HC Deb 11 May 1888 vol 326 cc71-91
MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)

said, in rising to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice, he wished to point out that it was of the highest importance that experimental inquiry should be made into the characteristics of pleuro-pneumonia, for the ravages of the disease had been extending by leaps and bounds. In Scotland alone, the number of outbreaks in 1884 was 55; in 1885, there were 60; in 1886, 94, and in 1887 there were 339 outbreaks. He begged to call special attention to the striking increase between 1886 and 1887. The outbreaks were, of course, attended with great loss, which he thought might be fairly divided into three categories. First there was the loss to the ratepayers generally; and he ventured to remind hon. Members that the loss consequent upon this increase of the disease fell both upon occupiers and landlords, as both were rated equally for the compensation. In 1884, the compensation amounted to £5,581; in 1885, it was £10,391; in 1886, it was £15,131, and in 1687, the amount was £34,593. The House would, therefore, see that the loss to the ratepayers was something enormous. In the next place, there was the loss to the farmers, and especially to the dairy farmers, for whom, as well as for the ratepayers, he particularly spoke. In Lanarkshire they were engaged in supplying milk to the Glasgow market. Under recent regulations, the dairy farmer was not allowed to re-stock for 56 days; but even if he were allowed to re-stock at once an outbreak of disease was in many cases absolutely ruinous to him, because his customers, finding his supply cease, went elsewhere, and the trade which he had built up only by degrees was destroyed at one fell swoop. No amount of monetary compensation could make up for it. Thirdly, the loss fell upon the country at large, by the destruction of much of the best cattle and stock in the Kingdom. The Highland and Agricultural Society appointed a Committee last year, which, in the recently issued report, pointed out that there were certain questions which could not be definitely answered without practical experiments. These were the questions:— (1) How pleuro-pneumonia is propagated, and how long it may remain latent. (2) How far the disease may be carried, and what may be considered an infected area. (3) Whether the infection can be resident in places such as cowhouses, trucks, boats, or pens which diseased animals have recently occupied. (4) At what stage of the disease it begins to be infectious, and whether it can be detected before that period. (5) Whether inoculation gives permanent protection against the disease, or for how long it may be capable of doing so. (6) Whether an animal that has been inoculated can six weeks or more thereafter propagate the disease. Now, the Committee of the Highland and Agricultural Society, which was composed of very able and experienced men, quite as much so as is the Committee at the present time sitting, came to the conclusion that these questions could not be satisfactorily answered in the present state of knowledge without experiment. A deputation originally initiated by Lanarkshire, but in the end representative of almost every Local Authority in Scotland, waited upon Lord Cranbrook on the 19th of March to press these views. He received it most courteously, and gave a most satisfactory answer to the effect that the points upon which inquiry was proposed to take place had been set forth very clearly, that if an inquiry were constituted, as he hoped it soon would be, it would be upon a system which would, as far as possible, bring to light all the matters to which the deputation referred, and others which might arise for examination. It was gathered from those words that the inquiry was to be such as the deputation demanded, and they went away satisfied, taking it for granted that there would be a real series of practical experiments in inoculation, and also into all the characteristics of the disease; but, after some delay, a Committee, which was little more than a Departmental one, was appointed, and was so constituted as to be absolutely under the influence of official experts. He well knew the enormous value of expert opinion. He had the very highest respect for official experts; but he was a little doubtful as to whether his respect did not fall slightly short of the respect they had for themselves. He had an idea that when an official represented the collective wisdom of such an important body as the Committee of the Privy Council, he might get a little beyond himself. He considered him, although an omnipotent, not necessarily an omniscient being. Now, under the guidance of the official expert and other advisers of the Department, it had been decided that no experiments should be carried out by the Committee. It was not easy to know clearly what was going on. As far as could be gathered from the meagre details supplied to the public, the Committee was chiefly employed in rethreshing the evidence which had already been threshed out by the Highland and Agricultural