would be altogether put a stop to, and in that event the price of meat in Cornwall would be raised 1d. or 2d. a-pound. He should therefore oppose the Bill at every stage, so far as it was calculated to destroy the foreign trade.
§ MR. HUTCHINSON
said, he did not profess to have a technical knowledge of the subject; but he knew something of the popular feeling in the large towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and he could confirm the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Salford (Mr. Charley), that it was opposed to the Bill, feeling that its operation would be disastrous to them, if passed into law; and that circumstance was in itself a sufficient reason why the burden of proof as to the prudence and the necessity of the measure should be laid upon its authors and promoters. The provisions of the Bill abrogated the discretionary power hitherto vested in the Privy Council as regarded the admission of cattle from abroad, and substituted 1000 the hard-and-fast line of slaughter at the port of debarkation. That recommendation was made on the ground that the plan would eventually be effectual against foreign contagion. The responsibility of showing that the existing system had failed rested exclusively on those who sought to make a change. By bringing forward the Bill, the Government had laid themselves open to the charge of having needlessly interfered with the supply of food to the people; and, of course, the effect of the enhancement of the value of one of the necessaries of life would be to interfere more or less directly with every industry. An attempt had been made to show that the farmer who sent his beasts to the London market and the shipper who sent his cattle across the sea stood on precisely the same footing. It was a fallacy to suppose there was any analogy between the two cases; because the farmer at home was in a much more advantageous position with reference to his knowledge of the state of the home markets, his access to them, and his freedom from the exigencies and accidents to which the importer was liable. Of course, it was only a prediction that the operation of the measure would raise the price of food, but it was equally a prediction that it would not; but it was indisputable that enhanced value attended limitation of supply. It was openly avowed that the promoters of the Bill desired to develop the dead meat trade; but it was not considered how that would affect butchers, corporations, dock companies, and others, whose capital was embarked in the arrangements necessary for slaughter at the retail market. If there were a national exigency, considerations of this kind would have to be ignored; but, until there were, Parliament should do no more injury to private interests than was absolutely necessary. Those who were embarked in this trade ought not to be called upon to make such sacrifices without due cause being shown; and that had not been done yet. Something like indignation had been expressed at the suggestion that this Bill was a return to Protection; but would not its provisions justify the intelligent foreigner in meeting our advocacy of Free Trade by pointing to our practice and saying—"The supply of your manufactures to us is to you what our supply 1001 of food to you is to us. If you endeavour by law to protect the farming interest, we wish to know where is your consistency?" No reply could be made to the intelligent foreigner who used this argument. The American people would be very likely to take the same view of this measure that was taken by large numbers at home; and it was not well that this country, which always proceeded so steadily that it did not need to retrace its steps, should upon this question do anything which other countries could regard as a reversal of its Free Trade policy.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
said, he was anxious to denude the question of all false interpretations. He did not say it was a question of Protection or non-Protection; but he believed the House was completely deceiving itself as to the feeling of the country on the measure. The Government did not—he scarcely liked to say dared not—touch the Metropolitan district, which was, practically speaking, exempted from the operation of this measure; and when they considered the vast masses living in the manufacturing districts in the North of England, it was the duty of their Representatives to see that these immense populations were actually fed. If the North of England had been in the slightest degree adequately represented in that House, they would have heard a totally different story on the former stages of the Bill. If he had the slightest reason to suppose that any such modification of the slaughtering clauses of the Bill would be made as would meet the just demands of the teeming populations of our Northern towns, he should be one of the last to oppose its passing. But he had no such hope; and being satisfied that, if the Bill were passed, sooner or later Parliament would have to retrace its steps, rather than be compelled to do that, it would be much wiser and better to leave matters as they were at that moment. He wished that the power at present possessed by the Privy Council should continue to be exercised by it. He knew his views were not generally in accordance with those of his Friends on the Government side of the House; but he always was guided by two main principles. First of all, Imperial politics, if they deserved that name, ought to come first; but, on the other hand, when domestic legislation 1002 was necessary in the interests of the great mass of the people, that legislation ought to take precedence even of Imperial polities. This was a case of the greatest importance to the masses of the people. The course which it was proposed by the Government to adopt was, he contended, wrong in principle; but it might be asked, if provision were made for the importation of dead meat into our great towns, what difference could it make whether foreign cattle were slaughtered at the port of debarkation or at the doors of the inhabitants of those towns? The answer was simple. No authority could secure that such meat could be delivered to the people of Leeds or Bradford, for instance, free from taint, after it had been killed, probably, for 48 hours. Again, what, he would ask, was to become of the offal? That, on which a great many of the poorer classes depended as an article of subsistence, would not be fit for use after it had been brought from Hull or Liverpool, for it would not bear carrying, especially in the heat of summer. The fact was, the Bill, in his humble judgment, had been a mistake from beginning to end; it was introduced at a moment when it was not wanted, and in direct opposition to the feeling of all the large towns in the North of England; and it would be far better for the House to agree to the Amendment now before it, than to deal with the matter by passing the Bill. It would be infinitely preferable to postpone the measure, than that the House should create the idea that it was not sufficiently careful of the interests of those to whom the cheapest possible food, provided it was wholesome, was of more consequence than even the breeding operations of this or any other country. He would mention only one other point. He knew that there was a very large number of those who differed from him in opinion, but he would only say that he simply asked himself what was best for the consumer; and he ventured to think that the preservation of the agricultural interests—those of graziers, butchers, or farmers—was less important than the securing of cheap food for the great multitude of the people, and that the Bill was bad, as it would tend to raise prices, particularly in the most populous towns. Being convinced that that would be its result, he could not support the measure; but, on the contrary, should 1003 offer the strongest opposition to its progress at every stage.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
