HC Deb 17 July 1878 vol 241 cc1686-97

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Resolved, That it is expedient to authorize the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of Salaries and Allowances of Officers and persons acting in the Veterinary Department of Her Majesty's Privy Council Office; and of the Charges and Expenses incurred in the maintenance and management of that Department; also to authorize the payment of Compensations, whether out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, or otherwise, which may become payable under the provisions of any Act of the present Session for making better provision respecting Contagious and Infectious Diseases of Cattle and other Animals.

Resolution to be reported.

Motion made, and Question proposed, ''That the Report be received To-morrow."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)


asked, whether it was the intention of the Government to take this Bill to-morrow? His reason for making the inquiry was that there was a difference of opinion. So far as he was concerned, he understood that the Education Estimates were coming on to-morrow, and he begged to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if that were so?


said, the right hon. Gentleman was quite right in his supposition. They did fix the discussion of the Education Estimates for to-morrow, and it would be very desirable to take them then. That arrangement was made with the anticipation that the discussion on the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill, which was to begin yesterday and to be continued to-day, might be continued in such a manner as to arrive at a reasonable result and enable them to suspend the proceedings for Thursday, to take the Education Estimates and finish the Committee, as he had hoped, on Friday. But if they were to have a repetition of the sort of discussion—["Oh!"]—which they had last night—he, for one, would not say anything as to the character of that discussion, which might be very proper—but if they were to have a repetition of it, he did not see any probability of their being able to keep to their programme. In that case, he should be obliged to proceed with the Bill de die in diem.


begged to move the adjournment of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must be aware that the victory which was gained over the Government last night was a most complete justification of the course taken by the opponents of the Bill; and the manner in which they had allowed the Resolution to be carried without a single word of debate, showed that they were prepared to accept a proper Resolution if it had been submitted to them. He protested against any change being made in the arrangements for taking the Education Estimates to-morrow, as hon. Gentlemen had made their arrangements on the understanding that those Estimates would then be taken. The reason assigned for the Bill being taken to-morrow was that great progress was not made last night. Now, was there any obstruction? Was there any debate on questions which were not deserving of full consideration? The right hon. Gentleman knew thoroughly that the debates on the Bill had not extended to the length which the importance of the subject justified; and it should be borne in mind that the Government allowed four hours of debating before they made the concession, which, if it had been offered earlier, would have greatly facilitated the progress of the Bill. The Government did not seem to be very keen about proceeding with the Bill; for, although they had taken the day from private Members, there had not been a single Member of the Government at prayers. Only two of the supporters of the Bill had been at prayers, and no Member of the Cabinet made his appearance till 25 minutes after 12. It was only by the exertions of hon. Members opposed to the Bill that a House had been made. There could be no reason for proceeding with the Bill to-morrow.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir Charles W. Dilke.)

After explanations from the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER,

Motion, by leave, Withdrawn,

Original Question put.

Ordered, That the Report be received To-morrow.


hoped the Motion would not be persevered with, though he was not surprised that it had been made. He confessed that he was much surprised at the observations made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was true the right hon. Gentleman had, in effect, said that he did not mean to cast any imputation upon the proceedings of the Opposition; nevertheless, the observations of the right hon. Gentleman did convey a very serious imputation upon the proceedings of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House in relation to the Bill in question. Surely there should be allowed the most perfect freedom of debate upon a question of such immense importance as this was? About four hours of the debate yesterday might have been saved if the Government had made the concession sooner which they had afterwards felt themselves compelled to agree to. Then there came on a most important question affecting our international obligations, upon which considerable discussion took place. That discussion, he submitted, was fully justified by the extreme gravity of the question and the course taken by the Government. Never the less, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think that the conduct of the Members who took part in that discussion was of an obstructive character, although such discussion did not really commence until 9 o'clock last night.


said, he was not going to make any charge of undue obstruction against hon. Members opposite; but if the question of international obligations raised by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was of such extreme and vast importance, why had the adjournment of the House been moved the moment the House met? How was it, again, that during the four days' debate this question of international obligations had not been raised?

