HC Deb 15 April 1904 vol 133 cc327-47


Order for Reading read.

MR. PRICE (Norfolk, E.)

, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said it dealt with a grievance which was strongly felt directly by the great butcher trade and, indirectly, by the agricultural interest. The butchers had taken collective action in the matter, and the various chambers of agriculture had at any rate expressed their strong sympathy with the principles of the Bill if not with all its details. The grievance was shortly set out in the preamble in the following words— Whereas it frequently happens that it is impossible to detect the presence of tuberculosis in a living animal from its outward appearance, and yet such disease may exist to an extent which may justify the condemnation of the carcase after slaughter as unfit for human food, and it is expedient to make provision for compensating the owner of such condemned carcase. The principle usually adopted in such cases was that compensation should be given to the people whose property was destroyed in the public interest, and this was one of the very few exceptions to that rule. Two reasons had caused the public to give compensation in such cases. In the first place, because it was only fair that individuals whose property was destroyed for the public good, and who were innocent in the matter, should receive compensation; and the second reason was that, if they did not receive full compensation, there was a chance that the law would be evaded. Both those considerations applied in this case. He did not intend to go into the scientific question which was discussed before the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, but the opinion of that Commission and of most of the people who had considered the question was that the dangers of tuberculosis were very much exaggerated. In some districts there was a most severe application of the law, and slaughter of animals took place in cases where there was an extremely slight manifestation of tuberculosis, and it was with the view of remedying as much as anything else the inequalities of the present system that the Bill was introduced. He knew that objection was taken to some of the provisions of the measure, such as the provision for compensation out of the rates, but that was a point which could be dealt with in Committee. It was impossible to propose in the Bill that compensation should come out of Imperial funds, but that was a matter for consideration. There were regulations in the measure which provided that the Board of Agriculture should fix the maximum and minimum compensation. He agreed that it might turn out to be extremely difficult for the person claiming compensation to prove his case, but he was afraid that was inseparable from the nature of the case, and it certainly would not do to allow any attempt at fraud He begged to move that this Bill be read a second time.

* MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, N.)

said the promoters of this Bill had two objects in view. In the first place they desired to protect the public health; and, in the second place, to remove what was undoubtedly a very deep grievance affecting an important section of the trading community. It was essential in the interests of public health that wherever diseased meat was found which might be sold for public consumption, there should be no hesitation whatever on the part of local authorities in condemning it. It was necessary that there should be nothing in the administration of the law to lead a local authority to relax its efforts in the protection of public health. As the law now stood many local authorities must feel a very keen sympathy with the individuals who would have to bear the burden of the loss, and feeling that sympathy they would hesitate to condemn when they ought to condemn. The first object of this Bill was to secure full freedom for the local authority in the condemnation of every carcase found to be affected with tuberculosis, and that could only be secured by the knowledge on the part of the local authority that the loss should not fall upon the unlucky individual who owned the carcase, but that such loss would be borne by the community who would be benefited by the destruction of the carcase in question. Those who profited by such destruction ought to bear the loss, and wherever the property of a private individual was destroyed for the public benefit the loss should be borne by the public. It was most unfortunate that there was no systematic notification of tuberculosis. The possessor of a herd of cattle who found some of the cattle were suffering from tuberculosis was allowed to send them for sale, and they could not be seized and condemned. It was only after the animals had been slaughtered that the local authority could seize the carcases and destroy them. The owner of the live animal was quite free from any liability in the matter, and as a matter of fact he was often advised by veterinary surgeons to send cattle affected with tuberculosis into the market. He thought pressure ought to be brought to bear upon the Board of Agriculture to take up this question seriously in order to stamp out this disease. Those who were opposing this measure he was quite aware did not lack sympathy with the butchers upon whom the loss fell, but they opposed the measure because they felt that it was a subject which should be taken up by the Board of Agriculture, and they were of opinion that this disease could only be stamped out by dealing with the live animal instead of waiting to deal with the dead carcases. They had, however, to deal with the facts as they were, and at the present time there was no notification of tuberculosis.