wished to say a few words with reference to the present position of the Bill, and to draw attention to the illogical, if not absurd, position in which it was placed. The course taken by the Government reminded him of that which had been adopted by another Government in 1868, when a Bill for compulsory slaughter in the Metropolis was before the House. That Bill had been opposed by the Metropolitan and other Members, headed by Mr. Milner Gibson; and after it had been read a second time it had been so pared down in Committee, that hardly any of its original groundwork remained, and it was ultimately abandoned. The present Bill was, he thought, approaching that end. When it was before the House of Lords, it was proposed to apply the principle of compulsory slaughter to all cattle from every country; but even the House of Lords could not stand that. The result was, that the United States and Canada, for which an overwhelming case was made out, were exempted. Then, when the Bill came to the House of Commons, the discussion on the second reading showed that five other countries—Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—were similarly placed to the United States and Canada; and to-night the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury had announced that he was prepared to make a similar concession with regard to those countries. There were, in fact, only 12 countries from which we imported cattle, and seven of them, therefore, would be exempted, and five only subjected to the operation of the Bill. It was true the Secretary to the Treasury had proposed to adhere to the rule of compulsory slaughter, and had given power to the Privy Council to exempt the seven remaining countries, the Government consequently finding itself in the illogical position of being able, by order of the Privy Council, to exempt some countries and not others. It would have been better to have allowed things to have remained as they were, for he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) did not object to the Privy Council having full powers; but he did contend that Free Trade should be the rule, and compulsory slaughter the exception, which only applied when it was shown to be necessary. In its revised form the 1004 Bill would enable the Privy Council to do as they liked with regard to the five countries which had been named, and the two others which were specified by the House of Lords. In the case of Russia, nobody would doubt that the principle of compulsory slaughter, and even of total exclusion, should apply so long as any cattle plague existed in that country. There, therefore, remained only four countries—Belgium, Holland, France, and Germany—and with regard to these, if the Bill was passed, there would be a Parliamentary restriction prohibiting the import of their cattle, except subject to the provision of compulsory slaughter; and if, hereafter, any one of those countries should present a clean bill of health, it would be necessary to obtain an Act of Parliament to remove the restriction of compulsory slaughter. It seemed to him to be a wholly illogical position that that should be the state of affairs with regard to those four countries; whilst with regard to the seven others the Privy Council had power to act upon their own discretion. The Secretary to the Treasury had told them there was no chance that those countries would ever be free from disease; but he wholly dissented from that view, which had been falsified in the case of France. There was every probability that in the future, as in the past, France might be able to present a clean bill of health; so with regard to other countries, especially in the case of Holland; and was it wise, therefore, to impose restrictions in such a form that they could only be removed by Act of Parliament? The only case which the Secretary to the Treasury had made as to France was, that it was an importing as well as an exporting country, and if, therefore, she exported to England, she must import from Germany. But it was not the same portions of the country that both exported and imported cattle. For his part, he believed that all cattle exported from France to England came from Brittany, and cattle there were now considered to be in a perfectly healthy state at the present time. It had been admitted by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon last year that the effect of the compulsory slaughter restrictions with regard to France was to reduce the importation by one-fourth of what it had been before. The Secretary to the Treasury had asserted that France had no more cattle than she wanted for herself. But the answer to that was, if 1005 there were perfect Free Trade between France and England, there would be a large import into this country from Brittany, and possibly an increased import into other parts of France from Germany. He put it to the House whether it was worth while to raise the demon of contention as between boroughs and counties? What was the reason why the Government insisted upon carrying the Bill through in its present shape? If they wished to save their honour, their honour would best be saved by dropping an objectionable provision. Another reason had been suggested by a remark which had fallen from the Marquess of Salisbury in the other House, that the object of the Bill was to stereotype the decisions of the present Head of the Privy Council, or, in other words, that the Government now in power wished to bind their Successors. If the Government feared re-action, the best remedy for preventing it was to be conciliatory when they were in Office. He appealed to them whether, having made the concessions they had done, they had not better go a little further, and leave matters practically as they were now as far as regarded compulsory slaughter, going into Committee on the rest of the Bill, as to which there would be very little opposition, and need be little further waste of time? By adopting that course, satisfaction would be given to hon. Members on his side of the House, and every needful security also afforded to the farmers.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
