§ Clause 2 (Commencement of Act).1698
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."
§ MR. PELL
said, that although the debate of the previous evening was protracted to an exceedingly late hour, he was not one of those who thought time had been wasted. If it were possible to effect the object the Committee had in view—which was to permit the free importation of wholesome meat into this country as far as was consistent with the security, with reasonable security to the breeders of and dealers in beasts—without going so far as this Bill did, he would be glad to see it so effected. He was not going to treat this as a question between the urban and the rural populations; because he would candidly acknowledge that many borough Members had supported the Government, and that, on the other hand, there were some Representatives of counties who did not entirely concur with the supporters of the Bill. He desired to view the question, as far as he could, from the foreign countries' point of view. The question that occurred to him as requiring an answer was—''Are we about to do by this Bill that which may embarrass the country hereafter in its relations to foreign States?" Drawing his conclusions from the debate of last night, he was inclined to think that there was such doubt on this question that it might be well not further to take up the time of Parliament in discussing the question. He ventured to make a suggestion of his own as to the solution of the difficulty. On the second reading of the Bill he had said that he had doubts whether the House was dealing rightly with those countries which had been proved nearly, if not quite, free from the danger which was dreaded. He would now make a proposal that other countries should be placed on much the same footing as that in which it was proposed to place Denmark, Spain, and Portugal, under the Bill. He had given Notice of an Amendment to the clause which the Secretary to the Treasury proposed to introduce in regard to those countries. The effect of that Amendment would be to require that 1699 both Houses of Parliament should be furnished with the statement of the reasons which the Privy Council had for relaxing the strict provisions of the Bill in the case of any of the five countries he named. If that Amendment were accepted, there would be as much security, as perhaps, the country was intitled to expect; and he now desired to see the relaxation extended to other countries, provided the accompanying security were given that would be embodied in his Amendment, requiring reasons to be laid before Parliament, and thus affording Parliament an opportunity for discussing these reasons. It was obvious that in that case the Privy Council for the time being would not be enabled to suspend the general provisions of the Act without stating to the country at large that it had grounds for so doing. If his idea were accepted and embodied in the Bill, the country would be reasonably safe against the introduction of foreign disease, and the difficulty as to the "Most Favoured Nation Clauses" would be got over at once. He gave Notice that, at the right time, he would move a clause embodying these suggestions. If it were adopted, he hoped it would clear away one important difficulty and enable the Committee to proceed with the Amendment of the Bill. The question that had now been raised as to foreign countries was entirely new to himself. He never heard it raised, as they would naturally have expected that it would have been raised, on the second reading of the Bill. The Opposition had made the best of the hare they had started, and no one could blame them for it. He only wished they had found it earlier, and given the House an opportunity of preventing its being the cause of so much time being occupied. Having said that much, he would not further take up the time of the House; but would, at the proper time, move the Amendment which he had read to the House.
§ MR. PEASE
wished to make one or two observations to the House, of much the same character as those of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, whose views he shared. He was very anxious that the Bill should pass for the purpose of regulating the home trade in cattle, and of preventing the spread of disease by means of the foreign imports. Hitherto he had kept silence during the 1700 debates upon the Bill, in order that it might the more quickly go into Committee, when the serious points could be discussed. The question raised last night by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was, in its broad aspects, new to him. Up to the moment that it was brought forward, he confessed that he should have been quite prepared to have voted for the alteration proposed by Her Majesty's Government to practically arrange countries under three Schedules. But after hearing the debates, no one could help coming to the conclusion that, in forming these Schedules, they were treading on excessively dangerous ground, and that that which they desired to accomplish would be paid for at too dear a price. The existence of these Commercial Treaties in their integrity, he must remind hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies, was of vital importance to the agricultural interest. Although it might be very well to say, like the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), that the Midlands supplied Birmingham with meat, yet it must be remembered that it was doubtful whether the meat would be required but for the trade brought into the country by the Reciprocity Treaties. Therefore, in his opinion, the time was well spent last night in discussing this question, for they now knew the extent of the danger they ran and the importance of refraining from doing the slightest thing by any Act they could pass which would damage these Reciprocity Treaties in the eyes of other countries. He understood his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) to propose that all animals should by law be slaughtered at the port of landing; but that those countries which had fulfilled certain regulations made by the Privy Council, and assented to by Parliament, should have cattle admitted without slaughter. The question of the "Most Favoured Nation Clause" would not then arise, for each country, when free from disease, could obtain the admittance of its animals. In his opinion, the Government would do well to adopt that suggestion. By carefully drawing the regulations, and providing that they should be laid before Parliament, practically the same result as to prohibition would be effected as if the three Schedules were adopted. In 1701 the case of Germany there was a long frontier, and almost an impossibility of guarding against disease from Russia. If all countries were treated alike, the regulations would provide that all frontiers must be carefully guarded, and such internal regulations made as would cheek the disease. But the moment the Privy Council were satisfied that everything had been done, and that any particular country was free from disease, then they should have power to admit its cattle without slaughter. In that way, this country would be offering the greatest possible inducement to other countries to stamp out the disease—an inducement which would have so much effect on Holland, Germany, and France, that they would endeavour to do so. Therefore, he thought the suggestion of his hon. Friend would, without increasing the danger, give every encouragement to those countries to make themselves equal to Denmark and America in their freedom from disease, and compete in the English market. While thus treating all countries alike, the proposal would also be making the best possible provision for the food of the country.