MR. W. E. FORSTER rose to explain. It was quite true the point had not been raised on the second reading of the Bill, because the main point of difference did not then appear. Since the Government had made the concession with regard to the five countries, the point had been referred to.


said, he could give an answer, in some degree, to the challenge of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). He had taken a very great interest in the Bill, and had felt the great difficulty of the question. Many communications had been made to him about it; but he had felt that there were many Gentlemen better able to enlighten the House on the general provisions of the Bill than he was. He owned he agreed that this question of the Treaties might have been noticed on the first introduction of the Bill, and there were Friends behind him who would bear witness that, though he had said nothing on the point, he had urged them from the first to introduce this question of the Treaties. He felt the most perfect conviction that this measure was inconsistent with the Treaties. Although the introduction of this point in the debate had been very late, he suspected it would be found to have added very considerably to the difficulties of dealing with the question; because those who had the conviction, as he had, that the Bill was contrary to Treaties, were not justified, in a matter of such extreme importance, in resting content either with a single debate or a single decision of the Committee. It was their duty to exert themselves to the utmost to bring home to the House the nature of the proposal that had been made by the Government, and they could not do that without entering freely and, if need were, repeatedly into a discussion of the question. Considering that several hours had been spent last night on a subject of International Law and obligations, he had never known more unfortunate language used, tending, in its nature, to a breach of freedom of debate, than the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day. If they were to have such discussions as that of last night, then special measures must be taken to facilitate the Bill, said the right hon. Gentleman. Now, there was no doubt about the Parliamentary meaning of these words, although that meaning might not have been present in the right hon. Gentleman's mind. And, until answers were forth coming far more cogent and pointed, and going far more directly to the case in hand, than the answers given last night, the Government might rely upon it that they would be challenged again and again to say how they reconciled the provisions of the Bill with the obligations of the country under certain Treaties? He might be allowed to make a protest, on behalf of liberty of trade, in a case of the very highest importance, and of international importance, where our good relations with foreign countries and where our reputation for honour and good faith were concerned; and he might also be allowed to protest against any attempt to limit the freedom and largeness of debate, which the raising of such a question not only justified but rendered necessary.


was far from denying that the question raised by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was of the greatest importance; but previous to that question there had been something like obstruction. He did trust, however, that there would not be obstruction here after. He must say that, considering in the House of Lords the United States were excepted, so far as their cattle was concerned, from internal arrangements which it was intended to apply to other cattle——


I wish to point out to the hon. Member and to the House, that any discussion of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill on this occasion would be altogether out of Order. I must remind the House that the Question immediately before it is the adjournment of the House.


said, perhaps he was travelling a little farther than the right hon. Gentleman. He believed this to be a very important question, and he hoped the House would give the agricultural body, which was prepared to submit to severe restrictions, fair play.


said, he wished to make a few observations on the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), who, he regretted to see, had left the House. The remarks he had made a few minutes ago in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had been misunderstood. He did not intend for a single moment to deny that the question raised in the discussion yesterday with regard to our foreign relations was a matter of very great importance. He did not deny that it was one properly entitled to discussion on the part of the House. What he did point out was that the manner in which that discussion was carried on arid brought to a conclusion would render it necessary for the Government, if they were to continue to proceed in the same way as yesterday, to take more time for this Bill than they anticipated would be necessary, and therefore it was that they proposed to go on with the Bill to-morrow. He did not for one moment deny that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was one which he had a perfect right to bring forward, nor did he say that the speeches made upon it were not to the point. The debate was a very full one, on the part especially of the legal Members of the House; and he thought he might say that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman had been very freely discussed on his own side, and that a vote might have been come to in the course of the hour or hour and a-half which had been occupied by Motions for the reporting of Progress and for the adjournment of the House. In making use of the observations to which reference had been made, he did not wish in any way to interfere with a fair and full discussion of the point which had been raised. He was perfectly prepared to hear the question debated on another occasion, as he did not doubt it would be; but he would remind the House that the Question before them was one for adjournment, upon which they might spend an hour or an hour and a-half, although it had nothing whatever to do with the merits of the Bill. They were then, he said, in a position which perfectly justified the language which he had ventured to use. He said again that they desired to make progress with the Bill without in any way shrinking from, or wishing to interfere with, fair and full discussion; but if they were to be met with Motions for reporting Progress and for adjournment in the manner they had been, they would be obliged to ask the House to allow them to devote to it time which they had hoped to apply to the furtherance of other Public Business.


