§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
rose to call attention to the introduction of pleuro-pneumonia into the United Kingdom by the importation of foreign cattle affected with that disease in the month of September last, and to move the following Resolution:—That this House is of opinion that, subject to the exemptions contained in Section 2 of the fifth Schedule of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act of 1878, no foreign animal landing in the country should be allowed to leave the wharf alive.He said he claimed for this Motion that it was not open to the objections very often urged against proposals made on these occasions by non-official Members of the House, namely, that their scope was limited, their area restricted, and their proposals indefinitely vague. He believed that, whatever might be the views which Members in various quarters of the House might take of his Motion, no one would deny for a moment that it dealt with a matter of the most vital importance to one of the greatest interests of this country. As the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson) had placed an Amendment on the Paper, it would be necessary 1295 for him (Mr. Macartney) to deal with the conditions under which the importation of foreign cattle into this country had been carried on during the last 40 or 50 years. Since 1846 the importation of foreign cattle had been absolutely free, subject to the restrictions imposed from time to time under legislation authorised by the House of Commons for the purpose of preventing the introduction of disease from foreign countries. The two principal measures under which the importation of foreign cattle had been dealt with were the Acts of 1869 and that of 1878. The Act of 1869 laid down the principle that the importation of foreign cattle should be absoluely free, subject only to certain powers reserved to the Privy Council, enabling that Body to prohibit, either absolutely or partially, the importation of foreign cattle, and also enabling them to order the slaughter of such cattle at certain specified ports. The experience of the working of that Act showed that it was not a sufficient remedy against the importation and spread of contagious diseases amongst animals, and it was followed by the Act of 1878. The last-named Act was an entirely new departure, and constituted an almost complete reversal of the principle on which the Act of 1869 was based. It laid down as its primary principle that all foreign cattle should be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. It reserved to the Privy Council the powers of prohibition given by the Act of 1869, but provided that when any foreign country could show that the laws enforced within its borders respecting the importation and exportation of cattle, and respecting the contagious diseases of animals were sufficient, the Privy Council might allow the importation of live cattle from that country into the United Kingdom. It was the 5th Schedule of the Act of 1878 which governed the question, and it was under these conditions that the trade was now being carried on. He should have to ask the House to consider whether, under these varying restrictions, the object towards which they had been directed had been successfully carried out. He fancied that very few Members who had not made a study of the question or were not interested in agriculture could have any conception of the great destruction of cattle which had been occasioned by 1296 the introduction of pleuro-pneumonia and other contagious diseases. One occasionally saw a small paragraph in the newspapers stating that pleuro-pneumonia had suddenly burst out in one or two districts, but it was difficult to conceive what a vast amount of injury was done in those districts, and probably in a large area outside them, by such outbreaks. During the first 10 years after the passing of the Act of 1869, the average yearly number of fresh outbreaks of pleuro-pneumonia in this country was 2,159. During the 10 years from 1880 to 1889 inclusive, the average number of fresh outbreaks had fallen to 549, and in 1891 the number was 192. What was the effect of these outbreaks in the United Kingdom, as far as the loss of cattle was concerned? From 1890 to 1891 the number of cattle attacked exceeded 78,000, the number killed exceeded 65,000, the number that died of the complaint exceeded 7,000, and, what was more important and significant than all, the number of healthy beasts slaughtered because they had been in contact with diseased cattle exceeded 67,000. Thus in those, 22 years the total loss of cattle in England, Scotland, and Wales exceeded 139,000. The figures for Ireland covered a different period, but he might mention that during the 13 years from 1878 to 1891 inclusive, the number of cattle slaughtered or that died in consequence of outbreaks of pleuro-pneumonia exceeded 25,000. He contended that the mischief and the loss sustained by this country was not to be measured, however, entirely by the number of cattled killed. It was necessary also to bear in mind the amount of compensation that had to be paid by the taxpayers to those who suffered under the provisions for restraining the disease. Only last year a sum of £18,000 had to be spent in compensation for outbreaks of pleuro-pneumouia, which were traced to the importation of two cargoes of Canadian cattle. We sustained a further loss from the impoverishment of our breeding resources, and no inconsiderable loss arose also from the dislocation of trade consequent upon the necessarily uncertain, though temporary, regulations adopted for isolating infected and scheduled districts. In 1888 a very important Departmental Committee sat to consider the question. They declared 1297 that pleuro-pneumonia was an imported, and not an indigenous, disease. Further, they declared that pleuro-pneumonia was an incurable disease, and that the only proper treatment was the preventive treatment. In the third place, they reported that the disease was communicable to living animals through their respiratory organs. Bearing this fact in mind, and remembering, also, that Departmental Committees reported that slaughter had always been successful, he thought the House had now sufficient and ample grounds for forming an opinion as to what should be the next step we should take in order to secure those who were engaged in the cattle trade in this country from further loss from this disease. The only step Parliament was warranted in taking—and it was a step clearly indicated by the experience which had been gained in the administration of the Acts and by the evidence of all the scientific authorities—was to make the slaughter of all foreign animals at the port of debarkation arbitrary and absolute. If that step were not taken Parliament left open one certain road by which the cattle trade of this country would always be exposed to risk of contagion. One of the greatest difficulties in dealing with this disease was the fact that it might be latent for two, two and a-half, three, or even a greater number of months, and all scientific evidence that had been given showed that the closest examinations carried on at the port of debarkation was not sufficient to secure the country against the importation of diseased animals. One or two diseased animals passing through a port might carry into the centre of the country the seeds of an outbreak of disease, which might cost the ratepayers large sums of money and result in the destruction of enormous numbers of cattle. Of course, much had already been done to secure the agricultural interest from this mischief, but it was clear that further restrictions would be the most effectual safeguards against pleuro-pneumonia. He urged the House to consider what objections could be urged against taking a course which experience and scientific authority pointed out as the only effectual one to be adopted in dealing with this disease. It had been said that pleuro-pneumonia had been brought into Great Britain from Ireland 1298 through the medium of Irish store cattle. He did not know what foundation there might