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had placed upon the Paper an Amendment, the effect of which would be to place all countries on the same footing. Up to the present time, he had been prepared to view the concession made by the Government with reference to the five countries as sufficient, and not to propose his Amendment; for, although he thought that the proposal made by the Government was not all that they could desire, yet a concession made on one side must be met half-way on the other. If, therefore, the point under discussion had not been raised, he should not have moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice. But it appeared to him that that new point altogether altered the aspect of affairs; and, on carefully looking over the whole of the arguments of the previous night, he was bound to say that, in his opinion, the Government had certainly not established their position. He had come to the conclusion that the Government, by asking Parliament to take from them the power of giving certain countries advantages, was, in fact, asking Parliament to pass an Act which would render it impossible for them to carry out their Treaty en- 1702 gagements without coming to Parliament again for the purpose of giving them that power. The Government contended that the difference lay only between an Act of Parliament and an Order in Council. But that was all the difference in the world—for, in the one case, power to carry out Treaty engagements was taken; while, in the other, the hands of the Government were bound by an Act of Parliament; and it would be necessary to come for another Act to undo what had been previously done. He thought the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) was in the right direction, and he hoped the Government would bring forward some proposition to meet the difficulty. For his part, he considered that if the Government wished to make progress with the Bill, it would be better to make the concession a real and solid one. It was proposed to make three or four classes of countries. Canada and the United States were unscheduled countries, and were to be allowed to send their cattle in freely without any discretion on the part of the Government. Then the Privy Council were to have the power to admit animals from Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark without specifying any reasons to Parliament. Then the hon. Member for South Leicestershire proposed to add another class, by giving the Privy Council power to admit any other country on condition that they laid their reasons before Parliament. He did not think it was justifiable to create so many categories. It appeared to him that it would be wiser and better for the Government to take power to exempt any country, and not to treat any country exceptionally in the Schedule—not even America. With a slight alteration, he thought the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper would entirely meet the justice of the case. He would wipe out all those excluded countries in the Schedule, and simply insert the following words at the end of Clause 33:—''The Privy Council, on its being shown to their satisfaction that in any of the countries to which the Schedule applies, the laws therein as to the importation and exportation of animals, and as to the prevention and the treatment of disease, are sufficient to afford a reasonable security against the importation there from of diseased animals, and being further satisfied that the disease is not prevalent in such country, may, from time to time, by general and special Orders, 1703 exempt that country from the regulations as to compulsory slaughter.If that suggestion were adopted, it could not be said that any one country was treated differently from another. There would be but one category instead of three, and all the securities necessary for proper protection would be assured. If the Government yielded on this point, as, in his opinion, they must, he hoped they would accept his Amendment, or one of the like character.
§ COLONEL KINGSCOTE
was in hopes that after the discussion the previons night, which he quite agreed turned upon an entirely new point, that the Government would have made some concession in the matter. He was very desirous that the diseases of animals should be stopped in this country. That was his main object; but if these Treaty obligations would be affected by the Act, and they would be brought into conflict with other countries, let them endeavour to carry out what they desired—the prevention of disease in this country—by other means. The nearest approach to a satisfactory solution of the question was, he thought, shadowed forth by the hon. Members for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) and the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). If restrictions were put upon farmers and graziers at home, some similar restrictions must be applied to cattle imported from abroad. He wished to see as much responsibility as possible thrown upon the Privy Council in this matter. Two or three years ago, evidence was given by the Privy Council officers, to the effect that it was impossible for rinderpest to re-appear in this country. But it did appear again, and he considered that the proper amount of responsibility should be placed upon a Department which lightly expressed opinions of that kind.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, he was unfortunately not a lawyer, and he had not now the advantage of being a commercial man.; but he could bring common sense to bear on this subject, and he could not understand why his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire should propose to treat America, which was a clean country, so far as cattle diseases were concerned, in a manner different from that in which European countries, if they, too, happened to be clean, were to be treated. He should have thought that the same rule ought 1704 to be applied to one country as to the other. There was evidence that certain countries in Europe were never free from disease, and that was the reason that the Government concession did not extend to them. He would make one observation with reference to what had fallen last night from the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). It was a mistake to treat this as a Cattle Plague Bill. The cattle plague was effectually dealt with in the measure of 1869. But the present Bill proposed, for the first time, to treat foot-and-mouth disease and pleuro-pneumonia as diseases, to check their progress in the country as well as to stop their importation. It had been suspected that Holland might stop importation from Germany, and so become free from disease; but it had been proved, over and over again, that Holland was never free from pleuro-pneumonia. Last year there were 951 cases of that disease in that small country. In the same period, 1,405 cases of foot-and-mouth disease were imported into this country from Holland. It might be very well to vest a discretion in the Privy Council as to the cattle plague; but it was different with regard to these diseases which were constant. The Chief Veterinary Inspector for the Government of France gave evidence before the Committee, and when asked how long pleuro-pneumonia had existed in France, said it had been there from time immemorial. Whether he intended to date back its introduction to the first year of the reign of Richard I., he (Mr. Clare Read) did not know. With respect to foot-and-mouth, the same witness could not say when it first appeared in his country, but knew that it had for several years become indigenous. It appeared to him (Mr. Clare Read) to be beyond all doubt that France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Russia, and Austro-Hungary, were unable to free themselves from these diseases which they were about to stamp out in this country. Therefore, he would have thought it easy to say, as the Government did—"There are countries from which we must exclude all cattle from entering England." But he considered that if it could be shown that any country had been free from disease for 12 months, these same regulations might be inserted in the Act with regard to the removal of the prohibition. It must, 1705 however, be remembered that the Bill was not for the prevention of cattle plague, but for the extermination of the two diseases—foot-and-mouth and pleuro-pneumonia—and that all cattle from countries infected with them must be prevented entering the country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