observed, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had represented the superficial view of the subject before the House. Other hon. Members, too, who had spoken had faithfully represented the ignorance of their constituents, who evidently did not understand the Bill. The Bill was not a Bill for Protection, except against disease. He himself had never been ashamed of owning that he thought the principle of Protection to native industry, so far as to secure fair play in the terms of competition, was a principle which had been unwisely abandoned, and, what was more, many of the working classes had begun to feel this. He had received communications in this sense over and over again, and he had always replied—"It is too soon." He had been asked—"Would you propose the re-imposition of the Corn Laws?" His answer to his 1006 constituents from the hustings was that he would see them starve first, and he would see them very hungry indeed before he made that proposal. The Government had weakened their position by their concessions in regard to the Bill. If they intended to secure a low price of meat, they ought to have adhered to the essentials of the measure they had introduced into the House of Lords. In olden times, the House of Commons would have condemned the state of things by which the Government of the day were, through the Privy Council, connected far too intimately with the contractors for food. The people of this country, if they once had reason to feel that the price of their meat depended on the discretion of the Minister of the day, would indignantly repudiate such dependence. Yet the continuance of this state of things was that which the opponents of the Bill recommended. Caring little in their argument for the small proportion of cattle which the foreign supply bore to the whole consumption, they said that any exclusion of cattle must raise the price of meat, and then they committed the regulation of the supply, and therefore of the price of meat, to the Government of the day. Their argument was fallacious. There was no question about excluding a supply of foreign meat. The Bill did not raise that issue. The only question it raised was whether, after having twice had the rinderpest in this country, after suffering from pleuro-pneumonia, and after having had the foot-and-mouth disease so frequently imported that some gentlemen had begun to think that it was naturalized, it was prudent that foreign cattle should be brought into the interior of this country alive, or should be converted into meat at the ports? It was a very unsafe and discreditable position that the Government of the day should be continually dealing and tampering with the import of food. The Bill proposed to place the foreign trade in meat on an intelligible basis by law. It proposed that Parliament should, in that matter, undertake the responsibility, as an alternative for that which their Predecessors, who were more gifted with plain speaking than they now were, would have called an unlimited opportunity for jobbing. The Bill proposed was a precautionary measure which they had cogent evidence ought to 1007 be passed into law; but, somehow or other, the feeling about Free Trade was so strong that it had become positively blind. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) said—"Only conceive: here is a proposal by which the Government absolutely refuse to import cattle into the interior of this country from foreign countries where disease is known to exist." And the hon. Member who spoke last said—"True, in one part of France there is disease; but I do not believe it is on the coast; it is not in Brittany, and therefore it would be wrong, and a work of supererogation, to insist that French cattle should be slaughtered at the port of entry;" entirely overlooking the marvellously increased means of communication by railway. The hon. Member had made a Free Trade speech against this measure in the narrow and arbitrary sense, which had of late years become fashionable. He (Mr. Newdegate) had seldom heard a more complete perversion of argument. But he admitted that if the House had so little confidence in the intelligence of the people that they dared not relieve the Government from the responsibility of securing the people against dear food as the consequence of the importation of disease among cattle—if the House had so little courage that they dare not pass an Act to relieve the Government from the responsibility of protecting the country against disease, they had no alternative but to recommend the Government to continue in the exercise of these functions. An analogy had been sought to be drawn by the Mover of the Amendment between the present case and the Corn Laws; but corn could not import disease. He had heard of men of whom it was said that they did not know a horse from a haystack; but he could scarcely believe that the typical working man did not know the difference between a sack of corn and an ox. The reasoning which applied to the Corn Laws did not apply to the present measure. It was not proposed to put a tax on foreign cattle, far less to exclude healthy cattle. The question was simply, whether the House of Commons, following the example of the House of Lords, would adopt a precautionary measure against the introduction of cattle disease, against which inspection at the ports, although a palliative, was ineffectual— 1008 slaughter affording the only absolute security.
§ MR. BRIGGS
said, he had expected, when the hon. Baronet who introduced the measure (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) got up that evening, he was going to announce some important modifications in the Bill; but he simply piled Pelion on Ossa, and gave them no real concession. In point of fact, he had made an unreal concession to an illusory Bill. The question of the cattle disease was one on which doctors disagreed more than on any other. But the House had now arrived at a point on which almost all hon. Members had agreed, and it was this—that wherever an outbreak of cattle disease was found, the infected cattle should be immediately slaughtered, or kept under supervision for a long time. If the Government had determined to pass a measure which would have the effect of preventing the introduction of disease, he could have understood its value; but this Bill did nothing of the kind. If they had determined once and for ever to make a stand against the introduction of disease among our flocks and herds—had they been prepared to deal their blows right and left against foreign and home-bred cattle alike, he should not have said a word against their proposal; but this Bill, this rough-and-tumble measure, stern, unbending, and harsh towards foreign cattle, erred on the side of leniency—he might say, of weakness—towards the home producer. The question was not whether the cattle disease had been imported into this country 10, 15, or 20 years ago, or whether it was indigenous to this country, and had existed long before a single head of foreign cattle was introduced, but whether the disease did exist in the country? In every outbreak of disease that had occurred, though an army of Inspectors had gone through the country, all the information that could be got from them was to the effect that disease had broken out; but how or whence it came only a merciful Providence could tell. Wherever disease was, however, there would as certainly be loss both to the producer and to the consumer. The hon. Member who last spoke (Mr. Newdegate) said they wanted protection, not against the foreign producer, but against disease. That was an admirable proposition—he would not cavil against it; but under 1009 this Bill that object would not be gained, and its supporters would get what they strenuously denied they were asking for. They said—"We support the Bill, because we want to stamp out disease; and we would not support it, if we thought it would not have that effect." But, surely, they ought not to refuse to place the same severe restriction upon homebred cattle which they were placing on cattle introduced from abroad. Why were they to interpose an impenetrable range of Balkans in the way of foreign producers, and leave their own agricultural