The House would readily realise that a great trade was being carried on in the face of very serious difficulties. Men who desired to carry on their trade perfectly honestly might at any moment be placed in the police Court and treated as criminals and be prosecuted and sentenced, although they had not been knowingly guilty of any fault whatever. A butcher might go to the market and purchase a number of live cows. It was impossible for any man as the living cattle stood in the market to detect the presence of tuberculosis. A reliable test could only be applied when the animal existed in its normal condition free from excitement and free from those ordinary worries which were inevitable from sale in the open market. Therefore a reliable test could not be applied to cattle under market conditions. The farmer or the breeder might have discovered the presence of this disease in the cattle before they were brought to market but, in the open market, butchers had no sufficient means of protecting themselves. They might buy an animal which while alive had passed even experts, but which when slaughtered might be found to be suffering from tuberculosis. Every encouragement should be given to butchers, when they found that a slaughtered animal was suffering from tuberculosis, to notify the fact to the local authorities and to invite the destruction of the carcase. Under the existing law they could not take such a course without losing the whole of the money which they had paid for the animal. Another difficulty was that the practice of different authorities varied. The Royal Commission reported that where animals were suffering from purely localised tuberculosis, as, for example, where the disease was limited to the thoracic, lymphatic, or the pharyngeal glands, in such instances only the portion of the carcase affected should be cut away and destroyed. In some towns, if the disease existed in the thoracic glands only, the whole carcase was ordered to be destroyed. He thought it was necessary that whatever principle was adopted it ought to be applied throughout the whole country, and traders should not bo liable to prosecution in one town without being subject to the same liability in another place.

The whole of the members of the Royal Commission recommended a system under which localised tuberculosis might be dealt with. There was also a Minority Report which recommended that compensation should be paid in cases where the animal, when alive, appeared to be well nourished and exhibited no evidence of tuberculosis. The Bill before the House followed that recommendation not only in the spirit but in the letter, for it provided that wherever a carcase was found to be diseased the local authority condemning it should be empowered to pay out of the local rates compensation to the full value of the animal destroyed. The pro- motors of the Bill did not desire to take any action whatever which would facilitate unfair trade. This Bill would not protect the butcher who knowingly purchased a diseased animal at a low price. Before compensation could be claimed the butcher would have to prove that he had paid a fair market price, and that he had no reason to suspect that the animal was diseased. Therefore there was no protection whatever for the man who purchased be low the market rate. The Royal Commission suggested that the market rate should be fixed by the Board of Agriculture. If a butcher paid a fancy price for an animal which was found to be diseased, he would only get the value of the carcase. He could not see what objection could be raised to the principle of this Bill, although there might be some objection to its details. He hoped the House would not occupy much time in dealing with details because the promoters were prepared to have the measure referred to a Select Committee. The subject dealt with was a technical one, but he thought they would get a favourable Report from the Select Committee.

His hon. friend had stated that this was not merely a butchers' question, but also an agricultural question. The risk that existed was driving the meat trade of this country into the hands of foreigners. Butchers were buying imported dead meat, and would not buy live cattle on account of the risk. That was a very serious thing not only for Ireland hut also for the agricultural counties of this country. A herd of cattle might be sent into a town and the butchers might discover that one or two of the animals were diseased, and they would have to bear the loss in case they were destroyed. The result would be that they would not deal with those farmers or dealers again who had sold them the cattle, and they would be boycotted and the butchers would turn their attention to the dead meat market. Therefore he suggested that this was not merely a trade affair but it was a question which affected a much wider range of interest. A good illustration of this was afforded in the Anthrax Order. In Cheshire it had been arranged that animals slaughtered on account of anthrax should be paid for out of the local rates. If the Government could be induced to take up this question and to devise some means by which one half of the costs would fall on the Imperial funds instead of on local funds, he would gladly welcome such an Amendment. It was not altogether fair that the district where the slaughter took place should pay the whole amount of the compensation. It would be logically fair if it were possible to trace back to the farmer who had the opportunity of discovering the disease, but it was absolutely impossible to do that because the animals passed through many hands, and it was impossible to tell at what stage they became unsound, It was, therefore, impossible to fix responsibility. He believed this House, as the jealous guardian of the public health, would be glad to facilitate the performance of an irksome duty by the local authorities, and to protect those engaged in an important industry against the unfair conditions to which they were at present subjected.

