§ Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Commencement of Act).
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that he had an Amendment which came before that of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar). He proposed, in page 1, line 9, to leave out the words "thirteenth day of September one thousand eight hundred and seventy eight," in order to insert "first day of January one thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine." Evidence was taken before the Select Committee which sat last year as to what would be the time necessary to bring the new restrictions into force, and it was argued by several witnesses that the time proposed by the Bill was too short. He thought the time he had proposed would be convenient, and that there would not be time to get the Bill to work properly at an earlier date.
In page 1, line 9, to leave out the words "thirteenth day of September, one thousand eight hundred and seventy eight,'' in order to insert the words "first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'thirteenth day of September,' stand part of the Clause,"1609
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he must confess that he did not see the advantage which would be gained by the alteration proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). What led the Select Committee to come to the conclusion that delay was necessary was that a very large number of ports would have had to be created if the slaughter of the whole of the foreign animals had taken place at those ports. It was in view of the preparation of these ports that the delay was suggested. But now that the same restrictions would apply henceforth as existed at present, and that the same countries were free, and that there would be the same ports of debarkation under the Bill as now existed, there was no apparent necessity for an increase of the number of ports in consequence of the number of cattle to be slaughtered not having increased; and he did not, therefore, think there was any necessity for extending the time fixed for the commencement of the Act.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
understood the hon. Baronet to say that the proposal of the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had better not be accepted, because the only ground for it—namely, the apprehension of an increase of ports—did not now exist. But if the hon. Baronet referred to the 31st clause, he would find that, so far as foreign imports were concerned, the Bill would not begin to work until January the 1st. It provided that the present arrangement with regard to foreign imports would be in force until the 1st of January. He thought it would be more convenient if the whole of the Bill commenced for the whole of its objects at the same time. He really imagined that the Government would find that the period between that time and the 1st of January would not be at all too long in which to make the changes they proposed with regard to the home traffic. However, he could not help thinking that the hon. Baronet had lost sight of the fact that the operation of the Bill, so far as it concerned foreign imports, did really begin on the 1st of January.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that his reason for answering the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea as he did, was that the hon. Baronet grounded his Amendment on the fact of the recommendation of the Select Committee 1610 which sat upon the question, and which was to the effect that as there were to be an increased number of ports a certain delay should take place. But here, as the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out, they were dealing with the alterations with regard to the home trade, and it was with a view of bringing about uniformity in those regulations as soon as possible that it was suggested that the Bill should come into operation as a whole on an early day, while putting off the operation as affecting foreign cattle till the 1st of January. It was more in the interest really of uniformity, which everybody admitted was so desirable, that the earlier day was suggested.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
thought the hon. Baronet had not answered the question as to why part of the Bill should come into operation on the 1st of October and part on the 1st of January? He thought it was understood that the home regulations and the foreign regulations were to begin together. Why was one time to be fixed for the commencement of one part of the Bill and a different time for the other? He thought that the cattle trade altogether had much better know that it was under the regulations of the Bill at once; whereas, if it were passed as it was intended, the home cattle trade would be under new regulations, while the foreign trade was still under the old.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 36: Majority 31.—(Div. List, No. 217.)
§ MR. BIGGAR,
in moving an Amendment to the clause, said, that he did not wish to move it exactly as it stood upon the Paper. He wished to substitute "eighty" for "eighty - one," and he would shortly give his reasons for moving the Amendment. By Clause 37 of the Bill, the local authority was authorized to provide stations for cattle, and if the Bill were carried out, as was originally proposed, it would be indispensable that this should be done; because it was proposed that all cattle landed should be killed at the port of debarkation, except those from America. In addition to that, the Bill gave power to keep such cattle at the port of debarkation for a very long time, which 1611 would, of course, require a very extensive amount of accommodation. Well, they knew, as a matter of fact, that local authorities could not get large tracts of land into their hands, and afterwards erect buildings upon them, without a reasonable time being allowed. He thought that the time he proposed was not by any means an unreasonable one to ask. Of course, it was quite impossible that before the 1st of October next local authorities should make the necessary arrangements required under the Bill. He knew very well that the promoters of the Bill and the parties who were urging on the Government from behind or outside, argued very strongly that the provisions of the Bill would not lessen the supply of cattle from Denmark, Spain, Norway, &c. Of course, if that were the case, the result would be that very large numbers of cattle would come in. It must be acknowledged that the principle of compulsory slaughter would not do in very warm weather, as, in such weather, butchers would only buy from hand to mouth. If all those animals were to be slaughtered the moment they were landed, a very large amount of fresh meat would have to be sold at a ruinous sacrifice; and, doubtless, a considerable quantity of it would be wasted by having to be boiled down for tallow. That would result in a great waste of food, which of itself would be a great evil; and, in the next place, it would be a very great pecuniary loss to those who imported foreign cattle, and who had to keep up a continuous supply. Well, of course, those parties who were in favour of compulsory slaughter said that the cattle should be hold over until it was necessary to kill them. If that were the ease, then the local authorities would be bound to provide very extensive accommodation. One argument in favour of this extensive accommodation was that if it were not provided, disease, instead of being diminished, would be increased, as it had been undoubtedly proved by the highest authorities that overcrowding large numbers of cattle in small spaces bad a tendency to engender disease. For all those reasons, he considered it desirable and proper that reasonable accommodation should be provided. Then, how could they expect that sufficient land and sufficient buildings could be found all in a moment? It was quite 1612 certain that owners of property, knowing that the local authority had no power of selection, but must take the land at whatever price they could get it, would ask extravagant sums, which would be very embarrassing to the local authorities to pay. Then the Bill proposed to deal with store cattle; and, with regard to those, it provided that they should be kept at the port of debarkation for 14 days before they were removed. If that was to be done, it was indispensable that there should be a very large amount of accommodation; and, in that case, they would require compulsory power to take the land and make arrangements for keeping those cattle in a proper way. He thought the time proposed by his Amendments was by no means too long to enable local authorities to make the necessary arrangements for carrying out the clauses for compulsory slaughter provided by the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the words "seventy-eight," in order to insert the word "eighty."—(Mr. Biggar.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'seventy-eight' stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he could not consent to the alteration proposed by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), who had given as his reason for bringing it forward that the local authorities should have ample time to provide wharves, stations, and the other places required by the 37th clause. He wished to point out, what the House in all probability was already aware of, that all the towns affected could practically have ample time to deal with the foreign trade under the provisions of the Bill for that purpose. No change was proposed in the regulations which had already been in force for more than 18 months. The Bill would come into operation, in respect to the home trade, in September, 1878, and, in regard to the foreign trade, in January, 1879; and there would be ample time to alter the quarantine wharves already existing, and to prepare others should it be found necessary. He would point out that there was one great advantage in speedily bringing the Bill into operation. At the present time, there was a considerable decrease in the outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease. 1613 The existing restrictions had certainly considerably diminished the outbreaks of that disease, and there were now very few counties in which there was any considerable amount of it. He thought, under these circumstances, the Committee would see the great advantage of getting uniform regulations into force as soon as possible. In regard to the point which the hon. Member had raised in reference to the necessity of creating lairs and other places for the reception of store cattle, he would remind him that the Amendments which the Government proposed to make, and which were announced the other day, would place limitations which would practically put a stop to the importation of store stock. The only store stock which could now be imported was that which was for the purposes of exhibition or for scientific purposes; and the store stock which was so admitted was very different to that contemplated by the quarantine clauses of the Bill as it originally stood. The importation was thus so limited, that he did not think the Committee would feel that any danger would arise under that particular clause. The advantages in getting the Bill into speedy operation were so great, that he hoped the Committee would adhere to the Bill as it stood, and reject the Amendment.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, it appeared to him that the Amendment was a most reasonable, in fact, he would say a necessary, one. The guiding principle of the Bill was compulsory slaughter at the ports of landing. It was quite true that the Government had made a concession in regard to certain countries; but they did not know how soon compulsory slaughter might become general, and, therefore, they must look at the Bill in that light. He was a Member of the Committee of last year, and he remembered the difficulty of compulsory slaughter being argued on that Committee. Among the witnesses was one well known to hon. Members of the House—Mr. Howard, formerly Member for Bedford—who was in favour of compulsory slaughter at the ports of landing; but when the question was put to him as to whether he would suddenly resort to the practice, he readily admitted that there would be difficulties in the way; and on being asked whether he thought some time should not be 1614 given, he said he thought time should be allowed during which the local authorities could make the needful preparations. Places would be required for storing the meat at the ports, which did not exist at all at the present moment; and they would also require to provide places where it could be kept in a cool atmosphere—buildings which could only be erected after a considerable time, and at an outlay of money. If there was anything in the argument that compulsory slaughter on a large scale would create a trade in dead meat, these provisions must of necessity be made, if not, the meat would become tainted and spoiled before it reached the centres of population, and the real effect would be that the great towns would be deprived of the supply.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, the only argument put forward by the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) that had any weight was, that by certain Amendments which he proposed to introduce, the importation of store cattle would be done away with; and that, therefore, the quarantine wharves would no longer be required, and would, therefore, be available for other purposes. The Amendment only postponed the bringing of the Act into operation for one year; and he thought that was not an unreasonable time, seeing that many arrangements would have to be made, unless the Act was to remain a dead Letter. The responsibilities cast upon the ports which had to carry it out were of considerable magnitude, and required a great deal of time to be met. Take, for instance, Glasgow. There every inch of land was already occupied, and it would require not only a large amount of money, but a considerable time to find the land, and to make other arrangements. Liverpool was worse off still, and it would be impossible for the authorities there to make the arrangements without the lapse of a, considerable time. They had heard earlier in the evening from the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) of the difficulty which existed in the matter of finding sites for wharves. The expenses would be so great that the corporations would have to consider before they took action; indeed, he had no doubt that some day the Government would find that the Act had not been put into operation 1615 in some ports, because the corporations had not been able to find places and wharves for the slaughter of the cattle. There was, moreover, no power in the Bill compelling them to do this. It was true that Section 38 said they should do everything in their power to carry out the Act; but it did not say that they should go to an expense to provide wharves. He was quite sure there would be some localities which would not provide these wharves, and then they would have cattle arriving in ships which could not come in for want of accommodation. It was possible that that was what some hon. Members on the other side desired, and that they wished to see cattle coming which could not be provided for, and so to kill the trade at the outset.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
could not agree with the observations of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) as to the Amendment being a reasonable one. If the Bill was to be passed into law, the sooner it came into operation the better, more especially as this was a time when there was not much disease in the country, and when it was probable that the enforcement of stringent regulations would have the effect of extinguishing it altogether. He could not understand the objection that there was no accommodation at the ports and harbours. If he understood the matter aright, all ports must have certain arrangements under existing circumstances, and it was necessary that they must have the requisite accommodation before the Privy Council would sanction them as ports of landing at all. The Government had done wisely in withdrawing the quarantine arrangements, and in prohibiting altogether the importation of store cattle. The farmers were very anxious to have store cattle, if they could have them with safety; but feeling that they could not have them with safety, they were prepared to forego whatever advantage or profit they might derive from feeding them. Hon. Members should not be so ready to argue that on this question farmers were seeking their own interest. He hoped the hon. Member would not persevere in his Amendment.
sympathized very much with the object which the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had in view in moving the Amendment; but he feared 1616 it would not carry that object into effect. The clause did not deal with that matter at all. It only dealt with the commencement of the Act in regard to matters which were not otherwise expressly provided for. The time for the commencement of compulsory slaughter was one of the matters which was expressly provided for in a subsequent part of the Bill; therefore, even if the Amendment were carried, it would not affect that matter at all. He would suggest the withdrawal of the Amendment for the present, and that the object of the hon. Member would be best secured by moving an addition to the clause providing for compulsory slaughter.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, it was clear that the object of the Amendment was to assist in defeating the Act, for he was totally at a loss to see what benefit would arise from it. The argument that more time was required to make preparations was defeated by the facts of the case. No more animals would be required to be slaughtered then than were required now, and the accommodation being at present sufficient, there could be no object in postponing the operation of the Act, except the object of defeating it, which he feared his hon. Friend (Mr. Biggar) had in view.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) seemed to have come to the conclusion that the slaughter at the ports of landing was to continue as at the present moment; but what was to be done in regard to America and the five countries which had been withdrawn from the Schedule? If the hon. Member had sat upon the Committee of last year, as he (Mr. Mundella) had done, he would have seen that every witness who came before the Committee—not only Mr. Howard, but every other witness who was favourable to the Bill—had admitted that it would require considerable time to afford the necessary facilities for compulsory slaughter. If the hon. Member had heard what had been said by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), he would know that at Liverpool there was absolutely no provision for putting the Bill into operation. They would have to provide refrigerators and make other provisions for keeping the meat cool. Everything pointed to a complete disturbance of the present trade in meat. How could they, 1617 then, contemplate such a change as this Bill would effect in the whole trade of the country without giving the localities some time to prepare for it? That was one reason he had for thinking the Amendment a reasonable one; but he would be frank, and admit that he considered this a very bad Bill, and, therefore, the later it was brought into operation, rather than sooner, the better. He could not look with dissatisfaction on a proposal which would have the effect of giving the House time to reflect on the measure, and the country and borough constituencies time to feel the disturbance and loss which it would entail upon them.
