§ Order for Second Beading read.1648
§ Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Very well.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 63; Noes, 89.1647
|Division No. 100.]||AYES.||[3.23 p.m.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Guest, Major O. (Leic., Loughboro')||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hallas, Eldred||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hanna, George Boyle||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bromfield, William||Haslam, Lewis||Sexton, James|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Simm, M. T.|
|Casey, T. W.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Spencer, George A.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Kenyon, Barnet||Spoor, B. C.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kidd, James||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Kiley, James D.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Dawes. James Arthur||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Mallalieu, F. W.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Malone, Lieut.-Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Mills, John Edmund||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Morgan, Major D. Watts|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness and Ross)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grant, James A.||Myers, Thomas||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Tyson|
|Grundy, T. W.||Parkinson, John Allen Wigan)||Wilson.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Forrest, Walter||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Preston, W. R.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Purchase, H. G.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Greene, Lieut.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'st'r)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hopkins, John W. W.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Houston, Robert P.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hurd, Percy A.||Vickers, Douglas|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Warren, Lieut.-Col. Sir Alfred H.|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Wason, John Cathcart|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Jameson, J. Gordon||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Lindsay, William Arthur||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page||Lorden, John William||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Lynn, R. J.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Dixon, Captain Herbert||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Lieut.-Colonel Wheler and Sir F.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Nall, Major Joseph||Banbury.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ That time is so short that I propose to speak as briefly as possible. I hope hon. Members will be good enough to follow that example and so enable us to get a Division before five o'clock. Hon. Members will remember the Debate, following which this Bill received a Second Beading in 1914. Unfortunately, the War caused the Bill to be dropped. I am not going into any of the questions of what happened during the period of the War, but I would honestly say that 1649 until the Bill was debated in 1914 I myself had no conception—and I daresay many other hon. Members had no conception—of the enormous ramifications of this trade, and the consequent terrible destruction of bird life in various parts of the world. I did not know to what extent other nations, as well as the Dominions, India and the Crown Colonies, had prohibited the export of the feathers of these birds. My attention was first directed to the matter by seeing in the Indian newspapers various prosecutions for disobedience, by smuggling, to the laws which prohibited the exportation of the plumage of birds. Then it came vividly to my mind that until the British Government passed a Bill such as this they were really actually conniving at the importation of contraband goods. Another thing occurred to me, and that was that the feather merchants of this country who import these feathers, the export of which is prohibited in the countries of their origin, are practically nothing more or less than the receivers of stolen goods, and that they should be treated in the same way as other receivers.
During the first three years of the War, that is in 1914–15–16, there was imported into this country no less than 1,865,431 lbs. of feathers, exclusive of ostrich feathers, while during 1917–18–19, during which time the import of feathers was prohibited, except under special licence, that—even under special licence—no less than 643,184 lbs., of the value of £667,351, came into this country. These feathers came in under licence, and were said to be feathers of barnyard fowls. I expostulated, and I would suggest to the House that no feathers of barnyard fowls are valued by the Customs at anything like £1 sterling per pound weight. These feathers imported were undoubtedly feathers the export of which is prohibited in the country of origin. During the present year—last year the restrictions on the import of feathers was removed— we have had up till now an import of 23,287 lbs. of feathers. I mentioned these figures to show what an enormous import trade there is going on in this country. I have here a list of the various countries which prohibit the export of feathers, and I have also a list of no less than 258 different species of birds the export of which has been prohibited in various British Colonies, British Dominions and 1650 Crown Colonies. The only opposition I have seen to this Bill comes from the plumage section of the textile trade industry of the London Chamber of Commerce. The London Chamber of Commerce has a very big name, but when I came to look up in the London Directory the list of feather merchants and feather manufacturers, I found among them such names as the following:—Feather Merchants—René Heymans, Elias Lanfer, Cecel Lanfer, Pinkus Rich. Feather Manufacturers — Charles Kupfervasser, Emil Mosbacher, Morris Podgurzer & Co. Those names lead me to think that there is truth in what I have been told that a great deal of the plumage imported here is afterwards exported and sent across to Germany, and made up there, and that fact alone accounts for the very small number of British workpeople who are employed in the feather trade in this country.
