HC Deb 23 March 1896 vol 38 cc1617-92

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. R. J. PRICE (Norfolk, E.)

asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he was aware that the further Papers promised on the subject of pleuro-pneumonia were not distributed till that afternoon, and whether, in consequence, he would postpone the Second Reading in order to afford Members an opportunity of becoming acquainted with their contents?


said, the Papers were delivered at the House at eight o'clock that morning, but by some mistake, for which his Department was not responsible, they were not distributed to Members. He did not think that unfortunate incident would justify the postponement of the Bill. He begged to move, "That the Bill be now read 2a."

*MR. J. MARTIN WHITE (Forfarshire) moved as an Amendment, "That the Bill be read a Second time on this day six months," It was, he said, perhaps somewhat venturesome for one so little experienced as himself to lead off the opposition to a Bill brought in by a Minister of the Crown. But against that inexperience he placed the strength of his case, for not only could one good reason be given for the rejection of the Bill, but several reasons, each sufficient in itself. In the first place, the evidence was insufficient to support a Bill of this kind. In the second place, the Bill was wholly unnecessary. In the third place, it went contrary to a cardinal principle of good law making—that a law should do the maximum of good with the minimum of harm; whereas this Bill would do a trivial good and an enormous harm, a harm not only to the food-consumers of the country, but to the interest which it proposed to help, the agricultural interest, and to the Colonies in which we are so greatly interested. [Cheers.] In the fourth place, the Bill would take away some of the liberties of the House. The present state of the law in regard to the importation of foreign animals was briefly this,—that the Board of Agriculture if they are satisfied that the laws of any country relating to the importation and exportation of animals, and the general sanitary conditions therein, are such as to afford reasonable security against the importation there from of diseased animals, the Board shall allow animals or any specified kind of animals brought from that country to be landed, subject to such slaughter and quarantine regulations as they may determine to be necessary. Further, it was provided that all orders should lie on the Table of both Houses for the information of Parliament. The present Bill was very simple though very far-reaching. It simply withdrew this discretion. What grounds were there for this treatment of the subject? The right hon. Gentleman, introducing the Bill, said:— That with the knowledge which he had obtained of the disease and its peculiar character, the difficulties which attached to its detection and the suddenness with which outbreaks occurred, he could not conceive the moment arriving when the Minister for Agriculture would feel that he could exercise his discretion in the direction of removing those restrictions. He would confine his remarks chiefly to pleuro-pneumonia, for the right hon. Gentleman said that the serious disease with which they had to contend was pleuro-pneumonia. With regard to the knowledge which the right hon. Gentleman had obtained, he would point out that the House to a large extent had the same general sources of information which the right hon. Gentleman had, and the conclusion of a very large number of experienced people was that these cases of suspicious pleuro-pneumonia which were the cause of severe restrictions with regard to the importation of foreign cattle, were not cases of contagious pleuro-pneumonia at all. Many farmers' meetings had emphasised this and he had received a Resolution which put it very clearly. The Arbroath Farmers' Club resolved:—That it has never been proved that contagious pleuro-pneumonia existed in Canada, and that they considered Canadian cattle the healthiest in the world. [Cheers.] Veterinary surgeons, in this country, in Canada, and in the United States also, said that these cases of pleuro-pneumonia were not contagious at all. He had had rather a serious statement put into his hands. It was that in 1895 disease was so prevalent up to the 16th of August, that 14 cases of pleuro-pneumonia were reported from America; but that on that day the inspectors from America arrived and no other cases were reported; and that in February 1891, one or two cases were reported during the temporary absence of the American inspectors. He sincerely hoped that this was not true. But when so many people believed that these cases, which had been the cause of the restrictions and of this Bill, were not contagious, they should have expected the right hon. Gentleman to bring in strong evidence in support of his case; evidence such as he ought to be able to obtain from really first-class scientific advisers. Last year when the right hon. Gentleman was pressed to try experiments to see whether the suspected cattle would infect British cattle he refused, stating that he had absolute confidence in his advisers, and in the Report now issued he laid great stress upon the opinion of these scientific advisers. The right hon. Gentleman said, in brief:— What is the good of those experiments; if these suspected cattle do not infect British cattle then a third tribunal will have to be set up, to say who is correct—those who say it is not contagious or the scientific advisers. Was it not the highest characteristic of a scientific man that he should change his opinion on evidence? [Cheers.] But these scientific advisers seemed to set their minds against everything. He sometimes wondered whether it was due to association with creatures of a lower level and that they had got their brains modified in the same way. [Laughter.] He said nothing against these gentlemen, except what he had heard from the right hon. Gentleman himself, for he knew nothing of them. They were not scientific men, but dogmatists. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that this question of pleuro-pneumonia was not understood. If that was the case, he asked whether this was the time to bring in a Measure permanently to exclude cattle? The House was aware that in the old days such diseases as cholera and smallpox were, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman, much more peculiar in their character and broke out in a much more sudden and unexpected way than pleuro-pneumonia. But by study, watchfulness, and vigorous administration and isolation, those diseases had been combated. It was not by slaughter. [Laughter.] If this was the case with regard to those diseases, why not provide that the same state of affairs should exist with regard to cattle? On the ground that there was no evidence to show that the Bill was the proper way to deal with the evil, he maintained that it should be rejected. He further maintained that the Bill was absolutely unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues no doubt believed that they would have a few years' tenure of office, and that during this period they could deal as stringently as they chose with this question of cattle disease. He should like, however, to recall the action of the late Liberal Administration. The late Minister of Agriculture in the Liberal Government was most strenuous in his endeavours to crush out cattle disease, but the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor had stated most emphatically that he never expected to make this Measure permanent. If, therefore, a Liberal Administration was as anxious as a Unionist Government, and, remembering that all Orders must be laid on the Table giving information with regard to foreign cattle, he thought the House could trust the Administration without such a Bill as this. The Measure, indeed, was unnecessary. The right hon. Gentleman said that an overwhelming majority of the agriculturists of the country had declared that, owing to the want of confidence on their part, they were unable to develop the cattle industry in this country, and statistics proved that there had not been that increase of cattle and sheep in the country which one might have expected. The right hon. Gentleman added that this, no doubt, was due to special circumstances, such as the late terrible drought. He had, however, looked into the statistics as to the number of cattle in this country. In 1880 he found the number was 9,800,000; in 1885 10,800,000; in 1890 the number was about the same; in 1892, though the disease had been raging all those years, the number had increased to 11,500,000. This increase was more rapid than the increase of population; therefore, on the ground that the Bill was intended to increase the number of cattle in the country, he maintained that it was absolutely unnecessary. It was unnecessary, not only from the point of view of administration, but also from the point of view of increasing the herds of the country. As to the triviality of the good this Bill would effect, he said that the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing it, referred to the fearful risk which the breeders of the country were running, and to the want of confidence which prevented them from embarking their capital and skill in grazing pursuits. When the right hon. Gentleman met a large deputation, he spoke about our herds being decimated, and quoted some figures. During four months in 1890, when the disease was at its worst, about 600 animals were slaughtered, and 5,000 animals which had been in contact were also slaughtered, with a loss of certainly not over £30,000. Supposing that over a series of years the loss amounted to £100,000, he contended that this was a trifling matter when compared with the magnitude of agricultural interests as a whole. The maximum risk which the country ran would represent one and a-half hour's work, interest and rent per annum of that industry, or fifteen minutes' work and income of the whole country. Put in another form, the risk which the country ran in paying for cattle disease was about one-twentieth of one per cent. of the agricultural income, or 120th of one per cent. of the income of the country. He did not believe there was an hon. Member opposite who would dare to go before his constituents and say that he was such an ''invertebrate" as to tremble at a risk of that kind. He submitted, therefore, that a Government which could afford to spend £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 in relief of rates could afford to lay aside £100,000 in case of loss and injury from cattle disease. The right hon. Gentleman laid stress on microscopical examinations and other indefinite matters, but he refused to carry out a really practical experiment. If the Government were going to disturb the food supply of the country for a gain which represented so little, he could not refrain from believing that there was something political behind the movement. Did it not look like Protection? He firmly believed that there was Protection at the bottom of this movement. The right hon. Gentleman had denied that this was the case, and of course he accepted his denial. But was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to say that the hon. Members who were pushing forward this question were not to a large extent Protectionists? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that there were several Liberals on the deputation, but the right hon. Gentleman knew very well that two or three foolish swallows did not make a summer any more than two or three deluded Liberals made Free Trade. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that some of his colleagues would not dearly love to see Protection introduced? What about the Prime Minister himself? He confessed to the belief that Lord Salisbury appeared to have some leanings towards Protection. But the present Bill seemed to him to be the silliest form of Protection. As a friend had remarked to him, it was as though they kept out, protectively, wheat and let in flour free. What would be the result of these restrictions? The first result would be slightly to raise the price of store cattle. The quantity of store cattle reared in this country would be increased, the price would be much reduced, if the right hon. Gentleman was right in saying the price of meat would not rise, and those who had been in the habit of rearing cattle of that description would turn their attention to other ways of making money. They were, therefore, driven to the conclusion that, if the Bill became law, the number of fat cattle fed in this country would be reduced, and the refrigerated, chilled, and port-slaughtered meat trade would be increased. But there was now a chance of a rise in the price of British meat, in consequence of the Agricultural Produce Marks Bill, which it was proposed to pass. He admitted that that Bill, if it could be made workable, would be a justifiable form of protection, namely, protection against dishonesty. But the effect of that Bill, combined with the present Measure, would be undeniably protection in the objectionable sense, for we should no longer have the Free Trade which enabled us, with adequate safeguards against disease, to obtain the raw material to fatten here, and so to compete with the foreign dead meat trade, which would develop. Store cattle imported from abroad and fattened here did not, perhaps, provide meat with quite as delicate a flavour as that of the best British meat, but it was as good as the average British beef, which was of times tough old cow. [Laughter.] Port-slaughtered meat was of poor condition, and more tasteless than British beef or foreign or Canadian store cattle fattened here. The best chilled meat was equal to the best English meat, but the inferior qualities were not as good, and refrigerated meat was considerably poorer. Foreign store cattle could, however, be placed upon farms more cheaply than store cattle could be raised in many parts of this country. In these circumstances, was it not right that we should import these cattle, the framework, as it were, on which to put good, fat nutritious beef? There were some hon. Members who said that we ought to be as independent as possible, in regard to our meat supply. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member said "hear, hear," but what about wheat? Could we be independent of foreign countries in regard to our food supplies? What about poultry and eggs; what about Indian wheat, which we imported as food for our cattle; what about wool, flax, and countless other things? If we had more cattle in this country we should have to keep down agricultural produce of other kinds. For his part he liked to divide his risks, and he did not see why we should not import to some extent young cattle from which to make beef, as well as wheat from which to make bread. He thought, indeed, that the House would be doing very much more wisely in protecting wheat than in protecting cattle. They had seen in the Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture how the greatest agricultural depression was found in the south and east of England, and those parts of the country suffered in this way because they had adhered for so long a time to the cultivation of wheat. It was in the east of England, that store cattle were chiefly required, and if introduced there they might bring about an amelioration of the present state of things. He wished to ask how this legislation would affect our relations with the colonies, and they ought to be told how matters stood. The Leader of the Opposition had said that the Secretary for the Colonies controlled the Cabinet, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland had told them that the Liberal Unionists had their way of doing things, and that the Conservative Unionists were a different party altogether. Where in all this did the question of the Federation of the Empire come in?


I must ask the hon. Member to keep more closely to the Question before the House. ["Hear, hear!"]


wished that the Secretary of State for the Colonies would confer with the Minister for Agriculture as to the effect of this Bill upon the Colonies. He hoped that together they would be able to find a way out of the difficulties of the position. The Minister for Agriculture was proposing to do all this harm in order to remedy agricultural depression. In some places there had been, he admitted, considerable depression, but in others there had been very little. Of course he was not talking of this year, which had been exceedingly bad, but all industries, the iron trade and the cotton trade for example, had their bad years. On the whole they heard too much in that House about agricultural depression. There were extensive portions of the country which could be doing as well agriculturally as other industries were doing in their respective lines, if we had a free importation of Canadian and other store cattle and a further adjustment of railway rates. He came now to his last point. That House controlled the Administration, and so had control over the Department of Agriculture, which was concerned with the question of the admission of foreign animals. He would ask the House whether they were so to distrust themselves as to gratuitously give away the power they had, and if they wanted to change this restriction to find they had noble Lords in another place preventing them from carrying out their wishes? Because it was an unwarranted degradation of the powers of this House, which was popularly elected, and because it was an unwarranted exaltation of the powers of an archaic oligarchy responsible to none but themselves, he said this Bill should be rejected. If the House should read the Bill a second time, then he asked that it should not be pressed further for the reasons—first, that they had no evidence that this was the proper way of dealing with the question, and the Bill precluded their ever knowing anything about it; secondly, that the administration had full power in the matter, and the increase of their herds had gone on increasing irrespective of all this disease; and, thirdly, lest they might by doing trivial good in saving a few tens of thousands of pounds, do a vast amount of harm to the food consumers of this country, to the agricultural interest itself, and to the Colonies. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

MR. R. J. PRICE (Norfolk, E.),

in rising to second the Amendment, said he should like to make a few comments as to certain necessary papers having been delivered to Members at so very late a period. The President of the Board of Agriculture seemed to think it was quite a reasonable thing that these important papers, containing most valuable information on the controversy, should have been delivered at eight o'clock that morning.

