§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £21,805,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1909, viz.—
|Board of Agriculture and Fisheries||65,000|
|Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction||95,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||52,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||18,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||30,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||25,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Buildings||40,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||230,000|
|Surveys of the United Kingdom||90,000|
|Harbours under the Board of Trade||20,000|
|Rates on Government Property||300,000|
|Public Works and Buildings, Ireland||95,000|
|United Kingdom and England—|
|House of Lords Offices||10,000|
|House of Commons Offices||20,000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||40,000|
|Privy Council Office||5,000|
|Board of Trade||100,000|
|Mercantile Marine Services.||25,000|
|Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade||3|
|Civil Service Commission||17,000|
|Exchequer and Audit Departments||25,000|
|Friendly Societies Registry||3,000|
|Local Government Board||85,000|
|Mint (including Coinage)||5|
|National Debt Office||6,000|
|Public Record Office||10,000|
|Public Works Loan Commission||1,200|
|Stationery and Printing||330,000|
|Woods, Forests, etc., Office of||8,000|
|Works and Public Buildings, Office of||36,000|
|Secretary for Scotland, Office of||25,000|
|Local Government Board||5,000|
|Chief Secretary's Offices and Subordinate Departments||10,000|
|Charitable Donations and Bequests Office||1,000|
|Local Government Board||30,000|
|Public Record Office||2,000|
|Public Works Office||16,000|
|Registrar General's Office||5,000|
|Valuation and Boundary Survey||7,000|
|United Kingdom and England—|
|Miscellaneous Legal Expenses||28,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature||150,000|
|Police, England and Wales||15,000|
|Prisons, England and the Colonies||320,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain||130,000|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||15,000|
|Law Charges and Courts of Law||30,000|
|Register House, Edinburgh.||15,000|
|Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions||25,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, and other Legal Departments||43,000|
|County Court Officers, etc.||40,000|
|Dublin Metropolitan Police||60,000|
|Royal Irish Constabulary||615,000|
|Reformatory and Industrial Schools||55,000|
|Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum||4,000|
|United Kingdom and England—|
|Board of Education||7,000,000|
|National Portrait Gallery||3,000|
|Scientific Investigation, etc||28,000|
|Universities and Colleges Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales||75,000|
|Endowed Schools Commissioners||400|
|Diplomatic and Consular Services||250,000|
|Telegraph Subsidies and Pacific Cable||25,000|
|Cyprus (Grant in Aid)||49,000|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||300,000|
|Miscellaneous, Charitable and other Allowances||1,150|
|Hospitals and Charities, Ireland.||17,000|
|Savings Banks and Friendly Societies Deficiencies||——|
|Repayments to the Local Loans Fund|
|Ireland Development Grant||100,000|
|Total for Civil Services and Revenue Departments||£21,805,000"|
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Surrey, Wimbledon)
, in moving to reduce the sum by £1,000, said: My object in moving the reduction which stands in my name on the Paper is to obtain from the Government some explanation of their proceedings both before and after the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland, and also some assurance as to the general policy to be observed and the methods of treatment to be adopted in any such cases as may unhappily, if it should be 215 so, recur in this country in the future. Now, although I am perfectly ready to admit there can be no absolute immunity from outbreaks of this kind, yet I do say that undoubtedly, with care and watchful attention on the part of the Board of Agriculture, at all times, and prompt and even instantaneous action when it is needed, future outbreaks both can and ought to be prevented. I think I am also bound to add this, that from the information which is now before us, it does appear to me that the recent outbreak at Edinburgh ought to have been prevented. In support of this statement—and I hope to detain the Committee for a very short time only—I will begin by reminding the Committee of the history of the proceedings, and of the circumstances in connection with the re-admission into this country of foot-and-mouth disease, after Great Britain had been perfectly free from that most injurious pest for a great number of years. This is a very grave and serious matter to the agricultural community, as well as to the country at large, and I hope to get a satisfactory explanation from the hon. Member who is to-day representing the Board of Agriculture. I am afraid we cannot yet say we are out of the wood, although happily there is reason to believe that the disease at all events has been arrested, and I hope with all my heart that it is so. If it has been, then I should like to add this, that, in my humble opinion, no praise can be too great for the officials and inspectors of the Board of Agriculture, to the men who have actually done the work and have succeeded in arresting in so short a time a disease which, as everyone knows, is the most difficult to contend with and to get rid of when once it has broken out in the country—in fact, there is, in the whole world, no more insidious disease or one more difficult to prevent spreading, because the infection is carried by every imaginable means, even by birds and game, and it is therefore important that every conceivable precaution should be taken. Now, the circumstances to which I wish to allude are the following:—In November last, on the 15th of that month, the Board of Agriculture was warned by a letter from the Central Chamber of Agriculture in London, which has a permanent Com- 216 mittee sitting on this question, of the great danger there was at that time of the reappearance of the disease in this country. I think I am fully entitled to read that letter. It is addressed to the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, and says—The attention of the Central Chamber has been called to the fact that there is a large quantity of hay and straw, especially the former, now being landed at different places on the east coast; that much of this hay and straw is coming from Holland and Belgium and that there is some uneasiness among the farmers of East Anglia, who, knowing that foot-and-mouth disease is very bad in those two countries, fear that the infection may be carried into this country by these means. My Committee direct me to bring this matter to your notice, and to express a hope that the Board will take every possible precaution to prevent this disease being brought here.I think everybody will admit that that was a very reasonable and proper letter for a body representing agriculture to have submitted to the Board, and that they were thus taking a course which was in all respects perfectly justified. I am not aware what answer was returned by the Board of Agriculture. I have never seen one, but all at events no action, so far as I know, was taken at that time in the direction desired, either by restricting or by prohibiting the import of hay or straw from these infected districts into this country. The landing of hay and straw from the infected districts was permitted to continue unchecked. I do not know whether any safeguards were taken at all, but the consequences were under the circumstances very far from unnatural, because on 5th February, foot-and-mouth disease again made its appearance in the United Kingdom, and an outbreak was announced at Edinburgh. How did the disease get there? The hon. Gentleman, the Member for South Somerset, who represents the Board of Agriculture in this House, and who, we hope, is now recovering from the indisposition which keeps him away at present, told us on the 26th February, in reply to a supplementary Question which I put to him, that the hay in the present case was imported from the Netherlands, where foot and-mouth disease had been very prevalent during last autumn and the present winter; the hay was used for bedding certain cows for three days before the 217 first symptoms of the disease became apparent, and within two days afterwards, 81 out of 110 cows were found to be affected. On the same day the hon. Member stated that the hay which was used on the premises where the first outbreak occurred was, there was no reasonable room for doubt, the medium by which the infection was introduced into this country. That is the statement of the Board of Agriculture itself, and in face of it there can be no doubt whatsoever as to the means by which this disease was again permitted to find its way into Great Britain. While upon that I put to the hon. Member across the Table another Question. I said to him—Am I right in supposing that this disease has been re-admitted into the country because the Board of Agriculture thought fit to neglect the warning that had been already given to it by the Central Chamber of Agriculture in London.The hon. Member replied to me in a somewhat irritated tone—I will not say more than that—The right hon. Gentleman is to suppose nothing whatever of the kind.Now, I want to know, because it is the only inference I can draw from his reply, and at that time I did not wish to be unnecessarily harassing, whether the Board of Agriculture had any idea in their minds that there was some other source to which the outbreak could be traced. I hope the hon. Member in charge of this matter will deal with that point to-day, because if the Board had no other idea in its mind it is perfectly clear I was right in the Question which I put at that time, and that it was the introduction of this unfortunate cargo of hay from an infected district on the Continent which produced this outbreak of disease. As a matter of fact, that as practically been admitted already by the Board of Agriculture, but still I should be glad to know if they really had any other idea in their minds, and if they think that the disease has been introduced by any other cause whatsoever. Now I come to another point which appears to me to be stranger than anything else, and that is the attitude of the Board of Agriculture after the outbreak had actually occurred. They had had three 218 months, since November in the previous year, to learn everything about foot-and-mouth disease and fodder in the Netherlands and other infected districts of Europe. Early in February, my hon. friend the Member for Rye, who is one of the most persistent, active, and energetic guardians of the agricultural interest in this country, put another question to the Board of Agriculture, and to this I am going to ask the attention of the Committee. He asked the Member for South Somerset, with regard to the letter addressed on 15th November by the Central Chamber of Agriculture to the Board of Agriculture, in which it was stated that the importation of hay and straw from Holland and Belgium was likely to convey foot-and-mouth disease into this country, and having regard further to the fact that the disease had broken out in close proximity to one of the ports from which the importation of continental hay and straw was taking place, whether the Government would prohibit the importation of hay and straw from all countries in which foot-and-mouth disease existed. Unfortunately I was not in the House at the time this Question was answered. But I must say it seems to me most extraordinary that such a reply as was made should have been given by the Government Department which had charge of this particular interest. The reply was to this effect—The matter to which the hon. Member refers is receiving very careful consideration, but our information on the subject is not complete and no decision can as yet be arrived at respecting it.Why, they had had the matter before them for three months, and I affirm this and challenge and defy contradiction that it is the imperative duty of the Board of Agriculture, at all times when there is this danger about, to make themselves perfectly acquainted within a limited number of hours with all the conditions with regard to the disease and infected fodder and everything of that kind, and unless they are in a position to take the necessary prompt and instantaneous action upon such information we shall never be safe from the incursions of this disease at any time whatever. A more extraordinary reply to have emanated from the Board of 219 Agriculture I never recollect since that body came into existence, and to tell me that the Board of Agriculture requires three months in which to make itself informed on this question is so remarkable a statement, that I can only say, if it were true, it would show that the present organisation of the Board for acquiring information is absolutely fatal to the welfare of this great industry. But I do not believe that it is true. So far as I know the Board has it in its power to get information at almost any time and from any place, and I think we ought to have some explanation from the hon. Member for Saffron Walden, who unfortunately does not actually represent the Department in this House, as to how it is when the Board has had the condition of affairs brought to its notice three months beforehand it states, in reply to a question in this House, that its information is not complete, although it must have been within its knowledge that foot-and-mouth disease had been exceptionally prevalent on the Continent during the autumn and the larger part of the winter. I want to know how the Board can justify itself in taking up that position. This is the most remarkable thing of all. After the outbreak had occurred the Board of Agriculture could not make up its mind to issue the necessary orders to prevent the importation of this infected matter. Questions were put to them, not from this side of the House alone, not from any party motives whatever, but from all sides of the House, from hon. Gentlemen who knew what the danger was, who were well acquainted with the question and who recollected what had happened in former days, and nowhere did it come more frequently from than from the Benches on which the Irish Members are in the habit of sitting, and it was not until after the disease had actually spread and a second outbreak had occurred that the Board of Agriculture thought it fitting to take any action at all, and then it was not to issue an Order, but to give orders for the preparation of an Order, and I do not know how many weeks it was after these orders had been given before the Order was actually issued. One explanation of that long delay that was given, I confess I have never been able to understand. If it was right 220 to issue the Order at all, it must have been right to issue it at the time of the outbreak or immediately after. Why was it not done? Why was it delayed till actually a month after the outbreak? It was the most unreasonable thing I ever heard of. The Government knew perfectly well that the disease was owing to the importation of this infected stuff, and it is of the more importance because of the answer to the Question which I put to the hon. Gentleman to-day. There was a case of infected straw being taken to Ireland. The hon. Member who is in charge of agricultural interests in Ireland got wind of this. He got information. It came from an infected district, and I have his answer to a Question upon the subject, and I am going to quote this, as it will show the remarkable contrast between the way this kind of thing is dealt with by the Board of Agriculture in Ireland and the Board of Agriculture in England. The hon. Gentleman's attention was called to this cargo by a question from an Irish Member, and he was asked what had been done. What he says is this—I received information on Thursday last that a ship called the "Fram" was about to sail from Dunkirk with a cargo of straw for Dublin. That was an infected district and I anticipated the general Order by issuing a special Order prohibiting the landing of the cargo on its arrival.I asked whether any similar precautions or any precautions had been taken by the Board of Agriculture to prevent the landing of that cargo of straw subsequently in England. I gathered from the reply of the hon. Member to-day that the Board of Agriculture saw no exceptional danger in the admission of that particular cargo of straw, and that they had taken no steps to prevent it, and if I rightly understood the hon. Member they did not even know what had become of it. I am quite sure, and I think my opinion will be shared by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, that we should like to hear something more upon that subject. We should like to know on what grounds it was that the English Board of Agriculture had satisfied themselves that there was perfect safety in admitting this cargo. I think it will be difficult, knowing as we all know that it did come from a district infected with this 221 most odious of all cattle diseases, and I shall wait with profound interest to hear from the hon. Gentleman on what grounds it is that he is satisfied that the agricultural community in England should be treated in matters of this grave importance with so much less care, and that they should be submitted to so much more risk, than are their brother agriculturists in Ireland. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give his special attention to this point, and give us some further information upon it, because if it was necessary in the one case it must undoubtedly have been necessary also in the other. I have dwelt on this branch of the subject because it is really the one point on which I anticipate still further danger in regard to this question, that is, from the long permitted importation of this fodder into various parts of England since these districts have become so dangerous as we now know by the unfortunate experience of Edinburgh that they have. This disease is so insidious and it lies dormant so long in fodder that is unused, that at anytime when it may be used we are not free from the danger. The germs may be there and the thing may start unexpectedly in some other part of England where the fodder has been allowed to be sent. I was very sorry to hear what the hon. Member told me about the Irish cargo, because I am afraid it is no use asking him how many cargoes of fodder from these infected districts have been permitted to land in this country during all these three months, now nearly four, during which the Board of Agriculture took no action whatever. It is really of such serious importance that I think it would be worth while even now, and I do not believe it is necessarily too late, if the Board of Agriculture would make every possible endeavour to trace all the cargoes that may have been admitted during that time, to learn what became of them and to take every precaution within their power to prevent their being used. Of course, if they treated so lightly this cargo which was refused admission by the Irish authorities, I am terribly afraid they will neglect what I should consider their duty. I know the hon. Gentleman said he considered they had acted with very commendable 222 promptitude, because in the whole history of this outbreak, except in the time of the cattle plague, which I should think was before he could actually remember himself, the importation of hay and fodder of that kind had never been stopped. The hon. Gentleman forgot that the whole position is completely altered in that respect, not since the days of the cattle plague, but since even the later outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease because hay and fodder were imported in those days to the smallest possible extent if at all, and these large importations of hay and straw which come in now are comparatively speaking a modern trade. At all events they were not conducted in anything like the same proportions years ago as has been the case lately. Therefore, I think it requires different treatment now from what it might have done then. I am sorry if I appear to be insistent in trying to enforce the importance of this question upon the House of Commons, but I do it because I recollect all these things for a great number of years past, and I doubt very much if any man living has had more to do with combating them and getting rid of them from this country than I have. If I were asked what is the most important duty of the Board of Agriculture in this country, I should say without the smallest hesitation that their first duty above all is this, to prevent the incursion of this disease into the United Kingdom, and to maintain the security of our flocks and herds against disease. These diseases are not indigenous to this country. They always come from abroad, and we are perfectly safe so long as you can prevent this disease being imported, and I say so for these reasons. Firstly, because of the enormous amount of time, labour, trouble, and money that were spent in days gone by—an amount that would be startling to any Chancellor of the Exchequer in these days—before we were successful in getting rid of them, and, secondly, because if once they were re-admitted, and especially at this time, the loss and ruin, and the difficulty of ever getting rid of foot-and-mouth disease again would be something absolutely incalculable. I remember being warned by perhaps the greatest expert on this question that ever lived, the late 223 Professor Browne, who was for so many years the head of the Veterinary Department of the Board of Agriculture, who said—Remember this. If ever this disease unhappily was admitted again and once got a hold in the country, all our cattle and our sheep being practically virgin soil for them it would fly like wildfire and there would be such a scene of devastation as never was witnessed.It is for these reasons that I have ventured to occupy the attention of the Committee for a short time this afternoon. I assure the hon. Gentleman opposite that I am speaking without any party feeling or party motive. It is a matter of supreme importance, of the greatest importance that anything could be to the agricultural community at the present time. I have given full credit to the Board of Agriculture for arresting disease as far as they have done so, but what we want to see is a little more energy, a little more promptitude and effective action before the disease has got into the country, without running the enormous risk of not being able to arrest it after it has come in. If I am successful at all in that direction I shall be satisfied that the time I have occupied has not been wasted. I beg to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item Class II., Vote 11 (Board of Agriculture and Fisheries), be reduced by £1,000."—(Mr. Chaplin).
§ *MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
said he had a few words to add to what his right hon. friend had said upon this question, and he also wished to refer to one or two other cattle diseases. He was extremely sorry that the hon. Baronet the Member for South Somerset was not present. He thought the hon. Baronet would agree with him when he said that the present session had shown to an extraordinary degree the very great inconvenience which arose owing to the fact that there was no directly responsible representative of the Board of Agriculture in this House. The experience of this session should induce the Government to appoint a Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, who should sit in the House of Commons when the President sat in another place, because very important subjects arose 224 upon which it was imperative that there should be some responsible officer of the Board of Agriculture, not only for them to shoot at when anything arose, but who would be able to bind the Board to what he said. This drawback was shown in a remarkable degree the other day when the question of the milk supply was discussed by an influential and important deputation to the Local Government Board, when there was no one present representing the Board of Agriculture. Everybody would admit that the question of milk production of this country concerned the Board of Agriculture quite as much as the Local Government Board, and it was unfortunate that there was no one to represent in a thoroughly representative capacity that great Department. With regard to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, he did not think the President of the Board of Agriculture realised what an appalling disease it was. He could assure the hon. Member now representing the Board of Agriculture that foot-and-mouth disease would travel down the wind in exactly the same way as smallpox, and the risk was quite as great. The disease, moreover, was very much more difficult to deal with and to check. Considering the extraordinary danger of a disease of this kind to the general prosperity of this country, he thought the Board of Agriculture had failed entirely in their duty of protecting the flocks and herds by really prompt action. He was not finding any fault with the permanent officials, because they had acted with the greatest possible promptitude and energy, but that was not sufficient. The controlling mind of the Department was, as far as one could judge, vacillating and weak, with the result that the officers who would have acted more promptly and energetically, and probably would have avoided subsequent outbreaks, were unable, in the absence of a strong lead, to do what they otherwise might have done. It seemed an extraordinary thing that the Board of Agriculture should be unable to act as promptly as the Board of Agriculture in Ireland. Nothing could exceed the promptitude with which that body acted. From the moment the outbreak was reported in Ireland, not only was the importation of cattle stopped, 225 but the importation of hay and straw from all Continental countries was absolutely prohibited. He thought the Board of Agriculture in this country was deserving of the greatest condemnation, because at least one cargo which was rejected in Ireland was actually allowed to land in this country. Surely the Board of Agriculture in this country might have acted at least as promptly and strictly as the Irish Board. He was not going to enlarge upon that question, but he wished to refer to a statement made by the President of the Board of Agriculture when he was being pressed to use this Order to prohibit the importation of hay and straw. He said—The necessary negotiations are going on with other departments.If the House looked at the powers conferred upon the President of the Board of Agriculture by the Diseases of Animals Acts they would see at once that conferences with other Departments were unnecessary, because he possessed the greatest possible powers, and any importation which might bring infection to our cattle could be stopped at a moment's notice by a stroke of the pen, without reference to anyone else. And yet the Board of Agriculture had allowed all these weeks to elapse before the importation of this dangerous stuff was prevented.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
You cannot do that without the co-operation of the Customs Department.
§ *MR. COURTHOPE
said that when the President of the Board of Agriculture had statutory powers himself it was not necessary for him to ask the permission of the Customs officers. That was done in Ireland, and it could be done in England. Then there was the important question of the hay and straw used for packing, which involved very great danger. It was well-known by everybody who had inquired into this subject that a very considerable quantity of hay and straw came from Continental countries, where it was used as packing for china and furniture. It was also well-known that in the case of a former outbreak of this disease in 1885 it was traced to hay and 226 straw which came into this country as packing with German furniture, which was unpacked in a park where there was a very valuable herd of cattle, and the whole lot went down with the disease. ["No, no."] At least that was the view of the Board of Agriculture at the time, and he did not think, after twenty-three years, one could get away from facts which were admitted at the time. Knowing the risk caused by hay and straw used as packing coming into this country, and being sold in the ports of entry as litter for use in urban cowsheds and stables, it was only natural that those representing the Chamber of Agriculture and other agricultural bodies should have pressed the Board of Agriculture to extend the Prohibition Order to hay and straw imported in this way. He had the honour of introducing a deputation to discuss this point the moment the outbreak was reported, and the President of the Board of Agriculture asked them to write to him, making such recommendations as they thought were most practical and proper. After carefully considering the question and considerable consultation they recommended this course, which he thought all would admit was quite reasonable—That notice should be given to the Boards of Trade of the various countries concerned that after a certain date (one month from the time of the notice was suggested) no goods would be admitted into this country packed in hay and straw from those affected countries, and in the meantime prompt measures should be taken for securing the destruction of hay and straw imported into this country on the premises where the goods were unpacked so that it should not be sold as litter.The President of the Board of Agriculture laughed at that suggestion, and said—No, agriculture is a very unimportant industry compared with many other industries, and we must not upset trade.They afterwards pointed out that hay and straw were not indispensable for packing purposes, that many other materials could be used, and that a month's notice would have given ample notice to foreign manufacturers without upsetting their business. By refusing to take this step the Board of Agriculture had failed most gravely in their duty as the custodians of the health of the flocks and herds of this country.