§ Colonel YATE
If the hon. and gallant Member will refer to the Debates on this question in 1914 he will see that my figures are correct. I do not want to enter into the question of foreign countries, because that will be dealt with by other hon. Members, and I will confine myself to the question as it affects the British Empire. Canada, Australia and all the Dominions, British India and the Crown Colonies prohibit the export of plumage birds on on which they put a value. In the statement of the Plumage Committee of the London Chamber of Commerce, they base a large part of their claim for consideration on the question of egret farms in India, and this is what they say:The largest supply of these beautiful short curved plumes is obtainable from India, which in 1902 passed laws prohibiting exports of all kinds of feathers other than those of domesticated birds… The egret of India is bred and so carefully farmed that its numbers have greatly increased… In the districts of Hyderabad, Larkhana-Sukkar, Bahrawalpur, &c, they are established in large colonies…. The plumes so obtained have proved far superior in quality to those obtained from the birds in their wild state.The sole evidence on which the statements about these farms are based, is a report signed by Mr. Birch, the Assistant-Commissioner, dated the 23rd April, 1914:A feature which attracted his attention was a recent erection in front of each abode 1651 of quadrangular structures of reed mats some 20, 8, 8, resembling an ordinary poultry run. On obtaining entrance into one of these structures he found it contained at least three score pairs of full-grown egrets in a state of freedom.… There was ample evidence to indicate that the birds breed freely in these conditions of modified captivity. Enquiries showed that under these conditions birds assume their nuptial plumage four times a year, twice in summer and twice in winter… The breeding season commences early in March and continues up to the end of September.… Eggs are laid never less than twice during; the season, and sometimes as many as four or five times.This report was at once contradicted by Major Lindsay Smith, who wrote as follows on 3rd August, 1914:All officials whom I have questioned on the subject, have told me that the birds they have seen are kept for breeding purposes, but the only evidence they had to support their statement was that the owners of the farms had told them so. On several occasions I have observed natives catching egrets by means of decoy birds that had their eyes sewn up by means of a feather passed through the eyelids. These birds were placed in a spot frequented by egrets, and not being able to see, remained where they were put down. The ground round about being strewn with loops, any birds that alighted near them stood a very good chance of being entangled. On one occasion last year, also, I saw 50 or 60 birds being dispatched by rail, every one of which bore evidence of having had their eyes sewn up. Some were quite blind with their eyelids so swollen that they could not open them, while in others, though they could open their eyes, one could distinctly see where the eyelids had been pierced. I questioned the man in charge of them, and at first he told me that the birds were for breeding purposes, and that he plucked their feathers every year, and sold them to a Sahib at Rs. 18 per tola, but eventually he allowed that they were decoy birds, being sold to a Sahib on the Sutlej…. Now my ideas on the subject are, that the feather traders, knowing it to be illegal to destroy egrets for their feathers, keep these decoy birds in more or less humane surroundings during the cold weather, when they are likely to be visited by European officials, and have invented the story regarding their breeding in captivity, and all the evidence I have obtained goes to prove my theory….In a natural state egrets commence breeding, at the very earliest, in June, and the majority not till July.That is the evidence against the egret farms. We have the statements made by the Textile Trade section of the London Chamber of Commerce, and also made in the "Draper" and the "Drapery Times," but what is the value of them. No evidence whatever has been produced 1652 in confirmation of the statement of Mr. Birch or the statement by the London Chamber of Commerce that the farms in Seinde have been inspected by the Commissioner. No copy of the report has been presented. If such reports exist it is quite open to the Government of India at the present time, if they are founded upon impartial investigation by persons unconnected with the trade, to find out whether such farms are working without cruelty, and if they are, then I suggest there would be no objection whatsoever to the import of the produce of the farms into England. This Bill provides for the addition and exclusion of birds upon and from the Schedule after it has become law, and therefore the Government of India can take any action which they think proper. The Bill though covers hundreds of species which no trader can claim to be farmable, and these birds have to be protected at once. Look at the inconsistency of the various statements. We are assured by the Chamber of Commerce that the feathers of these farmed birds are not taken from them in their prime as could easily be done with captive birds, but are only secured after they have been dropped. How is that possible? Would the feathers not be worthless if they were only taken after having been dropped, yet it is stated that they are of more value when so taken. I think they have overdone themselves in that. There are, we are told, as many as three score pairs of birds in these pens. Is it possible for moulted feathers dropped on the floor of such a place to be of any value or to surpass in quality the plumes taken from wild birds? Then again we have the statement that the captive birds moult four times a year, each moult being succeeded by nuptial plumage. There is no bird known that does that. I have it on the authority of the ornithologists of the Natural History Museum that the egret moults only twice a year, and the plumage assumed at the commencement of the breeding season is replaced at the end of that season by a new plumage which lacks all ornamentation. The egret nests on the tops of trees. Is it likely birds in captivity in reed huts 20 ft. by 8 ft. with nothing but the floor to nest on will produce four or five broods a year? The nests of these birds are nearly two feet across. Is it possible for thirty pairs; of birds to nest on such a floor or even 1653 to walk about it. Mr. Birch says that the breeding term lasts from March to September. My knowledge is that they only breed during the rainy season, from July to September. I think the House will agree with me that the information given to Mr. Birch by the hunters who catch these birds and retain them in captivity is really not worth the