HC Deb 25 March 1884 vol 286 cc782-94

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Dodson.)


, who had given Notice to move the rejection of the Bill, said, that, for his own part, he should be glad to see it rejected or abandoned; and he therefore did not sympathize very greatly with the somewhat inordinate zeal of the Government in pressing it upon the attention of the House. He very much agreed with the noble Lord who said the country did not care for the Bill two twopenny bits. His Notice of opposition had been placed ou the Paper in order that the House should have an opportunity of seeing the Amendments proposed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster before the Speaker left the Chair. The House had now seen these Amendments, and there could be no doubt that their effect would be to substantially restore the Bill to its original state. He would not, therefore, ask the House to reject the Motion for going into Committee; but he would ask his right hon. Friend to assure those who took an interest in the Bill that a sufficient time would be allowed to elapse before considering the Bill in Committee to enable them and the country to consider the important matters involved in it. If it had not been for the action of some hon. Members in delaying the measure they would not have had the important statement made by the Lord President on the previous day, when he informed a great deputation that hon. Members were justified, in using any means in their power to resist the Amendments which had been introduced in "another place," nor would they have had the still more significant statement of the Lord President that the Bill in its present form would be wantonly mischievous to the interests of the consumers. He hoped the consumers would lay these matters to heart, and that when the House came to a Division there would not be found a single Member representing the consumers who would not protest against these Amendments, He trusted the Bill would not be brought forward in Committee until that day week at a Morning Sitting, and that if it could not be taken at a Morning Sitting it would be taken at the beginning of a Sitting of the House. If this were agreed upon, lie should not be disposed to offer further opposition to the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair.


said, he had felt some difficulty in deciding as to the course he should pursue in regard to this Bill. Hon. Members opposite who pressed the Government upon this question hardly realized the great feeling throughout the country as to further restriction on the importation of cattle. He recollected that in 1878, when the idea of imposing restrictions was proposed, that a very strong feeling was shown to exist in the country against such a course. But while his own feeling was against further legislation on this question, and certainly against carrying restriction one step further than that proposed by the Government, he did not feel disposed to object to going into Committee. If hon. Members refused the compromise which the Government had offered, and insisted upon maintaining the Bill in the shape in which it had come from the House of Lords, then he hoped the Government would not only use all their power to pass the Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman had placed on the Table, but that if, by any misfortune, these Amendments should not be adopted, the influence of the Government should be used to prevent any measure of the kind becoming law. The Government in this matter were necessarily placed in a position of great responsibility. If they allowed a measure of this kind to pass, and if the Privy Council, acting upon that measure, were to act stringently in carrying out its provisions, he had no hesitation in saying there would be a large amount of feeling and discontent excited in the country against the Go- vernment. They had had a decided expression of opinion on the part of several Members of the Government against the proposed legislation as it stood in the Bill; and he could not conceive how it was possible for the Government to allow such a measure to become law when they knew it would be productive of the greatest mischief in the country. He thought that sufficient time ought to be given before going on with the Bill for public opinion to make itself heard on the subject; the people wore now only beginning to realize the disastrous effect which the Bill as it stood would have upon them. No doubt, other Members besides himself had received from their constituents evidences of their dissatisfaction with the proposed interference with the supply of food, and the deputation of the previous day showed how vapidly that feeling was spreading in the country. He, therefore, appealed to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster not to take the next stage of the Bill until after Easter.


recognized the forbearance of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. A. Arnold) in not unduly pressing his objections to the Bill; and if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodson) was in a position to name that day week, at a Morning Sitting, for the further consideration of the Bill, he thought that would be an entirely satisfactory arrangement. He could only say, in regard to the argument of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), that public opinion had become very much changed since 1878, when, undoubtedly, dissatisfaction was expressed at the effect which the restrictions on importation, in the interest of cattle disease prevention, might have on the food of the people. He was of opinion that the provisions of the existing Acts, as carried out, had thoroughly disgusted the people of this country, and had prepared them to submit to greater stringency in respect of imports, in the hope of getting rid of them more speedily, lie did not believe that there was any serious apprehension that the price of meat would be unduly interfered with; and he thought consumers would be quite satisfied to have the legislation proposed in this Bill carried into operation.