did not think that it could be justly said that time had been wasted by the discussion that had taken place. It would have been a great loss to the Committee if they had not had the speeches of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), and of the hon. and gallant Member for West Gloucestershire (Colonel Kingscote). Certainly, the hon. Members for the counties of Gloucester and Leicester were as well qualified as any to speak on behalf of the agricultural interests of the country. The proposals which had been made by those hon. Members, and by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, speaking for the urban population, would go far, if adopted, to facilitate the progress of the Bill. He had listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), and had failed to detect in it anything which detracted from the position taken by the hon. Gentleman to whom he had referred. Moreover, the hon. Member, who occupied the position of President of the Royal Agricultural Society, had expressed his willingness to accept their suggestion. What was their proposal? That no countries at all should be named in the Bill, and that the Privy Council should be intrusted with the responsibility of deciding, under the varying circumstances, the countries to which the restrictions should apply. The hon. Member for South Norfolk had given strong reasons why cattle from Holland and some other countries should not be admitted; but the Privy Council, in deciding on those cases, would have the advice and assistance of many persons well acquainted with the subject, and, amongst others, of the hon. Member for South Norfolk. Therefore, if it were true—as it no doubt was—that Holland was in a condition that made it right that her cattle should not be admitted, the Privy Council would, under the proposition of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, exclude them, and also the cattle from other countries in a 1706 similar state. It had been objected that the Opposition had raised what the hon. Member for South Leicestershire called a new "hare;" but it must be remembered that the injustice of which complaint was made was not in the original Bill. It was not until the Government made its second concession, and took the five countries from the Schedule, that the necessity for raising the question became apparent. [Mr. PELL: America was not scheduled.] No doubt the question might have been raised with regard to America; but the importance of the matter was not so clear until the other countries were brought in. There had been the fullest possible intimation that this question was intended to be raised, and if the point were a good one the House would deal with it. He only mentioned the matter for the purpose of meeting the objection that the question had been brought before the House by surprise; and it must also be remembered that the point was treated at some length by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) on the second reading of the Bill. It seemed to him that the tone of the debate that morning had been more favourable to the proposition than it was the previous night. There had been a more conciliatory tone on both sides of the House with respect to the matter, and it was now seen that the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was not vexatious, but one which referred to a very serious difficulty, which both sides of the House were anxious to remove if possible. He did not desire to go into the details of the proposal of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, but would wish to hear what Her Majesty's Government had to say with reference to it. He supposed that the Government might then go on with the Bill, and that those who were opposing it might rest satisfied with the assurance that the difficulties which they had foreseen, and to which they had called the attention of the House, would be removed. Without pledging either the Government or the other side to the details that were to be adopted, if the Government were prepared to agree to the proposition that all countries should be put on the same footing, leaving to the Privy Council the absolute discretion—or, to use the words that had been used by the hon. Member 1707 for the Town Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), the "heavy responsibility"—of admitting cattle from foreign countries, the Privy Council being responsible to the nation and to Parliament, why, then, he would say, that the adjournment of the debate had gone a long way towards carrying the Bill. There was this strong argument with respect to the proposal of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire—that what foreign countries had to look to was the Executive. When they made a Treaty, or entered into an engagement of any kind with a foreign country, that country knew nothing of our Constitution, and did not inquire by what method we proceeded; it knew only the Executive, and it was the business of the nation and of Parliament to arm the Executive Government with the powers necessary to carry out the national obligations. That was why the Government could not turn round to a foreign country and say—"What you state is true; but we have not got the power to do what you require." The answer would be—"You ought to have the power, and it is your duty to arm yourselves with that power." Some Treaties could be carried out without recourse being had to Parliament, and for others it was necessary to have Parliamentary authority; but whether the Government came to Parliament or not, it was their duty to arm themselves with the necessary power and authority for dealing with Treaties. If they made the compulsory slaughter of foreign cattle general, with a power to the Privy Council to relax that regulation on proof given by a foreign country that it was free from cattle disease, it appeared to him that the trade would be placed on a proper footing, and that none of the difficulties which were now apprehended would arise.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he presumed they were now considering the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). The debates on that Amendment showed him that there was a difficulty in regard to the foreign Treaties; and if there was a difficulty, it was far better that it should be cleared up in that House than that it should afterwards become a source of recrimination between different countries. He believed his hon. and learned Friend was not wedded to the words of his Amendment; but he thought the 1708 point should be cleared up, and that the Bill should be framed in such a way as to convince the House that they were not running counter either to the spirit or to the words of the Commercial Treaties. He thought the logical conclusion from this—and he hoped it would satisfy his hon. and learned Friend—was to name no country at all in the Schedule; and, as he had said on the second reading of the Bill, to throw a greater burden on the Privy Council, who would feel their responsibility more fully after this discussion than they had done before, and would be very glad to allow no disease over which they could exercise any control to enter the country. He did not think the discussion as to the powers to be accorded to the Privy Council would be at all thrown away. He was glad to hear the suggestion which had been thrown out by his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). He thought that might clear the way, and he hoped the Government would take it into consideration. He saw a very formidable number of Amendments on the Paper; but he believed the adoption of that suggestion