§ MR. BIGGAR,
in reference to the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), said, if the Amendment would not apply to compulsory slaughter clauses, it could, if carried, very easily be made to apply to them when they were reached. From the manner in which the Bill was drawn, it was difficult to say where the Amendment should come in. It appeared to him to have been drawn with the object of mystifying everybody, and to bring out as few points on which an issue could be raised as possible. That was, no doubt, a very desirable state of things from the Government point of view; but it caused him some little difficulty in deciding whether the Amendment would or would not apply to compulsory slaughter. He had, however, decided to raise the issue on this clause, and he felt certain that he was right. In the case of Liverpool, it had been suggested that accommodation could be found at Birkenhead; but it was shown to the Committee that if that spot were chosen, it would entail an expenditure of something like £2 10s. on every head of cattle which was brought to Liverpool. But they did not know that the owners of the land at Liverpool would take a fair price for it; but it was impossible to suppose, even if they had the ground at this moment, that the port of Liverpool would be able to put up the buildings in time for the date on which the Act would come into operation as the Bill now stood. The hon. Baronet had said it was not intended to enforce compulsory slaughter on the five un-scheduled countries; but they all knew the sort of pressure which would be brought to bear upon the 1618 Government directly the Bill was passed, and it was impossible to resist the conviction that if the Bill were carried in its present shape, compulsory slaughter would be the rule. They knew how to judge of the allegation that the meat-producers of this country wanted protection for their flocks and herds. There was no truth in the statement that disease prevailed in every one of the un-scheduled countries. France was as healthy as England, and it was only a pretence on the part of those who were urging the Government on, and a false pretence, to say that this was not the case. He hoped this outrageous, iniquitous, and impudent attempt to raise the price of an article already at a famine price would be defeated. It was perfectly impossible to bring these compulsory powers into operation unless the ports had reasonable time for fitting up the wharves and other places for the reception of the meat. Those who said it could be done in three or four months were arguing against palpable facts.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he saw no necessity for conferring upon the Privy Council powers additional to those which they already possessed. They could now order the slaughter at the ports of debarkation of all cattle imported from America as from elsewhere, and what was more necessary?
§ MR. ANDERSON
pointed out that, as the Bill was introduced, there was to be compulsory slaughter, no discretion being left in the hands of any authority; and that, therefore, the House had a right to judge of the intention of the Government by the form in which the measure was first submitted, rather than by the condition in which it came down to them from the House of Lords. It was true that the other House had made Amendments in the Bill as far as it related to America and Canada; but that did not change the impression as to the views still entertained by the Privy Council, or the feeling of suspicion as to what that Department would be likely to do, if intrusted with the wide discretion which was proposed to be given to them. There was a party at the back of the Privy Council which had a strong desire for universal slaughter of cattle on debarkation, and would continually urge them to that course, in the exercise of the discretion with which they were now proposed to be invested.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, it was a mistake to suppose that the Privy Council could, under any circumstances, order the slaughter of imported cattle. They could only do that on proof of the fact that the countries from which they came were infected with cattle disease, or that the cattle were themselves infected. Under the Bill, and by the Amendment proposed by the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury, the onus of proof as to infection would be placed upon the wrong persons. Under the circumstances, the House had a right to insist upon stronger guarantees than were proposed for the purpose of obtaining greater freedom; and he thought hon. Members would be false to their trust if they did not do all they could to prevent the Bill, in its present form, being made an Act of Parliament. It was all very well to ask—whoever dreamed of the compulsory slaughtering of American cattle at the port of debarkation? but were not hon. Members aware of the fact that such slaughter was a part of the Bill as originally introduced, being included in the compulsory slaughter clause; and that, in the event of a large discretion being given to the Privy Council, strong pressure would be brought to bear upon them to put America in the list of infected countries to which the restriction would apply? Professor Gamgee, who was practically the father of the present Bill, and who gave such extraordinary evidence before the Committee, on whose inquiry the Bill was based, stated that through the Western States of America foot-and-mouth disease and pleuro-pneumonia were chronic; and was it not, therefore, likely that he would, if possible, procure the slaughtering of all American cattle at the ports of debarkation in this country? He (Mr. Mundella) could not contemplate the probable results of that legislation without alarm, because our only hope of getting a good supply of meat at a reasonable price was from America. He had no doubt that the supply from America would not only continue, but would go on steadily increasing as long as free ingress was afforded; but as soon as it was laid down that all American cattle were to be slaughtered at the ports, there would be an end to the trade in both live and dead meat.
§ MR. BIGGAR
admitted the force of the argument of the hon. Baronet the 1620 Secretary to the Treasury, that one of the main reasons for pushing on this Bill as rapidly as possible was that there was, at the present time, very little cattle disease in this country; but if the view of Professor Gamgee was the correct one, there need be no trouble taken with regard to home-bred cattle. The learned Professor thought it unnecessary to impose any restrictions upon the dealing with home-bred cattle—his sole contention seemed to be that foreign animals should be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. He must confess that he had no great veneration for the opinions of Professor Gamgee, in whose argument before the Committee there was a want of logical accuracy. Moreover, the history of the gentleman was against him. Some 30 years ago, he announced himself to the world as the head of a veterinary college in Edinburgh, and his college consisted of a three or four stalled stable in the rear of a private house. Professors Fowler and Sewell gave much more valuable evidence, and spoke with greater authority. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), he would remark that circumstances might arise which would make the price of meat in America as high as in this country; and, therefore, it was not wise to rely, under any circumstances, upon an unlimited supply from the United States. For that reason, it would be advisable to give every encouragement to Continental countries, in which cattle were fed, to send us supplies. He, therefore, hoped that the slaughtering clauses would not be pressed by the Government. If they were pressed, and passed, great inconvenience would result; because the facilities for slaughtering the cattle and keeping the dead meat in the port of Liverpool were so scant that the proposal could not be carried out, without involving the sale of the slaughtered cattle at a very great sacrifice.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 40: Majority 40.—(Div. List, No. 218.)
§ SIR HENRY JAMES,
in moving, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 17, after "Act," to insert— 1621Provided that no such Order shall be valid if its operation shall be inconsistent with the obligations existing under any Commercial Treaty for the time being in force.said, he was anxious to direct the attention of the Committee to a matter of great importance. He admitted that it would have been better if, in one of the later clauses or schedules of the Bill, the Amendment which he was about to propose could have been introduced; on the other hand, it would be far more convenient, if he were right in the view he entertained, that the time of the House should not be consumed in the useless attempt at legislation in a direction which could never come into effect, and which would never have any practicable result. The view which he was anxious to present to the Committee was, that it was impossible to proceed with any portion of the Bill affecting the slaughter of cattle, so far as those nations with whom we had commercial relations were concerned, without committing a breach of Treaties which the House, if it were shown that we were proceeding in the face of those nations to legislate in a direction that produced a breach of those Treaties, would never sanction. He was sure the House would be at once disposed to consider that question with a due regard to its gravity, and that, if the Committee should come to the conclusion that he, and those who entertained the same opinions upon the subject with him, were right, they would not proceed to legislate with the object and intention of breaking the Treaties to which he had referred; and he thought, also, that he might appeal to the Government for a confirmation of the principle contained in his Amendment, that they should not pass one clause of the Bill by which such breach of Treaties would be effected. What were their obligations to foreign nations? He was not about to trouble the Committee with a review of all the Commercial Treaties into which we had entered with the different States of Europe; but it would be well to call the attention of the Committee to one or two of the Treaties effected with those countries from which they received and were likely to receive their supplies of live cattle. The Committee would know that those Treaties contained a clause known by the name of the "Most Favoured Nation Clause," and while they 1622 would also probably be aware of its effect, he might, perhaps, be permitted to call their attention to its express words, and to show how strong was the obligation which that clause cast upon them. The first Article of the Treaty with Belgium, which would be found to be most important, not only with respect to the claims of that country, and with respect to the relations of England with other foreign countries, but also in relation to Ireland, contained these words—There shall be reciprocal liberty of commerce between all the subjects of the two high contracting parties, and the subjects of each of them shall, throughout the whole of the territory and possessions of the other, enjoy the same rights, privileges, liberties, favours, immunities, and exemptions in matters of commerce and navigation which are or may be enjoyed by native subjects.That was to say, that Belgium should enjoy the same privileges in matters of commerce which were enjoyed by the subjects of this country. We had also a Treaty with France, by the 19th Article of which the two contracting Powers engaged not to enforce against each other any article of prohibition which was not at the same time applicable to other nations. The words of the Treaty with Austria were equally strong. The 7th clause said, that the high contracting parties agreed that every reduction in duty and every privilege, favour, or immunity which either of the high contracting parties might in future grant to the commerce of a third Power should be extended immediately to the other contracting party without reserve, and in the same way as they should apply to the commerce of such third Power. Subject to some reservations, Clause 8 of the Treaty provided that the subjects of one of the contracting parties should, in the dominions and possessions of the other, enjoy an equality of trading, in regard to charges for loading, unloading, and warehousing, and also in regard to transit trade. The engagement with Prussia was almost similar. He believed he had read enough to the House to show that, having regard to our Treaty obligations with the countries of Belgium, France, Austria, and Prussia, they ought not to place any other State in a better position than those countries with relation to the importation of cattle. Was it intended to keep to those obligations, and, whether practicable or not, to en- 1623 deavour to remedy the defects existing in the Bill, or was it intended to proceed in a course of legislation which would at once effect a breach of those Treaty obligations? But if it were declared by Act of Parliament that one country was not to have the same rights as another, that constituted a breach of Treaty obligations. And it was not enough to say that the Privy Council had a discretionary power to remedy this inequality. It was derogatory to the House and the country to proceed in a course of exceptional legislation in the face of our Treaty obligations, and he was certain hon. Members opposite would be most unwilling to see the country placed in such a position by putting one country on terms of inequality with another by virtue of the Bill before the Committee. He thought he could make good his statement that it was intended to do so. The House would recollect that, by virtue of the 3rd clause of the 5th Schedule, the general result would be that, primâ facie, all animals imported from foreign States must be slaughtered at the ports where disembarkation took place. But it would be found, by the 17th clause of the 5th schedule, that Canada and the United States were placed in a different position in relation to the slaughter of their cattle. The words were—''In relation to animals brought from Her Majesty's possessions in North America, or from the United States of America, the provisions of this schedule relating to slaughter or to quarantine, or any of those provisions, shall not have effect unless and until the Privy Council from time to time by general or special Order so direct.He asked the Committee to consider the effect of that one clause alone. They had, by virtue of the Treaties with Belgium and France, promised those two countries that there should be no inequality in relation to the import and transit of cattle between them and any other State, and they were now about to enact with regard to those countries, by a provision of the Bill, which admitted of no relaxation, that their cattle must be slaughtered at the port of disembarkation. But how were the American cattle to be dealt with? Primâ facie, they would be allowed to roam about the country, without restriction, unless the Privy Council interfered. Was it right that the cattle of France, Belgium, Austria, and Prussia 1624 should be slaughtered on their arrival in this country, while the American cattle passed freely from one part of it to another? He asked the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, who would have to consider the subject, whether he would maintain that that was equality? It was not enough to say they would effect some remedy in the future; they had no right to enact a wrong against which they might provide hereafter. Legislation which placed countries, to which they were bound by obligations such as he had described, in a state of inequality with other countries, was in itself a breach of the Treaty. ["No, no!"] His right hon. Friend opposite said "No, no," but he respectfully differed from him, and asserted with confidence that if they legislated and said that one country should have rights which differed from those of another country, they established an inequality; if they left it optionally to one country—say America—to send beasts over here without their being slaughtered at the port of disembarkation, and prohibited France and Austria from doing the same, that was inequality. He now turned to the Amendment which had been adopted by the Government, and proposed to the House as the terms upon, which they should pass the Bill. The new paragraph to be inserted at the end of the 5th Schedule, said—In relation to animals brought from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Spain, or Portugal, if, and as long as, from time to time, the Privy Council are satisfied, with respect to any one of those countries, that the laws thereof relating to the importation and exportation of animals, and to the prevention of the introduction or spreading of disease therein, are sufficient to afford reasonable security against the importation there from of diseased animals, and that disease is not prevalent therein, then from time to time the Privy Council may, by general or special Order, allow animals, or any specified kind thereof, brought from that country, to be landed without being subject under the provisions of this schedule to slaughter or to quarantine, and may for that purpose alter or add to those provisions, as the case may require.It was the intention of the Government to propose that Amendment to the Committee, as an argument for the acceptance of the Bill. He asked the Committee to consider the general result of that Amendment. In the first place, all foreign countries landing live stock in this country, with the exception of 1625 America, would have their live stock slaughtered and sold; and with, relation to the five countries enumerated in the proposed Amendment, the Privy Council might, at any time, set them free from the operation of the Bill; but it could not set free any country saving the five countries. The result was that they were legislating in a manner which would allow American cattle to come in freely, and positively prohibit the cattle from countries whose Treaties with us contained the "Most Favoured Nation Clause," while we delegated to the Privy Council the power to allow the entry of cattle from countries other than the contracting countries. He asked the Committee, was that equality? If the Privy Council came to the conclusion that the laws of the five countries mentioned in the proposed Amendment relating to the importation and exportation of animals, and the prevention and introduction or spread of disease were sufficient, and afforded a reasonable security against disease in this country, upon that being shown, they would be bound to exempt those countries from the operation of the Act, and they could not arbitrarily refuse to exercise their judgment truly as to whether any one of those five excepted countries should be taken out of the provisions of the Act. Why were those countries excepted? It was because of the possibility that they were free from disease, and that their laws were sufficient to prevent the spread of disease; and on their application for exemption, there was little doubt that the Privy Council would at once declare them outside the operation of the Act, and that their cattle should not be slaughtered. Only a few nights ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had asked what was the point at issue between them? and had himself replied that the only difference between those who wished to make the five excepted countries subject to the Privy Council, and those who asked for further exceptions was, that the one wished to bring them under an Act of Parliament, and the other under an Order in Council. According to the view of the right hon. Gentleman, he had represented that as the same thing when he desired to make peace between the Opposition and the Government, on the ground that the Privy Council would do what was right, whether the case of a 1626 particular country were left to their discretion or provided for by statute—the two things were identical. That was, in effect, saying to the Representatives of the five countries—"We are about to subject you to the certain decision, judgment, and discretion of the Privy Council, and the moment you satisfy them that your cattle are clean and will not spread disease, your cattle shall enter these ports." But in the case of France and Austria, if the Representative of the latter came with proof in his hand, that the cattle of his country were free from disease, and that the laws of the country were sufficient to prevent the spreading of disease, and said—"Our herds and flocks are waiting to be sent to your country," and if the Representative of France were to say—"We see Spanish vessels passing by our shores, day by day, laden with Spanish cattle, and producing great profit to the Spanish owners, while you shut out ours when disease may at any time enter their possessions; you have promised to give us equal rights with them, and every other nation whether you contracted with them by Treaty or not; why do you not let in our cattle in the same way as you admit the cattle of Spain and Portugal?"—what answer would it be to say—"We cannot do it unless the Privy Council make the Order?" He called the attention of the Government to these facts. If they had done wrong before, it was no reason why they should do wrong again. He repeated that they would have no justification for giving to the Government and the Privy Council the right to place the five countries in a different position to the countries to which they had made the promise that they should have equal rights with any other country. It would be no answer to say that this power had been conferred on a portion of the Executive Government. They had said, by express enactment, France, Austria, Belgium, and Prussia, should have their cattle slaughtered; but they would give to Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Denmark, the right of bringing their cattle to this country, subject to the discretion of the Privy Council. There was another matter to which he wished to call the attention of the Committee. It would be recollected that the terms of the first Article of the Treaty with Belgium were that that country should 1627 have the same rights, privileges, favours, immunities, and exemptions, in matters of commerce and navigation as were enjoyed by native subjects. What, under the present law, were the rights of Ireland? If he understood them rightly, they were, that if out of 300 animals sent from Dublin to Liverpool one only was diseased, that one alone would be slaughtered and the others would be admitted. Was that admitting Belgium to equal rights with native subjects? How could the treatment of cattle in the two cases be reconciled? Was it equality to enact that all the cattle from Belgium should be slaughtered; while, in the case of Ireland, only the cattle were to be slaughtered that were actually diseased? He would rather that inequality should have existed between two foreign countries than between a part of our own country and a foreign State to which we had promised that no difference should exist as between the subjects of the two countries. He objected to the passing of the Bill, on the promise that if any inequality should arise, the Government would come down to the House and ask for further powers. Suppose, for example, that in September next we were admitting Spanish cattle, and the Representative of France complained and asked that the French cattle should be admitted on the same terms. The Privy Council would reply—"We cannot do it, because Parliament has not given us the powers; if you will wait till we meet again in February next, Parliament shall remedy by fresh legislation any inequality which then exists;" but by that time they might change their minds and disapprove of the admission of cattle from any countries other than those named in the Schedule. He begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, with the full assurance that the gravity of the question would justify its insertion.