paper upon which it is printed. Major Lindsay Smith's surmise that the story of egrets breeding in captivity is pure invention is very probable. He suggests that the birds to which I refer are kept by the native feather trader as decoy birds during the cold weather, when they are likely to be visited by officials, but as to their breeding in captivity he suggests that that is an absolutely pure invention. A suggestion has been made that there should be placed in the schedule of the Bill a list of the various kinds of birds which are to be prohibited. But how could we put in the list all the innumerable species of birds, the export of which is to be prohibited? It is absolutely impossible, and in that statement I believe I have the support of the authorities of the Natural History Museum, who tell me that the Customs Authorities would not be able to distinguish between the prohibited and the non-prohibited species. They do not know enough to do that, and consequently any such provision in the schedule would be absolutely futile. The Plumage Section of the London Chamber of Commerce have always urged, and they now reiterate the statement, that the livelihood of many workers would be affected if this Bill were carried. I think that suggestion was effectively disposed of in the Debates of 1914. I have it on good drapery authority that the drapery interest will not be affected by this Bill; on the contrary the most intelligent drapers would welcome it because it would lead to the development of the artificial flower trade and of the poultry and ostrich make-up industry, and that would increase employment for British labour. The arguments behind this Bill are so strong that with great confidence I commend it most heartily to the House and trust it will be given a Second Beading.
§ 4.0 P.M.
I beg to second the Motion.
What are the objects of this Bill? They are to put an end to the traffic in the feathers and skins of beautiful 1654 birds, a traffic which is responsible in many instances for deplorable suffering, and which is unscientific and uneconomic in its result. I could have wished that it had not been necessary to bring forward this Bill to-day. I should have preferred that the women of this country had risen in a body and affirmed their determination not to wear the feathers and skins of beautiful specimens of bird life, which are being ruthlessly destroyed for the decoration of their hats and to pander to their vanity. I think it is true to say that, prior to the War, there was a hardening of opinion in the direction of a self-denying ordinance in. respect of certain kinds of feather decorations; but, so far as my observation goes, feminine vanity appears now to have-obtained a new lease of life. It was my privilege this morning to attend a private-view at the Royal Academy. I went for the purpose of admiring the productions of some of our eminent painters; but, having this Debate in view, my eye naturally wandered to the headgear of certain ladies who were present, and I saw there sufficient evidence to prove conclusively to my mind the necessity for the introduction of this Bill to-day.
I will pass rapidly over the arguments that have been adduced against this Bill. It was said by the London Chamber of Commerce that the bulk of the feathers of the egret are obtained without killing and without cruelty. My hon. and gallant Friend has, I think, disposed of that, but, although it may be true that, in certain countries, efforts are being made to farm and cultivate these feathers under a system where cruelty does not obtain, I wish to ask the opponents of the Bill, what prospects there are of enforcing any laws that may be made to prevent cruelty in a country such as Venezuela, which is the size of Egypt, in tropical Africa, New Guinea, Central America, and other parts of the world. The evidences of cruelty are, in my opinion, indisputable. They have been referred to before the Select Committee of the House of Lords, and I could cite many instances to bring them up to date and to prove the necessity for this Bill. There are two other arguments which in my view prove the necessity for a measure of this nature. The one is the economic-argument, and the other is that, if this killing is allowed to continue, practically the entire bird life of the world is 1655 threatened with extinction. In the "Times" a little while ago, Sir Harry Johnston, a very high authority on such matters, pointed out that birds are the most effective foes of mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and other germ-carriers that spread diseases among men, cattle, fruit farms, and useful trees, and he indicated that we should suffer terribly by an increase of such diseases affecting our health and our food supplies if the extinction of these birds was not stopped. Another argument that has been used is that, if this Bill is passed, the supplies of feathers would merely be diverted to some other market. If that is accepted as valid, we might just as well say that it was useless for Great Britain to put an end to the slave trade while others were still carrying it on.
The example of what has happened in the United States, proves that the contention of the opponents of the Bill is quite groundless. The prohibitory results of the American tariff laws of 1913 have been everything that their sponsors hoped they would be. The disappearance of wild birds' feathers from women's hats is wholly due to this law, and, far from driving trade elsewhere, it has merely resulted in a change of fashion. If it were true that the trade would be driven elsewhere, the French traders would naturally be exultant, but I find that the plumage dealers of France entered a protest against the Bill in 1914, because of the unfavourable repercussion that was to be expected on their own trade if it were passed. In 1914, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, a Bill was introduced into this House by Sir Charles Hobhouse. It passed its Second Reading by 297 votes to 15, and, after passing through the Committee stage, was dropped at the outbreak of war. The Bill now before the House takes up the story where Sir Charles Hobhouse's Bill left off, and it is for this House to determine whether or not the final chapter of that story is to be written, and whether this country is to join hands with the United States of America in setting an example to the civilised world. I venture to express the hope that the House will not only give a Second Beading to this Bill to-day, but that it will carry it through all its stages, and in doing so will put an end to the cruel, 1656 uneconomic and unscientific slaughter of beautiful and beneficent creatures, and will stop, so far at any rate as this country is concerned, a wasteful and barbaric traffic, which thrives on the vanity of a type of being whose selfishness nothing but legislation of this nature can repress.