227 He wanted to say a word about the question of swine fever. There was very grave dissatisfaction among swine owners in this country with the action of the Board of Agriculture with reference to the matter of swine fever. The Report of the Cattle Diseases Committee which, in January last, was submitted to and approved by the Council of the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture contained the following—Your Committee note with extreme satisfaction the remarks made by Sir Edward Strachey (the representative of the Board of Agriculture in the House of Commons) to the North-East Somerset Farmers' Club, on 13th instant, on this subject. After pointing out how the number of outbreaks had fluctuated, and the alarming increase in the number during the last two years, he stated—as his personal opinion—that the Board of Agriculture must begin the consideration of this matter de novo (as has so often been urged by your Committee and by the Council), and suggested the appointment of a Departmental Committee as the only way of trying to solve the question. Your Committee accept this view, and strongly urge the President of the Board of Agriculture to appoint such a Committee, with a reference which will enable an inquiry to be made into the whole question, without loss of time.The President refused to do anything of the kind. He made some amendment in the orders applying to the question of swine fever, but he declined either to hear expert opinion on the subject, or to consider it de novo, or to appoint a small Departmental Committee. The greatest dissatisfaction was felt with the amended Orders which had been issued by the Board. It was felt that they would not begin to solve the question. This matter would involve the country in considerable annual outlay, and it would conduce to ultimate, if not immediate, economy if it were taken in hand promptly from the beginning, and dealt with in a sensible and businesslike manner. He thought this was a point which showed how undesirable it was that hon. Members of this House who did not really represent the Board of Agriculture should be in a position which led the public to think that they represented it. He had read an extract from a speech by the hon. Member for South Somerset, but the Board of Agriculture had gone in a direction absolutely opposite to that indicated in the speech. He hoped the hon. Member who spoke on behalf of the Government to-day 228 would be able to tell the Committee that the President of the Board would reconsider the position de novo, and that he would appoint a Departmental Committee to inquire with the view to such steps being taken as might be necessary to deal effectively with the matter. On the subject of the exportation of pedigree stock from this country to the Argentine he had already obtained the opinion of the Board from the hon. Member opposite in answer to Questions. All who had at heart the welfare of agriculture in this country must admit that those answers were very unsatisfactory indeed. There was a Regulation in the Argentine according to which cattle sent from this country were to he quarantined for forty days and then submitted to the tuberculin test. If they did not pass that test they were immediately slaughtered, and there was no question of compensation or anything of the kind. It happened that the Argentine Government had for some years run a stud ranch on their own account with the object of providing bulls for the ranch holders and stock breeders of the Argentine. The large stock owners preferred the pedigree shorthorn bulls and other pedigree stock sent from this country to any bred out there, and the Argentine Government presumably thought it necessary to interfere in order to protect their own business, and instead of keeping the animals in quarantine for forty days they now applied in many cases the tuberculin test immediately, or almost immediately, after their arrival. It was an undoubted fact that animals suffering from indigestion or other forms of indisposition, call it mal de mer if they liked, reacted to the tuberculin test, and a very large percentage of the animals were slaughtered. The Argentine Government did not want this undesirable competition which affected their business, and by such means they were protecting their own stud farms. He hoped the hon. Member would assure the Committee that the Board of Agriculture would institute an inquiry and ascertain whether the forty days quarantine were always carried out, and would take the necessary steps to ensure that our animals received fair treatment when they arrived in the Argentine Republic, because that was a matter 229 of the greatest possible importance to the stock-owners of this country. A great deal of valuable stock was bred here and sent to the Argentine, and it would be a serious blow to our trade if the Argentine Government by any unfair means like those referred to were allowed to stop this legitimate business which the stockowners had been carrying on. A short time ago a large importer, an Englishman, who held land in the Argentine, and who imported a large amount of pedigree stock, found that about 70 per cent. of his bulls from this country—bulls for which he had paid a large amount—were slaughtered on arrival because they reacted to the tuberculin test. That gentleman asked the Argentine Government in the interest of justice to allow one of their inspectors to take up his residence in this country to undertake the duty of inspection before the cattle were shipped, and he offered to pay all the expenses. He mentioned this to show the motive that underlay the action of the Argentine Government, and he thought that probably his being able to show them up in that way would induce the Board of Agriculture to make prompt and effective inquiries into the matter and to take such steps as they could with other departments to secure fair play to British traders.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
I think perhaps I may claim some indulgence to-day when I state that. I have been at somewhat short notice, owing to the illness of a colleague, called upon to reply for a great Department of the State with reference to this debate. I think perhaps it would be fair to the House and the country to make at once a statement in regard to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon alluded in his opening speech. The outbreak undoubtedly, in the opinion of the experts of the Board of Agriculture, is attributable to the cargo of hay which was obtained from Holland in November last. It was opened out on 29th January at a place called Gorgie, near Edinburgh, and on 1st February a certain number of cattle were found to be ailing. A veterinary surgeon was called in, and on 4th February the cattle were certified by him to be suffering from foot-and-mouth 230 disease. Very prompt action was taken by the Board of Agriculture and the cattle were all slaughtered on 9th February. Two other outbreaks subsequently took place, and those responsible took the greatest care that every one in the herds was slaughtered, and even all the cattle which had come in contact with these three particular outbreaks within a distance of three miles. There were 244 cattle slaughtered, and the net cost to the country was about £4,000. The course taken was right if for no other reason than that it was necessary for the Board of Agriculture to do its utmost to stop an illness of this kind. The Board of Agriculture are quite as fully aware as the right hon. Gentleman opposite and others who have spoken of the terrible character of this disease, and they desire, of course, to take immediate steps to suppress it. I am very glad to say that, so far as the expert opinion of the Board of Agriculture is concerned, we are out of the wood and that there is no further outbreak anticipated, or at all probable, in connection with this last outbreak. I am glad to be able to say that from the killing of rats, the destruction of all material which came in contact with the cattle, the disinfecting of the premises, and the proper safeguarding of the premises, this attack has been thoroughly stamped out. In regard to the origin there is no doubt that it came from The Hague, and was brought in by the cargo of hay in the "Nigel" from an infected country, namely, Holland. When it was suggested in the first instance that it was due to this hay the Board of Agriculture did hesitate for a moment to accept that suggestion because there were other portions of the cargo sent into other districts. For instance, sixty bales were sent to Leith, and it was used as fodder for horses. In the other two cases where it was used no result appeared similar to that at Gorgie. That being so, the Board had to accept the fact that while a portion of the cargo might be infected the whole cargo was not necessarily so.
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether horses are in the habit of catching foot-and-mouth disease?
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE
Yes, just in the same way as cattle. Then, with the view of preventing another outbreak of the disease, the right hon. Gentleman had sought to censure my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Agriculture for not prohibiting the import of hay and straw from infected countries abroad and for not issuing an Order so prohibiting the import for a whole month after the outbreak at Gorgie. I would remind the Committee of the history of the investigation into this matter. When the right hon. Gentleman himself was in charge of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1885, and subsequently of the Board of Agriculture in 1892, when Mr. Hanbury was at the Board of Agriculture, and subsequently when Mr. Fellowes and Lord Onslow were there, pressure was brought to bear on all of them to do exactly that which we have, been condemned by the right hon. Gentleman for not doing, viz., to exclude foreign importations of hay and straw from any affected country. No one is going to censure the right hon. Gentleman for neglect of his duty in 1885 and 1892, but if we are to be censured, surely every word of his censure and denunciation recoils on his own head. What are the facts? Under the pressure placed on the right hon. Gentleman he consulted his experts whether hay and straw should be prohibited from coming into this country from infected countries, and he acted as advised. He considered then that the danger was hypothetical and not real, and for twenty-five years the policy of this country has not been changed. We have allowed hay to come into this country, year by year, to the extent last year of 90,000 tons from non-infected countries and 65,000 tons from infected countries. Well, we have never had any outbreak attributable, in the opinion at any rate of many people who have considered this matter, to imported hay and straw. The case which occurred in 1885 quoted by the hon. Member for Eye was where it was thought that a certain amount of hay which had come from abroad, and which came in contact with a herd part of which was in Bedfordshire, had conveyed the foot-and-mouth disease. In connection with that particular case another outbreak took place a short 232 time before. The cattle were slaughtered and the railings with which the cattle had been enclosed were buried. Just before the outbreak referred to by the hon. Gentleman the railings were dug up and placed in position again. It is very much more probable that the second outbreak was attributable to the railings taken from the ground, and put in contact with the cattle, than to the imported hay.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE
I think they were timber railings. But it was not cleared up as to what was the cause of that particular outbreak. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman did not act in 1885 on that outbreak to exclude foreign hay, and not one of his successors had done so.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE
I believe that in those days hay was used for packing, which is one of the objects for which the right hon. Gentleman desired to have hay included in the Order which has been recently issued by my noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture. When the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are so anxious to keep out the import of foreign goods into this country the Government ought to satisfy themselves that there is some real proportion between the danger of infection and the loss of trade which may result from such an Order, and Lord Carrington and the Board of Agriculture thought that they were not justified, having regard to the experience of the past twenty-five years in acting suddenly as if they were in a panic, in regard to the introduction of hay and straw into this country. They, first of all, wanted to ascertain how much hay and straw came into the 233 country and found that in 1906, 65,700 tons of hay and 78,000 tons of straw valued at £378,000 were imported. To destroy the whole of that trade was not a matter which could be very lightly undertaken, and the Board had to be satisfied that, at any rate, those who advocated the exclusion for years and years of foreign hay and straw from this country were actuated by a single motive, or whether like many of us they unconsciously might have been influenced by other motives in regard to any exclusion, for the benefit of the producer and to the detriment of the consumer. The Government are not only responsible to the producer, for, as in 1893, prices may rise to the benefit of the farmers, but also responsible to other sections of I he community—the consumers—and they desire to see that the quality, health, and reputation which have been such a distinctive character of English stock should be maintained. When the Government came to the conclusion, after looking into the question of the extent of the hay which might be prejudiced by this Order, and this outbreak having been attributed to hay, they did not think that a month was too long to look round as to the effect a prohibition of the impart of hay and straw would have on trade. And they thought it would be an injustice to a particular individual who had engaged a cargo to come into this country to prevent it, because there was no reason to apprehend that that shipload on board the "Fram" at Liverpool contained any infection any more than the straw contained infection which was allowed in by the right hon. Gentleman and his successors during the past twenty-five years.
MR. T. L. CORBBTT (Down, N.)
What about compensation for destroying the straw?
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE
I do not know what the law is on that question, and I would not like to speak definitely on compensation; but at any rate the Board thought there was no reason to apprehend any danger from that particular cargo any more than from the 78,000 tons of straw which we have been receiving for many years past into this country from France and elsewhere. It has 234 been said that other materials than hay and straw might be used for packing and that the Order should include the straw and hay required for packing merchandise as well as for litter and fodder. The Government have taken a different view. They have thought it unnecessary to prejudice the many trade interests Involved by an extension of the Order. Sawdust has been suggested as a substitute for straw; bat in many cases eggs are imported from places where sawdust is not available. Besides, sawdust would make the cases heavier and the carriage more expensive. Again, straw comes from special districts for hats and bonnets, and the Government hesitated to prevent that straw coming into our ports.
§ *MR. COURTHOPE
Straw of that kind was not included in our recommendation; we expressly excluded all straw which had undergone a process of manufacture.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE
I am told that if straw were prescribed it would include the straw for hat-making, bottle packing, and other industries, and the Government were not prepared to extend the prohibition beyond straw and hay used for litter and fodder purposes. The hon. Member for Rye alluded to the absence of a representative of the Board of Agriculture at the meeting with the deputation which waited upon the President of the Local Government Board a few days ago. I regret the absence through illness, not only of my noble friend, but of the hon. Member who represents the Board of Agriculture in this House. The Board of Agriculture realise that in connection with the milk industry the interests of producers as well as consumers should be considered, and in any legislation to deal with this very difficult problem the Board of Agriculture will be consulted by the Local Government Board, and vice versa, and we trust that an amicable arrangement will be come to in the interests of both consumers and producers, and that no injustice will be done to the stockowners in this country. In regard to infection referred to by the hon. Member opposite, while we admit that the risk of infection is very great, I do not 235 think that we should exaggerate its amount in the way the hon. Member did. It is perfectly true that infection may be carried down-wind, but only if carried down-wind by some material, and not through the air itself. I am given to understand that that is the only way in which infection can be taken; it must be by contact with an article which has been infected by an infected animal. There are two other subjects to which the hon. Member alluded. In regard to swine fever, I think perhaps it will be of interest to the House if I explain to them, that although a great deal of dissatisfaction exists among farmers in connection with regulations in regard to swine fever, yet the policy of the Board of Agriculture for the last fourteen years has been a consistent policy and has also been a very successful policy. It is almost absurd to pick one year and compare it with its predecessor, and you can draw no very accurate conclusion by taking one selected year and comparing it with another selected year. But I have taken the trouble to take out the averages of the fourteen years during which the swine fever regulations for the slaughtering of infected swine and swine supposed to be infected have been in operation. I find that there is an average in the first five years, 1894 to 1898, of 58,000 swine slaughtered each year, with a view of reducing swine fever. The average in the next five years brings it down from 57,900 to 16,000, and the average of the last four years, up to 31st December last, brings it down from 16,000 to 7,000 a year. That is very satisfactory, and I do not think the President of the Board of Agriculture ought to act hurriedly in a matter of this kind, when the diminution of swine fever is very marked under the existing regulations. It is, unfortunately, true that last year the amount of swine fever in this country was greater than the year before, but it is equally true that there has been a diminution of swine fever during the first ten weeks of this year, as compared with the first ten weeks of last year, and we trust that diminution may go on. There has been, as probably hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are aware, a new regulation arranged in connection with swine fever, which, I believe, will help very much the move- 236 ment of swine, especially for slaughtering purposes, and will mitigate the inconvenience which many traders hitherto felt, and the President of the Board of Agriculture wishes to see how these regulations operate for a year or so before he feels justified in appointing a Committee, or taking any steps to alter the system which has existed so successfully for the last fourteen years. I think it must be also a source of gratification to this Committee to know that the number of swine in Great Britain is 2,636,766, an increase of 13½ per cent. for last year over the year which preceded it, so that the swine industry is really increasing in amount at the same time as we believe the swine fever is diminishing in extent. We can only trust that that is so, and that this very difficult problem may be eventually solved, to the satisfaction not only of the farmers, but also of the consumers, who are equally interested in the suppression of this disease. In regard to the last point raised by the hon. Member for Eye, I should like to say, so far as the Board of Agriculture is aware, and so far as I am aware, no complaints whatever have been received by the Board in connection with the unfair treatment of English cattle which have been sent to the Argentine. If, however, the hon. Member will communicate with the Board of Agriculture in regard to any case where he feels that unfair treatment has been meted out, inquiry will at once be made, and I trust that thereby any repetition of the case which he gave to to the House, and which in one instance caused considerable dissatisfaction, will be avoided.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
wished to congratulate the Board of Agriculture on their prompt action in connection with the foot-and-mouth disease. He thought that, upon the whole, they did all that they possibly could, but at the same time the hon. Member for Rye was naturally trying to carry out his duties, being in opposition, in trying to find fault with all that they had done and urging them on to greater care. Although he could not agree with him that the Board of Agriculture ought to prohibit the packing of goods in hay and straw from infected countries, yet he 237 thought some regulation might be established preventing this hay and straw, in which goods had been packed, from being used as fodder for horses or cattle, or at any rate from being sold as fodder. He believed that china and earthenware had to be packed in straw, and it was almost impossible to prohibit its importation in that way, but it was, he thought, quite possible for the Board of Agriculture, or the Board of Trade, or the Local Government Board to prevent hay and straw imported in the form of packing from being used for fodder for horses or cattle at the present time. It was a very important thing in regard to the cattle which produced milk, because it was among these, in large towns, that there was most danger of such diseases breaking out and spreading, as the animals were crowded together and had less open air than in the country. That was a point which he should very much like to impress upon the authorities. He sympathised with his hon. friend in his difficult task of having been suddenly put in charge of a Department, which, although it did not hold the position it ought was one of the most important Departments of the Government. He hoped that before long the Board of Agriculture would be able to assert itself a little more and be more powerful than it was at the present moment. If a little more power and a little more money were put at its disposal for carrying out the necessary work it had to do throughout the country it would be better. He thought that a good deal of some of the delay in carrying out this work was caused by want of money and the necessary number of officials, which a Board of this kind must have to carry out the very arduous duties it had to perform. The hon. Member for Rye had asked why in one case the Department did not prohibit the cargo coming in and pay compensation for it, but no Department had a right to spend money without the sanction of this House. They could not spend money and confiscate a cargo of goods without. The authority of this House, although perhaps a responsible Minister might take the matter into his hands and order the hay to be destroyed and come to the House afterwards. He considered that there ought to be 238 a Member of this House to answer for the Board of Agriculture with more responsibility for it, and he hoped that before very long that might be the case. As to swine fever, he could only congratulate the hon. Member on the very excellent figures which he had given to the House, and he hoped the farmers would realise them. The farmers were always grumbling about swine fever not being extirpated. One year it went down a little and another year it went up; he wished that the figures were more known to farmers and that they studied them more. There was one other point which had not been mentioned that day, but was a very important one which should be impressed upon the Board of Agriculture, and that was the spread of anthrax, which had been breaking out in many parts of the country. Some twelve months ago he knew of a case in which there was a grave suspicion that the refuse from a horse-hair factory went into a stream and infected certain horses who were down the stream. There had been several cases from time to time in which human beings had been infected with the disease, but that, of course, came under another Department. But the case as regards animals was serious as it was a very dangerous disease, not only to the animals, but owing to the fact that they might give it to human beings. He hoped that inquiry might be made, and that something would be done before long to frame some kind of regulations to be issued by the Local Government Board and the Board of Agriculture, because he thought that double regulations were required to prevent anthrax from spreading in this country, as it had been increasing and was a very serious disorder.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said he could well understand the position in which his hon. friend found himself in replying for the Board of Agriculture that afternoon, and he could assure him that it was unpleasant for him to make any criticisms on the hon. Member: he would rather have made them upon the person who legitimately represented the Board, and was responsible for the Department. There were one or two points to which the 239 attention of the Board of Agriculture should be called. The hon. Member-had made clear to the House the imminent danger that lurked in the importation of hay from a tainted, source, and he did not know until he heard the hon. Member speak of it how great that danger was. As they had heard, a cargo came over from Holland in November; it was held over to January, when it was unpacked, and it was not until then, the end of that month, that it spread forth its infection, and led to the outbreak which they deplored. It showed how sudden the danger was, and how long it could be retained in a cargo imported into this country. The hon. Member was able to show that the Board of Agriculture acted with promptitude upon this outbreak, and that they exerted themselves in destroying all the rats which were about the infected premises. As a matter of personal interest he should like to know by what process that was achieved. He had tried to destroy rats by using one of the most advertised preparations to kill these pests. He took two rats and fed them upon nothing else but the "poison," and they flourished so exceedingly that eventually he had to liberate them and destroy them with a stick. He therefore would like to know the method pursued in this case. The line of defence taken by the hon. Member that Presidents of former days had not done any better was not a good line to take. If agriculture had any chance at all it could only learn as the years went by, and, therefore, he desired to enter a caveat against the argument that because it was not necessary to take precautions in days gone by it was not necessary to do so now. He also protested against the tone of the hon. Member's remarks which seemed to imply that on no account was the interest of agriculture and the protection of the flocks and herds to be the first necessity for action in these matters, but that on the contrary, they were to wait as long as possible and to be careful that they gave every other trade every possible chance, and that they were practically to expose agriculture to dangers to which they were unwilling to expose other trades. What the Committee wanted from the Board of Agriculture was a rather more whole hearted 240 defence of the agricultural interests of the country than was evident in the tone of the hon. Member's remarks. He certainly did not think they should, as the hon. Member suggested, see what proportion of other trades would be affected by their action before they acted. All that should be considered was how it would affect agriculture, that great industry which the Board of Agriculture was created to safeguard. The Board of Agriculture had no right to be too considerate to other trades in safeguarding the interests of the industry they were established to protect. The imputation cast upon hon. Members also by the hon. Gentleman was hardly fair. The hon. Member had suggested that one of the reasons the Board of Agriculture had to be so careful was because it was conceivable that certain people connected with the Board of Agriculture might not be actuated simply and solely with a desire for the prevention of the disease, but by some indirect and unconscious desire to get protection.
