§ Mr. FELLOWES
, Member for the Ramsey Division of Huntingdonshire, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, "the increasing prevalence of swine fever in many parts of the country, and the persistent neglect of Her Majesty's Government to take adequate measures to check it."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I desire to point out that there was on the Paper last night a Bill on this subject, which was introduced by the hon. Member, and that the Order for the Second Reading was discharged late last night in order to leave the ground clear for this Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That, of course, leaves the ground clear for the hon. Gentleman.
The pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. SPEAKER called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 10 Members having accordingly risen:—
§ * MR. FELLOWES
said, that as he had not taken any part this Session in the Debates in the House, he hoped he would not be accused of in any way wishing to stop legislation or to hinder the progress of the Home Rule Rill. His intention was to try to find out from Her Majesty's Government what were 1486 their intentions for the future with regard to the important question of swine fever. Some of those present might not think the subject of sufficient importance to justify a Motion for Adjournment, but he would remind hon. Members that this was the only opportunity those who were interested in agricultural matters had of bringing them before the notice of the House, seeing that the Government had taken the whole time of the House for their own business. More than that, they had a right to bring this question forward. This was the first Session of a new Parliament, and he thought that in the present state of agriculture they had a right to bring to the notice of the House anything that might bear upon the interests of that industry, or that might conduce to its benefit. The subject of swine fever was one of urgent public importance in consequence of the prevalence of the disease in many counties and the resulting decrease in the number of swine. An enormous loss was caused by this disease to large farmers, small holders, and also allotment holders, who as a result of recent legislation had enormously increased in numbers, and of whom nine out of ten kept swine. It was, therefore, incumbent on the House to take steps to stamp out the disease. At the beginning of the Session, when his hon. Friend the Member for Ripon moved an Amendment to the Address, the Minister of Agriculture, as he understood him, declared it was hard to know what to do in agricultural matters, as agriculturists were not united among themselves. But he ventured to assert that, in regard to swine fever, agriculturists were absolutely at one as to what ought to be done. The Central Chamber of Agriculture, the Associated Chambers, Farmers' Clubs, and the Contagious Diseases Committees of the County Councils had over and over again passed resolutions demanding that the question should be taken up by the Board of Agriculture and treated in the same way as the subject of pleuro-pneumonia. The Local Authorities had no doubt done their best to suppress swine fever, but they had failed. They had spent the ratepayers' money with very little result. There had been no uniformity of action amongst them; some counties had slaughtered, and some had not; some had paid compensation, and 1487 others had refused to, and the result had been that the disease had not decreased, and it had been found impossible to stamp it out under the existing Regulations. In the last Parliament this question was raised several times, and a deputation waited upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire, who at that period occupied the office of Minister of Agriculture. It was introduced by the present Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and he hoped that in the present Debate he would have the support of the hon. Baronet. That deputation represented 23 Chambers of Agriculture and other Organisations, and it had a very kind and sympathetic reception from the President of the Board of Agriculture, who frankly informed them that he was collecting information as regarded the question, but was unable to undertake at that moment to do anything on account of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Since that time—February last year—there had been no real diminution in the disease, for they found that in the 20 weeks ending on May 20, 1892, there were close upon 800 outbreaks of swine fever, and in the 20 weeks ending on May 20 this year there were 1,100 outbreaks, in which 5,400 swine were affected. There were fewer cases reported in 1892 than in 1891, but this was largely accounted for by the disinclination to report cases in localities where no compensation, or very little, was given. The Departmental Committee said in their Report that in 1892 there was a considerable reduction in the number of cases of diseases reported, but that they had reason to believe that this reduction was more apparent than real, and was due in some measure to the decrease in the number of swine in the country, and to a still greater extent to the discontinuance on the part of the Local Authorities of the payment of compensation, which had the effect of making the owners of swine negligent in giving notice of diseases. This he regarded as a very bad sign, but a still worse sign was the enormous decrease of swine in the country. The Returns given in the Appendix to the Report of the Departmental Committee showed that in 1892 the swine in England decreased by 25 per cent., in Wales by 27 per cent., in Scotland by 29 per cent., and in Ireland by 18 per cent., the total decrease in the 1488 whole of Great Britain and Ireland and the Channel Islands being over 1,000,000, or 24 per cent. The result was that at the present moment pork was as dear as beef, and very nearly as dear as mutton. He must apologise to the Minister of Agriculture for having badgered him with questions on this subject so much during the Session, but he