§ Mr. BARTLEY DENNISS
I do not think that the Mover and Seconder of this Bill have quite given the House a clear idea of what its effects will be, or whether the results that they desire will be attained. I have the greatest possible sympathy with the principle of the Bill. More than 40 kinds of birds come into my garden, and, with the exception of one sparrow, I have never killed one there in my life, while anything in the shape of cruelty to birds is abhorrent to me. As to the extermination of rare birds, or even the lessening of their numbers to an extent that would be injurious to health in tropical countries, I should be the last person to say a word in its favour. Although I am not in the slightest degree interested in the feather trade, or any other trade or manufacture, I do want, to put before the House a case that has been put into my hands by the London Chamber of Commerce, of which I happen to have been a member of Council for many years. The Ostrich and Fancy Feather Trade Association— and no doubt hon. Members will understand that the fancy feather trade and the ostrich feather trade are indissolubly connected—have issued a short letter, in which they say:It is the earnest wish of the trade that when cruelty and danger of extermination exist, something should be done to stop them"—If this Bill would do that I would vote for it. I think it can be done if the House will agree to what I shall propose presently—Neither of these things is helpful to commerce. The moment a bird becomes rare it ceases to be of interest to the trade.That is quite clear. They have to keep up the supply season after season. A rare bird is too costly to put into a bonnet for all practical purposes. The people really who destroy rare birds and wipe them out are the collectors, the men in foreign countries who shoot everything at sight—the amateurs The collector gets a large price at a museum. The other people only collect the birds which are plentiful and sell them to the drapery trade. This is what they further say: 1657It is unjust to prohibit the importation of plumage which on indisputable evidence is obtained without either cruelty or danger of extermination, and this the Bill attempts to do.There is a very large measure of lawful and unobjectionable trade in plumage in this country which no one on reflection would attempt to stop. This Bill prohibits the importation of all birds of every description with the exception of those set out in the Schedule, which are the ostrich and the eiderduck. The ostrich is a bird whose feathers are very much improved by cultivation. They are farmed regularly every year, and the feathers of the ostrich in a farmed state are very much finer than those in a wild state.
If the Bill is to be discussed on that sort of basis it is useless to speak I cannot enter into a controversy of that kind. Ostrich feathers have improved enormously by being farmed, and the ostrich itself would probably have nearly died out by this time if it had not been farmed. Ostrich feathers are pulled out, and the sight of an ostrich when it has been deprived of its plumes is very like a young bird in a nest. It is a disgusting spectacle. It looks very sick and very sad. As to the eiderduck, I suppose that is for the purpose of eider-down. Why these two out of all the birds in the world should be selected I do not know. They were in the original Bill in 1914 and they are in this Bill, and no attempt has been made to put any other birds into it. The result is that by Clause 1, a person shall not import into the United Kingdom the plumage of any bird except these two kinds. If there is a legitimate plumage trade that will ruin it absolutely. In order to prevent certain birds from being, as they think, treated with cruelty or rare birds being exterminated, they propose to prohibit any birds of any description with those two exceptions. They are all to go. Supposing they put it the other way round, and said "No person shall import into the United Kingdom the plumage of any bird specified in the Schedule of prohibited birds," those birds could not come in. All the rest of the birds in the world, to which there is no objection, would be sufficient for the plumage industry to carry on with. The industry might be 1658 to some extent injured. but it would not be ruined. My hon. Friend says it is impossible. Is it? In 1914 a Bill was brought in in similar terms to this, only it contained a Clause which was, I suppose, about the worst Clause ever put into any Bill, namely, that any person— that meant woman—who was in possession of a feather of any kind, unless she could prove that it had not been imported in contravention of the Act, was to be hailed to a police station through the streets; it was to be taken from her there, her name and address were to be taken, and she was to be fined. That is the kind of spirit in which that Bill was introduced, and that is what wrecked the Bill. It is not in this Bill That is why I say I welcome this Bill.