*MR. J. A. PEASEs
aid he had no intention of conveying that idea in connection with this matter. What he desired to convey was that great pressure was brought to bear by individuals to protect their own interests, and it was necessary to see what other interests were affected.
§ COLONEL KENYON SLANEY
said he was glad of that explanation. As to the undue kindness to other trades he would point out that with regard to removing any source of possible infection in the packing of eggs the answer of the Board of Agriculture was that the alternative method of packing would make the packages too heavy and so prevent foreign eggs from coining in. Was it right that they should hesitate to take such a step in order to protect this country from the ravages of a disease, the damage of which could only be estimated in millions, because they might inflict some slight loss on a foreign country? Then what about that mysterious cargo of which they had heard and of which the Government had lost sight? What was it, and where was it? Nobody knew where it might be or how much mischief it had introduced into the country. It did not 241 speak well for the Board of Agriculture that they should have allowed that cargo to slip out of their notice, and go elsewhere. The hon. Member had said that a month was not too long to look around in the interests of other trades. But a month might have flooded the country with foot-and-mouth disease which might cost the nation millions; a month's looking around might be absolutely fatal to the best interests of the stockbreeders and stock keepers of the country. The action taken by the Board of Agriculture had not been quite so spirited and determined as he would have liked it to have been. Everyone recognised the difficulty of the situation, but he desired to put it on record that some Members of the House thought that in these matters the interests of agriculture ought to be supreme; that they ought not to be too tender with other interests, and that there ought to be more whole-heartedness on the part of the Board of Agriculture in their actions with regard to that industry for which they had to answer.
§ *MR. BOWERMAN (Deptford)
said that before this Vote was passed he desired to draw attention to a matter which seriously affected his constituency, namely, the unnecessary restrictions, as he suggested, in connection with the Deptford cattle market, which kept out live cattle from Continental countries which were officially declared to be free from disease. The question had been frequently raised, but the replies of the Board of Agriculture had always been of a negative character. Only last year the President of the Board of Agriculture had visited Deptford, and was an hour witnessing the operations and conditions of that magnificent market. Yet, when the request was made that live cattle should be introduced, with the knowledge that the cattle must be slaughtered within a limited period of time, they had always received the discouraging answer that the Board could not reconsider their regulations at that moment. So far as Deptford was concerned, feeling was growing in this matter. During the last few months the various municipal bodies interested had taken up the question. It was in the interests of labour mainly that he asked the Board of Agriculture 242 to reconsider this matter. Hundreds of thousands of pounds had been spent in the construction of the market, and in addition a considerable amount had been spent in the installation of the most up-to-date appliances for the purpose of dealing with any disease that might appear there. He had heard it stated that in the opinion of the Government inspectors it would be practically impossible for any disease, it having been detected, to leave the market, so admirable were the appliances there. There was a huge sheep market in which there had not been a sheep for months and months. The ropes were rotting, and the ironwork was rusting, and the scene was one of desolation. When one reflected what the corporation had spent in putting up machinery to deal with these very matters, it certainly seemed a strange proceeding that the Board of Agriculture should not see its way to relax its rules so far as those countries which was officially declared to be free from disease were concerned. The number of live cattle which came to this market was decreasing year by year, and contemporaneously the great American Beef Trust had come into being. In 1906, 88,886 live animals were imported into our markets. In 1907 the number was reduced to 77,139. and this year to 65,508. It seemed to him that the action of the Board was depriving hundreds and thousands of people of their livelihood, while it was depriving the whole community of Deptford and adjacent districts of fresh and cheap meat. He asked the Board of Agriculture to give the matter further consideration than they had bestowed upon it on previous occasions. He desired to call the attention of the Board of Agriculture to another matter. He would be glad if the hon. Member representing the Board that afternoon would state during the course of his reply upon the debate the Board's attitude towards the Alderney foreign animals wharf and abattoir scheme, and the delay on the part of the President of the Board in carrying out his promise, given in February of last year, to those acting for its promoters, that he would cause inquiry to be made into the reasons for the opposition shown by the officials of the Board to a project towards which 243 he (the noble Earl) was favourably inclined. As a matter of fact, the officials of the Board of Agriculture were really opposing the scheme, and the reasons for their opposition were not quite known. If the hon. Member would be good enough to make a note, and if possible give an answer, he would be very much obliged.
§ MR. ABEL SMITH (Hertfordshire, Hertford)
suggested to the hon. Member for Deptford that probably the present was not a very appropriate time to press on the Board of Agriculture the subject which he had brought forward, because, as they all knew, there had just been a most serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and it was, therefore, a time when it was necessary to take the utmost precautions to prevent a further outbreak. In regard to the question raised by his right hon. friend the Member for Wimbledon, he did not think there was very much fault to find with the general attitude of the Board of Agriculture, or with the explanation of the hon. Gentleman. But he wanted to carry a little further the point with respect to the importation of hay and straw, because on that the answer of his hon. friend was not very satisfactory. The hon. Gentleman had rather relied on the tu quoque argument which had been so often used in that House, for he had remarked that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon himself, and other previous Presidents of the Board of Agriculture had not thought it necessary to restrict the importation of hay and straw, and, therefore, the present President of the Board of Agriculture could hardly be blamed for following their example. What was the fact? It was that it had been proved to the satisfaction of the expert advisers of the Board that this outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland was due to foreign hay and straw. Therefore, new circumstances had arisen, and he thought the action of the Board in regard to the matter had been a little too cautious and a little over feeble, as had been suggested by one of his hon. friends. They seemed to be so careful about other interests that those of agriculture, which they were supposed specially 244 to represent, were thrown into the background. Whatever might have been the state of affairs in years past it was now established beyond denial that foot-and-mouth disease had been introduced through the agency of foreign hay and straw. It seemed to him to be quite easy to prevent the importation of hay and straw which was to be used for litter and fodder; but he quite admitted that the difficulty chiefly arose when they had to deal with hay and straw in which other commodities were packed. He thought, however, that it would be quite possible to devise regulations by which that difficulty could be dealt with. It was notorious that hay and straw used for packing purposes was usually sent to large working centres, and in those places regulations might be devised by which the hay and straw could be destroyed if it came from places affected by foot-and-mouth disease. Usually in municipal boroughs they had means, frequently a destructor, for destroying refuse, and this hay and straw could be dealt with in that way. That was a matter which might very well claim the consideration of the Board. He agreed with his right hon. friend that on these subjects it was absolutely necessary that the Board of Agriculture should remember that the interests of agriculture were their first concern. It was a most important industry, which they all tried to the best of their ability to represent in the House; at any rate, the Board of Agriculture was only concerned in seeing that the agriculturists of this country were properly looked after, and they were not to be too cautious or too gentle about treading on the toes of someone else who might be to a small extent indirectly affected by any action which the Department might take.
§ *MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said that swine fever was the disease from which they suffered most and which caused most inconvenience in the county in which he lived. He was very glad to hear that the reports showed that on the whole the disease was diminishing compared with the state of affairs many years ago. Locally they had formed a different opinion. Many of them 245 thought it was a disease indigenous to this country, with which our grandfathers and more distant ancestors had had to grapple, and that it was always more or less likely to break out. The local feeling had largely been that they suffered more from the restrictions than from the disease. He was glad to say that representations, addressed to the Board by deputations and otherwise, had received some attention, and that the remedies applied had been less unreasonable and onerous than they had been in past times. He heartily hoped that these conditions would not break down again, and that the Board of Agriculture would be as considerate as it could be in not exposing them to inconveniences which were not effectual in proportion to the loss and inconvenience which they caused. In regard to the tuberculin test of cattle exported to the Argentine, he thought they were greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Rye for calling attention to that matter. Farmers were inclined to be very sceptical about that test, and if the Board could do anything in connection with it to prevent the unnecessary killing of valuable pedigree stock exported to the Argentine, they should be very much indebted to it. With regard to foot-and-mouth disease, it was impossible to exaggerate the loss that would arise if it were introduced and spread in this country. Considering the many ways in which that disease could be communicated, it was wonderful we had continued free from outbreaks for so many years, and he hoped the Board would still continue to watch the matter very closely. But he was bound to say, after listening to the discussion and the reply of his hon. friend, that it appeared to him that the Board had acted in a way which was most consistent with the interests of this country as a whole, which were what they, of course, were bound to look at. His hon. friend below him had remarked that those who had preceded the present Board of Agriculture had felt chary about preventing the importation of hay and straw from foreign countries, even from countries known to be infected with the disease. We had not had outbreaks 246 from this cause previously. And considering that only one had been caused in this way, and that had been so promptly and satisfactorily dealt with, they could hardly find fault with the Board for not having gone to greater lengths than they had done in excluding these articles of hay and straw, which were very useful to a great many owners of stock in this country, as well as being the subjects of a large trade in themselves. He thought the Board had made a reasonably good defence for any apparent tardiness they had shown, and he sincerely hoped it would be long before they were again able to trace any outbreak to the importation of those articles.
§ MR. J. F. MASON (Windsor)
said that the hon. Member who temporarily represented the Board of Agriculture had quoted some figures with regard to swine fever which he thought they must accept as reassuring. But he would venture to suggest that, in view of the very large sums of money which the slaughter of swine cost this country, the Board should lose no opportunity of endeavouring to trace out and find some cure for this and other diseases of the kind. He was aware that something was being done in that direction, but he attached to the question of final cure a degree of importance which was not always shared to the same extent. In reference to the proposed legislation on the milk supply, he understood that the Local Government Board were rather looking to the interests of the consumers, and he hoped that the Board of Agriculture would see to the interests of the producers of milk, who, throughout the country, were perfectly convinced that legislation was necessary, and that everything that would conduce to the purity of milk should be done. So far as he had been able to observe, all the attempts to increase the purity of milk on the farms were expensive, and must necessarily be so. He quite approved of taking every precaution possible to insure cleanliness and of having veterinary inspection. But if all the precautions were carried as far as he had carried them himself the cost would be so great as to place milk out of 247 reach of the poorer classes of the country. He stated that in order that the Board of Agriculture should limit the restrictions.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said the President of the Local Government Board, who had the matter in hand and who was introducing a Bill had given assurances on that subject.
§ MR. J. F. MASON
said he was glad to hear that the matter would not be lost sight of. Everybody was agreed that agriculture in this country was not in so flourishing a condition as it was in others. In this country between the years 1875 and 1890 nearly 3,000,000 acres of land had gone out of cultivation. During that same period a corresponding amount of land had been brought under cultivation in Germany, whilst agricultural wages in that country had increased nearly 50 per cent. Agriculture in this country Was overburdened, the advantages given to it by the Agricultural Rating Act had been almost entirely neutralised by the increase in the rates of the country. Something must be done to increase production. Small holdings might do something; they had their advantages, but he was not an entire believer in them. Where they were held by people who had some other occupation and who could go in for intensive cultivation, small holdings might be a success. But what was required was to endeavour to improve the yield of the land. The yield of wheat per acre in England was twice as much as that of the United States, but it did not compare with the yield per acre in France. He could not help thinking that by the study of deep cultivation and other matters the yield per acre in this country could be very largely increased. But any experiments in that direction were far beyond the powers of the small holders and should be undertaken by the Board of Agriculture. Another way in which the Board of Agriculture could do a great deal was in the direction of improving the plants grown in this country. For instance, Manitoba wheat was always worth more than English wheat in the market. Manitoba wheat grown in England had failed to retain its quality, but recently it had been crossed with great success 248 with English wheat, with the result that there were now crossed red wheats which combined the weight of the Manitoba with a constitution which enabled them to thrive in the English climate. In the improving of seed in this way the Board of Agriculture might do a great deal of good
§ MR. WATT (Glasgow, College)
congratulated the hon. Member on the admirable manner in which he had defended the Board of Agriculture, and the Department itself on the way it had tackled the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at Edinburgh. He did not agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite who thought that in matters of this sort agriculture should be considered supreme. In his opinion it was absolutely incumbent on the Board of Agriculture to consider the interests of the various trades affected before they issued any orders whatever. But the question he rose especially to speak on was that alluded to by the hon. Member for Deptford, namely, the importation of Canadian cattle into this country. It seemed to him that before this Government came into power the Party was pledged to remove the embargo on Canadian cattle, and their action in keeping the embargo on during the two and a half years they had been in power was inconsistent with the pledge they gave when wooing the electors. It was the only inconsistency of which they could be accused, and he hoped they would take the earliest opportunity of removing that blot from their escutcheon. It certainly seemed inconsistent that a Government which was so in love with free trade should prevent the importation of animals from our Colonies which were certified as being-free from disease, but it was more inconsistent still that hon. Gentlemen opposite should preclude these cattle, because their contention was that a preference should he given to the Colonies. In this particular case they, however, advocated that Canada should be handicapped.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The question of the importation of Canadian cattle requires legislation, and therefore cannot be discussed upon this Estimate.
§ *MR. GEORGE FABER (York)
said he agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down that the Party in power before the general election were committed to the free importation of Canadian cattle and that the Government when wooing the country shared that view. But courtship was quite a different matter from matrimony, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were now wedded to the Treasury Bench and things that were said lightly and rashly in the days of their wooing were now forgotten or had a very different significance. So far as the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was concerned, the Board of Agriculture had come through that more by good luck than good judgment. He could not admit that they had taken even reasonable precautions. They were warned distinctly and in terms by the Central Chamber of Agriculture, that Holland was infected with foot-and-mouth disease and that it was dangerous to import hay from that country. Of that warning they took no notice whatever; they took their chance and trusted to luck for months. He quite agreed that when the outbreak actually occurred, all precautions were taken, but the mischief was then done. The pecuniary damage suffered already amounted to £4,000. He would remind the Committee that they were not yet out of danger, and the amount might any day become not £4,000 but £400,000, or even £4,000,000. When the Central Chamber of Agriculture first warned the Board of Agriculture if they had then put a stopper on the importation of foreign hay and straw, all this danger and trouble would have been avoided. The hon. Member representing the Board of Agriculture had used the tu quoque argument, but it did not overcome the danger to say that his predecessor or predecessors had run the risk before. He was not so sure that the tu quoque argument held good, because the importation of hay and straw was quite a matter of modern commerce. For a long time the difficulty was one of bulk, but 250 he understood that that had been got over recently, by comprising hay and straw for importation. The matter had not been dealt with that vigilance which they had a right to expect from a Government Department. He was sorry to hear the hon. Member, representing the Government, imply that other trades must not be interfered with for the sake of agriculture. The hon. Member seemed to forget that agriculture was no longer the Cinderella to be kicked and cuffed about. They had now got a Small Holdings Act and agriculture was not going to be the Cinderella any more. It was the duty of the Department to watch agriculture and do everything in their power to see that that great industry was safeguarded. With regard to the question of the importation of hay and straw in packing cases there was great danger from its being distributed and so carrying infection. He did not think that on a matter so vital as this, the Board of Agriculture ought to make up its mind without further consideration, and say once and for all that it would do nothing to stop the hay and straw which came into this country in packing cases in any circumstances. That was a matter which had to be looked at all round from different points of view. They wanted some further explanation of the cargo of hay which was refused at Dublin, and after it had been tossed about on the high seas was lauded somewhere. Had it been landed in this country? They had not yet been able to trace all the infected hay which came over from Holland in the first instance, and only part of it had been accounted for. When the advisers of the Department told them that the danger was passed, how did they know that that statement was well founded? In future he hoped the Board of Agriculture would think over the matter many times before they came to the conclusion that in the matter of the importation of hay, straw, and fodder from abroad much greater care ought not to be taken than had been taken in the past, if the flocks and herds of this country were to be properly safeguarded.
§ *MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
said there were one or two matters to which he would like to call attention. He was delighted to see the great anxiety 251 which was being displayed on the Opposition Benches on this subject, for it might develop into enthusiasm, and then they would probably get something done. One hon. Member had said that the Agricultural Rating Act had done nothing for agriculture. If anything had been relieved of taxation by that Act it certainly was the land, and that was not fair to the industrial workers. The town he had the honour to represent under that Act had to pay something over £7,000 per annum, and to say that under those circumstances agriculture wanted further consideration along those lines was asking too much. Any one who studied the history of the land from the 16th century to the present time would find that the claim of the landholder had always been "Give, give, give," and they had certainly got the biggest share. The grievance was private ownership, and something would have to be done in that direction. So far as the development of agriculture was concerned, protection was no remedy. Last year he raised the question of the low rate of wages paid to a number of employees under the Board of Agriculture, which he thought was about the worst of all the State Departments in regard to the wages paid to its employees. He said then that if nothing was done in regard to the particular case he raised he should bring the matter up on every opportunity, and he now proposed to bring the matter forward again. On the last occasion one hon. Member rather hinted that he had slighted Kew, but he had just as great an admiration for Kew as any other hon. Member of this House, and it was because of his great admiration for the work done there, and the pleasure it afforded to the people of this country, that he rose to again protest against the manner in which they were treating the employees at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
§ *MR. SUMMERBELL
said there were fifty men employed at Kew who were receiving the miserable wage of 21s. a week, and the Department were allowing 252 that to go on from year to year. Before any of those men could be employed at Kew they had to satisfy the Board of Agriculture that they had served five years in a first-class nursery or garden. They insisted upon having only skilful men and then they paid them the low wage of 21s. per week, out of which they had to provide a serge suit and look quite respectable. Considering the skilled work these men were called upon to perform it was a scandal to continue paying them such a miserable wage. It had always been said that there were great opportunities for these men getting good situations elsewhere after working at Kew. There were at present ten men under notice at Kew, and the Board of Agriculture had kindly conceded the right to those men to be kept there until they got other employment. He knew one of the best men who left Kew Gardens and went to Canada, whore he was now doing the work of a labourer. The argument, therefore, that these men could get higher positions was unfair and incorrect It was said that lectures were given to these men free of charge. He had inquired as to how far the men availed themselves of the lectures, and he found that the number was one, and he thought the Government should not waste the £1 per lecture which they spent for those lectures. The labourers at Kew received 24s. a week, while the highly skilled men to whose case he had called attention received 21s. a week. It was said that the cost of living in the district was not high for a single man, but he did not think anyone who occupied respectable lodgings and paid a very moderate sum for living, would be able to save much for the proverbial rainy day. He hoped the Department would be able to put the gardeners on a level at least with the labourers in the matter of pay. He also called attention to the pay of 19s. 6d. including allowances a week given to the chainmen. That was a very small wage, and he believed that it was against the spirit of the fair wage resolution carried unanimously in this House in 1893.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said it appeared to him that the Board of Agriculture was not as expeditious as it might have been in preventing the extension of foot-and-mouth disease. The hon. Member representing the Board 253 had stated that the department took a month to stop the importation of hay and straw from foreign countries because sixty bales had been sent to Leith for the forage of horses and that the horses had not contracted the disease. The hon. Gentleman was technically right in stating that horses could contract the disease, but according to returns which he had seen in the library extending over the fourteen years from 1887 to 1900 there had been 300,000 cattle and 400,000 sheep inflicted with foot-and-mouth disease. In nine of these years no other animals were infected except cattle, sheep and swine, and in the five other years only eighty-four other animals were infected. The report of the Board of Agriculture dealing with foot-and-mouth disease only alluded to sheep, cattle, and swine. It was evident that the disease very rarely attacked horses, and, therefore, the excuse of the Board of Agriculture that they did not stop the importation of hay from the infected country because these particular horses were not infected was not a very good one. The hon. Member for Deptford was very eloquent about the closing of the Deptford market. He hoped the Board of Agriculture would not listen to the hon. Member, because, after all, his view was an extremely selfish one. Bather than that a few people should suffer a certain amount of disadvantage the hon. Member's view was that the whole of the agricultural community of the country should take the risk of heavy loss from disease in their flocks and herds. The hon. Member had stated that the people in the port of London were deprived of cheap moat. He could not see how the hon. Member could make that statement. There was nothing to prevent cattle being slaughtered at foreign ports and brought in in carcases. His right hon. friend had said that foreign meat was always cheaper than home fed meat, and therefore the argument that people were deprived of cheap food fell to the ground.
