HC Deb 18 July 1878 vol 241 cc1923-35

Clause 22 (Declaration of infected place in foot-and-mouth disease by local authority).

Mr. SYNAN moved, in page 9, line 3, after "place," to insert "not being a fair, or market-place, or wharf." He had already moved this Amendment on a previous part of the Bill; and he would really like to know what the opinion of the Secretary to the Treasury was in respect to it. It was for the purpose, more or less, of defining the word "place," and it had reference particularly to Ireland. If, in the case of Ireland, a "place" was intended to apply to a fair, the cattle trade of the whole country would be greatly endangered. By chance an Inspector, who might not be a professional person, might, on the morning of a fair, come to the place and declare a certain animal to be affected with foot-and-mouth disease. He could immediately serve a notice on the occupier of the close in which the fair was held, and that place at once became an infected district. What were they to do with all the cattle of that infected place? They could not be removed, and all because it might happen to be an ignorant Inspector who had declared an animal to be affected with foot-and-mouth disease. His Amendment was that a place should not include "a fair, market-place, or wharf," all of which stood in a like position. This was a difficulty which ought to be removed; and if the Secretary to the Treasury wished for time for consideration—say until to-morrow—he would be glad to postpone it; but he thought that it was too long to leave this subject until the Report.


strongly supported the Amendment, remarking that if "place" did include a fair, the great fairs of Ireland would be very injuriously affected. At the Ballinasloe fair there were something like 16,000 head of cattle; and if it was competent for an Inspector to declare the fair-ground an infected place, it would be impossible to know what should be done with this large stock. The whole thing would be reduced to an absurdity, the Privy Council would have to step in, the fair would be spoiled, and rents would be difficult to collect—in fact, the whole agricultural system of Ireland would be disturbed. There were other large and important fairs in Ireland, which it ought not to be in the power of the local authority to disturb in the way mentioned.


said, the words were not necessary, inasmuch as such matters would practically be controlled by the Privy Council, Under these circumstances, the Amendment was unnecessary; and, therefore, he could not consent to it without further consideration.


was sorry to say that left them completely in the dark as to what the Government intended to do in regard to foot-and-mouth disease. The Government had said, in reference to the treatment of foreign animals, that they meant to regulate the slaughter according to the prevalence of disease—including foot-and-mouth disease—in the country exporting the cattle; and they had acknowledged that they did not intend to do that except, at the same time, regulations were made at home. They must know, in such a very important matter as this, what the regulations were to be. If the Committee would refer to the evidence of Professors Brown and Simonds, they would find these gentlemen at once went to the difficulty of a market; and they said that one great difficulty in stamping out foot-and-mouth disease would be to know how to deal with it when it was found in a market. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) was perfectly aware of that difficulty, because both in the House and out of it he had dealt with it; he had said he was so aware of it that he would be inclined to stop the market at Norfolk if disease broke out there. He (Mr. W. E. Forster) wanted to know what the Government intended to do in this matter—whether they intended that a market was to be an infected place as regarded foot-and-mouth disease, if so declared by the local authority? If the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would leave absolute discretion to the Privy Council as regarded foreign animals he would support him; but the Amendment the hon. Gentleman (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had put down provided that, in case of animals coming from a foreign country, the Privy Council was to act accordingly as foot-and-mouth disease prevailed in that country. He desired to be informed whether the Privy Council were to act accordingly as it was prevalent in a market-place or on a wharf? This was a matter which ought to be explained with as little delay as possible; and he agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment (Mr. Synan), that it was too long to wait until the Report before an explanation was afforded.


said, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had said, he did not see any necessity for this Amendment. Did he see any objection to it? Either the Government intended that the word "place" should include market-place or fair, or they did not. If they did not intend that a market-place, or fair, should be included, what objection could there be to adopting the words of his hon. Friend, which would make the point clear? To him there seemed to be a doubt about it, otherwise the Government would adopt the Amendment.


, in order to meet the difficulty, suggested that after the word "place," the words should be inserted which were to be found in Sub-section 7 of Clause 26—namely—"in the possession or occupation or under the control of the owner of the animal." If those words were inserted, it would make it perfectly clear what the meaning of the word "place" was. As there was an Amendment before the Committee, he would suggest that it should be withdrawn; and he ventured to think that the acceptance of the words he proposed would have the effect that was desired.


said, the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman did not put matters in a better position than the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan), inasmuch as it had the same object—namely, the exemption of fairs and markets from the control of the Inspector. It had been said that it was quite as important that the regulations in respect to foot-and-mouth disease should be as strict as those in reference to pleuro-pneumonia, and that local Inspectors should have power to act where it was found to exist. Hon. Members from Ireland began to think that the Bill was going to pinch them, and now they wanted matters to be arranged in their favour. No English or Scotch Member had attempted to obtain an exemption for English and Scotch fairs and markets; and he did not think it proper that there should be an exemption given to Irish fairs. The three countries ought to be dealt with alike; and he was of opinion that the Irish Members would do well to accept what the English and Scotch Members were willing to accept for England and Scotland.