My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Yate), who in ordinary life is extremely moderate in his statements and extremely fair—no man more so in the House—has been carried away a little to make a statement which I am afraid it is difficult to substantiate. He says it is impossible to put into this Schedule a list of birds which ought to be prohibited, because apparently he thinks it would include so many. When we are considering whether you are going to ruin a trade or not one might at least take a little trouble. Considering that we have got a Committee for the Economic Preservation of Birds, scientific men who are ready to devote their minds to this question, plenty of expert ornithologists, and an excellent Board of Trade to act as arbitrators, it seems to me a very simple thing to get this list. The Bill was carried in 1914 by a large majority. I was a teller, and I only had to report 14 names against about 300. It never passed into law. It took two months in Committee, and it took up so much of the Government's time, and that is the reason it was dropped, and not because of the War. Before the Report stage the Bill was brought in as a Government Bill by Mr. Hobhouse, then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was supported by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu), and it was piloted through Committee by them and Lord Buck-master, then Attorney-General. I have a document on which is written "Mr. Hobhouse's suggested alterations, 27th July, 1914." It was given me either by Mr. Hobhouse or one of his secretaries. This is the document. In 1659 that document he has put in exactly what we asked the House to assent to. He has altered the Clause topersons shall not import into the United Kingdom the plumage of any wild bird specified in the Schedule to this Act "—and in that Schedule he has given a list of all the wild birds which he thinks ought to be in the Schedule, and which my hon. and gallant Friend says it is impossible to give.
It may or may not be. If a Member wants to turn a Bill upside down it is not a Committee point. You are injuring a trade without any reason when the injury could be averted easily by this simple alteration of the Bill. Not only did Mr. Hobhouse apply himself to the list of birds which ought to be prohibited, but on our side also we prepared a list which contained far more names than Mr. Hobhouse's list. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] To that list we could add a great number more, and as many more as the eminent men on the Committee for the Economic Preservation of Birds and the Board of Trade chose to put into it.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
It would be interesting to know what bird there is which under your scheme would not be prohibited by this Bill, and which bird he desires to import that, under the Bill as drawn, would be prohibited?
Though I did take a scholarship in science, including natural science, I never paid very great attention to ornithology, and I could not answer that question except in this way. If it be true that all birds ought to be prohibited then of course there is no use in making a list, but the people who know that there are birds which are useful to them which need not be prohibited are the people who deal in them, and the trade have authorised me to say—and I saw them all yesterday—that they would be perfectly willing that you should make a list and that they should be able to have an opportunity before the Board of Trade of objecting to any of the birds you put into the list as not being necessary to be there, either on the ground of the cruel way in which they are obtained 1660 or on the ground that they are rare birds which are likely to be exterminated or on any other ground which serves the purposes of humanity and economy.
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because when I concluded a speech on the last occasion of over an hour the hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he had never heard anybody talk more nonsense in his life. I am sorry to say that in the OFFICIAL REPORT I am libelled in that way.
What does the Bill do besides destroy the industry? The ostrich feather trade would be very much injured. Our great South African Dominion has protested against that. When the Bill passed its Second Reading in 1914, the importation of ostrich feathers fell off about 25 per cent. in the first three months afterwards.
The Bill in no way offers compensation to the people engaged in the trade. It is a private Member's Bill and therefore cannot do so. The last Bill was a Government Bill, and under it compensation could have been given. This Bill is brought in late on a Friday afternoon, with some Government support I have no doubt, and it does not give us any opportunity in Committee or at any time to put in a clause for the compensation of people whose trade is destroyed, even if they ought to have it. That is a fatal blot on the Bill. Thousands of workpeople, English girls, not Jews, would be affected. I do not know why my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Yate) made the remarks he did about these firms being foreigners and then read the names of a few firms. I have a complete list of them. There are 32 English firms: there are six firms of foreigners who were naturalised years before the War, and they probably are Jews. I daresay those were the names read. There are two alien firms, and they are French. So, out of 40 firms, 32 are English, and of those 32, there are 10 with 1661 Jewish names. You know the Jew, the English Jew, whose ancestor's teeth were drawn by Richard I. in order to make him disgorge his money. Such Jews are just as much Englishmen as Englishmen whose ancestors were born here at the same time, and as anyone else in this House The English Jew born in England, whose family has been in England for centuries, must be treated by us in the same respect as any other Englishman born in England.