have been for this suggestion some years ago, but at the present moment there was very little substance in it. The Departmental Committee of 1888 investigated the question very thoroughly, and reported that the allegations made by the Scotch witnesses on the subject had not been proved conclusively. They pointed out that the Irish cattle going into the Scotch markets might have contracted the disease originally from Scotch beasts with which they were brought into contact. The Committee also said that of late years pleuro-pneumonia had been entirely confined to Dublin and the districts into which Dublin dairy cows were introduced. The Dublin dairy districts had quite recently been placed under the most stringent regulations. A district called "the Dublin Scheduled District" had been formed, and no cattle could be moved outside the district except for slaughter, whilst none could be moved within it except on certificate. Thus the regulations in force in the one district in Ireland in which the Departmental Committee found outbreaks of pleuro-pneumonia to be most frequent were now so stringent that it was almost impossible for any great risk to be incurred by the trans-channel trade between Ireland and Scotland. The statistics connected with the outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia showed that a very considerable decrease had taken place in the disease. For instance, the percentage of diseased cattle amongst those slaughtered through having been in contact with infected animals was in 1888, 28.6, and in 1891 it was only 8.6 per cent. But there was another argument which would conclusively dispose of the assertion that the north-eastern districts of Scotland were infected from Ireland. Almost all the store cattle going across the Channel to the north-eastern districts of Scotland were drawn from the northern part of Ireland. The cattle crossing from Dublin went almost entirely to Liverpool. The number taken across in 1892 amounted to 78,000. The cattle to the south-east of Scotland from the North of Ireland had been declared to be free from pleuro-pneumonia, and the Committee of 1888 had found Bristol and the neighbourhood into which a large number of Irish 1299 cattle were imported comparatively free from the disease. So far as the accusation made against Irish cattle was concerned—whatever might have been the case some years ago, and whatever foundation there might be for it at the present moment—there was no reason to suppose there was any danger in the future. There was another objection, which, if it was true, would undoubtedly be a strong and valid reason for opposing the Motion—namely, that this interference with the importation of foreign cattle would be unfair to the consumer by limiting the supply and, he presumed, in all probability, by enhancing the price of meat. But it would be impossible for the hon. Member for Dundee to lay any figures before the House which could for a moment sustain that argument. The case, to his mind, was perfectly clear the other way. Formerly Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, Portugal, Spain, and France used to import live cattle into this country. This importation was now prohibited, and Returns showed that since the prohibition the supply of meat had increased, whilst the price had diminished. The most significant example of all was the case of the United States. Up to 1879 the United States cattle were imported free to this country. Something over 68,000 head were imported.in 1879, but after the prohibition in 1891 the number of carcases imported was 314,000, showing that the trade had largely increased. As to prices, he found that in the Metropolitan Market in 1871 they ranged from 5¾d. per lb. to 8¾d, whereas in 1891 they had fallen to from 4½d to 7½d. In Glasgow in 1871 the prices were from 6¼d. to 7½d.; in 1891 they were from 4d. to 5¾d. In Liverpool there was an even more extraordinary reduction in prices, for whilst in 1871 they were from 5¼d. to 7d., in 1891 they were from 2¾d. to 5¾d. And at the same time the Returns from the Metropolitan and Deptford Markets showed that the amount of foreign cattle, instead of decreasing under the restrictions, had gone on increasing. In 1872 the number of foreign cattle in these two markets was 108,000; in 1882 it had risen to 157,000, and in 1891 to 168,000. The only grounds, therefore, upon which the Member for Dundee could defend his Amendment to the Motion were swept away by the figures which the official 1300 Returns showed. Clearly the Motion on the Paper was in the interest both of the consumer and the producer. He submitted that neither the hon. Member for West Aberdeen nor the Member for Dundee would be able to deduce a single argument based on general facts and applicable to the whole trade of the country that ought to weigh with hon. Members in inducing them to support the Amendment. Then, he came to consider what was the real object underlying the Amendment. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Dundee was based not upon any general concern for the consumer of the United Kingdom, but in the interest of a small, though, no doubt, important section of the farmers of this country. He should be the last person to deprecate the interests of the farmers of any district in Scotland receiving due attention from the House. But he did say this, that when he looked at the great interests that had been threatened and had been seriously injured in the past, no hon. Member had a right to intervene and prevent that which experience and science declared to be the only practicable step to protect the cattle producer in the United Kingdom, especially when that intervention was only in the interest of a small, though highly intelligent and important section of the agricultural community. If his arguments were to hold good they would have to introduce legislation for every small division of agriculture. But surely they were entitled to deal with the whole question in a broad spirit, and he submitted that so far from it being prejudicial it would be advantageous to the interests of the consumers themselves that every precaution should be taken against one of the most fatal influences that had ever invaded the agriculture of the United Kingdom. The Aberdeen-shire farmers, who desired that there should be no restriction upon the importation of Canadian cattle, were actuated by a natural but selfish motive. The Canadian trade in live stock had, since 1875, increased enormously, and of the 108,000 head imported alive in 1891, Scotland took 54,000, the greater number of which went to Glasgow, to Aberdeen-shire, and to Dundee. Hence the Aberdeen farmers had strong reasons for opposing any restrictions on this trade. He was willing to admit that the Aberdeen- 1301 shire farmers found that Canadian store cattle were more profitable for fattening purposes than English or Irish store cattle were, but he submitted that that House was not bound to give more weight to the interests of Aberdeenshire than they did to those of the general agricultural community. It was a curious fact that the importation of these Canadian cattle into Aberdeenshire and Forfarshire was accompanied by an abnormal amount of pleuro-pneumonia in those districts. In Aberdeenshire there had been five or six outbreaks, and in Forfarshire there had been six outbreaks of disease during the last year. There was, therefore, considerable ground for connecting those outbreaks with the importation of these cattle. This was a significant fact. As long as the importation of Canadian live stock was permitted, and as long as they left a road, he did not care how narrow, for the disease to find its way into this country so long would it be impossible to take any effectual steps in the way of isolation and of stamping out the disease. He trusted that he had been able to justify the Motion he had placed upon the Paper, and that hon. Members on both sides of the House seeing the important bearing it had upon the agricultural interests of the United Kingdom would deal with it upon its merits. He begged to move the Resolution which stood in his name.