§ *MR. BOWERMAN
said it was perfectly true that the people of Deptford were getting cheap frozen meat, but they were not getting what they used to get—cheap fresh-killed meat.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said that if live cattle were knocked about on the voyage they suffered in condition. If cattle ex- 254 perienced rough weather on board ship the meat was nothing like so good as if the animals were killed in their own country and sent here either frozen or in a cooled chamber. He hoped the Board of Agriculture would remain firm. The hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow had said that the action of the Government in regard to the importation of Canadian cattle was the only matter on which they had been inconsistent. The hon. Member must have had his eyes and ears closed, otherwise he would have found more examples of the Government's inconsistency. He was glad that for the moment foot-and-mouth disease had been stamped out. He hoped that if it should again break out the Board would take steps to stop without delay the importation of anything which might introduce the disease from foreign countries.
§ *SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)
said it appeared to him that hardly sufficient attention had been given to the scientific side of this question. They were apt to apply the same rough and ready method of treatment to different diseases without due regard to the differences in the pathology of the diseases. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon had justly referred to the great work of Professor Brown. He recognised the value of the stamping out method as applied to cattle plague, pleuro-pneumonia, and foot-and mouth disease. In the case of swine fever, he was not sure that the method was applicable in the same way. He hoped the hon. Gentleman representing the Board would institute an inquiry into the pathology of swine fever in order to ascertain whether it lent itself to stamping out in the same way as cattle plague, pleuro-pneumonia, and foot-and-mouth disease. Possibly the long incubation period rendered it more difficult to deal with than in the case of other diseases. In regard to foot-and-mouth disease he would remind the Committee that there was not there, as we were assured there was in the case of other diseases, such as anthrax, tubercle, and glanders, the means of diagnosis by a definite micro-organism. The hon. Member for South Somerset had stated that the Board of Agriculture recognised that there was no micro-organism which could be identified as the cause of foot-and-mouth disease and isolated. They 255 were left to diagnose by clinical symptoms and were not able to derive from infected animals or from fodder any particular organism which might be traced with precision as the cause of the disease, as as was said to be the case in anthrax, glanders, and tubercule. It was easy to speak in a glib fashion of an infected country, and to proscribe the importation of hay or straw from a whole country, whereas in all probability only a particular district of that country was infected. A more complete and satisfactory method would be an international system of notification of diseases and of the exact part of the country from which the disease was likely to be distributed by infection, and not by the rather rough and ready method of proscribing a whole country which might not be wholly infected. He urged his hon. friend to consider the propriety of instituting a more scientific inquiry into the causes of these diseases on which science had not yet said the last word, especially in relation to those diseases where organisms of transmission have not been discovered. Enormous sums of money had been spent on attempts to stamp out swine fever without the same satisfactory results as in the case of cattle-plague, pleuro-pneumonia, and foot-and-mouth disease. Swine fever did not from its very nature lend itself to the same kind of treatment as those other diseases.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE
The hon. Member for Lichfield and two or three other Members have endeavoured to impress on me the importance of extending the regulations issued by the Board of Agriculture to other hay and straw not used for fodder or litter. I have endeavoured to point out that the Board in coming to their decision were wise not to extend the order in that direction. When bales are introduced as cargo into this country, they are frequently compressed, and it is quite possible that the hay may contain germs of such disease as foot-and-mouth; but when hay and straw which are used for packing are introduced, as a rule they are not pressed. When not pressed the hay and straw are nearly always subject to both light and air, and I am informed by experts that light and air are both fatal to the preservation of the virus which produces the infection. That being so, there is even very much less risk of hay and straw containing any infection when they are used as 256 packing material than compressed hay and straw which may be used for fodder and litter, and which come in direct contact with cattle in this country. The Committee must realise what an enormous expense the country would be put to if an army of inspectors were to follow up all the hay and straw used for packing, to see that the packing was done with care, and that the whole of the material was destroyed. The hon. Member for Newport asked me a few questions as to rat-catching. I cannot follow him into that. The very able officials of the Board of Agriculture, who deserve the highest credit for the way in which they have stamped out this outbreak of foot-and mouth disease, inform me that they employed two expert ratcatchers, and they had worked unremittingly to exterminate these animals. As to the question whether the Board were or were not to blame in regard to the month's delay in issuing the Order, I can only repeat that they thought it was absolutely essential in the interests of the whole country that "panicy" action should not be taken; and that they had followed during the few months they had been in office the policy pursued by former Presidents of the Board of Agriculture after tin's matter had been fairly weighed by them, and on the best expert opinion which they could obtain. All former Presidents of the Board of Agriculture had come to the conclusion that the expense would be out of proportion to the risk run, and that it was advisable when the risk was theoretical that there should not be any departure from the existing policy. That was the view taken by the present President of the Board of Agriculture, and if they did not act on the spur of the moment in the way they did in the Irish case, it was because the matter was not nearly so prejudicial to other trading interests in Ireland as it would have been in this country. [An HON. MEMBER on the Irish Benches: No.] I understand that comparatively little hay and straw are imported into Ireland, and that a considerable quantity has been imported for years into this country, and having regard to that fact the Board decided that they should not act precipitately in this matter. I must say that the Board of Agriculture so fully recognise that their first concern is the interest of agriculture, and it was only after mature reflection 257 and after the lapse of two or three weeks, and having done their best to avert any chance of foot-and-mouth disease coming into the country by means of hay and straw, that they issued this Order. I, therefore, think that all credit is due to them. The hon. Member for Windsor alluded to the necessity of improving the plants grown in this country and suggested the introduction of a cross between Manitoba wheat and English wheat. The hon. Member likewise alluded to experiments which Mr. Biffen of Cambridge has made, and suggested that the Board of Agriculture should follow up those experiments. The Board have considered this matter and they have a very high opinion of Mr. Biffen and of the value of his experiments. It is hoped that next year they may be able to give a grant in order to help these experiments in which that gentleman has taken such a great interest. The sum of money at the disposal of the Board is not very large, and I cannot hold out a hope that the grant will be a very large one, although it will be an earnest of the interest which the Board of Agriculture take in this matter. The hon. Member for Cheshire might have been called to order as the hon. Member for Deptford was in regard to the introduction of cattle to be slaughtered at the port of landing. The Board of Agriculture have no alternative but to keep out the cattle which the hon. Member desires to introduce. Cattle from countries where disease exists cannot be introduced even for the purpose of being slaughtered at Deptford. An hon. Member asked what was the objection of the Board of Agriculture to the erection of a sort of abattoir in the Island of Alderney where the cattle might be slaughtered. The islands of Alderney, Guernsey, and Sark, are in exactly the same position and regarded in the same light as any other port in the United Kingdom; and it is on that ground that no special permission can be given to these islands to introduce cattle from infected countries for slaughter there. An hon. Member raised the question of the pay of the gardeners at Kew, and he made a very plausible case for an increase of pay to the men employed in the gardens at Kew. I had never heard of the case before, and I was somewhat impressed by it, though I thought there must be a good answer to it. And so 258 there is. From the information given to me the average ages of the gardeners at Kew Gardens are from 19 to 30. It is true that they must have four years gardening experience; that they must be men of ability, of a certain age, and must be unmarried. But those men come to Kew Gardens under special contract. They obtain an education and special facilities which they cannot obtain elsewhere. Kew Gardens are the most popular in the gardening world, and there are always many applications for the forty-nine or fifty posts there. The young men may attend classes and courses of lectures, and in future they will be obliged to attend them as part of their training curriculum. They have opportunities for rising to be sub-foremen and foremen, when they can be retained in the employment for other two years or six in all. It is really unfair that these men should protest through the hon. Member against the terms of their contract. It is quite natural that when they secure a position of this kind they should desire that it should be permanent, but when the Government are spending something like £22,000 a year in maintaining perhaps the best Botanical Gardens in the world, it is only right that the advantages derived from being employed in them should be given to the many rather than the few. It is on the ground that we do not desire to retain these men longer than two years in the Gardens, and because we desire others to come in and reap the same advantages that the pay of these men has been limited to 21s. a week. This matter was fully gone into last year when the Board placed the whole of the facts before the Treasury. The Treasury, on that occasion, came to the conclusion that no case had been made out for an increase in the subsistence money, but pointed out that these men having been employed at Kew was in itself a strong recommendation, and enabled them to obtain posts in large gardens, not only in this country but all over the Empire. I take no exception whatsoever to the action of the hon. Member in placing these claims before the Committee and in presenting the case of these men in the best way possible, but I can hold out no hopes that their position will be improved.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
If I may presume to say so, the hon. Member in replying on this debate had no need to appeal for the indulgence of the House, for he has performed a task which must have been very difficult with very great ability. I now desire to detain the Committee only for a few moments for the purpose of showing why I think it is desirable to take the sense of the Committee upon the Motion I have moved. We have had one admission of great value this afternoon. It has been placed beyond all doubt by the statement of the hon. Member, that the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Edinburgh was entirely due to infected fodder, which had been brought from abroad; to infected fodder which was landed in this country in November last. That bore out to the letter what I pointed out in my earlier observations, namely, the length of time for which disease will often lie dormant. That fodder was not what the hon. Member called "opened up" until 29th January, and within a week it had communicated this fell disease to our cattle. The hon. Member in answer to the request I made him to account for the long delay which took place before issuing the Order, based his reply on two points. The first was the practice of myself and others under similar circumstances in the year 1885, the other was that a good many people who had been making this demand were themselves, no doubt unconsciously, animated, by a desire for protection. Some of us were. I frankly admit it. But what kind of protection was it we were asking for in this case? We were asking for protection from the importation of foreign disease into the many flocks and herds of this country. I should have thought that that was a kind of protection in which even the most fanatical free trader that ever existed would have been willing to concur. For my own part I wish to go to the hon. Member's other ground, and absolutely and entirely to repudiate his allegation as to my practice and the practice of colleagues of mine being similar to that adopted by the Board of Agriculture in this case. Quite recently I elicited from the hon. Member, by an interjection across the Table, the fact that he was not able to state that hay and fodder was imported into this 260 country in 1885 in the same way as it is imported now. He was not able to dispute my earlier observation that the importation of hay and straw as fodder into this country on a large scale was only a trade of modern origin. The hon. Member was reduced to this statement: "Oh, but it might be packing straw, and with regard to the case of packing straw that was the course adopted by yourself and others." Well, I cannot remember what happened twenty-three years ago with regard to packing straw. I asked some question about it the other day across the Table, because I was then informed of the case which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Rye this afternoon—that there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease which might naturally and truly be attributed to that cause, and therefore the allegation of the hon. Member opposite that in this case the Board of Agriculture followed the practice of myself in 1885 is unfounded.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Then if that is so, it related solely to packing straw which is not the question in dispute at this moment. In regard to this matter, all that we have demanded on this side of the House has been that in cases of this kind, where it is known that fodder is being imported from districts which notoriously are infected with foot-and-mouth disease, the importation of such fodder should be prohibited. The hon. Gentleman, who adopted an argument used by others, showed immense anxiety that a trade amounting to £380,000 a year should not be interfered with unnecessarily. But I submit that the Board of Agriculture is to look after the agriculture of this country and not after foreign trade. What would have been the result if this disease had spread throughout the country, because of the disinclination of the Board of Agriculture to issue orders lest this trade with fodder amounting to £380,000 should be interfered with? I was talking to a farmer on this very subject only the other day, and he very truly said that it would 261 have cost us that amount in the very first week of the outbreak. Millions are at stake in this matter, and I desire to express my strong opinion that the argument of the hon. Member is not entitled to that weight which he thinks it ought to have with this Committee. I quite agree with the hon. Member that we ought not to have panic action but I do not think it would be panic, action to take precaution against an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease by absolutely preventing fodder from an infected district being brought into this country. The thing which, in the course of this debate, has disappointed me more than anything else, is the total absence of any reply to the questions I put earlier in the day and the suggestions which I made. I asked whether the Board of Agriculture had any idea how many other importations of fodder there had been since November which were still lying not opened up, but which, when they were opened up, might be the means of another outbreak; and I suggested to the hon. Gentleman that it was deserving of being put seriously before the Board of Agriculture as to whether it would not be possible even now to ascertain the number of cargoes of hay and straw which have been allowed to be landed in this country since, so that they might do their best to trace them. I regard this as a very serious matter, and deserving of very serious attention even now, if it is not too late. Knowing what has occurred, knowing what I did not know until this afternoon, namely, that the particular importation of hay responsible for the outbreak of this disease has been in this country since November last, I am myself honestly apprehensive that there may be hundreds of cargoes which have been landed since then which must add seriously to the danger of the situation at the present time. Under all these circumstances and in the absence of any reply to the questions which I have put on this point, and in the absence of any action on the part of the Board of Agriculture, I feel bound to take the sense of the Committee upon this matter.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
expressed great surprise that in a matter so much affecting Ireland, so vital to 262 Ireland as this was, the Nationalist Members were either absent or entirely silent. He had been waiting to hear the views of hon. Members below the gangway upon this question. The Government had been goaded into action by the right hon. Member for Wimbledon and others, but he felt that the Government must be pressed still further upon the point. Reference had been made again and again to the hay and straw trade, and the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote had spoken of that trade, which amounted to some £350,000 a year, as if it were an enormous sum, but it was nothing compared to the risk that was ran by the flocks and herds of this country. It was ridiculous to mention that trade as one requiring special protection. He rose, however, particularly to protest on behalf of Ireland.
MR. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS (Carmarthen District)
called attention to the question of Sunday labour in the parks and gardens. He pointed out that in the previous year he drew attention to this subject, and the Commissioner of Works had been good enough then to take the matter in hand and had given some relief to certain of the men who had been engaged for nine years without even having a Sunday off. He would like to know whether anything further had been done in the matter.
§ MR. KILBRIDE (Kildare, S.)
asked whether the War Office or the Board of Agriculture had received any resolution from the Agricultural Board of South Kildare, with regard to the importation of hay and straw to the Curragh and other camps of Ireland.
said he was informed that the question of the importation of hay and straw into Ireland did not come within this Vote. The Board of Agriculture in this country had nothing to do with Ireland.
§ *COLONEL WALKER (Lancashire, Widnes)
called attention to the prevalence of glanders and farcy in horses, 263 especially in London, and to the fact that there was no appreciable diminution in the number of horses affected with the disease. Some 2,000 horses a year were contaminated, and as recent inquests in London and Edinburgh showed, the disease was contagious to human beings. There were only three inspectors for the whole of London. Instead of leaving that vast area in the care of three men, power ought to be given to the numerous army of veterinary surgeons to report cases of glanders just as medical men had the duty of reporting outbreaks of infectious diseases amongst people. In the case of glanders and farcy there was no power to compel the owner's veterinary surgeon to report the diseases to the central authority nor did he obtain any reward for so doing. When a case was discovered a policeman was sent for, who sent for the inspector, who dealt with the case, but even he was not allowed to apply the Mallein test, which was the best test known, to the other horses in the stable, without the consent of the owner of the horses. There was also considerable delay in getting the horse affected away, and even if it was removed at once it had to be taken through the streets with the risk of contaminating others. It was most important that the horse affected should be destroyed directly the disease was discovered. He hoped this matter would be taken up quickly, and the disease stamped out.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY (Limerick, W.)
said he rose to protest against the action of the Board of Agriculture in allowing hay and straw to be used for packing articles coming from those countries where foot-and-mouth disease existed. It was a most dangerous thing, and if this disease happened to be imported into Ireland in this way it would mean ruin to many of the farmers there, who would not be able to pay their land purchase annuities.
said he thought this Vote did not apply to Ireland. So far as this matter concerned Ireland he understood its conduct was in the hands of another Department.
The hon. Member can only discuss items in the Vote the reduction of which has been moved. What the hon. Member desires to discuss is relevant to another Vote which we have not reached.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said he protested against hay and straw coming into this country without active and keen oversight being exercised on the part of the Board of Agriculture. If it brought foot-and-mouth disease with it, the shipping trade for store cattle between Ireland and England would be stopped, with the result that the farmers of Ireland would not be able to sell their store cattle. He also protested against the Board of Agriculture approving of the name "Peark's Own" being applied to an article of milk-blended butter. The Board of Agriculture held the view that it was not sold as butter, but he contended that any person going into a shop, and seeing the article, would come to the conclusion, that it was butter and would not know that it was a blend of milk and butter containing eight per cent more of water than pure butter. He saw no reason why this, firm should be specially favoured, and it seemed to him that there was something behind the scenes. He put this matter seriously before the Board of Agriculture, because all they wanted was fair play all round. They ought not to approve of the name given to this commodity any longer, and they should do nothing which would lead the public to believe that they were buying butter, when they were buying some other article which was not butter, thus doing injury to the very-large dairy industry.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
said he observed that his hon. friend had raised the question of glanders. It was one which deserved consideration, and its importance should be impressed upon the Treasury, who had not dealt with it in the manner in which it ought to have done. Only a very short time ago an opportunity was afforded of dealing with this disease. London was one of its centres, but when the electric trams came into operation a great number of horses which had been used in the city were sent into the country and the disease was thus spread. His hon. friend had suggested that with the help of the Treasury 265 they might pay proper compensation, and he believed it was a disease which in that way might have been very adequately dealt with; but, of course, when they allowed it to spread to different parts of the country it became much more difficult to deal with. He hoped the Board, in view of the information which they had in the Reports of Committees and other evidence that the disease was dangerous not only to animals but also to human beings, would really take the matter very seriously in hand. Another subject which he wished to bring before the hon. Gentleman's notice had reference to the action of the Board of Agriculture in regard to the Act of last year dealing with the destruction of insect pests. He did not think their conduct in administering that Act had been such as to give confidence to those interested, and there was no doubt that their reluctance to act promptly had resulted in the introduction of gooseberry mildew into this country. The Board also ought to have been more prompt in their action in reference to a new disease, called black scab, affecting potatoes. He believed very little had been done by the Board in that matter. At the present time it was known fairly well where the parts affected were, and it was known very well how that disease could be checked. He considered it most important that the Board should have taken more prompt action in order to prevent the spread of the disease by not allowing seed potatoes to be sown in districts where the disease existed. At present there was no means of discovering where the disease was. The seed potatoes had been sown broad cast over the country, and there was no security for those who were growing potatoes that they would not be affected by this particular disease. He was convinced that the Board had power to deal with these matters, and that they should do more than they had been doing to check these diseases. With reference to gooseberry mildew, the Board had at first issued a strong Order for the destruction of the fruit bushes affected, but owing to the unfortunate fact that no provision was made for compensation by the Exchequer, they found, he presumed, difficulties about the carrying out of this compulsory Order, with the result that it was revoked, and there was now an Order in force only giving the alternative to spray and prune 266 instead of destroying the bushes. According to the authorities and those who had studied this question, spraying and pruning was in no way a satisfactory means of checking the disease. It had not proved so in Worcestershire and other parts which had before suffered from the invasion of this disease. In Kent, up to the present, they had escaped it, but as gooseberry growing was an extremely important branch in the county, they were very anxious about it. If there should be an outbreak in Kent, apparently they had no power now, even though the county council might be willing, to pay the expense of ordering the destruction of the bushes; and the Order for the spraying and pruning, in the opinion of the Kent growers at all events, was not at all satisfactory. He thought, indeed, that the administration of the Act had been unscientific and dilatory, and that the Board had not realised the importance of the matter to these smaller industries. He sincerely hoped that the Board would take the question more seriously in hand than in the past, and that, with reference to new diseases which come to this country, far more prompt steps would be taken to check them, and so prevent their getting into our midst, when it was very difficult to eradicate them. He asked whether the Board of Agriculture could issue through their journal, or in some other way, a statement of the actual districts in which these diseases existed. At present there was no means of knowing where the disease existed except where, in certain counties, the disease had been proved to exist. If it were known which were the affected districts the people would know where to obtain their new stocks, but at present there was very great insecurity in that respect. He hoped that in some way a return would be made so that everybody would be able to tell where the disease existed, and by that means some security would be afforded against the spread of infection. He believed that the disease of swine fever had already been dealt with, but he trusted as regarded other diseases which had been alluded to there might be more definite action taken.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
desired to emphasise the two points brought forward by his hon. friend the Member for Limerick. Indirectly, Ireland would be affected by this question of the importation of hay and straw from infected 267 countries. Foot-and-mouth disease spread insidiously and rapidly, and could only be put down with great expense. It should be prevented from coming into this country, for so surely as it was introduced here it would reach Ireland, whose markets would be closed. The hon. Gentleman representing the Department had discharged his duty with a great deal of ability and a great deal of tact, but he would ask him to press upon the heads of the Department the necessity for more caution as regarded the introduction of disease. The other point to which attention had been drawn was connected with butter. Anyone who knew anything about the manufacture of this article and margarine would recognise that tons upon tons of milk-blended butter and margarine were weekly palmed off on the people of this country under the name of butter. It was not only a fraud on the people who made genuine butter, but a fraud on the consumers, who were imposed upon in a most glaring and evil way, and he certainly thought the Board of Agriculture had been remiss in this matter, and had allowed the firm to which special attention had been drawn a privilege which enabled them to violate the Act of last year, which they had hoped would do something to prevent this illicit trade.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE
I may be permitted to reply to the points which have been raised. With regard to glanders, it is, of course, a very serious disease, and is regarded so by the Board of Agriculture, but I am glad to say there has been a steady diminution during the last few years. In 1904 there were 1,529 outbreaks, in 1905 there were 1,214, in 1906 1,066, and last year 854. That was the lowest year we have had for eight years. With regard to the number of horses affected, last year was the lowest for the last six years. The figures are as follows:—1904, 2,658; 1905, 2,068; 1906, 2,012; and last year 1,921; so that not only have the outbreaks been fewer, but fewer horses have been attacked. It is, however, sufficiently serious to justify the attention which has been given to it, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for alluding to it, because the more attention is drawn to a disease of this kind the more likely people are to take trouble to stamp it out, and to take the necessary steps to get rid of it. 268 Perhaps hon. Members are not aware that the new Order in connection with glanders was issued on 1st January this year to local authorities. It deals chiefly with two points—increasing the power of local authorities to apply tests and obliging them to slaughter animals affected. I am told the London County Council administration has on the whole been very satisfactory. They are the local authority having the control of the horses affected, which seems to be the most serious charge brought by the hon. Member, and I think anything he has to say in regard to the dangers of horses suffering from glanders being taken through the streets ought to be addressed to that authority, although it is perfectly right that the Board of Agriculture should be made acquainted with any cases of that kind as well. With regard to the question of the advertisement of "Pearksown" as a substitute for butter, it is within the four corners of the law. The Board of Agriculture has no power to interfere with the advertisement, as I understand it. They have allowed it to be registered just in the same way that they allow a large number of other names to be registered, but none of them include the word butter, and as the word butter is excluded from their nomenclature there is no reason for the Board of Agriculture to step in. Whilst some of these individuals may be ingenious in their advertisements, so long as they keep within the four corners of the law the Board of Agriculture has no administrative power to interfere.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
Will the Board of Agriculture approve of this firm selling this article in their shops as "Pearksown" and thus lead the public to believe that they are buying butter?