regarded the question as of such great importance to the agricultural interest that he had felt bound to question him upon it. He must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the selection he had made of the Members of the Departmental Committee, although he thought the right hon. Gentleman would have found in his Department ample particulars respecting the disease without wasting time by appointing a Committee at all. The Committee had reported on the lines laid down by the Chambers of Agriculture in the last two years, having recommended that the Board of Agriculture should be the Authority for stamping out disease, and that compensation should be paid out of Imperial funds and not out of the rates. With those views of the Committee he thoroughly agreed, and he should be pleased to see the right hon. Gentleman acting upon them. He quite agreed that it would be more difficult to tackle the question of swine fever than it had been to deal with pleuro-pneumonia, and it would probably be more expensive, and possibly take a longer time. The right hon. Gentleman said that the disease was decreasing largely. If so, surely the present was the proper time to stamp it out. When the Pleuro-pneumonia Act was passed, pleuro-pneumonia existed in 34 counties in Great Britain, 25 in England, and nine in Scotland. At the end of 12 months from the passing of the Act pleuro-pneumonia was restricted to seven counties in England and one only in Scotland; whilst now, with the exception of the one case which had unfortunately just broken out at Hendon, the country for the first time for 50 years was absolutely free from the disease. Bearing these facts in mind, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to deal with swine fever exactly in the same way as he had dealt with the question of pleuro-pneumonia. A deputation waited upon the President of the Board of Agriculture last week, and the right hon. Gentleman, in reply to 1489 the representations made to him, said there was no hurry about the question; that the autumn was the proper time to tackle it, and that the great stumbling block was finance. He (Mr. Fellowes) said without fear of contradiction that there was hurry about the question. Those who represented agricultural districts knew well that the agricultural interest was never, in the memory of man, in a worse state than at the present day, and anything that would be of some little use would be beneficial to what he was afraid was very nearly a ruined interest. He quite agreed with the right, hon. Gentleman that the autumn was the proper time to tackle the question; but as was pointed out by Mr. Carrington Smith when the deputation waited upon the right hon. Gentleman, if the question was to be tackled in the autumn it was necessary to pass a Bill this Session so as to have everything prepared before the autumn arrived. As to the question of finance, he knew it was a very serious one at the present time. It must be remembered that this was a question for the public good, and to his mind the public ought to pay for any general benefit that was conferred by the action taken. He understood the right hon. Gentleman the other day to throw out a suggestion that the compensation to be paid should come partly out of the pleuro-pneumonia fund and partly out of the rates. He himself had a very strong objection to any payment being made out of the rates for the purpose. There had been an enormous amount of money wasted during the last few years on this question without much good being done. At the same time, rather than have the question shelved, he would agree, speaking only for himself, to half the cost being placed on the rates as long as half come out of the Imperial funds. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman to say "yes" or "no" whether he would before the autumn undertake to bring in legislation on the subject, so that it might be possible to deal with the question in October or November.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Fellowes.)
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. H. GARDENER,) Essex, Saffron Walden
I can assure 1490 my Hon. Friend that what he says as to the absolute unanimity of agriculturists generally on the subject of transferring the authority for dealing with swine fever has considerable sympathy from mo. I thoroughly agree that the Report of the Committee, which I myself appointed, proves, more or less, that Local Authorities are not able to cope successfully with this disease, and that the transference of the power of dealing with it to a Central Authority would be advantageous to the agricultural community. I recognise to the full the competence of the Department over which I have the honour to preside, as evidenced by the way in which they have stamped out pleuro-pneumonia, and I have no doubt that we shall be able to deal with swine fever as satisfactorily as we were able to deal with pleuro-pneumonia. But my Hon. Friend puts, as it were, a pistol to my head, and asks for an answer "yes" or "no." I think my hon. Friend has forgotten one factor in the case. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin) will not forget that factor, because, in a speech he made to a deputation, the right hon. Gentleman alluded to it in very strong terms. The factor I speak of is that of Ireland. Although the Board of Agriculture has the administration of this matter in England, the administration of agricultural affairs in Ireland is carried on by Irish officials; and when I point out that there are over 1,000,000 of pigs in Ireland, and that the importation of pigs to this country amounts to something like 500,000 a year, I think my hon. Friend will see that unless we take measures to deal with Ireland as well as England, we might be importing the disease from Ireland at the time when we were extinguishing it in England. I do not think anyone in this House would wish to go to the length of entirely stopping the importation of pigs from Ireland. A distinguished official from Ireland had made an appointment with me almost at this present moment; and