Sofia undefended? With all respect to the finer feelings of the British farmer, although he might regard the increased price of his cattle with the utmost repugnance, although when he gave his support to this Bill he never expected it would raise the price of meat, still, when he found his purse fuller and heavier he would, with a radiant smile on his rubicund countenance, be found to breathe out the sentiment—non olet. Under the Bill, the very strict provisions of the recommendations of the Select Committee were emasculated. It allowed the entrance of that portion of cattle which was affected, and which came more than any other in contact with the flocks and herds which it was the wish of the supporters of the Bill to protect. Now, what was the feeling which animated hon. Gentlemen who supported the measure? It had been argued that under this Bill the supply of meat would be greater. Now, that was a most extraordinary argument. In the history of trade it had never been known that if the course of supply was checked the supply would more easily be attained. If the supply of any commodity was made smaller, how could any one expect that the price would be cheaper? It had been admitted that the price of meat was to be temporarily raised; but he refused to the Government a right to impose on the country the cost of that newest experiment, by which the agricultural portion of the community might be benefited. The tax would fall, not on those who bought the prime joints, but on those who ate the coarser parts of the meat, and still more heavily on those who lived on the offal. Those who consumed the prime joints might not care about 2d. or 3d. in the lb. any more than some hon. Gentlemen did not care about an addition of 2d. or 3d. to 1010 the Income Tax. But some of his constituents and many other people throughout the country, could not afford to buy the prime joints of meat, or even the coarser pieces, but had to consume what was called the offal. It was a serious matter to thousands of people in the North of England. If the animals were slaughtered at the port of debarkation, which would be the case, it would effectually debar the offal being sent to the great inland towns, and the poor people would be deprived of a large and nutritious portion of their diet. There was a time when the majority of the people of Lancashire could get neither salt nor fresh meat except at rare intervals; and even then the oaten diet, which incurred the sarcastic contempt of Dr. Johnson, was exceedingly difficult to obtain; but that was remedied by removing from the Statute Book bad laws never to be replaced. In these high pressure times, it would be wrong to debar the poorest of the working classes of a free and good supply of animal sustenance. The division on the second reading was a subject of melancholy reflection to the Liberal Party. It was melancholy to see Scotch and Irish Liberal Members running their heads directly against the simplest axioms of Free Trade and political economy; and for what? In order that there might be stamped out a disease, the presence of which was in great measure owing to the supineness of the English farmer himself. Either the Bill would be a success or it would not. It was said that Irish cattle would be raised in value £5 a-head; but if the Bill were a success, and our flocks were increased, the price of meat would be cheapened, so that the value of the Irish cattle would not be raised; and if it were not a success, and if some cases of disease were found among Irish cattle, a clamour would arise that disease was brought from Ireland, Irish cattle would have to be slaughtered at the port of debarkation, and the Irish producers would find themselves undersold by the only people who had any reason to fear them. And how would Scotch producers be affected if the dead meat trade were enormously increased, as some of the supporters of the Bill anticipated it would be? In the former division, hon. Members were misled by a sort of Will-o'-the-Wisp on to the bog of Protection to their own destruction. Many of them 1011 had told him they did not like the Bill—they had only voted for it in deference to a certain amount of feeling in their constituencies—and meant to oppose it strenuously in Committee. They had now offered to them an opportunity for recantation. They had voted once in spite of the stifled whisperings of their Free Trade conscience; and let them now support those who on this occasion wanted to refuse to discuss this Bill. It was, therefore, to be hoped they would, after calm, deliberation, save the time of the House by refusing to go into Committee on a Bill which was unjust and illusory, whose inevitable effect must be Protection, and which must, therefore, increase the price of the food of the people.
§ SIR HENRY JACKSON
said, that hardly anyone had spoken in favour of the Bill that night, except the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary to the Treasury, and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate); and that suggested that the Government considered they had done all that the occasion required, and were throwing upon those who endeavoured to obtain more satisfactory assurances from them the burden of the suggestion that they were obstructing the Bill, or simply wasting the time of the House. He repudiated that position; and he was not without hope that what had been said would yet receive some attention from the Government. After a four nights' debate on the second reading they had succeeded in obtaining that which was by courtesy called a concession; and he ventured to urge that the further ventilation of the subject would issue in something satisfactory to the strong and earnest minority which opposed the Bill. The views of the minority could be pressed with more earnestness than usual, because they had been warmly endorsed by many of the usual supporters of the Government. His right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had expressed himself as to some extent satisfied with the concession announced by the Government; but he (Sir Henry Jackson) must say it appeared to him that his right hon. Friend must be satisfied with very small mercies, unless there were—as there might be for what anyone knew—a kind of Schouvaloff-Salisbury understanding behind the ostensible discussion 1012 of the measure. The support which the Government received in the debate on the second reading from many of their followers was not of that fervent and unanimous kind to which experience showed they were accustomed. Many acquiesced in the second reading of the Bill with the reserve that they might oppose it on the third reading; and all thought that the true significance of the majority was merely to indicate a feeling in favour of some restriction on the importation of cattle. Under this idea the majority on the second reading was much larger than the Government, in their most sanguine moments, anticipated. Was it not possible now that the Government might make some concession even to their own supporters? The Government were willing to exempt five countries from the slaughter of their cattle at the port of debarkation, but under conditions which would, practically, make that exemption almost valueless. He hoped the time for concessions was not yet passed. Let it be conceded that it was necessary to make some alterations in the law as it at present stood, and that the Government could not abandon all the