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
So long as the articles are properly described the public will buy the article at their own risk. "Pearksown" does not indicate to the public that this article is butter, and at any rate the same is not allowed to be associated with butter, and the public asking for butter cannot be given this article as butter. With regard to another point raised by the hon. Member for Ashford, who complained that the Board of Agriculture had not taken sufficiently prompt steps to deal 269 with gooseberry mildew, the Board have from time to time taken definite action. A leaflet has been issued which deals in a very comprehensive way with all the steps which must be taken to exterminate this disease, and to get rid of it whenever it is found, and an Order was issued quite recently on 10th December, in which districts affected are scheduled, and all the names of the places where the disease has occurred are included in the scheduled areas. I do not know if the hon. Member desires further information in regard to the exact places, but they are given with some detail, and I think probably steps have been taken sufficient to get rid of this pest.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
Supposing the disease were to break out in Kent, would the Board be willing to issue an Order giving Kent power to destroy bushes?
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
Under the Order which has been issued I understand it could be easily extended to new districts where outbreaks have occurred. Clause 5, Sub-section 2 says "no bush shall be removed from any plantation, garden, or field in which there is a bush which is diseased or suspected of being diseased and clippings from diseased or suspected bushes shall be forthwith destroyed by burning or other effective methods." In that way it is held the disease can be stamped out if the other recommendations in the Order are vigilantly followed. I am glad to say that at the present time the disease has not broken out in Kent, and it is hoped that with the publicity which has been given to the subject all those who have gooseberry bushes under their care will take every precaution to prevent the disease spreading if it does break out. The hon. Member asked me a question with regard to black scab. There are several other pests which affect this country. Under the powers given by the Act of last year it is proposed to issue very shortly regulations which will include this particular disease. I hope it will not be many days before that is issued.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said he would not have risen but for the unsatisfactory answer 270 which had been given to an hon. Member on the Irish benches on the subject of milk-blended butter. He would like to call the hon. Gentleman is attention to the fact that they had been distinctly told, both in Committee and in the House, that the Board of Agriculture would not sanction any name which did not make it clear to the buyer that the article was not butter. Nobody could say that the word "Pearksown" conveyed the impression that it was not butter or not soap or not cheese, or not anything else. Nobody could tell what "Pearksown" might be, but the supposition was, as Pearks was a large butter dealer, that "Pearksown" would be considered to be butter. It absolutely violated the promises which were given them that no name would be sanctioned which did not make it perfectly clear that this was not butter, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would do what he could to prevent at any rate in the future, names such as those which obviously misled the public, being registered.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
asked if he might correct the statement which had just been made. He had sat on the Committee and had followed the subject all through with great care. He thought the pledge given was that the name should in no way convey that it was butter. It was impossible to give a name which proved that it was not butter. The pledge was given and he thought carried out that the name should in no way convey to the purchaser that it was butter, and though it was quite true that by using the name of the firm over a substance that looked like butter the public might be led to consider it butter, he did not know that the Board of Agriculture could do anything once they had sanctioned the name.
§ *MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said he would refer the hon. Gentleman to the words of the Act of last year. Clause 9, sub-section 3, said that if any person dealt with, sold or offered for sale any article suggestive of butter or anything connected with the dairy interest he should be liable to very severe penalties. If he rightly understood the complaint of his hon. friend below the gangway it was not only that the Board had licensed the name "Pearksown" along with some other eighteen names, but that it had 271 taken no action in reference to advertisements which had appeared in all the leading newspapers of the country, by this firm and which read as follows, "'Pearksown' is a mixture of butter and milk, an absolutely pure wholesome food and better than the best butter.'" Again he referred to the wording of the statute to the effect that a trader was not to offer for sale substances of this kind by a description which was suggestive of butter or anything connected with the dairy industry. He had put several questions to the hon. Baronet the Member for South Somerset on the subject and it might be a mere coincidence, or that somewhat late in the day the Board of Agriculture had taken some indirect action, but these advertisements had disappeared from the newspapers within the last few days. He had handed a copy of
§ the advertisement to the hon. Baronet, who confessed that he had never seen it, but whatever might have been the reason these advertisements had dropped. He could only express his regret that those who had opposed the legalising of this middle article did not succeed in their opposition, because it had become increasingly recognised that in licensing the sale of an article which was not margarine, which was most likely to be described as butter, and which was not butter, they had given those who were inclined to act dishonestly to the public a very great privilege which they were using freely to the detriment of the public interest.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 87; Noes, 207. (Division List No. 42.)273
|Acland-Hood, Rt Hn. Sir Alex. F||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Duffy, William J.||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield|
|Balcarres, Lord||Faber, George Denison (York)||Nield, Herbert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (City Lond.||Fell, Arthur||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Ffrench, Peter||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.||Fletcher, J. S.||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Gretton, John||Percy, Earl|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Guinness, Walter Edward||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Halpin, J.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hamilton, Marquess of||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'rd||Roberts, S. (Sheffield. Ecclesall)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Cave, George||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hon. Victor C. W.||Hill, Sir Clement||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hills, J. W.||Starkey, John R.|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Hogan, Michael||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A (Worc.||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon. Col. H.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Keswick, William||Winterton, Earl|
|Collings, Rt. Hn. J. (Birmingh'm||Kimber, Sir Henry||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Viscount Valentia and Mr.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Magnus, Sir Philip||Forster.|
|Delany, William||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Meagher, Michael|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romf'rd|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)|
|Agnew, George William||Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Black, Arthur W.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Beale, W. P.||Boulton, A. C. F.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Bowerman, C. W.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Bell, Richard||Bramsdon, T. A.|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Branch, James|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Berridge, T. H. D.||Brodie, H. C.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Idris, T. H. W.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Robinson, S.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Jowett, F. W.||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Byles, William Pollard||Kearley, Hudson E.||Rowlands, J.|
|Cameron, Robert||Kekewich, Sir George||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Kilbride, Denis||Sears, J. E.|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Laidlaw, Robert||Seely, Colonel|
|Clough, William||Lambert, George||Shackleton, David James|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lehmann, R. C.||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Corbett, C H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Lewis, John Herbert||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Lough, Thomas||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Cox, Harold||Lundon, W.||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Crean, Eugene||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Crossley, William J.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Summerbell, T.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Maclean, Donald||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||M'Callum, John M.||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||M'Crae, George||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E|
|Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall||M'Micking, Major G.||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Elibank, Master of||Maddison, Frederick||Verney, F. W.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Mallet, Charles E.||Vivian, Henry|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Walton, Joseph|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln||Wardle, George J.|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Markham, Arthur Basil||Waring, Walter|
|Fenwick, Charles||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Findlay, Alexander||Marnham, F. J.||Wason, Rt. Hn. E. (Clackmann'n|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Massie, J.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Menzies, Walter||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Micklem, Nathaniel||Watt, Henry A.|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Montagu, E. S.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Grant, Corrie||Montgomery, H. G.||Whitbread, Howard|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Morrell, Philip||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Morse, L. L.||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Gurdon, Rt Hn. Sir W. Brampton||Murray, James||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Myer, Horatio||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Wiles, Thomas|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||O'Malley, William||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Hedges, A. Paget||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Philipps, J. Wynford (Pembroke||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Pollard, Dr.||Winfrey, R.|
|Henry, Charles S.||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Radford, G. H.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Higham, John Sharp||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Hodge, John||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'|
|Horniman, Emslie John||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n|
|Hudson, Walter||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Hyde, Clarendon||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
*SIR BERKELEY SHEFFIELD (Lincolnshire, Brigg) moved the reduction of the Vote by £100 in order to call attention to an important point in the working of the Small Holdings (England) Act. The
point arose from the fact that a certain landlord in North Lincolnshire had a short time ago—in December last—two farms thrown on his hands owing to the sudden death of the tenant who had been farming the two put into one. The landlord decided upon keeping one and
letting it to a tenant, the other he offered to the Lindsey County Council for the purpose of the creation of small holdings under the Act of 1907. The rent of the farm as two farms was 21s. per acre, rising in two years to 23s. per acre. The farm consisted of three separate sets of buildings recently renovated and a house. The first official offer was made to the council on 23rd January and a sub-committee of the council on small holdings visited the farm and reported favourably upon it, both as regards the suitability of the land and the price asked. The size of the farm being 240 acres, the landlord was asked to take back forty, making a round 200 acres, and at a meeting held at Lincoln on 19th February, at which Mr. Talbot Baines, the Commissioner of the Board of Agriculture was present, the following took place—
The whole matter was fully gone into and report was read of the Visiting Inspection Committee of their visit and recommendations as to how the existing buildings could be utilised and the land suitably sub-divided. Details as to the rent and interest to be charged tenants were fully gone into and the advance and opinion of the Commissioners withheld thereon. It was ultimately decided that it would be necessary to charge the tenants an additional rent, viz., (1) 5s. 9d. or 6s. for prepayment of interest and sinking fund on expenses incurred with respect to house and buildings, and (2) 3s. for repairs, management, collection, &c, making rent proposed as follows—Kent to landlord 20s.; interest, &c, on buildings 6s.; management, repairs, &c. 3s., or a probable total rent of 29s. On further consideration it was decided and a resolution carried to this effect: "That it would be impracticable to take the land offered as from April next. That if, however, the land could be offered (200 acres) including the existing house and buildings on a thirty-five years lease from April 6th, 1909, at the same rent (1), the council would be prepared to enter into an agreement to take the same, subject to the approval of the Board of Agriculture, the Local Government Board, and of the county council. The Committee do not anticipate that any difficulty will arise in obtaining the required consents. The Committee were obliged for the ofter, but owing to the limited period during which it had been before them they felt that they were unable to adopt any other course than herein suggested. In the event of any agreement being arrived at for the taking of any land as from April, 1909, the Committee would require some facilities for adapting the land and premises for the prospective occupiers, previous to the commencement of the tenancy.
The Commissioner, Mr. Talbot Baines, acknowledged that this was the first case that had ever come before the Board of Agriculture where the landlord
had voluntary offered a farm for the purpose of small holdings under the Bill of 1907. A letter dated 24th February, written to Mr. Talbot Baines with reference to the declinature by the county council of the farm except under the conditions which he had just read, was as follows—
With reference to the above offer which you are aware was made to the county council of the parts of Lindsey, Lincolnshire, on 29th January, I have received a letter from Mr. Scorer, the clerk to the said council, stating they were unable to accept this offer to take the land and buildings as from 6th April next. I enclose a copy of Mr. Scorer's letter, in which he further states the council would be willing to enter into an agreement to take up a lease commencing 6th April, 1909.
I am directed by the owner to inform you that, with every wish to see these small holdings made, he cannot undertake to reserve the 200 acres of land and buildings, for which he has already received many applications, until 6th April, 1909, but now wishes to make the offer (he has made to the county council) to you as Commissioner for small holdings (under Section 5 (2) of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1907), i.e., for a lease of thirty-five years to commence 6th April next.
Since the farm must be dealt with at once the owner cannot see his way to allow the offer to remain open for longer than a fortnight from this date, viz., up to 9th March, by which time I shall be glad to receive a definite reply.
I am further desired to enquire of you whether the Board of Agriculture are not in possession of public funds which could be utilised immediately in order that this opportunity may not be lost.
In reply to that letter, Mr. Baines of the Board of Agriculture wrote the following—
I am obliged by your letter, enclosing copy of letter to you from the clerk of the Lindsey County Council.
I am sorry you cannot see your way to fall in with the views of the Committee, but I think you appreciate their difficulty, and that they are acting only prudently in declining your offer of the farm at Lady Day next. I quite understand, and I think the Committee will also, your position, and your inability to keep the farm in hand for a year in order to lease it to the county council at Lady Day, 1909, but possibly you may be able to offer some other land to the county council before that date.
The Board of Agriculture are obliged to you for offering to lease the farm to them, but do not think that Section 5 (2) of the Act of 1907 is applicable in this case, as it can hardly be argued that the "county council have failed to fulfil their obligations.' Even if they had the Commissioners would have the same difficulties to contend with that stand in the way
of the county council taking the land this coming Lady Day.
You will no doubt communicate your decision to the county council,
It would be obvious to anyone with a knowledge of land that no blame was attached in this matter, either to the committee of the county council or to the Board of Agriculture, or to the owner of the land; but what was to be said of the policy of the Act? Here was an instance in which the main contention put forward by the Government, namely, that a system of public hiring and letting was preferable to purchase and resale, was tested; and it was found that the system could not be brought into operation without a serious loss either to the owner or to the public authority and a heavy charge upon the tenant. No provision appeared to be made in the Act for meeting losses of this kind out of national funds; for evidently the Board did not consider that they could contribute to the loss under Section 17 of the Act. Similar questions must arise in many cases of voluntary, and in nearly all cases of compulsory, hiring; for in every case charge for management must be added, and in that event, would a sitting tenant, unless compelled, give the facilities desired? It would seem, therefore, that a serious burden not contemplated by the framers of the Act would fall upon the counties in which the hiring clauses were put into operation. He did not point this out to the Committee for the purpose of disparaging the idea of small holdings or of the Small Holdings Act. He was bound to move a reduction of this Vote on account of what seemed to him to be the absurd proposals of the Government, and also with the view of eliciting exactly what the Government meant to do in the way of meeting such cases as this one. He might say in conclusion, if it would be of any interest to the Committee to know the name of the landlord, that it was himself, and that the farm belonged to him. He would be much obliged if the right hon. Gentleman would inform him what steps the Government proposed to take in view of the fact that the county council could not take over a farm voluntarily offered to them even if, as was perfectly true, it was short notice. But on the other hand, supposing
a county council came to him and compelled him to give up that farm to them, he would have received a year's notice. The county council could not have come upon the land without his leave, and they would have had the same difficulties at the end of twelve months as at the end of three months. He moved the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That Item Class II., Vote 11 (Board of Agriculture and Fisheries) be reduced by £100."—(Sir Berkeley Sheffield.)
§ *THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. HARCOURT, Lancashire. Rossendale)
The Committee are aware that I had some connection with the passing of the Act referred to, through the House last year, but they are also aware that since the passing of the Act, I have had no responsibility for its administration, and I have heard nothing of this case up to the moment the hon. Baronet rose to make his speech. I observe in passing, that the charge suggested of 3s. an acre for management seems extremely high, and I should be sorry if management generally throughout the country were likely to work out at anything like that rent per acre. The charge for houses and buildings mentioned by the hon. Baronet was 6s. an acre in this case. Of course, that would depend on the quality and quantity of buildings and the size of house to be provided.
§ SIR BERKELEY SHEFFIELD
If the right hon. Gentleman would like, I could give him the exact sum the county council proposed to spend on buildings.
§ *MR. HARCOURT
For my purpose that is not material. As far as I understand, the county council found some difficulty in taking the farm from the date at which it was offered. I do not understand that they suggested to the hon. Baronet that he should give them the farm at once, but that their tenancy should not commence until a year later than the date at which the farm was offered. [An HON. MEMBER: But they asked for access.] Of course, it is an obvious fact that they had no right of 279 access to land of which they had not become the tenant. I imagine that what really happened here was that the Lindsay County Council had not got their scheme for small holdings ready. No doubt they had applications, but probably the scheme was not in such a state that they were able to commit themselves in that particular district to the taking, as from Lady Day this year, of a farm of 200 acres. I am sure nobody in the House will doubt the generosity of the intention and action of the hon. Baronet, and his warm desire to meet the demand which appears to have arisen in this district for small holdings, but his offer to the Commissioners was not really a practical one, though a perfectly honest one, because the county council are undoubtedly going to fulfil their duty, though, perhaps, not by taking this particular farm on a particular day. They are obviously anxious to fulfil their duty and, therefore, it would be impossible for the Commissioners to attempt to act in default of the county council as if they had failed in their duty; and in any case they could not act in default of the county council without having given considerable notice and gone through all the forms prescribed by the Act. Again, the Commissioners could not have acted in this case experimentally, because experiments have to be made where there is no obvious demand or where such demand is not likely to be made. Neither of these circumstances existed in the case put by the hon. Member. The hon. Member says that from his own experience and that of other landlords, it was difficult to get the Act into operation. I can assure him that that is not the case. There must undoubtedly, in some cases, be a little delay in getting the Act to work, but I can only wish that there were more landlords in the country who would so willingly and so early put land at a moderate rent at the disposal of the county councils, and I hope that no difficulties may arise which will prevent those county councils immediately availing themselves of the facilities provided by the Act.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
It is perfectly true, no doubt, that the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of this Act during its passage through the House of Commons, 280 and who conducted it with great skill and ability, has nothing to do with its administration. But what is the position with which we are confronted to-day? Here is a matter which has been the subject of prolonged correspondence and negotiation between the Board of Agriculture, the Lincolnshire County Council, and my hon. friend behind me. That correspondence and the position submitted to the Committee to-day raise a question of the greatest possible interest and very considerable importance with regard to the whole future of the administration of this Act. Although we have the satisfaction of opposing a Cabinet which is sometimes described as a Cabinet of all the talents, it appears to me that they are unable to produce on those benches one single person who is in a position to deal with this question. I frankly admit that my right hon. friend has made the very best of what seems to me to be an exceedingly bad case for the Government. But that is not all. When a question of great importance is raised by a member of the House so lucidly as it has been by my hon. friend, there is no one here on the part of the Government who is able to give any valid or useful explanation. This is one of the most remarkable cases which has ever occurred in the House of Commons in connection with a great measure which has just been brought into operation. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh."]
