HC Deb 28 May 1883 vol 279 cc945-6

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Whether he will lay upon the Table of the House, a Copy of the Case on which a legal opinion was taken by the Privy Council as to the powers of the Government under the Act to prohibit the importation of cattle from Foreign Countries where there is reason to believe foot and mouth disease exists, and which was mentioned by Lord Carlingford in his reply to the deputation from the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture?


asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, "Whether the Privy Council is prepared to lay down any rule of action in respect of the powers vested in the Department by the Act of 1878 for prohibiting the importation of live animals from Countries where contagious diseases prevail; for instance, whether the Privy Council will put in force its powers after one cargo of animals has been landed affected with foot and mouth disease; and, if not so prepared, whether he will state how many diseased cargoes will be admitted before the Department takes the same action as it did in prohibiting importation from Portugal, Spain, and France?


said, he should also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, Whether it is not the case that the Privy Council had undoubtedly power, under Section 35 of the Act of Henry VIII., by General or Special Order, as they may see fit, to prohibit the landing of animals from any specified country whatever?


Certainly, Sir; in answer to the first Question, I have to say that no case was stated by the Privy Council. The legal opinion referred to by Lord Carling ford to the deputation was the opinion of the Lord Chancellor, whom he had consulted. The Lord Chancellor repeated that opinion on April 16, and it will be found in the Reports of the Proceedings of the House of Lords. The existence of a power to prohibit importation from time to time from specified countries in the case of any contagious disease exists has not been doubted. That power, indeed, has been exercised against France; and I may inform the hon. Member that although France, in consequence of the action taken by the Privy Council, has recently informed us that she has adopted stringent precautionary regulations, we are about to renew that prohibition—at all events, until we see these measures fairly established and in working order. Prohibition is enforced against the importation of cattle from Germany; and we are now in communication with the German Government respecting the importation of sheep from that country. In answer to the Question of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard), I have to say that the Privy Council have no power to lay down one General Rule prohibiting or regulating the importation of animals from all countries in which contagious disease prevails. The powers conferred by Section 35 of the Act have been exercised from time to time as regards specified foreign countries and parts of foreign countries; and, as I have just shown, the Privy Council propose to exercise those powers as circumstances may render necessary. I should wish to add, for the assurance of hon. Members interested, that after the recent attack of foot-and-mouth disease, which entailed such heavy losses on the country, the Privy Council are more than ever alive to the necessity of proceeding with vigilance and determination in this matter.