HC Deb 13 July 1906 vol 160 cc1208-36

On the Order of the Day being read, there was a short pause, the Deputy-Chairman not having the necessary Papers to proceed with the Votes.

SIR P. BANBURY (City of London)

moved to report progress and ask leave to sit again owing to the extraordinary position in which he said the Government were in in not having got the Papers of what was really the first business, the Bills which had so far occupied the attention of the House having been very small matters.

Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Frederick Banbury.)


hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press this Motion. It was a pure accident that the Paper on which they had to proceed had not arrived, the reason being that they had got through the business with exceptional rapidity. When the hon. Member for the City was re-elected to this House they hardly expected that they would get through the business so quickly. The hon. Gentleman always took so intelligent and so keen an interest in the business of the Government. However, the Paper had now come in.


said he would withdraw his Motion, but he might be allowed to say that only a few moments before the right hon. Gentleman himself had said that the Opposition were doing the right thing in obstructing the Government. If he had ever been guilty of such a proceeding, which he did not admit, he had only been following the example of the right hon. Gentleman.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made and Question proposed, " That a sum not exceeding £75,335 be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1907, for the salaries and expenses of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.

MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)

congratulated the lion. Baronet on his position as representing the Board of Agriculture, but tit the same time he thought the hon. Baronet's feelings of duty to his country must be somewhat harshly mingled with the feeling that the principle which he had always advocated with such zeal in this House had been in his case reversed. On more than one occasion in this House they had had attention called to the fact that if agriculture was to have the real voice which it ought to have as the leading industry in the country, it should be represented in this House by a Minister of Agriculture who was both a Member of this House and a member of the Cabinet. He was sorry to say that right hon. Gentlemen opposite had never followed that principle. The Department of Agriculture was represented in this House by one who was not responsible, who had no power to act on his own account, and who was obliged to refer to another place in any action he might take.

THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. EMMOTT, Old-ham, who was now in the Chair)

said he did not think the question of the appointment of Ministers could be touched on this Vote.


said he regretted very much that owing to the absence of the representative of the Board of Agriculture from this House they were constantly being placed in an extremely difficult position with regard to agricultural policy. They had a very good instance of that in the debate that took place earlier in the session upon the importation of foreign cattle. He doubted whether any hon. Member could recall a subject which excited more interest on a private Member's day, and yet there was nobody to answer directly for the Government, though the Board of Agriculture was the only possible authority that could be a judge of the question of foreign disease and the difficulties and risks connected with it. With reference to the Vote before the Committee he would like to ask a few questions of the hon. Baronet upon a subject in which he had always taken great interest, namely, the policy of the Board of Agriculture with reference to various diseases of animals. Strong representations had bee n made to the President of the Board of Agriculture with regard to glanders and sheep scab, and he hoped they would receive some information upon this point of a definite character. With regard to glanders, the country was in an extremely favourable position provided that the Board of Agriculture could put pressure upon the Treasury. In that case, glanders could be dealt with as effectually as any other disease, because it was found within certain limited areas and arose in very few spots. The local authorities were willing to act and spend money to get rid of these diseases. Glanders was a disease which affected, not only animals, but human beings, and therefore there was all the more reason for putting pressure upon the Treasury to provide funds for the elimination of the disease. With reference to sheep scab they were very much in the same position, although the outlook was more favourable than in former years owing to the strong action of the Department and the Act which had been passed. It was clearly proved that this disease also arose in certain districts. It had been shown that compulsory dipping could be carried out, and he thought that the time had now come for dealing with this matter in a comprehensive manner. The only objection was that people did not like being placed in the scheduled area, but if they had a general regulation, and made no distinction between different parts of the country, nobody would feel any stigma, and they would be able by strong measures to get rid of a disease which had undoubtedly caused a great deal of havoc and considerable annoyance. He was sure the extinction of this disease would be extremely welcome to the agricultural population. A Committee had also reported upon other diseases connected with sheep, although the matter was of a certain technical nature. Nevertheless he felt that the Department was on right lines in permitting scientific inquiries into these diseases. In the past but little had been known about them, and this Committee was throwing a great deal of light upon the subject. The cost of these scientific investigations was not great, and they were content with slow progress because the researches took a long time, but it was necessary that they should go on. They ought not to grudge the expenditure, because a very great advantage was being obtained from these scientific researches, and therefore he hoped that the hon. Baronet would be able to say that they were to be continued. Then there was another subject which came before the Sheep Scab Committee, and that was foot rot, and he thought there might be some inquiry into that question. In asking for further help in favour of agricultural education and for further support to agricultural colleges, he pointed out that there was one institution which had never yet received any State aid, although it was the most valuable institution of its kind —he referred to the Institution for Agricultural Research at Rothamsted— which was carried on with great advantage to agriculture generally. It had a most eminent agriculturist at it head, and it stood in a unique position from its long experimental experience. In order to insure that it should be worthy of the country, he thought the Board of Agriculture ought to see that it did not languish for want of funds, and some consideration should be paid to it to make sure that it would be able to continue its good work. The Board of Agriculture had a good staff and was an excellent department, and they ought not to grudge the funds necessary to keep it going. He hoped they would be assured that the scare and panic about the introduction of foreign disease had been entirely dispersed, and that there was no fear of the Department yielding to the agitation that the flocks and herds of the country were in danger.

MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)

said he wished to refer the Report of the Departmental Committee which dealt with preferential rates on railways for agricultural produce This was a matter which had occupied the attention of agriculturists for a great many years past. Again and again when this Vote had been brought forward the question of preferential railway rates had been discussed, and everybody knew the intense interest the farmers took in the question. It was the usual practice of every Government when in a difficult position to appoint either a Committee or a Royal Commission. This Committee was appointed under such circumstances. He was sorry that its Report was not more satisfactory, but one thing the investigations of the Committee had proved was that the agricultural community suffered under considerable injustice with regard to the carriage upon agricultural produce.

MR. HOUSTON (Liverpool, W. Toxteth)

called attention to the fact that there were not forty Members present.

House counted, and forty Members being present,


said it had been asserted that those who advocated a more equitable adjustment of railway rates were in favour of protection, but as a strong free trader he wished to repudiate that suggestion. To his mind, this question of preferential railway rates had nothing to do with protection in any shape or form.


I do not see how this question comes under this Vote.


said the Report he was dealing with was issued by a Departmental Committee appointed by the Board of Agriculture, and he did not think that upon this point they ought to be accused of being protectionists. All he contended was that when they granted a monopoly, as they did in the case of railway companies, they ought .to see that that monopoly did not injure the general community. Special privileges carried with them special rights.


The hon. Member -appears now to be discussing legislation, .and that is not in order.


said this Departmental Committee accused some of them of pressing for something of a protectionist nature, and all he wished to say was that they were doing nothing of the kind. The Report gave instances of very great grievances to agriculturists. The rate for agricultural home produce from Leith to Glasgow was 7s. 3d., whereas for foreign produce it was only us., which showed a clear preference of 2s. 3d. He was Aware that the railway companies contended that they were not to blame, but the shipping| companies, but he would be able to show that it was the fault of the railway companies. On page 3 of the Report there was the evidence of a Mr. Drysdale, which showed that 70s. per ton was charged for fresh meat and only 45s. per ton for frozen meat on the railway. That could have nothing to do with water carriage, and was a clear instance of preferential rates.


Unless the hon. Member can show that that state of things can be remedied without legislation it will not be in order upon this Estimate,


said the Report made certain suggestions as to administration, and he contended that it was therefore in order to discuss the railway charges.


said the hon. Member for Barnstaple had made certain allegations which he understood were ruled out of order. He wished to know if he would be in order in answering the allegations which had been made.


The hon. Baronet cannot answer what is out of order. So far as the allegations are in order he can answer them.


said the Board of Agriculture by closer communication with the Board of Trade and by representation to the Board of Trade Committee could considerably help the farmers in this matter without legislation.


said that for ten minutes the hon. Member for Barnstaple had been making remarks which conveyed certain imputations upon railway companies. Surely he would be allowed to answer those allegations.


It depends on whether those remarks were out of order. If the hon. Member will bring his observations into line with what has been laid down by the noble Lord and deal with matters that can be dealt with by administration, then he will be in order, but he cannot deal with questions which can only be dealt with by legislation.


said he would give an instance which came within his own knowledge in the town of Barnstaple, where the railway companies charged 38s. 4d. per ton from Barnstaple to London as against 17s. 6d. for foreign meat from Southampton to London. The Report also said that the railway companies made a profit of 18s. 4d. per ton by traffic to Barnstaple, whilst they made a profit of 7s. a ton on other traffic. He was aware that that had been denied by the railway company. All he wanted was that the President of the Board of Agriculture should put himself in touch with agriculturists in order to bring these questions forward. The Board of Agriculture had in one case in the past taken the part of the farmers and had brought these matters before the Board of Trade. He wanted the Department in every instance to make it known to the farmers that if they had a grievance of this kind, they should send to the Board of Agriculture and it would be taken up. He thought farmers ought to look upon the Board of Agriculture as a place where they could lay their grievances. If the Board found that a farmer had a grievance in this matter, then they ought to bear the expense of any action which might result from it. The proceedings before the Railway and Canal Commissioners were of a very complicated character. The Report said— The result was that the farmer at Barnstaple who paid 38a. 4d. per ton for 2 ton consignments, or 34s. 2d. per ton for 3 ton consignments, found himself in full competition with a rate of 17s. 6d. per ton on foreign meat from Southampton on the one side and a rate of 25s. per ton from Liverpool on the other. What, the Report practically said was that the farmers ought to combine to send their goods to places where they could be handled more expeditiously. Time and again in these discussions co-operation among farmers had been advocated. He was sure they would all cordially agree in urging the fanners to cooperate. He believed that as time went on, fanners would more and more co-operate with each other in these respects. He. was not entitled at present to go into questions of legislation, but he might say that he did not see how agriculturists could be helped in this matter of cooperation without .legislation. He sincerely hoped that the Board of Agriculture would in the first place impress upon farmers the advantage of co-operation, and in the next place that they would prove to the farmers throughout the country that they had in the Board a real friend who would take up the question of railway preference rates and fight the battle on their behalf.


