§ (1.) For section twenty-four of the Diseases of Animals Ant, 1894, shall be substituted the following section, namely:—
§ "The provisions set forth in Part I. (slaughter at port of landing) of the Third Schedule to this Act shall apply to all foreign animals other than—
- (a) foreign animals the landing of which is for the time being prohibited by order of the Board of Agriculture; and
- (b) foreign animals intended for exhibition or other exceptional purposes, and the landing of which is allowed for the time being by the Board, subject to the provisions of Part II. (quarantine) of the Third Schedule to this Act."
§ MR. J. M. WHITE (Forfar) moved after "apply," to insert "until Her Majesty shall by Order in Council otherwise direct." He explained that he had 311 put down this Amendment to meet certain objections which were raised on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill. The position of matters at the present time was that when an Order was issued by the Board of Agriculture, that Order must forthwith be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for their information. Something might be said, of course, against this one man power, though in the present case he did not think it very serious for the reason that Parliament was never out of Session for more than six months, and in the meantime nothing very serious would have happened. With the Amendment the Bill would work in this way: The Board of Agriculture would draft an Order and then go to the Privy Council with the suggestion that this Act should be suspended or cancelled; or, on the other hand, Parliament might present an address to Her Majesty, asking for it, and it would become the duty of the Board of Agriculture to bring out an Order in accordance with this request. In this way they would have the Board of Agriculture checking the Privy Council and the Privy Council checking the Board of Agriculture. It might be said that if it was thought desirable to introduce foreign cattle into this country, it would be possible to pass an Act of Parliament for this purpose. But that would take a long time, and they might be anxious to act promptly. He thought the House might be trusted, together with the joint action of the Privy Council and the Minister for Agriculture. The scientific advisers of the Board of Agriculture had committed themselves to certain statements and would not yield. Where accusations were brought against them in Canada confidence in the administration of the Act could only be given by a full investigation. The scientific advisers of the Board were no doubt excellent men, but they did not seem to be really scientific men, though they might be good administrators. The farmers and others in this country who were strongly against the Bill should be satisfied that the fullest information had been obtained. The adoption of the Amendment was desirable in the interests of the agriculturists of this country. The First Lord of the Treasury, in a recent Debate, laid stress on the fact that uncertainty in the regulations 312 of the Board was a bad thing for trade. The matter affected not only one trade or industry, but two or three industries. There was the foreign agricultural industry and the home industry, and also the carrying trade. Which would benefit by uncertainty—home or foreign agriculture? In his opinion, foreign agriculture would benefit more than home agriculture. If the regulations of the Board of Agriculture were made fixed and final the feeding of cattle to be sent here as dead meat or live stock to be slaughtered at the port of landing would be developed, the resources and methods of the carrying industry would be developed, too, and better means would be taken for bringing cattle either alive or dead to the seaboard abroad, and in the country the system of special railway waggons and cold storage rooms would be developed and improved.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said he must invite the hon. Member to approach a little more closely to the Amendment he was going to move. He was now travelling beyond it.
§ MR. WHITE
said his argument was that it was not desirable to keep up this condition of uncertainty in trade, and that the foreign carrying industry should not be developed to the detriment of the agricultural interest in this country. Feeders in the country who were suffering most from agricultural depression and the continued uncertainty should be helped, that in the end and at no distant date cattle might be introduced into this country for feeding purposes enabling us to compete with the trade in foreign cattle. The responsibility of administering the Act of 1894 should be removed from the shoulders of the Board of Agriculture; the best scientific advice should be obtained; and the present uncertainty in the regulations ended in the best interests of agriculture.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
said the arguments in favour of the Amendment were unanswerable. All that the Amendment sought to do was this—that prohibition should only run while disease was known to exist. The object of the Bill was to make permanent the exclusion of all live cattle from being imported into this country whether diseased or not, whether from Canada or a foreign country.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. WALTER LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
Except for slaughter.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said of course, at the present moment they could not prohibit the importation of dead meat. The Amendment sought to modify the Bill in this direction—that the Government of the day might be enabled to permit live stock cattle to be imported so long as there was no disease. It was alleged that in Canada disease scarcely existed at this moment. If there was a suspicion of disease there would be no difficulty in our Government acting jointly with the Government of Canada in taking such steps as would practically secure this country against the importation of disease. The Canadian Government would gladly co-operate with Her Majesty's Government in having the most thorough examination of every animal before it was put on board, so that it would be practically impossible for disease to be shipped in Canada. During recent years great developments had been made in the provisions for the carriage of store cattle, and all this went to show that if care was taken at the port of embarkation none but healthy animals should be allowed to be shipped, and if a similarly exhaustive examination was made again at this end of the journey, there need be no fear of any harm resulting from the importation of live cattle. Inspectors might go on board cattle ships as they were coming up channel and make their examination before they entered port. If the Board of Agriculture had not the means of supplying a sufficient staff for the purpose, he was sure the House of Commons would provide them.
* THE CHAIRMAN
reminded the hon. Member that he was not keeping sufficiently close to the Amendment.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said he only desired to assist the right hon. Gentleman to come to some more reasonable view. What was absolutely necessary for a large proportion of the farming industry of this country was that they should have an ample and unrestricted supply of store cattle at reasonable prices. Without that ruin stared them in the face. This Amendment sought to make it easier for them to procure 314 store cattle. The right hon. Gentleman's Bill excluded them for ever. It was not sufficient to say the Bill could be repealed. The right hon. Gentleman put that argument forward in the sure and certain faith that his Friends in another place would always be on the alert to prevent the reconsideration of the Bill. All that was asked was that the right hon. Gentleman should reserve to himself the right by Order in Council to close or open ports when it was thought necessary for the welfare of agriculture. Nothing more reasonable or conservative could possibly be conceived, and he could not imagine why the right hon. Gentleman had taken up the position he had. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the earnest appeal made to him by the deputation of Eastern Counties' farmers which waited on him a week or two ago, to withhold this Bill for this year at least, in order to give the farmers a little more time to study what was being done to interfere with their trade, and to reintroduce it next year if the Government thought proper. If the right hon. Gentleman had told that deputation that he would accept this Amendment, he would have satisfied a large body of meritorious, industrious, and struggling farmers; and he hoped he would to-day see his way to accept in principle the Amendment of his hon. Friend. If he did so, he thought it was possible that much of their objection to the Measure would be removed.