There are thousands of English workpeople who will be thrown out of employment. I have here a petition which was got up in 48 hours. It is signed by over 2,000 work girls. They beg the House of Commons not to take away their livelihood and drive them into unemployment, possibly into want for a time, at a month's notice. If you look at the last Clause of the Bill you will find that the Bill is to come into operation one month after it passes. It is not easy, when the women outnumber the men by two millions, for them to get occupation. This is what the petitioners say:We, the undersigned plumage workers and dyers in the City of London, firmly Believing that under existing laws in the countries of origin, the collection of plumage is controlled and obtained without cruelty or danger of extermination, humbly beseech you, in the interests of labour, to oppose the Plumage Prohibition Bill until a thorough investigation of the facts has been made. We have no doubt that a Bill could be drafted which, while protecting bird life from risk of cruelty, would not cause us to lose our employment.That is reasonable; that is fair; and I feel sure the House will ultimately adopt that view. The petition is signed by 2,286 plumage workers, and it does not include the names of the outdoor hands or the names of workers employed by other firms not belonging to the Association. What about the Trade themselves? At a month's notice how are they to stop feathers from entering this country when they are coming long distances? That could be met by compensation, but there is no power in the Bill to give compensation. Therefore, you must do them an immediate injury. The last of my principal arguments in the case is that it will not stop the cruelty that goes on abroad. All that will happen will be that this trade will be diverted to the Continent instead of to London. The birds will be killed just the same, the cruelty will be perpetrated just the same, 1662 but the trade will not come here. Therefore the Bill, while it professes to stop cruelty, will not do it, and while it professes to save rare birds, it will not do it, and the effect will be to ruin the trade in the passing of it. Of course, we may get an international agreement. If the trade is prevented from coming to this country, France, Germany, Italy, and even Japan will get a part if it, because she has started importing egrets. If we could get an international agreement we could stop the cruelty.
I do not see how you can lead the way in international agreement by yourself. If we could lead the way by calling a congress of nations, and getting it through that way, it would be a very good thing. Possibly the League of Nations might take it up; it would be a very good thing for them to do. One word upon the extent of the trade. My hon. and gallant Friend, who is usually so accurate, has rather minimised the extent of the trade. I have told the House the number of firms; the imports in 1913 of feathers were £3,529,000, of which a little under £2,500,000 were ostrich feathers. These imports were mostly raw material, and all the ostrich feathers are raw material. Some of the feathers are re-exported from here to the Continent, some of them are done up in Berlin, and some in Paris, but most of them here. They are made into all sorts of beautiful shapes and forms, they are mixed with ordinary fowls' and pheasants' feathers, and with other things, and made up into wonderful and beautiful structures, which I, for one, should very much deprecate the loss of, in spite of the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel Murray), who would like to achieve his impossible object of exterminating feminine vanity. We are told that the drapery trade would not be injured, but the facts show that there must be a very large trade in these feathers through the drapery medium, and I feel sure I can say without fear of contradiction that there are many drapers in the House, and everyone of them opposed the Bill in Committee. Then there is the dyeing trade. The Port of London in 1914 opposed this Bill on account of the loss to the shipping and warehousing and so on.
1663 My proposal is that the Board of Trade should be arbiters. We have plenty of experts who can make a list of prohibited birds and ornithologists who could assist the Board of Trade, and who for years have given their attention to this very subject. My answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India is that if the trade are willing to accept this list, then let it be so, and let us get rid of a standing grievance and a perpetual agitation, and let us not be troubled with another Bill. It would save trouble in the long run, I am sure, to prepare this list of birds. I have only two things more to say, and the first is about egrets. The egret is one of the most prolific of birds, and produces nuptial plumes four times a year in various parts of the world, more especially in Venezuela. There is no danger of their extermination. I agree there has been cruelty in the collecting of them. I daresay the stories that have been told have been grossly exaggerated and that there is exaggeration on both sides, but I think there has been cruelty. Put this on one side. We do not shiver very much in the Debates when we talk about hundreds of thousands of Armenians being murdered. I think this hyper-sensitiveness is a bad sign in the British nation. In Venezuela there is the strictest possible law against the export and killing of egrets except under Government supervision. The right hon. Gentleman very skilfully criticised the farm egrets of India, but he never criticised the farms in Venezuela. The Consul for Venezuela in the "Times" a few days ago stated that the egrets are amply protected in Venezuela, and that no feathers are allowed to be exported unless they are moulted, or obtained without any cruelty whatever. I will read a recent extract from the "Times"—A considerable industry