said he regretted that more agriculturists were not present on both sides of the House whilst this debate proceeded. Having regard to the statements made in the discussion of the Land Tenure Bill by hon. Gentlemen opposite that they represented the views of the farmers of the country, he thought they might at least have found it possible to be present to-day in greater numbers. He wished to draw special attention to the findings of the Departmental Committee and to ask the hon. Baronet representing the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. one or two questions in connection with it. First of all, however, he would like to point out that the whole findings of this Departmental Committee on Railway Preferential Rates were really in favour of fiscal reform. Free traders had constantly attacked their opponents in connection with this question, on the ground that agriculture was not so much handicapped by free trade as it was by unfair rates imposed by railway companies. This Committee was appointed to inquire into the very question, and,, although he did not altogether agree-with its findings, and although he agreed to some extent with the hon.. Gentleman who had just spoken that it had not altogether treated agriculturists fairly, still at the same time they must remember that it was a very representative Committee and that its findings said that it was impossible to impose restrictions upon railway companies and cause them to give better rates than at present. Therefore, the whole-of the argument of the average free trader, that agriculture was handicapped more by the unfair rates of the railway companies than by anything else, fell to the ground. He would like to refer to the Minority Report of the Committee, signed by Mr. E. G. Haygarth Brown, who, he understood, was at the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries; and he hoped the hon. Baronet would see his way to carry out some of the suggestions made by that gentleman, because, he ventured to think, his suggestions were, on the whole, more valuable than the findings of the majority. One of the most important suggestions was as follows— In existing circumstances agriculturists have no practical means of ascertaining whether such preference exists in any particular case, and no practical means of testing the question whether such preferential treatment, if it exists, amounts to undue or illegal preference. That, surely, was a most important point. The average farmer, whether in Sussex or n Devonshire, had no means of finding out whether rates charged were illegal or whether rates showed undue preference or not. The third suggestion made by Mr. Brown was that the Board should obtain, when requested, for the information of agriculturists, particulars of rates for imported traffic and the division of these rates into charges for sea and land traffic and for dock, harbour, shipping, and carting charges. It would be of great value if that suggestion were carried out. At present, in most cases, it was absolutely impossible for farmers to find out these things and to make complaint where undue preference did exist. Another good suggestion was No. 7—that the Board should have power, subject to the sanction of the Treasury, to pay a part or the whole of any expenses incurred in connection with the bringing of cases of alleged preference before the Board of Trade. He did not suppose for a moment that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree to that suggestion, or that the Board of Agriculture would be given any money for the purpose, but he thought it would be a good thing if it could be done. The expense of bringing forward these cases of undue preference pressed heavily on the farmers. Another suggestion in Mr. Brown's report was that— A report of the proceedings in such cases before the Board of Trade be laid before the Board of Agriculture mid Fisheries, and that the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries should report annually to Parliament on all cases of alleged preferential treatment in connection with which they have rendered assistance to agriculturists. That, again, was a most important recommendation, and one which he hoped the hon. Baronet would see his way to carry out. As the hon. Member for Barnstaple had said, agriculturists were constantly having dinned into their ears that they did not co-operate enough for the purpose of disposing of their produce, or buying what they required. Although he agreed that sometimes they did not co-operate sufficiently, he thought rather unfair accusations were brought against them on this question of co-operation. It was impossible for farmers to make up their produce in very large quantities, and certainly it was impossible for them to forward their produce in the large quantities which came from the ports. It was only in accordance with common sense to suppose that produce should be sent in larger quantities from the ports than from country stations. This had become increasingly the case in the home counties of Surrey, Sussex, and Kent. There were many parts of the country which were mainly residential, consisting mainly of villas with 30 or 40 acres around them farmed for pleasure. There might not be more than three or four farms in the district which were carried on for commercial purposes to each station. It was impossible where there were only three or four farms to each station to make up a sufficient quantity in one consignment in order to get the benefit of the rates which the railways companies allowed where consignments were made up in large bulk. It seemed to him that something should be done in connection with this matter. It was not fair to accuse the farmers of not cooperating, for in many cases it was impossible for a sufficient quantity of produce to be made up to gain the advantage of being conveyed at the minimum rates. He thought that everybody who had to do with the land was tired of these constant accusations of unbusinesslike methods on the part of farmers. A great advance had in recent years been made in the direction of co-operation. He did not think agriculturists had always been well treated by the railway companies. In some cases they had treated them well. In his own constituency there was a society of sixty farmers who supplied milk to the south of London, and they had not been well treated by the London and Brighton and the London and South Western Companies— in fact they had been most unfairly treated. He thought it would be well if the Board of Agriculture had more powers, or rather if they would exercise more freely the powers which they already possessed for bringing pressure to bear on the railway companies, and so imitate the example of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in Ireland. If the Board of Agriculture in this country did more in the same way as the Irish Board he thought the farmers generally would gain some advantage.


said the railway companies had no wish to make accusations against the farmers. It was to the interest of the railway companies that large consignments should be sent by the farmers, and they were only too anxious to get traffic. There seemed to be an impression that the railway companies put obstacles in the way of traders. If those who thought so knew more of the inner working of railways they would know that the first object of railway directors and servants was to encourage trade and obtain traffic. The hon. Member for Barnstaple had said that the subject of preferential rates to foreigners had occupied the attention of agriculturalists for many years. It was quite true that there had been vague and unfounded rumours among agricultural people on that subject. When the hon. Member regretted that the Report of the Departmental Committee was not more satisfactory he did not know what was meant by that. A report to be satisfactory must be true upon the facts of the case. He did not suppose that the hon. Gentleman would say that the Committee had not got at the facts of the case. The fact that the Report was in favour of the railway companies was not a proof that it was not satisfactory.