fruits of their victory. The Opposition must submit to that; but were not debarred from asking that the victory should not be pushed too far. In that view he had a suggestion to make which he hoped would meet the approbation of the Government. Why should not the Privy Council be intrusted with absolute discretion to remove that fetter on trade whenever they thought that a case was made out for so doing? The Government would thus get the principle for which they were contending—namely, that no fat cattle should be imported without permission, and the prohibition would remain, unless and until it was shown that no danger was apprehended. Suppose the burden should prove harder than they could bear, or that all danger of infection in a prohibited country had passed, should there not be some authority which could at the moment remove this terribly dangerous restriction, and allow the trade of the country to have its natural course? He did not anticipate such a very serious crisis would be likely to follow from that legislation, as some of those had done who had taken part in the discussion. He did not care to speculate; but as there were so many 1013 prophecies about, he might say that his own idea was that the immediate effect of this Bill would be to stop and check that downward tendency which rents of real estate had manifested for some time, but that being an abnormal interference they would incur the danger of a reaction, which would disappoint those who expected the greatest benefit from the Bill. This, however, was necessarily uncertain; what was certain was this—that an enormous industry to supply an absolute necessity had been created, and that the Government proposed, without establishing a case which alone would justify so serious a step by way of speculation, to put, for the first time for a long period, a fetter upon the natural course of trade. Had the necessity or even the advantage of what they were doing been proved it might have been different; but they were acting on mere speculation. All that the opponents could do was to stand aghast at the natural and inevitable consequences. He urged the Government, if they intended to force on this measure, so to carry it out that there might be a locus penitentiœ, in case the scheme turned out to be disastrous or unnecessary. He threw this out, not because he approved of the Bill at all, but in the hope that the Government would make some concessions which the minority could adopt, not concessions fenced with provisoes about so as to be nugatory, He suggested, then, that the Government should at once say that, though cattle should be slaughtered at the port of debarkation, still in regard to every country the Privy Council should have a dispensing power, which they might exercise whenever they thought it could be safely done.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
supported the Amendment, and regarded the Bill as a measure to make consumers pay for the losses of the manufacturers of a great article of food. They were told that the Bill was not a Party move, because some 40 hon. Gentlemen on his side voted for it, and they must not say it was a step towards Protection, because they were told that on the other side of the House there was not the slightest feeling in favour of Protection. But if the Bill were not promoted by Party, or by a desire for a protection, it should be thorough-going; and he thought the conduct of the Government 1014 in regard to this Bill, seeing the many changes that had been made, and the way in which they had yielded to pressure, was unworthy of the Ministry. Was it patriotic and statesmanlike, on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers, to bring in a measure of that nature in obedience to the strong pressure put upon them by their own Party? If they did not approve of the Bill, let them drop it; but if they did, why did they not defend it? If the Bill had not been brought in from Party or Protectionist motives, and yet was illogical, he wanted to know what defence the Government had for introducing it? The regulations proposed by the Bill might, in most instances, be carried out through the medium of existing Acts; but if it was necessary to give the Privy Council further powers, that could have been done without all this parade. The Government had, to some extent, lightened the Bill; and he hoped that the remainder of the debate would show that there was much more which they would be induced to throw overboard.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he wanted to know where they really were in the discussion on that question? He confessed that he had come down to the House under the belief that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to make concessions to the opponents of the Bill which would have the effect of putting an end to any further lengthened discussion. Having, however, listened to the explanations and proposals of the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary to the Treasury, he must say he failed to agree with his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford that, practically, any acceptable concession was really made. As he understood, the rule was to be compulsory slaughter in all cases in which, as was said at first, it was not proved that cattle plague did not exist in the country from which the cattle came, or, as was subsequently said, was not prevalent. In other words, if a vessel arrived with foot-and-mouth disease on board the country would be scheduled from which it came. The exemption of the five countries was so hampered as to practically be no exemption at all; and the concession, therefore, was, in his view, as great a delusion as the Bill was. The opinion of the hon. Baronet was, in fact, shown by his own original draft Report; and he had 1015 intimated pretty plainly in the course of the debate that that opinion was very little changed. If that opinion were carried out, all that the opponents of the Bill desired would be attained. It was said that all countries, save the five referred to by the hon. Baronet, ought to be left to be dealt with by the House of Commons; but that was exactly what the Bill did not do. They would be dealt with, not by that House, but by the House of Lords; and against that he protested, for one of the matters of which they complained was, that the hands of the House of Commons were virtually to be tied. The Bill was a delusion, for this reason—that on the strength of restrictive clauses which might not be carried out, restrictions were to be imposed on the home trade—on Irish graziers, for instance—which he believed would not be regarded. Statutory restrictions as to compulsory slaughter were to be imposed on the foreign trade. As regarded the carrying out of the provisions of the Bill, who was it that could bring the greatest pressure to bear on this matter? Why, the chief supporters of Government on the other side of the House, those whose interests were connected with agriculture; and yet the exceptional powers which might be affected by pressure were to be left in the hands of the Government at their discretion, while compulsion was resorted to in all its other parts. That was a confession of weakness which he considered unworthy of a strong Government and of a great country. For his part, unless much more satisfactory concessions were made by Government than those already offered, he would continue to oppose the progress of the Bill.