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

GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

said he approved of the object of the Bill, but not of the methods proposed. It was all very well to say that the agricultural interest and butchers were strongly in favour of it, but the ratepayers had a right to be considered. The Bill provided that a magistrate should satisfy himself that the animal had a good appearance before slaughter, but supposing the animal was killed in Aberdeenshire, how could a magistrate in London satisfy himself on such a point. It was absolutely impossible, and that part of the Bill was unworkable. The Bill really told the ratepayer that he should pay the compensation because the animal happened to be in the district in which he lived. For two years in another House of Commons he was chairman of a Committee that investigated the whole question as to the communicability of tuberculosis, but this Bill had nothing to do with that question. On behalf of ratepayers who lived in large populous communities he contended that the Bill should be recast, and as the whole community would benefit by the destruction of this meat they should be prepared to pay for it. On this ground he felt bound to move the rejection of the Bill.

There being no seconder, the Amendment fell to the ground.

* MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

said the hon. and gallant Member who moved the rejection of the Bill apparently took the greatest possible objection to the ratepayers paying the cost, but he had altogether overlooked the fact that the unfortunate owner had to bear the whole of the loss individually. He was quite certain that the hon. and gallant Member, with that sense of fair play which he possessed, would not wish to place responsibility on a single individual which ought to be borne by the whole community. Those connected with the meat trade in the three kingdoms were anxious to protect the public health, but they had always strenuously maintained that what was confiscated for the public good ought to be paid for out of the public purse. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the rejection of the Bill but could not obtain a seconder, seemed to lose sight of the fact that it was not competent under a private Bill to charge the Imperial funds with any cost, and that, therefore, no course was open to the promoters of this measure except that which had been adopted. If the Government chose to adopt this suggestion it would be competent for them to take steps for providing a remedy in accordance with the views of those who held that the public purse ought to pay. If anything was confiscated for the public good the public must pay, and he should be very much obliged if any hon. Member could tell him why the meat trade should be the only exception to the wholesome rule applied to others. He took it that the House was satisfied with the principle of the Bill, and that what they had to consider was how they were to get a practical solution of the question. The principle of compensation had been adopted by every one of the bodies interested in the animal industry. The Central Chamber of Agriculture, the Irish Cattle Traders "and Stockowners' Associations—representing the organised opinions of that country—the important National Federation of Meat Traders, consisting of 130 affiliated associations from the principal cities and towns of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man, and the Dublin Victuallers' Association, had all unanimously passed resolutions in favour of compensation. Various farmers' clubs in England, Ireland, and Scotland, strongly supported this principle.