said that what he stated was that the Members of the Committee mistook the terms of the reference. They said they only had power to deal with questions where certain differences in the rates amounted to undue or illegal preference.


said he could only deal with the Report. In regard to the first statement of the hon. Member that this subject had occupied the attention of agriculturalists for many years, he would call attention to paragraph 3 of the Committee's report— The response to the invitation to supply evidence was very meagre. For some time very few replies were received, and the Committee were informed that this was due as regards chambers of agriculture to the fact that the next meetings of the chambers would not be held till October. Except to take the evidence of an inspector of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Committee found it necessary to adjourn till October, and as it was then found that scarcely any witnesses were prepared to give evidence, a further adjournment to February of last year became necessary. By that time the Committee had received the names of various witnesses who had been deputed by chambers of agriculture and other associations to give evidence, hut most of them still required time for the preparation of their evidence. Some of the witnesses so deputed subsequently wrote that they were unable to give evidence. The general unpreparedness of the witnesses caused the inquiry to make very slow progress, and the Committee found that they could take evidence on only eleven days between February and June. This showed that there was a sort of indefinite idea in people's heads that they were being treated unfairly, but that when the facts were gone into they had nothing to substantiate it.


said a farmer was not in a position to fight a railway company, though he knew that the rates were killing him in some respects. He knew a case where a man bought the product of an orchard, and the railway rates killed him. This man was not in a position to say what the rates ought to have been, and he did not think he gave evidence.


said the paragraph which he had quoted did not relate to single farmers, though there would have been no difficulty in a farmer, if he wished, giving evidence before the Committee. it was the Chambers of Agriculture which did not come to give evidence. It was surely not contended that the Chambers of Agriculture were not willing to give evidence before the Committee if they had any to give. T he hon. Member opposite had said something about the evidence of Mr. Drysdale with regard to the conveyance of fresh meat and frozen meat, but he did not read the answer given by the railway company. The answer showed that it was impossible to carry different classes of meat on the same conditions. The Report said— The witnesses for the Caledonian and North British Railway Companies in reply pointed out that fresh meat and frozen meat were not carried under the same conditions. Fresh meat was hung up in specially constructed vans, and the average loading per van was only 15¾ cwts. in the summer and 27¼ cwts. in the winter. Frozen meat was not hung, but packed so closely as to load upwards of 5 tons 10 cwts. per truck. Frozen meat was conveyed from London to Glasgow, but not from Glasgow to London. The rate of 45s. per ton was put in operation because the shipping companies trading between America and Glasgow wished to try to secure a portion of the frozen meat traffic which came from America direct into the Thames. This object had not been attained. Railway rates operated in both directions, and the result had been that any want of meat in Glasgow was supplied from London. The average of 27¼ cwts. per van for fresh meat worked out at 2 95 per van per mile compared with 4.10d. per truck per mile for frozen meat assuming a loading of only 3 tons per truck, so that if there was any preference it was largely in favour of the home producer. While the railway companies were most anxious to give facilities, no!, only to farmers, but to all traders, they must make a profit; they did not exist for philanthropic purposes, and it was absurd to suppose that a railway company should haul a truck with five ions of frozen meat at the same rate as a van with one ton seven cwts-of fresh meat. The railway companies did not make undue profits. That was shown by the fact that the average return on the enormous amount of money invested in the railways was only 3¼ per cent. The Report of the Departmental Committee at page (i, referring to the Great Northern Railway, stated that— Mr. Dennis alleged that there was a through rate for potatoes from Hamburg via Boston Dock to London of 14s. 2d. per ton, out of which the railway company paid the shipping company 6s. per ton, and in addition the dock dues and services performed at the dock might Joe taken at 1s., thus leaving 7s. 2d. per ton for conveyance to London, as compared with the local rate charged by the railway company of 9s. 2d. per ton. Mr. Oliver Bury, in reply, said that the rate for potatoes from either Boston dock or station was 9s. 2d. per ton for 4- ton lots or 8s. 4d. for 5 ton lots, that this rate was , charged on all potato traffic whether imported or not, that no through rates were quoted by the railway company from Hamburg, that the company could not prevent shipping companies quoting any through rates they pleased as long as the full railway rate was paid, that the shipping company performed the services at the dock, and that the only payment made by the railway company to the dock company out of the rate was 4d. per ton for the use of the dock line and sidings. He did not wish to say a word against Mr. Dennis; he probably was honest in endeavouring to elucidate the facts, but the evidence showed conclusively that he was mistaken in his idea. There might possibly be some slight preference in a case where a ship came to a dock, and would not unload if the railway rate did not make it worth while to do so. In such a case the ship would go round by sea, and, as the goods came to London all the same, what difference did it make to the farmer? He really felt that it was necessary to put the case of the railway companies before the House. It was quite a mistake to suppose that they were endeavouring to be hard on the people, and especially the English people, who used their lines. He thought that the salary of the private secretary should be the same whether his patron was a Cabinet Minister or not.