by the Government would cause the removal of nine-tenths of them, and would facilitate the passing of a Bill which would be beneficial to the country without interfering with the price of food, and which would, at the same time, give to breeders in this country the security to which they were entitled. He could not for a moment agree to put restrictions on the breeders of this country without doing something of the same kind with regard to the countries that sent us cattle. The adoption of the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire would, he repeated, in his opinion, make the Bill a good Bill, satisfactory to the breeders of cattle in this country, and not likely to lead to discontent abroad on the ground that the Government had interfered with Treaties. He must confess that in matters not connected with cattle—but the principle was the same—he had seen jealousies and troubles arising in connection with Commercial Treaties; and he thought that had been particularly the case in regard to the Italian Treaty, and also in regard to that with Spain and Portugal. Such disputes were most vexatious and troublesome to commercial men; and to 1709 give rise to them by this Bill could do no good at home, and would set up heartburnings abroad. He thought that leaving all names out of the Schedule would be the best way of settling this question.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, that those who had hitherto felt it to be their duty to oppose the Government would be rejoiced to give the further progress of the Bill their best assistance if their objections were removed by the acceptance, on the part of the Government, of the principle of the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). He said "the principle of the suggestion," because he had not been quite able to follow its terms. He took that principle to be this—that there should be absolute equality of all foreign countries, and that would be best brought about by carrying out the suggestion of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon), and omitting all countries from the Schedule. If any country was named, it must be because they intended to establish a distinction between it and other countries, and if they established such a distinction, then the objection of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) could be maintained, and they would not be fulfilling their Treaty obligations. There were two ways in which equality could be realized—one was by levelling up, the other by levelling down. They could level down America and Canada, and make compulsory slaughter the rule, allowing the Privy Council to make exceptions to the rule as it should see fit. But, surely, such an arrangement as that would be exceedingly unreasonable, and he hoped the House would not consent to it. What possible ground could the Government give for putting on America and Canada restrictions which, by the action of the Government, had been shown to be totally unnecessary? The only proper course for the Government to take was to level up, and to put all countries into the position in which they placed the United States now, allowing them to send their cattle to this country unless the Privy Council were satisfied, as to any particular country, of its un-healthiness. If the Government were now considering the possibility of accepting the suggestion which had been made, it might be desirable that the Chairman should report Progress, though 1710 he would not make a Motion to that effect himself, in order that, on a future occasion, the exact terms of the proposed Amendment might be brought up and considered by the House. He was quite sure that such a course on the part of the Government would materially Favour the speedy progress of the Bill; for it was quite true, as the hon. Member for Preston had said, that many Amendments would disappear from the Paper if this concession were made. He had himself placed on the Paper a large number of Amendments, the effect of which would be to make more stringent the home regulations, for he felt that it was radically inconsistent to exclude the cattle of any foreign country unless, at the same time, they took precautions which were proved to be necessary in order to stamp out disease at home; but if the proposed regulations with regard to foreign cattle were struck out of the Bill, he should not feel justified in pressing all his Amendments against those who represented the agricultural interest. He believed the postponement of the further consideration of the Bill until the Government should be able to make a proposition in the sense of the suggestion made by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire was now the course best calculated to facilitate the progress of the measure.
said, he was glad to take this opportunity of offering to the House his humble views as to the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), and as to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). He had been unwilling to do so sooner, and he had been listening while a great legal authority on International Law was addressing the House, for an explanation of how it came about that hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite had not been able to discover, on the second reading of the Bill, that a great question with regard to foreign Treaties was raised by this Bill. Many persons had asked him how it was that this difficulty had not been discovered before. He really could not quite believe in the reality of this new discovery, for he could not pay so bad a compliment to all the legal talent opposite as to suppose that the point had escaped their notice. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) 1711 had stated that it had not escaped his attention, and that he had called the attention of his Colleagues to it; but, in spite of that, and although this took place on the second reading, not one hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite had taken the smallest notice of it. He could only, therefore, repeat his great surprise that they should now consider it a matter of such enormous importance. He hoped, however, to meet them in a conciliatory spirit. On the previous night he had expressed his strong opposition to further concessions in the direction in which they had hitherto proceeded, and to unlimited discretion being vested in the Privy Council. He had been repeatedly asked during the debate why he objected to place confidence in the Privy Council? His answer was obvious—that it was going back to the old state of things, and they knew from experience that the result of placing unlimited confidence in the Privy Council had been the admission of cattle plague time after time, and also other diseases. Could hon. Gentlemen opposite, then, express surprise that he and his Friends were not prepared to rush again into the arms of the Privy Council? But the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire was somewhat different from that. It was not unlimited confidence that was proposed. His hon. Friend suggested a Proviso—that the Orders in Council should be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament; and, so long as that Proviso was retained, he, for one, would not oppose the proposal of his hon. Friend. He was disposed to accept it for one reason more than another. Hon. Members on that side of the House had been constantly accused of a desire to encourage Protection, and to give a monopoly to farmers. For his own part, he could truly say that his sole object throughout had been to increase the supply and to diminish the price of food to the people; and he had no doubt in his own mind—and he never had had the slightest doubt from the beginning of this discussion—that the effect of the Bill would be to increase the supply of food and to diminish its price. But hon. Members opposite really must remember that there must be a limit to concession. If the Bill were to be effective at all, they must impose considerable restrictions upon the farmers at home, and if they 1712 imposed those restrictions without giving the farmers fair security against the return of diseases from, abroad, they would be perpetrating an injustice to which he would never consent to become a party. So long as the farmers had this fair security—as he thought they would have under the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire—he, for one, should be ready to do anything to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to join with them, if they would join with hon. Members on his side, in framing a measure which would effect the object which every one of them wished to see accomplished.