MR. LONG (interposing)

observed that he had said nothing of the kind. He had expressed his regret that it had not been possible to deliver the papers earlier. The Debate on this Bill had been fixed for to-day, very much out of consideration to the convenience of those who opposed it.


replied that their convenience would best have been consulted if they had had a proper opportunity of consulting these most important papers. It was not reasonable for the right hon. Gentleman to expect hon. Members to come down to the House of Commons at eight o'clock in the morning for papers which ought to have been left at their own houses. It was a method of proceeding which did not tend to shorten Debate. The House ought not to be asked to pass a judgment on this question without hearing the most recent contributions on this controversy. The Leader of the House treated the matter as a trivial one, which was likely to be disposed of in a very brief space of time. But it was of the greatest possible importance to this country and to Canada, of as much importance as anything that could have been brought before it this session. To the people of Norfolk it was the most important question that had come before the Legislature for many years. It was only on the 14th March last that they had a large meeting at Norwich of the Norfolk Chamber of Agriculture, at which a resolution was passed hostile to this Bill, whilst not a single word was said in its favour. The Mover of the Resolution, the President of the Chamber, Mr. Luncroft Holmes, said:— The effect of this Bill would be to enhance the price of store cattle very considerably; this had been done already; and he maintained that nothing that the Government might do for the relief of agriculture would compensate them for the loss that would be sustained by the operation of this Bill, which would do more harm than anything that the Government brought forward with the view of doing them good. They were told that they might as well ask for the moon as for Protection, but he maintained that this Bill was one for the protection of the breeder against the feeder. He would be the last to advocate the importation of foreign cattle disease into this country, but Canadian cattle were the healthiest cattle in the world. Two years ago he ventured to predict that if Canadian cattle were precluded from coming into this country, grasslands would become as unprofitable for winter grazing as they had for corn-growing. He was sorry to find that his prediction had been fulfilled. They had had store cattle increasing in price, while beef had decreased, and no margin was left for grazing. He guaranteed that not a single head of the cattle that had been sent to market since Christmas had paid the expense of grazing. This was a question of landlord and labourer, as well as of the tenant-fanner. If cattle-grazing were to be as unprofitable as it promised to be they would have no money to buy with, and if they could not raise cattle they would not be able to employ and pay the labourers. There was no doubt that cattle-grazing districts employed more labour per acre then any other farming business in the Kingdom. He hoped that the Chamber would pass a Resolution protesting strongly against the passing of an unnecessary, and, as he believed it would prove, a disastrous Bill. The Seconder of the Resolution, Mr. Goulder, one of the strongest Tories in Norfolk, said:— He had no hesitation in saying that many of them, had they been able to get Canadian store cattle to market this year and last year, as they did a few years ago, would have made sufficient to keep their farms going. He had no doubt that for the last two years they had paid £2 per head more for store cattle than they otherwise would have had to pay, and they were now asked to protect the Irish and Midland county men, who brought their cattle here and made what they liked of them. The graziers had to face the competition of the whole world. Then, with regard to the particular quality of these home-bred animals, another speaker said:— If, in the autumn, they looked at some of the brutes that were sent to be grazed here, they would say that there ought to be a law prohibiting such from propagating their species. Whilst the Norfolk farmers supported the general policy of the President of the Board of Agriculture, they condemned his policy with regard to this Bill, and they felt that, whereas the late President chastised them with whips, the present President was preparing to chastise them with scorpions. The little things he was doing for them would be perfectly useless in face of this great disaster he was going to inflict upon them. In the meeting to which he had made reference there was a strong expression of there being no wish to injure the breeder, and Mr. Hollway Calthrop made the following remarks:— He said that his friends would remember that some time ago he was unable to support them in their action with respect to this matter; but he felt bound to support the Resolution that day. He could not support Mr. Case before because he felt that it was unwise for them to interfere in any way with Ministerial responsibility. It seemed to him that when a Minister of the Crown told them on his responsibility that there was a danger of admitting disease from a particular country, it was a dangerous thing for any body of men—even so representative as was that Chamber—to urge upon that Minister the admission of cattle from such a country. But now the Government had turned round, and they had brought in a Bill for which some of them had contended. They had introduced a Bill to do away with Ministerial responsibility, and to leave no option to the Minister to make the exclusion of cattle depend upon the question of disease, but to make it a matter of general, universal, and constant policy. The Bill seemed to him to be totally unnecessary, because under the existing state of thing's they had managed to stamp out pleuro-pneumonia, and to establish a clean bill of health in England. If the existing conditions had been sufficient to stamp out disease and prevent its re-introduction, where was the necessity for this Bill? The only safe line to take was where there was the danger of introducing disease to support the Government in excluding cattle from that country; but, where there was no danger, it seemed to him that they had no right, according to economic laws to interfere with the free course of trade and business. As to the wretched compensation they were to get, it was said by Mr. Long that this Measure would greatly increase their flocks and herds, and would lead to many more stores being bred. It led to this in one way only, by raising the prices so as to induce breeders to produce more stock. If prices were not raised there would be no inducement that did not already exist; Therefore, if this were to come at all, it must be simply the protection of the breeder against the grazier. He preferred the Resolution to the Amendment because it insisted that to protect the breeders of stock at the expense of the graziers was an injustice, of which, he thought, they in East Anglia ought to complain. These speeches were most moderate. In point of fact the condition of things in Norfolk was desperate, and the permanent exclusion of Canadian cattle would certainly complete the state of "utter ruin." He asserted that for the Government to have a case for permanent exclusion of Canadian store cattle they must show a very distinct case of danger—not a mere scintilla of risk, but such a substantial risk as to justify an enormous injury being inflicted on certain portions of the country for the safety of the other part. The present position was that while the foreign breeders shipped here and sold without restriction, our breeders in Norfolk and Scotland, and other parts of the country had to pay a higher price for their raw material than they ought, and had to compete in the open market with this perfectly free meat. He supposed his Irish friends were going to support this proposal, but he would like to warn them that it was quite as easy for the Government to serve Irish cattle in the same way as they served Canadian cattle, and the experience had been that Canadian cattle were far healthier than Irish cattle. ["No, no!"] Whenever the question of risk was considered the Board of Agriculture said this disease was highly infectious; when, however, it was pointed out that if the disease was very infectious the Canadian herds would have been infected long before now, the Board said that the disease was very slightly infectious, if at all. According to the experts of the Board, there had been 16 cases altogether which had come over, he could only find five or six in the books, but whatever the number it was very small. The case of the Board of Agriculture hinged upon the pathological appearances. In one case in 1892, at Parks Hill in Scotland, a cow was supposed to have been infected from a Canadian ox, with the result that the cattle that came over with that ox were slaughtered wholesale. The Board, however, never traced the origin of the cow, which was probably Irish. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] In the next case, two oxen were discovered to be diseased on one ship, the Lake Winnepeg; one of the cases of disease was of older standing than the other, and the assumption of the Board was that the more recent case had caught the case from the less recent one. In that method of reasoning there was room for much fallacy. The Board had first asked Canada to slaughter beasts at the port of export, in order to prevent old and inferior beasts being sent across. The Canadian Government did not slaughter them, but did find out what was the matter with all the suspected cases, which were now tabulated in the book which had been issued. Out of over 13,000 there were no cases of pleuro-pneumonia. The Board then instructed the Canadian Government to slaughter the whole of the herds from which the suspected animals came; the Canadian Government certainly did not do that, and subsequent events proved that they were very wise, for there was no further case of disease among these herds. That was a very strong argument against the disease having existed there. Then the Board said, if there is no pleuro-pneumonia in Canada, it must get across the frontier from the United States, but, as a matter of fact, for many years there had been in all the eastern part of Canada 90 days' quarantine. The Canadians had sacrificed the United States entirely in order to get the trade of this country. As a matter of fact there was no such export from the United States to Canada. Now the United States had a quarantine also, and practically the import and export of beasts between those two countries was almost non-existent. The regulations as to quarantine were now the same in the western parts of Canada as in the eastern. The Canadian Government would have been glad of the opportunity of tracing down some of these suspected cases, but their point of view was that there was no pleuro-pneumonia there, that they had never had a case, and that it was impossible for them therefore to slaughter the animals. The Canadian Government had made out a much stronger case than had our Board of Agriculture. The case of that Government was that the suspected cases which arrived in this country had acquired the disease in transit, which, from the conditions of ventilation, etc., on board ship, and the severe weather in which they were sometimes sent across, was extremely likely. From 1880 to 1890 the Canadians imported into this country 1,300,000 odd cattle, and there was not a single case of disease amongst them during those years. Then, in 1890, there was a suspected case—that was at the time when we had the great epidemic over here. It was looked into and was not considered sufficiently serious to warrant the putting of an embargo upon the Canadian cattle. From 1890 to 1892, more than 200,000 new cattle came over from Canada, but no suspicious case occurred until September, 1892. After that, until the period when the compulsory slaughter of cattle was directed by the Order in Council, some 13,000 cattle were landed alive in this country, and the whole of these animals were found to be free from disease. When the Order for the compulsory slaughter of the cattle came into force, the Canadian Government looked about in order to see what they could do to meet the views of the Board of Agriculture, and they directed an examination to be made in all the large abattoirs of the lungs of the animals slaughtered with the object of ascertaining whether disease was prevalent or not among the cattle, with the result that not one case of pleuro-pneumonia was discovered, and only one case of tuberculosis found, although some thousands of slaughtered animals were examined. The Board of Agriculture said that the examinations relied upon by the Canadian Government were not conclusive because there was no microscopical or bacteriological examination made. But where millions sterling depended upon the issue, it was almost impossible for him to believe that the Canadian Government disregarded microscopical and bacteriological examination. Professor Nocard, in reference to an anatomical specimen sent to him by Mr. Fabre, General Commissioner for Canada, said:— I am unable to say what the precise nature of the lesion is, the prolonged immersion in alcohol rendering it impossible to make either cultures or innoculations. To sum up: (1) The microscopic appearance is that of an old pleuro-pneumonic lesion with sequestra. (2) This appearance is not confined to pleuro-pneumonic, but may exist in other lung diseases of cattle. (3) The only method of definitely establishing the exact nature of the lesion would have been to make a bacteriological and experimental examination (including cultures, innoculations, etc.) of a fresh piece. He should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture to the fact that he had before him a very good opportunity of relieving the British taxpayer of a portion of his burden. The Canadian Government had informed the Board of Agriculture that if the latter would send their own experts to Canada for the purpose of examining into the health of the cattle in that country, they were perfectly prepared to pay all the expenses that would thereby be incurred, to direct the slaughter of such animals the experts might desire to make a post mortem examination of, and to pay the British Government £10,000 for each diseased animal that might be so discovered. That offer certainly showed that the Canadian Government had every confidence in the health of their cattle. The conclusion at which he had arrived was that it was unquestionable that there were appearances which justified the Board inspectors in suspecting pleuro-pneumonia, and in provisionally diagnosing pleuro-pneumonia as far as diagnosis could be made. The Board of Agriculture, however, instead of making the proper microscopical and bacteriological examination, had endeavoured to impose impossible conditions upon Canada, and now they had to introduce this unnecessary, disastrous and wicked Bill. As he understood them, the Government reasons for introducing this Measure were, first, the presumed weakness of some future President of the Board of Agriculture who might repeal the restrictions now imposed upon the landing of foreign cattle, and the removal of a source of continual friction between ourselves and the Canadian Government. As regarded the first point, he desired to make the suggestion, that, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture was going to receive the support of the Irish Members as well as his own Party, and that, therefore, it was likely that the Bill would be read a Second time, the right hon. Gentleman' should agree to refer the Bill to a Special Committee, where further evidence could be taken—or, with a view to giving time for further consideration, should consent that a clause should be placed in the Bill to the effect that on and after the 1st of January 1897, it should be competent to the Privy Council, on the recommendation of the Board of Agriculture, to allow the importation of colonial cattle under such regulations as the Board of Agriculture might think fit. The House had been so forbearing with him that he would not trouble them by reading the whole of the evidence which he had collected upon this subject which he had at first intended to do, but lie would content himself by referring the right hon. Gentleman to the letter of Professor Adams, of the McGill University, which contained much that was instructive, and was well worthy of the right hon. Gentleman's attention. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not be successful in passing the Second Reading of this Bill, but if he were so, he trusted that in view of the serious disadvantage that it would inflict upon both the east of England and Scotland, he would consent to introduce some such provision as he had indicated, in order in some degree to meet the objections of those who opposed the Second Reading of the Bill.

MR. GRANT LAWSON (York N.R., Thirsk)

said, he did not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman into the very interesting veterinary address he had delivered. The fact remained that disease was imported from Canada and did damage amongst English herds. ["No, no."] Would the hon. Gentleman deny that a case was imported into Dundee in 1892? The hon. Gentleman spoke of transit pleuro-pneumonia. He did not know what that particular disease might be, but it appeared to him it might be just as dangerous as any other kind of pleuro-pneumonia. This Bill was introduced to guard against other diseases besides pleuro-pneumonia. A complaint was made that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture would not try experiments. That was exactly what the farmers of this country did not want; for, if the experiments turned out failures, they had to be very heavily paid for. He thought the farmers knew fairly well what they wanted. An enormous deputation waited on the President of the Board of Agriculture in favour of a Bill on the lines of that now proposed. As the law stood at present, the duty was put upon the Board of Agriculture practically of inspecting every farmstead in the world. Was that possible? Could the Board make sure that if cattle were imported there were not diseased animals amongst them? The hon. Member calculated the damage done by the number of foreign animals imported alive; but he would point out that one infected animal might spread disease far and wide. One microbe to a shipload of cattle might work havoc in this country. The speeches delivered that night had already been delivered in 1869, 1878, and 1884; in fact whenever a Bill for the protection of farmers against disease was introduced. It was prophesied that if the Bill of 1884 was passed, meat would be half-a-crown a pound, and that there would be a food famine in London; but in 1883 the price of meat was higher than it was in 1887, when the Bill was in full force. Something, however, did rise, and that was the amount of stock kept in this country. Comparing 1887 with 1883 he found that there were a million more sheep and half a million more cattle, and that was why the price of meat did not go up. He wished to place before the House some very interesting figures taken from a Report made by Major Craigie in 1889. That gentleman said that for every 100 lbs. of meat used in this country, 74 lbs. came from home stock, 19 lbs. from dead imported meat, and 7 lbs. only arrived "on the hoof;" and since 1889 there had been a still further reduction in the latter figure. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment complained that this rich Government would not afford £100,000 a year to pay the damage caused by these outbreaks. He would point out to the hon. Member that the late Lord Aberdare, when introducing a Bill on this subject some years ago, stated that the estimate made by the live stock insurance companies of the average annual loss from death due to disease before restrictions on importation were imposed, amounted to £6,120,000. What use, then, would £100,000 a year be? He could not understand how this Bill could have any effect on the present price of store cattle, because at the moment the importation of store cattle was prohibited, and had been prohibited for a long time. There was one way in which a meat famine could be produced in this country, and that was by compelling the farmers to run the risk of having all their chance of profit swept away by the introduction of contagious diseases. The hon. Member opposite said that there was Protection at the back of this Bill. So there was protection, not against competition but against contagion, and that was not a matter which divided Parties.

SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

said, he was rather hopeful that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill would have risen at an earlier period in the Debate. He did not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was not frank with the House, because when he introduced the Bill he made a speech of great interest, and in his courteous, though decided manner, he gave the House, in a single sentence, the main, cardinal reason which had induced him to introduce the Bill, in his interpolation in the speech of his hon. Friend behind him. It might be cast in the teeth of anyone who rose from the front Opposition. Bench, that their Government had put restrictions on the importation of Canadian cattle; but he did not think that had anything to do with the question of their Bill, because, in the first place, they might now say that the time had come when Canadian and New Zealand cattle might be safely admitted, and, in the next place, they might hope that such a time might come in the future. But this Bill declared that they never should be admitted at all till the end of time, unless Parliament, acting through both Houses, said so. The other House was, to a very great extent, composed of noblemen deeply interested in land from the point of view in which their Bill was introduced; and the House of Commons was asked to put this great question out of its own power by binding the hands of itself and the Government by an Act of Parliament which could not be repealed without the good will of House of Lords. The hon. Member who spoke last did not seem to him to give a single argument for the passing of this Bill. Even on the question of excluding live cattle he only gave an instance of contagion which occurred in 1892. The hon. Member told the House that the British farmer knew what he wanted, but there were British farmers, and not a few, who were opposed to the Bill. Perhaps the most effective part of his speech was where he spoke of the circumstance that there was not the same fear of a great rise in the price of meat that there was in 1868 and 1878. The opposition came now chiefly from another quarter. It came from the fatteners of stock who lived by that alone, and would be seriously affected by the Bill, and still more by what he, himself, regarded as a certain consequence of the Bill. Was this an important question or not? The President of the Board of Agriculture, in his speech on the First Reading rather minimised it. He said:— The Bill did not involve any change in the existing state of things. It only proposed to make permanent the existing restrictions of the Board of Agriculture as to the importation of diseased cattle from abroad, and to put an end to the power of any Minister to abolish the regulations as to the importation of foreign cattle. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the "importation of diseased cattle," but this Bill put a stop not only to the importation of diseased cattle, but of all cattle whatsoever, to-day and for ever.