MR. BECK (Cambridgeshire, Wisbech)

said that, on behalf of the Cambridge shire fruit growers, he appealed to the lion. Member for Somersetshire to arrange for periodical reports during the season as to the condition of the fruit crop in Holland, France and Germany. He thought the Board of Agriculture should meet the wishes of the fruit-growers in this matter in the coining year. This was one of the few agricultural industries which was really flourishing and increasing. For instance from Wisbech alone they sent out each year from 14,000 to 15,000 tons of fruit and had despatched as much as 380 tons in one night. He sincerely hoped the hon. Baronet would help these people in the way they desired. In 1905 a Departmental Committee recommended that a bureau should be established to supply information as to fruit culture at home and abroad and as to the condition of foreign crops. He did not see why the Board of Agriculture should not obtain and circulate that information from time to time in regard to not only fruit culture but every other branch of agriculture, including the wool clip and potato crop. It would be a good thing if farmers in this country could obtain reliable information from abroad in regard to all these questions, although he understood that the Board of Agriculture felt the responsibility of attempting to give such information. He wished to point out that the interests of agriculture had been neglected under the last Government, and his constituents felt strongly on the question; and he ventured to press strongly on the hon. Member for South Somerset the necessity of those small practical reforms which were matters of very great importance to them. He also wished the hon. Baronet to look into the case of the outbreak of an epidemic of swine erysipelas in his constituency. The yards were closed and the pigs were killed but the unfortunate owners got no compensation whatever. He understood that the officers of the Agricultural Department exceeded their powers in shutting the yards but kept within them in refusing compensation. The Isle of Ely farmers and owners of small holdings had seized every opportunity of helping themselves in all possible ways and they ought to be encouraged by the Board of Agriculture.

MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)

said he wished to draw attention to the wages paid to the gardeners in Kew Gardens, which, he alleged, were less than those paid to gardeners in the neighbourhood. They all knew that Kew Gardens were a credit to the nation and they all took a delight in visiting them when the flowers were in bloom. He thought that a great many of the men in Kew Gardens who did really skilled work were paid only 21s. a week, while men in the neighbouring district of Richmond who had much less valuable plants to attend to were paid 25s., and the men employed in public parks and gardens under the London County Council received 27s. and 28s. a week. The rate of living at Kew, too, was very high as compared with other places, and he hoped that the Government would recognise that they were bound to give some consideration to the case which he had brought forward. Then, again, there was the case of the constables who, at Kew, worked a seven day week all the year round. It was true that they had got 2s. a week advance, but they never got a Sunday off, and he thought they ought to have that privilege accorded to them at all events occasionally. He also thought that the amount which they were being paid should receive consideration.

MR. GARDNER (Berkshire, Wokingham)

called attention to the report, which was filling agriculturists with terror, that one of the Channel Islands was about to erect abattoirs for the reception of live cattle from Argentina, and proposed to export dead meat, hides, and skins directly to England. He wished to know whether the Board of Agriculture had any authority over proceedings of that kind, and if not, whether they would promote legislation to give them powers of regulation. The protection of our flocks and herds from disease was a most important question for agriculturists, and anything that threatened their safety ought to be obviated at all costs. On the question of railway rates, the Great Western Company, which served his area of country, treated the farmers very fairly indeed, and he could not see why other districts should not be able to obtain equally favourable terms.

DR. COOPER (Southwark. Bermondsey)

said that he quite agreed that all cattle admitted into this country ought to be free from foot and mouth disease, but as the exclusion of foreign cattle very closely affected his division he thought he was justified in calling attention to the unemployment in Deptford and Bermondsey caused by the continued exclusion of sheep and cattle from European countries which had been officially declared free from foot a ad mouth disease. All the sheep skins and hides were now kept abroad, with the result that a very large number of men who would be employed in dealing with them in this country were thrown out of work. Formerly the Deptford Foreign Cattle Market had had brought to it more cattle and sheep than any other market, upwards of 750,000 sheep used to be killed at Deptford every year, and over 100,000 cattle. More than 80 per cent of those hides and skins came to Bermondsey and found work for a large number of tanners and fellmongers When this prohibition took effect a large number of these men were thrown out of employment. The cattle yard belonged to the city corporation and it was a very fit and proper place for the slaughtering of cattle. All the meat was inspected after slaughtering and the Londoner enjoyed the great advantage under that system of being able to purchase freshly killed meat which had been properly inspected. Part of their grievance was that nearly all of the hides from the American cattle were by agreement with the American cattle owners salted down and returned, to America and did not benefit the English tanner. Of course they had no objection to the importation of cattle from the United States, if it was free from foot and mouth disease, and they recognised that cattle from countries in which there was foot and mouth disease should not be allowed to enter. When, however, countries like Holland and Denmark and the whole of the German Rhine provinces were officially declared by their Governments to be free from foot and mouth disease, it was singular that preference should be given to cattle from the United States. He believed that no case of foot and mouth disease in England had ever been traced to cattle brought from Denmark or Holland. These countries were in this matter quite as careful as England, and inspected all cattle and sheep before shipment. The prohibition was an unnatural and artificial restriction of trade to the advantage of the American cattle exporter, the English farmer, and ultimately to the English landowner. At the present time the cattle shipped came from the United States and Canada, but the greater portion came from the United States. When there was an out-break of foot and mouth disease in five of the New England States two or three years ago the Government, instead of prohibiting importation from the whole of the United States as they had done in Europe, allowed it to go on as long as the United States Government drew a cordon round the infected States. Immediately the United States declared those five States to be free from disease, importation from them was allowed and we were having cattle from those States, although importation was not allowed from Denmark and Holland, which had been for eighteen months absolutely free from foot and mouth disease. He pointed out that owing to the restrictions against Denmark and Holland and other countries, the Americans were in the habit of holding back their cattle to keep up the price of meat in the market. By its action the Board of Agriculture gave an opportunity to the Americans to rig the meat market. The daily papers gave ample evidence of this. On one day last week they kept back 1,300 simply because the price was not favourable. If importation was allowed from Holland and Denmark, the Americans would not be able to hold their cattle back, and the Londoner would immediately benefit in having cheaper meat. He thought that the Board of Agriculture was following the wrong line because the Department was protecting the farmer and the land owner at the expense of the working man.


