HC Deb 01 April 1890 vol 343 cc445-7

Order for Second Reading read.


It has been arranged that this Bill shall be taken to-night, and I will, therefore, explain its object very shortly. The Bill proposes to confer upon the Board of Agriculture further powers for the purpose of dealing with pleuro-pneumonia, which has previously been dealt with by Local Authorities under various Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council. Most stringent measures have been taken, and large sums of money expended for cattle which have been slaughtered, and great expenses have been incurred by the various Local Authorities, but without any adequate result, owing to a want of uniformity of action, which experience has taught it is almost impossible to obtain. Under these circumstances, it seems impossible and useless to persevere with a system which has involved so many sacrifices without satisfactory results. If that is so, one alternative is that we should altogether abandon the hope of ever getting rid of that disease. That would be a most unfortunate conclusion, for the example of the Netherlands shows the possibility of extirpating the disease. By the Bill it is proposed that there shall be placed at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture a sum of money which it is hoped will obviate the necessity of trenching on local resources. The adoption of this principle is, I think, absolutely necessary, because the Local Authorities cannot be expected to submit to a large and wholly unlimited expenditure of their funds by a Central Department over which they will have no control. It is further provided in the Bill, in view of the possibility of a deficiency arising, that it is in the case of Great Britain to be met out of the local taxation accounts of England and Scotland respectively in the proportions mentioned in the Bill, which are the same as those in which the Probate Duty is distributed. I am aware objection may be taken to that on the ground that it interferes with the allocation of moneys already provided for certain specific local purposes, and also that a county perfectly free from disease may be called upon to contribute. On the other hand, it should be remembered, first of all, that the risk is very remote. It has been impossible to obtain an accurate estimate; but on the best estimate we could get, I have every reason to hope that the risk of calling upon local resources will be very remote. In the second place, if the localities are called upon to pay, it will be a fractional amount, considering that the whole deficiency would be distributed among all the different counties; and, in the third place, it must be remembered that although there are now a great number of counties entirely free from the disease, they are all liable to it at any moment. In view of the great advantages they are going to receive, they may be well content to bear the infinitesimal risk to be thrown upon them. Ireland will be treated separately under the Bill, and the Lord Lieutenant and the Privy Council will be substituted for the Board of Agriculture. A sum will be provided by the Imperial Exchequer, and any deficiency will be met out of the General Cattle Disease Fund, which is already in existence and which has been frequently used for that purpose. I hope I have described clearly, if briefly, the objects of this Bill, and the means by which it is intended to carry them out. I sincerely hope the House will allow the Bill to be now read a second time. It is a Bill with regard to which the Government have received numerous appeals and petitions from various parts of the country, and I think there is a general wish that it shall now be read a second time. If there is any objection to it in point of detail that can be dealt with in Committee. I move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Henry Chaplin.')

(6.24.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

I conclude that the House is in favour of this Bill being read a second time to-day. I do not therefore oppose the Bill; but I wish to guard the House against being committed to everything it contains. Some of its provisions will, no doubt, have to be discussed in Committee. The Bill arms the Agricultural Department with very large powers in order to stamp out pleuro-pneumonia. I believe that the only way to effect the object of the Bill is by the pole-axe, as has been proved by the experience of the Netherlands. Not only should all the cattle affected be slaughtered, but everything which has been brought into contact with them should be destroyed also. It has been a long, painful, and expensive process in the Netherlands, but it has been successful; and I believe that if the powers in the Bill are courageously acted upon their object will be attained.

(6.25.) DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I hail the Bill with satisfaction, and congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having so well signalised his accession to office. I have the honour to represent in this House a cattle breeding and feeding county; and I may say that great inconvenience has been experienced in Aberdeenshire owing to the various Local Authorities not being equally strict in their enforcement of the Acts and Orders. We know perfectly well that pleuro-pneumonia is not a disease which springs up spontaneously, and I believe the prospects of stamping it out will be much increased if the provisions of this Bill are properly carried out.

(6.27.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

I am hardly so sanguine as my right hon. Friend, who apparently wants to slaughter everything and everybody happening to be brought into contact with a diseased animal. It should not be forgotten that there is a remedy short of extermination. In some of our Colonies the disease has been stamped out by means of inoculation, which is a much less expensive process. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give a reasonable time before the Committee stage is taken.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday, 24th April.

Resolutions agreed to.