§ SIR MARK J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, he had much pleasure and satisfaction in seconding the Resolution. His hon. Friend had dealt with the subject in so comprehensive a manner and had put the House so completely in possession of the main facts that little was left for him to say. He was, however, glad to congratulate the House on the fact that it was approaching the discussion of this subject in a calm and reasonable manner, and not in that spirit of terror and anxiety which characterised the passing of the Act of 1877. There was at the present time in this country comparative immunity from pleuro-pneumonia, thanks to the action of the right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire and to the right hon. Gentleman who acted as Minister for Agriculture, and Members on his side of the House were certainly prepared to endorse and thank them for 1302 the policy which had been pursued. There could be no doubt that there had been an unfortunate outbreak of cattle disease in Aberdeenshire last year, although there was a dispute as to whether it was pleuro-pneumonia or not. When doctors differed it was difficult for an ordinary individual to arrive at a right conclusion, but the Board of Agriculture were fully convinced that it was that disease, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman opposite could not do otherwise than follow the course of his Predecessor in Office. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire had referred to the fact that the farmers of Aberdeenshire had proved Canadian cattle to be the most profitable for fattening purposes. But his own opinion was that there was so little difference between Canadian, Irish, and Scotch store stock, that it did not justify the risk which the importation from Canada involved. He believed, too, that the Scotch and Irish animals were more early matured than Canadian, and produced better meat. Aberdeenshire farmers had always been noted for sending the best meat to Islington, and they gained that character long before Canadian stock was imported. In his opinion the restriction upon the importation of those cattle would be of the greatest service to the consumer, especially in view of the enormous increase in the dead meat trade from New Zealand and elsewhere. It had been proved over and over again, and for the last 20 years, that consumers did not lose by these restrictions. In 1877 the Radical Party asserted that the effect of passing the Bill brought in that year would be to raise the prices, but instead of that prices had been dropping, and would continue to do so. Only the previous day a steamer capable of carrying 1,000 carcases was launched in the interests of the New Zealand frozen meat trade, and there was, therefore, no fear of the consumer suffering. On the contrary; the imposition of restrictions calculated to prevent the disease breaking out would benefit the consumer and the farmer alike, and would help agriculture to rally from the depression under which it was now suffering. The benefit to the farmers of the country arising out of the restriction of the import of live stock might be estimated when he told the House that during the last few years 1303 139,000 cattle had been compulsorily slaughtered in consequence of the prevalence of cattle disease imported from abroad, while the taxpayer had had to pay between £17,000 and £18,000 per annum for stamping out the disease. In the face of testimony like that, they ought to be careful as to the policy they adopted. There were, they were told, three ways of dealing with the disease: First, there was isolation; then inoculation, and as to that he would point out that inoculation for the purpose of preventing the spread of the disease was practically useless owing to the length of time that was required for it to become effective—i.e., three months. The third point was the strongest of all—namely, slaughter. A Committee which had fully considered this subject had reported in favour of cattle being slaughtered at the port of debarkation, and the object of this Motion was to put in practice that recommendation. If the House adopted it as the main-sheet of its policy, it would, at any rate, have passed one good Resolution this year. Pleuro-pneumonia was a foreign disease; it was incurable, and it was communicable by contact and through the respiratory organs of other animals. The Netherlands had been free from the disease since they adopted the policy of slaughter. Prior to 1885 their herds and flocks were simply decimated by it. As to Ireland, he could corroborate from personal experience what his hon. Friend had said upon that point. At the time of the Commission of 1878 nearly every Scotch farmer stated that the disease came from Ireland. He was, however, informed by the Member for Tewkesbury that during the last 14 years no pleuro-pneumonia had been imported from Ireland, notwithstanding that Bristol was the second largest port in respect of the importation of Irish cattle. That showed that the Irish farmers were taking more trouble and pains to keep their herds healthy, and it was one of the results of the action of the Local Authorities in working heartily with the Privy Council in its efforts to stamp out disease. He hoped the Minister for Agriculture would remember that this disease was of foreign origin. If it were stamped out by slaughter at the port of debarkation, they had done with it; but if it were allowed to get into a central district, it would spread all over the 1304 country, and then their restrictions by Act of Parliament would be found to be futile for the purpose of getting rid of it.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House is of opinion that, subject to the exemptions contained in Section 2 of the fifth Schedule of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act of 1878, no Foreign animal landing in the country should be allowed to leave the wharf alive."—(Mr. Macartney.)
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir RIGBY,) Forfar.
I desire to intervene in this Debate at this moment, not that I lack sympathy with the object of the Mover of the Resolution, but rather in order to point out to the House that the Resolution proposes to do nothing more nor less than to repeal an Act of Parliament. I express no opinion on the merits of the Motion. I simply warn the House what is its purport. Indeed, I am inclined to think the hon. Member's scheme may be a very fit subject for discussion by the House. What he asks is that, subject to certain exceptions contained in the 2nd section of the 5th Schedule of the Contagious Diseases Animals Act, 1878, no foreign animal landed in this country shall be allowed to leave the wharf alive. The exceptions are very narrow; they are limited to animals intended for exhibition and for other exceptional purposes, and in these cases they are subjected to quarantine. It is perfectly plain, from the further provisions of the Act, that if the Privy Council (which Body is now represented by the Board of Agriculture) is reasonably satisfied that the introduction of foreign animals will not produce disease, then their introduction "shall" be allowed independently of the 1st clause; that is to say, the most responsible question is left to the Board of Agriculture to decide. They have to say upon the facts before them whether they are reasonably satisfied that there is no danger, and if they so find they must admit the animals. It is a question of fact. No Resolution of the House can properly over-ride an Act of Parliament. If there is danger, and if the Board so find, their duty is plain, and they must not allow the introduction of the animals; but, if there is no reasonable danger, the Board are ordered by the Act of Parliament to permit their introduction. I repeat that I have nothing to say as to the 1305 merits on one side or the other. I only wish to call attention to the existing state of things, and to point out that the Act of Parliament is clear upon the point.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
remarked that no one in the House was half so much indebted to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General as he himself was. He had just conclusively shown what no one before doubted—that, when an Act of Parliament contained the word "shall," it left no option to the Minister who was to carry it out. Yet every candidate who had been sent down to Deptford in the Radical interest had told his constituents that the word was entirely permissive, as they would find out if they changed their Representative. It had also been asserted that when the animals were excluded from Deptford it was because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford was an inveterate Protectionist; and that if he were replaced by another and more eminent gentleman, they would find that the Minister for Agriculture would construe the word entirely as he pleased. He had spent a good deal of time in trying to convince people that the word "shall," whether in or out of an Act of Parliament, could have but one meaning, and he would, in future, cite the hon. and learned Gentleman as an authority in support of that view. He only wished that Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice had been acquainted with that opinion when he was contesting Deptford a few months ago. Still, the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman would be of great use in the constituency of Deptford on all future occasions. His interest in the question was purely local and personal. The hon. Member who had brought the question forward had reproached the Scotch for one of their chief virtues—their selfishness. The hon. Member had regretted that the Scotch were selfish. He might as well have regretted that the Scotch were Scotch. The Scotch did not take a Canadian or a South American view of this matter—they took a Scotch view of it, and the people of Deptford, for whom he was concerned, took mutatis mutandis a Scotch view of it also. The people of Deptford took the view of it that they had been carrying on a lucrative business before they were interfered with by 1306 Ministers of Agriculture, all of whom they placed in the same bad category. The people of Deptford had been accustomed for years, until the Act of 1884 was passed, to carry on the business of killing cattle in their markets, and the people of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe turned the hides and bones of the cattle into useful articles. These industries had been interfered with it was alleged simply because the agriculturist desired protection not against disease, but against the fall of prices in the home markets. Parliament, as the Solicitor General had truly said, had passed an Act which gave the agriculturist that protection, and the Solicitor General was shocked—in fact, he had never seen anyone more horrified — at the notion of repealing an Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman was like our ancestors—he was unwilling to change the laws of England. He reminded him (Mr. Darling) of King John at Runnymede. He only wished that the Solicitor General was surrounded by hon. Members who shared his sentiments. The Motion which he supported desired to repeal not one Act, but two Acts of Parliament—it desired to repeal the Acts of 1878 and 1884. So lost to all sense of shame was this Motion that it went the length of desiring to turn the word "shall" into "may." It desired to give the Minister of Agriculture an option. The aim of the present Government seemed to be to give everyone an option, and why should not the Minister of Agriculture have an option as well as the rest? He had frequently brought before the House a modest proposal to change the word "shall" in the Act of 1884. into "may"; but this Motion went much further, for it proposed that no foreign cattle should leave the wharf alive, and the slaughter of the cattle at the wharf admirably suited the end he had in view. How did the matter stand at present? Until the Act of 1884 the common practice under the Act of 1878 was to allow animals coming from infected countries to be landed at places where preparations had been made for their reception.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. H. GARDNER,) Essex, Saffron Walden
pointed out that the Motion before the House dealt only with pleuro-pneumonia.