§ * MR. LONG
thought the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment and the hon. Gentleman who supported him could hardly have realised what would be the result of the Amendment. They had indicated that their object was by giving some elasticity, to get rid of the permanent prevention of the importation of live cattle. The proper way to have attained that object would have been to defeat the Bill on the Second Reading. ["Hear, hear!"] It was proposed to transfer the discretion which now rested with the Board of Agriculture to the Privy Council; and the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment told the Committee that one of its objects was to relieve the scientific advisers of the Board of Agriculture of the duties which were imposed on them at present and to get 315 a new body of officials to carry them out. But the hon. Gentleman forgot to say how such a new body was to be created. The Board of Agriculture would be the only body to which the Privy Council could appeal, and if discretion was to be exercised, it must be on the advice of the responsible Minister of the Crown. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had made a good-humoured speech, and he was sure the farmers would be very grateful to him, although there was a very large body of farmers—indeed, the great majority of them—who did not desire the Amendment and who had urged on the Government the desirability of resisting any such alteration in the Bill. In his view, the Amendment would make things worse than they were now. At the present moment the discretion rested with the Board of Agriculture, and anyone who knew anything of the scientific advisers of the Board knew very well that they were thoroughly efficient to discharge their duties to the Board and to the country. ["Hear, hear!"] It was suggested that the Privy Council should have the power the Board of Agriculture now possessed. The result of that would be that while the Board of Agriculture was responsible for the administration of the Cattle Diseases Acts, to the Privy Council should be remitted the responsibility of saying whether or not live cattle should be admitted. He could not help thinking the hon. Gentleman had moved the Amendment without realising what the exact effect of it would be. [Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said the Bill proposed to make it absolutely prohibitory on the Board of Agriculture to allow cattle to come in from any country whether it had a clean bill of health or not. It was proposed, therefore, to place the Privy Council as a sort of buffer between the Board of Agriculture and agriculturists. If that was done the Board of Agriculture would have the advantage of placing any blame or responsibility they wished to avoid on the Privy Council. What the opponents of the Bill wished to know was what was the real object on which the Bill was based. There was, in their opinion, every possible protection against disease under the present law, and they wished to know whether the Bill was 316 proposed as a protection against disease or as a protection in favour of the producer. It seemed to him that this could be only the real principle on which the Bill was founded. If the Government could see its way to impart elasticity to the Bill so that there might be at some future time, without having to repeal the Act or to go to the House of Lords to get the law repealed, some means of suspending the operation of the law, the concession would be of some value. As the Bill at present stood it was really a Protective Measure in the interests of breeders of home cattle. He supported the Amendment.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
regretted that they were unable to defeat the Bill on the Second Reading, but he promised the right hon. Gentleman that the attack would be renewed on the Third Reading. Though the sanitary advisers of the right hon. Gentleman were men of long experience and great knowledge, he thought they were scarcely up to date in the present scientific methods of dealing with cattle disease. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman called into consultation with his scientific advisers some eminent veterinarians on points of doubt and difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the class of evidence at his disposal, and referred to the landed proprietors who had been his chief advisers; but his opinion of the quality of those gentlemen was not strengthened by what he had since heard. It was well known that they were Tories and Protectionists in the North. The County Council of Aberdeen, the County Council of Kincardineshire, and other districts in the North had petitioned strongly against the Bill in the best interests of agriculture. If he was persuaded that the present powers of the Department were not sufficient to prevent the importation of disease, he should be one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Bill; but what were the facts of the case? Under existing legislation disease had almost been stamped out in this country. It was said that this Bill was intended to relieve agriculture, but his belief was that it was intended to relieve the Minister of the worry, responsibility, and difficulty of considering awkward questions now brought up in Parliament. He supported the Amendment because 317 he thought it referred to one of those classes of cases which ought to be brought now and again under the examination of Parliament. When the Bill was passed, what would the Minister for Agriculture have to do? His occupation would practically be gone. His impression was that it was a time to plead for relaxation rather than for the tightening of restrictions. In referring to the Canadian question, he reinforced the statements made by Sir Charles Tupper, Lord Ripon, and Lord Aberdeen, to the effect that the Canadian Government never had any pleuropneumonia in that country.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member must be aware that he is not in order in dealing with this question. The question before the Committee was solely whether the Order should be made by the Privy Council.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
said the suggestion made was whether they should send out a body of experts to acquire on the spot in Canada knowledge as to whether there was any disease or not. In his part of Aberdeenshire people were somewhat divided in opinion on this question, though not so much as he thought. Opinion was becoming stronger and almost unanimous in favour of restrictions. They wanted more store cattle in Aberdeenshire simply because it would not pay to breed them. At present prices and in the present condition of agriculture, it did not pay to breed store cattle for the market.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Member that he is transgressing my ruling. The only question is whether any relaxation of this Act would be possible by allowing an Order in Council to pass. The hon. Member must strictly confine himself to the point.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
asked whom this Bill was really intended to benefit? Was it supposed to benefit the breeders? It might do so only for a limited period; it might benefit the ports of landing.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said that the law at present was that all cattle should be allowed in except those excluded by the Agricultural Department. This 318 Amendment only proposed in future to keep out all cattle except where the Privy Council thought it necessary and important.
§ MR. WARNER
It is rather a difference of discretion. It is a discretion to allow a few cattle in from a few places instead of a discretion to keep cattle out.
§ MR. J. W. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said that after all there might be a certain amount of agreement between the right hon. Gentleman and those who differed from him on the Opposition side of the House. The question before the Committee was not whether there should be any elasticity in the Bill or whether it was possible for any authority to repeal the Bill as far as certain parts of the world were concerned, but what authority should be allowed to deal with the point. It had been said that this was a Bill for shutting out all foreign cattle for ever. The right hon. Gentleman had repudiated that view almost with indignation, but he admitted that there might be circumstances in the future rendering it necessary to repeal the whole of the Bill or, at least, a part of it. In this they were in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman; the only point of difference was which authority ought to be allowed to do so. The question at issue was whether the Privy Council or Parliament was the more suitable authority to repeal certain parts of the Measure from time to time. That the Privy Council should be the authority did not please him, but he believed that the Privy Council in this matter would rely upon the Minister for Agriculture, and it was that Minister who ought to be the authority in his opinion. The President of the Board of Agriculture was far more likely to err on the side of keeping cattle out than on the side of letting cattle in, for he knew that exclusion could only inconvenience a limited class for a certain time, whilst admission might result in the decimation of our flocks and herds. There could be no better authority to whom to entrust the power of loosening the bonds imposed by this Bill when it 319 was expedient to loosen them, and there could be no worse authority for the purpose than Parliament, which was not fitted to decide the delicate questions upon which the admission or exclusion of cattle depended. For these reasons he should support the Amendment.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITELEY (Stockport)
hoped the Government would reconsider their decision respecting this Amendment, or consent to limit the time during which the Bill should he in force. The Measure was really one for the exclusion of animals, and ought not to be permanent. [Opposition cheers.] It was entirely unnecessary, because the Minister for Agriculture already possessed sufficient power of exclusion, and as a result of the exercise of that power almost complete immunity from disease had been secured. The Government were going out of their way for no earthly reason to injure the working classes and the consuming classes generally. If the Bill were permanent in its character it would prevent any fall or reduction in the price of meat. The Measure conflicted with the interests of his constituents—[Opposition cheers]—and he should continue to oppose it by every means in his power. The House of Lords would never permit the Bill to be repealed. A permanent Measure of this kind would be nothing else than thinly veiled Protection. For every producer of cattle in this country there were 5,000 consumers of meat, and the interests of these consumers were being disregarded in order that the producer might be benefited. He trusted therefore that the Government would agree to an Amendment by which the period of the operation of the Bill could be limited independently of the House of Lords, which was an assembly composed of Gentlemen who were largely interested in keeping up the price of meat.
§ MR. J. L. WHARTON (Yorks, W.R., Ripon)
had every confidence that the Government would not listen to any such suggestion. The Amendment would be a very serious alteration of the Bill. The Central Chamber of Agriculture, which was composed of men of every shade of political opinion, had expressed a strong desire that the Bill should be passed without any material alteration, 320 and every petition which he had presented on the subject contained an expression of the same hope.
§ * MR. R. J. PRICE (Norfolk, E.)
said he had no doubt that the Central Chamber of Agriculture would pass a unanimous vote in favour of every form of Protection.
§ * MR. PRICE
said that as a matter of fact this particular Measure was not supported by all the Associated Chambers of Agriculture. The Norfolk Chamber, for example, was against it, and so would be the Chamber of any county where the feeding of imported stock was an important factor in the farmers' industry. The opponents of this Measure now offered the Government a golden bridge. By the adoption of the Amendment amity would be secured, and the prospect of the Bill's passing without the consumption of any further large amount of time would be greatly improved. The chief objection of the Government to the Amendment would probably be that it would create a condition of some uncertainty. The right hon. Gentleman opposite would say that it would be impossible for the breeding trade to increase very largely in this country as long as there existed any uncertainty upon the question of importation of live cattle from abroad. If that was the view of the Government it would seem that this Bill was Protection and nothing else. In fact, their supporters in the country made no bones about the matter. The right hon. Gentleman himself, it was true, said that the Protection sanctioned was only protection against disease, but in the country nobody took that view, and the farmers believed that the Bill would raise the price of store cattle, and accordingly they liked it. They knew perfectly well that there was no chance of any repeal of this Measure by the House of Lords. Their Lordships were one and all—or nearly all—gentlemen who would be strongly in favour of a Protectionist Measure of this kind, even though there was no disease at all in Argentina, or Canada, or elsewhere. By this time the Government must know that the opposition to this Bill was really serious, not 321 only from a large section of agriculturist at home who believed it meant ruin to them, but also on the part of some of our Colonies. The hostility of both parties would be mitigated if there were some better means of getting rid of the restrictions than an appeal to the House of Lords. The position of the President of the Board of Agriculture himself would not be so serious, because his responsibility would be lightened. A certain solemnity attached to a decision of the Privy Council which did not apply, if he might venture to say so, to the Minister for Agriculture, and there might thus be greater security against disease in an appeal to the Privy Council. On these and other grounds he hoped the President would see his way to accept the Amendment, and in that case he could promise that the subsequent discussion of the Measure would not be as long as otherwise it would be.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
hoped the Opposition would be met in some way in regard to the Amendment. He felt strongly against the Bill. He did not attach great importance to the argument about Protection, because, though they might be protecting the price of stores, they would not raise the price of the finished article so long as they let in foreign meat free. What they would do would be to get rid of the trade of buying foreign stores and fattening them, and they would at the same time seriously affect the relations between this country and foreign countries, especially some of our colonies. That being so, he held very strongly that there was a great difference between absolute permanence and making the new law operative only for a limited time—having what had been called a certain amount of elasticity. There had been an unpleasant amount of friction between the Board of Agriculture and Canada in regard to the exclusion of Canadian cattle, and it would be judicious to let that feeling quiet down for a time. It would, in his opinion, be a great mistake for the House to make a final and decisive pronouncement on the whole subject at present.