§ MR. BARRAN
observed, that the arguments advanced against the measure by the hon. Members representing the large constituencies had been, in the main, of a conclusive character. It was true, as had been stated by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), that since the cattle plague of 1865 there had been a state of alarm amongst the farming classes of this country which had led them to demand the introduction of a measure of this nature; but he was sure that the Bill, if it accomplished the objects which the farmers had in view, would result in entailing an enormous taxation on the 1016 community at large. He could not view this question from the point of view of the agricultural interest merely, but must take it as it affected the whole country. There were facilities in these days for the conveyance of cattle far superior to those which existed 25 years ago. He took it, not only the large manufacturing districts of the country, but throughout England, the demand for fresh meat had grown very largely; and if the price were increased in the manufacturing districts, through a deficiency of supply, it must necessarily be raised also in the agricultural districts. They would have not only the comparatively well-paid population of the country suffering from a considerably enhanced cost of meat, but they would also have a poorer population suffering from the same cause, and suffering still more keenly. He believed that the raising the price of meat would not only affect the whole community in its food, but that—if their fears were realized—it would largely diminish the purchasing power of the people in regard to other commodities at a time when it was necessary that all that could be should be put into the channels of trade and commerce. It had been said that if the Bill as it now stood were passed there would be no difficulty in regard to our meat supply; but he was convinced that there was no greater fallacy than to suppose that the dead meat supply would continue to increase as it had done lately. Not only the large towns, but all the smaller towns and villages throughout the Kingdom, would be prejudicially affected by the stoppage of the movement of foreign cattle. A great deal had been said about the supply of dead meat from abroad; but every commercial man knew that enterprizes of the kind invariably induced people to go into them with the view to being the first to secure the profits of the trade; but there were few exceptions to the rule that such speculations ultimately entailed severe losses upon those who rushed heedlessly into them. In time, things would, of course, right themselves, and the trade would become a steady, but never a very large one. We had also been told that the dead meat trade was one which would give to the community wholesome food; but, in his opinion, there would be great danger to the health of the people from the importation 1017 of dead meat. Whatever might be the vigilance of Inspectors, or of sanitary committees, under large Corporations, there would, from time to time, be imported into this country meat which would find its way into our markets and into our houses for domestic consumption, which would, in all probability, produce disease amongst those who had to partake of it. If the grounds upon which the Government claimed to rest this exceptional legislation were so important, as had been represented, where were the facts and figures to prove their case? The Government ought to have shown how, when, and where, foreign importations had affected our flocks, but they had not done so. Evidently, the great object of the Bill was to protect the British farmer against foreign competition; and, that being so, he would cordially support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens).
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
complained that Her Majesty's Government had dealt with only one of the objections that had been taken to the Bill. Two objections had been taken to it—one referred to the restriction upon the importation of foreign cattle; the other was, that the provision for putting down disease among the home cattle was too slight. They had endeavoured to combat the first; but, with reference to the second, not a word had been said. The House, of course, was in ignorance of what had taken place at the mysterious meeting of the supporters of Her Majesty's Government which had been held that afternoon; but they might rely upon it that it had not been determined to make the restrictions upon the movement of home cattle more severe. He wished to say a few words upon the Bill with respect to home cattle. What was the situation in which the Bill stood with reference to them? The principle of the Bill, as stated by the Secretary to the Treasury, was compulsory slaughter as regarded foreign cattle, and, therefore, it must rest with those who wished to introduce any, either to prove that no disease existed in the country from which they came, or that it was not prevalent there. The Privy Council were not to allow any foreign cattle to be moved inland from the port of landing unless such proof was given. It was then accepted that no cattle 1018 should be imported from countries which could not show they had no disease among them. That being so, would the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) accept that principle for the home cattle? If not, the principle of the Bill remained the same. Would he say that no cattle should be moved put of Norfolk, unless it could be demonstrated that in Norfolk there was no disease, or that disease was not prevalent there? Would hon. Gentlemen accept that principle with regard to Ireland? Would they say that no cattle from Ireland should be allowed to leave the port of importation—Liverpool, for example—unless it could be demonstrated that there was no disease in Ireland, or that disease was not prevalent there? ["No, no!"] Well, then, if they would not, what rubbish it was to say—[Murmurs]—well, what nonsense it was to say that this was a Bill to put down disease. There was nothing peculiar about Irish cattle. They carried disease just as much as Spanish, Swedish, or Dutch cattle; there was nothing in the nationality of a beast, and Irish beasts carried disease just as much as any other. Why, then, did not they apply the same rule to Ireland? Because they knew that hon. Members from Ireland would not stand it. How, then, could It be said that this Bill was one to put down disease, or how did it meet the justice of the case? As long as they left the restrictions upon home cattle as loose as they were now, they could not satisfy any reasonable man that the Bill was a bonâ fide measure to get rid of disease. Would the hon. Member for South Norfolk say there was no disease in Norfolk, or that disease was not prevalent there? And yet the hon. Gentleman demanded that cattle should be moved out of Norfolk and into Norfolk. Hon. Gentlemen would throw the onus of proof upon foreign countries, but would not accept it them selves. They were in the position of the Scribes and Pharisees, who laid burdens upon other people, but would not touch those burdens with their little finger. The hon. Member for South Norfolk said, in his first speech, he would be glad to see the restrictions applied to the home cattle. Would he move an Amendment to that effect in Committee? [Mr. CLARE READ: Let us go into Committee, and then I will do so.] He was glad to hear 1019 that declaration, and would support the hon. Member if he did so; but he feared he would obtain little support from the Members of his own Party. When the concessions were made with respect to the foreign cattle, why did we not hear anything about the home cattle? Every foreign beast that came into this country was brought under inspection; but that was not the case with every beast in Norfolk. The fact was, the Government had much greater certainty of inspecting foreign cattle when they arrived than they had of inspecting the home cattle. The Government cast upon the Privy Council the responsibility of saying when restrictions should be placed on the home cattle; but they would not do that where the foreign cattle were concerned. But if they could trust the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, with respect to the home cattle, why not with respect to the foreign? If they could trust him with respect to a particular farm, why not with respect to a particular country? As regarded foreign cattle, it seemed to him that the groundwork of the Bill was a Vote of Want of Confidence in his Grace the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. If the President of the Council was to judge with respect to five countries, why not with respect to all countries? If the Privy Council could form a judgment in one case, why should they not do so in another? Without desiring to protract the discussion, he would press upon the Government, that if they desired those who were interested in the consumption of meat throughout the country to accept their view—that the Bill was intended to increase the supply of meat by putting an end to diseases—they must give an earnest of their good faith by showing that they were prepared to deal with disease among home cattle in the same manner, and to the same extent, as they dealt with it among foreign cattle. Until they did that, the Opposition could not accept their assertion that the Bill was intended to put down disease.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