§ MR. DARLING
said, he would show the right hon. Gentleman that the Motion was of a much wider scope. It referred generally to "foreign cattle," and not only to foreign cattle affected with pleuro-pneumonia. Whether the cattle were infected, or whether they were not, the Motion declared that they should be slaughtered at the wharfs.
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, that if the hon. Member referred to a clause in the Act of 1884, he would find that what he had said was strictly accurate—that the Privy Council, for which the Board of Agriculture had been substituted— might, if they were satisfied, allow these animals to be introduced into the country.
§ MR. DARLING
said, he knew that that exactly was the law, and it was that law he desired to repeal. He had said that this question was to him a local one, but it was no more local in that respect than it was when viewed as affecting the agricultural interest, for after all the agricultural interest was an interest affecting a number of individuals. The interest of his constituents in this matter was a similar interest. A huge Metropolitan Market had been set up at Deptford by the City of London, at a great cost, and provided with every kind of appliance for preventing the spread of disease. The policy of Parliament at that time was that animals from infected countries should be allowed to land on the condition that they should be instantly slaughtered, and not allowed to go alive into the country. There congregated round the market at Deptford many hundreds of people who got their living directly by the slaughter of these animals, and there also grew up a number of subsidiary industries depending upon the skins and other portions of the animals killed in the market, which employed hundreds of people. The Act of 1884 was passed by Parliament, and it was first put into operation, owing to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease abroad, by the Minister of Agriculture in the late Government, and it had been continued in operation, in every particular, by the present occupant of the office. What was the consequence? The purpose for which the Deptford Market had been established was now a thing of the past. The old policy had been altered by Act of Parliament, and the Solicitor 1308 General was horrified because he desired to repeal that Act of Parliament. But really one would go that length when the lives and fortunes of his constituents were at stake. The industries to which he had referred had also languished. The thousands of pounds which used to go to Deptford, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, and Greenwich did not go there now. The market was not carried on because the animals were not brought there. There had hardly been a sheep in the market for years, though a certain amount of cattle still went there, but the number was nothing like what used to go there before the Act of 1884 was passed. These facts were perfectly well-known to the House. They were perfectly well-known to the Minister of Agriculture, because one of the right hon. Gentleman's first acts, after taking Office, was to receive a deputation from the South-East of London representing all shades of political opinion, which pressed him, in the interest of the whole South-East of London, to repeal the Act of 1884, or that, at all events, he should allow the importation of cattle from the various countries from which he had prohibited importation. The right hon. Gentleman had been placed in possession of the case of these people, and of the hardship to which they had been subjected by reason in the change of the policy of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had explained to the deputation that he had no option in the matter but to carry out the law. Would he welcome a change in the law? Would he either have the word "shall" in the Act changed into "may," or would he agree to the second part of the Motion, that no imported animal should be allowed to leave the market in London alive? If the right hon. Gentleman agreed to that, he would perhaps win the Deptford seat for his Party, among other minor advantages. No animals coming from countries in which there was the slightest chance of infection were allowed to go out of the markets alive, for this Act of Parliament was applied not only to countries affected with pleuro-pneumonia, but was applied also to countries in which, in the opinion of the Board of Agriculture, the laws relating to cattle were unsatisfactory. In fact, the prohibition extended to so many instances that really it would be better to have a hard-and-fast law prohibiting live 1309 animals from going alive about the country at all. The question was really a question between absolute prohibition and having dead meat in the country for the benefit of the consumer. It had been said that to prevent, in the interest of agriculture, foreign cattle from coming into the country would be an injustice to the consumer. His constituents were unwilling that that injustice should be done to the consumer; they were perfectly willing that the consumer should have his dinner from abroad. If the prohibition was given up in favour of the landing and slaughter of cattle at places like Deptford, then the smaller difficulty about the consumer would be got over. What was the case against Deptford? It was simply this: that some years ago a case of foot-and-mouth disease got away from the Deptford Market, and affected animals in London and the rest of England. There was only the very slightest evidence in support of that case. In the Veterinary Report the experts, in a couple of lines, gave it as their opinion that the animal which had caused foot-and-mouth disease had arrived at Deptford, and had got away from there. But the amount of evidence in support of that statement was very slight. It had failed to convince a large number of persons, and he had constantly heard it said by political allies of the Minister of Agriculture that it only convinced his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in the late Government (Mr. Chaplin) because he had been already half-convinced as a Protectionist. Under these circumstances, he trusted that he would not be alone amongst Members of the Metropolis in supporting the Motion; and if the Motion, in addition to doing good to hardly-pressed industries of the Metropolis, and to hardly-pressed people engaged in them, did also do some good to agriculturists and stock raisers, would it not, he asked, be better than following the maxims of a too prudish political economy?
DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said that, however selfish the Scotch might be in a general way, that did not affect the question now under consideration. He, at least, was sufficiently patriotic to give his adhesion to the Mover of the Motion in his desire to exclude disease from the flocks and herds of the country They had already 1310 succeeded in stamping out the cattle plague, and he believed that the foot-and-mouth disease was already a thing of the past, and he quite agreed with the Mover of the Motion as to the great destruction caused to the flocks and herds—the great expense and money and inconvenience which had come upon the agricultural community, by the recurrence of attacks of pleuro-pneumonia throughout the country. He also agreed with the Mover of the Motion that pleuro-pneumonia was purely an exotic disease. It had no power to spring up spontaneously in this country; and if they could stamp it out at once, and if they could draw an effective cordon round the disease, there was no reason why the country should not be always free from the scourge. He wished to give his cordial support and concurrence to the way in which the Board of Agriculture, under the late and under the present Administrations, had carried out its functions with regard to stamping out this disease. The Board had a policy which was coherent, cohesive, firm, consistent, and which in every way was a great improvement on the old system. He would like to ask whether it would not have been better, before the recent Regulations of the Board of Agriculture dealing with this disease had been put into operation, to have carried out some kind of scientific investigation, by inoculation of cattle or by contact, by which it would have been discovered whether the disease was really pleuro-pneumonia or not? Probably, before the discussion terminated, the Minister of Agriculture would tell the House what truth there was in the rumours circulated lately that an inquiry instituted by the Canadian Government had found that Canada was, and had been for a good many years, entirely free from this very infectious disease. It was worth considering, therefore, whether it was, not better for agriculturists to take the chance of a little disease coming in from abroad than to be shut out altogether from the introduction of store cattle, from which at the present time they were deriving great benefits. He would also like to ask whether this Motion was not, after all, a mode of protection for a particular form of home industry—a mode of protection which had been entirely negatived 1311 by the exhaustive inquiry of the Select Committee in 1873? The Scotch Members had been told that they were selfish in their policy of bringing forward the views which in this matter their constituents desired them to bring forward. He supposed they were all selfish, more or less. Every Member almost was sent to the House to advocate a special and individual interest, and what the Government had to do when they had the bulk of the evidence before them was to consider what was best, to be done for the advantage of the country at large. The importation of cattle to the North of Scotland was a young industry. He was bound to say that it had been originally established on account of the great inconvenience and loss which the farmers of Aberdeen-shire and the North of Scotland had suffered by the spreading of disease by Irish cattle; but he was quite prepared to accept the statement that, owing to better regulations and sanitary conditions, Ireland was now freer from cattle disease than it used to be. The House would hardly credit the great extent of the importation of Canadian cattle to the North of Scotland. The trade began in 1887, with only 700 cattle; but in 1890 the importation had risen to 20,000 head of cattle. Dundee and Newcastle followed in the trade, and in one year 183,000 head of Canadian cattle were introduced into the country. The animals were well-bred, and came from a climate which was specially suited to their growing and thriving in Scotland. The business paid the farmers well. He was bound to say that he had always regretted the small farmers in Aberdeen-shire and the North generally did not breed more store cattle. They were told that these Canadian cattle lowered the quality of Aberdeen-shire beef. There was no doubt that the highest quality of beef in Aberdeen-shire was fed up from the best stock; but, in his opinion, if the Canadian store cattle fed in Aberdeen-shire were fairly well-bred and well-handled they would run the first-class beef in the London market very closely indeed. The only effect of excluding them would be to increase the competition from abroad. There was no doubt that a great many of our home-fed animals were now very much affected with tuberculosis, which he feared had now got a very firm hold on cattle in the 1312 country. It had been suggested—and the suggestion was not a bad one—that if their breeders were to breed from clean Canadian animals, coming from a country where there was not and never had been any tuberculosis, and where, he believed, there was no pleuro-pneumonia, they would introduce into their flocks and herds fresh blood, which might go a considerable way towards eradicating tuberculosis. He hoped the House would reject the Motion. He did not propose to move the Amendment on the Paper, but merely to move a simple negative to the Motion before the House. He believed that the Motion, if carried, would raise the price of animal food to the people of the country, lower the quality of beef, and hamper seriously, and depress still more, a greatly depressed industry.
§ MR. J. LENG (Dundee)
said, he would like to know the real motive for the submission of this very drastic Motion. It had been admitted that for years the cattle in Ireland were suspected of having introduced pleuro-pneumonia into Great Britain. What would have been thought if, on the first occasion that such an outbreak occurred, it had been proposed that no Irish cattle landed at Liverpool or Glasgow should be allowed to leave the wharf alive? The hon. Member for South Antrim had spoken as if there had been several outbreaks of pleuro-pneumonia last September, whereas there had only been two such outbreaks, which originated with two cargoes of Canadian cattle. To the present moment it was a disputable question whether it was pleuro-pneumonia or not on those occasions. He admitted that the Board of Agriculture had emphatically declared that it was pleuro-pneumonia, but that conclusion had been disputed. Without entering into controversial matter, he thought there was some cause to complain that the Board of Agriculture was not willing to submit to the scientific tests to which the hon. Member for West Aberdeen-shire had alluded. The hon. Mover had attributed the views of Scotch Members on this matter to local considerations, but he thought the retort might be made that the solicitude of the hon. Member for the health of cattle in Scotland was attributable to his desire that Canadian cattle should not come in conflict with the trade in Irish cattle. 1313 The healthiest cattle in Scotland were those brought from Canada. They benefited by the sea voyage; they weighed more, and were in better condition on their arrival in this country than when they were placed on board ship at Montreal. If they asked 99 out of 100 Scotch agriculturists what their experience was, they would declare that these Canadian cattle, the moment they were put into the field, had a good appetite, fattened rapidly, and could be sent to market sooner and in a better condition than a corresponding number of Irish cattle. Not only for feeding purposes, but for breeding purposes they were most useful. It was found that it led to an improvement of the stock to cross with these Canadian cattle. In these times, when they heard so much of agricultural depression and of dulness of trade, it was somewhat remarkable that the hand raised to deal a blow against an important branch of agriculture in Scotland was the hand of hon. Gentlemen on the other side. He would like to point out to them that it was not simply a question of the cattle feeders; there were landed proprietors in Forfarshire and the adjacent counties who had spent large sums in this direction. Besides, if they stopped this branch of business they would seriously affect a large number of people and diminish their means of occupation. Then, as his hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen-shire had said, they would not, by adopting this Resolution, really affect the supply of meat coming to their markets. The vessels which now brought live animals would in future bring cargoes of dead meat. But they would have destroyed an important branch of Scottish agriculture and Scottish enterprise, and an important branch of shipping would also be interfered with, for steamers had been specially built for the purpose, each costing £50,000. They were going to do all this in the interest of what was undoubtedly a revival of Protection. The men of the South were benighted on this question; they should look to the men of light and leading in the North. He was an Englishman, but he had lived 42 years in Scotland, and had learned during that time to admire the intelligence of the Scotch people. Why should they fetter them? He would warn hon. Members not to pursue 1314 that course. Even if they were temporarily to succeed, they would find that the intelligence and enterprise of Scotland would ultimately vanquish them. If they should adopt this extraordinary Resolution, they would be doing injury and mischief to a class of deserving and intelligent men, and he cordially seconded the Amendment.