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he thought that after the discussion which had taken place, they had arrived at a point at which the Government should state how far they could accept the proposal which had been suggested. With regard to the principle which was involved in the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire, and which had been very clearly put by his hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon) and others, he was quite prepared to say, on the part of the Government, that they were ready to accept that principle. As he understood it, it was to omit from the Schedule of the Bill any distinction between one country and another. He would repeat what he had contended for on the previous night—that it was not the intention of the Government to make any distinction between one country and another under similar circumstances, and the only question was to determine in what way the circumstances were similar. He thought that in agreeing to strike out all distinctions as to the United States of America or any European countries, and in treating all countries as on the same footing, it was obvious that they must consider rather carefully what was to be the precise position in which they were going to place those countries; and he could not undertake, without further consideration, to say how far the Government would be prepared to go in accepting the precise proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire. But he was prepared to say that the Government would accept the principle of omitting he distinction between one country and another. With regard to the proposal 1713 of the hon, and learned Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), he took an objection to it on the previous night, and he really thought his objections had not been answered. It seemed to him that they would do well to dispose of that Amendment, and to proceed with the discussion of those parts of the Bill which came next in order. He could not say, on the present occasion, how far the Government would be prepared to accept the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire; but he thought they ought to have Notice of the Amendment placed on the Paper, in order that they might see precisely how he would meet them. Of course, it was understood that it involved the principle that Parliament was to have notice of any proceeding on the part of the Privy Council, and whether that was to be embodied in one particular form or in another was a matter of consideration and arrangement. But he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and others, that it was essential, if they were to impose greater restrictions upon the home management of animals which were infected with disease, and were to put greater restrictions upon the breeders and owners of cattle, for the purpose of stamping out disease, it was necessary to take efficient precautions against the importation of diseased animals, which would entirely neutralize the precautions taken at home. This was the sole object which the Government had in view, and they wished to take the necessary precautions with as little restriction on trade as possible, consistently with their main object; but they must take care that the main object was answered. He did not think that to leave the matter, as it had been left, in the hands of the Privy Council, would be sufficient security; but they must take care that the restrictions and the permissions to be established by the Bill were such as would certainly give to Parliament a bonâ fide control over the course taken by the Privy Council.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he must join in the congratulations which had been expressed at the turn which the debate had taken; and he thought they were very much indebted to the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), who had shown them a way by 1714 which they might arrive at a temperate and reasonable consideration of how they might legislate for the real interest of the country. He was quite sure that the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), and other Members, had the same feeling on the subject that he himself had, and that they were all anxious to do anything that could possibly be done to prevent the spread of disease. He thought the statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would meet the objection of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). He understood the Government distinctly to say that they did not intend any preference to be given to one country over another; and that, without admitting the contention to be correct that by requiring an Act of Parliament in one case, and an Order in Council in another, there would be such a distinction, they were willing to admit that it would be well to avoid the appearance of any preference, and that in that respect all countries were to be treated alike. If he were right in that understanding, he had no doubt that his hon. and learned Friend would at once withdraw his Amendment, and would not wish to detain, the House longer in discussing it. But it was impossible to pass over this question without considering the effect the new provision would have on the general position of the Government. There was no doubt that the clause had led to a feeling that the foreign trade was unfairly treated, and that the interest of the consumer was not sufficiently considered. In fact, there were two policies in the Bill—an absolute discretion being given to the Privy Council with regard to the home trade, and a limited discretion with regard to the foreign trade. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not said to what extent he accepted the suggestion of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire; but, from the tone of his remarks, and from the appeals which had been made to him on both sides of the House, as strongly by Friends of the agricultural interest as by Representatives of large boroughs, he (Mr. W. E. Forster) felt sure that the Government did intend to admit the principle which had been mainly contended for on the Liberal side—that was to say, that the Execu- 1715 tive Government of the day were to be allowed in the future, as in the past, to make such regulations as they should consider necessary for the prevention of disease, but only those regulations that were necessary, and that they would not interfere with trade more than could possibly be helped. [Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON assented.] He was glad to see the Secretary to the Treasury nod his head. He understood that was the principle now conceded, and that was what hon. Members on that side had been contending for. What had made the right hon. Gentleman think they were rather obstinate was the strength of their feeling that in such an important matter as the supply of food to the community, the Executive Government ought to have very great responsibility as to any interference with trade, and ought not to be bound by any hard-and-fast line laid down in an Act of Parliament; but that they ought to be free to relax the stringency of the regulations wherever it might be necessary. That was all that was really required, and if his hon. Friend's suggestions were carried out, it would be a very considerable gain on the side which he had been supporting. They must never expect that a minority should get exactly its own way, and, if they obtained the principle, they must not mind very much about the form; but, in giving the principle, the Government had made a very great concession. If the rule was to be in favour of slaughter at the ports, instead of cattle coming in wards—["No, no!"]