§ COLONEL GUNTER (York, W.R., Barkstone Ash)
said the feeling in that part of the country was that even healthy animals, when they stepped into 322 the hold of a hot ship and were landed on the cold quays of Liverpool and other ports, contracted the disease, and so it was carried into the country. That being their opinion, the farmers in Yorkshire wanted, not a temporary Measure but a permanent one.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 90; Noes, 202.—(Division List, No. 206.)
MR. BUXTON moved after the word "and" at the end of Sub-section (a), to insert:—
(b) Animals from any of Her Majesty's Colonies the landing of which is allowed by order of the Board without being subject under the provisions of this Act, to slaughter or quarantine.
About 3½ years ago, he said, the dispute first arose between the Board of Agriculture and the Canadian Government as to whether contagious pleuro-pneumonia did or did not exist in the Dominion, and whether or not diseased cattle had been sent over to this country. The Board of Agriculture took one view and the Canadian Government another, and certain experts who were called in were clearly of opinion that the pleuro-pneumonia, if it did exist at all, was not of a contagious character. At that time the Colonial Office, in which he held office, urged their views in favour of Canada, but the Board of Agriculture over-rode those views, and prohibited the importation of Canadian cattle. It seemed to him that the experience of 3½ years since then went far to prove the Canadian contention. It was obvious that if the animals in question were suffering from contagious pleuro-pneumonia they must have got it in Canada, that therefore the disease must exist in Canada, and that other outbreaks would have occurred since that time, and the mere fact that no such cases had occurred was clear proof that the disease, whatever it was, was not of a contagious order. Very often prohibition was taken off after four or five years' experience, thus showing that time was an important element in the matter, and Canada had a strong argument in the fact that the lapse of three and a half years had proved conclusively that pleuro-pneumonia did not exist in Canada. The
Canadian Government had made an offer, which he was sorry had not been accepted, to send over a commission of experts to investigate the question here, and that showed the bona fides of the Canadian Government, because if the Inquiry had gone against them that result would have been fatal to their claim. He was not asking now that the cases should be prejudged; he did not ask the Board of Agriculture to take off the prohibition at present. The idea of the Canadian Government and people was that the time was fast approaching when, pleuro-pneumonia not having shown itself, this prohibition would be removed. Looking at the many interests involved—those of shippers, those employed at the ports, and those of the colonial growers—the Board of Agriculture ought to be chary of saying that in any circumstances they would prohibit this trade. After all they had heard from the Secretary for the Colonies about the policy of bringing the Mother Country and the Colonies together, it was a curious thing that the Government should have introduced a Bill which carried out an entirely different policy. [Opposition cheers.] Not only would it be injurious to the trade of the colony, but it would certainly accentuate existing friction between Canada and the Mother Country. He would have preferred the Amendment that had been rejected; but, as it was lost, it became necessary to raise the question distinctly from a colonial point of view.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
hoped the Government would accept the Amendment—[Opposition cheers]—or, at any rate, some modification of it. He was surprised that it was necessary at all, because the word "foreign" was used with regard to this Bill, and animals reared in Canada were not "foreign," and there was something repellent in the use of the word. [Opposition cheers.] If Canadian and colonial cattle were to be included under the head of foreign cattle, he hoped the Government would see their way to some limitation in the case of the colonies. To put Canada and the Argentine on the same footing was an insult to Canada, having regard to the able and careful way in which Canada carried out the arrangements for the inspection of the cattle that were shipped. 324 The Canadian Government took the greatest pains to prevent the introduction of cattle disease from the United States, and they prevented any animals that were suspected of having been in contact with others that were diseased from being shipped to England. The President of the Board of Agriculture, with his large sympathy, would recognise all the efforts that the Canadian Government had made in this direction. Another ground on which he was glad to support this Amendment, moved from the Front Opposition Bench, was that it showed that the Leaders of the Opposition were in favour of a preference being shown to the Colonies over foreign nations. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to accept the Amendment, it might be necessary to insert words to prevent cattle being taken across the frontier from the United States and shipped as Canadian cattle, when they were not bonâ fide such.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
said he had had conversations with persons connected with the trade. They told him that cattle were shipped in Canada in a healthy condition. On board they were put between decks, where they did not stand up, and soon became unable to eat. They caught what was technically described as "sea chill," which produced inflammation in the nostrils corresponding with human catarrh. They were given condensed water which had in it certain oily matter that affected the stomach and the intestines. The consequence was that, entirely apart from anything like dirty weather, they were in such a condition, that inspectors deemed them to be suffering from pleuro-pneumonia, when all that they were suffering was aggravated sea sickness and cold. In that condition they were not fit for human food, and, instead of killing them, we ought to keep them for a fortnight or three weeks, during which it would be seen whether they had pleuro-pneumonia or not, and, if they had not, they would have returned to a natural condition, and could be usefully disposed of. If the right hon. Gentleman would introduce an Amendment to allow this course to be adopted, it would facilitate the passing of the Bill.
§ * MR. LONG
said he desired to respond in the fullest possible manner about the Colonies, and to assure the Mover of the 325 Amendment that the Government were absolutely at one with him in the desire to do nothing which could in any way inflict injury on the Colonies, or that should even appear to be in the direction of treating them unfairly. In introducing this Measure the Government were acting only on a strong sense of duty, and in the belief that there was no other means by which the safety of our flocks and herds could be maintained. An exhaustive Inquiry into the question of the health of Canadian cattle was held by his predecessor in Office assisted by Sir Henry James and Mr. Burdon Saunderson, and any one who read the evidence taken by those gentlemen could not but come to the conclusion that it was clearly established beyond all doubt that contagious pleuro-pneumonia existed amongst cattle imported from Canada. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment had said that since the Inquiry no fresh outbreak of the disease had taken place in Canada. But it was the duty of the Agricultural Department to have regard only to the condition the cattle were in when they were landed in this country. He would not enter into the disputed question whether or not contagious pleuro-pneumonia existed in Canada. He was confident that the Canadian Government did their best to save their herds from infection; but their great difficulty was that they had a frontier thousands of miles in extent, and that on the other side of that frontier, in the United States, pleuro-pneumonia existed, as the Canadian Government admitted. The Canadian Government did their best to protect themselves from the importation of the disease from the United States; and the Government of the United States took exactly the same view of the action of the Government of Canada as the Canadian Government took of the action of the Imperial Government—namely, that contagious pleuro-pneumonia did not exist in their country, and that the prohibition of their cattle was unnecessary and harsh. But it was not the fact to say that there had been no cases of the disease discovered amongst Canadian cattle since 1893, when the Inquiry was held. Eight cases were discovered in 1892 and 1893, six in 1894, and two in 1895. There could be no doubt whatever, from 326 the evidence of the scientific advisers of the Board of Agriculture, that the disease found amongst those cattle was not, as the Canadian Government asserted, simple pleuro-pneumonia or transit pneumonia, as the hon. Member for Gateshead contended, but contagious pleuro-pneumonia, and that being so, it was impossible for the Agricultural Department, in justice to the stock owners of this country, whose interests they were bound to safeguard, to accept the Amendment. He did not share the fears of hon. Gentlemen opposite that the passing of the Bill in its present form would either injuriously affect the trade with the Colonies, or would lead to bitter feelings between the Colonies and the mother country. He could safely say that the negotiations with the representative of Canada had been carried on in the most friendly manner, and there were indications that when the Colonies adapted themselves to the restrictions, as they were now doing, a considerable increase in the trade would follow.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said he had never heard a feebler case than that advanced by the right hon. Gentleman in opposition to the Amendment. But he would not argue the case against the Bill solely on that ground. One of the chief objections against the Bill—to use the language of the hon. Gentleman opposite—was that it debarred the farmers in England and Scotland from pursuing a profitable industry which they had carried on for a great length of time with advantage to themselves and to the nation. What he and many other hon. Members desired was that the farmers should be at liberty to import their raw material in order that they might work it up into the finished article for home consumption. That was an idea which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture had thoroughly failed in grasping. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to take narrow views of this subject—he wished that the right hon. Gentleman would give himself up a little more to the study of agriculture, and would take broader views of this question. Hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House were accustomed to the rejection by the Government of all Amendments which they might propose, but he thought 327 that after the statesmanlike, far-reaching, and Imperial views that had been expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield—whose position in that House, although great before, had been considerably enhanced that night—the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill might accept this Amendment. The hon. Member for Gateshead had made a very sensible suggestion in the interests of the community. The hon. Member, who had had a large experience on the subject, had shown the Committee the lamentable condition in which animals arrived in this country after their long passage across the sea, and that the slaughtering of them immediately on their reaching our ports, without their having an opportunity of recovering from the effects of the voyage, would fill our butchers' shops with diseased meat. If the animals were allowed to be imported alive and were then permitted to regain, a healthy condition before being slaughtered, profitable employment would be afforded to our farmers, whilst cheap and wholesome food would be available for the people. That was the view that had been taken on this question by several hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, while professing the most friendly feelings towards our colonies in general, had not condescended to express them in favour of any colony in particular. Hon. Members must have noticed, with peculiar regret, the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies throughout this discussion. It would have been very pleasing to those hon. Members who were interested in this question to know what urgent public business had occasioned the absence of the right hon. Gentleman whilst the Government were endeavouring to rush through that House this Bill, which was of such vital interest to our colonies, and which proposed to inflict such great injury to their trade. He felt almost disposed to advise his hon. and right hon. Friends on the Opposition side of the House to take no further part in the discussion of this Measure in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman. He sincerely hoped that his hon. Friends and the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield would support his very moderate Amendment in the event of the Government not 328 accepting it, because he could not help feeling the Amendment would be received with great appreciation by our colonies. If the hon. and gallant Member went to a Division, he should certainly support him.
§ SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
said that he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture had already spoken, because there were one or two arguments that might in some degree have influenced his decision upon this question. He was convinced that this Bill was intended solely to prevent the importation of cattle disease into the United Kingdom, and also that it was not intended to keep out healthy animals. He, however, did not think that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman had met their argument. It was the fact that for years the Government had had ample power to keep out cattle disease, but, of course, if there was any necessity for strengthening the right hon. Gentleman's hands, the Conservative Party were willing to give him additional powers. They, however, did not wish to see any legitimate trade in healthy animals interfered with, especially when that trade was of vital importance to our colonies. In his view one effect of this Bill, unless the Amendment were accepted, would be to increase very largely and rapidly the importation of dead meat. He quite felt that one great object of the Bill was to introduce finality into this subject. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would see that there were some grounds for accepting this Amendment, which would give our great colonies a free hand in sending healthy animals to this country.
§ * MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
thought that the Government were mistaken in their view that this Bill would not have the effect of keeping out healthy animals. He admitted that, so far as Suffolk was concerned, Canadian cattle were not used for store purposes so much as in Norfolk, yet the custom had been coming into vogue during the last few years previous to 1894. He had recently made inquiries among the farmers locally. In one case he asked a farmer whether any Canadian cattle were used for store purposes on his farm. The farmer said he did not use any, but he was opposed to this Measure because, he said, almost 329 all his store cattle were Irish cattle, and he was very much afraid that if the Bill became law, after a few years the same principle as was to be applied to Canada would be applied to Ireland. He also argued that the effect of excluding Canadian cattle would be to raise the price of all the cattle bought, and the cattle which he sold would come into competition with the increased importation of dead cattle and meat, to which an impetus would be given by the passing of this Measure. That was a specimen of the views which were very largely held, not, of course, among the cattle breeders, but by that section of the farming community engaged in the industry of grazing. The Amendment deserved the support of the House from the Imperial point of view. They would have an opportunity of giving effect to the recommendations of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was the originator of this policy. Almost all the arguments used on the other side seemed to have been from the point of view of the cattle breeders, and the point of view of those who obtained their livelihood from the industry of cattle feeding had not been adequately considered. This section of the community could not be ignored, and the injury which would be inflicted upon them if such an Amendment were not embodied would, he was convinced, more than neutralise any benefit they might derive from the Rating Bill.
§ * MR. PRICE
said the views expressed by his hon. Friend were held all over the eastern counties. The effect of this Bill would be to very largely increase the price of store cattle, and in that case the industry of feeding cattle in Norfolk, on which there had been an enormous expenditure of capital, must die of inanition. The injury to Norfolk would be very great, as they were feeding there about 100,000 cattle every year. In that county the industry of grazing employed more labour than was employed in any other kind of agricultural industry except the hop industry. Labour was employed not only in connection with grazing, but with the cultivation of turnips and other food material for the cattle, and the tending of the cattle when they were stalled together in enormous barns. He had been present at one of the most important deputations 330 which had ever come up from Norfolk, which had waited on the right hon. Gentleman, from whom, however, they did not get very much satisfaction. The suggestion was made that the right hon. Gentleman should institute a full Inquiry on the spot in Canada into the subject of this disease, but he said that they did not know what to inquire into, and that all they had to do was to see that the disease was not introduced here. They had endeavoured to prove to the right hon. Gentleman, but he did not seem to have appreciated it yet, that the pleuro-pneumonia which they had over here, although it undoubtedly simulated the pleuro-pneumonia contagiosa, was not the real disease, but was a transit pleuro-pneumonia caught on the voyage. It was incredible that a disease like pleuro-pneumonia should have existed in Canada for 3½ years, and that there should be no local manifestations of it. About 130,000 cattle came over here from Canada every year, and yet they had only had these 16 cases of supposed disease.
§ * MR. PRICE
said that no doubt during the last two years the examination had not been very systematic, but if the disease existed in Canada it would not have escaped notice during the severe winters over there, when the cattle were housed. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are left on the ranch."] He had one official authority showing that the practice was as he had described it. The hon. Member might have been on a ranch or range where the practice was different. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, he thought the reason why inquiry was not extended to Canada was because it was felt it would turn out that there was no disease. The fact was that the whole body of opinion behind the right hon. Gentleman was against the idea. His supporters would be sorry to discover that disease prevailed there, for they were anxious to sell their store cattle for more than they had been used to; and the Veterinary Department were afraid that they might be proved to be wrong. Ever since the Canadian cattle ceased to be imported, there had been very short supplies of good stores. Thus, no doubt, as last 331 year and the year before, there would be nothing decent to be bought after the middle of November. The result was that there were thousands and thousands of tons of roots lying rotting on the ground because stores were too dear to buy, or in the second place too bad. The breeders of England were making a great mistake in this matter. If they imagined they could force up prices and make them pay what price they pleased for stores, they would soon find out their mistake. The strain had very nearly reached the breaking point, and if it broke the breeders would find that they had killed the goose that had laid the golden eggs. Whatever had happened in the way of disease it was not due to any Canadian cattle. They had just got the Irish Returns, and although there had been little or no pleuro-pneumonia in Ireland before, there had been a large number of cases since the restriction on the importation of Canadian cattle. When they were talking about the bringing in of Canadian stores, they should recollect that Irish stores were more affected by disease than Canadian stores. He understood that the charge of the Board of Agriculture against Canada was that they had not taken proper means to show the Board of Agriculture that disease did not exist. He did not take that view himself. It seemed to him that they had done everything that they should have done. He had in his hand the Report of the Debate in the Senate on the 8th April last in Canada, and the representative of the Board of Agriculture spoke strongly on this matter. The hon. Member then quoted extracts from the speeches in the Canadian Senate protesting against the action of the Home Government in this matter, and said that the answer was to his mind a strong answer. It was interesting to read the evidence on which this great injury had been done to Canada. If the Canadian people did not bear any ill-will to the right hon. Gentleman they really must be a very forgiving people, because the injury done to them had been done on evidence which was not by any means satisfactory. Undoubtedly the original appearances of the disease were so like those of pleuro-pneumonia as to fully justify the Board of Agriculture in insisting upon a temporary exclusion of Canadian cattle, but what had since happened had 332 completely altered matters, and whereas the burden of proof was in the first instance on the Canadian Government, it was now upon our Agricultural Department, and they would not grant the Inquiry which was asked for. At the Inquiry referred to by the right hon. Gentleman there were 17 witnesses examined. Three were veterinary advisers to the Board, four were connected with the Board of Agriculture at the various ports, two were connected with the Royal Veterinary College, and eight were eminent authorities. There was a great diversity of opinion as to whether the affection was pleuro-pneumonia; indeed, it was quite impossible to decide whether the disease was that of pleuro-pneumonia upon such an Inquiry as the Government allowed. The only grounds on which the witnesses had to go were the appearances; there was no outside evidence of actual disease; microscopic examination was not made at once, and there was no attempt to isolate the bacteria to see what the disease really was. It was as well to refer to a few questions put, and answers made, at the Inquiry, to show the spirit in which the Inquiry was conducted, because, in his opinion, the Inquiry was started to show that we were right and the Canadians were wrong; that surely was not a proper spirit in which to enter upon, an Inquiry. He took it that what we ought to have done was to inquire in a most sympathetic spirit. Canada was our largest colony, and a very loyal colony. She was deeply interested in a certain matter, and yet we entered upon an Inquiry respecting that matter in such a way that it should be proved we were right and she was wrong. That might be satisfactory to the Board of Agriculture, but it was very unsatisfactory to those who suffered, and there were many agriculturists in this country who were suffering from the present regulations.