Society. He would be told that the Committee was not qualified to conduct experiments. But that was hardly a proof that the Committee was an eminently satisfactory one. Then he would, probably, be told that exhaustive experiments had been already conducted. He would like to ask when they were conducted; because he had a suspicion that it would be found that no real experiments had been carried out for 30 years? Moreover, to what extent had the experiments gone, and were they conclusive? Had they gone far enough to give definite knowledge of the value, whether great or little, of inoculation? Many foreign countries, and many of our own Colonies, were far in advance of us in knowledge on that point. In the Cape Colonies inoculation was almost universal, as also in Australia and Holland, where it had been found very beneficial. His own information respecting Queensland enabled him to say that no wise cattle owner there ever thought of sending a mob of cattle to the ports without having them inoculated. Further, and more especially, he asked whether the experiments had been sufficient to give us clear and definite information respecting the very nature and the very characteristics of the disease itself; did they suffice to give definite answers to the questions put forward by the Highland and Agricultural Society? To that he most emphatically and decidedly said "No." He had himself carefully looked into the matter, and he was strongly of opinion that no definite answers could be given to the questions put forward. For instance, he wished to know whether the experiments hitherto conducted enabled us to give any clear definition of what was meant by "contact." He would read the Slaughter Order of the 6th of March, 1888, which was in substance applicable to Ireland as well as England and Scotland. It was that— 1. A local authority shall cause all cattle being or having been in the same field, shed, or other place, or in the same herd, or otherwise in contact with cattle affected with pleuro-pneumonia, to be slaughtered within ten days after the fact of their having been so in contact has been ascertained, or within such further period as the Privy Council may in any case direct. 2. A local authority shall cause all cattle which have been certified by an inspector of the Privy Council to have been in any way exposed to the infection of pleuro-pneumonia to be slaughtered within such period as the Privy Council may direct. It was to these two paragraphs that he wished to call the attention of his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), who, in addition to his multifarious duties in connection with local government, had also the arduous task of solely representing the Agricultural Department in that House. That obligation could not have fallen into better hands, for he (Mr. Hozier) could truly say that no one in the House understood more about agriculture than his hon. Friend, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) would except him, at an rate, from the charge he made that no one on the Treasury Bench knew the difference between a horse and a cow. He (Mr. Hozier) regarded his hon. Friend as peculiarly fitted to be at the head of the new Agricultural Department, which he earnestly trusted would be soon established. But high as was his opinion of his hon. Friend, he ventured to defy him to give a definite answer as to what was meant by the words, "otherwise in contact" or "in any way exposed to infection;" and yet it must be borne in mind that upon that word "contact" depended the whole working of the Act. A hundred Veterinary Inspectors were examined by the Highland and Agricultural Society, and they varied to an enormous extent in their opinions. Some declared that the animals must touch before they can be infected; others that infection could be communicated at a distance of from half a-mile to four miles. There was also the same divergence of opinion with regard to disinfection, how far it was necessary, and in what it consisted. And yet the slaughter order was administered by these very Veterinary Inspectors who held these diametrically opposed views. How could there be uniformity of administration if there was no uniformity of opinion. He was far from saying that the present Committee of Inquiry was useless; on the contrary, he thought it might lead to several very desirable results, such as the rescinding of certain regulations which at present embarrassed the dairy farmer; for instance, he earnestly hoped that some arrangement might be come to by which they could keep their stock on condition that it did not leave the farms. That was one way in which the Committee might be of use. But the inquiry of the Committee did not go far enough or deep enough, and he could truly state that he echoed the minds of the dairy farmers in Scotland, when he said that in order to give real satisfaction to the agricultural community, it was absolutely indispensable that a series of exhaustive experiments should be instituted without delay to clear up points on which we were at present most lamentably in the dark.

DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

said, he rose with much pleasure to second the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for South Lanarkshire (Mr. Hozier), because, like him, he felt deeply the National importance of this question, and because, perhaps, his hon. Friend and himself represented the county which was more than any other interested in cattle rearing. All the scientific investigation which had taken place simply led to two great practical points; what was to be done to prevent the disease called pleuro-pneumonia, and what was to be done when it had established itself amongst our cattle? He was very glad, indeed, that in deference to the wishes of the Deputation, which waited on the noble Lord the Lord President of the Council (Lord Cranbrook), this Committee had been appointed, and, although the Committee was a fairly representative one, the scope of the inquiry was not so wide as he should liked to have seen. They knew quite well what were the remedies for the disease among the farmers. They were strongly imbued with the idea that it should be stamped out at once, and that in this way a clean bill of health could be get for the country once more. And, it was well known that this bad been successful with the rinderpest which had threatened to exterminate horned cattle in this country, and they knew that the process, in order to be successful, must be applied, not par- tially but universally, and he believed his hon. Friend would confirm the statement that £10,000 had been spent in Aberdeenshire, where the disease had nearly been exterminated, but had been unfortunately re-introduced from a neighbouring county. He should be sorry to think that any inquiry into the subject of inoculation should have the effect of preventing the stamping out process which they advocated; still he thought there ought to be elaborate experiments made in connection with inoculation, a process which they knew was very patiently endured by cattle, although sometimes the tail sloughed off, where the operation was not scientifically performed. He thought it would be well that in addition to the plan of stamping out, there should be some other form of remedy for this great pestilence. No one could deny the advisability of experiments being made. A Committee was appointed by the House to consider the experiments of Pasteur, and it was placed beyond the question that the method of Pasteur was successful. Mr. Rutherford, of Edinburgh, had inoculated cattle with great success, and inoculation had been carried on abroad with great success. He considered they ought to take the opportunity of the sitting of the present Committee to have certain experiments made with a view of finding out the scope and extent of inoculation, for there were many points in connection with the system upon which the information was not complete. What he said was:—"Continue to stamp out the disease vigorously, thoroughly, and universally—get rid of the disease if they could, and, perhaps the present plan might be successful, but, at the same time, let them have the proposed experiments, because, not only might they be scientifically interesting, but eventually be found to be practically useful."

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no Committee of Inquiry into Pleuro-pneumonia in Cattle will be satisfactory which is not specially empowered to conduct practical experiments, with the view of ascertaining the value of inoculation, and the characteristics of the disease."—(Mr. Hozier.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, he hoped the Government would take the opportunity of testing the various modes by which they hoped to be able to get rid of that barbarous process of stamping out disease by means of the pole-axe. He did not think this could be done without exhaustive inquiries on the spot. He had been making inquiries as to the spread of pleuro-pneumonia, and as to the various views that were held by the authorities on the subject of inoculation. He found that there was a great consensus of opinion to the effect that if they could arrive at a means of preventing the spread of pleuro-pneumonia without having recourse to the pole-axe, it would be an immense benefit to the country. But he did not think this could be done without experiments, and he trusted the Government would see their way to spend a certain sum of money in making experiments. These experiments might cost £10,000 or £20,000 a-year for two or three years, but they would be well worth the trouble. If they were able to find an alternative to the pole-axe, they should be able to save far more in their flocks and herds than they would lose by the expenditure of money in the way he had indicated. He was fully alive to the importance of stamping out the disease, but he believed they would never get the people to second their efforts in stamping out the disease unless they felt quite sure that it was the only remedy which could be applied. Therefore, he was very anxious the people themselves should be taught by experiment—if there were no other remedies except stamping out—that that was the only remedy that could be adopted, and then they would co-operate with the authorities in endeavouring to reduce the disease within limits.