—well, a very great concession had been made, and he was quite prepared, when they got to the clause, to give strong reasons why he thought the presumption should be in favour of inclusion, and not in favour of exclusion. But the principle of the matter did not rest on that point, and he was convinced of this—that if the Privy Council had the power in any way to prevent the import of food from being interfered with, such was the strong necessity of the case that, if it were not necessary to interfere with it, the Privy Council would not make the interference. He did not believe that there would be much practical difference, whether the apparent rule was in favour of exclusion or inclusion; what he said was that in such an important matter it would be impossible for the Privy Council to keep 1716 up a restriction on trade, without being able to show that there was a strong ground of necessity. He thought that when the House knew exactly what the proposition was, and how the Government met it, they would be strongly on the side of freedom of import. He was quite prepared to admit that, as far as he understood the position of the Government, they were in favour of a creditable settlement of a most difficult question. He hoped the Executive of the Government would be allowed to deal with the matter according to the necessities and circumstances of the time, which had been the case hitherto. He was not there to defend the action of the Privy Council, either at the present time or when he was connected with it; but he must say that the business under discussion was one with which they ought to act; and if the Government would give an assurance that this was to be the principle on which they proposed to act, a greal deal of his opposition to the Bill would cease. He hoped that between this Sitting of the Committee and the next the Government would carefully consider the matter, and put them selves in a position to announce exactly the extent to which they were willing to admit this principle of discretion. He felt little doubt that in the end the hon. Member for South Leicestershire would have the satisfaction of knowing that he had contributed to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion of an important and difficult question.
§ MR. CHARLEY
said, he regarded the concessions made by the Government as most valuable. They tended in the direction of Free Trade; and all he, as the Representative of a large borough, asked was that one more concession in the same direction should be made. He objected to the application of this hard iron rule of universal compulsory slaughter. He was glad to have been told that the farmers were willing to be put under severe restrictions by the Privy Council; but what his constituents objected to was that the restrictions to be imposed upon the supply of foreign cattle to the English market were not to be imposed at the option of the Privy Council, but by Act of Parliament. What he wished for was that no foreign countries should be scheduled under this Bill; but that the Privy Council should have the power of scheduling them if it 1717 thought fit. This was the view, too, entertained by his constituents, and he had felt bound to express it to the House.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he supported the second reading of the Bill, because he believed it to embody the wishes of the British farmers to exterminate cattle disease, and because he believed the slaughter of foreign cattle at the ports of debarkation to be a cardinal point in any such plan. He had never believed that such slaughter would be prejudicial to the trade, or would have the effect of diminishing the supply; and nothing that he had heard in the course of the discussions that had taken place had changed his opinion in the slightest degree. He did not think that the second part of the Bill, dealing with the home trade, would effect the object which the Government had in view. The Government had changed their position, and materially altered the character of the Bill—in fact, by proposing to leave the matter in the hands of the Privy Council they had made no real change in the present system, and had made no provision which would give the country security against the importation of disease from foreign countries. He thought it a great pity that the House should waste time in tinkering a measure which could not possibly have any beneficial effect, because it would make no real alteration in the present state of things. It was perfectly true that the Privy Council would have to lay all their Orders on the Table of the House; but it did not follow that they would be discussed, or that, if discussed, the Government would not use its majority to back up the action taken by the Privy Council. The only result would be a possible discussion as to the propriety of some past action of the Privy Council after the disease had been imported into the country and all the mischief done.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken thought all European cattle ought to be slaughtered at the port of debarkation; but he knew that he could not get that. That was tried and had to be abandoned. The hon. Gentleman said the proposal which the Government had accepted would leave the matter as it stood. In his (Lord Elcho's) view it would reverse it. A new feature was introduced by the Amendment of his hon. Friend behind 1718 him, which was that if the Privy Council relieved any country from the liability of having its cattle slaughtered at the port of debarkation it would have to give reasons for doing so, which were to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. He could not but think that provision, properly worked, would give much greater security to farmers.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
thought that if the proposed discretion was left in the hands of the Privy Council, it would not much matter which way the presumption went. More than half the cattle imported would be admitted immediately, and that did away practically with the presumption of exclusion. He did not think it necessary, at this stage of the Bill, to debate the actual form of the concession. They knew that the objection of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) had been met, and that the Government had declared that all countries should be treated alike. He did not concur with what had been said by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), on the question of the Orders of the Privy Council being submitted to both Houses of Parliament. They were now in this position—First, the danger to their international relations had ceased to exist, because the Government had declared that they would not give one country a preference over another; and, secondly, the Government had admitted that discretion was to be given to the Privy Council with regard to the foreign trade. The exact mode of effecting that object, and the precise directions to be given to the Privy Council, were matters for consideration hereafter. For his part, he would try to convert the Committee to the belief that the presumption ought to be in favour of the inclusion rather than the exclusion of foreign animals—although he could not help honestly stating that if half the Continent and the United States were to be at once admitted, he did not think his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), or his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), would derive very much comfort from the fact that the rule appeared to be for exclusion.