In page 1, line 17, after the word "Act," to insert the words, "Provided, That no such order shall be valid if its operation shall be inconsistent with the obligations existing under any Commercial Treaty for the time being in force."—(Sir Henry James.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he was quite ready to admit at 1628 once the gravity of the question which the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) had brought under the notice of the Government, on whose behalf, especially, he would say that it was not their wish, at all events, to see the obligations of Treaties set aside; but he wished to place before the Committee his opinion that the Treaties which contained the so-called "favoured nation clause" would not be set aside by the action of the Bill; and with due deference to the knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he would state the grounds of his opinion. He maintained that the clauses of the Bill made no difference with regard to the importation of cattle into this country, inasmuch as that importation was the same in all cases, and it was only the manner in which cattle were dealt with afterwards, which was subject to different home and police regulations. The House of Commons had determined what were the requirements of the country with regard to the control of cattle diseases, and with regard to the measure of police regulations which might be necessary in this country for checking that disease, as well as those home regulations which should come into force after the importation of cattle had taken place. Parliament retained in its own hands the power of dealing with that question, while it delegated certain powers to the Privy Council, acting under its direction; and, in certain cases, it gave to the Privy Council powers of action which in other cases it reserved to itself. From that point of view, what was proposed under the Bill? Parliament determined that the evidence before it justified the introduction of cattle from America, and intrusted to the Privy Council a discretion with regard to certain other countries mentioned in the Schedule, in consequence of having satisfied themselves that the restrictions in those countries, though not so complete as those in America, were or would soon be, sufficiently strict to allow the Privy Council a discretion in the matter. With regard to other countries, Parliament decided, on evidence before it at the present time, that those countries were not in an equal position, and Parliament in the same Bill declared that those countries were not equal, in respect to disease, to the other countries, and it prohibited the importation of cattle, except for slaughter. Which ever country 1629 could show that it fulfilled the conditions which Parliament had agreed to be sufficient to warrant the introduction of cattle from America would have the same treatment applied to it by Parliament as was applied to America. He maintained that the whole question was the action of Parliament, either by itself, or through its delegated authority given to the Privy Council. He thought hon. Members could hardly deny that Parliament had the power of dealing with the importation of disease. How were we situated at the present time, and what was the treatment of the different nations with which we had the "Favoured Nation Clause?" At that very moment, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, and Austria were prohibited from introducing cattle into this country, except for slaughter at the ports. There had been times—it was so only a few months ago—when we went even further with those countries, and on account of the danger from disease, their cattle were actually prohibited from coming to this country. With regard to Russia, that state of things existed at the present time. He would ask the Committee whether, from the point of view that had been put forward, that was not as great an infringement of Treaties as was involved in this Bill? ["No, no!" and "Equality!"] An hon. Member exclaimed "equality!" but where was the equality of shutting out cattle from Germany and allowing, at the same time, cattle from Denmark to come in, unless it was that one country fulfilled the conditions laid down, and another did not? That was the law at the present time, and the distinction was admitted. Well, the distinction had been drawn in this Bill. Parliament would say in the Bill that those countries which were at present excluded from free access to the whole of England by Order of the Privy Council, had not been able to satisfy this country that their bill of health was in the same condition as that of the unscheduled countries; and, under those circumstances, the position of the former countries would be identical with their position at present. He maintained that it was Parliament, and not the Privy Council, which should act in this matter; and Parliament could always, on the conditions in one of those countries being proved to be equal to the conditions now existing in America, put that country on 1630 an equality with America. Unless restrictions with regard to disease were altogether done away with, he did not see how the Bill would be altering the present state of things; because they would leave to any country the power of proving that it was free from disease, and, on such proof being given, cattle from the country would be admitted as freely as those of America were under the Bill. All turned on the question whether the Privy Council or Parliament was to have the initiative; the power in either case remained of dealing in the same way with all nations which could show equality of freedom from disease, and it was only because that freedom from disease was not shown by certain nations that they were not included in the provisions of the Bill.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) did not seem to see the objection which had been raised. He seemed to think that a Treaty was not broken, because after it had been broken, Parliament would be able to restore it. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) contended that three or four Treaties would be broken from the very moment at which we established an inequality with regard to cattle coming into this country. Let the Committee consider for a moment what would be the position of France. France had one of the strongest of these Treaties with us, and the Treaty stated that neither England nor France would enforce against the other any prohibition of importation or exportation which should not at the same time be applicable to all other Powers. The hon. Baronet had frequently used a phrase which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had used that night in answering a question—"in like cases;" but if the cases were alike, the treatment of different countries under this Bill would not necessarily be alike. It would not be in the power of the Privy Council under this Bill to admit French cattle, even although France was entirely free from disease; while it would be in the power of the Privy Council to admit the cattle of countries that competed with France; and, therefore, with like freedom from disease, there would not be a like principle of treatment applicable to all cases. The hon. Baronet seemed to think that the Treaties were limited to importation, 1631 and took no account of internal trade. But some nations appeared to have contemplated the very objection now raised, and the Austrian Treaty distinctly used the word "transit." In that Treaty, it was provided that the subjects of one of the contracting Powers should enjoy in the dominions of the other equality of treatment with native subjects, not only in the charges for loading and unloading, and for warehousing, but in regard to transit trade. The word "facilities" was also used; but the phrase "transit trade" was the strongest phrase in all these Treaties; and it was distinctly applicable by the "Most Favoured Nation Clause" to France and to all the countries now in question. The hon. Baronet said the position was exactly the same as it would be if they passed the Bill, and he seemed really to think that the House would believe—as he, evidently, believed himself—that that would strictly be the case. But how could anyone who had carefully read the Bill come to such a conclusion? It was true that at the present time live cattle were sent here by countries which would also send them if the Bill passed; but, at the present time, there was equality of treatment of all the countries of Europe and America, the Privy Council having power to make rules with regard to them, admitting or refusing their cattle, and the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "in like cases," applied. When the cases were the same, the same rule applied. But if the Bill were passed, this would no longer be so; the cases of France and Spain might be precisely similar, but cattle would be admitted from Spain and not from France. He contended that the moment the clause was passed the Treaty with France would be broken, and it would be no answer to the French Government to say that it was open to Parliament at its pleasure to undo the mischief which had been done.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, he hoped the Government would seriously consider the Amendment. Did they for a moment wish to say that the operation of the clause was to be valid, even if it were inconsistent with the provisions of a Treaty? He thought his hon. Friends could not see what they were plunging into. They were really attacking the faith of all Treaties. Now, we stood on Treaties—our platform was "respect for the operation of Treaties" 1632 —and here were the Government saying that a clause should be valid whether it was consistent with the provisions of Treaties or not. The Amendment could do no harm, and would save the faith of this country towards foreign countries. What would be the effect of refusing the Amendment? The Government would break the clauses of a Treaty without giving notice, and that would release the foreign country from any obligation towards this country under that Treaty. He would ask the Law Officers of the Crown to say if that would not be the case? He felt strongly that they were bound to acknowledge the operation of Treaties, and not to pass any legislation that was inconsistent with them. He hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would carefully consider the Amendment, and would not, for exigencies of legislation, allow a doubt to be thrown on the intention of Government to maintain its Treaties with foreign countries.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he was very much surprised at what had fallen from the hon. Baronet, as he had not in any way answered his (Mr. Mundella's) general question, as to whether they could, consistently with their Treaty obligations, maintain the conditions imposed by the Bill? He should also have expected, after the able speech of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), that the hon. and learned Attorney General would favour the House with his opinion. He should be surprised if the hon. and learned Gentleman were to maintain that if the Bill were to pass in its entirety, the action of Parliament would be all that was required to restore to a position of equality those countries that had fallen under its operation. If that were so, he would much prefer that the Bill was made to harmonize with the conditions laid down in foreign Treaties. The hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) said that when a country could show, as America could show, a clean bill of health, then Parliament would deal with it, and would place it in the same position as America. But a country that had a Treaty with this country had no right to be required to wait until we had passed an Act of Parliament. Such a country had nothing to do with an Act of Parliament. A Treaty was a binding contract, and was in force from the moment 1633 it was signed. In nearly every one of our Treaties with foreign countries there was the condition that every rectification of the tariff of import and export duties, and every other privilege, favour, and immunity—the hon. Baronet himself proposed, by the Amendment which he had placed on the Notice Paper, to give a privilege, favour, and immunity to five countries—which either of the contracting Powers should thereafter grant to the subjects and commerce of a third Power should be extended—when? When an Act of Parliament had been passed? No;—should be extended immediately and unconditionally to the other contracting Power. These were the terms to which he wanted to bind the hon. Baronet. Let them suppose the Bill passed, and that at the close of the Session Spain was sending cattle, and France had a clean bill of health and wanted to send cattle—France would complain that they had passed an Act under which she could not send cattle, unless they were slaughtered at the port of landing. The Privy Council would reply that they would endeavour to get an Act of Parliament passed; but it would be 12 months at the earliest before they could do so, and where would the Treaty be all that time? He would ask the hon. and learned Attorney General to consider some of these Treaties. In the Austrian Treaty it said that Austrian subjects and commerce should be placed in all other respects on the footing of the "most favoured nation;" and in another Article it recited that the subjects of one of the contracting parties should enjoy in the dominions and possessions of the other equality of treatment with native subjects in the charges of loading and unloading, warehousing, and the transit trade, as also of bounties, facilities, and drawbacks. What could they have stronger than this? The same Treaty, in its last Article, recited that this could not be modified, except that the high contracting parties reserved to themselves the power to introduce, by common consent, into the Treaty any modification which was not opposed to its spirit and principles, and the utility of which should have been shown by experience. So much for the Austrian Treaty. The Belgian Treaty was quite as strong. It said that in all that related to navigation and commerce the high contracting parties should not 1634 grant any privilege, favour, or immunity to any other country which should not be at once and immediately—immediately, not after an Act of Parliament had been passed and a discussion had taken place in that House—conceded to their respective subjects. What would happen if the Bill were passed? Belgian cattle, it was true, were now prohibited from entering inwards; but must be slaughtered at the ports. Why was this? Because they had put Belgian cattle exactly on an equality of condition with all other cattle. When Belgium could show as clean a bill of health as Spain, or Portugal, or Denmark, she would be allowed to send cattle, as those countries were allowed to do. But if this Bill passed, no matter what was the condition of Belgian cattle, the Privy Council would not have the power to admit them. The Treaty with Prussia and the Zollverein, signed in May, 1869, recited that any favour, privilege, or rectification of tariff or duties on importation or exportation which either of the contracting Powers should extend to any third party should be extended immediately and unconditionally to the other Power. Did they think that Prince Bismarck, if they treated him as he would be treated by this Bill, would respect their Commercial Treaties? Let them consider what a demand there was all over Europe on the part of Protectionists to abrogate their Commercial Treaties, and how important it was for this country to maintain the faith of those Treaties. Yet here was the Government deliberately proposing to violate them by an Act of Parliament. There was a supplementary Treaty with France, which said that each of the high contracting Powers engaged to extend to the other any favour, privilege, or diminution of tariff, which either of them might grant to a third Power, with regard to the importation of goods mentioned or not mentioned in the Treaty. So that they could not refuse to France anything, whether recited in the Treaty or not, which they gave to a third Power. How, then, could they maintain that they were keeping their Treaties, if they passed the provisions of the Bill? The hon. Baronet said that the position of the nations of Europe would be precisely the same when the Bill was passed as they were at present. It would be so, 1635 if those countries that had a clean bill of health remained free from disease, and those that were unclean continued to be infected; but if a country now infected should become free of disease, the Privy Council would not be able to admit the cattle of that country, because their hands would be tied and fettered by this Bill. He wanted to know why the Government could not allow things to remain as at present? The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (the Marquess of Salisbury), when the Bill passed the third reading in "another place," declared that while the President of the Council remained in Office there was no need even for this Bill.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he bowed to the decision of the Chairman; but he would say that if it was contended by anybody anywhere that the Bill was needless so long as the present Lord President of the Council occupied his place, all the Government had to do was to put in the Bill a provision that immediately a Liberal Government should accede to power the Bill should come into operation. That would meet the difficulties of the case. If hon. Members had confidence in the Privy Council, surely they had equal confidence in the continuity of their position—at any rate, for some time to come they needed not to be disturbed about it. Why should they run the risk of bringing their system into collision with nearly all the commercial Powers of Europe, and of placing in jeopardy all the commercial benefits which the country derived from Treaties, merely because they were afraid that a Liberal Government would come into power? He would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Leader of the House, to get rid at once of a great difficulty and a blot on the Bill which met them everywhere. If the Government would but retain the discretion now vested in the Privy Council, Liberals would help them to pass the Bill. Let them exclude disease wherever they found it; but whenever a country showed a clean bill of health, let the cattle from that country find their way to the consumers of our inland towns. Hon. Gentlemen behind the Government had confidence in the Privy Council with respect to inter 1636 nal regulations; why not with respect to external regulations? How would those hon. Members who had been advocates of Treaties of Commerce and of Free Trade meet other nations when they said—"It suits you to have Free Trade when it is convenient for you; but when you want to protect your farmers, you exclude our cattle, healthy or not healthy." He had Amendments further on which would raise the whole question. In fact, the question faced them all through the Bill, and he did not believe the Bill would ever be passed with that provision in it. He thought Liberals would be to blame if they allowed the Bill to pass in its present form, both on account of its effect upon their constituencies, and on account of its interference with International Treaties. Englishmen believed in Treaties, and meant to fulfil their Treaty engagements; but he said the House could not pass the Bill, and at the same time keep its Treaty engagements. He hoped the hon. and learned Attorney General would say whether they could do so. If he did say so, all that could be said was that lawyers differed, for he (Mr. Mundella) had taken counsel's opinion on the point, and, as far as he knew, there were not two opinions about it. He had not heard a single lawyer say that they could maintain their Treaty engagements intact if they passed this Bill.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir JOHN HOLKER)