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

said, that the hon. Baronet the Member for Renfrewshire (Sir Alexander Campbell) had stated that the people would not co-operate with us in stamping out pleuro-pneumonia until they were satisfied that there was no other remedy than the pole-axe. But at the present time there was no other remedy. Inoculation had not yet been found to be useful, and in the meantime very great destruction was going on. Aberdeenshire had complied with the instructions of the Privy Council by stamping out the disease, and the vigorous manner in which they had attacked it was the salvation of the county; but in consequence of a neighbouring county acting in a dilatory and less vigorous way upon the principle of trying milder remedies, one or two animals were brought into Aberdeenshire from outside, and the consequence was there had been a loss of something like £6,000. Unless they should have vigorous co-operation in the neighbouring counties they would have spent £10,000 in Aberdeenshire and have the disease brought in again by means of people who were trifling with inoculation. So far as he was aware, we had never imported pleuro-pneumonia; we were never free from it, and always had the disease either in Ireland, England, or Scotland; and, if that were so, we owed it to ourselves, and it was our duty to stamp it out. Stamping out, monstrous and destructive as it was, was the only remedy yet devised. The hon. Member who moved the Motion (Mr. Hozier) had somewhat thrown discredit on the present Committee; but he (Mr. Esslomont) thought the hon. Member should take the investigations of the Committee for what they were worth, and not throw discredit upon them. He hoped there would be co-operation throughout the whole of the United Kingdom in stamping out the disease without interfering with the scientific experiments, in which, he confessed, he had not so much faith as his hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson). All past and present experience pointed to the fact that unless they acted together, and vigorously stamped out the disease, very great injury would be done.

SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)