expressed surprise that any hon. Member should advocate the free importation of cattle or sheep from abroad. Foot and mouth disease and pleuro-pneumonia were much too serious to the agricultural interest of the country to be played with. He appealed with all the energy his language could command to the representative of the Board of Agriculture to take no steps to relax the present precautions. Any such relaxation would be unfair to the greatest standing industry that the country possessed. He could not speak with any confidence of the action of the President of the Board of Agriculture, for he could not forget that during the recent debate on the subject of the importation of Canadian cattle, the hon. Baronet who represented the Board sat in the House all day, but never gave the slightest indication of what the opinion of that Department was on a matter which vexed the country from one end to the other. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman and the Department he represented would take their courage in both hands and forget for the moment that they represented a Party, and try to remember that they represented the State. With regard to the subject of railway rates, the difference had been pointed out between the low rates for goods conveyed from the ports to London and those coming from inland towns. But obviously the reason why the rate from the port was low was that the sea rate and the railway rate together enabled the freighter to quote a low through rate. If the rates were unfair, there were the Railway Commissioners to be appealed to, a body established for the purpose. He agreed with the hon. Member for Barnstaple that it was a matter of expense to go to them, but if the Government were to adopt the hon. Member's suggestion and the Board of Agriculture were to pay the expenses of every farmer who was unfairly rated in taking his case before the Railway Commissioners, it would amount to a very serious sum in the course of a year. Agriculture, as they all knew, was in a submerged condition. Why? Because agriculture could not live in this country against the present competition with foreigners. That was the bed-rock of the whole matter. Let the Minister for Agriculture do whatever he liked, everything would be a mere palliative. At the root of the whole matter were the conditions on the other side of the Atlantic and in various parts of the world where there was virgin land on which men were able to produce corn and meat at a much lower price than we could hope to do here. As to the gardeners at Kew he heartily supported every word which had been said about them. He took a great delight in those gardens, and he thought those employed in them should be paid a proper wage.

SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.),

in reply to the various questions asked during the discussion said that he forbore to go into the question of the importation of Canadian cattle, believing that the action of the Government had given general satisfaction. In reference to the disease of glanders, the position had been explained by the President of the Board in reply to a deputation. It was a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, but the Board of Agriculture were quite in sympathy with proposals to stamp out this terrible disease. The Treasury, however, regretted that they were unable to provide the necessary funds in the current year. He hoped, however, that when the Treasury was in a position to give assistance that, with the continued co-operate on of the London County Council, more effectual means would be taken to stamp out this disease. He was glad to be able to state that the action of the Board had decreased by more than one-half the outbreaks of the disease of sheep-scab. Very satisfactory results had endued owing to the action that had been taken by the Board in this matter, although he confessed that the stringent regulations had given rise to a certain amount of irritation in individual cases. The necessity of those regulations for the eradication of the disease was, however, generally recognised at present and they were being carried out with little or no friction. As to further inquiry into the origin and remedy for other diseases of live stock, the Board of Agriculture were most anxious where possible, and where they could get assistance from the Treasury, to make inquiry into the best method of stamping out any disease which affected our flocks and herds. A Departmental Committee had been appointed to inquire into the subject of Epizootic Abortion, and was conducting a most important inquiry. It would be premature to make any statement as to their labours, but the appointment of that Committee had already been amply justified by the results of its investigations up to the present moment. Then the Departmental Committee upon Railway Rates which was appointed a short time ago by Lord Onslow had been referred to. Complaint had been made, and not un-justly, of the Report of that Committee. The hon. Member for the Horsham division of Sussex complained of the Majority Report, and indeed it was only defended by the junior Member for the City of London. For himself, as with other Members, his own feeling was that the Minority Report was much the more valuable, but the suggestions in both Reports would be carefully considered by the Board of Agriculture.