It does nothing of the kind. It simply makes statutory that cattle shall only be imported for slaughter at the port of landing, a totally different thing.


said, his contention was that the present condition of things was transitory, that they had strict regard to the circumstances of each case, that they could be altered when evidence was brought that the circumstances of the case were altered, that they could be altered by a stroke of the pen of a Minister, and that that Minister was under solemn obligation to the House of Commons not to make these alterations, and not to admit cattle unless there was absolute safety. The Bill proposed to alter this. If it was not exclusion for ever, why pass this Bill? No reason had been given for it that could possibly make it worth while, with so many legislative measures of importance on the stocks when the time of the House of Commons was ebbing away, that the time of the House should be taken up for this purpose unless their object was to make it impossible to do what could be done now. The President of the Board of Agriculture further said on the First Reading of the Bill:— So long as it is possible for these restrictions to be removed, farmers who are stock breeders would have no security for their trade. He himself contended that so long as it was impossible for these restrictions to be removed, farmers who were stock fatteners had no chance of their trading being improved by stock cattle, and if disease showed itself in Ireland their trade would at once be ruined. The whole agricultural industry of Westmorland and Northumberland, except so far as it consisted in the breeding of sheep, would be ruined. He would not refer to other counties because the Mover of the Second Reading spoke with great knowledge of the Scotch counties on the north-east, and the Seconder spoke with great force and truth of the state of things in the county he so ably represented as a rural Member. This was not a light matter. The First Lord of the Treasury thought this Bill would be disposed of early in the evening. But he must remind him that the Debate on the Second Reading of a similar Bill in 1878 lasted four whole nights. The leading men in the House spoke on one side or the other and the question was then regarded as one of the greatest and most vital importance. Among those who took part in the Debate was the right hon. Member for Croydon, now President of the Board of Trade. He said:— In his opinion, there was no necessity as far as concerned Spain, Portugal, Norway, and Denmark for slaughter at the port of arrival. Germany, Holland, and Belgium would have to be dealt with by stringent measures, but the other countries mentioned in the Bill ought to be excluded from the operation of the Measure, such as America and Canada. This was really the issue before them now, and it was an issue as well worth debating now as then. At the end of four days' Debate in 1878, the House went into Committee, and such was the effect of the Debate, that the opinions of the President of the Board of Trade prevailed, and the Bill that excluded foreign cattle was so amended that foreign cattle were allowed to be included where the Government were satisfied that they might be imported with advantage and safety. This was the issue to-day. Let the House think with what industries the Bill would interfere. In 1892 the imports of live cattle amounted to £500,000. Then came the regulations, and the imports fell to less than £350,000. This was followed by a dry season, and even under the regulations of the Board of Agriculture, the imports rose to £475,000. In two years the imports of live sheep rose from £480,000 to £1,065,000. That was the sort of elasticity that prevailed in the trade. That elasticity the Bill would destroy. For whose benefit would this be done? For that of the stock-breeding class to whom advantages had been given greater than had been given from the public purse to any other class of men. In the Debate of 1878, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, now Colonial Secretary said:— Only a few years ago the whole country were made to contribute to an insurance fund to secure farmers from loss, while in the case of any others the parties concerned would have to insure themselves. This was the case. The farmers who bred cattle insured out of the public Exchequer. But the case was much stronger than it was when the Colonial Secretary made that speech. Since then a large addition had been made to the contribution from the Exchequer. The Bill was intended to favour stockbreeders, colonists and foreigners who sent over dead meat, or cattle to be killed when they arrived in this country. It proposed to favour them at the expense of the stock fatteners. There was something approaching a panic in those counties in Scotland where Canadian cattle were principally bought for fattening, and they knew the same was the case in the eastern counties of England. He had quoted from the Debate of 1878 the opinions of two Members of the present Government. He would quote one more. The Duke of Devonshire (then the Marquess of Hartington), spoke of the concessions which had been made, and which practically formed the present system which this Bill proposed to alter. He said:— By these concessions the unreasonableness and impolicy of the principle on which the Bill was originally drawn requiring the unconditional slaughter of all foreign cattle at the port of lading had been somewhat modified. These modifications it was proposed by this Bill to sweep away, and to return to a state of things the Duke of Devonshire, in 1878, described as unreasonable and impolitic. It was a waste of time to pass a Bill which could not be required while the present Ministry remained in office and the practical operation of which was intended to begin with the accession of their successors. The only way of judging what their successors might do was to look at the action of predecessors; and it could not be said that their action erred on the side of laxity. A Minister who by laxity admitted disease would be swept out of office by the feeling of the House of Commons without any assistance from the House of Lords. Would any one think of applying this sort of Bill to anything but agriculture, or to the preservation of human health? In times of cholera there was fear that it might be brought in by imported rags; but would any one dream of prohibiting the importation of rags when there was no fear of introducing cholera? It was said, when once it was recognised that cattle had to be slaughtered at the ports a new industry would be created, labour would be employed, and capital would be required; but, if they were to think of these possibilities, they ought to think of the labour employed and the capital invested in the industries that would be destroyed if foreign cattle could not be admitted alive. The Corporation of Glasgow had erected, at a cost of £24,000, large buildings for the examining and keeping of store cattle until they were distributed. These buildings were used for 2½ years until restrictions were imposed, and would be used again when the restrictions were taken off; but if the restrictions were made statutory the buildings would become useless, and the capital invested in them by the City of Glasgow would be sacrificed. At Aberdeen and Dundee similar buildings had been erected at a cost of £24,000 in one case and £10,000 in the other; in the Scotch counties farmers had put up buildings for the protection of imported animals; and all the money so laid out would be lost. This was almost a case for compensation as good as any other. The Secretary for the Colonies had said that the railway company at Southampton, having laid out money on docks on the faith that healthy cattle would be imported, would have a claim for compensation better even than that of publicans if the Permissive Bill were passed; and, if docks and railway facilities gave a claim to compensation, what would be the case of the farmers or landlords who had put up buildings for sheltering cattle which by statute were prohibited from being imported? It was admitted that the conditions of agriculture differed in different parts of the country, and that no Measure would give equal satisfaction to agriculturists in all parts; and this was true of all great industries. Therefore a wise Government would avoid as long as it could, and bring to an end as soon as it could, any interference, however slight, which might benefit an industry in one part and injure it in another. If, for example, we excluded French silks for the benefit of Coventry, shippers, importers, and distributors of French silks would suffer. This case, however, was far worse, for it was the exclusion of the farmers' raw material. Speaking for a county which drew five-sixths of its store cattle from Ireland and a diminishing sixth from the Highlands of Scotland, he would say that if he were an Irish Member he would not with a light heart support a Bill for making exclusion statutory, for, when there was disease in Ireland, there would first be an overwhelming cry for excluding Irish cattle and then for making the exclusion permanent. In that case a particular industry in several northern counties of England and in several Scotch counties would be ruined. The better course was to keep this an administrative question.—[cheers]—depending on the needs and the circumstances of the country, and on the common sense of the House of Commons, which would err, if at all, not on the side of relaxation but on that of stringency. To enact a rigid rule which could be repealed only by subsequent legislation was a course upon which he hoped the Government would not insist and which he believed would be opposed by many private Members on both sides of the House.


wished to assure hon. Members that it was from no want of respect for the House that he had not risen earlier, but he thought it would be better that he should wait and see what form the opposition would take. The most exaggerated views had been taken of the results which would attend the operation of the Measure. He did not deny—indeed, on the introduction of the Bill he referred to it—that graziers in some parts of England, who before 1892 depended to a large extent upon Canadian store cattle for their trade, would suffer from their exclusion; but it was an unfair description of the Bill to say that it would effect the ruin of the Norfolk or of the Scottish farmers. It was asked do you fear having a weak Minister or a weak Government, under whom adequate Regulations would not be enforced? That was not the question which had to be decided now. The reason for the change which the Bill would effect was this, that if you removed the discretion as to the conditions under which animals might be landed in this country from the Board of Agriculture to Parliament, you would then give to the majority of agriculturists a security without which they said they could not carry on their industry. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division had dealt with the subject as if the importation of foreign stores was of vital importance not only to certain districts but to the whole country. But he had reason to believe that if stockbreeders were given the security against disease which the Bill would provide, the supply of stores would very soon more than meet the demand. The right hon. Gentleman had also contended that the difficulties of the situation would be met by the discretionary power which the Agricultural Department at present possessed of withdrawing privileges granted to certain countries as to the importation of live stock when needed and of granting them again when no danger of disease was to be apprehended. It was, however, the opinion of the Department that a very serious responsibility was cast upon them in the discharge of this very difficult duty. They felt it was impossible to be satisfied that pleuro-pneumonia had not been imported at any time under the existing Regulations. It was a disease that was extremely obscure in its character. It often lay latent in an animal for a long period; and occasionally it was almost by accident that the Department discovered outbreaks. As an instance of the difficulty of the task the Department had to discharge in stamping out the disease, and the heavy expense attached to it, he might mention that within the last few days there had been an outbreak of the disease near Southend—the first case since February 26 of last year—and the officers of the Department had not only ordered the slaughter of the entire herd, but were following up the cases of all cattle that had come into contact in any way with the herd in order to have these also destroyed.


This Bill does not affect such a case as that. ["Hear, hear!"]


said, he was aware of that fact. He had mentioned the case not as one that would be prevented if the Bill were passed, but in proof of the fact that at present a responsibility was thrown on the Department much greater than they ought to be called upon to bear, in view of the difficulty in detecting cases of this disease, even under such conditions as prevailed in this country. No one could suppose the Government desired to cut off a source of revenue from any section of the farming community; but, as the House must have realised from the Debate, the case of those who wanted the importation of Canadian cattle could be strongly pressed, and the Department naturally desired to be relieved of the responsibility of saying whether or not this demand should be conceded, and at the same time to remove all possibility of disease being imported by securing that all live cattle were slaughtered at the ports. It had been said that examination of the animals at the port was sufficient, and that there was no necessity for slaughtering them. Experience was altogether against that contention. In 1892, notwithstanding examination, a case of the disease had got into the country, and that case had cost the Department £15,000. The Bill had also been described as an unfriendly act against the loyal colony of Canada. It was nothing of the kind. The Government had no desire to do anything that might be regarded as offensive or unfriendly towards Canada, but he was bound to say that the case of Canada, raised as it had been, was to his mind one of the strongest arguments that could be adduced in support of the Bill. It was idle also to contend that the action of the Government was not based on sufficient information, and that the officers of the Agricultural Board were mistaken in their views on pleuro-pneumonia. His predecessor in the office of President of the Board, assisted by Sir Henry James and Dr. Burdon Sanderson, held an Inquiry into the subject, which clearly established that every case of disease was a case of pleuro-pneumonia, and that the action of the Board of Agriculture had been justified. The veterinary officers of the Board, who were examined before that Inquiry, stated that they had been acquainted with pleuro-pneumonia for 30 years; and since 1890 had had under examination 3,133 sets of lungs, and had detected 1,087 cases of pleuro-pneumonia. On the other hand, the distinguished veterinary officer to whom had been intrusted the Canadian case stated, that he had not had much experience of pleuro-pneumonia, having had in all about six cases in London, and about 20 cases before he had come to London. The evidence went to show that strong and grave suspicion existed, and that the Veterinary Department were justified in the advice they gave. It would not have been possible to have a fairer or more impartial Inquiry than that held under his predecessor, and he was surprised to find the question raised again. It was suggested that a Commission to make further inquiries should be sent to Canada at the expense of the Canadian Government. In the first place, it was a mistake to suppose that there had been no cases since 1892. There had been cases in each subsequent year. In the second place, the Board of Agriculture had come to the conclusion that if this Commission were acceded to it would bring a satisfactory settlement of the question no nearer. If cases of pleuro were discovered in Canada the same defence would be urged—that it was not contagious pleuro; and, on the other hand, hundreds of animals might be slaughtered without one case being found; and then the logical consequence would be the removal of the restrictions. Yet the agricultural community of Great Britain and Ireland would almost unanimously condemn such a policy. [Cheers.] Therefore it was better not to waste time in an Inquiry of which the results in either case would not be accepted. The question was on which the Board of Agriculture must decide for themselves. They were told that their veterinary officers did not know their work; but of that, again, they alone could be the proper judges; and, having satisfied themselves as to the clearness of the evidence, they were bound to act in the interests of those whom it was their business to protect—[cheers]—and it was because they were satisfied that they had been well advised that they had introduced this Bill. Some hon. Gentleman had raised a question which ought not really to be considered in connection with legislation of this kind—namely, the effect of the passing of the Bill upon prices. His predecessor, in a letter to The Times, had fallen into the same error. But there was no foundation for the anticipation that the Measure would raise the price either of store cattle or of the food of the people. There were no trustworthy statistics as to the prices of store cattle, but he believed that they were much more affected by the season and abundance or shortness of keep than by the number of cattle imported or bred. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen talked as though the importation of store cattle was a most important factor in the number of cattle available for fattening purposes, but this was a great mistake. Taking the number of cattle in the country under two years of age, there were in 1891, including 90,000 fat and store cattle imported, 4,842,000; and in 1894 there were 4,263,000, or a reduction of 579,000. That was a serious reduction, but clearly foreign imported cattle had little to do with the number of cattle available for store purposes. The reduction would have been less by only 90,000, leaving still a reduction of 469,000, even if stores had continued to come in at the same rate as in 1891. It was estimated, however, that the stores imported declined in 1892 to 50,000. Notwithstanding the energy and eloquence with which the case of certain interests in Norfolk and Scotland were presented, there was evidence that the people in those districts were not all of one mind on this question. He would refer to Mr. Rew's report on Norfolk, in which he said that the figures given practically disposed of the statement that prices in Norfolk were governed by the presence or absence of Canadian cattle. As to the Canadian question, he had some very interesting figures which showed that the importation of Canadian stores, instead of being a vitally important question, was a very small question indeed, even to the graziers and breeders. This importation of Canadian stores was an industry almost coming to an end before the privilege of free entry was withdrawn. The number of Canadian cattle imported into this country was in 1890 121,000, and in 1892 (in the November of which year the restrictions were imposed) 98,000. It was not surprising that some Norfolk gentlemen looked back with regret to that period, because stores were then coming in at ridiculously low prices, which did not pay the exporter. But since the restrictions were imposed the imports had been 83,000 in 1893, 82,000 in 1894, and 95,000 in 1895. Thus the difference between the imports in the last year before the shutting of the ports and 1893 was 15,000; 1894, 16,000; and 1895, only 3,000. This decrease of 3,000 in Canadian imports was absolutely insignificant when compared with the large product of stores in the United Kingdom or with the large product of stores in Ireland available for the British feeder. In 1893, the number of Irish cattle imported was 319,000; in 1894, 423,000; and in 1895, 414,000. That was an increase over 1893 of 95,000, and, deducting the decrease of 3,000 in Canadian imports, a net increase of 92,000 animals available for the feeders of this country after the ports had been closed. He was glad to find that there had not been in this Debate many of those fears indulged which were so commonly expressed in 1883 and in 1878. In 1883, the right hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Mundella) anticipated that the restriction upon the importation of live animals would probably lead to a 2d. or 3d. per pound increase in the price of food.

MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

So it would.


Why? As a matter of fact, there had been an enormous increase in the amount of imports, whether they took the form of dead meat or live animals. If one looked at the value of fresh meat imported into the United Kingdom he would find that in 1878, when the restrictions were first introduced, it was £2 12s. 11d. per cwt., whereas now it had fallen to £2 per cwt., and that, whereas the amount imported then was 508,000 cwt., now it was 2,104,000 cwt. And how about the imports of live cattle? In 1878, there were 253,462 live cattle imported into this country; in 1894, with all these regulations imposed, the imports had risen to 475,440. These figures entirely negatived the contention that this Bill was going to destroy a great industry. As to the price of meat, he had had the prices taken out in the London Central Market and Liverpool and Glasgow markets and he found the same results obtained. The price of meat had, indeed, fallen in the most remarkable way in each of those markets, and there was no evidence whatever to show that the effect of this legislation would be either to lessen the number of stores or to increase their price or the price of meat generally in the country. He supposed what really lay at the root of the objections was a notion that the Bill contained some element of protection. [Opposition cheers.] The hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Measure told the House that two or three foolish swallows do not make a summer. Well, there might be two or three county members on the Opposition side who did not share the hon. Member's views, and he would leave him to settle his own differences with his own political friends.


interposed the remark that he did not say or imply that there were not a large number of free traders on the other side of the House.


believed there was a majority of free traders in all parts of the House. But nobody, except those who were anxious to invent an excuse for opposing legislation of this kind, would adopt so foolish a suggestion as that there was Protection at the bottom of it—[cheers]—he meant Protection in the ordinary sense of the word.

MR. G. WHITELEY (Stockport)

Then there is some Protection?


Certainly, there is protection against disease. [Cheers.] Surely the hon. Member was able to distinguish between protection against disease and protection against competition. [Cheers.] He would ask hon. Members who regarded Regulations of this kind as objectionable because they feared they were akin to Protection, whether they were not less objectionable than the risks of disease which must inevitably be run if these Regulations were not to be made permanent? He could only say that it had been his business during the last few months to be brought into close contact with agriculturists in all parts of Great Britain and Ireland, and he could safely say that he knew no question which commanded so much and such general support in all parts of the country as this did. Not only in Norfolk, but in Aberdeen, and in some other counties which had been described as hostile, the agriculturists were not all of one mind. The proportion of agriculturists in favour of the Bill was enormous. Taking the counties which he had regarded as hostile, without making any allowance for those dwellers in them who were undoubtedly friendly to the Bill, he found they represented a holding of 715,000 cattle, whereas the total cattle in Great Britain and Ireland at the present time amounted to 10,753,000. [Cheers.] So that those counties which were opposed to the Measure, even crediting them with being entirely hostile, held not more than 6½ per cent. of the total stock in the country.


What counties does the right hon. Gentleman include as unfavourable?


could not at the moment give the names, but he could tell the hon. Gentleman that they were those counties where he had found that the percentage of stock under one year old to the total stock of the county was under 16 per cent.

MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)

How does the right hon. Gentleman ascertain which counties were favourable?


replied that it was in the ordinary way, by communications which had reached him from all parts of the country. It had been his business to make inquiries as closely as he could. As he said, the counties which had raised any voice of opposition represented only 6½ per cent. of the stock of the country, crediting all those counties as being opponents which had 16 per cent. or less of young cattle, whereas in England the average of the whole country was 18 per cent.; in Wales, 24.62; Scotland, 19.29; Great Britain, 19.62; and Ireland, 23.34. Whilst in Aberdeenshire, in Perth and Kinross, which had been reckoned as hostile, there was an average of 21.33, 20.98, and 20.06. He thought he might claim that he had shown there was a necessity for this Bill if they were to give to the vast majority of agriculturists that fair and reasonable security which they were entitled to ask for—that there would be no diminution in the supply of stores and that there would be no increase in their price or in the price of the food of the people. He thought he should be able to show there was by no means a united feeling against this Measure. Here was a quotation from the agricultural report which appeared in the Aberdeen Free Press on the 1st of January 1896, and he believed that it expressed the feeling of a vast number of agriculturists in Scotland:— The only bright feature on the horizon is the revival in the industry of live-stock breeding. The increase in the number of cattle in Great Britain in 1895—some 7,000 head—is certainly not large, but still it is a gain which shows that agriculturists are willing, if allowed to prosecute their calling under a settled policy on the part of the Imperial Government, to provide the necessary supply of home-bred stock, for which, since the foreign stores have been shut out, there has been such a demand. There is good reason to believe that farmers who, through necessity or inclination, were led to reduce their stock of breeding cattle, depending on the supply of foreign stores, have begun to reverse their methods, and, in the course of time, if the present Imperial policy is maintained, the British agriculturists will be able to keep the profits which may be derivable both from the breeders' and the feeders' point of view. That statement showed clearly that there were some in Aberdeenshire in favour of the Bill, and who would be glad to see it receive the sanction of Parliament. He would like to read to the House a letter which he had received, through the medium of one of his inspectors, giving a conversation which he had had with a very large tenant farmer and proprietor in Scotland. He wrote:— As there appears to be a certain amount of agitation among Scottish farmers against the proposed legislation, I thought I might mention to you that Mr. Panton, a proprietor and large tenant-farmer in Perthshire, told me yesterday that not only was he strongly in favour of the Bill himself, but he was convinced that if a poll was taken nine-tenths of the Scottish farmers would be found of the same opinion. The opponents of the Bill, who are principally feeders of live stock and not breeders, he said were influential and very strong in self-interest; consequently, the majority of farmers, and especially the small ones, dare not take part in a counter-demonstration, but were watching with keen interest and anxiety the passing of the Bill. So convinced was he of the Bill becoming law, that he had already begun to breed cattle on a large scale, which for years he had been unable to do for want of security.


said that, as the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned the name of Mr. Panton, he might explain that he was a very strong Tory and a strong Protectionist all round, not only as regarded live cattle but as regarded dead meat as well.


said, he did not know whether the hon. Baronet thought that a man's testimony was not worth anything because he happened to be a strong Tory and a Protectionist. Surely he might state what he believed to be a fact, even if he was a Tory and a Protectionist. He did not speak with any personal knowledge of Mr. Panton, but he was told that he was a farmer who paid a great many thousands a year in rent, and that he was, in every way, a representative man, and that his opinion was entitled to some weight.


I thought it might be a biassed opinion.


said, he had only one further remark to make to the House with regard to this Bill. What had been asked for was not simply that there should be protection from disease, but that the conditions should be fixed and permanent, so that they should not be open to the doubt and danger, which, it was said, at present surrounded the raising and breeding of stock. He believed this would tend to develop an industry in Canada and the colonies and this country which would be profitable to them and to us, and that from the fixed conditions they would have satisfactory results both to stock-raisers in this country and to stock-breeders and raisers on the other side of the Atlantic. He did not think the Measure was a great deal to ask for on behalf of the great agricultural interest, which had suffered and was suffering grievously. It was from no desire to do anything offensive or injurious to Canada; and certainly from no desire to increase the difficulties of the struggling farmers either in the east of England or in Scotland; but out of a simple desire to do justice to the majority of their agriculturists, and to give them some help in the hour of their difficulty, that the Government had introduced the Bill. He believed that, if placed on the Statute Book, the Bill would do something, at all events, to benefit the majority of agriculturists; to increase their confidence, and to give them an opportunity of carrying on their industry more profitably than had hitherto been possible.

MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

said, the right hon. Gentleman had given the House no proof of the danger and injury which he said had resulted from the importation of live cattle. He was entirely with the right hon. Gentleman in his idea that they should take every possible precaution against introducing any form of such a disease into any portion of the three Kingdoms; and, so far as his personal influence went, he would aid the right hon. Gentleman in every way for that purpose. But, in his opinion—and he was only speaking for himself—the Bill would not effect the object which the right hon. Gentleman expected. Years and years ago, he came as one of a deputation to London in order to prevent the passing of a law which, under the pretext of preventing the importation of foot-and mouth disease, was intended to prevent all importation of live stock into great Britain from the United States. What had occurred since then to justify the right hon. Gentleman introducing the extraordinary Measure he had put before the House? Notwithstanding the fact that there had been no importation of live cattle into this country since November, 1892, foot-and-mouth disease had broken out in England in widely different centres and at different times; and, that being so, he wanted to know how the present proposal would prevent the importation of disease in the future. In Scotland, where the importation of Canadian cattle had been going on all the time up to 1892, as a matter of fact there had been no case of contagious disease. He wanted to point out this fact—and it appeared to him to be the fundamental idea of the Bill, which the majority of Members had failed to grasp—that, at the present moment, the Board of Agriculture had an absolute power of discretion in respect to any country as to which there was even the suspicion of cattle disease. Having that power, what further power did they require? It was proposed to make it the law of the land that no live animal should be imported from a foreign country. He would ask what guarantee they had, as Irishmen, that this Bill would not be extended to Ireland in the immediate future; for they had always been treated as foreigners in that assembly, and, in the past, the Board of Agriculture and its advisers had always endeavoured to place the responsibility on Ireland with respect to cattle disease. Ireland had enjoyed a clean bill of health for a longer period from foot-and-mouth disease, pleuro-pneumonia, and tuberculosis than either England or Scotland. As an Irish Member, he had no faith whatever in the administration of the English Board of Agriculture with regard to Irish affairs. If it became necessary, in the interests of England, to forbid the importation of Irish cattle, he was sure that the step would be taken. He thought, therefore, that he was protecting the interests of Ireland in endeavouring to prevent this Bill from being made a permanent law. Certain diseases were indigenous to all countries. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that 30 years ago pleuro-pneumonia existed in this country; but he knew, as a matter of fact, before a foreign animal was introduced to Ireland 60 years ago there was pleuro-pneumonia, and now much oratory was expended to show the necessity of shutting out all foreign cattle because pleuro-pneumonia or foot-and-mouth disease could be imported. He maintained, however, that through the circumstances of climate, of breeding, treatment, and surroundings, these diseases might be absolutely indigenous to any portion of the three countries. On those grounds he objected to the Bill, because it was absolutely unnecessary, and because at the present time the administration had full powers to deal with the question according as the cases arose. There was a certain amount of co-operation amongst civilised Governments as to cattle disease; it was not a political subject, and such an understanding as he referred to existed between Canadian, American, and European Governments and the Government of this country. That was another reason why the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was absolutely unnecessary. Speaking from his own personal experience, he offered the right hon. Gentleman another reason. The system of killing all the cattle at certain ports of landing produced a glut of dead meat at those ports, resulting in uneven prices all over the country. The right hon. Gentleman might say that the railway rates had nothing to do with the question. He asserted that they had, because in the distribution of this dead meat from great centres like Manchester and Liverpool the railway rates were an important factor. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted to do something to aid the home producer, the Government should not give contracts for foreign meat; they ought to give fair play to the home producer, and they ought to exercise a certain amount of pressure on the railway companies in order that the home producer should be put on the same terms, and not allow preferential rates for foreign produce over the railway lines. The right hon. Gentleman said the price of fat cattle would be the same. He doubted this. A much larger number of fat cattle might be expected in the coming season from places like the Argentine, South America and Australia. In his opinion, the price of fat cattle, instead of going up would remain where they were, or in all probability fall. During the past fortnight an application had been made to him to write to the President of the Board of Agriculture, and also to the Veterinary Department of Dublin Castle, asking that calves should be imported to Ireland from this country, because they were sold here at present at half the price they commanded in Ireland. Was that an argument which tallied with that advanced by the right hon. Gentleman that Ireland would in the future be able to give more store cattle to this country? He not only recognised no necessity for the Bill, but he did not believe in a cast-iron law without any elasticity to special circumstances. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the question of the price of store cattle was largely one as to season, grass, demand, and many other things which influence commercial matters generally; but he did not agree that the Bill was necessary. Speaking as a commercial man of experience during a lifetime, it appeared to him to be an extraordinary thing that the British nation, which had been founded as much on commerce as on the valour of her sons, should leave to foreigners those scientific experiments in regard to cattle disease which ought to be done by ourselves. Some time ago he wrote a book about the necessity of inoculation. It had been found efficacious by foreigners, and yet the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the enormous amount of money spent in indemnifying the owners of cattle which had come into contact with animals suffering from pleuro-pneumonia. It ought to be the duty of the Government not to allow foreigners to find brains for us; we should have scientists of our own capable of solving this difficult question, affecting the prosperity of agriculturists. He was not by any means in opposition to the welfare of agriculturists. On the contrary from his point of view, he believed he was advocating their interests, and he thought that when this matter was closed the right hon. Gentleman would find that there was a much larger body of opinion in the House against this Measure than he was prepared to anticipate. Many of his colleagues from Ireland did not probably share his views, but a question of this kind ought to be determined by broad principles of general interest, and not by any petty personal piques or interest. He, therefore, asked hon. Gentlemen to agree with him in voting against the Bill, because he believed it to be a perpetuation of a policy of coercion for which there was no necessity, as the Administration had already sufficient powers to guard against this evil.


reminded the hon. Member that there was one most important necessity for the Bill—namely, to give to those who were engaged in the trade of rearing and fattening cattle that security for the results of their labour which they had a right to demand. It was true that the Bill did not affect the hon. Member, because so long as he could get beef from any part of the world it suited his trade equally well; but in this case not only was the breeder concerned, but the interest of the intermediate man as well. A very large amount of the business of the larger farmers in Ireland was a wintering one, and the keeping of cattle from one to one-and-a-half year old to two and two-and-a-half years old when they were ready for the market. In common fairness the cattle trader and breeder at home should be able to know whether he would have to compete with Canadian stores or not; otherwise he would have no security in his business, and might be ruined by competition suddenly and unfairly coming upon him. ["Hear, hear."] The hon. Member who introduced the Bill said the evidence adduced of the extent of the disease was insufficient to justify the Measure, and that it was calculated to produce the maximum of evil with the minimum of good. He believed the evidence brought forward in regard to the existence and extent of the disease was more than sufficient to warrant the Bill, and as to the next point he thought that anyone who remembered the terrible losses and distress which the last outbreak of cattle disease caused throughout the country, would readily admit that the question of slaughtering eight or nine per cent. at the ports of embarkation was a mere trifle in comparison. ["Hear, hear!"] The loss to the country was not to be reckoned by the amount of compensation paid for the loss of cattle, but by the far greater amount that would be surely lost through the spread of the disease. [Hear, hear!"] It was good business to pay a small amount in order to save a ten-fold greater loss. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed one result of the Measure would be that farmers and breeders at home, having its security, would breed a much larger number of cattle, arid that it would lead to a great increase in all departments of the dairy business. He disputed the statement that we had already sufficient safeguards against the introduction of the disease from abroad, for the disease was so insidious, lurked so mysteriously in the animal, and was so difficult of detection at any time, that no amount of careful watching was a sufficient protection, and it was for that reason that he believed the Bill to be absolutely necessary. He should not have intervened in the Debate but for the fact that an Irish member (the hon. Member for the St. Patrick Division of Dublin) having spoken against the Bill, he wished to show that the hon. Gentleman had not voiced the opinion of Ireland on the subject; indeed, he thought the hon. Member would be found to be the only representative of Ireland to vote against it. The Measure would prove to be a most valuable one to the agricultural community of the three kingdoms, and he hoped it would be speedily passed into law.

MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough),

said that he regarded the question not so much from the farmers point of view as from that of the general consumer, though in passing he might remark that he had taken some pains to ascertain the opinions of farmers on the question and had found that those opinions varied very considerably. But bearing in mind the conditions under which large masses of people in the country had to live, he felt bound to look with grave distrust on any Measure the object of which, like the present one, was to limit, in any degree, the free importation of food into the country, and thus risk raising the prices of the necessaries of life, ["Hear, hear!"] He was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman, who introduced the Measure, say that he did not think the Bill would have that effect; nevertheless, he did not believe the Bill would have a tendency to lower prices, and he was not prepared to incur any possible risk of the other effect by voting for it. ["Hear, hear!"] As a Free Trader he strenuously opposed the Bill. It seemed to him to be the thin end of the wedge of Protection. ["Hear, hear!" and cries of "No!"] Was not the declared object of the Bill to protect the breeders of cattle in this country? The cattle breeders urged that they could not risk their capital and their skill in the production of store cattle, because they feared that a responsible Minister might some day remove the existing restrictions in regard to the importation of foreign cattle, and would thus be the means of introducing disease and ruining their trade. That he thought was a very lame contention at the best. If those cattle breeders thought they could produce stores to-day, in competition with those to be obtained from Canada or America, would they not do so? It was because they could not with their dearly rented farms fairly compete with the colonial farmer that they sought the protection of this Bill. ["Hear, hear?" and cries of "No!"] The only ground on which a Minister would be justified in introducing such a Measure was a fear of the cattle disease being brought into the country from abroad, and on that ground there was no occasion whatever for it. The Bill was unnecessary, moreover, because the Agricultural Department already had ample powers to meet any danger of the kind that might arise. The disease had been combatted and stamped out during the last two or three years, and many persons thought that, so far from increasing the powers of restriction, the time had come when such restrictions should be altogether removed. Those persons, therefore, viewed with much distrust the proposal to substitute for the discretionary powers now exercised by the Board of Agriculture a cast-iron absolute rule which would apply to all time, regardless of change of conditions or circumstances. ["Hear, hear!"] From the farmer's point of view, also, he believed the Bill to be founded on wrong principles, because it proposed to permanently keep out the raw material, while it admitted the finished article. If the Measure passed those farmers who now found it difficult to compete with the colonial farmer, would find their hands further tied by the curtailment of a supply of stores, and by the inevitable rise in the price of the raw material. It seemed to him that the results of the restrictions on the importation of cattle during the past few years had really increased the difficulties of our farmers, not only by curtailing the supply of stores and raising prices, but by driving many of the men in Canada and America who, before the time of prohibition, got their living by supplying store cattle, to compete with them in the supply of dead meat. Every man in this country must know that it was the quantity and quality and price of the dead meat that came here that ruled the prices that our farmers got for their finished article when they took it to the market. He objected also to this Bill, because it was an attempt to benefit one class of farmers at the expense of another. It was an attempt to benefit the breeders at the expense of the grazier, and both classes of farmers seemed to him equally entitled to consideration. The right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Measure said that it was one of the ways of doing something for the national agricultural industry of the United Kingdom. He ventured to tell the right hon. Gentleman that if he wished to do something for the national industry of the Kingdom he would have to rouse our farmers to an appreciation of the following facts. They would have to realise that if they wished to compete with the foreign, the American and the colonial farmer, they must improve their methods of cultivation and must insist upon a permanent reduction of some of the burdens that bore upon land, and the chief of those burdens was the amount that the farmer now paid in salaries to his two sleeping partners. Far too large a portion of the value of the produce of the soil went in the shape of tithe to the parson and of rent to the landowner. The landowners and farmers would have to face these facts. They would have to realise that it was not creditable to us, as a nation, that with the very best land in the world, and the very best cattle in the world, we were not able to compete with men who farmed inferior land and who came here and bought our cattle to improve their lands. That those men should beat us in the neutral markets of the world would be bad enough, but it was little short of scandalous that they should be able to beat us at our own doors. Our farmers had close to their own homesteads a big population ready to consume all that they could produce, yet men in the colonies were able to beat them, notwithstanding the enormous difficulties of preparing and packing perishable articles for transit, and the fact that the carriage had to be paid over distances amounting to thousands of miles. Who asked for this Bill? He had read the evidence before the Royal Commission on Agriculture, and judging from the Report there was no general consensus of opinion among our agriculturists in favour of the Measure. Mr. Dewar, who came from Norfolk, one of the most distressed of our agricultural counties, and who farmed a large tract of land, said in his evidence, that farmers in his county were losing £2 per head on the cattle which they fed, owing to the restrictions on the importation of Canadian beasts. Every witness, except one, from Scotland was emphatic in asking for the free importation of cattle, and Mr. Clare Sewell Read was equally emphatic in making the same demand. He had received letters from constituents of his own who wrote in the same sense. A grazier who had communicated with him said, "Our supply of stores gets more limited every year." The fact was, we could no more do without foreign cattle than we could do without foreign wheat. Of course the Bill had the support of the breeders of cattle, but why? Because they believed that it would raise prices. But whatever prices our farmers might have to pay for stores in the future, they would be obliged, when they came to sell the meat, to take whatever prices the butcher liked to offer, because the butcher had behind him the dead meat supply, with which the right hon. Member opposite very properly did not propose to interfere. He felt certain that the right hon. Member honestly believed that he had brought in a Measure which would be for the permanent benefit of agriculture, but he was equally convinced that the right hon. Member was in reality dealing agriculture a blow, and, therefore, in the interests of agriculture and of the great mass of the people of this country he could not do otherwise than oppose the Measure.

On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,


said, he heartily endorsed the opinion of the last speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill was actuated by a conscientious conviction that it would benefit the general interests of the country. But he himself equally felt it his duty to oppose the Bill on exactly the same grounds. He thought in regard to several Bills lately they had borne an aspect of a protective character, not merely of physical but also of economic protection, a circumstance which to many Members on that side of the House was not a recommendation. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill had referred to county Members, to county feelings, and county statistics, but he hoped no conflict of interests between county and urban constituencies, and so between producer and consumer, was suggested, a form of social cleavage which would be most undesirable. ["Hear, hear!"] The effect of the Bill would be deprivation of the discretionary power at present held by the Minister for Agriculture, and to throw an undue responsibility upon Parliament. The power to exclude cattle from this country or to allow them entrance was properly an executive and administrative function, and ought not to devolve upon the Legislature. So well had this duty been performed in the past by the right hon. Gentleman and his two immediate predecessors, that he felt certain that Ministers in the future would be quite equal to the exercise of the necessary discretion in the matter, and that no appreciable injury would happen to the country. The incursion of disease was a great evil, and must be prevented; but, equally, restraints upon trade and business were, unless absolutely essential, undesirable. In the present case the passage of an Act of this restrictive character was extremely objectionable. Despite the restrictions on this trade in the past, it had greatly increased; but who should say to what extent it would have increased without these limitations? The trade of the shipowners had suffered, and large commercial and shipping interests were involved.


said, that since the restrictions had been imposed the ship-owning trade had enormously increased both in live cattle, or imported dead meat.


said, he had himself put that view before the House. The trade had grown despite the restrictions, but who should say how much more it would have grown if those restrictions had not been, imposed? At Newcastle, Hull, and Cardiff, and from the Thames, the strongest protest had been made against the passage of an Act of so restrictive a character. The cattle-traders and dealers, who were a large body in the community, had taken exception to this Bill, and in the Metropolitan markets, in Islington and elsewhere, the feeling was also very strong against it. As regarded the butchers, it had been imputed to them the other night, in the Debate on meat-marking, that they desired to sell imported dead meat, but their opposition to this Bill was grounded on the desire to deal in fresh meat if possible. Their power to do so would be greatly limited by the passage of this Bill. Then there was the case of the consumers. Breeders had been spoken of, and consumers, but the great feeders were the consumers. It was useless to argue the question as to whether the passage of a restrictive and exclusive Act would or would not affect the price. Wherever a restriction was put upon a market, or upon competition, the price would be increased, or, if no increase in price occurred, it followed that if the restriction had not existed, the price would have decreased. Who should say how much that decrease might be if it were not for limitations imposed by such a Measure as this? There was, in addition, the interests of our oldest colony, Canada, and other colonies, and the possibility of our alienating their feelings towards us. He would not mention retaliatory measures, but it would be better to promote a good and cordial feeling than to interfere in the slightest degree with the trade of Canada if it could be avoided. In our objects we were at one, but he was afraid that Canada would have reason to feel at least the disadvantage of this proposed Act, which touched the interests very closely both of their trade and of their people. He thought that his friends from Ireland had forgotten that there was a time when the importation of cattle into England from Ireland was absolutely forbidden in the interests of the English people. Though hon. Members from Ireland supported this Bill now, if that restriction was renewed, as might be possible, they might repent that they had joined in passing a Measure of so restrictive a nature as this. It was absolutely necessary to prevent disease, but he thought the necessary conditions and regulations for that purpose might well be prescribed by the Minister for Agriculture as at present. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture would admit that, as he himself knew from experience, when good reason existed for maintaining these restrictions upon the importation of live cattle into this country, no Minister had sought to relax them. He was, therefore, quite satisfied that without this Bill the right hon. Gentleman and his successors in office would have the courage of their convictions, and would not shrink from enforcing those restrictions, as they had the power to do under the present law, if they believed that it was necessary in order to keep out cattle disease. Certainly, Ministers had shown no want of courage in this respect in the past, and he did not think that they would do so in the future. But a wise and proper discretion ought to be exercised by the responsible Minister, and if they shrank from this administrative duty, he asked what was the good of having Ministers at all? The question the House had now to consider was whether that discretionary power of the responsible Minister to enforce or to remove these restrictions as occasion might require, ought to be taken away, and a hard and fast line imposed. He desired to point out very strongly that one of the chief objects which our breeders of flocks and herds ought to have in view was to maintain the character of their breeding stock, and that could sometimes best be done by importing high-class animals from abroad, e.g., dairy cattle and pigs from Denmark, as was sometimes done. He feared that if this Bill became law it would be the means of preventing the importation into this country of such animals as he had indicated, and so prevent that improvement in our breeding stock that was so much to be desired. If the provisions of this Measure were enforced, they would render it impossible to import such animals, unless a special Act were passed to enable them to be brought here alive, because the only exceptions which were set forth in the Bill related to foreign animals sent here for exhibition, and similar exceptional purposes. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to agree with his remarks on this point.


said, that in his view we did not go abroad for animals to improve our breeding stock. On the contrary, foreign nations came to us for such animals as the hon. Gentleman had indicated.


said, that in many instances it was quite the reverse, and we had at times to go abroad to find such animals for a new strain, which, if the Bill became law, could not be imported into this country without a special Act of Parliament. He hoped that, in view of these circumstances, and of the great amount of opposition that had been offered to the Bill from various quarters, it was not yet too late for the Government to reconsider the principle of the Measure. Precaution was one thing, prohibition another. He believed that a general feeling had been evoked adverse to the provisions of this Bill in many constituencies, and especially in urban constituencies. For his own part he must, on behalf of his own constituency, and on behalf of similar constituencies, enter his most emphatic protest against the Bill, to which he felt bound to offer the most uncompromising opposition, though it might be supported by some who, if they could, would mark everything and slaughter most things, including pauper aliens, at the port of debarkation.

MR. T. W. NUSSEY (Pontefract)

said, that he fully recognised the responsibility that lay upon the President of the Agricultural Board to prevent cattle disease from obtaining a temporary or, worse still, a permanent footing in this country. It was undoubted that, owing to the action that had been taken by Ministers of Agriculture in the past, little or no cattle disease existed in this country. But how had that good result been brought about? It had been brought about by the wise and prudent exercise of their discretionary powers by those Ministers. Yet now it was proposed to take those discretionary powers out of the hands of Ministers, and to substitute for them the provisions of a hard-and-fast law, under which it would be impossible, under all circumstances, to import live sheep or cattle into this country. The power of a Minister to enforce or to relax these restrictions ought to be made as elastic as possible, and the change that they were asked to make in the law was a very grave and a serious one. Had a sufficiently strong case been made out by the Government to justify them in asking the House to make that change in the law? In his opinion such a case had not been made out. It had been stated that it was the fear that some weak President of the Board of Agriculture might relax the existing restrictions that prohibited the importation of foreign live animals that prevented our farmers from investing their capital in the multiplication of their flocks and herds. That was the right hon. Gentleman's view of the matter.


said that he was sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he had never suggested that there was any want of confidence in the Department over which he had the honour to preside in that respect. What he had said was that there might come about a condition of things which might make it difficult, if not impossible, as the law now stood, for the Department to prevent the importation of live stock.


contended that a strong case ought to be made out by the Government to justify them in asking the House to pass this Bill. If a Minister was responsible for enforcing or relaxing these restrictions he could not understand what further guarantee was required. Surely the present Cabinet could calm the fears of the farmers upon this point, and could reassure the timid as to their intentions. One of his chief objections to the Bill was that it took away the discretionary power from the Minister of Agriculture, who was the most fit and proper person to exercise it. So far from this Measure being an indication of the strength of the present Government, in his view it was an indication of weakness. The right hon. Gentleman assured the House that the mere passing of this Bill would create a new industry in towns where sheep and cattle were landed. That argument was a very old friend. It was always brought out when Measures of a protective character were under consideration. Even if the argument were economically sound, he very much doubted whether the passing of the Bill would, in point of fact, bring about any appreciable increase in the trade referred to. He believed this Bill would be a severe blow to Canada, and was a retrogression from the steps which had been taken in recent years towards Imperial federation, and the better and closer union between the colonies and the Mother country. If it failed to create a new industry, it would seriously cripple the resources of the farmers in the eastern counties and in Scotland. At any rate, neither of these two classes desired or demanded it, for they believed that the price of store cattle would increase, and that the price of meat would be kept low by the importation of dead meat. He would like to know whether the Minister for Agriculture had found out the number of acres which had been converted from arable into pasture land in order to feed imported cattle, and whether he could give the House an idea of the amount of capital and labour which had been put into an industry which he now proposed to sweep away by one Act of Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman could give the House that information, they would know better where they stood.