said, the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had expressed himself as being very anxious that he (the Attorney General) should get up and state his opinion whether that Bill could be passed without infringing Treaty engagements. Well, he (the Attorney General) said distinctly, having considered the matter as carefully as he could consider anything, that the Bill could be passed in its present form without infringing any Treaty whatever; and if the House would permit him, he would state, as shortly and distinctly as he could, the reason for the faith that was in him. The hon. Gentleman, in treating of the Bill generally, had said that it would be well to postpone the operation of the Bill until a Liberal Government came into power. Possibly the Government might do well to consider that suggestion, but that they feared it would entail too long a postponement; and therefore they would pre- 1637 fer to have the Bill come into operation soon. But before he came to state the reasons which had led him to the conclusion that the Bill could be passed without infringing any Treaty obligations, he would say a word or two with regard to the very earnest and vehement and able speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). The hon. and learned Gentleman began by apologizing to the House for having introduced his Amendment at so early a stage of the Bill. He (the Attorney General) maintained that his hon. and learned Friend had not brought in his Amendment on a clause which was very à propos. He had introduced an Amendment of a very seductive character, for he asked them to say that no Order, such as was described in Clause 2, should be valid if its operation should be inconsistent with the obligations of any Commercial Treaty, for the time being in force. Now, that was certainly a very plausible suggestion, which was apt to seize at once on the imagination. In fact, it had seized on the imagination of his hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), and had captivated him perfectly. But his hon. Friend had not considered sufficiently the insidious nature of the Amendment. Read exactly as it stood, it proceeded upon the hypothesis that the Orders which would be made under the 2nd clause of the Bill were Orders which would be inconsistent with our Treaty obligations. The position of the Government was, that those Orders would not be inconsistent with Treaty obligations. There was no intention to make any Orders which would be inconsistent with their Treaty obligations, and it was only by assuming that his own view was correct—which his hon. and learned Friend was not often reluctant to assume—that he could make out that these Orders would be inconsistent with their Treaty obligations. Again, let them consider the position in which they should place themselves if they admitted this Amendment. If they accepted the Amendment, they would relegate to the decision, not of the Government, not of Parliament, not of the Executive, or of the country, but of the local tribunals of this country, the question whether any of these Orders were consistent with their strict Treaty obligations. [Sir WILLIAM HAR- 1638 COURT: Hear, hear!] "Hear, hear!" said his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the city of Oxford. He dared say that his hon. and learned Friend would like to argue before the Queen's Bench or the Exchequer Division of the High Court, whether a particular Order made by the Privy Council, at all events during the existence of the present Government, was or was not inconsistent with their Treaty obligations; and perhaps his hon. and learned Friend, with all his peculiar knowledge on this subject, might succeed in convincing the Court of First Instance that the Order was contrary to Treaty obligations, and he would triumph until that decision was overruled by the Court of Appeal. It did not seem to him, then, that it would be reasonable to accept this Amendment, seductive as it was, even if the object of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton, in introducing it, was not perfectly apparent, and was not, in fact, confessed. His hon. and learned Friend had stated his view was that the Bill was contrary to their Treaty obligations, and that, if it passed into law, those obligations would be broken, and that, therefore, he had hastened to bring the matter before the Committee in order that they might have a decision upon the question. He did not particularly care in what clause he inserted his Amendment, provided it was inserted in the Bill. The truth was, that his hon. and learned Friend had somewhere or other stumbled upon this idea; he was exceedingly delighted with it; and he thought it a good point. Like a child with a new doll, he could not refrain from hastening to introduce it into society; but he (the Attorney General) hoped to be able to show in a very few words that his hon. and learned Friend's point was not a good one, and that it was not a handsome doll, for when it came to be examined it turned out to be nothing but a bit of cotton filled with sawdust. He thought that everybody—at least the lawyers in that House—would agree that, unless there was in a Treaty this "favoured nation clause"—with which he should have to deal presently—there was no obligation on the part of this country to afford any facility to any other country to import cattle, or merchandize, or to do anything else. Unless they were bound by a Treaty which 1639 contained a "favoured nation clause," they might say to any country, with whom they might come in contact, or with whom they might have dealings or negotiations—"We will not admit your goods; or, we will not admit your goods, except we subject them to certain specified restrictions." Such conduct might be impolitic. He was not going to say it would not; but such conduct would not be illegal or unjustifiable by international or other law. But then he came to deal with nations who had got the "favoured nation clause," and in whose interests the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), and others had spoken. Let him deal with that clause. No doubt there were a great many countries with which Great Britain had entered into Treaties which contained what was popularly called the "favoured nation clause." His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton had referred, and quite accurately referred, to a number of those Treaties. Now, what was the meaning of the "favoured nation clause?" He took it that in whatever language that clause might be expressed—and the language of the different Treaties was not always the same—but whatever language might be used, the real meaning of that clause was this—"You, Great Britain, shall treat us in the same way as you treat the most favoured nation with whom you have a Treaty—that is to say, you shall treat us as well as you treat them under the like circumstances." [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear!] He was glad the hon. Member applauded that view. He knew that there were some views he would enunciate which would meet with the hon. Member's approval. He hoped that all he would enunciate might meet with his approval. Really and truly, then, the "favoured nation clause" meant that which was expressed in the case of Austria—namely, that neither of the high contracting Powers or parties should establish a prohibition of importation, exportation, or transit, if hon. Members liked, against the other which should not "under like circumstances" be applicable to the third country most favoured in this respect. Now, that might be taken as a good sample of a "most favoured nation clause." ["No, no!"] No! Why, his hon. and 1640 learned Friend the Member for Taunton read that clause out as one of the principal instruments, and the hon. Member for Sheffield relied upon it. Such, at least, was his view of the meaning of a "most favoured nation clause." Of course, hon. Gentlemen could get up and controvert that doctrine if they could; but he should be astonished if any lawyer on the other side of the House should get up and state that that was not the meaning of the "most favoured nation clause." [Mr. HERSCHELL: That is only a part of it.] He should like to know, then, what was the meaning of the "most favoured nation clause?" Assuming, for a moment, that Belgium was overrun with rinderpest, and that Belgium said to Great Britain—"Oh! you have contracted to treat us as the most favoured nation. America, where there is no disease, or, at least, none to speak of, is allowed to import cattle into your country under no restriction, and we in Belgium, although we are overrun with rinderpest, ask to be allowed to import cattle, too, without restriction." ["No, no!"] That would be treating Belgium, not as the most favoured nation, but much more favourably than the most favoured nation. It would be extending to Belgium a far greater favour than any extended to any other nation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said "No!" but he was only humbly endeavouring to point out to them the extravagant position into which their own doctrines would lead them. He would apply this clause to the importation of cattle. No doubt, it related to a great many other matters; but with respect to the importation of cattle, the "favoured nation clause" meant that as long as cattle could be imported—say, from France—without danger to this country, they might be imported, and should be treated whilst being, and after they had been, imported exactly as favourably as cattle which had come from America. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite who cheered would do well to wait till he had stated the whole of his proposition. That would be the position of France, as long as she was a clean country. The moment, however, France became an unclean country, would it be fair or right for France to say to Great Britain that, because the latter had entered into a certain Treaty, she must admit French 1641 cattle, although they might be the means of spreading disease throughout this country? ["No, no!"] Why, of course, hon. Gentlemen would not say that. Even the most enthusiastic supporter of the Bill could not venture to argue to the contrary—not because of the letter of the Treaty, but because the circumstances of the two countries were different. Could it for a moment be contended that some authority should not have power to prevent the importation of diseased cattle from France? Hon. Members opposite cheered the action of the Bill of 1869, which conferred such a power as he had mentioned upon the Privy Council. Did they contend that because Parliament had given that power to the Privy Council it had authorized France to be treated not as the most favoured nation? ["No, no!"] They did not contend that. But if that was not their contention, then all the Orders which had been issued by the Privy Council were justifiable. Would it not be perfectly justifiable to say to Belgium, Holland, or Germany, if in the same position as France—that was to say, if they were countries in which cattle disease was prevalent—that they should not import cattle into Great Britain until they wore allowed to do so by order of the Privy Council? Then hon. Members admitted that by making these Orders this country was not infringing its Treaty obligations, or treating these countries contrary to the "most favoured nation clause." What became, then, of their contention with regard to Belgium being treated exactly as Ireland? The Government could control proceedings in Ireland, and take precautions against the spread of disease, but they could not in Belgium. If his argument was admitted so far, it was obviously competent for this country to constitute some authority or other who should declare that for a particular, or even an indefinite, time cattle should not be imported from countries which were, or probably would be, infected with disease. Then who was to judge whether they were, or would be, infected or not? Were they to relegate the decision of that question to Belgium, or Holland, or Germany, or France? Was it not the province rather of the Government, or of any authority that Parliament might authorize, to form a judgment upon that matter? Hon. Members 1642 opposite said the Privy Council might do it. The High Court of Parliament might do it if the Committee would give it the authority. Why not give it the authority? [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh; but it was as plain a proposition as was ever propounded. What was the difference between an Order made by the Privy Council and an Order made by Parliament? The only difference was, that in the one case a body comparatively small made an Order with regard to the importation of cattle, and in the other case a body that was comparatively large. It was clearly the duty of the Government to prevent anything being done which could have the effect of spreading disease over the country; and as it was given to the Privy Council to make Orders for the purpose, he saw no reason why Parliament itself should not have the same power. They made no difference between countries in which the circumstances were equal; it was only where the circumstances were not equal that a difference was made between countries. He had now explained his views on this subject. He had no doubt that they would not meet with the acceptance of some of his hon. and learned Friends on the opposite side, who were strenuous opponents of this Bill, and who seemed perfectly delighted that they had discovered this argument in reference to foreign nations. He had no doubt that these nations would be obliged to his hon. and learned Friends for the pains and trouble which they had taken on their behalf; but it was rather funny that no foreign Governments had themselves made a complaint as to the Bill in the form in which it was now before the Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that if he had been Attorney General, he should not have taken for granted that no foreign nation had complained of the Bill, and he would advise his hon. and learned Friend to inquire at the Foreign Office whether that was the fact or not? Ho had the profoundest respect for the opinion of his hon. and learned Friend on a matter which he had considered; but he was quite sure that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, who were familiar with the provisions of this measure, must have perceived, from the remarks of his hon. and learned Friend, that his multifarious avocations, both of a public and private nature, had 1643 prevented him from reading the Bill. His whole argument was founded on the very points for which those who opposed the Bill had been contending. His hon. and learned Friend must have been surprised at the silence of those behind him, and the cheers which he received from the Benches opposite to him. But the fact was, that a more conclusive reasoning against the Bill, and in favour of everything for which they had been contending, than the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was never heard. What did he say? He said that French cattle, under similar circumstances, should be treated as favourably as American cattle. No wonder it was received with silence upon the other side of the House. The whole object of the Bill was, that French cattle should be treated, under similar circumstances, in a totally different way from American cattle; and his hon. and learned Friend said it was no invasion of the ''favoured nation clause," because, under similar circumstances, they treated all cattle the same. He (Sir William Harcourt) would venture to make a suggestion to Her Majesty's Government. They had got into a good many scrapes in their international relations with other countries. There was the question of Extradition, and what did they do there? They came forward and told the American Government that they would not act upon the Extradition Treaty, because they were prohibited by a statute from doing so. They had had the opinion of their Law Officers and the Lord Chancellor, and they got into a very awkward mess with America. But after securing majorities in both Houses, the moment Parliament was up the Government gave way, and surrendered to America, because they could not defend the opinion of their legal authorities on that question. They then appointed a Royal Commission, who almost unanimously pronounced against their views upon the subject; and that was the end of their Extradition contest with America, and their violation of the Treaty of 1843 with that country. He would advise the Government not to get into a similar scrape upon this Bill. They might take the advice of the Attorney General, and have majorities in their favour in that House; but they would have remonstrances from foreign countries, to which they would be obliged to yield, exactly 1644 as they did in the case of their quarrel with America upon the subject of Extradition. Therefore, he thought the question was one which the Government had better deal with with considerable caution. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman had laid down the principle, that in the "most favoured nation clause" they must, under similar circumstances, deal with all countries alike. He (Sir William Harcourt) was not going to quarrel with that proposition, though, if strictly interpreted, it would be found not to be quite correct. For instance, he would take a question which excited a great deal of interest in this country, and that was the bounty upon a certain class of sugar. They were bound to admit this sugar, under similar circumstances, from different countries; but they had great difficulty with France, where a bonus was given by France itself upon this sugar. They might have said the circumstances were not similar in a country which gave a bonus on this sugar, and, therefore, they would not admit it. But it would not be politic to maintain a proposition to that extent. However, it was not necessary, in regard to this Bill, to make that distinction, because the charge which was made against the measure was that, under similar circumstances, it did not treat all countries alike. The hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill said that where the Privy Council were satisfied that the laws of particular countries with reference to cattle disease were such that they might be safely trusted with respect to importation, they might admit them. That was the situation of the five countries which had been so often referred to in the course of these debates. But suppose that circumstances exactly similar should occur in reference to other countries, did they give them equal facilities of admission? No, they did not. Therefore, he (Sir William Harcourt) took the test of the hon. and learned Attorney General, and said that, under similar circumstances, they did not treat all countries alike. Suppose that in the month of September France was to pass laws which should satisfy the conditions of the Amendment of the Secretary to the Treasury, and that the Privy Council were perfectly satisfied that the cattle of France might be safely admitted. Why, what would the Privy Council be obliged to say? 1645 "We can admit Spain, Portugal, and Denmark; but though you are exactly in the same condition we cannot admit you, and you must wait for an Act of Parliament." Was that treating countries under similar circumstances in the same manner? The Government knew it was not. The very object of the Bill was that they should not treat all countries in the same manner. The hon. and learned Attorney General said it was very "funny" that they should take this interest in foreign countries. It was not at all funny. He should have thought that the hon. and learned Member for Preston would have known that this country had some interest in the Commercial Treaty with France. He should have thought the prosperity of Lancashire in a great degree depended upon the admission, under Mr. Cobden's Treaty, of the goods of Lancashire into France. But did they suppose that they could treat France in that way, and yet maintain the exports from this country into France? Did they suppose that they could break the conditions which were the considerations for that Treaty, and that France would continue to treat them in the same manner? Therefore, he begged to tell the hon. and learned Attorney General that it was not "funny" at all that they should be interested in this matter, or that the commercial communities of this country should be interested in the maintenance of Treaties. This country had at least as great, and he believed a far greater, interest in maintaining these Treaties than the foreign countries themselves had. Take the case of the United States, which was a still stronger case than that of the five countries, because in the case of these latter the Government made the rule of slaughter the exceptional condition. They did not do that in the case of the United States whose cattle they still admitted as before. Those countries which were excluded had a perfect right to say—"What right have you to place us under greater disabilities than you place those other five countries under?" The case was well put by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) when he said that in September France might come forward and say—"We are now free from disease; we have framed our laws to satisfy your requirements; admit our cattle in the same manner as those of 1646 the five favoured nations." The reply of the Privy Council to that would be—"True, your laws are right, and you are in as satisfactory a condition as regards the disease as Spain, or Portugal, or Denmark; but Parliament has taken from us the power to admit your cattle as we have the right to admit those of other countries. You must wait nine or ten months until we can appeal to Parliament." But everyone knew that the privilege of being admitted by the Privy Council was very different from having to wait for an Act of Parliament. What a nation could claim under the "favoured nation clause" was, that there should be an immediate power under similar circumstances to admit it to equal rights with others. He entirely agreed with the hon. and learned Attorney General that foreign countries had no right to require that any particular act should be performed by the Privy Council, rather than by statute; but they had a right to require that they should be admitted to equal rights the moment that they were under similar circumstances to other nations. This was an extremely important matter; and although it might be settled by a Government majority, what would be the effect upon the prosperity of the country when foreign nations claimed to adopt a similar course with respect to other matters as England had followed in the present? He believed that the Bill threatened very seriously the foreign trade of the country, and that the moment they attacked the "favoured nation clause" they shook the foundations upon which all the foreign trade of the country relied; for it would be giving a grievance to those nations who were only too desirous of entering upon a career of Protection. Therefore, he strongly advised the Government to take warning from their experiences in times past, believing that there was a danger lurking in this clause, greater even than in the Bill itself.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir HARDINGE GIFFARD)
observed, that it seemed impossible for questions of this sort to be discussed without attacks being made upon the Law Officers of the Government. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had besought the Government not to follow the advice of their Law Officers; but the only ground on which 1647 he (the Solicitor General) could account for that suggestion was, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had been a Law Officer himself. With reference to the question in debate, it seemed to him that a short explanation of the real issue demonstrated the correctness of the views of the Government. He did not deny that the "most favoured nation clause"—which was not so modern as the hon. and learned Member seemed to suppose, but went back from 150 to 200 years—in all the Treaties in which it was found, assured equality of rights to all the parties concerned; but the mistake was to say that that involved identity of treatment. That was a fallacy into which the hon. and learned Member had, from time to time, fallen. He had argued that because two nations, to which the benefit of the "most favoured nation clause" extended, had been treated differently, there had been an invasion of the right. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had also fallen into the same error; for he said that the moment—by this Bill—restrictions had been placed upon one country more than upon another, there was ipso facto a breach of the Treaty, and that it was no answer to say that an Act of Parliament would be found to undo the wrong committed. He could follow the logic, if the circumstances of the two countries were the same. But the circumstances might be different; and in that case identity of treatment would not be right. There might be a number of countries in which the cattle plague existed. Or, take the case even of the plague affecting human life. Then, no one could say that because, by the "favoured nation clause," free ingress was permitted to one country, that, therefore, it was not right to put restrictions upon those countries from which injury to this country might come. If that proposition were stripped of its verbiage, no one would maintain so absurd a one—and that was the proposition in this case, if the words were stripped from it. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) seemed to suppose that because there was a difference between one country and another, and an Act of Parliament was required for the one and not for the other, that therefore it was a breach of the Treaty. That depended upon two things. First of all, was it a difference 1648 of treatment that was justified by the fact that in one country cattle plague existed, and in another there was none? Second, that it was necessary, in the case of another country, from such an identity of relations—by the continuity of the railway between it and infected countries, and by other circumstances—as to give it the character of an infected country? But the circumstances were entirely different where there was a country cut off from others by the Atlantic; and to say, then, that the same treatment was to be applied to America as to France, Russia, or Germany, or any other country in Europe which was immediately contiguous to another, was to ignore the state of facts on which all legislation of this sort was justifiable. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton admitted that circumstances must be similar to make difference of treatment a breach of the Treaty. The only other question was, whether that breach of Treaty could be effected by applying an Act of Parliament in the one case, and an Order in Council in the other. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton appeared to think that there was some magic in the difference between an Act of Parliament and an Order in Council. But that there was any difference, practically, he (the Solicitor General) could not admit. There was, it was true, a practical difference to this extent—that one lasted longer than the other. But what then? He was free to admit, also, that an Order might be made in one case where it might not be made in the other. But the question they were dealing with then, was not whether foreign nations had a right to interpose in the municipal matters of this country, and to say whether the most convenient form of enforcing their rights was by an Act of Parliament or by an Order of the Privy Council, but whether what the House was now doing was abreach of the "mostfavoured nation clause." Parliament, he admitted, must be so far responsible to foreign countries, that it must establish the facts upon which it proceeded. But suppose that Parliament, instead of arguing the question, stated in the Preamble of the Bill that, by reason of the existence of the cattle plague in a particular country, no cattle should be imported from that particular country into this for 12 months. What breach of the Treaty was there in that? The fact was, that the "most 1649 favoured nation" clause" was, in form, affirmative, but in truth negative. It bound them not to give undue favour to any particular description of countries; they ought not to be partial, or to give undue favour, to one country in derogation of the rights of another. But, in regard to the arguments on this question, it was admitted, that for the purpose of preserving the health of the cattle of this country, that this country was bound to make distinctions. It was not the Legislature or the Privy Council which made the distinction between America and France; but it was by the visitation of Providence, which rendered the one an infected country, while the other was not. It was the distinction so made which justified this country in doing what it was about to do. Then it was said that an Act of Parliament could not be undone. What he ventured to submit to the House upon that subject was, that whether a thing was done for a longer or shorter interval, whether by the Privy Council or by the superior authority of Parliament, and what was to be the degree or extent to which those restrictions should be enforced, were questions which Parliament must determine upon a review of the whole of the facts; and if Parliament should be of opinion—as it probably would be—that under the circumstances of the existence of the cattle plague in the one case and not in the other it was prudent to impose greater restrictions in the one case than in the other—and restrictions which it would take a longer time to undo—then it was right that Parliament should do so. He admitted that in arguing this question with foreign nations it would be necessary to establish the facts upon which they proceeded, and to show that it was on account of the danger to this country that they had been compelled to have recourse to this proceeding. But what difference was there between the action of the Privy Council and that of Parliament in applying the restrictions upon the importation of cattle? The hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) appeared to be better acquainted than his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General with what passed at the Foreign Office; and told his hon. and learned Friend to be careful that he was not inaccurate in saying that there was no complaint made by foreign nations against the 1650 provisions of the Bill. He accepted the warning; but this much he would say—that this was only a principle of quarantine as applied to cattle, and with at least 150 years' experience of the "most favoured nation clause" he undertook to say that no foreign, nation had ever made any remonstrance that quarantine regulations, when stringent towards one country and lax toward another, were any breach of the "most favoured nation clause." They were not in the nature of favour shown to one country or a restriction or prejudice to another; but they simply did what every nation had a right to do—namely, to protect themselves when invaded by a serious danger, which, whether done by Act of Parliament or by Order of the Privy Council, resulted in restriction being placed upon one country that was not put on the other, but which was amply justified by the circumstances of the case.
§ MR. HERSCHELL
could not help thinking that this question was one of very serious moment. He would warn the hon. and learned Attorney General that these discussions would be read in foreign countries, and that the sort of treatment given by the Government to the serious questions arising in foreign Commercial Treaties would not be so much appreciated there as in the House of Commons. There could be nothing more important to this country than that it should scrupulously observe every engagement into which it had entered—at the present time especially, when there was too much temptation offered to foreign Governments, owing to the pressure put upon them, to break from the terms of their Treaties. The sort of arguments they had heard that night, glossing over inequalities and explaining them away, afforded reasons to other countries, which might be used to the future disadvantage of this country. He was not very sanguine about the effects of the Cattle Bill, and had not taken any strong view upon it one way or the other; and he was so little a partizan in the matter that he was not likely to be misled. To deal seriously with this question with regard to the Treaties. He quite agreed with the hon. and learned Solicitor General that equality of right did not necessarily mean identity of treatment. But he said that equality of right did mean identical treatment under similar circumstances. 1651 That was the principle for which he and those sitting on his side of the House were contending, and which they said the Bill infringed, and not the rash and absurd notions which were put into their mouths for the purpose of demolition; and he would ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to say whether the facts did not bear them out in the arguments for which they were contending? He admitted that they had a right to put restrictions upon the importation of foreign cattle for the purpose of police regulation—that was to say, they had a right to protect themselves against disease. He was not going into the question as to their right to protect themselves against the importation of human disease, for it did not now arise. But as regarded animals, he granted that there was the right to impose these restrictions, though they were bound, not merely as a matter of principle, but as a matter of practice, to treat all nations alike. His hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General had admitted that, practically, some nations would be treated differently to others; yet he contended that, as a matter of principle, they were treated alike. In his opinion, that was not an argument which would find favour with foreign nations. It was no consolation to them that this country practically made a difference in dealing with them, while it professed in principle to make no distinction. The question was, whether there was any practical difference? In either of the two following cases they would be treating all alike—either admitting the animals of all countries, with a power to the Privy Council to exclude where disease existed or proper precautions were not taken against it; or excluding the animals of all countries, with power to the Privy Council to admit those which were free from disease. If either of these two modes were adopted, they would be dealing with all nations on the principle of equality; but that was not what they were at present doing. By this Bill they did not trust the Privy Council either to do one or the other. With regard to some countries the Privy Council was trusted to exclude or to include; but as regarded others it had no such power. If some countries were free from disease at a particular time, there was a power to permit their cattle to be imported without being slaughtered 1652 at the port of landing; but in regard to other countries, there was no such power. That was a matter of plain common sense; and to any unbiased men, applying an ordinary human understanding to the matter, it could not be shown that all countries were treated alike. If they could arrive at that conclusion by any process of reasoning, he confessed himself unable to follow them. This Bill laid down a rigid, fast rule as to certain countries. One would really suppose, by listening to the hon. and learned Attorney General and the hon. and learned Solicitor General, that they did not appear to realize that, as regarded certain countries, the Bill laid down an absolute strict line of prohibition. A country free from disease might ask to have its cattle admitted; but the Bill would not allow it except on the terms of their being slaughtered at the port of landing: while another country might ask for the same thing, and say that the same precautions had been taken, and then their cattle could be admitted without that condition. Could it be said that these two countries were being treated in the same way, and that privilege and favour was not being shown to the one as compared with the other? To that question he was not able to see that any answer could be made; for if this Bill passed, the Legislature would decree that certain specified countries might prove that they were free from disease, and by proving that, and by showing that they had taken certain precautions, might get their cattle admittance without prohibition or molestation; but another country, equally entitled to the benefit of the "most favoured nation clause," which could prove the same state of things—which could prove that its cattle had been free from disease—and which might have every title to be admitted that the other country had, yet could not be placed upon the same footing. It was idle to say that it was only a question of longer or shorter time. What was the object of passing Acts of Parliament, except to make a thing permanent? To give the Privy Council power to do a thing in one case which required an Act of Parliament to effect in the other, was much more than a difference of longer or shorter time. His difficulty in arguing this question was, that it seemed to him to be so utterly unarguable upon the 1653 other side, if the matter were stripped of technicalities. The hon. and learned Attorney General had said that it was undesirable to place the construction of these Treaties in the hands of the Courts of Law. His hon. and learned Friend did not seem very anxious that this question should come into a Court of Law; but would much rather argue before a not very impartial tribunal, and with a majority to back him, than go before a thoroughly impartial tribunal without the majority. But what would foreign countries say to the Treaties not being allowed to come under the cognizance of the Courts of Law, because it was feared that their decisions would be fatal to something in the Bill? Surely that was not a dignified or a right position for the House to take up? It was, in effect, telling the House that the matter should not be submitted to a Court of Law, because it might declare that a Treaty was violated. That was the doctrine which was put forward in the House of Commons, and it was a serious question. If they went the length of excluding all countries alike, and gave the Privy Council the same power to admit one country as another, there would be no danger in it. They were going to trust the Privy Council to act in some cases, but they refused to trust them as to others. If they were going to trust the Privy Council with certain powers in the one case, would it not be better to trust them with the same powers in all, rather than run the risk of infringing those Treaties, and perhaps coming into conflict with foreign Powers? He had no intention of occupying the time of the House at any length; but he had felt it necessary to speak on a matter which seemed to him of considerable gravity and importance. He would urge that some modification, however slight, should be made in the Bill, in order to put all countries on the same footing—excluding, if they pleased, all, but giving the Privy Council the power to admit all alike—so that no question could arise that these Treaties had not been faithfully and sincerely performed. By taking that course, they would be dealing with every country more fairly; while they would, he believed, be as effectually providing against the spread of cattle diseases, as if the Bill were to become law in its present shape.