§ MR. PELL
said, he should like to say a word or two in explanation of his Amendment. The Committee must understand that if his Amendment were 1719 accepted by the Government as at present drawn, they should have countries treated in three different ways, and he at once said it was not his desire to see that result follow from his Amendment. Cattle from America would come in without any further rule being imposed; cattle from Spain and Portugal, in the event of the Amendment of the Secretary to the Treasury—to which his was an addition—being carried, would come in under a relaxing Order of the Privy Council without any statement of reasons being made to Parliament; and cattle coming from what he might term the dangerous or suspected countries—such as Germany—could not be admitted by any relaxing Order of the Privy Council unless it was accompanied by a statement of reasons to be laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament. His hope was that the Government might be able to amalgamate these Amendments, so that while the Statutory Order should be one for slaughter applicable to all countries, there should be a general power given to the Privy Council to relax, accompanied by a statement of their reasons to be laid before Parliament. With respect to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster), he thought the change suggested by him in the presumption as to the condition of animals imported into this country would not be a desirable one. As the law stood at present, all animals were supposed to be free to come into England, their admission being varied or checked by Orders in Council. Under this Bill, a very important change in that respect was proposed, which he hoped the Government would adhere to. It was that they should take up an attitude of distrust with respect to all countries, and let the enactment for slaughtering apply to all, with a relaxing power to the Privy Council, to be exercised under the conditions which he had stated. He did hope that in whatever way the Government might deal with his Amendment, they would adhere to that which he considered the most valuable part of it, and which alone would satisfy the country Party in that House—namely, that the Privy Council for the time being should give a statement of reasons for relaxing the Statutory Rule which the Bill imposed with regard to foreign importation.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
remarked, that as he had been mainly responsible for the whole of this discussion, he might be permitted to state one or two reasons why it had been raised. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had practically admitted, by the concessions which they had made, that it was both necessary and important. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had talked of this as a new hare started by the Opposition, and had asked why it had not been started earlier? Well, only a week ago, his (Mr. Mundella's) attention was called to the position of their various Commercial Treaties by the opposition which had been raised to those Treaties by manufacturers in foreign countries. He wanted to state to the hon. Member and the Committee that the Protectionists on the Continent were manufacturers, and not agriculturists. Indeed, their only friends in favour of freedom there were the agriculturists. He admitted that the statement which had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer did get rid of all the international difficulty which presented itself the day before. It was desirable, therefore, that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) should at once withdraw his Amendment, and that they should proceed to make progress with the Bill. At the same time, he wished to guard himself particularly on one point. He was willing to give absolute power to the Privy Council to exclude diseased animals. They should exercise as great an amount of vigilance as possible in that direction. They had a perfect right to protect their home flocks and herds; but, while he admitted all this, he thought that as a Free Trade country, the presumption ought not to be in favour of absolute slaughter. He reserved his liberty of action on that point until they came really to the discussion of that question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
wished to point out to the Committee that there were 86 clauses and 7 Schedules in the Bill; that it was now a quarter-past 3, or nearly so, on the 17th of July, and that this was the second day of the discussion of the Bill in Committee. The Question before them was whether a certain Amendment which had been proposed to the 2nd clause should be withdrawn? If they were all agreed that it was to be withdrawn, what were 1721 they discussing? His hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had made a suggestion. He had said, on the part of the Government, that they were ready to accept the principle of that suggestion, but that they could not decide upon its details until they had seen it in print. That, he thought, was the general feeling of the Committee; and he would again appeal to them that the Government should be allowed to make progress with the Bill that day.
MR. J. COWEN
quite agreed with the suggestion—which he had intended making some minutes ago—of his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), that the Amendment should be withdrawn, and that they should proceed to the consideration of the other clauses and Amendments. But he thought the Committee would see that this discussion had not been altogether useless. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would understand that the attitude which Members representing boroughs had taken upon the Bill was one of opposition. That was now altogether changed, and henceforth their position towards the Bill would be one of criticism. There was no objection, on the part of the Representatives of large boroughs, to the farmers protecting themselves against disease, and they should have the maximum of protection with the minimum of restriction. The only thing which the borough Representatives feared was that the Bill would endanger the importation of cattle unnecessarily, and thus increase the price of meat. For his part, he did not care about phraseology; he was looking at the result; and if the result which they all desired could be achieved in the way suggested by hon. Members opposite, he should be perfectly satisfied.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he was anxious to say a few words, lest a misunderstanding might possibly arise in consequence of two speeches which had been made by prominent Members of the Liberal Party from the front Opposition Bench. A rule which he had found it extremely useful to observe was never to express his opinion on a Bill until he had seen it in print; and it seemed to him an equally important rule to observe, not to express any opinion on the Amendment until they saw that Amendment in 1722 print. To prevent anything like a misunderstanding, or a charge hereafter of a breach of an understanding, he wished simply to say that what he understood to be cordially accepted by hon. Gentlemen sitting on his side of the House was, that there should be no distinction made in this Bill between different countries. On that point, he believed, they were all agreed. But then came this important question. Were they going to impose new restrictions upon such a country as the United States? He wished it to be distinctly understood that, so far as he was individually concerned, he did not consider himself in the slightest degree bound by anything that had taken place that afternoon to render more onerous the restrictions of the Bill with regard to so important a meat-exporting country as the United States. Why he thought the question assumed a great importance was this—According to their own showing, the Government were going to make, with regard to the United States, the Bill more restrictive, more onerous, and more severe than it was when first introduced. He hoped that before the Government came to any conclusion