§ * MR. PRICE
said, he was not concerned to defend anybody who sat on his side of the House. He objected to the method pursued. People were prepared to show there was no disease in Canada, and yet the right hon. Gentleman 333 would not give them an Inquiry—an Inquiry on the spot. Whatever might be the actual fact, there was no question that every Statesman and expert in Canada believed there was no disease in that country. The strongest criticism had been made in Canada upon the Inquiry. Professor Adami, who was a scientific expert connected with the Cambridge University before he went to the Dominion, had spoken in the strongest terms; he said the Inquiry was not conducted at all on proper scientific lines, and he took exception to the Imperial Government appointing men who had not the necessary scientific training to decide the matter which was at issue. He wished hon. Members would read these reports for themselves, and if they had done so he should confidently expect their support in the Lobby. Those who had read the reports must come to the conclusion that it had absolutely not been proved that pleuro-pneumonia did exist in Canada, and that they ought at least to have a very much more complete and satisfactory Inquiry. They had absolute protection under the present system, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
desired to call attention to the extreme importance of this question from the colonial point of view. He should not advert to the fact that the part of Scotland which he represented felt that this Bill would inflict very grave injury upon an important branch of industry, nor to the question of whether or not there was a case of pleuro-pneumonia in Canada. He wanted the Committee to realise what a set-back, what a hindrance, and an obstacle to the endeavours made to cultivate a closer connection between this country and the colonies the passing of this Bill would be. Many proposals had been made for an Imperial Customs Union. A suggestion had been made for tariff arrangements under which the products of the colonies should enter this country on favourable terms, so that a fund for Imperial defence might be raised; and the Secretary for the Colonies had gone so far as even to countenance a plan—which, he was bound to say, he saw no prospect of carrying out—under which preferential tariffs might be imposed on behalf of the colonies. Let 334 them contrast these efforts and the sentiments from which they sprang with the disability and injury which would be put upon the colonies by this Bill. How could they expect that any confidence would be felt in the offers of commercial advantage they were prepared to make to the colonies when, in a matter where they had already gained an important branch of trade, they were going to cut them off completely? If it had been necessary to do this for the absolute protection of their own cattle-breeding industry, he should not for a moment object to it. If their herds and flocks were threatened with disease which only the passing of this Bill could avert, then he should frankly admit they would have to tell the colonies that an injury so great as that was sufficient to induce them to inflict an injury upon them. He had no doubt the colonies would admit the justice of that course, but that was not the case. At this moment they had complete protection, and they had had complete protection for the last three years. The late Minister of Agriculture was very strongly pressed to relax those restrictions, but with the concurrence of his colleagues he resolutely set his face against any withdrawal which could expose the cattle of this country to the slightest danger. There was no danger whatever at present, and so this Bill was produced, not to avert danger, but to give a kind of satisfaction to certain interests in this country who said they would feel easier if they knew they had the protection of the House of Lords, instead of merely the protection of the administrative Government of the day. He confessed he should be very much surprised if there was not a feeling of great irritation and annoyance in their colonies if this Bill was passed. As regarded New Zealand, there was not even a pretence that disease was there. As to Canada, the question was, to say the least, extremely doubtful. The Canadian Government itself entertained no doubt, while the Canadian Parliament protested in plain and unequivocal language against the legislation which they were proposing. The feeling of Canada on this subject was very strong. Canada was confronted by the United States, which had imposed a protective tariff against her, and the probabilities were 335 that that tariff would become still more severe and that Canada would more and more be led to depend on the market which she found for her products in the mother country. That was the moment they chose for debarring her from a very important branch of her trade. He looked upon the Bill with the greatest regret, and he confessed to a very earnest desire that the right hon. Gentleman should find himself able to draw a distinction between those foreign countries in which danger admittedly existed and their own colonies where it was quite sufficient to leave the protection to the administrative Government of the day.
§ * MR. W. LONG
said he desired to altogether repudiate the charge of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that in bringing forward this Bill the Government were taking stops which must tend to estrange Canada and their other loyal colonies from the mother country. They were not interfering with the trade which Canada was at this momont carrying on and which she would continue to carry on when this Bill was passed. As a matter of fact, the trade of Canada had considerably increased ever since these restrictions were imposed. Canada had now recovered the position she held; and, whereas the imports last year up to the end of May were only some 800, they had this year already reached to 5,000, showing that Canada had adapted herself to the new features of the trade. He believed that, so far from injuring Canada's existing trade, they were opening up a new trade which would be as prosperous as, if not more prosperous than, that which had hitherto existed. From information which had reached him from more than one reliable quarter, he believed that Canada herself found this trade more profitable and prosperous than the exportation of store cattle. ["Hear, hear."] He did not admit for a single instant that the gloomy forebodings of the right hon. Gentleman were in any way justified, but he would remind the Committee that, even as against so loyal and important a colony as Canada, they were compelled, in duty to those whose interests they were there to safeguard, to act in what they believed to be the best interests of agriculture all over the country.
§ MR. LOGAN (Leicestershire, Harborough)
said he could not join with his right hon. Friend in the remarks he had made just now. He looked at this Bill more from the point of view of the English consumer and the English agriculturist, and although he should be sorry if the Measure tended to estrange any of their colonies, he still believed that charity began at home. It was from that point of view he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his position, and see whether he could not accept the Amendment and admit live cattle into this country from those colonies whore it was proved that no disease existed. The Bill purported to be a Measure to keep out diseased animals. Ample protection already existed for that purpose, and the refusal of the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment was practically an admission that he had some other object in view. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the Bill was to give a certain amount of security and certainty to their breeders. That was an admission on his part that breeders were not able to compete with the colonial producer under present conditions. There was no doubt the refusal to permit the free importation of store cattle from their colonies was Protection, and from the English agriculturist's point of view he contended it was the wrong sort of Protection. It was protecting the introduction of the raw material while admitting the manufactured article free. He was further prepared to contend that the refusal of the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment was inevitably to impose Protection against the natural order of things. The larger tracts of land in Canada, and land of much less value there than here, enabled the Canadian farmer to breed much cheaper than they could in this country. With the President of the Board of Agriculture he desired to assist agriculture, but what would be the result of refusing to admit Canadian Store cattle from the point of view of the farmer? It must inevitably increase the price of store cattle to the farmers of this country, who would also have to compete with an improved dead—meat market owing to the provisions of the 337 Bill. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to agree to the Amendment and allow Canadian cattle to be admitted free.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 57; Noes, 140.—(Division List, No. 207.)
§ MR. BRYCE moved an Amendment to exempt sheep imported from Iceland from the operation of the Bill. He would give reasons why he considered that an exception should be made in favour of Iceland. It was a poor country with a very intelligent and educated population. No one could travel in Iceland without feeling great interest in and sympathy for a people who had maintained their intelligence and education in face of great natural difficulties, a severe climate, and extreme poverty. The island had a history extending over a thousand years, as well as a magnificent literature. The people were miserably poor; the climate was so severe that no cereal crops could be raised, and no crops were to be seen except a few potatoes and turnips. The only resources of the country were the breeding of sheep and horses, and there had sprung up a considerable trade in sheep from Iceland in the United Kingdom. He believed he was right in saying that 40,000 sheep were annually imported from Iceland. The pasture land in Iceland being almost barren, the sheep were shipped in a poor condition, and it was necessary to pasture them for a little time in Scotland or the north of England before they were fit for the British market. The slaughter of sheep at the port of entry would put an end to the trade in Icelandic sheep, the animals not being fit to be slaughtered on landing. The people of Iceland would lose their chief source of income and the only moans by which money in coin flowed into the country. The Danish Minister had submitted to the Foreign Office a memorandum drawn up at a meeting of Icelandic farmers setting forth their case. Hon. Members who had read it must have been struck with its earnestness and moderation, and feel sympathy with them. It was not suggested that any disease was imported 338 from Iceland. It was only said that the difficulty in exempting Iceland was as regarded the most-favoured-nation clause. But he did not think the exemption he pleaded for on behalf of a poor and small country like Iceland would be an offence to other countries, or detract from the security intended to be given to the English breeders of sheep. With all respect to the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, by whom, of course, the Government would be guided, he submitted that the case would not come within the most-favoured-nation clause. The most-favoured-nation clause in our commercial treaties was a clause by which we undertook not to admit the products of any other country on more favourable terms than those we had made with the country with which we had entered into the treaty. It was, therefore, not a matter of general law, but of practice between this country and the country with which this treaty was concluded. No one was entitled to take advantage of a contract but the party with whom the contract was made, and if nations with whom we had entered into commercial treaties did not complain of our admitting products from some other country no harm was done. In the general movement of European trade the imports of sheep from Iceland were a small matter, but made all the difference between the prosperity and adversity of Iceland. Our trade in sheep and cattle with such countries as France and Germany would not be sensibly affected or injured by the small number of sheep we imported from Iceland, and a country so small and poor would not excite their jealousy as any great competing country would. Iceland had often been the object of the charitable and sympathetic interest of the countries of Europe. In 1873, when the greater part of Iceland was desolated by a volcanic eruption which destroyed its flocks and herds, money was raised in nearly every part of Europe. On other occasions when Iceland had been visited by earthquakes and eruptions all Europe had come forward to help her. He did not think either France or Germany would raise any objection under the most favoured nation clause to the exemption he proposed. He suggested that the Governments of those countries 339 should be "sounded" on the subject, and trusted that the pica he had urged on behalf of little Iceland would be regarded with favour by the Government. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
said the case for the Amendment had been most fairly and moderately put. The Government wished to deal with the matter in the most friendly way. He recognised the moderate and able manner in which the case had been put by the Danish Minister. His representation would have been acceded to had it been possible. The suggested freedom of Iceland from disease was not quite in accord with the experience of the past. He himself and the Solicitor General had carefully considered whether this exemption could be made, having regard to the most-favoured-nation clause; but, as they construed that clause, Iceland came within it. The solemn obligation into which this country had entered must be respected. He and his learned Colleague had considered the matter absolutely, impartially, and they were driven to the conclusion that they could not advise the Government, in justice to our treaty obligations, to provide for the suggested exemption in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman went on rather to indicate that neither France nor Germany would take any objection. In reply to that, it was not for him to do more than to say that he did not see the slightest warrant for the suggestion that foreign nations who had contractural rights under the most-favoured-nation clause, would raise no objection.