has already been established for gathering aigrettes or heron feathers, of which the rarest and most beautiful are those shed by a species of heron called Chumita. As the National Government has taken stringent measures to prevent the killing of the birds to secure the crop of feathers, and guards the Garceros, or places where the herons flock together and roost, the ban established in certain countries on the importation of aigrettes, based upon the destruction of defenceless birds, has no reason to hold good in the case of aigrettes exported from Venezuela.Then, Don Pedro Cesar Dominici, Minister Plenipotentiary for Venezuela, writing in the "Times," said: 1664The present Government of Venezuela has enacted very severe laws for the protection of the birds, and contravention of the said laws is punished with heavy fines and imprisonment. The Government, however, has not stopped there, for it has also appointed special inspectors to watch the districts where the birds breed. It is true that it is not possible to place in cages thousands of birds the beauty of which runs pari passu with the attention and care given to them. But those birds are not migrating birds, and live always in the same districts, to-day protected almost in their entirety. My Government's interest in the protection of birds whose plumage constitutes a source of national revenue is easy to understand; and the Venezuelan breeders themselves are the most keen in protecting the bird against wanton destruction, since during the plumage season—July to September—the birds leave the districts where they live covered with feathers spontaneously shed. And it is precisely at this time when the birds inhabit the protected enclosures.I can assure you that the passing of a law—I wish it could be of universal application—for the protection of the birds would not be more welcomed anywhere than in Venezuela. But such law cannot be so severe as to prohibit absolutely the importation of plumes. It might establish the necessary proofs and guarantees that the plumes come from districts where the law protects the birds by all adequate means.A word about the bird of paradise, which comes from the Dutch portion of New Guinea. There they are protected by the law, fine and imprisonment being the protection. There is no danger whatever of their extinction; they are extremely numerous. The case, however, for their exclusion is that they are in danger of extinction. The proof that they are not is that they have been produced in continually increasing quantities for the last 20 years since it was first stated by certain people that they were in imminent danger of extermination. The supply is ample, and the Dutch Government take very good care—they have said so—that they shall not become extinct. If this Bill goes to a Second Reading, which I am afraid it will not, as there is not time to discuss it properly—I should like to hear something more in favour of the Bill than we have had from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who proposed (Colonel Yate) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded (Lieut.-Colonel Murray)—and if it goes to a Committee upstairs, the House will now have at its disposal some facts from a perfectly impartial body, the London Chamber of Commerce, who have asked me to-day to state the case for them against the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
I had not originally intended to move the rejection of the Bill, but to support the arguments brought forward by the hon. Member (Mr. Denniss), but I am afraid there is not the slightest chance of getting the promoters of the Bill to agree to his suggestion. It is quite true that in 1914 the Bill did pass the House by a large majority, but the Government Whips were put on, and that makes an enormous difference when a Bill of this character is brought forward. There are some hon. Members who seem to be in doubt as to whether it will make any great difference to the workers in the feather trade. I have received petitions, signd by over 1,100 employés in the feather trade, who are either constituents of mine or work in my constituency. Here is one about eight feet long, and I notice that the names are very English. I will not detain the House by reading them, as someone read out some German names, but about 95 per cent. of them are British names. These people are really in fear of losing their employment owing to this trade being stopped by this Bill. The promoters of the Bill advocate it being passed on two grounds. First, that there is great cruelty in killing the birds, and, secondly, on the ground of expediency in that large numbers of species of birds will be exterminated unless some such steps are taken. As regards one of the main bones of contention, the Bird of Paradise, it has been hunted for its feathers since 1760; for 160 years the feathers of that bird have been exported throughout the world. It was originally named the "Apoda" by Linnaeus, because it was supposed at the time to have no feet. The skins were sent out and the legs were cut off. There has been no accusation, as far as I have heard to-day or in the Debates of 1914, that there is any cruelty in the killing of the Bird of Paradise. As a matter of fact, it is shot with blunted arrows, in order to stun it. If it were shot with ordinary shot the plumage would be damaged. As regards the egret, we have heard from the hon. Member who has just sat down some very cogent proofs that the Venezuelan Government is really taking steps to protect that bird, and to protect the heronries in an 1666 effective manner. But whether or not that be so, I think the question of the egrets should be dealt with separately, and referred, perhaps, to Select or some other Committee, and if they found real cruelty was occurring in the collection of that particular species then, perhaps, there might be good grounds for putting an embargo on the importation of these feathers.
