HC Deb 02 June 1896 vol 41 cc355-61

This Act shall continue in force until the thirty-first day of December, one thousand nine hundred, and no longer, unless Parliament shall otherwise determine; and upon the expiration of this Act the sections hereby repealed shall be revived.

This clause, if accepted by the Government, would, he said, give the Bill a duration of 3½ years. He thought that was a sufficient time to pass a Measure of this kind, and it would then give Parliament automatically, and of necessity, an opportunity of considering the question. The Government had declined to give elasticity to the Measure in respect to place, but he hoped they might be willing to give it elasticity in respect of time, because if this clause was adopted, and if, by any accident, Parliament was not ready to have acted by the time fixed, it would not be the case that all prohibition would cease. The old powers would revive, and the Government of the day would have just the same power of carrying on until Parliament had an opportunity of considering the matter again, as they now had of carrying on until the Bill became law. In view of the difficult relations between this country and the Colonies—and especially Canada—it seemed to him of great importance that they should have that opportunity which this clause would give of considering, in the light of events, and of revising their position at the end of a reasonable time. The time he had put down in 1900 seemed to him about the right time for it to be reasonable that they should look into the matter. At the present moment Canada was endeavouring to put down pleuro-pneumonia. Granted that it had not yet been put down, and that an interval of time was necessary during which Canada might attempt to put it down before any question was raised, and before they could come back to this Government and have matters looked into again. This Amendment would give 3½ years, during which a vast deal might be done in Canada to make it clear to the Government here that disease did not any longer exist. He hoped the Government would not shut the door permanently and absolutely against the opening up of this question if it should appear that in these divers countries, after the lapse of a reasonable interval of time like this, there was not any longer disease. In a Measure of this kind he thought it most important that Parliament should have the necessity and the duty of looking into the matter again after a short interval, and, therefore, he hoped the Government would accept the clause which he moved should be read a Second time.


supported the clause, on the ground that they should have more time to experiment with regard to this contagious, or so-called contagious, pleuro-pneumonia, about which there was very conflicting evidence. Cases in which pleuro-pneumonia was suspected should be thoroughly tested by scientific experiment. He contended that the time limit proposed in the Amendment was reasonable.


thought it wise that there should be a limit of time, though he doubted whether the Bill would be much benefit to the farmers. Many of the farmers did not think it would do any good; others were of opinion that it would positively do harm. To be in operation for a year or two was not a sufficient test of its efficacy. There ought to be practical proof of the working of the Bill for four or five years before it could be said to be for the benefit of the farmers or otherwise. It was natural that the farmer should think that if all cattle were excluded he would benefit. It would benefit the dead meat trade, and no doubt it would stimulate that to such an extent that he might be sorry this Bill was passed. He got something out of feeding and fattening cattle, but he would get nothing out of dead meat, and perhaps he would rather have cattle brought over alive than slaughtered at the port of entry. In 3½ years it would be fully seen whether the Act was detrimental or beneficial.


said the Amendment would make the Bill experimental. The Government adopted the principle of experiment in the Agricultural Rating Bill by limiting it to five years. There had been much irritation on that side of the House from the proposals of the Bill. It was a small Bill, but it had excited a great deal of hostility. The Government would be wise not to stimulate this, but make a little concession that would allay it. Such a concession was proposed by the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman had used an extraordinary argument, namely, that these experiments up to the present had tended to lower the price of the produce of the farmer.


I said that the imposition of restrictions had been followed by reductions in the price of dead meat.


Yes; and now the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make the restrictions permanent. The farmer would be only too glad to see the Bill made experimental in order to see whether it would do him good or not, and the consumer who said it would raise the price of meat would be equally pleased. The name of the Bill, too, was all in favour of its being made experimental. It was called the Diseases of Animals Bill, and the one cheerful thing about diseases was that they were not permanent, but came and went. On these grounds, he thought the right hon. Gentleman might well bring the Debate to an end by making this one concession.

MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

hoped that his right hon. Friend would not give way on this point. The farmers, with the exception of those in one county, were unanimous in hoping that the Bill would become law. It was said that the Bill could be renewed if required, but if the House was to have the same trouble in renewing as it had had in passing it, there would be great difficulty in that, whereas, if Parliament saw that the Bill was a harsh one and ought to be repealed, it could repeal it. He hoped that the Bill would become law as soon as possible, as he believed it would do a great deal of good.


expressed the hope that the Government would see their way to treat the Amendment with some measure of respect. After all, the right hon. Gentleman would get all he wanted if he accepted the Amendment. If the Bill was passed for three years, and at the end of that time it was shown to have been a useful experiment, there would be no difficulty about renewing it. One of the great objections the Opposition had to the Bill was that it practically took the question out of the hands of the House of Commons, and he thought that was a matter which might receive consideration. There was also a feeling in the country that the Bill was brought in as a sort of Protective Measure, and he thought that that suspicion would be removed if the Amendment were accepted. What would be the financial and economic results of the Measure had yet to be ascertained. If it should be clear after three years, or some period of the kind, that the Measure was a success it could be renewed. There was no desire at all to obstruct the Bill, and that being the case he trusted that the Government would consent to do something to meet the strong objections that were felt to the inelasticity of this legislation. If a limit of time were agreed to the disapprobation of Canada and other colonies would disappear. A country ought not to be prevented for ever from sending cattle into England.


said that he had no reason whatever to complain of the way in which hon. Members opposite had conducted the discussion that evening. But that was hardly sufficient ground to justify his departing from the cardinal principle of this Measure. In the interests not only of the farmers, but of the general community, it was desirable that the Bill should be permanent and not temporary. Reference had been made to the concession granted by the Government in the case of the Agricultural Rating Bill, to the operation of which they had agreed to put a limit. The reason for that concession was that the Bill dealt only with a portion of a very large subject, which the Government had declared their intention of dealing with comprehensively later on. There was no similar reason for limiting the period of the operation of the present Bill. He could not view the Bill as being experimental. He knew by experience how desirable it was to reduce cattle disease, and the Government believed that if this Measure was passed the risk of disease would be reduced to a minimum and ultimately disappear. At present those who were interested in the importation of live cattle believed that by bringing pressure to bear upon new Governments and new Ministers of Agriculture they would always be likely to obtain relaxations of restrictive rules. When they realised that there was a permanent law on the subject they would adapt themselves to the circumstances with profitable results. Something had been said about the impossibility of inducing the House of Lords to repeal the Measure if it should be found desirable to repeal it. For his part he had no doubt that the House of Lords would consent to repeal it if the sinister prognostications of hon. Members opposite were fulfilled. They could not, however, all come true, for, whilst some hon. Members said that the Bill would ruin the farmers by lowering prices, others said that it would ruin working men by increasing prices. The Government, for their part, held that the Bill would conduce to the health of the stock of the country, and that it would not interfere with the trade of the farmer or the interests of the consumer


said the Bill might have a disastrous effect, and quoted as a parallel case the abolition of the Malt Duty, for which farmers were now sorry.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time.''

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 74; Noes, 168.—(Division List, No. 210.)


, who had an Amendment on the Paper providing for the repeal of the Act by an Order in Council after an address from either House of Parliament, said this Amendment followed the precedent of 1887, in which an exactly similar Motion was allowed to be in order, was discussed, and was replied to by the First Lord of the Treasury on the Criminal Law Procedure Bill. He understood the Chairman had some doubts about the Amendment being in order on account of the Resolution which the House had come to a short time ago. But he respectfully submitted that in substance the Motion which he wished to make was entirely different from that which the House had condemned. The House had decided that an Order in Council alone should not affect the operation of the Bill; he asked that an address from either House of Parliament, followed by an Order in Council, should have that effect.


The clause is not in order on two grounds. First, because the Committee have already decided that an Order in Council, and without stating how that Order has originated, shall not prevail as against the Bill. The hon. Member proposes in this clause that an Order in Council shall not only suspend, but shall actually repeal an Act of Parliament. [Mr. E. ROBERTSON: "Not suspend."] At all events, in my opinion, that is against the decision already arrived at. The hon. Member contends that his clause is different, because under it the Order in Council does not come into force until an Address has been presented by one of the Houses of Parliament; but that is immaterial. That which actually suspends the Act is the Order in Council, however it may have originated. On that ground the clause is out of order. I also think it is very doubtful from the Constitutional standpoint whether it would be in order to admit a clause which proposes that the Address of one House of Parliament shall have the effect of repealing an Act of Parliament.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time upon Thursday.

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