regretted that it fell to his lot to answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), owing to the absence of the Leader of the House. The speeches he had listened to for some time showed that the House was, at all events, prepared to go into Committee. Were the debate to be continued ever so long, the 1020 House would not be wiser than it was at that moment, for the matter had been thoroughly thrashed out, and most of the speeches dealt with points that could be best discussed on Amendments in Committee. Therefore, he would ask the House to allow the Speaker to leave the Chair, not for the purpose of proceeding with Committee that night, but to secure a stage, so that on a future, and he hoped an early, day they would be able to go on with the Bill. He must say that he had listened to some of the speeches with great astonishment. It had been contended by several speakers that the measure was one in favour of Protection; but having been all his life a strong Free-Trader, he was not likely to favour a Bill for giving Protection, neither could he admit that the present measure involved the slightest return to its principle; and he did not believe that the Bill justified the apprehensions about dear beef which had been adduced in very courteous language in that House, and put forward in strong language "elsewhere." The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) had said that he could not understand what the Government intended to do. He (Mr. Cross) would repeat what he considered had been very clearly explained by his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury. Of the two objections that were taken to the Bill, one was taken to the 5th Schedule, which related to quarantine. The Schedule said—The foregoing provisions of this Schedule (under the head of Slaughter at Port of Landing) do not apply to animals intended for dairy or breeding purposes, or for exhibition.The objection was, that it was extremely illogical if you were going to slaughter fat cattle for consumption, you ought also to slaughter store cattle; because, if they were allowed to go into the country, they would be more likely to spread disease than fat cattle. His hon. Friend said it was proposed by the Government to apply the same rule to both. These words would be struck out, and quarantine would be allowed only in the case of animals intended for exhibition, Zoological Gardens, and other peculiar cases which could be dealt with specially, and which would be required to undergo a kind of quarantine. Otherwise, the rule would be the same for store cattle and for fat cattle, and both would be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. 1021 The store cattle would be few in number; practically, they would cease to come at all. Only 10,000 came in the course of a year, and if they came to a port they would have to be slaughtered. The other point related to the five countries where it was alleged disease did not exist to any large extent—Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. His hon. Friend said that although the Bill started by saying that cattle from these countries were to be slaughtered at the port of landing, yet it would rest entirely with the Privy Council to relax the order, and the Privy Council would have the power to do it, not when there was no disease, but when it was proved to their satisfaction that disease was not prevalent in those countries. Hon. Members might see that a country might be free from disease, and if cattle were allowed to come from that country to this because it was supposed to be free, care must be taken that it was not made a vehicle for cattle coming from countries in which disease prevailed. If the Privy Council were satisfied that disease was not prevalent in a country, and that reasonable precautions would be taken to prevent a country being made a vehicle for the passage through it of cattle from countries where disease did prevail, the Privy Council would allow cattle to come in from that country. The Privy Council would be left with absolute discretion to allow cattle to come from those countries, as they did now, if they were satisfied that disease was not prevalent, and that they would not be made vehicles for diseased cattle passing through. At present, the Privy Council might stop cattle coming from these countries at any moment they chose. Under these circumstances, he did not see how meat could be made any dearer than it was now. The only countries that would be affected by the statutory provisions of the Bill as altered weuld be those from which import was now absolutely prohibited, or the cattle from which must now be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. All cattle which now came from abroad would come in still, and only import from those countries from which it was at present prohibited would be prohibited by the provisions of the Bill. Those countries from which the import of cattle was prohibited altogether were Russia, Germany, and 1022 Belgium. Then there were the scheduled countries—Russia, Germany, and Belgium for sheep; France and the Netherlands for cattle and sheep. These would remain precisely as they were; and what was done could not possibly raise the price of meat. Do not let them raise a false issue. There was no doubt that it was an essential benefit, not to the producer simply, but still more to the consumer, that cattle should be produced in this country as largely as possible. Russia, Germany, and Belgium were all liable to send us disease, and the importation of cattle from those countries had now been prohibited for 18 months. Nevertheless, he had not heard any complaint in the course of the debate that the price of meat had risen in consequence. Knowing the terrible ravages which had happened among the cattle introduced from Russia, no one would say that strict regulations were not necessary. But in the case of Holland and France, the danger lay in cattle from other affected countries being passed through their borders into England. France was not an exporting country, and if she did export it was necessary that she should import for her own purposes. It had been said that this was a question of cheap and dear meat, of town and country, &c.; but it was nothing of the kind. It was simply whether the present state of things was to be altered by an Order in Council or by an Act of Parliament. The only question between them was how the importation of cattle could be most safely carried on. Some countries were infected with disease, and it was said that those countries could be reached by Orders in Council, while the Government considered that it would be better to deal with the question by the Bill, and this difference of opinion was magnified into a great political squabble. If hon. Members could make a great political question out of that, they were cleverer than he took them to be. Those who opposed the Bill seemed to think that Orders in Council were more to be trusted than they themselves. On that point the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was inconsistent; he said, first of all, in the strongest