reminded the Committee that, on previous occasions, the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) had consented to withdraw his Amendment similar to the present one, on his (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) promising to move it on Report if he was convinced of its advisability. Under those circumstances, he could not consent to the alteration now proposed; but he would do with regard to it as he had said he would do with respect to the other Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford had said that the Committee must know what the Privy Council were to do. He would remind the Committee that the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's argument up to one portion of the Bill was to trust implicitly in the Privy Council; but, as soon as trust was placed in the Privy Council, the right hon. Gentleman turned round and said—"We must know what the Privy Council has to do." The right hon. Gentleman compared the action of the Government with regard to foreign animals and the home trade. There was a considerable difference between dealing with disease in a foreign country over which they had no control, and a country which was absolutely under their control. In the case of foreign trade, where they had no means of following what was happening in a particular district, they did require greater knowledge of what was happening than they did in the regulations dealing with the home trade. Although he considered the clause sufficient to meet the case, he would promise to consider the matter.


said, that as the Bill now stood it was perfectly contradictory, and there must be a determination by the Government which course they intended to take. Until the definition of "place" was afforded by the Government, the Committee were reasonable in pressing their request. The hon. Member for Limerick very properly desired that a fair, market-place, or wharf, should be excluded from the meaning of the word "place." If his Amendment was not carried, without doubt, place would include "fair, market-place, or wharf." The statements made by the hon. Baronet did not go to hoist the authority of the local authority under Clause 22. Express authority had been given to the local authority to perform particular duty in Ireland; and they would not successfully hoist their jurisdiction by giving general power to the Privy Council to make general rules and regulations. If the Government desired to be consistent, they must accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick.


said, that under the law at this moment local authorities could close fairs and markets, and he could not see with what object such a power could be taken away. Instead of taking the power away, the exercise of that power should be made compulsory by the Privy Council. He had heard nothing inconsistent with the local authority being so armed in what had fallen from Her Majesty's Government. He could see no reason for exempting Ireland—and what was necessary for England was equally necessary for Ireland—and no case had been made out to exempt the latter country from provisions already in force here.


was quite willing to give full power to the Privy Council.


saw no objection to the Privy Council having authority; but the powers were too large to be placed in the hands of the local authority. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) said, why not agree to what had been done in England and Scotland? and, so far as markets were concerned, there was a good deal of sense in that, for Irish markets were not more important than those of England. But when fairs came to be considered, then the case was very different, and the Irish system was ten times as important as the English. That was the reason the Amendment was pressed. Not only would the whole agricultural system, but almost the social system, would break down, if fairs were stopped. Indeed, he did not know how he should face his constituents if fairs, such as that of Ballinasloe, were stopped, and had not done his utmost to prevent it. They would consider that one of the most important interests with which he had been charged had been neglected. He hoped, therefore, the Amendment would be pressed. If the Privy Council held the power, and, after hearing the evidence as to the presence of foot-and-mouth disease, came to the determination to stop the fair, well and good; but if the power was vested in the local authority, it would lead to the greatest confusion in Ireland.


called the attention of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) to a clause which he appeared to have overlooked. He referred to Clause 26, which gave the Privy Council power to override the authority of the local authority. The 3rd and 4th sub-sections provided that, from time to time, the Privy Council might, by Special Orders, control the action of the local authorities in cases where cattle were exposed for sale, or exhibited in a market, fair, sale yard, place of exhibition, or other place; or while placed in a lair, or other place, before exposure for sale. And then the section went on— The Privy Council shall, by General Orders under this section, from time to time make such provisions as they think fit for the consequences under this Act. As he understood the clause, this would distinctly override the action of the local authority.


knew that nothing was more distasteful to the House than a legal discussion; but if the Bill was to be framed, words must be discussed, and unless they gave up their functions, the discussion could not be avoided. He could not agree with the Secretary to the Treasury, whose explanation did not seem to meet what had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) and the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan), that local authorities might walk into a fair and exercise their power at once, after receiving the declaration of their Inspector. The Secretary to the Treasury had referred to the action the Privy Council might or might not take. This was not sufficient to override the local powers, with whom, when once the declaration of their Inspector was received, action was immediate. What the hon. Baronet referred to—that the Privy Council might, from time to time—[Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON: Should.]—he (Sir Henry James) was reading from Section 3— The Privy Council may, from time to time, by Special Orders under this section relating to particular places, make such provision as they think fit for the consequences aforesaid with regard to those places. But suppose the Privy Council did not interfere? The hon. Baronet wished to refer to Sub-section 3, but that gave the powers to make General Orders for all places suspected of disease. That was a General Order, not a Provisional Order. An Inspector might go into a fair and exercise his jurisdiction before the Privy Council could act. In that way he submitted the explanations of the Secretary to the Treasury did not meet the objections raised.