MR. C. J. DARLING (Deptford)

said it was much against his will that he interposed for a moment in a Debate on such a subject as this, or added for a minute to the tortures of his right hon. Friend, whom he regarded as rusticus expectans dum defluat amnis—[laughter]—but he had been led to interpose by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow. The right hon. Gentleman had interposed in the Debate, as far as he could make out, because the Corporation of Glasgow had put up a lot of sheds and bought a lot of straw—[laughter]—and expected a number of cattle to be brought from Canada and other places, who would be put up in those sheds before they were distributed over Scotland and England. Because the Corporation of Glasgow were to be disappointed in their expectations, the right hon. Gentleman felt bound to oppose this Bill. It had thereupon occurred to himself that in the constituency he represented the Corporation of London had put up a lot of sheds—[laughter]— with a perfectly different object. They had put up a lot of sheds, but they had not bought any straw at all—[laughter]—because they intended that the moment an animal got into those sheds it should be incontinently knocked on the head by one of his constituents—[laughter]—and that others of his constituents should be employed in eviscerating the animals for the benefit of other parts of London. Then there was the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, who always spoke from that side of the House, but never for it. [Laughter.] He had heard that Islington had very much the same interest in this matter that Glasgow had, and it occurred to him that, after all, the hon. Gentleman's great Imperial peroration about the colonies and so on, was, perhaps, spoken with a somewhat selfish regard to the interests of Islington. It was all this that emboldened him to urge something on behalf of his own constituents. [Laughter.] He could not help thinking that the Debate began rather badly, because it was left somewhat too much to the Scotch; and, so far as he had been able to learn, the Scotch had not always been above suspicion with regard to rights in other people's cattle. [Laughter.] It struck him that if this Bill was as bad for Glasgow as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow said, it must be a very popular Bill with his constituents in Deptford. [Laughter.] His support of the Bill was entirely a conditional support. He wanted, if he could, to drive a little bargain with his right hon. Friend. The fact was that it had been thought from time to time that Ministers for Agriculture were not altogether to be trusted, and it was a good thing to stereotype the law so that they could not trifle with it. He would like to know whether his right hon. Friend would reconsider the powers given to the Minister for Agriculture. Although the Minister had large powers under Section 25 of the Act of 1894 to prohibit the importation of live cattle from a country where he was satisfied that the condition of that country required it, Section 49 only said that he might subsequently alter his decree. What he desired was that the word ''shall'' should take the place of ''may'' in Section 49. A Minister found it a very difficult thing to lay an embargo on a particular form of goods, but it was a much easier thing to allow it to continue when once imposed. The last Minister for Agriculture but one was a most incredulous person upon everything except bimetallism. [Laughter.] He never could be convinced that once a country had been infected it could recover. If his right hon. Friend would consider the possibility of making his powers less elastic with regard to taking off the embargo as well as with regard to laying it on, it was very possible there might be one more supporter of his Bill. [Laughter.]

MR. J. W. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)

said, he did not often intrude on the Debates of the House, and as this was his first offence in the present Parliament, he hoped the House would extend to him the indulgence generally granted to first offenders. He felt constrained to take part in the discussion because he represented a county that was keenly opposed to this Bill, a county the council of which petitioned against it by a majority of three to one, a county which, if he mistook not, the right hon. Gentleman had actually not included in his list of counties opposed to the Measure. He was also encouraged to take part in the opposition to the Bill because he felt he was really doing a Christian act, he might also say a Quixotic act to the President of the Board of Agriculture and the Government of which he was a Member, because he was warning them that they were incurring a serious political danger. After the last General Election, he, like a great many Members on that side of the House—and a great many who were no longer on that side of the House—found himself suffering from a reduced majority. Like every other Member in the circumstances, he set himself to discover what the reason was for that strange reduction. He asked himself whether it could be owing to any personal imperfection in himself, and of course, like every other Member, he put that aside as a contingency unworthy of consideration. Then he looked for the cause somewhere else, and he felt convinced it must be in some shortcoming of the late Government. There were some unreasonable persons who found not one but many shortcomings in the late Government; but he wanted to find which of these particularly it was that reduced his majority. He was assured on the authority of good electioneers in his constituency that it was not the Irish question; his constituency regarded the disintegration of the Empire with equanimity. He was assured it was not even the liquor question, or the question of the Established Church; but that it was the exclusion of Canadian cattle. What the last Government did temporarily, and with good reason, the present Government were going to do permanently, and with a very bad one. The Amendment that he was supporting was that the Bill be read that day six months. He wished the Orders of the House admitted that it could be read that day six years, because by that time he supposed we should be on the verge of a General Election, and he felt that he could not go to his constituency with any more favourable question than his opposition to this Bill. He did not pose as one of the agricultural authorities in the House. He did not wish to talk about this question generally, but would confine himself to what he really knew about it, and that was how it affected his own constituency. For the last two decades the whole country had been ringing with the cry of agricultural distress. Now, they in the north-east of Scotland were a people who had one or two faults and a great many virtues. The hon. Member for Deptford had alluded to their ancient acquaintance with the management and acquirement of cattle. It had been said of the Scotch that they kept the Sabbath and everything else they could lay their hands on. The shallow-minded person who invented that libel at least admitted that the Scotch people had great enterprise, and his constituents, when they found that the price of wheat and corn prevented them competing with foreign countries, turned in search of some other industry, and then they discovered the qualities of Canadian cattle. They found that while the home breeder could not produce a stirk under £11, the Canadian breeder could do it for £3; and they found that by taking these Canadian cattle and feeding them up, they produced an excellent quality of meat, and made a fair profit. This flourishing industry the Bill would entirely ruin. He did not exaggerate when he said that because they knew already what the effect would be. They had had, in fact, an undress rehearsal of the present Bill. For some time back Canadian cattle had been excluded—excluded by the late Government—and they knew the great distress which farmers had undergone in consequence. They knew, whatever the right hon. Gentleman might say about the increase of store cattle generally, that there were no store cattle that could take the place of these Canadians. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Thirsk argued that this evil already existed. They saw that in fact Canadian cattle were already excluded, and that this Bill could do nothing more. But they must remember that in one case the exclusion was temporary; in the other it was eternal. While they had laid out large capital, and while the results of that capital were standing fallow still they had hoped that at some time the embargo might be removed—and hope bloomed immortal in the human breast. But what hope did the right hon. Gentleman give them? He said that after all the discretion would be given to Parliament instead of to the Minister for Agriculture. They thought that the Minister for Agriculture, and especially the right hon. Gentleman, was fully qualified to exercise that discretion. But they thought that if the discretion was given to Parliament, it would be a very different thing indeed. Parliament could not use its discretion without passing a Bill. It must be passed by both Houses, and they believed that one of these Houses, at least, would be most reluctant to repeal this Measure after it became law. Parliament might not even be sitting when the matter came up. Therefore they thought the matter was one with which the individual administrator, and not Parliament, was most fitted to deal. This might be a very small question, but he was speaking for a constituency which, perhaps, was very small. He wanted to assure the right hon. Gentleman that this Bill would inflict most serious injury on that constituency, and he wanted that constituency to understand that the right hon. Gentleman was inflicting that injury with his eyes open. He understood that the main defence of the Bill was that it was to prevent disease—pleuro-pneumonia for instance. But who were the men who were opposed to the Bill? Many of them were large farmers who remembered the days before there were Contagious Diseases Acts, and who suffered in their pockets from the ravages of pleuro-pneumonia. To imagine that these men would do anything to make it possible for the reintroduction of pleuro-pneumonia to take place was simply to imagine that they had all gone mad. But they maintained that the present conditions and the present arrangements were ample, and enough to prevent the introduction of pleuro-pneumonia. Why was it necessary to exclude all cattle that they might keep out a few diseased ones. Surely they did not need to burn down their house in order to roast their pig. Surely the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman was enough. The right hon. Gentleman was a perfect despot. He could at any moment exclude the cattle of any country he chose, and the curious thing was that it seemed in that Debate that what had been brought out was not that the right hon. Gentleman had failed in this, but that he had done it too well. It was a curious thing that most of the Debate had been occupied with a discussion as to whether Canadian cattle had been rightly or wrongly excluded. Now, the point there was not whether the right hon. Gentleman was able to exclude disease, but whether he had not actually excluded something that was not disease at all. Surely if the right hon. Gentleman had shown his powers to such an excessive degree, those powers were enough to exclude pleuro-pneumonia from the country. The next point that seemed to be made was that somehow this Bill would benefit breeders. He had breeders in his own constituency, and they did not seem to think that the Bill would benefit them. He wanted to know how the Bill would benefit them. He did not wish to say it was Protection. That had been disavowed over and over again. But he presumed he was right in saying it was believed that the Bill would give the breeder an advantage. If it did so it could only be if the price of store cattle was to be increased. How was the price of store cattle to be increased under the Bill? That depended entirely on the price of dead meat. But they were told by the right hon. Gentleman that the price of dead meat was not to increase, and therefore it was absolutely impossible that the price of store cattle could increase except by diminishing the profit of the feeder. It was a Bill to rob Peter in order to pay Paul. They not only said this, but they maintained, that it would encourage foreign competition, for it said to the Canadian breeder: Turn your attention to feeding as well as breeding, send your cattle to the dead meat market, and you can then pocket the profits which our home breeders are making, but which this Bill will no longer allow them to make.


said, he sympathised with the hon. Member very much on the reduction of his majority, but that was hardly a reason why he should vote with the hon. Member against a Bill which his constituents were unanimous in supporting. They had heard a good deal from the other side on the question of Protection, and hon. Members appeared to see the trail of the serpent in almost every Bill that was introduced. In the Labelling of Meat Bill and in the Pure Beer Bill they seemed to see the ghost of Protection. There was a suggestion that a Measure of this kind would raise the price of meat. It was the old story of putting money into the pocket of the squire, and raising the price of meat to the honest artisan. Some years ago the present President of the Local Government Board, through the Privy Council, brought in some such Measure as this, and immediately, from the Liberal Members, they heard the cry as to raising the price of meat and Protection. The result was, two months after the passing of the Measure, the price of meat was lower. Hon. Members opposite said, "If this Bill passes what shall we do for our store cattle?'' He need hardly suggest that it was not necessary to go to Canada for it. In the southern and eastern counties were plenty of lean kine which could be fattened as well as any from Ireland or Canada. The hon. Member for East Norfolk, who told the House he had had a scientific education, said that store cattle that could be bought would be useless for propagating purposes. But store cattle were not used for propagating purposes. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite surely would not reverse the policy of their own Minister of Agriculture, Mr. H. Gardner, who always declared that whatever faults of omission or commission the Liberal Government were guilty of, they kept our flocks and herds free from disease. Some years ago, Mr. Albert Pell, when Member for South Leicestershire, said the only thing the Liberal Government had done with regard to agriculture had been to readmit foot and mouth disease, which cost the country £11,000,000. The supporters of the Bill were determined that hon. Members opposite should not put agriculturists in the position they were then.

MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.),

said, the Minister of Agriculture stated that the Bill was introduced to give the owners of breeding stock the security without which they said they could not carry on their industry. But half a dozen industries in this country were constantly saying they could not go on without receiving security against foreign competition. If they listened to these clamorous voices, a whole litter of Protective Measures would be needed. The statistics the President of the Board of Agriculture had given showed that the present law was sufficient, and did not show that we wanted a new law. Owners of breeding stock were entitled to reasonable security, but they had it under the existing law. Even under this Bill it was not proposed to exclude all foreign animals. It was not even proposed absolutely to exclude or require slaughter at the port of landing of all animals of the class to which the Bill applied. It was still proposed to admit animals intended for exhibition or other exceptional purposes. This Bill was one of a class of Bills which had been pressed on the House this Session designed to introduce Protection under more or less plausible pretexts. From the point of view of agriculturists themselves, this Bill was of a singularly narrow, invidious, and odious character, because it protected one class of farmers at the expense of another. It robbed the farmer by raising the price of store cattle he thought, whereas, on the other hand, it would give a bounty to farmers who bred cattle.

MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants,) Basingstoke

declared that this Bill was supported by the vast majority of the farmers of the United Kingdom. The introduction of the Bill was urged upon the Minister of Agriculture by a deputation representing 70 agricutural societies drawn from all parts of the kingdom. It included the Central Chamber of Agriculture, the Royal Agricultural Society, the Smithfield Club, the Farmers' Club, the Highland Agricultural Society, the National Agricultural Union, the Shorthorn Society, the Bath and West of England Society, the National Sheepbreeders' Society, and a vast number of others. These did not want Protection or to raise the price of food. They wished our flocks and herds to be kept free from disease. Not only did they insist strongly on this, but they pointed out the great danger there always had been from the importation of foreign cattle. An hon. Member referred to sheep and said:— How could the importation of sheep do any harm. But it was notorious that the importation of sheep, especially from South America, led to the introduction of scab into this country. It was a most catching disease and very hard to eradicate. Mr. Tredwell, Chairman of the National Breeders' Association, had stated that in December last, he bought some lambs in the London market, that he had them isolated when they came home, and about a fortnight afterwards they began to develop scab. Not only was this Bill in the interests of cattle breeders, but also of sheep breeders, and he believed every sheep breeder in the country would be glad to see it passed into law. Only a section of the trade in Scotland were against the Bill, and those who were accustomed to buy these Canadian cattle—and very poor things they were—at a cheap price, and send them on to London as the best Aberdeen. The opponents of the Bill were described as a noisy minority by Mr. A. M. Gordon, of the Highland Society, who said that, if the population of Scotland could be polled, 90 out of every 100 would be found against the importation of any foreign cattle whatever. He could not see that the Bill would raise the price of cattle, at all events it was not for that purpose it was introduced, that was not the object of the farmers who went as a deputation to the Board of Agriculture, they wanted to protect their cattle from the chance of disease. It was rather selfish of those who lived in and near Norfolk to oppose the Bill. It was said it would do harm to the feeders there; but they were a small minority of the farmers of England. It was better that two counties should suffer from the exclusion of disease than that 50 should suffer by its prevalence. Part of Scotland would suffer a little, but it was better that that should be than that the majority of farmers should suffer severely. There was not a single protest from Ireland, which supplied unceasingly the wants of Scotland and England. In 1848 a similar Bill to this was passed, but it was permissive. It prohibited the importation of sheep, cattle and other animals for the purpose of preventing the introduction of contagious or infectious disorders. The only reason it failed was, that it was not compulsory; it had to be put in force by the Privy Council, which was just what the law is now. The Act was permissive, and the promoters of the Bill did not want foreign cattle to come in. In a few days the President of the Board of Agriculture would be allowing importation wholesale, and they wanted to be protected against him; they wanted an Act of Parliament to keep their flocks and herds absolutely free from contagion. The Act of 1848 was not to be always enforced, and while it was suspended cattle were imported and brought in pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease. It was said there was a falling-off in the number of Canadian cattle coming to this country, but the importation returns did not indicate this. The value of live cattle imported rose from £1,315,000 in 1894 to £1,589,000 in 1895. The only difference the Bill would make to the Canadians would be that they would feed up their cattle in Canada and send them over here ready to be slaughtered at the port, instead of being sent to be fed up in Norfolk. He could not see that this would raise the price of food or do any injury to the cattle-feeder. It did not matter to him whether he bought at £10 and sold at £15, or bought at £12 and sold at £17; so long as he made profit it did not matter to him what price he gave for cattle. The fact was the price of store cattle depended upon the amount of food there was in the country. In a good year, when there was plenty of food they were dear; when there was a drought and food was dear they were cheap. The farmers who went on the deputation had no idea of raising the price of their produce; all they worked for was the protection from disease which would be ruinous to them. A well-known Yorkshire grazier, Mr. Rowlandson, who sometimes grazed 1,700 head of cattle at a time, said the passing of the Bill would not produce any difficulty in obtaining stock or lead to the slightest disadvantage. He could not help thinking that if the House attended carefully to what was going on outside, it must see that the vast majority of the people of the country hoped that the Bill would pass, not that it might raise the price of beef, but that it might keep their flocks and herds free from disease, and thereby enable them to breed better stock than the whole world.