said, he did not think there was any difference of opinion between both sides of the House as to the great importance of maintaining our Treaty obligations. The question upon which they were really divided was whether, if the Bill were passed as it stood, it would amount to an infringement of those obligations or not? That was a matter of very great gravity; and it had been contended by an hon. and learned Member, whose opinions on the subject the House was bound to receive with the utmost consideration, that not only the Government, but the House of Commons itself was about to deal with those obligations in a manner inconsistent with Treaties to which we wore parties. For his own part, he had no doubt it was true to say that, by the engagements into which we had entered with foreign Powers, we had limited to some extent our legislative capacity. Primâfacie, of course, the argument was correct that a country might enact any municipal law it pleased, and might deal in a different way with the products of different nations. But, as he had just pointed out, we had limited our legislative capacity by Treaties; and the question was, whether the measure to which the Committee was now invited to give its assent was consistent with the stipulations contained in those Treaties? Now, what we had promised to do was, not to establish any prohibition of importation or transit against the produce of any country with which we had entered into Treaties containing the "most favoured nation clause" which would not, under like circumstances, be applicable to all other countries. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated at the beginning of the evening, and the statement had been repeated by the Secretary to the Treasury, that there was to be no prohibition of importation; but, on looking at the Appendix to the Bill, he (Mr. Gorst) found it was there provided that foreign cattle should not be imported into this country, except at certain specified wharves, and that provision he should imagine amounted to a prohibition of importation to any other places than those wharves. That was, however, a point which it was hardly worth while to argue, inasmuch as it was admitted there was to be a prohibition of transit; and he would not 1655 therefore, take up the time of the Committee by discussing the question whether it was a prohibition of importation to provide that cattle should be landed at only one or two specified wharves. Addressing himself, then, to the prohibition of transit; they had Treaty engagements which precluded them from prohibiting the transit of foreign cattle unless under circumstances which would be applicable to all countries alike. Now he would ask, under what circumstances was the prohibition of transit to be applied under the Bill? It was to be applied to foreign animals, the landing of which at any port in this country was not for the time being prohibited by any Order in Council, and, as a consequence, to any foreign animals coming from countries with respect to which the Privy Council might not deem it necessary to make an Order. Was that a prohibition of transit, he should like to know, applicable, in similar circumstances, to every foreign country? It seemed to him that it was not a prohibition of that nature; and he felt himself obliged, therefore, to express his concurrence in the argument of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Herschell), that the Bill, as it stood, would prohibit the importation and transit of cattle from certain foreign countries under circumstances in which their importation from other countries would be permitted. It was perfectly clear, for instance, that under the operation of the Bill, America would be placed on a different footing from other nations; and the moment the Bill became law, he contended, and before a single foreign animal was landed on our shores, or a single foreign State had complained of the provisions of the Act, a breach of the contracts into which we had entered would have been committed. Now, that was not an objection which could be urged with justice against the existing law, which was equal in its operation and did not infringe any Treaties. Parliament, he might add, had passed the present law upon the faith that the Government would not break through our Treaty engagements; for, although it had given the most ample powers to the Privy Council, those powers were given upon the faith that all nations would be treated alike. If the Privy Council used those powers to favour one nation as against another, 1656 and thus violated existing Treaties, that would be the fault of the Government, and not of the House of Commons. But if the House of Commons passed a law in contravention of stipulations which by our Treaty engagements we were bound not to touch, then the fault would rest with the House itself rather than with the Government. There was another point which was entirely different on which he wished to say a few words, and that was whether, if the Bill passed in its present shape, we were going to treat all nations alike under its operation? He would not dwell on the point at any length, because it had been distinctly shown by previous speakers that if the Bill, as it now stood, became law, it would be impossible for the Government, under certain circumstances, to treat all nations alike, or to fulfil our Treaty obligations. It had, indeed, been said by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, that Parliament, which would have imposed the restrictions contained in the Bill, could remove them when it pleased; and he had asked what was the difference in that respect between the Privy Council and Parliament? Now, the answer to that question appeared to him to be a very simple one. The difference was, that the Privy Council were always, so to speak, on the spot; while Parliament was sitting for only six months in the year. If the House of Commons sat permanently, and that it could pass a Bill in a night, there would, then, he was willing to admit, be some force in the argument of his hon. and learned Friend; but it was quite clear that while the inequality which would be created would operate "immediately or unconditionally," Parliament could not act either "immediately or unconditionally." What, then, he wanted to know from the Government was, whether it was their intention to treat all foreign nations alike or not? [Cries of "Divide!"] If they intended to act in accordance with the undertaking given by the hon. and learned Attorney General, they would, in all probability, offend very much those hon. Members sitting behind the Treasury Bench who seemed to be so anxious for a division. But if they were prepared to face that difficulty, the Schedules of the Bill might very easily be so altered as to obviate all mistake as to their meaning. 1657 If all nations were to be treated alike, he and those who advocated similar views would be satisfied; whether those hon. Gentlemen who sat behind them would be satisfied or not, he would leave it to the Government to decide.
said, that the argument which had been urged by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), and which had been repeated by various other speakers, was that we ought not to place any country in a worse position than another in relation to the importation of cattle, or the manner in which cattle were dealt with, when they had been imported. Now, the position which we should occupy to-wards foreign countries, if the Bill were to become law in its present shape, would be that cattle from those countries when landed at the port of debarkation, instead of being sent to London, or any of our other great centres of industry alive, would be sent there precisely in the same form as other cattle—that was to say, in the form of dead meat. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh; but it was admitted, by a great many persons competent to give a sound opinion on the subject, that the dead meat trade would gradually develop itself, and ultimately take the place of the live cattle trade altogether; so that, so far from being placed in a worse, the owners of foreign cattle would be in a better position than they now occupied. But if the arguments of hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite, and of one or two hon. and learned Members on the Ministerial side of the House, were acted upon, what, he would ask, would be the result? Why, that although the cattle plague might be raging in Germany, in Russia, or in any other country on the Continent, yet we should not be able to prohibit the importation of cattle from it so long as we permitted the importation of live animals from America, or elsewhere. [Cries of "No!"] Hon. Gentlemen might cry "No;" but that was the purport of the arguments which had been urged against the Bill throughout the greater part of the evening. It was true, he might add, that as the law at present stood the prohibition of the importation of foreign cattle was carried out by Orders in Council, and that it was proposed it should in future be effected by Statute in certain cases; but there was, in reality, no difference of 1658 principle between the two modes of prohibition, for a Statute might be repealed as well as an Order in Council. It was absurd, therefore, to maintain that in passing the Bill Parliament would be sanctioning a breach of those Commercial Treaties into which we had entered with other countries. He hoped, then, that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would adhere to the Bill as it stood; for if, as had frequently been suggested in the course of the debate, a universal discretion were given to the Privy Council in regard to the admission of cattle from all the Continental countries, he thought, for his own part, it was only right to state—and he believed he was speaking the sentiments of a great many other hon. Members as well as his own—that if such a course were adopted, it would become for them matter for serious consideration whether they would not deem it their duty to oppose the passing of the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, his hon. Friend who had just sat down (Mr. Chaplin) had ended the few remarks which he had addressed to the Committee with a very conclusive and knockdown argument. His hon. Friend intimated to the Government that if they conceded that which the great majority of those who sat on the Opposition side of the House thought they ought in common justice to concede, he and his Friends would hesitate as to whether they should any longer support the Bill. That was an argument which he could well imagine would have considerable force with the Government. But when he came to deal with what he might call, by way of distinction, the "argumentative" argument of his hon. Friend, he was, he must confess, very much surprised to find him virtually saying—"Why make all this fuss? there is no question here of favouring one nation more than another; and it is a great mistake on the part of foreign countries to suppose that any injury will be done to them, because all their cattle will be slaughtered at the port of landing." His hon. Friend might be of that opinion; but the Representatives of foreign countries, their Ministers, cattle importers, and producers, took an entirely different view of the question, and he did not imagine that the argument of his hon. Friend was exactly that which would find favour with the Foreign 1659 Office, when other nations came to complain that they had been placed in a position of inequality. But his hon. Friend had made some other observations which surprised him still more, for there was no one who understood the subject better. He had studied it thoroughly. He had gone through the Bill from beginning to end, and was one of the most active Members of the Committee upstairs. How, then, the hon. Gentleman could possibly contend that if discretion were given to the Privy Council to deal with disease coming from abroad as well as at home there would be any obstacle whatever in the way of their adopting the most stringent regulations in the event of the cattle plague breaking out, it puzzled him exceedingly to understand. His hon. Friend must be well aware that the Privy Council had always exercised the discretion vested in them in the strongest possible way to prevent the introduction of the plague into this country, and that if similar discretion were given them under the present Bill they would continue to exercise it in the same way. The Committee had had a most interesting legal debate that evening. He, at all events, had never listened to one with more pleasure, for the lawyers on his side of the question appeared to him to have the argument all their own way, while they were well supported by some hon. and learned Gentlemen on the Ministerial Benches; for it was no disrespect to the hon. and learned Attorney General to say that he, in reality, agreed with what had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). But to pass from the legal aspect of the question, he would, with the permission of the Committee, deal with it for a few minutes from a business point of view. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite imagined, he supposed, that the "favoured nation clause" argument had been introduced merely as a pretext for opposing the Bill, and that those who urged it did not think much of the thing itself. If, however, those hon. Gentlemen had been engaged in trade, as he was, they would not come to that conclusion. It was, he could assure them, a matter of the utmost importance to those engaged in manufacturing industries to up hold these ''favoured nation clauses;" for they were well aware that there was hardly a country in Europe which was not under the 1660 strongest pressure to find an excuse for getting rid of them altogether. It was, therefore, by no means true to say that it was because the Bill was presented to them in a form which he and his Friends did not like, they had adduced the argument of the "favoured nation clause." On the contrary, it was because they were really alarmed; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, he (Mr. Forster) felt satisfied, when he thought a little more over the question, admit that they had cause to be alarmed, lest by passing the Bill as it stood, foreign nations should be furnished with an excuse for doing away with such clauses. The real point at issue, then, was—would the Committee, by passing the Bill without alteration, be infringing the principle of the "favoured nation clause" or not? He would not enter into the technical legal argument, for that, as he had already said, appeared to him to be very much on one side. All he would ask was that any man of business who was present should try to fancy himself in the position of a cattle breeder or producer in a foreign country. He would take the case of Holland, because he felt convinced that it would very soon become a practical case. If the Bill were passed without change, Holland would have the strongest possible ground for complaint. The Dutch cattle producer—and the rearing of cattle was one of the chief industries of Holland—would, he felt sure, submit to almost any sacrifice to avoid the enactment of such a law, which would provide that no Dutch cattle should come inland, while American beasts would be freely admitted, unless the Privy Council saw good reason for issuing regulations to the contrary. The position of Holland at the present moment was this—that it so happened her cattle were not allowed to come here, because last year the German cattle plague was close to her frontier for a couple of weeks. It was for that, and for no other reason, that her cattle were excluded. But now Holland had the most stringent law possible against the spread of disease, and the strongest possible regulations with regard to the inspection of cattle. The importation of cattle was still prohibited there—it was a mistake to suppose that the law in