was anxious that his hon. Friend should state what was the intention of the clause. What he wished to know was, had the local authorities the power to stop fairs or markets? In dealing with this clause he desired to have that distinctly stated. His hon. Friend said there would not be that power; then, if so, why not introduce words having clearly that effect? If that power rested solely with the Privy Council, then local authorities would understand what they were about. He also wished to hear an explanation of words of an ominous import which fell from the hon. Gentleman in reference to Ireland. He insisted that England and Ireland should be placed on exactly the same footing as regarded foot-and-mouth disease.


thought the force of Clause 22 had not been seen quite. There seemed to be an impression that there was a discretionary power placed in the local authority; but he did not think the section covered that meaning— Where it appears to an Inspector of a local authority that foot-and-mouth disease exists, or has within ten days existed, in a cowshed, or other place, —which, as he understood, meant fair or market— he shall forthwith make and sign a declaration thereof. He shall serve a notice, signed by him, of that declaration, on the occupier of that cowshed, field, or other place; and thereupon that cowshed, field, or other place shall become and be a place infected. … and the local authority, if satisfied of the correctness of the Inspector's declaration, shall proceed to deal with, this place as infected. This was imperative—the word was "shall," and the place, be it fair or market, became a place infected. No optional power being given, it must be done; and then the place was left to the mercy of the Privy Council, who might, under Clause 26, release the place from the ban. If it was not so, then the case was worse than he supposed; and he should like to hear the hon. Gentleman's explanation. Would the 26th clause give the Privy Council power to override the local authority or not? [Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSONL: Yes, beforehand.] He (Mr. Dodson) would be glad to know the section of the Bill under which that took place. As he read the 22nd clause, the power was compulsory on the local authority.


was sorry he had not made his meaning distinct. He understood the case thus—As soon as the Bill became law, the Privy Council were bound by Clause 26 to make, as soon as possible after the passing of the Act—which meant immediately—General Orders dealing with several things, one of these being what should be done in the case of animals exposed in markets, fairs, or places of exhibition. Those Orders, when made, were to have full effect, notwithstanding other provisions in the Bill. Then, to come to Clause 22. Under that clause the Inspector would have the power to declare, or must declare, when any place was infected, subject to his other instructions, to the local authority. But Clause 26 distinctly overrode the action under Clause 22 under certain cases, and the Orders of the Privy Council would guide the Inspector.


said, the Committee had got into a legal debate, and he could not help thinking his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) was correct in his view. But to go off on the question of policy. The Secretary to the Treasury said that absolute discretion was given to the Privy Council in the matter. If the discretion in regard to foot-and-mouth disease were the same as that in force for the foreign trade, he would be quite content to leave it there; but he did not think it was fair that they should be told by the Government that the foreign regulations depended upon the home regulations, and that Government should avoid giving information of what they would do in one of the most important of home regulations. He was sure the Secretary to the Treasury would not deny, or the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) dispute, the statement, when he said that whether they did or did not get rid of foot-and-mouth disease depended as much as anything what was done in reference to the disease when discovered in markets. The Secretary to the Treasury said, trust to the discretion of the Government; and he replied, did the Government mean to interfere with fairs and markets? Then they were to wait until Clause 26 was reached, and then for the issue of the Privy Council Orders. He did not know what was going to be done; and he fully believed the reason was that Government had not, in the slightest degree, made up their own minds how they would deal with markets, or knew, in the slightest degree, what direction their action would take. He did not ask for a definite statement; but he wished to know if markets were or were not to be interfered with when foot-and-mouth disease was found? Unless strict regulations were to be made in this respect, the foot-and-mouth regulations might as well be struck out of the Bill altogether.


said, there was no doubt whatever that cattle in fairs, markets, or in transit could not be dealt with as they could be treated at home. When the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) and others spoke of Ireland being so different to England in the matter of fairs, he could not quite agree with that. There were large fairs held in England—at Barnet, for instance—and there were many others held in fields. What he wanted to know was, in what way fairs and markets were going to be treated? It certainly would be impossible to treat cattle under those circumstances as they might be treated on the farm. At the fair at Ballinasloe, and elsewhere, they could not be kept for even 14 days. The treatment must be different, and the question was, what was it to be?