if my hon. Friend had allowed me to have an interview with him, I think we should have been very much nearer a settlement of the question than we are now. I shall not go into the very interesting details to which my hon. Friend has alluded. With reference to the Bill, I might almost say that my hon. Friend 1491 withdrew that measure last night in order that he might to-night delight us with the speech he intended to make on the Second Reading. But the question is not one of details. The point really is whether this is a question of such urgent public importance that my hon. Friend should have taken it upon himself to interrupt the whole Business of this House in order to urge the Government to proceed with this matter at once. [Opposition cheers.] I accept the challenge implied by those cheers, and I will address the House for a few minutes on that subject. My hon. Friend has admitted very fairly that the extinction of this disease ought to be undertaken not at the present moment, but in the late autumn. A great authority on the subject (Mr. Carrington Smith) who sat on the Committee, and was a member of the deputation to me the other day, goes so far as to say that measures should be taken for stamping out the disease somewhere about Christmas or a little later. I would ask whether it is necessary to move the Adjournment of the House in June in order to urge upon the Government the adoption of measures which admittedly ought not to be taken until about Christmas time? I pass to the figures my hon. Friend put before the House. My figures do not entirely agree with his. The question we have to consider is whether there has been so serious an increase in swine fever, and whether farmers are face to face with such a crisis on this matter that it is necessary to stop the important Business of this House to discuss it? My hon. Friend has been singularly unfortunate in the moment he has chosen to bring the subject forward, for our last Return, which came up to the 10th of June, shows that in the week ending with that date there were 276 cases of swine fever, whereas in the same week in 1892 we had 414 cases, in the same week in 1891 1,000 cases, and in the same week in 1890 621 cases, so that because we have 138 cases less than in 1892, over 600 less than in 1891, and about 350 less than in 1890, my hon. Friend thinks the question is so urgent, and the farmers of this country are face to face with such a crisis, that the Business of the House of Commons ought to be interrupted in order that the subject may be discussed.
§ * MR. FELLOWES
Will my right hon. Friend give us also the decrease in the number of swine kept in the country?
§ MR. H. GARDNER
The decrease in the number of swine is not owing to swine fever. Authorities tell us that the number of swine in the country is always a fluctuating figure, and that the real reason for the decrease is the recent cheapness of swine. As swine are animals which are easily produced they follow the trade. I now come to the other figures. The hon. Gentleman said there was a serious increase in swine fever, and one of his reasons was that there were 6,350 cases of swine fever in the first 23 weeks of 1893, whereas in the first 23 weeks of 1892 there were only 5,960. My hon. Friend says that an increase of 390 diseased pigs out of a total of nearly 2,000,000 pigs in the country is a justification for bringing this Motion before the House. As a matter of fact, I state to the House, and I do so upon my authority, that at the present moment, with the exception of a very slight difference last year, the cases of swine fever stand now at the very lowest pitch at which they have stood since 1884. I do not think I need trouble the House any further in regard to the urgency of this question; but I should like to refer to one other remark made by the hon. Gentleman. I allude to the suggestion that out of a portion of the costs should be paid by the rates. If the hon. Gentleman speaks on that point in the name of his Party, he has certainly gone a long way towards disposing of the financial part of the question. I can only assure agricultural Members on both sides of the House that the Government look upon this subject with the greatest sympathy, and that my earnest wish is to deal with the question this year if possible. With this assurance I would ask the House to pass at once to the Order of the Day.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
I can most thoroughly endorse-the statement of my hon. Friend that there is no desire in making that Motion to interfere a moment longer than is absolutely necessary with the other Business of the House. I quite acknowledge that the President of the Board of Agriculture has made a very important speech; but, at the same time, we are very 1493 much in the position of the farmer at the rent dinner, who drank claret instead of port, and complained that he was getting "no forrader." We wish to know whether the Government are prepared to deal with this question during the present Session or not? If not, we cannot compel them to do so, and there is no use in prolonging this discussion. If, on the other hand, they tell us they are prepared to deal with it, we shall be satisfied, and shall be happy to proceed with the Business of the House. The right right hon. Gentleman alluded to the great difficulties raised by the case of Ireland in reference to this question. The difficulty of Ireland is precisely the same as that which came up when we had to deal with pleuro-puoumonia, and, of course, is part of the question, which must be settled if this matter is to be dealt with at all. Then the right hon. Gentleman asked whether the question was of such urgent importance as to justify my hon. Friend in stopping the whole Business of the House in order to discuss it. I think it is of ample importance to justify him in the course he has adopted. We must not forget the position of the agricultural community at the present moment. I undertake to say that there never was a time in the history of the present generation when, as now, the whole of the time of Parliament was taken up in dealing with a question with which I believe nine out of ten of the supporters of the Government do not sympathise, and which they do not believe in, and when, in spite of the statement in the Speech from the Throne—in spite of the pressure which has been over and over again applied to the Government from this side of the House, and also from some of their supporters on the opposite side—the Government have done absolutely nothing for the agricultural interests. They must not be surprised if, under these circumstances, there is considerable feeling in the country on the subject, and if those who represent the agricultural interest think it their duty to avail themselves of whatever opportunities they may have in their power to call the attention of the Government to it. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to argue that the question was not urgent because of the figures he placed before the House. He said that the cases of swine fever were fewer in 1494 1892 than in 1891, and that the figures of 1891 were less than the figures of 1890. He went on to show that the figures of June in the present year were less than the figures of June, 1892. My hon. Friend, on the other hand, speaks of the increasing prevalence of swine fever throughout the country. He is absolutely and literally borne out by the figures of the present year. Why did not the President of the Board of Agriculture give us the figures with reference to the mouths of this year? In the mouth of January there were 800 cases, in February there were 746, in March there were 862, in April there were 1,600, in May there were 1,626, and in the first 10 days of June there were 661 cases. These figures certainly bear out the statement of my hon. Friend. The President of the Board of Agriculture expressed his great desire and wish to do something for us. I do not doubt that he has such a wish and desire, but I should like to hear something as to the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The decision rests with him, and I will put a question straight to him across the Table. Will he be good enough to tell us whether he will aid my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture to deal with this matter during the present Session? It is not only a farmers' question, but a labourers' question also, and it is one which is daily affecting the labourers more and more. I am happy to think that the labourers who are not at present in possession of allotments are in a minority. The number of those who have allotments is increasing day by day, and in nine cases out of ten the labourers with allotments have pigs, or ought to have them. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture seems to think it is premature to raise the question now, and he says that a certain witness stated that Christmas was the time to deal with the question. That is not my own opinion. I should say that October or November would be a better time to begin, and I think he will find precedents in the Department for dealing with the matter at that period of the year. Here we are in June. The Government have, I presume, to prepare and draft their Bill. That will take some days. We cannot imagine that the Bill will pass through all its forms and be- 1495 come law much before the end of July. The moment the Bill has become law the Government will be able to proceed with their organisation and with the preparation of the staff and all the assistance they will require to carry out the measure. Even if the Bill be passed by the end of July, they will not have a week too much to make the necessary arrangements before the period arrives when they should be put into operation. There is no apprehension, I hope and believe, that the measure will be contentious, and it all depends upon what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to say—whether the scheme will be carried out or not. The Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be prepared to state the intentions of the Government. About a month ago, on the Motion for the Adjournment for Whitsuntide, there was some conversation on the subject, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the matter would be examined without delay, and if it were in the power of the Government to do anything it would be done. It is desirable that we should know exactly where we stand. When the Government appointed a Committee to inquire into the question, and when the President of the Board of Agriculture gave the Committee as a reason for not proceeding at once, all who were interested in the question understood that if the Committee reported in favour of measures being taken those measures would be taken. It is very desirable that the Local Authorities should know what is really going to be done on this question. It is by the decision of this House that they will have to be guided. If the Government are not prepared to take the necessary measures, the Local Authorities will have to do so themselves. They must have time to make their preparations, and the least we can ask for is a direct statement as to the intentions of the Government either one way or the other. If we have such a statement I do not see that we should interfere any longer with the Business before the House. Taking into consideration the present agricultural situation, the hardships which farmers have undergone, and the deplorable position in which they are now placed, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make such a statement as will give us some assurance 1496 that their position will be more favourable in the future than it has unfortunately been in the past.