concurred with the right hon. Gentleman that an unnecessary Motion for adjournment ought not to be made; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the observations he himself made were the occasion of the Motion before the House, which was further justified by the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman had just added when he desired to be conciliatory. The right hon. Gentleman said the manner in which the discussion arose last night, and the consequence of what then occurred, justified the observations he had made. Well, he believed that everyone on that side of the House, who took part in that debate, was prepared to accept the responsibility of what occurred. That the question was an important one was admitted. Her Majesty's Government maintained that the Bill did not amount to a breach of Treaty obligations. On that side of the House they were as firm in their view that it did. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer desired to maintain Treaty obligations, he might, by accepting the Amendment, render a renewed and perhaps prolonged discussion of the question unnecessary; but until that point was established, they would be a little sensitive in respect of the tone and manner of such a rebuke as the right hon. Gentleman had administered to them.


had no hesitation in saying that a wrong interpretation had been put upon the observations of his right hon. Friend, and that they right not to convey—and were not intended to convey—the meaning which had been attributed to them. For his own part, he never said—nor had any Member of the Government ever said—that they should insist on their proposal even if they believed that it amounted to a breach of Treaty obligations. What they did say was that they believed firmly that the clause did not, and would not, in any way violate those obligations. They had endeavoured to show that the action of Parliament was that to which they should alone look in respect of the regulations to be made with reference to cattle imported, and to the Privy Council as the agents for carrying out those regulations; but he did not say, nor did he even hint, that if the Government believed or thought that any part of the Bill would lead to a violation of Treaty obligations, they would insist on its adoption. On the contrary, they believed that no violation of Treaty obligations would occur under the Bill. The Government did not object to a full discussion of the question which had been raised; but they said that as, in consequence of that discussion, the Committee would occupy a longer period than, had been contemplated, they would require to devote to it, if necessary, time in which they had hoped to make progress with other Business.


said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer complained of the discussion which had arisen that morning on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke); but he thought the right hon. Gentleman should take upon himself the blame arising from the fact. The right hon. Gentleman knew that when the Resolution which was discussed last night was submitted as amended, it was agreed to without a word, and he would remember that when asked a question as to the consideration of the Report tomorrow, he answered the question, but put a sting in his answer. He did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman meant it; but the answer did imply that hon. Members on that side of the House were worthy of censure for what occurred last night. Now, his constituents were as much, if not more, interested in the Bill than any other constituency in the Kingdom, and yet, though the debate on the second reading of the Bill lasted four nights, he had not uttered one word on the subject, nor did he do so until the special interests of those whom he represented were about to be affected. It was, therefore, he thought, rather unfair to make such a charge as that to which reference had been several times made. The issue of the discussion he had taken part in yesterday was a proof that they were perfectly justified in having raised it, as it had resulted in a concession on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Many hon. Gentlemen considered that this Bill would seriously injure the interests of those places which they represented. That was a matter of opinion; but they believed in that opinion, and they were justified in making every attempt to enforce it. He was satisfied that the Chancellor of the Exchequer or any other right hon. or hon. Gentleman who was in favour of the measure would not gain the end ho had in view by attempting to impute that the opponents of the Bill desired unnecessarily and unwisely to obstruct its progress.