said, that the debate hitherto had been carried on by hon. Gentlemen from Scotland, but he desired, as an English agriculturist Member, to say in a few words how heartily he was prepared to support the Motion now before the House. He thought it would be no less than absolutely discreditable if they should be told that this matter, recognized to be of vast importance to the agricultural interest, was to be left untouched, because they had no Agricultural Department, and because the proposed experiments would entail the expenditure of a certain amount of money. He remembered the debates in the House upon rinderpest, and questions connected with the importation of foreign animals. He remembered that it was laid down by those opposed to the Party to which he belonged, that it was the desire and demand on the part of the agriculturists to enhance the price of meat. They were told over and over again that the restrictions against the importation of disease were nothing more than so many devices of the farmer, backed by the landed interest, to increase the price of meat. All subsequent experience had clearly and distinctly proved that those assertions were without any foundation whatever. The more strictly regulations were enforced, the more carefully they scrutinized every head of stock brought from abroad; the more money they spent in reasonable investigation, the more free they were from disease; the healthier were their stocks, the more numerous they became, the better it was for everyone. There was, no doubt, that pleuro-pneumonia stood on a very different footing from other diseases. It was a somewhat mysterious disease. The process of incubation was most protracted, it was almost impossible to detect in its earlier stages, and the way the disease was transmitted from animal to animal was still a matter on which there was great diversity of opinion, even among scientific men who had to deal with the subject. Everything pointed to this—that in the case of a matter so difficult to understand, there ought to be instituted a full and complete series of practical experiments in order to derive some benefit therefrom. The one experiment of the day was that of compulsory slaughter, and in the present state of veterinary science he was distinctly in favour of that remedy, and entirely objected to its abolition until it could be supplanted by something proved to be better. But far be it from him to say—indeed, it would be a miserable and weak position to take up—that because at present there was no other remedy, therefore they should do nothing but continue to slaughter, not only all animals diseased, but every animal which had been in the same herd with an infected animal. He contended that most distinctly it was the duty of the Government—in view of the fact that the disease spread with great rapidity; that once having taken possession of a herd it went with certainty through the whole of the herd, and must entail of necessity considerable expenditure; and in view of all the difficulties which were dependent upon the infliction of compulsory slaughter, at present the only remedy—to agree to the present Motion. He thought the hon. Member who moved this Amendment was, perhaps, a little severe in his criticisim of the existing Order, for he (Sir Richard Paget) took it that the words to which the hon. Gentleman referred as not satisfactory were introduced with deliberation. There were 100 different ways which would readily occur to anyone in which the disease might spread. The words to which the hon. Member referred were introduced a long time since after much consideration. There was, no doubt, something indefinite and uncertain in the words as they stood, but he assured his hon. Friend that the words were put in on purpose, in order that they should be wide words and should include a number of eventualities which it was impossible to specify one by one. One hon. Member spoke of the Agricultural Department as a thing that was to be put off until next year. He (Sir Richard Paget) had not heard from the Government any intimation of that. Indeed, the only official intimation which had reached the House was that there was a Bill in course of preparation. He confessed it would be with feelings of utter dismay if he should hear that a measure so important, and which had been distinctly promised to the House, was now to be withdrawn without any further notice. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) pointed to the difficulty of getting uniformity of action when there was no uniformity of opinion. He (Sir Richard Paget) desired to remark that uniformity of action was, under present circumstances, more or less possible, because they had a Central Authority which could issue an order which should be compulsory upon all. But they were drifting into times when uniformity of action would become absolutely impossible. When they transferred to the newly-elected County Councils powers which were vested in a certain department of the State, when each one of those Councils would have power and be allowed to choose for itself whether it would slaughter or not, they might come to a time when uniformity of action might be impossible. He hoped, at any rate, that in these matters, which were of the supremest importance to the agricultural interest, the Central Authority would take good care to keep in its hands such severe and drastic powers as it was now authorized to use, and did use with great advantage. It was well the House should recognize the gravity of this disease. They had got rid one by one of several of the diseases which harrassed the flocks and herds of the farmers. Rinderpest was stamped out with a determined foot by the help of the State. Foot and mouth disease had been dealt with; but only because people at last came to recognize that it did not come in the wind, but was a disease which could be stamped out. He spoke with some practical experience of this matter, having been largely mixed up in the dealings with foot and mouth disease in the West of England. In that district there were many people who thought the disease could not be got rid of; but it had been got rid of absolutely and entirely by stringent regulations. Those regulations were enforced, and were submitted to willingly, because the farmers were satisfied the authorities were acting to the best of their judgment, and that that judgment was a sound one—that the restrictions would have a permanent and satisfactory result. They had stamped out foot and mouth disease, and pleuro-pneumonia was a disease they must stamp out too. If there could be found by scientific experiment any means of dealing with it which could save them from the necessity, the brutal necessity, of absolutely destroying a whole herd, it was their duty to find them. If it were possible to find a remedy, that remedy ought to be found. It was not enough to say a remedy had not been found; they must find it. There was no way in which they could find it except by making full and satisfactory experiments. How was that to be done? By the action of the Government, who must not shrink from incurring the expenditure which would be necessary in the matter. They had a right to appeal to the Government to act in no uncertain way. He, however, knew the difficulty agriculturists experienced, and at least they should be assisted by the State when they were doing all they could to hold their heads up in the present struggle. They said—"There is a reasonable remedy which you have it in your power to grant, and which we have a right to ask." He did not for a moment anticipate that the Government would refuse to agree to the present Amendment. He certainly trusted they would not, because he maintained that this was a matter of the greatest importance, and was not to be pooh-poohed and set aside on the ground that it was already being considered by the Committee. He desired to speak with every respect of the importance of that Committee. He had no doubt that their labours would prove of certain and distinct value, but he asked, what power had that Committee to spend a single halfpenny in experiments? They had no power to spend anything at all, and he believed the Agricultural Department was equally powerless. He trusted that the Government would assent to the Amendment.

MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)