§ MR. BRYCE
explained that he only said that he thought that the circumstances of the case would make it probable that France and Germany might not object; and his suggestion was that if power was taken to admit sheep from Iceland, the Foreign Office might endeavour to ascertain whether France and Germany would object.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said the right hon. Gentleman drew a distinction between taking power to break a Treaty and the breaking of a Treaty itself. Her Majesty's Government could not take power to break a Treaty in respect of this particular matter in the hope that countries, who otherwise might object, would be prepared to agree not 340 to insist on their rights. The right hon. Gentleman asked that special exception should be made in the case of Iceland, and urged the Government not to consider that that would be met by the argument that such a privilege would amount to a breach of the most-favoured-nation clause. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the possibility of that position had not been overlooked by those who had had to consider the matter. The knowledge that this Amendment was going to be moved had led to the most careful consideration of the position, and he was in a position to say that the Government could not, having regard to the position taken up by certain foreign countries, justify a special exemption in favour of a particular country. It was for that reason that he was obliged to indicate that Her Majesty's Government could not accept the Amendment, though he wished to associate himself with everything the right hon. Gentleman had said with regard to Iceland. After all said and done, the responsibility was a grave and important one. They were face to face with the fact that this country was under an obligation which must be observed, and it would be holding out delusive hopes to suggest, that Iceland could be excepted.
§ MR. BUXTON
said that after the remarks of the Attorney General it was clear that there was no chance of special advantages being given to Iceland; but he wished to point out that this seemed to him one of the strongest arguments against the provisions of the Bill as it stood. It supported the contention that the Bill was totally inelastic, and that it would be impossible for the Government of the day to meet the case of countries which, like Iceland, were free from disease. This was a point on which it seemed to him they might very well ask die right hon. Gentleman whether he could not still, at this time, introduce some words which would give a certain amount of elasticity to the Measure?
§ * Mr. ROBINSON SOUTTAR (Dumfriesshire)
said he had a profound pity for the Icelanders and felt that the remarks of the Attorney General meant a sentence of death to them. Nothing lad stopped emigration from Iceland but the development of their industry, and now that the industry was to be killed, 341 Iceland would be killed with it. There was no real argument in favour of the special exception of Iceland except that of pity and of charitable and sympathetic interest in a poor and struggling community. It had been found that the argument could not weigh for certain legal reasons. He believed the Government would have made the exception if they could, but as it was found that an exception could not be made it was not necessary to trouble the Committee any further in the matter.
§ * MR. PRICE
said he wished to move an Amendment to the Amendment, as it was quite evident the Government could not accept it in its present form. As there was a feeling of sympathy for the Icelanders, and as he believed the feeling of the Board of Agriculture was not quite the same with regard to sheep as with regard to cattle, he would like to move to leave out all the words after "sheep." No doubt that would leave the sub-section in rather a bald condition, but he did not know that it would be any the worse for that. Without admitting the existence of pleuro-pneumonia in Canada, there was no doubt that it was a very serious disease; and much more serious than scab. As a matter of fact, there was plenty of scab within, the borders of the United Kingdom already, and therefore he did not think there was any necessity to be particular about foreign sheep. Last year, for instance, there were 28 counties in Ireland in which outbreaks of scab were reported. It was clear that no very serious evil was caused even when a considerable amount of scab disease existed. Scab was certainly a far less serious disease than pleuro-pneumonia. Believing that there would be but little objection on the part of agriculturists to the importation of sheep, that the dread of the introduction of scab disease was not nearly as great as the supposed dread of the introduction of pleuro-pneumonia, and that unless the Measure were widened the interests of countries like Iceland would suffer greatly, he begged to move his Amendment.
§ * MR. W. LONG
thought that it could hardly be maintained that the disease of scab was not regarded as a very serious disease which ought to be stamped out if possible. When sheep infected with scab were imported and distributed 342 about the country, it became very difficult to trace them. Since he had been in Office, a great many complaints had reached him of the introduction of foreign and colonial sheep infected with scab. In spite of the vigilance of the port inspectors, sheep having the disease had, on more than one occasion, been passed as healthy. Cases had occurred in the Metropolitan market, at Chertsey, and in Somerset. Scab in sheep was a disease almost as difficult to detect as pleuro-pneumonia in cattle. He might say, with reference to Iceland, that, although he should be very reluctant to cast any general slur upon the health of the sheep in that country, rumours reached him as soon as he entered Office that the health of the sheep was not as satisfactory as it ought to be, and these rumours had been confirmed by subsequent inquiries.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put: "That the words '(c) Sheep imported from Iceland' be there inserted.''
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 42; Noes, 105.—(Division List, No. 208.)
* THE CHAIRMAN
The Amendment of the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Price) is not in order, on the ground that, as the Committee has refused to Her Majesty in Council the power of modifying the Act, it is obviously impossible for the Committee to agree to give any such power to a County Council.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval,
§ On the question "That the clause stand part of the Bill,''
§ * SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
said that in objecting to the clause as it stood, he did so with no political feeling, because he had even more strongly objected to the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor with regard to the slaughtering order than he had done to 343 the action of the right hon. Gentleman himself. From the very beginning he protested against this manner of dealing with the alleged pleuro-pneumonia. He had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would pay some attention, not merely to the suggestions which were repeated from this side of the House, but to the successive appeals made to him during the discussion from his own side to introduce some degree of elasticity in the character of the Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman had assumed a non possumus attitude: he had turned a deaf ear to every such appeal. From the beginning he (Sir John Leng) had objected to the slaughter order, when it was merely of a temporary character, and had criticised the Board over which the right hon. Gentleman presided, holding very strongly that they had never scientifically proved the genuineness of contagious pleuro-pneumonia. There was a strong feeling in Scotland, and had been all through, that the methods taken by the Board of Agriculture were not scientific—that they had not adopted those means which were known to scientific men to test the disease—[''hear, hear!'']—and offers to test it had been made to the Board over and over again. Farms had been placed at the disposal of the Board to turn the alleged infected cattle into them. Now, intelligent farmers would not run such a risk if they had any doubt on the subject. But no advance from the Scotch farmers in that direction had ever been accepted by the Board. And in the same way, when the Government of Canada had made offers that Commissioners should be sent out at the expense of Canada to ascertain, whether this disease existed, when a desire had been expressed that experts like Monsieur Nocard should be consulted, no heed whatever had been given to any of these reasonable proposals. [''Hear, hear!"] The Board of Agriculture early adopted certain conclusions with regard to the question, and they seemed to think it a point of honour, reason or none, to uphold these conclusions. Then he had strongly objected to this method of dealing with the subject on the ground that it was inflicting a serious blow on a large number of intelligent Scottish agriculturists. There was no doubt whatever that in the counties of Aberdeen, Kincardine, Forfar, in a part of Perthshire 344 and in Fifeshire, cattle feeding had been to the farmers a most profitable business. They were able to buy these Canadian cattle, which were landed in large cargoes at Aberdeen and Dundee, several pounds cheaper than they could buy corresponding Irish stores. They found that these cattle quickly laid on flesh, and that when they were sent to the butcher the food was healthy and palatable and popular. They made £3, and £4 and £5 profit upon every head of cattle, and then suddenly this blow was struck, and by an act of administration on the part of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, it was declared that these cattle were not to be freely admitted on the hoof as they had been. This had not only seriously affected the agriculturists of Scotland. Shipowners, too, who had built lines of steamers and fitted them up and equipped them in the most admirable manner, having regard to the health of the cattle, who did all in their power to meet the requirements not only of the Board of Agriculture, but of good sense and good feeling—they had had serious loss inflicted on them by the stoppage of their trade. [''Hear, hear!"] Then, in several of the seaports the port trustees had gone to great expense in building wharves and lairages—["hear, hear!"]—and practically the whole of their expenditure had been sunk and its value destroyed. He objected from the first on grounds such as these, and he objected to this clause now on this ground. Hitherto there had been a swinging door which the President of the Board of Agriculture could either shut or open at any time. An hon. Friend near him said that door was now to be barred. More than that, it was to be built up. A stone wall was to be erected in the place of the door, and that stone wall was not to be taken down without the consent of the House of Lords. That was one of his strongest objections to the Bill. Hitherto, although they had not succeeded in persuading the predecessors of the President of the Board of Agriculture or the right hon. Gentleman himself, they still had the prospect that the time might come when the position of trade would be so different, when all doubts as to the existence of the disease would be removed, and when, by the judgment of 345 the President of the Board of Agriculture himself, and with the consent of his Board, the slaughter order might be removed. But now it would be a matter of indifference who was President of the Board of Agriculture. He would not have that power, and it did seem a most extraordinary thing that the right hon. Gentleman should refuse to accept at the hands of the House the power which his predecessors exercised, and that he was so determined and persistent in denuding himself of that power and practically transferring it to the House of Lords. [Cheers.] Then he objected to the Bill because it was quite unnecessary. So long as there was any real necessity for the slaughtering Order, it depended upon the right hon. Gentleman and his Board to maintain and enforce it. Why should the Government so gratuitously go out of their way, seeing the strong position in which their predecessors were, and in which they were themselves? The thing which the Bill contemplated doing was at present already done, and so long as the Board of Agriculture determined, they could maintain the existing Order against the admission of live cattle. Why, then, bring in a Bill to make a cast-iron regulation. The figures which the right hon. Gentleman had given the Committee showed that the cases of pleuro-pneumonia had diminished in number. There were eight cases three years ago, six two years ago, and two last year.