said, the House was certainly placed in a novel position, for only that day had they the real Bill before them, because the Bill brought from the other House was not the Bill which the Government approved. That day they had the Bill which the Government approved in the Amendment they had placed on the Paper. In fact, that Amendment made the solo difference between what the Government approved, and which they were willing to support, and what came down from the House of Lords. He agreed with the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. A. Arnold) in the course he had taken; but he thought hon. Members who did not agree with him must admit that he had shown great moderation. A large number of Members on that side of the House were of opinion that this Bill, even in the form in which it was brought in by the Government, was not necessary; but while it might not be necessary in itself, it might be necessary as a concession to the feeling of a very important interest and to the Resolution passed last year. They were, therefore, willing to give way and support the Bill as originally introduced by the Government into the House of Lords. But, in the House of Lords, it had been so changed as to become a Bill which would be totally unnecessary, and also a very great interference with the food supply of the people. That day they were willing, under all the circumstances, to assent to the Speaker leaving the Chair, which, he need not remind the House, was a most important step, because, after it had been agreed to, the Half-past 12 Rule would not apply to it. He only mentioned this to show in what a moderate manner they were opposing the Bill. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) stated the other day that the agitation against the Bill was a sham and a misrepresentation. Those words were unfounded in an unusual degree, as lie would have been convinced if he had boon present at the deputation which yesterday waited on the Lord President. It was rare to see any movement in this country so real and hearty and determined, and, at the same time, so moderate, as was that large representation of the great body of the consumers. He was very anxious that this question should be settled by arrangement between the Representatives of the consumer and producer; and he would ask those who supported the Bill in its present shape to consider whether, in ifs original shape, it would not do all that they wanted? It the object of the opponents of the Government had reference to an Election, he doubted whether it would be successful, for their policy would be as dangerous to them in the towns as it might be useful to them in country districts. He appealed to the Government to let sufficient time elapse in order that the country might know the altered position of the question, and also to take care that those Amendments were fairly and fully discussed. If they were not taken at a Morning Sitting, they ought to be taken at the beginning of an evening. He also hoped—and he thought not unreasonably—that if the Government did not succeed in carrying their Amendments they would cease to take any further responsibility for the measure. He understood such an intention was expressed by the Lord President yesterday, and he hoped lie would adhere to it. The Government had said they agreed with the objects of those who were opposing the Bill as sent down from the other House—that the measure was unneccssaiy—wantonly unnecessary—that it would raise the price of food. ["Oh!"] Well, he did not wish to discuss that question at present; but he believed he could prove it. He merely said that was the line the Government took; and as the Representative of the Government had declared that opinion, they should not, under any circumstances, allow themselves to be responsible for a measure which they declared to be wantonly unnecessary, and to be an unreasonable interference with the supply of food.


said, he had a Notice of opposition on the Paper; but he did not intend to press it, as the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) promised that the Bill would not be taken at an unreasonable hour. All he was anxious to insure was that proper measures should be adopted to prevent the re-infection of Ireland with disease; and when the proper time came he would be prepared to submit an Amendment to secure that object.


said, he thought it reasonable that sufficient time should be given for considering the effect of the Amendments to be proposed by the Government; but there should be no unnecessary delay. That day week ought to be the latest day, on account of the Quarter Sessions.


said, his object in rising was, if possible, during the next few weeks to induce English cattle owners and cattle breeders to view the question of internal restrictions in a different way to what they did at the present time. There was no doubt that the intention of the Bill, even in its amended shape, was to impose severe restrictions upon the foreign cattle trade. If the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) and those who supported him in his proposal were really desirous to see effect given to their views, they should, at the same time, be prepared to urge upon the Government, as far as they possibly could, the institution in this country of some regulations in reference to the home cattle trade similar to those sought to be imposed upon the foreign trade. As it was now, if a cargo of animals from America were unloaded at Birkenhead the animals would at once have to be slaughtered; while, in Lancashire, perhaps even within a mile of the spot where that cargo was unloaded, a farmer might have a diseased animal breathing contamination over the hedge, and that animal was to live while the foreign cargo of healthy animals was to be slaughtered. He failed to see any reason for such inconsistency.


, as representing a very large community of consumers, desired to say a word or two in support of what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster). His constituents did not consider there was any necessity for any further restrictions. They did not want this Bill; they did not like it. At the same time, they acknowledged that after the vote of the House last year the Government wore bound to introduce a measure; and he and his Friends were willing to accept the Government measure in the form in which it was introduced, as it was a compromise of the question. But the House of Lords had not treated it as a compromise. They had altered it very seriously, to an extent that made the measure altogether abominable to those who represented the consumers, and they could not accept it now without the most strenuous efforts to alter it. If hon. Members on the opposite side, like the House of Lords, declined to accept the Government measure, as the Government meant it, as a compromise, and attempted to confirm and carry out the Amendments of the House of Lords, there would be an excitement over the country among the large communities such as had not been seen yet. He hoped, therefore, that hon. Members opposite would be content with the Government Bill as it was originally introduced, and would not attempt to go further; and if they did attempt to go further, he hoped that the Government would abandon the Bill entirely.