said, he hoped that this discussion would not have the effect of weakening the hands of the authorities in prosecuting the policy which they had resolved upon. He recollected very well that they had similar discussions to that in which they were now engaged at the time when rinderpest was ravaging the country. It was said then that the slaughtering process was very barbarous and unscientific, and that a much better remedy should be devised. While they were waiting to find out the remedy, the disease spread all over the country, and the loss was very enormous in proportion to what it might have been if active measures had been taken at once. The disease appeared almost at the earliest period of its existence in this country in Aberdeenshire. The farmers of that county resolved, after seeing what the nature of the disease was, that it ought to be stamped out. Hon. Members would, no doubt, be surprised to learn that a voluntary subscription of one penny in the pound of the rental did more than exterminate the disease in Aberdeenshire, and compensate the farmers who lost cattle to the extent of three-fourths of the loss. It might be a very interesting speculative question whether disease could be prevented by inoculation, but he thought he should be able to satisfy the House that it was of very little value from a practical point of view. There was no doubt whatever that the Order in Council, if carried out, would have the effect, if not of exterminating this disease, of at least reducing it to a minimum. Suppose they had pleuro-pneumonia in the same position as foot and mouth disease was at the present moment—that was to say, that they did not know that it existed anywhere in the country, and pleuro-pneumonia appeared in one particular place, would anyone hesitate to say that the wise and proper course would be to slaughter the animals affected, and also those in contact with them? Pleuro-pneumonia did not spread nearly so much as foot and mouth disease. They had adopted a certain policy with regard to foot and mouth disease which had been successful. They did not think of trying experiments whether foot and mouth disease could be prevented by inoculation. He believed the severity of the disease might be lessened by inoculation; but they would not now think of trying to cure foot and mouth disease. It would be the same with pleuro-pneumonia. When they had pleuro-pneumonia exterminated, or reduced within a small compass, as he had no doubt would be the result of the operation of the Order in Council, it would be extreme folly to begin inoculation of cattle when disease broke out again. Inoculation of cattle might be very important where large herds of cattle were in an open country, and would have been here had they not resolved to slaughter all animals affected with the disease, because it might have been said they had discovered a scientific remedy, and it would be unnecessary to slaughter animals. But they had resolved to slaughter the herds affected, and it was a question of very secondary importance to farmers whether disease be prevented in future by inoculation or not, because clearly the soundest policy, if disease again appeared in a herd, was to slaughter the animals. This proposition with respect to disease depended upon the assumption that it was a disease which was not generated in this country, and he thought all the evidence was conclusive upon that point—contagious pleuro-pneumonia was not generated in this country, but had always been imported. Their hope was that when the Order in Council had been carried out for a very short time the disease would cease to exist in the country, and then their only trouble would be to keep it out. Hon. Members seemed to think it would be a very easy matter to determine whether inoculation was or was not efficient; but practically it would be a very difficult question to test, and for various reasons intimately connected with the disease itself. He did not know whether hon. Members generally understood that by inoculation they did not produce the same disease that the animal died of. The disease from inoculation affected the mucous membranes of the animal, but it did not affect the lungs of the animal. Pleuro-pneumonia was a disease of the lungs, and inoculation did not affect the lungs at all. The presumption, therefore, was that inoculation would not prevent a disease which was not produced by inoculation. In the case of all other diseases where inoculation was resorted to, he understood the process produced the same disease, only in a milder form. The evidence before them was that inoculation did not produce pleuro-pneumonia, but something very different. Experiments had been going on in inoculation for very many years. In some parts of the Continent inoculation had been adopted, but in those parts of the Continent, where inoculation had been adopted, they were never free from pleuro-pneumonia, but had it to a greater or less extent. In other parts of the Continent the slaughtering of animals had been resorted to, and there the herds were kept free from the disease; therefore, so far, experience was against the system of inoculation. This disease was not what might be called of a very contagious character. So far as the evidence went, the disease had never been transmitted except from a live animal to another live animal. The disease ceased to be communicable as soon as the animal affected with the disease died. If a rigid system of isolation was maintained in the case of diseased herds, he thought comparatively few animals would beome infected. He knew of several cases where farmers, pursuing the policy of isolation—slaughtering any animal which was affected, and slaughtering any animal which might be unwell—had been able to get rid of the disease by slaughtering a small proportion of their stock. If this system could be effectively adopted throughout the country, he thought it would be preferable to general slaughter. But it could not be adopted without such a close supervision as was impracticable. He, therefore, thought the only sound and wise policy was to slaughter all animals which were affected, and all those which had been really in contact with them. Of course, a great deal depended upon the definition of the word "contact." He should say that if animals were in the same shed they were in contact, but he did not think there would be any necessity to slaughter the animals in an adjoining shed. Experiments in inoculation were misleading. If a man had disease among his stock and slaughtered one or two which were considerably affected and one or two which appeared to be affected, and isolated all the other animals, he might probably get rid of the disease without inoculation at all; but, if he inoculated the animals, there was not, as the evidence showed, any great difference. Statistics of the results in one county had been submitted to him, and they were supposed to show greatly in favour of the system of inoculation. In some cases only the animals affected had been slaughtered, without inoculating the remainder; and in other cases animals affected had been slaughtered and the remaining stock had been inoculated. The percentage of subsequent losses in both cases was, curiously enough, practically the same, only six per cent of the animals in both cases had to be killed. It was extremely difficult to make practical experiments except upon a very large scale, and even then grave doubts might be entertained as to the evidence of the results. While he approved of the Committee making all inquiry and investigating into the nature of the disease, and into the question whether it could be inoculated or not, and what might be the result of inoculation, he maintained that, so far as the farmers themselves were concerned, it was not of much practical importance to them whether inoculation was a preventive or not, because certainly if disease was reduced to a minimum, as it would be by the slaughtering of all animals affected, it would be wise policy to slaughter animals in the few cases which might afterwards break out.

MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

said, as one who had had large experience of the ravages that pleuro-pneumonia wrought among herds of cattle, he agreed with the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) that until another remedy could be ascertained the only course was to apply the pole-axe indiscriminately. If the Government could see their way to give real assistance, in the shape of a grant of £10,000, for a number of successive years, he was convinced that something would be done, not only to stop the mischief that was now going on, but also to give them a thorough guide as to the future. Although the experiments would have to be made on a large scale, he believed it would pay the country to try them; and he was hopeful that the Government would see their way to deal with the matter in the way proposed. It was the duty of the Government to lead the way, and if they did so, he believed many private individuals would come forward and assist them. On the question of inoculation, he observed that the large majority of those who had thoroughly studied the scientific aspects of the case were, as far as he knew, of one mind. They did not see much use in inoculation. He hoped that the Government would come forward and give what assistance they could in this matter.

MR. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)

said, that up to the present—with the exception of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget)—the debate had been carried on by Scotch Members. He (Mr. Gray) desired to say, however, that English agriculturists were perhaps as much interested in the question as their Scotch friends, although it might not appear so from the course the debate had taken. In England they had suffered over and over again from the prevalence of this most disastrous disease. It seemed to him that they had rather got away from the subject-matter of the Amendment. The question before the House was whether they were to give certain Instructions to a Committee which had been formed for the purpose of inquiring into this matter. He considered that while that Committee was sitting they could hardly give their Instructions as to experiments in inoculation, or any other system. Although he thought it was probable his hon. Friend the Member for South Lanarkshire (Mr. Hozier) would withdraw his Amendment, he hoped the debate would make an impression upon the Government. What they wanted were the sinews of war to carry on experiments. All other countries that he knew anything about, with the exception of England, generously and liberally gave money for carrying on important inquiries and experiments of this description. If they followed the example of other countries in this respect, he felt certain they should not only be benefiting agriculturists but benefiting the community at large.