The hon. Member who seconded the Second Reading of the Bill had very properly drawn attention to the fact that an Order had been granted by the Board of Agriculture under which the County Council of Cheshire should pay full compensation in cases of anthrax. In the case of animals suffering from tuberculosis, unless by the application of a tubercular test, it was impossible to detect the presence of the disease until the animal was slaughtered, and in that way the difficulty came in, as the authorities could not give compensation by reason of the fact that they were not owners of the animal at the time it was killed. He had attended as a delegate at the Great Tuberculosis Congress held in London where all the leading scientists and medical authorities, as well as trade and local authorities' representatives, were present. He heard Dr. Koch the greatest living bacteriologist declare that bovine tuberculosis was not communicable to man by the ingestion of moat. He was not discussing the scientific question except to say that that declaration was entitled to respect. In this country we lost sight of what was done by more scientific nations than ourselves. in Germany and other countries tuberculous meat was sterilised and sold at a lower price, whereas in this country it was destroyed, and the meat trader who had possession, through no fault of his own. was prosecuted, and frequently efforts were made to sead him to prison. It appeared to him that common sense should be applied to this matter, and that effect should be given by medical officers of health to the recommendations of the Local Government Board in 1899 drawn on the lines of the Tuberculosis Minority Report Second Commission, 1898, which stated— We consider, therefore, that for the present compensation should be paid for carcases confiscated for the presence of tuberculosis, subject to the magistrate who orders the confiscation being satisfied that the animal while in life had a good appearance, was well nourished, and exhibited no clinical evidence of tuberculosis; subject also to a maximum and minimum limit of price. We feel that it would not be possible to fix such prices permanently, having regard to the fluctuations of the cattle and meat market. We would suggest, therefore, that the minimum price, below which no compensation shall be paid, as well as the maximum sum to be paid in compensation, even if less than the price paid for the animal confiscated, should be fixed in each year by the Board of Agriculture. The Bill was practically a repetition of this recommendation. But according to the law, as it at present stood and was administered, a meat trader might be fined £50, or sent to prison, for an offence of which he had absolutely no knowledge. That was a condition of the law which needed amendment, and the sooner the House of Commons set about it the better.

He had brought under the notice of the President of the Local Government Board many cases of extreme hardship which had occurred. It was wrong to penalise an honest trade in this fashion. At Liverpool some time ago, under the existing law, a poor woman was sent to prison, although possessing no guilty knowledge. There was such a disturbance raised about it that the magistrate allowed her out on payment of a fine. If pigs were killed in Denmark and the carcases were found to be diseased, the pork would be sterilised, made into finished bacon, and imported into this country for consumption by Englishmen who prosecuted and persecuted the home producer, as they were at present doing in the Central Meat Market, London. Another extraordinary case occurred at Lynn, where a man in the trade slaughtered some cattle to oblige a railway company; yet he was subjected to prosecution, legal costs, and annoyance. Besides it must be remembered always that the unfortunate meat trader who was prosecuted was generally, as a consequence, ruined in his business, because his customers did not understand the technical difficulty of his position in being held liable for an occurrence for which he was not justly responsible. But the House should be informed and give due consideration to the fact that the present ill-advised system was diverting a large volume of the meat trade to the importer, who, under existing conditions, escaped obloquy, fine, or imprisonment because there were few, if any, tuberculous animals imported, and those were mainly sold in carcases after inspection. But the seller of home produce bought the animal alive and was open to all those risky and penal disadvantages. When he suffered, he took of necessity to buying foreign meat.

This was a very serious issue for landowners, farmers, graziers, and in fact everyone connected with the animal industry in the three kingdoms. He had visited Continental countries, the cities of Paris, Vienna, Dresden, Leipzig, and Budapest; the authorities there did not persecute their own citizens dealing in home meat, on the contrary they protected them by a reasonable uniform method of inspection; they did not confiscate and destroy tons of good meat, simple localised tuberculosis was sensibly treated by cutting away the affected portions. More serious cases were sterilised and the meat marked and sold at a lower price, and only in bad cases destroyed. But in this country, owing to the absence of qualifications in many meat inspectors, the over zealousness of certain medical officers of health, and the want of uniformity as to standard inspection—the result all round had been most injurious to the producers and retailers of native meat. The main reasons why he took so much interest in this matter was because he was President of the Irish Cattle and Stock-owners' Association, and knew about the difficulties raised in connection with the buying of Irish cattle in the English market. There was not so much tuberculosis in Ireland as in England, that being due, he believed, to the fact that now cattle were kept more in the open air, and they had less in-breeding and delicate pampered pedigree stock in Ireland. But this whole subject as to the eliminations of tuberculosis from the herds of the United Kingdom and the treatment to be adopted with regard to confiscation, inspections and sanitation needed most careful and prudent consideration. He therefore, appealed to the House to allow the Bill to go to a Select Committee in order that the whole subject might be investigated and a solution arrived at which would satisfy and safeguard the wants of the community.