§ MR. W. WHITELAW (Perth)
said, he held that this question was one of vital importance to the farmers and cattle dealers of the North and North-Eastern Counties of Scotland, and he did not apologise for raising his voice against the Resolution. Scotch farmers and Scotch capitalists last September stated that there was no convincing evidence that pleuro-pneumonia existed in Canada, or that cattle which were said to be suffering from the disease were in reality suffering from it. But they all admitted at once that when the Board of Agriculture called in certain veterinary advisers, and those advisers unanimously declared that certain cattle were suffering from a certain disease, the Board had no option but to prohibit the importation of such cattle. They did not complain of the steps taken by the Board last September, but they claimed that time had proved that pleuro-pneumonia did not exist in Canada. He believed that the Canadian authorities communicated with the authorities of this country, and requested them to join in an inquiry into the health of the Canadian cattle; but the authorities here did not see their way to joining them, and consequently the Canadian Government had had to make the inquiry themselves, and a Report had been laid before the Canadian Parliament declaring that there had not been a case of pleuro-pneumonia in the Dominion for several years past. Therefore, there was no ground for the fears that had been expressed with regard to the danger incurred here by the importation of Canadian cattle. But there was one other possibility which had been pointed out. The President of the Board of Agriculture had said that, although there might be no pleuro-pneumonia in Canada itself, it was quite possible that cattle were being imported into Canada from an infected area; but owing to the restrictions which had been imposed upon that importation, it was impossible that diseased cattle could pass through her 1315 territory. Canada was now protected on all sides by a stringent Regulation which would prevent effectually the importation of cattle into Canada from infected areas. The Scotch cattle dealers and farmers demanded that the restriction should be taken off, for several reasons. They held that pleuro-pneumonia did not exist in Canada; and, further in Scotland they could not do without Canadian cattle, both for feeding and for breeding purposes. He was aware that English cattle breeders were of opinion that the importation of Canadian cattle was detrimental to their trade, but, on the other hand, Scotch breeders asserted that there was no better cross for breeding purposes than Canadian cattle. They held that the most dangerous of all cattle to import into Scotland were those from Yorkshire and from Ireland. He denied that this agitation in favour of the unrestricted importation of Canadian cattle had been got up by a few dealers, and by auctioneers and shipowners, and assured the House that it was the Scotch farmers themselves who were in favour of the abolition of all restrictions upon the trade. He sincerely hoped the House would reject the Resolution, and that the Government would shortly remove the restrictions altogether.
§ MR. HERBERT GARDNER
Before I answer some of the speeches made this evening, I should like, in the first place, to say that I recognise that agriculture has been for some years suffering from depression, and that that depression is probably accentuated and sharper at the present moment than it has been heretofore. But in that depression there has always been one bright spot, and that has been the healthiness, and the increasing healthiness, of our flocks and herds. The Mover of the Motion has already pointed out the great decrease there has been in the number of outbreaks of disease in this country since what I regard as beneficial legislation was first, passed by this House in 1878. I think no one can deny the exceeding benefit that these Acts have been to the agricultural classes generally, nor that they have saved very probably millions of money by their beneficial operation. That being the case, I am the very last man in the world to deny that; whilst it is at all times of the greatest importance that the Government 1316 of the day should exercise the utmost caution in order to guard our flocks and herds from disease, whether native or imported, at the present moment they are doubly bound not to relax by one jot or tittle their efforts in this direction, but to do everything in their power to prevent the importation of disease from abroad. Having said so much, it is my duty to consider very closely, and to invite the House to consider, what the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman really means. There certainly seems to have been some doubt in the House on the subject, because I find that the hon. and learned Member for Deptford is absolutely going to vote in favour of the Resolution, because he considers it will facilitate the importation of foreign animals at Deptford. I should like to know whether that is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford, who lately presided over the Department I have the honour to represent, and who, I understand, is going to vote for this Resolution. As I read the Resolution, there is no reference to foot-and-mouth disease, and I think the Member for Sleaford would be the last person in the world to agree with the hon. and learned Member for Deptford that it would be to the advantage of this country that animals coming from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is suspected to exist, or does exist, should be allowed to land at Deptford and he slaughtered at that port. I should like to know if that is the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the Resolution? The right hon. Gentleman knows that by the Act of 1884, in the case of foot-and-mouth disease, it is distinctly laid down that no animals coming from countries infected, or reasonably suspected of being infected with the foot-and-mouth disease, shall be allowed to be imported to this country, and certainly not brought here to be slaughtered at the ports, but the hon. Member for Deptford seems to think that the effect of the Resolution will be to allow that to be done. When the House examines the Resolution closely, I think they will find it is a most drastic and stringent measure. The hon. Gentleman is not content with the law as it stands. He is not satisfied to leave the matter to the limited and definite discretion of the President of the Board of Agriculture for the time being; he is not content to know that 1317 when disease exists in another country, or when there is reasonable suspicion that it may be imported from that country, the Act, as it stands, absolutely compels the Minister to prohibit the importation of cattle from that country. I think the present system as it exists has certainly been a sensible system. It is a system which can be modified as the circumstances and interests of this country demand, and it is certainly a system which we all ought to support. But the hon. Gentleman opposite does not like the system. He wants to prohibit for ever all foreign importation from whatever country, whether it is suspected of disease or not, and to enact that we are to draw a sort of brazen wall of Protection round our coasts, and without any appeal, except by the somewhat laborious process of Acts of Parliament, to deprive our farmers for all time of the benefit they may derive from the free importation of cattle from foreign countries. I think the House will perceive that is a very serious proposition, and one which ought to be very carefully considered. This is not the first time that this especial proposition has been brought before the House and decided. The proposition of the Member for South Antrim, with a very small exception, was practically the proposal of the Government in their Bill which they brought in in 1878. That Bill was brought in by a Conservative Ministry and supported by a Conservative majority. It was introduced into the House of Lords by the Duke of Richmond, who was then Lord President of the Council. The Bill was referred to a Select Committee, and when that Committee examined witnesses and experts brought before it they decided at once that with regard to North America discretion should be left to the Privy Council.
§ MR. GARDNER
The Select Committee appointed by the House of Lords to consider the Bill of 1878. This measure of 1878 came down to this House and was debated for four nights; and on going into Committee Sir Selwin Ibbetson, who was the Member of the Conservative Party in charge of the Bill, proposed on behalf of the Government that several European countries free from disease should also, as well as North 1318 America, be left to the discretion of the Privy Council. What happened then? On going into Committee my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir H. James) moved. a proviso to Clause 1 to the effect that no Order of the Privy Council should be valid if its operation should be inconsistent with the obligations existing under any commercial Treaty for the time being. This raised a very long Debate in the House, and the subject most prominently brought before the House was what is known as the Most Favoured Nation Clause, the object being to show it was not justifiable to differentiate by Statute in the manner proposed, such action being an infraction of our Treaty obligations. Eventually the Conservative Government gave way all along the line, and the Bill of 1878 was framed on the lines on which we at the present moment administer these Acts. The House will thus see that this is not the first time this subject has been brought forward. When it was brought forward in 1878, with all the authority of the Conservative Party and backed by a Conservative majority, Parliament in its wisdom declared the course proposed to be undesirable, and unhesitatingly condemned it. I want to know from the Mover of the Resolution what has happened since that decision was arrived at by a Conservative Government to make it necessary or expedient that we should alter the law as it was then ordained, and has existed during all this time? I want to ask him and his friends who support him why the present moment and this special time is the psychological moment for bringing it forward?