said, it would be irregular for him to anticipate the discussion on the Amendments at that stage. As to the form of the Bill, he had nothing to add now to what he had said when he moved the second reading. He only wished to answer the observations made with regard to the further progress of the Bill by Members on both sides of the House, and to acknowledge gratefully the favourable manner in which the proposal of the Government had that day been met. Their object in getting the Speaker out of the Chair was to save time, and to advance the progress of the Bill. They felt that the real discussion on the Bill must be taken in Committee, and this would enable them on the first opportunity to at once proceed with that discussion. If the Motion were assented to, he assured hon. Members there was no intention on the part of himself or his Colleagues to take advantage of any section of the House in regard to the further progress of the Bill. His noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) had said on Monday night that it was not the intention of the Government to make any progress with the Bill that day. The Government were asked not to bring the Bill forward before that day week. As a matter of fact, it would be impossible to proceed with it in Committee at an earlier period. He did not know whether the House would assent to a Morning Sitting; but he proposed, in the event of this Motion being agreed to, to put the Bill down for Monday evening, not with any view of taking it that evening, but with a view of seeing, meanwhile, what arrangement could be made for taking it on as early a day, and at as convenient an hour, as possible. With reference to the observations of the hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Kenny), the Bill dealt with Ireland in exactly the same way as with Great Britain. They had not the slightest intention of putting any impediment in the way of the Irish trade; but they thought that any provisions which tended to secure Great Britain against foot-and-mouth disease would also tend to secure Ireland against it.


said, he was glad to hear the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. All the Irish Members were determined that precautions should be taken to prevent the re-infection of Ireland with foot-and-mouth disease. It was well known that when England became infected Ireland would, in the course of time, be also infected. He thought the Irish farmer deserved the highest commendation for the patience with which he submitted to the regulations during the past 12 months; and they were most anxious that the small farmers of Ireland should not be again obliged to suffer by restrictions as they were during that period.


protested against the monstrous doctrine of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), that if the Amendments which the Government had put upon the Paper wore not adopted by the House, they should stop the further progress of the Bill. He (Mr. E. H. Paget) maintained that the farmers and agriculturists of England were wise enough to know that if the effect of this Bill was clearly to be that predicted by its enemies—namely, to force meat up to famine prices, it would not stand a day. They would not be so unreasonable as to ask for a measure which would have the effect of increasing the price of meat in this way. He believed the action of this measure would be to keep disease out of the country, and, by keeping it out, to give freedom of operation to the farmers of the country, and to increase the flocks and herds of the country. So far from raising the price of meat, if anything was ever to tend to reduce the price of meat, it was clearly that which would keep out disease. With regard to internal regulations for the prevention of disease, he held that it would be wise to invest Local Authorities with a discretionary power of slaughter. Of course, he did not mean that whenever an infected animal was found it should be killed then and there. Slaughter could only be regarded as an effectual remedy just at the beginning of an outbreak, or just at its close. The existing system of compensation to owners was inconvenient, and he would venture to suggest that some modification should be made in it.


concurred in the views of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). There was no doubt whatever that when foot-and-mouth disease got into a small compass, the most economical way of dealing with it was to slaughter the animals and compensate the owners. The cost to the ratepayers would be much less than under the existing system. He would go further, and recommend that when once foot-and-mouth disease was stamped out in the country, and if it happened to be brought in again from abroad, it should be dealt with in the same manner as rinderpest was dealt with. If that were done, he believed very little more would be heard of foot-and-mouth disease. It would occasion but slight loss to the country, and would be of advan-to the consumers no less than to the farmers.


suggested that it might be desirable to have the now clause of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster printed separately in extenso, and to have the two proposals side by side, so that Members might readily understand what the new proposals were. He represented a county (East Sussex) largely interested in Irish stock, and he hoped the Government would take measures to have vessels carefully watched in which American stock was imported, so as to prevent the importation of the disease from America.


said, that an important point in connection with this matter was that the Government should insist upon proper regulations in the vessels in the cattle trade between Ireland and England. The Lord Lieutenant, speaking on the question, said that the Irish animals going into these vessels might be healthy, but owing to the condition of the vessels the animals left them infected with disease. Now, he thought, under those circumstances, that the Government ought to take powers under this Bill to throw such vessels out of trade for a certain time, until it was shown that they were again in proper condition.


was understood to say that the Privy Council, under Section 32 of the Act of 1878, had such powers—indeed, plenary powers.