* SIR. HERBERT MAXWELL (Wigtonshire)

said he could only support the Bill on the condition that had been suggested, namely, that it should be referred to a Select Committee. He was very glad that the Bill had been fortunate in the ballot, as the matter was one of importance to the community. It was to be regretted that the promoters in framing the measure appeared to have been ignorant of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, over which he had had the honour to preside. It was now proposed to provide a remedy by the easy process of putting an additional burden on the rates, but the ratepayer's burden was becoming almost more than he could bear. The meat trade was by no means the only trade in which confiscation for the public good was not followed by compensation; cargoes of rotten fruit or bad fish were destroyed without compensation. He thought that if the question of tubercular disease in cattle had been properly grappled with in this country, as it had been in certain Continental States, any grievance would have been removed and the question of compensation would not have arisen. It did not arise in Germany simply because a more rational manner of administration and regulation of slaughterhouses prevailed. It did not arise in Denmark because there they had undertaken a systematic and most successful method of eliminating this most destructive disease. Since the Royal Commission reported some years ago no steps whatever had been taken to improve the chaos which characterised the administration of slaughterhouses and meat inspection in this country.

The grievance which had been dealt with by hon. Members on both sides of the House was a real one which deserved consideration. The question was, how were they to remove the grievance? Merely to compensate the trader for what, under present conditions, was an ordinary trade risk would be most unfair to the ratepayers. The first thing that was required was the adoption of some uniform system throughout the country for dealing with carcases tainted with tuberculosis. In Edinburgh the inspection was searching and complete, and the inspecting staff resembled, more than any other in this country, that of Continental towns. In that town the slightest indication of tubercular disease caused the destruction of the carcase, and a great deal of hardship was occasioned thereby no doubt. On the other hand, in Manchester they had a discriminating system of inspection resembling that which had been adopted in German and Danish towns. In cases of localised disease, the organs affected were removed and destroyed, and the rest of the carcase, being perfectly sound, was allowed to be sold as meat. The Royal Commission paid great attention to this, and in their Report there would be found a specific scheme of what ought to constitute bad meat, and what was meat which might be sold with perfect safety to the community. That suggestion had been absolutely neglected. There was no uniformity in that respect, no standard of soundness. There was also no uniformity in the qualifications of the men on whose report the condemnation of carcases took place. For instance, the Royal Commission found six years ago that in Battersea, of the seven meat inspectors four were plumbers and three carpenters; in Hackney the duty of inspecting carcases was entrusted to a plumber, a compositor, a florist, and a stonemason; and in Portsmouth the inspectors included one solitary butcher, who might be expected to know something of the business, two school teachers, a medical dispenser, and a tram conductor. It was on the report of men like these that butchers, farmers, and graziers had their meat passed or condemned.