§ MR. HARCOURT
The Minister responsible for the Board of Agriculture is absent through illness, and not the slightest intimation was given to me or to any other member of the Government, that this question would be raised.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
That does not exonerate the Government, because the Minister for Agriculture has known of this matter for some time, and his first duty was to tell his colleagues that there had been a correspondence regarding this 281 peculiar and very critical action taken by the Board of Agriculture and the County Council of Lincolnshire, and that an Amendment had been put down on the Paper by the hon. Member for Brigg for the reduction of this Vote which, of course, meant that my hon. friend was going to raise this question on that correspondence. The President of the Board of Agriculture has not informed his colleagues. Why did he not submit the case and send the correspondence to my right hon. friend, who would have then been in a better position than he is now to deal with it? What I say is that there is no excuse available for the position when the case has been raised, and when the correspondence has been going on for months, that no Minister is ready to rise and advise the House of Commons upon it. I saw my hon. friend this morning just before I came down to the House. I had seen his Amendment on the Paper, and I confess I had one of my own; but from what I heard from him, and from what I have heard to-day, it seems to me that the case is perfectly clear and simple, and it is one which will arise over and over again in connection with the Act of last year. A landlord offered land suited in every possible way for small holdings. I know something of agriculture, and I know that the land is precisely of that kind adapted for small holdings, and it was offered at a rent which seems to me to be exceedingly moderate. The offer was an exceptionally liberal one, the rent asked being 2s. an acre less than the landlord had been offered from some other quarter. During the passage of this Act through the House hon. Members were deprived of every opportunity of raising points upon it, but I think that I called attention to this difficulty which might arise on more than one occasion. That difficulty has arisen in this case out of a demand for access to the land before the tenancy was agreed upon—a thing which the right hon. Gentleman himself has already pointed out cannot be asked for or expected to be allowed. I do not hesitate to say that the concession of access to a farm for the purpose of making it suitable for small holdings while another tenant is in possession would be an impossible condition. The farm 282 would be put into an unworkable condition for the tenant, and, moreover, when the county council or the Agriculture Commission finally made up their minds to take the farm they would still have all their work to do to put it in a condition suitable for small holdings. I cannot help thinking that when the Act was passing through Committee, it was always acknowledged as a fact that a very considerable sum would have to be paid for tenant right, and that seems to have been altogether forgotten and lost sight of. I tried to bring the matter before the members of the Committee so that provision should be made for it. So far as I could follow the right hon. Gentleman in the observations he has made, in the view of the Commissioners a very considerable addition to the rent—9s. or 9s. 6d.—would be required from the small holder before the occupation could be made to meet the charges upon it. The outgoing tenant would be entitled to claim, of course, as he is now, what is called sometimes tenant right, and sometimes an inventory on leaving his farm. Well, on a farm of this description the inventory comes always to a year and a half or perhaps two years rent, which would mean a considerable sum. I suppose this fact had dawned on the Commissioner when he was brought face to face with the case. As a man, of business the Commissioner would know perfectly well that in that event the Government or the county council would be placed in a very difficult position. During our discussions on matters of this kind we were told by my right hon. friend that that would be met by an adjustment of rent, but no adjustment of rent would be able adequately to supply a sum of this magnitude. This case only confirms my view, which I have always held, of the great mistake which was made in basing the Act almost entirely on compulsory hiring instead of on purchase. I repeat that the Government through their representative have made out no case whatever, and that as this correspondence has been going on for months between the Board of Agriculture and my hon. friend, and notice of an Amendment had been given to the Vote, and it was perfectly well-known that 283 this case would be raised on this particular occasion which had been specially devoted to opportunities for criticism of the action of the Board of Agriculture, it is a very remarkable thing that there is no member of the Government present to answer the case brought forward with so great moderation and ability by my hon. friend.
§ MR. ROGERS (Wiltshire, Devizes)
said the passing of the Small Holdings Act had revealed that throughout the country there was a very real and genuine demand for small holdings, far larger than was anticipated by some of the strongest advocates of the movement. The first step which every county council had to take was to satisfy itself as to the genuineness of the demand and as to the capacity of the would-be tenant, his position, and his general desirability as a tenant. That was what the county councils were engaged upon at the present time, and they were not in a position this Lady Day either to take or to refuse farms. They were now engaged in holding local inquiries; interviewing the would-be tenants, testing them, and finding out whether they possessed the means of becoming desirable tenants. This was a very considerable work and was taking up a considerable amount of time. It was also costing a certain amount of money. He hoped that, under these circumstances, the Board of Agriculture would interpret the clause relating to preliminary expenses in the widest and most generous fashion. The Act laid down that the preliminary expenses in connection with the acquisition of land must be refunded by the Treasury. He asked that the expenses incurred inquiring into the means of the people and their desirability as tenants should be interpreted as costs and expenses incurred in connection with the acquisition of the land. The other day the chairman of the Cambridgeshire Small Holdings Committee went to a fruit growing village to hold an inquiry. There were there no less than 250 applications from people who wanted land upon which to grow strawberries, gooseberries, and raspberries. It took that committee a week to make these inquiries, and even then they only got through two-thirds of their work. If local committees 284 were willing to work like that and county councils were willing to incur expenses and send their members to remote parts of the district, he hoped the Board of Agriculture would take a generous view of this clause and see that the cost of such proceedings was remitted to the county council, and also the other expenses he had referred to in connection with the preliminary acquisition of land. When the inquiries had reached the point at which they had eliminated the applicants who were obviously no good, and when they were dealing only with the genuine applicant, that was the time for a survey of the land, and he asked that the cost of this survey should be included in the preliminary expenses of the scheme. He had been informed that the cost of the fee paid to the agent employed for this purpose to survey some particular farm would be recoverable, and he would like that privilege to be extended also to the cost incurred by an official of the council sent down to inquire and report upon the adaptability of the land for the purposes of the Act. It seemed to him that some difficulty would arise about this question of agents' fees. The salary of the land agent employed by the council would be thrown upon the small holdings fund of the county, and would be a charge upon all the small holdings in the county. When there were a large number of small holding schemes in a county embracing 2,000 or 3,000 acres, the amount charged to each holding would be small, but where there might be only about two schemes it would be impossible to charge the whole cost of the preliminary inquiries upon those two schemes without running the rent up to a prohibitive point. He therefore asked that the Board of Agriculture should be prepared to treat the county council in a most generous and sympathetic fashion. He hoped the First Commissioner would be able to supply the council with model plans for buildings and also for cottages which would not be too expensive. From what he could see the county councils were taking up the work very well, and were working very sympathetically, and what they required from the Board of Agriculture was not coercion but a good deal of that sympathetic 285 consideration which a central department could give.
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
said that what they wished to discover was whether the county councils were taking this question in hand, and who was to bear the cost of the rent of the farm during the time it was being prepared for the new condition of things under small holdings, which might in some cases be a long and in others a short period. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the landlord who was giving up the land must not be expected to bear the expense of admitting the new tenant, sometimes compulsorily, into possession of the land before paying any rent. As he read Clause 17 the Government would not be able to make such a grant out of their fund. Nobody desired that the new tenant's rent should be raised permanently to cover the expenses of the transition period, which were incurred in connection with more the administration than the development of the land. In every case where the county council had to prepare the land for the new small holders the cost of the rent and other expenses ought to fall upon the county fund. That matter was not contemplated when the Act was passing through. He hoped that before this subject was passed on one side they would have some explanation from the Government for the benefit of all county councils as to where this expenditure for putting the land in order and preparing it for small holdings was to fall.
§ MR. WINFREY (Norfolk, S.W.)
said he did not think the difficulties in the way of letting land for small holdings were mainly those of preparing the land for the tenants. He thought the main difficulty was that the county councils had not had time to prepare their schemes, fully to see the applicants and generally to form date their plans. He did not hold a brief for the Lindsey County Council; he thought perhaps that that council had been a little too timid in the matter, and that if they had cropped the firm themselves and sold their crops at Michaelmas they would have been not losers, but gainers, and would have had the summer six months in which to have placed their houses and buildings upon it. 286 He had taken farms at Lady-Day, and farmed them for six months, and during that time he had been adapting them for small holdings, and in no case had he lost money by the arrangement. Still he was not quite sure that they could expect a public authority to do what a private individual did, and therefore he did not think they could complain of the Lindsey County Council too much. With regard to the question of who had to bear the cost while the farm was being adapted, it was only a very small part of the land that was required for houses and buildings. The land was there for cultivation. It might be a little inconvenient for small holders to farm their land until they had proper houses and buildings, but he had always found that small holders were ready to be placed at some slight inconvenience if they could get settled on the land. Only this Michaelmas the Lincolnshire Small Holdings Association had taken some 600 acres of Crown land, which was absolutely bare of buildings, and they had divided it up into small holdings of 20 and 30 acres. The men started into occupation on 11th October, but hurry as they might they could not get the houses and buildings ready for them in time. The men went into their houses at Christmas and he knew they were put to some inconvenience, but they paid rent for their land from last Michaelmas, and they would pay for their houses from Lady-Day. Therefore, he did not think that public authorities would find that great difficulty in adapting farms. And they must remember that some of these farms had houses and buildings upon them. The hon. Member had asked who was to pay the tenant right? He was rather surprised to hear that question. Of course, the incoming tenant would pay the tenant right. The small holder was always prepared to pay his tenant right. He had had to deal with some hundreds of them, and he had never heard of one who was not prepared to pay his tenant right in a manly way. He thought the charge of 6s. per acre for farm houses and buildings being adapted to the land was a very excessive figure, but he thought as to the 3s. for management that when they came to look into it they would find that it included the rates. The hon. Baronet the Member for Brigg had now left the House, but 287 he would take the opportunity of communicating with him, and if he would give him a fortnight to consider, he thought the Lincolnshire Small Holdings Committee would be ready to take the farm which the county council did not seem inclined to do.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH (Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury)
thought it was obvious that there would be enormous expenditure in cases in which a county council, whether they wished it or not, would be compelled to take the whole farm for the purpose of dividing it into small holdings. The President of the Board of Agriculture had very properly written round to the county councils telling them that they should take the whole farm, and in many cases that was done. Most out-goings in the South of England were at Michaelmas, and in a great many cases a considerable time must elapse between the taking of a farm from the landowner and the letting of it to a large number of small holders, because there were not only the buildings to be put up, but the county council would have to erect cottages as well. In addition, some fields would have to be fenced to make them smaller than they were now, and there was also the question of providing a water supply and making additional roads. One could not do all these things while someone was in possession of the land, and it must, therefore, follow that a considerable period would elapse from the time when a farm was taken to the time when it could be let to small holders, and he wished that they could have had that evening some declaration from the Government as to who was to bear the cost of rent during the interval. It was quite certain that there would be a loss of rent to the county council, and it seemed obvious that to meet this expense was one of the objects of the Small Holdings Account. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Wimbledon that it was not courteous on the part of the Government when they saw various Amendments on the Paper in reference to this Small Holdings Act that they could not supply some Member of the Government to deal with the question. He was sorry that the representative of the Board of Agriculture was not present, and regretted 288 the cause of his absence, but one would have thought that the Government could have found some Member of it who would have devoted some time to considering the subject and the facts which had been brought forward that evening. He hoped that the information which they desired would be forthcoming. With regard to the general working of the Act, he thought it was quite true that a very large number of applicants had come forward, and a very much larger number of people than were expected. But it was likely that a considerable portion of these applicants would drop out under the scrutiny of the county council, because their applications were due to the fact that people in the country were led by Liberal Members at the last general election to believe that they were going to have free land, but when they found that they would have to pay for the tenant right and stock he thought that a good many of them would drop out. The hon. Member for Wiltshire had brought forward a good many points as to the application of the Act, and he himself thought it was obvious that, as far as they had gone at present, county councils had found that they would have to charge small holders about 10 per cent. more than they would pay the landowners, in consequence of the many expenses in connection with small holdings, and in connection with the inquiries which were being held throughout the country by the councils. They would have to take surveys of the land and employ gentlemen to look after the necessary repairs and collect the rent. Some of these preliminary expenses might very properly be paid out of the Small Holdings Account, which would enable county councils to charge small holders as low a rent as possible. In conclusion, he hoped that before the discussion was brought to an end some Member of the Government would give them some idea of the nature of this Account, and of the position of the central body in regard to it.
§ *MR. HARCOURT
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon felt so greatly the indignation which he expressed as to the imaginary misconduct of the Government, or he would have remained in his place to hear 289 the explanation which I was ready to offer. I do not think, moreover, anyone would have been likely to assume, on an Amendment put down by the hon. Member for Brigg to the Vote on Account, that he was going to attack, or intended to make an attack upon the Department on the question of the letting of one of his own farms to the county council., If he had intimated his intention of doing so, I am sure the Department would have furnished the information. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon seems to have forgotten some of the details of the Act, and he seems to treat it exclusively as an Act which contains hiring powers, and as if there were no power given to the county council to purchase land to be divided up into small holdings either by agreement or upon compulsion. It has been said that in regard to the question of tenant right, or inventory, or tillages, which are not quite interchangeable terms, that I stated in Committee upstairs that these matters could be dealt with by an adjustment of rent, but I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen who were present will bear me out when I say that the case where I suggested that the matter could be dealt with by an adjustment of rent was where severance occurred, in taking away a field or a number of fields from a particular farm. In my opinion, these matters of tenant right, or inventory, or tillager, can be treated as part of the equipment of small holdings. The county councils may borrow on a long term for equipment, and, therefore, the rent paid for (say) six months during the process of equipment, although it will not be all lost, may perfectly fairly be charged to that head, and spread over a long term under a loan by the county council. But I have never said that that is a matter which can be dealt with by an adjustment of rent. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire has asked that there shall be a liberal interpretation of the words in the Act "the preliminary expenses of the acquisition of land." Of course, it is impossible for me to lay down any legal or exact Treasury definition of these words, but I am in a position to say that the Board of Agriculture will interpret those words in a broad and 290 generous sense, with a desire to give every assistance to all county councils, so as to facilitate their action in the acquisition of land and in any inquiry which it is necessary to make before the land can be acquired. I think, though I do not desire to pledge myself, that the cost of survey of the land, at all events, in many cases, may be included as a preliminary. I think also that, where an agent's remuneration is allocated to different services which he may perform, certain parts of that remuneration may well form part also of the preliminary cost of acquisition. I hope in these ways the action of the county councils may be facilitated, and that we may be able to meet them generously, and far more than half-way in so translating these words.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH
said the right hon. Gentleman, while he stated that some of the expenses of the agent might be borne out of the central fund as part of the preliminary expenses, had not answered the question whether after the small holdings had been started the agent's expenses in regard to the collection of rent and repairs could be so borne.
§ MR. HARCOURT
Oh, no, I do not go to that length, only the preliminary inquiries which may be made before the acquisition of the holding. Obviously, the collection of rents and cost of subsequent management must be charged upon the small holders.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he wanted to draw the attention of the Committee to the defence of the Board of Agriculture which they had heard raised on the other side of the House by the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk. The hon. Gentleman, who had, he believed, considerable experience of this subject, being concerned with a society or association for taking land and letting it out in small holdings, had said that there was no difficulty whatever, because the county council had to take the land if the tenant went out at Lady-Day, and they could crop it until Michaelmas and make a profit out of it. But the hon. Member's conscience seemed rather to restrict him, for he had 291 some doubt as to whether the county council was to turn farmer. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman, who had contemplated a great many things, had contemplated that the county councils were in future to become farmers of land left vacant, for that would be a very poor outlook for the unfortunate ratepayers. He would point out to the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk that in order to crop the land, as far as his experience went, they must have horses, implements, and seed, etc., all of which the county council did not possess. When the county council took a farm in March it had to buy horses, implements, and a variety of other things necessary to crop the land. They sold the crop in September if gathered, or disposed of it afterwards. What had they to do with all those implements and horses when they were done with them? They had to sell them. ["Hear, hear."] It was very easy to say "Hear, hear," but it was not so easy to sell the things once they had got them and they had been used. A horse cost £40 or £45, and a plough £6 or £7, and at the end of six months, after they had been used, they would have to be sold at a greatly reduced price, and the loss would be far greater than the profit that they might have on the crop. The hon. Member for Woodbridge was in his place, and he was almost certain that the hon. Gentleman would admit that during the first year a tenant did not hope to make anything out of his tenancy. The landlord, if he held the land for a short time did not hope to make any profit, and if he had to hold the farm for a year before the tenancy began, he always looked upon that year as a certain loss. He himself was very often advised by his agent not to take a farm on for a short time, because he would be certain to make nothing out of it. He did not pretend to be a great agriculturist or a great man of business, but he thought he could manage a farm as well as the county council. If an ordinary farmer could not make a profit when holding a farm for a short time, he was quite sure that the county council could not. Then the hon. "Gentleman said:" Oh, the tenant is ready to pay in a manly sort of way." It was not a question of "a manly sort 292 of way," but whether the tenant had the money or not with which to pay. No doubt if he had the money he would pay it, whether in a manly way or otherwise. He paid a just debt if he had the money; if he had not the money he could not pay. He could not see where the adjective "manly" came in. It was the clap-trap held by the other side. The tenant might be very manly, but unless he had the money in his pocket his manliness was of no use whatever to him. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the valuations might be spread by the county council over a number of years. But where was the security of the county council? The valuations of horses, implements, etc., were made for the incoming tenant by a valuer. Supposing the incoming tenant did not keep the farm in the same cultivation as when he took it over; he was letting the farm down; he could not pay the rent; he was turned out, and the valuation payment was spread over a number of years. But where did the county council come in? If they let it again, they would not get the same valuation that they ought to have received when it was taken over by the small holder, because there was not so much value put into the land as there had been when the farmer tenant went out. Therefore, the county council must lose. It seemed to him that it was a most dangerous doctrine for the right hon. Gentleman to hold out that the county council was to be allowed to spread the valuation over a number of years. It was very hard on the ratepayers. There were one or two members of the Labour Party present. One of them had held forth strongly that afternoon on the iniquity of the Agricultural Rating Act, and of the burdens cast on artisans in towns in consequence of it. Why did not one or two hon. Gentlemen below the gangway get up and make an observation on this point, because artisans would have to pay the money which the county council ought to have collected from the small holders; and when the small holders came to grief, as in nine cases out of ten they would, the county council would be without the money of these tenants. He had a small holding farm of about forty acres, and six weeks ago 293 the tenant had not got his hay crop gathered. It was cut in the autumn, and it was out until the middle of February. An adjoining farmer gave him a sovereign for his ten acres of hay, which ran about two tons to the acre, in order to use it as fodder for his ewes. That was what was going to happen. The small holder would get his hay crop cut, and then a shower would come on and he would have in the intervals of fine weather to collect ten acres. He had been much struck with the knowledge of Wiltshire possessed by the President of the Local Government Board. If he went down to Crick-lade he would find that in a small holding some five miles from there the facts were as he had stated. He hoped his hon. friend would go to a division, because this was an extremely important question, especially to ratepayers who did not happen to be small holders; but he also hoped that before the debate closed they would have some indication that the Act was to be administered in a businesslike manner. It was a very unbusinesslike suggestion about the payments being spread over long terms of years. It was only a short time ago that they had a debate on the extremely bad policy of spending money on military works by way of loan. The right hon. Gentleman wanted to do exactly the same thing in regard to small holdings. All that loans did was to spread the cost over a series of years. He would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he was advocating the policy which they had pursued in the case of the Army; but, whereas they had the funds of the country at their back, he only had the funds of the unfortunate ratepayers behind him. He hoped his arguments might have some effect, and that the right hon. Gentleman would get up and say he recognised the force of them and that he could not advocate what the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for War had refused to do, but would give instructions that the spreading of the payments over a series of years by the county councils was not to be carried out.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN
said it was very astonishing how little interest the Government took in a matter which certainly was the best thing they did last year, and in regard to which they had boasted all over the country. They apparently had not the least idea how the Act had been working, or how the money Parliament had voted had been spent. The right hon. Gentleman had been asked how the £100,000 voted for the purpose of the Act had been spent; he had made no attempt to reply. It really was odd, considering this was a Vote for agriculture, that it should never have occurred to any of the Government that there would be a debate on the Small Holdings Act, which they had boasted was a great measure to bring the people back to the land. Was it remarkable that they should take some interest in seeing whether that measure had worked well? Surely the hon. Gentleman could give them some instance of the way in which this £100,000 had been spent, what purposes it had been spent upon, and how much had been spent. That was what they wanted to know, and they were entitled to know it. Several hon. Members had asked, and he could not imagine a better opportunity for letting them know.
§ *MR. HARCOURT
I think the hon. Gentleman is mistaken in thinking that his question has been asked. The £100,000 has been referred to, but I have not been asked how it has been spent. It has not been spent yet. The time has not come for spending £100,000 for paying the preliminary expenses. The salaries of the Commissioners will be provided separately out of monies voted by Parliament.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
Could the hon. Gentleman say how many new holders there are—how many people have taken advantage of the Act to become small holders?