that respect had been relaxed—and there were besides very stringent regulations as to 1661 animals leaving the country. In short, Holland absolutely fulfilled the conditions of the Amendment proposed by the Secretary to the Treasury, which was to the effect that the laws of other countries, relating to the importation and exportation of animals, should afford reasonable security against the importation there from of disease. Now, if three months hence—and, for anything he knew, the question might be asked with equal justice at that moment—the Dutch producer should find himself in a position to come to our Government and say—"Why do you admit the cattle of the United States, of Spain, and of Denmark, and exclude ours?" what, he should like to know, would be the answer of the Foreign Office? Would it be sufficient to reply—"We have passed a law, and we must exclude your cattle until that law is repealed?" There was the great difference, he maintained, between this exclusion by Act of Parliament and the giving the Privy Council a discretion in the matter, that in the former case it was impossible those foreign cattle could be admitted until Parliament thought fit to repeal the law. He contended, therefore, that we were breaking the principle of the "favoured nation clause" by such legislation as that proposed; while we were trying to comfort ourselves with the reflection that when the Bill was passed which made that breach, it would still be in the power of the Legislature to repeal its provisions. Why, any differential duty might receive the assent of Parliament on that principle. Of course, Parliament could do in the matter what it pleased; but the simple fact, nevertheless, was, that by the Bill as it stood we should be placing one foreign country in a different position from that occupied by another, and not only would the aggrieved country not obtain redress immediately, but it might not obtain it at all. The House of Commons could not bind future Parliaments; but it could lay down the conditions upon which the Privy Council were to act, and it might call them to account for the manner in which the discretion vested in them was exercised. The hon. and learned Solicitor General had spoken of the quarantine laws in illustration of his argument; but surely they told against his case. He did not know whether the power of 1662 the Privy Council to enforce quarantine still existed. He imagined it did, though it was not often used; and, in accordance with the law, the Privy Council, he believed, had authority to make regulations subjecting the inhabitants of a country in which yellow fever or plague prevailed to very stringent and inconvenient regulations as to landing at any of our ports. What should they think if a Bill were brought in which stated, as regarded America, that the Privy Council should have power to put the inhabitants of that country, in the case of yellow fever, under certain regulations, and should also have power to relax those restrictions; but that, as regarded Brazil, there should be a law that they should always be subject to the regulations, whether they had yellow fever or not. That was what was being done in the present case as regarded cattle. The Bill, as originally brought in, was intelligible. It simply provided that there should be no discretion whatever in the Privy Council. Of course, there was an enormous inconsistency in that; for the greatest possible faith was placed in their discretion with regard to the home regulations, which were the most important of the two. But as regarded foreign countries, it was provided that all the foreign cattle—of which there was a constant supply—should be slaughtered. The fact was, that on both sides of the House so much pressure had been brought to bear that the Government had been obliged to give way, and to say that countries which were clean at the present moment were to be put under the control of the Privy Council, as to the admission or non-admission of their cattle alive. But to admit that the Privy Council was to have a discretion with regard to some countries and not to others, gave the latter a right to complain that they were kept out. It was saying to them—"We do not care how free from disease you may be, or what means you have taken to suppress it, yet we will not give the Privy Council the discretion in your case which we extend to them in respect to the other three or four countries." Could it be said that countries were treated alike in such a case? To say that they were, seemed to him to be a mockery. He hoped the Government would re-consider their decision, which, he ventured to say, was 1663 one as absurd and inconsistent as a Government could well adopt in any matter.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE-QUER
said, that like the hon. Gentleman opposite, he would abstain, as far as possible, from going into an argument of a strictly legal character; but he could not avoid saying that he thought the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was not in itself one of a character which would give them any reason to place confidence in his judgment as to the best mode of dealing with the difficulties which he had suggested. He would not stay to inquire whether this was the proper mode of raising such a question; but he would ask the Committee one very practical question, arising upon the words which the hon. and learned Gentleman proposed to add to the clause. He proposed that certain provisions should be made as to the issuing of Orders in Council; and he suggested that it should be provided that no such Orders should be available if they were inconsistent with the obligations of any Commercial Treaty for the time being in force. What would be the effect of that proposal? It would be this—that, in the event of an Order being made under this Bill when it became a law, it would be competent for any person affected by it to object to its operation, as inconsistent with the obligations of some Commercial Treaty; and it would therefore be open to any person, whose cattle had been seized, to take the decision of a Court of Law. In his opinion, that would introduce an element of uncertainty; for any one who thought himself aggrieved would be able to raise a case, and carry it into a Court of Law. He would then have to submit to the Court's construction of those Commercial Treaties, and possibly, as his hon. and learned Friend had suggested, recourse might also be had to Courts of Appeal, in the event of inconsistencies in the decisions of one Court and another upon questions of this sort, and the amount of confusion and the amount of uncertainty which would be occasioned was a matter of very serious consideration. But the objection he entertained to the insertion of the words proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton did not stop there; for if he only dealt with the case of the Commercial Treaties that now existed, possibly something might 1664 be said in favour of his proposition. But the words of the Amendment provided that no such Order should be carried into effect if its operation should be inconsistent with the obligations of any Commercial Treaty "for the time being in force." That was saying that the next year, or the year after, the Government might make a Commercial Treaty of which Parliament knew nothing; and when an Order was issued under the present Act the matter might, and probably would, be disputed in a Court of Law. He challenged the hon. and learned Member to deny that that was the intention and meaning of his Amendment, or, at all events, the effect of the words he proposed; and that by his proposal, after the passing of that Act, it would be perfectly competent for the Government next year, or the year after, to make a Commercial Treaty which would render the operation of the Act entirely abortive. He did not, however, wish to base the question too much on these views; he referred to them simply for two reasons. First, the very practical reason how the Committee should vote on the particular proposition submitted to it, for he ventured to say that they would stultify themselves if they passed the Amendment; secondly, because he desired to show that even if the Government were not infallible, the hon. and learned Gentleman who brought forward the Amendment must not be taken to be an infallible guide and counsellor. As he had previously observed, he did not propose to argue this question upon legal grounds, and he was anxious, so far as possible, to treat the matter as one of common sense; and looking at it from that point of view, it appeared to him that many of the arguments that had been introduced, and many speeches that had been made, were very much at cross purposes in consequence of the ambiguity of some of the expressions that had been used. Hon. Gentlemen got up and spoke of the great importance—which nobody denied—of strictly complying with the spirit and intention of those Treaties, and said that the country was bound, in all its commercial relations, to treat all foreign nations with whom it had Commercial Treaties alike. No one disputed that proposition for one moment; no one for one moment would dispute that this country was bound to treat all foreign nations alike 1665 —but that was, alike under similar circumstances; and it was upon that that the whole question turned. A good many extracts had been read from Commercial Treaties, in which expressions had occurred such, as that the inhabitants of Belgium were to have the same privileges as those of any other nation or of this country. It was perfectly true that when they were dealing with similar commodities, they were to have the same rights and privileges as the inhabitants of the United States or of any other country, and if this was a mere question of a personal character, there could be no doubt that they would be bound to concede the same rights to all. But the question was, what were the articles in which they were dealing? Were the articles similar, or were they not? Let them take books, for instance, for books were one of a few articles of which the free importation into this country was restricted. Pirated books were for bidden entrance into this country, and when it was said that France had an equal right with Belgium to import books, it was understood that the books were of the same character, and that the books were not pirated. The same principle applied to animals, and it was equally right to say that every animal from the favoured nations had a right to come into the country when under similar circumstances or in a similar position. The question was, how could the House satisfy itself upon this point? With regard to books, it could be easily ascertained in a particular country what measures were taken with regard to piracy; and much greater freedom could be permitted to a country in which they were sure that there was no piracy, than could be granted in the case of a country where there was no assurance that pirated books were not freely circulated. It was perfectly reasonable and intelligible to put greater restrictions upon the one country than upon the other, not for the purpose of excluding what was legitimate in either case, but only for the purpose of preventing what was illegal. The case was the same with regard to animals. What was required to be done was to put greater restrictions upon the importation of animals from one country than from another. It was necessary to take proper and sufficient precautions against the importation of animals which either 1666 were infected, in a diseased state, or were likely to bring disease into the country. If there were a case in which it was necessary to take greater precautions than in another, was it any breach of the "Favoured Nation Clause" to say—"We will take such precautions when they are necessary, but not when they are not?" In point of fact, the whole question came to this—What were the precautions necessary to be taken in respect of animals from any particular country? Originally, there was an idea that it would be necessary to exclude everything, and to say that there was no case in which animals could be imported with so much safety as to make it certain they would not import disease. But after further consideration, and after having listened to what had been said on the matter, the Government had come to the conclusion that there were certain countries from which it would be perfectly safe, under certain restrictions, to admit the import of animals without the danger of spreading disease. That was the case with the United States of America, and the Government were so far satisfied that animals coming from the United States of America would not introduce disease into this country, that they took it at once, as it were, from the knowledge of Parliament, and provided that animals from that country should be allowed to be imported freely into this country. But when they came to the case of the other countries, with respect to which a great deal of evidence had been given and a strong case had been made out—he meant the countries specified in the Amendment of which his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had given Notice—namely, Sweden, Norway, Spain, and Portugal—the provision they made with regard to those countries was precisely upon the same ground, and made precisely in the same spirit, as the provision in the case of the United States. They believed that the evidence was sufficient to justify them in saying that they were satisfied, from the inquiries that had been made by the Privy Council, that it was safe to import animals from those countries. On that point they had come to the limit that would be safe. He was not saying that an equally strong case might not at another time be made out for another country; but the principle 1667 upon which, they were going was that those countries he had named were the only ones with regard to which the evidence was sufficient to enable them safely to permit importation under any conditions. It had been said that the matter should be left to the Privy Council. But then the whole point of the Bill was touched. It was one of the main principles of the Bill to give as much certainty as possible to the operations of trade, and to give as much certainty as possible to the meat-producers of the country against the importation of disease; and the Government had come to the conclusion—and it was the theory upon which the Bill was founded—that it was not possible or convenient to leave the matter entirely and solely to the judgment of the Privy Council; but that there must be some further and more efficient means of obtaining information and forming opinions. Therefore, it was proposed that, in the case of countries generally, there should be absolute prohibition, subject, of course, to the power of Parliament, upon evidence brought before it, to alter the case with regard to any particular country if it should think fit. The whole matter reduced itself to this—which was the most convenient way of doing it? Was it most convenient to do it by Act of Parliament to be passed after proper consideration, or to leave it to the Privy Council to do it when it thought proper? That was really a most minute point, and if the whole question were to depend upon that, it was of much less importance than they had been led to believe. In his opinion, they had taken a perfectly proper course for the observance of good faith with foreign countries by the Bill as it stood, and he saw no occasion for the strong language which had been made use of with respect to the difference between leaving the House to deal with certain countries and the Privy Council with others. If they were to choose between the Bill as it was, and the proposition submitted to them by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, which upset everything and would leave them in a condition of absolute uncertainty, he thought the House would do well to reject the Amendment.