It was certainly the desire of the Board to be in close communication with farmers throughout the country, and farmers might with confidence feel that they had a friend in the Board, anxious to assist them, and knowing how difficult it was for the agricultural interest to fight the powerful combination of railway companies. He reminded hon. Members that the Board had not the same power as to railway rates in this country as could be exercised in Ireland. The hon. Member for the Wisbech Division had referred to the question of fruit-growing, and had asked for the issue of statistics on the question of fruit-crops at home and abroad. The hon. Member also said that his constituents would like to know how long they should hold their wool-clip and to have other general advice. As a farmer himself he would always be glad to have advice as to his business, but it was not possible for the Government to give advice on such speculative matters. They could give information from time to time from statistics which they had been able to prepare, but such information had to be founded on the most reliable information. The length of time which a man ought to hold his wool-clip was not, such information as a Government ought to give. His hon. friend had also expressed the hope that the present Government would not neglect the agricultural interest in the way the late Government had. Without going into such a controversial matter he might be permitted to say that he knew to what his hon. friend referred, and lie could assure him that the present Government had no intention of following the example of the late Government and they had shown that they were not unmindful of the interests of agriculture. With regard to the wages paid to labourers at Kew, referred to by the hon. Member for Sunderland, the Board would be quite ready to inquire into any allegation that the payment was below the current rate in the neighbourhood. But the wages of the labourers had been increased only two months ago from 21s. to 23s. a week. Reference had been made to the threatened invasion of the Channel Islands for the purpose of setting up a great cattle wharf in Alderney to which cattle could be brought from the Argentine and other countries to be slaughtered So far as he understood the matter it was simply a Stock Exchange-scheme. A syndicate appeared to think it would be a profitable thing to have such a wharf in that island for the slaughter of cattle. All he could say now was that the Board of Agriculture were fully alive to the matter, and were carefully watching it. It was very undesirable to go into the question of what powers the Board of Agriculture had to deal with a matter of this kind, but the hon. Member might rest perfectly assured that the resources of the Board of Agriculture were quite sufficient to deal with it if the proposal threatened to become a standing danger not only to this country but to the important industry of cattle breeding in the Channel Islands. The hon. Member was no doubt aware of the fact that there was a great industry in cattle breeding in these islands and that for over 150 years no cattle had' been allowed to be landed in the Channel Islands in order that the purity of the breeds there might be maintained. Such importation as had been suggested might have the effect, if not of destroying, at least of endangering to a very great extent this important business of cattle breeding. He could assure the hon. Member that all the facts were well-known to the Board of Agriculture, who might be relied upon to look after the interests both of this-country and of the Channel Islands. He hoped the people of the Channel Islands would take steps to-safeguard themselves and would not do anything to facilitate the entry of foreign, cattle into Alderney. With regard to-the observations of the hon. Member for Southwark, he could only say that it would be highly improper for the Board of Agriculture to relax the regulations against the importation of European cattle and sheep merely because Holland1 and Denmark had been free from foot and mouth disease for one year. Foot and mouth disease existed in other parts of the Continent. It was one of these insidious diseases which, after lying; dormant for while, broke out suddenly and spread with great rapidity. Therefore they could not take any particular country on the Continent and say that foot and mouth disease did not exist there, and that, therefore, the cattle of that country might be admitted here. They must take the Continent as a whole. It was a very infectious disease, and it did not respect scientific frontiers, and could be carried very readily from one place to another on the clothing or the boots of a person. The last case that appeared in London was at the Metropolitan market, and within thirty-six hours the disease appeared in the Edinburgh market, evidently carried there by a person who had attended the London market and then gone back to Scotland. The restrictions must be maintained, and he could not hold out any hope of relaxation unless the condition of things on the Continent altered very much. It would not be right to relax those regulations having regard to the enormous loss our farmers and ratepayers had suffered in the past owing to outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.

MR. STANLEY WILSON (Yorkshire, E.R., Holderness)

said he had been requested by the Holderness Agricultural Club to bring forward one case of swine fever. In most cases when an outbreak of swine fever occurred an inspector of the Board of Agriculture presented himself and ordered the pigs to be slaughtered. The case of this one farmer was different. At the commencement of May last a Mr. Doubleday was the proud possessor of a collection of 124 pigs; at the present moment he possessed something less than twenty. This was due to an outbreak of swine fever, which occurred on May 15. The farmer reported the outbreak to an inspector of the Board of Agriculture, and the inspector refused to slaughter the pigs. The inspector was of opinion that swine fever was put about by the carelessness of farmers in importing tainted animals into their stocks, but this was not the case here because this man hail not imported any pigs on to his farm since September, 1905. Two of his neighbours had had outbreaks of swine fever and in those cases the inspector had entered and ordered the slaughter of the pigs. He understood! in the case of slaughter the compensation paid was half the value when the pigs were diseased, and the whole value in the case of sound pigs. He failed to understand the action of the Inspector in this case, and could not see why one man should be treated differently from another. The best way of stamping out the disease, which had been very prevalent in the East Riding, was by slaughter.

MR. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)

did not think the hon. Baronet had quite grasped the view of the Member for the Wisbech Division of Cambridge with regard to the question of the culture of fruit. What the hon. Member really desired to know was whether something more could not be done to give effect to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee which considered this question and reported on it last year. One or two of the recommendations were very important indeed. One of them was that someone should be appointed by the Board of Agriculture to act as the kindly adviser between the consignors and the railway companies. Another was that there should be an extension of the Market Gardeners' Act, which could be done by making Section 4 retrospective. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the answers he had already given, and was glad to hear that the wages of the Kew gardeners had been increased.


promised to look into the question put to him by the hon. Member for Holderness on the question of swine fever, and with regard to what the hon. Member for Dartford had said, he would only say that the recommendations of the Fruit Committee were receiving careful attention. Some of them required legislation and others required money, but his noble friend had quite recently received a deputation on the subject and had expressed the desire of the Board to do all they could on behalf of the fruit industry.