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I merely rise to answer the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman has made to me. I have nothing to withdraw or alter in the statement I made before the Adjournment of the House for Whitsuntide. The Government are sincerely desirous of dealing with this matter, and of examining into it. As my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gardner) said just now, one of the most important elements in the question is that part of it which relates to Ireland. That is a point which must be settled before we can bring a Bill before this House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, to my surprise, rested his case on the urgency of the question and on the increase of the disease. I cannot agree with him on those points. I have before me the figures respecting the county represented by the hon. Member who made this Motion. I find that in Hunts, in 1892, there were only 81 cases of swine fever, the number of pigs being 18,270, and in the first 23 weeks of this year there were only 25 cases. In Lincolnshire there were 131 cases in the 23 weeks, the number of pigs being 86,409. I have looked with some interest at the figures for the county in which I reside (Hants), where the keeping of pigs is very prevalent. I find that there are 68,404 pigs in the county; that in 1892 there were 871 cases, and that in the first 23 weeks of this year there were only about 156 cases. Therefore, a case which is founded on the supposed great increase of this disease is not a sound case. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Gardner) has said he is desirous of dealing with the matter, but he has put before the House ample reasons why it is impossible, especially before consulting the Irish Department, to give a definite answer as to what will be done. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to me on the question of finance. The statement of the hon. Member who moved the Motion was that at present a great deal of the rates are wasted because the machinery for coping with the disease is not adequate and is not central. He added that he would not be disinclined to assent to an 1497 arrangement by which half of the cost should be borne by the pleuro-pneumonia fund, and the other half by the fund which now bears it, which fund, he thinks, however, would be more advantageously administered. If that be the case, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has little or nothing to say. The hon. Member who made the Motion said the stamping out of swine fever was going to be a more expensive thing than was the stamping out of pleuro-pneumonia. Therefore, I would say that the demand is not only to bring in a Bill to deal with swine fever, but to bring in a supplementary Budget. It is quite certain that out of Imperial funds no such sum was available as would be adequate for this purpose, and fresh taxation would have to be imposed. Now, it is my business, as far as I can, to resist Supplementary Estimates. The Government have with great difficulty made provision for the finance of this year, and if they are to have forced upon them additional expenditure by Supplementary Estimates there must be additional taxation. I, for my part, am not prepared or disposed to propose such additional taxation; and if it is done, it must be done by the House and not by the Government. I find myself confronted with large demands from every quarter. The ports want large sums of money. Well, are you prepared to have another Id. put on the Income Tax? If hon. Members choose to do that I, on my part, will do a great number of things for them. What has Parliament done? It has given to the Local Authorities within the last few years an additional £4,000,000. Has the result been to diminish the demands upon Imperial resources? Not at all. On the contrary, the more that is given the more is raised the cry of the horseleech—"Give, give!" It is perfectly plain that the demands made upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer really amount to this: that the whole local expenditure of this country should be placed upon Imperial taxation. That is the nature and tendency of these demands. However, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, having received an assurance from the hon. Gentleman opposite which I hope may lead to a satisfactory solution of the question, may, without the terrors of the Chancellor of 1498 the Exchequer hanging over him, proceed to settle the matter in a manner which I trust may be satisfactory to the agricultural interest, who deserve and receive the entire sympathy of the Government.
§ * SIR R. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, he had listened with interest, but with great disappointment, to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman understood the position of the farmer generally in this matter, otherwise he would not try to show that it was impossible to relieve him of the difficulties that surrounded him. Whose Committee was this that had reported to the House, and what did the Committee say? The Government appointed the Committee, and its Report to the Government was so clear that no man could misunderstand it. There was absolutely nothing more now asked than that the Government should act on the Report of their own Committee. However the figures might be manipulated, the fact was indisputable, that swine fever was increasing; yet here they had the Government, which had appointed a Committee to advise on the question, saving it was impossible to do anything.
§ * SIR R. PAGET
said, the Government would not listen to the voice of distressed agriculture, but wore ready to resist supplementary Estimates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that was his duty. This was a matter, however, in which the whole of the country was concerned, and he would warn him that a power would be stirred out of doors that would be resistless, for, he repeated, it was the fact that swine fever was steadily increasing.
§ * SIR R. PAGET
said, he would like the Minister of Agriculture to say how it was that they could not follow the precedent set in regard to pleuro-pneumonia. Any remedy in this matter would be welcomed in Ireland or in England. In the pleuro-pneumonia outbreak an estimate was formed of the probable expenditure, and provision was made for that sum. He thought the Government could deal with swine fever in some way analogous to that. The Minister of Agriculture had 1499 suggested this to a deputation the other day.