desired to call attention to the marked distinction between the declarations of the Chan- 1668 cellor of the Exchequer and that of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). The latter said it was extremely doubtful whether compulsory slaughter at the port of landing would involve any disadvantage at all. That opinion, no doubt, was given in perfect good faith, and the hon. Member seemed to think that if the Bill were passed, in the event of complaints afterwards arising, it would be a sufficient answer to those foreign countries to refer to the debates of this House, and to say that the county Members thought there would be no disadvantage in compulsory slaughter at all. But the economical doctrine which was thus set up, and which, no doubt, the hon. Member had a perfect right to maintain, was at least a matter of argument and uncertainty, for it never could be tolerated for one moment by a foreign country as a reply to its complaint; for, if it were, the purpose of Treaties would be destroyed—their object being to get rid of arguments of every kind, and substitute distinct and specific covenants, which should not be liable to be affected by views which might be coloured by prejudice, although advanced in perfect good faith. But the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire went on to say that if the Bill were altered, he and those with whom he was connected would withdraw their support from it. The utterances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were a great contrast to those of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire. How carefully the Chancellor of the Exchequer avoided giving any countenance to the view that hon. Members were to withdraw from the support of the Bill if it were altered in this respect; how guardedly he stated his case! His last sentence was, that if the question lay between the Amendment as proposed and the Bill as it stood, he was for the Bill as it stood, against the Amendment. But the question did not lie necessarily between the two. If the Government were prepared to say that they would give full effect to our Commercial Treaties, the Amendment would rapidly disappear, and the Opposition would consider what would be the most satisfactory means of giving effect to those Treaties. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that to carry every case into a Court of Justice might be very inconvenient, as compared with 1669 the distinct legislative recognition by Parliament of the effect of those Commercial Treaties. But he thought that it would be far better that there should be opportunity for carrying every case into a Court of Justice when any question arose upon a Commercial Treaty rather than by Act of Parliament to deny to foreign countries that to which they were justly entitled. He begged to call attention to the facts respecting which they were called upon to vote upon that occasion. The Government, having refused to introduce into the Act any words which would by the direct action of an Act of Parliament allow that to which they contended some countries were entitled, now said it was far better to provide for giving them their rights through the medium of a Court of Justice than not to provide for giving them their rights at all. Were their rights with held from them by this Bill? He would only say that that proposition had not been denied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had nowhere stated that the Bill as it stood gave equal rights to all foreign countries. He would say one word upon the doctrine of similar circumstances. He did not deny that it was a doctrine that could not utterly be excluded from discussions of this kind. But this he would venture to say, that it was a doctrine which, if admitted laxly and freely, must lead to most dangerous consequences. "Similar circumstances" were very large words; they admitted of infinite discretion in interpretation. Suppose, in negotiating a Commercial Treaty with a foreign State, they were to provide that they would not give the "Most Favoured Nation Clause," but that they would give it under "similar circumstances." Did they think that they would find any foreign country that would accept such a Treaty? The foreign country would tell them that "similar circumstances" were words of unbounded applicability—and words, in fact, which would deprive the Treaty of all favour. He had never seen such a clause and such a qualification. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Oh, yes.] If there were such a Treaty, then he granted that it would be an answer to what he had said, although he was not aware of its existence. He believed there was a case somewhat analogous in railway legislation. It was required by Parliament 1670 that railway companies should, under equal and similar circumstances, charge equal rates for all persons. But it was found that equal or similar circumstances—he was not quite sure of the exact words—allowed such unbounded discretion to the railway companies as to deprive the clause of all practical effect whatever. Let them consider for one moment the case as stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman divided foreign countries into three classes. In the first place they had America, with regard to which there were to be no restrictions whatever. It was admitted absolutely to the privilege of importation to the same extent as allowed by the present law; the power of police regulation was retained, but no other restriction was introduced against America. They next came to the five countries which had been placed under prohibition, but which were not to be brought within the discretion of the Privy Council. Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say there was no breach of Treaty involved in the distinction introduced into the treatment of America as compared with the treatment of those five countries? It was unnecessary further for his position to argue that question with the Government. They admitted that in reserving to the Privy Council discretion to admit, and, in preserving police regulation, there was no breach of Treaty obligations. Therefore, he did not think it necessary for their purpose to say that the distinction between America and the other countries was material to the present argument. With respect to the third class of countries, they were placed beyond the pale and outside the discretion of the Privy Council. There was no power to relieve them from the prohibitions, which they thought disadvantageous—although the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) did not—of having their cattle slaughtered at the port of landing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to him to act very tenderly indeed with that portion of the case. He said that the distinction was of no practical importance; because, if those countries could make out a case, the Government would propose a Bill to Parliament; and that, therefore, they were not injured by the Privy Council not being allowed to have any discretion in their particular case. But, suppose 1671 that those countries at any given time, he cared not how soon, should prove that they had fulfilled every condition—had taken every precaution—and that they were in a position as good as that of the five countries which had been admitted, what was to be their case? He did not doubt what their case would be as a matter of international obligation. But as one who had been accustomed to deal with these matters as a Member of Administration, he must say that it would be a duty of the Executive Government, with or without the law, to grant immediate relief, and to break the law even for the purpose of giving it. That, he apprehended, would hardly be considered a desirable state of things. It was not desirable that Parliament should pass a law to the intent that, under a state of circumstances that might arise, it should be broken by the Government. What was the other alternative? It was that when Holland, or any other foreign country, furnished full and satisfactory proof that it had placed itself in as good a condition as Denmark, Sweden, or Norway, Government would have to sav—"Although, by your Treaty, according to International Law, you are entitled to demand that your request be granted, and to have identity of right and equality of treatment if the circumstances were the same, yet we, with our eyes open, have made a municipal law which intercepts the action of the International Law, and we must wait until Parliament assembles and then abide the decision of Parliament as to whether International Law is to be fulfilled or not." When the question arose, Parliament might not be sitting. A political crisis might be brought about, and months, or even Sessions, might pass before the necessary Orders could be given. But would that be carrying out our Treaty obligations? Was the hon. and learned Solicitor General prepared to say that when the Government made a Treaty, promising the treatment of the most favoured nations, promising to give equality of rights, and therefore promising to give equality of treatment—under what circumstances was he prepared to say that the provisions of such a Treaty would be fulfilled, provided that these conditions were to be fulfilled at sometime or other. Would it be equality of treatment to postpone the effect of the Treaty to some undefined period that might here- 1672 after arrive, dependent on the discretion of the Legislative Body? Did not the Treaty mean that there should be immediate equality? What he concluded was that it did mean immediate equality. Suppose this to be a matter to be estimated by pecuniary damages—that a man who imported cattle from one of these countries suffered because of more rigorous conditions than were applied to Sweden and Norway, and that the whole loss should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund—would he not be entitled to ask for compensation for the loss imposed by compulsory slaughter, whilst the authorities were awaiting the result of an application to Parliament? He remembered a case where this adaptation of equality to circumstances was discussed in a very uncomfortable manner between ourselves and the United States of America. It was in relation to the duties on rice. This country had one duty on rice from places East of the Cape of Good Hope, and another for places on the West. The practical effect was that rice from the East Indies came in at a low rate of duty, and rice from South Carolina came in at a high rate. Philanthropists came to Lord Palmerston, and said if he would allow the rice of the West African Coast to be brought in at a low duty, it would have no commercial effect. It was not a question of granting a favour to a foreign State, because those negroes who were to cultivate the rice did not constitute a State. Therefore, he could do no harm in granting to the Natives of the West Coast of Africa the privilege of rating their rice at a low duty. Lord Palmerston granted that privilege, and he (Mr. Gladstone) remembered the sort of despatch the United States' Minister wrote to Her Majesty's Government on the subject. The English Minister pleaded that the circumstances were not equal; and further pleaded the philan-throphy of the Government, the character of these negroes, and the total want of commercial significance of the whole affair. The United States Minister replied by asking why Treaties were made? stating that they were to sweep out of the way all those ambiguous pleas, and to substitute for them clear and unambiguous terms, which might give to all the subjects of each country perfect certainty as to the law under which they were to proceed. But then, the Chancellor of the Exchequer turned round and said 1673 his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton was going to introduce uncertainty into the operation of this Treaty. If that were true, if this Motion was to be taken as an assertion against the principle of the Bill, how were they to say that an element of uncertainty was introduced unless they were departing from the spirit and language of the Treaty? In what respect did it do so? His contention was that those Powers that bound themselves by the same conditions as the five countries proposed to be exempted, were entitled to equality, and equality—not at some some future and uncertain time depending on contingencies not within the control of the Government, but were entitled to immediate relief. Was that true or untrue? Yet he had not heard anything from Her Majesty's Government—any answer to that question. "Immediate equality" was actually the term contained in the Austrian Treaty, which said that privileges extended to one contracting party should be immediately and unconditionally extended to the other contracting party, with certain exceptions which had no bearing on this clause. The Treaty with Prussia, in like manner, said that the reduction of duties which either of the contracting parties might concede to a third party, should be immediately and unconditionally extended to the other contracting parties. He asked how, under the Bill, the privileges extended to some countries with which we had Treaties, could be extended to Holland or Belgium on their fulfilling all the conditions required by this country? If they demanded those privileges which were enjoyed by Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, Her Majesty's Government would have to reply that they were precluded by their Municipal Law, and by fear of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, from granting them until they had called Parliament together to pass a repealing Act to enable them to do so. He did not raise the question as to whether his hon. and learned Friend could not have found some other portion of the Bill on which to assert this principle, because it seemed to him desirable to bring it to an immediate issue. The question they had to determine by the vote they were about to give, was whether they were content to take the Treaties as they stood, and to place them, with proper provisions, in the hands of the Executive Government 1674 for the administration of immediate justice to all countries; or, whether, on the contrary, they were to refuse them the immediate application of the principle of equality granted by the Treaty, and to refer them for justice to an independent tribunal, and at a remote period?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that was not the first time that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had pleaded the force of Treaties, which he himself had been largely engaged in creating, in limiting the power of Parliament in the construction of English municipal law. He (Mr. Newdegate) had felt that long ago, and had urged it in 1861, when the French Treaty was before the House, and he urged it now. At that time, he warned Parliament that a process had begun by which a Government could pledge the House, could pledge Parliament, by engagements made with foreign countries, touching matters which concerned the internal and municipal regulations of this country. What was the question now? It was, whether the Bill raised any question of International Law? His own conviction was that the measure came within a great exception. It came within the law of quarantine, which had always been held to constitute an exception to International Law. It was only that day he had been trying to discover whether quarantine law was noticed by Wheaton, but found that there was not a word about it in that author. He had consequently sought M 'Culloch, and then Blackstone, and by both of these quarantine law was treated as a municipal law. He, therefore, thought that the Government, though he lamented the inconsistency they had introduced into the Bill by their exceptions, had not proposed any violation of the principles of International Law; for the measure was a measure of quarantine, and thus was covered by the great exception of quarantine, an exception which, commenced in the 15th century, was formulated in our laws, in the reign of George II., and now existed in an. Act of George IV. Sanitary measures and means of self-defence had ever been held to form part of municipal, and not International, Law. Such was his belief. He did not go quite so far as the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). He should value the Bill, even if the alteration proposed were 1675 made; but he considered that the objections taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were fatal to the Amendment, and that if the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, who proposed it, now voted for it, that he would be voting for more than he had stated to the House.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, there were a large number of hon. Members present who wished to take part in the debate, and he would, therefore, move that the Chairman do report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
hoped the House would not assent to the proposal of the hon. Baronet. They had now discussed this proposal at considerable length, and had heard the opinions of members of the Legal Profession on both sides of the House. He was aware that some hon. Members had been there the whole evening; but still, if they were to go on with this proposal, he did not see that they would arrive at any more satisfactory conclusion than they could at present. Looking at the period of the Session, and the slow progress that had been made with the Bill, he hoped the House would not agree to the proposal of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN rose to support the proposal of the hon. Baronet. The fact that this question had occupied the whole evening was a tribute to the importance of the matter. It was not only of great importance as affecting the Bill generally, but it was also of great importance as affecting that portion of the Bill to which hon. Members on his side of the House took the greatest objection. On all these grounds, he thought it should be more fully considered. Many Members on both sides of the House still wished to take part in the debate.
trusted the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would not press the Motion for reporting Progress at that hour—a quarter to 1. It was true that many of them had boon in the House many hours, but they were prepared to stay much longer; and as to hon. Members who had only recently come in, 1676 and who had not heard the debate, there was no excuse. The question had been dealt with at great length, and it seemed to him, as they must take an opinion upon it, they had better do it at once.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, the hon. Member for Mid- Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) seemed to think that this question concerned the House alone. It concerned the country as well as the House, and to discuss it at 1 o'clock in the morning was not to discuss it in the eyes of the country. It was said the lawyers had expressed their opinions. Well he valued the opinions of lawyers, and he hoped that on the morrow they might have more such opinions; but other hon. Members of the House were also taking a strong interest in the way the Government was dealing with existing Treaties—Treaties which affected the commercial interests of this country. If our Treaties were broken, then what became of our great commercial relations with other countries. The question of Treaties ought to be further considered, and he ventured to say that it could not be considered at that period of the night.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 222: Majority 121.—(Div. List, No. 219.)
§ MR. J. HOLMS moved that the Chairman do leave the Chair. It appeared to him that the position they were in, in relation to the question, was one which should induce the Government to' give them some time for consideration of the matter. The concessions of the Government had left them in a position which he could not call anything else than an absurdity. Their position was this—that five countries were to be admitted, as the Government now agreed, provided only that those countries could satisfy the Government that disease did not remain in their midst, and that their laws were such as would give a reasonable guarantee that disease would not be allowed to exist there. All other countries, even though they had proved themselves to be perfectly free from disease, were not to have the privilege. But, since that time, a large question had been raised as to Commercial Treaties, and the legal points of that question had been discussed very ably by the lawyers 1677 in the House; but he did not think that the business men in the House had discussed it from their point of view, or were quite prepared to discuss it at that moment. Therefore, in their own interests, he considered that an adjournment should take place.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, ''That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. J. Holms.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that before the Government answered the Motion, he should like to ask them to consider whether it would not be desirable that they should take a few hours' time to consider this question. They had had a discussion before that evening, when, after three or four hours' debate, the Government had come to the conclusion that the Opposition were right in the point which was being discussed; and he was not at all sure that the Government might not, after a little time, come to a similar decision. He grounded that opinion on the tone which had been taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the observations he had made. If the right hon. Gentleman could now see his way, on the next day, to make some statement as to the intentions of the Government in carrying out what he was sure it was the wish of the Government to carry out, he thought it was very possible that they might arrive at a satisfactory conclusion upon the matter. If the Government insisted, supported as they were by their great majority in going to a division on the Amendment that night, he must warn them that it would be inevitable that the question should be raised again in a different shape and at different periods during the progress of the Bill. He did not think that the Government would make any real progress by carrying their point that evening, and he thought that a very great advantage would be gained by a little delay, in order to consider the arguments that had been raised.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, there were two points on which he must differ from the noble Lord. He did not at all agree with him as to what had taken place at an early hour of the evening. The noble Lord had said that, after several hours of discussion, the Government were convinced that the Opposition were right. The 1678 Government were never convinced at all. They did not think the Opposition were right; but, for the sake of getting on and allowing a discussion to be raised in any form that might be thought desirable by Members of the House, they agreed to an arrangement which would enable Motions to be made which they stated at the beginning of the debate they should object to, and which they thought were wrong. He himself also demurred to what the noble Lord had said with regard to his own argument in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Taunton. He certainly thought that the proposal of the hon. and learned Member was, upon its own merits, one that the Committee could not accept, and he also contended that the provisions of the Bill were provisions in accordance with the spirit of their Commercial Treaties, and he saw no reason at all to depart from that opinion. He still thought that it would be possible at that hour to go on with the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member at all events, which he thought they had sufficiently discussed, and which they might now vote upon. He did not think the Government could press the Committee to go on with new matter; but he believed they would do well to dispose of that Amendment. That being done, the Government would be willing to consent to report Progress.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 83; Noes 195: Majority 112.—(Div. List, No. 220.)
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that the present position of the Government might be described as being that of between the devil and the deep sea. They had on the one side, the bucolic Party, represented by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire, and, on the other side, they had all the Treaties with foreign nations, which might not be violated with impunity. They, on that side of the House, were at present the only mouthpiece for the foreign Treaties. They felt the greatest sympathy for the Government in the position into which they had got, and they felt bound to give them a little time to consider how they could best get put of the scrape. The right hon. Gentleman opposite told them a little time ago that 1679 at an earlier period of the evening he did not admit that the Opposition were in the right, and that he was in the wrong; but, in spite of that, he had conceded a compromise, and he admitted that he had acceded to their view for the purpose of getting on with the Business. Well, if he was obliged to take that salve to his conscience, they would freely give it to him even again. Let the right hon. Gentleman on this point also make some arrangement for getting on with the Business, and they would give him until to-morrow, when he would be able to come down to the House to propose some plan, some modification of the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) which would secure to them, the result they wanted. If he would give them some practical result, they would not care how it was brought about, or what words he might use in doing it; and, therefore, with a view of giving the Government that opportunity, he would move that the Chairman do report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Anderson.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, of course, it must be obvious that if these Motions were to be repeated over and over again, then they had no alternative between keeping a House and doing nothing, and accepting the adjournment; and, therefore, he would consent to report Progress.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.