§ SIE F. BANBURY
No, I do not. A great number of people have made applications under the impression that they were going to get land for nothing or for £1 an acre or for a very small amount. What I want to know is, are there any people who have actually taken possession of small holdings at present?
§ *MR. HARCOURT
The applications have not yet been sifted, and I do not know whether they have yet obtained small holdings from the county councils. They have in some cases obtained small holdings direct from landlords. I am one of them.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
I alluded to county councils and not to small holdings by agreement. I do not think there is one.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN
My question is, has any part of that £100,000 been spent. Are we to understand that none of it has been spent as yet?
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
greatly regretted that the charge had been made, for the first time he believed in the history of that House, against his hon. friend the Member for the City of London, that he had not carefully studied the subject on which he spoke. His speeches were marked by complete knowledge of the subject on which he spoke, and he had expressed very clearly the views that a large number of others held on this subject. He thought it was hardly tactful or just of the First Commissioner for Works, although they all respected him, to bring such a charge
§ against his hon. friend. He was not sure that he had correctly heard his hon. friend say that the county councils did the work entrusted to them in a businesslike manner. He very gravely doubted that. He had had five years' experience of one county council, and although' it was largely reformed since the days when he belonged to it, not because he had left its counsels, but because of an entire change in its constitution, he thought the last thing that could be said of it was that it did its work in a workmanlike and businesslike manner.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
I said that so far as I knew the county councils of England were carrying out this particular work in a businesslike manner.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
said he accepted his hon. friend's explanation, and he felt that that largely explained what he felt to be a lapse from the hon. Baronet's usual logical description of measures before the House. He felt bound to protest against the charge brought by the First Commissioner of Works that his hon. friend had not even read the Act which he was discussing. That was a very grave charge for any member of the Government to bring against any Member. He did not suppose his hon. friend minded, but others did, and they thought it was hardly a fair or a just charge to be brought by a member of the Government, or anyone with any-knowledge of their debates against an hon. Member who was so careful in his facts, and so deeply versed in every Bill, that he discussed.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 47; Noes, 167. (Division List No. 43.)297
|Acland-Hood, Rt Hn. Sir Alex. F.||Carlile, E. Hildred||Doughty, Sir George|
|Balcarres, Lord||Castlereagh, Viscount||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Du Cros, Arthur Philip|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Fell, Arthur|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fletcher, J. S.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Collings, Rt. Hn. J. (Birmingh'm||Forster, Henry William|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Craik, Sir Henry||Gretton, John|
|Bull, Sir William James||Delany, William||Guinness, Walter Edward|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Nield, Herbert||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'rd||Parkes, Ebenezer||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Hill, Sir Clement||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Hills, J. W.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Winterton, Earl|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Hunt, Rowland||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Frederick Banbury and Mr. T. L. Corbett.|
|Kimber, Sir Henry||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Valentia, Viscount|
|Agnew, George William||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Armitage, R.||Hedges, A. Paget||Pollard, Dr.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Helme, Norval Watson||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.||Higham, John Sharp||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Hodge, John||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Hogan, Michael||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Beale, W. P.||Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bell, Richard||Horniman, Emslie John||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo||Hudson, Walter||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Hyde, Clarendon||Robinson, S.|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Idris, T. H. W.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Black, Arthur W.||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Rogers, F. E. Newmar|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Rowlands, J.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Sears, J. E.|
|Branch, James||Jowett, F. W.||Seely, Colonel|
|Brigg, John||Kearley, Hudson E.||Shackleton, David James|
|Brodie, H. C.||Kekewich, Sir George||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Laidlaw, Robert||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Lambert, George||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Lehmann, R. C.||Summerbell, T.|
|Cameron, Robert||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Taylor, Theodore, C. (Radcliffe|
|Clough, William||Lewis, John Herbert||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Lough, Thomas||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Corbett, CH (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Lupton, Arnold||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Verney, F. W.|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Vivian, Henry|
|Cox, Harold||M'Callum, John M.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Crean, Eugene||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Wardle, George J.|
|Crosfield, A. H.||M'Killop, W.||Waring, Walter|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||M'Micking, Major G.||Watt, Henry A.|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Maddison, Frederick||Weir, James Galloway|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln)||Whitbread, Howard|
|Elibank, Master of||Markham, Arthur Basil||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Marnham, F. J.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Massie, J.||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Masterman, C. F. G.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Findlay, Alexander||Menzies, Walter||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Micklem, Nathaniel||Wiles, Thomas|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Glover, Thomas||Mooney, J. J.||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Morse, L. L.||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Gooch, George Peabody||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Grant, Corrie||Murray, James||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Winfrey, R.|
|Griffith, Ellis, J.||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)|
|Gurdon, Rt Hn. Sir W. Brampton||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh||Nuttall, Harry|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said he rose to draw the attention of the Committee to the administration of the Post Office in regard to political societies allowed within the postal service. He wished also to draw attention to certain Answers which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General upon this particular subject. Perhaps it would be the most convenient course if he drew attention to the way in which this matter first came forward. In the autumn of last year certain servants in the Post Office had their attention drawn to a Socialistic League, which had its existence in the Post Office, and they wrote to the Postmaster-General in October drawing his attention to the existence of the Socialistic League, a society which consisted more or less of advanced Socialists. The opening letter came from a Mr. Read, employed in the Central Telegraph Office, to the Postmaster-General, on 18th October, 1907, in which he said—I venture with respect to draw your attention to a state of things which exists in this great branch of His Majesty's Civil Service. There exists in the Central Telegraph Office a society of more or less advanced Socialists. The increasing activity of this society is producing a feeling of considerable alarm and apprehension in many of us, and it is considered desirable, nay, necessary, that an educational movement be inaugurated with the object of dissipating, if possible, this danger to the service.It was admitted that this was an educational movement and not a political one. The answer of the Postmaster-General to this letter was—As you are doubtless aware, Post Office servants are not forbidden to join political societies, but at the same time they are expected to maintain a certain reserve in political matters, and they must not publicly put themselves forward on any side.In a further letter sent to the Postmaster-General on 7th December, 1907, by Mr. Read, the conditions were distinctly laid down upon which it was proposed to form a branch of the Primrose League in connection with the Central Telegraph Office, London. That letter stated—With great respect I beg to point out the following, in the hope that you may see your way clear to modify your decision:—(a) That 300 the branch of the Primrose League which it is proposed to form in connection with the Central Telegraph Office would be somewhat unique in its character, as its activity would be directed against the organised league of Socialists-existing in the Central Telegraph Office, apparently with your permission, (b) We have no intention whatever of taking part in political matters except so far as Socialism is a political danger or force. (c) That our efforts would be solely of an educational and social character. (d) That we should impress upon all who might become members the necessity for taking no prominent part in political matters.Feeling earnestly that the Civil Service and particularly the Post Office, as part of the constitution of the country, are in danger from the rapid growth of Socialism, our hope and desire is that we may be able to do something to arrest its growth; at any rate in the Central Telegraph Office, and as Socialism is an organised force there, it seems to us that it can only be met by an organised force; hence our desire to form a branch of the Primrose League. May I also be allowed to point out that so far from overlooking the reference contained in your reply of the 19th ult. as to holding office under the League, I merely expressed the hope that in electing our secretary, etc., from our membership we should enjoy the same privileges as the Pioneer Socialists League, a political society the officers of which are, and always have been, postal servants. This, of course, presupposes the fact that we shall not hold office under the League, but only in our own habitation. In conclusion I should like to lay emphasis on the fact that the attitude of other branches of the Primrose League does not concern us. In educating our colleagues in the maintenance of religion, the estates of the realm, and the Imperial ascendancy of the British Empire we cannot reasonably be considered as allying ourselves with any political party. We pledge ourselves to maintain the strictest reserve in political matters, except as far as the above aims are concerned.That letter laid down very distinctly that what was proposed by the Primrose League in the Post Office was that they should exercise the reserve which the Postmaster-General had laid down in his rules and regulations, and that they would not adopt the attitude of supporting any particular candidate at an election. After Parliament met this year some one or two Questions were put to the Postmaster-General with the object of eliciting what were the aims and objects of this Socialistic League, and whether it had been formed with the right hon. Gentleman's sanction Mid approval. The reply he gave to a Question put by him on 6th February last was as follows—As far as I am aware there is nothing in the programme of the League to connect it with, party politics.301 He had in his hand the organ of the League for last year, published in August, which distinctly stated that the Pioneer Socialistic League had for its object the propagation of the principles of Socialism, its field being primarily, but not exclusively, the personnel of the various postal services. This organ also went on to explain what they meant by Socialism. [LABOUR cries of "Read it."] All right, he would read it if hon. Members wished to hear it. [Cries of "Yes."]By Socialism is implied that system of society in which the land and the means of production, distribution, and exchange are collectively owned, their administration and control to be exercised and controlled by the democratic State in the interests of the entire community.That was the object of a society which the Postmaster-General allowed to exist in the Post Office. To show whether it was intended to be a political society or not he would mention that there was a reference made in the same organ to the Colne Valley election, in which the hope was expressed that that election was but the first of a series of triumphs for social democracy. He would like to ask the Postmaster-General whether he considered that political or not, and whether he thought that that was exercising the certain reserve which he had laid down in the rules and regulations of the Post Office should be observed. The same organ of the League further stated that—A congratulatory telegram was sent to Comrade Grayson on the success of his fight for revolutionary Socialism.And it was further announced that Comrade Grayson telegraphed back—Thanks to all for the splendid collection towards my election expenses.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
said that at the end of the pamphlet it was stated that every member of the League should consider that it was his duty to subscribe to one of its war-chests, and fresh subscribers could hand in their names to the divisional collector. He would like to ask the Postmaster-General whether, seeing what the avowed 302 object of that society was, and seeing that they were deliberately collecting money for the support of particular candidates, it was being continued with his sanction. Replying to a further Question on 23rd February last, the Postmaster-General said—It is specifically stated that they may not serve on a Committee having for its object to promote or prevent the return of a particular candidate to Parliament, nor support or oppose any particular candidate or party either by public speaking or writing.The organ he had been quoting from was not writing, but it was a printed document which was allowed with the right hon. Gentleman's sanction to be published in the Post Office service. He had in his hand the rules issued to the House last Friday for the guidance of servants in the Post Office. They were very simple and repeated what had been said in the replies previously given to Questions in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman concluded his Memorandum by quoting what Mr. Gladstone said in 1893, when he laid down that—The only restriction by the custom of the public service on persons employed is that persons in the permanent employment of the State shall not take a prominent or active part in political contests and it is not intended in future that any other restrictive rule should be imposed on the service of the Post Office.The Postmaster-General had tried to add to these rules, and as far as he could understand the nicety of the distinction which had been drawn, it was as to whether these societies in the Central Telegraph Office were branches connected with outside bodies. He supposed that most of these societies were connected with outside bodies. He knew the branch of the Tariff Reform League was. He was not, however, making any complaint as to the existence of these societies; what he did complain of was that the right hon. Gentleman allowed some societies but not others. There was a feeling in the Primrose League that the Postmaster-General had acted rather hurriedly in this matter, and that he had given his Answers to Questions without considering where they would lead him. The Primrose League was not a party organisation. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members might think it was, but it was 303 formed specially for the purpose of supporting religion, the estates of the realm, and the Empire. [Laughter.] Did hon. Members who laughed not support those principles. The object of the promoters was to confine the work of the League to those three principles. The proposed branch of the Primrose League at the Central Telegraph Office gave a pledge to the Postmaster-General that they would strictly conform to his rules as to exercising a proper reserve and not support the funds or the candidature of any particular Members of this House. And yet the right hon. Gentleman persisted in his refusal to allow a branch of the Primrose League to be formed at the Central Telegraph Office. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to reconsider the whole question. He begged to move a reduction of this Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed—"That Item Revenue Departments, Vote 3, be reduced by £100."—(Mr Samuel Roberts.)
MR. STANLEY WILSON (Yorkshire, E.R., Holderness)
said that they did not raise this question from any political motive nor in order to make an attack on the Socialists. They raised it in order to get equal rights for all political organisations. When the question was formerly raised in the House the right hon. Gentleman, replying to a Question put to him, said that the Primrose League was a political organisation identified with party politics, and that Post Office servants ought not to hold office in that league. Since then the right hon. Gentleman had stated that Civil servants could individually or collectively subscribe to any political organisation they chose. On 18th February the subject was raised by a Question to the right hon. Gentleman, and on that occasion he said that the decision which he had come to with regard to the Primrose League was founded on the existing rules governing the conduct of Post Office servants. He held in his hand the existing regulations, which were given on Friday last in Answer to a Question. The very first words were—There are no regulations specifically dealing with political associations.304 He did not see what right the Postmaster-General had to make the reply he did make to the Question put to him. He noticed that one of the rules said—Nevertheless, it is expected of them as public servants that they should maintain a certain reserve in political matters, and not put themselves forward on one side or the other.Yet the right hon. Gentleman had openly admitted that he had allowed a political organisation in the Post Office to identify itself entirely with a Party in that House. The right hon. Gentleman had told them on several occasions that the Civil Servants Socialist League was not a political league. All that he and his friends asked was, if it was not a political league—What was it? Would the right hon. Gentleman get up and tell the Committee what the constitution of the league was. Beyond that, as the right hon. Gentleman was undoubtedly well aware, there was another association in the Post Office which was just as strongly identified with a political Party as the Civil Servants Socialist League, known as the Fawcett Association. It was an association which was openly acknowledged by the right hon. Gentleman. It was openly identified with the Labour Party. He held in his hand the balance sheet, which showed that the association contributed during last year to the Labour Party as subscription, as sustenance, and for affiliation, £63 10s. 4d. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had seen the balance sheet, and whether it had been passed by him. There it was laid down that the Fawcett Association was affiliated to the Labour Party in that House. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether that met with his approval or not. The Committee must recognise that the right hon. Gentleman had not behaved in a wise manner with regard to this question. He and his friends demanded that political associations of every sort should receive equal rights in the Department which the right hon. Gentleman represented.
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON, Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I am very glad that this question has been raised in this form, and I have certainly no quarrel with the hon. Gentlemen who have raised it, if they have done so honestly, 305 as I am sure they have. I have in this matter been accused of dealing with various associations in a different manner—of recognising the status of one and refusing to recognise the status of another, although they are equally political. That is the case sought to be made out against me. I can only say that, so far as I am concerned, I have had no politics in my mind at all. I have endeavoured as far as I can to mete out even-handed justice among all the various societies, and if I have failed, that, at all events, has been my desire. Hon. Gentlemen are perfectly entitled to raise the question in the form they now propose. I would ask the Committee to consider what the position is in regard to this matter, and what are the existing rules. They are rules which were drawn up many years ago and are to a certain extent antiquated, and in some ways ambiguous, and I am obliged to interpret them to the best of my ability. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment has already read extracts from the rules, and it may be as well to read the main substance of the rules. I put them again in possession of the Committee in order that they my see what the regulations are. The hon. Member for the Holderncss Division said that these rules did not apply to associations.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
The hon. Member said that these rules apply to individuals, but in interpreting them I have to see, if individuals aggregate themselves, what will be their conduct as associations. As a matter of fact, these particular rules apply to the individual. It is the individual officer, and not an association, who would come under disciplinary action if, in any case, an association, or a member of it, infringed the rules of the Post Office. I hope hon. Gentlemen do not think that I was quibbling in that respect. I was only using ordinary terms, and it is quite clear that I have no power as head of the Post Office to act against an association as such, but I have power to act against any individual officers who may form an association and 306 commit a breach of the Post Office rules. The rules are thus really just to them. The only parts of which I need seize the House are contained in one or two sentences. I gave them in full on Friday or Saturday, and I will quote the point which really affects the present discussion—Rule 42 (a.) Officers of the Post Office, having been relieved of the electoral disabilities to which they were formerly subject, are now eligible to be placed on the Parliamentary register, and to vote at a Parliamentary election. Nevertheless, it is expected of them as public servants that they should maintain a certain reserve in political matters, and not put themselves forward on one side or the other.The two substantial rules are—That no postmaster, sub-postmaster, or other servant of the Department shall serve on a committee having for its object to promote or prevent the return of a particular candidate to Parliament.That he shall not support or oppose any particular candidate or Party either by public speaking or writing.These are the regulations which really affect the matter. Then there is also the principle laid down by Mr. Gladstone in 1893 when, as First Lord of the Treasury, he was dealing with the Civil Service as a whole. He said—The only restriction by the custom of the public service on persons employed is that persons in the permanent employment of the State shall not take a prominent or active part in political contests, and it is not intended in future that any other restrictive rule should be imposed on the service of the Post Office.That is to say, Post Office servants can vote or join any association they like, and they can either individually or in the aggregate subscribe to any association or society they choose; they can practically take an interest in party politics so long as they maintain a certain reserve in political matters. That is the rule that governs the action, not only of Post Office servants, but the whole of the Civil Service. I confess that the guidance of these rules is not very great, and they have to be interpreted partly by common sense, as far as I am able to exercise any amount of that quality. I quite agree that the Postmaster-General has to interpret them with equity and impartiality, and the policy I have laid down for myself in regard to this matter is this—to give the maximum amount of 307 liberty to Post Office servants as Civil servants which is consistent with the words I have read, namely: "that they should maintain a certain reserve in political matters." I confess that I see no objection whatever to Post Office or other Civil servants forming themselves into associations or societies. I do not think it would be a disadvantage to encourage them to take an intelligent interest in the problems of the day which they have, with others, to decide by their votes when the election comes. The more interest they take in politics generally, perhaps the less they will be inclined to take in the permanent officials of the Department, and, in particular, the Postmaster-General. We are not dealing, of course, with benefit and other societies, but with political societies. [AN HON. MEMBER: The Fawcett Association.] That is an association of Post Office servants which is in a totally different position from the trade union societies of the Post Office, and it is in a totally different position from the organisations to which the hon. Member who moved the Amendment referred. They are associations of Post Office servants to deal with Post Office questions, and I think that everyone will admit that they are in quite a different category from political associations, and accordingly they are entitled to recognition.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
Some of these associations have been going on for twenty years and it has never been held that being solely associations of Post Office servants for Post Office questions, they should not be allowed to become affiliated with organisations outside. I mean with the Trade Union Congress and other associations of that sort.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand that I am not laying down rules and regulations out of my own head. I am endeavouring 308 to deal with a matter which has always been dealt with by the Post Office and other Departments of the Civil Service which considered whether the State ought to interfere with the discretion of individuals and associations.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT
I invite the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that this association contributed £53 10s. to the Labour Party. Does that involve the association as connected with a political party?