§ * SIR JOHN LENG
said that the right hon. Gentleman had a very able staff of inspectors, they were competent to deal with other diseases such as swine fever and scab in sheep, and it showed a distrust of their efficiency when the right hon. Gentleman resorted to this extraordinary measure of establishing an impasse against the admission of live cattle. If the right hon. Gentleman had shown any willingness whatever to adopt some method by which his Board would have some dispensing power when they were satisfied, or their successors were satisfied, that all cause for apprehension had ceased to exist, those who opposed the Bill might have been satisfied. The right hon. 346 Gentleman had said that what they desired might be done by Act of Parliament. But that was difficult. They believed that to expect that an Act of Parliament would be passed by the House of Lords after this Bill had become law, was altogether out of the question. He regretted very much that they had not seen the Secretary for the Colonies during the discussion. He was informed that at that moment the right hon. Gentleman was within the precincts of the House, in a far more agreeable and sanitary part than that chamber. [Laughter.] But they all knew what the right hon. Gentleman had recently said about developing trade between the mother country and the colonies, and yet here was a Measure which tended to destroy an existing trade, and against which the colonies had protested with all the earnestness, determination, and reiteration of which they had been capable. He should say that the profession of the Colonial Secretary and the practice of the President of the Board of Trade were entirely antagonistic. One right hon. Gentleman expressed a strong desire to develop the best relations between the colonies and the mother country, and the other right hon. Gentleman proposed to place the mother country in the position of a stepmother. For one he could not allow the clause to pass without making a strong protest against it.
§ MR. SOUTTAR
said they were all in entire sympathy with the avowed object of the Bill. That was, to keep cattle disease out of the country. He was prepared to keep out disease in the most drastic way, but he did not think it was necessary, in order to secure that object, that every animal that arrived at a port should be indiscriminately slaughtered. He felt that the objection to the Bill had not been put in quite the proper way before the House. There had been a considerable amount of talk about Protection and the raising of the price of meat. That, he thought, was an unfortunate way of dealing with the question. In a certain sense the Bill was protective, but it was not essentially a protective Measure. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite said "hear, hear," but he believed they thought in their hearts it was a protective Measure, and that it would 347 raise the price of beef. The President of the Board of Agriculture shook his head, but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman would have dared to bring in the Measure if he thought it would lower the price of meat.
§ MR. SOUTTAR
said that the right hon. Gentleman was so enlightened on those matters that he would accept his statement; but if hon. Gentlemen opposite thought the result of the Bill would be to lower the price of meat, few would follow the right hon. Gentleman into the Lobby, for low-priced meat meant low rents, and high-priced meat high rents. But he, for his part believed that a clause which provided for the indiscriminate slaughter of cattle would eventually lower the price of meat, and lower rents would eventually injure the breeder as well as the feeder, and would not only injure the farmer but the landlord as well. It was not a protective Measure. If it excluded cattle altogether, it would be protective, and would raise the price of meat and the standard of rents. But the Bill only stipulated the form in which meat should reach this country, and it had chosen the very worst form for the farmer. The prosperity of the country depended more on staple than on anything else. Cotton was staple. Raw cotton was imported, and Lancashire and Yorkshire spun and wove it. The difference between the price of the raw cotton and the calico which Lancashire and Yorkshire sold meant prosperity to Lancashire and Yorkshire. What would be thought of a Government which said, "Don't send raw cotton, send calico!'' The result of such action would be the ruin of Lancashire and Yorkshire. That was precisely what this clause did for the British farmer. It said, "Don't bring us staple to this country, but bring as much of the finished article as you like." Say that a ship arrived from Canada with 500 lean cattle which were sold, say, for £8 per head. That made £4,000 that Canada received for the shipment. Under this Bill Canada must send the cattle fed. Say it got £12 a piece for its fat cattle. That was £6,000. The difference between £4,000 and £6,000 was £2,000. Who got that £2,000? The Canadian. And who lost it? The 348 British farmer. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that things would adjust themselves, that the lean cattle trade was gradually disappearing, and the dead meat trade increasing by leaps and bounds. The lean cattle trade might not be a very large one, but it made money for the British farmer. On every fat ox that reached this country there was a distinct loss to be calculated to the British farmer and the British landlord. He did not believe Canada would suffer. Although the Canadian did not wish to take up the fat cattle trade, he would do it, and, by and bye, an immense number of fat cattle would come to this country from Canada, and the increase in that trade was the precise measure of the loss to the British farmer. It was said the Bill would be good for the breeder. It might be so for a little time, until things adjusted themselves; but cattle were bred for the butcher, and the price the butcher could afford to pay must rule the price the breeder could get. The price for which the American could send his cattle to this country would rule the price in Smithfield Market. Americans and Canadians would send their cattle to this country, and so long as there was a penny profit in the pound, the price of dead meat and live cattle would fall in this country. This Measure would ruin not only the feeder—that it would do at once—but it would ruin the breeder also. He believed that the only connection the farmer would have with the meat trade would be to lean on his fence and watch the dead meat from America rolling up to London by the railway. He had given intense consideration to this matter, and he believed he was right in what he said, and that in a few years the Government would perceive the great mistake they had made.
§ * GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said that a false idea had been running through the whole of the Debate in connection with the Canadian trade. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had dwelt on the great importance of the market for store cattle, and on the great importance of the provision of store cattle from Canada. Store cattle were simply a bye product of Canada. The Canadian took all the precautions against disease he had taken in order to 349 get his fat cattle into this country, and he realised that when fat animals arrived they were worth £2 a head more than American, which must be slaughtered at the port, whilst the Canadian could be passed into the country and would be there slaughtered next day and sold as English meat. When the hon. Member for Market Harborough said that cattle could not be fattened in Canada, he should imagine that the hon. Gentleman had never been in that country.