, after hearing the explanation of Clause 26, and the manner in which it was to be put into operation, could not understand the objection to the adoption of the Amendment to Clause 22; because, according to the Secretary to the Treasury, as soon as the Act was passed, the Privy Council would lose no time in making General Orders respecting its operation in fairs and markets, and those instructions would override Clause 22, so far as markets and fairs were concerned. If the action of the Inspector was to depend upon Orders in Council under Clause 26, he could not see what objection there was in accepting the Amendment that Clause 22 should not apply to fairs.


said, the effect of the clause would be to throw fairs in Ireland into a state of the utmost uncertainty and confusion. Where large fairs were held, at which, perhaps, there were as many as 16,000 cattle and 70,000 sheep, there was considerable preparation to be made. If these fairs were liable to be stopped at any moment, the greatest inconvenience and mischief would be the result. The cattle having been brought together, would be suddenly distributed again, harm would be done, and much uncertainty created. It appeared to him there should be a regulation requiring the authorities to give notice some days beforehand that the fair was not to be held. There should not be the momentary doubt of the fair being held; and it would be better to go on with the fair than to scatter the germs of disease about the country.


agreed with the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) and the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read), as to the necessity of knowing what was going to be the course adopted as regarded fairs. He thought it would be for the convenience of the Committee and the Government if the latter would give an undertaking to consider the question to-morrow, or when the 26th clause was reached.


foresaw great difficulties in taking away the entire power of Inspectors to deal with fairs and markets. The 22nd clause was subject to the provisions of the 26th; but if the power were struck out absolutely from the 22nd, a difficulty would arise. The regulations issued might have reference to a particular fair, and the part of that fair might be set apart as infected, the rest of the animals being kept apart in some way. He was only suggesting that might possibly be one of the Orders. If any alterations were made, they should be made on Clause 26. The whole thing turned on the powers becoming statutory in that clause, and they would then override Clause 22. Much depended on the powers exercised under Clause 26, by which the power under Clause 22 would be remitted. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government should know what they proposed to do; but until there was a fair prospect of the Bill passing, it would be impossible to state. The Orders were not drawn; but they were under consideration, and before the Bill passed through Committee he hoped to be able to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. But he maintained that the abstraction of the words as proposed would prevent the Inspector from carrying out the instructions he would receive in the Orders issued under Clause 26 with regard to fairs and markets.


said, if he understood the matter rightly, the addition of a few words to the 1st section of Clause 22 would carry out the idea of the hon. Baronet, and reconcile the Act with the principle it was intended to carry out. By the 1st section the Inspector was bound to make a declaration, being allowed no discretion whatever. But if it were true, as he was inclined to think it was, that the controlling words of Clause 26 would enable the Privy Council to override that—if that was so, what objection could there be to add to the end of the section a few words to that effect? The section might read thus— Where it appears to an Inspector of a local authority that foot-and-mouth disease exists, or has within ten days existed, in a cowshed, field, or other place, he shall forthwith make and sign a declaration thereof, subject to instructions received from the Privy Council under section 4 of Clause 26. If those additional words were put in, it would explain the matter. It would override the mandatory clause; make the local Inspector subject to Clause 26; and remove the conflict which appeared to exist between the 1st section and the powers of the Privy Council. He could not see how, as the clause stood, the local Inspector could escape from the mandatory clause. Supposing a fair was about to be held in Ireland, and that for two or three days previously cattle were sent from various parts for sale, it would be quite possible for two men acting in collusion to send a beast affected with foot-and-mouth disease into the fair field, and then give notice. So the fair might be stopped, and the cattle jobbers would be enabled to buy at short prices. Such a possibility might occur. He ventured to think that the introduction of the words he suggested at the end of the section would meet the point raised.


could not venture to accept the words without consideration; but he was quite sure the Committee and himself had the same wish, and that was, to prevent fairs and markets becoming hot-beds of disease, and, at the same time, to avoid, as far as possible, interference with ordinary trade. With Clause 26, it was proposed to limit the action of the Inspector in dealing with fairs and markets. He might be authorized to deal with a part of the fair as an infected area. He was quite willing to consider words in the spirit and sense of those proposed by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy), and bring them up on Report; but he could not consent to adopt the Amendment suddenly.


trusted the Committee would not suppose he was acting in a spirit of obstruction to the Bill, when he moved that Progress be reported. They had met with a legal difficulty, and there was another difficulty in point of policy. They could not now go through the clause, for until it was known in what way the Government were going to act, it would be impossible to vote for the last Amendment proposed. Perhaps, after consideration, the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to furnish some information.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)


, before the Question was put, wished to know how, in the case of a fair, the occupier was to be defined, and he expressed a hope that the Government would not yield on the point raised.

Motion agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.