§ * SIR R. PAGET
said, he was obliged to the Minister for mentioning the matter as he did. It was altogether a question of great urgency. The difficulties of agriculture were enormous, and anything that might tend, in however small a degree, to alleviate those difficulties would be hailed with the greatest satisfaction out of doors. This was the one thing agriculture had been asking for, in view of the Gracious Speech from the Throne. Months were passing away; the state of agriculture was worse than it was in February, and if the Government meant business they would bring in their Bill. They had been treated to words of empty sympathy, but he demanded from the Government an answer "Ay" or "No" to the question—Did they mean business, and, if so, would they bring in a Bill founded on the recommendations of their own Committee?
§ MR. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
It may be said that we ought not to have brought forward a Resolution of this character, but I would point out that the agriculturists of this country are in a very difficult position at the present time. We are confronted with an exceptional position of things; and when we ask the Government to make some definite proposal, we are told by the right hon. Gentleman that not only that he will not, and cannot, move in the matter, but that he has no suggestion to make unless the House directs him to put another 1d. on the Income Tax. Now, I submit that that is not a position which Her Majesty's Government ought in such a case to take up. It may be very easy for some hon. Gentlemen to treat this as a matter of no importance; but if they had visited farms with me upon some recent occasions, and seen the farmers' distress when the Inspectors came and ordered immediate slaughter of the only article of agricultural produce that had been paying during the last few months, they would understand what a disastrous blow this fresh calamity has been for farmers and for the community. It is in the interests of the community that these animals have been slaughtered, by the law of the land, and it is only 1500 common justice that the owners should be compensated, at all events for some portion of their value. It is deplorable that the Minister of Agriculture should have told the House that this is not an urgent matter, and that he should have suggested that Motions of this kind were only brought forward to delay the Business of the House. Unless there is power to compensate, no action can be taken in the autumn or at any time, and we urge upon the Government the necessity for action at the present moment, in order that immediate action may be taken when the time comes. The Government seem to take the view that things are to go on as at present.
§ MR. LONG
But what is going to alter them? Are we to understand that the Government are now ready to act, and to act at once? There is no such thing as half measures in this matter—either the Government are ready to act, or they are not; either they have the power, or they have not. I know that they have not the necessary power. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says he cannot act unless another 1d. is put upon the Income Tax.
§ MR. LONG
We are now only making one demand, and that is an urgent and important one. There are certain Members on the Ministerial side of the House who are very agricultural on occasions, but who, when questions such as this are raised, divest themselves of their agricultural interests, and become only the devoted followers of the Government. I hope the hon. Member behind me will divide the House, and thus give the Government and their followers the opportunity of proving their sincerity. Though it may suit the purpose of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to treat this matter with what I might almost call contempt, the agricultural interest will see through all these shams and devices. [Loud Ministerial cheers and counter-cheers.] There is only one construction to put on that cheer—the Chancellor of the Exchequer considers that this demand was a sham.
§ MR. LONG
Then, does it mean that those who have raised this question today are indulging in a sham and a device? [Renewed Ministerial cheers.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer, then, did mean that they were indulging in a sham device. That meant that it was a sham for the agriculturists to call for compensation under the law. I hope the hon. Member will give us an opportunity of showing in the Division Lobbies what we think of that attitude.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
I would like to know where we are. We have not got any further by the speeches we have heard. What does the Chancellor of the Exchequer propose? He suggests that swine fever should be dealt with under a sort of dual control. It is impossible for the Local Authorities to cope with this question effectually. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no urgency in the matter. With that view I entirely disagree, for two reasons—first, because it is desirable that the Government should follow out the recommendations of their own Committee; and, secondly, because it is also desirable to deal with the matter at a time when there are fewer swine in the country. Are the Government willing to take up the Report of their own Committee, or are they not? If they are not, the sooner the Local Authorities cease spending their money, and leave to the Government the sole responsibility, the better. With regard to Ireland, I have always regretted that the English Board of Agriculture has not the power to deal with the whole matter of pleuro-pneumonia. An Amendment to the 4th clause of the Home Rule Bill might be desirable in that respect; but I will not discuss that now. The declarations of the Government upon the present question seem to amount to this: that they are not prepared to carry out the recommendations contained in the Report of their own Committee, and they must, therefore, take the sole responsibility of doing nothing for the agricultural interests.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 252; Noes 285.—(Division List, No. 155.)