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)

said, he gave the Bill his heartiest support. In Ireland, the cattle industry was greater than all the other industries of the country put together. They were as much dependent in Ireland to-day on the raising of cattle as they had been on the potato before the potato famine of half a century ago; and as the great danger of 1845 was the spread of the potato disease, so their great danger in these times was the spread of the cattle disease. When hon. Members above the Gangway asked that the power of admitting cattle—bringing with them perhaps from warmer climes diseases, such as the rinderpest, infinitely worse than any cattle disease known in the northern hemisphere—should be left to a single Minister of the Crown, he told such hon. Gentlemen that, if they were to set about devising the most cruel wrong that could be inflicted on Ireland, it would be that a Minister of the Crown should, by a blunder, let in some such plague amongst their herds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow had spoken of the £24,000 that had been expended on lairages by the Corporation of Glasgow. He did not want to do anything to injure the trade of Glasgow. Londonderry, the town he represented, had sent to Glasgow since the Regulations of 1892 more store cattle than it had ever got in a year from Canada. But this expenditure of £24,000 on lairages in Glasgow could not be compared with the forty millions sterling which was a moderate estimate of the value of the cattle of Ireland. It was, of course, impossible to devise any reform that would not do some damage to somebody, but he could not imagine any Measure that would do less harm than this Bill, if the greatest injury it would inflict was that certain lairages in Glasgow would be rendered useless for a time. The Bill had been described as a Measure of protection. With some Members of the Liberal Party Free Trade seemed to be not so much a principle as a mania. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] For his part he confessed himself a Free Trader, but he thought the Irish Members of the period when Free Trade was passed, by giving too rigid an adherence to the Party that carried Free Trade had done a great injury to Ireland. By a different policy they might have got very different treatment in the fiscal re-arrangements consequent on Free Trade. In any case he, as an Irish Member, was not going to allow the mere name Free Trade to prevent him from voting for what he considered to be a boon to Ireland But he took the opposite line: that the Bill was not opposed to Free Trade. The first thing they had to secure was internal Free Trade in cattle, but under the present system, with frequent outbreaks of disease necessitating the drawing of a cordon around various areas, they could not have internal Free Trade in cattle, and the more they allowed disease to come in from other countries the less Free Trade in cattle would they have. He ventured to say that from the point of view of the London consumer more serious injury would be done by such an outbreak of disease as had occurred one or two years ago, thus rendering the markets of London suspect, than could be done in the course of twenty years by the Bill. They had been told that Ireland might come to occupy the same position as Canada, and that the same injury might be done her by some future Bill as it was supposed this Bill would do to Canada. But the physical conditions of the two countries were not the same. It was impossible for the Government of Canada, however earnest they might be, to establish a cordon around Canada as the sea established around Ireland. He knew that in Alberta there was a good deal done more than the law allowed, and as a matter of fact, there was no practical restraint on passage of cattle into the States. Some years ago, when the Northern Pacific was cutting rates, farmers in Southern Alberta used to send their cattle in bond by that route to Chicago, and thence by the Grand Trunk to Montreal. There was practically no restraint, nothing that could prevent those cattle catching any disease that might exist among the herds of the United States. There might be some who would say that Canada was free from disease, but there was nobody who would make such an assertion of the United States, and as long as there were great tracts of unsettled land between Canada and the United States, the Dominion could not have the immunity that Ireland enjoyed in this matter. This practical immunity from disease was one of the advantages which nature had conferred or which it was possible to aid nature in conferring upon Ireland. In the Channel Islands the law which the right hon. Gentleman proposed had been in operation as long almost as the memory of man extends. [Ministerial cheers.] It was one of the great causes of the protection from disease of the flocks, that in the Channel Islands they did not and never had allowed any cattle to be landed unless cattle sent back from exhibition in this country, except for slaughter at the port of entry. He would be a sanguine man who would expect that this Bill would bring any direct monetary gain even to the Irish breeder, but still it would bring him an indirect gain, it would tend to give stability to the price of his stock. At present, the Minister of Agriculture could, by his mere edict, raise or lower the price of stores by £2 a head. He could not conceive it would be for the advantage even of the Liberal Party to vest in a Minister of the Crown the great responsibility of administering the present Act. It was a tremendous thing to give to a Minister of the Crown the power of creating instability of prices, and the sconer it was taken away the better for the interests of consumers as well as of farmers. So far from there being any danger of want of store cattle to carry on the agricultural industries of this country, Ireland could produce any number of stores. She sent twice as many stores every year to Great Britain as Canada ever sent in her biggest years. The right hon. Member for Glasgow spoke of the class of cattle breeders. There was something invidious in the term. But as a matter of fact there were more cattle breeders in the province of Ulster alone than there were graziers in the whole of Great Britain. [Ministerial cheers.] The grazier was the big man comparatively, and the breeder the small man, and the Liberal Party, if they voted against this Bill, would be supporting the big man against the small man, the capitalist against the man who was carrying on his labour by his own hands. On every ground, on the ground of expediency and the interest of the country he represented, and on the ground of principle, he strongly supported this Bill. He believed it to be a just Measure, and one that would give a great advantage to the Irish producer without in any way seriously injuring the English consumer. [Ministerial cheers.]


said, it was his intention to vote against the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, though with some regret. Speaking as a borough representative, and as an urban Member, he could find nothing good or satisfactory in it. It seemed to him that its effect would be diametrically opposed to the interests of the great masses of the population. His constituents demanded opposition to, and, if possible, the rejection of the Measure. In his opinion, it was Protective in its tone and tendency, though he did not say for a moment that the object of the Government in promoting it was to increase prices. Nothing had been heard in the Debate as to the interests of the consumer in this matter, nothing as to the interests of the artisans, and the inhabitants of urban localities. The President of the Board of Agriculture, who introduced the Bill almost in a tone of apology, argued that it was only the enactment of what had been the practice of successive Boards, and he pointed out that that practice had almost stamped out disease. But if that were so, some suspension or relaxation of the restrictions might have been looked for, instead of an attempt to make them permanent. It was as logical as it would be to make a muzzling order permanent because it had stamped out rabies. What further protection could the farmer require if he had perfect immunity? If the Bill were passed, the House would be parting with a power which it could not readily recover, because any repealing Act would require the sanction of the House of Lords. As a borough Member, he wished to record his protest against this so-called agricultural legislation of the Government. He was an ardent supporter of the Unionist Party, and it was painful for him to vote against a Unionist Government. But the victory of the last election was not gained by such Measures as this, and the mandate then received was now being abused and prostituted to pass Bills which were not for the advantage of all, but which were designed to benefit one class at the expense of the whole community, and which were injurious and repugnant to the urban constituents. What would the Leader of the House and the Colonial Secretary say if they had to ask for the suffrages of East Manchester and West Birmingham on the strength of Measures such as this? He had been elected to oppose Home Rule, and he regretted that he had been called upon at this early period of the Session to support what he must call the English Land League. The Government were returned by both urban and rural constituencies, and he hoped that instead of sacrificing the interests of the one to the interests of the other, they would content themselves with obtaining a Second Reading of this Bill, and not proceed with it further.

MR. E. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)

said, that he did not wish to give a silent vote in favour of the Bill. He regretted that there had been so much opposition shown to it from his side of the House, though it had all been from the feeders' point of view. He was a strong Free Trader, and if he thought for a moment that the Bill would tend to increase the price of the food of the people, he should be one of the first to oppose it; but all the facts and figures expressly proved the contrary. The price of stock, whether of fat or of store was continually falling, and that fall had continued in spite of the fact that animals had been slaughtered at the port of entry for some years. Take the case of the sheep trade. At the present moment sheep were slaughtered at the port of landing. Had that had the result of raising the price of foreign and colonial mutton? Nothing of the kind. Buying the whole sheep, foreign and colonial mutton could be had at 5d., and even lower than that, per pound, while English mutton was about 8d. per lb. So that argument entirely fell to the ground, as foreign had never been cheaper. There was, of course, the argument of the hon. Member for Norfolk, who held a brief for the importation of Canadian cattle, that there was no pleuro-pneumonia in Canada, and that where it had appeared in cattle coming from that country it had been caught on the voyage from Canada. If it was caught in transit, that did not improve his argument at all. It really strengthened the argument that cattle ought not to be imported alive for store purposes, because according to the argument of his hon. Friend, it was possible for cattle to be landed here with pleuro-pneumonia caught during the voyage. He knew his hon. Friend argued that the disease would not be infectious, but they all knew that that matter was very doubtful, and the doctors did not at all agree as to whether one disease was infectious and another was not. He should give the Bill his most hearty support on the ground that it had no Protection whatever in it, and because its object was to prevent the free importation of disease among their cattle and stock.

MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

said, he had listened in vain to the speeches of the President of the Board of Agriculture and of the hon. Member who had just spoken for any positive argument in favour of the Bill. It was not enough to endeavour to refute the opinions of those who said that the Bill was of a protectionist character. He shared the view of the hon. Member for Stockport that the Bill was of a superfluous kind, and was not one of those which the Government was under any obligation to pass. It came before them merely as a Bill intended to please a particular section of the community, and was not conceived in the general interest. The issue before the House was a very simple one. The only argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in favour of the Bill was that it would allay the fears of the stock-owners and agriculturists of the country, but he did not himself say that those fears were well founded.


Oh, yes.


said, the right hon. Gentleman only said they had some fears that at some time or other the existing precautions which now kept out disease might be relaxed. It was not a case of present danger, but of some possible future danger that the Agricultural Department might relax that vigilance which it had always hitherto shown, and which it was under every obligation to show because it was watched with the closest attention by the House. Against this problematical and possible fear they had to set two positive and clear objections. One of these was the fact that it would give great offence in the most important of all their colonies. They must not underrate the importance of that objection. It was a serious matter that they should annoy one of their colonies, which already suffered from serious trade disabilities as regarded the United States, which was more and more looking to Britain as her market, and which would more and more be alienated and annoyed if she found that Britain, without an absolute need of self-protection, permanently closed her markets to her produce. They had also to consider the injury which would be inflicted upon an important branch of the agricultural industry. He knew that in the north-east of Scotland that injury was keenly felt. He did not say that the House ought to regard their interest as being of primary importance if there was a danger, but he submitted that the existence of the power now vested in the Board of Agriculture showed there was no danger, and that, therefore, they ought not to inflict upon this important branch of their stock-keeping industry the alarm and the annoyance which were involved in imposing a permanent prohibition which it would be beyond the power of the Department and beyond the power of the House to at any time remove There was a peculiar want of elasticity in the proposals of the Bill. Hitherto they had known that when a country became perfectly safe, when disease was so long absent that no danger was any longer to be apprehended, it was in the power of the Board of Agriculture to relax that prohibition, and there were countries in regard to which no prohibition was needed. He would take the case of Iceland to show how hardly prohibition would be felt Iceland annually imported into this country a large number of sheep, which could not be slaughtered at the port of debarcation because they were so lean, and it was necessary to feed them in the north of England or Scotland for a month or six weeks before they were fit for the market. Hitherto these sheep had been admitted freely, although Denmark was scheduled as one of the countries from which importation was prohibited. These sheep could be imported with perfect safety, for Iceland was not only 600 miles from Norway, the nearest country where sheep were bred, but there was also no importation of sheep into Iceland, this being the Icelandic law. This prohibition would, therefore, be a serious hardship upon Iceland's almost sole industry, If it were necessary, in order to keep disease out of this country, to impose a prohibition, of course they would have to do so, but it was not alleged that there was any danger from the importation of Icelandic sheep, and yet the Board of Agriculture would be unable, if the Bill passed, to allow that importation. Considering that agriculturists were perfectly well off at present under the existing law, and that the Board of Agriculture administered that law under the strict supervision of the House of Commons, and also considering that no case had been made out to show that that Board was likely to be negligent or lax, the Bill appeared to him to be an entirely superfluous Measure, and he hoped the House would reject it.


said that though he represented a southern constituency he was a breeder of cattle, a large farmer, and a feeder of cattle in Aberdeenshire. He was, indeed, one of those who had been accused by an hon. Member of buying Canadian cattle and selling them as prime Aberdeenshire. [Laughter.] An hon. Member opposite said that the farmers knew their own minds. He confessed that he could not agree with that. They all wished to see their flocks and herds free from any suspicion of disease, and to have a perfectly free transit of cattle throughout the country. They also wished to be relieved of the terrible inconvenience and expense which accompanied the stamping out of pleuro-pneumonia in cattle breeding counties. They wished to buy cheap store cattle and to get the best prices for them; in short they wished to have their cake and to eat it too—not an uncommon feeling in all classes of the community. He came down to the House that evening with a perfectly open mind. In listening to the speech of the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Price) he derived much benefit from the scientific references he had made, but he regretted to learn one fact which he could not accept without hesitation and a certain reservation, and this was that Irish cattle were inferior to the Canadian. That was a serious matter to consider. He noted that the opposition to this Bill came in a great measure from representatives of large towns. There was a strange argument brought forward by the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan) who stated that £24,000 had been expended at Dundee and Glasgow, and £10,000 at Aberdeen to build sheds for the reception of cattle. On that account the right hon. Gentleman argued that the Government should not bring in a Bill for the protection of cattle against disease—he would not use the word protection for that was a bogey—but for defence against disease in this country. In the county where he had a stock of cattle, though he did not represent it, there was a considerable difference of opinion on the matter. At a County Council meeting the other day a motion was brought forward in opposition to this Bill. He thought that twenty-eight voted for the Motion, and an Amendment in favour of slaughtering all cattle, not at the port of entry but the port of embarkation, was supported by twenty-one votes. The House had heard a great deal about the consumer's point of view. He supposed that all hon. Members shared that view because they were all consumers; but there was one point which had been omitted. They heard of pleuro-pneumonia being introduced in this country among our cattle, they also heard of the disease being caught on board ship; but they had not heard of the danger of pleuro-pneumonia being extended to the consumer. They had also heard of trichinosis in pork and its very serious effect on the consumer. Was it, therefore, a light matter that they should have those cattle slaughtered at our ports, distributed broadcast among the people, with the chance of propagating pleuro-pneumonia or some other disease? He did not think that the Bill was called for at the present time, and if called for he thought it ought to have gone further and provided that the cattle should be slaughtered at the port of embarkation. He did not see what the Canadian farmer had to gain by introducing cattle into this country which had suffered a great deal on the voyage, unless the cattle might be killed by English butchers and sold as English produce. He should not support the Bill, and he should not vote against it; but he hoped the Government would see their way at some future time to still further extend it, and direct that all cattle coming to this country should be slaughtered at the port of embarkation.