As regards this Bill, which suggests that we are to prohibit the importation of various sorts of birds, sea-gulls, humming birds and so on, on the ground that they may be exterminated, anyone who has ever travelled in the parts of America where the humming bird exists knows that they exist in myriads, and there is not the least likelihood of exterminating them any more than you could exterminate the butterfly by the usual methods of capture. You cannot exterminate them by taking yearly 24,000. There are over 400 species of humming birds, the largest one of which is eight inches long, the next six inches, and the smallest two and a quarter inches. No bigger, when its feathers are off, than a bumble bee. It is absurd, under the circumstances, to think of exterminating them. Take seagulls—I am speaking now only of the question of extermination, not of their beauty—is there the faintest chance of their extermination in view of the myriads upon myriads of them in the world. I have travelled 200,000 miles by sea, and the seagull—
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that in the State of Utah the seagulls were allowed to be exterminated, and it was then found that various creeping insects and other pests multiplied; and a law was enacted prohibiting the slaughter of seagulls.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
Utah is not on the sea. I am speaking of seagulls on the sea. On the ground of cruelty I think no case has been made out, with the possible exception of the egret, which, as I suggested, can, if need be, be dealt with separately. There is no more cruelty in killing the seagull and the humming bird than in killing any other birds, than in killing of the snipe and the pheasant, or the other birds shot in tens of thousands in this country. Some people, no doubt, say that it is cruelty, but I, for one, do not agree. 1667 Hon. Members come here clothed in the skins of animals from head to foot. They have the skins of sheep on their bodies, the skins of oxen on their feet, and the skins of rabbits as hats, because—though perhaps they do not know it—"bowler" hats are made of rabbit skins. They have fur coats made of mink—I seem to have seen the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Yate) with a fur coat on. And a fur coat is trimmed with astrakhan. How about cruelty in killing the mink and the sable? Some hon. Members, like myself, have seen the traps set in Canada, and on the Frozen Lakes. The trapper comes round perhaps 24 hours after the animal has been trapped, and even then it may not be dead. If that is not even more cruel than this, I do not know anything. There are hundreds of thousands of cases of cruelty going on, and I fail to see that the shooting of these comparatively few birds for the adornment of the female sex is at all a matter to be stopped. If you are going to consider questions of cruelty, how about the lobster? You take a living lobster and put it in boiling water—
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that if he does that he renders himself liable to imprisonment?
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I am glad to say I have never killed a lobster. I will not discuss that point. Every time hon. Members eat oysters they are eating living animals, which must suffer pain. In any case I fail to see any case in the arguments put forward on the ground of cruelty. I think we are going in for too much sentiment when we try to stop an important trade simply to follow the advice of America. We do not want to follow the example of America. The Americans take their politics Very seriously, and when they reform an abuse they generally do it in the form of prohibition, and this is really a prohibition Bill. I do not believe hon. Members desire to follow the example of America any more in regard to the prohibition of plumage of birds than in the prohibition of public houses. This Bill would inflict great hardship upon hundreds of people in London, and it would do no good. It would detract from the appearance of a great many of our female friends, and for these reasons I move its rejection.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
On behalf of the Government, we are extremely anxious to see this Bill passed. The trade we desire to see exterminated is not the feather trade, but the trade which exists by the destruction of beautiful birds. I do not believe the passage of this Bill would destroy any legitimate trade. If it destroys a trade which would result gradually but at increasing speed in a birdless world, I think we ought to be only too glad to see it put an end to. The cruelty in the egret trade lies not only in the method of collecting the feathers, but also in the fact that the plume only exists during the breeding season. Some of the opponents of the measure say they would support it if it were turned round. I never knew an opponent of a Bill who did not promise to support it if it were done in a different way. If the Bill is going to kill the trade in one way, it will kill it in the other. The real secret of the matter is that the trade knows that the method which it proposes is unworkable. Let the hon. Member take the Bill to Committee and enlarge the Schedule if the trade can prove there is no harm in it. There is one set of people who want to kill the birds, and another set who want to prevent the killing of them, and between the two there has been no agreement. Let hon. Members vote one way or the other and show what the House wishes to see done.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir MATHEW WILSON
I have listened with great interest to my right hon. Friend and I must say I think he is rather misleading the House. He suggests that those who vote against this Bill—as I shall, because it is a bad Bill— are in favour of exterminating these birds. It is not so. It is the duty of the country to which the bird is indigenous to protect it: it is not for us to do it. It is useless for one country to pass a Bill of this sort: it will not stop the trade: it will only send it to another country. I hope hon. Members will consider carefully before they vote for the Bill because if passed it will damage, if not destroy, a very important industry which employs in this country an intelligent and delicate-handed class for whom it would be difficult to find another occupation. Let them bear in mind the harm which the passing of the Bill will do to labour in this country.
§ Mr. GILBERT
I rise as a London Member to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. I am a Member of the Port of London Authority, but I am not on this occasion speaking in an official sense for that body although it has had this Bill before it and has declined to take any action regarding it. I want, as a London Member, to point out how very much this affects a London industry connected with families living in many parts of the Metropolis.
§ Colonel YATE
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put"; but Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. GILBERT
I wonder if hon. Members who support this Bill have any idea of the size and importance of this industry in London. We in the Port Authority have provided special facilities for dealing with the trade. We have a large warehouse at the docks, and another one in the City—
§ Colonel YATE
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be 1670 now put"; but Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. GILBERT
If any hon. Members think—
It being Five of the Clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the business.
§ Colonel YATE
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put"; but Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
Debate adjourned; to be resumed upon Friday next (7th May).
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at One Minute after Five o'clock till Monday next (3rd May).