HC Deb 14 August 1894 vol 28 cc1076-80

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

I desire to move that the Bill be re-committed in respect to Clauses 24 and 25, and I am not without hope that Her Majesty's Government may be inclined to accept the Amendment I would suggest in Committee. The Amendment has stood on the Paper for some days, and but for my being accidentally prevented from being in my place last night I would have moved the Amendment when the Bill was in Committee. My object is to effect a change in the law, a proceeding which is perhaps not usual in Consolidation Bills, but the matter is of so much importance, and there is so little prospect of being able to do it in any other manner this Session, I beg leave to submit my Amendment My object is to effect such a change in the law as will in future make it obligatory upon the Board of Agriculture, instead of leaving it a matter for discretion, to order the slaughter at the port of debarcation of all animals coming from foreign countries. That is the practice at this moment. All animals coming into the country are bound to be slaughtered on landing, but there is a discretion vested in the Board of Agriculture to admit animals without slaughter should the Board think fit. I press this now, because during the past three years there have been instances of cattle inspected with disease being landed in this country and in Scotland. These cattle came from Canada, and there the Board of Agriculture very properly exercised their power and insisted on the slaughter of all cattle at the port of arrival. But at the same time great pressure has been exercised from various influential quarters to get this restriction withdrawn, and I think it right that the law should be altered so that responsibility should be borne by Parliament, and not by any Department of the Government. The pressure brought to bear upon the Board of Agriculture was so great that even the President, who ordered a special inquiry and examination of carcases of animals went so far as to say that if, as the result of the examination, traces of disease were not found, he should feel it his duty to make a concession to the demands made upon him.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; he is entirely mistaken.


I have not the statement with me now, but I will undertake to say that in those or somewhat similar terms he held out hopes to those who were pressing him that if disease was not found in the course of the examination he would think it right to reconsider his decision.


If there is no disease we are bound by the law.


Not at all. That would be assuming that a country was free from disease: but let me point out that if in an examination of that kind no disease was found, that would not be the slightest guarantee that the country was free from disease, and for this reason: Animals sent to this country at the time when those persons interested in the trade abroad were very apprehensive of an Order being issued here were subjected to the most rigid examination before they were shipped, although the examination gave no guarantee of the soundness of the animal, and the greatest possible care was taken so that any animal to which the slightest suspicion of disease could attach was rejected and not allowed to come to this country. All the animals that came were carefully selected, and there was every chance that they would be free from disease. Under the circumstances, I contend that the special examination was no kind of security to us whatever; but unless I very grossly misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, he did distinctly, in response to the pressure put upon him, hold out hopes that if the examination showed no trace of disease, then under the circumstances he would think it right to reconsider his decision. That was a great danger which the country happily escaped, but it is a danger which ought not to recur, and it is a danger to which we are continually subjected. Great pressure from influential quarters, as I have said, is brought to bear upon the right hon. Gentleman to induce him to relax the restriction. First, there is pressure from the Canadian Government; secondly, from the Colonial Office here; thirdly, from the people interested in ranches and the cattle trade of Canada; and, fourthly, from a limited section of Scotch feeders of cattle in two or three Scotch counties, and a still more limited number of feeders in England. There is always the apprehension that this pressure may be successful, and my desire is to remove that danger in the future. It will not alter the present practice one iota, and whenever a country becomes free from disease, then the Act may be repealed in this particular. But meantime the responsibility should he with Parliament; it should not rest with a Government Department. For this reason I take the somewhat unusual course—but the only one open to me, owing to the Government arrangement of business—of moving the re-committal of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words, "now read the third time," and add the words "re-committed in respect of Clauses 24 and 25."—(Mr. Chaplin.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the Question."


The right hon. Gentleman has said very truly that he has taken a most unusual course, and indeed I may say it is an unparalleled course on a Bill of this kind. It is the first time within my experience that such a proposal has been made. This is a Consolidation Bill, and the very object and essence of such a Bill is to consolidate Acts and not alter the law. Of course, we shall resist the Motion, and the only consequence of the right hon. Gentleman's action, if he perseveres in it, will be that this Bill, which is introduced in the interest of the agricultural community to show it will be a great advantage to have a consolidation of complicated Statutes, must be withdrawn. If the Motion is persisted in we must move the discharge of the Order, and the reponsibility will be with the right hon. Gentleman.


I am quite aware of that.


I beg to move that the Order be discharged.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

hoped the Government would not relinquish the endeavour to get the Bill through. This codification of Acts was undoubtedly most useful work, and much time and care had been bestowed upon this Bill. Who would be disposed to devote hours of labour to putting the law on a given subject into shape if in a moment of pique the result was to be thrown aside? Certainly this was likely to deter anyone from undertaking this work of Statute Law revision.

MR. WARNER (Somerset, N.)

hoped the Government would not persist in withdrawing the Bill. Let such a Motion be deferred for a few hours, and perhaps by the morrow the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) would have reconsidered the case, and would not be disposed to follow a policy of "cutting off his nose to spite his face." Of course, it would be admitted that for farmers it was a very serious thing to allow the importation of live cattle from a country where disease exists.


The Government are willing to accept that advice, and to give the right hon. Gentleman a locus penitentiœ We will defer the consideration of the Bill to Thursday.


I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means by offering me a locus penitentiœ. I have made a statement in regard to a subject the importance of which will be generally recognised in connection with agricultural interests, and no answer has been made.


Order, order! Objection being taken stops further proceedings, and the Bill stands over.

It being after Midnight, and Objection being taken to Further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.