MR. ANDREW D. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)

corrected a misapprehension of the last speaker, who referred to the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow as having spoken of sums of money spent in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen for the accommodation of store cattle. The right hon. Gentleman did not intend to make much out of that fact, but merely mentioned it because it was said that it would give employment to capital in this and other countries in providing cold storage and in other ways. It appeared to be a general impression that we had obtained this disease in our cattle here from the importation of cattle from Canada and elsewhere. But he informed hon. Members from Ireland that 40 years before a beast arrived from the other side of the Atlantic cattle disease existed in Ireland. Hon. Members would find an account of the existence in an article written by Professor Brown, who had recently retired. We had this disease among us more than 60 years ago. Therefore, it was not an evil of recent date. Another striking fact was that the disease was not brought from Canada; in only a few instances had diseased cattle come from the Dominion, and in those cases there was a difference of opinion among experts as to whether it was pieuro-pneumonia or not. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, stated that one object of it was to give safety to the cattle-breeder, who, he said, could not fairly carry on his business in the condition of doubt in which he was now placed. The matter was to be regarded, in his opinion, more in the interests of the general consumer than in those of the cattle-breeder. But facts seemed to show that the cattle breeder in England and Scotland—to which countries only the Bill would apply—had carried on his business, and with considerable success too, at times when, according to the right hon. Gentleman, he must have been labouring under the doubt referred to. From 1880 to 1890 the importation of cattle from Canada increased every year, and in those ten years more than a million and a half were imported. The cattle were then taken from market to market in the country, so that the breeder had then most reason to fear the introduction of disease; but the importation, as he had said, was increased every year, and the dealers had carried on their business with success. The prices of store cattle in this country must be affected by importation being prohibited. The prices of dead meat to the consumer must depend on other considerations altogether, and it might be possible to see the prices of store cattle rising in England and Scotland, while the prices of dead meat were unaffected or even falling. From 1889 onwards the number of cases of disease had regularly decreased until the evil had almost disappeared, and during those years there had been a large importation of store cattle from Canada. Even with regard to the disease of pleuro-pneumonia itself, the greatest divergence of opinion existed among experts. As far as he could see there was no necessity whatever for the Bill. He suggested that the President of the Board of Agriculture should appoint a Committee or a Royal Commission to make a proper and adequate examination into this subject. A complete and satisfactory inquiry had not yet been made, and before they were asked to pass legislation of this kind they were entitled to have more information than had yet been supplied to them.

SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright),

referring to the past legislation on the subject to which this Bill referred, observed that in 1878 it was prophesied by the opponents of the Bill then introduced and discussed for four days, that the price of meat would be so increased that the poor man would thereafter be unable to buy a mutton chop for his dinner. The same was said in 1884 and in 1892, when the Canadian restriction was imposed. As a matter of fact, however, meat got rapidly cheaper, and the country was freed from a great amount of disease. There had been no attempt by the Legislature to revoke the law then passed, and the same approbation, in his opinion, would be extended to the legislation of 1896. It was all nonsense to say that the present proposals had been formed suddenly and sprung upon the House of Commons. Deputation after deputation had urged the subject upon Ministers, and the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and the Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland, and almost every agricultural society in England and Scotland—if not in Ireland as well—had supported the views which had been expressed from the front Ministerial Bench that evening. The farming and agricultural party in the country had decided that this Measure ought to be passed, and if it was not done now they might not have another chance of effecting this salutary change. If the House failed in a first attempt it was generally loth to repeat it. The hon. Member for East Norfolk, who had opposed the Measure so vehemently, would not say that Canadian cattle had been a great success in every year. The success in the year 1891, which had been alluded to, was exceptional. In regard to Irish cattle he knew that progress was being made in breeding year by year, and it would be a most disastrous thing if disease were to get into the country. The Irish people, he believed, would resent opposition to this Bill on the part of their representatives. He believed a large majority of the farmers in the south of Scotland were most anxious the Bill should pass. Personally, he had some stake in agriculture. He bred and he possessed large flocks and herds. He knew what it was for his stock to have contagious diseases, and what it was to pay for them. Since the year 1878, however, he had not had to pay anything for pleuro-pneumonia, nor had he had to pay anything for losses through other diseases for many years past. He trusted the Minister for Agriculture would put his foot down and insist on the passing of this Measure. He denied there was any Protection involved in the Bill, except from disease, but maintained that its adoption would be to the benefit of the whole country. The consumer would get better and healthier meat—and he was persuaded a great deal of illness and a great many diseases were the result of bad meat and bad food generally—and the breeder would be saved from much loss. On one point, and on one only, he thoroughly agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, viz., that great hardships would result if Icelandic sheep were slaughtered at the port of debarkation. About 65,000 Icelandic sheep, valued at £80,000, were imported yearly to Scotland, and they were of great benefit and assistance to the farmers, inasmuch as they consumed the turnips—a great boon in a year such as this, when only 3½d. per week could be got for turnips for sheep-feeding per head, with half a crop on the ground; whereas in a good year, without these sheep, the farmers, unable to find sheep for their turnips, would be left unpaid for their crop. There was, practically, no disease in those sheep, and Iceland took back in kind what they gave in live stock. With that exception, he hoped the Bill would be passed by a large majority.


said, the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright had spoken in favour of the Bill, and yet his last words were that he hoped an exception would be made in the case of 80,000 Icelandic sheep which were sent to Scotland every year. Those sheep had come for the last twenty years; they had been of the greatest possible benefit to the farmers there, yet if the Bill passed no more Icelandic sheep would be imported. He could not understand how the hon. Member reonciled himself to vote for the Bill, which at once acted as a prohibition, andan unnecessary prohibition, upon his countrymen. It was much to be regretted that they should have debated the Bill on a Second Reading before Easter. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, whether it would not have been better that the Debate should have been postponed, having regard to the fact that an important book, giving the correspondence with Canada on the subject, and containing the weightiest possible reasons why the Government should pause before going further with the Bill. Out of deference to Canada we might have waited at least two or three weeks before proceeding with the Bill. But, if they had no regard for the interest of Canada they might have allowed time for the book to have been considered by Members of Parliament. There had been no general distribution of the book, inasmuch as only 200 copies had been sent to the Bill Office. It would have been only fair to have allowed them to see the urgent appeal on the part of the Canadians, so that it might have been considered by the House. He was told that there were letters which had not yet been published. He thought it would be necessary to exclude Canada from the operation of the Bill [a laugh], and the hon. Member who had just spoken could not fail to give him his support. They had now had a Debate of seven hours, and the majority of the agricultural Members who had spoken had gone against the Bill. ["No!"] The whole weight of their arguments had been against the Bill. ["No!"] The right hon. Gentleman had given them a lurid picture of the results of cattle disease, but this was not a Bill for the prevention of cattle disease. It was a Bill for the exclusion of healthy cattle. ["Hear," and a laugh]. There was ample power to prevent the introduction of cattle disease. It was never grappled with seriously until Lord Spencer grappled with it, with the result that England had been healthier than it had ever been before. Had disease not been lower since Canadian store stock had been introduced than it ever had been before? ["No, no!"] Cattle disease was now reduced to the very lowest point. What arguments had been advanced in support of that Bill? It was not urged that the right hon. Gentleman had not sufficient power. No one disputed that. He told the House, forsooth, that the position of the Department was a very difficult one, that pleuro-pneumonia was difficult to detect, and that it was a great responsibility to throw on a Department to call upon it to exclude disease. He was astounded that he had advanced such an argument. The right hon. Gentleman was supported by the best experts in the country, and he had only to act on their advice to secure that no disease was admitted. Those officials had never been found wanting for 15 years, and they would not be wanting now. This was merely a Measure for the protection of one class. [Cheers and "No"!] The right hon. Gentleman said his object was to give the breeders a guarantee to enable them to carry on their industry. What guarantee did they give them? They gave them a guarantee against all competition whatever. As a result, the farmer of this country would be betwixt the upper and nether millstones of the breeder, who had entire monopoly of the raw material, and of foreign competition. He did not believe the effect of this Bill would be to raise the price of meat throughout the country. [Ministerial cheers.] He believed that price was determined now by foreign competition and the importation of dead meat. But the Bill would make the price of home-grown meat dearer, because its production would be more limited than hitherto. What could be their answer if, after passing this Bill, the Canadians proved to the satisfaction of the world that they had no disease in their country? Their answer would be: "We have passed an Act of Parliament, we are very sorry, your cattle is very healthy, but we cannot admit it because of the Act." The right hon. Gentleman threw upon Parliament the responsibility which he declined for his own Department. As to what might ultimately arise in the various branches of the industry, they had had an illustration afforded them in the question which the hon. Member for South Dublin had put last week to the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The hon. Member for South Dublin knew very well what he was talking about, and he stated that the breed of pigs in Ireland was steadily deteriorating, that the Irish, in consequence, wanted a fresh supply, but that they could not get it outside the United Kingdom, and, owing to swine fever, they could not obtain it from England. Why not from Denmark? These were questions which ought to be answered by the right hon. Gentleman, whose duty it was to give the House some better reasons than those which he had submitted. They had heard very forcible arguments from the hon. Members for Islington and the St. Patrick Division. It was mere moonshine to say that this Bill was an attempt to keep out disease; it was merely an attempt at Protection. [Laughter.] The great advocates of Protection laughed at that statement, but, he asked was this a Free Trade proposal? Would the English farmer be able to buy healthy store stock in the cheapest market? They knew that he would not. He did not believe the consumer would suffer greatly from this Bill—foreign competition had decided that. There was no danger, he believed, of meat being made extremely dear by anything that Government could do, so long as the market was open to foreign countries; but home-grown supplies would be diminished. The trade in dead meat had enormously increased of late years, and the cost of bringing it over had fallen from 4d. a pound to ¾d. a pound. He believed that this Measure would not do any good, and therefore he should oppose it.


I hope that the Debate will now be allowed to come to a close. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down speaks in the interest of the British farmer and not in the interest of the consumers of meat, and as the British farmer, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's blandishments, appears determined to take the other view, and as no class is to be injured except the British farmer by this Bill, there is no reason why this Measure should not pass with due speed into law. The right hon. Gentleman himself has demolished the only case he wished to make, but as he shows that the Bill will have no protective effect whatever——


Against the farmer.


Just so; but protection against the producer is a new kind of protection which nobody in the House will recommend. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] If the exclusion of foreign live stock is protection, the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member was as much tarred with the protective brush as anyone else. The Bill is not protective; it will not raise the price of meat. What then will it do? It will be of the greatest benefit to the trade in cattle in Canada and in other places, because it will put it upon a stable foundation, the one condition which makes trade possible, because men will not put their capital into it if they know that it may be revolutionised at any moment before their capital can be returned. If we leave the matter to the wisdom, which may turn out under certain circumstances to be the caprice of a Department, no trade could flourish or has flourished. What the Government are doing is not to increase the price of meat to do an injury to the foreign producer, nor to give any unfair benefit to the English producer, but simply to put the general trade in meat between this and foreign countries in a position not different from that in which it is at present or was under the late Government as far as the importation of cattle is concerned, but under conditions of permanence and stability which will induce farmers to invest their capital with a reasonable hope that it will bring them a fair return for their money. I think that the subject has been thoroughly threshed out, and I hope that the House will now go to a Division on the Question, leaving the questions regarding different countries to be discussed in Committee. ["Hear, hear!"]


opposed the Bill on behalf of the Scotch farmers. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture had courteously supplied him with a list of the counties in Scotland, all of whom were opposed to this Measure. He admitted that much might be said on the subject of pleuro-pneumonia, but whenever he saw a Bill brought forward by the Government in a congested state of business, he asked what was its motive—was the main motive of this Bill to prevent the introduction into this country of live cattle infected with pleuro-pneumonia, or was its main motive to favour and support cattle breeding in this country by the exclusion of foreign cattle from our ports? He wanted to know why this Government at this moment of time, when it was so busy, brought in this Bill which served no useful purpose, if it was not because they thought to avail themselves of the opportunity to exclude in perpetuity, all foreign beasts from our ports? But why should they be excluded? Could anybody in that House get up and say that there was any reason why these beasts should be excluded so long as they could be admitted with safety? He had had opportunities of reading a not very voluminous book, which was too late in circulation, and he thought he could discover in one single letter, which was set out, the reason why this was due. It was a letter from the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture to the Colonial Office, and in it he found the reason for the introduction of this Bill. That letter stated that one of the advantages of the Bill would be to remove a constantly recurring cause of friction between this Government and the Governments of countries from which cattle came, which arose from the fact that whenever this Government discovered infection in cattle, the Government of the colony from which they came always disputed their finding. In other words this Bill was introduced in order to save the President of the Board of Agriculture trouble, and to save him from the necessity of adjudicating on the question, aye or no, could foreign cattle at any time be safely admitted into this country? The right hon. Gentleman solved the difficulty by saying that from henceforth for evermore foreign cattle should not be introduced. That was a very rough and ready way of getting rid of a difficulty which was no doubt worrying the right hon. Gentleman to a shadow and turning his hair grey. He saw no reason whatever why, in order to save himself trouble, the right hon. Gentleman should bring in this Bill to put an end to the question so far as he was concerned for ever and ever. Scientific knowledge on this subject was in a very doubtful state, and it might possibly be that pleuro-pneumonia might be stamped out altogether by scientific discovery. A great French authority threw considerable doubt upon the question whether the proper scientific means had been utilised to determine this matter. He thought, therefore, it was premature once and for all to put an end to the importation of foreign cattle, and opportunity be taken away from the farmers for all time of making agriculture pay simply in order to save the Board of Agriculture from deciding at a particular moment of time whether foreign cattle should be introduced? Whilst he did not think the Bill would affect very much the price of meat to the consumer, he was sure it would affect the profits of farmers in all parts of the country, and he thought it was poor comfort to them to find this Bill was the first fruits of the agricultural legislation which was offered them; that they should be wounded in their own household by their boon companions at the farmers' ordinaries; and that those whom they had looked upon as their friends should have introduced a Measure which, once and for all, put an end to a great trade, from which the farmers had derived good profits in the past, and to which they had looked forward to making both ends meet in the future. [Cheers.]

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 244; Noes, 95.—(Division List No. 64).

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill Read 2a and committed for Monday, 13th April.