§ MR. GARDNER
I can hardly think seriously the hon. Gentleman waited until the four diseased animals had come from Canada, and restrictions have been put on in that case. He has sat in the House for the last six years, during the whole of which time his political friends (the Conservatives) have been in power, and why did he never urge this proposition, so beneficial and so desirable in his opinion, when his own friends were in power, and when he would have had an opportunity of carrying it into effect? I am bound to draw only one conclusion from 1319 that fact, and that is, the Resolution is meant to be a censure on the conduct of the Agricultural Department during the short, time I have been in office.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but my reason for bringing on the Resolution was in consequence of the Resolution arrived at by the Royal Agricultural Society of England embodying the opinions of the agriculturists.
§ MR. GARDNER
I should like to ask the Royal Agricultural Society and the Central Chamber of Agriculture why this is the psychological moment and why they did not bring it forward during the last six years? I can explain it on very high authority. The reason is that so long as a Conservative Government is in power these gentlemen think the interests of agriculture are perfectly safe. [Opposition cheers.] I thought I should elicit that cheer, and I may say they had very high authority for that cheer and opinion, because in the Debates in the House of Lords in 1878 Lord Salisbury said—They must have a fixed policy. They all had confidence in his noble Friend the Lord President of the Privy Council, and if they could pass an Act of Parliament that he should live for ever, and hold Office for ever, no doubt all would be right, and there would be no necessity for their enacting a fixed policy. But since they could insert neither of these provisions they must take precautions that their policy must not be the caprice of the Executive Government in power.That was the policy of the Conservative Party at that time and is at the present time. If the House of Commons could pass an Act that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford should have a perennial existence—which I and all his friends in this House wish he could have, and could remain a sort of perpetual Pope of Agriculture, why then, Sir, I do not suppose there would be any question of Resolutions being brought forward. But, however much that may be the opinion of the Party opposite on that question, that is not our opinion, and I do not think it is the opinion, of the country generally. But, Sir, I do not think the hon. Gentleman opposite has quite studied the law as it stands. By the present Act you have what Lord Salisbury said he desired—a fixed policy. If hon. Members take the trouble to read the Act they will find, as 1320 the Attorney General pointed out, that it is compulsory and not permissive on the Board of Agriculture. I always held that was what this Act meant; and when the Canadian business arose last autumn, I took the opinion of the highest legal authorities in the laud, and they arrived at the conclusion that it was compulsory on the President of the Board of Agriculture, by the Act, to impose restriction in regard to cattle when he felt any reasonable suspicion existed that disease was prevalent in the country from which they were imported. It would, therefore, be very hard for anyone in responsible office at the Board of Agriculture to alter the policy or not to enforce the restriction when it became necessary to do so, and I do not think the hon. Member opposite need be under any fear either as to the fixity or continuity of what I hold to be the beneficial operation of the Act in regard to preventing disease in our flocks and herds. It has been said that the Member for South Antrim brought forward this Resolution in the interests of Ireland. I do not believe that for a single moment, and for this reason: the hon. Gentleman knows as well as we do that Ireland was specially exempted in that Act of 1878. We do not look upon Ireland as a foreign country, and we do believe it to be part of the United Kingdom. That being the case, I do not see what reason there is for the hon. Gentleman to suspect that there is any question of Ireland being concerned in the matter, because whatever happens I hope we shall always consider that Ireland shall be treated in the same way. Now, Sir, with regard to the cost which has been alluded to by the Mover of the Resolution. He tried to make out that the cost of this special business, with regard to pleuro-pneumonia and other attacks, was so great that this House ought to adopt this measure in order to protect the impoverished taxpayer being mulcted in an enormous manner, as he was likely to be. In the first place, I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that his estimate of the cost of that particular matter is entirely wrong. It is perfectly true that £21,285 was the original sum paid for compensation, but the hon. Gentleman forgets that from salvage we received a sum of £8,860, so that the real cost of the outbreak amounted to the sum of £12,630. I 1321 understand the hon. Gentleman to say what an enormous sum this is to pay for four animals, and that, practically, the country is asked to pay £3,000 apiece for four animals imported from Canada. That is not the state of the case at all. The hon. Gentleman must look back to what has happened in the past—to the number of animals which have been imported into this country without pleuro-pneumonia at all. The hon. Gentleman said that pleuro-pneumonia was not indigenous, but had been imported. Will he be surprised to learn that, with the exception of these four cases, not one single case of pleuro-pneumonia which has occurred since the Board of Agriculture has taken over the duties of the Privy Council has ever been traced to an imported animal? The four cases to which he alluded were the only cases which have occurred. Therefore, that is not the proper way of looking at it, and you ought to distribute that sum of £12,000 over all the animals imported into this country for the benefit of this country for the last 10 or 12 years. We have had 821,325 cattle imported from Canada into this country, without one single case of pleuro-pneumonia until the other day; and if you divide the £12,000 among all these cattle, I do not think it comes to a very large sum, so that I say the argument of the hon. Gentleman as regards that falls to the ground. There is one argument which I wish to use before I sit down, and I know when I do state it I shall be met with laughter, and probably denial, by hon. Gentlemen opposite. This Resolution, Sir, is a protective measure, and we in this country are Free Traders, and we mean to remain a Free Trade country. No one in his senses can surely deny that the total prohibition of the entry of live cattle from foreign countries must be a measure of protective tendency. It may be what the Americans call incidental Protection; but whether you call it incidental Protection, or whether Protection pure and simple, it is obviously a measure which in its direction is opposed to Free Trade. Moreover, it is also opposed to the best interests of Protection, because, by letting in the dead meat, as you propose to do, and excluding the store cattle, as you propose to do, you are practically encouraging the admission of the manu- 1322 factured article—that is, the dead meat—and you are excluding the raw material—that is, the store cattle—which the graziers of England, Scotland, and elsewhere are anxious to work up into the manufactured article. So long as I hold the office which I do at the present moment, I am determined to do my utmost to protect the flocks and herds from the importation of disease; but I am equally determined to oppose any measure which in any form deprives the people of this country from the benefits of competition, whether in their own country or abroad. I should like to say one word on Canada, and I will say it very briefly. The House knows that during last autumn it was the misfortune of the Government to be obliged to prohibit the landing of live cattle from Canada. We arrived at that conclusion after much consideration, and on the authoritative and unanimous opinion of the best veterinary authorities of the day; and, Sir, when we did so, we did so with the utmost regret. We shall welcome the first opportunity that occurs to us of taking off these restrictions with regard to Canada. But, Sir, what does the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman mean? If it is not a protective measure, if it is not a censure on my Department, what is it? It is aimed at Canada, and Canada alone. It is quite obvious that at the present moment there is only one country, and that is Canada, with regard to which there would be any opportunity of taking off the restrictions. In Europe foot-and-mouth disease is prevalent; in the United States constant cases of pleuro-pneumonia render it impossible for us to allow them to send cattle here. But in regard to Canada, if we are thoroughly assured that that country is free from disease, and adopting proper measures for preventing the introduction of disease, we should gladly welcome the opportunity of taking off the restrictions. That does not seem to be the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite. This Resolution is aimed at Canada, and Canada alone. That is an unfortunate point. Canada is one of our most loyal colonies; this trade is of the utmost importance to Canada, and of the greatest advantage to Scotland; and if the Resolution does not mean what I say, hon. Gentlemen can have brought it forward for one purpose, and one purpose 1323 alone—and that is, to prevent the taking off the restrictions as regards Canada when the time arrives. I think this is an unfortunate Motion to have been brought forward by the Conservative Party, and to be supported officially by the Conservative Front Bench. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think, I believe, that they are very soon about to return to Office. I do not offer any opinion on that subject, and all I can say is this: that if this Resolution be directed against Canada, and Canada alone, I do not envy their Colonial Minister, whoever he may be. I think I have shown the House that this Resolution is objectionable and inopportune, and I strongly hope it will be rejected by a large majority.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Mr. Speaker, at the risk of being taken for a benighted Southerner by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, I am afraid it will be my duty to support the Motion which the Member for Antrim has submitted with so much ability to the House. And, in the first place, I should like to be allowed to say that so far from regarding this as a Motion of Censure upon the administration of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gardner), I do not think there is a single gentleman, on this side of the House, at all events, and I doubt whether there is on that, except the right hon. Gentleman himself, into whose head the idea could have entered for a single moment. If the right hon. Gentleman had been Minister of Agriculture for the Dominion of Canada the speech to which the House had just listened would have been appropriate in the extreme; but the right hon. Gentleman appeared to forget that charity begins at home. He says this is a protective Motion. It is a protective Motion in the same sense that vaccination is a protection against disease, and I trust the House will be unanimous in its opinion upon that point. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to place my interpretation upon the Motion, and he asked whether we agree with the hon. Member for Deptford. That hon. Gentleman was speaking in the interests of his own constituency; and as Deptford was one of the ports of debarkation, it must greatly benefit by the passing of the Motion. The law presumes that no imported animal shall leave the wharf alive; that all animals imported to this country shall be 1324 slaughtered, and not allowed to go into the country at all; but there is a discretion to make an exemption in favour of certain countries in certain conditions; discretion and to make the law absolute, and what is desired is to remove the When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the raising of the question in 1878 I can tell him I recollect the matter perfectly, and the policy that was then agreed to. It was the exercise of the discretion existing now—it was the exercise of that in last September, in the case of four wretched animals from two wretched cargoes from Canada, that involved us in the risk of infecting the whole country, and that infected 79 districts in Scotland.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Well, we were so liable to infection in this country that many animals had to be destroyed by the right hon. Gentleman's orders. Seventy-nine places were rendered liable to infection, and many animals had to be destroyed. The Motion would only carry one step further the policy which has been pursued for eight or 10 years with such beneficial results. In 1890 the control of this matter was taken out of the hands of the Local Authorities. In 1889 there were 474 outbreaks of disease; in the succeeding years the numbers were 484, 192, 21; and in the present year none. And what has been the result of the adoption of this policy? Why, that there has been a great increase in our flocks and herds, and a corresponding decrease in the price of meat. There is an increase of over 1,000,000 cattle and 4,000,000 sheep. And we have now arrived at a time when we are within measurable distance of being freed from pleuro-pneumonia altogether. We can hardly say that we are absolutely free yet. One peculiarity of the disease is that it may be dormant for even as long as two years; and although we may appear to be free, we must not relax any precautions for a considerable period. One thing that is essential is that cattle should be slaughtered at the port of debarkation. In order to convey contagion there must be actual contact. There is no comparison to be made with cholera, because that disease manifests itself at once, and you can take what precautions you please. Thousands of 1325 living animals have been passed by the veterinary surgeon, and found, when dead, to be infected with the disease. Before the Act of 1878 the principle on which the Government acted was to permit the free importation of all animals, except where they were known to be diseased; but since then a wiser policy has been adopted. I have pointed out the risk incurred by the unfortunate importation of Canadian animals. The country is not yet freed from that risk, and the time has now come when the Act should be repealed. The right hon. Gentleman may ask why these steps were not taken under the Conservative Government. I must bear my share of blame for having so long allowed Canadian animals to be imported. My great misgivings at the time prompted me to make frequent communications to the Canadian Government, but I always received the most positive assurances that Canada was free from the disease. But now the country has learnt what such assurances from foreign countries interested in the trade are worth. Similar assurances have over and over again been received from the United States; and the greatest pressure was put on me to admit cattle from the United States free. But, acting on the best advice, I always refused. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned, in reply to my question about a month ago, 18 cargoes of cattle from the United States, in which 41 animals were found to be actually affected. How many hundred cattle in those cargoes were affected without being detected? The United States, was full of this disease, and with the length of frontier between Canada and the United States it is impossible to insure immunity for Canada. I say the risk is intolerable. There may be hundreds in a ship, and we should not know of them. I am afraid we are rather late in appealing to Canada—[Mr. Gardner was about to rise.] I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do me the favour of listening to my argument. How are we going to say, if we admit animals from Canada, on the plea that disease does not prevail in that country—how can we say that those animals are not taken from across the United States frontier, where the disease does prevail? How can we tell whether an animal has crossed from one country into another? Then, Sir, I say that a great many gentlemen hold 1326 with me, that after all the exertions and sacrifices that have been made to get rid of the disease here, we ought to do everything in our power to prevent its return. The only effectual way of doing that is by making the law for the slaughter of imported animals universal, subject to the exceptions dealt with in the Motion. I have heard only two objections to the Motion. One was that it would interfere with trade. I should be sorry to interfere with the trade with Canada; but the interests of.our own country must be considered first. There are farmers in the North who object to the proposed measures, but their interests should give way to the general good, and they will really suffer no material injury, because Irish stock was never more plentiful or cheaper. It is also directly to the interests of the consumer that the Motion should be carried. The worst thing for the consumer is that the animals should come into the country perfectly free and be sold when the market is most advantageous for selling them. As far as the consumer is concerned, it is infinitely more to his advantage that the Motion should be accepted than rejected by the House of Commons. With the exception of a limited number of farmers in the North, I believe that nine out of every 10 agriculturists in the country are heartily in favour of the Motion. On every ground—on the ground of obtaining complete freedom from disease, on the ground of the interests of nine out of 10 farmers in the country, on the ground of the interests of the Irish breeders of stock, and, above all, in the interests of the consumers, I have no hesitation—on the contrary, I have the greatest pleasure—in giving my hearty support to the Motion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 186.—(Division List, No. 22.)