HC Deb 30 June 1911 vol 27 cc755-8

This Act shall not apply to Scotland.


I move to omit Clause 15.

I think hon. Members are entitled to some explanation of this point. In the Standing Committee on several occasions when I proposed most reasonable Amendments, and the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Greenwood) was inclined to adopt them, the Solicitor-General for Scotland intervened and repeatedly helped him to defeat me. I allowed this Bill to go through on Second Reading in the dark after eleven o'clock on the distinct understanding that it was not to go beyond the existing law unless the latter was properly discussed in this House. But in Committee, whenever I raised the objection that the Bill was going beyond the existing law, the Solicitor-General invariably backed up the promoters of this Bill in opposition to me. I could not understand it. But the explanation came later on. The very man who had been egging on the promoters to strengthen different Clauses put down an Amendment that the Bill should not apply to his own country. He did not care in the least how it applied to the English population, because he was intending to insert a Clause exempting Scotland.


Who did this?


I have already said that it was the Solicitor-General for Scotland. He is one of the most delightful personages among the Members of this House, but he is not here now. When I told him that I should raise this point on the floor of the House, he assured me that I should not enjoy his presence on the occasion, but that I might rely upon it that his superior' officer, who is rather more combative and pugnacious, would be here to deal with the matter. I am sure we welcome the presence of the Lord Advocate as deputy for his inferior officer. One of the Clauses which I called in question in Committee relates to the transit of fowls, and I pointed out how difficult it would be to-have different laws relating to England and Scotland on the point. If live fowls are put on a train and the train crosses the Border at express speed, how are people-to treat the fowls in one way on one side of the Border and in another way on the other? The hon. Baronet opposite seems to be a fellow-conspirator on this point.


I shall vote for the omission of this Clause.


I am glad to hear it. The Solicitor-General for Scotland, backed up by some of the Scottish Members, invariably voted for making this measure more restrictive and oppressive on the people of England. One or two sections are distinctly oppressive. Scottish Members invariably voted for higher fines, more power for the police, and so on. Now they say that the Bill should not apply to Scotland. After giving us the benefit of their counsel in making the Bill as perfect as possible, is it consistent that they should now run away and not let their own country have the advantage of their own scheme?

I submit I am perfectly justified in appealing to this House not to sanction this Clause. Either the Bill is a good or a bad one. I have given way on minor points, because I am ever ready to yield to the persuasive influence of my hon. Friend. I have given way so that we might have this Bill passed. I consider I Have made a little bit of a sacrifice, and I do appeal to this House generally to recognise that either this is a good Bill or a bad Bill. If it be a good Bill, let it apply to Scotland. What have they done in Scotland that we should not dispense our kindness to them? I make the appeal on behalf of hon. Members from Scotland who complain that we do not give them sufficient time to dilate upon their grievances; that we only give them one day when we ought to give them two. They consider that they are at a discount in this House. Of course, they forget that the Prime Minister represents a Scottish constituency; and that the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the Leader of the Labour party, are Scotsmen. They think they are outsiders, whereas I think they are really very much to the front. I could only wish that the Radicalism of England was as good as the Radicalism of Scotland. If this be the good Bill that the hon. Member for Peterborough and the Junior Law Officer for Scotland think it, that is a reason for passing my Amendment, so that the Bill shall apply throughout Great Britain. I beg to move.


I would like, in reply to the arguments advanced by the Mover of this Amendment, to say that I entirely endorse the more serious part of them. I cannot possibly lend myself to support all the various arguments which he has put forward, because I think this Motion is deserving of support from a more serious standpoint. We have in Clause 1 of this Bill provided that if any person shall permit any animal to be so used as to cause unnecessary suffering he shall be subjected to certain penalties. If we go into Clause 8 we find that the Board of Agriculture officially—and after all this is the authority which deals with these matters both in England and Scotland—shall be empowered to make orders for a proper supply to animals, in course of transit, of food, water, and ventilation; and that that provision is to extend to fowls. I am one of the many English breeders of fowls who is in the habit of sending them very long distances from the south and west of England into Scotland, and I cannot quite see what argument can be adduced in favour of considering the requirements of these unfortunate birds until they reach the border, while after they pass the border they are to be deprived of the benefit which this Act would otherwise give them. I myself brought this matter forward when the Bill was being considered in Committee. The representative of the Board of Agriculture and the representative of Scotland both of them utterly failed to adduce any sufficient reason for not including Scotland within the ambit of this Bill. I entirely support the removal of this unnecessary Clause from the Bill in the interests of humane treatment of the lower creation.


It is not often Scotsmen are found refusing favours from whatever quarter they come, but it is necessary that I should give some explanation to the House as to the reason why we reject this Amendment. We have, and always have had, an entirely separate code of procedure in regard to the things with which this Bill deals. Our code—we may be wrong—we think is a better code than the English code. We cherish that view, but we are open to conviction. We carefully considered this Bill to see if it could not really be applied to our Scottish folk. We found the difficulties were insurmountable, because, as the House will observe, this is not a new Bill, but a Consolidation Bill. The object of it is to consolidate English Statutes. There is the case of the unfortunate fowl that is in transit across the border whose interests must be attended to and will be attended to, but by a separate Bill, because I quite see the point. But we found it quite impossible to apply this Bill to the Scottish code. When we require consolidation, which, I daresay, we may, we shall have a separate Consolidation Bill for our own Statutes. The House may take it that our code of procedure is entirely different from the code of procedure in England, and it is quite impracticable to make this Bill applicable to Scotland. I repeat before I sit down that poultry will be attended to by a separate measure.


I am very glad to have-received that assurance from the Lord Advocate. It has been given before, but I shall be perfectly satisfied to accept the words of the Lord Advocate, and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.