If they had, why were they not used? If the Lord Lieutenant complained that disease was generated in those vessels, why did he not use the powers he possessed to prevent animals from being infected by disease in that way? He (Colonel Nolan) thought they were entitled to an answer from the Government on that matter.


said, he could not assent to the doctrines which had been propounded by hon. Members as to the slaughter of cattle—particularly when it was proposed that it should be accompanied by the payment of compensation out of the rates, which he considered to be most unjust, inasmuch as persons who had bred and reared cattle at home, and thus carefully excluded disease, would be liable to contribute to the compensation to be paid to others who had recklessly purchased cattle which had imported disease. He thought the cost should be thrown, by way of a penalty, on those who imported the disease. Delay was exceedingly dangerous, and if the Bill were not speedily passed the farmers would not submit to the restrictions to which they were now subject.


said, that the Veterinary Profession were practically agreed that disease was not communicated by the meat, but by the hides, hoofs, and offal of slaughtered cattle. He ventured to suggest to the Government that some measures should be taken with a view to dealing with this branch of the question.


complained that the Government had not answered the questions put to them by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway County (Colonel Nolan). Of course, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had already spoken; but why was not some Member of the Government present to reply to those important questions? The Government, he was informed, had the power to throw out of trade for a certain time all vessels carrying foreign animals that were infected with foot-and-mouth disease. Well, why did not the Government seek for such powers in this Bill with regard to the vessels plying between England and Ireland in the cattle trade? The Lord Lieutenant spoke of the necessity for such powers; but it was not at all clear that he did not possess such powers already; so that it came to this—that the officials in Dublin Castle did not know the powers under which they were acting. He thought that if strong measures had been taken with one or two shipowners it would have acted as a deterrent upon others. If a shipowner had onto had his vessel branded as a place of contamination his brethren in the trade would be very careful as to the course of action they pursued. Something would be gained if shipowners were compelled to compensate the owners of cattle for any loss they might sustain by the passage of cattle in their boats. With reference to the Irish cattle ships, he thought it was the duty of the Privy Council to institute a proper system of disinfection. Ireland was entirely at the mercy of the larger country in the matter of disease. In the first instance, the disease was imported into Ireland from England, and there was a number of hungry veterinary surgeons in Dublin who were not sorry to see it spread, because it increased their business. A bull belonging to Lord Carbery was introduced into the country, and was allowed to remain in Dublin for some days. That animal was a great source of infection. If it had belonged to John Smith, no doubt it would have been slaughtered; but, as it was, the animal was under the protection of the coronet of Lord Carbery. He contended that the Bill failed to deal with disease in a proper manner. It had been pushed through the House at Morning Sittings, and hon. Members had not had a proper opportunity of discussing the matter. He asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for some statement on behalf of the Government with, regard to the question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway.


said, he must remind the hon. Member that the Bill before the House dealt entirely with the importation of foreign animals into the United Kingdom, and had nothing whatever to do with internal restrictions upon their movements. With regard to the Irish cattle ships, the Privy Council had power to order any amount of disinfection, and in that way indirectly to prevent a vessel being used for a certain time; but they had no direct power to order that a ship should not be used for any stated period. He would point out, however, that the Irish Privy Council, with the full concurrence of the English Privy Council, had recently issued fresh instruction as to the disinfection of vessels employed in the cattle trade between England and Ireland; and had added as a suggestion that, for the purpose of thoroughly securing; disinfection, each vessel should be withdrawn from the trade for a certain period of time. He might say that he had been informed that the owners of the vessels concerned had generally accepted and acted upon that suggestion.


said, what they desired to know was whether, if some Amendment giving power to the Privy Council to order infected vessels out of the trade were proposed in Committee, the Government would accept it? This Bill was the beginning of Protection. Today they were asked to protect the cattle trade; to-morrow the great communities in the towns, when they found that they had got a dearer dinner table, would cry out for Protection for their industries. Irish Members would insist on such Amendments as they thought necessary to save the cattle trade of Ireland from ruin.


said, that at present the Irish cattle trade was almost rained. Farmers had been subjected to the most vexatious restrictions, and he hoped the Government would give an assurance that no such restrictions should in future be imposed. From the city which he represented (Cork) there was an extensive export trade in cattle; but that trade had been crippled owing to the manner in which the authorities at Bristol and other ports had treated Irish cattle. He believed that the restrictions had led to more loss than would have resulted if there had been no restrictions of all. What he would ask for was that a clause should be put into the Bill to enable the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to order the laying up for a certain time of any ship in which infected cattle had been conveyed. He wished to know why the Lord Lieutenant hunted with hounds from infected into uninfected districts? As far as Ireland was concerned, no greater mistake could be committed than compelling the slaughter of cattle in infected districts. It was ruinous to the ratepayers, who were already weighed down by rates.


said, that the Irish Party had not yet decided as to the course they would take with regard to the Amendments; but if it were left an open question he should be very strongly in favour of those which had been introduced in the House of Lords. Their policy was to increase the working farmers who bred the cattle, and not diminish that class by getting the cattle bred elsewhere. The great outery was not raised by ordinary breeders or fatteners, but by the rearers of fancy stock.

It being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.

The House suspended its Sitting at Seven of the clock.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.