A further injustice was imposed by the present system on farmers, graziers, and butchers. The enormous importation of foreign and colonial meat practically escaped inspection altogether. During a visit to the slaughterhouse at Deptford, where 2,700 beasts were slaughtered every week, he found that a single inspector had to examine 2,700 carcases in three days. He believed that the inspecting staff at Deptford had since been reinforced. Was not such a system of inspection a farce? He could not conceive that the animals received the same amount of inspection which was given in well-regulated slaughterhouses. In Saxony, in the year 1895, tuberculosis was found to exist in 22,758 carcases; if every one of these carcases had been destroyed, a vast deal of valuable meat would have been wasted. But 92½ per cent. of these carcases were passed by the inspectors as fit for food, 5½ per cent. were disposed of at the price of inferior meat, and the whole of the rest were destroyed, but without compensation. There was no question that this particular disease was found almost exclusively among cows. In Glasgow, during two years, 1,287 carcases were condemned for tuberculosis, and of these, thirteen were bulls, four bullocks, two calves, seven pigs, and 1,260 were cows. Cows kept in a dairy were peculiarly liable to this particular disease. Every man acquainted with the trade knew that there was less hardship involved in the confiscation of a cow's carcase, because the presumption was that the owner had got his profit out of the animal as a milker. Nothing had been done since the Report of the Royal Commission six years ago to substitute some order for the chaos which characterised the administration of slaughterhouses and meat inspection in this country. He would value much some assurance from his right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board that action would shortly be taken on that Report. If it was not to be, he would like to know the reason why. He did not know whether the responsibility rested with the right hon. Gentleman's Department or with the Board of Agriculture. But, at all events, it was with a feeling somewhat akin to shame that they must contemplate what had been done in coping with tuberculosis successfully, practically, and with the concurrence of the people, in a small State like Denmark, while no serious attempt had been made in this country to stamp out this most destructive disease from our herds.

* DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

said that the effect produced on his mind by the discussion was, that a true Bill had been found for further inquiry, in the interests both of farmer and consumer. He supported this Bill partly because he represented what was the leading feeding county in Scotland, but mainly in the general public interest. The Bill should be read a second time, and sent to a Select Committee for further consideration. It was hard lines on the farmer and the butcher that they could not diagnose tuberculosis. The tuberculin test, which was the only real test, would not operate at all after the animal had been knocked about in markets or had came off from a long journey. The beasts were then in a state of unstable equilibrium. Why, then, should not the farmer or butcher get compensation for his animal if it was killed without his knowledge that it was tuberculous. The analogy of the man who sold rotten fruit, or rotten meat, was no analogy at all, because he did it with his eyes and nose open, whereas the whole case for this Bill was that the farmer did not, and could not, know what the condition of the animal was before it was slaughtered. It was a very serious fact that while consumption amongst grown persons had decreased, the sane disease among children was largely increasing, and the problem was, whether this was not in consequence of tuberculous milk being given to the young persons. He quite agreed with the hon. Baronet that it was unfortunate we had not taken steps to stamp out tuberculosis in this country as had been done in Denmark. Sir Thomas Gibson Carmichael had proved by long experiment that this disease could be stamped out. Surely provention was better than cure. Nearly every locality was now providing an institution for the treatment of consumption by the open air method, but it would be much better to attack the disease at the outset. Every opportunity should be taken of nipping the disease at the outset, and testing the milk to discover whether it was tuberculous. He supported the Bill, both in the agricultural and the public interest. Something had been said about insurance, but they knew that the farmers were fighting an uphill battle, and had not much money to spare. So long as insurance was not compulsory, that would provide at least a partial solution of the problem.

* SIR FREDERICK MILNER (Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw)

said he supported the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill on the ground of justice, and because he believed it would afford a protection to the public against the sale of diseased meat. There could be no possible question that at certain stages it was impossible to discover disease when the animal was alive; but he was told that immediately an animal was killed it was possible for any butcher to say whether it was diseased or not. What he suggested was that in some subsequent clause of the Bill it should be stipulated that a butcher should at once notify to the authorities when he had killed a beast and discovered that it was in a diseased state. That would be a great protection to the public. With that addition he thought the Bill would be an eminently fair one, and he sincerely hoped it would pass.

DR. HUTCHINSON (Sussex, Rye)

said that this was not only a butchers' and a graziers' question, it was one which affected the public at large. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would continue his efforts to stop the progress of the awful disease of consumption; and he appealed with perfect confidence to the right hon. Gentleman to assist private Members in securing the Second Reading of the Bill, and its consideration by a Select Committee. He protested against attempts to stop a measure for the benefit of the public health, because Gentlemen were squabbling among themselves as to whether the taxpayer or the ratepayer should provide the compensation.