MR. HICKS BEACH (Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury)

congratulated the Government upon the opportunity they had given to the Committee to discuss the Vote for the Board of Agriculture. The hon. Baronet had referred to the Report of the Committee on Preferential Rates and had given the Committee the startling information that he was going to be guided by the Minority Report of the Committee, which was signed by one member, instead of by the Majority Report which had been signed by six members. He hoped the hon. Baronet had good ground for the rather startling attitude he had taken up on the matter. But other topics had interested the agricultural community of this country for many years more than those that had been mentioned, and none interested them more greatly than the question of the reform of local taxation; and, therefore, he would be glad if the hen. Baronet could give some information to the Committee as to when the Government were going to take this matter up. Another matter which should be forced on the attention of the Board of Agriculture was the butter question. There had been, a Committee sitting to inquire into the circumstances attending the sale of butter in this country, and he would like to ask the hon. Baronet whether it was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation with regard to the sale and production of butter so that it might be safeguarded from adulteration.

MR. BARNARD (Kidderminster)

pointed out that the hon. Baronet in the course of his reply had stated that a good deal depended upon proper help being forthcoming from the Treasury. In this regard he asked the Committee to compare the amount given by the Treasury to the English Department of Agriculture with that given to the Irish Board of Agriculture. He did not take exception to Ireland receiving the large sum she did, but he thought it would be only reasonable if under the circumstances the English Department was better treated. Members from rural constituencies knew perfectly well that certain sums were placed at the disposal of the county councils out of what were called the " whiskey moneys " for technical education, but when it came to the matter of experiments and utilising these moneys for experiments in agriculture the county councils were confronted with restrictions of the Local Government Board auditors.


said the Question did not arise on this Vote.


said he would not go into the matter further; he only desired to suggest to the hon. Baronet that the English Board of Agriculture was not treated in at all a generous way, and he hoped he would bring this matter to the attention of his colleagues in the Government and if possible effect a change for the better.

SIR CARNE RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)

said he wondered if it had ever occurred to the Government that if there; was no compensation there would be very little or no swine-fever. People had only to feed pigs on maize, give them little water, let them lie dirty, and there would be as much swine-fever as the Government cared to pay for. He could not help thinking that the Government would do a great deal better by paying no compensation.

MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)

said that under the provisions of the Scab Act the Board of Agriculture had power to dispense with its operation- under certain circumstances. In one of the islands in his constituency there were only sixteen sheep which were moved from the island only once in six or seven years, and it was an abominable hardship that they should have to dip those sheep twice a year. It took seventeen or twenty men to catch them when they had to be dipped. In another case it was even worse. There was a larger and more populous island. There were 300 or 400 people on it and there were about as many sheep. Those sheep never left the island and during a portion of the year they lived entirely on seaweed. Sheep disease of any sort had never been known on the island, and yet they were afflicted with this abominable hardship. They had sent a petition to the hon. Baronet which had not, he thought, received the sympathetic consideration it deserved, and he trusted the hon. Gentleman would take this matter now into his earnest consideration.

MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)

called attention to the damage done to crops by motor cars. The dust raised by motor cars, he said, possessed some particularly irritating quality which injured the stock which grazed on a crop which had been smothered by it, and subsequently wetted by the dew.


How can the Board of Agriculture deal with this question?


I do not know, Sir, and if the Board of Agriculture cannot, I will try the Local Government Board.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

asked the hon. Baronet to be very careful how he abrogated any of the regulations with regard to the sheep scab. Everyone recognised that the Board of Agriculture had always done its best to initiate legislation when required. There were, he thought, one or two things that were now pressing in that regard. One in particular was a Bill dealing with fertilisers and feeding stuffs and their adulteration. He hoped that the hon. Baronet would enforce the recommendations of the Committee in that matter.

MR. CAIRNS (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

said that the term preferential rates was used as implying that they were given on equal quantities of commodities. Many loose statements had been made and in fairness the matter should be cleared up. In one case between two points the rate was stated as per 2-ton lots, but in the other case the rate from the shipping port was given only for train loads and very large quantities. He held no brief whatever for the railway companies; he would rather join with agricultural Members in getting all possible railway facilities, but they ought to have the actual situation placed fairly before the country. It had been stated that the present embargo upon live animals coming from abroad was not protective. If anyone wanted evidence as to its protective character, he had only to look at the case of Iceland sheep. There had never been a case of disease from Iceland, but Iceland sheep were kept out of this country. They had been of great advantage indeed to many northern farmers to put on the moors and less fertile land, and they realised a very handsome profit. They were no longer available, and in that way much injury had been done to the agricultural industry. He did not accept the statement, that the agricultural industry was satisfied at the exclusion of foreign cattle. Many agriculturists throughout the country felt it a very great hardship that they could not have the liberty to carry on their trade under safe conditions, as they would have under the free importation of cattle. The result of the exclusion had been that dead meat had been brought into the country—tinned, preserved, and chilled—and while disease had been kept out in the live animals, it had come in in the form of dead meat. In straining at the gnat they had swallowed the camel. The Board of Agriculture should seek to have the power restored to them of deciding whether live cattle should be admitted or excluded as the circumstances required.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.