upon that point they would most anxiously and carefully consider what the effect might be, not only upon this country, but upon the United States. Because, what would take place? If to-morrow, the Government should suddenly accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, news might be telegraphed to New York that on and after the 1st of September all live cattle imported into Liverpool would be compulsorily slaughtered. Whatever hon. Members opposite might say, there was an opinion prevalent that the imposing of new restrictions on the cattle trade was virtually done in the interest of Protection. He did not say this himself, but there were thousands in this country who sincerely believed that this was a Protective Bill; and they might depend upon it that if there were thousands in this country, there were tens of thousands in the United States, who would believe it. There was, at the present moment, a keen and a closely contested struggle going on in the United States between Free Trade and Protection. The slightest thing might turn the tide of success either in one direction or the other. It seemed to him that the principles of 1723 Free Trade in America might soon obtain an. early triumph. But that triumph was by no means insured; and, that being the case, he did earnestly entreat the Government and commercial men on both sides of the House to consider whether, if they made the Bill more restrictive in regard to the United States, it might not place a new weapon and a new argument in the hands of the Protectionists of the United States which they would not be slow to use. Originally as the Bill was introduced, free trade with regard to the importation of cattle from the United States was made the rule, and restriction or compulsory slaughter the exception. Now, as he understood it, if the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire were accepted, free trade would become the exception and restriction the rule.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
I am sure the hon. Member would not like to make any statement which was not absolutely correct. The Bill, as introduced, included America, and the omission of that country was effected in the House of Lords.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, the statement of the Secretary to the Treasury only made his case stronger, because, after hearing the arguments adduced, the House of Lords unanimously came to the conclusion that with regard to the cattle imported from the United States free trade should be the rule, and restriction and compulsory slaughter the exception. To propose now to entirely reverse that policy in regard to a country whose susceptibilities were most sensitive, and where the Protectionist party were more powerful than anywhere else, was a most important matter, which should engage the anxious consideration of the Government, and one on which it was desirable that the Committee should not express an opinion prematurely.
§ MR. MAC IVER rose merely to point out that the hon. Member who had just spoken was fighting a shadow. He (Mr. Mac Iver) had had in his time a great deal to do with their American cousins, and he thought he might confidently assert that the views of the hon. Member were truly misapplied as regarded them. There were no people in the world who were more keenly alive to their own interests than were their American friends. They would be Free Traders when it was their interest to be so, and 1724 they would be Protectionists when their interests lay in Protection. They cared nothing for abstract theories. They were practical men of business, and knew exactly wherein their interest lay.
§ MR. HERSCHELL
said, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton had instructed him to ask the permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment, inasmuch as the concessions made by the Government had rendered it no longer necessary.
§ MR. BIGGAR
remarked, that there was one point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton which had not received from hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the Committee that amount of consideration to which it was entitled. In connection with the "Most Favoured Nation Clause," the question of the treatment in this country of cattle which had come from foreign countries was one that might be raised by them. With respect to transit, the phrase that they should be on equal terms with this country occurred in that clause, and he was disposed to think that if any one of these European countries could show it was more free from disease than this country, it could reasonably insist upon having as much facility afforded it for the transit of its cattle as was afforded to the proprietors of home cattle. He thought it would be well for the Committee to consider during the progress of the Bill to what extent it was desirable to place restrictions upon the transit of cattle belonging to clean countries, which were not thrown in the way of the movement of home stock.
§ MR. BELL
wished to press on both sides of the House the desirability of being allowed to proceed with the Business before the Committee. There were few Members of the House more interested in the maintenance of FreeTrade doctrines than he was himself, and he had had an opportunity of studying the question as it affected both the countries which indulged in restrictive tariffs and our own. He could place figures before the Committee illustrative of the two positions; but he forbore from doing so, because he was anxious that they should be allowed to proceed with the Bill.
I must point out to the Committee that the hon. and learned Member for Durham (Mr. Herschell) proposes to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment which has been moved by 1725 another hon. and learned Member, who is not in his place. I believe that course is an unusual one, and I, therefore, feel it necessary to call the attention of the Committee to that fact before asking them whether it is their pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Division of Act into parts).
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
, who had given Notice of an Amendment, said he wished to explain why he did not move it. The reason was that they were now in a very different position from that which they occupied at the beginning of this debate. He understood the principle to be accepted, that a discretion was to be given to the Privy Council. While that principle was disputed, he felt it his duty to bring as strongly as he could before the Committee the difference of treatment of home animals, which would include Irish animals, and foreign animals. He did not feel that it was so absolutely necessary to press that point at the present time. The object which he had in placing his Amendment on the Paper was to secure that the regulation for Ireland, as well as that for England, should be considered by the Committee before they came to foreign regulation. He still thought that course would be very desirable, and he could not help thinking that the Government themselves would agree with him. But, as he could attain that object by moving hereafter that the clauses with regard to foreign import should be postponed until they proceeded with the clauses as to Irish import, and as his desire was to get on with the Bill, he abstained from moving his Amendment.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Repeal of enactments in Schedule, with savings and other provisions) agreed to.
§ Clause 5 (Interpretation and construction).
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON moved that the clause be postponed, observing that he thought it could be more conveniently discussed at a subsequent stage of the progress of the Bill in Committee.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
wished, before the Motion was agreed to, to call 1726 the attention of the Committee to the 11th sub-section. That sub-section, as it at present stood, was unintelligible, and he hoped that before the clause came on again it would be re-modelled.
§ Clause postponed.