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
What I say is that I do not propose to lay down the rule that subscriptions from individuals or associations in the Civil Service constitute in themselves any infringement of the rule against taking part in politics outside. Of course, a more difficult question is that to which reference has been made by the hon. Member who moved the reduction of the Vote, viz., the question of political societies or associations not for Post Office purposes, but for educational purposes inside the Post Office. I am not, as a rule, asked for permission for these associations to be formed, and when they are formed the only question that arises is whether or not they carry out the regulations of the Post Office. Anyone may form such an association in the Post Office, but they take the risk, if they break the regulations, of being brought under the disciplinary observation of their superior officer. The rule I have endeavoured to carry out in this matter is that a certain reserve in political matters should be observed. If these associations appear to me to be what they profess, and are carried on for educational purposes inside the Post Office, they are treated as non-political if they do not take an active part in politics, but carry out the regulations I have referred to. It appears to me that a pretty clear line can be drawn in this matter. If an association is merely a branch of an existing association outside and takes part in party politics, and cannot be dissociated from the parent body, and must therefore take an active part in party politics outside, it comes within the rule; but if the association is constituted for purposes 309 inside the Post Office and exercises in the Post Office its, functions with due discretion and does not take part in active party politics outside, it seems to me that a distinction can be drawn under the regulations, and as long as that association does not contravene the regulations I should propose that it be allowed to continue. I have laid down exactly the same rule for all associations, although the hon. Member who moved the reduction of the Vote did not think I had. It seems to be thought that I have dealt out a different measure to the Primrose League than to other associations. I was asked whether I would object to a branch of the Primrose League being formed in the Post Office. I pointed out that the league, being as I believed, a political organisation, it did not seem right that officers of the Post Office should take office under it, because by doing so they would be breaking the regulations. I understood that the habitation could not be formed without their taking office under the Primrose League. I am glad to think that those persons who are interested in the matter, recognising that by so doing they would be breaking the regulations, have done what I should have expected. They have formed inside the Post Office a constitutional society with a constitution which is, I believe, the constitution of the Primrose League. This body, however, is not connected with the Primrose League, and, therefore, it is not brought into contact with active party politics. So far as I am aware, the position is the same in the case of the Socialist organisation called the Pioneer League. That league was started before I came into office and I am not responsible for its creation, but the hon. Member has perhaps, hardly given a fair account of it. My attention was called to it after the House met, and on making inquiries I found that that particular league had been wound up, and that the members had joined another Socialist association within the Civil Service, the basis of which is found in the principles laid down in the 3rd Rule of that body, viz.:The object of the society is to educate the members of the service in the principles of Socialism; political action is to be outside its province, and the general funds are not to be used for any other organisation.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
It appeared to me under these circumstances that that association came within the interpretation which I have ventured to give to the regulations. Those who desired a habitation of the Primrose League have formed such an association and will be able to carry on their very excellent work within the Post Office. The Socialist League has come within the regulations and formed a self-supporting, independent body instead of the old society. The same principle has been followed in the case of the Free Trade League. As to the Tariff Reform League, I drew attention to the fact that it was affiliated outside, and I understand that the secretary has undertaken to lay the matter before the committee, and I expect from what the secretary has said that they also will bring themselves under the regulations. Therefore, whether hon. Members agree or not with me in the interpretation I have given to these rules, which are not very easy to interpret, I say I have dealt exactly in the same way with the Primrose League as with the Socialist League, the Free Trade League, and the Tariff Reform League. An hon. Member urged that I ought to have admitted the Primrose League at once, because it was not a political organisation taking an active part in party politics. I do not desire to discuss the constitution of the Primrose League, because hon. Members opposite know more about it than I do. However, on Saturday last, I was reading Sir H. Drummond Wolff's "Memoirs," in which I found the following passage which disposes of the allegation that the Primrose League is not a political organisation—After leaving finally in 1881 we founded the Primrose League with the details of which I was concerned. In 1884 matters were sufficiently ripe to invite the co-operation of the two leaders in promoting the prospects of the Conservative Party. We offered Lord Salisbury, and Sir Stafford Northcote the highest offices in the league, and these offices were accepted.That shows that those who founded the league intended it for the purpose of promoting the success of the Conservative Party, and yet hon. Members will say it 311 is not an association which takes an active part in party politics! The hon. Member who spoke last alleged or insinuated that the constitution of the Socialist League, which provided that they would take no political action outside its province and that the general funds were not to be used for any other organisation, was a mere blind. The same might be said as true of the Constitutional Society, and that that society is also going to take a part in party politics.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I have endeavoured to explain to the best of my ablilty that I have treated all the associations exactly in the same way, and that they have all brought themselves within the regulations. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Primrose League?"] The Primrose League is a constitutional movement which exists in the Post Office at the present moment. They have chosen the right way to do it; they have brought themselves under the regulations, and I have treated them in exactly the same way as I have treated other organisations. I am prepared to believe that the Post Office servants in dealing with these matters are not putting before me mere paper constitutions or making use of their professions as a blind, but that they intend these societies to be genuinely what they profess to be, educating societies; but at the same time if in any particular case my attention is called to a breach of these regulations I shall not hesitate to take disciplinary action against any of these societies. I apologise to the Committee for detaining them so long, but I have had to explain all these matters more than once. I may have failed, but as far as I am concerned my object has been to do even-handed justice to all these associations, but they must conform to the rules and regulations of the Post Office and endeavour to carry them out.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
It gets more and more difficult 312 as we go along to analyse the principles of the Postmaster-General's action, or indeed to discover if there are any underlying principles at all. The right hon. Gentleman claims that he has acted with justice and impartiality, but his action is so enshrouded and surrounded by a nebulous vapour of confused principles that it is almost impossible to discover if there is anything lying behind. The fact is, as I believe, that the right hon. Gentleman has got hopelessly away from the fundamental principles of the rules laid down by Mr. Gladstone. The groundwork of the fallacy of the right hon. Gentleman is to be found in the use of the words: "inside the Post Office." I do not believe that the old regulations were intended, or in the early stages had the effect, of permitting Post Office servants to use either Post Office organisation, or Post Office titles, or premises as a basis of political operations. There can be only two supreme tests. One is to ask what other use can the titles of Post Office Socialists, or Post Office Conservatives, or Post Office Primrose Leaguers have, except the purpose of getting that added prestige, that superior organisation, that higher power of raising subscriptions which possibly arises from the fact that the members meet constantly in the same place by virtue of their being employed in the same service. It is not for the benefit of the State that this should be permitted. The fullest liberty should be given to them off duty to organise themselves as private citizens as they think proper. I mentioned two tests. The other test is when individuals or associations begin to attempt to affect the composition of this House by promoting the return of a Member or a group of Members. It is idle for the right hon. Gentleman to maintain in these days that Socialism is not a political agitation. The mere fact that the Socialist Party and the Socialist propaganda are opposed to the two old Parties of the House makes it obvious that it is a political party on the same footing as other political parties, even if there were no other equally cogent reasons for seeing how its operations and aims stand in relation to those of the old political parties. I think I have indicated with much respect where the 313 fallacy of the right hon. Gentleman lies, and I think all these political parties ought not to exist in the Post Office at all, and that the employees ought not to be allowed to do anything to use their official position to further their political ends.
§ *MR. MADDISON (Burnley)
considered that the right hon. Gentleman had disposed of any grievance hon. Gentlemen opposite might think they had in regard to partial treatment, as before the Postmaster-General spoke he thought that the Primrose League had been debarred while the Socialist League had been called into being. That, however, had not been the case, because the Primrose League now took the form of the Constitutional Association, but it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman had reduced the whole thing to an absurdity. Here was the Primrose League wanting to get inside the Post Office. Why they should do so he did not know. They could not get in because they had a parent body outside, but the right hon. Gentleman helped them to get out of that: they became the Constitutional Association, and were doing exactly the same thing as the Primrose League. By some sort of metaphysics he could not understand they were to be allowed as a Constitutional Association to go on educating Post Office officials in Primrose League doctrines and the principles of Conservatism. How the right hon. Gentleman could go on telling the Committee that the Socialistic League was non-political he could not for the life of him understand. Its purpose was to educate. Was not that the purpose of all political organisations, although he was aware that some of them did a little more than that. What did they educate in? The economics of Socialism, which they could not separate from its politics. The proof of that was that when a certain comrade of theirs was returned as a revolutionary Socialist they at once sent him a congratulatory telegram, and he at once replied, and they subscribed to his election expenses. Was that education? Putting aside philanthropic and charitable organisations and trade unions as arguable from another standpoint—leaving them out of view altogether, 314 he thought it was altogether against public policy to allow a political association or organisation to use the name of any Department of State in any form whatever. Let them suppose that this principle were applied to trading firms. They would have a Peter Robinson Primrose League, or a Whiteley Socialist League, or a Wallis Free Trade League, or a Marshall and Snelgrove Tariff Reform League. They did not expect a Government Department to be carried on on such business lines as private concerns, but still they thought a Government system should have some approximation to the methods of business men. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was getting, himself more and more tied up every time he dealt with the subject, and the best, indeed the only way, was to clear out of the Post Office and every other Department, all political associations, whether they were Socialist, Primrose League, tariff reformers, young Liberals, or old Tories, or anything else. That would not interfere with individual liberty. There were many other associations—two of the best and gentlest men he ever met were philosophic anarchists who did everything by propaganda—which could come crowding in and say their objects were educational and not political and would equally send congratulatory telegrams to their colleagues on their return to Parliament.
§ EARL WINTERTON (Sussex, Horsham)
said he was afraid the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken was one of those philanderers to which reference had been made. [Mr. MADDISON: What is a philanderer?] He did not know, but the right hon. Gentleman had used the phrase in speaking on Saturday last. No one could complain that there was anything in the right hon. Gentleman's speech which was in the least unfair or to which anyone could object, but their argument was that either no organisations should be allowed in the Post Office, or they must have equal treatment. He rather dissented from the view of his hon. friend the Member for Sheffield in thinking that the Primrose League was not political. He dissented from his view; he thought that it was wholly party and 315 political. But that was not the point. Let them say it was party and political; what was the Socialist League? Therefore they demanded equal treatment for any political league if it was allowed to exist inside the Post Office. They had not the least objection to the Pioneer Socialist League, because if they carried on their propaganda they would make more Conservatives in a month than they on that side could in a year; but if they were allowed to form associations in the Post Office the party on that side of the House should also have an equal right to do so. He was sure that not a single hon. Member opposite who listened to the speech of the Postmaster-General could tell the Committee what the right hon. Gentleman meant. He was quite at a loss to understand the distinction the right hon. Gentleman appeared to draw between a branch and an affiliation. It seemed to him to be a quibble. Here was the Pioneer Socialist League formed for the propagation of Socialist views, which had practically taken part in an election, and the right hon. Gentleman said that that was not political; whereas another of a similar character was said to be political. Here was this association which was political, and the right hon. Gentleman could not allow another association to be formed, because it was political. That was exactly how the position stood. The right hon. Gentleman had done nothing to show what was the difference between the two, and he thought it would be far better had he admitted that he had added another act of gaucherie to those which were committed by this Government every day.
§ MR. BRODIE (Surrey, Reigate)
said he could not refrain from responding to the challenge which had been thrown out by the noble Lord that nobody on that side of the House who had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman could possibly understand what he meant. It seemed to him perfectly clear, though hon. Members opposite had entirely failed to catch the point which the right hon. Gentleman had again and again endeavoured to drive home. As far as he understood, the right hon. Gentleman desired to differentiate between general political associations which were well 316 known throughout the country and leagues or associations formed inside the Post Office for propagating various principles. The right hon. Gentleman had also made it perfeetly clear that the Pioneer Socialist League was simply an association within the Post Office itself, intended to propagate Socialist principles, and that under the rules previously laid down there was no reason to interfere with that society. He had shown himself perfectly willing to allow similar associations to propagate other principles. There was now formed within the Post Office an association which, though not a Habitation of the Primrose League, propagated the principles, such as they were, of the Primrose League, a Free Trade Association, and apparently a Tariff Reform Association, but not one of these associations had any direct connection or affiliation with outside bodies.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
I have listened to the remarks of the last speaker, and I do not understand them at all. If that is the interpretation of the speech of my right hon. friend opposite there is not much to be said. I hope the Postmaster-General is going to say something more. The issue is a very clear one. As the hon. Member for Burnley put it, it is a question of excluding all political combinations in the Post Office, or allowing all of them. Will the right hon. Gentleman answer that? What does he propose to do? It appears to every Member of the Committee that the distinction he endeavoured to draw between the Primrose League and the other associations is too flimsy to be maintained for a moment. I am quite certain that he is not satisfied with it himself. It has been shown that all those other associations are, if not affiliated, in direct connection with outsiders. I am not blaming the Socialistic Party, but to say that they are not political is as absurd as to say that the Primrose League is not political. Of course they are. What else do they exist for? Are they to be a sort of debating society? They are political, and what we want to know from my right hon. friend is, is he prepared to mete out equal treatment to all? Is he prepared to admit them all or to 317 forbid them all? My right hon. friend the Member for the Hallam Division put the matter very fairly when he said that the strength of these associations inside the Post Office is their governmental character. They are Post Office associations, and therefore have a value and power that they would not have if they were mere outsiders. Will my right hon. friend tell the Committee whether he is prepared to do away with all these associations inside the Post Office, which I think is the best plan, leaving them as individuals absolute freedom to do what they like outside their business hours, or if he is not prepared to do that, is he prepared to admit them all on equal terms? I am sure my right hon. friend is the last man in the House that we would like to worry in any way. I have always felt that he is so superior to us, that his political righteousness is a standing reflection to the ordinary Parliamentary sinner. But gold is not much use for everyday work unless it has a little alloy in it. Whenever I think of my right hon. friend I think of some lines by Mr. Seaman, the gifted editor of Punch, when speaking of another important character he said—It is not given to everyone to be wise, but they should be good.I hope my right hon. friend will not allow this debate to be of no service. If the matter rests where it is, the difficulty will be continued, and we shall have question after question addressed to him, whereas it lies in the right hon. Gentleman's power now to say in language which the Committee can understand and with which it will be satisfied: "I will abolish or forbid political associations inside the Post Office, as we should do in any mercantile or other business undertaking; or if I do permit one I will permit all, and treat them all alike." If my right hon. friend will in a few words, without mixing it up with all the verbiage of which he is somewhat a master, say one of these two things, he would settle the question for all time. I believe the abolition of all these associations inside the Post Office would be the best solution of all. If the members of the Post Office want to engage in party politics 318 they have perfect freedom to do so, but not to take the prestige of a great public department to back them up. If the right hon. Gentleman would do that he would save himself a great deal of trouble, he would lay down the principles of Post Office management on the only true lines, and he would settle this question altogether.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
After the very kindly appeal of my right hon. friend the Committee will let me say one or two words in reply. I can assure my right hon. friend that I had no desire in what I said before by verbiage to cover the point. I made it perfectly clear that as far as I am concerned I have endeavoured and shall certainly in the future endeavour to treat all those associations on identically the same terms. The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I would either prohibit them all or admit them on the same terms. I said in my speech that I do not think these associations when they are carried on on proper lines make for harm. I think on the whole they make for good. After all, these Post Office servants have votes, and I do not see why they should not be encouraged to discuss political matters from an educational point of view as Post Office servants and to form associations amongst themselves. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think they do it in Post Office time. They do not. If they did that they would not remain long as Post Office servants. But meeting together day by day, I do not think it is unnatural that they should desire to form associations of this kind, and I for one do not think them harmful. Therefore, I am not disposed to prohibit them, especially as, after all, I have not been the first to admit them. They have been there a good many years, and it would be a totally new departure for the Civil Service to prohibit them. It has been my intention to maintain absolute equality, and I desire with regard to this matter that the Postmaster-General should know no politics whatever. I have not said one is more political than another. I have said they must all come under the regulations which say they must maintain a certain, reserve in political matters, and I judge 319 each case on its merits. If my attention is called to a breach of these regulations I can assure my right hon. friend I will carry them out with full impartiality. I hope I have answered the question as kindly and as shortly as possible.
MR. STANLEY WILSON
said he could not help feeling astonished at the speech made by the Postmaster-General. The right hon. Gentleman kept reiterating that he was endeavouring to treat the question with impartiality, and yet he absolutely refused to do so. What they should do now would be to demand that he either withdrew the restrictions he had placed on the Primrose League or exclude every other sort of political organisation from the Post Office.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
Have I imposed on the Primrose League any restrictions not imposed on any other organisation?
MR. STANLEY WILSON
said that the right hon. Gentleman had allowed two associations in the Post Office which were affiliated to a political party. He had told them that the Fawcett Association took no part in political discussions of any sort, but he had a copy of the Post, the organ of the Fawcett Association, which, he had no doubt, was known to the right hon. Gentleman. He found that the association sent to the National Conference at Hull delegates from the Post Office. That must show that it was distinctly affiliated to the Labour Party. There was a report in the paper, signed by the delegates who went to the Conference, and with the permission of the Committee he would read their concluding remarks. They said—We strongly recommend adhesion to the Labour Party as the one to which we can as a right look for help when needed. Its record is one to be proud of, and it will undoubtedly do much to improve the condition of the workers in the days to come, and in that improvement 320 we will share if only we maintain our right to a voice and a vote in the policy of the party.Could the right hon. Gentleman therefore tell them that the Fawcett Association took no part in political discussions of any sort? They demanded either the withdrawal of the restrictions imposed on the Primrose League, or the exclusion of the organisations which existed at the present time. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman mete out the same treatment to them all? He did not know whether he would be in order in saying: "Let them all come." Let the Socialist League, the Primrose League, the Free Trade League, and the Tariff Reform League have equal rights and privileges. That was their demand and that was what they asked the right hon. Gentleman to do.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said that he would not have intervened in the debate only he thought, as a Civil servant for some thirty-five years, he had a right to speak on this matter. He would not, however, detain the Committee more than a few moments. It was perfectly well known in the Civil Service that any one whose opinion had any weight was strictly precluded from taking part in political life. For thirty-five years he himself never gave a vote, and never took any part in any political organisation, and never attended any political meetings. Anyone knew that a person occupying a responsible position in the Civil Service would not be allowed to take such a part. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the same rule applied to every public office. He distinctly traversed that statement. In not a single public office, except that over which the right hon. Gentleman presided would such organisations be permitted. What would have happened if the Education Office, to which he belonged, had had a Primrose League, a Socialist League, a Tariff Reform League, and a Free Trade League? 321 The thing would have been stamped out at once, and rightly so. Everybody knew that the Post Office stood on a totally different footing from any other Public Department in the State. It was the largest employer of labour in the country, and what could interfere more with the administration of the Post Office and with the rights of the taxpayers as compared with the employees of the Post Office than the existence of an organisation which was in strict alliance with the Labour Party below the gangway? They said boldly that that was the reason for the preference given by the right hon. Gentleman. It was only in that office that these societies were allowed to exist. Everybody knew what was the aim of the Labour League, and that it would increase the burden upon the taxpayers. Everybody knew that the right hon. Gentleman himself had
§ been compelled to yield to the demands the Labour leaders had forced upon him. It was for that reason that they declined to accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman. He asked him to exclude from the Post Office as from every other office under the Crown these political organisations of whatever colour. He was perfectly certain that the concession, defended in whatever specious phraseology, was chiefly made in the interests of the Socialist League, which was really in alliance with the Labour League, which was prepared to fight the right hon. Gentleman when he stood up for the interests of the taxpayers.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 63; Noes, 206. (Division List, No. 44.)323
|Acland-Hood, Rt Hn. Sir Alex. F||Craik, Sir Henry||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Nield, Herbert|
|Balcarres, Lord||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Faber, George Denison (York)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Fell, Arthur||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Fletcher, J. S.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Forster, Henry William||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gretton, John||Starkey, John R.|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Guinness, Walter Edward||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hamilton, Marquess of||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hill, Sir Clement||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Hills, J. W.||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Houston, Robert Paterson||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hunt, Rowland||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-|
|Collings, Rt. Hn. J. (Birmingh'm||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Keswick, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Samuel Roberts and Earl Winterton.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Brigg, John|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Beale, W. P.||Brodie, H. C.|
|Agnew, George William||Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets. S. Geo.||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)|
|Alden, Percy||Bennett, E. N.||Bryce, J. Annan|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Berridge, T. H. D.||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Buckmaster, Stanley O.|
|Armitage, R.||Black, Arthur W.||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Boulton, A. C. F.||Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Bowerman, C. W.||Byles, William Pollard|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Bramsdon, T. A.||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Branch, James||Causton, Rt Hn. Richard Knight|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n|
|Cleland, J. W.||Jowett, F. W.||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Clough, William||Kearley, Hudson E.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Kekewich, Sir George||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W||Kilbride, Denis||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Robinson, S.|
|Corbett CH (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Laidlaw, Robert||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lambert, George||Roche, John (Galway, East|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Lehmann, R. C.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Rose, Charles Day|
|Cox, Harold||Levy, Sir Maurice||Rowlands, J.|
|Crean, Eugene||Lewis, John Herbert||Runciman, Walter|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Lough, Thomas||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Crossley, William J.||Lupton, Arnold||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Shackleton, David James|
|Dickinson, W. H (St. Pancras, N.||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Maclean, Donald||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||M'Callum, John M.||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Crae, George||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Summerbell, T.|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Ferens, T. R.||M'Micking, Major G.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Maddison, Frederick||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury|
|Findlay, Alexander||Mallet, Charles E.||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln)||Tomkinson, James|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Markham, Arthur Basil||Verney, F. W.|
|Glover, Thomas||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Waldron, Laurence Ambrose|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Marnham, F. J.||Walsh, Stephen|
|Gooch, George Pea body||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Walters, John Tudor|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Massie, J.||Wardle, George J.|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Menzies, Walter||Waring, Walter|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Micklem, Nathaniel||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Mooney, J. J.||Wason, Rt. Hn E. (Clackmannan|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh||Morse, L. L.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Murray, James||Watt, Henry A.|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Myer, Horatio||Weir, James Galloway|
|Hedges, A. Paget||Nannetti, Joseph P.||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Nolan, Joseph||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nuttall, Harry||Wiles, Thomas|
|Hodge, John||O'Grady, J.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Hogan, Michael||Parker, James (Halifax)||Williamson, A.|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Hudson, Walter||Pearson, W. H. M. (Suffolk, Eye||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Hyde, Clarendon||Pollard, Dr.||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Idris, T. H. W.||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)|
|Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Radford, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again to-morrow.