manner, that Orders in Council might be trusted, and then he went on to argue in respect to the regulations as if the Privy Council were not to be trusted. But before he 1023 sat down, he had entirely answered his own argument; for he said, when he came to the special regulations that might be made as to pleuro-pneumonia, that they were all to be made by Order in Council; and he wanted these regulations to be made before the Bill passed. The right hon. Gentleman must not blow hot and cold at once. The hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), for his part, seemed to fall into a misapprehension with regard to Ireland. His remarks seemed to have been prompted by his disappointment at finding so many Irish Members in favour of the second reading; and he was now trying to prevent them supporting the Motion to go into Committee, by warning them that the Bill contained regulations prejudicial to Ireland. Surely for the purposes of this Bill, the United Kingdom might be treated as one country? Why should Ireland and Scotland be treated differently, any more than that one county should be treated differently from another? Then, with regard to home regulations, the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to forget that between Clauses 10 and 25 most stringent powers were given to the Privy Council in regard to this country; and he could not but express a hope that the hon. and learned Member would read those clauses before he again trespassed on the good nature of the House in speaking of that part of the Bill. He would not trespass further on the patience of the House; and he hoped the Speaker would now be allowed to leave the Chair, though not for the purpose of proceeding with the Bill in Committee that night.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Cross), that it will be most desirable for the House to go into Committee on this Bill without further delay. I do not think that we shall derive all the advantage from this measure that seems to be expected by some hon. Members on both sides of the House. But I do think that it is extremely desirable that the measure, in which, rightly or wrongly, so very great an interest is taken by the whole agricultural classes of this country, should not be hastily discussed, but should receive the most full and fair consideration at the hands of the Committee of the 1024 Whole House. The discussion which has been raised is a very useful one for the preparation of this Bill in Committee. The debate upon the second reading has turned almost exclusively upon the most important, but still not the only point in this measure, for it has turned upon the provisions of the Bill with regard to the importation of foreign cattle, and comparatively little has been said respecting the provisions for cattle at home. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), at a later period, endeavoured to call attention to the provisions of the Bill with regard to the movements of cattle at home. But I think, if it were possible on this occasion, we should have taken a view of this measure as a whole, regarding the home regulations at the same time as the foreign ones, and we should then have been better prepared than we shall be now to enter into the discussion of the clauses in Committee. But it seems impossible for us to divert our attention from the main provisions of the Bill with regard to the importation of cattle; therefore, I doubt whether any useful object can be gained by continuing a discussion, which has been a very full one, upon the principle adopted by the Bill with regard to the importation of foreign cattle. With respect to this principle, the Government have made certain concessions—concessions which I think it is rather to be regretted were not announced at an earlier stage of the Bill, and which, if they had been so announced, must have considerably influenced the debate. I am far from saying that I consider these concessions adequate or satisfactory; on the contrary, it appears to me to have been shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford that they will lead to a great amount of unnecessary confusion. But I must admit that the concessions do show, at all events, this—that the Government are not insensible to the representations made by many hon. Members on both sides of the House. The unreasonableness and the impolicy of the principle upon which the Bill was originally drawn, requiring the unconditional slaughter of all foreign cattle at the port of landing, has been somewhat modified; and I think I shall be supported by many hon. Members on 1025 this side of the House in asking the Government when we go into Committee, to plan these concessions on a more reasonable basis. It is desirable that these concessions should be discussed in Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman appears not to have altogether apprehended the argument which was addressed to the House by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford. He asked the reason for this inequality of treatment between foreign and home cattle? That is a question which the right hon. Gentleman has not answered. According to statements of the Government, the law remains exactly as it now stands in some respects; for the Privy Council is to have the power of releasing certain foreign countries from which cattle are now admitted from compulsory slaughter. If that discretion is to be given to the Privy Council in some cases, why is it not to be given them in the case of Germany, France, and other countries? It may have to deal with them in the course of a few months, and at any time they may be as free from disease as the five excepted countries? On what ground, therefore, can the right hon. Gentleman justify depriving the Privy Council of the discretion in the case of the other countries. The House and the country will desire to know why there is to be this difference and total inequality of treatment in the cases of home and foreign cattle, and upon what principle it is to be justified? The right hon. Gentleman says that certain changes of the law ought not to be in the hands of the Government alone. He says that the discretionary changes made by the Privy Council, or by some part of the Government, will be laid before Parliament. But why should not the Government adopt the principle of giving full discretion to the Privy Council, with the proviso that the Orders are first to be laid before Parliament? The principle he adopts is that of absolute exclusion, which is not to be relaxed without the forms and ceremonies of passing an Act of Parliament. In a year or two, cattle from France, or any other foreign country, may become free of disease. But it will be necessary to pass a Bill through this House and the House of Lords—which, in some of these measures, may be inclined to take a different view from that taken by this 1026 House—before such cattle can be admitted. I regret, as I have said, that we should not have been able on this occasion to take a more full and complete view of the provisions of this measure as regards this country and foreign countries; but it does not appear to me that any great advantage would arise from continuing the present discussion. I think that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) was perfectly justified, in the absence of any indication of the intention of the Government, in raising the question he did raise at this stage of the Bill; but I also think that, after the valuable concessions announced by the Government, and the spirit which they have shown in meeting the views expressed on both sides of the House, that my hon. Friend will do well not to press his Motion to a division, but will allow the Bill to be considered as soon as possible by a Committee of the Whole House.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, that, after the expression of opinion on both sides of the House, he was bound to say that he had accomplished by the debate more than he could have anticipated; and that, in accordance with the suggestion of the noble Lord, he would not press his Motion to a division.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered, in Committee.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he would state on Thursday when it was proposed to go into Committee again.