§ * GENERAL LAURIE
said he could only answer for what he had seen in 20 years' experience in Canada, and as he had fattened 150 cattle every year for ten years, he thought he might speak with some knowledge. The fertile plains of Canada certainly had pastures equal to anything in England. His experience of the live cattle trade across the Atlantic was that in fine weather cattle gained on the voyage, and arrived in this country in good order and quite fit for butchering; but in stormy weather the cattle suffered greatly, and he hoped to see, as one of the results of this Bill, the dead meat trade substituted for it. With regard to the passing of this Bill being an offence to Canada, he acknowledged that there would be a good deal of irritation, and he was very sorry to hear the President of the Board of Agriculture emphasise so distinctly his belief that he had evidence to justify him in saying that disease came from Canada. He was satisfied that the Canadian was satisfied that there was no disease in that country at all. It had been pointed out that strong expressions of disapproval had come from the Canadian Legislature; but that Resolution expressed the full belief of the Canadian House of Commons that it was the duty of the English Parliament to legislate for the English people. It also expressed regret at the ground for their legislation. They claimed that the opprobrium of disease ought not to attach to Canada and so spoil their trade with other countries. Therefore they were anxious that inquiry should be made as to whether there was disease in Canada by the Government of this country before laying the 350 stigma upon them. They were told that if this Bill passed there would be a want of elasticity about our policy connected with this question. They were told, also, that it would bring about a rise in the price of store cattle. But hon. Members opposite forgot that not a single store animal had been imported during the last three and a half years. This Bill would give permanence and finality to the policy which we had adopted during the last few years. It was said that this Bill embodied the policy of the landlord class in this country. On that point he would ask leave to refer to the statistical Year Book of Canada, in which it was shown that the principal ground of complaint of the Canadian Government was the unreasonable delay on the part of the late Government, which certainly did not represent the landlord class in this country, in answering the communications of the Canadian Government. Under this Bill a definite finality would be given to the policy which had been pursued in this country for the last three years with regard to the importation of cattle alive. The policy of the late Government was to give no answer to communications and to leave everything open and indefinite. He did not believe that the latter policy would receive the approval of the people of Great Britain. It was beyond dispute that the Canadian people were adapting themselves to the present state of things, and were prepared to paddle their own canoe and to fight their own battles. The Canadian Parliament did not object to the Parliament of Great Britain legislating in the interests of this country, but what they did object to was the stigma that their cattle were diseased. From what he had seen in Canada during recent years, he believed that they were settling down to a policy of slaughtering their own cattle on their own shores, and of making use of cold storage to send the meat to this country. No doubt that would have the effect of lowering the price of meat over here, but surely that could not be properly described as a landlord's policy. It was, however, said that the price of meat would be lowered if this Bill passed, and as the observation came from hon. Members opposite it must be true. If that were the case his constituents would be glad to hear it. It would be far better 351 to give finality to our policy in regard to this matter, because it would enable both English breeders and Canadian feeders to know what they were about, and to make sure of a market for their animals, as it took at least three years to breed and grow an animal ready to be fed for the butcher. Hon. Members opposite said that another effect of the Bill would be to cause a great variation in the price of store cattle. But there was a considerable variation in the price of such cattle under the existing state of things. For instance, in his own constituency, store cattle were selling two months ago, when there was plenty of fodder, at £2 per head more than they fetched now, when fodder was scarce. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture had been sufficiently strong not to yield to the great pressure that had been brought to bear upon him on this subject.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said that he must congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down upon his attempt to please both his English constituents and his Canadian friends. Then the hon. and gallant Member had said that what the Canadian Government complained of was that a stigma had been cast on the health of Canadian cattle by this Bill, but, he pointed out, that had been the main contention of hon. Members on that side of the House. If they were going to do a big stroke of Protection in this manner, let them admit it in so many words, and take the responsibility as honest straightforward men. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to suggest an Amendment as to the title of the Bill. He had appealed to the House in the most pathetic terms, and had said that if they were acquainted with the agony that beasts underwent in the transit from Canada——
§ * GENERAL LAURIE
Excuse me, I remarked that they suffered when they were washed overboard, and I said that they gained flesh on the voyage in fine weather.
§ MR. BROADHURST
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to correct his statement—[Cries of "Order!"] I understand that what he spoke of was the effect of the voyage to live stock. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of 352 the Bill did not profess that it was a Bill to lessen the sufferings of the cattle, and surely fat beasts would suffer as much as lean beasts. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was, in fact, supporting a policy which would be the means of bringing beasts to this country in a condition in which they would suffer much more acutely in their passage across the sea. They were not fighting solely on the ground of cheap or dear meat, they objected to a hard-and-fast policy which would close the door for ever against the importation of live beasts into this country, except such as were slaughtered immediately on being landed. They desired that the English farmer might have the opportunity of profiting by purchasing lean cattle and selling them when, fattened—a profit which this Bill would reserve for farmers and feeders in other countries. He knew that formerly good Canadian store cattle of the most profitable kinds were bought freely by the North-East Coast feeders in English markets at £8 a head, but to-day for their Somerset or Herefordshire store cattle they were giving £11 or £12, if not £13 a head. [An HON. MEMBER: "What age?"] Excuse me, they are about the same age. [Loud laughter.] The difference was on an average to the farmer about £4 per beast, and there was a further difference of £1 or £1 10s. per beast, because the cattle from the West and South-West of England were not worth so much as feeding beasts as were the Canadian cattle. He had always understood that the Conservative Party and the Agricultural Party in that House were anxious that this country should grow its own food to the largest possible extent. [Ministerial cheers.] What was the meaning of this Bill? Was it in that direction? ["Yes."] Did they want to wait each morning for their chops, or for the arrival of a steamer from Canada or Argentina before they could get a leg of mutton? Suppose some one went one better, and declared that they should import no wheat and no flour in a raw condition—[laughter]—that they should only have it imported as biscuits and bread. They were on the down grade, and they did not know where the stopping point was. The Government were being lured on by their enthusiastic supporters behind them. [Laughter.] He condemned 353 every line in the Bill, as it was pernicious from beginning to end. They should place the iniquity of this Bill before the country, so that their constituents should be in a position to see what was going on at the instigation of the Government.
§ * MR. LONG
hoped the Committee would now come to a decision on this clause, which had afforded ample opportunity for a discussion from every possible point of view. He was not going to follow the hon. Member in his very animated speech. When it was said they were going to destroy the northeastern ranges, they seemed to forget the condition of things at present. It was an exaggeration to describe the Bill as calculated to ruin the agricultural interest in the north-east of England and Scotland, but he made no complaint of the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He knew that the Member for Dundee, for instance, felt keenly, and that his constituents felt keenly. He hoped the Committee would now be allowed to come to a decision on the clause.
§ * MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said although his constituents felt keenly interested in this Bill, he had not ventured to rise till now because he recognised that the Bill in itself was such that it could not be amended, and the whole Bill was in this clause. He did not quite agree that all the various aspects of the Bill had been treated to-night. Look how it affected different localities—how it affected Scotland as compared with other localities. How had those localities been represented in the Division Lobbies? Scotch Members had been in a majority of two to one against the Bill, and an hon. Friend said more than that. He believed that the Bill introduced a principle that was pernicious and that, so far as it was a practical Bill, it was useless. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had shown by his own confession that the Bill was no better than the law as it at present exists—that the law now enabled him to do what the Bill would let him do in the future. The attraction was that the Bill was supposed to give a protection or favouritism to home-grown meat against foreign-grown meat. He admitted that his constitutents in East Aberdeenshire were not absolutely unanimous on this subject; the 354 feeders no doubt were resolutely opposed to the proposals in the Bill, and the breeders were inclined to favour the Bill. What, however, he wished to point out to those persons who approved of the Measure was that its operation would not, in the opinion of the President of the Board of Agriculture, tend to raise the price of home cattle or meat. It was within his knowledge that the supporters of the Bill believed that foreign live cattle would be permanently excluded from this country, and that, as a consequence, the price of their beasts and of their meat would be increased. He hoped his constituents and others would take note that according to the right hon. Gentleman that was a delusion. He believed that from the point of view of the supporters of the Bill, the Bill would have a serious detrimental effect. He was afraid men would urge Members of the Government—and he believed they would find only too willing support—to extend the principle of Protection to home productions. He believed that the Bill would disappoint in a large degree those who supported it, and that, politically, it was a very unwise Measure, inasmuch as under the existing law there was all the power one could possibly desire.
§ * MR. STEVENSON
could not help expressing some disappointment at the hard and fast attitude adopted by the President of the Board of Agriculture. Appeals had been made to the right hon. Gentleman, not from the Opposition side of the House only, but from the other side as well, to the effect that some elasticity should be given to the Bill. Concession might reasonably be made with regard to space and with regard to the means by which the Act might be determined. A great objection to the Measure was that it could not be determined by the House of Commons or by the Government responsible to the House, or by such a body as the Privy Council; it could only be determined by a body sitting in another place, and it was perfectly clear what the result of an appeal made to that body would be. Surely it was desirable that there should be some elastic arrangement whereby the Measure should be brought to an end when it was found that no disease existed. As the right hon. Gentleman could not accept the Amendment moved 355 earlier in the evening providing that the Privy Council should have the power of putting an end to this Act, would it not be possible for him, between this and the Report stage, to consider whether some other body could not fittingly be entrusted with that duty. For his own part, he rather advocated the Privy Council, not because that would be a slur on the Board of Agriculture, because, no doubt, they would use the advisers of that Department, but because they were accustomed in one capacity to consider and to adjudge matters as between the Colonies and the Mother country, and between one colony and another. In addition to the experts of the Board of Agriculture, they would also be able to take into consideration other facts affecting the graziers, the consumers, and the colonies, and matters which it was obviously impossible for the Board of Agriculture to take into consideration. He earnestly trusted that as the President of the Board of Agriculture had adopted an attitude of non possumus with regard to these important Amendments, he hoped he would be able now to give some assurance that the purport of them would receive consideration between this and the Report stage.
§ Question put, ''That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 170; Noes, 74.—(Division List, No. 209.)
§ MR. PARKER SMITH moved the following new clause:—