MR. ASHTON (Bedfordshire, Luton)

said it appeared to him that the Bill was ill-drawn, and ill thought out. It in no way carried out the recommendations or intentions of the Royal Commission. If the Bill was in the interests of the butcher, and of the public, it did not go far enough; if it was in the interests of agriculture, there were others who had equal claims upon the public purse. Why should the butcher be selected, in preference to other traders, for compensation? The dealer in tinned meats and fruits was in exactly the same position, and he maintained that they ought to be fair to all industries. It was said that it was in the interest of public health that tuberculosis should be struck at, but the Bill was not approaching the question from the right point of view, nor was it dealing with it according to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. He had made experiments himself in the treatment of tuberculosis, and he held that if they were going to deal with the matter it should begin at the farmyard, and not in the butcher's shop. The hon. Member for West Ham had pointed out very rightly that in the Minority Report it was suggested that compensation should be given for the slaughter of animals. True; but it was only to be given under certain conditions. Compensation was only to be allowed for a limited period, dating from the time when means were adopted for the elimination of tuberculosis from our herds. The Majority Report did not suggest any compensation whatever. Therefore he contended that before a Bill of this kind was adopted there should be legislation to deal first of all with the elimination of tuberculosis from the country. He thought that no good purpose would be served by sending the Bill to a Select Committee.


said that perhaps it would be convenient if he stated now what his view of the Bill was. He had great sympathy with the view of the hon. Gentleman who had pointed out that this measure did not carry out the recommendations of either the Majority or the Minority Report of the Royal Commission. But the hon. Gentleman had failed to appreciate the object and intention of the Bill. The extinction of tuberculosis was being aimed at, through the destruction of the animal, because the disease was injurious to public health; and the sole object of the measure was the payment of compensation to the trader who suffered heavy loss in consequence of a law imposed upon him in the general interests of the community. He thought that the Bill was badly drawn, and he very much doubted whether, if passed in its present form, it would carry out the object of the promoters. On the other hand, the Bill gave the House an opportunity of expressing its views on a question with regard to which there was considerable agreement. What they had to consider was not only the feasibility of the machinery of the Bill, or the quality of its drafting, but the principle involved in the measure. There was a great deal to be said in support of the case of those in whose interest the Bill was promoted, and he agreed with much which had been said by the hon. Baronet who spoke with so much authority on this subject, and who had presided over the Royal Commission. It was said that if this Bill passed in its present form it would not be effective; but he nevertheless thought there was a good deal to be said in the interest of those who were liable to have their property seized, and in whose interest the Bill was promoted. It was an undoubted fact that the results of the tuberculin test were very often misleading and could not be relied on, and in some cases it was impossible to apply the test at all. The butcher, therefore, was exposed to risks that did not affect any other trader. He bought a beast, to all intents and purposes sound, and it was only when that beast had been slaughtered and the inspector had paid his visit that the butcher learnt for the first time that the article for which he had given perhaps £25 or £26 was unfit for human food and only worth a few shillings. When the animal was purchased it was almost impossible to tell whether it was likely to be diseased or not. The man who possessed the animal in the first instance possibly found indication of this disease in one animal, and the "vet." called in had the animal destroyed. The owner of the herd having then some knowledge of the disease asked what he was to do with the other animals to fatten them and put them on the market as soon as possible. It was obvious that in such a case the butcher was exposed to an enormous risk. The House ought to deal with this question in such a way, by compensation, as to ensure that these animals should not be put upon the market and sold for human food. The Government were charged with having done nothing to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission. One of the most important recommendations was that there must be a central slaughterhouse where the animals could be slaughtered, inspected, and properly dealt with. It was a difficult question even to hurry on, and far more to force on, local authorities in this country.