said, he was one of the majority which had voted against the Motions for reporting Progress and for adjournment last night, and he had now to express a hope that Her Majesty's Government would proceed with the Bill until they got it through. It was a measure which would not bear putting off for another Session. It had been said that last night was not sufficient for the discussion of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). Well, looking to the condition of the House at that moment, he thought there were very few Members who wished to continue the discussion, and that it might have been concluded last night in the time occupied by the Motions to which reference had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


could not think that the hon. and gallant Member had any authority to speak for hon. Members on that side of the House. He (Mr. Chamberlain) considered the imputations which had been thrown out as to the conduct of the opponents of the Bill extremely offensive, and as indicating an intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to use their great majority to force the Bill through the House at all costs, without permitting to Members whose constituents were strongly interested in the Bill an opportunity of discussing fully its provisions. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) was of opinion that six hours were too many to devote to the consideration of a question which involved a question affecting our Treaty obligations.


said, he had never stated that six hours were too many for the discussion of the Amendment. What he had pointed out was that if the question was one of great importance it was strange it had never been alluded to during the lengthened debate on the second reading of the Bill.


observed, that his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had alluded to the question in the debate on going into Committee, and had given Notice of the discussion which had arisen. With respect to the debate of yesterday, no possible charge of obstruction could be made against the opponents of the Bill, as the discussion was perfectly justified by the concession which, in the result, the Government had made. Under the circumstances, he hoped the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea would persevere with his Motion unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer fully withdrew the imputation he had made.


also took exception to the charge made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for which, he said, there was no foundation. The reason why the Opposition insisted on reporting Progress last night was that the subject under discussion—that of the bearing of the Bill on Foreign Commercial Treaties—was extremely important; and though able lawyers had discussed it, there were other Members who wished to discuss it also, and who did not care to carry on the discussion at an hour when nothing that they said would be reported, and when the bucolic supporters of the Government were impatient of debate.


said, he thought he was called upon to contribute to this interesting conversation, seeing the honour of the House was in question. He defended the Amendment he had moved on the previous night, and expressed surprise at his own moderation in the occupation of time over it. In his view, the Government were entirely in the wrong in the course pursued last night on all the points raised.


appealed to the common sense of the House whether the time had not come when they should endeavour to make some progress with the Bill. The words of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had received a stronger interpretation than he expected, but hon. Members had a perfect right to protest. Having now made their protest for some time, he hoped they would be satisfied. The Government fancied that after the discussion of last night they might be allowed to proceed with the Bill, it being admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich that the mode chosen was not the best in which the question involved in the Amendment might have been raised. It did not surprise him that the question was raised; and it was fully discussed. However, when they left last night it was understood that there would be a further debate that day on the question; and he hoped that hon. Members, as sensible men, would now proceed with the Committee.


said, he was glad to hear an allusion at last made to common sense. This was a very important question, considering that they were just on the eve of negotiating a fresh Treaty of Commerce with France. In his opinion, the Government were wrong in the course they adopted, and that the pro- ceedings of the opponents of the Bill were justified by the circumstances in which they found themselves.


hoped that after the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman they would resume the discussion of the clause in Committee. He was not surprised at the remarks which the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had elicited. His right hon. Friend was generally so kindly that any apparent imputation from him was felt more than it would be from anyone else. However, he was quite sure now that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to make any charge of obstruction, and that any such charge was entirely withdrawn; and, therefore, he hoped the Committee would now be permitted to resume its labours.


said, he hoped there would be no division on the Motion then before the House. The trade of this country in imports and exports with those countries with which England had Commercial Treaties amounted to £150,000,000, and to £100,000,000 with those countries whose Treaties would be violated if this Bill were passed in its present form.


observed, that the hon. Member was out of Order in pursuing such a course of argument.


said, he was only justifying the course that was pursued yesterday by the Opposition, and how important it was that the House should consider this Bill in respect to our Treaty obligations.


urged his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea to withdraw his Motion for adjournment, although he thought it was justified by the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Original Question put.

Ordered, That the Report be received To-morrow.