said, he could assure hon. Gentlemen that the Government had been very much impressed with the debate; and he had no hesitation in saying that the very interesting statements which had been made would have their due effect on the Government and on the Committee. The Government, however, could not undertake to accept a Resolution couched in the terms proposed by the hon. Member for South Lanarkshire (Mr. Hozier). The Resolution, if adopted, would be practically a vote of condemnation on the Committee which was at that moment earnestly and carefully inquiring into the best means of dealing with pleuro-pneumonia. Speakers in different parts of the House had advocated inoculation; the hon. Gentleman the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) however, had very wisely directed attention to the fact that it was by no means certain that great advantages would accrue from any wholesale adoption of the system of inoculation. His hon. Friend who moved the Resolution quoted certain evidence in favour of the adoption of inoculation. He quoted the case of Australia and Holland, and the evidence given by the Highland Society. What were the facts? The information he (Mr. Long) had received on the point was to the effect that Australia, which had always adopted a system of inoculation, had always, at the same time, suffered from this disease. He had every reason to believe that the evidence of the Highland Society was, in the strictest sense of the word, extremely contradictory on the question of inoculation. Holland for many years adopted inoculation; but for the last four years Holland had given up that system, and had adopted compulsory slaughter, with the result that the country was free from the disease at this moment. Surely these facts were enough to warrant them in saying that the evidence quoted in support of inoculation was not sufficiently convincing to justify them in adopting a Resolution which would undoubtedly be a vote of censure on the Committee. His hon. Friend had stated that the Committee was under the sway of Professor Brown. No doubt Professor Brown had considerable influence on the Committee, but he very much doubted whether his hon. Friend had rightly described his position on the Committee. The names of the members of the Committee showed that it was one that would not be unduly influenced by Professor Brown or any expert. Whatever might be the conclusion at which the Committee now sitting might arrive, it would be the honest outcome of the evidence given to it. They would, he had no doubt, give their best energies and abilities to elucidate the important questions they had been called upon to decide. But, with reference to this proposal of experiments, every hon. Member who had spoken had dwelt upon the importance of the disease being promptly dealt with, and the Government had been told that they ought to expend whatever money was required in order that the question might be properly and effectually dealt with. He had no hesitation in saying that if that was their desire, they could do nothing more calculated to postpone the accomplishment of that desire than to adopt this Resolution. It was only common sense to say that if they were going to initiate a system of Government experiments to ascertain the result of a certain scientific process upon animals with reference to a particular disease, it would be impossible to form an opinion which would be reliable from a few isolated instances. They would have to collect a large number of instances, and carry on the experiments for a considerable time, before they could arrive at an opinion that would be in the slightest degree trustworthy. Therefore, he did not believe the adoption of the Motion would attain the object hon. Members had at heart. The Committee had been referred to, and an apprehension expressed that their inquiry would not be so exhaustive and valuable as it ought to be, and that they had no power to spend money. It was the case that they had no power to spend money, but they would agree that a Committee such as that now sitting in London was not one to which should be entrusted either a carrying out of those experiments or the spending of money on such experiments. It would be extremely difficult to appoint a Committee which should be a really powerful and practical one, and which should also be called upon to carry on experiments under their own supervision. For instance, how could the present Committee, with the heavy labours now entailed upon them, superintend in any part of the country experiments on a sufficiently large scale to enable benefit to be derived from them? The Committee were at this moment taking evidence on this question of experiments, and so far from the experiments being so old as to be worthless, they hoped to take the evidence of a distinguished scientific man from Holland who had had experience of the system of inoculation practised there, and who would not only speak to those experiments, but of their results. The Committee hoped to complete the evidence about Whitsuntide. The Government heartily sympathized with what had been said about the burden on the ratepayer from the charges for compensation, and about the loss to the agriculturists, and would willingly do anything they could to relieve the ratepayers, and would consider whether they could in any way strengthen the evidence proposed to be taken by the Committee. But, on the part of the Government, he could not accept the Resolution, which would practically be a condemnation of the Committee now sitting. One of the objects of the Committee being to report on the experiments in inoculation, hon. Members would agree that when the Committee had reported then this House and all interested in the question would be in a stronger and better position to approach its consideration. Therefore, he hoped the hon. Member would be content with the very able and practical discussion which had taken place, and with the assurance that the Government would do their utmost in this, as in other matters, to safeguard the interests of the agricultural community; and if the Committee reported in favour of the experiments being carried out, their Report and proposals would receive the most careful attention of the Government.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at twenty minutes before Eight o'clock, till Monday neat.