We have done it in Scotland.


said whatever success might have attended the introduction of the reform in Scotland, it was a fact not to be questioned that an attempt to force upon local authorities in England an obligation to set up public slaughterhouses would excite a feeling of hostility that would retard good work now being done. It was, no doubt, true that local inspectors were not always well qualified for their duties, but under our system of decentralisation the Government could not be blamed for this. The difference between the law of Germany and Denmark and that of England in this regard was that the system in those countries was centralised whereas here it was the reverse. Here we were told to trust to the local authority to see that this reform was effected. They had done their best to impress upon local authorities that they should appoint inspectors of knowledge and experience, and clauses in a Bill he hoped to introduce would tend to secure that result, but it was a matter that could only be done by degrees, and any attempt to set up public slaughter houses or to generalise in order to universally stamp out tuberculosis by the tuberculin test, would, in his opinion, instead of doing good, result in a good deal more hostility being shown than was shown at present. This matter touched the whole question of local government, and no doubt it would be very difficult for some of the smaller local authorities, on the ground of expense, to appoint proper men. All that could be done was to lead the local authorities along the path of permanent progress in this regard. But if they could not get all the reforms which were asked for there was some justification for the claim put forward by the promoters of the present measure in that the present condition of things inflicted injustice on one class of traders, and a reference of the Bill to a Select Committee, with power to take evidence, would offer the opportunity for inquiry in which traders and ratepayers could present their case, and in that inquiry a remedy might be found and a system of compensation devised. This was as far as he would be prepared to go, and although he admitted the truth of the criticisms which had been made by the hon. Gentleman who just sat down, he did not think that even the hon. Gentleman would be prepared to divide the House upon this question. The already heavily burdened ratepayers must be considered, and certainly he must be understood as giving no promise to support a proposal that compensation should come from the Imperial Exchequer. He was informed that at Newcastle an admirable insurance fund had been established by contributions from traders, and this, with other matters in relation to the subject, might come within the scope of the reference to the Committee. With the understanding that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, he assented to the Second Reading.

* SIR LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)

said that in the interests of his constituents he called the attention of the House of Commons to this subject as far back as 1889. It was then recognised that a great hardship was inflicted on the meat-trade and the agitation then commenced had after sixteen years resulted in the introduction of this Bill. They recognised the great risk which butchers had to incur and all that the promoters of this Bill asked was uniformity of inspection, condemnation, and compensation. It had been difficult in the past to discover which was the proper Department to deal with this question. When he brought the subject to the attention of the House in 1889 he was told that the Board of Agriculture dealt only with live animals and that he must apply to the Local Government Board, but when he went to the Local Government Board he was told that they dealt only with dead animals, and he must go to the Department which dealt with live animals. He now congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on his speech and the reception he had given to the Bill on behalf of the Government, and also he congratulated him that it was recognised that the subject was closely concerned with public health.

* MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

entirely concurred with what had fallen from the hon. Member for South Bedfordshire and took it that the President of the Local Government Board was in agreement with them as to the effect of this Bill. He did not wish to be considered hostile to the principle of compensation, and, in fact, he had always advocated in the strongest way compensation for farmers and others, where there was compulsory slaughter of their cattle, and who were not guilty of any fraud. But in this case compensation was pro-vided on a wholly different principle, where carcases of animals slaughtered were afterwards condemned as unfit for human food. That was applying the principle of compensation in an entirely wrong way. He agreed with his right hon. friend the Member for Wigtonshire that the principle of compensation could only be introduced as part of a general system adopted to deal with this disease. The duty of the State and the interest of agriculturists was to adopt a system of elimination of the disease. The ground upon which he took special exception was that he thought the Bill was likely to encourage fraud. He suggested that if there was to be a Select Committee the whole question of compensation for slaughter of cattle in connection with the stamping out of disease should be referred to it, after careful consideration of the terms of reference.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."


said it would not be possible for the Select Committee to enter into the much wider inquiry suggested by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire; and he imagined that the promoters would not be willing to accept a Motion for such an inquiry in substitution for their Bill.


said he would on the proper occasion invite the Government to appoint a Select Committee to deal on a wider reference, with the question of compensation in the case of slaughter for tuberculosis in all cases.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Select Committee.